Tag Archives: travel

Around Asia – Indonesia (Day 2: Borobodur, Prambanan)

Today marks the official start of our trip. At 4am, we met our tour operator Salim for the first time. Finally, there is a face to the person I have been e-mailing with for the past few days.

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From Yogyakarta, we drove for an 1 hour to reach Manohara Resort. As a tip, you can opt to stay here as the Borobudur Temple complex is right inside the resort grounds. They also have discounted rates if you are staying there.

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We were one of the first guests that arrived at the resort. While waiting, we had a chitchat with Salim and our driver Yahia (Sorry, but I am not sure how to spell your name). It was nice to know that we were in good company after we got to know them more.

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It was almost 6am when we started lining up to head to the entrance of the temple complex. We were each given a flashlight that you will only use for a few minutes to climb up the temple stairs.

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As we reached our vantage point, I did not expect the huge amount of tourists that visit the temple during sunrise. We had a difficult time finding a decent spot as there will be a blockade from a fellow traveler wherever you position yourself. This was definitely a turn off for me and it somewhat degraded the beauty of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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After sunrise is where it becomes better. Most tourists will be moving around the complex giving you more space. As time passes, there will be less and less people around as well. This gave me an opportunity to take a few decent shots of the stupas. Maybe next time, I can just stay behind the complex before sunrise. This way, I can take a clear shot of the complex from the back.

Borobudur sunrise 🌞 #Indonesia #unesco #borobudur #photography #sunrise #agameoftones

A post shared by Paolo Lee (@paolee87) on

Don’t get me wrong but going here should be in everyone’s travel bucket list. Definitely one of the best, if not the best, Buddhist temple I have seen. It’s sheer size, symmetry and design is  mind boggling. Just google some aerial shots of this place and you will be amazed!

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From Borobodur, we headed back to Yogyakarta to have our breakfast and checkout from our hotel. We then went for a quick stop to visit another UNESCO site – Parambanan Temple.

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Also another must-see temple to visit. Although, I prefer Borobudur a lot more than this other temple. Prambanan looks very similar to Angkor Wat in Cambodia. And just like the latter (when we visited back in 2012), it was also under construction during the time we visited.

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From here, we went back on the road to what will be the longest land travel of our Asia trip. Our next stop was to head towards the city of Probolinngo.

 

 

Around Asia – Indonesia (Day 1: Malioboro Street, Kopi Joss)

Last September, I went on a 12-day trip around some places that I have been wanting to go to around Asia with my sister. It was a long shot when I first thought about this trip. We only had less than 2 weeks to plan when we decided to push through – it was definitely worth it!

To summarize our trip, here is the breakdown of where we were each day:

Day 1: Manila (Philippines) – Singapore – Yogyakarta (Indonesia)
Day 2: Borobudur (Indonesia)
Day 3: Mt. Bromo (Indonesia)
Day 4: Mt. Ijen (Indonesia)
Day 5: Mt. Bromo (Indonesia) – Surabaya (Indonesia)
Day 6: Colombo/Negombo (Sri Lanka)
Day 7: Dambulla (Sri Lanka)
Day 8: Sigiriya (Sri Lanka)
Day 9: Anuradhapura (Sri Lanka)
Day 10: Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) – Malacca (Malaysia)
Day 11: Brunei
Day 12: Brunei – Manila (Philippines)

Our first day was technically our “rest day”. We flew with Singapore Airlines from Manila to Yogyakarta via Singapore. I would have wanted to leave the airport to get some chili crabs from Jumbo but decided to stay inside instead. From my last visit (which was last May 2015), I noticed that they already renovated the food court. You can even order from any of the stalls through a vending machine.

From our early morning flight, it was already 5pm when we arrived in Yogyakarta. It was almost 7pm when we finally headed out from the airport. The line exiting from the baggage counters to the immigration took awhile; something I definitely did not expect.

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We stayed at Inna Garuda for our first night. For one, this hotel was built in 1908 which definitely has some history behind it. It is also strategically located in Malioboro Street which is probably the most popular area to go to in Yogyakarta.

