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Our Batanes Adventure

It’s been a long time since my last post. I was somewhat busy that I was not able to blog about some of my great adventures for the past 2 years. Instead of starting from where I’ve left off, I’ll start blogging now about this wonderful adventure. Here’s to one of the best places in the world, Batanes, Philippines! 🙂 Late 2014, my sister heard about a promo fare from PALexpress to Batanes. Knowing that fares could be so expensive going there, we immediately checked on it. The travel time available though is sometime July to September. Hmm.. so this is tricky. Since elementary days, we know that storms usually pass by Batanes and July to September is the rainy season. But the promo is really tempting, so we’re trying our luck. Anyway, it’s still months before we’ll actually go there. We tried to invite some friends, but they don’t seem pleased on going there in July.

So last July 27 – 30, my sister and I went to Basco, Batanes! It was supposed to be a 4 day trip, but our flight on the first day got cancelled. Weather forecasts are good, but there was just a storm there few days before we went there. Knowing the Philippines to have easily changing weather forecasts, we do not really know what to expect. airplane pics     DCIM999GOPRO


 

Here’s my list of reasons why you need to go to Batanes. (In no particular order)

1. Nature

Batanes is one my best nature tours. Despite having foggy skies sometimes due to the rain, you’ll love the green hilly landscapes, clear blue waters and scenic, picturesque, wonderful surrounding. Walking and biking around could still be very relaxing. First, here’s Marlboro Hills. They named it after they have seen a Marlboro commercial on TV and thought that the view from the commercial is very like the place. Thus, they call it Marlboro Hills until now. We went here on our first day during our South Batan Tour. 20140727_135551_1

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And of course, where there is nature, there are a lot of animals too.

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Next is this lovely nature at Sabtang island at the Chamantad Cove. This is one of the highlights of the Sabtang Tour. It was tiring going up the slopes, but it was at the same time so relaxing to see the wonderful view. 

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I was so excited to have my picture near the edge of the rocky hills. Luckily, our guide was so game on taking the pictures and instructing us what to do! Haha!

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Here’s at Mayahaw Arc at Morong Beach in Sabtang. We were there at lunch time, Mae and I did not dare have a swim, as we also have limited time. Anyway, this beautiful view is enough already. 🙂

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Here’s at Valugan Boulder’s Beach. This was our last destination when Mae and I biked around North Batan. So there you can see how dark I am already when we came to the Boulder’s beach. Photo editing can’t hide it! Haha!

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Another, here is at a local beach there.

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Oh, and Batanes has the bluest skies and the bluest seas I’ve ever seen!

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2.Lighthouses

What is it with Batanes and lighthouses? Considering that Batanes is a group of islands, it makes much sense to have various lighthouses there. However, I just learned there that the lighthouses were just built, if I remember it right, about the early 2000’s. I think they did a good job adding those sites, making Batanes extra special. 🙂

Here’s the lighthouse at South Batan, somewhere near the Marlboro Hills.

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Here’s the lighthouse at North Batan. We were able to explore the North Batan lighthouse more since we went there on bikes and we have more time to spend. It has the best view of the whole Batan islands.

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Then here’s the lighthouse at Sabtang Island. Unfortunately, we were not able to have a closer view of it.

 

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3. Rock houses

Batanes is known for its Rock houses. Since storms usually pass through Batanes, they need to build their houses so strong that no storm could ruin. Here’s the oldest rock house there is. It was built in the late 1800’s and is one of the few that survive a strong earthquake in the early 1900’s.

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Here’s a hotel in Batanes, Fundacion Pacita, depicting a typical rock house there. It has been a tourist spot in itself as well, considering that it is located at the highest peak of Batan island, having a beautiful view of the whole Batanes. I think it will be a nice experience to stay there, but I think it’s the most expensive hotel in Batanes as well.

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Then here’s at a village in Sabtang Island. We were allowed to enter the houses and have our picture taken.

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4. Honesty Stores

Here’s the famous Honesty Store in Batanes owned by Tita Elena in the picture. She started the honesty store, when there came a time when she can’t watch over the store due to health reasons and the other tasks she needs to do.

It still hasn’t been a good start for her. There are still other people not honest enough to get her goods. With her positive outlook towards people, she still continued having the store, thinking that those who take goods there without paying might have really been in need. As the store became famous, her sales improved. It even became a model store in Batanes, the home we stayed there also followed the honesty system. There is a mini-honesty store for foods and drinks that we need.

