Tag Archives: photography

Sunset: The Cliché I Love

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Sunsets are probably one of the most cliché subjects to photograph but it will always be my favorite. Sunsets have a way of giving things perspective.

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That no matter how good or bad your day has been, it’s bound to end. One can only hope that tomorrow will be just as good or a tad better.

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Just like anything in this world, sunset is fleeting. That no matter how much we want to hold on to it, we can only have it for as long. Maybe that is part of its charm; its fleetingness.

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As fleeting as the sunset is, timing is essential. You have to be at the right place to experience it, otherwise, you miss the chance.

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Sunset teaches us to cherish the simple things and be hopeful that tomorrow we’ll see it again.

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Day Hike at Pico De Loro

Scaling a mountain was something that I’ve always wanted to do but never really put enough fuel on that thought to get it going. Good thing a dear friend was very keen on doing it and we soon found ourselves booked for a day hike at Pico de Loro with Trailadventours.

It was uneventful ride to Ternate, Cavite. Only because I’ve slept through most of the 2-hour ride, which began at 4AM. Scroll through the photos and I’ll let you in on tips along the way.

Your shoes will define your trek.

Your shoes will define your trek.

You always have the option to wear trekking sandals but on a hot summer day, the ground is dry and little rocks can creep between your sandals and your soles and that will hurt. DO NOT wear sneakers and flip flops as those will make you slip and slide… or worse.

I wore a pair of good running shoes with ridges on the sole and it worked for me. 😉

Yes, they have halo-halo on the mountain!

Yes, they have halo-halo on the mountain!

After an hour or so of trekking, I was surprised to see a little sari-sari store selling halo-halo! A tad weird and expensive too. Well, transporting ingredients from the base is really difficult so that accounts for the price.

Sneak peak of the gorgeous landscape after some two hours of trekking.

Sneak peak of the gorgeous landscape after some two hours of trekking.

From the Trailadventours site, the hike to Mount Pico de Loro has a difficulty of 4/10. But for a first time hiker, it could very well be a 6. Though the trail is very defined, there are a lot of steep ascents that newbies like me will find a bit daunting but still manageable.

Coby, one of the lead guides imparted some bits of trekking wisdom: take small but sure steps and when in doubt, use your ass. Very helpful tips I must say. Your goal is to reach the summit and go back to base in one piece.

We reached the campsite around 10AM.  On the photo   are Shie,a solo traveler from Mindoro and Kaye, a blogger and good friend who managed to keep in touch long after she left the company I'm still in.

We reached the campsite around 10AM. On the photo are Shie,a solo traveler from Mindoro and Kaye, a blogger and a good friend who managed to keep in touch long after she left the company I’m still in.

I have expectations of a campsite is and what I saw was a let down. There was too much litter and waste segregation bins are nowhere to be found either. It’s supposed to be a protected landscape, yet it looks as though it’s in dire need of protection. It made me wonder what the Php25 fee that hikers pay at the DENR registration. I’m thinking they should just charge Php50 so hikers don’t pay Php5 every time they use the restroom to pee or wash up.

I’m not very prissy but let’s just say that I need to be desperate to use the restroom there. It’s that bad. Putting up decent restrooms doesn’t mean defacing the mountain (maybe put up nipa huts to make it blend with the surroundings?). If makeshift stores are built there, then they can build these restrooms too, right? It doesn’t have to be hotel grade but it sure needs to be clean.

From the campsite, another half an hour and you'll reach the summit.

From the campsite, another half an hour and you’ll reach the summit.

The monolith is a challenge I will conquer on my next trip. I think the mere fact that I returned to Manila in one piece is already an achievement for me. 🙂

Tips:

  • Eat heavy breakfast and bring energy bars. This is your best excuse for carb-loading and chocolates. The energy bars really helped us as we didn’t bring lunch; we decided to grab lunch at Manong Wilson’s carinderia. Food is really good!
  • Bring just enough water. I brought along a liter because two liters is too heavy for me.
  • Wear comfy shoes and bring extra slippers.
  • Bring a complete change of clothes (including underwear) and toiletries; you’ll need this when you go back to the base.

