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A look back: My ABCs of Travel

February 1, 2012
London bridge

This travel blogger meme has been going on for some time and I’m finally getting my hands out on answering it. I’ve been tagged by brilliant travel bloggers –  Jade & James of and Tom of Waegook Tom.

Here goes my ABCs of Travel:

A: Age you went on your first international trip

My first international trip was to the US when I was 14. It was a 50-day trip jumping from San Francisco then to Houston. After, we headed to New York, Washington DC and Orlando in Florida. A whirlwind trip with the family but I got a good taste of what travel entails.   I got to see snow for the first time (for a Filipino it was MUST) and also travel to ground zero a few months after the September 11 attacks.

B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where:

Belgian beers

Oh man, HANDS DOWN – beers from Belgium! Travelling in Belgium won’t be complete without tasting their world-famous beers. I feel very lucky that I live here now. 😛

And as for beer types, definitely Houblon Chouffe, Delirium Tremens, Duvel and Triple Westmalle tops my list.

C: Cuisine (favorite):

Vietnamese cuisine. I spent most of my days in Ho Chi Minh enjoying Vietnamese street food. Who would have thought that you’ll find baguettes in Southeast Asia? They manage to achieve a fusion of Asian & Western delicacies.  I will go back there simply for the food!

D: Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why:

Favourite: Amsterdam. The city has a great vibe, interesting history and active nightlife. And of course, the canals and architecture are beautiful. I’ve been there five times and don’t mind coming back again!

Least Favourite: I have to say Paris. The city has interesting places and attractions but it’s too touristic and chaotic for me. And it’s also too expensive for my taste. The city never really captured me that some other were. L

E: Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”:

Rock Werchter 2009

Music festivals in Europe particularly my first one – Rock Werchter in 2009. I didn’t expect that I’ll get to see Coldplay, The Killers, Bloc Party and Jason Mraz in one night! In Asia, it’s rare for a foreign band to visit so seeing three of your favourite bands in one night was a shocker.

F: Favorite mode of transportation:

Trains – comfortable, cheap and convenient. 

G: Greatest feeling while traveling:

The feeling that you are now on a place that before you only see on postcards, television or in movies. It’s the thought that you are really in this place always stands out.

H: Hottest place you’ve traveled to:

Morocco. It was the beginning of summer when I went there in 2009. I remember carrying a litre of water everytime we had to go out. And there are no beers around and that didn’t help out relieving our cool feeling. 😉 Good thing there were orange juices everywhere to keep us feeling sweet and hydrated.

Jus d'Orange in Marrakech

I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where:

Happy Guest house

From Happy Guest House in Siem Reap, Cambodia.  The family managing the place was really friendly and takes care of their guests as if we are part of the family. The best bonus was we got to stay and got free airport pick-up,  bicycle rentals, wifi, towels and bottled water – all for 3 USD a night!

 J: Journey that took the longest:

Aside from 20 hours trans-continental flights, the longest and also the most painful journey I did was with a bus ride from Berlin to Brussels. It was supposed to be an 8-hour trip but turned into 23 hours because of the heavy snow! The bus ride was very uncomfortable  –  Toilets were clogged, chairs were small and the driver hardly stopped for toilet or eating breaks. Never going to do that again!

 K: Keepsake from your travels:

I collect t-shirts from different countries particularly those with bizarre prints on it. One of my favourite shirt was the one I got in Prague saying “Czech me out!” – it’s a bit touristy, but I like it. 🙂

 L: Let-down sight, why and where:

Atomium in Brussels, Belgium. We had to pay 13€ to go inside, but apart from cool escalators – it really has nothing to offer. The view from the top was quite disappointing.

M: Moment where you fell in love with travel:

When I first moved into Belgium, I fell in love with travelling and living abroad. I didn’t imagine that I’ll be able to make really good friends with people from almost all corners of the world. It made me proud of who I am and also made me realise that there’s a world out there waiting to be explored.

 N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in:

Marriott Hotel in Champs-Elysees in Paris. I didn’t pay for it, thank God, but the idea that we stayed right in the main street of Paris was pretty convenient and fancy.

 O: Obsession—what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?:

Jumping photo in Tower Bridge, London

Jumping photos – I have loads of photos everywhere. I can create a big folder from my travel photos with simply jumping photos.

P: Passport stamps, how many and from where?

I’m not counting but I know that I’m now almost halfway through my passport.

Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where:

Cu Chi tunnels in Vietnam. You get to be inducted to the Viet Kong idealogy, show you some deadly traps,  drag you under the tunnels, hike through the jungle then finally give you an option to fire a rifle! It’s one of the most unique experiences I had on my travels.

