Pictures of Paradise


Recently I  promised to share some photos of hangout spots I frequent when in paradise – Barbados.  A promise is a debt, and I do not like debt in any form.  Therefore, I am obliged to bring photos and video footage of the scenery that I enjoy from time to time whenever I visit the island nation.

Most of the locations showcased are serene places I like to go to relax, to meditate, to enjoy the breath taking views of hill and dale, and savor the peace and quiet of the surroundings.  In my season of sadness the familiar scenes helped to soothe my aching heart, and to bring a measure of peace and solace that can only be found in the great outdoors, nature itself.  I have seen these views many times, but this time, they proved to be the comfort and therapy I needed to face the ordeal at hand.

Let me preface your viewing of the collages below by saying I am not the world’s best photographer or videographer, so please forgive the lack of quality and creativity in what I captured.  I hope you find them refreshing, catch the essence, and enjoy them too.

First photos are of a place called Martins Bay.  It is a sleepy fishing village whose coastline is battered by the pounding waves of the Atlantic Ocean.  The fish market on a narrow inlet of sand is a hive of activity when local fishermen bring in or clean their catch of the day.  It is also a popular mingling spot for tourist and locals who want a taste of fresh catch, dance to local vibes, and devour the Bajan gastronomic cuisine.  The downhill stroll to the bay is easy, but after eating a sumptuous meal of red snapper, dolphin (mahi-mahi) or some other exotic fish, the walk uphill may prove to be arduous, a good exercise for those who want to stay fit and in shape.

Next are pics of the historic St. John’s Parish Church which boasts the only sundial on the island (can you tell what time I was there?), also sarcophagi of European royals.  The Anglican church, a must-see, is well documented as a place of interest for tourist and considered to be a national heritage site.

Watch the video of the view from the church’s yard of the valley below, and the coastline all the way arcing to the north of the island.

Next are a few photos of the boardwalk in the city of Bridgetown, the Careenage, Independence Square and the gazebo at the Base Street Esplanade – a spectacular window to the sea to witness the evening sunset.

Last but certainly not least, Bim has its share of livestock and wild animals such as the green monkey and mongoose.  None are considered ferocious apart from the stray dog.  However, we do have a much beloved lion that is an iconic attraction for locals, as well as, visitors to the island.  ‘The Lion at Gun Hill’ is nestled in the middle of the island, and looks out over the valley below.  A trip to see the lion and the view are worth the time and effort.  It is a great photo opportunity, a treat both the young and old would enjoy.  You can rest assured in paradise this lion will not eat you or cause bodily harm 😂.

There you have it folks, just a taste of paradise.  I miss being there but already looking forward to the next visit in the coming months.  Want to join me?  Choose an itinerary on the Itinerary Page.  Submit with the appropriate payment and I will send you a customize itinerary that fits your taste.

Community Peeps, as always it is my total pleasure sharing my travel experiences and interests.  You have been supportive by sticking with me, reading and commenting from time to time.  I appreciate all of you.

It is customary for me to invite all who are not yet followers of my blog to: click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support, share this post on your social media site, and write your comments in the box below.  Thanks for reading.

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Comments Matter


Itinerary planning can be an involved and consuming process when plotting vacation activities, a customer may request.  You know, the kind of holiday they would want to talk about and comment on for the rest of their life.  The one that meets their needs, covers all the bases and scores a home-run in terms of fun and excitement.  A bespoke itinerary requires lots of research and double-checking.  The planner many times goes above and beyond the call of duty to ensure the agenda is doable, affordable and possible.  While man hours are clocked, it behooves the planner to ensure the I’s are dotted and the T’s crossed for a happy client.  No stone is left turned just to satisfy the patron.

The astute planner knows the voice of satisfaction gives much impetus to future referrals.  By the same token, a dissatisfied customer affects future referrals or a lack thereof with a negative impact. The traveler’s opinion and satisfaction can cast a ripple effect far and wide to other travelers seeking information on particular subjects related to their travels.  For example, every time I travel to a foreign country, I check the reports of others.  Their tell-all experience at hotels/hostels/Airbnb’s, and selecting tour operator/agencies, whether true or lie help to shape my decision.  Not a few are reviewed, until I am satisfied and can make a more educated decision.   Once I begin to scout opinions, experiences, and references, the search may reveal general commonalities among the many reports.

What am I looking for specifically, you might ask?   A vote of confidence, a cohesive review, a recent testimonial, and/or clear warning signs.  Common sense should prevail.   Some grievances may be taken with a grain of salt (one’s subjective experience may not be another’s), but glaring violations should be heeded.  I still believe the adage, “where there is smoke, there is fire.”  Comments usually have a measure of truth to them.

