Category Archives: Travel

ASEAN Blogger Community

Opening Our Minds: A Chance to Join the ASEAN Blogger Festival 2013

“The youth is the hope of our future.” -Jose Rizal


Filipino hero Andres Bonifacio

Within the past year alone, a lot can already be said about today’s youth. Just from browsing through various social media channels, it is already glaringly obvious how truly powerful this generation’s future bright leaders are.

And one doesn’t have to be the next Jose Rizal, Ramon Magsaysay or Andres Bonifacio.

From leading next year’s fashion staple to sparking new online trends, the youth of today has been at the forefront of—nay, the ones responsible for—society’s current evolution. And it’s a bit heartbreaking how just a small portion of them know and understand what they really are capable of. From the arts to commerce, education to entertainment, fashion to finance, tourism to transport, we have people around the world contributing to the betterment of their community.

As anyone can see, properly harnessing our potential is the key to our success. Time and again, it has been proven that with the right resources and mentors, the young can easily achieve momentous things. Nowadays, the younger generation is blessed with the good mind and health to strive for the great and unimaginable, and it is my great hope that the bloggers at the ASEAN Community 2015 will be able to inspire more people from various countries across the globe. As bloggers, we have the power to influence and mentor the young, molding their minds and opening their eyes to the doors that a more unified ASEAN can open.

There is, after all, great potential for social change.

This is also the main reason why I would like to be a part of this year’s ASEAN Blogger Festival. Contributing to tourism, representing my own beloved country, and learning more about the different cultures as well as various problems our fellow ASEAN brethren face daily in their mother country are very important for me. Growing up as a sheltered little girl from the outskirts of Quezon City, I thirst for adventure and yearn to meet more people from different walks of life. I want to hop from one city to another, cross oceans, make a lot of friends, and just drink in and experience what other people have been lucky (and unlucky) to experience.

The geopolitical and economic bloc we now know as the Asean, are comprised of the beautiful tropical counties Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. As one region, we share and represent a beautiful heritage of past kingdoms and civilizations, droughts, civil unrest and more! With our colorful past, we turn to international events like the ASEAN Blogger Festival 2013 to help us with our future.

And maybe, just maybe, we may be able to touch lives, and let them gain one step closer to becoming the next Jose Rizal, Ramon Magsaysay or Andres Bonifacio. What do you say?

ASEAN Blogger Community



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Cambodians using their most common forms of transportation

Siem Reap: More Than Meets the Eye

I’ve been experiencing problems with ever since I made the mistake of signing up for their blogging services. While I abhor duplicate copies of any kind, I can’t help copying the entire article here (I’m compelled, for archiving purposes). After all the stressful events in my life, I never really expected I’d actually win something at an international event. I’m glad I did, though. :)

“On ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.” (“One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”) Those words keep echoing in my head as I type this article. In Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, a fox uttered those lines to the little prince during his stay here on Earth, and never would I have dreamt of those lines (from a children’s book, no less!) being as powerful, meaningful and relevant as they are right now.

Right now is Midnight, and in Siem Reap, I am writing this article after a long, fruitful day of travel, camaraderie, and knowledge explosion. Meeting people from all walks of life has always been a pleasure for me back in Manila—the place I call home—but seeing another nation’s history inspires me to see the entire world all the more. I traveled 1,891 kilometers and spent almost a month’s worth of salary to attend the third BlogFest.Asia event, and despite all that, I can’t help smiling at the fact that I am now in Cambodia!

Safe Landing
Safe Landing: At the Siem Reap International Airport

About seven years ago, I was a college student who was never really interested in traveling. I was already happy and content with my own little world, rarely ever stepping a foot outside Metro Manila. My life then was pretty monotonous: I only had to go to school in the morning, and be back home by mid-afternoon. I would go places around the Metro from time to time, but it never involved boarding an airplane!

A few years and round trip flights later, I became addicted to traveling. Just thinking about the different people in the world—tiny specks of dust compared to the vastness of the universe—made me thirsty for adventure. Quenching it was the goal, and I was sure it would take a lifetime.

But after just a few days, I’m not so sure anymore. After seeing the curiously familiar yet strange surroundings of Siem Reap, the feelings of contentment (or comfort?) I felt back when I was little came creeping back. Even with the language I don’t understand and the alphabet I can’t decipher, Siem Reap is just as beautiful as any province I’ve been to in the Philippines. I felt right at home, especially upon noticing how welcoming and respectful the locals are.

