11 Countries, Unforgettable Memories in 2017

Asia, Europe

Whoa, that was fast.

2017 came and went, in a blink of an eye.  It was an uneventful year in my personal and professional life. On the other hand, it was a very memorable period in my life when it comes to my mission of conquering the world.

The travel gods and goddesses blessed me with travels to 11 amazing countries in Asia and in my persona; playground, Europe. This year, I was able to visit Singapore, Italy, Germany (Munich and Berlin), Denmark, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Greece, Spain, Austria (Salzburg and Hallstatt),  and Switzerland.

I was fortunate to be able to come back to some of my favorite cities such as Singapore, Rome, Berlin, Copenhagen, Prague, and Madrid. But what’s even more epic are my adventures to first time countries such as Greece, Hungary and Slovenia. I was also able to fulfill my personal mission of coming back to Zurich in Switzerland.

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The colorful Haji Lane in Singapore.

I saw so much beauty and I laughed, I smiled, I felt my jaw drop at the sheer awesomeness of this world and this year, made me appreciate all the opportunities I get, even more.

Well, I have high hopes for 2018. I hope that I would be able to finally conquer North America and Central America. I also want to explore Africa, The Middle East and the Caribbean. Keeping my fingers crossed. For now, here are some travel memories from the year that was.

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Saying hello from the Parthenon in Athens

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Santorini

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The Trevi Fountain in Rome

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Mirabell Schloss in Salzburg

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Lake Zurich in Switzerland

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In Hallstatt, Austria

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The Beautiful city of Ljubljana in Slovenia

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Munich Town Hall in Germany

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Crossing The Chain Bridge that connects Buda and Pest in Hungary

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Hanging out at the Nyhavn district in Copenhagen, Denmark

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Viewdeck overlooking the city of Prague

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The Neptune Fountain in Berlin

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5 Things To Know Before Visiting Ljubljana

Europe, Slovenia

In the most literal sense, the word ‘wandering’ means to travel or walk around aimlessly, without any particular destination.

When I starting hitting the road frequently, I decided that I would wander as often as I could, and not fall to the usual travel routine/schedule of most backpackers and tour guides. That I would go to places, old and following only my own sense of wanderlust.

That wanderlust brought me recently to the city of Ljubljana, the capital and the largest city of Slovenia. You can be forgiven if you are hearing about this city for the first time. I too had a very limited knowledge about the place.

But after spending a few days in its hidden gem of a city, I can honestly say that it would be a major missed opportunity if you don’t visit Ljubljana at least once in your life.

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Ljubljana is quite an unassuming city, that has everything you need for a fairy tale travel experience. Beautiful canass, awesome bridges, cobblestone roads, architectural highlights, and great food. It even has dragons. Yes, you heard that right.

Compared to other European cities, Ljubljana is a bit on the latter part of everyone’s bucketlist, but maybe not for long. Tourism in the city is steadily increasing and many travelers, wanderers such as myself are spreading the word about the city’s beauty and hopefully, that would translate to more visitors in the future.

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And if you interested to come visit Ljubljana, here are some of the things you need to know about the city.

Where on Earth is Ljubljana? 

Ljubljana is located at the heart of Slovenia. It’s no wonder that this charming city has become the economic, cultural, political and administrative hub of Slovenia. For its part, the beautiful nation of Slovenia is located in Eastern Europe, right beside Croatia. There are only two million people living in Slovenia so its not cramped and chaotic like some big Western European countries.  You can easily fly to Ljubljana or take a bus from surrounding cities such as Budapest, Zagreb and even Trieste in Italy. Currency is not a problem since it uses Euro.

What can you see in Ljubljana? 

For a city as small as Ljubljana, it is quite surprising to know that there are in fact a lot of great things to see here. You can start your wandering at the Old Town are, where a lot of interesting spots can be visited within a few steps or streets away from each other.

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In the Old Town Area, you can go to the Preseren Square where you can see the city’s beautiful pink church. Around it, you will catch a glimpse of the city’s architectural wonders ranging from Art Noveau (see Hauptmann Square and Vurnik house) to Vienna Secession.

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Photo from Pixabay

You will also see the famous Three Bridges designed by Slovenia’s most famous architect Joze Plecnik. The three bridges connect the older parts of the square to the newer ones.

