Enthralled by El Nido

I found my paradise in the Philippines.

Spellbounding Siquijor

A brave girl's first ever solo trip was to this mystical island.

The Quiet Charm of Cagbalete Island

Outdoor serenity at its best.

The Rugged Beauty of Islas de Gigantes

The off-the-beaten rockin beauty of Northern Iloilo.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Living La Vida Local in KL


Malaysia Day 10 (continued)

My friend and I were supposed to meet each other at the ongoing Book Fest in KLCC. I came in a little bit late and there were too many people coming in and out that we never found each other. I just let her do her thing and shop for a bit while I had my dinner.

I just headed to the Food Court and chose what appeals to me the most. I saw this one stall selling yummy looking chicken barbecues with a very nice lady behind the counter. I was right! One of the best I ever tasted! I ate slowly to relish the deliciousness of it. It was so yummy! I hardly notice I was dining alone. :)


chicken BBQ rice


So after that, I met my friend in one of the shops. We were supposed to have a tea at the Purple Cane's but they're about to close. We ended up having dessert in Tong Pak Fu.


my chocolate snowgrass! :)


Tong Pak Fu is a Hong Kong dessert shop serving snowies and other Chinese desserts. They also have special teas. I got myself a Chocolate Snowy with Honeydew and Black Pearl Sago. I loved it! I also had Lavender Tea after. It tastes weird but Moon says it's good for migraine, so why not? :)


My friend went home earlier than me. She said she was still tired from the trip. I stayed a bit longer to once again see the beautiful Petronas Towers at night and the fountain show.


can't get enough of  it


lovely the second time around


It was a good night. Before I went to sleep, I posted a message in CS KL. I was asking if anyone is free the following day to spend it with me. It'll be my final day in KL.


Malaysia Day 11

I checked my inbox the next day. Several people responded to my invite. Some even sent me SMS. I have shopping plans in the morning so afternoon til night would be great for meet-ups.

Since I missed that Book Fest the previous night (and it wasn't good for a bookworm!), I went to KLCC that morning to do my shopping. I borrowed Moon's Book Fest Brochure and found some items interesting. I bought 4 books and cute souvenir items. I tried using my credit card. Not that I no longer have cash. I just wanted to know if it works abroad because many fellow European travelers had problems using their cards in Malaysia. I was happy my credit card worked outside the Philippines. :)


gloomy day


It was overcast that day. After shopping in KLCC, I went to Pasar Seni or the Central Market. It is a one-stop shopping center for Malaysian products. As in name it, they have it there. It is the perfect place to shop for souvenirs. It started to rain when I was making my way from the train station to the Central Market. I was unable to take photos of it outside, ugh.

I had my lunch first before checking out the shops. At the Pasar Seni Food Court, I saw this Indonesian shop selling fresh looking deep fried fish. That was hearty.


ikan penyet


I was half way through my shopping when Vicky sent me a text message. Vicky was one of those Malaysian Couchsurfers (CSer) who responded to my message. She was inviting me for a hike. I told her I wasn't prepared as I was wearing slippers and currently shopping. She was so nice to offer me lending her spare shoes! She told me she'll bring it with her. Then there was another CSer who happened to be staying in a hostel near Pasar Seni that wants to come with her. She told me, we should just go together to meet her.

Hugo, a Canadian guy, was the other CSer. We just met at the train station and went together to Kepong Sentral to meet Vicky. He was nice but I don't get his humor. He also messes up my vocabulary haha. Hugo, if ever you come across this page, peace out!  ;) After 40 minutes, we made it to Vicky's place. Heavy rain kept pouring so we canceled our hiking plan. Vicky just invited us for a dinner.


my second Chinese-Malay family :)


On photo was Vicky's Dad, Mom, Hugo, Vicky and Moi. She brought us to Hometown Steamboat Restaurant in their area. Hugo and I were actually surprised we're having dinner with her entire family. With us were her parents and siblings, together with their spouses. It was a big family dinner. I did not take photos as I was ashamed of spoiling the great family bonding. We were in a big round table. We had noodles, congee and some more Chinese dishes. For the nth time, they mistaken me for a Chinese. I don't know but they always do in Malaysia. I'm not quite sure if I really look like Chinese because I have big eyes haha. Auntie asked if I can speak Chinese hehe.

Again, it was very nice being treated like a family. We felt honored that they won't start eating not until we (Hugo) get the first serving. They're even giving us the best parts of the dishes. We had chocolate fondue for dessert which we happily shared with the whole family. It was so fun. Vicky didn't let us pay anything. She said it was her treat. They were so sweet. :) She drove us around KL downtown after dinner and we had tea in Bukit Bintang to end our night. We did some more talking and story sharing. They even walked me home to my hostel. I was so lucky to have met these people. I don't think I would if I did not travel alone.

