Search This Blog

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Reviews: Mt Kinabalu Climb with Amazing Borneo

No one believes when this Wanderlass said she'd not wander... we'll they're right.
the South Peak

A few weeks ago, I randomly bumped into a post on instagram depicting a sea of clouds at the peak of Mt Kinabalu.  Googled a bit and learned that the best climbing season is going to end in a month.  I've always thought of climbing Mt Kinabalu since 2010 when I bumped into a bunch of Malaysian tourists enroute water rafting in Padas River who boasted to me their pictures at the summit.  We formed a group of four and book a tour with Amazing Borneo.  

Yes it happens just like that. We had two weeks left to train.  I walked on the treadmill, danced zumba, hopped on the cross trainer and stairmaster for a few sessions, unfortunately I catched colds, I had to rest.


Day 1.  We took the flight out from Manila to Kota Kinabalu via Air Asia.  We were picked up at the airport by Amazing Borneo.  On board a big bus, (joined by two other guests), we head straight towards Mt Kinabalu Park.  

I've always been impressed by the infrastructure of Kota Kinabalu.  The roads are paved, long and wide.  Five years later, more skyscrapper is rising in the city.

Some twenty minutes away from the park entrance, we stopped in a market to buy water (2 ringgit for a liter) and some fruits (bananas, 4 ringgit for a kilo).

While on the bus, our guide briefed us of our needs and itinerary in the coming days.  Our guide warned us that water inside the park is expensive.  500ml bottled water is sold at 7 ringgit, while a 1.5L bottled water at Laban Rata Resthouse is sold at 15 ringgit.  Other than hot water, potable water is not available at Laban Rata Resthouse since the earthquake.

The guide forwarned that the ascent is some 40 to 70 degrees angle.  We looked into each other in silence.  Trekking poles will be helpful (one is enough) while trail food is necessary.
glamping at Hill Lodge

We arrived and checked-in at the Hill Lodge of Sutera Sanctuary Lodges (the sole operator of the lodges inside Mt Kinabalu National Park) at around 2pm.  The Hill Lodge is at the far end of the park, bungalow type rooms with 2 single beds and an en-suite bathroom providing heated-showers, it's non aircon. Free shuttle service is provided within the park hence the distance isn't a problem.  With an elevation of 1,500 ASL we stayed here the night before the climb to acclimatize to high altitude.

dinner at Balsam Cafe

Day 2.  After breakfast, we were set to meet with our private guide at 8am at the Mt. Kinabalu Park HQ. 
our porter Johnny was also a mountain guide. Amazing how they can carry that much load. They do get tired too. He was frequently taking meals, we had to share some of our food to him.

We hired a porter for 13 ringgit/kg. My backpack weighed 6kgs and had:
  • 1 down jacket
  • 1 fleece
  • 1 heat tech
  • 2 shirts
  • 1 pants
  • 2 socks
  • A pair of gloves
  • 2 ponchos
  • 1 set of undies
  • 2.5L water, 1L powerade
  • face towel
  • toiletries
  • trail food (banana chips, chocolates, dried mangoes, brownies, fit bar)
  • first aid

From the HQ, we took the shuttle to Timpohon Gate and started the climb around 830am and reached Laban Rata at around 2pm.  The first 4km climb was manageable, with terrain of countless wooden stairs, boulders, rip rap stairways and very occasional rolling hills.  Our goal was a kilometer for every hour.  It is crucial to hike at a constant and slow pace to avoid altitude sickness which normally can start after 3KM/2400M ASL.  It was particularly draining for me, I suffered diarrhea during the first 3KM hike.  I was afraid, I had to drink medicine and hydrate as often as possible.  It spoiled and drained my energy.  Luckily, there was a decent toilet in almost every pitstop (one in every kilometer) equipped with a working flush and bidet (but no toilet paper).  

Out of the 6KM climb to Laban Rata Resthouse, the last 2KM was the most difficult. Starting at 3,000M ASL, I can feel my breath panting, my heart pounding through my head, I had to stop every few steps to manage it.  It's elevation/slope was gruesome, the gap of the boulders are wider as well. If going up was hard, what more going down.

This blog has a more detailed account of the terrain.
packed lunch + 500 ml water was provided (except the bananas)

We reached Laban Rata past 2 in the afternoon.  It was cold, the place was all fogged up.  We checked-in to our shared dormitory.  Luckily, there was an unoccupied dormitory of six, our guide arranged to have it exclusively just for the four of us.  Towels and toilet papers were provided, bathrooms and toilets are shared, good thing the solar heating panel was working, the shower had hot water, otherwise, we had to bathe in ice cold water.  It is ideal to shower in cold water after the hike to treat inflamed joints and muscles.  Although exhausted, we took a shower first while there was no one in line.

Dinner was served between 4pm and 7pm.  Even before the sun sets, our group were in bed trying to catch sleep while the rest of the climbers seem to be chilling out at the dinning area.  One of my companions was nauseous, one had a headache.  I tried to get some sleep but couldn't.  By 9pm the resthouse was quiet.  The room had a small window, it was getting warm under the sheets, the blankets too thick, the air thin - I barely slept.  (I was physically tired but mentally awake, I forgot to take a photo of our bunk beds!)

Day 3.  We were up by 2am, ready for supper and dressed for the summit climb before going to bed.  At around 230am we started our ascent.  With our headlights on, we had to endure the first kilometer with mostly wooden stairs.  A lady behind me caught my attention as she was too energetic at 2am, I had to tell her "I love your energy"  and she replied "I just ate 8 toasts with peanut butter, sugar rush!"  It made me think... oops, I think I didn't eat enough carbohydrates.  True enough, after 3KM, I felt my empty stomach hurting.  The summit climb was about a 70 degrees angle, you had to pull yourself up with a rope...  at the back of my mind, how possibly can we go down in this terrain?

