The Peach City: Atlanta GEORGIA

I have never been to Altanta before and thought I ‘d book a ticket for my long weekend last November since flights are on sale. I heard bad things about it but I wanted to give this Peach City a chance.

MAP here

Accommodation:

If you are into the party life, I suggest you book a place in Midtown or Buckhead where all the night life happens. If you are a backpacker or art-lover like me, it is best to book a place in a good neighborhood in the east side. I stayed in Edgewood neighborhood and it was the best decision I made. It is 20min ride from the airport, short 10min walk to the metro that takes you to most places you can visit in Atlanta. Everything is mostly walkable or commute accessible to all the attractions in Atlanta. The neighborhood is quiet and safe and tucked away from the city life.

Getting around:

Before leaving for my trip I read a lot of reviews about getting lost driving in Atlanta and dealing with the terrible traffic. The funny thing mentioned so often is that there is a lot of “peach tree st” around. I did not encounter these problems as I was either walking or taking the metro. And I best advise you to do so.

As a solo female traveler, I took every advice seriously about getting around. I was told to avoid walking around alone at night. I made sure I was back at my place around 5-6pm because I was commuting.  There are times I just took an uber to be sure. I was also told by locals to avoid going to west side of Atlanta. Several locals have told me about this places called the “Bluff” which has a movie about it too. Downtown Atlanta is not a good place to walk around either during night time according to them.

Good and Bad Reviews on places I visited:

1. Little Five points

Weird as some may say but fascinating for art lovers. Little Five Points is a place full of street murals, sculptures, statements, interesting merchandise (Check out the shop called Junkman’s Daughter),and a feel of something different in a southern state. I really liked this place.

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2. Martin Luther King Museum

This is a free museum and I was able to spend an hour in this place. It gives us a glimpse of Martin Luther King Jr. His and his wife’s tomb are here in the middle of a reflecting pool. The museum is beside it. A 2-floor building filled with some information on King’s impact on America in an era of discrimination.

You can walk to MLK’s old home just a block away, as well as the church he attended. The entire neighborhood was preserved to look like how it was before.
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3. Ponce City Market and Krog Street Market

It was a 30min walk from MLK’s to here and it wasn’t bad on a great day. This historic brick and steel building was renovated to house restaurants and shops but still kept the charms of its past. Very stylish inside out. I saw a lot of young people hanging out here. I’ve heard they are developing this part of the city to attract younger generation to move in while creating more jobs. I won’t be surprised if the rent in this area would skyrocket soon. It is just a breathtaking part of town. A walk along the old beltline from Ponce City Market, I ended up in Krog Street Market. It is a more affordable place to grab some food compared to Ponce City Market. Try out their famous ice cream joint here and other appealing meals. It reminded me of a smaller Queen Street Market of Boston.

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4. Atlanta Beltline

I can’t stress enough that this is my favorite place in Atlanta. It was a few minutes walk from Ponce City market.

The old beltline has been transformed into an outdoorsy museum, a place I am sure I can walk around multiple times and not get bored. Aside from admiring art, many people make this as their biking route, some walk their dogs, some stroll out from the luxurious apartments along the beltline, some come to meet up with friends at a happy hour or restaurant within the beltline. Generally, I saw a young crowd. And it was totally safe to walk around even up until the evening.
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6. CNN center and Coca-cola Museum

I do not go to touristy places during my travel but decided to drop by and check the building out. I took a chance and just got the regular CNN pass and was disappointed with it. You practically tour outside the building but never actually get inside. They take a photo of you with a CNN news backdrop for $35 if you want to take it. Obviously I don’t think its worth it. I passed by the Coca Cola plant but did not enter. If you are a fan, you should purchase tickets beforehand as lines were steep when I was there. Personally, this is not my type to visit. It was too commercialized and not worth your bucks.

7. Folk Art Park

Walkable from the Coca Cola plant is a small art park. I was surprised that not much locals knew this when I was asking around after I found it in a website. It is a small art space in between a crossing.

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8. Dekalb Market 

This is far and out of the way. Plan to go here when you finished those places that are close to each other. This is an international fresh market. You will see a lot of flags hanging from the ceiling. Fresh produce from seafood, veggies, and my favorite was the chocolate store – fresh chocolate from everywhere. The food court and the bakery was a good place to get a takeaway at a budget price. That potato with some corn on the upper right was damn delicious. If you know the name of it please comment below so I could know 🙂
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9. Downtown Dekatur and Dekatur courthouse

I was told to visit this place but regretted going there. It is not bad, it is just far from the rest I wanted to see. You can practically walk around the town square for 10min and courthouse for the same amount. I walked out on the outskirts of Dekatur and there wasn’t anything special to see.
A trivia I need to mention is that I pronounced it as “De-kah-twr” but was corrected by a local, stating it should be said as “De-kay-tehr”.

