The Best Road Trips Around Perth

Australia

If you’re heading down under, there’s no better way to explore than hitting the open roads. If you’re travelling to Perth, why not combine city slicking with a road trip? Here are some of the best routes to take in Western Australia.

Before you go

Before you head out onto the rocky roads, take a couple of days to discover and fall in love with Perth. Tick off the must-sees of King’s Park and Botanic Gardens and Rottnest Island. Enjoy some retail therapy and hit the city’s famous beaches. When you’re ready and raring to go, investigate Perth car hire, pick up your wagon and grab a map. Incredible adventures await.

 

Popular routes in Western Australia

Perth to Esperance

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of driving through stunning landscapes. Road trips give you the freedom to explore at your leisure. The road from Perth to Esperance affords you incredible views and a diverse range of experiences. This journey will take you through the wine regions, down to the coast and through national parks. Highlights include a tour of the Narrogin wineries and a stop-off in quaint Wheatbelt. You can also enjoy a challenging hike through the tracks of Fitzgerald River National Park. Visit historic Albany, sample some fine dining delicacies and enjoy a whale watching adventure. Take a surfing lesson near Hopetoun and marvel at the starry night sky in Southern Cross. Prepare to be amazed by the beautiful vistas from the Southern Ocean Road. If you visit at the right time of year, you may be able to spot Southern Right and Humpback whales in the water. Spend an afternoon at Cape Le Grand National Park before arriving in picturesque Esperance.

The Indian Ocean Drive and exploring the Coral Coast

If you’re looking for a road trip that offers everything, this is the route to follow. The Coral Coast is one of Australia’s prized assets. On this adventure, you’ll see everything from modern art and rolling streams to deserted beaches and sea lions. Start your trip in Perth and make your way up to Geraldton. Stop off to see the famous Pinnacles Desert and look for fossils by Lake Thetis. Go snorkelling in Jurien Bay Marine Park and look out for dolphins and sea lions. Sample the fresh seafood in Dongara. Book a 4WD excursion to Stockyard Gully National Park and take a wander around the mysterious caves. As you arrive in Geraldton, keep your eyes out for the iconic horizontal trees.

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Pinnacles of Nambung Dessert 

If you’re travelling around Western Australia, road trips are a fantastic idea. Get off the beaten track and soak up everything this incredible state has to offer. You can plan your own itinerary and stop whenever and wherever you want. Amble along the coastal roads or get your adrenaline pumping at the national parks. Discover the history and learn about the culture and traditions. Stop off a winery and taste the local produce. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins bobbing about in the water or arrange a whale watching excursion. You can enjoy a whole range of experiences and ever-changing scenery just a stone’s throw from the centre of Perth.

 

NOTE: Featured Image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eyre_Highway

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Taking A Trip Down Under? Here’s Everything You Should Do In Perth

Australia, Oceania

It’s time for a trip down under. That’s right; we’re heading for Australia. Specifically, I’m going to tell you about everything you don’t want to miss when visiting Perth. One of Australia’s finest cities. Though, as you’re about to find out it’s what lies beyond the city limits that’s truly worth discovering. Join me then as I uncover some of the best things to see and do around Perth. If you take this trip, the adventurers and romantics won’t be disappointed; that’s for sure.

Kings Park And Botanic Gardens

You’ll have to search for a cheap car rental when you visit Perth because you are going to be doing quite a lot of traveling. There are a few things to do in the city of Perth. But, as already mentioned, the true cities lie in the wilderness. Okay, not so much the wilderness as a short car ride outside the center. There you’ll find Kings Park. It’s a gorgeous, picture perfect paradise that stretches for miles and is visited by well over six million people every year. There’s a lot to explore in this 400-acre wonderland. Make sure that you do stop by at least once as the sun begins to set. If you do this, you’ll get an enchanting view of Perth lit up at night. As well as that, don’t forget to journey along the elevated walkway through the trees. Below you’ll be able to see the entire park stretched out before you.

Perth Beaches

There are quite a few beaches that you’ll want to explore that I’d be hard-pressed to name just one that I recommend. Instead, I suggest you take a trip to as many as possible. Walk along the sandy shores or head for a swim in the shallow waves. Some beaches in Perth also offer surfing lessons. That’s something you might want to look into because the Aussies sure know how to ride the waves. In the evening, you can settle down on the green not too far from the shore for a great BBQ. Or, drive down to the pier for a meal at one of Perth’s finest restaurants.

Hire A Boat

If you’re a nature lover, you might want to see the sea life surrounding Perth up close and personal. Well, you can. You just need to hire a boat, and you can do that down at the city bay. You’ll be able to take out one of the smaller boats by yourself or with your family. Then you can jet across the ocean waves looking for the perfect area to drop anchor. Dive into the sea just off the coast and you might just spot a few sea creatures.

