All posts by Ayan Villafuerte

figuring out life since 1984.

Kuala Lumpur in Pixels

Kuala Lumpur in pixels.

a walk around the city. eating in chinatown and bukit bintang. beer in changkat.

~fin

dont mess with the Hindu

after my fucked-up indian friend’s girlfriend told me about Batu Caves, it being a wish granter( if and only, one has climbed the 270plus stairs with out stops) i knew i had to pay a visit.

i woke up to a beautiful morning tucked under fresh cotton sheets of our beautiful oh-so comfortable bed in our beautiful  hotel. it was a very sound sleep indeed(for me, as for my host michele/jm/watever.. i doubt, haha… i was told i snore when im pulling one of those hibernations).

the irish beers i had the night before, in upscale Changkat Bukit Bintang, surely delivered the goods.

we headed down to the hotel resto to get our filling of nasi lemak, pancakes and the gang for breakfast. then, she took off to work while i headed to Kl sentral and took the direct train to Batu caves. some 13km away from the city center.

we agreed to meet-up at night after her work, and after i closed the deal with the fairy godmother of Batu Caves.

whenever i oversleep, i tend to be sleepy the whole day. and that morning, i was not only sleepy in the train… i actually slept. good thing Batu is the last train stop, and another good thing were the two european girls, spanish if im not mistaken, who were nice enough to woke me up. they were smiling maybe because i looked cute sleeping or saliva was dripping( probably the latter). i tried  to engage a conversation with them but they speak no english( tsk tsk tsk).

the batu caves complex is right beside the train station. one of the temples is perched inside the cave some 270-steps above ground. and there sits the wish granter( aha!). a couple of interesting Hindu statues and shrines scattered around. lord Murugan being the focal point.

but the rain that morning made taking pictures an ass. bad lighting etc. and the rain of course.

it was cold and gloomy. i walked around the smaller temples, and wandered around some more. i waited for the drizzle to stop or atleast die down a little before i climbed the stairs but it didnt.

the gameplan was to ascend slowly so not to tire myself too much so i can avoid stops thus getting my wish granted(sounded like a plan.)

i looked up and scaled the whole set of stairs. “this is in the bag” i said. you see, i tend to esteem myself a little at most times. i always think of myself as very healthy and athletic ( even if the image in the mirror seems to not agree almost always, swear, there are mirrors that tend to make you thinner and taller just like the ones in SM department stores, those mirrors are damn accurate).

i wished for the rest of my backpacking trip to be a smooth-sail and perfect; then i took a deep breath then proceeded with the stairs. one step at a time. no looking-up or looking down( heck i didnt look at anything else aside from the stairs in front of me). i did not stair-count. i was focused; i reminded myself that the fate of my backpacking trip on the following days layed on my hands( ok, feet). as i made it, the WISH.

maybe i was over the hundred stairs when i felt my calf muscles to tire and ache a bit. i was not breathing anymore, i was panting. i surged forward.

and when i was on the last 3 or 4 remaining steps it dawned on me how stupid my wish was. what was i thinking right? a perfectly smooth-sailing trip? BORING! a LITTLE mishap here and there would spice up the trip(i was very particular with my words specially the part l-i-t-t-l-e). so i changed wishes at the last minute, at the last 3 steps. from a perfect-smooth-sailing-trip wish to getting laid(now, thats what i call a w-i-s-h).

i stepped on the last step and… ohboy what a relief. at that time, i was sure that i will not have a perfect-smooth-sailing trip and that i will get l-a-i-d. sweet. victory(haha).

at the top i saw the fairy godmother  hindu god/goddess sweetly smiling at me… so i sweetly smiled back…
and so she owed me one.. haha. gotcha.

happily, i commuted back to explore the rest of KL. good vibes. an old guy in his 50s i met on the train was even so kind to tell me more about the city. show me around the train station and even accompanied me to the ticket office in kl sentral( i was headed to Penang the next day.) after small talks, he finally led me to the ticket counter and then he graciously went his way out of the terminal and went wherever his home is.

filled out the ticket form and then i searched my bag for my wallet. and then i searched some more. and more…
and more. but found none.

damn it. demmit. tang.na. fukc.

my money was there, cards( the fukcin mastercard was my safety net for this trip, incase i ran out of cash i can always withdraw… and the money on my card is actually included in my backfukcin budget), ID’s, hotel keycard and other valuables were there too. i just got fukced. bigtime.

