Tag Archives: Travel

Euro Vacay Day 10-13: New Year’s Eve in Paris!

Okay, so I’ve been posting these throwback blogs I’ve been meaning to share pre-pandemic and I know that we’ve just welcomed the new year but let me still share with you my very short Paris adventure when I welcomed 2020! I know, who knew that it would be a very eventful year!

After returning from my visit at the AuschwitzBirkenau camp, I immediately took one hot shower at my hostel and booked for an Uber to take me to the Krakow Glowny where I will be heading back to Czech Republic for my flight to Paris. The FlixBus trip getting back to Prague took around six hours and from Prague Zličín, I had to take another Uber to take me to the Václav Havel Airport for my flight via Czech Airlines to France. 

A little bathroom selfie at the Charles de Gaulle Airport lol

I’ve arrived at Charles De Gaulle Airport around nine in the morning of the 31st of December, so I really had all the time in the world to make it to my hostel before the celebration begins in the evening. I was expecting a lot of people to be at the airport, but surprisingly it just about the usual amount of people I see inside some of the busiest airports I’ve been to, considering it’s a holiday. It was very easy for me to navigate it, and you can also ask for assistance particularly about which train is heading to Paris!

Getting on the right train could be a bit tricky!

Ugh. Paris! I’ve been dreaming of visiting this place for so long and I was just very anxious and excited to explore the city since I’ll be spending four days in it!  Too short, I know but I’m pretty sure that there’ll be a next time.  I booked my accommodation at  the Perfect Hotel & Hostel located at Rue Rodier. Making sure that I won’t get lost, I opted to walk there from the Gare du Nord station. It wasn’t that far and I was able to easily navigate the Google Maps streets of that part of Paris. You see, I really do prefer walking when going overseas! Hah!

Outside the Gard Du Nord station

The hostel was very quaint and clean and the room isn’t so bad. After spending days with other people at night, I was already used sharing space. After lying down for a bit, I decided to walk around the neighborhood first while the sun is out. It is still very cold, mind you but the day is just beautiful!

Perfect Hotel & Hostel 4-male dormitory.

That night, I’ve introduced myself to one of  my room mates, a guy from Spain teaching English in Colombia who’s spending the holiday in Paris and asked him if he’d like to go out together. He and I decided to head near the Eiffel Tower site to celebrate New Year’s Eve but unfortunately, the traffic was terrible and it’d take us forever to get there so we decided to celebrate it at the Arc di Triomphe. It was a very exciting and unforgettable experience to say the least. I had a blast waiting along with everyone for the clock to chime in at 12midnight, the dawn of the year 2020.

My first time celebrating the new year’s eve without my family and in another country!

A little photo op at the famed Moulin Rouge on the way back to our hostel! It was so freaking cold!

On my next post… I’ll be posting my little walking tour in Paris. I didn’t get to see everything because it was cloudy, wet and cold but it’s still an experience that I’d treasure forever.

My Unforgettable Auschwitz-Birkenau Day Tour

I’ve never learned what the Holocaust meant in school. History lessons were very much compressed at my public elementary and high schools. My first exposure about the Nazi genocide against the Jews in Europe was the film Schindler’s List which I accidentally watched around 1997-1998. I’m not particular about the exact date but during that time, I was at the cusp of puberty. I was a very sensitive and emotional child and that film just touched something in me that stayed with me into adulthood.

I’ve tried learning more about it in high school, but the inept teaching and inadequate resources made me thirst for more until I went to uni where I finally got the scope of this terrible part of our history. I’ve read books, articles, news reels, film archives and tried to absorb as many information as possible. There were so many questions that I wanted to get answered but until this day, some of them remains unanswered, rather unanswerable. The whys and the hows are just too much and just unfathomable.

That is why this trip was extra special for me. To have the opportunity to visit Auschwitz and Birkenau, a couple of places amongst the thousands of Nazi concentration camps feels like a blessing somehow. It felt like it would answer some of the questions that I’ve had since I was a teenager and I feel that I’d be able to somehow connect with the victims of this horrifying human tragedy and most importantly, pay my respect by never forgetting about them.