Indeed twas a test of fitness and determination.  With just two weeks to train, I fall short of that fitness test.  Upon reaching the summit, I refused to continue my trek to Low's Peak.  The sun started to rise at that time and it would be another kilometer walk up Low's Peak.  At that point, everything was aching...  my legs, my knees, my stomach and my feet were freezing in the cold.  I was too hungry to continue and thought of saving energy for the 9KM trek down hill after that. I opted to rest and waited for them at the summit while they continue to Low's Peak.   The guide threatened by telling me I wouldn't get a certificate, at that point a piece of paper would be the last thing I'd care for.  I already see the sea of clouds at the South Peak, I was content with that.  

By 7am, almost all climbers left to descent back to the resthouse while my companions were nowhere in sight. It took them an hour to go up and down the peak.  No regrets, I thought.  They said it was too steep and the view wasn't that awesome, the sea of clouds was way too far at the bottom. 

Low's Peak on the right

It was around 730am or was it 8 already when we started our 3KM descent from the summit back to Laban Rata Resthouse.   We have to make it not later than 1030am otherwise I'd miss the breakfast. If it was difficult going up, it would be doubly difficult going down.  We had to hold on to the rope and walk backwards to save our knees at some point.  I leisurely walked down the countless stairs while in awe of the clouds and the fog that surrounds me.  Looking back, it was absolutely unimaginable how we managed to climb to the summit at dawn.  

I arrived at the resthouse just in time before the buffet closed.  Just to make sure I won't experience the same hunger I had at dawn, I had to force feed myself with two plate full of carbohydrates:  rice, noodles and a pancake w/ syrup. 

stairs, stairs, stairs... headed back to Laban Rata
I had to rush to our room and found all my stuff packed by my roommate.  It was way past check-out time, we had to beg the cleaner to give us half an hour so we can rest and finish packing since we've just arrived.  A typical Filipino gesture of paki-usap that works wonders.  

I had to change pants, socks, placed my knee support and took arcoxia before starting our descent at 11am.  As expected, the first two kilometers down was very taxing on the knees and quads.  My legs were trembling, my knees hurting.  I had to walk and step real slow on each boulder or rip rap stairway.  At the rate I'm going, lucky if I could finish 1km every hour. 
carbo loading for breakfast

During our ascent the previous day, we engage in small talk with climbers heading down.  When we ask them "how was it?"  their usual response was "it's absolutely worth it."  Those words kept us going.  Now, it's our turn to say that but I cannot seem to say those words, almost every climber I see, I'd wish them (unsolicitedly) "good luck" (laughs).

Two hours into the descent, the medicine had worn off, I had to take another dose of ibuprofen (alaxan forte).  I was starting to get blisters and pain few pressure points on the ball of the foot.  At this point, one's disposition was very crucial.  It was a work day, my phone was ringing non stop, I refused to read sms and take calls.  I didn't want to lose focus.  Inspite of the pain, I was exceptionally chatty that day towards random climbers, a born introvert, it was probably my coping mechanism to feel less tired and less pain.   

Half way down, I befriended this Malaysian-Muslim lady in pain, taking it step by step down the stairs.  We seemed to be pacing with each other, just like me, her knees were painful.  With 2KM left, I had to take another dose of ibuprofen (advil). I pitied her, I offered her one and she immediately accepted them.  After taking it, she sped off.  My guide and I were dumbfounded.  It's a miracle drug, my guide quipped.  She was slower than me, now I lost track of her!  My guide jokingly remarked why the medicine wasn't working with me, I should have not given her and took two doses instead. (laughs)  I seriously felt her pain, it felt good to help someone.

I finished at 430pm, the last one in our group.  I fall short by a few minutes after one of my companion, one finished an hour earlier, the other 30 minutes ahead. 

Do not underestimate a Mt Kinabalu Climb, training is a must.  Thanks Amazing Borneo, they took care of everything. 👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻

Post trip accounting: (1ringgit:12.2 pesos)
P5414 ticket from Manila to Kota Kinabalu
P1620 travel tax
1880 Ringgit package tour
10 ringgit luggage storage at HQ
90 ringgit porter's fee to/fr timpohon to Laban Rata (13/kg)
13 ringgit porter's fee to summit
20 ringgit tip

P1150 Grandis Hotel (KK city hotel P4600/4pax)
30 ringgit KK hotel to airport


Day 4-5.  I could barely stand up or sit down without leaning on something. A Good cupping massage was helpful.
Day 6-7. I can now sit and stand without leaning on anything, but twas still painful going up and down the stairs.  Another round of massage.
Day 8. Finally hands free on the stairs with a bit pain. Legs get tired easily on the stairs, on the road to full recovery.

Monday, February 8, 2016

How to go to Kalanggaman Island from Cebu

I have been eyeing to go to Kalanggaman Island for the past four years.

Most blogs suggest a route via Palompon, Leyte as your jumpoff point.  It takes 2-3days doing this route.  It is the same route suggested by the tourism office at Palompon when I gave them a call.

A few weeks ago, I heard that it is actually possible do a day trip from Cebu City to Kalanggaman Island by hiring a pumpboat from Hagnaya Port of Bogo, Cebu directly to Kalanggaman Island.  Kalanggaman Island is located between Cebu and (nearer) Leyte.  This information prompted me to schedule our trip this Chinese New Year long weekend since the next long weekend would be months away.

Kalanggaman Island is an island off Palompon, Leyte that has a sandbar like a shape of a bird. (Langgam is a Visayan word for bird).  There is no accomodation and fresh water in the island.  People bring tents to camp overnight.  There is a makeshift comfort room.  A few cottages for rent and a designated area to grill your food.