Cambodians using their most common forms of transportation
Cambodians using their most common forms of transportation.

Everyone is so relaxed, it made me feel at ease right away. For someone used to city living (me), everyday in Siem Reap is like a lazy Sunday where people bike around the block and nobody’s in any hurry to go anywhere. And everyone, regardless of status, is always smiling and eager to help a stranger. In fact, the first person to greet and smile upon me at the airport was a tuktuk driver!

A parked tuktuk
A parked tuktuk

I realized right away that these locals are so used to foreign travelers that they have grown accustomed to the foreigners’ presence everyday. Each square kilometer of the city capital is already full of people from different ethnicities and nationalities. And it was already obvious why hordes of people from different lands visit this quaint city in northwestern Cambodia. Siem Reap is the home to the majestic Angkor Wat, and the great temple is just as magnificent and strangely alluring as it sounds.

After a day in the Angkor Archaelogical Park, I can now say that I have nothing but sincere admiration for Cambodia and its people. Although the temples are mere remnants of kingdoms past, the nation’s love for its history persists, and that kind of love—that nationalism—fills an empty space in my heart and makes me think that my own country can learn a thing or two from the temples.

Within the walls of Angkor Wat

Within the walls of Angkor Wat

At first glance, I mistakenly thought that the temples, especially Angkor Wat, are just parts of the Cambodian heritage—just the way the late president Marcos’s edifices near Manila Bay are. I figured that the temples are simply ancient ruins signifying the awesome power (and megalomania) of those once hailed as kings. That’s it. Oh, how I was dead wrong!

Now I believe that, after seeing how hardworking, respectful and laid-back the people of Siem Reap are, there is something more than the giant edifices in Siem Reap.

 Detailed craftsmanship at Ta Prohm

Detailed craftsmanship at Ta Prohm (aka the Angelina Jolie Temple)

For instance, each block of sandstone used in the construction of the temples tells me that, without really saying anything, there were kings whom everyone respected and admired. There were artisans skilled at turning blocks of rock into spellbinding art. The temples, it seems, symbolize unity and respect among the Khmer, and not just the kings’ ever-reaching power!

I feel that nothing but love and admiration can goad people to build—and to preserve—these gigantic temples. Clearly, love and loyalty are traits the people of Siem Reap must have been known for, even thousands of years ago. And I feel that they should still be known for those traits even today.

I’ve only been here for less than three days, but I have already seen and felt what the fox was teaching the little prince. (It’s like I am the little prince in this instance, and Siem Reap is the little fox!) Indeed, I can see clearly only with the heart, and what is essential is invisible to the eye.
Me at Ta Prohm

Me at Ta Prohm

From the bottom of my heart, I thank Siem Reap for the life lesson and the endless hours of fun.
Trip sponsored by BlogFest

Trip sponsored by BlogFest.Asia 2012

Cambodia Temples

7 Nice Places to Visit in Siem Reap

Cambodia Airport

So after reading my tips here, you decided to what-the-heck visit Cambodia. You’ve got your fanny pack ready, you’ve smeared enough sunblock all over your body to remain white for the rest of your life, and you’ve got wads of cash stuffed in your front pockets (and shoes). You’re ready, I know you are.

Now what?

Why don’t you head over to these places (in proper order, please)?

1. Angkor National Museum My mom and I were lucky enough to get tickets from the guesthouse we were staying for $1 off each, but normally each ticket costs $12. Before you go and try to fully appreciate the Angkor temples, you need to learn the Khmer’s history, and the best way to get a crash course on their unbelievably rich history is to visit their museum. Here you gain insight into their world, learn their religious background, etc.

You can take pictures inside, too, despite the warning sign in the lobby.

Cambodia Angkor National Museum

Cambodia Angkor National Museum

2. Cambodia Landmine Museum This place is a bit depressing, although the $3 entrance ticket is worth it. The place has a relief facility for at-risk local children, and the money they raise allows them to continue disabling landmines and providing education and livelihood for some victims. Here you get to learn Aki Ra’s efforts in successfully removing landmines from different areas in Cambodia. You also get to see how violence change lives.

Landmine Museum

3. Angkor Archaeological Park This is the most important archaelogical find in Cambodian history, and boy is it huge! Locals can get in for free, but tourists are required to pay $20 for a day tour. You’re better off buying their 3-day pass worth $40, especially since you will need several days just to see all the temples in the park. The best temples include the majestic Angkor Wat, the Ta Prohm and the Bayon.

