Thursday, December 17, 2009

Trip na Trip

Travel trotters around the Philippines, I recommend you to watch ABS-CBN Ch. 2's "Trip na Trip". Hosted by Kat de Castro and ex-PBB housemates Uma Khouny, Jason Gainza, Franzen Fajardo & Kian Kazemi, it airs every Friday 11:45pm to 1:00am. Watch the 2007 PMPC Awardee for Best Travel Show as it goes around the Philippines featuring the newest and exciting places to visit.

I, myself is a fan of this show but I wish they consider rescheduling its timeslot earlier as the show is airing so late. Saturday afternoon time would be fine. Here are some samples of their Puerto Galera episode and a clip featuring a popular resort from my hometown, Cavite.

More sample videos at You Watch this hit travel show as it showcase the best of travel in the Philippines.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tokyo Sunset

While driving from Narita to Tokyo, Kuya Sam (our companion resident in Japan), captured this lovely sunset while driving towards the road as if following it in the road track. It was a beautiful sunset scenery. And it reminds me alot about my last memorable trip in the Land of the Rising Sun last November 2004. It has been quite a long time since my last visit there, and this pic makes me missed Japan so much!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

RetroTravel: Hollywood Dream

My second time to travel in USA lead me to a visit in Hollywood! It was a starrry visit. It was also the second time I visit Los Angeles. This time I'm only traveling with my Mom and we stay again at my godmother's house who's been leaving there for a long time.
We were originally plan to visit Universal Studious but in a spin of events we went to Hollywood. We went to Hollywood via rail transit from Los Angeles. Travel time takes 30-5o minutes. Rail transit travel givwes you scenic views around Los Angeles and California. Hollywood is a district of Los Angeles and part of California.

A business and residential district in the city of Los Angeles, the core of Hollywood for a tourist is its three fascinating boulevards: Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood Boulevard, and Melrose Avenue. All three are worth seeing. Hollywood Blvd. is known for its entertainment history; Sunset Blvd. for its clubs and nightlife; and Melrose Ave. for its shopping, nightlife, and eclecticism. If you want to see where films are shot, take a tour at one of the major studios: Universal Studios "bundles" a full amusement park with its tour, while several other studios offer smaller, but interesting tours. In reality, most films are shot in warehouses and sound stages in Burbank and elsewhere.

If you want to see celebrities, pack your patience or be prepared to play the role of boulevardier. The chances of bumping into a celebrity are very low (mainly because most of the celebrities who live in Hollywood usually do not go out in public), unless you're willing to do a lot of "hanging out" at expensive restaurants in Beverly Hills, on Sunset Plaza, or in Malibu. (Source: Wikitravel: Hollywood)

In Hollywood we visited various places of interests. Hollywood and Highland was a welcoming sight. It a place for shopping and entertainment. Various coffee shops and restaurants surrounds the area for dining and food trips. Hollywood and Highland is also retail and hotel complex at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue in the Hollywood district in Los Angeles. The 387,000-square-foot (36,000 m2) center also includes the Grauman's Chinese Theatre and the Kodak Theatre, home to the Academy Awards. The historic site was once the home of the famed Hollywood Hotel. Located in the heart of Hollywood, along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, it is among the most visited tourist destinations in Los Angeles. (Source)

The famed Hollywood sign.
From Hollywood and Highland, one can already see the Hollywood Sign from Mount Lee. A famous landmark in Hollywood. For me it is a dream come true to see it in real life. It is located in Hollywood Hills area of Mount Lee, spelling out the name of the area in 45-foot (14 m) tall white letters. It was created as an advertisement in 1923, but garnered increasing recognition after the sign was left up. The sign makes frequent appearances in popular culture, particularly in establishing shots for films and television programs set in or around Hollywood.

With real American beauties at Starbucks Hollywood branch.
Grauman's Chinese Theater - the most famous movie theatre in the world, Grauman's Chinese Theatre opened in 1927 and is home to the cement footprints, handprints, and (in some cases) otherprints of many of history's most famous movie stars. The theatre is also a former home of the Oscars, and today hosts many movie premieres. The forecourt that showcases the star's prints is free to all visitors. Movies are shown for $10, and half-hour walking tours are available for $5. Here, I saw handprints and footprints of famous Hollywood celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenneger and Sophia Loren.

Grauman's Chinese Theater. 
Walking like stars in Hollywood Walk of Fame
Hollywood Walk of Fame is just around the corner of the long Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street. Actually it is a sidewalk of the two streets. You'll see the star mark commemorations embedded on the sidewalk of famous Hollywood artists that has given a contribution in the entertainment industry of US from films, radio, television to theater. It features with more than 2,000 five-pointed stars featuring the names of not only human celebrities but also fictional characters honored by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce for their contributions to the entertainment industry. The Walk of Fame is maintained by the self-financing Hollywood Historic Trust. I saw Bruce Lee, Micheal Jackson and even Lassie! It is quite a celebrity feel while walking in the Walk of Fame.