Rottnest Island

Lastly, you can finish your trip by taking a ferry over to Rottnest Island. There, you’ll have the chance to snorkel and scuba dive in crystal clear waters. It’s best to wait for the optimum weather conditions before you travel to this perfect paradise. Particularly, if you are planning on exploring the world below.

“For more exciting activities and stay options in Perth, check out these 15 Popular Waterfront Hotels in Perth compiled by HotelsCombined.”

I hope you have found this a great incentive to take a trip to Perth this year.

Discover Coogee Beach in Eastern Sydney, New South Wales

Australia, Oceania

Sydney locals are among the luckiest folks on the planet.

The city is one of the busiest economic centers in the world the quality of life here is something that others cities could only hope to imitate and achieve.

On top of that, Sydney is blessed with gorgeous beaches that makes balancing work and chill time so easy, breezy.

Take for example, the case of Coogee beach, located in the eastern suburbs of Sydney.

coogee3

It only takes a 20-minute bus ride from Sydney Central to enjoy the beach life and party atmosphere Coogee has to offer.

A year-round destination for locals and visitors alike, Coogee gives everyone that inimitable beach side lifestyle that makes Sydney quite popular.

Coogee is a public beach and you can swim, paddle, snorkel to your heart’s content. The waves here are mild as compared tot he rough waters of Bondi so it is not surprisingly that this beach is preferred by families and casual, average swimmers.

coogee1

Like other main beaches in Sydney, there are lifeguards patroling the main beach so you can have some sort of peace of mind.

For food lovers, the streets around the Coogee and Randwick (the suburb) are teeming with bars, restaurants, souvenir shops so there will be no shortage of areas to dine and drink.

Just a note though. Sydney is generally a pricey city so everything seems expensive. The bars and restaurants near the beach are understandably expensive. Don’t fret though since there are lots of convenience stores where you can get your beer cheap.

coogee5

No matter if it’s a weekday or weekend, Coogee is full of life and visitors.

One of the reasons for this is the fact that Coogee is the starting and/or endpoint of the famous 6-kilometer Coogee to Bondi Coastal Walk, one of the must-do activities whenever you visit Sydney.

This walk traverses the eastern shore of the city from Bondi to Coogee while passing the Bronte and Clovelly beaches and Gordon’s Bay.

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Coogee beach is indeed of the treasures of Sydney. And if you ever have the chance to come visit the city, don’t miss the chance to take a splash in this gorgeous and picturesque beach.

coogee4

. A year round favourite with beach-going Sydneysiders and visitors alike, you can walk, surf, swim, snorkel, laze on the sand, shop, eat and drink here to your heart’s content.

Hostel Review: 790 On George in Central Sydney, Australia

Australia, Hostels, Oceania

Sydney, Australia is one of biggest megacities in the world and its landmarks such as the Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Bondi and Coogee beaches, and the Botanical Gardens attract millions of visitors annually. 


Indeed, there is literally an endless list of things to see and things to do in Sydney, and the only problem left for any would-be visitor is budget because God knows, this is a pricey city, and the location of his/her accommodation.


If you will be booking any hostel or hotel in the city, you must make sure that is is in the center of the city because the prices of buses, trains, and ferries are really high and can take away a big bulk of your travel budget. 
I booked my hostels in Sydney a little bit later due to last minute notices from several couchsurfing hosts. 
I stumbled upon 790 on George, and I booked it because of its central location. It is located along George St. (the main avenue in Sydney) and Rawson St. It is also three minutes away from the Sydney Central station via Eddy Avenue exit. It is also located just beside the Sydney Central YHA meaning you can have access to a lot of information should you need them. 

Lobby

Since it was a last minute booking, I was pretty realistic and I didn’t have any background or expectation of the hostel but I knew that it was centrally located and that from the hostel, I can easily go to the city’s various districts such as Surry Hills, Darlinghurst, Wooloomooloo and of course the central business district. 


When I finally checked in, I was surprised that it was indeed a no-frills, good service hostel located at the heart of Sydney.

  
Near the place, there are a lot of restaurants ranging from cheap to a bit pricey, and several travel services, perfect for any backpacker. Travel Bugs located right beside it was totally awesome and helped me a lot for my tour needs. 
It was very reasonably priced at 26 to 31 AUD a night for a 4-bed male dorm. 


Each room has electrical sockets, clean sheets and linens, and lockers. The rooms have a very good AC system.
The building has a fully functioning elevator too.