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All along the city’s main heartbeat lies the enchanting Ljubljana river, lined by cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops. I particular love the ice cream shop at the very corner of the bridge next tot he square.

High above the city stands the Ljubljana Castle. It is not as big or as impressive as other castles in Europe but it has a killer view of the city. You can walk/climb the winding roads towards the castle or you can take a funicular, which would cost some euros. Entrance to the castle is not free, but some areas can be seen without paying the fee.

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My most favorite part of the city is the Congress/Town Hall Square where you can see the robba fountain or The Fountain of the Three Carniolan Square. The fountain is a lot similar to the Fountain of the Four Rivers in Piazza Navona in Rome. All around the square, there are restaurants where you can dine al fresco style, which is quite relaxing, really.

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If you are feeling religious, you can spend a few minutes at the beautiful St. Nicholas Church. You just have to see the impressive ceiling and domes of this magnificent Baroque cathedral. The green domes depict hundreds/thousands of angels and it’s quite an experience to see. Before you event enter the church, the carved bronze doors made for Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1996, will captivate you.

Is there really a dragon there? 

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Of yes, ask any local from Ljubljana where the dragon is and they will easily point you to the famous Dragon Bridge. Built in 1901, the dragon bridge was built to commemorate the 40th year rule of Franz Josef of the Hamburg empire. Later on, the dragon has been incorporated to the coat of arms seal of the city, and almost every important signage.

What local delicacy can you try in Ljubljana? 

Just like most cities in Europe, Ljujljana is a foodie’s playground. You will have hundreds of options for coffee, cakes, desserts and breads. The wines are great too.

You shouldn’t leave the city without having a hearty serving of cream cake, which is available in virtually any restaurant in the city. On the extreme side, if you are quite adventurous when it comes to food, you can try Slovenia’s horse burger. I know, I know. I didn’t try it though.

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What I fell in love with is Ljubljana’s famous Klobasa or Carniolan sausage. This heavenly product of ground pork,salt and spices is just too addictive that I must have consumed 5 during my stay.

For a good klobasa, visit the Klobasarna in the Town Hall Square. If you visit at night, you’ll have the chance to enjoy some local musicians/buskers while eating your klobasa. There are a couple of benches where you can just sit down and relax.

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What’s the hippest part of the city? 

Definitely, the hippest part of Ljubljana is the Metelkova Mester, an alternative neighborhood developed from a former army barracks. Now, it is a lively, artistic commune frequented by hipsters, artists and free spirited youth. Even better, this hip hub has several bars and clubs where you can just unwind and party. Who says Slovenia’s can’t have fun?

Indeed, Ljubljana packs quite a punch for a small city. It has everything for everyone and is definitely worth a visit. Yes, I totally wandered into Ljubljana and didn’t know much about the city before I set foot. A few unforgettable days spent in the city however, has turned me into quite a knowledgeable visitor. Because quite frankly, a beauty such as this city, is not easily forgotten.

Szimpla: A First-Hand Experience of Budapest’s Most famous Ruin Bar

Europe, Hungary

When it comes to attractions,  the big cities  of Western Europe are getting more attention than those in the Eastern side of the region. But what most people don’t realize is that Eastern Europe have so much to offer to almost every kind of tourist or traveler.

Budapest, for example, is a gorgeous city that’ is a melting pot of two kingdoms separated by the mighty Danube. They are connected by the glorious chain gate. This city of full of beautiful attractions, historical sites and of course, modern, must-see destinations.

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After roaming around the two kingdoms by day,  one thing you shouldn’t miss while in Budapest are its vibrant nightlife and party scene.

Like any self-respecting traveler, I did my homework and researched about the things I wanna do it Budapest. I could have chosen many other cities in Eastern Europe, but when I read about the city’s famous ruin bars, it was a done deal.

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So on my first night in Budapest, I walked 10 blocks from my hotel to Kazinczy utca, to visit Szimpla, the most famous ruin bar in Hungary and one of the most famous in Europe. Lonely Planet even ranked this as the best ruin bar in the region.

For those unfamiliar with the term, ruin bars are just that, bars that mushroomed from seemingly abandoned, ruined establishments. It’s a stroke of hipster genius really.

Get this: what’s the best way to attract the hipster, cool kids of the city? Simple. Create a haven where they can party, drink and chat without the trappings of the usual bar/club.