Los Angeles Cathedral.
On our way back, we visited the newly finished Los Angeles Cathedral. Located at West Temple Street, it is also known as Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. It is the mother church of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and seat of its archbishop. The cathedral has unique architecture and scenic views of fountains and palm tree landscapes. Inside the main hall was huge place to held a mass. I also had the opportunity to tour in its mausoleum in its lower levels where a number of prior Bishops and Archbishops of the Los Angeles Archdiocese are buried in the crypt mausoleum. It also quite eerie but don't worry a lot of tourist were roaming the area for tour of the underground mausoleum. Among notable artworks in the cathdral for are the tapestries of the communion of saints by painter John Nava (where Filipino Saint, St. Lorenzo Ruiz is included), and the plaza fountain by Lita Albuquerque and Robert Kramer.

The facades of Los Angeles Cathedral.
Though, I haven't gone to Universal Studios, my second US trip was still a satisfying dream come true. Hollywood trip is exceptional. The Hollywood atmosphere is felt in every corner. Much more if I had a chance to pass by Beverly Hills area but unfortunately I haven't. While Los Angeles Cathedral is a trip down the architecture and historical lane. The whole trip is tiring but I had fun and hopefully I'll explore other places in Los Angeles on a future trip.

RetroTravel: Hollywood is my second trip to USA last October 22-30, 2002. In this second trip to US, I only explored the places of interest in Hollywood which is near Los Angeles. RetroTravel: Hollywood is also part of my RetroTravel series where I share my old travel trips in the past during the pre-digital era pictures of my travels.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Beauty of the Philippines

That's the appropriate title for this picture as it truly shows the beauty of the Philippines. This shot is the famous Boracay sunset taken during my summer vacation visit there last year. Sunsets has always been my favorite shot. This unique scene of nature is so priceless to look at. And Boracay sunset is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful scene to represent the beauty of the Philippines. This picture is not just the best way to remember the natural beauty of Boracay but the best way to remember how beautiful the Philippines is.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

RetroTravel: Tokyo

Konnichiwa! We are turning Japanese as this time I will share my travels to Japan. One of the most beautiful country I ever visited, Japan is a country full of colorful cultures, contrasts and places. Though, I have not extensively visited the whole country, I had a sizeable visit to its capital - Tokyo. Tokyo is one of the most cosmopolitan city that I had visited. Everything is high-tech, yet old charms of traditions and basic life scenes goes living with it. Japan is so charming that I had a chance of visiting it for 6 times! And its not enough to discover the whole of what Japan has to offer to travel-trotter like me. On every travel and discovery to this "land of the rising sun", I long to visit it again and again.

I am very excited on my first visit to Japan. Beforehand, I had so many perceptions about the country like - it is the land of animes (Japanese cartoons), sushi, hi-tech gagdets, robots and Kimonos. But what I discover the best in Japan is its people. People are cheerful, helpful and most especially discipline. For instance, in case of a red light signals (means to stop walking across) in pedestrian street cross, Japanese people won't go across the street even their are no car vehichles crossing. It will only on green light that they will go - that's how discipline they are. And also, no matter how high-tech and urban they are especially Tokyo, the city maintains a clean surroundings that not even a small trash can be seen around in every street corners.

The surrounding sights in Kawaguchi, Tokyo.

I also notice that Japanese people are trendy in attires. Whether it is a school uniform, office attire or casual ones, they try to be in the "IN" fashion trend. And I think it was Japan who popularized the anime look - both in hair and sense of fashion. If you see the Japanese, they are like living animes that step out of their mangas (Japanese comic) or coming out from an anime tv series. They are living proofs that animes originated from them that gain worldwide fans around like me. I would say the anime characters is a reflection of their modern culture and Japan itself.

Another, I also notice in Japan is that the surroundings are clean and pollution-free. This is something you wouldn't expect in mega-city like Tokyo where everything is high-tech and fast-pace. I believe this is part of their discipline to give a respect to the place we live in. And of course one can see a Japanese school girl or group with others wears a school uniform in a different way. Their signiture sailor collared blouses, shortened pleated skirts (I've learned that they do these intentionally but only outside theschool premises), and knee-length socks. We can't resist noticing them and we even ask to have a souvenir shot with them.

The cool Japanese students.

I often visit Japan with my family on vacation. We usually stay at my mom's friends who are residents there. Ate Vangie and her family lives in Kawaguchi, Tokyo, Ate Flor and his niece Kuya Mel lives in Chiba, Narita while Kuya Sam also lives in the same district of Narita. Kawaguchi has a city, metropolis vibe but a charming Tokyo life scene can be seen while Narita has rural charm yet makes you feel relax and homey. Honestly, writing this article makes me miss the places and those kind people I've met in Japan. 
Tokyo is also a heaven for shoppers!
At the rooftop of Soho Mall in Kawaguchi.
My last visit to Japan in November 2004 was the most memorable one as I visited the most interesting places and landmarks in Tokyo. We also had a night tour around Tokyo that I will never forget. Plus were treated on sumptous lunch and dinner. Our extensive tour of Tokyo happened through meeting Kuya Sam who is living in Japan for long and working in an embassy office. He has a local driver's license and speaks Nippongo fluently so it wasn't hard to tour around. He knows a lot of places to visit around Tokyo.