 R: Recommended sight, event or experience:

Angkor Wat - Siem Reap

Angkor Wat. It’s hard to imagine that it was once a thriving civilisation – but it’s grandeur was simply breathtaking. It’s a nice reminder that you only live once and it’s up to yourself have to take the most out of it.

S: Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling:

Experiences , whether it’s shooting rifles, swimming with whale sharks, crossing ziplines etc – it’s those experiences that you’ll  remember on your travels. So I don’t care if I had to eat street food all the time or fly low cost, as long as I know that in exchange  I’ll get a rewarding experience, it’s fine!

T: Touristy thing you’ve done:

Climbing up the Eiffel Tower. We queued for 2 hours to start with, then queued some more to go up the tower peak. Ended up losing a day just on that. Hahahaha.

U: Unforgettable travel memory:

There are two:

First, when I went swimming with the whale sharks in Donsol, the Philippines. The opportunity to see wild life up close (and not just any wildlife but bus size fishes!) was both a memorable and humbling experience.

Second, was my trip to Morocco. We were on a cross-country trip from Marrakech to Tangier. It was only for a week but we got to see breathtaking sights like Dades Gorge, Sahara desert and the medinas of Marrakech and Fes. It was my first “backpacker” trip as well – complete with sleeping in airports, haggling for prices and being tricked into buying a damn carpet (my friend, not me)

Camel head in Morocco

V: Visas, how many and for where

I had three – US visa, UK visa and my current and very precious Schengen working visa. On the latter, it took me almost one and a half years to get! (no joke)

W: Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where?

I’m not really a wine person so I can’t really name anything in particular. 😉

 X: eXcellent view and from where?:

El Nido – the town is right smack in front of limestone cliffs. A world wonder no doubt.

Y: Years spent traveling?

I started living in Belgium when I was 21 – so I’d say three years. 🙂

Z: Zealous sports fans and where?

Not really a big sports person, but I’m a supporter of the Holland National Football team and also of tennis’ Novak Djokovic.

I tag:

Tom from Active Backpacker

Neil from Backpacks and Bunkbeds

Cole & Adela from Around the World in Four Jandals

Roy from the Riding Dutchman

Euan and Rachel from Our Wee Trip


Travel Blog

Travel Blogger Feature: Jade and James – Our Oyster

January 30, 2012

This Monday’s Newcomer Interview is with Jade & James of Our Oyster. Their travels are inspiring as they often look for the best experiences while keeping the budget and their environmental footprint in control. They have great resources on budget travel all over the world, and with your truly doing a contribution about Budget Travel in the Philippines.

Here’s my short interview with Jade and James of Our Oyster

Jade & James - Our Oyster

Name – Jade Johnston and James Cook
Where are you from? – Jade is from Canada and James is from England
Twitter Handle: @our_oyster
Facebook Page:

Can you tell us a bit about yourself ?

Jade is 25 and has so far been to over 30 countries during her last five years as a traveller. James is 23 and has travelled the world since he was 16, when he joined the merchant navy – although in some countries he has only seen the ports. We met while both travelling through New Zealand and ended up living in New Zealand together for one year before recently moving to Australia.

Why did you decide to start a travel blog? 

We both has separate blogs before we met each other, and we didn’t really think to combine our efforts until James ran out of space for photos on his free hosting account. Once we started blogging we quickly became addicted to it.

What’s the most challenging part of being a travel blogger?

Travel blogging is the biggest killer of free time. If I’m not actively working on the blog, I am thinking about it. One of the most challenging things is figuring out all the technical aspects of blogging, and of course, the biggest time killer is social marketing. I think we actually spend the least amount of time on the actual article writing!

Jade & James - Our Oyster

Can you tell us about your first travel experience?

Jade’s first travel experience outside of Canada was to the Dominican Republic when she was 17. She went there over Christmas holidays with a Dominican friend from one of her Uni classes. It was your typical relaxed, beach side type of holiday.

James’ first travel experience was in Portugal when he was 4. It was the first family vacation away and they celebrated by letting James eat loads of ice cream. He consequently threw up all over the waiter. Things haven’t changed much since then….. (with the eating of lots of ice cream I mean…!)

What’s your favourite destination and why?

Jade’s favourite destination is more of a region. She loves travelling in Eastern Europe. The people are so friendly and the food is incredible! Spain is another of her favourites, its just a really chilled out place to visit with lots of great art and culture.

James’ favourite destination is Zimbabwe and Africa in general. He loves all the wildlife that can be spotted, and the friendly and open people.

 If you can travel with a real or fictional character, who will you travel with and why?