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10. Oakland Cemetery

Aside from being the oldest municipal burial ground in Atlanta, it also grows oak and magnolia trees that look beautiful in autumn. It has this Victorian charm intact and preserved, from the tombstones and statues to the mausoleums. There is also another beautiful cemetery with historic significance but it is on the other side of town. It is called Westview Cemetery. I was supposed to check this out because of the great reviews but I ran out of time. Either way, Oakland was a good enough travel stop. Not that huge as Westview, but very interesting.
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Overall, I liked Atlanta. It has it’s own unique character. Georgia definitely wasn’t a boring State to visit ( and believe me I’ve been to several). I stayed here for 4days (3 nights) but I think you can backpack around in 2-3days and enjoy what Atlanta has to offer. Also, just a fair warning, before you fly to Atlanta, make sure your stomach is full , because they have limited restaurants and food joints in the airport. And to my dismay I tried several food stalls and was disappointed – with the food and the price. One highlight of Atlanta that I must mention is that their metro was always on time, provided a smooth ride, and cheap!  Kudos.

If you are a local of Atlanta or previously visited Atlanta and I missed to mention an awesome place, comment below and I might check it out on my next visit. 🙂

 

23 Filipino Street Food for your appetite

Growing up in the Philippines means eating street food sold from the vendors near your school or place of work. When it was time for me to move abroad, it was so hard to find these foods and looking at your Facebook friends’ photo just makes you envy and drool over these treats that you couldn’t find elsewhere unless within a Filipino community party- but still very rare. Here are 23 of my favorite out of a ton of delicious street foods we have. If you think I am missing one, feel free to add some on the comments below and it will be updated in the blog 🙂

  1. “Mangga at bagoong alamang” or Green Mango and krill sauce. This is hands down my favorite!! Just looking at a photo of it makes my mouth drool. The sour crunchy green mango is complimented by the salty krill sauce. The mango is cut in different ways. Some vendors cut the manggo in half and place it in a barbecue stick soaked in water vinegar and adds the krill sauce in the middle when someone is ready to buy it. Others cut it in strips and place them in a small transparent plastic, add salt, vinegar,and chili or just krill. You can see the vendor peeling manggo like a pro in their stands to show that the mango is fresh.

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Mouth watering 💦 #mouthwatering #mangganghilaw

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Yay! Mango on a stick 😍 Craving Satisfied 😋 #mangga #mangganghilaw #alamang #bagoong

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2. “Singkamas or White turnips, Santol,  and Guava. I always follow my “mangga” with either a singkamas or a guava especially when there is a long stagnant queue of my jeepney ride home. I liked adding the chili powder and salt mix then the suka (vinegar) mix to have that perfect taste. My school uniform sometimes gets trickled with”suka” (vinegar) when I am still eating inside the jeepney. Santol was so-so for me. You were lucky if you get the sweet one instead of the dry bitter type. I was not good at choosing the right santol. If you know how, share in the comments below 🙂

Kelan??? 😫😮 #santol #cravepamore #wheninPhilippines

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3. “Lumpiang gulay at Suka” or Fried Filipino Vegetable Roll accompanied by Vinegar sauce. This is very handy and pocket friendly. I bought this before going to work just in case I don’t have an ample amount of break, I can easily munch on these. Less messy street food and delicious either cool or warm. It is very affordable too.Most vegetable ingredients in this wrap is- carrots, potato, turnips, bean sprouts, green beans, onions and garlic.  Some vendors use thick spring roll wraps and some are thin. I prefer the thin wraps because they contain more fillings and are less greasier. The wider the better. And the moire transparent and softer, the better. This means there is a lot in there.

Suka pa lang solve na #lumpianggulay

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4. “Toron/Turon with Lanka” or fried Banana roll with jackfruit fillings. Turon is not originally Filipino but we gave it a twist by adding fruits into it. There is the ordinary toron and there is toron wih lanka (which is way better). Toron is basically banana and lanka is added in the middle of the banana before covering it with a spring roll wrap. The lanka makes it smell good and taste even better.

Turon #turon #pinoycookingrecipes #plantains #dessert

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5. “Banana Q, Kamote Q, and Carioca/Karyoka” or Sweetened Banana, Sweet Potato, Rice Balls in a stick.  I placed these three in one number because these three are most of the time beside each other displayed in the vendor’s stand. They are coated with brown sugar and fried in oil then placed on a barbecue stick. One stick contains 2-3 pieces. I remember one stick would cost you around p2-5 but now I guess it is more expensive. Bananacue is native banana and sugar. Native banana is used more often because it is softer and taste much better. The ordinary banana can be used also but the sugar would not mold to it nicely. Kamotecue yields a more crispy taste. Karyoka tastes way better if there is more sugar as the sticky rice would taste very plain without it.