Since my peer isn't adventurous enough to rough it in sans fresh water and clean rest rooms, we opted to spend the night at Malapascua.

When I phoned Malapascua Legends, all rooms were taken except for its Budget Inn (airconditioned rooms but shared bathrooms) for 1,800 per night for two.  

We grabbed the last few slots.  I was referred by the receptionist to their co-worker, Mark, to arrange for the pumpboat.

After some negotiations, Mark and I agreed to P5,000 on pumpboat rental from Maya Port, Daanbantayan to Kalanggaman Island the Malapascua.  And an additional P1,000 for Malapascua to Maya Port, Daanbantayan the next day.  We were a group of 8 adults and 3 kids. He also offers 1,200 pesos per head including pumpboat rental, buffet lunch, snorkeling set and entrance fee to Kalanggaman Island.  Our itinerary went like this:

Day 1
430am assembly

5am left Cebu City center to northern most of Cebu: Daanbantayan.  Waze was particularly helpful in giving directions.

8am arrived New Port, Maya Daanbantayan. (do note that there are two ports in Maya, Daanbantayan which the boatman will alternately use depending on the tides and current. If you went on the wrong port, you may hire a motorbike for 20 pesos to take you to the other port)

830am we left the port for Kalanggaman Island

10am we arrived Kalanggaman Island, earlier than expected.  Mark heeded my request to a faster pumpboat that took an hour and half (instead of 2hours) on calm waters. (It can get rough most of the time)

10am-2pm lunch on the boat since all cottages were taken.  Enough time to swim and lounge on the sand bar.

2pm we paid for entrance fee of P150 pesos per adult.  We left Kalanggaman Island for Malapascua Island
(The white sands of Kalanggaman Island is not that fine because of the corals; look closer)

330pm we arrived in Malapascua Island after getting soaked in the splashes from rough seas.  We spent the night in Budget Inn (by Malapascua Legends).

Day 2

AM - at liesure, explored the island.

145pm left Malapascua on private pumpboat to New Port, Maya, Daanbantayan.

230pm arrived New Port, Maya, Daanbantayan and headed back to Cebu City

7pm arrived in Cebu City center.

For a day trip, you may opt to return to Maya Port, Daanbantayan immediately instead of going to Malapascua.

For more information on trips coming from Bogo, you may check this out.

Contact information:

Mark, boat organizer: +63916 336 6259
Dondon, boatman of John Leroy: +63 936 824 5006

Package Boat Rate:
P1,200 per head inclusive of lunch buffet,  entrance fees, snorkling set (Maya Port to Kalanggaman Island to Malapascua Island)
P120 per head from Malapascua to Maya port

Boat only rate (10-15pax comfortably):
P6,000 per boat (we've negotiated the same price to include Kalanggaman to Malapascua Island on Day 1 then Malapascua Island to Maya Port on Day 2)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Canyoneering from Alegria to Kawasan Falls, Badian

Canyoning (known as canyoneering in the U.S.) is traveling in canyons using a variety of techniques that may include other outdoor activities such as walking, scrambling, climbing, jumping, abseiling (rappelling), and swimming. 
Cebuanos have always took pride how pretty Kawasan Falls is.  Unknown to many, there was an undiscovered river canyon that led to it that runs from Alegria to Badian.   According to our guide, some two years ago, a foreign tourist discovered this eco-tourism spot and introduced the canyoneering activity.   For the past year, it has gained much attention on social media, it has been flocked by more and more local and foreign tourists.  Hold on to your seats and watch the teaser of our adventure down the river canyon of Kanla-ob, Alegria to Matutinao, Badian, Cebu.

Does this video make you giddy and envious?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Coastal Walk at Bondi Beach

Conveniently accessible by one bus stop from the CBD, we took the 389 bus right outside Marimekko along King's Street to Bondi Beach for 3.80 aud per way on a Sunday.  We got off at Glenayr Avenue near Hall Street.  From there, it's a two minute walk to the beach.  Thanks to a friend who has been schooling in Sydney for a while he lead the way and we took the bus for the first time.  A break from the countless (and expensive) taxi rides we've been taking.

fish and chips quick please!  we're hungry.
Since we spent the morning hearing mass at St. Mary's Cathedral, we arrived in Bondi Beach around 1 in the afternoon.  From the bus stop at Glenayr Avenue, we rushed down Hall Street and looked for food.  We stopped by the corner before crossing the street to the beach and grabbed a bag of fish and a lot of chips.
inviting pristine blue water and fine sand
We came unprepared and just sat on the sand with imaginary beach towels for a random picnic lunch.  The waters was so inviting, we were tempted to swim in the ice cold water.  We took a quick dip in the ice cold water (okay, twas just our feet).

Monday, November 16, 2015

Anything Goes in Sydney, Australia

Coming to Australia has been on the bucket list for the longest time.  Two months ago, Philippine Airlines came up with a promo and for 550$ my friend and I just grabbed a good deal, just enough time for us to apply for a visa.  We took the red eye flight out of Manila to Sydney.  Since the plane wasn't full, we were lucky to lie back in a four-seater economy seats the entire 8 hour flight.

Visa Application

Visitor Visa (600) application was seamlessly lodged online via by creating an account with   All documentary requirements such as proof of income, travel history, passport copy, pictures, application are scanned and attached online.

In spite of having a US visa and quite extensive travel history, I was granted visa 30 days later, contrary to what they consider as fast lane which only takes 3 days.  (Notice of grant was sent via email and is accessible through the online account stated above.)  Thus, it is important to apply for a visa at least 30 working days prior to your flight, I have known several people who failed to get their visa on time or just 24 hours before the flight.