For the record, I do not personally know a single Jewish individual but I do believe that as human beings, we have to acknowledge what transpired here and the rest of the concentrations camps around Europe because I believe that we owe it to the victims to keep their memories alive for all the time we have to be reminded what is at stake and what should be done to avoid such humongous tragedy in the human history ever happening again.

The tour started very early in the morning. It was freezing that day. I thought I was already accustomed to the cold but the weather that day made me lethargic for some reason.

 

Took this picture of the beautiful Krakow morning while waiting for the bus to pick me up.

Auschwitz is located in Oświęcim which is 66 kilometers west of Krakow or around 2 hours from Krakow.

“Arbeit Macht Frei” over Auschwitz gate is one of the most recognizable symbols of the holocaust. It means Work Makes You Free, a very disturbing reminder of the Nazi cruelty.
These are Zyklon B cans, which contained the gas used as a killing tool in the gas chambers.

The Museum collections include:

• about 40.000 m3 of shoes;

• about 3,800 suitcases, 2,100 of which bear the names of their owners;

• over 12 thousand kitchen utensils;

• 470 prostheses and orthoses;

• 397 striped camp garments;

• 246 tallisim;

• about 4,100 works of art (including about 2 thousand of which were made by prisoners). Source

Our group tour around Auschwitz took about 2 hours and we had a little break before heading to its adjacent camp, the Birkenau concentration camp.

Bought a copy of this guidebook and Viktor Frankl’s book about his time in various Nazi concentration camps.
Heading to Birkenau concentration camp.
I was able to go to the quarters and touch what remains of their bunk beds. It was heavy and sad.

It took me a while to share these pictures that I’ve taken when I visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps last December 2019 because I didn’t think that it’s proper to post them at all. I posted the pictures of the exterior of the camps instead on my Instagram page instead but not these images because they just felt too personal then, but I realized that I wanted people to know, especially the young ones who have not heard or read about the Holocaust to be aware of this tragedy, to know its history and to see a glimpse of a dark past in human history that should never happen again and must never be forgotten. We should forever honor their memories for they’re a constant reminder for us to always treat each other with dignity, respect each other’s differences, learn not just to tolerate but to accept and view life as a gift. The victims – those who perished and alive up to these day gave their lives to be our social conscience and may we never forget that.

“For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.” – Elie Wiesel

Euro Vacay Day 8-9: Krakow In My Heart

I’ve arrived in Krakow at the crack of dawn and and I was still feeling a bit hazy from lack of sleep inside the bus. It took more or less nine hours from Vienna to Krakow, and I was just too giddy to sleep right away even though I was very tired from my day tour in Vienna. Who could sleep comfortably inside a bus though? Haha!

Arriving at the Krakow (Kraków) Dworzec Autobusowy MDA, I opted to use Uber to take me to the city center right where I made a booking for a couple of nights, after exchanging about 100 euros at the station for some Polish złoty. Just a little FYI –  although Poland is a European Union member, they still use their own currency.

As mentioned above, I’ve booked two nights at the Ametyst Hostel and let me tell you that it is absolutely my favorite hostel during my whole trip. For one, the guy at the reception allowed me to check-in right away, thank goodness because I still need a couple or more hour of sleep. I stayed at a six-mixed dorm room and everything was just perfect! I’ve got my own locker, the bed was warm and comfy and it doesn’t feel cramp at all and their bathrooms are always clean! And the most wonderful thing about it is that, it is just five minutes away from the main square! Like seriously, it’s smack dab in the heart of the city! I just know that I’d definitely go back to Krakow and will stay with them again!

I was assigned the top bunk near the window!

After getting some sleep for a few hours and feeling refreshed,  I embarked on my very first winter in Poland! Haha!

The weather was a bit overcast but thankfully, it did not rain. It was just too cold as usual!

Eros Bendato’ (Eros Bound) or The Head is the work of Polish artist Igor Mitoraj (1944 – 2014). This sculpture in the western corner of the market square is a popular meeting place and is one of the most popular landmarks in the city.