Na miss ko ito! #bananacue #saging #streetfood 🍌🍌

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6. “Isaw” or Grilled Chicken Intestines. One of my favorite. The rubbery texture make it so addicting. Some vendors brush it up with sauce to make it darker before grilling it. Some just grill it as is. Either technique, I find it both delicious. A good vendor will clean the intestine well before grilling it. The sauce for this is typically the same 3 types of sauce used with fishball and kikiam. These three sauces to choose from are- the vinegar mix, sweet sauce, and the spicy sauce. I like to mix the three, but that’s just weird ol’ me. I can finish 6 sticks quickly! How about you? haha.

 

7. “Balut” or Duck fetus.  The most grossly looking filipino street food for most foreigners. I remember my mom teaching me to eat this as a kid. If you know where the fluid part is, make a small whole and drink the yummy soup until it is almost dry. Continually peal till you see the duck fetus. My mom always said, “close your eyes and slurp it like jelly” haha. It does help to slurp it quickly. Then eat the remaining hard white part at the end. My favorite is definitely the soup. You can spot the Balut vendor either early in the morning or evenings with a basket of eggs on hand wrapped with cloth to keep it warm. Most of the time Balut vendors carry along some tiny packs of Chicharon to sell to you along with the balut.

Hello, little chick. Imma eat you now. 🐣 #balut

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8. “Tokneneng or Kwek-kwek” or fried battered egg (either quail egg or regular chicken egg). Such great memories of this. My neighbor makes the perfect batter for this. It is pretty pricey for the size but it is darn delish. I was only aware of “tokneneng” at first but when I traveled to the lowlands, I found out there is also a “toknanay” or the bigger egg/ mother egg. I was amused by our culture of witty humor. I wonder what a toktatay and toklolo would look like haha.

😍 one of my fav street foods! #kwekkwek #tokneneng

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9. “Chicharon Bituka” or Pork intestine cracklings. I think I am more fond with this than the typical Chicaron because it has more flavor to it. I do not know how to describe but there is a creamier goodness to it beneath the crunchy layer that makes it better than chips.

Uhm, yum! 😋😋😋 #ChicharonBituka #FoodPorn #Yummy

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10. “Dynamite Lumpia” or Green Finger Chili wrap with cheese. This is fairly new, at least from my experience. I first had this back in 2014 but maybe it has been circulating for a while. Correct me if I am wrong tho. It is really addicting and should be eaten best along with a cold drink. Some cook it with a lumpia wrap and some with batter. The one with batter tastes way better for me. It is a green finger chili cut on one side and stuffed with cheese melt then prepared with a wrap or batter. I did an attempt on this and it went pretty well. I will update the blog soon for the recipe.

Chili Cheese Sticks. #beerpleasemakesureitscold #dynamitesticks #rainyevening

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11. Fishball and Kikiam with vinegar sauce. Fishball and Kikiam are found in many Chinese stores. Again, it is not originally Filipino but the sauce is definitely our own recipe. The sauce is a winner. A good vendor has a jar of vinegar soaked with fresh green and red chili, diced onions, garlic, and pepper. “Sukang Iloko” or Ilocos Vinegar has a stronger punch than the regular vinegar.

 

12. “Odocs” or One-day old chick. Literally it is a baby chick.

 

13. “Dirty Ice cream”. This is very Filipino. I don’t know why they call it “dirty” when it doesn’t look so or taste so. I think this is even a fancy street food with that fancy vintage looking cart that manong tindero pushes around.

 

14. “Snow cream”. Easy to make. We couldn’t really claim it as originally ours but it was definitely one of the street foods/drinks I grew up with. Its crushed ice with milk and chocolate syrup blended perfectly. This was the “it” drink as a kid. I guess now kids prefer bubble tea and shakes instead.

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15.”Betamax” or pork/chicken blood blocks in a stick. When I first tasted this as a kid, none of my cousins told me what it is. They just giggled. That signaled to me that maybe it was something really unnatural to eat but “Aling Tindera” or the lady vendor said, “Just think of it as Chicken Choco”.

 

16. “Adidas” or Chicken feet on a stick. You see this most often in Chinese restaurants but has become a common street food for Filipinos and other Asians. It is really brilliant whoever came up with the name. I remember asking my dad for new shoes and he said “Ok. I will buy you Adidas” with a naughty grin on his face and “How many do you want?” while trying not to laugh. He brought me to a nearby vendor and there… I got an “Adidas”.

 

17. Finger Sticks aka Cheese sticks. Again, not originally Filipino but we made our own version as thinner and economical. Instead of mozarella cheese, we use quickmelt eden cheese. Who could never forget this. The cheapest snack. It was P1.00 per piece back in my day. You know someone was selling cheese sticks inside the classroom when there is a symphony of farts lurking around haha.

 

18. “Binatog” or White corn kernel with coconut. This is the least among the stuff I like here but included it anyway as some really do like it a lot.