We first had a visit to a park where there is a great view of the Rainbow Bridge. Rainbow Bridge is a suspension bridge crossing northern Tokyo Bay between
Shibaura Pier and the Odaiba waterfront development in Minato, Tokyo, Japan. Completed in 1993, the bridge spans 570 metres (1,870 ft) and carries three transportation lines on two decks: Upper deck: Shuto Expressway No. 11 Odaiba Route and Lower deck: Route 357 (also known as "Rinkō Dōro", Portside Avenue) and the Yurikamome automated train. The bridge has separate walkways on the north and south sides; the north side offers views of inner Tokyo Harbor and the Tokyo Tower, while the south side offers views of Tokyo Bay and occasionally Mount Fuji.

Tokyo sunset while driving to Tokyo
Rainbow Bridge as our background.
By afternoon we went on crossing the Rainbow Bridge then reach Roppongi District and Shibuya District by night. I think its 7 in the evening. It was rush hour at that time as there are crowds of people (both employees and students) crossing the mainstreet particularly in Shibuya main street that resembles the Times Square of New York. Both disctrict houses the vast shopping and dining areas in Tokyo area. Roppongi is famous for its nightlife as it houses many clubs and bars moslty catering to foreigners but its also home of many foreign embassies including ours. Don't forget to check out Roppongi Hills - a massive shopping and dining complex as well as night club scenes and Azabu area which are quieter commercial area of Roppongi Hills but also absorbed some of its vibrant commercial activity and nightlife. Shibuya, on on the other hand, is a shopping and eating district popular with a lot of young Tokyoites. It's within walking distance from two other large shopping districts - Omotesando and Harajuku - as well as being quite close to Yoyogi Park and the Meiji Jingu shrine. Aside from its busy streets and shopping districts, there are also many places of interests in Shibuya like Meiji Shrine, Yoyogi Park and Shinjuku Gyoen. Too bad, because of time constraints I never had a chance to see those places.

Then we headed to Tokyo Tower - a communications and observation tower located in Shiba Park, Minato, Tokyo. The tower looks burning at night in its glowing bright orange color and lighting. There's an observation deck where you can have a 360 degree view of Tokyo. There's a fee for entrance at the observation decks. Too bad I have not tried it. Aside from the observation decks, Tokyo Tower also houses coffee shops, souvenir boutiques, restos, museum and art galleries that makes it attractive for tourists to visit.

Tokyo Tower is famous in popular media culture as it is mostly used as a setting in Japanese anime. Visiting the tower had made get some flashback of anime scenes that I have watched. I somehow feel that I have entered in the world of Japanese anime. Tokyo Tower really brings so much Japanese atmosphere for me. After that "Tokyo by Night" tour we retire home to rest as we are tired from a one night tour of Tokyo.

The burning-like and Tokyo architecture icon - Tokyo Tower.
Another unforgettable experience I had in visiting Japan was witnessing Cherry blossoms on my visit in April 2004. During that time westay at Ate Flor in Chiba, Narita. We arrived from Manila in the evening. In the morning, I can't forget the street scene near Ate Flor's house as all of the trees lining the streets were only covered with white pinkish small flowers of cherry. It was so memorable as it was my first time to see it. It was delightful to see that scene. Some of the petals were blown by the wind and scatters on the street ground. I even touched the tree branch and the flowers that feel it. It seems like a dream for me. I only see cherry blossoms in anime tv series. Now I see it face to face. I had flashbacks of anime scenes again and felt that I have entered again in an anime. Only cherry blossoms can bring a unique air of Japanese feel. I won't forget that experience.

Cherry blossoms in Narita during my April 2004 visit.
There are still so many places I want to discover in Japan. And there are so many experiences that I want to experience again in Japan. I like to see Mount Fuji, experience the cherry blossoms again, have a great view of Tokyo from the observation deck of Tokyo Tower, eat sushi and ramen noodles, buy Meiji chocolates as pasalubongs, raid Hak-yen stores again... To do things are endless in Japan. They say that it is expensive to go tourist in Japan, and yes it is! But everything is worthty when you experience all the unique things in Japan like I had . It is one of the countries I'm targeting to visit again in the future. Honestly, writing this entry makes me long to see it again. There are so many wonderful things in Japan that makes me addictive to it. Japan will always be one of my favorite places to travel. I can't wait to visit it again.

RetroTravel: Tokyo is a recollection of my travels to Tokyo in the pre-digital camera era of my travel experiences but memories of it is still vivid and enjoyable and is part of my RetroTravel series.  My travel dates to Tokyo, Japan were in May 16-19, 2001, October 31 - November 2, 2001, June 6-8, 2002, September 5-7, 2003,  April 8-10, 2004 and November 3-6, 2004.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

You can kiss the sky when you travel...

