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Japan and South Korea: cherry blossoms spring flings!

The evidence of the forthcoming spring is heralded by all things botanical – and most convincing and much-awaited of them all, the blooming of cherry blossom trees. During this time, vegetation slowly regains signs of life with their remarkable display of lush, vibrant colors enough to lure a crowd of locals and committed travelers. The cool, crisp air the season brings (a mild 10-15 degrees Celcius during daytime) also contributes to a reassuring ambience perfect for a nice stroll through some soul-inspiring landscape. Continue reading

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The Sands of Mui Ne

The famed red and white sand dunes in the Vietnamese coastal town of Mui Ne, some 200 kilometers off of Ho Chi Minh City, is nature’s massive arena for what is considered to be one the most breathtaking sunrise you can ever witness on this side of the continent. While we naturally prepared for the likelihood of a disappointment, we still carried on with the plan to see what the hoopla is about. Continue reading

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The Berlin Baptism: Beer and Bratwurst

After spending an evening cautiously dodging broken glass and confused revelers in one of the local street festivals in Berlin, I didn’t have any trouble believing that the Germans need no reason to justify their inebriation. You would normally see them drinking in pubs, on the streets (it’s legal), at breakfast (is OJ overrated?), and even during sleep, I’d assume. Continue reading

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Interlaken: Our Switzerland Introduction

Peaceful. Staggeringly beautiful. Expensive. As the train pulled to a halt in the town of Spiez, we jumped out of the coach and rushed to the adjacent platform determined to catch our connecting trip to Interlaken. That move proved to be unnecessary. It turns out we had 15 more minutes to spare before our scheduled train’s departure! That was our unprecedented Switzerland welcome: a 4-person marathon – with luggage in tow! Continue reading

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Japan Rail (JR) Pass: will it pay off?

Currently priced at JPY 29, 110 (about PhP 10,811), some first-time travelers to Japan struggle whether or not to purchase a 7-day ordinary Japan Rail (JR) Pass. Its price is a major turn off, yes. But once you realize how convenient it is to have one at your disposal, you will agree that it is definitely worth the extra budget.

Here are some tips on how you can make your JR Pass pay off: Continue reading

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Socorro’s Hidden Treasure: Fortuna Tropical Upland Resort

“Al fresco dining” takes on a decidedly different meaning at Fortuna Tropical Upland Resort, a newly-developed eco-tourism destination right in the heart of Socorro in Oriental Mindoro. Being primarily an agricultural town, Socorro is often skipped by both seasonal travelers and fellow Mindorenos in favor of the beaches in neighboring localities. But with the combined efforts of the local government and the DoT to resuscitate tourism, this once sleepy town slowly gains recognition for its natural wonders and undeniable rural charm. Continue reading

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Bulalacao: Oriental Mindoro’s tropical secret

With its swaying palm trees, ruggedly forested topography, and a long stretch of white sandy beaches, the group of islands in Bulalacao, Oriental Mindoro is everything you would hope for in an untainted tropical heaven. And, like paradise, it is difficult to reach – about 8-10 hours of combined land and sea travel from Metro Manila. Continue reading

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Of gondolas and poop: my Venitian curiosities!

The very name Venice conjures up images of romantic gondola rides, swanky al fresco dining, and – like Paris and Tokyo – the name alone is almost reason enough to make the trip.

When I saw how strikingly beautiful Venice is from the movies Italian Job and The Tourist, I prayed the same way I did when I needed provisions for a trip to Sagada back in 2006. That trip nearly a decade ago kicked off my solo backpacking journey. The culprit then? Piolo and Juday’s insanely delightful on-screen chemistry in the Mountain Province-shot movie, Don’t Give Up On Us. Ang tindi! To put things into perspective, Venice was like my new Sagada. At admittedly, fan pala ako ni Esperanza. Hehehe! Continue reading

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Chris’ Top 10 Things to do in Japan

1. Get naked in an onsen

  • Dipping in an onsen or hot spring is an integral part of the Japanese culture. The practice dates as far back as 552 AD and is believed to free oneself from carnal sins. It’s Japan’s answer to Korea’s jjimjilbang. Onsens or sentos are found in most hotels but the best ones are in the mountainous slopes with water supplied straight from its natural source. The experience can be a bit intimidating but once you get the hang of it (pun intended), it’s actually pretty liberating.

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Osaka Alternative Activity: Make your own Cup Noodles!

While browsing for alternative activities in Osaka, I came across an interesting write-up about an instant ramen museum not very far from the city. It was on a lazy Sunday morning when I decided to visit the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum in Ikeda, a quiet neighborhood about 35 minutes from downtown Osaka. I figured this was a perfect way to beat the swelling peak season crowd in the city. It would also be interesting to know the evolution the instant ramen has gone through over the years. These, and of course, a chance to create my very own cup noodles. Yup, a customized cup of umami goodness – from designing the container to selecting the toppings and soup base – all for just JPY 300 (PhP 112). Awesome! My inner Martha Stewart was thrilled.

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