I opted this service over  because the latter charge an extra service fee on top of the visa fees.

Arriving in Sydney

We breezed through immigration upon arrival in Sydney.  The first thing I have notice while on queue for the airport taxi, was that many locals are just wearing fitflops!  I was even told they go barefoot while malling.  Well, hello surfer dude!  I welcome myself to this land down under with a lot of sunshine and cool breeze.

When travelling with a buddy who is particular with thread counts, I had to forgo staying in hostels and checked in at Four Points by Sheraton overlooking the Darling Harbour.  The location was good. Although the bus stop is still a block away, it is within walking distance to Queen Victoria Building, Cockle Bay Wharf of Darling Harbour, Chinatown, shopping areas of York Street, George Street, Pitt Street and Martin Place.  It was a bit of a long 25 minute uphill walk to the Circular Quay or Sydney Opera House (or about 25 aud for taxi).


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Tips on What and How to Pack for Mt Pulag

For a first timer, packing Mt Pulag was one of the challenging preparation to take. 

  • 2 sets of extra clothes (1 for day 2 and another in case you get soaked in the rain)
  • 2 Uniqlo ultra light packable down jacket, 2 gloves, scarf, bonnet
  • 3 liters of water, 1 liter of gatorade
  • First aid kit, wet wipes, tissue
  • Poncho, garbage bag, spare zip locks
  • Trail food (nuts, cookies, sweetened dried fruits)
  • tupperware, spoon and fork, cup for hot drinks
  • plastic
  • headlight
  • sleeping bag
  • earth pad (as cushion and keep your back insulated from the cold and hard mountain grounds)
    foil-faced bubble wrap or insulation foam in lieu of earth pad
    sold at about P150/m at hardware stores
Since we joined a packaged tour with, our guide took care of these and did not have to pack these:
  • burner and cookware
  • food and water for cooking
  • tent
Pack your stuff in ziplock and double pack in garbage bags.  In the mountains, it is important to keep yourself  and your stuff dry.  Once you get wet, it can get too cold to handle.  

Try not to overpack, yet be prepared for any type of weather as it can be totally unpredictable.

Tip:  If your shoes gets wet, wear plastic over your dry socks and feet before you slip it in your wet shoes.

Where to Eat in Bangkok

When planning for a trip to Bangkok, you probably heard how good the food is in Samboon Seafood, Bangkok's most famous seafood restaurant. (they opened a branch in Central Embassy) or advised to chill at Banyan Tree.

In a recent trip to Bangkok, my palate was delighted by a random food trip to less famous places but equally good restaurants.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Peaks of Osmeña Peak

Instead of hitting the beach, I'm climbing mountains.  This was suppose to be a practice climb for Mt Pulag. Since our schedules did not permit, it turned out to be a post Mt Pulag Climb.

It is always a challenge to pool a big group.  With short notice, we were surprised to pool a group of fifteen on a holiday that falls on a weekday.

Osmeña Peak is the highest peak in Cebu standing at 1,013 meters above sea level (MASL). It's 100km from the city center, about three hours drive including light traffic.

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Walk Above The Clouds: Mt Pulag

Summer is here!  Instead of hitting the beach, we're climbing mountains.  Inspired by the movie That Thing Called Tadhana, where do broken hearts go? We head north!
literally a walk above the clouds

Read more about our best summer ever!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Arriving in India, Enroute Udaipur, The City of Lakes

Day 1  Flying into Udaipur

I was a bit anxious taking a domestic flight around India for a few reasons.  I was afraid that the domestic airport is disorganized like the ones in Vietnam and that the plane ride may smell.  Fortunately, our experience proved our fears to be false.

Security at the airport was tight, they checked every person's plane ticket and passport before one can enter the terminal.  We were then met by a representative from Creative Travel.  There was a long queue at the check-in counter but a guide breezed through the check-in counter for us.  I was pleasantly surprised to see a clean, organized, enormous airport at par with airports from other parts of the world.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

How to Apply for Tourist Visa on Arrival to India

In an unfortunate event last week, we were denied to board the plane by Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong to New Delhi, citing that effective December 2014, Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) is now required for Indian Tourist Visa on Arrival (TVoA).  This means that even the visa will be issued upon arrival, application must be done online prior to entering India, an ETA is mandatory.

Looking at the website of and that of the Indian Embassy in Manila,  it clearly states that:

Tourist Visa on Arrival (TVoA) for Philippine nationals
Philippine passport holders, travelling for the purpose of tourism only, can avail of the visa-on-arrival facility at Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata airports.  With effect from 15th August 2013, this facility has also been extended at Trivandrum, Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Kochi airports.  

For inquiries, you may email the embassy of India in Manila:

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Mexico City: Historical Center, Chapultepec Castle

Day 3

A trip to Mexico City won't be complete without visiting the heart of the city, that is the walking tour of Zocalo and the ten acre Historical Centre.

I thought that Mexico City will be difficult to get around because of safety and language barrier, so we opted to book a private day tour with  A guide would be very much helpful leading the way and explaining its history.   However, I find the place pretty safe, one can always explore it on your own. has a good run down of the places to see in the area.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Arriving in Mexico

Unbelievably pulled off a trip to Mexico with just a little over a month of planning, it was a bit of a challenge. Tripadvisor was most helpful.

Immigration and Visa:

No visa is required for Filipinos arriving in Mexico with US Visa, provided such person is traveling from USA.  For non US visa holders or US visa holders but not arriving from USA, may apply for Mexican visa in Manila.

Monday, August 25, 2014

How to Secure Yellow Card or Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate in the Philippines

A yellow card is the yellow fever vaccination certificate or aptly labelled as International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis.   It is required upon entry for foreign travel to certain countries commonly required by seamen and tourists.   