This heavenly view is taken from my window seat when I flew to Davao via PR811 last April 3. You see.. when you travel via airplane you can get an exquiste view like this - a kingdom of clouds in the vast sky... And you can't just admire the beauty of the sky that is so close... so close that you can kiss it.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

360 Degrees of Guam

Since I just finish posting my two-part story trip in my first travel to USA, let's reminisce my latest travel to USA through the short video captures I got during my latest visit. But this time, in my first travel outside the mainland USA - in Guam last November 27-30, 2008. In these videos I captured 360 degree views of 3 distinct places of interest in Guam - Tumon Bay/Mata'pang Beach, Underwater World Guam and Two Lover's Point.

Mata'pang Beach and Tumon Bay

Underwater World Guam

Two Lover's Point

Discover more about my trip in Guam by visiting my blog entry here.

Friday, June 12, 2009

RetroTravel: Los Angeles

This is the continuation of my first US trip where I visited the major cities of California - San Francisco and Los Angeles. On the continuation of our trip, we rode a bus via Greyhound to reach Los Angeles from San Francisco. Travel trip is around 6 hours in the road. There were stops in between the long bus trip so its quite tiring plus it is a night trip. I think we leave the SFO station at 10pm and we arrive in Los Angeles at 5am.

Los Angeles also known as the "City of Angels" or simply L.A. — is the largest city in California. Located on a broad basin in Southern California, it's surrounded by vast mountain ranges, deep valleys, forests, desert and miles of coastline on the Pacific Ocean. The metropolitan area is the second largest in the United States in terms of population, containing over 17 million people who hail from all parts of the globe and speak over a hundred different languages. The metropolitan area is centered in Los Angeles County, but stretches into Orange County, Ventura County, San Bernardino County, and Riverside County. Los Angeles is an important center of culture, business, media, and international trade, but is most famous for being the center of the world's entertainment industry, which forms the base of its global status.

A reunion with my "ninang" who has been living in LA for 20 years.
My impression about Los Angeles is that is a very cosmopolitan huge city where every city-dweller can find all the luxuries of a metropolis he or she wants especially if he/she grew there. High-rising building are crowding the downtown while shopping malls of Macy's and Ross are endless to shopaholics. Nightlight is superb in the city as LA has the hippest clubs that every partygoer will surely love... one could spot celebrities especially in hotspots of Beverly Hills and Hollywood area.

While in LA, our first day was to visit Disneyland at Anaheim. It was the major tourist place that me and my family has visited while staying in Los Angeles. Other than that we didn't visit other places of interests like the Universal Studios or Hollywood. But Disneyland is a memorable trip for me. You can't go around the theme park in one whole day. It is necessary to comeback for the next day to go around the whole Disneyland Park.

My mom's cousin and my godmother, Ninang Yoly (what I use to call her) is living in Los Angeles county with her family since the 80's. Ninang Yoly's sibling and mother is also are permanent resident there too. There residence at Gardena is just 10 minutes away from Los Angeles International Airport. My ninang had a working shift on that morning so she cannot join with us with her husband Uncle Danny and their kids, DJ and Ianne, for a trip to Disneyland theme park.

Welcome to Toon Town!
Disneyland is a big theme park. Here, what I can recall in visiting the place is returning again to my childhood years. Disneyland brings a lot of childhood memories back because of Disneyland characters that I as a child has come to love to like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. Even adults I would say would return again to childhood when one visits Disneyland. As I said earlier, you can't finish a whole day going around the park. It seems mandatory to return again to savor the fantasyland that it offers. There so many theme places to visit and you won't feel dull while enjoying the park.
Aside from visiting the houses of your favorite Disney characters like Mickey and Minnie Mouse or Winnie The Pooh inside the park where each character has houses like Snow White has her own castle, you can also interact with them personally as they greet each visitors in their themed houses or palace. They also let you sign an autograph and have a souvenir photo with you. I remember my mom couldn't help but join with the other kids in trying to get souvenir shot with her favorite Disney characters... Pluto and Winnie the Pooh. Disneyland is not just for young people but also young at heart.

Returning to childhood again in Disneyland.
Enjoying one of the rides in Disneyland.
There are also rides of different themes inside the park. I won't forget riding the Indiana Jones Adventure and Matterhorn Bobsleds as it was the most thrilling ride I experience there. Indiana Jones Adventure is quite scary but an exciting adventure ride and Matterhorn Bobsleds is an adrenalin-rush roller coaster ride because it is so fast and rounds in a tall polar mountain structure. It also goes in and out of it too where you can have views of the theme park from above. Beware of the frigtening Snowman inside the caves.

Autopia is a good ride too. A suitable ride for non-drivers of cars, Autopia is specially designed-cars in an enclosed track made for driver patrons. It was fun and speedy ride especially at times when you bump to other cars. At the end of the race track, you'll receive an "exclusive" driver's license valid only in Disneyland. A good way to get a grand circle tour of Disneyland is riding the Disneyland Railroad. Riders use it as a transportation to other areas of the theme park but it is the best way to experience a circle tour of the whole Disneyland.