From experience, this is something you can do on your own; you don’t need to sign up on a group tour. Being on an organized trek has its advantages as they guarantee your safety, you meet new people and the Trailadventour guides are really a fun bunch. But honestly, the Php1800 fee is quite steep given that it just includes transportation and tour guide fee. Should you ever do a DIY trek, I overheard a group that they paid Php600 for their tour guide. Not a bad deal! 🙂

 

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Hanoi: In the Company of Strangers (Day 4)

It was a rather uneventful ride back to the hotel from Halong City and got dropped off at the hotel by 5PM and happily chatted with the couple I met over breakfast the other day. Over that bit of chat, they invited me out for a night out after we have rested for a bit. I was hesitant to go because I was billeted at a different hotel, given I checked out of Thaison Hotel for the Halong Bay tour, and upon my return, there’s no spare room and they will put into one of their ‘sister hotels’, the Parkson Hotel.

While our hotels are fairly near each other, I was unsure whether to go with them or not. They’re probably just being nice. But when Celine said that they really want to hang out, we decided to meet at about 8; watch the fireworks by the lake to celebrate Hanoi’s 60th Liberation Day; grab dinner; shop maybe or just head to a local bar.

That settled, Thaison Hotel offered to take me to Parkson Hotel via a motorbike. Seriously. It may be a short ride but I can brag and say, “I rode a motorbike in Vietnam and lived to tell the tale!”

The Saturday night crowd was huge and overflowing from the bars and the makeshift outdoor bars gulping on bia hoi, the local beer that costs less than P10/cup, or enjoying a bowl of pho.

The Saturday night crowd was huge and overflowing from the bars and the makeshift outdoor bars gulping on bia hoi, the local beer that costs less than P10/cup, or enjoying a bowl of pho.

Celine's boyfriend, Ryan has that look on his face that he really wants to head to a bar but didn't want to impose it on us. So when Celine and I finally agreed, he was like a kid whose gift came in October.

Celine’s boyfriend, Ryan has that look on his face that he really wants to head to a bar but didn’t want to impose it on us. So when Celine and I finally agreed, he was like a kid whose gift came in October.

What we saw in that bar will stay with us for a very long time. I was so surprised that it was the Asian women who were acting like the westerners  while it was the westerners who were acting like Asians. Those Asians were so wild it’s so hard to look at them. It was nowhere near sexy at all; it was downright sl***y.  Ugh.

But we got to give  it to them for entertaining us like so; all that’s missing is a tub of buttered popcorn to munch on.

Even with all that live rated-R show, that was not the highlight of the night. It never occurred to us that the 12AM curfew was strictly observed in Hanoi as it seemed to be non-existent in Ho Chi Minh City. The police usually do their rounds around that time and  remind bars to close down but because it was 1AM, we were ushered out by no less than the police themselves. It was a crazy experience but it was all good. What was unexpected was Ryan and Celine walked me back to my hotel before they headed to theirs. So sweet.

My room looked like an upgrade from my previous hotel, well it should be. It was a tad inconvenient to be transferring hotels for just a night but I was thrilled at how HUGE the bed was and I have it all to myself. I love it!

My room looked like an upgrade from my previous hotel, well it should be. It was a tad inconvenient to be transferring hotels for just a night but I was thrilled at how HUGE the bed was and I have it all to myself. I love it!

I woke up early to have breakfast before the tour guide picks me up for the city tour. Minutes later, we arrived at our first stop.

Tran Quoc Pagoda

The Tran Quoc Pagoda is located in the West Lake and the oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi; it was built in the sixth century.

Two of the ten shrines flanking the Tran Quoc Pagoda.

Two of the ten shrines flanking the Tran Quoc Pagoda.

The temple is home to a number of valuable statues.

The temple is home to a number of valuable statues.

The bodhi tree giving shade to the meditating golden Buddha statue is said to be a gift from the Indian Prime Minister Razendia Prasat who visited the temple in 1959.

The bodhi tree giving shade to the meditating golden Buddha statue is said to be a gift from the Indian Prime Minister Razendia Prasat who visited the temple in 1959.

The gorgeous wooden hallway inside the compound of the Tran Quoc Pagoda.