Just recently, I was saddened by the news that Uncle (Vicky's Dad) passed away just a few months ago. Even though I just met him once, I felt a little affected because I have been treated very nicely by their family. Rest in peace, Uncle. Vicky and I remain friends until now. We continue to keep in touch and hopefully, I'll see her again soon. She is one of the sweetest person I've ever met.



"The more I traveled the more I realized that fear makes strangers of people who should be friends." ~Shirley MacLaine



This is Part 7 of my Peninsular Malaysia travel series.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Wakaf Bharu-Kuala Lumpur Night Train



my epic sleeper train adventure


Malaysia Day 9 (continued)

The entire country of Malaysia was celebrating Hari Raya (End of Ramadan) when we decided to travel back to KL. Meaning, it was a nationwide holiday. Most transportation companies were inoperative and flights were fully booked. We were left with no other option but to take the train. It was the only working mode of transpo that time.


Wakaf Bharu Station platform


Well, what can I say. The train was very late. It was almost 8:00 PM when we it arrived. Uncle waited with us at the platform. He was so sweet. He even bought us each, bottles of mineral water that we can take for the long train ride. He also made sure we're getting the great beds (well it's a sleeper train, so it wasn't seats hehe) and that we are okay after boarding.



a stray kitten we fed at the station


Uncle was one of those people who made this backpacking trip memorable for me. I was treated like his own daughter. I never felt like I was away from home because I was treated like a family member. Another act of kindness from a total stranger I would never forget. Xie xie, Uncle! :)



got used to the Malay words :) 


Moon and I got beds opposite to each other. The train was a little old but still comfortable enough. The train wasn't full. Only the lower decks were mostly occupied. Who travels during Hari Raya anyway? Most of them were in their hometowns celebrating with their families.



Moon in her deck :)


The train left at around 7:50 PM. It was getting dark. I felt a little bit melancholic as the train began to move at the same time the sky was darkening. Going back to KL means, my journey is about to end soon.



getting emo ;) 


The bed exactly fits my height and I'm a "short" person. So I think, it's a little more difficult for Westerners to fit in there. The space was fine, I could still roll around my bed. :) We just put our backpacks at end of the bed. The beddings were decently clean, I guess. It didn't smell or anything. Although I was a bit wary because I saw some baby roaches crawling on the floor. Yaiiks.



me in my train bed


We can't sleep at first because there was a bunch of noisy and hyperactive kids running around. They were even opening up other people's curtains and climbing up the vacant beds on the upper decks. Geez, those kids. Since I couldn't sleep, I just wrote my travel notes and recounted everything I have to remember about the trip. I forgot my travel journal, so I just wrote it at the back of my used flight itineraries haha.



my train ticket


Still couldn't sleep after that, so I just read a book. I tried to continue that Fifty Shades book that was pending for so long. As of writing, I still hadn't finished it. Maybe I really don't like it. I just don't dig it. To my friends who recommended it, sorry! It made me fell asleep! Your Christian Grey bores me. ;)


Malaysia Day 10

We had a pleasant sleep that night. I woke up at around 7:00 AM thinking that we may be close to KL. The sun was out and the skies were already bright. They said it'll be a 12-hour trip. But when I looked outside, it didn't look like where in KL yet. There were still trees and vegetation. Looked like the train wasn't going too fast.


are we there yet?


It was not like we could do anything, so we just patiently waited until we reached Kuala Lumpur. Well, guess what? The 12-hour train ride became 16 hours! We arrived in KL Sentral at around 12:00 noon. That was the longest ride of my life to date!


good morning Malaysia!


Even though we got some sleep overnight, we still felt exhausted after the trip. Moon and I parted ways in KL Sentral. We agreed to rest for the afternoon and just meet later that night in KLCC just to hang out and have dinner.

That was one unforgettable ride. It was almost three times longer than that Thailand-Cambodia border train ride where I got bored as hell. Good thing this one was a night train! It was an overwhelming first experience. Yeah, it was my first sleeper train ride. I'm starting to consider myself as a seasoned traveler. ;)




This is Part 6-2 of my Peninsular Malaysia travel series.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Wat Happens in Tumpat, Kelantan, Malaysia


Malaysia Day 9 (continued)

From Perhentian Island, we arrived in Kuala Besut at 12:00 noon. Like what Uncle promised, he took care of us from there. He let us rode on his friend's cab going to Wakaf Bharu train station where trains going to KL are. It took us about an hour and a half to get there. We shared the ride with an American tourist and a Malaysian couple. When the driver dropped us off, we asked him how much to pay, he refused to tell us. He said Uncle got it covered. We were speechless. Taxis going to Kota Bharu normally costs about RM15 per person and RM 60, if you're just 2 pax.