The hostel has laundry (a bit pricey at 4AUD and dryer services at 4AUD, a kitchen and a common room at the second and 7th floor. It has cool activities for guests, mostly at nearby Scubar and Side Bar.


The staff was very accommodating too.The only thing I don’t like is that they charge for wi-fi at 1 AUD for 1 hour.
Otherwise, it was a perfect jump off point for your adventures in Sydney. Highly recommended!!!!
 

dining room

kitchen
dining room
hallway to kitchen
common room
common room
Bulletin Board
Hallway





The Benefits of Hostel Living

Asia, Australia, Europe

Whenever I go out of the country, people always ask the same questions, how long will you stay there and where will you stay?

I often times give a vague answer, because most people are not yet familiar with the concepts of couchsurfing and hostels. I don’t want them to end up confused.

Couchsurfing has been going in the Philippines but most people, including a lot of its new members have misguided notion of what it is.

On the other hand, the concept of hostels and dormitory type accommodations is gaining popularity in the country. Granted, most of the clienteles of these dorm type hostels are mostly foreigners and experienced travelers, but the increasing number of such facilities give me satisfaction.

At least, more and more people will be able to experience the joys of hostel living.

But what is it exactly that makes hostel ling quite an awesome experience?

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Buffet Breakfast of Copenhagen Backpackers in Denmark

Low, low, low

For obvious reasons, hostel living allows you to stretch you budget to remarkable lengths.

A 100 USD to will pay to a three to four star hotel, can be stretched to as much as two weeks if you know where to stay.

During my trip to Ho Chi Minh, I stayed at the Vietnam Inn Saigon, which charged me a whopping 5 USD per night in an airconditioned room with 10 beds.

My hostel in Koh Phi Phi meantime charged me 300 Baht a night. In Copenhagen and Amsterdam, I got by with 25-Euro per day hostels that gave me a comfortable place to stay. In fact, I was able to survive in Europe for the duration of my three-week adventure this year thanks to the awesome hostels in the region.

Contrary to public perception, not all hostels are equal.There are small, unclean and totally crazy pigstyes of a hostel, and then there are huge, super efficient, and super awesome hostels. The great ones are usually located in rich, big metropolis such as those in Europe, US and Australia.

The cheap ones are very common along the usual backpacker routes in Asia.

The requirements, though are the same: Dorm type hostels should be spacious enough. Every hostel should offer each traveler his/her own bed. Each bed should have its own curtain, electricity socket and reading lights. You each get a locker where you can leave behind personal stuff. It’s not adviseable though to leave valuables.

Granted, hostels are a world away from the comfort and luxury provided by hotels and, sometimes, the hostels are not in perfect condition, but they do the job.

In the process, you save up a lot of money, which allows you to travel farther and longer.

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KItchen and Dining Room of 790 on George, My Hostel in Sydney

A Glimpse to the Whole World

Staying at a hostel also gives you a wider perspective. How wide you may ask. Well, let’s put it this way. At a hostel, you will meet travelers from all over the world literally and you will discuss a host of topics ranging from the kibbutz system in Israel, to underground bars in Berlin, lesbianism, pity sex to dream trips in Antractica.

During my most recent Asian swing, I’ve met people from Maryland (not a farmland, hahaha, Acapulco, Liverpool, Frankfurt, Szechuan, Rio de Janeiro, Macedonia, Calgary, and Amsterdam.

Not varied enough? How about Trinidad and Tobago and Bratislava?

The world is so wide, and there’s a lot of places to see, and people to meet. Those people I’ve met, I never would have met them had I stayed at a luxury hotel.

Every night, the discussions swing from topic to topic close to our home nations, indicating our desire to share more of ourselves. It’s really a breath of fresh air to hear the worries and issues that are plaguing other countries.

By listening to them, slowly but surely, you get a vision of a the world, which is far different from the myopic self-centered visions that you used to have.

Lobby of Abraham Hostel in Jerusalem

Lobby of Abraham Hostel in Jerusalem

Hello, Friend

It’s true that great friendships are built over time. But if you are in a vaccum, away from your real environment, you let go of some of your inhibitions and worries, and you open up yourself a lot easier.

In a hostel setting, it’s impossible to gain new friends. The fact that you share alot of similar travels and stories, creates an instant connection to one another.

You start with a simple hello, and then before you know it, the conversation has been going on for about an hour or so. You then go to clubs, and landmarks together, sharing traveler jokes. All of a sudden, you become friends.

Friendships built during travels are very common, you will be surprised. I met this two backpacker guys in Laos and was very surprised to find out that they have become friends just two weeks prior. They were very close and nobody can suspect that they are in fact, new friends.

Relationships among travelers are also very common.

