Jiufen (Spirited Away)

I’ve always heard about this place and seen photos online. I wasn’t really that excited about the place but it did made me curious. The day that I was to see the old town of Jiufen came in a bit interesting for me. I originally wanted to see Shifen to fly a paper lantern, but the weather wasn’t agreeing. So when I saw this girl on Couchsurfing looking for companions  to Jiufen, I message her up to meet. After a few hours she responded on where we can meet up. I was like “Thank you God! you actually are going to make this birthday memorable for me!”. LMFAO. Well it wasn’t actually a date of some sort but meeting a cute girl was a reward enough for my birthday. Yep this was on my birthday.

The Old Street Jiufen

Jiufen’s main attraction (for non Spirited Away fans like me) are its century old streets. These streets are filled with stores selling interesting things. Food, tea houses, restaurants, Souvenirs, tourist spots of all sorts adorn the narrow streets filled up with people. The street has this Japanese feel of a market place, maybe because the town was developed further during the Japanese Gold rush era.

jiufen photo by Modale (used under CC)

There’s another class of tourist that goes to this old town, the anime fan tourists. As I learned from my new friend Jordana, some of the structures and places in Jiufen inspired the architecture and landscape of the movie Spirited Away. Without knowing I actually was impressed by the architecture of  the actual tea house where the author took inspiration from.

I guess if you are off for a trip to Jiufen, make sure that you come with a full wallet and an empty stomach. Going through the streets with rows and rows of awesome stores with free tastes will satisfy your cravings. Make sure to visit one of the coffee or tea houses that offers an amazing view of the port city of Keelung.

Jiufenphoto by arkiben used under CC

 

jiufenphoto by  ume-y used under CC

 

Jiufen Photo by Wei, Shi-Hang (used under CC)

How To Go To Jiufen

There are a few ways to get to Jiufen.

Option 1

Take the train to MRT Zhongxiao Fuxing station
Get on Bus 1062 that will take you straight to Jiufen
Bus fare is about NT$102

Option 2

Go to Taipei Main Station
Get on the Taipei Rail train to Ruifang
From Ruifang hop on a bus to Jiufen

jiufenphoto by andreakw (used under CC)

Travel Guide: Boracay Island

Hailed as one of the best beaches in the world several times, Boracay continuously lures tourists each year. The island is famous not only for its powder fine sand and exciting activities, but with its awesome nightlife as well.

What To Do In Boracay

I could easily spend a whole day just laying on the sand and enjoy a cup of smoothie or beer while the breeze blows. Aside from that here are a few more that you can do.

Paddle Boarding

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Ride a Paraw

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Island Hopping

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Best Time To Go To Boracay

Off Peak Season (End of May – November)

If you want to enjoy the beach with less people, you might want to visit during lean season. Off-peak season in the Island starts from late May till November. This season is also the time when the water is the clearest. Caveat though, if you go there during the American Thanks Giving holiday you might encounter a crowd larger than the usual off peak season. This is because this is the best time for people who work for American companies take advantage of some rest and relaxation. I actually like travelling during Thanks giving weekend. Hotels aren’t that expensive as if it was peak season but they offer amenities like buffet in house and some even offer free cocktails at night, that’s why I think that is the best time to go to Boracay.

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Super Peak (March  – Early May)

Summer season starts end of February and climaxes between March and April. These are also the months when classes comes to a halt giving families to come together and enjoy a day at the beach. While you may think that the number of people will start dwindling come may, you are wrong! Big time! The biggest event in the island actually happens every May 1, Labor day! In fact people have coined a word for this weekend, LaBoracay weekend (read as Labor -racay) combining the words labor and Boracay. If you plan to join the LaBoracay festivities, better book your hotels and flights several months in advance as they will shoot waaaay up and hotels do become fully booked all over the island.

