Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A hui hou, Hawaii!

It is exactly a year already since my first visit to Hawaii and yet the fresh breeze of its paradise is still in my heart. It timeless charm continues to draws visitors year after year. The beaches are numerous but incomparable enough for an ideal vacation. It is beach overload in Hawaii. The natural sights are endless to explore and to appreciate. From volcano, rock formations, cliff views up to its rich marine wildlife, it is worth to discover. Its history, culture and heritage is unique and interesting. It even played a significant role in World War II. While it also has a city vibe, it has a natural wonders a few meters away. But if you opt for a cultural experience, Hula shows is just a around the corner.  And if it is shopping you are looking for, Hawaii is rich in luxurious shopping malls, boutiques up to the cheapest sale shops and "tiangge" if that's what you call that "haggle-all-you-can" stalls. That's why I tagged Hawaii as a "a real paradise" on Earth. It is an ideal travel destination that offers distinct experiences. It entices and warmly invites everyone to its paradise. A dream destination for every travelers as it has everything  that every travelers are looking for in a destination.

And I am one of those who fall in love with Hawaii. I love the warm people and the perfect tropical weather that has similarity to ours. And the cuisines are likeable too! Not to mention, the endless place to see in the whole state.  Truly, it lives to its timeless charm of a welcoming paradise. It gets you fall in love with it. No wonder, because its famed greeting "Aloha" means love. And in Hawaii, it is Aloha today, tomorrow and always! I love you Hawaii and I miss you... until we meet again... A hui, hou, Hawaii!

Learn more about how hard it is to say goodbye to my Aloha experience, here.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Going 7

Going Places turns 3 this year. This blog started as a personal online diary back in 2004. But in September 2008, this blog rebirths into a full pledge travel blog because of my love for travel and writing. Tripbase, an online travel community started this My 7 Links project with a goal to unite bloggers in a joint endeavor to share lessons learned and create a bank of long but not forgotten blog posts that deserve to see the light of day again. I have been tagged twice to do this project and though this is late already, I think the My 7 Links project and goal should go on to share the best blast from the past of bloggers archive.

Travel is an experience of a lifetime!
This 7 links to the past is a good way to celebrate Going Places 3rd year in the travel blogsphere. A good way to make a recollection of  some of the best blog posts that I made and what this blog has been through in the recent years.  Here is my Going 7 blast from the past...           

1. The most beautiful post I made is Travel is an experience of a lifetime, not because this about the most beautful place that I have been but the most beautiful realization that I had whenever I travel. This is so meaningful to me but I also do believe to every travel blogger as well. This reflection that I had especially during my Bohol trip is so beautiful that I adapt it as my travel blog’s slogan! Don’t you agree with me?    

 2. Alluring Alona  is actually among the most popular post that I made. But I find it the most popular post not only because it has the most number of comments but it also has the most number of travel bloggers and visitors to comment in my last installment of Bohol series. That’s how alluring Alona is!    
Alluring Alona
3. The most controversial post Going Feedback. I made this post during the time when I feel so down about my writing skills.  I got to consecutive article rejections from a publisher and it made me evaluate those stories that I have written.  I am looking where I went wrong but I am surprised by the inspiring and helpful comments of my fellow travel bloggers. This could be not the most controversial one but for me it is.     

4.  The most helpful postGoing Green. Two years ago, Going Places has been strongly campaigning of doing “Green Travel”. It means that as we travel to different places we also do social responsibility of taking care and be concern to the environment of the place that we are visiting and promotes eco-tourism sites of the places. I made this post because I felt I needed to give something back to the community that I believe the most helpful one.  By Green Travel, you just don’t enjoy the places you travel but you also do something good for our planet Earth.    
Every province in the country should practice this like in Pangasinan!
5. A post whose success surprise me is my Vietnam Diary series. I never thought that these posts about Vietnam will trigger me to be a full-time travel blogger. It’s success surprise me because since then it didn’t stop me from writing about travel and places! The Vietnam Diary series is my very first travel post and the birth of Going Places.

My first travel story shared - Vietnam!
6. A post that I feel did not get the attention it deserves is the Hula in Hawaiian Sunset.  Hawaiian sunset is stunning and breathtaking and the Hula is one of the most interesting cultural heritage of Hawaii.  Seeing it all in one full afternoon made one of my most unforgettable day in Hawaii. An so I feel it deserves a second look.   

The beautiful Hawaiian Sunset deserves a second look.