More than the sudden freedom, I guess a traveler becomes more open to friendship and love as they realize the world is so big and they’re just too much to accomplish. Do away with hate, doubt and indecision and go ahead live your life to the fullest.

Hostel living, is not always a bliss. Bedbugs, snoring bunkmates, and filthy room, sometimes make your travel less enjoyable. But at the end of the day, the lessons, experiences and memories you share with your fellow travelers are definitely worth it.

What To See At the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne, Australia

Australia, Oceania

Since I was a child, I have always wanted to travel to Australia, one of the largest countries in the southern hemisphere. In fact, it is a continent on its own right.

After years of dreaming and hoping, that dream finally became a reality when I embarked on a nearly three-week adventure in the land down under. I spent most of my time in the mega-city of Sydney.

But  I also made sure that I would visit Melbourne, the most populous city in the state of Victoria.

Melbourne, according to locals is one of the most relaxed and beautiful cities in the country.

Anything that you will ever need is in this city, and the hustle and bustle of city life are less apparent or pronounced here since the city center is much smaller compared to Sydney.

For four days, I walked around the city and visited many of the city’s famous landmarks.

The landmark most recommended by locals is the Queen Victoria Market, one of the oldest public markets in the world, operating since the 19th century. The market was named after Queen Victoria who ruled the British Empire from 1837 to 1901. The market itself traces its origins to 1878.

At seven hectares (17 acres), it is also the biggest open air market in the southern hemisphere.

Someone told me that the character of the city’s people is most visible in its city markets, and I wanted to see Melbourne locals where they are most relaxed.

When I heard that it is one of the oldest public markets in the world, I was expecting a dilapilated building, littered with insects and pests.

What welcomed me is two blocks of organized wet and dry market, so clean, I can’t help but feel impressed.

There are two main entrances to the market. The entrance located along La. Trobe St, is the dry section of the market where you can purchase Australian souvenirs, Ugg boots, shirts, belts, bags and other novelty items.

You can also find a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, straight from the many local farms, in this dry section of “Queen Vic” as locals charmingly call it. The fruits look so luscious that I couldn’t help but purchase a kilo of grapes, and blackberries.

The Elizabeth St. entrance gives you access to the wet section of the market. Admittedly, I was expecting this part to be a bit messy but again, I was proven wrong. It is one of the cleanest and most organized wet markets I’ve been to.

You can buy fish, shells, pork, beef, kangaroo and emuu meat here. (Note: beef prices are lower because of its abundance in the country).

This side of Queen Vic also boasts of the cafes and restaurants where the locals hang out.

Without any exaggeration, Queen Victoria Market plays a very important role in the lives of both locals and tourists.

Australia is one of the most expensive countries in the world. A full meal averages 15 to 30 Australian dollars, which is a lot by any standards.

Locals rely on the produce sold in this market for affordable raw materials and ingredients. At the same time, backpackers also frequent this market in search for the cheapest available meal.

Queen Victoria Market is open five days a week and they have a special Wednesday night market.

Considered a valuable Melbourne landmark, Queen Victoria Market is indeed a must-see destination for anyone visiting Melbourne.

Celebrating Christmas In Sydney, Australia With A Hundred New Friends

Australia, Oceania

Traveling around the world on your own, is a very rewarding and eye opening adventure which can help shape the person you are or the person you want to be.

For the past 10 years, I have traveled to about 20 countries and territories, most of them on my lonesome, and it was definitely the best times of my life. I had no regrets.

However, there comes a time during your travels when the feeling of utter solitude hits you like a brick wall. It’s that nagging feeling in your gut when all of a sudden, you miss everyone: your family, your friends, your office buddies.

You just happen to miss everything that’s familiar in your life and there is a feeling that makes you want to suddenly pack your things, take the next flight out and come back to your own familiar cocoon.

I was roaming the streets of Sydney, Australia last Christmas eve and this utter feeling of solitude hit me out of nowhere.

Queen Victoria Building and monument

I was roaming around Market St, the central business district of Sydney, and I was smack in the midldle of Australians’ frantic last minute shopping for presents and Christmas banquets.

Everywhere you turn, shops were full of customers out to purchase the best presents for their loved ones for the holidays. There were couples strolling around Pitt St. and Sydney Arcade seeming to enjoy the milder Australian summer.

Families were gathered around the giant Lego christmas tree built in the middle of the shopping complex. Near Martin’s Place,  there was another giant interactive Christmas tree which caught the fancies of both locals and tourists alike.

If you dared visit, Queen Victoria Building, a major shopping complex in the city, you’d be surprised at the throngs of people coming in and out of the ancient building, shopping for treats.