Since its opening in 2002, Szimpla has changed and shaped the scene in Budapest, giving the city’s alternative scene more room to grow and get a loyal following.. Since its opening, several other ruin bars have sprouted in the city. And while the ruin bar initially catered to the hipster community, Szimpla is also now attracting the richer, more posh kids of the city.  Millennials and young-at-heart tourists from within and outside Europe are also flocking to this spot.

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You will feel it, as soon as you take your first step. That pulsating beat, and that youthful electric feel. The bombastic music coming from the loud speakers will immediately put you on a party mood, and make you leave your cares at the door.

On any given night, especially past 10pm, Szimpla Kert is just jampacked with thousands of party goers. And during my visit, the place seemed especially full and I literally had to fight and claw my way to the bar to get some Lager.

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As expected, the place is a mess: thousands of graffiti on the walls, bottles and beer cups thrown on the tables, on the bar, and on the floor. The sheer chaos of it all will disorient you in the first few minutes but as you stay on, you will realize that there is actually order in this chaos.

The place is separated into restaurants, mini bars and an open cinema. It’s just difficult to see everything immediately due to the heavy flow of warm bodies streaming in and out of the venue.

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Yes it is a mess and people just love it the way it is. Even the questionable cleanliness of the toilets. I guess that’s part of the hipster deal, hahaha.

Szimpla is just unlike any other party place I’ve visited and that’s saying something, considering that I have visited clubs/bars in about 47 countries or so.

If ever get the chance to visit Budapest, I would definitely come back to Szimpla.

Breathtaking Santorini

Europe, Greece

On her very first visit to Santorini, my friend said she was speechless over the sheer beauty of the island.

Splendid, Absolutely gorgeous, and stunningly beautiful. She was using all the superlatives she could find, to describe the Santorini, and even then, she said, her words weren’t enough.

As a casual listener, I always thought that her words were a bit exaggerated. After all, I have been to some amazing place myself, and I thought to myself that I would no longer be surprised by the beauty of Santorini.

Oh, man.  I was so wrong. Santorini is so much more magical and spectacular in real life than any photo or video you can see.

I had the chance to visit Santorini for the very first time recently and I nearly lost my marbles, because it was indeed one of the prettiest things I’ve seen. Even though I’ve been to some of the most beautiful cities in Europe, I was still caught off guard by the charm of this jewel of the Mediterranean.

Here’s a sneak peek of what I saw in Santorini. Blog to follow in the coming days.

Note: I used an Asus Zenfone 4 phone to shoot these Santorini scenes. That explains the 4K quality of this teaser video. The phone is highly recommended for traveling since you can take hi-res photos and 4k videos.

 

Stunning Hallstatt

Austria, Europe, Video

We all have hopes and dreams. Some are easily attainable and some border on the impossible and wishful thinking. Often, as life happens, we give up on these dreams, accepting the fact that, just because we want them, doesn’t mean that we will have them.

On the other hand, there are dreams and wishes that we keep safe and nurture in our hearts. No matter how much time passes, and no matter the odds, we hold out hope that they will come true.

This is what Hallstatt is for me. It was a dream not I thought at that time, was nearly impossible for me to fulfill.

I was only 24 when I first saw videos and pictures of Hallstatt. From that moment on, I knew in my heart that I wanted to come visit it someday.  I wanted to see the lakeside wooden houses facing the Austrian Alps.

But I knew that it was a pipe dream. I was a starving journalist then and my salary wasn’t enough to afford a trip to Europe. So I put the dream in the back burner,  hoping for some miracle.

It took me 10 years before I could finally fulfill this dream, but  Ofinally, I was able to achieve recently and the long wait, only makes the trip all the more sweeter and memorable.

Here’s a short video of what I saw in Hallstatt. More stories on Hallstatt coming soon.

Photos and Videos Taken Using Asus Zenfone 4

 

Exploring Athens With The Help of My RCBC Savings Debit MasterCard

Europe, Greece, review, Travel Accessories, Uncategorized

With cheaper tickets,  different ways of transportation and accommodation, global travel is becoming more and more possible for everyone. All you need is enough wanderlust and courage, to pack your bags and take the first flight out of your city.  Before you know it, you are finally traveling the world, and fulfilling your lifelong travel bucket list.