 

19. “Adobong Mani” or toasted peanuts. Yes. When peanut gets so addicting because of the toasted garlic and salt that came with it. This huge rack of toasted peanuts and the vendor brings out his miniature beer mug to scoop and measure the nuts he will place in the tiny brown bag he will give you.

 

20. Lapaz Batchoy or Noodle Soup with fresh egg and Chicharon. I remember manong with his humongus “kalan” or pot making the broth of the soup as he served us quickly the Lapaz batchoy outside our review center. The preparation of the broth of the soup is the key to giving its distinct taste. The adding of chicharon and fresh egg makes the soup bodied, full, and perfect. Origin of this delicious soup is in La Paz, Iloilo City in the Visayas Region of the Philippines.

Batchoy!!!😋🍲🍴 #lapazbatchoy #ilonggofood #cravingsatisfied

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21. Fresh Buko drink or Fresh Coconut Drink. One of the best things I miss from our motherland and the healthiest on this list. Nothing beats Philippine Buko! I get a fresh buko outside our home in the Philippines every Saturday from a local buko seller with his kariton. When I hear him shout “Buko, Buko” I make sure to rush down and take 6 pieces for the family. Not only you get a fresh buko drink, you get to eat the soft buko meat inside afterwards or make buko salad out of it. We always had this ritual of buying buko at least once a week because of it’s health benefits.

 

22.”Halo-Halo” or Mix-mix (Just kidding). If anyone knows the english translation of Halo-Halo, please help me out and comment below haha. Halo-halo is originally a street food but now has been introduced in restaurants across the Philippines. It is a mix of crushed ice, evaporated milk, beans, nata de coco or coconut gel, lanka or jackfruit, ube jam or taro jam, leche flan or creme caramel, coconut meat, yellow corn, and syrup/sugar. Most of the time it is a summer dessert but I love eating it any season.

We all need this right now. #MixMix #AlingLiways #HaloHalo

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Pag may bente ka na may masarap ka ng #HaloHalo 😄😄😄

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23. Taho or Silk Tofu with bubble and syrup. The best alarm clock in the morning is manong Taho. They would echo “Taho, Taho” around 5-6am in the morning that is heard throughout the neighborhood. Freshly cooked, hot silky tofu awaits you at your door. There is the generic taho ( thats the one with plain syrup) but there are other flavors that are available now like strawberry, in Baguio. What I like about the strawberry taho is that they put strawberry chunks in it, making it yummier. I always ask manong taho toadd more bubbles/ sago for me especially because I am his “all-time-suki” ( regular buyer).

The #taho man is my new best friend. #breakfastofchampions #deliveredtoyourdoor #philippines #pinoyfood

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And that’ s it folks! 23 Filipino Street foods that keeps our appetite going. If you think our list is short, comment below and we will update this blog. If you have additional info or trivia about each food, do share. 🙂

 

*photos belong to the instagram users mentioned.

credit: 7-themes

NEW York : My Road trip to the Big Apple

New York City is known to be “The cultural and financial capital of the world”. I am glad to have the opportunity to visit it time and again. With its grungy and edgy streets, shiny skyscrapers and brick buildings, smooth street music and so many options for food trips, It is a bustling city with so much diversity.
Growing up I saw pieces of New York thru movies:  Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Ghostbusters, Sleepless in Seattle, to name a few. And sometimes I imagined it to be the real life Gotham City. Although NYC wasn’t at the top 10 of my bucket list, it sure was something I wanted to see.

#nyc #newyork #cityofdreams

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The first time I visited New York was a year ago for a long layover. But when I got to have an actual road trip to discover it, I was very much excited! Summertime I think was just the perfect time to explore it for the first time. For Day 1, we started off in Lower Manhattan’s South Street Seaport. It is where you ride off into a fairy to take a closer look at the Statue of Liberty. If you’re hungry, don’t skip the food stalls. Avoid the food trucks that sell all the same stuff. Walk further to check out foodies nearby across the street itself. There are varieties for you to choose from. I picked the filipino stall since hunger struck me really hard and I wanted something more familiar at the moment and decided I try the others next time. It turned out really good 🙂
Having a well filled stomach, we were ready to explore more of this side of New York. We were eyeing to see the famous Statue of Liberty. We were told that if you want to climb up inside the statue itself, tickets had to be booked months in advance. Although we did not go, there were other options for us. Some of our friends headed to take a free ride to Staten Island while we stayed behind to walk along the pier and head into Lower Manhattan later on. A big ship was parked nearby and also a view deck with grass for sunbathers was adjacent the Seaport and Skyscrapers side to side where people could have a relaxing soak in the sun. It is clean and a nice place for meetups too. In the view deck we got a nice picture of the Brooklyn Bridge.
After the obligatory and touristy snaps, we headed to into Lower Manhattan. We were surrounded by beautifully kept old brick buildings and skyscrapers side by side. Just a few blocks away (10min walk) from the pier, we were already in Broadway and Wall Street. Here we saw the New York Stock Exchange Building, the Trump building, the Trinity Church… A few paces down, we took a free tour of the Native American Museum.
Next stop is the 911 memorial. When we got there, we saw the new One Trade Center Building. Beside it is two Memorial Pools, the North pool and the South pool. This was where the Twin towers once stood. The square pool has carved names of the people who died. Within the premises of the Memorial, you should not miss the “Survivor Tree”. The only tree remaining post 9-11. This peach tree was nursed back to health and replanted. The memorial is free of charge to visit. But if you opt to enter the 911 Museum close to it, it costs $25.
To end the first day, we passed through Teardrop Park then towards Battery Park City strolling around and enjoying the breathtaking sunset.
Everything was perfect in Day 1. What we wanted to see was all in walking distance. For Day 2, we were headed to the “new chinatown” Flushing in Queens.
Everything about it made you feel you are home in Asia. From the buildings, to the scent of the street food, to the people walking around, to the shops selling beauty products and clothes in the mall. I also made a cute new furry friend along the way