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Our visit was timely as they were celebrating Eid al-Adha so there was a lot of happening around the city. The first stop we went to was to try some Kopi Joss (Charcoal Coffee) from Angkringan Kopi Joss Pak Agus. This drink literally has a hot charcoal dunked in your coffee. It is said to have some health benefits from the activated carbon of the charcoal. We also tried some of their chicken satay which was our first meal in Yogyakarta.

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Keep in mind that most (if not all) establishments do not serve pork as with all other Muslim countries. I had to learn this the hard way as I kept forgetting about this and would sometimes ask if they had pork on the menu. Same thing happened when we visited A&W in Surabaya on Day 5. I was craving for some Coney Dog but of course… Definitely my bad!

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How to get here: go to the opposite direction of Malioboro Street and you will find a train track. Keep walking ahead and you will see this establishment to your right along with other stalls and street vendors.

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Afterwards, we headed back to Malioboro Street and walked around for a bit. There are a lot of side streets that you may also want to check as well. We ended up in one of those to try some more local food.

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My sister really enjoyed trying out new dishes but I was the complete opposite. I have a bad tolerance for spicy food which is why I even forgot about taking a photo of where we ate afterwards. I did enjoy some of the Indonesian dishes we tried in the latter part of the trip as long as it was not spicy. We ended up going to a mall close by so I can order some McDonald’s to go before we headed back to the hotel.

It was probably around 10pm at this point and our call time was at 4AM the next day. Little did I know that 4AM was already late compared to the time we had to wake up for the next few days. We asked for it!

Taipei All Over (Day 1: Swiio Hotel, Presidential Palace, Ximending, Ningxia Night Market)

My latest trip brings me back to Taipei for the second time this year. I just had to book a flight with the awesome seat sale deal we found. For this trip, I was able to book two round trip Philippine Airlines business class tickets for only USD $322 per person. I will be writing a separate article on how we were able to purchase these cheap business class seats. Hopefully, that will not be our last!

On the downside, we splurged a bit more with the hotel. I usually book a few months or weeks before any trip. That is to ensure that I am able to get the hotel where I would like to stay. For this trip, we did something risky and booked just a few days before our actual trip. We were hoping to get some last minute promo deals which definitely backfired. From the initial list we had in mind, they were all fully booked or overpriced when we decided to book our stay.

Since we had no choice but to spend a bit more, we decided to book at Swiio Hotel Daan which we really enjoyed. They are currently ranked #2 on TripAdvisor as I am writing this. We were hoping to stay around Ximending but do not regret ending up in the more laid back and peaceful Daan area.

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Once we arrived at Taiwan’s Taoyuan Airport, we decided to take the Kuo-Kuang (國光客運) bus #1819 from the airport to Taipei Main Station. From the Taipei Main Station, take the Red-line to Daan. We were consciously making this trip stay within budget which is why we decided to opt commuting over a hired taxi. Once we started walking from the Daan station to our hotel, it was evident that the weather in Taipei during late July is extremely hot. A shopkeeper even told me it was “not hot but heat” in Taiwan. That I did not understand…

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We were sweating and drained from the weather when we arrived at Swiio Hotel. Luckily, our room was already ready even if check-in time was still a few hours after. Thank you Swiio!

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The rooms were very modern yet functional. It definitely has a hip and very chic vibe to it. Our curtains were all automatic as well as the toilet which can be remotely controlled and the seat kinda lifts on its own. Quite neat!

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After we freshened up, we headed out for lunch at Du Hsiao Yue (度小月) located in Zhongxiao Dunhua. This is probably my all time favorite place to eat at in Taipei. After a friend of mine introduced this place to me back in 2008, I was definitely hooked! I always make it a point to dine here every single time I visit Taipei. You must try their pork noodle soup and pork rice which is what I always order.

From there, we headed to do some shopping (at my girlfriend’s request) and strolling around the hip area of Dunhua (忠孝敦化商圈). Shopping comprised of some bargain buys from stores like Gu and NET which is along Exit 4 from the Zhongxiao Dunhua station. Across the street when you get out from either Exit 1 or Exit 7, turn to one of the side streets and you will end up seeing some hip shops (street wear, indie brands, cafes, etc) and similar establishments. I apologize for not taking pictures as I am explaining these areas. I was still too tired from the weather at this point.

