Saturday, September 24, 2016

"May mga taong hindi makakaunawa sa 'yong hirap,  at magagawa pang maliitin at kutyain ka. Pero mangarap ka pa."

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Place Where You Are Now
by Hafiz; Translation by Daniel Ladinsky
This place where you are right now
God circled on a map for you.
Wherever your eyes and arms and heart can move
Against the earth and the sky,
The Beloved has bowed there –
Our Beloved has bowed there knowing
You were coming.
I could tell you a priceless secret about
Your real worth, dear pilgrim,
But any unkindness to yourself,
Any confusion about others,
Will keep one
From accepting the grace, the love,
The sublime freedom
Divine knowledge always offers to you.
Never mind, Hafiz, about
The great requirements this path demands
Of the wayfarers,
For your soul is too full of wine tonight
To withhold the wondrous Truth from this world.
But because I am so clever and generous,
I have already clearly woven a resplendent lock
Of his tresses
As a remarkable truth and gift
In this poem for you.

Monday, July 11, 2016

"You will know the call of your destiny, because it will sound insane. The call will not make sense. 
The call will not fit into what your culture and your history suggest that you are supposed to do. The call will cost you money and time. And relationships. The call will not please your tribe. The call will ask you to do something you have no training in, no talent for, no safety net about. The call will want to make you wet your pants in fear. The call will put all order into danger and disarray... The call will demand stupid amounts of courage — and by that, I mean to say that the call will require the kind of courage that literally makes you look and feel stupid. 
Do it. 
That's your LIFE calling."

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Three days in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam for 10K PHP

For my 25th birthday last February, I wanted to go on a fun low cost trip. I went to Ho Chi Minh (formerly Saigon), Vietnam for the first time in July 2014 and was surprised with how affordable everything was. Since I've been there before, I knew that I'll survive on a lean budget so I didn't think twice anymore when a seat sale was announced.

Since friends and family have been asking me how I did it, let me share it with you here:

My flights

I booked my tickets six months in advance on a piso fare. I flew via Cebu Pacific and roundtrip tickets to and from Manila were at 4455 PHP.

My accommodations

Luan Vu
35/2 Bui Vien Street
District 1 Pham Ngu Lao
Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

I flew with two friends and we each paid 10 USD a night. This is a steal because the rooms are airconditioned and clean, towels, toothbrushes and soap are provided, the location is at a prime spot (Pham Ngu Lao, the backpackers' district) and breakfast is already included! They provide a free map and give suggestions if you have no itinerary planned, and even send your mail for you if you hand them your letters with post stamps.

The staff are extra friendly, too. Our stay was during Chinese New Year weekend so on our arrival, we were told that tours were mostly fully booked. Thi, the receptionist then, tried calling agencies throughout the day. When we got back at night, she informed us that she got us slots to the Mekong Delta tour on our desired date. She was such a sweetheart!

If I'm not mistaken, the hotel has the same owners as Phan Lan 2. I spent a few nights there last 2014 and had a grand time as well. I just prefer the location of Luan Vu.

My itinerary
Day 1: Walking tour
You'd be impressed with how many places you can see and how much you can experience within the area of a couple of blocks. We went to all the places below on foot! If you're willing to get a little exercise and experience the crazy streets of Ho Chi Minh, you don't need to go with a tour group for this.
Here are the places we went to:
* Reunification Palace

* War Remnants Museum
* Saigon Opera House
* Notre Dame Basilica
* Saigon Central Post Office

Day 2: Mekong Delta (My Tho-Ben Tre) tour
As mentioned earlier, we just booked this through our hotel's reception. We were picked up from our hotel at 7:45 a.m., and were brought back at 6 p.m.
The tour, at 13 USD (Chinese New Year rate; normally just 10 USD) included the following:
* bus ride to and from Mekong
* honey tea and banana chips at bee farm
* timber boat rides + small row boat ride
* learn how to make coconut candy
* snacking on fruits while traditional Vietnamese music is performed by locals
* lunch
Day 3: Food trip
At this point, though we only had two days behind us, we felt like we've done so much already. We also stayed up for late night videoke and early morning mass so we were spent. We slept in and woke up at noon to pack, and afterwards walked around a couple of blocks to try interesting-looking street food. We split and shared everything so we can eat more. I've been told that people sometimes fly to Ho Chi Minh to eat and I totally understand. Their coffee, beer and street food are excellent.

My suggestions
Food: Do not miss out on Saigon Bia, coffee with milk (Buy from sidewalks and small stalls rather than restaurants!) and their world famous banh mi. 

Shop: Go to Ben Thanh at night, rather than in the morning. Haggle, haggle, haggle! But before that, check out this shop at the backpackers' district. Items are fixed at low prices.
A.M. Lacquerwares
185 Pham Ngu Lao St.

District 1, Ho Chi Minh
Tel: +84 8 3836 8651

My previous stay
I only spent little because aside from my being thrifty, cost of living in Vietnam is affordable. I spent roughly 16,000 PHP all-in during my 2014 trip and got to go to Mui Ne (known for beautiful sand dunes), watch the opera and go on the Cu Chi tunnels tour.

My expenses
Here's a breakdown:

Day 1 (x1000 in VND)
12 coffee
44 coconut juice
40 snack (street food + tea)
44 pho (three of us split because servings were huge)
30 Reunification Palace entrance fee
15 War Remnants museum entrance fee
91 post cards and stamps
50 3 bottles of beer
326000 VND = 717.2 PHP

Day 2 (x1000 in VND)
35 tips
20 sugarcane juice
40 snack (banh mi + coffee)
30 2 bottles of beer
125000 VND = 275 PHP

Day 3 (x1000 in VND)
20 meal
20 street food
10 sweet banh mi (idk if this is what it's called haha)
30 dinner (spring rolls + glass of local wine)
50 taxi to airport
130000 VND = 286 PHP

Paid in PHP
4455 plane tickets
1620 Philippine travel tax
6075 PHP

Paid in USD
40 accommodations
 5 airport pickup (already split into three)
13 Mekong Delta tour
58 USD = 2772.40 PHP

Conversion rates at the time of the trip were the following:
1 USD=47.80 PHP=22200 VND

717.2 + 275 + 286 6075 + 2772.40 = 10125.60 PHP

As in any travel destination, you can upscale your lifestyle -- check in into a fancy hotel, hire a car service or take a cab often, and eat in expensive restaurants. If it's how you want to take the trip, well and good. I, however, am glad to be able to keep my costs low and immerse in the city's rich culture.

I think Ho Chi Minh is incredibly underrated among Filipinos but the few whom I know have travelled to the city only have good words to share about their experience. Hope this will make you consider taking the trip!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

"So now we have entered the Realm of Mysteries. I wish there were generally recognized stages of love, like there are for cancer, so that you could gently break it to someone without causing a panic. “Listen, I love you, but it’s only Stage 1 — still very treatable.”
Quirkyalone Is Still Alone, Tim Kreider