From “Why” to “Why Not”

© Gaya | 
It’s a few minutes before midnight. I’m sitting here at an airport lounge: munching on nuts, coffee already gone cold, laptop open, no immediate plans to sleep despite the lateness of the hour, having already taken a 30-minute nap in sitting position earlier while people around me were having dinner. And I’m wondering: why does this not feel unnatural?

Why does it not feel like a disruption of ordinary life?

Have I really gotten so used, in the stretch of a fortnight, to waiting hours for flights and fueling on coffee and falling asleep in the midst of strangers?

Because that’s not me. Not at all. Not ordinarily. When I’m home, I’m a homebody. My personal three-word horror stories include “knock on door” and “unexpected phone call.” Heck, even expected phone calls fill me with dread. And I’m extremely private: a friend says poker is the natural state of my face.

But travel seems to signal a temporary key change. The rhythm of who I am and what I do shifts: suddenly, I talk to strangers (sometimes) and dance (okay, just once) and eat gelato (normally too expensive). Stripped of my usual surroundings, my usual “why?” becomes an “eh, why not?” It’s almost like having an alternative life. It’s not a radical transformation — obviously! Dancing just once, tsk — but travel does seem to make what’s not normal almost normal.

Keyword being “almost.”

Would I like it to be my new normal though?

Hmmm… Nah.

Because I like my old normal just fine: my little ordinary life. I would seriously cry if I had to travel for a living. For me, travel is a treat. It’s like, oh, tiramisu. I love tiramisu but if I ate it all the time, it wouldn’t be as special. (Didn’t stop me from eating the lounge’s last two slices earlier, but you know what I mean.) Or like…cherry blossoms. They’re beautiful and they would still be beautiful if they bloomed year round but it’s their transience that makes beholding them such a treat.

So.

I’ll savor this treat while it lasts, dance however clumsily to this new rhythm, and when the last notes die I’ll happily go back to ordinary.

Until the next time, of course.

Second Impressions

SGMT | Hong Kong — 
It’s been more than 10 years since my last (and only previous) visit to Hong Kong and my sole memory of the airport was the moment we left it. We’d thought, wrongly, that Hong Kong would have the same weather as the Philippines and were caught unprepared by the blast of cool air that greeted us as we left the terminal. Now I’m pleased to say that I have more than a thin shirt on and I’m collecting more (and warmer) memories of the airport, where I’m currently spending the day.

Here’s a quick unedited look:

I love the lines of the Hong Kong airport: the light they let in, the shadows and silhouettes they create. I love how spacious the interior feels, almost as if it were an open-air structure and not in fact a carefully regulated environment. And I love how helpful and pleasant people have been so far, because my other memory of Hong Kong was of tons of people just bumping into me at the trains.

It’s nice to get the chance to form new first impressions.

Catch up later.

How to Save $400 on Philippine Airlines Flights to London

SGMT — 

Four words: fly through Hong Kong.

Yep.

Because of…reasons…a Manila-London-Manila ticket will actually be cheaper — and not just cheaper but cheaper by 400 US dollars — if you tack on a Hong Kong-Manila leg and a Manila-Hong Kong leg.

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The Sumilon Island Bucket List

SGMT | Sumilon Island —
Sumilon Island is one of my favorite places in my home province of Cebu. It’s nearly 4 hours away by bus — plus a short boat ride courtesy of the resort that operates the island — but the experience has always been worth the extra effort and expense. Some people dock on Sumilon’s sandbar after swimming with the whale sharks nearby. It’s also possible to go on the Sumilon Bluewater day tour package that includes lunch, use of the facilities, and boat rides to and from mainland Oslob. The latter I’ve done twice and enjoyed very much, but last year I finally indulged on a 1-year Bluewater Resorts membership, got to stay overnight, and at last had all the time in the world to check off all the things I wanted to do at Sumilon.
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My Sumilon Island Bucket List
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Starting the day with a welcome glass of iced pandan tea at the resort pavilion in mainland Oslob, waiting for the boat that will take us to Sumilon.


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A guided trek around the island. The trail took us past a lighthouse, an old fort, and a wooded area overlooking the island’s marine sanctuary.


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Kayaking in the lagoon.


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Table with a view. It’s nice to have a meal here and pretend, even for just a single day, that there’s nothing more pressing to be done than partaking of good food and looking out to the sea.


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Curling up in one of the oversized chairs with a book (or just one’s thoughts).


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Deciding where to take a nap. Inside the cool villa? In one of the native mini-huts? In the hammock? (The hammock won for me.) What a treat to have that be the only decision you have to make for a while.


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Having a Dawson’s Creek moment at the rickety wooden pier.


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Having the sandbar all to yourself. Spotting the zigzag waves. Swimming.


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Finding pockets of quiet. Staring into space. Being still. And just being.


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And just eating! Lol. The buffet breakfast at Sumilon is heavenly. The pudding and the made-to-order glass noodle soup were my favorites but everything was delicious really.

 



The one thing I wasn’t able to try: having a massage here.

Oh, well, an excuse to go back. 🙂

Book a room at Sumilon Bluewater Resort here.

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P.S. This is not a sponsored post. 🙂

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Get A Multiple-Entry Visa to Korea Without Submitting Financial Documents

SGMT — 
Are you a BPI or BDO cardholder? A promo — recently extended by the Korean embassy to 2017 — makes it easier for you to get a multiple-entry Korean visa without submitting an ITR or bank certificate.

