Monday, December 24, 2018

Siargao, Philippines

SIARGAO: Sizzle in Coconut Paradise

Things to do in Siargao

From food, surf sites, tourist spots and adrenaline-pumping parties til the break of dawn, Siargao has a lot to offer. This island indeed gave that Asian feels being surrounded by vast coconut trees plantations strectching up to the white sand beaches and blue waters. Just perfect for your IGs.

Aside from the main-stream surfing, what can you do to Siargao? Let time take control, and relax on how blessed you are to experience Siargao.

1. Cliff Jumping in Magpungko Rock Pools

Get you feet wet and soak it in the famous Magpungko Rock Pools. You can dip in, your choice or try to jump from tall rocks. There are coves and cliffs perfect for jumping shots. The path is rugged though, and bringing a good pair of slippers is the best weapon. Just make sure you go there as early as 7 in the morning or earlier to catch up the low tide. if you'll be coming from the town proper (General Luna), the ride will be around 1 hour.

2. Top shot of coconut trees plantation

On your way to Magpungko Rock Pools (30-minute ride from General Luna), stop and take snaps of the thousand-acres coconut trees plantation. On your way, pull-over at the elevated road to get the perfect bird's eye view of the coconut trees below. Perfect lighting is on early morning or sunset. 

3. Spelunking in Tayangban Cave Pools

This has been an unexpected itinerary, the moment we entered the cave, the cold water made a thrilling sensation. Crossing the cave in darkness was even surprising. We had a single flashlight for a group of 7 people. Don't fret, the cave is safe with a tourist guide with us. You'll have to reach out from one bamboo pole to another while floating in the cold water. Look up and you'll see lots of bats taking a day's rest. Try not to create sounds to avoid disturbing it. This was one of the highlights of the trip and very recommendable.

4. Sunset and surfer watching from Cloud 9 Pier

A time-stopper, this place is one of the places you'll get to view the slow setting of the sun. Silhouttes of surfers and jagged rocks make it more dramatic. Time lapsing from this view is also recommended. 

5. Island hopping on Guyam, Daku and Naked Islands

A short trip from General Luna, island hopping in these islands can be made. Guyam is the nearest island from General Luna. The island, teardrop in shape, has a small stretch of powdery-white sand and dotted with coconut palms. The island is so small that one can cross from edge to edge for 50 steps. 

Daku Island, as the local term for "large", is the biggest island among the three. Having the turquoise waters, lush coconut trees and cream white sand, each visitor is enticed to swim in the waters or get lazied on the shore. Snorkeling and kayaking are also available. The good part is eating seafood on the shore. Ask for grilled fish or squid offered at an affordable price.

Naked Islad is a sand bar facing the Pacific. The term got it from having bare features with a small number of grasses on the island. You can enjoy swimming and snorkelling on this island.

6. Close encounter with jelly fish in Sohoton Cove, cliff jumping and spelunking

A dedicated one-day itinerary is alloted for this stunning trip. It was a long trip, with huge waves along the way, but with a filled heart at the end of the day. Lunch is usually bought by the visitors and is requested to be prepared at site. Upon arrival, visitors are to pay for the registration fees. The visitors will then be transferred to smaller boats to explore around the cove. Another boat is dedicated for getting to the jelly fish sanctuary.

Located in Bucas Grande Island, Sohoton cove is a large interconnected waterways. At low tide, accessibility to the cove is at ease. For not to get lost, tourist guides makes us of the famous horshoe as a marker.

The cove is also a sanctuary of hundreds of fruits bats taking a rest for a day. You can see them, in large numbers, hanging from trees covered with their wings.

One of the things to explore in the cove is the Hagukan Underwater Cave. This became famous for the greenish glow it projects inside the dark cave. The cave got its name from the local word "Haguk" means snore. This is the sound created inside the cave as the tide recedes from the roof.

A thrilling experience is then offered by Magkukuob Cave. The experience starts with spelungking inside the cave and ends with a heart-stopping cliff jump, which is around 25ft. the cave is adorned by the crystal reflections coming from the stalactites and stalagmites. 

The next boat trip would bring you to the jellyfish sanctuary. In here, 20-minutes is provided for each visitor to swim with the jellyfish. Swimming with the jelly fish creates a magical feeling underwater.

7. Drink fruit shake near Patrick's

I have to insert this in because this is really special. A real fruitshake, at a very cheap price. The serving is rich, the taste is real while your pocket is smiling. Get it at only 50pesos ($1.00).