The gorgeous wooden hallway inside the compound of the Tran Quoc Pagoda.

Next stop is the Ho Chi Minh Complex that houses the Presidential Palace, Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum, House on Stilts and the One Pillar Pagoda.

Next stop is the Ho Chi Minh Complex that houses the Presidential Palace, Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, House on Stilts and the One Pillar Pagoda.

Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum taken from the back.

Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum taken from the back.

The One Pillar Pagoda is another historic Buddhist temple in Hanoi. It's located within the  compound of the Parliament House. Locals believe that praying here will bless one with prosperity.

The One Pillar Pagoda is another historic Buddhist temple in Hanoi. It’s located within the compound of the Parliament House. Locals believe that praying here will bless one with prosperity.

With the group slowly drifting on their own, the tour guide designated a meeting spot and with the hot weather, I decided to go there early and found fellow tourist, Floja (I’m not sure I got the spelling right). She’s French and works for the government and was assigned for a week in Hanoi on business trip. We may be strangers but  we have same thoughts on traveling; going solo has its perks and we both love it.

Next stop is the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, which doubles as a research center and a museum.

Next stop is the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, which doubles as a research center and a museum.

An old Viet house. The exhibit inside the museum is very informative, but I found it a bit boring so after i gave the two floors a once over, I went out to explore the grounds and found the exhibits there more engaging.

An old Viet house. The exhibit inside the museum is very informative, but I found it a bit boring so after I gave the two floors a once over, I went out to explore the grounds and found the exhibits there more engaging.

Jarai Tomb House. This was built in 1998 by men from the Jarai tribe, one of the largest ethnic groups in Central Highlands. This tomb house can fit 30 dead people; broken plates, cups are placed inside because they believe in providing necessities for the departed in the after life.

Jarai Tomb House. This was built in 1998 by five men from the Jarai tribe, one of the largest ethnic groups in Central Highlands. This tomb house can fit 30 dead people; broken plates, cups are placed inside because they believe in providing necessities for the departed in the after life.

Surrounding the tomb house are sexually explicit wooden sculptures that depicts fertility and birth. These are sculpted using axes, chisels and knives.

Surrounding the tomb house are sexually explicit wooden sculptures that depicts fertility and birth. These are sculpted using axes, chisels and knives.

By now the midday sun has unleashed its fury and we’re just thankful that next stop is the Blue Butterfly restaurant back at the Old District for lunch. I sat with Floja, and Riza and Aiza, who are Filipina nurses on holiday. It was a hodgepodge of conversation amid a delicious meal that’s too much for four girls.

This is the main gate of the Temple of Literature; built in 1070 and one of the many temples dedicated to Confucius.

This is the main gate of the Temple of Literature; built in 1070 and one of the many temples dedicated to Confucius.

During our visit, there were a loads of students having a pictorial. According to our tour guide, this temple is a favorite venue for graduation pictorials. Quite appropriate, I must say, since this is one of the temples dedicated to Confucius, the sages and scholars. During our visit, there were a loads of students having their pictorial for graduation. According to our tour guide, this temple is a favorite venue for graduation pictorials. Quite appropriate, I must say, since this is one of the temples dedicated to Confucius, the sages and scholars.

During our visit, there were a loads of students having a pictorial. According to our tour guide, this temple is a favorite venue for graduation pictorials. Quite appropriate, I must say, since this is one of the temples dedicated to Confucius, the sages and scholars.

The Temple of Literature has five courtyards and it would’ve been nice to explore it all at leisure but since this is a guided tour, we’re pressed for time. Soon enough we found ourselves back in the Old Quarter to explore Hoan Kiem Lake. I’ve been here on my first day so I skipped this and went shopping with Riza and Aiza. 🙂

That was the last in the itinerary and I was finally dropped me off at the hotel. I freshened up for a bit and fixed my stuff and went to the last place on my list.

St. Joseph's Cathedral, also known as the Hanoi Cathedral, was built in 1886 and is the oldest church in Hanoi. The structure resembles that of Notre Dame de Paris.

St. Joseph’s Cathedral, also known as the Hanoi Cathedral, was built in 1886 and is the oldest church in Hanoi. The structure resembles that of Notre Dame de Paris.