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Peak Season (December – February) 

Holidays abound during these months so expect more people trying to get to the island. Prices to go up so just like during super peak seasons, book your airfare and accommodation in advance. It can be a bit crowded on these months but nothing like if it is LaBoracay. Also, the water is perfectly clear too on during these times.

 

How To Get To Boracay

Most major airlines in the Philippines fly directly to Caticlan the nearest airport. However, most travelers opt to land at the Kalibo International airport as it is always cheaper. From Kalibo you can take a bus or van directly from the airport to the Caticlan Jetty Port. Boats from the port to the island is available 24 hours. As soon as you arrive ready your pesos to pay for the Environmental Fee (100), Terminal Fee (75)  and Boat Fare (25).

Overnight ferries from Manila are also available. You can check ferry schedules at 2Go.com

Boracay

Where To Stay In Boracay

Hostel Avenue

Get the best value out of your buck at Hostel Avenue. A beach front property, this hostel offers a great view of the sea from its veranda.

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Check Rates  I See Hotel Review

 

Chill Out Hostel

boracay island

Check Rates

Travel Guide: How To Go To Vietnam From Cambodia (Border Cross)

Being part of the main land Southeast Asia, Vietnam is one of the usual stops for backpackers. So aside from taking the plane to the country, to save money most travelers actually cross borders via land. If you are wondering how to go to Vietnam from Cambodia via land, you’d be surprised that it’s relatively easy. Let’s check on some things first.

VISA Requirements

If you are a non ASEAN citizen you might want to check Viet Nam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs if you are needing to secure a visa prior to your arrival. You will also notice when you buy your bus ticket that the staff will ask you some questions. This is to determine if you are aware of your visa situation and that you have secured one if necessary.

On the other hand, if you are an ASEAN citizen, all that you’ll be needing is your passport. ASEAN citizens with passports issued by member countries  are currently afforded visa-free entry into Viet Nam for a period of 21 to 30 days.

How To Go To Vietnam From Cambodia (Border Cross)

check on google maps here

How To Go To Vietnam From Cambodia (Border Cross)

screen cap from google maps

The Journey To Viet Nam

As you buy your ticket, the staff will actually ask you if you have ever been to Viet Nam. I think this is their soft probing if you are aware of the things that you need to know on how to go to Vietnam from Cambodia. They will also inform you if you need a visa, ergo they will not sell you tickets if you don’t have.

Say, you have your tickets already and its time to board the bus. Before the bus leaves, the steward will collect all passports to double check if you have the right documentation. As soon as you arrive at the Cambodian border, all passports will be redistributed. You will have to get off of the bus and line up for your passports to be stamped out.

After everyone has been stamped out and have boarded back on the bus, you will be taken to the Duty Free shop for dinner. Yeah, It’s a bit over priced but the food isn’t that bad and you have no other choice. After about an hour everyone jumped backed in the bus heading to the Viet Nam side of the border.

On the Vietnam side of the border, the bus steward will be the one to process your passports for you. You will actually be asked to bypass the immigration officers booth after handing you back your passport. As you exit the processing center, an immigration officer will then check your passports one at a time. This is to make sure that everyone was processed accordingly.

Your bus will be waiting at the exit of the processing center. Once everyone is back on the bus you’d be on your way to Ho Chi Minh city! There’s one difference that should be noted between the Cambodian and Vietnam border processing. As you exit, the Cambodian border center will just as yourself to step off the bus without your belongings. On the other hand, the Vietnam border will ask you to unload everything and have everything scanned. I guess the later’s immigration process is a lot stricter since you are entering their country.

Your journey ends at the Pham Ngu Lao street where everyone gets off. If you have not booked a room just yet, you are almost guaranteed to find one along the alleys of Pham Ngu Lao.

hopefully this gives you a good idea of what bus company to take and some insight on How To Go To Vietnam From Cambodia.

 

If you have any questions, suggestion or inputs please do let us know on the comments section!