The Hula Girl experience.
7. The post that I am most proud of is Bohol: Allure of Natural Beauty because this trip happened on my birthday and on that day I get to do one of my passion in life – travel! I get to travel for the first time in my birthday. And how proud could it be when you’re doing your one of your passions in life on your special day! And to make it a highly milestone day, I travel via Philippine Airlines who on that day soars to 70 years as Asia’s first airline. Called it a birthday threat, but I am really making “bawi” on my birthday as a year before, I had a “black birthday” becuase I was retrenched  from work. It is also in this trip that I realize that travel is an experience of a lifetime!     
Meeting the Tarsier on my birthday is awesome!
I would like to give my deepest appreciation to Ca de Ramos of Adventurous Feet and Marx of Marxtermind for nominating me to share this 7 links from the past of Going Places. This is a great celebration for my travel blog’s 3rd year anniversary. Thank you so much! Further, to set the chain reaction to continue this 7 links sharing, I am nominating not 5 from the rule but 7  fellow bloggers to also share their 7 links of blast from the past of their travel blogs.          

Here they are...
1. Claire Raborar of Lakwatsera de Primera
2. Oman of Lawstude's Journey
3. Shelyn Siew of Travel and Living Bliss
4. Chyng Reyes of No Spam, No Virus, No Kiddin'!
5. Anton of Pusang-kalye
6. Jerik de Guzman of Pinoy Boy Journal
7. Karla Brazil of As told by Karla     

I hope you enjoy reading!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Who is the real Tarsier? Part 2

Due to  popular (and unsolicit) demand and funny comments I got from its first post, I am giving this post a second limelight to look back on the wonderful memories I had on my first trip in Bohol. But this time, its the "making" of  "Who is the real Tarsier?" There's an imitation wall of the Tarsier where you can slip you face and hand so that you can have a memorable souvenir picture of imitating the famed primate of Bohol in the Tarsier sanctuary that we toured during our Bohol Countryside tour last March.

I am hesitant at first trying to do the "Tarsier Moment". It was a funny thing to do so I had blopper pictures where I can't get a full concentration of what I am doing on the wall's hole.

Though, I try to concentrate, the sort of fun in doing this made me laugh whenever I slip my face on the wall and do the "Tarsier Moment." At least I only made a small attention to other visitors.

Even my sister tried it as well.  Then, for the last time, I try to mock the Tarsier. I slip my face on the wall's hole, enlarge my eyes as large as possible to imitate the big round eyes of the Tarsier and extend my hand limbs to the fullest so I can have an authentic look of the Tarsier. 

The result is... who is the real Tarsier now?

The tarsiers seemed to agree that I perfectly did the "Tarsier Moment" or else the "evil" Tarsier will get me!

The evil Tarsier! haha...
Don't forget that the main purpose of touring the Tarsier Sanctuary is spreading the awareness and concern about preserving the population of one of the unique primate species endemic in Bohol, which is the endangered Philippine Tarsier. If you have got a chance to visit the santuaries in Bohol, please do make even a small donations for the volunteers and for the sanctuary who are working for the preservation of these cute Tarsiers.

More about my Tarsier encounter here

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Pangasinan Wanderings: Alaminos' Hundred Charms

It would be impossible to wander the whole 7,107 islands of the Philippines at the same time. But seeing  100 islands of those 7,107 is an opportunity I will surely wouldn’t miss. So when I crave to explore a nearby province in Luzon with friends, I immediately thought of exploring one of the region’s famed destination in the north – The Hundred Islands of Pangasinan. 

Pangasinan is located on the west central and peripheral area of the island of Luzon along the Lingayen Gulf. The name Pangasinan means "land of salt" or "place of salt-making"; it is derived from the words "Pang", meaning for and "asin", meaning salt, or "For Salt" in the Pangasinan language and other related languages, owing to the rich and fine salt beds which were the prime source of livelihood for the province’s coastal towns. The province of Pangasinan is composed of 44 municipalities, 4 cities and 1,364 barangays.

100 of 7,107 islands of the Philippines
The jumping point is Alaminos City – home of the Hundred Islands. I embarked on a 6 hour bus trip on the road that started in the early hours of the morning to reach Alaminos.  Some travellers will find it a grueling road trip as the long hours of seating in the bus is tiring and boring.  But the scenic roads of Pangasinan will definitely not bore your eyes as I myself find it an indulgence to the sense of sight.

The Hundred Islands from Lucap Wharf
Alaminos is a coastal city in western Pangasinan. Covering an area of 1,844 hectares, the islands are believed to be 2 million years old. There are actually 123 islands, only 25 of them are named, only three have been developed for tourism, and many are still unexplored. All of the 25 islands can be visited, provided that the boatman agrees.  So its better to plan your plan your itinerary to the islands and see the island route of the boatman first before jumping on an island tour.