Cambodia Temples

This is Bayon- the temple with the faces.

4. Angkor Butterfly Centre Up for some tropical flowering plants and butterflies? Get in the Angkor Butterfly Center for only $4 per person. Just like Aki Ra’s Landmine Museum, the place is run by a Cambodian NGO that provides livelihood and supports locals.

Cambodia Angkor Butterfly Center

5. Happy Special Pizza If you’re the adventurous type you’ll definitely enjoy hanging out here. The place offers western and local food and beers, and it’s reputed to offer pizza laced with weed! I’m not too sure about that part, but I ordered some pizza and pasta with my mom and everything turned out fine. A medium sized pizza costs $7 – $10 depending on your order. Strangely, the place offers free delivery.
Happy Special Pizza

Cambodia Happy Special Pizza Pasta

6. Sojourn Boutique Villas This place is cool. They offer beautiful villas you can rent for $120 per night, and they offer culinary classes for $22 for a half-day session and $40 for a full day.

Cambodian Cooking Class

My mom and I got to cook Cambodian curry and some crispy dessert.

Cambodia Sojourn Boutique Villas

Sojourn Boutique Villas

7. Tonle Chaktomuk For $5 my mom was able to dine here. I got in for free because of BarCamp Angkor 2013, but that will be in another post. The food is aplenty, inside and outside the buffet restaurant. The Vietnamese food I tasted there was terrific, too!

Tonle Chaktomuk resto is located across the Angkor National Museum, but I suggest you visit this place the day after taking cooking classes.


Cambodia Tonle Chaktomuk

Well, I may have missed a few places, so I promise to update the list once I have my photo album sorted out. What other places would you suggest tourists visit in Cambodia? Let me know in the comments.

At the Angkor Museum, Cambodia

How to Survive in Siem Reap, Cambodia

I’ve got plenty of great and not-so-great memories from traveling to Siem Reap, Cambodia, via Cebu Pacific. One of the great ones include my entry’s unexpected win at the 2012 BlogFest.Asia Writing Competition, but then there was a problem with the flight I booked at their office at Robinson’s Galleria that may have badly affected how I feel about the budget airline.

Regardless of the minor issues I’ve had with CebPac, my views about Cambodia will never change. The country has plenty to offer, from great Indian and Chinese food to beautiful textile.

At the Angkor Museum, Cambodia

For anyone planning on a trip to Cambodia, just remember a few things:

1. Know when to visit Cambodia. Cambodia is always filled with tourists during cool months, usually from December to February. It’s rainy from June to October, and for some reason there are less people in November and during summer, from late February to early June.

I have also found that food, accommodations and even clothes are a bit more expensive during “tourist months”.

2. Bring enough money. Hey, money is always essential. When visiting Cambodia, it is recommended that you allot $30-50 for each day of your stay. The country accepts both US dollars and their local currency, and while a backpacker can easily find a guesthouse for just $12 a night and a filling meal for just $2 a pop, it never hurts to have enough cash on hand in case you want to visit a few places around Siem Reap.

Keep in mind that hawkers and business establishments don’t like dilapidated or torn bills, dollars or riels. Don’t bring in dilapidated bills, and don’t accept them either. I learned that the hard way when a few hawkers refused to accept payment just because I tried to pay with the dilapidated bills I got from a sneaky hawker.

3. Try the local food. This is always a must wherever you are! Be adventurous and open-minded when it comes to local food. Food in Cambodia can be as low as 1000 riels (25 cents) for a quick snack like a spinach dumpling or as high as $7 for a complete meal for one person at a popular restaurant. Don’t know what to expect? Take a look at some of the local fare here.

4. Bring sunblock. Even on cool months like December and February, it’s always better to wear sunblock (and drink water) especially when visiting the Angkor temples. Seriously.

5. Wear appropriate clothing. Respect other people’s beliefs. People showing most of their skin are not allowed to step foot on the temples, so it would be wise to wear appropriate clothing (jeans and a t-shirt are fine!) when taking a tour around the city.

6. Learn their culture and history! This is probably the most important. Visit museums and temples to learn even just a bit about the rich Khmer history, from the kings of the first centuries to the communist revolt in the 70s. It doesn’t hurt to learn a bit about their language, too, like “aw-kun” for “thank you” and “thlai poon muhn” for “how much”. Here are a few places I suggest you visit in Siem Reap.

So there you have the important things to remember when visiting Siem Reap (or hey, any country for that matter). How about you? Do you have anything to add to the list? Let me know in the comments.