The sculpture at night and up-close.
Adam Mickiewicz Monument in Kraków, is one of the best known bronze monuments in Poland, and a favourite meeting place at the Main Market Square in the Old Town district of Kraków. source
The monument at night.

Mickiewicz is counted as one of Poland’s’s Three Bards (the others being Zygmunt Krasiński and Juliusz Słowacki) and the greatest poet in all Polish literature.

The St. Mary’s Basilica

After the Wawel Cathedral, St. Mary’s Basilica is the most important church in Krakow. It’s construction was started in late 13th century on the foundations of a former Romanesque church. The new temple was consecrated around the year 1320. Over the centuries, the church underwent numerous reconstructions of both its exterior and interior.

The whole ambiance at the main square was heartwarming! It’s still the holidays after all.
The view from the Wawel Royal Castle.
Wawel Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church and cathedral of the Archdiocese of Kraków, located on Wawel Hill in Kraków, Poland.
Saints Peter and Paul Church.
Or course, I had to take a picture with one of Pope John Paul II’s statues in Krakow. This life-sized monument of the former local lad turned Pope turned Saint John Paul II stands across from Wawel Cathedral near the entrance of the Cathedral Museum, which just so happens to have been opened by the man himself (then Cardinal Karol Wojtyła) back in 1978. Source
A clearer image in the morning. Source
Inside the Wawel Royal Castle
This looks unreal IRL.
Christmas just ended and 2020 is fast-approaching. How I wanted to go back to this day when we’re all still unaware of Covid19.
Food! Food! Food!
My dinner! Ugh! This was actually more than it looks here!
Dessert!!!
Souvenirs options!
Candies! Candies! Candies!
I’ve almost forgot about this but it’s good!
The artistry!
Heading back to the hostel here!
This was a couple of blocks away from the hostel! Ugh! Looking at this made me miss Krakow more!

I think I went back to the hostel past 11, I still need to wake up early the following day for the Auschwitz-Birkenau tour I availed via Klook!

Krakow will always have a special place in my heart. Ugh. Writing this part of the trip made me emotional for some reason. I hope to come back here real soon.

Euro Vacay Day 7: My POV of Vienna, Before Sunrise Style

Let me tell you that for the most part of this trip, I’ve availed the service of FlixBus to take me from point A to point B and vice versa. Now, here’s a little peek of my day trip in Vienna before heading to Krakow, Poland.

Like Prague, Vienna isn’t on my original itinerary but since it’s just “nearby,” I thought that I might as well get a look of this beautiful and historical city which also happens to be the main location of one of my most favorite films of all time – Before Sunrise.

This was technically the first snow I’ve seen during this whole trip and I was inside the bus heading to Vienna – as per my iPhone – we were in Ruda during this time.

I had to leave my luggage at the Vienna West Station and only took a string bag, some granola bars and bought my one day transpo ticket to explore Vienna for the whole day. (Which I was not able to to use extensively by the way!)

Noticed this first inside the mall at the train station.
I’ve walker my way to the Zollamssteg Bridge – this is where Before Sunrise protagonists Jesse and Celine meet the guys promoting their play. It is alongside a railway station (given the shot of the rail lines which pass diagonally beneath the bridge). And since I was the only person there that day, I took the chance to do a bit of a photoshoot lol with the help of my ever reliable tripod. 😅
The art tho.
I mean, I don’t really need to go inside a museum here.
Next stop: The Wiener Riesenrad, a giant ferris wheel at the western end of Prater Park. This is where Jesse and Celine had their first kiss.
I had to just walk all over the city because I feel that I’d be lost somehow if I use the tram. It was so worth it though because I get to feel the vibe of the city much more.
In front of the magnificent St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The St. Stephen’s Cathedral is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna and is one of the most significant landmarks in Austria.
Albertina Palais Museum.
This is where Jesse recites part of WH Auden’s As I Walked Out One Evening – “O let not Time deceive you, You cannot conquer Time” to Celine at the balcony of the museum.
Ugh. I was so kilig remembering the scene of this location!
It’s getting late by this point and I’m getting kind of tired and had to wait in line for me to get in so I opted to just get this little selfie right here. This is where that iconic telephone game happened! I wanted to do that if only I have someone with me then. Haha!
My last stop was at this 15th century Gothic church of Maria am Gestade, Salvatorgasse 12. (Mary on the Strand Church)
I don’t pray a lot but I actually prayed here. There’s just something about this church, being alone at the time that I was able to really connect.
It wasn’t a complete Before Sunrise tour but I figured that I may have to come visit next time because a day tour here isn’t enough to really savor what the city has to offer.
So for the record, this was the shortest stay in any country that I’ve been to. I cannot wait to visit again!