The Hundred Islands National Park is located in Alaminos City. The islands are actually ancient corals that extend well inland, in an area previously comprising the seabed of an ancient sea. Lowering sea levels have exposed them to the surface and the peculiar "mushroom"-like shapes of some of the islands have been caused by the eroding action of the ocean waves.

Island-bound banca...
1 of the 123 islands of Hundred Islands National Park.
The beauty of nature in Hundred Islands.
Lucap Wharf is the jumpoint of the island hopping tour where all the arrangement, registration and price rates availment are made. It is accessible via tricycle and 15 minutes from Alaminos town proper. Around the wharf are numerous transient houses, inns and hotels for those who opts to stay in Alaminos. Me and my colleagues choose to do a day trip to the Hundred Islands.

From Lucap Wharp, we sailed for 15 minutes to reach Hundred Islands National Park. Seeing the islands much nearer is an explosion of beauty of nature in my eyesight! The lush greens, gray rock formations and white sand beach cove set against the bluest water is a marvelous beauty of nature that can only be found in Pangasinan.  The scattered islands seemed to be formed millions of years ago with a purpose of being a natural beauty that the province can be prouf of. Each frame of view of the islands in my sight are so scenic that all I can do is marvel and appreciate it. It is Alaminos’ hundred charms worth to explore.

Welcome to Governor's Island!
Meeting the real house of "Kuya"
Majestic views of Hundred Islands in front PBB House.
Beautiful beach of Governor's Island.
A few minutes of sail, we reach our first island stop – Governor’s Island. It is one of the three most developed islands in the national park.  This is where I met the real house of “Kuya.” The house was purposely built as the finale setting of the reality TV series Pinoy Big Brother Teen Edition in 2006.  The front of the house has a majestic view of the Hundred Islands. The view is perfect backdrop for photoshoots. I wouldn’t mind staying in an island house if every morning I get this kind of majestic views. The house now serves as a popular landmark in Governor’s Island. It can be rented for an overnight stay in the island as well complete with all the amenities of a transient house.  We explored the island and in doing so we discovered more than about Kuya’s house.

There are coves in Governor’s Island that has fine white sand beaches which are ideal for swimming. The island’s beach seems enticing to swim but our guide led us to a hiking trail atop a hill-like rock formation to see a 360 degree view of the Hundred Islands National Park.  The view of the islands atop is more majestic than the front view of the Pinoy Big Brother house.  I can almost see the entire hundred islands in one whole sight or shall I say I entirely see the 100 of 7,107 islands of the Philippines! It was a beautiful view of the Hundred Islands that lingers long in my mind and worth the tiring hike.  

I love Hundred Islands!!!
A 360 degree view of the national park awaits at the hill-top view of Governor's Island.
Can I name this my island?
The famous view of Hundred Islands.
Our visit to Governor’s Island ended with a sightseeing of a cave at the back of the island. The cave is big enough for people to enter and has a narrow body but there is nothing to see inside, just appreciation of the cave itself.

The next stop is supposed to be Ramos Island but its cove is small that only 2 bancas can dock at the same time. There were already visitors in the island so we just passed by on it.  Ramos Island is famous for being the site location of TV series, Marina. 

The trail down the viewing deck at Governor's Island.
Governor's Island's cave.
A simple reminder of Going Green in Marcos Island.
The next island we explored first greeted us with its nice beach cove and named after the most popular politcal family in the country - Marcos Island. The beach cove of Marcos Island is ideal for swimming but the main feature of the island is the jump challenge at Marcos Cave. You need to do a little hike within the island to see the cave. Marcos Cave has a very wide cavern where visitors can jump from a platform and fall directly to an inland pool connected to the sea. I find it a real challenge because the jumping point is so high that I chicken out jumping into the cave pool! While my travelmates, dare to try it, I just opt to take their photos and later I explored the sightseeing point of the island while waitig for them to swam back to the beach cove. 