The teacups of Alice in Wonderland.
The Disneyland trip was my ultimate family bonding.
You can also watch live plays in the park with superb performers in singing and acting. During our visit, "The Lion King" was the featured play. An extravagant Disneyland characters on a parade along with fireworks display is the last and closing activity at Disneyland to cap off our visit at the park. It was so memorable.

Our stay was extended to for another week due to the request of our relatives to spend more time with them as this is a good opportunity to bond with them again. Like in San Francisco, we had a number reunions that comes along sharing stories in reminiscing the good old past. My ninang will always be unforgettable for being a "Noranian" (a Nora Aunor fan) forever. She always share stories of her celebrity idol to us. We also watched Pinoy movies, where "Anak" was one of the movies we've watched. It was also the 3rd time I watched it.

The extended week stay gave us the opportunity to visit some friends in Buena Park in Orange County. Buena Park is home to several tourist attractions, most notably Knott's Berry Farm - a famed theme park in Buena Park. Unfortunately, we have no time to visit the park as Disneyland is already enough.

My first trip to USA is an opportunity for a reunion with our relatives. Although, I wish to see more other places of interests in Los Angeles like Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Long Beach or Universal Studios, a 3-week stay is not enough to meet and bond with your relatives that you haven't seen for a long time. I just hope on a next visit to San Francisco and Los Angeles, our time for trip is maximize to all the places we can visit. Anyway, there is always a next time... And I hope that a next travel to US, I'll experience again the same American high experience.

RetroTravel: Los Angeles is a RetroTravel series where I recall my first trip to USA last April 13-28, 2001. It is the second part story of my trip to California, USA. Please also do read part 1, RetroTravel San Francisco.  Other photos is credited to users: tclaxton1 and jaynonymous.

Friday, May 22, 2009

RetroTravel: San Francisco

Summer has always been memorable to me. Especially when it comes to travel, it always provides "first times." My summer in 2001 was a living proof. And Friday the 13th prove to be quite lucky to me on that day as I spent my summer in visiting USA for the first time in its major cities in the west coast - San Francisco and Los Angeles in California. On my first visit to US, I visited San Francisco and Los Angeles for a 3-week vacation trip. On this post I will focus on my San Francisco trip. My Los Angeles trip will be on the part two of this post.

Our clan at the iconic at San Francisco's Gold Gate Bridge.
On April 13, it was Friday the 13th that I won't forget. I'm with my whole family on this vacation trip to US. Our plane to use for San Francisco had a technical problem that causes to use the Los Angeles plane that will fly on the night. What happened was since there are only few San Francisco bound passengers, they add it to Los Angeles bound passengers to make a one plane for the same flight. We boarded on the flight. It was long trip that were first bound to LAX (Los Angeles). We arrived by 6 pass in the evening. The flight will continue to go on to San Francisco but we decided to stay in Los Angeles as we have relatives to stay there. We both have relatives to stay in both places so there is no problem if our itineraries switch.

We just worry for the hotel reservation reserved to us by my uncle in San Francisco (SFO) because it was just an overnight accomodation. However, we inform them about what happened and we stay with my mom's cousin and my "ninang" in Gardena. But on the next day, we'll catch the first flight to SFO because it is really the first place where we should stay plus the hotel reserve for us was able to extend for the next day. We stay in Gardena for a night and meet my Ninang Yoly's family. She my moms' cousin. The next morning, April 14, we fly to San Francisco to Oakland International Airport via Southwest Airlines.

At the airport we were fetched by my Uncle Raul and his wife Tita Lucy, along with his sister Tita Lourdes and her husband Tito Gary. They are siblings of my father. On that same day, we tour the famous landmark of San Francisco - the Golden Gate Bridge. We cross the bridge to reach a park on the other side where we have good view of the bridge and island of Alcatraz by overlooking at the bay. It looks golden in color but in close look it is colored bright orange. The Golden Gate Bridge, located at the Golden Gate, is perhaps the most recognizable landmark in San Francisco and one of the most famous bridges in the United States, and has been called one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. The bridge spans the Golden Gate, a strait between San Francisco and Marin County to the north, and is one of the major road routes into and out of the city.

San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge.
Golden Gate Bridge is San Francisco's iconic landmark.
By night we at one of restaurants in Fisherman's Wharf. I can't remember the name of the restaurant but their specialty was seafood dishes. I also remember one of the name of the dishes on the menu was Manila Clams which is difficult to eat. Fisherman's Wharf is San Francisco's most popular destination among travelers, with circa 12 million visitors flocking here each year. For over a century its historic waterfront was the hub of the city's fishing fleet and is still famous for the depth and variety of its harvest, as well as for having some of the best seafood restaurants in the city. Today, it's also renowned for its numerous tourist attractions such as museums, souvenir stores, historical buildings and piers, and scenic vistas over the Bay. It is located at the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula, along the San Francisco Bay. It runs all the way from Pier 39 through to Municipal Pier at the end of Aquatic Park. It is bordered by Van Ness Ave to the east and Bay St to the south.

