DUMAGUETE: Solo Travel

You know the thing about spontaneity is that it would surprise you in so many ways. You never know where your decisions would take you, but you’re sure that you will have new memories and new stories to be told. Philippine Airlines had a seat sale before, and me being the spontaneous person that I am, booked a flight to Dumaguete. I really didn’t have any place in mind. I just thought “Hey, Dumaguete sounds nice” and indeed it was.

Dumaguete is part of the Visayas region of the Philippines. It is also known as the “City of Gentle People”. As always, my travels start out rainy. It was raining in Manila on the day of my flight. Luckily, Dumaguete welcomed me with sunshine. It was a short one hour ride from NAIA to Sibulan Airport.

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I chose to stay with The Flying Fish Hostel via Airbnb. They are a solo-backpacker friendly hostel and I have nothing but good things to say about The Flying Fish. I loved the style of the place, the bunk beds and the service. I stayed in a 6-bed dormitory and thanks to this hostel I met new friends! I think they put me in an all-girls room, but they also have a mixed-dormitory. The beds were comfy and you have your own power sockets and light. The shower and toilet area are very clean. They also have a common area where you could grab a drink and meet other travelers. For a hostel, I was really impressed.

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It was my first day in Dumaguete and I decided to visit the downtown area. Getting around was easy from The Flying Fish Hostel. You just hail a tricycle, tell them where you’re going and if they are also going in that direction they’ll let you in, if not, you can hail another one. Usual tricycle trips around the area cost 10 pesos per person but I heard it can get a little bit expensive if you’re going to the Ceres bus terminal because it is pretty far.

I first opted to have lunch at the famous Sans Rival restaurant. I got the lengua rice meal, fresh calamansi juice, and of course I couldn’t leave without trying a slice of sans rival. I do need to warn you it’s really sweet. My meal at the Sans Rival restaurant cost me at around Php 272 only. It was very filling and very affordable for an upscale-looking restaurant. If I had a meal like that back in Manila, it would cost me up to 300-600.

After eating, I then strolled along Rizal Boulevard. It does resemble Roxas Boulevard in Manila quite a bit. The area was filled with different restaurants and shops. During night time, it has a life of its own. Bars come to life and street food vendors fill the street.

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I then went back to the hostel to prepare for my early trip to Apo Island the next morning. There I met Kylie, my bunk bed buddy (She got the top bunk bed). We had a couple of drinks and tried out a Korean restaurant in Dumaguete called Blue Pearl Meat. We got an order of Samgyeopsal for only Php 200 each.

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The day I arrived in Dumaguete, I already looked into how I could get a tour to Apo Island. One of the staff at the hostel recommended I reserve a slot as a joiner at Harold’s Mansion. They offer tours every day (I think) to Apo Island. You need to go there and sign-up at least a day before if you’re planning to join their tours. They also have tours for Manjuyod Sandbar. I woke up early to prepare for the trip. Meet-up time was before 6:45am at Harold’s Mansion. Being my paranoid self, I was the first one to get there. The fee for a whole day tour at Apo Island with snorkeling cost me Php 1,200 as a solo joiner. They provided me with snorkeling gear.

The tour started with a jeepney ride to the port of Dauin. It was a long ride that I fell asleep. We arrived at the docking area and a huge boat was waiting. Remember to wear your swimming attire before going to Apo Island. You will get wet just by hopping onto the boat. The boat-ride to Apo Island took about an hour. We were divided into groups and was assigned a snorkeling guide. Our group consisted of other solo travelers. The boat stopped just by Apo Island, we were informed that area was our first stop for snorkeling. One of the tour guides persuaded me to jump into the water. I was so scared at first but when I jumped and got to see what’s under, it was marvelous.

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The first area was kind of deep. It was where we saw most of the Pawikans or Sea Turtles. I didn’t know how to free dive, but if you do know how, this would be a great diving site for you. The waves made it hard for me to swim around. This area was heaping with Sea Turtles and we were lucky enough to swim alongside them.

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The second snorkeling area was a shallow swimming site. This time, we could see the corals more clearly for it was hitting the faint sunlight. The area was booming with biodiversity. This is where we saw clownfishes and sea snakes. I was in awe of the reef. It was so colorful and full of life.

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We were then provided a small lunch inside the boat. There was a third snorkeling site that we went to but I was so tired that I couldn’t go down the water anymore. We then left the island with nothing but good experiences to keep. Though I was hoping we could explore island. I was kind of disappointed that we were on the boat the whole day and did not set foot on the actual Apo Island. This tour is probably okay for solo joiners like me who can’t find a group to go with.

The next day, I went to Casaroro Falls in Valencia. I went there by ‘angkas’/’habal’ or motorcycle ride since I was just a solo traveler. I met Kuya Lando during my first day in Dumaguete. He was the tricycle driver who dropped me off Sans Rival restaurant. I got to chat with him a bit and asked him to name his price if he were to take me to Casaroro Falls and the Sulfur Vents. We both agreed at Php1,000 for the tour because it was quite far out and the roads were rocky uphill.

We arrived Casaroro Falls early in the morning. I was the first one there because the person who was supposedly to collect fees, still wasn’t there. You need to pay an entrance fee of Php20. Kuya Lando said I could already go down if I wanted to and so I did. I started the 350 steps down the stairs. I could already imagine me struggling on my way back up. I was kind of scared at first because I was alone and I could hear all sorts of things in the forest. As I descended down deep into the forest, I could already hear the river streaming down below. The staircase ended and the stream from the waterfall welcomed me. The man-made pathway to the waterfall has been destroyed because of the typhoon. I had no idea where to go. So I decided to just follow the water upstream. There were big boulders you had to cross which made it really difficult for me because I was alone and I wasn’t sure if I was in the right path. I was scrambling among boulders until one tour guide found me. The tour group was kind enough to let me walk with them to the falls.