For every planned destination, I peruse the comments section in travel forums and chat sites, of surveyed guests, or read columns of gurus, who for a living commentate on subject matter relevant to my interests, and just to get an idea or bearing on a place, activity or accommodation.  Customer comments carry much weight and can help or hinder a business’s progress.  In the past, I have received after every travel, surveys, seeking my honest opinion of my experience or stay at the hotel.  Whether the survey is given during a tour or taken after, the client’s comments have the power to positively or negatively impact the business.

Public accounts or travel sites that posts acknowledgements of grievances with a positive response to fix, to make better or even to look into the customer’s complaint, proactively deflects further negative comments, at least for a while, and may still elicit the interest of itinerary speculators such as myself.  Wherever I go on my travels and whenever I am surveyed, my responses are always honest and straightforward, but never unkind.  Comments matter and are a useful tool to effect change.  Therefore, one should always be keen on adding their two-cents for a better outcome.

Community Peeps, how much weight do you put into the research comments you read before travel, or your survey responses after travel?  Never surveyed?  Or, surveyed but never got any feedback on action taken?  How about sharing your experiences here and now?   Let me know your thoughts on the subject.  Post your comment in the box below.

As usual, I invite you to click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support.  Share this post on your social media site.  Write your comments in the box below.  Thanks for reading.

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Taste of the Tropics


A planned vacation to any country in the Caribbean may bring on an instant feeling of enthusiasm and excitement.  If  the destination is anything like the island of Barbados with its aquamarine colored waters, powdery sands, gentle breezes, and a whole lot of other interests, then it makes it even more intriguing to visit.  The surf, sea, sand, and warm weather are part and parcel of the 166 square mile landscape, and sweet local fruits and produce are an added bonus for the traveler foodie type who likes to indulge in tasting exotic foods.  Combinations such as these in the perfect location help to paint the picture of an idyllic life that can only be found in paradise.  A week ago, I flew to my homeland Barbados.  It was bitter sweet.  Bitter because it was for a sad occasion, and sweet because I got to see family and friends I have not seen in a while.  Moreover, it was an opportunity to pick and consume favorite fruits and produce that I have not eaten fresh from the tree for many years.

As the pilot informed passengers and stewardesses to prepare for landing, it was truly delightful to hear him over the intercom refer to the tiny island-nation as paradise.  I do too.   Clapping,  and shouts of ‘woo-hoos’ erupted around the cabin as the plane touched down on the tarmac at the Sir Grantley Adams International Airport.  I breathe a sigh of relief, whispered a prayer of thanks to God for travel mercies, and begin to anticipate the next few days ahead.  The expedition through immigration and customs was quick and seamless.

The drive through familiar neighborhoods to my family home was short and uneventful.  As my brother and I drove along, I scanned the trees to see what fruits are in season.  Summer is considered peak season for tourism and an air-ticket to come to these shores is usually beyond my budget limit, therefore, I have not visited in the summer for more than 20+ years.  To compound my travel options, the national carnival called Crop Over is hosted around then making getting here a near impossible task if you do not book the flight months in advance.  However, there are times or situations when the trip has to be made and the financial restraint has to be put aside.

Before I reached our residence, it occurred to me that I had adjusted to living without the abundant fruits available at this time, but have dearly missed all these years.  Well, to my delight, the following trees that surround our residence are currently in full bloom and bearing fruit, the colloquial names are in parenthesis: mango, avocado (pear), golden apple, soursop, carambola (five-finger), papaya (paw-paw), pomegranate and banana, as well as one of my favorite produce – breadfruit.

Here are some of them in our backyard:

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Tourist and visiting nationals who may want to take a taste of the island flavors with them back to their homeland can purchase some of these same fruits that are preserved, dried, pickled, bottled or packaged by the variety of cottage industries found on the island.  None of the fruits mentioned taken in any of these forms, as far as I know, are considered banned products.  However, taken in their natural state may encounter agricultural quarantine or prohibition.

Community Peeps, for now I am eating my fill of all the fresh fruits and produce available (I may return to North America a little heavier than when I left 😊).    Do you have favorite fruits and produce that you like to eat when you travel to the tropics or even enjoy when you go back to your home?   What has been your experience trying new fruits?  Please share with me.  Next post will be pictures of some of my favorite hang-out spots on the island.

As usual, I invite you to click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support.  Share this post on your social media site.  Write your comments in the box below.  Thanks for reading.

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Vacation Philanthropy


It is always a heart-rending sight when you see a mother with young children begging on the streets, or a father with a sign pleading for help while his family sits not too far away anxiously looking on.  It must not be easy for either one of them to endure the harsh looks of ridicule or pity from passersby.  Given the circumstances, my guess would be, they would much prefer a different option to their current destitution.

When Jesus walked this earth, He said to His disciples, “The poor will always be with us.”  It was a clear indicator that poverty will never be eradicated.  However, the expectation to alleviate the suffering of our neighbor is necessary.  After all, we are our brother’s keeper and should show care and concern for their plight.  Today I want you to think of ways to help the less fortunate even while on vacation.  A customized itinerary can include a planned, purposeful giving, and random acts of kindness to the needy you may meet.