…and i was not even half-way on my trip. my plane ticket to the Philippines was due not until after 12 fukcin days. Thailand and Laos still awaits me.

i made the deal with the fairy godmother that noon for “a l-i-t-t-l-e mishap”. i was clear on l-i-t-t-l-e. i made sure on that. i repeated it( you know, incase he/she didnt hear it clearly the first time). but this is no way close to l-i-t-t-l-e. cards and money? cmon.

and there i was in the counter with my bag inside out, all stupefied infront of the now puppy-eyed malaysian ticket seller.

***i headed to Penang the next day walletless. broke. and damn, i havent even gotten laid. tsk tsk tsk

***********
-no entrance fee for the main cave; however there is a fee for some caves since they will require you to get a guide
-2rm, train fare, kl sentral-batu caves

ONE fukcin rocking year of trains and airplanes

my backpack trip
*last part of 2011
backpakcin trip

**********
all trips this year

january- cebu(sinulog),siquijor,dumaguete,davao,general santos,saranggani,south cotabato

february-aklan(boracay,borongawan),iloilo,clark(balloon fest)

march-batangas,puerto princesa,el nido,coron,borawan(quezon)

may-lucban(pahiyas fest),catanduanes

june-laguna(enchanted)

july-hongkong,macau

august-puerto princesa,el nido

october-qatar

qatar,bahrain,malaysia,laos,thailand
*********
if i was asked days before 2011 about my travels for that year… chances are, i couldnt have mentioned any of these trips. none of these were planned.

i think i missed out on some my of trips. NOT because there are so many of them, but because i am just stupid to recollect events, that took place further than a couple of days, most of the times. (alcohol effects?)

it was the best year to date. of travels and life in general.

now, looking back, though i have the faintest idea on how did it all happen, i am ecstatic… and this ass did have a fukcin rockin year…
people met, dreams realized, places seen

big thanks to THE ONE up there… yes you =)

*demmit i should document more… lazy ass

game.plan

gameplan

first plan: thailand-malaysia-singapore by train
then: thailand-laos-cambodia-vietnam
then: malaysia-thailand-cambodia-vietnam
then: malaysia-thailand-cambodia-thailand
then: malaysia-thailand-laos-cambodia-thailand
choosin and shufflin all in last week

now: 2 days before the trip: malaysia-thailand…gave up on planning already…

 

***
original plan
the original plan was to spend two-years in Doha, thats according to my job contract. then things started to roll out differently. i am on my third month now.

it has been a very wild-rollercoaster ride.

a good mix of hi-highs and lowlights.
i used to feel theres more blights, lowlights.
and then, i thought its a good mix of both.
now, in my clear mind, its all highs. and thats no longer an assumption. its an understanding.
i actually had a very good run(*have, im still here til tuesday, though it has been decided that its only until tuesday. well my exit visa says until wed. but i have a ticket already for tuesday. end of the story)

so i am leaving on tuesday. two more full days from now. and yes, i cant help but feel poignant. i guess thats the natural thing to sense/discern for a human being. glad that makes me a human.
***
 now back to the game
so now that i was able to let go of the emotional side of matters, good god those thought did sadden me for a good 30mins, let me continue with the gameplan. the exciting part that is.

i have always been fascinated with southeast asia. diverse. tropical. fun.

this trip is actually the reason why i headed here to work, just so i could come up with a decent travel budget for this trip. and this was supposed to happen not until after two years. after my job contract have lapsed.

but things went by swiflty, with its fateful twists and turns.

so the grand getaway came a little too soon. i failed to turn-up with an ideal budget and lack ideal time frame. but, heck, whatever deficit i now face… adrenalin and positivity makes-up for it.

i guess, just like in sports and life… and love… and poker
-sometimes its not what you have that matters, its what you do with it.