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Alas, after 20 minutes of trekking we reached the falls. Nature’s power was right before my eyes. It was amazing to see such beauty, it made all the trekking worth it. I couldn’t take much photos with me in it because I was on my own. I was also having light issues as to why the falls may look over exposed in my shots.

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I cannot even begin to explain how grueling it was for me to hike back up the 350 steps. I kept having small breaks on my way back up. You really need to be physically and mentally prepared if you are going to visit Casaroro Falls. Remember to bring water with you. I couldn’t walk properly for three days after this hike. I wasn’t prepared, but it was still worth it.

After Casaroro Falls, we went by the Sulfur Vents of Valencia. I really wanted to visit this place because it looked amazing. It smelled like century eggs in here which was funny. It was really cool to see this site.

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We ended the tour earlier than I expected. I still had time to have lunch at my favorite place along Hibbard avenue called Sta. Teresa Resto. They are a very affordable restaurant/canteen that offers a variety of Filipino dishes. I also went here with Kylie and I came to love this place because they have so much food!

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I still had plenty of hours to spare after having lunch. Good thing I met Kuya Guyz from the Flying Fish Hostel. He was a tricycle driver for the hostel and offered me a tour at Twin Lakes. Without hesitation, I said yes. It cost me around Php 600 for the Twin Lakes tour. Kuya Guyz drove me to San Jose with his tricycle, there we met his contact who would take me up to Twin Lakes. It was another motorcycle ride uphill for me.

When you reach the gate, you need to pay the entrance fee of Php50. I needed the Kuya to accompany me up to the entrance of the lake itself, so I also paid for his fee and parking, total of my entrance payment was Php82.

The lake was so serene and calm. It was a very nice place to just chill. You can rent a boat to get to the other side. Luckily, I met a fellow solo traveler whose name was Mark, and we shared a boat which cost us Php 250 (Php125 each). The scenery was just so relaxing. Made me feel happy and grateful that I get to witness these things. Mark and I went up the viewpoint to see Lake Danao on the other side (Yes, more hiking!).

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I have to warn people who are planning to come here. There will be a bit of a hike and some may find it difficult because it involves walking up stairs for about 15 minutes. The views are so worth it though. Just like Casaroro Falls, you need to be somehow physically prepared for this. Can you imagine my day consisting of climbing stairs and boulder scrambling? No wonder I couldn’t walk properly for three days. But that’s the great thing about traveling isn’t it? You never know when you could visit a place again. So you do what you can do.

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That sums up my Dumaguete trip. There are still so many places you could go to from Dumaguete like Siquijor, Bacolod or Cebu. I wish I had more time. I loved Dumaguete so much because it was so laid back but with the right amount of adventure. The province life with the hint of night-life. I know Dumaguete is still not that touristy like Siargao, but please do give it a shot. It will surprise you. It truly is the “City of Gentle People”.

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I’m making this blog for future travelers, especially solo-travelers like me who are looking for ways to get around. I’m going to leave contact numbers of the Kuyas who offer ‘angkas’ or motorcycle tours for solo travelers. I become so attached to places I go to. Leaving is always the sad part. Who knew that all you needed was confidence, a bit of luck, a lot of street-smart and a happy personality to interact with everyone you meet so you could have the time of your life. Dumaguete will definitely have a special place in my heart.

 

The Flying Fish Hostel
32 Bantayan, Hibbard Ave, Dumaguete, Negros Oriental
(035) 422 0167
Airbnb- https://www.airbnb.com/users/show/88546208
Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/theflyingfishhostel/

 

Drivers who offer angkas/tricycle tours:
Kuya Lando Curay– 0905-470-6729
Kuya Guyz from Flying Fish– 0935-740-4185

*** Please do mention that I recommended you or tell them you found them through Kat 🙂 I told them that I will be blogging about them. Also, please understand if they can’t cater everyone. They’re also working other jobs.

 

Recommended restaurants/canteens in Dumaguete:

Sta. Teresa Resto
Hibbard Avenue, Piapi, Dumaguete, 6200 Negros Oriental
Price Range: Php 50-150

Sans Rival Restaurant
San Jose Street, Dumaguete, 6200 Negros Oriental
Price Range: Php 100-300

Pick & Carry’s Food Net
Sta. Catalina Street, Dumaguete, Negros Oriental
Price Range: Php 20-80 (BEST PLACE TO EAT! VERY AFFORDABLE!)

Gabby’s Bistro
E Rovira Dr, Bantayan, Dumaguete, Negros Oriental
Price Range: 100- 250 (Great breakfast food!)

Try Dumaguete’s famous tempura!
Rizal Boulevard, Dumaguete, Negros Oriental

 

ENJOY YOUR DUMAGUETE TRIP! 

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BATANES: The Winds Up North – Part 2 [Solo Travel]

Following my north Batan tour from my recent blog post, the next day I decided to go to Sabtang island. I availed my solo Sabtang tour from Ysabelle Homestay for only Php1,300. It was quite reasonable because Kuya Mik, my tour guide, brought along his motorcycle with him up to Sabtang Island but we’ll get to that later. The morning was frighteningly dark. From sunshine and clear skies the day I arrived, I finally saw the real Batanes weather. I thought that my Sabtang tour was going to get canceled because the sky looked like it was almost the end of the world. Ate Elma told me that it may still push through depending on the harshness of the waves we will be sailing through. Going to Sabtang, you need to start early in the morning because the boat going to the island leaves at around 7am everyday. After freshening up and eating the breakfast prepared by Ate Elma, me and Kuya Mik went on to our journey to the port.

