Tungao and Lawigan: The Road Less Traveled

An invitation to a new destination is music to my ears.  If you give me an opportunity to visit a new place, I would get excited even at the thought of exploring it. It does not even matter what kind of transportation it takes to reach a new place. I say yes to adventure!

That is what happened two fine Sundays of August.

Tungao

Tungao is the second to the last barangay in Butuan City before you reach Esperanza, Agusan del Sur. It is a 45-minute trip by public transportation. And public transportation is a very large jeepney.

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It is so spacious that we can stretch our legs inside. We thought so. As it turned out, we were in for an experience. See the bench?  They would put the bench in the middle and allow passengers to occupy the bench.

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So if people occupy the middle, how does the konductor collect the fare? The answer: through the window.

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The konductor climbs through the side railings of the jeepney and taps the passengers to collect the fare while the jeepney is in motion! Yes, we have a real-life spiderman in Butuan. I should mention that this jeepney had passengers on top, too! Only in the Philippines!

We really did not have an itinerary. We just wanted to check out what was in this place and just explore.

We found a nice wall in church so my friend, Titit, posed for a photo.

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We met a durian vendor. We did not buy because he was going to the city proper anyway.

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One major improvement of this place is the road. The road to Tungao is all paved. Years ago, it would be very difficult to get there. Imagine their type of transportation in a rough road.  We were lucky we get to visit the place using better roads. Now, I hope they do something about the transportation.

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Lawigan

During the last week of August, my friends and I got invited to a fiesta! The family of my friend, Mau, came from this small barangay in a town in Agusan del Norte. The place is Lawigan in the municipality of Tubay. It is their annual fiesta. She invites us whenever she visits the place but we never had time until that August.

Look how pretty!

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It was challenging to reach this place. This is the remotest barangay in Tubay. To get here, we have to ride a bus for Surigao City and asked to be dropped somewhere near Jabonga. Mau had arranged a driver to pick us up at the intersection.  The driver was a motorcycle driver.  Yes, motorcycle. Two wheels.  My friend and I hopped behind the motorcycle driver. No helmets. Halfway, the road was paved. However, there were areas that remained dirt roads. We had to cross the mountain before we reach the coastal area.  There was an area where we had to walk because the road was slippery and inclined. Did say  it took us an hour to get there? An hour on a motorcycle. Oh, the things I do to feed my wanderlust!

Good thing the place was postcard pretty.

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After we devoured the fiesta food, we took a stroll along their beach.

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They have big boulders. Perfect for photography.
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It was a fine weather while we were strolling and hopping through these rocks. It started to rain on our way home. Imagine two of us behind the driver sharing his raincoat. We remember those signs we saw along the way: “Landslide-prone area”.  Oh, the things I do to feed my wanderlust!

Lawigan can be reached via a jeepney from Cabadbaran City but there are no trips on Sundays.  One can also opt for a boat ride from Cabadbaran. Small boats. No lifejacket.  I cannot swim. I will try when weather is better.

9 Thoughts on Myanmar

I know I need to update this blog when I read Maye‘s comment on my first blog post! This means she has already read all my recent posts!

By some stroke of luck, I found myself in Myanmar last August. The best part about it is that it was a free trip. I just need to put in a little work and get free accommodation and free food. Who can say no to that? It was an amazing deal.

To those who are unfamiliar with Myanmar’s history, I am one of you. Here are some quick facts I have learned:

1. In 1962, the country was placed under military rule.
2. There was an election in 1990 and most of the members of the National League for Democracy of Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi won. However, the junta did not honor their victory.
3. Aung San Suu Kyi was place in house arrest for years.
4. A national election was held in 1990 after 20 years.

It has been two months since I went to Yangon, Myanmar. Here are my 9 random thoughts about my trip there:

1.  The Shwedagon is a must-visit. The complex is vast that I really got lost.  I forgot where to exit. Good thing we had stickers on my shoulders which was marked which exit I should so I only have to ask for directions. The Pagodas are beautiful.  I will just let the photos speak for themselves.