Traveling across the globe requires enough preparation and research on cheap flights, best connections and cost-efficient hotels or hostels. Lastly, you will also need sufficient budget to crisscross the world. You need dependable financial instruments that can help take you to your dream travel destinations.

Credit cards are a given. But did you know that using EMV-powered debit cards are now the most convenient way to travel.

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My RCBC Savings Debit Mastercard

I recently traveled to Europe, and as part of my preparation, I applied for an RCBC Savings Debit MasterCard to take with me abroad.

The RCBC Savings Debit Mstercard is a powerful card that that comes with you savings or checking account. But more than just an ATM, it is also a card that enables you to make point of sale payments and online purchases similar to a credit card, thanks to its EMV-chip technology feature.

I realized that aside my usual credit card, I can easily use my debit card to make purchases without having to withdraw money from ATMs across Europe.

So, you have to ask. How powerful is your RCBC Savings Debit Mastercard? As I found out, it is actually very powerful and convenient.

A Handy Partner in Athens 

Greece was the first stop of my European adventure and I flew from Manila to Athens via Istanbul, Turkey. But instead of going straight to Santorini, like most other travelers and tourist do, I decided to have a 10-hour exploration of this historic city.

After all, Athens is host to some of the most important archaeological sites in the world.

As soon as I arrived in Athens, Greece, I was able to use my debit card to purchase the 20 Euro round trip train tickets that took me to Syntagma Square, the heart of the city. It was quite convenient since I didn’t need to find the nearest ATM to withdraw money.

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Taking The Train Ride from Athens Airport to City Center.

From Syntagma Square, you can just walk towards the colorful neighborhood of Plaka district, which serves as an ideal jump-off point if you’re visiting the most famous attraction in the city, the Acropolis.

As part of the efforts to preserve this ancient world wonder, you have to pay a 20 euro entrance fee to the Acropolis. There is almost always a long queue towards the ticket booth and obviously, there’s no ATM at this older part of Athens. My RCBC Saving Mastercard Debit Card saved the day for me again. I simply flashed my card, and swiped at the POS machine, and voila, ticket purchased.

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The Parthenon in Athens

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After an extensive exploration of the Acropolis, it was time for me the enjoy my first taste of Greek awesomeness, and I decided to just chill out at this patisserie at the foot of the hill.

It serves Greek yogurt and sweets, much to my delight. I wasted no time trying out their melt-in-your-mouth chocolate cake and I went to dessert heaven.

It was definitely a perfect way to end my 10-hour visit to Athens.

The RCBC Savings Debit Mastercard was indeed convenient in purchasing transportation tickets, paying museum entrances, and for dining at cafes and restaurants. My whirldwind Athens adventure was made all the more easier by my debit card.

But hold on, there’s more. I was able to use my card in other European cities as well. Stay tuned for further posts.

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Six Overlooked European Cities You Should Consider For Your Next Trip

backpacking, Europe

The obvious European hotspots pop up on most people’s travel bucket lists. These often include Paris, Rome, Venice, and London. But, there is a lot more to Europe than these tourist traps, which can be expensive, cliché and absolutely full of holiday makers. If you want to see real Europe, without all of the frills and glamour, you should instead head to these must-see destinations.

Berlin

Berlin

Brandenburg Gate. Photo from Pixabay

Berlin is becoming much more popular with tourists from around the world but attracts such an eclectic group that it still feels authentic and genuine. Berlin is absolutely packed with history, all of which is on display at the city’s many museums, monuments, and landmarks. It’s also full of restaurants, street food and bars from around the world and has a thriving art scene. Berlin is the place to visit if you want a trip with plenty to do, see, eat and learn. You certainly won’t be bored in this vibrant city. For the best places to eat, visit https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurants-g187323-Berlin.html.

York

York

York, Great Britain. Photo fromPixabay

Great Britain is known for London and Edinburgh. But, there’s plenty of other places worth a visit outside of the biggest cities. York is absolutely gorgeous. Filled with Harry Potter charm, little cobbled streets, cute independent shops and restaurants and bursting with its own unique history. It’s a picturesque city with an extraordinary allure.