 

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5. New found friends 

Since it was only me and my sister taking the Batanes trip, I never thought we’ll get in touch to new friendly people we spent the rest of the our days there with.

Here’s the first group from our South Batan Tour. Apparently, most of them are staying on the same house we were staying. So we had some people to share our ‘kwento‘ and dinner with.

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Here’s another group from our Sabtang trip. These are the fun people who shared the top of the jeepney ride with us! Haha! 🙂

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Eventually, we had the two groups meet each other. Like they say, the more the merrier! 🙂

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Oh, and here’s another very friendly people we met: Ate Fe from Marfel’s Lodge. She assisted us through all our trips.

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I seriously recommend Ate Fe’s Marfel Lodge. It was only a week before the trip, when I texted Marfel’s Lodge if they can still accommodate us for our stay in Batanes. From the internet, Marfel’s Lodge is already known as a cheap place to stay, comfortable and with very accommodating owners. And that’s the only thing we need ourselves to be ready with, a nice, cheap place to stay. Marfel’s Lodge is just a few minutes away from the airport, but their van still picked us up from the airport. It was already a good impression at the start. Since we did not sign up to any tours, we immediately asked Ate Fe if we can join a tour group from where the groups from the lodge are going to. She suggested that we can join the North Tour and that starts at 12pm so we can still rest in the morning. But since we came there at past 8am, and we would like to tour around already, Ate Fe made some more calls and voila, we’re already joining the South Batan Tour at 10am! 😀

During the night, she never skips to look for us and ask us how our day turned out. Of course, we got good happy stories to share! She knows how amazed we are about our trips. 🙂

6. Churches

Within the small islands of Batanes, there are various churches around. Here are some of the churches we visited at South Batan and Sabtang Island.

 

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Here’s San Lorenzo Ruiz Chapel during our Sabtang Tour. Only the guys went down to have a closer look. It was raining that time, so the girls opted to stay in the van. Haha!

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7. Blow UR horn

The “Blow UR horn” sign has captured my attention during our trips. My sister and I were always in front of the van beside the driver during our trips and I can always see this sign, then the driver willingly complies. There were a lot of sharp turns along the way and they sure need to signal the other side if someone’s gonna pass. Every time I see the sign, I can’t help it to say, “Beep! Beep!” 😀

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8. Topload

Besides the wonderful nature, Toploading the jeepney is one of the best experience ever! Haha! It was enjoying the amazing view while traveling, with a little adventure. Hehe. 🙂

So here’s our beautiful ride! 🙂

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We didn’t mind passing through the narrow roads.

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If you’re enjoying the photos, you’ll enjoy the video more! 🙂

https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10152589706652500&set=vb.692587499&type=3&theater

9. Bike Adventure

Another highlight of our trip is my sister and I’s bike adventure. I was the one who insisted to roam around north Batan via bikes even though from the two of us, I was the one who is not fit enough and not very used to biking around. Haha! Mae keeps on laughing at how I drive my bike and on how tired I look, especially since North Batan is hilly. Haha! But I had so much fun biking around, appreciating the wonderful views and fresh air.

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10. Food!

The Ivatans got yummy foods there too.

First, we tried most of the local foods from Jessica’s. It was a famous residence-turned- restaurant in Batanes. You will need to have your reservations there at least a day before to be able to dine there. Mae and I did not know about it, but good thing that are new found friends extended their reservation with us.

We were able to try there tamiduk (salad with steamed pako), kinilaw na isda, uvud balls and  lunies (local adobo). Foods are served in Vunung, where it is diligently wrapped in a leaf. Yumyum!

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From another restaurant, we were also able to try coconut crab and turmeric rice. The pictures already look delicious, I do not need to describe it to you. 🙂

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On our last night, Mae and I tried the Napoli’s pizza, just for a change. Hehe.

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 11. Every place there is beautiful

I think this is what is special with Batanes. Literally everywhere you go is a beautiful view on itself! 🙂

A closed cafe.

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I called this big jackstones at the port.

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Port area.
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A random bench with a beautiful view.

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Under the Mayahaw Arc.

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A view from inside the Japanese Tunnel.

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So that’s our three day tour in Batanes. There are some places more that we were not able to see due to limited time. I hope I can come back some time in the future! 🙂

 

Alone in Krakow

My main destination for my Europe Trip last November is at Czech Republic. Since I was coming from Poland that time, I chose to travel by train to Krakow from Lodz, then have the night train from Krakow to Prague. Although I can get the ticket there before actually riding the train, I opted to reserve online tickets, just to free me from the hassle of thinking and re-thinking about my itinerary over and over again there.