Pristine beach cove at Marcos Island.
The challenging Marcos Cave where I chicken out!
Girls are brave, I concluded. Enjoying a swim in pool lagoon of Marcos Cave.
Home sweet home - Bats in Bat Island.
Bat Island is our fourth stop.  The main feature of the island are the bats themselves who inhabiting the islands’ tree branches.  All of them were making a squeking sound as we approach the island adjoined by their distinct smell. I wonder how they resist staying under the sun as the heat rays are strong that morning. Bancas can’t dock at Bat Island are there are no docking area in the island.
Quezon Island from our boat.
Quezon Island's developed amenities for tourists and visitors.
We sail next to Quezon Island – the island where we stayed the longest among the islands of Hundred Islands. This is where you can do many activities that you shouldn’t miss as Quezon Island is a playground to water sports and adventure-seekers.   There is kayaking, sports fishing, snorkeling and swimming of course! Arriving in Quezon Island, we were greeted by a wonderful beach cove where beside it is an enclosed Clam Garden where live Giant Clams are being taken care of.  I would like to do a closer look of the giant clams but the garden prohibits diving in the garden, thus I just contented of looking at it for the first time.  My tavelmates explore further the island and we discover rock formation grottoes facing a beautiful view of the islands perfect for photoshoot, coral reef garden which are ideal for snorkeling and Quezon Island’s second beach cove which is good for play, swim and relaxation.  Quezon Island also has beautiful cabanas and nipa huts to rent for day trip visitors.  It is very ideal for family outings, lunch with friends and other gatherings. 

The Giant Clam Garden at Quezon Island.
A closer look at the Giant Clam and friends!
Another island near Quezon Island.
White sand beach of Quezon Island.
Magazine-cover worthy picture of Quezon Island.

We love Hundred Islands!!! - Swim like no other in Quezon Island.
This scene of Hundred Islands makes you forget all your stress and worries.
I spent most my time swimming with my travelmates in Quezon Islands’ second beach cove because of its secluded aura. There were almost no people except us who were at the beach.  I felf as if we own the beach by ourselves to enjoy. Half part of the cove it shaded by tall trees so no worry about having a sun-kissed skin! (sunburn).  It was here we swim, swim and swim like no other! Also here in Quezon Island, I find it unique that while swimming in its beach, I get a spectacular view of the islands from afar.  It was so scenic that it lingers in my mind and at times I just find myself half submerged in the shallow water of the beach, relaxing and admiring the beauty of the islands from afar.

Just relax all day long...
Cove of pure bliss at Quezon Island.
Children's Island.
Famed for its shallow waters, ideal for swimming with kids, we hop next to Children’s Island. It is the last of the most developed islands in the national park that we visited. There were also cabanas and nipa huts for rent while staying in Children’s Island. The island were crowded by groups of families when we visited so we just opt not to swim in its beach and proceed to our next island stop.

Alaminos' hundred charms - The Hundred Islands from Cuenco Cave viewing area.
Cuenco Cave is the last stop of our island hopping in Hundred Islands. I believe the cave belongs to Cuenco Island. The cave is hidden in between three islands. Cuenco Cave has a wide entrance and large in structure that make me think it is the lair of monster Kraken from Clash of the Titans movie.  Once we enter the cave we were greeted by the cool breeze of the sea which was so good when it damped on my skin.  As I walked inside, I admire t1he fascinating unique rock formations and limestones surrounding the caverns, and ceilings of Cuenco Cave. When we reached the other end of the cave, it was an exit to a stunning view of Hundred Islands. After having souvinir photos of Cuenco Cave, we returned to the entrance again.  This time a different but another stunning view of the Hundred Islands can be seen.  The view was made more stunning with the outline frame of Cuenco Cave entrance. 

Release the Kraken!!! - Cuenco Cave entrance.
Inside Cuenco Cave.
The other side opening of Cuenco Cave has an equally beautiful view.
Cuenco Cave memories...
The beauty of Hundred Islands.
It was the end of our island hopping tour of the Hundred Islands. We returned to Lucap Wharf by 2 in the afternoon. Then, we shop for sourvenirs at Pantalan just near the wharf before going to a local mall to have our late lunch.

It would be really impossible to see all of the 7,107 islands of the Philippines at the same time. But in Alaminos, seeing 100 of them is possible! You just have to widely stretch your eyes in Hundred Islands to see it. I’m proud to have seen these hundred gems of Pangasinan whom the province highly prided. I get to have an exceptional island hopping adventure and I never experience these kind of hundred natural beauties in one trip! Alaminos’ hundred charms is truly the Hundred Islands and when you say its hundred, it  also means hundred gateaways to hundred beaches, hundred coves, hundred snorkeling sights, hundred sport activities, hundred scenic seascapes, hundred caves, hundred sightseeings and hundred adventures!

Alaminos' Hundred Charms is part of my Pangasinan Wanderings two series story happened last July 3-4. Please also do read the second part of the series - Treasures of Bolinao.
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