 

**malaysia is fixed and thailand. entry and exit for this trip. tickets on hand.
meeting jm in KL. will crash to her hotel. a free ride-a good start for the trip.
then to penang with sree, an indian friend(met through jm).my host in penang-another free ride.
from then on-its all on me…
perfect way to jumpstart this backpacking trip =)

 

 

 

Of bikes & beaches: El Nido


its one of those August days when the weather is just as erratic as president p-noys lovelife(o ngayon si Iza Calzado naman, asa haha).  past midnight and the raucous rain poured, for a close full hour. then there was complete silence before the break of dawn.

we decided to hit Matinloc and Tapiutan islands in Bacuit bay that day.

while were in the middle of our breakfast, dark clouds swiftly loomed in the horizon. and before we could even consume our tapsilogs in marina resort, the sky turned dark, so dark as dark as my batok(nape).

we had to forego the island hopping plan and opted to go with the biking adventure instead.  come rainshowers and thunderstorms, we will still be able to have our day packed with our adventures. so we headed to pitstop to get our bike. paid 700 pesos for the Honda XRM- rent fee for the whole day. they gave us instructions on how we can go about circling the northern part of El Nido, some tips on nice spots, landmarks and mileage.  grabbed our helmets and off we hit the road.

the first ten kilometers of road northbound of El Nido is paved and cemented. and anywhere farther than that is rough as rough roads can get.

first stop was Nagkalit-kalit waterfalls. it should be less than 20kms away from El Nido town to the jump-off. a small house at the right side of the road with a signage at the gate. we parked our bike then asked some locals for information about trekking to the falls. since we were trying to cut down on expenses, we decided to not get a guide and just trust manang’s tawirin-ang-ilog-lakad-sa-tabi-ng-bukid-at-kaliwa-pagbaba-ng-burol advice. Or in other words, go with our instincts. which is a bad idea. were terrible as we are, much more our instincts.

and just after the first river-crossing(it was quite difficult traversing the waist-deep water because of strong currents since it rained the night before, its only the first river-crossing and there are TEN of them), we decided to backtrack.

along the way we bumped to a farmer and he asked “where we are going”, i answered “we’re quitting the trek as there are several trails and we have the slightest idea which is which”( completely skipped us-had-difficulty-crossing-the-river part, its only waist-deep and were both guys, sabihin niya pa sissy kami, we maybe quitters but we have big egos haha). he said its easy( he’s thin and a lot smaller than us). so i was forced to quickly reply with a “yes it is (ehem) easy, its just that there are several trails… but given a guide we will definitely push through”  and quickly he volunteered his son, patay. so we continued with the trek… it drizzled on most parts

it took us 45mins and 4bruises( joke lang) to reach the waterfalls. it was not that high but its cute enough for photographs. we let-go of the swimming-part since there was already a light rain, and an impending downpour  was definitely seeming on the horizon. the water current was strong to begin with, even a slight rain may worsen it. this is one of those moments where the journey is more fun than the destination.

trekked down to get our bike and gave manang 20 pesos as tip for eyeing on the bike, shes not charging any fees for parking( yeah, were cheap =)).

next stop was Nacpan: a close bidder for my most finest beach destination. imagine a deserted beach with 4kilometers of gradually sloped, powdery sands peppered with tall cocos and clear blue waters. It fronts 3 small islands. plus, currently, theres only one concrete bungalow built there, so its pretty much wide-open. this should be less than 10kms away from the falls. this is apparently the roughest of all the rough roads i had ever  passed on to. blog  about Nacpan will be on a separate post =)

it was past noon when we continued our stride to the northern most part of mainland palawan. we went clockwise passing by barutuan, bucana and teneguiban. by this time, were cruising on with half of our bodies covered in mud, slippers covered with inches of mud, and prints on our boardshorts are no longer visible due to mud.

after getting zillions of stares and smiles( more on like  laughs) from the friendliest of locals, we decided to clean-up a little in a beach in San Fernando. swam a little in the serene waters with brother and daracoton islands in the backdrop. both islands boasts white sand beaches. the coast here was calmer and sand a little beige. after cracking down inches of mud and we continued traversing to the west side and hunted down for the lone eatery in all of northern El Nido.