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The motorbike ride to the port was one of the best things I have experienced. The cold breeze and the dark clouds made it such a surreal experience. The huge cliffs and the mountains we passed by were so scenic that I felt so small and insignificant against mother nature.

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It was still quite dark and rainy when we arrived at the port, but when they started giving out the life jackets, that’s when we knew the journey would push through. The boat ride to and from Sabtang island will cost about Php 200. Kuya Mik’s motorbike was then tied safely on the front part of the boat together with the other motorcycles. He told me not to sit on the front part if I didn’t want to get wet from the splashing waves.

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I can now say that I have experienced the real Batanes weather. It was so exciting for the waves were big and the skies were gloomy. The boat was kind of small and may tip over. It was awesome!

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We arrived the Port of Sabtang, a line of tricycles and vans were waiting there for their guests. We only had a few hours to tour Sabtang Island but before that, we needed to go to their municipal hall and pay their municipal fee of Php 200. Kuya Mik started our tour at Chavayan Village, it was on the farthest part of the island. He said it’s better to start there because the flock of tourists would most likely go there last.

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The ride to Chavayan village was indeed majestic. Cliffs and rough roads before you get to the village. On our way there, we spotted a very rare bird called the Black-faced Spoonbill. Kuya Mik quickly stopped the motorbike as he saw the bird in its peaceful endeavor. I couldn’t get a clearer picture though, but we were really lucky. I think we were the only ones who saw the bird that time.

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Chavayan consisted of cute little stone houses which endure the wrath of typhoons in Batanes. I also got to try on a “Vakul”, a head protection made by the Ivatan people to protect them from the rain and the heat of the sun. I was also shown how they clean the dry leaves used for the Vakul.

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King Kong vibes in here. Reminds me of Skull Island.

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Here in Batanes, the coconut crab is very common. I got to see one from a little shop that sells souvenirs. The coconut crabs are now actually endangered in Batanes as to why it’s not allowed to bring them home back to Manila. I didn’t try to eat one tho, for I didn’t want to contribute to the decline of the species.

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Next up, we headed to Chamantad-Tinyan viewpoint. I was out of words when I saw all the glory that is this place. It was so beautiful, it was a great place to have an existential crisis. One thing I was scared about though was the very very strong wind. It was literally blowing me away. Be careful when walking near cliffs while the winds are strong. Kuya Mik couldn’t take a proper photo of me because of the strong winds.

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We then went to Savidug Village. It was said that Yeng Constantino’s music video for “Ikaw” was also shot here.

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The very last stop of our Sabtang island tour was in Morong beach where we were scheduled to have lunch. In Morong beach, you will also find the Makabuang Arc.

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Since I was traveling alone, I was reserved a solo seat when we had our lunch in Sabtang. When touring Sabtang, you will most likely be with other tourists or groups that are on tour that day. Also, there is only one place where guests have lunch and that is the one in Morong beach. I was pretty hungry as I was waiting alone for my food. Kuya Mik and the other tour guides ate at another area. I was not informed that it was going to be a set meal. When the ‘Ate’ came in with my food, I asked “Ate, sa akin ba to lahat?” (Is this all mine?) and she said yes, laughing at my reaction. Maybe she was also surprised that I was alone traveling. For all Sabtang tours, you only have a choice of a set meal which costs Php 300.

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See the yellow rice right there? That’s Turmeric rice and it is my favorite. The Ivatan people love to put turmeric on their dishes and I have no problem with that.

You may ask why is eating a set meal the only option? Why can’t I eat at other eateries? What if I don’t have a tour guide? You will most definitely have a tour guide. Unfortunately, doing a DIY solo trip and visiting sites in Batanes on your own is quite impossible now. They require visitors to have a tour guide. Yes, it’s REQUIRED. If you’re on a tour, everyone goes on the same exact tour and everyone eats at the same place. I’ll get more to that later.

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Thus concludes the end of our Sabtang tour. The boat ride back to Batan was quite bouncy. Much harsher than the ride to Sabtang. The waves were pretty high but the sun was already smiling at us.

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When we arrived back to Batan, I still had hours to spare. I decided to go back to Fundacion Pacita and just spend the afternoon there. Cafe du Tukon is a little quaint cafe and restaurant with gorgeous views. Food prices are quite expensive because you are kind of paying for the view. I had pasta and an iced tea for a total of Php558.

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On my last day in Batanes, I went on the South Batan tour. This time I wanted to get a feel of those little hut tricycles so I availed of a tricycle tour to avoid the heat of the sun. Again, I arranged my tour with Ysabelle Homestay. Kuya Tino was once again my tour guide for the day.

We started the South Batan tour at Chawa view deck. It was a view spot facing the ocean but the highlight of this place is the staircase down. Strong waves were crashing against huge rocks. I suddenly wanted to sing “The Winner Takes It All” just like Meryl Streep from Mamma Mia haha.

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Kuya Tino mentioned that there were locals who already died here. They went down that rock platform unsupervised, not knowing that the strong waves could take them away. Please be do careful, those waves aren’t weak.

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Next, we went to Mahatao Boat Shelter Port. This is where fishermen boats are parked, as well as the coastal guard. I also got a chance to buy Taho from a very nice kuya.

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We then went to Tayid Lighthouse. It was so beautiful that I wanted to spend like a few more hours there just sitting down and pondering about life.

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Look at those cows there just chilling and living the life.

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After the lighthouse, my most favorite part of the tour was Racuh a Payaman or the Marlboro Country. Vast rolling hills make me a happy child. The views are amazing as always! It was hard to take proper photos though because of the harsh wind. You can definitely sing “The Sound of Music” here.