Krakow is the second largest city in Poland (first is Warsaw, then Krakow, then third is Lodz) I got interested in it because they say that Pope John Paul II comes from there and that people are telling that it is a nice place.

I was really just passing by Krakow. I arrived there at about twelve noon and I need to catch my night train at about ten in the evening. So I still have about 10 hours to roam around.

I enjoyed my first train alone going to Krakow. Since it’s early in the morning, I love the view I saw along the way. It snowed the night before I left Lodz, and it amazed me how the snow was artistically and appropriately scattered around. 
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The train station is within a mall in Krakow. Or maybe it’s the other way around? There’s a mall situated at the train station. Hehe. I was not expecting the mall to be that huge and beautiful, maybe because it’s the central station there.

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I was hesitant roaming around Krakow since I have my luggage and backpack with me. But I was not there to waste time as well. Thanks to the map app that I got that made it easier for me to explore a little.

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I tried my best to have my selfie as well. Haha!

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I headed to the old town area. I was hoping to go to the Royal Castle, but I opted to enter the old town first and maybe look for a tour inside.

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Within the Main Market Square was St. Mary’s Basilica. I saw people gathering in front of the church but there was one thing that caught my attention — a flag raised by the lead saying, “free tour”. Haha! I later learned that they are having a free walking tour for the Jewish community there. I was hoping for a tour at the castle, but that happens in the morning, and I came there in the afternoon. 😦

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I stopped for a while trying to think of what I can do there if I won’t join the tour. I roam around a little, checked my map, trying to decipher if it’s gonna be worth my time learning the map myself or should I join the walking tour instead? The first group I saw already left, while I was trying to weigh the consequences of joining or not joining the group. I was not expecting for a next group, but there was a next group, and the “free tour” sign really gets my attention. Haha. It’s still a Jewish community tour, but this time, I tried to ask the guide if it’s okay to carry my luggage around. Since she was okay with that and continued to entertain my questions, I though why not give this a try, anyway, it’s free. And it will save me from the idea of thinking of trying to learn the roads around! Hahaha! So I braved myself, and conditioned my mind that I will be pulling a heavy luggage around!

Here’s our tour guide:

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The Jewish culture has been a very significant addition to Poland’s history, specifically to Krakow as well. When the Jews were expelled from various countries in Europe, they were able to find a place in Poland. There were various synagogues that we went to that time. Each of them have their own stories to tell.

But there was something non-Jewish related story of the guide about Rubinstein below. She said that below place was the actual residence of a certain Rubinstein from Australia known for her facial creams. Coming from a poor family, Rubinstein was sent to Australia to look for a way to improve her living. And from family traditions, she was able to create a facial cream product that eventually made her rich. However, she never came back to this place and did not reveal where she originally come from. I don’t know how much of this is true though or I remembered well. 🙂

Just across the street, was a synagogue (right picture) The guide mentioned that the small yellow houses were for the lady Jews, where they prepare food or do chores. The big bricked house is where the men stay for worship, etc. She was telling then that the men and women were divided in terms of seating arrangement and location in the synagogues. There was a certain denomination in terms of hierarchy, wherein men where on top, next are mothers, next are pregnant women and then women, in that order if I remember it correctly.

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Next, we went to another synagogue. This time, the guide was telling about the time the synagogue (white building) was being targeted by robbers. The Jews during the earlier times heard about this and thought of a way to scare the robbers. Since the synagogue is in front of a cemetery. The head Jew, instructed some women to wear white dress at night, and from time to time, walk in front of the cemetery near the synagogue. It was a sure way to scare the robbers thinking of seeing ghosts in front of the synagogue! I was guessing that’s where the idea of the white lady came from! Hehe. 

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Next, we went to where the original Schindler’s List movie took place. At that time, I knew I was missing a lot for not being able to watch that movie as I can’t relate to what the guide was telling us! Haha! 

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Then we went to the Corpus Christi Basilica. The interior of the Basilica was said to have a Polish Gothic architecture. There were a lot of paintings inside the Basilica. I remembered when the guide said that the paintings were made by a certain artist who asked for a good sum of money for the supposed to be quality items for painting. However, it was later found out that the artist did not really used the money well where he used oil of poor quality. It was evident after years of having the paintings displayed inside the Basilica. She said that if it was of good quality, the paintings won’t become as dark as it has become today.