Travel date was on August 18 - 22, 2018
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Sunday, August 6, 2017

Kamikochi and the Japan Alps


Having a long day off like the Golden Week is a good opportunity to visit a popular resort in the Northern Japan Alps of Nagano prefecture. Also, it is a chance to escape the busy concrete jungle of Tokyo or Yokohama. If you are a foreign tourist visiting Japan, then this is your chance to try roads not usually taken as travel destinations, but give different, exciting and memorable Japan experience. Remove shrines and temples from your travel list and get a ticket to Kamikochi.

Surrounded with mountains Nishihotakadake (2909m), Okuhotakadake (3190m), Mehotakadake (3090 m) and an active volcano Yakedake (2455m), this place has been well known to have majestic snow-capped mountain backdrop, clear flowing water partnered with the smell of birch and Japanese laden trees giving us a picturesque view.

Serving as a jumping point on climbing the surrounding mountains, mountain climbers  have been mystified by the place's beauty as seen by their number and the camping tents around. Climbing the mountains is open only from mid June to mid September. For people who prefer to enjoy more of this valley instead of climbing the mountains can hike along Azusa River. The terrain is flat and it will be a no problem for amateurs. Aside from that, this valley has lots of things you'll be surprised of. The place is also popular for its autumn foliage that usually happens on mid October.

A traveler's tip: Always be prepared as the weather in the area normally changes. Ensure you have raincoats with you, just in case. Also, buses accessibility will only be until the Kamikochi Tourist Lodge as cars and other private vehicles are not allowed in the area. Kamikochi maintains the cleanliness of the environment, thus preventing pollution by preventing cars. The buses are also hybrid to comply with the cleanliness.


Starting from the Kamikochi tourist lodge is where the hiking starts. First stop to see is the famous Kappa Bridge or the Kappabashi. It is less than 20-minute walk from the tourist lodge. Did you know that this bridge is the iconic symbol of Kamikochi? It was originally a draw bridge and was rebuilt as a suspension bridge in 1910. The present bridge was completed in 1997. How did it gain popularity? The short story Kappa written in 1927 by Ryonusuke Akutagawa was set on this bridge.

After the Kappa Bridge and taking the right side hiking path of the river, the next stop would be the Myojinkan. It is an estimated 2-hour hike from the Kappa Bridge, but it will surely depend on someone's pace. As you stroll along the trail, the sound of the Azusa River gives a perfect match of tranquility while the cold breeze touches our cheeks. Monkeys are often seen on the area. Don't worry, they don't disturb your trip.


Myojinkan is a resting place for mountaineers who are on their trip. Here, you can book for your stay in Kamikochi. It has a small food shop where you can have refreshments after hiking for 2 hours.


The next attraction would be the Myojin Bridge, or the Myojinbashi, which is less than 5-minute walk from the Myojinkkan. Myojinbashi is located upstream of Kappabashi.

Crossing the bridge would lead you to the north-west side of the Azusa River where the Myojin pond and Hotaka shrine are located.


For only 300 yen, you could enter the Myojin pond area and get to see the Hotaka Shrine. The pond is considered sacred as it has significance on Shinto religion which holds nature as its center of belief. There would be trails along the pond, where you could get IG snapshots of its crystal clear water matching the tranquil ambiance. Honestly, this became one of my favourite places, as you will feel the solemnity surrounding the pond. You could only hear the sound of the water quietly gushing and some birds tweeting.


Going back to the main hiking trail, you'll be passing wooden trails and some streams good for photos. Take a pause and take a shot.

On the west side of the Azusa River, you'll discover the Takezawa Marsh. A blissful place where artistic minds can gather fascinating ideas. Take loads of snapshots as every angle is worth-it. We were glad that there were no other tourists in the area when we arrive. This is usually flocked with tourists during peak season.

From Takezawa marsh, few more minutes and you'll be back to the Kappa bridge.


Near the Myojin pond, you'll pass a coffee shop, Cafe do Koisyo, releasing a captivating aroma of coffee beans brewed to suit your taste. The place is simple, an old keep turned to coffee shop, and gives a rustic feeling. No fancy frappes or high-key brews, just the basic yet satisfying coffee (and tea) you'll surely love. Make sure to drop-by and taste the awesome goodness.


Kamikochi is only open to public from late April to mid November. To get to Kamikochi, take the Matsumoto Electric Railway from Matsumoto Station to Shin-Shimashima Station. The train ride will take 30 minutes. From Shin-Shimashima, take a bus to Kamikochi. The bus ride will last for around 60 minutes.  The trip will no be boring, as you get to see views that can be compared to the Yosemite of US. One-way ticket costs 2450 yen. A discount is given if you will be taking round trip tickets and will only cost 4,550.

There is  also a "2-day Free Passport" where you can get unlimited train and bus rides to/from Kamikocho, Norikura Highlands and Matsumoto. For 6000 yen, it is already a good deal.

Travel date was on May 01, 2016.
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Some photos are contributed by RSO Photography
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