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Just before sundown, we moved to Ximen and visited the Presidential Palace. I was trying out my new lens and I am pretty impressed with how wide this can get even if I was just across the street taking photos of this building.

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We then walked towards the more commercialized area of Ximending. We strolled for a bit just to have some feel good vibes from our previous trip. The place is still bustling and busy with a lot of people. It was a good thing that we decided to stay elsewhere during this trip.

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For dinner, we went to Ningxia Night Market which we have not been to before. I have been hearing much about this night market. You can exit either in Zhongshan or Shuanglian MRT to get here.

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With night markets, I look forward to the food more than the shopping. Ningxia did not disappoint on this as they had a whole strip dedicated to food. I tried some street style teppanyaki which I found just to be okay given that I paid around NT$230. My girlfriend opted for the popular blow-torched steak which was tastier than the teppanyaki I had.

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One of the dishes I wanted to try at this night market was some oyster omelette. I just read in other blogs to try Yuan Huan Bian (圓環邊蚵仔煎) which is considered by some to be the best in this market and even in Taipei. It was easy to spot this place as there was a line in front.

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Their oyster omelette had some sauce that tasted like light sweet chili on top. I actually prefer my oyster omelette dry which is why this one was just okay for me. My girlfriend on the other hand found the taste to grow on you after every single bite. This being one of the best in Taipei, maybe I have to give it another try next time!

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At this point, I ended up just trying two dishes at this night market. The rest of the stalls can be typically found in other big markets which we will be going to again for tomorrow. I would recommend this night market over something like Shilin. Although you have to visit that place at least once as that might be the most popular of all the night markets. You can also find the popular cheese potato there which I really liked.

Time for me to rest!

 

 

Taiwan (Day 4: Du Xiao Yue, Chia Te, Ximending)

On our fourth day, we headed to have lunch at my favorite restaurant in Taipei called Du Xiao Yue (度小月). The restaurant has several branches imcluding one at Yong Kang Street. I always go to the one located at Zhongxiao East Road.

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This restaurant was introduced by a friend of mine way back in 2008. Ever since then, I have made it point to drop by at least once when I travel to Taiwan.

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I recommend that you order their danzi noodles which is what they are popular for. I always prefer to get the broth based one with the shrimp on top. You will easily see this on the menu.

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You should also their Chinese Sausage (or lap cheong) as well as the mandatory bowl of rice with minced pork on top to accompany your bowl of noodles.

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As it was already our last full day in Taipei, we were pretty much exhausted from the first three days of our trip. We probably managed to do at least 20,000+ steps each day on an average. That is apart from the multiple train stops we took everyday. This was the first time we managed to utilize their public train system during the whole trip. We avoided taking cabs as it was more expensive and only decided to do so when the metro was already closed at night.

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In the afternoon, we headed to Chia Te to buy some freshly made pineapple cake. If you are going to buy some goodies to bring back home, you should try this sweet delicacy. There are other brands out there but we prefer this one.

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I prefer getting the original pineapple flavor or the one mixed with salted egg inside. They also sell other flavors and other pastries you may want to try out.

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At dawn, we headed to Ximending which is probably their hippest district. This area is very popular among tourists as well as young locals.

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Within the main district is the Red House Theater. There was a small bazaar in front of the building when we visited at this time of the year. The shops were selling local trinkets quite similar to what we saw in the shops along Huashan 1914 Creative Park the other day.

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After, we went inside the main area which is a mix of retail shops and restaurants. This is an alternative place to go to if you want to get away from the night markets. It was always a night market stop for us every night except tonight.

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As my family decided to head back to the hotel, me and my girlfriend decided to meet up with a friend who was also in Taipei for vacation. We ended up drinking in a pub near the Red House Theater. Spent a few hours sharing stories about our experiences in Taiwan which were all equally great over some Taiwan Beer.