Philanthropy is not just for the rich and famous who may have the means to give.  Generous giving by the wealthy is the expected norm, but little acts of kindness that goes unnoticed by others does the same work to ease another’s pain and suffering.  Every vacationer who travels, be it to distant lands or locally, may encounter at some point on their journey a homeless person, a vagrant, a person who may be on the receiving end of a streak of misfortune.  No matter the circumstances, the holiday-maker can proactively plan to help the stranger they meet.  A kind gesture will mean the world of difference not only to the receiver but to the giver also.

Giving is a blessing and is therapeutic.  It helps the intended recipient, but it also helps the donor’s emotional well-being.  It is a win-win activity.  Both parties receive a blessing that words cannot describe, and money cannot buy.  Planned assistance should not be limited to a monetary donation, which is often the easiest solution in answer to a person’s request, but help could come in other forms like meals, clothing, and other intangibles like educational services and seminars

So, how could you go about intentionally giving to the less fortunate while on a trip?  Here are some suggestions:

  • Include in your budget an exact amount to give to panhandlers
  • Buy a meal and deliver it to the homeless street person
  • Donate your lightly-used clothing that you laundered
  • Lighten your bags by giving up your water bottle, portable hammock, tent and cooking utensil with a person on skid-row
  • Leave your extra sneakers and coat with the vagrant in the cold
  • Invite a homeless person to a restaurant for a meal
  • Volunteer an hour or more of your time at a homeless shelter, food pantry, or soup kitchen
  • Carry or purchase a small toy for a child
  • Give a young mother a carton of milk or bag of diapers for her baby
  • Take the time to chat and find out who they are.  That’s worth more than gold in most cases.

It is often heartbreaking when we witness situations where we feel helpless to alleviate the pain and suffering of others.  However, do not let the situation overwhelm you, or cause you to say there is nothing I can do.  Every little bit helps just like in the story of the boy and the starfish on the beach, who tried to throw back in all the washed-up starfish.  When told it was an impossible task to save all of them, he responded at least he saved the one he was throwing back in.  Like that lad you can help that one you are intentionally assisting at that moment.

Community Peeps, vacation philanthropy should be a planned part of your bespoke itinerary.  Help to change the life of the needy in some small way.  Have you ever done this before?  If you have, tell me what you did.  I would like to add to the list above.

As usual, I encourage all my readers to click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support, and invite you to share on your social media sites.  Your comments are always welcomed too.  Write them in the box below.

“You can’t beat God’s giving, no matter how you try.” – Song written by Doris Akers

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Picture Perfect


How far would you go to obtain a perfect photo?  Would you climb atop a rock, stand under a cascading waterfall, perch on the edge of an over-hang or stand precariously inches away from the edge of a sharp drop in height?  From any one of these choices a fatal fall could be the result.  Then certainly you would have gone too far for the perfect shot.

Recently, I read two separate reports of travelers/hikers who accidentally fell over the edge of a waterfall to their death.  Read of incidences here and here.  On both occasions they were swept away by the strong undertow and drowned.  At this point, it is irrelevant to debate the why’s and how’s of the accidents that caused their early demise.  What I really want to highlight are safety measures that could be practiced when we  travel.

Because I have done it and have also seen others take the risk for a “wow” photo,  it behooves me to underscore the need for safety practices when selecting the location which you might think gives the best view or background.  First, look around and assess the immediate surroundings.  A quick scan can tell you whether it is a good idea to proceed with your photo exercise.  It might not always be necessary or top-of-mind to scope out the surroundings for the perfect picture, nevertheless, in the great outdoors, it is imperative that vacationers take note and exhibit due caution and common sense when choosing the best spot or angle for their photo “snap-of-the-year.”

Grand Canyon_1

Occasionally, on trips one may see a dare-devil sightseer seeking picturesque spots that could be potentially dangerous.  With just a slip of the foot, a strong gust of wind, a misjudged step on loose gravel, losing your balance, suddenly realizing that you don’t like heights, or feeling the first effects of vertigo are all real possibilities to an accident waiting to happen.  Careless decisions and spur-of-the-moment actions like closing your eyes for the pose could lead to unwanted troubles for the tourist, and put in harm’s way those who may attempt to save them.  Always pose for your shot a safe distance away from the edge and keep your eyes open.  

Cebu Philippines_Kawasan FallsAt Kawasan Falls in Cebu, Philippines, for example, I witnessed swimmers constantly daring to venture pass the cordoned-off area just to bob beneath the forceful, pounding cascade, only to be called back to safety by the life-guard’s piercing whistle blow.  Another danger that could prove treacherous is stepping into the murky shallows without a guide.  Extreme caution should be displayed.  A slip on a mossy rock can be your undoing.  The Grand Canyon in Arizona is another place where I’ve seen visitors push the limits to take their best pictures.  Moreover, enough cannot be said concerning safety protocol and precautions.  Many accidents can be avoided if careful consideration and clear warnings are heeded.  In the end it is not worth losing your life or endangering the lives of others for a photo.