New York has its own character, its own identity built from the rich cultures it holds. I love, love and love hearing New Yorkers speak. It’s unique. I love their towering skyscrapers, how food is so much everywhere.

Overall, 2 days wasn’t enough to explore New York. Definitely going to come back again soon!

Do you want to suggest any part of NYC that I should visit next time? Or have you visited as well? Do share 🙂

Pennsylvania: 4 favorite destinations

When someone says there’s nothing to see in Pennsylvania, thats definitely not true! Here are my 4 favorite destinations in Pennsylvania.

1. Downtown Harrisburg and its bridges

The first thing that caught my eye was the two massive pillars at the entrance to the capital. It was like entering a new portal. I was really surprised that not much people were around that sunday morning and I get to explore the city by foot without any crowd in sight.

The green-roofed Pennsylvania state capitol is eyecatching especially on a sunny day. Try walking around the grounds of the capitol and enjoy the quietness and architecture of the surroundings. Come to think of it, this is a really nice place for those who love sketching and those who want to do photoshoots.

You also might have noticed while entering the city, that there are around four parallel bridges entering downtown Harrisburg to cross the Susquehanna river. The reason for that , I dont really know. But it’s quite unique to what I have been seeing.

Walking along the bank of the river, you will notice art structures and cool painted trash bins placed along the paths. You will also pass by old townhouses and of course, the oldest building in Harrisburg, the Simon Cameron House or John Harris Mansion.

This somewhat sleepy city has its economic woes but you cannot deny the rich history that is still present until today.

 

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Harrisburg, PA

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2. Amish community in Intercourse- Lancaster , PA

Take a glimpse of Amish living in the 21st century. You will get to see the America’s oldest Amish settlement and the 2nd largest Amish community in the world! They still practice the “century-old” lifestyle until today. The simple lifestyle of riding a horse and buggy, living without electricity, practicing old agriculture techniques, dress up and speaking old german in what they term here as Pennsylvanian Dutch. There were available tour packages to get the full Amish visitor experience but we opted driving around and admiring the simple ways and lifesyle these people have. Take note that entering and stepping into their property is definitely not recommended, but driving through and passing by will be just fine. Also be sure to drive slowly because buggys ( Amish ‘cars’) are common in the road. There are numerous souvenir shops along the road and I definitely encourage you to visit them. Here they sell handmade products crafted by the Amish themselves. Most are kitchenwares, woodcarvings, knitted and sown items and all household items in general. Also, if you get the chance, try their Pennsylvania Dutch Smores. Yummy!

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3. Hershey, Pennsylvania. To all chocolate lovers out there! You shouldn’t miss this!!!! You can make your own chocolate at Hershey’s Chocolate World, then do Hershey Park and have fun with the craziest rollercoasters and water rides! It’s a really huge place and so much to do. Before coming here, you better be ready and energized. Chocolate + Rollercoaster will keep your adrenaline to its peak 🙂 There’s so much to do in these two places that sit just side by side to each other so plan your time wisely if you want to maximize your experiece.

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4.  “Philly” or Philadelphia is where the US Declaration of Independence was signed and where the liberty bell was hung. If you are a movie person, you might also have noticed some scenes where shooted in downtown Philly like that of Nicolas Cage’s and Diane Kruger’s “National Treasure”. Philly is also known for having UPenn or University of Pennsylvania, an ivy league (one of the top universities in the entire United States).

Another thing noteworthy about Philly is their impressive murals ang graffiti scattered around the city. There is a graffiti tour if you are into knowing more about the artisits if you prefer, or just walk or drive around the city and you won’t miss these. According to some, Philly has the most mural arts in the US.

Philly is a small city and can be tourned/ completed as a day trip .