 

Update: Japan Multiple-Entry Visa Application for Filipinos!

I am going to be lodging my Japan Visa Application by the end of August for my Osaka trip in October which I’m pretty excited about so I’m hoping that I’d be able to finish my deadlines at work and have all of the prerequisites ready. It will be my first time to apply for a Japan Visa and I will be gunning right away for a Multiple Entry Visa since said visa could be my entry for my planned South American tour next year with a friend (see, we’re planning to use the MNL-MEX-COL route which at present is the cheapest route that we’re seeing online).

I’m not even sure if I’ve abundant funds enough for the consul to grant me an ME visa (3) Applicant with abundant financial capacity) Oh well, I’ll just hope for the best then.

Going back to the Multipl Entry Visa Application, the Japan Government recently added some provision for Multiple-entry Visa for Philippine Nationals. Below is exactly what the government has added that you can also read thru: http://www.ph.emb-japan.go.jp/itpr_en/00_000035.html

MULTIPLE-ENTRY VISA FOR BUSINESS PURPOSE, AND CULTURAL OR INTELLECTUAL FIGURES

The following is an outline of application procedures for nationals of Republic of the Philippines who wish to apply for a multiple-entry visa for business purpose, and for cultural or intellectual figures (period of stay: 15, 30, or 90 days, visa validity: 1, 3, 5, 10 years ). The visa is for the purpose of business affairs for the first visit, but from the second visit it is possible to use as tourist or visiting to relatives/ acquaintances as well. But it is not permitted to perform activities to undertake revenue generating business operations or activities to receive remuneration.

A. Eligible Applicants 1. Applicant with business purpose Applicant who is applicable to one of the following categories and his/her spouse or children

(1) A regular employee of a public (government) enterprise.
(2) An employee of a private company which is listed on the stock exchange (including Japan and third countries)
(3) A regular employee of a Japanese-affiliated company which is a member of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and has a management base in Japan
(4) A regular employee of a joint venture company, a subsidiary company or a branch office of a company which is listed on the stock exchange (including Japan and the third countries)
(5) A regular employee of a private company with constant business transactions with a Japanese company which is listed on the stock exchange
(6) A regular employee of a company among the “Top 1,000 Philippine corporations in terms of gross revenue”
(7) A regular employee with a travel record to Japan for business purpose and travel records as temporary visitor to G7 countries (except Japan) in the last three years
(8) A regular employee with more than three travel records to Japan for business purpose in the last three years

2. Applicants for cultural or intellectual figures etc. Applicant who is applicable to one of the following categories and his/her spouse or children

(1) An artist (Fine Art, Literary Art, Music, Stage Play, Dance etc.) , a specialist in humanities (Literature, Law, Economics etc.), or a scientist (Technology, Medicine etc.) who has relevant accomplishments
(2) A lawyer, certified public accountant, patent attorney, judicial scrivener, notary, medical doctor who has a national or international qualification and actually working as the same position.
(3) An amateur sports player who has relevant accomplishments
(4) A full-time professor, assistant professor, or lecturer of a university or a college
(5) A director or higher post of a national or public research institution or a museum
(6) A Diet member, government official, local assemblyman, local government official

B. REQUIREMENTS All documents must be original unless otherwise stated.
1. Philippine Passport
• Broken passport is not accepted. Passports must be signed and must have at least two (2)
blank visa pages.

2. Visa Application Form
• Available at the Embassy website, at the entrance of the Embassy or at any of the accredited
travel agencies.
• Application form should be filled out all items correctly, If item is not applicable, please fill in
[N/A]. Embassy may not accept application with blank item, no signature or no date in the
form; may deny the application that is filled out incorrectly or wrong information.