Community Peeps and fellow bloggers, what has been your experience on the subject matter?  Have you ever pushed the limit for a picture perfect?  Please share your thoughts.  It  may help to convince someone to be more cautious.  Do you agree?

As usual, click on follow to receive timely updates, click like to show your love and support, share on your social media sites, and comment in the box below.  It is always a pleasure sharing with you.  Thank you for reading.

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Travel Itineraries Celebrates 1st Year


1st Blog AnniversaryIt is amazing how time flies when you are having fun.  A year ago, this month, Travel Itineraries (TI) was created.   Made to talk about travel-related matters with a special emphasis on itinerary planning, TI took shape.  What started out as a fledgling website, supported by thoughtful planning re: leisure travel, budget information, and how-to methods to get the most bang for your buck in your travel experience, TI has morphed into a productive website where clients trust their bespoke itineraries will meet their specific needs.

In addition to the website’s pages, blogging too has become a fun byproduct and my creative favorite action, only if to share experiences, opinions, advice or industry information, and generally to express my point of view.  TI’s presence has gained a following who help to make the website a viable entity.  Without you, it would be less engaging.

Throughout the year of ups and downs, of navigating a steep learning curve on website creation and management, and of making decisions that one way or the other affected the advancement of the site, have brought me to terms on how to best manage the blog-website that works for my community peeps and me.

Here are some things I have learned in the past 12 months of online activity:

  • Write what inspires me.  To thine own-self be true.
  • The only person affected by a missed deadline is me.  Likes and comments will come anyway.
  • Publish once a week but reserve the right to occasionally increase postings if there is pressing information to share.
  • Do not overwhelm my followers with too many postings.
  • Knowledge is power, share it.
  • Own the website, don’t let the website own me.
  • “Like” the work of my competitors, it does not detract from my business’s vision.
  • A positive write-up goes a long way and is better than a negative comment.
  • Be empathetic and generous with my “likes” and “comments.”
  • Fun and enjoyment must be active ingredients in bringing each post to you.

Folks, it has been a wonderful year operating in blogosphere.  Thank you for your interest, and direct support in the forms of your likes, comments and follow.  Everyone is appreciated.  While there is every intention of growing the business and taking the blog-website to the next level, still it would be wonderful to hear directly from you whether a second year is justified and how TI can do it better.

Please express your comments and recommendations for TI in the box below.  As usual, I encourage you to click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support, and share on your social media sites.  It has been great.  Happy first anniversary Travel Itineraries.

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Proof Positive


It is said a picture is worth a thousand words, therefore the long-awaited photos in the slide shows below are going to have to do all the talking for now. With more than 1000+ photos of my Southeast Asia tour (Philippines (Palawan, Cebu, Sagada, Manila), Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Bali) to sift through, it was near impossible not to go back down memory lane, and to choose the ones that would best tell the story.

Admittedly, it was difficult deciding which photos would make the cut, organizing them by occasion, and choosing the right medium to bring them to you.  Let me interject here, in some instances where I am not behind the lens, that photo credits are to be given to Sopiya, Nico, Greg, Danica, Nico, Edgar, Deisy, Clarence and Mary Ann.  I chose slide shows (labeled by location name & year and a last slide show called “Friends”) as the best mode for viewing all the pictures in this post (sorry for my inept media skill, any suggestions on how to do it better are welcomed).  The snapshots are proof positive of my adventures in each place, of my encounters with the natives and the rich cultural heritage they possess, but more importantly, of the friends I have made along the way.  It can be yours too.  Because of the volume of pics, videos will come in a later post.

After viewing all the slides, and you are inspired to travel to the far corners of Southeast Asia wanting a similar experience, I can help you plan the itinerary that’s right for you. Let me reassure you, you won’t make the same mistakes I did (read about my accounts in previous postings).

Now for the promised moment you have been waiting for:

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Community Peeps, et al, again it was simply a pleasure to share this experience with you.  I look forward to receiving your comments and questions.  Thank you for sticking with me throughout this journey.

As usual, my only request is that you choose to do one or more of the following:  select follow to receive timely updates, click like to show your love and support, comment in the box below your thoughts, suggestions, or smiley face, or share with your friends on your social media site.  Thanks for reading.