and oh boy, the guy giving instructions in the bike shop wasnt joking when he said theres only one place to eat at. the nondescript babes eatery.  its a little hard to locate it since its not along the road plus the signage is too small and worn down to be distinguished by bikers( moreover to hungry bikers ).

we spotted down babes minutes later, before 3pm. its in sibaltan, northwestern part of el nido. met French couple jacques and marie( just made up that one for easier story-telling as im really bad with names, i even forget my girl’s name sometimes, and she tends to forget to control her hands sometimes, lol) our bike buddies in el nido. both nature-lovers, biologist and nature researcher by profession, fancy camiguin much. both very athletic as they chose to paddle their  way around the islands in el nido.

babes is a unique eatery. its very japanesy( lol), omakase-style dining. as a paying customer you don’t get to choose what food will they serve you. it will all depend on what is available in their kitchen basket on your visit. and I cant complain with the lobster, surgeonfish(labahita), fresh eggs and organic mangoes we feasted on. those were the fresh catch that morning. nothing beats fresh seafoods as they are oh-so-tasty and oh-so-flavorful. we were more than happy( and hungry) to sip the juices of the  lobster head to dry, eat up to the last rice grain, and consumed the fish til no visible meat can be traced on the bones. we were charged 200(foreigners) and 120(pinoy) for the complete meal. this is a destination in itself =)

after the pig-out, the pigs(ako piglet) raced to the next stop which is a beach in villa paz. nothing remarkably different from the other beaches in this area. a glimpse of bubog island in sight. a cute little island with a small tree and an abandoned house. by this time we were passing over the west side of el nido.

the shoreline cruise ended in new ibajay. we then rolled to the inland rough roads of new ibajay, villa libertad and pasadena completing the circumnavigation of the northern el nido (that sounded too explorer-ly haha). passed by scenic ricefields, forests, riversides and limestone mountain rock  formations.

continued the race with the Frenchmen back to el nido town. arrived at 6pm, just in time before pitstop closes. we used up 4 liters of gas(and 1 liter of sweat… it was hot as the sun was out the whole time were out on the road) for the full bike tour.

of course we outbiked the French breads. pandesal pride baby! haha
*Nacpan beach

*ricefields going to Nacpan

*scenery from the New Ibajay-Pasadena road

*approaching Teneguiban

*a kid in Babes eatery

*Jacques and Marie in Villa Paz

*Nagkalit-kalit waterfalls

*lobster & surgeonfish of Babes eatery

*bike route

Of El Nido and fhms…

if theres a picture of a beach in heaven, i am certain it would look something like this.

after the unwavering bouts of bickering with ken(Palawan Part 1) over to continue backpacking up north of Palawan or stop and head back to Manila, he finally did throw in the towel. us being hard-headed, coming to an agreement was never easy.

he’s return flight to manila was scheduled the next day so he can no longer tag along with us. so only me and the fat guy continued to head up north. our gracious host ken, still a little upset, drove us in his orange wrangler to the bus terminal.

it was a 6-hour bus ride to El Nido. 280pesos for students. i am no longer a student but i still have my student id =) and i was on a tight budget. so i just had to try the whole student-scheme. it worked out though with the bus driver.

so we held on firmly for our lives as we dangled with the metal bars on the roof of the bus as it traversed the stretch to El Nido. we were like gunghos swaying left and right as the bus zoomed even on street curves on the rough roads. eventually the bus engine overheated. we arrived at dusk. past 5pm. riding on buses can be a little daunting but apparently way more fun. it was like riding in a roller-coaster extended version sans the 360s.

we stayed in cliffside cottages which was cheap at 600pesos(300/pax/night). nice little nipa huts with two-single beds in our room. the only downside was, its a 3-minute-walk away from the beach. and 3-minute-walks can be far and difficult for drunken bastards.

what i love about El Nido town is, it is able to maintain its humble rural vibe despite its thriving tourism industry. moreover, El Nido has been on the tourism radar, not only to locals but even, to foreigners since the 90s. i remember marveling at its sceneries as it was once a staple on wall calendars. it was the Christine Reyes, heck it was Iwa Moto plus Christine Reyes of the calendar industry back then. it was so popular it regularly graced bank/grocery calendars alike year after year.