Uncle met us at the train station. He brought his car with him. We checked the train's departure time and bought our tickets in advanced. He was heaven-sent. Why? He paid for our train tickets! I wasn't expecting he'll do that for me too. I mean, I was just Moon's travel buddy. I'm not even a fellow Chinese and the ticket costed RM 54 (PHP 700+)! I insisted to pay him back but he strongly refused. I told you, I've been so lucky on this trip.

Since the train was not leaving until 7:00 PM, he took us around Kota Bharu (KB) and to the nearby town of Tumpat to kill time. He first brought us to the restaurant strip in KB for lunch. Most vegetarian restaurants were closed because it was Hari Raya, so we settled in a Chinese place. We saw this lovely bakeshop selling delicious looking breads and pastries. Again, Uncle paid for our goodies. It was too much already I know, but he really insists. We felt like Daddy's two little girls, I swear. Okay, our stomachs were full. Time for some wat hopping in Tumpat.



Wat Matchimmaram

Tumpat is located at the very end of Malaysia's east coastline. It is just 15 km away from the state capital Kota Bharu. Many Siamese-Malaysians reside in this area, thus the presence of many Buddhist temples in this district.

Uncle drove us first to Wat Matchimmaram. It is well-known for it's Big Sitting Buddha. It is said to be the largest sitting Buddha in meditation pose in South East Asia.



against the light 


Aside from the numerous Buddha figures all over the place, you'll also see several Chinese divinities in front of the temple like the ones below.









This Buddha statue measures 30 meters in height and 18 meters in width. It's gold lips is also very noticeable. Its coating is made of solid gold mind you. A statue this big took 10 years to finish, only expert craftsmen from Thailand could.



the golden-lipped Buddha


Thai architecture is so evident. You might wonder why there are Thai temples in Malaysia. The state of Kelantan is located at the north eastern side of Malaysia which is very close to the Thailand border.





The Thai Buddhists community usually do their religious celebrations in this temple.










It was a very interesting temple. I enjoyed exploring it.


Wat Maisuwankiri

Our next temple was the Wat Maisuwankiri, also known as the "Dragon Boat Temple". This one is more grand and I would say more beautiful.


main temple hall


I loved this temple's great architecture and nice play of colors. It is very pleasing to the eyes. They say the original temple has been built 400 years ago.


reminiscent of the Grand Palace structures


You will notice similarities with the Grand Palace in Bangkok. It looks amazing. These new structures are about over 50 years old.


impressive architecture


This temple was constructed from the funds of Thailand and Malaysia Buddhist Association and public donations amounting to RM 300,000. That amounts to PHP 3.9 million in our currency! Wow.


another hall


The temple complex is huge that you may find yourself alone in some spots and you may take as many photos of yourself as you want haha. :)  This temple covers 4 hectares.


see? haha :)


I liked this particular structure, so if  you noticed I took a lot pictures of it.


lovin the colors :)


Then, there's this dragon boat structure. There's a pond inside it where there are lots of fishes. I mean lots of fishes.


the Dragon Boat

those were big fishes huh



That dragon boat is gorgeous but there were obvious discolorations already. That's basically what Wat Maisuwankiri is all about.


There's still one more interesting temple in the area, the Wat Phothivihan. It is also one of the most popular, out of the 25 temples in Tumpat. It is known for its gigantic reclining Buddha which is the longest in whole South East Asia. Too bad we were out of time already. We didn't see it. We have to be at the train station before 7:00 PM.

Tumpat is perfect for a side trip when you are going to or coming from the Perhentian Islands. There are many interesting temples around the area. You'll also get to see a different side of Malaysia. Sometimes, unplanned destinations can really make your time worthwhile. :)

*A wat is a monastery temple in Thailand, Cambodia, or Laos. If  you just wonder wat I'm talking about :)




This is Part 6-1 of my Peninsular Malaysia travel series.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Perhentian Kecil: Dinner in Long Beach and Our Last Day


Malaysia Day 8 (continued)

We immediately took a shower and prepared to go to the small island, Perhentian Kecil. We were catching up with our French buddy in Long Beach for dinner.



on our way


We paid RM 15 each. Yeah, water cabs are kinda expensive here. We reached Long Beach in like 20 minutes. Kecil is much more crowded. There were lots people and there were lines of restaurants and bars at the beach. You'll immediately feel the party vibe here. It's the opposite of Besar, which is very quiet.



@ Long Beach


We looked for a restaurant to have dinner. We found the Bubu Long Beach Restaurant at the farthest right end of the beach. It is also the most posh looking and had the nicest ambience. But because we just walked in, all the good seats were taken and reserved. But we didn't mind sitting at the innermost part of the restaurant. The interiors are also swell.