A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for entry into certain countries when traveling from or in transit from Angola, Argentina, Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Guinea-Bissau, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, French Guyana, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guyana, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Suriname, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Venezuela, and Zambia.  This also applies to those who have traveled to low risk countries such as Soa Tome and Principe, Somalia, Tanzania and Zambia or have transited through a yellow fever risk country.

According to the doctor who briefed us before taking the shots, yellow fever actually is similar to dengue fever.  A shot is valid for 10 years.

Only the Bureau of Quarantine is authorized by the Department of Health and World Health Organization to issue these yellow card.  You can visit any of the following offices:

Bureau of Quarantine - Manila
Monday to Friday, 8am to 2pm
25th Street, Port Area, Manila
(From Roxas Boulevard, turn left, it's located behind Manila Hotel, beside Bank of Commerce, Towards Superferry)

Bureau of Quarantine - Cebu
Wednesday and Thursday, 8am-9am
General Maxilom Avenue, beside DSWD
Tel No. 032-2322072, 032-2334283

Bureau of Quarantine - Davao
Fridays 8-9am
Chavez St, Davao
Tel No. 082-3002378

A shot costs P1,500 for a multiple-dose vial or P2,000 for a single dose vial.   The multiple dose vial means that once they open a vial, that vial can be used for 10 shots (10 people).

In Manila, since there is a considerable number of people seeking vaccination, one can visit the office anytime on the times specified above.

In Cebu, there aren't much applicants in a day.  They suggest you go there on a Wednesday and have your name listed as early as 6am.  Once the group counts to 10, it's a go  otherwise, one has to come back another day to make up the group of 10.  The single dose vial isn't always available.

In Davao, there aren't much applicants either but they do not suggest to go very early.

In our case, the yellow fever vaccination certificate was required for visa application to South Africa since we were visiting Kenya and Zambia before entering South Africa.  It was checked upon check-in for our onward flight to South Africa.

For some information, check out:

Guide to Applying for Visa for South Africa for Filipinos

Our personal experience with applying for a visit visa for South Africa is quite simple for as long as the following requirements are met.  I called up the embassy and emailed them for inquiries.  Sometimes they reply, many times they don't.  This post should answer most of your inquiries about a visit visa to South Africa for Philippine Passport holders.

One can apply for a visa directly at the embassy  at least 90 days before departure.  Personal appearance is not required.  However, it is best that someone who is knowledgeable with the itinerary would submit it as the consular service agent asks a few questions.

I made my way to the Yuchengco Tower, RCBC Plaza.  Do bring an ID, as the guards requires one to register before you can go up the embassy.  Figure out which elevator to take that would stop on the 29th floor.  Once you get to the 29th floor, there is a security guard manning the door of the embassy. There aren't too many applicants however, the only drawback is, they limit the number of applicants inside the embassy by the number of seats available.  There aren't too many, let's say less than 10.  Since I arrived around 10 in the morning, the seats were already occupied and I was asked to go down the lobby and wait down there after 5 more people on the waitlist.  There is no guarantee that you will be entertained that day for as long as you're not seated inside by 12 noon.  I went up and down for several tries to check if there is a vacant seat.  A few minutes before 12 noon, I stood there by the door, I'm the next in line.  I was trying to win the security guard to accommodate me, since I'm coming from out of town, I was hoping he'd soften and let me in.  The clock strikes 12 and still he won't let me in so I just waited there, refused to leave and stood by the door, begging.  With a sheer of good luck, the Honorary Consul arrived.  She asked her staff what I was doing there, along with two other guys.  She ordered her staff to bring out more chairs and let us in!!!  With vindication and a sigh of relief, I was accommodated inside.  Afterall, that cut-off time was not the embassy's policy but probably just between the guard and staff who do not wish to extend their working hours, what a shame.  It took another hour before I was entertained.  She had a few questions.  Actually, it was our second attempt to submit the documents.  The first time, they returned them because the bank certificate needs to be at least 200,000 pesos, the pictures have to be pasted on the application and we were asked to revise requirement #9, it has to be separate from #4.

 Visitor Visa Requirements include:

1. A valid passport
2. Two passport size photographs
3. A fully complete Visa Application Form (BI-84) downloadable at
or download from here
4. Flight itinerary
5. Proof of accommodation (hotel booking/address of SA contact)
6. No visa fee for visit of less than 30 days while a visa fee of P2,525 for a visit exceeding 30 days.
7. Proof of sufficient fund (bank statement or bank certificate)
8. Employment Certificate.  If self-employed, business details.
9. Statement and/or documentation confirming the purpose and duration of visit (this is a written letter addressed to the embassy, expressing the type of visa, intent to visit (which is tourism), purpose of visit (sights to see) and length of stay in South Africa)
10. If coming from or traveling through a yellow fever area prior to arrival to South Africa, a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required.  If you are coming from the Philippines, this is not required.

1.  How long is the validity of the visa?  South African visa has a maximum validity of 90 days from the date of issue.
2.  Is personal appearance required?  No, you can send a representative to submit your application on your behalf.
3.  How long is the processing? 5 working days.  However the lady asked me if it would be fine if she is able to process it for 7 days instead.
4.  Is a 35,000 bond required?  It is not required for all applicants.  We were not asked for a bond other the proof of financial capacity like a bank certificate of at least 200,000 pesos and maybe our passport with several foreign stamps also made a statement.
5.  Can you apply any day?  Application is accepted only between 9am  to 12nn from Monday to Thursday.
6.  Can you pick up any day?  A claim stub will be given to you stating the earliest day available (5 working days) and pick up hours is only between 130pm to 330pm Monday to Thursday.