Seeking refuge from the multitudes of shoppers and tourists, I also tried roaming around Castlereagh Street which houses the most expensive brands, thinking that people would be averse to spending all of their hard-earned dough for expensive belts, bags, and coats. Again, I was proven wrong. The area was a total chaos with shoppers.

Display at the World Square in Goulbourne

I finally ended at the quiet lawns of Hyde Park, where I literally hid from the throngs of people.

It was Christmas eve, and I was alone in an unfamiliar city.

I had no one to talk to and no one to eat “Noche Buena” with (it’s a Christmas banquet usually served during Christmas eve in the Philippines).

I lay on the grass and stared at the blue Australian sky, and without warning, tears fell from my eyes.

I tried to perk up by going to my happy place, but with Christmas all around me, I failed miserably.

I must have cried for an hour or so until I feel asleep, waking to a starry night.

THE PARTY!!!!!

It was hours before Christmas and I had nowhere to go, and I was resigned to spending one of my loneliest Christmases, when a tall, lanky guy in a Santa hat, approached me near Goulbourne St. and handed me a flier to Sydney’s Red and White party.

With New Friends

Suddenly, my spirits were lifted and there was suddenly the prospect of making this day positive. After all, Australians are known to throw wicked parties.

It was 9pm when I entered Sidebar, one of the coolest backpacker haunts in the city. The place was half-full but it was already buzzing with activity.

I met several people from around the world and there was the usual hellos and how do you do’s.

Names were exchanged and the stories of our travels and conquests flowed freely as beer, pizza, wedges etc, were finished in a matter of minutes (we were hungry backpackers after all !!!).

I met Bernd and Tobias from Germany, Lucia from Uruguay, Thiyen from Vietnam, Johanne and Marcel from France, James from the UK and all night, we talked our adventures in Australia and around the world.

When it came to hit the dancefloor, we lost our inhibitions and joined the hundreds of locals and travelers sway to the current club/house music.

By 11pm, Sidebar was already bursting with people and by then, a lot of people were a bit buzzed, as evidenced by the blank faces, and the reddish cheeks. I can honestly tell you that Australians really know how to party!!!! And by extension, visitors to the country, adapt quickly when it comes to the art of partying.

The music got only louder and the dancing more spirited as we feel the clock ticking.

I was looking around the sea of faces and the writhing bodies and a sudden warmth filled me.

There I was, more than 6,000 kilometers away from home, but I was no longer alone.

All around me were new friends whom I really like to enjoy. Every minute, I was meeting a new face and learning a new face.

Granted, after that night, I would keep in touch with only a handful of them, but I was overcome by the realization that on that night,

I was celebrating with a thousand souls, and that no matter what happens after this, no matter where we go, there was a time in our lives, when we were all together.

It was a time that we will never forget.

I could feel a thousand different emotions welling inside me when out of nowhere, the DJ started the countdown. It was 30 seconds to Christmas.

In unison, we counted down the seconds to Christmas and everyone including the serving staff joined in with a childish anticipation.

When it came, Christmas Day was welcomed with the loudest cheer I have ever heard.

Then, if it was possible, dark club went darker still, and there was a quick pause.

As if on cue, everyone, at least Aussies and British and Europeans, who are quite familiar with the song, sang “Fairy Tale of New York”, at the top of their voices.

I learned later on that the song was in fact the most played Christma song in the UK in the 21st century.

Those who were not familiar with it, just settled on watching the grinning faces of the singers and joined in the swaying of the bodies.

When it was over, the entire place burst with hugs and kisses, and sincere well wishes to friends. To everyone really, because in that moment, we were all friends.

The partying went on until the wee hours of the morning. I partied so hard, my feet were aching the next day. But again, I had no regrets, because it was one of the happies days of my life.

Six Countries, Four Continents, 10 Cities and 31,000 Kilometers in 2014

Australia, Israel, Palestine, South Korea, Spain, The Netherlands, Travel Anecdotes and Then Some

Sometimes, you can be totally focused on the things around you, that you actually forget to look at the bigger picture.

In 2014, I was too pre-occupied with living life on a day to day, week to week basis, intently focused on achieving tasks that I never realized that I was able to accomplish something very few people can achieve.

It wasn’t a continuous ride, but over the past year, I managed to set a personal record of traveling to six countries, four continents, 10 cities, and a total of nearly 32,000 kilometers around the world. (It’s like a half season of Amazing Race!!!!!).

My personal journeys sent me to Israel, Palestine, The Netherlands, and Australia. Then the universe conspired and made my company send me to Spain and South Korea.

These trips are of course on top of short lay-overs in Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong and Jordan.