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This wraps up my trip in Taipei last Holy Week. This place never fails to surprise me with something new even if I have been here several times already. There is still a lot more to discover and see next time!

– The Tourist Pao

Taiwan (Day 3: Yehliu Geopark, Jiufen, Huashan Creative Park, Raohe Night Market)

We continued to travel outside Taipei on our 3rd day in Taiwan. Today, we headed up north to visit Yehliu Geopark. Ever since I saw photos of these geological formations on social media, I have been planning to visit this place when I get to return to Taiwan.

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The geopark is located along the northern tip of Taiwan and you can definitely see the coastline as you head here. Along the way, there was also a fish market and some restaurants nearby. I would have wanted to try these places out if we had the time.

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I initially thought that this place would be along a sandy beach where you could see the rock formations scattered everywhere. It was quite the opposite as access to the site is well organized. Once you enter, you just follow the footpath that will present you the different types of shapes these geological formations have created.

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Among them is the famous Queen’s Head which is probably the most popular rock formation here. There is a line if you wanted a photo op with the queen and the security was quite strict giving a time limit for each visitor.

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Likewise, they prohibit you to trespass the boundary lines around the geopark. We wanted to take some shots along the rocky areas near the shore but be warned or you would get whistled by the guards.

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Amidst the crowd, I can just imagine how beautiful this place would have been if it was left more raw and untouched.

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Our next stop is Jiufen Walking Street located in a mountain town in the Ruifang District of New Taipei City. It is said that this place was the inspiration to the anime movie called Spirited Away. I am not a big anime fan but this movie was a huge blockbuster worldwide. Might be interesting to watch this movie one time.

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The plan was to visit this walking street but I was surprised that this was only part of many other different attractions around the area. You can see waterfalls, hike mountains and visit a gold mine just to name a few.

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It was already late in the afternoon when we reached the foot of the walking street. We decided to grab some food first before we went around

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The highest point we reached was the viewing area to catch the sunset along the mountain coastline.

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Personally, I really like the old-feel of this place. Although most of it is already manufactured to cater to tourists. I would have wanted to explore more but we did not have much time. We needed to head back before sunset as we were travelling back to Taipei. Traffic was a bit of a problem during this trip since it was the high season in Taiwan during this time of the year.

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If you are the artsy type, you should visit Huashan 1914 Creative Park located near Guang Hua Digital Plaza which is a must-visit if you are a techy person. For the latter, I would recommend that you buy memory cards here as they are very cheap. I was able to buy a branded UHC-3 SD card for almost the price of a UHS-1 here in the Philippines. The challenge here is to find the cheapest priced store.

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Huashan 1914 Creative Park is a huge lot that feature multiple buildings that housed various shops selling indie brands, a warehouse theatre of some sort and several hip restaurants. From hand-made trinkets to vintage second hand items, they all have it here. They also have an outdoor auditorium which was showing a local film when we visited.

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If you do not intend to purchase anything during your visit, there is still something for you here. This place is also great for your own photo-op. Once can find your own corner or alley to take creative shots. My personal favorite are the hallways that looked like school corridors. It reminded me very much of the time when I was still an undergrad.

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Another great spot to take photos would be the separate building near the parking lot that is made of red bricks. It had this old school gritty feel that I really like.

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From Zhongzheng District, our last stop for the night was Raohe Night Market. We have been visiting night markets every single day to cap our evening. I would also recommend checking Shilin Night Market as this is the undoubtedly the most popular night market for tourists.

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I must say, this one is our favorite among the bunch! The night market is literally just one long street where all the food stalls are lined-up in the middle up to the end of the street. If all you want is food and no other distractions at sight, then this is the night market for you.

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Up until this point, I can say that bad food in a night market is probably an anomaly. We have not had any unappetizing food so far. Taipei is definitely the place to be if you would like to try some clean and tasty street food. Street food 101!

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Just like every other night, we find ourselves in the night market until its closing hours before heading back…Good night!

Taiwan (Day 4: Du Xiao Yue, Chia Te, Ximending)

– The Tourist Pao