 

Travel Guide: Liw-liwa Zambales Itinerary

Zambales offers a lot of options when it comes to advnture. You can go climb mountains, swim rivers but my favorite of all are its beaches. Yes Zambales does not have those pristine white sands just like in the visayas, but they are as close as three hours from Manila and offers a lot of activities that the family can enjoy.

Liwliwa Zambales

Liw-liwa is small coastal community in Zambales with a vibrant surfing scene. The beach may not be as soft and as white as the others but it offers a huge beach area where you can just enjoy laying out under the sun while watching surfing to their stuff.

As you emerge from the community to the beach you will also be amazed by how raw this area is (I just hope that this would stay the way it is). The beach is lined up not with coconut trees but with pine trees with the towering mountains of Zambales behind them. I couldn’t help my self but just stare at it for minutes!

 

How To Go To Liw-liwa

From EDSA Take a bus going to Iba Zambales (or anything going past Zambales)
Tell the Conductor to unload you at Bobulan Elementary School in San Felipe, Zambales
Incase they aren’t familiar with the school just alight in their stop for San Felipe
Take a tricycle going to Liw-liwa

Liwliwa Zambales

Where To Stay

Since I was with a friend we opted to stay in a private hut in La Zerena Resort but if you are solo or you and your friends would like to meet new people I highly suggest to stay in The Circle Hostel which is just right across La Zerena or a better alternative is the HideOut Hostel.

Expenses

Caloocan (Victory Liner) – San Felipe – Caloocan         564.00 (282/way)
Accommodation                                                                   600.00 (1200 good for two)
Surf Board Rental (Half Day)                                              400.00
Tricycle Service to Falls                                                      250.00
Falls Entrance                                                                         50.00

Total                                                                                  1,614.00

Food

The most convenient place to get almost everything that you need is at Fely’s Store and Canteen. They have a meal menu mostly Tapsis starting around 75.00, Fruit shakes at about 50.oo and other things that you may need including personal necessities.

liwliwa zambales

Itinerary

Day 1

04:00 ETD Victory Liner Caloocan
09:00 ETA Sitio Liw-liwa, San Felipe, Zambales
09:30 Breakfast
10:00 ETD going to Lubong-Nangoloan Falls
11:30 ETD Back to Sitio Liw-liwa
12:00 Lunch / Free Time
13:30 Beach Bumming/ Surfing
17:30 – 18:00 Sunset
19:00 Dinner
20:00 Onwards Socials/Bonfire

Day 2

07:00 Wakeup Call
07:30 Breakfast
08:30 Beach
10:30 Prep for checkout
11:00 Checkout
11:30 Lunch
12:30 ETD to Caloocan
18:00 ETA Caloocan

liwliwa zambales

Notes:

You can bring your own tent, the beach is huge you can just pitch your tent for free.
There are toilets that you can pay to use.
Bring a garbage bag and bring your trash with you, locals are very particular about cleanliness of the beach
If you opt to stay in a room, call ahead of time and reserve. They get fully booked easily on weekends.
Fruitshakes are aweosme
If you plan to go to the falls ask for the husband of the massage therapist at the resort on La Zerena’s right.

How To Go To Obando Fiesta

Obando,  a town north of Metro Manila in the province of Bulacan. The town s popular for its Fertility Festival, celebrating the Feasts of St. Claire, St. Paschal and Nuestra Señora de Salambao. The Obando Fertility Festival‘s ancient name was Kasilonawan Festival how ever this teerm has not been used for a while now and people now just refer to the event simply as the Obando Fiesta or the more popular Obando Fertility Festival.

The Obando fiesta will be celebrated this year from May 17 – 19, 2017.

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The whole experience will give you goose bumps as the procession culminates with dancing inside he Obando Church.

So how do you get to to Obando?

How To Go To Obando

Via Public Transport 

  • (Option 1) From Monumento take a jeep going to Paco or Obando this will pass through Obando.
  • (Option 2) From Monumento or EDSA take a jeep or bus to Malanday. From Malanday you ride a jeep to Obando.