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After a very long tricycle ride down the hills, we arrived at the famous Alapad rock formation. It was saddening that I saw trash just right by the sea. Please keep your trash with you as you tour around.

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You can see the famous “BLOW UR HORN” sign everywhere in Batanes where there’s a sharp blind turn.

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Next up, the famous Honesty Coffee shop. Now there was a word going on around that Honesty Coffee shop required an entrance fee before you can go in, but when I went there, no entrance fee was paid for I can assure that. I bought a few snacks to bring home such as the Bukayo.

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From food to clothes and other souvenirs you can find them here in Honesty Coffee shop. You just need to write down the stuff you bought on the little notebook they have inside. This is for their inventory purposes. You pay by inserting your money on one of the boxes there. They do not have change so you really need to pay the exact amount.

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We then on traveled to the House of Dakay. It is the oldest house in Batanes. You can see from the structure that it is the traditional Ivatan house that needed to endure the harsh weather.

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Before we go to our last stop and end the day with lunch, we passed by the Spanish Bridge. It was built during the Spanish era and is still being used today by the Ivatan people.

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Our last stop for the South Batan tour is the Homoron White Beach. It was a quiet beach with shallow waters perfect for swimming! We didn’t get to go to the Spanish Lagoon because construction was ongoing.

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Alas, we ended the day with lunch at Paulvanas. I ate with Kuya Tino because I couldn’t possibly finish everything on the set meal. Everything was delicious or maybe I really was just hungry from all the touring.

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I also loved the Nilagang Baka with seaweed. I’m not quite sure what kind of seaweed it was but it tasted really good and resembled a Miso soup.

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Thus that ends my South Batan tour. I spent the rest of my night packing and chatting with Ate Elma back at the homestay. Getting back to requiring a tour guide in Batanes. Yes, unfortunately, it was recently approved by their municipality to require all visitors with tour guides. So to those wanting to go to Batanes and doing a DIY trip, you can’t go alone for you need have a tour guide with you. There are several tour agencies around Batan which can help you with touring around. Though if you are a solo traveler like me, I highly recommend doing an “angkas” tour (motorbike tour) because it is cheaper and you can talk to your kuya tour guide on which places you want to go to first.

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A short funny story just when I was about to leave Batanes. The morning of my flight was rainy. I woke up to the sound of harsh winds outside the homestay. The powerlines were also out. The winds were very strong and I feared that my flight might get cancelled. I ate my last breakfast at Ate Elma’s with only a lamp infront of me. I started to get nervous that I might not be able to go back to Manila because I had work the next day. As always, the weather in Batanes is quite bipolar. I still went to the airport and the Skyjet people still pushed through with the flight, thank god!

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That concluded my stay in Batanes. It was indeed something new for me. Traveling alone in my own country and immersing myself with the locals. The Ivatan people are genuinely nice. I’ve never felt more welcomed. I have nothing but nice things to say about my stay with Ysabelle Homestay. Ate Elma’s family made me feel like I had a family in Batanes as well. Saying goodbye to this marvelous place is heartbreaking. If only I could stay a few more weeks or months just getting along with nature. I couldn’t go to Itbayat Island anymore due to limited time. They say people get stranded there for a few days if the weather becomes bad.

Me with the ever amazing and nice Ate Elma

If there was a place I’d like to live in here in my home country, it would be Batanes. Never mind the no internet part and the part where there are no commercialized areas. I would love to immerse myself in this kind of environment. I hope I could visit Batanes again soon. Hopefully to visit Itbayat this time. I still can’t believe I went here alone. Just a dream once, a dream that someday you would be coming with your loved ones. But when people you once cared about start to leave you, that’s when you’ll have the drive to go. I still have my dream, even if I was left with nothing. 🙂

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Until we meet again Batanes!

Total expenses:

  • Skyjet Roundtrip Flight- Php 12,260
  • Ysabelle Homestay 4 days and 3 nights with Breakfast- Php 1,350
  • Batanes Eco Tourism Fee- Php 350
  • Beehan Lunch Meal- Php 120
  • North Batan Tour- Php 1000
  • Beehan Dinner- Php 140
  • Sabtang Tour- Php 1,300
  • Boat ride to and from Sabtang-  Php 200
  • Sabtang Municipal Fee- Php 200
  • Set Meal Morong Beach, Sabtang- Php 300
  • Cafe Du Tukon Meal- Php 558
  • South Batan Tricycle Tour- Php 1500
  • Paulvana Set Meal- Php 300
  • Beehan Dinner- Php- 100

TOTAL: Php 19, 678

 

If you would like to stay with Ysabelle Homestay in Batanes, check out their facebook page below. You may also contact them using the number below.

Ysabelle Homestay
Santana St. Brgy. Kaychanarianan Basco, Batanes
https://www.facebook.com/YsabelleHomestayBasco/
(+63) 928 234 2542

 

A first-timer’s guide: Paris

“Aux Champs-Elysées, aux Champs-Elysées. Au soleil, sous la pluie, à midi ou à minuit. Il y a tout ce que vous voulez aux Champs-Elysées”

Now tell me who gets that giddy feeling whenever you hear that song. Ahh yes, Paris. The city of love, the coffee shop-filled streets and museums where maybe you’d have the slightest chance of meeting a fine young man with the same interests as yours. Paris does sound like a dream or an indie film. This city was not really one of my priorities or top places to go to before I die, but I was still very lucky to have visited Paris. It surprised me. Is it really how it’s portrayed in movies? How can you survive the city of wonder and art? What places can you go to? I will run you through how I managed to go around Paris.