The stained glass windows were produced in France before it was transported to Hanoi.

The stained glass windows were produced in France before it was transported to Hanoi.

The cathedral is a short walk  from the Hoan Kiem Lake and is part of my itinerary. I thought it’s the perfect way to conclude this four-day solo trip; to be thankful that I was safe and had an experience that will stay with me for a very long time.

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Running Into George Tapan

Pardon this stolen shotI took last Photoworld 2012. :)

Pardon this stolen shotI took last Photoworld 2012. 🙂

Today, I won over my urge to procrastinate and vegetate; I jogged! And I was rewarded not only with burned up calories but running into the master himself: George Tapan.

Huffing and puffing as I am, I thought I’d say hi and shake his hand. That was all I wanted, instead he rewarded me with a few minutes of his time.

He is just so unassuming; bereft of any shred of  conceit that often comes with fame and success. As though he is not a multi-awarded photographer, published author and the man who bested thousands of photographers back in 2011 for the National Geographic Photo Contest in which he submitted his photo “Into the Green Zone” sans any editing. That’s how good he is. With the birth of technology, people tend to rely a little too much on editing tools rather on knowing composition, the appropriate camera settings and all the other skills necessary to capture that perfect shot. But not him.

What’s even more admirable about this man is that he generously shares his time and knowledge with people who love to take photographs without biases for any camera brand; whether you’re a Canonista, Nikonista or whatever this warring camera enthusiasts call themselves, you are welcome to join his sessions.

In that short time of chatting with him, he imparted tips on ISO, composition, resisting the urge to be trigger happy; all of that among a slew of topics from lost heritage sites; adapting to change and more exciting possibilities for his upcoming sessions.

I may not have a photo with him but that conversation with him is going to stay with me for a very long time.

To you, Master George Tapan, thank you for giving me a little of your time. Cheers to more years!

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Hanoi: In the Company of Strangers (Days 2 and 3)

I woke up early for the cruise the next day, had my breakfast, checked out from the hotel and waited for the bus to pick me up. I decided to check out since I’ll be staying overnight on the boat and paid for my entire stay as well. In total, I paid US$200 for 3D/2N at the hotel (inclusive of breakfast) and the overnight stay on the boat, inclusive of welcome drinks; lunch & dinner for the first day; and breakfast & lunch the next day. *Pats myself on the back for such  a steal of a holiday.*

Tips:

  • TripAdvisor.com is your best bet for legit reviews of hotels and sample itineraries. 
  • Whatever hotels you find on agoda.com, booking.com or similar sites, cross-check it with TripAdvisor. So far, this site has not let me down yet. 
  • Feel free to bring your swimsuit and sunscreen.

Instead of me blabbing away on the 2D/1N Halong Bay itinerary,  I’ll post photos to take you through my overnight journey to one of UNESCO’s world heritage sites.

After about 1.5 hours of traversing the road to Halong City, the bus will make a mandatory stop  at a handicraft store for about 20 minutes.

Pier

More than an hour later, we arrived at the Bai Chay Pier in Halong City.

After the tour guide has purchased the tickets, passengers will then proceed to the wharf to be transferred to the Viet Beauty Cruise via a small ferry.

After our tour guide has purchased the tickets, we proceeded to the wharf to be transferred to the Viet Beauty Cruise via a small ferry.

The boat doesn't come to you. You come to the boat. And you do it via these small ferries. And no matter how short the distance, wear the life jacket. It's a hard rule.

The boat doesn’t come to you. You come to the boat. And you do it via these small ferries. And no matter how short the distance, wear the life jacket. It’s a hard rule.

This is the view from the dining hall. While there is a wifi onboard, it's very unstable since we're in the middle of the bay. I barely cared. I have my camera. I'm good.

This is the view from the dining hall. While there is a wifi onboard, it’s very unstable since we’re in the middle of the bay. I barely cared. I have my camera. I’m good.

Right outside the dining hall are small tables lining up the lower deck.

Right outside the dining hall are small tables lining up the lower deck.

The cabin in The Viet Beauty Cruises is cozy and equipped with hotel grade bathroom facilities. Except for the water taking a bit of time to go down the drain, I've no issues with the room.