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Lastly, she showed us the figure of Mary with her child made from alabaster. She told us that in Krakow, one way to win girls is to compliment them that their skin is like alabaster –white and glowing. 🙂

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Then we walked more across communities in Krakow. You won’t imagine how tired I am bringing along my luggage everywhere! Hahaha!

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I was so tired, I can’t believe we still need to cross this bridge! But I still took a picture since it’s a beautiful bridge anyway! Haha!

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Our last stop was at this square, the Zgody, oddly having fixed steel chairs around. Our guide told us that this was where Jews (thousands of them) were gathered when they were ordered to be deported from Krakow during the German invasion of Poland. Synagogues were closed, and the Jews were ordered for slave labor. Those who were unfit for work were killed on the streets. Each chair on the Zgody square represents a number of Jewish victims. 

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From here, we road a tram back to the old town. There could have been enough time to go the Wawel Royal Castle, but my feet were not willing to go there anymore. Hehe. Instead I roam around the Market Square and looked for souvenirs. I find the Old Town center to be very beautiful and artistic. Some people are even saying that Krakow is more beautiful than Warsaw. 🙂

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My whole Krakow experience was not planned. I was initially thinking of looking for traces of John Paul II there, but I came out joining a Jewish community tour instead. Here’s the only picture I have of the late pope. 😀

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I ended the day looking for souvenirs. I was curious why there were a lot of dragon stuff toys being sold around so I bought one for my inaanak. I later found out that legend says that there was a dragon in the Wawel Castle (where I didn’t go to) that guards the princess and the castle. I became even more disappointed for not going there! 😦 This souvenir caught my interests too. Since Poland embraces both European and Russian culture, they sell Russian nested dolls there. 😀 The small one is too cute for me not to get one Matryoshka doll. ^_^

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I was alone in Krakow, but of course, I can’t be literally alone there. I enjoyed the experience of roaming around except the part of bringing along my luggage everywhere. I appreciated being able to talk to new people I don’t know and I learned I need to improve that side of me more. I appreciated as well having no definite plans there. Of course, there are a lot of cons, specifically not being able to go to some of the must see places there. But I do appreciate the adventure I had there as well. 🙂

Lodz, Poland

It was just a quick stay in Lodz as I was not expecting a lot of places to visit there. But I guess I was wrong since it seems like there are still a lot of interesting places to see there.

It was going to Lodz that I experienced my first train ride in Europe. At first, I was hesitant with all the train transfers maybe with the idea that I am traveling long distances with no idea where to go to. Good thing that I was with Jamie and Stan with my first train rides. That eased me of the idea of traveling alone via train the next days.

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Train rides in Europe were not as complicated as I originally thought. I learned to read the schedules well and to look for the correct platform to ride to.

I stayed in Lodz at the Holiday Inn where Jamie and Stan were staying. Jamie and I roamed around Lodz before we came back to Warsaw on my second day in Poland. It was a Sunday that time so we tried to pass by the church near the Piotrkowska street. We actually went inside the church. They were having mass but in a language we don’t understand.

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It was a gloomy day. But of course, it will not stop us from exploring this side of Lodz. We headed straight to the Piotrkowska Street, which was said as one of the longest commercial streets in Europe. There were a few people around at nine in the morning.

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The Piotrkowska Street is full of artistic stuffs from the architecture around, road, statues, lampposts and benches. I think that the bronze statues below are known poets/writers there.

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There are nice paintings around as well, walls and floors. An old lady passing by even tried her best to speak English (even if she obviously was not comfortable with it) just to teach us the best area where to take a picture of the 3D painting on the floor. She also showed us what pose we can do with it! 😀 But sorry, I was not successful in imitating her. :p

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Unfortunately, the street was being repaired that time. We were not able to see some of the known spots we saw from a postcard there. They were changing the bricks on the floor that time.

At the end of the road, we found this very nice old cathedral and then the Liberty square at the center of connecting roads.

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We walked along the park on our way to Manufaktura and took some pictures with the pine trees and the lampposts. Oh well, I just love these places I guess since they look very foreign for me. Haha!

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Finally, we went to Manufaktura, a high-end shopping mall and arts center. When Jamie mentioned about going to the mall, I was not too excited about it. But I was so amazed upon seeing it, with all its grandeur and bricked walls. It was so artistic in a way wherein they were able to combine something ancient from the outside to something modern inside. They said that it was originally an old factory building renovated to a huge mall area. Oh, and I love the colors around it as well! 🙂

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It was a quick stay in Lodz. Along the way going to my next destination, there seems to be a lot of interesting places still that unfortunately, I was not able to visit.