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Right On The Wrong Side Of Town


Manila is teeming with traffic.  The thriving metropolis in the Luzon Province of the Philippines has every mode of transport imaginable including: jeepneys, motorbikes, rickshaws, horse-drawn carriages, all jostling for the right of way.  However, the colorful jeepneys dominate the streets.  The drivers artfully maneuver in and out of traffic, vying to pick up passengers as they go to their respective destinations.  To travel a short distance, could take double the time due to the overwhelming amount of buses, cars, trucks, etc., on the road on any given day.  To be punctual it is advised to leave hours ahead of the expected arrival time.  As I mentioned in previous publications, there seems to be no respect for road laws especially in the densely populated areas where everyone is competing to get ahead of the other.  The only fiat obeyed is the traffic light, there, everyone stops and goes as directed.

I arrived in Manila safely after a terrifying drive from Sagada.  Inquiries on how to get to the hotel in Quiapo, a bustling commercial district in Quezon City was easy, and like a pro, I quickly boarded the back entrance of the Victor-Cruz jeepney, instructed the driver to stop at my hotel’s address, and sat back to enjoy the ride.  We headed down the wide boulevard, stopping intermittently to let passengers on and off.  When the driver gave the nod alerting me of my arrival, I hesitated for a moment.  I thought there must be a mistake and that he did not understand my initial request, but he insisted it was my stop.  I disembarked looking around in bewilderment.  A few seconds passed when a neatly dressed security guard approached me.  Seeing the puzzled look on my face and obvious travel bags, he ushered me to the entrance of a building which looked hardly like a hotel.  I noticed the hotel’s name on the door but was still skeptical when he told me to ride the elevator to the third floor.  Not wanting to be scammed, kidnapped, or robbed (it’s amazing what goes through your mind when you are suspicious of everyone and everything) I asked again, and he assured me I would enter reception on the third floor.  Strange that a hotel would begin on the third floor versus the lobby entrance of the building but who says it can’t begin at any level.  So, I rode the elevator to the third floor saying my prayers all the way.  Because I am a budget traveler, price sometimes override quality, comfort, location or room amenities.  Bracing myself to experience mediocre service and a lack-luster stay at this establishment ran counter to my low expectations.

Albeit surprised at the twist of location, I can only say good things about the hotel that began on the third floor.  From the moment I stepped off the elevator,  I was greeted by the manager and reception.  Check-in time was not for another six hours so my bags were taken, I was shown to a powder-room where I could freshen up, given a map of the attractions in the area, and a bottle of water.  Even though I was tired and very sleepy, I decided to walk around the neighborhood to pass the time.  On the map was the Intramuros, a must-see lodestone in the vicinity.  A rickshaw ride helped me cover the important points within the 166-acre walled-in city.  The Intramuros is a significant national heritage site and historically important.

On the way to Intramuros and mere steps from the hotel’s entrance, food and vegetable stalls, specialty vendors, sweat shops, and hustlers ply their ware.  Because of my curious nature, I wandered onto the side streets and into a sea of people buying and selling every conceivable thing you can imagine.  The labyrinth of makeshift setups was close and tight-knit as I meandered from street to street inspecting and gazing on things I did not recognize or that were unfamiliar to me until I realized I was lost.  Determined not to overreact or to ask for directions, I kept on walking, all the while, conscious of the curious onlookers who would smile, finger point, stare and sometimes even dare to ask a question.  I bumped, brushed, edged my way along the thronged streets seeking an exit.   I eventually stumbled upon the well-known Quiapo Church overflowing with worshipers, a customary practice every Friday.  It became a distinct landmark, and that day was the way out of the maze for me.  Back at the hotel, I checked into my room which was spacious, comfortable and clean.  Room service was efficient and attentive.  They went the extra mile to give me a daily dose of vitamin C (thanks to Nestor who brought limes along with my breakfast) when I felt ill the last two days of my stay.

As usual, it is my custom to find and fellowship among people of like faith wherever I go, and Manila was no exception.  I located my church, this time riding in an air-con jeepney to get there.  Even though I arrived late, I enjoyed the service and later socialized with a few folks who became fast friends.  They took me under their wing, invited me that same night out to dinner, and from there, itinerary plans were laid to give me a tour of the other side of Manila lest I should walk away thinking that Manila was a completely run-down, dilapidated, poverty-stricken city.

These recently acquired friends jokingly enlightened me to the fact that I was living right on the wrong side of town, in the heart of a non-descript location.  Up until that moment, I had indeed accepted that the city’s infrastructure was derelict, old, ugly and in need of serious repairs.  Thanks to friends:  Mary Ann, Edgar & Resa, Matt & Ellen, Ricky & Lisa for changing that perspective.  They treated me to an excursion (showing off the other side of Manila) I would not have witnessed or experienced where it not for their kindness, hospitality and love of country.  We drove to well-known points-of-interests nearby Quiapo like: Rizal Park, home of the Filipino Performing Arts, the picturesque boardwalk with arresting views of Manila Bay, and SM-Mall of Asia – a sprawling complex of stores and entertainment  galore, the largest of its kind in Asia.  Surrounded by casinos, hotels, million-dollar high-rise condos and affluent neighborhoods, the mall is a major destination for foreigners and locals evident by the huge number of shoppers on a daily basis.  The time spent with my new friends was sweet and relaxing.  We ate, laughed, talked, got to know each other and had an enjoyable day site-seeing in Manila.