We had an overnight after at Holiday Inn - the hotel my uncle reserve for the whole family. That's why didn't spend to sleep at my uncle's residence in San Leandro. At the hotel, my Aunt Lourdes and his husband Uncle Gary with their daugther Nikki stayed on the seperate room. The next day their going to fetch to their residence the next day in Yuba City.

It was almost a four hour drive to Yuba City. It is far from San Francisco. My aunt lives their with her family as her husband's employment is base there. Yuba City is in Sutter County, California in the Sacramento Valley. Yuba City is the principal city of the Yuba City Metropolitan Statistical Area which encompasses all of Sutter County and Yuba County. The metro area's population is 164,138. It is the 21st largest metropolitan area in California ranked behind Redding and Chico.

It was Easter Sunday on that day. Uncle Gary cooked a whole roasted turkey to celebrate the feast of easter. It was my first time to taste a turkey. It taste like chicken but serving is huge since turkey is bigger than chicken. We spend a week in Yuba City before returning again to San Francisco to my uncle. I didn't see much of Yuba City tourist places but it looks quite a modern province in the USA. There are no farm or rice fields but houses are simple and the surroundings are quite. On our last day at Yuba City we were treated on a buffet restaurant.

Exploring Marina Park.
We return to San Francisco by April 20. We tour this time the city of San Leandro. This is where my uncle's residence is located. San Leandro is a city in Alameda County, California, United States. The climate of the city is mild throughout the year. Historically a town with dozens of huge cherry farms and a Spanish missionary ranch, San Leandro today is a rapidly growing city of worldwide industries and a suburb of Oakland. We had a stop at Marina Park, where there is a wide circular road for jogglers and a wide area overlooking the bay. It was so cold on that day. I was shivering as we walk a tour of the park. But it was a good place to comtemplate as it was quite and not crowdy.

Family bonding at San Francisco.
Marina Park, San Leandro, California.
We then visited Redwood City. We meet Uncle Loloy and his family. He is my mom's cousin. See, there are so many Filipinos in US. Redwood City is a suburb located on the San Francisco Peninsula in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. Redwood City is the county seat of San Mateo County. It was originally part of the Rancho de las Pulgas. In downtown, Redwood is a modern city with high-rise buildings, facilities and numerous establishments. Uncle Loloy treat us for a lunch and dinner. He also let us stay at their residence for a night before we left SFO. Of course, what happens next is never-ending sharing of stories of the good past. He also paid for our bus trip to Los Angeles via Greyhound on the next day since we already use our air tickets. But what comes along with are pasalubongs from them and for their relatives in our hometown in Cavite.

 With relatives from Redwood City.
Meeting other relatives living in San Francisco.
What I left in San Francisco are... the places that I haven't visit in San Francisco during my trip but wish I have been to. These tourist places like Alamo Square Park where the the row of Pink Ladies (Victorian houses) are located, Presidio where the Palace of Fine Arts and historical sites are located, Union Square and Yerba Buena Gardens where there are nearby shopping centers and mall for visitors to check around. A next time opportunity trip to visit those places is always welcome in my future trip plans. At least I saw the famous Golden Gate Bridge which is a real architectural wonder. That landmark is a must-see when visiting San Francisco.
Famed Victorian houses in San Francisco.
The trip has been a grand reunion with our relatives in the United States It was a good opportunity to meet other relatives as well. My pictures on this travel are not clear as during that time I don't have a digital camera yet but I hope you do appreciate them.

RetroTravel: San Francisco is a 2-part travel recollection of my first trip to USA last April 13-28, 2001. The second part is RetroTravel: Los Angeles in which I chronicle my first trip in Los Angeles. Both stories is part of my RetroTravel series in which I share my old trips in the past during the pre-digital era of pictures but memories of it are vivid and enjoyable.  

Friday, May 01, 2009

Davao Delight

Davao became the center of my summer 2009 when my first foot landed there last April 3-4 on a short travel trip. It was my first trip to Mindanao and my first travel trip for this year. And I wonder what surprises is waiting for me later this year. This trip was unexpected. I earlier foresee that I won't have a summer escapade this year as I am in job transition right now but alas, life is full of surprises. It was really unexpected as it just a sudden decision. My mom is going to celebrate her birthday on April 4. She wants to celebrate it in a different place. Davao was her choice as it has multiple daily flights, wide open seats available and she has been there twice already. So we have our open tickets issued a day before departure. Then hopped on the 10am flight the next day. For this trip, my bro is with us too.

Actually were getting the earliest 4am flight but since all flights available has wide positive seat spaces we opted in 3rd flight at 10:15am. In the turn of events we were given passes to the Mabuhay Lounge of Philippines Airlines (PAL). I'm delighted because it was my first time to be there. We're not even Mabuhay Miles members (PAL's frequent flyer club), just strong connections at the check-in counters hehe.. Anyway, it was almost 30 minutes before boarding when we got there. We indulge in snacks provided at center buffet table. All food were delicious. We also did try the free internet computer services of the lounge. For personal laptops the lounge is free wi-fi or wireless broadband.