Budapest

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Photo of Chain Bridge and the Parliament House. Photo from Pixabay

Budapest is actually two separate districts. Buda and Pest, which are separated by the river Danube. Buda is hilly while Pest is flat, but both sides are confident, beautiful and filled with romance. Visit the museums and galleries but also spend time exploring the back streets in search of hidden gems.

Valencia

Valencia

Peniscola Castellon in Valencia. Photo from Pixabay

Valencia is an absolute must for any food lover. The city is stuffed with street food vendors offering up fresh cuisine, as well as larger restaurants serving up both classic Spanish fare and delicacies from all over the world. While you’re there, you should also make some time to visit the Cathedral and Bioparc, which is a zoo devoted to African animals you may never have seen before.

Ghent

Ghent

The old buildings and canals of Ghent. Photo from Pixabay

When you think of Belgium, your first thought is probably Bruges. Ghent is little known outside of Europe but definitely worth a trip. It’s a destination that somehow manages to be both cozy and vibrant in equal measures. When visiting Ghent, make sure you try some of the chocolate and beer. Both of which are some of the best in the world.

Innsbruck

Innsbruck

The charming city of Innsbruck in Austria. Photo from Pixabay

Innsbruck is a funny city. There’s a huge, modern shopping district to rival Milan or New York. But, by trekking just a little way into the mountains, you find tiny old-fashioned villages. It’s almost like going back in time. Before traveling to Innsbruck make sure your travel insurance covers ski trips by visiting https://www.gobear.com/my/travel-insurance as you are sure to want to hit the slopes for a bit of adventure.

Travel Around Europe

If you can, spend some time traveling around Europe. Rail is an excellent option if you want to see as much as possible. Just be sure to explore both the bigger cities and attractions and the hidden gems and cultural hotspots.

Paris Parfait!

Europe, France

Visiting the capital city of France is truly a wonderful experience. There is something for everyone here from the wonderful sites and monuments to the extravagant shopping and amazing cuisine. So to find your perfect Paris, or Paris parfait, as they say in France, read on.

Travel

Obviously, before you can enjoy the delights that one of the most popular cities in Europe has to offer, you have to get there first. Luckily this isn’t too much of a problem as travel links to the city are excellent.

If you are coming from Europe, then you have the choice of plane, train, ferry or Eurotunnel. Of course, you need to check which one will suit your best. For example, the ferries take longer, but can be a pleasant journey and are excellent value if you are bringing your car with you.

If you are travelling from further afield, you will need to select a direct flight to Paris, usually Charles de Gaulle airport. Or you can include Paris as a location on a multi-stop trip. Great if you want to see the delights that the rest of Europe has to offer.

However, you do need to make sure that your passport and travel documents will allow you entry to France before you begin your journey. As some folks will need an ETIAS depending on where they are travelling from.

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The Unforgettable Eiffel Tower. Photo from Pexels.com

Monuments

Paris is full of the most spectacular antique and monuments. Not least of all; the Eiffel Tower. This 300m tall structure was built in 1887, and its lit at night so it can be seen from all over the city. You can take some wonderful pictures in front of it and beneath it, and if you are feeling particularly active, why not climb to the top, for a spectacular view over Paris?

But the Eiffel Tower is not the only place in Paris that should be on to your to see list. You should also make time to tour some of the cities beautiful fountains. Which make particular pleasant places to peruse in summer. Try the Medici Fountain at the Luxembourg Garden. Or what about the majestic St Michel Fountain in the Latin Quarter?

Culture  

Now, if you like a little culture in you city trips, then Paris will not disappoint. This is because it has the stunning Louvre and Musée d’Orsay to explore. Plan your time at the Louvre well and invest in a map, because you could literally spend days wandering the halls. Coming across new, unique and enticing things.

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The Louvre At Night. Photo from Pexels.com

Of course, it’s home to the Mona Lisa. Which is actually quite small, and usually hard to get up close to. But there other interesting things to view as well such as the Egyptian collection and the religious triptychs.

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Arc di Triomphe. Photo from Pexels.com

Romance

Of course, Paris is often known as the most romantic city in the world, so you’ll want experience a little of this before you leave.

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Lovers in Paris. Photo from Pexels.com

Enjoy a romantic alfresco meal in one of the charming bistros that line the streets. Or walk arm in arm with your loved one down the wide and treeline paths just soaking up the atmosphere.