Independence Hall- where the United States Declaration of Independece was signed

The Liberty Bell with its famous crack, was rung in July 1776 during the Declaration of Independence. It is now displayed in the Liberty Bell Center, Philadephia

An example of Philly murals.

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Another Philly mural while driving through the city

Thanks for reading! PLease like us on facebook or follow the blog to get more updates on new travels 🙂

Nara (Japan) and its treasures

Nara is a city just near Kyoto and can be done as a day trip if you are on a limited time. Hopping off from Nara station, we did a quick 20min walk to Nara park. At the entrance, you will be met by a herd of deers. The deers are believed to be protectors of the temple and hence roam free around the grounds. They are domesticated and the antlers are maintained smooth so they won’t be able to harm anyone. When the deers see you holding a cookie (available at the temple), some do a bow before taking a bite. It was funny and amusing. Some of the deers may bump you or nibble your clothes,too. Before you begin your journey, I suggest you get the free map offered at the entrance.

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Bow and the deer will bow back 🙂

20150501_132606 Surpassing the Nara Park, you walk into the forest led by a path of these stone structures called “lanterns” towards Kasuga Shrine. You typically see a few lanterns in other temples, but in Nara I saw a lot of them, all in rows leading to the temple. In fact, the oldest stone lanterns can be found here in Nara! Stone lanterns are built commonly near shrines and temples, funded by individuals and families (you will see description in each lantern) and then has been popularized to be found in wealthy homes. There are also copper or bronze lanterns you will see hanging under temple roofs.

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century-old lanterns hanging outside the Kasuga shrine

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A plank of wood shaped like a deer forthose visiting to write down their wishes and concerns as a form of prayer

When you are finished with your stop at Kasuga Shrine, you then walk towards Nigatsu-do Hall. When you reach this location, I suggest go up at the viewdeck in Nigatsu-do Hall. The view atop was breathtaking for me. You will have a wonderful glimpse ofthe temples below and the city ahead. This was one of my favorite spots.

the view from Nigatsu-do Hall   (credit: temporarilylost)

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stairs to Nigatsu-do Hall

After enjoying your walk and ancient appreciation of  Kasuga Shrine and Nigatsudo Hall, the last stop is the grandious Todaiji Temple, the largest wooden structure ever built in the world! In pictures, it looks average in size but when you are actually there, its HUGE!! Upon entering you will see this reaalllly big buddha to greet you. The building’s interiors are as amusing and beautiful as the exteriors.

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the Big Buddha/ Daibutsuden Hall inside Todaiji Temple (credit: photohito)

Thanks for reading!

How to get there:

Ride a train towards JR Nara Station

What to see: (all within walking distance)
Nara Park  – open24 hours – FREE visit
Toshodaiji Temple – 8:30-4:30pm – FREE
Kasuga Shrine- 6:00am-6:00pm – FREE in some parts of the shrine
Todaiji Temple-  entrance fee 1500yen (Todaiji museum + Daibutsuden/Buddha Hall)

Interesting finds in Japan

There is a lot of interesing ( unique, weird, odd, funny) things you will encounter in modern Japan. You don’t have to go far to find them because they are commonly seen in the big cities.

So here are some interesting things you might find along the way during your trip to Japan.

1. They change names of western movies. 

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Fast and Furious 7 as seen on billboards (2015)

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Despicable Me (2010)

Yes, you suddenly glance at a billboard and woah! Isn’t that…?? Yea it is.  But reason for this ( after asking around) is that they cannot literally translate the title to Japanese. If they do, it yields another meaning so they change it to the closest possible one that can be understood by them. If you go to Japan, don’t forget to spot one and take a snap, especially near the train stations 🙂

2. They like face masks… a lot

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When you go to stores, you will definitely see a display section for a variety of masks. Options are either on how much filter it has, and others are just for plain design. Its fairly common seeing people of different ages wearing masks while walking on the streets all year round. In our case, we visited Japan during pollen season. In some places in Tokyo, they do wear mask for fashion. Other locals wear mask also if they are sick (an act, they say, of being responsible enough not to infect others).

3. And… eye patches too?

 

The eyepatch! It’s not that common as masks. But I started seeing a few random girls with the same plain white eyepatch or “gantai” here and there as I walk on the streets. At first I was thinking, “How can I see three random people with a left eye patch in one day?” And I thought it couldn’t be a costume really because they were in civilian clothes and one in a school uniform. With some search, I read it was connected to manga/ anime fans wanting to copy the clique.

Although not everyone with eyepatch do it for the clique. Some Japanese women do eyelid surgery to make their eyes bigger, hence requiring an eye patch.

4. They have techy toilets

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This was what I was looking forward to see after reading it in a blog years ago. I call it the “magical toilet” !!! As soon as I landed in Japan, I rushed into the first restroom I could find and took a snap of this 🙂 They are warm toilet seats, with built in bidet/shower and dryer, and best of all, you have music! 🙂 I think there is nothing wrong having a pleasant time in the toilet. I definitely did.