Community Peeps, the Southeast Asia exposé was long.  This is the final account.  As I recounted each episode, it was like reliving the moments over again.  The best and most memorable experiences have been those I’ve had interacting with the natives of each country and fellow travelers.  They are priceless.  I have not eaten rice nor plan to for a few more months.  Jet-lag has confused my internal body-clock in that when I should be sleeping I’m awake and vice versa.  Hope you enjoyed the reading and are eagerly expecting to view the photos.  The selection is extensive, but I will do my best to bring you the most interesting ones.

All, thanks for reading this post.  Remember to select follow to receive timely updates, click like to show your love and support, share on your social media page, or comment in the box below.  Did I tell you where I am planning to go next? Take a guess and tell me in the comment section.  I will let you know if you are warm, hot or way out in the Antarctic.

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Great Trip to Sagada, But


I do not have a death wish.

Sagada is best known for its hanging coffins.  It is located in the mountain region of the Luzon Province in the Philippines.  The town is a popular tourist destination for spelunkers, hikers, nature lovers, adventure enthusiasts and inquisitive persons like me.  The community is not very large, but they are welcoming and friendly.

I arrived in the Philippines excited about executing my DIY itinerary to Sagada.  It took 12 hours by overnight coach to arrive at my stop.  As we pulled out of the station, curtains were drawn, and I along with other passengers settled down and prepared to sleep as best I could in my seat.

TIP #1:  If your time is limited and you want to maximize on sightseeing, opt to travel overnight.  Though it may be uncomfortable, you will save one night’s hotel expense and cover the distance to your destination while you sleep.

Through the night we rumbled along.  I awoke to the first signs of daylight and drew back my curtains for a better look.  We had stopped in a small village where the first stirrings of life were evident by the vegetable hawkers and a few sleepy dogs.  Vehicles drive on the right side of the road and as we made our way along I saw many signs that said: Sharp Turn, Check Your Brakes, Slow Down, Steep Incline, Winding Road, etc.  I was captivated by the views I could see in the distance, rice terraces, mountainside, local villages, raging rivers and rapids.

I arrived in Sagada and alighted from the bus to walk a few meters to the town square.  In less than an hour after arrival I arranged with a couple (Sopiya & Matt) to go on our first adventure of the area.  We chose to hike Echo Valley, visit the hanging coffins, trek through the subterranean river and finish at the cascading waterfall.  The ground was wet, muddy, slippery and at times we were knee deep in water.  Our guide clambered deftly over rocks wearing only rubber slippers, but the three of us moved much slower to maneuver over the rocks, slipping and sliding all the way.   The tour took us two and a half hours, double the time to complete.

It is rainy season in the Philippines, and not to waste time, I moved quickly to arrange the tours I wanted to accomplish.  I joined a different group the next day to go spelunking with Danica & Greg, Nico & Kim.  We arranged to visit the Lumiang and Sumaging caves, respectively.  Along the way our guide identified points of interest.  We got to know each other a bit as we went along: where we came from, our professions, and our travel ambitions.  Our first stop, the Lumiang Cave has a few hanging coffins.  This tradition is no longer practiced.  Also, this cave is connected to the Sumaging Cave.  To walk the course would take approximately four and a half hours, but experienced spelunkers do it in less time.   After a photo session there we headed over to the entrance of the Sumaging Cave.  This is where things got real interesting.

We descended the tiny steps into the cave.  Our guide armed with a lantern and feet clad in slippers (slippers are the preferred footwear) advised us to change our sneakers for slippers too.

Tip #2:  When spelunking travel lite.  You will need to use both hands to help hold, pull, grab or steady you along the way.

We were all excited as we followed the leader, but that excitement turned to disgust when we had to hold onto rocks covered in slippery bat poop.  I know bats live in caves and that I would encounter such things, but who thinks of those things when expecting to see wonders they have never seen before?  Trying my best not to touch anything I eventually gave up because the rocks were slippery and refusing to hold on would mean a hard fall (that would come later, :)).  We slowly made our way down, down, down into the cave.  We were shown formations of stalactites and stalagmites that resembled one thing or another such as:  pig sty, elephant trunk & ear, turtle, chocolate cake, king’s curtain, and parts of the human anatomy.