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The Embassy of the Republic of Korea announced last November 16, 2016 that it was extending its visa promo for the following cardholders:

  • BDO Gold
  • BDO Elite
  • BPI Gold Master Card
  • BPI SkyMiles Platinum Master Card
  • BPI Amore Visa Platinum
  • BPI Gold Express Teller Debit Card

Under the promo, visa applicants who have any of the cards listed above will not have to submit a bank certificate and income tax return (ITR). They will also be eligible for a multiple-entry visa to Korea valid for at least 3 years (although the embassy reserves the right to grant only a single entry visa upon the decision of the consul-in-charge).

Note: Employment certificate / business permit and documents other than Bank Certificate and ITR are still required.

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Valentine’s Day Tickets to Paris for Only $480! (Yep, round-trip!)

SGMT | Valentine’s Day Tickets to Paris for Only $480!
SGMT France Paris Bridge Street Lamp posts

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How does Paris for Valentine’s Day next year sound? ^_^

EVA Air, one of the top 10 airlines in the world, is currently offering round-trip tickets to Paris for only $480, for flights departing January, February or March 2017. That’s just a little over PHP 23,000 for tickets that usually cost PHP 50,000 or more! Take note these flights to Paris depart from Hong Kong but you can nearly always get cheap tickets to Hong Kong from the Philippines, so that’s not going to be a problem.

Here’s how to book:

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How Much to Budget for El Nido (6 days, 5 nights)

How Much to Budget for El Nido (6D/5N)) | SGMT
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An El Nido vacation can cost as little as ₱5,000 to as much as…I don’t know…₱5,000,000 or more. This budget, which we used for our Palawan trip last June, is somewhere in between. It’s nowhere near luxurious but it’s not exactly cheap either. It’s for smart spenders — people who are willing to pay, but not needlessly — who want to treat themselves to a nice, easy, stress-free holiday covering the best of both Puerto Princesa and El Nido.

For the Palawan itinerary covered by this budget, see:
El Nido, Nice and Easy: A Stress-Free 6-Day Itinerary for Non-Backpackers.

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Airfare – ₱1,322

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We got our round-trip Cebu-Puerto Princesa tickets during a Cebu Pacific seat sale. Philippine Airlines and Air Asia also fly to Puerto Princesa while direct flights to El Nido can be booked with AirSwift.

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Accommodations (5 nights) – ₱5,884

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This price is per person, based on two people sharing a twin room, and covers:

For more accommodations options, see these lists:

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Firefly Watching Tour – ₱1,037

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This activity starts at around 6 PM and is a great option if you have a free night in Puerto Princesa. You can save a few hundreds if you go DIY, but the tour package, which we booked through AsiaTravel, already includes hotel pick-up and dinner as well as the tour itself.

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Dolphin Watching Tour – ₱1,000

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Another half-day Puerto Princesa tour, this one takes place in the morning and is a wonderful last-day activity for people whose flights don’t leave till the afternoon. After canvassing prices, we booked with Dolphin and Whales Travel & Tours and had the best time.

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Island Hopping Combo Tour – ₱2,000

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After considering the pros and cons of single vs. combo tours and comparing tour operator prices and reviews, we decided to go on El Nido Paradise’s Combo Tour A & C. Our rationale in a nutshell: a combo tour saves both time and money. Separate tours would have taken two days and cost ₱2,600. The drawback is having less time in each stop compared to a regular tour but we decided we would rather do all the sightseeing in one day so that we can spend the whole day after that just chilling and beach bumming. No regrets: we loved our island hopping tour — you can check out our experience in Island Hopping in El Nido: Combo Tour A & C so you can decide for yourself — and we got to spend the next day lazing around Nacpan Beach, which some people have called the most beautiful beach in the world.

You can check out El Nido Paradise’s other tours here.

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Van Transfer – ₱1,150

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To avoid hassle, we also pre-booked our van transfers with El Nido Paradise. Each van transfer (PP-EN and EN-PP) costs ₱550 and we also paid a ₱50 surcharge to be picked up from our hotel in Puerto Princesa. It’s a 6-hour ride so check out: How to Survive the Van to El Nido.

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Meals – ₱3,200

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There are tons of dining options in El Nido but meals in restaurants and cafes can prove to be rather expensive. We didn’t want to scrimp on food so we budgeted ₱400 per meal for a total of 8 meals. Whenever we went over ₱400, we re-balanced our budget by eating at a carenderia next time. Luckily, we enjoyed free breakfast at the inn/hostel/hotel we stayed in and the tour price for island hopping already included an absolute feast for lunch.

Our go-to place for good food in El Nido was Trattoria Altrove. Art Cafe was also good. For cheap meals, try the carenderia across the Catholic church in El Nido — a meal of rice and delicious chicken adobo only cost us ₱60 there.

In Puerto Princesa, we enjoyed dinner at Kalui, which certainly lived up to its reputation as the no. 1 restaurant in the city.

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Miscellaneous – ₱1,407

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Some of the expenses we took out of our miscellaneous fund are:

  • ₱500 – transportation to and from Nacpan Beach (₱1,000 per tricycle, negotiated down from ₱1,500)
  • ₱150 – transportation to and from Marimegmeg Beach (₱300 per tricycle)
  • ₱25 – transportation from the El Nido van terminal to Spin Designer Hostel (₱50 per tricycle)

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Total Budget – ₱17,000

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For a frugal traveler like me, ₱17,000 can sound like much but, when you think about it, it’s for 6 days, it already includes airfare, and it enabled us to have the most unforgettable experiences in both El Nido and Puerto Princesa. Anyway, if you were going to spend nearly ₱20,000 on travel, wouldn’t you rather spend it on your own country so your countrymen can benefit from it as well? And Palawan is absolutely worth it. If you haven’t been yet…go! You won’t regret it.

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