3. Photo
• Specs: 4.5cm x 4.5cm, with white background
• Photo must be taken within 6 months.
• Please write applicant’s name and birthdate on back side of the photo.
• Photo must be pasted on the application form.

4. Employment Certificate (with applicant’s salary, tenure and position)
• Owner of a company should submit a copy of “Certificate of Business Name Registration”
issued by Department of Trade and Industry or Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission

5. Documents to prove the applicant is qualified for one of the categories abovementioned
A.1(1) ~ (8), A.2(1) ~ (6).
• If qualified for abovementioned A.1(7) or (8),current or old passport that shows Japanese and
G7 countries’(except Japan) temporary visitor visas as well as entry stamps in the last three years.
• If qualified for abovementioned A.2(2),Copy of ID card(issued by Profession Regulation
Commission)

6. Explanation letter for requesting multiple-entry visa (must be made by applicant)  Please fill in embassy prescribed form “Reason For Requesting Multiple Entry Visa”, check items that apply and fill in reason for request.

7. A letter of explanation stating the reason of applying for the multiple visa (letter of mission
or travel requisition by employer, etc.) * for business purpose

8. Documents to prove kinship ( birth certificates, marriage certificate and copy of passport and
visa page of the multiple entry visa holder (parent or spouse) )
[NOTICE]  Size of document for application should be A4 size only. If document is other size, please submit copy that is already adjusted in A4 size from its original and without staples or pasting
pages.  It is applicant’s responsibility to ensure that he/she meet the requirements for the grant of a visa. Submission of any supporting documents not listed above is encouraged (e.g. applicant’s
economic or social ties with the Philippines, urgent reasons for visit: medical certificate,
wedding invitation).

I am hoping that I’d really get a multiple entry visa but a single entry would suffice since I really wanted to visit Japan for the longest time now!

Reaching Greater Heights: Mt. Pulag – The Third Highest Peak in the Philippines!

I’m an amateur mountain climber. I’ve climbed a few in the past, yes, but my health and time didn’t allow me to really get into it. This year, as part of my new year’s resolution, I promised to climb more mountains.

I found myself already on my second climb this year at the highest peak in Luzon, the Mount Pulag which also happened to be the third highest peak in the whole archipelago of the Philippines (next to Mt. Apo and Mt. Dulang-Dulang – both situated in Mindanao).

I even trained for this because I was told that it’s going to be strenuous. I’ve tried strengthening my legs for about three weeks since I just started working out around the same time this Mt. Pulag climb came about.

I joined the Bokal Extreme event along with with my officemates – the Kaladkarins – for this little “expedition” lol.

Travel time from Manila to Baguio was very smooth and fast – thank you SCTEX! At least around 5 hours inclusive of a couple of stopovers.

We got picked up at the Baguio Victory Liner terminal by what they call the “Monster Jeep,” I don’t have the foggiest idea why they call it like that since it looks like a regular passenger jeepney to me, though a bit bigger (ding!) . From there, we went to the DENR office for the registration and orientation. The travel time here is about 3 hours. We had a 30-minutes stopover for breakfast and a little photo-ops.

(Side note: You can also buy hiking gears here which I thought are way cheaper! ‘Bought my mess kit here!)

Before you’re allowed to climb Mt. Pulag, you have got to present a “Fit to Climb ” medical certificate and attend the 30-40 minutes orientation regarding Mt. Pulag, a bit of its history and the know-how of climbing it.

After the informative lecture, we went to the jump off site to set up camp for the night.

We woke up at around 130 in the morning and started the trek at 2AM. It was really muddy since it rained the night before and it’s still drizzling throughout our hike.

My number one advise for newbie climbers of this great mountain is to wear appropriate clothing. I was stupid enough to think that I could endure the cold by wearing my favorite football jersey so I was freezing by the time we arrived at the “first summit.” It was such a foolish move on my part so please, just please, wear something warm during your climb here.