1. Getting to Paris

You can get to Paris two ways, either via plane or the Eurostar. Most people take the Eurostar coming from London and arrive at Gare du Nord station. Usually,  people only do daytrips to Paris when they come from London. If you’ll be coming in by plane, Paris’ airport is Charles de Gaulle (CDG). Outside the airport and train station, you can find cabs and local metro trains and buses to reach your hotel or wherever you are planning to go.

2. Uber exists in Paris!

If you’re familiar with Uber and how to use it, I am glad to tell you that Uber exists in Paris. I was the only one really happy about this because cmon, you all know how convenient Uber is. They only use the credit card option though. If you’re more than four people riding an Uber please choose the van. Quite surprised with their Uber that I actually felt like a VIP. The cars were very clean and looked business-class, the drivers were quite nice and they were all wearing suits.

3. Where to Stay

When you’re in Paris, people would recommend actually living the Parisian life. We chose to get an AirBnb during our stay. When choosing your AirBnb, make sure the flat you choose is accessible to a metro station or if possible, walking-distance to some of the places you’re visiting. Also very important note, if you’re traveling with an elderly or you are bringing along huge luggages with you, please choose a flat with an elevator or at least located in the second floor. Most of the apartments in Paris do not have an elevator. Luckily, we found one with an elevator. It would also help if you’re near restaurants or groceries. We managed to cook our own breakfast everyday because there’s a grocery nearby, that’s if your Airbnb has a kitchen. There are also cheap hotels in Paris, but we wanted to experience the real parisian way of living as to why we resorted to getting an Airbnb.

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4. Plan ahead and download apps

Just like my tip from my London post. It would save you a lot of time by planning ahead and downloading apps. What do I mean by planning ahead? List down important addresses, places to go to and how to get there. List down the metro stations you will be going to so you won’t take up too much time asking ‘where is this’ and ‘where is that’. Download offline maps of Paris, it would be very useful. Maps are very important. If you can get a hold of them in tourist spots, please do. Here are some apps I downloaded that helped me:

Paris Metro & Paris App by Triposo

The Paris Metro app is very useful, it can plan your routes for you because sometimes you have to take two trains to get to your destination. The Paris app by Triposo is another helpful app most especially if you’re there on a budget. It lists down hotels nearby you could stay at, restaurants and attractions.

5. Transportation in Paris

Just like London, the city of Paris also has different modes of transportation. The easiest and most convenient way to go around is by using the paris metro. Riding the metro is quite easy, but first let me teach you how to get tickets. There are two kinds of ticket machines now, there’s the old one with the rollers used for navigation and the other one is touch-screen. The touch screen machine is easier because some of the old ones are not in english. Simply point to get tickets and you can choose the option of getting a single ticket, a carnet or a day pass. I would personally recommend getting a carnet. A carnet is a set of 10 tickets. It was much more convenient for us buying a carnet. It will indicate on the screen the amount of money to be paid. Oh and some machines don’t accept bills and some do, so better check it first before buying tickets. These tickets can also be used in buses.

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Now, riding the metro. Simply insert your ticket on the gate to enter the metro. Please keep your ticket because in some stations, you will need it to go out. Same concept as the London Tube, but the routes are determined by the name of both ends. For example, from La Tour Mabourg (Purple line) I want to go to Opéra, I will then take Line number 8 going to the direction of Créteil Pointe Du Lac (the right END of Line 8). On the fourth stop, I will go down to Opéra station and follow the Sortie sign which means the Exit. It’s really quite easy when you get the hang of it, you just need to know which side you’re going to. Also a warning, there are some gates that slam so hard when it closes so please be careful.

6. Be careful of pickpockets

This is like legit real when I say be careful. Even if you live somewhere where pickpocketing is quite normal and avoidable, don’t take this for granted. Pickpocketing and different kinds of modus-operandi are widespread in Paris. I personally have experienced an attempt when I was in the metro of Champs-Elysées. I was about to go through the gates when I heard my bagpack zipper open. I quickly glanced behind me and there was a couple dressed as tourists. I looked at him as he glanced away in embarrassment. He was using a brochure to hide his hand while he was opening my bag. They didn’t get on the train later on. Good thing nothing got taken and I heard it as soon as he opened it. There are also a lot more in the Eiffle Tower area. Sometimes people will approach you asking for donations for a charity. I experienced this and minutes later I saw her running with others when the police arrived. So basically, you really have to be mindful of your things in Paris and be alert. Since the number of tourists going in and out Paris are…. a lot, they have more guts to steal and they will do everything if you’re not observant.

7. Are people really rude?

I don’t know about others but my experience in interacting with Parisian people was quite okay. There is this connotation that people in Paris are rude. I have never experienced that on my stay in Paris. Heck, I even experienced being kicked off a table by a Swedish woman in Norway, but more on that next time. I noticed though, that Parisian people are always busy. Maybe that’s why people say that they’re “unapproachable” but to be honest, it is quite understandable. Everyone needs to make a living and I have observed that Parisian people are hard-working people. They take their jobs seriously and they don’t mess around. Well, there may be a few rude or lazy people you can encounter, but every country has one. Sometimes, there are rude tourists too. So when you interact with french people, try to ask nicely and don’t be scared. Always greet with a “Bonjour” and say “Merci beaucoup” and you’ll be good to go.

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Crepes near the Eiffle Tower. Please buy from this man they have really good crepes and i’ve tried a lot. This one is still the best.

8. Where to go

Eiffel Tower
Can’t say you’ve been to Paris without seeing the Eiffle Tower. Best time to go and take beautiful pictures is in the morning. Take some of your time to wake up early and go there about 7-9am and it will not be that crowded. Good thing our Airbnb is walking-distance away. You can get tickets to go up the tower. There’s a restaurant on the first level, Jules Verne by Alain Ducasse, but it may be quite expensive (Enderun represent!). There are also quaint cafes near the Eiffle tower so you can grab coffee and a croissant while fawning over the view.