At one time I pondered, “What on earth am I doing in the belly of the earth?”  Trying not to panic or to allow foreboding thoughts to take hold, I focused on scaling slippery rocks, wading through pools of water, and at times sitting down in the cold cascading water flow to better transfer from one level to the next.  At the site where all groups turn around to climb back to the top, a few implements are used for the ascent:  a thick knotted rope and a tire-ladder.  Every step needs to be sure and steady otherwise you will land firmly where yours truly landed with a heavy thud – on your backside.  No injuries were sustained except to my pride.  The two men in the group rushed to assist me (thanks Greg and Nico), to make sure I was alright as we continued our journey to the top.  The climb out of the cave seemed to go faster than when we first went down.  No one commented on the bat poop as we exited, relieved to see the daylight at the mouth of the tunnel, and to wash our hands and feet.  To cap off the experience we ate a hearty, delicious lunch at a local vegan restaurant.

Tip #3:  Wear light clothing and water shoes.  Be prepared to get wet.

Tip #4:  A flashlight would be handy.

Tip #5:  Use sports camera strapped to head or chest for your photos.

Tip #6:  Spelunking is more fun when done in a group.

Tip #7:  Follow the guide closely and obey instructions.  They have done it numerous times and are more experienced.

Tip #8:  Pack wipes for easy clean-up.

Tip #9:  If you must carry items use a water-proof bag.

Two and a half days of exploring and experiencing life in Sagada gave me memories more than I anticipated.  The cool fresh mountain air, the slow laid-back life, the beauty of the valley polka-dotted with rice terraces, rivers, waterfalls and lake presented an idyllic lifestyle that is addictive and one I could easily adjust to.  I truly didn’t want to leave but Manila beckoned.

At the beginning I told you I do not have a death wish.  I was not being facetious.  Such a morbid concept seemed to loom large, consciously or unconscious, at every turn.  First, in the hanging coffins, then a real possibility in the slippery descent and ascent into the cave, and lastly the drive from Sagada.  I recall Greg saying the road to Sagada was considered one of the most dangerous roads in the world.  He was not lying.  I was not fully aware of this fact until my departure.

As the bus drove away from the town, my thoughts were of taking the last photos of spectacular views of the area.  This time we are driving on the other side of the road where I could clearly see the dangers ahead.  Deep ravines, precipices and gorges lay below.  At every turn it seemed to me the bus was about to drive off the edge of the road.  I looked around and most passengers appeared to be doing alright (their window curtains were drawn, probably for good reasons I’m sure).  Two girls, one behind and the other sitting across from me were sick.  I wanted to take photos but could not look and at times felt like vomiting myself.  I prayed, “Lord, this is not how I want to die.”  Seriously, you may laugh, but that ride was terrifying.  It made me wish to be back among the regular traffic jumble I’d observed so far.  To me it would’ve been better than navigating a road where at certain points there were no guardrails or barriers, the barriers that were in place where either not high enough, a thin metal sheet or the height of it not even a foot tall.  Also, in some parts the road was eroding and unpaved.  There is a lot of roadwork going on causing the road to become even narrower.

To tell you of my dread is an understatement.  The driver hardly blew his horn going around the hairpin bends which were plenty.  I sat on the edge of my seat and held onto the seat in front of me for 12 straight hours.  I could not sleep on the way back to Manila.  Even when we got closer to the city, the driving was scary.  When I told the conductor, how scared I was, he laughed and said they are used to it.

The trip to Sagada was great, but I am glad it is over and checked-off my to-do list.  I made new friends, got to see and do cool stuff like: exploring the area, spelunking caves, walking through the subterranean river, meeting and chatting with locals, and eating the local cuisine.  I especially enjoyed drinking their mountain tea.  However, I do not think I will be driving there again.

Tip #10:  My experience may not be yours.  You can’t know what it is like until you have tried it.  Go see it for yourself.

Community Peeps, this has been a long post, and still the half has not been told.  I have more than 1000+ photos to organize and arrange of my Southeast Asia tour for future postings so stay tuned.  Next will be one last post about Manila.  You don’t want to miss that one.

As always, remember to select follow to receive timely updates, click like to show your love and support, share with your friends and family on your social media sites and your comments are always welcomed.  Write them in the box below.  Until next time, I eagerly look forward to hearing from you.  Thanks for reading.

More times,

Itinerary Planner

 

 

Bali, A Dream Come True


The welcome at Denpasar Ngurah Rai International Airport was not what I envisioned.  I had arranged for a transfer to my villa and the swarm of men that greeted me shouting taxi, taxi, was unexpected.  ‘Swarm’ may be a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the picture, too many persons approached me at the same time to persuade me to use their service.  I was determined to find my transfer which in the end turned out to be a no-show.

In my frustration, I left the arrivals hall and decided to take a Grab service – operates like Uber.  I did not know at the time that they were not allowed to operate on the airport premises.  Fortunately for me as I was walking out and inquiring of two young women how to make the Grab connection, just outside the gates a Grab vehicle drove up and dropped off a passenger.  I hailed him and ran to secure the ride.  The Grab was a motorcyclist (they wear green helmets to be easily recognized).  I gave him my address details, he handed me a helmet, I hopped onto the back of his scooter and away we went.