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2. They speak to me in Burmese. I remember traveling to Hong Kong and locals would immediately ask us, “Filipino?” and I also remember that memorable incident in Brunei where an immigration officer identified us as Filipinos without looking at out passports. In Myanmar, it is a completely different thing. They thought I was Burmese so they spoke  to me in Burmese.

3. Food is good. They have dishes similar to Pinoy adobo and bagoong alamang.  Some dishes are a little bit oily but they still tasted good. The dishes at their  restaurants serving Chinese cuisine are also delish. I did not take a single food photo. Nobody took such a photo so I did not.

4.  Burma is slowing opening its doors to the world. Businesses slowly coming in. I based my statement on the traffic.

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5. I can be a hoarder! LOL I thought I am the only one who does this so I was a little conservative in taking all of the toiletries. It turns out that others were also keeping the toiletries. I read somewhere that toiletries are okay to keep because they are part of the hotel bill. The towels and robes are not for the taking.
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6. I cannot afford the gems. What a thought! I do not even wear jewelry. When we went to visit Bogyoke Market, the gems were a sight to behold. I bought jade bracelets for my aunts. I can afford those. Plus, I got fridge magnets for my friends.

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7. Good thing this is a free trip or else I do not have money to survive. Myanmar exchanges US and Singaporean Dollars. I brought along a few hundreds for incidental expenses but I was only able to exchange $100. Myanmar is quite picky with the bills. They only accept clean bills- those without marks and creases. The upside of this predicament: no unnecessary expenses.
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8.  The Burmese people are so nice. Nice is an understatement. We were in the same room with some of the Burmese heroes. It is chilling to know what some of them have gone through. Yet, they remain kind, warm and caring.

9. Filipino tourists can travel to Myanmar, visa-free for 14 days. What are you waiting for?  The sight of hot air balloon ride in Bagan is breathtaking. I have only seen photos. Experiencing it must be awesome.

 

Heading Out on the Boat

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When you need to find a boat for your fishing excursion, then consider looking online. There are companies like Dixon’s Marine Group that have several options when it comes to boats. You can make a selection based on what you are fishing for, such as lobster, tuna or crab. There are also boats for leisure activities. The latest in boats and accessories is typically launched on a website, so you can find out about new items before they are debuted on a showroom floor at a company.

If you already have a boat, there is a section where you can click here for items you can add to it like nets or a trailer to haul the boat. After you have made a selection on the boat you want, it can usually be delivered to a business near your home that deals in marine supplies. All you have to do is pick it up, inspect it, and take it home. Repair kits are available to purchase online if there is something wrong with a boat you have. You can also find someone who can weld items to the boat, even if it’s an emergency. When you purchase a boat, you can find everything you need for passengers to stay safe as well. These would include life vests and floats.

10 Reasons Why I had a Memorable Trip to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia and Brunei

This was supposed to be a trip entitled “Don’t tell my aunts I climbed Mt. Kinabalu”.

My high school classmates and I have been chatting about going on a climbing trip before arthritis hits us.  Before the New Year started, two of them invited the batch to a trip to Kota Kinabalu which includes climbing Mt. Kinabalu. I was unsure if I could climb the mountain but I booked the trip anyway as soon as I saw a promo fare being offered. My cousin booked also. Another friend booked later after several annoying reminders from me. We had 5 months to prepare for the trip. We had this impression that it is easy to climb Mt Kinabalu. It is just a 6-hour trek to the base camp where there is decent lodging. We do not have to pitch in a tent and cook our own meals.   We could hire a porter to carry our bags. No sweat. However, one of  the classmates who is going to this trip with us, went on a 6-hour trek in Brunei and she shared that a 6-hour trek is not joke. She was the most athletic of the group and she did not think the climb is easy so we postponed the climb- not on this trip. It is still on the bucket list though.