Warning : Since the buttons are in Japanese , don’t be silly pressing them all. You sure dont want any water spraying on your face (like me). haha

5. They have funny english translations everywhere

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I had to read some public signs twice or thrice to get what it meant. I appreciate the fact that they tried stating it in english. Although I may say they should improve on this and put more english signs since they will be hosting the olympics soon.

6. Vending Machines will take your orders in fast food restaurants

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Like the magic toilet, this also was an interesting technology. On the screen, you are given a menu to pick an order. You then pay the machine with cash and the machine gives you a ticket to give to the server. The menu is mostly in Japanese. For us, we just clicked “recommended menu” and picked from the yummy pictures posted. Often fast food restaurants are manned by 2-3 people who are mostly in the kitchen.

7. Parking is more fun in Japan

Cool concept of parking is seen in Japan. You leave your car in a small space at a parking garage then a machine picks it up and places it in safely like a drawer in a cabinet! Aside from cars, they have the same concept for bikes too. This saves a lot of time and frustration finding a parking spot.

Thanks for reading! There’s a lot more interesting finds in Japan that I haven’t seen yet for sure. If you had encounters with those on this list or If you saw something interesting that didn’t make the list, please do share 🙂

Explore: BRUNEI

BRUNEI: “The Abode of Peace”

Brunei, the Abode of Peace,  is a small but oil-wealthy island just north of Malaysia. You can actually tour everything in one to two days after a Malaysia trip. Their streets are filled with the latest cars and sterling architectures.


Their decorated royal family is one of the richest in the world. You will see the grandiosities through their museums that showcase displayed valuables and gifts from all over.

A muslim country with a modern twist, Brunei also boasts of their untouched rainforests.

credit: goldendays

#brunei #proboscis #rivermonkey #monkeys #thekiwipot #kiwipot

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Take a river tour and you will find out you are not alone 🙂 Proboscis monkeys will be swinging around to say hi 🙂

#brunei #market #spices #condiments #thekiwipot #kiwipot

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Visit the local market and get the morning scent of a mix of rich cultures

Brunei is not a party hub nor does it promote or sell liquor at any of its shops.

They do live up to their name. Very clean, tranquil, modern, nature friendly, hospitable people.

to be continued… 
BRUNEI part2 : what to see, where to eat, rules of the land, places to stay

Important things to note before travelling to Japan

Japan is a very beautiful country to visit.  For english speakers, there might be challenges we are not used to. But hey! that’s what makes travelling more fun and interesting. It is always best to be aware and be prepared so you can enjoy your trip to the fullest. Before you pack your bags and go, here are some things to note:

1. OTC (over the counter) medications are not as readily available.

Even the typical ibuprofen or pain relievers aren’t easily found so it’s best to carry some with you just in case. Bringing a few pieces of your preferred brand for anti-allergy and pain relievers do come in handy. In the event you forgot to bring some, you have to look online for the equivalent of the medications available in their local pharmacy, since the brands in Japan are different and  is in Kanji or Japanese language.

credit: snippets and scribbles

2. Tissue papers

While packing your stuff for your Japan trip, it’s really not needed to bring tissue. You’ll be surprised that while walking in the busy streets, they actually give away free tissue, along with some advertisements of course. Also, all public toilets in japan are equipped with tissue paper.

One more thing, you will notice some signs in the restrooms ( see above). Don’t be confused. Yes, they do throw their toilet tissue paper inside the toilet bowl. Reason for this? Unlike most of the places in the world, Japan has water soluble tissue and is safe to throw into the toilet.

3. Cash Only please

Don’t rely solely on your credit or debit cards because most of the stores in Japan only accept cash. Credit cards are used in big establishments and hotels. Make sure to have extra cash with you because they come in handy to buy foods and drinks. There are money exchange in the airport, some near the metro and some in town. I suggest you have your money changed when you are already in Japan. Since the rates change everyday, exchange a couple of hundreds in one town to another. In my experience, we had better rates in places far from Tokyo.

4. Trash bins in public: Rare to none at all.

Don’t be surprised if you won’t see any trash bins in public. This encourages people to minimize trash and keep trash to themselves and dispose it in proper locations (your home). They have a strict rule on garbage separation that has said to have been started since 1990s. The way rubbish separation/recycling rules are very strict and somewhat complicated for typical international tourists that it became impossible to expect every tourist/non-tourist to obey the rules, so they removed the trash bins on the street. I think this “no trash bin” in sidewalks is a good thing.  I never saw an insect in Japan –roaches, flies, bugs … nada. And I think this is one reason why streets are very clean 🙂
I advise you to bring a small plastic bag in your backpack to put trash.

5. Body language and hand signs are helpful in communicating

Not many Japanese can speak or understand english but they are very willing to help you in case you are finding your way around. Hand gestures while speaking helped us communicate with the locals. I also downloaded an offline English-Japanese dictionary.