As usual the French guy  was late again. Moon and I ordered our food even before he came because we were starving.


pad thai


Moon got herself a pad thai. I think that the most vegan dish on the menu hehe.



beef curry


I had my beef curry. I missed eating beef, that was it haha. Clement got himself some prawn dish when he arrived.



my crazy French bud :)


We thought Clement wanted to party and get drunk that night. Good thing, he didn't because he has an early morning dive the next day. So we just talked and shared lots of stories over dinner and strolled at the beach afterwards. We went back to the hotel in Besar at around 11:00 PM.


Malaysia Day 9

We were leaving Perhentian at 11:00 AM that day, so I had my early morning beach walk.


coral view beach


I woke up at around 6:00 AM that morning to do my final stroll. The island was still asleep.









The sea was very calm and still undisturbed.



PIR in the morning


How can I forget this beautiful paradise? I wished I could stay longer.



goodbye, Perhentian! :(


After a couple of hours of leisurely walk, I went back to our room to fetch Moon for our breakfast. We also paid our final visit to Uncle and thanked him for everything. But his kindness and generosity wasn't done yet. He said, he'll also go to town and will accompany us to Kota Bharu. He was so nice, as in.



Moon and our Hari Raya food :)


Before we left the island, there was a Muslim family celebrating the end of Ramadan or the Hari Raya by the beach. We were invited by them and of course we accepted their kindness. We were asked to try several of their dishes. Sweet. :)

Our Perhentian escape had been more relaxing and rejuvenating than tiring. Travelers can also be inactive, you know haha. Our journey continued in Kota Bharu and Tumpat. That's up next in this series.




This is Part 5-3 of my Peninsular Malaysia travel series.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Perhentian Besar: Exploring the South and Snorkeling in Turtle Beach


Malaysia Day 8

We failed to wake up early again. We were left by the snorkeling trips which sucked. That means we missed the chance for good because we were leaving the next day already. Oh well, we had to seize the day no matter what.

We went to our usual breakfast place by the beach where I had my stir-fried noodles and coffee.


Malaysian -style stir fried noodle


A family of monkeys were moving from one place to another through the resort's restaurant roof. They entertained us that morning. There were so many of them. It goes to show that their habitat in the island is well-preserved.



monkeys!


It was another clear sunny day. First, we planned to explore the other side of the island where the "family" resorts are.


another day in paradise


Uncle was so nice, he brought us to the other side of the island instead of us hiking all the way there. We checked out the southwest part of the beach which has the Tuna Bay Resort and New Cocohut Chalet. Other guesthouses there seemed to be rotting and abandoned. I actually wonder why because they had a good location.


swinging out in Tuna Bay Resort


The beach here was not as nice as the one that we have in the PIR or the northern beach area. The sand was not white and not very fine. But they say snorkeling is better here. We didn't try it though. Got nothing much to do there so we hiked back going to our resort.



15-minute hike from south to north


Since we were not able to join the snorkeling tour, we just planned to do snorkeling on our own in one of the islands. My buddy chose to go to the Turtle Island hoping to see a sea turtle hehe.



Turtle Island


We shared a water taxi with a couple who happened to be going there too. We paid RM 10 each. We also arranged a pick up service after 3 hours.


having fun at the wreck


We took a lot of photos first before we actually went snorkeling haha.



beach buddies


We snorkeled first at the left rocky side of the beach and here are some of the photos I took.









Fishes and lots and lots of fishes. :)












Happy to be seeing that the corals are still intact too.






I enjoyed snorkeling there very much. I actually never noticed that I was already in a very deep part of the sea because of too much bewilderment. I am a non-swimmer, mind you haha.



snorkeling break


We've been underwater for an hour and a half straight. Unfortunately, we never see a single sea turtle. My friend was disappointed haha. But I was already happy with what I've seen.



a serene eden


We then walked to the right side of the beach and also snorkeled there for an hour. Unfortunately, my underwater camera ceased to work. No more underwater photos. :(



rock, thanks for taking our photo haha!


That pretty much conclude our third day in Perhentian Island. I know, I know. We've been too relaxed and laid back that we missed that snorkeling trip. We can be called the laziest travelers on earth haha. Either way, we still had tons of fun.

Even though we had just explored the waters of one island, I think I still understand why many divers and underwater enthusiasts are raving about Perhentian. It has a very lively and diverse marine life. I've never seen that many fishes swimming in front of my face in my entire life. Not even in my native country which is surrounded by seas. I've never swam on a beach with several manta rays underneath just lounging around. All of these, I just experienced in the islands of Perhentian.

I badly wanted to go back so I can experience that famous snorkeling trip. I wanted go back to spend more time on each island, to get lost in its beauty. Soon, Perhentian. Soon. :)




This is Part 5-2 of my Peninsular Malaysia series.