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Notre Dame
I find Notre Dame magnificent since one of my favorite disney movies is the “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”. You can buy tickets to go inside and go up to check the view and there are days when they have masses.

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Louvre Museum
The museum on its own is picture-worthy. I would love to chill outside and have a walk around where it’s less crowded. Once you get inside, be mindful of rowdy tourists. Minus the tourists, the inside is just as magnificent. When you get to the room with the Mona Lisa in it, you’ll be surprised and imagine that it was taken from an “expectations vs. reality” post. I managed to squeeze my way through the front and took a quick snap. Hey, just like concert moshpits ain’t it?

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Cruise on the River Seine
Nothing could be more romantic than cruising on the Seine river with your loved one. It screams Paris so much. There are cruises at night too and I believe it would be much more prettier especially if you see the Eiffle tower sparkling at night.

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Jardin du Palais Royal
If you’re a fan of pretty parks and want picturesque areas for your photos, Jardin du Palais Royal is for you. It was quite a bit of a challenge looking for the entrance though haha. It’s walking distance from the Louvre Museum. There are benches here and it’s a quiet place where you can just chill and let your surroundings sink-in.

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Arc de Triomphe
When you go to Champs Elysées,  no doubt you’d already see Arc de Triomph. Please be careful when taking your photos in the middle of the road with the Arc on the background. Please do it in respective spots and don’t just cross the road and pose. If you want to go up the Arc du Triomphe to get a view of Paris, that is also possible.

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Place de la Concorde
If any of you have seen “The Devil Wears Prada” movie, you might be familiar with Place de la Concorde where Anne Hathaway throws her phone in the fountain as she quits her A-list life. Place de la Concorde is also a beautiful area with monuments and cute cafes.

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Other places you can check out:
* Sacre Coeur- Gorgeous view up top and an alley of souvenir shops down below where you can bargain for a very cheap price.
* Palais Garnier-  An Opera house located in Rue Scribe. Marvelous architecture inside the opera house it will look like you stepped into the set of “The Phantom of the Opera”
* Paris Catacombs- If you are a fan of adventure and eerie places, this might spark your interest. Not for the claustrophobic though.
* Shopping at Champs-Elysées- A street filled with the world’s most popular brands. Be careful of pick pockets in this area.
* Spend a day at Palace of Versailles- Spend a whole day here because it is in the outskirts of Paris. A very beautiful garden and palace. Check their site for the fountain show schedule.

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9. Eat your heart out

Other than art and the Eiffle tower, Paris takes pride in their food. Having to go in a culinary school with the practices of the Alain Ducasse Group, I was most ecstatic to try actual french food because i’ve been studying it for years now. If you can shell out a bit of money and time, try eating at a fine-dining restaurant. An example would be Jules Verne on the Eiffle tower. Make sure you make reservations when eating at these restaurants. When you’re a “cheap-asian” like me, there are affordable cafes around the area that still provide good food. Don’t forget to buy crepes. There are a lot of them in Paris but sadly there was only one that I really loved. Try the famous French Onion Soup and the Croque Madame. I also did not forget to try a Truffle Cream Pasta and Risotto in Paris, and I did not expect that I was truly missing a lot. They were generous with the truffles and the cheese and take their food to the next level. If you’re really lucky, you’d find these gems in the streets of Paris that serve good food.

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All in all, Paris was beautiful. The architecture, the art and most especially the food. All of this are based on my experiences. If you’re planning to go to Paris, do not be scared to talk to people. At the very least you tried. Be careful of pickpockets too. Enjoy your time in Paris! Au revoir!

Paris Currency: € Euro
Cleanliness: ✮✮
Accessibility: 
Friendly People: ✮✮✮
Food: ✮✮✮✮

A first-timer’s guide: London

Visiting a country for the first time can get a little scary and I am very thankful for the little preparation I have done before the big adventure. I am a first-timer to London myself and I will share how I “winged” it in the British country if ever you’re going there for the first time as a tourist.

1. Flights and getting to London

Coming from the Philippines, you can imagine how far the UK is. I’m really not a fan of connecting flights, so we booked a direct flight instead. A direct flight from Manila to London Heathrow Airport will take about 14 hours. That’s if you can manage to stay inside a plane for 14 hours lol but do not fret! there are also connecting flights from Manila to London. Emirates has one I think but since we wanted to get there fast, we booked a direct flight with Philippine Airlines. Keep in mind though, when you book returning flights with the same airline, remember your point of entry. Our point of entry for our Eurotrip was in London, which means we go back to London for our flight back to the Philippines because we booked a returning ticket with the same airline. If ever you’ll be coming from another european country, there’s the option of taking the Eurostar train to London or going to London via Plane. If you’re taking a plane to London, you can choose British Airways or perhaps you’d like a more chill journey (but longer), then take the Eurostar. There are trains going in and out of London. Just make sure you have the right visa though.

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2. Where to stay

You have lots of options in London when it comes to lodging. You have three options. Hotels, Airbnb, Backpacker Hostels. Of course, when we say Hotel it’s not always cheap, but you get the luxury of staying in comfy beds, clean bathrooms, room service and sometimes free breakfast. I would most definitely recommend staying with Airbnb. Sometimes I could find flats/houses that are much cheaper than hotels and it has like a room or two, a common room and your own kitchen. If you’re rather adventurous and on a very tight budget, there are also Backpacker Hostels in London. You’ll surely meet new friends there. I did consider though, that our lodging should be in Central London and quite near train stations. So we got a hotel near Regent’s Park. Your life would be easier if you consider these things.