6. Establishments open late and close early.

Like USA and other western countries, most business establishments such as malls open around 9am and close around 6pm. If you need anything in the middle of the night or early morning, you can go find 24 hour places like Lawsons or 7eleven.

7. No free Wifi

You can probably get free and good wifi in your accomodation. Other than that, you have to pay for your own. In the airport, you can choose between getting a sim card equipped with data or rent a pocket wifi for your stay. Prices will depend on the data plan you will choose.

*TIP: Before going to Japan or any other country, make sure your phone is open line/ unlocked.

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Top picks: Things you must try in Japan

Aside from visiting temples, castles, arcades and trying techy stuff around,  there are things you definitely shouldn’t miss trying when you are visiting in Japan. Here’s my top picks:

1. Green tea
There are a lot of varieties of green tea, even limited editions. Thats why you must grab your chance to try as much as you can. Some I have tried were green tea ice cream, cake, cookies, pudding, yogurt, chocolate and more. Its hard to find these items outside Japan so maximise your chances of trying these versions. These are the stuff I bought for breakfast 🙂

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2. Sake
Sake is their traditional drink also known by westerners as “rice wine”. There are two known types and there are different varieties. If you get a chance, stop by a sake brewery to see how they’re made. You can get one of these tiny sake packages for souvenirs also.

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3. Sleeping in a Ryokan
Ryokans are Japanese traditional houses. Sleeping overnight is enough to have an experience of this. They may come pricey.

4. Japanese Street food
Even with street food, there is art in preparing it. Watch and observe some interesting moves and enjoy the delightful foods in every stall.

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5. Traditional Costume
Dress up and walk around town in a kimono for a day. The best place to do this is in Kyoto. It is a traditional city with old buildings that will match your traditional attire when taking photos. Shops in town offer a package wherein they will provide the costume and dress you themselves. This was one of my memorable experiences.

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6. Ride a Shinkansen / bullet train
Why miss riding the fastest train in the world? Definitely not. An 8 hour trip can be made in 2 hours with these babies.

Japanese Shinkansen HDR

S. Korea Tourist Visa 2015 ( Philippine Passport )

Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 10.58.25 AM Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 10.11.50 AM Here are the quick steps to apply for a Korean Tourist Visa (2015)

STEP1: Prepare required documents Required Documents

  • Valid Philippine Passport
  • Visa Application form
  • 1 pc Colored Photo with white background ( 3.5cmx4.5cm) – already paste it on application form
  • Bank Certificate
  • Bank Statement of account for the past 3months
  • NSO Birth Certificate
  • Marriage Certificate
  • Photocopy of passport biopage (page 2)
  • For Employed: ITR (Income Tax Return or Form 2316), Certificate of employment indicating leave of absence given /allowed, Pay slip for the last 3months
  • For Self-employed: ITR (Income Tax Return or Form 2316) , DTI certificate, Mayor’s permit

Others:

  • Only for those who travelled to an OECD member country: Photocopy the page of visa containing OECD member country*. (Original & Copy of  valid visas and arrival stamps to OECD  member countries for the past  5 years)
  • Additional documents: If you want to include helpful documents  to boost your chances of approval, it is highly encouraged. Example is a copy of your e-ticket/ return ticket, copy of your booked accommodation/ confirmed hotel reservations.

*If you travelled to an OECD member country before, your waiting visa period is only 3 working days. If not, regular waiting days are 5-7 working days. To see list of OECD member countries, click here

*TIP: to avoid hassle, bring all original copies of your documents plus photocopies of each

STEP 2: Submit completed requirements to the Korean Embassy (Open Mon-Fri , 9-11am only. No appointment system is needed) 

Address: 122 Upper McKinley Road, McKinley Town Center, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig city 1634, Philippines

LOCATION

    • The Korean Embassy is located at the corner of Upper Mckinley Rd. and C5 Rd, right beside the British Embassy.
    • From Guadalupe MRT Station or Market-Market, take the FTI-C5 jeepney. It will take 20 minutes from Guadalupe MRT Station and 7 minutes from Market-Market. From the Venice Piazza at Mckinley Hill, there is a free shuttle bus that will take you to Upper McKinely Rd.
    • The ride will take about 10 minutes. The Embassy is within walking distance from the last Bust Stop at Mckinley Rd.
    • When you take a cab/taxi, ask the driver to drop you off at the Korean Embassy at Mckinley Hill along C5 road, beside the British Embassy.

FAQ

Q: Is there a visa fee that needs to be paid?
A: Visa is GRATIS or FREE of charge if you declare 59 days and below.

Q: Is Bank statement and Bank Certificate different documents?
A: Yes, They are separate documents. Bank certificate is a letter from the bank declaring that you indeed have an account with them. Bank Statement is documents showing that your account has been active for a duration of time, including the amount you have at the duration of that period.