Through the dark streets of Bali we bobbed and weaved among traffic.  It was a long ride on the motorcycle (I haven’t ridden on a motorbike in more years than I can recall), sometimes riding inches away from other vehicles, to close for comfort in my opinion.  The ride was  scary, but there I was holding on for dear life to a total stranger.  It was more than I had bargained for, but desperate situations calls for desperate measures.  The ride took more than 45 minutes to reach the villa.

As we journeyed into the night, I realized the favored form of transportation is the scooter.  At every intersection, they were bundled in large packs ahead of the automobiles.  Many instances I saw four or five persons on a scooter, defying safety regulations on all levels:  no helmets except for the adults, infants carried in the laps or standing precariously perched between adults.  This is their normal, though I think not legal.  Since their transport system is not organized, motorbikes and motorized tricycles are the easiest means to get around.  To make matters worse, there seems to be no road laws that I could understand.  The only law seems to be, and I’m being facetious – you see a space, you decide you can fit into it, then you go.  Somehow it works.  I cannot begin to imagine the road rage frustration or accidents that happens on a daily basis.  The number must be very high.  Driving in Bali is stressful and maybe the number one reason why foreigners are encouraged to hire local private drivers.

Bali is by far the most affordable of all the destinations I have been to so far, but don’t be fooled.  If you are not careful you will spend more than you budgeted.  Prices offered to tourists are often inflated two or three times higher and haggling is the only option to bring it within reason.  Also, tour operator packages are not all they claim to be, for example, I decided to go on a recommended tour to four locations: coffee plantation,  museum, local souvenir market, and to see a cultural performance.  The first disappointment was the coffee plantation.  It did not have fields of coffee trees or the processing plant that I was expecting to see.  The next was the museum.  Though not a connoisseur of Balinese history, arts, culture and artifacts, it was not an interesting prospect.  The saving grace for this tour were the souvenir market and the Kecak cultural performance.

In every location I have met wonderful people who were eager to show me their country and extend their hospitality.  The Balinese were no different.  I spent the day with a special Balinese family (Deisy, Robbie, Brev, Berry, Clarance and Clarience)   who took me to Ubud – a popular tourist destination an hour’s drive from Denpasar.  In Ubud, we visited the sacred Monkey Forest, a sanctuary to over 700+ Balinese longtail monkey species.  The experience of a monkey sitting on my shoulder and then on my head was nerve racking but I endured it.  Onlookers kept asking me if the monkey had a particular smell but surprisingly I did not catch a whiff of any offensive odors.  Several times the mischievous animals tried to snatch my water bottle or cap.  These creatures are smart and entertaining.  Following, we went to the rice terraces of Tegallalang another popular tourist attraction.  After taking many photos of the terraces we headed to Tegenungan Falls.  We descended to the base of the waterfall where many vacationers enjoyed dipping in the cold pounding surf.

Here are my observations of Bali: besides the beautiful beaches (on par with my beautiful Barbados), the rugged countryside is even more beautiful.  Balinese people like rice too.  I ate mostly nasi goreng (fried rice) and lots of fruits which were abundant, but to my understanding are an expensive luxury for the average local.  Again, salads are not a priority at mealtime even though more vegetables are readily available there.  The most I’ve gotten in way of salad with dinner are a couple slices of cucumber and tomatoes.  When making purchases, never accept the first price offered by street vendors, always be prepared to haggle or walk away.  You will be called back to renegotiate a more agreeable price.  Bahasa is the language spoken and the Balinese Rupiah is the currency.  Their are lots of temples and shrines.  Outside of every house, there is a small shrine where daily offerings (food, flowers, herbs, money, etc.) are made to their various god’s for blessings of wealth, success, happiness, safety, etc.  Decorative penjors (bamboo structures) of different sizes overhanged the streets in celebration of their religious custom.

The time spent on this Indonesian island was a dream come true.  In spite of the airport transfer fiasco (a communications breakdown on their end.  Apologies offered and discount given) and baring other elements, the experience was relaxing and enjoyable.  Especially, my villa which was like an oasis in the heart of a busy city, the privately enclosed gardens and comfortable room which I had all to myself was simply wonderful.  The strength of the USD makes it affordable to stay at four and five star hotels here.  Finally, I’ve made new friends who I hope to remain in contact with for a very long time.

Community Peeps, I will sign off here about my stay in Bali.  I hope you are enjoying reading the accounts of my adventures in Southeast Asia.  I am looking forward to heading home in a couple days.  As the saying goes, “All good things must come to an end.”  My next post which may come in two parts will be about my stay in the Philippines: Sagada and Manila respectively, and will be published from the comforts of my home.

Do me a favor and write your comments in the box below, select follow to receive timely updates (also on Twitter), click like to show your love and support, and last but not least, you may share on your social media sites.  Thanks for reading.  Stay tuned.

More times,

Itinerary Planner

 

 

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