3. Plan ahead and download apps 

Thank god for the advancing technology right!? Believe me when I say your phone will be your bestfriend in another country. Before going to the UK, I have downloaded offline maps of London and apps for the tube (train). I also did my own research and written down notes on how to get from Point A to Point B. What station is nearest and where to go down. Trust me, Google Maps will help you. But if ever you don’t have data, make sure you have your offline map on your phone. If you are fond of another language, you can also download english translator apps. List down things you’re going to do, directions and addresses. You’ll be glad you did so. I used this offline map called Ulmon. It also has a London Tube map and recommendations for activities.


4. Transportation in London

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Getting around London is quite easy. There are cabs, buses and trains you can catch. The tube is London’s underground train system and it will be the most convenient way for you to go around. You need to use an Oyster card for both the tube and the buses. There is also the option of taking a taxi but it’s ~*expensive*~. Well, everything in London is expensive lol. So let me teach you how to use the London tube.

  • Buy an oyster card: Since it’s your first time, you might get intimidated by the self-automated machines. It’s rather easy to navigate. You can buy new oyster cards from there as well as paper tickets for a whole day use. Take note of the Zones when buying paper tickets. Most attractions are usually included in Zones 1 and 2. Don’t worry, you can ask questions and assistance, there are people there ready to help. Some stations have ticket offices too if you don’t like navigating through a machine.
  • Reloading your oyster card: On the ticket machines, there’s a spot there where you touch your card and it reads how much credit you have. If you want to top-up (add credit) you can simply choose that option. Choose the amount you want to add, slide in the coins/bills/credit card, and then touch your oyster card again to the reader to add the credit (It will indicate in the screen). Keep in mind that some machines only accepts coins and credit cards, some don’t accept bills.
  • Getting inside: Simply touch your oyster card on the reader so the gates will open. If ever you’re out of credit, it will not open up.
  • Knowing what train to ride: Here’s the London Underground Map
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    You will be guided by the colors of the line. Once you know what line/train you will be using, all that’s left to know is which train goes in that direction. It will be either north, south, east, west bound. Once you go inside, every train line has two different directions. Make sure you enter the right platform. You can also check the big maps there before entering a platform. I’m gonna give you an example on how to ride the train. From Warren Street Station, I want to go to Victoria Station.  If you can see, there are two train lines stopping in Warren Street Station. One is the Northern Line (Black line) and the other one is the Victoria Line (Light Blue line). I need to ride the Victoria Line (Light Blue line) going South bound to go to Victoria Station. I will then go to the right platform and wait for the train. Inside the train you could also see the stops so you are aware when you’re getting down. As you arrive to your destination, you can follow “Way Out” signs to exit the station. You will need your oyster card or tickets again to exit the station.
  • Buses: You can also use your oyster card on buses. Every bus stop has a timetable and a list of buses stopping at that area. That’s why it’s very helpful if you check what bus you’ll be riding before hand. Same procedure with touching your oyster card on the reader next to the driver. Though, some buses have readers on the other entrance at the back of the bus. If you have a paper ticket, kindly show it to the driver.

 

5. What to do in London

Harry Potter Studio
If you are a fan of the magical world of Harry Potter,  then this is the place for you. I was giddy when we went here. Seeing the set and the stuff they used for filming were there. It truly is a heaven for Harry Potter fans. You may purchase tickets there if you’re going on your own. If you’re coming from central london, I would recommend joining a tour. You can google tours that go to Harry Potter Studio. Great thing about tours is that transportation is included. You get to ride the bus together with other tourists and the guide would give out the tickets on-board. No more hassle of lining-up in the ticket office! If you’re planning to buy souvenirs from the studio, let me warn you that they’re rather expensive. Well, it’s Harry Potter.

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Portobello Market/Notting Hill
If you have a knick for antiques or just want to visit the site where they filmed “Notting Hill”, Portobello is an interesting place to be. You can also find cheap souvenirs there. When I say cheap, it’s like the “divisoria” type items that are sold £15 for 3 items and the like. If you want a food journey, Portobello Market has a wide selection of food stalls, cafés and restaurants. You can check out my Portobello Blog <– here

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Westminster/London Eye
Seeing Westminster will give you quite the London feel. You will find the Big Ben there and the Westminster Abbey, so don’t forget to take pictures, for it will be your one true proof of London hahaha. When you get to Westminster, you will already see the London Eye by the bridge. It’s quite a near walk if you want to get a closer look, or even ride the London Eye. There will be a long line though.

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Sherlock Holmes Museum
Cue Sherlock theme lol but if you are an ultimate fan of Sherlock, I know this will be on your go-to list. Just having your photo at the facade in Baker Street is already an achievement. They also have guided tours if you want to go up the apartment. You can purchase tickets inside the souvenir shop.

The London Beatles Store/Abbey Road 
That popular pedestrian lane would most definitely ring a bell to Beatles fans. Abbey road is just a walk away from The London Beatles store in Baker Street which just beside the Sherlock Museum. They can provide you with a map if you’d like to visit Abbey Road to get your picture taken while crossing. But please be mindful of the cars passing by, it’s still a normal street after all. Don’t make people wait.

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Windsor Castle
This place is quite far from Central London. I would also recommend getting a tour for this so you won’t have problems with transportation and tickets anymore. Sometimes you can even catch the queen in Windsor Castle! I’ve learned that whenever the flag is up, it means that the queen is there. It’s really a marvelous place with all the great structure. There are also guards in red uniform, marching around the area. Please respect them and don’t poke them or something, they’re doing their jobs in peace.