BREAKING PERSONAL RECORDS 

Except for Seoul, South Korea, all the other cities and countries I visited this year are new ones, breaking all my previous personal records and making my dreams of conquering Europe and the Middle East come true.

Remember my personal goal og going out of Asia? I managed to accomplish just that and so much more this year.

In terms of airlines, it was my first time flying via Emirates, Iberia, Swiss Air, and Qantas,

Every trip, every country, I always tell myself that I was becoming a better traveler. Even if it was a minor life lesson, I consider it to be a valuable instrument I can use to shape the kind of person and traveler I want to be.

In 2014, with the sheer number of amazing experience and awesome people I have met on the road, I found a treasure throve of memories I will cherish for the rest of my days.

ISRAEL

My trip to Israel was a last minute decision. My earlier plans to go to Sapporo, Japan fell through due to visa problems so I opted to go somewhere that will let me in without one.

As early as my first day, however, I quickly fell in love with this country and I thanked God for guiding me in my decision making. The city of Tel Aviv was just the cosmopolitan fun-city I was looking for and I spent days in various beaches, clubs and restaurants in the city.

Jerusalem beach in Tel Aviv

I went around Ha Carmel Market, Old Jaffa, Hilton beach and the marina where I met one of the most awesome and generoud people I have ever met. in this city, I was able to sleep under the stars, aboard a yacht parked in the Mediterranean.

In the holy city of Jerusalem, I reflected on life, my past mistakes and my new life goals as I touched the Wailing Wall. I walked around the Via Dolorosa, where Jesus carried the cross on the way tohis crucifixion. I visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Dome of the Rock. I also had a life-changing moment at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.

Old Jaffa in Tel Aviv
some of treats sold at Ha-Carmel Market
The Wailing Wall
Damascus Gate of the Old City
A View of Jerusalem

PALESTINE

From the Damascus Gate of the Holy City, I braved the local transport going to Bethlehem in Palestine in the hopes of seeing the birthplace of Jesus Christ. I did manage to visit the Basilica of the Nativity, along with the Milk Grotto. But what really struck me as memorable was the decade’s old Israel-Palestinian wall built at the height of the second intifada. I just stood there gazing at the graffities, stories and cries for help of the oppressed Palestinians wishing for freedom from Israeli rule. While short, I can say that my visit to Palestine was one of the most eye-opening experiences I have ever had.

Basilica of the Nativity
The Milk Grotto
Bethlehem Square
Israel-Palestinian Wall

SOUTH KOREA

No matter how many times you visit South Korea, it remains a great destination where you can create great memories. This time around, I visited South Korea with my officemates and I really enjoyed going around the major tourist destinations, I missed during my solo adventure, two years before.

We went to Suwon Fortress, and to the Woongjin Playdoci Snow complex. There, my childhood memories came back to me as I frolicked in the snow. One thing I like about traveling is that it gives you the chance to fulfill your childhood dreams. I also tried the wicked roller coaster in Everland, which literally shook my world. I went bargain hunting in Insadong and Myeongdong. My latest visit to Seoul also allowed me to to try another first. My couchsurfing host toured me around the city on a high-speed motorcyle ride, It totally rocked.

Locks at the Namsan Tower
Suwon Fortress
Everland
Woongjin SNowdoci
Myeongdong

SPAIN

I never expected it to happen this year. That is why my first visit to Spain and to Europe was such a blessing I continue to be thankful for. Thanks to a company project, I was able to fly to the gorgeous cities of Madrid and Seville.

They say that Europe is an enchanting place and my first few glimpses of Europe was totally that. Spain was totally magical. The archictecture, the transport system, the churches and the people just made me fall in love with the place.

I visited Plaza de Espana, Real Alcazar, Seville Cathedral, Calle Sierpes, Triana, Metropol Parasol, Alameda de Hercules, and the Guadalquivir river. In Madrid, I was mezmerized by the Gran Via, Plaza de Cibeles, Plaza Mayor and the Royal Palace. It was the longest time I spent away from home and it was then the best two weeks of my life.

Plaza de Espana in Seville
Metropol Parasol
Alameda de Hercules
Guadalquivir River
Gran Via

THE NETHERLANDS

Thanks to very cheap flights courtesy of Iberia, I flew to Amsterdam for a hell of a 12-hour visit starting at a late night tour of the city’s Red Light District. I spent a whole evening roaming around the busy streets of Amsterdam, all the while, familiarizing myself with the smell of cannabis. I was totally shocked with the city’s windown prostitutes, but I fell I quickly fell in love with the city’s relaxed atmosphere.