ofcourse that was before filipino’s realization that theres more to beauty, than what meets the eye. something that sticks to the mind… something that lingers even if hours had passed… even up to, most especially, the last moments of your day while on bed before you sleep(eyes closes, legs stiffens and big toe tweaks lol.you know what i mean =) ) , thus giving birth to the fhm hotties domination(and i am not complaining) on calendars.

our time in the island went past, fast like a breeze. the islands, lagoons and beaches were just divine. half of our days were spent frolicking under the sun, plunging into the cool south China sea,  and enjoying lovely vistas both under and above waters. and the other half relishing bottles of cold beer.

and since i started mentioning about the hotties. let me continue then…

El Nido has similarities to some FHM hotties. Like Angel Locsin– it has this angelic almost cherubic beaches. it has soft powdery sands and gentle blue waters. Like Marian– it is a natural, and unassuming. the naturally lush-green forests and the lovely and almost dramatic limestone karsts. Like Sam Pinto– it is bare, simple and still poses to be the numero uno. the town hosts no atm’s, no 24-hour electricity ration(automatically shuts offs at 6am), no fancy hotels, yet it is one of the strongest foreign-crowd pleasers in our local tourism.

and lastly, allow me to compare El Nido to Booba(o maraming booba ah)- it is sexy, fun and CAN be cheap if handled well =)


*meals start at 40
*accommodations start  at 400
*transportation at 280(from Puerto Princesa)

Dimsum & Tumblings

me and my friends have this unique take on food; which apparently can be applied on other things too, like sex perhaps; if its dirty its almost always good =)

ever since i had gotten myself scholarly educated about food some two years and 20 kilos ago(yes people there is such education, for a country to progress some kids are raised and educated to make modern skycrapers, some to formulate new vaccines to cure cancer and pimples, and some devote countless sleepless nights  in figuring that lechon skin can be crispier when pricked before roasting) my definition of travel and adventure has broaden.

Before, i was all consumed with beaches and beers on my travels, now i give equally importance to balut… and sisig… and lechon.

so on my recent travel to hongkong, the highlight of the trip was food and ok; Disneyland. the food was outstanding unfortunately the latter was a letdown.

Hongkong is an eclectic mix of old and new, complex and simple, luxurious and basic. extreme contrasts of some sorts.  from the simple island village in taipa to the millionaires lofts in Repulse Bay; from bargain shops in Stanley market to signature boutiques like Gucci and Prada. from dai pai dongs to famed Michelin starred restaurants in Fours Seasons and Shangri-la. i don’t mean to belittle 5star hotel restos, but definitely those $10 pig innards stew is way flavorful and aromatic than roast beef and roast duck combined. no kidding, you can unmistakably make out the smell of the stew one block away from their stall. its that aromatic =)

the highlight of the whole trip was the famed Michelin-starred restaurant Tim Ho Wan. it is a hole-in-the-wall tucked in a nondescript part of kowloon. if you cant read chinese, like me, just walk along kwong wa street and you wont miss the crowd lining up outside. wait time is 1-2hrs and sometimes it could stretch to 3( yes people, your flight from the philippines to hongkong surprisingly takes a shorter time than lining up to go inside Tim Ho Wan.) it was my first ever michelin experience and it did not disappoint. price is reasonable at $10-$20/dish. i love the atmosphere inside(para ka lang nasa karinderya) its jampacked, its small, its noisy. among the crowd-favorite are Sticky rice in lotus leaf and Baked Barbecued Pork Bun Pastry. additional orders of siu mai, spare ribs, prawn dumplings  plus tea costed us $78 or $87 for the two of us. thats a small amount to pay to fill a stomach of a person,(with person i meant patay gutom) with such fine quality of food.

another restaurant worth lining up for is Australian Dairy and, good god, we did line up. line was long that it reached the corner of another street. they make scrambled egg a gourmet dish here =)

with the hours spent on lining up for these restaurants, we could have visited china already… mainland china. but of course i will trade the great wall for food, history? food? id pick fried pig intestines in a heartbeat anytime. hehe. paborito ko talaga.