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Roman Baths
I would still recommend getting a tour for this. We got a packaged tour for Windsor, the Roman Baths and Stone Henge. Well,  that’s if you don’t mind going on and off a bus and feel like being rushed. The Roman Baths can get crowded and it’s quite hot in this area. Be careful of the slippery rocks though so you don’t slip. You’ll find many performers outside the baths which was more enjoyable for me. I’d rather chill outside next to the abbey though. It was already like being in Italy.

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Stone Henge
Well, what can I say. It’s a bunch of rocks in an open field lol but still it’s a piece of history though. Once you get to the entrance, you’ll get to ride a bus to the actual stonehenge. To be honest though, I was more fascinated by the vast open field around it. I wanted to roll over the fields and just lay there.

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6. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

I cannot stress this enough. DO NOT BE AFRAID TO ASK QUESTIONS. People in London are rather nice. Well, most of them. They would be willing to help you out with anything. Just say thank you afterwards 🙂

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So yea, these are some of my experiences in The Great Britain. I hope I helped you somehow. London is a very clean city, so please follow the rules and don’t throw rubbish everywhere. Seat belts are very important! Even in taxis. Don’t forget to wear them. Enjoy your first ever UK trip! You will have loads of fun. If ever I forgot some more places to go to. Please comment them down below. Thanks!

Currency in the UK: £ GBP (Great British Pound)

 

Journey to the land down under

Last May I finally got to visit the land down under, Aussie country 🙂

We first visited Melbourne where our relatives were and we got to tour around the city. Federation square is a great place for artsy people, or if you just wanted to chill. It was filled with galleries and marvelous structures, cafes and restaurants. One thing I also noticed is that they take their coffee seriously, so move aside Starbucks. We also got to ride the tram around the city, and guess what, it was free! Bless Australia.




At night, Melbourne’s skyline can be seen by Crowne’s riverside together with a gas fire show.


We also went to Phillip Island and watched the famous penguin parade, where you can see the adorable little penguins coming out of the shore in groups as they travel up their little houses. Cameras weren’t allowed tho because it might scare them away. I experienced a severe existential crisis the moment I saw the majestic view in Phillip Island. The rock formations were amazing and the grass couldn’t be much greener. It was just like stepping into a postcard.




Check out my first Australia vlog! Journey to the Land Down Under.

After a week in Melbourne, we flew to Cairns. Seeing the Great Barrier Reef was the highlight of my trip. We stayed in Port Douglas where the sudden change of temperature left me comparing it to Manila. We met a fellow Filipino in the hotel we were staying at, and he was nice enough to drive us around the town.


We availed of the day tour to the Great Barrier Reef and it was like an hour boat ride to the ‘actual reef’. It was also a great experience to scuba dive! I couldn’t take my camera with me for it was my first time scuba diving. It was difficult at first because I was breathing through my mouth and it was really salty :I because well yea, sea water. It got more difficult as we got deeper and deeper, my ears were ringing, almost choking because of the struggle I was having with breathing in salty air. At the bottom, I got to touch a huge clam and it was funny because it twitches and closes whenever you touch the inside. Most of the people scuba diving would look for Nemo, and yes I saw a clown fish in its humble sea anemone home. In summary, it was a privilege to dive a world heritage site. I was very lucky to have seen the beautiful reef.


I got to take my camera with me when I snorkeled. Click here for my Great Barrier Reef Vlog.


Side rant: Let me just say that if you find yourself going to Cairns, please avoid Sun Palm Transport at all costs (But if you’re not, then okay ignore this long paragraph) The only thing that ruined my whole Cairns trip was this excuse of a transportation company. We booked airport transfers to and out of Port Douglas. Going there was fine, the driver was nice and we got to our hotel in a breeze. We also scheduled a transfer back to the airport at 3:30am because our flight was 6:00am. We were instructed to wait for the shuttle at 3:30am and so we did, 30 minutes had passed and still no shuttle. We couldn’t call the office because the front desk itself was closed until morning (I was not aware they do that). We called using our prepaid mobile, after countless calls that were not answered, alas they decided to pick up the phone! Guess what bullshit they gave us. They said that there was a problem in scheduling and they did not apparently record it (Take note everything was already paid for!) They only said sorry and called a taxi to pick us up, in which we also paid. So hello Sun Palm Transport if you’re reading this. I’m putting this up here. I would totally understand if it was just a mistake that you didn’t get to schedule our transfer, but cmon now, all you did was call a taxi for us. I tried to search the web, to understand if it was just us who experienced this, but NO we weren’t. Up to now we still do not have our money back, and that is a big deal for us because hello cheap person here lol. Please avoid this company if you don’t want the risk of encountering problems. ~end of rant

Spending 2 days in Port Douglas, we flew straight to Sydney for another two days before going back to Melbourne. We took the train and visited the town of Wyong. We went to this open field with kangaroos, and yes they were just there, no fences or anything. It was a field of wild kangaroos. A lot of them approached us once we got out of the car, but they were quite nice lol they would just smell you but as long as you don’t hurt them they won’t punch you haha. We only had a day to tour the city. I gotta say, Sydney is almost like New York, especially at night, but a little bit safer (I think). But hey, nowhere’s really safe nowadays. The Opera House was magnificent at night with all the cool projections and stuff.




When we got back to Melbourne, the last place we visited was Lorne. We were supposed to check out the Twelve Apostles but it was too far out so we only reached Lorne. It was a very peaceful town, and another place I’d like to live in.

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All in all, this Australian trip was memorable. I’ve experienced the joys and downsides of being a tourist in a country that I was not familiar with (But I’ll get to that ultimate touristy story later). It was hard saying goodbye to such an awesome country and there were still so many places left to explore in Australia. I still have to go to Tasmania, Gold Coast and the Twelve Apostles. I cannot wait to come back.

Please do check out my Australia album on Flickr for more HD photos from this trip 🙂