7.  When is yellow fever certificate required? A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for      entry into South Africa when traveling from or in transit from Angola, Argentina, Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Guinea-Bissau, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, French Guyana, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guyana, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Suriname, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Venezuela, and Zambia.  This also applies to those who have traveled to low risk countries such as Soa Tome and Principe, Somalia, Tanzania and Zambia or have transited through a yellow fever risk country.

Since we were traveling to Kenya then Zambia before entering South Africa, we were required to submit the yellow fever vaccination certificate issued by the Bureau of Quarantine.

For more information, the embassy of the Republic of South Africa in the Philippines can be reached at:

29/F Yuchengco Tower, RCBC Plaza
6819 Ayala Avenue, Makati City, Philippines
Tel No. (+632) 8899383
Fax No. (+632) 8899379

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Moscow and St. Petersburg with Cosmos Tour

Many have forewarned us against traveling to Russia but these were based on perception and the things we see on the movies.  Russians are normally portrayed as villains, whether as a spy or a human trafficker.  Somehow these hollywood movie puts a stereotype in these innocent people who just like you and me, are pre judged because of their race.   After reading through forums about the safety of traveling to Russia, it seems like a safe place to be.  Knowing that these are just perceptions, we took the chance to explore Russia and took package tours to be on the safe side.  I absolutely love Russia, their people and after going around on the subway, honestly, I feel more safe here than in New York.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Hong Kong Food Trip

It has been a while since I have composed my thoughts.  It has been a while since I've been to Hong Kong.  Along with my brood, we just came back from a trip in Hong Kong and it deserves a post.  In  the past,  my trips to Hong Kong had always been more shopping and eating... eating nothing else but goose and pigeon.  Yes, every meal of any of these two and I'm fine.  This time, I went with two of my cousins who scheduled their itinerary based on where to eat... and I tagged along for a change.

Hong Kong Disneyland:  Plaza Inn Restaurant

While in Hong Kong Disneyland, check out the chinese food at the Plaza Inn Restaurant.  It is located at the end of the main street by the roundabout.  Plaza Inn Restaurant is operated by no less than the Maxims Group. In between, grab a bag of caramel popcorn of any of Disney's kiosk.

IFC Mall, Central, Hong Kong Station:  Tim Ho Wan

Head to Airport Express Hong Kong Station an hour before your scheduled meal for some great dimsum at Tim Ho Wan.  When you see the airport express check-in counter, take the elevator and go two more floors down.  There is always a long waiting time, an hour or two usually. 

Tim Ho Wan is a rated Michellin Dim Sum  and probably the cheapest starred.  They are most famous for their asado bun (baked bun with BBQ Pork) (19hkd for 3) , Vermicelli Roll, Pan Fried Turnip Cake and Steamed Egg Cake. 

I personally like their siomai (pork and shrimp dumpling) which on the sweet side and the shrimp wrapped in beancurd was perfect for my all protein dukan diet but found their desserts strange.

Tim Ho Wan Branches includes:

G/F, 9-11 Fuk Wing Street, Sham Shui Po, Kowloon
Nearest MTR station: Tsuen Wan Line, Sham Shui Po, Exit B2
Tel 2788 1226
Opening hours: 8am-9.30pm daily

Shop 72, G/F, Olympian City 2, 18 Hoi Ting Road, Tai Kok Tsui
Tel 2332 2896
Nearest MTR station: Olympic, Exit D3

Shop 12A, Hong Kong Station (Podium Level 1, ifc Mall), Central
Nearest MTR station: Tung Chung Line, Hong Kong, Exit A1
Tel 2332 3078
Opening hours: 9am-9pm daily

G/F, 2-8 Wharf Road, Seaview Building, North Point
Nearest MTR stations: Island Line, Fortress Hill, Exit B or North Point, Exit A1
Tel 2979 5608
Opening hours: 10am-9.30pm daily

Wellington St., Central: Yung Kee Restaurant

A trip to Hong Kong won't be complete without a serving or two of Peking duck or roasted goose, pigeon, barbequed  pork  or crispy suckling pig of which Yung Kee Restaurant is most famous for.  Similarly, it takes an hour to be seated.  Alternatively, you can opt for the take away counter like we did.  A whole goose costs 400 hkd, half a goose costs 250 hkd,

To get there, get off at Central Station and head to Wellington Street

For more details, check out
Reservation Hotline : (852) 2522 1624 Email :

Tsim Sha Tsui: Sweet Dynasty

Find yourself at the MTR A1 exit to Nathan Road and head to Canton Road and look for this sign next to the Market Place Supermarket.  Take the escalator down, the restaurant is at the basement.  Sweet Dynasty is famous for their desserts and Congee.   Their dimsum was equally good, so is their soya beancurd and their BBQ pork in puff pasty was the best, I went back the next day for another serving.  On weekends, they open as early as 730am, perfect especially when the hotel does not include breakfast.

my two year old niece loved this soya beancurd

BBQ pork in puff pasty was my favorite
Tsim Sha Tsui: Chuk Yuen Seafood Restaurant

A few meters from Sweet Dynasty, you'll find Chuk Yuen Seafood Restaurant. 

My cousin was raving about the cheese lobster.  I was quite skeptical at first, as I'm not fond of lobster and I was on dukan diet.  At the end of day, I can say that was one of the best dishes I've tasted. It was finger licking good and the cheese perfectly blended without being overpowering. 

Aside from the cheese lobster, the mantis shrimp drowned in fried garlic was likewise very good.  For 5 adults, our bill was about 2,500 hkd.  The lobster and mantis shrimp was around 650hkd per kilo.  Aside from these we had the basic menu: fried chicken, spareribs and duck soup.

Whew, that was a lot of good food and happy that after all these, I did not gain weight! (I didn't eat rice and avoided most of the carbs).  I missed out on some good ramen and egg tarts.  Now I want to go back and eat some more.