Because we have 5 days for this trip, we thought we might visit Brunei as well. We hit two countries in one trip. We spent two days traveling to and from Brunei that I did not  feel like we have done a lot on this trip. Nevertheless, it was a memorable trip. This is the kind of trip that we did not get stressed about the number of sights to see or activities we to do.

Here are the reasons why the trip is memorable:

1. Relaxing vacation. We arrived at around 130AM in Kota Kinabalu and we were able to doze off at 3AM.  I slept well. The hotel was nice and clean. I recommend Hotel Eden54. It rained on Day2 so even if we woke up early and had our breakfast early, we went back to the hotel and waited for the rain to stop. So I slept. Oh, we also ate the brownies my friend baked which she brought from Brunei.

2. Tagalog.  There were many Tagalog-speaking people.  The people in Kota Kinabalu are warm and friendly. I think they can spot Filipinos a mile away for we were often greeted in Tagalog.  Geographically, Kota Kinabalu is in Sabah which is just south of Mindanao, Philippines. There are many Filipinos who migrated in this part of Malaysia. Still, I still get pleasantly surprised when Malaysians speak Tagalog to me especially when I have switched my brain to speak in English.

3. Food.  My friend treated us to a vegetarian meal at Beyond Veggie. Who would have thought tofu can be this delicious? I am a meat-eater yet  I love this dish.

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Photo from my cousin’s instagram. Follow him: bong2begood

This is what I ordered. It arrived when I was already full from tasting what others ordered. This is a taro dish and I am sorry I was not able to finish it.
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We love our breakfast at Old Town. Below are kaya and peanut butter toast, soft boiled eggs and coffee.

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Photo by my friend, Imma.

My friend’s husband let us try Kopi Luwak. Kopi Luwak is made from coffee beans passed on by a civet cat. Yes, the coffee beans passed through the civet’s digestive system. The beans that were excreted were processed  and the end product is Kopi Luwak. It is an expensive coffee so buying a bag is out the question for me. I just want to try what it tastes like. It still tasted like coffee to me with a hint of nuttiness. The difference is in the after-effect. I slept at 1 AM. Good thing I woke up early. We were leaving Brunei that day.

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Kopi Luwak by bong2begood

My friend’s brownies are too die for! She baked salted caramel brownies for us which we brought to the beach. On day 2, it rained and we were stuck in the hotel, it was my comfort food. I was saving the last piece for later time but my friend Imma beat me to eating it. Huhuhu!  Follow my friend on instagram via Abbyzzoven. She is so good that a real princess orders from her. Too bad she lives in Brunei.

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4. Sights and Activities. We did not visit a lot of places because of the weather but my cousin took awesome photos so I will just share them here.  We went island hopping in Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. But we called it an ‘island hop’. We only visited one island because we went there in the afternoon. We visited Sapi island.

To get to the island, we need to get to Jesselton Point which  is a walking distance from the hotel.

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We went snorkeling on Sapi Island. Well, not on the island, how can I snorkel on  land? You know what I mean. :D

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This is the Sapi Island in color. Stunning.

Photo by Bong Flores

Photo by Bong Flores

We only had one day in Brunei. My cousin took this shot of the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque.

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And friends played paintball with some Filipinos (and a Malaysian) in Brunei.
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5. Hotel.  We love Hotel Eden54! The rates are affordable. The rooms are clean. The people are nice. Since we were traveling to Brunei, we left  some of our things there because we would be taking the Kota Kinabalu-Manila fight home. They allowed us to stay in their receiving area when we came back from Brunei and offered that we can take a shower in their bathroom. We even unpacked and packed our things there. Imagine our clothes and what-nots sprawled over the place like our own home!

6.  Accessibility. Everything is so near in Kota Kinabalu.  The ferry terminal is just a block away from the hotel. Suria Mall is also a block away from the hotel.  We easily took the ferry to and from Brunei.  In Brunei, my friend drove us around since it is difficult to get around Brunei in a taxi. I do not even remember seeing one.  My friend said that there are as many people as cars in Brunei.