The cool kids of Amsterdam also left a good impression on me. In the morning, I tried to take part in Amsterdam’s time-honored tradition of biking but realized all too soon that it wasn’t meant for me, hahaha. I spent my last few hours in Amsterdam going on a love cruise around the city’s many canals and bridges. Though short, it was definitely an experience and I promise to come back for more adventures.

Amsterdam Centraal Station

Canal Cruise
Cannabis store

AUSTRALIA

I decided to spend my Holiday vacation in Australia and indeed, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my entire life. I had the best Christmas and New year experience in Sydney, meeting and partying with people from virtually all parts of the globe.

The new year celebration alone, which lasted from early morning to midnight, and then daw the following day was enough reason for anyone to come visit. Of course, I tried to create as much memories as possible during my trip so I went around Sydney’s many beaches such as Coogee, Manly, and Bondi.

I hiked through the Blue Mountains and shopped at the city’s Market St.  I spent many hours relaxing and thinking about life in the city’s many gorgeous parks such as Hyde, Elizabeth and Belmont. The decision to come check out the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and Royal Botanical Garden was made later duringt he trip.

As if those trips weren’t enough, I extended my Australia trip to the better part of January 2015, starting my new year on a perfect note. After two weeks in Sydney, I took a 12-hour Greyhound bus to the city of Melbourne and met with a high school friend. Of course, I enjoyed the city’s trams, marina and parks too.

Without a doubt, 2014 has been a banner year for me and if the previous year is any indication of what is to come this year, I can hardly wait.

The Three Sisters
Harbour Bridge
Queen Victoria Building
Luna Park
Bondi Beach
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Manly Wharf

A Visit To St. Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne, Australia

Australia, Oceania

Whenever I travel, one of the first places I visit are the local churches.

I am not very religious but I have always admired the varying architectural designs of the world’s many churches. Also, churches reflect the mood and the style of the people who worship in them.

During my recent visit to Melbourne, I happily stumbled upon the massive St. Paul’s Cathedral located along the intersection of Swanston and Flinders Streets. You can say that these two are the most busiest thoroughfares in Melbourne and is considered as the central business district of the city.

This neo-Gothic style church was constructed in 1885 upon the location of what was previously a very small church. It mas made bigger and grander to accommodate the growing Anglican faith of the people of Melbourne.

It was designed by famous British English architect William Butterfield. The church is considered as his very last materpiece. It followed the neo-Gothic style of architecture which was prevalent during the late 18th to 19th century.

Inside, St. Paul’s Cathedral is a magnificent work of art with gorgeous pillars, domes and windows. The place becomes even more mysterious and captivating with rays of lights passing through the stained glass windows.

On that hot summer day, I went inside the church and prayed for protection and good health for my loved ones. I also prayed for the resolution of the many wars in the world. I also prayed for the strength to lead a righteous life.

After my prayers, I still couldn’t help but linger inside the church as I marvel as its beauty.

Below are some pictures of the cathedral:

How I Got My Australian Tourist Visa in 2 Weeks

Australia, Oceania, Visa and Immigration

DISCLAIMER: Before I begin, I just wanna remind everyone that this is based on my own experience in securing my Australian Tourist Visa. Also, I also want to point out that I am not in any way connected to the Australian Embassy and its partners.

Any Filipino who wish to satisfy his wanderlust, has to face three grim realities of global travel early on: high cost of plane tickets, expensive hotels, and hard-to-secure visas.

The first obstacle is becoming easier and easier to overcome what with the proliferation of budget airlines and online sites providing cheaper plane tickets. Expensive hotels, meanwhile can easily be avoided thanks to hostels, airbnb, couchsurfing and other forms of homestays. But the problem on visas is a roadblock that one has to face like a soldier. You must be brave and you must be ready.

Most ASEAN countries have already waived their visa requirement but major destinations such as the US, Canada, Europe, Japan, and Australia continue to require visas for all travel purposes.

For the longest time, I have always wanted to visit Australia and discover the adventures that await me there. But to be honest, I have always been discouraged by the complex process of applying for a visa.

Thank God I finally had the courage to try and after going through a lot of difficulties, I was finally able to secure a 3-month tourist visa to Australia and I will be flying to the land down under in December.

I got my visa in as fast as two weeks after the embassy received my documents.

So how did I do it? Here’s a step-by-step procedure on how to apply for a visa.

First and foremost, you must know that you can’t lodge your application directly to the Australian Embassy. The embassy has tapped a commercial company VFS Global to accept all visa application for the Commonwealth. Got it, you may read on.