By the time we board, I'm surprise were on PAL's A340. But to be honest, their domestic service is downgraded. Only peanuts and a cracker with complimentary choice of drinks were served for the 1 hour and 35 minute flight. Not to mention juice was cut from the drinks offered which I often drink onboard PAL. Only tea, coffee and water were offered now. Before snacks were "snack pack" with more snacks inside a pack or Goldilocks treats were served. Talking about recession... it's a good thing that we eat already in the lounge.

Welcome to Davao!
Departure area of Davao Airport.

What surprises me in this plane trip is the spectacular view of Mount Apo that can clearly seen from the window of the plane as it approaches Davao City. I took several shots of it. From surrounded by clouds or vague captures... it was truly majestic. Mount Apo is the highest peak in the Philippines. It is one of the most popular climbing destination of the Philippines. Declared national park, it is also home to a thousand species of endemic birds including the rare Philippine Eagle.

Mt. Apo from the airplane window.
Philippines'highest peak as our plane descends the airport.

PR811 arrived at 12 noon in Davao's international airport. The colorful banner ads of SMART mobile made the outside facade of of the airport more appealing. Inside, the airport is five star for me. It is for its relax ambience, clean surroundings, white choice of palatte and very symbolic architectural design of triangles and pointed-styles (especially the durian landmark outside the airport). Staffs are friendly too. The terminal is big enough to handle both international and domestic flights. It opened last 2003. I just hope more international flights opens in Davao.

Davao is a premier city in Mindanao of the southern Philippines. It is considered to be the world's biggest city with an area of 2,440 square kilometers. Davao is dubbed as "The City of Royalties" or "The Royal City", because of the presence of the kings and queens of nature present in Davao referring to Waling-waling - The Queen of Philippine Orchids, Durian - the King of Exotic Fruits, Mt. Apo - The King and Grandfather of Philippine mountains and Philippine Eagle - the largest eagle in the world and the King of Philippine skies. In recent years, Davao has emerged as the business, investment and tourism hub for the entire southern Philippines. The city boasts of some of the finest beaches and mountain resorts in the country, and proximity to the Philippines’ most captivating diving spots as well as its highest peak, Mount Apo.

Sasa Wharf enroute to Samal Island.

The first place we visited is the Island Garden City of Samal. Samal Island is a 2nd class island city off the coast of Davao City pier. From Sasa Wharf is a 7 minute boat ride to Paradise Island Nature and Park Resort located in Samal Island. It is 15php one-way fare. It was quite rainy when we cross the sea to the island so waves were also quite strong. Paradise Island Nature and Park Resort is a popular beach resort in Samal Island. Mainly because its is cheap but the place is good. You'll just pay 100php per person for the entrance that included free usage of beach table. Don't worry about the hut, the resort provided a wide fix cover to the whole picnic area to protect from sun's heat.

Aside from swimming, you can also do renting water bicycle, banana boat and jet ski to enjoy water sport activities. There's also a restaurant in the resort for food as bringing food in the resort is not allowed when you spend an overnight. Hotel accommodation of the resort is available. Before we leave, we checked the Bird Country of Paradise Island. It is an aviary with numerous bird displays in the area like peacocks, crown pigeons and cockatoos. At the back also is an under contruction water theme park. When completed, it will add another reason why Paradise Island is the resort choice in Samal Island.

But please note that Samal Island is also dotted with other numerous beach resorts and hotels including the famous Pearl Farm Resort (which is also an attraction by itself) and also the attention gaining Talikud Island for its dive spots. Going to Samal Island resorts depend on which wharf to depart. Each resort has designated wharfs to board so know the resort's wharf first before going there.

A whole day trip is enough to spend in Paradise Island Resort. Eating "Halo-halo" while watching the beauty of the beach and sea is a perfect summer scene for a perfect summer mood. Samal Island is definitely a suitable place to spend your summer. After an almost whole day spend in Samal Island, we wend back to Sasa Wharf and headed to Agdao near Magsaysay Park to check-in at Evergreen Hotel.