The cabin in The Viet Beauty Cruises is cozy and equipped with hotel grade bathroom facilities. Except for the water taking a bit of time to go down the drain, I’ve no issues with the room.

Since I was travelling alone, they gave me the option of adding US$40 so I don’t have to share the cabin with a stranger. I scrimped and decided to tough it out and go for the shared cabin. It’s just for a night anyway. I wasn’t prepared to share it with a late 50-ish English guy. I thought that since I’m a girl, they’ll pair me off with a girl too. Unfortunately, there was no other girl travelling solo so, I’m stuck with him. Thankfully he was decent and that the only time we were in the cabin together was when it was time to doze off for the night.

Once we’ve freshen up, we started our tour and first stop is the Sung Sot Cave or the Amazing Cave.

Sung Sot Cave is a famous tourist stop in Halong Bay and since it's peak season, you can just imagine how busy this place is.

Sung Sot Cave is a famous tourist stop in Halong Bay and since it’s peak season, you can just imagine how busy this place is.

So maybe, this is why it's called the Amazing Cave. *insert naughty grin* And of all the colors to light up this VERY interesting rock formation, they choose red.

So maybe, this is why it’s called the Amazing Cave. *insert naughty grin* And of all the colors to light up this VERY interesting rock formation, they choose red.

We spent about an hour going through the different caves, with our tour guide pointing at more interestingly shaped rocks and stalagmites. In my head, no other rock formation can be as interesting as that photo above.

The tour is finally done and we headed back to the boat again to go to a spot for kayaking. I decided to skip this out because the heat got me and I don’t feel good anymore.

I decided to nap and about 20 minutes later, I decided to go up the sundeck and enjoy some quiet time.

I decided to nap and about 20 minutes later, I decided to go up the sundeck and enjoy some quiet time.

The local vendors make for an interesting addition to the Halong Bay scenery. They sell chips, cigarettes and sweets.

The local vendors make for an interesting addition to the Halong Bay scenery. They sell chips, cigarettes and sweets.

As we wait for our dinner, we had cooking class and they taught us to prepare fresh spring rolls.

As we wait for our dinner, we had cooking class and they taught us to prepare fresh spring rolls.

I was the lone Asian in the cruise, save for the Vietnamese junk crew and tour guide. I thought I will feel awkward but it was so much fun chatting with Irish travelbugs Emma and Karen; her mom, Helen; and Jeremy, the Englishman in Hanoi. 🙂 After chatting some more, we headed to our respective cabins and called it a night.

The following day, those who were able to wake up early joined the Tai Chi class held at the sundeck. I skipped that and headed straight to a light breakfast. Few minutes later, we are on our way to Soi Sim Island, a mere five-minute ferry ride from where the boat anchored for the night.

Soi Sim Island is ok but having been to our glorious beaches, the beach did not impress me. It was a small stretch and the water doesn't look inviting; maybe Cat Ba Island is better but it's not included in our itinerary.

Soi Sim Island is ok but having been to our glorious beaches, the beach did not impress me. It was a small stretch and the water doesn’t look inviting; maybe Cat Ba Island is better but it’s not included in our itinerary.

For me, Palawan sets the bar for gorgeous beaches and the Conde Nast Traveler placed a stamp on that for naming Palawan as the top island in the world for 2014.

And so I decided to hike towards Soi Sim Hill.

It's a 400+ steps up this hill and while the sign discourages older people from hiking, I still found some elderly couples heading up the cemented steps.

It’s a 400+ steps up this hill and while the sign discourages older people from hiking, I still found some elderly couples heading up the cemented steps.

The elderly people hiking up inspired me to get to the top but with the lack of exercise, I was catching my breath by the time I reached the top.

The elderly people hiking up inspired me to get to the top but with the lack of exercise, I was catching my breath by the time I reached the top. But the haze that morning diluted the beauty of the beach from the top. Oh well.

An hour later, we’re back on the boat to check out and have our buffet lunch. At this time, we have new companions onboard as they are the ones checking in for the night. After lunch, we headed back to the pier to board the bus back to Hanoi. Back to the crazy city of speeding motorcycles but this time, I went back with new Twitter and Instagram friends.

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