PREPARING YOUR APPLICATION

1. The very first step is quite simple and obvious. Know the visa type you need to apply for. You can check it out by clicking this site of the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP). Find a Visa. At the left side of that page, there is a pricing estimator which will guide you on the cost of visa application fee you will need to pay. Or you can just simply click Pricing Estimator

For the purposes of this blog, I will disclose that I applied for a multiple entry tourist visa for holiday which falls under Visitor Visa Subclass 600. And the visa application cost was AUD130 or about P5,700 (this is the most updated rate)

2. To apply for this visa, you must first gather all the required documents. According to the Australian Embassy, here are the Required Documents.

Basically that list includes the ff:

  • Information on Visitors Visa—http://www.immi.gov.au/visas/visitor/600/applicants.htm 
  • Visa Application Form—http://www.immi.gov.au/allforms/pdf/1419.pdf 
  • Visa Application Fee (for tourist visa is P5,700) payable to Australian Embassy
  • Addl Service Fee for VFS Global (P1,330 payable to VFS Services Philippines Private Inc.
  • Personal documents (copy of passport, stamps, visa, entry and exit stamps) and 1 passport size photo attached to the application form
  • Financial documents (copies of bank deposits with history, bank statement or payslips over a period of time, credit card statements and limits, letter of support from Australian contact with the above evidence of financial capability
  • Evidence of intended purpose of travel (plane booking, hotel booking, detailed itinerary

My passport was really thick and it has a lots of stamps on it due to my travels over the past years and I was undecided which stamps to include so I decided to include my entire passport (not adviseable though).

The Visa fee and the service fee for VFS should be paid via Manager’s Check. Go to your bank and ask them to issue them for you. Normally, banks charge P100 for each check.

For financial documents, I included ITR, certificate of employment with compensation. I have very little money in the bank since I traveled to three countries earlier this year, so I included pay slips and bank statements for 3 months.

For evidence of travel, I sought the assistance of leading travel agency Avenix Travel (www.facebook.com/AvenixTravel) to issue a dummy plane booking. Avenix booked me a tentative booking at one of the leading airlines in Asia and sent me a copy via email.

Separately, I made tentative hostel booking at hostelworld and attached the reservation form. I also included an approved leave of absence form.

Understand this: Australia is a first world country and the cost of living is high. Since I have very little money in the bank, I explained well in the application form how I intend to survive with the amount of money in my bank for the duration of my stay.

I explained that I will be staying at a hostel (identified) and that I will be visiting tourist areas, places of interest that do not necessarily require expensive fees and transport. e.g. (Coogee to Bondi walk, Manly beach.

I do not know whether that will work for everyone, but I guess, the embassy considered my travel history (as seen on my stamps) that I travel a lot and I always go back.

SUBMITTING YOUR APPLICATION

Once you have filled up all the forms including the 14-page application form, you may now call up VFS Global and arrange for pick-up appointment at your preferred date and place. You can schedule by clicking this link http://www.vfsglobal.com/australia/philippines/Schedule_an_appointment.html

Or by emailing info.auph@vfshelpline.com or by making a personal appearance at their office located at VFS Global Services Philippines Private Inc., Mezzanine floor Unit M01, Ecoplaza Building, 2305 Pasong Tamo Extension Makati City.

Once the courier picks-up your documents, the waiting game begins.

As a matter of policy, it takes the Australian Embassy one month to give a reply to your application form.

Note however that the time it takes VFS to collect all your documents and sort it is not included in the 1 month rule. It is really adviseable to apply for your visa two months before your intended travel.

In my case, it took only 2 weeks. I think its because of my travel history and the completeness of my documents. But again, this does not happen often so apply early.

TRACKING YOUR APPLICATION: 

You can track the status of your application by clicking this link. http://www.vfsglobal.com/australia/philippines/track_application.html

Be advised however that you will have to have a VLN number before you can use this portal. It takes a week before after application before you get a VLN and you can get it by calling the VFS hotline.

HOW TO FOLLOW UP WHEN YOU GET NO RESPONSE  

Two weeks after, the embassy returned my passport. It’s an original document so they had to return it. Unfortunately, it had no response included in the pouch. No Visa Grant and No Visa Rejection as well.

I was beginning to panic. I didnt want all my hardwork to go to waste so I contacted VFS Global to report the situation. After a few calls, they gave me the direct landline of the Australian Embassy which I immediately called. the phone was answered by a computer prompt which advised me to email the embassy regarding the status of my visa application form.

The email was ‘immigration.manila@dfat.gov.au’

I advise everyone to exercise caution. Please email only if the visa application is already past one month. I only emailed them since they already completed processing my visa as checked on the VFS Global portal and they already returned my documents without a decision.

After a day, they emailed me back and it was A Notice of Visa Grant.

I really cried because of too much joy. All the difficulties I went through paid off and I couldn’t be happier now that I will soon be able to see Australia, one of the most gorgeous countries in my bucket list.