Taking notes from a fellow blogger on my next visit.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

El Nido: Beach Themed Team Building Activity

Along with almost thirty people, I was tasked to organize or should I say volunteered to organized a company outing to include team building activity.  I wanted a beach themed team building activity that would not be very physically taxing and one that would not require too many props since we will be in remote islands.   Google presented a few beach themed team building activities but not to my liking.  I had to squeeze some brain to come up with these beach themed team building activities.

Any team building activity should start with an ice breaker to ease up everyone, this activity sets mood for the entire activity.  I wasn't quite sure what I can get out of this, the bosses are around, some may not speak up.   I had to twitch the rules right then and there.  I love being spontaneous, my brain works better under pressure.


As an ice breaker, gather the group in one big circle and get comfortable by squatting on the sand.  Each of the team shall introduce himself,  he can share about his first time, or something he has never done, or share something unknown to many...  the story he tells can be factual or he can opt to speak of tall tales and it's upto the audience to believe with a thumbs up or disbelieve with a thumbs down.  The moderator shall warn the audience that there will be quiz after.  The moderator shall start off  in the middle with something meaningful and the rest will follow for sure.  The speaker randomly picks the next person to speak in the middle and swaps seating arrangement.  It is important to limit the time spent per person, when there's too much entertainment, some people just can't stop.


After the Getting  To Know You activity, each must be able to answer the questions.  Split the team in smaller groups.  Unknown to them the questions to be asked are not related to the stories told earlier.  The teams shall arrange themselves according to the questions asked, however does it correctly wins a point.  Some sample questions include:
  1. arrange yourselves from smallest to longest thumb
  2. arrange yourselves from smallest to biggest feet
  3. arrange yourselves alphabetically based on your first name
  4. arrange yourselves from smallest to highest number of letters of your last name
  5. arrange yourselves from shortest to longest hair
  6. arrange yourselves from smallest to biggest ear
  7. arrange yourselves from smallest to biggest waistline (you'd need measuring tape)

Draw a tic tac toe on the sand, I opted to bring plastic straw rope to visibly mark the lines and buried the intersecting straw rope with sand to keep it in place.  If you're up to the latest craze, you'd know what candy crush is all about.  Just give it a twist, by placing some treats on the square, whoever complete the three in a row takes home the treat.

Break the group into two, with equal number of members.  Members shall line up and count off from 1 to nth...  Each team has is represented with numbers 1 to nth.  The first team is assigned to lie flat on the square with hands and feet wide like an "X".  The second team is assigned to curl up on the side like an "O". 

When their numbers are called, they shall find a spot in the tic tac toe.  Numbers can be called one at a time or three numbers at a number. Once the knees or butt touches the sand, they cannot change places.  The team  who completes three in a row wins a point.


This is a series of task that the team has to complete, it doesn't involve much physical activity but rather strategy and teamwork amongst the team.  At the same time, the pictures keeps a memory to last a lifetime.  Print/write the task in paper to given to the participants as they progress to the next task.


Make a simple sentence that is difficult to memorize.  I chose a line that has numbers in it and little play of words.  Our line was "Five dudes and twenty-three dudettes found themselves beach bumming by the seashore."  Once completed, the team shall proceed to the next task.


Write your team members name and non repeating body parts on the sand. Take one group picture showing non-repeating body parts from each member with the words written on the sand.  Be as anonymous as possible showing only non-repeating body parts.  Show the photo to the game master, once approved, the team shall proceed to the next task.


Build a sandcastle with three towers, a moat (a body of water surrounding it), and a mermaid/merman on one side.  Write the name of the place on the sand.  Take a group picture with it.  Show the photo to the game master, once approved, the team shall proceed to the next task.


Using your body, (standing up or lying down), spell the word... (in our case was "EL NIDO", the place where we had our team building activity.)  If your team members aren't enough, you may ask help from members from other teams.  Take a photo.  Show the photo to the game master, once approved, the team shall proceed to the next task.


Take a group photo with all feet off the ground, show the photo to the game master, once approved, the first team to complete wins.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Best Island Hopping Tour in El Nido

Before I could even start writing about Planning a trip to El Nido, I was back in El Nido sooner than I thought  and before I could even complete my posts,  summer is so in and I'm back in El Nido again!  It's my third visit in 365 days and it also mean that I've spent 30 hours to and fro on the road to revisit the place.  Inspite of the long road ahead, it's always worth the inconvenience.

El Nido Town has a long stretch of white sand beach, overlooking the mountains of Cadlao Island.  The locals look at the day's weather depending on the clouds on the highest peak of Cadlao Island.  Quite a number of outrigger boats dock on the shore and noticeably waste water is thrown into the sea in some areas.  Thus, I do not advise anyone to be swimming here.

If it's your first time here, don't be such a loser by locking yourself up in your room or lazing around by the shore.  Bask in the sun and sand, hopping from one island to the next and discover the best kept secrets of El Nido.

Unless you're a big group, tourists need not worry about booking a tour ahead.  As soon as you get into town, there are quite a number of stalls offering tours and these stalls offers fairly the same itinerary at the same price.  Pricing is practically regulated for tourists' convenience.  For us, we opted to book through the hotel, I would assume, the hotel knows the service provider better.  Booking through the hotel offer pretty much the same service and rate and they will take care of logistics and the bill is usually charged to the room whether it is a private tour or not.

The most common tours being offered are tagged as Tour A, B, C and D.  If there is anything you should not miss, is Big Lagoon and the Small Lagoon which is part of Tour A.  Tour A is best, then tour C, then tour B.  If you'll be doing more than a day's island hopping tour, I'd suggest to save the best for the last day.  There is no fixed itinerary on which stop comes first, the guide normally plans the trip based on the tides, based on the volume of tourists in a stop, based on the time of the day.