For amateurs like myself, Ambangeg is the preferred trail. The hike wasn’t that hard even if it’s all muddy so I think if the weather was real good at the time, I thought it’d be a way easier trekking for us. It’s a good thing we waited for the weather to clear up and saw the beautiful mossy plains at the summit and the sea of clouds which is the summit’s main attraction. Watching it is like being one with nature – just beautiful! I think the whole hike ascending and descending took us close to 12 hours. Yes, it was that long but it was all worth it.

I cannot wait to revisit this majestic mountain in the future!

(This was a long overdue post. Since most of my blog posts are pre-scheduled, I didn’t realize that this one didn’t make it to my published posts. It’s still on my draft folder which I’ve only seen today! Ugh! Anyway – here’s my adventure at Mt. Pulag)

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December To Remember In Sagada Part 2: Rocky Valley Inn and Cafe Review (December 2013)

I booked a room for two as early as November since most of the Inns that I’ve contacted are fully booked already because of the bonfire festival and naturally, December’s a peak season in Sagada. I was able to booked at Rocky Valley Inn. I was asked to deposit half of the rate for three days (it’s 250/pax/day.) The inn is located near the Sagada Weaving and is in front of a gas station. It was a  good 8 minute walk from/to the center.

via saggas.org

via saggas.org

the rock formation fronting our veranda

the rock formation fronting our veranda

The place was very clean of course. I thought Alex, the guy who assisted us was very professional. The room given to us was at the second floor with a veranda which I loved by the way because it’s fronting a big beautiful rock formation and it was naturally, freaking cold.

sam_5267

They have WiFi connection at the ground floor and they also served food. The food was good and reasonably priced. Our only critique is the lack of hospitality from the other girl who’s manning the place who keeps sneering on us. She was probably in a bad mood that weekend. o_O  Overall, our stay was rather okay because the rooms are clean as well as the shared rest rooms. Just good food and clean room. *wink*

Rating: 4.5/10

To be continued…

December To Remember In Sagada! (December 2013)

Yeah, I know. Three’s a charm for me in 2013 – I have a special connection with Sagada that’s why I keep on coming back. Like what I’ve posted previously, there is a feeling of serenity whenever I visit this place.

This time around, I was with my very best friend Dek! I’ve been asking him for quite a while now to go and come with me to Sagada but because of his dayjob, he cannot really commit. Lo and behold though, in December – our schedule suddenly matched! He was transferred to a new program and was given several days of vacation leaves! How amazing is that? Finally, Dek will finally see the beauty that I’ve been raving about since we’ve met!

This is a trip of first times though. It was actually Dek’s first time to visit here and since we’re going the Baguio-Sagada trip, Dek also got the chance to check out the city of pines for the first time!

So for this trip,we didn’t do any bus booking – you see, it’s crazy for us to do that because it’s the holiday – it was the freaking December 27! We’re basically chance passengers to any bus companies that could take us to Baguio. Eventually, we settled for Dagupan Bus Company. Earlier in the afternoon of December 27, we’re waiting for the Genesis Bus Baguio trip but we were told that it’d be later in the night that the bus will be arriving so we’re to take a chance at Dagupan’s and can you believe that I’ve to stand until we reached Mabalacat, Pampanga? Oh well, I told you it’s a trip of first time right?

Dek's first time in Baguio!

Dek’s first time in Baguio!

We arrived in Baguio City at around three in the morning so we have ample time to check out the city. We went to Burnham Park and the areas surrounding it. It was pretty nice though, it reminded me during my first time in Baguio with my family during my teen years. It was the holy week and we’ve to sleep in the park along with many tourists! It was fun though.

inside the Burnham Park

inside the Burnham Park

Anyways, so we walked around Baguio (SM, the church, Wet Market, Session Road) and we even got lost because I can’t seem to remember the bus terminal for Sagada until it suddenly dawned on me that we’re just walking in circle and the terminal’s just beside the wet market! lol

There were tons of tourist and locals at the terminal and the wait was pretty long. We’re able to get hold of the first trip and I’m telling you, it was freezing!!! It was another six hours to Sagada so we rested a little and ready ourself for the even colder Sagada…

To be continued…