7. Duty Free Freebies. There is a duty-free shop in the Labuan Terminal. Labuan is the port town in Malaysia where we took the ferry to Brunei.  When we came back from Brunei, we bought chocolates there. A lot of chocolates that are on sale were about to expire in July. I bought 6 Cadbury chocolates of different sizes which are packed as one on sale. My friends bought more.  When we paid for the chocolates, the Filipino staff gave us toblerones and boxes of pralines. I got one large dark chocolate Toblerone and 3 boxes of pralines. My friends got more since they bought more.  The catch: the chocolates they gave for free were about to expire that week which is fine by me. Chocolates do not last for more than a week in my house.

8. Immigration. While filling up the immigration form in Manila, my cousin got too excited of the trip to Kota Kinabalu. In the country of destination, he was starting to fill up the boxes. He wrote the letter ‘K’ on the first box and started counting the spaces. He complained to me, ‘Ate, di kasya.‘ ( The letters won’t fit in the boxes provided.) To which I replied, ‘Kuya, country.”  He quickly realized his mistake.

I love that I do not have to fill up forms in Malaysia. You just have to show your passport and all they ask of you is to put your forefingers on the scanner.

In Brunei, it was a different story. When we arrived at the immigration area, we went to the side to fill up the form. We were careful about what to write and thoroughly checking our forms. Halfway through filling up the form, an immigration officer came to us and exclaimed, “You, Filipinos, are wasting my time. What are you still doing there?”. We replied that we are filling up the forms.  She asked, “Why didn’t you fill that up in the boat?” “They did not give us the forms.” “Why didn’t you ask for the forms?”  My friend, who is a Brunei resident for 14 years already,  was speechless.  We quickly filled up our forms. While being interviewed by the immigration officer, we asked to show them our money. I have not experienced such ‘request’ in other countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau.  The officers asked us to count our money in front of them. It is now a running joke in our group that if we go to Brunei next time, we will bring  money in $1 denomination so that when they ask us to count the money, we will waste more of their time.  :D Kidding aside, we can only reflect on what happened.  Taking the ferry is not a common route for tourists. Aside from two Chinese before us, we were the only foreigners in that ferry. There may be prior incidents of illegal immigrants taking that route.  We should have asked to talk to the supervisor and report the incident. That was really rude for the officer to snap at us. We are not wasting her time since she is paid to do that job.

9. Laughter. We survived rain, grumpy immigration officer and long boat rides through laughter. We laugh at ourselves and at each other. We rib at each other over our obsessions: a friend got excited at Pandora and another one went  on a ‘shopping spree’ at Rip Curl. I laughed at my cousin’s mishap on the speedboat and for forgetting our hotel room number.

10. Friends. This trip was a mini-reunion for us high school classmates, two of whom I have not seen in 20 years. A lot has changed yet we still get along like nothing has changed. We updated each other about our lives. We reminisced high school memories. I also have to commend my cousin for getting along well with my friends. They got along well that you would think they have been friends for a long time.  If budget is not a problem, I will not hesitate to travel again with this group.

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 Cheers to friendship!

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A Day Trip to Corregidor

Since we still have time in Manila, I convinced my aunt that we take a day trip to Corregidor. I think the only way you can reach Corregidor is through Sun Cruises. Sun Cruises is located near the Folk Arts Theatre inside the CCP Complex.

The boat leaves Manila at 8:00AM and arrives Corregidor at 9:15AM.

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The package tour already includes a guide and buffet lunch. It is something you must experience at least once. I am already okay with this one trip. War history buffs will surely appreciate the tour. There were things mentioned by the tour guide which I have already forgotten.

Since I want you to experience the tour itself, I will just leave you with photos. You must take the tour to learn about the stories behind each photo.  ( Yes, this is the excuse of  a blogger with a lot of backlogs!)

ENJOY, CORREGIDOR!

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