The tour comes with lunch which your boatman will prepare and cook in one of your stops.  It's a good opportunity to try Filipino cuisine.  Usually it includes grilled chicken or pork, squid, fish, eggplant and tuna, cucumber salad, and fresh tropical fruits.  I normally pay extra and arrange with them the day before to include shrimps or crabs in the menu.  You'll be surprised by the culinary skills of your boatman.

Entalula Island, my fave island lunch stop for its rich marine life, best for snorkeling.

If you want to own your time, itinerary and some space on the boat, you may opt to hire a private outrigger boat like we did; otherwise, you may opt to join scheduled departures with other tourists, at 9 in the morning and ends by 4 to 5 in the afternoon.  Most outrigger boats are not equipped with a toilet, if you require one, arrange in advance.

The best time to visit El Nido is during the height of summer, between February to May when the sea is calm and there's less chances of rain.  El Nido is famous for its lovely landscape of the numerous karst around, unspoiled marine life, sunny days and white sand beaches.

EL NIDO TOUR A, of Lagoons and Beaches.  Ask any tour operator and they would suggest this tour for anyone who could only spare a day island hopping.


El Nido's postcards is best represented by the picturesque entrance of the big lagoon.  The dramatic long and wide entrance to the lagoon pose a very nice background for any profile picture worthy to boast on your social networking site.  Especially on sunny days, the clear blue skies with pockets of white clouds, creates a wonderful reflection of the karsts and trees the surrounds it, turning waters into turquoise green, just too pleasant not to paste a smile on anyone's face.

Outside the lagoon was also a good place for snorkeling.


The small lagoon is best explored with a kayak since the boats cannot be accommodated inside.
kayaking at Entalula Island


Once a cave, however the top collapse.  Now it's an open top lagoon, one has to go through a hole to enter.


Shimizu Island can be a lunch stop or just a snorkeling stop.  It has rich collection of fishes and corals.  According to the guide, fish feeding is no longer allowed here.


7 Commando is normally the last stop of tour A.  This is probably the only island that sells food and drinks (including fresh coconut at P50).  It also has a beach volley for tourists to play.  I did not quite like my first visit since I found it too cramped with too many tourists around, with lots of weeds on the sand and a shore filled with boats awaiting for their respective clientelle.   On my second visit, three months later, I was disappointed to see heavy equipment digging up the sand, there's quite abundant amount of sand here with good commercial value at that.

One year later, 7 commando became our first stop, I was surprised to see cordoned areas.  The guide was quick to explain that there has been a dispute of ownership in the island.  Nevertheless, with very few tourists sharing with us, I found myself loving the island.  I realized that the sand was actually very fine and white and it has a long stretch of beach better than Helicopter Island, perfect for that beach themed team building activity.


    On a separate occasion while touring the lagoons, we had a tour extension of Snake Island which is part of tour D for an extra fee of P350 for gas.  The trip to Snake Island gives you a glimpse of El Nido Resorts: Lagen and  Pangalusian from afar.  The Snake Island is best viewed when climbing up the cliff of its island.

    El Nido Tour C, is tagged as of Hidden Beaches and Shrines.  Next to Tour A, I would suggest anyone to go for Tour C.  This includes the Hidden Beach, the Secret Beach, Matinloc Shrine, Helicopter Island and a lunch stop in one of the beaches like Star Beach or Tapiutan Island.


    The secret lagoon was our first stop in two of my trips.  It's dramatic entrance between two karst never fails to jump start the hype.


    The secret beach, was the inspiration of the author of "The Beach".  This so called secret beach is hidden behind a karst with an opening accessible only by swimming through it's small opening.  You're guide will help you through it.  When inside, wonder how the tides has formed a gently sloped beach when it is surrounded with karst.  But that's not it, look up and gaze at karst surrounding the secret beach, it's formation is one of a kind.


    Matinloc Shrine for Mother Mary was built on a heart shaped island with Grecian architecture.  Now abandoned, it left tales of gold treasures and more.  In one of our visits, we've witnessed a tourist came down on her knees upon the shrine and lost consciousness saying she felt Mother Mary's presence.  Enchanting!

    Since I ran out of batteries the last time, I could not pass the chance to climb up the cliff of Matinloc Island and capture this pretty sight.


    The wide shore and fine (beige) sands of Helicopter Island was a pleasant stop to just beach bum after a long day of moving from one island to the next.  Before you laze and take a quick nap, go to the corner of the island and snorkel upon its rich corals and fishes, if you're lucky, you may find yourselves snorkeling with sea turtles.


    On a separate occasion, we have asked to include Cadlao Lagoon to our Tour C.  From El Nido Town, the view of  Cadlao Island stands tall.   Cadlao Lagoon may not be as picturesque as the Big and Small Lagoon, it has its own charm, surrounded with karst, a good source of avian saliva otherwise commercially known as bird's nest.

    After visiting El Nido in three different occassions, my top picks (in no particular order) would be:
    • Hidden Beach
    • Big Lagoon
    • Lunch stop at Entalula Island
    • Secret Beach
    • Helicopter Island
    It was hard to just pick five, nevertheless, it's best to spend at least two full days island hopping, now, hop on that outrigger boat!  Rest assured it's more fun in the Philippines.

    Cost of island hopping tours:

    Shared tour rates:
    TOUR A P700/pax
    TOUR B P800/pax
    TOUR C P900/pax
    TOUR D P700/pax

    Private tour:
    TOUR A P3600 for 4 pax
    TOUR C P4600 for 4 pax

    Other Rental:
    Kayak P800/day
    Mask and Snorkeling Set P100/day