Notes: It is highly possible that jeeps going to Obando may be highly limited, in this case you may take a jeep to Polo then to Obando. Also Jeeps may cut their trips nearing the town because of traffic so you might need to walk a few hundred meters to the town center.

Tips

  • be sure to come early to avoid the influx of people, there’s also a high chance of the public transport to get through up to the town.
  • The procession usually starts by 9 AM
  • The feast of St. Clare is the when most people come to dance asking for a child.

Obando Town Fiesta

Obando Town Fiesta

Still Got Questions? Leave them on the comment box and we’ll try to answer them the best we can ^_^

How To Get To Pattaya From Aranyaprateth

Most travelers coming from Cambodia opts to go straight to Bangkok as soon as they cross the border to Aranyaprateth. But if you are looking for to have some time under the Thai Sun a quick stop over in Pattaya can satisfy your craving for some sand between your toes.

One can get to Pattaya from the border by booking a bus online, however most of the bus companies that I found are quite expensive. Good thing is that staff in the hotel where I as staying gave me directions on where I could catch a Van to Pattaya at a fraction of the cost.

After going through immigration find your way to the Star Plaza Mall‘s open air parking on the right side where van are located. You can buy a ticket from the terminal desk, they will issue a receipt so make sure that you don’t lose it because at some point of the journey they will be inspecting this.

Fare all the way to Pattaya is about 250 Baht.

Here are some photos of the terminal that you should be looking for.

Terminal Desk

Terminal To Pattaya

Do you know any other way to get to Pattaya from Aranyaprateth? Let us know in the comment!

How To Cross To Cambodia From Thailand

Crossing the Cambodian border from Thailand could be one of the most challenging border crossing one may experience, like how I did.

First off you need to get to Aranyaprateth, Your bus or van may drop you off at Aranya (possibly their nickname for the market area) and you would have to hire a tuktuk to get to the border it self. Some vans may drop you off at the Border like the one I took from Pattaya.

Find the entrance where it says departure and walk straight ahead. You’ll find a sign showing “Foreign Passports”, go up to the stairs -no photos and videos as soon as you enter the door; that’s the immigration area already. Line up and have your passports ready together with your departure cards to have it stamped. That’s it you are officially out of Thailand.

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As you exit the immigration building you will see the Cambodian border arch, walk straight past it going to the arrival area. If you are a non-ASEAN citizen or are needing a visa you may secure your visa at the building near after the arch. There are a lot of people at the Thai border who will try to sell you or scam you in getting a Cambodian visa so be very cautious.

The arrival area is just a small office, immeadiately secure an arrival card, fill it up then queue for the immigration officers. No fees should be collected at this point. I have heard some horror stories from fellow travelers that immigration officers ask for at least $1 for different reasons ranging from so called “Processing fees” to rediculous “First timer’s fees”

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Be cautious of touts as well, do not answer any greeting or question from strangers or they will follow you up till you actually get on a bus or taxi. I made the mistake of answering to a “Hello” then the next thing I knew is that there are three men following me trying to have me get their service.

Once you have processed your arrival you either take a shared taxi or a bus to Siem Reap, Phnom Penh or where ever you are bound to, at the international Bus Terminal (6kms away) by taking the FREE government bus or walk straight to the Vikram Buntham bus terminal just straight ahead down the road. Fare for this bus company ranges from 8-10 USD depending on what type of bus you will be taking.

map-cambodia-border-copy

Always remember to check for your visa requirements and have enough money , be it local or USD -which ever is acceptable to your country of destination. It is important to know what you need to do and your rights specially when traveling cross borders to avoid being scammed.

Do you have a story or different experience in crossing the Cambodian border from Thailand? Let us know at the comment section!