hongkong is a haven for streetfood enthusiasts. food are so aromatic it could shock your senses. straightforward and bold. and food presentation is definitely not on their menu.

the best thing about hongkong is definitely their dimsum. tatambling ka sa dami. wide-array of yummy to weird-looking dishes neatly stocked in bamboo containers. from your typical har gau and siu mai to chicken feet to fish head.  and here the way to go is point-and-shoot. you point to the dish and you eat it. no need for memorizing all those chinese names (those train station names is too much already.)  which they wouldnt understand just the same if you pronounce it with your filipino or fake english accent. cmon, sanay naman tayong pinoy sa turo-turo style, kunyari pa… haha…

hanging out in the howling winds

>

i decided to travel to catanduanes only because i rarely heard of it and second, know next to nothing about it. my formula for adventure.

so i went to the bus terminal, only to find out that trips headed there are fully booked for the next two weeks. but the ticket seller said she still has tickets to albay and that i could take that and just hop into a ferry from tabaco, albay to virac. 800pesos. sounds like a plan so i took it.

it was a long trip to puraran, where the majestics is, my beach destination for the weekend. the bus left cubao at 4pm and arrived in tabaco a few minutes after 4am. it was a long uneventful ride. except for the pits stop in quezon where they served overpriced overly salty dishes. i could have eaten the saucer of pork binagoongan with a pot of rice just to balance out the taste but decided not to. since it was night time, there were no scenic views from the window, only from the seat across where a hot momma was seated. i just listened to some music, fell into short naps, some occasional glancing, during the whole 12-hour ride.

it was cold and drizzling in tabaco that morning. the ferry leaves at 6am. so i killed time playing with my camera. it was a four-hour sail. 200 pesos for economy but sneaked into tourist class quickly after the usual crew inspection, and dozed off most of the time. stepped out into catanduanes island at 10am. the land of the howling winds, second to batanes as  the top destination of typhoons.

as per google, i have to walk out of the pier and look for the road warrior jeep which will drop me off in the highway going to barangay puraran. followed as ordered. the jeep was huge, more like a bus. it sits passengers parallel to the driver like a bus. we passed by bato church which is along the highway. nice and old. it was almost a two-hour ride. 45 pesos.

a short steep,downhill walk from the highway to the beach. the view of puraran from the hilltop is indeed majestic. though the name majestic was coined as a description of the waves,not the beach in particular,by some american during the 80’s(yata).

the beach was serene amidst the big, rolling waves. very few tourists were in the area. less than 10 all-in-all at ako lang yata ang pinoy. i arrived in puting baybay(resort) around lunchtime. definitely the best accommodation in all my travels to date. 300/night for the kubo. and i got a balcony fronting the pacific.
a serving of dorado(fish), pickled vegetables and rice consisted my lunch. i liked it so much that it was the same meal i had every single time during my whole stay. sarap kasi anlutong nun isda tas sasamahan ng atsara. haaay. nagkakaliskis na nga yata ako lol.

there were only four guests in the resort that time. shinjin, a japanese who temporarily escapes the havoc in japan, and kenji and his dad from hawaii. all surfers.

the beach somehow reminds of marinduque. sand is not that white. only difference is that there are rocks on the beach. inuman sa hapon with shinjin. after 6 hrs and a liter of emperador plus beer, basag na. good times. dont remember much though. i know i woke up the next morning with severe hangover. lakad sa dagat tas ligo. spend the rest of the morning walking around the area taking pictures of anything and everything. may nadaanan ako nag-iinuman, gin, tapos humirit sila ng picture. request nila was to take pictures of them kapalit ay libreng tagay. ayoko sana dahil umaga pa. pero yon napilit din.

para sa kin the best part of going to the beach is doing nothing at all. sarap tumambay ng walang inaalala, walang nang-aabala. inom ulit nun gabi, lasing.. si shinjin parang yon fukushima naglabas ng toxic waste.. sobra suka.

like typhoons, i should visit this place more often.