We took a jeepney ride to Agdao by just asking the locals. Here, I observed that Dabawenyos are friendly and helpful. They are really helpful especially when they know tourists asking for directions around the city. The thing is even when you ask them in Tagalog they will still answer you in Bisaya dialect so knowing few Bisayan dialect would be helpful. But nonetheless Dabawenyos will try to help you as long as they can which I really like. Davao City is a clean city. Cleanliness is maintain to the whole city so it also maintain a pollution-free surrounding. The cleanliness of the city is another thing that I like in Davao. I also read from a feature magazine that the city is also the most crime-free area in the country. All of these efforts is throgh the leadership of Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

People's Park

The following day is my mom's birthday. This is a different way to celebrate her birthday as this is the first time she spend it in another place. We started the day by going to the city center and visit the famous People's Park. The park is distinct for its numerous statues of Davao icons like the Philippine Eagle and Durian. Another distinct statues were the children monuments that seems playing around. Inside the park one can already see the high-rise building the famous hotel - Marco Polo Davao. People's Park is larger than ordinary parks that you saw. There are artificial 10ft falls, lined pine trees and Japanese themed gardens. There is also man-made lakes with ducks freely swims in it. The park also takes care pigeons that freely goes in the1 park. Another feature of the park is the bridge facing the dancing fountains that every visitors will enjoy. Lastly, it is better to visit the Durian Dome with spikey-design open ceilings at night as the ceilings are lighted but in the morning you'll easily appreciate its surgary rainbow colors around.

Durian Dome at People's Park and Street scene in Davao.

People's Park also has large ground grass areas and benches to sit. You'll never feel tired of seeing the park as there a lot of areas to explore. There is even a "bahay kubo" over a lake with a fountain view that you can rest for a while before continuing exploring the park. The park has a maintained schedule on its opening days. It usually starts to open at 1:00pm onwards. We visited it in the morning and it was closed at that time. We pleaded to see the park as we will depart to Manila by evening. We were permitted. I learned it was closed for that morning because a local tv station is shooting their summer station ID at the park. Entrance to the park is free of course!

After visiting the park we went to SM Davao at Ecoland to eat lunch. But before we took a jeepney ride to Ecoland, we saw a new hotel - Sampaguita Inn which is near in People's Park. Sampaguita Inn offers cheaper accomodation prices than the hotel we stayed. It has a better facility than the former like wi-fi service and coffee shop plus the proximity to the city proper and transporation areas. We will definitely stay there on a next visit. In SM (Shoemart), we took a breakfast then lunch. Restaurants are quite far from the hotel we stayed in Agdao. The mall is similar to its other counterpart branches in the country. We also bought some souvenir items their but other souvenir shops are available throughout the city proper.

After lunch, we went back to the hotel. Then we visit Puentespina Orchids Garden at noon located at Bolcan St, Agdao. I believe it is a must-see in Davao to see one of its nature "royalties" - the Waling-Waling orchid flower which you will see in Puentespina Orchids Garden. You will also see other varieties of the orchid of all colors that some resembles to small butterflies. Vanda sanderiana (Waling-waling's scientific name) is the best known endemic orchid in the Philippines which is mostly found at Davao. Waling-waling is an ethnic term that means the "graceful movement" of a butterfly in flight. Other species of the orchid are also beautiful and delightful to see especially the red variety that I saw that day. Davao's orchids are really must-see when visiting Davao especially to orchid-lovers. Entrance is free plus you will see other ornamental garden plants in display for visitors' appreciation. You can also buy fully grown orchid plants or seedlings of Waling-waling and other orchid varieties at the garden as they really cater in selling it. Other plant species are available for sale too. Just ask the caretakers for the price lists.

Other noteworthy places to see in Davao are Malagos Garden Resort, a garden resort with exotic birds on display, coffee shops, swimming pool, butterfly santuary and features a bird show located at Calinan, Philippine Eagle Conservation Centre in Baguio District where you can see the Philippine Eagle in their special habitat areas, Mount Apo National Park, home of the tallest mountain in the Philippines where visitors can arrange tours and gentler climbs through the tourist office, Eden Nature Park, located at the foot of Mt. Apo offers various adventurous activities but also offers a great way to relax away from the city and Samal Island, dubbed as an island garden city, it offers a wide array of beach resort attractions including the famoust Pearl Farm Resort whom by itself is an attraction to see that promises a high quality service. Also check out Talikud Island it is famed for diving activity and beach resort too. Except Samal Island, I never been to these places during my visit but I recommend these places to put in your itineraries when you visit Davao. All are must-see places.

Durian Galore at Magsasasay Fruit Market.
Pomelo galore as well...
A visit to Davao is not complete without tasting and buying its exotic fruits like durian, pomelo and mangosteen. We bought some as pasalubong at Magsaysay Fruit Vendor Association market near Magsaysay Park. Many people don't like durian because of its strong smell but I love its taste. I just clip my nose everytime I take a bite.^^ Durian has been a recognized icon symbol in Davao. From the airport building architecture of pine-designed, to the Durian monument located outside the facade of the airport to the landmarks of People's Park, one can already reflect durian's strong association as an icon. Other treats were made out of durian. I'm sure you'll love durian cake, durian empanada and durian pastillas. All treats are available in special stores and at SM Mall.

I recommend Davao as an ideal place to spend your summer. It offers a lot from beach resorts to garden resorts to historical trips to exotic food trips, Davao 's offer is endless. After packing properly the fruits to bring home we went to Davao airport for our departure at 04:35pm and arrive in Manila at 6pm. It was a wonderful airplane trip where I got to a chance to see sunset from the air. What a unforgetable view in my sight to end my Davao summer trip.
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