How To Get To Khao San Road From Airport

There’s a couple of ways to get to the city from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport, it is really up to you how would you want to navigate the city depending on how much time and convenience you are willing to let go. Here’s a couple of ways on how to get to Khao San Road from the airport.

Via Taxi

The most convenient yet expensive way to get to Khao San Road from the airport is by taking cab. Flag down rate starts at ฿ 35 while ฿ 6 is charged for every kilometer while a surcharge of ฿ 1.25 for every meter is applied if your vehicle is moving under 6 kph. You will also need to shoulder the toll fees for the expressway while you will be at the mercy of Bangkok’s famous traffic jams.

Via Bus

There are buses at the arrival area that you can ride taking you directly to Khao San Road. Fare is about ฿ 150 – 180 depending on the bus company. Compared to taxis they are more comfortable with bigger seats designed for trips, but just like the taxi travel time will depend on the traffic situation.

Via Train

First off, the train will NOT take you directly to Khao San road. You can take the airport train up to the end of the Airport Rail Link line which is the Phaya Thai station. From the Phaya Thai station, walk to the Victory Monument or take another train (just one station away ฿15) and take the 509 or 157 bus. Make sure to tell the conductor to unload you at the right stop. Fare from the airport to Phaya Thai station is ฿45 and the bus to Khao San road is ฿13

Victory Monument Bus Stop

 

Vans From Pattaya to Aranyaprateth

The most popular way of  going to Siem Reap from Thailand usually is through Bangkok. But one route that is  not that popular because of the lack of information available is through Pattaya. This route is good if you are wanting to see the beach before you leave Thailand.

In Bangkok, go to the North or South Terminal Bus station and hop on  a bus bound to pattaya. Tickets cost 108 Baht from the east terminal while it’s 117 Baht if you’ll be taking the bus at the North Bus terminal.

You can spend a day or too in Pattaya and enjoy the beach before you move on in crossing the border going to Cambodia. I also absolutely recommend staying at The Big Five-O, It’s clean, they have a pool and their staff Opal is absolutely the best.

Van Pattaya to Aranyaprateth

Photo lifted from Five-O’s Facebook – trust me it looks this awesome in person

From Pattaya you can take a Motor taxi bike to the Van station(80 Baht). I don’t exactly know the name of the place but I was able to pin it down on the map and took a photo of the terminal that the hostel staff wrote down for me. Go ahead and have that printed to show to the motorbike taxi driver.

you can check out other Pattaya Hotels Here

From Pattaya the van will go through its route picking up and unloading passengers. There are no official stop overs as well just a couple of short ones to refuel and check on tickets. The van will take you to a Mall in Aranyaprateth that is walking distance from the border compared taking the train and bus-where you have to take a tuktuk to get to the border. It takes about five hours to get to the border so the earlier you leave the better. I took the 12 PM van and arrived in the border by about 5:30 PM – I would advise for you to check with the terminal first if you plan to leave on a later time since I am not sure if there are trips after 12 PM.

Here’s how my expense/itinerary looked like

Bangkok – Pattaya (ETA: 8AM) 117 Baht
Five-O Hostel 300 Baht
Motor Bike to Van Terminal 80 Baht
Pattaya – Aranyaprateth 250 Baht

 

This is the note that I gave to the motorbike taxi that the hotel staff wrote for me.

Van Pattaya to Aranyaprateth

 

This is the Van Terminal

Van Pattaya to Aranyaprateth

 

Map of where the terminal is located

Van Pattaya to Aranyaprateth

 

Pagudpud Travel Guide: Itinerary and Expenses

The north of Luzon offers a diverse option on how to spend your holidays and one of the best way to lazy around is just bum around the beach, and Saud Beach in Ilocos is the perfect place to do such. However, why not maximize your stay at the northern region of Luzon and explore it’s unique tourist attractions.

Here’s a sample itinerary for you in exploring the Ilocos region in one go.

itininerary ilocos

Download The Ilocos Backpacking Itinerary