Jade picked Phileas Fogg from Around the World in 80 Days, because despite all the obstacles put in his path he never got upset or phased and always found a way around them (unlike Jade you gets stressed), and he was rich… haha!

James was going to pick Phileas Fogg as well (as we both just read the book and he came to mind) but then decided that he travels far to fast (Around the world in 80 days that would be far to hectic!), instead James would like to travel around with Diana princess of Wales. She was big in volunteering and an inspiration to many people!

 What’s your favourite travel quote (from a book, film, TV show etc)?Jade & James - Our Oyster

James like Bilbos quote of “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door. You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to”

Jades is “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness” by Mark Twain.

If you have one flight ticket to go anywhere in the world tomorrow, where will you go?

For Jade it’s Mongolia! She wants to get there before the nomadic culture disappears. For James it’s Antarctica… although I think that might be more of a boat ticket than a plane ticket.

What is the strangest thing you have eaten, drank or experienced on your travels?

One of the strangest things that Jade has experienced was a parade in Malaysia where the people participating had large metal poles piercing through their lips and cheeks, and one was even pulling a cart by hooks in his back. The strangest thing that James has eaten was a meat pie … but the meat was possum meat.

Advice to fellow newbie travel bloggers 

Don’t give up! It takes a lot of work, and a lot of time to be successful, and you need to be prepared for that. Also, don’t forget to get as involved as possible in the travel blogging community.

Jade & James - Our Oyster

“Jade Johnston and James cook are travel writers and can be found writing at their website for budget travellers and long term travellers. “

All photos in this post are Jade and James’ property but are hosted on this blog’s flickr count. All rights remain with James & Jade.

Do you want to be interviewed on our next session of Talk with a Travel Newcomer? The only requirement of course is that you have to be a newbie travel blogger.  Contact me  if you’d like to be featured!

Travel Blog

Travel Blogger Feature: Beverley – Pack your Passport

January 24, 2012
Beverley - Pack your Passport

Glad to start-off my newbie travel blogger interviews again. 🙂

I’m happy to start of course with the sweet Beverley of Pack your Passport! Her travels began when she took her first plane ride to Australia in 2010! We met through #TTOT and exchanged a lot of travel answers and since then I’ve followed her stories as an expat in Australia.

Here’s my chat with Beverley of Pack your Passport.

Beverley from Pack your Passport

Name:  Beverley from Pack Your Passport
Where are you from? I’m from a very small town called Stamford in England. No-one knows where it is…..I probably wouldn’t recommend going there……!
Twitter Handle:

Can you tell us a bit about yourself ?

I’m a 20-something travel junkie and marketing graduate travelling the world and writing about it!  I’m travelling with my boyfriend and we’ve been in Australia for 18 months but we’ll also be heading to New Zealand and Asia too in the next 6 – 18 months.Beverley from Pack your Passport

Why did you decide to start a travel blog?

I started my travel blog out of a genuine love for both writing and travel – it’s my little outlet for all the ups and downs of my travels so far but I also hope that it inspires others to travel too.

What’s the most challenging part of being a travel blogger?

The most challenging part is finding the time to publish new posts when you’re actually travelling!  Writing the posts isn’t the problem (I use the Notes app on my iPhone to draft out posts wherever I am!) but actually getting them out there is the problem!

Can you tell us about your first travel experience?

I didn’t properly experience what it felt like to travel properly (ie. not a holiday with the parents) until I came to Australia in June 2010.  It was a big step into the unknown, having never flown or travelled further than France before, but I honestly believe that it’s the best decision I ever made.

What’s your favourite destination and why?

Well I still have so much more of the world to see, but so far my favourite destination is Sydney purely because, as the first destination I arrived in, it will always be a special place to me.

If you can travel with a real or fictional character, who will you travel with and why?

Can I be really geeky and say that I’d like to travel with Dallas Green (google it!) so that I could constantly listen to his music LIVE!Beverley from Pack your Passport

What’s your favourite travel quote (from a book, film, TV show etc)?

I visited a cafe in Kings Cross (Sydney) once and on the wall was a quote by Henry David Thoreau: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined” and that really spoke to me.

If you have one flight ticket to go anywhere in the world tomorrow, where will you go?

Go back to England to visit my family because I know I’m not going to see them for a long time

What is the strangest thing you have eaten, drank or experienced on your travels?

The strangest thing I’ve eaten on my travels so far was octopus which, just in case you’re wondering, takes like one of those rubber bath mats with the suckers on the bottom: gross!

Strangest thing I’ve experienced?  A man clipping his toe nails on the tram in Melbourne: disgusting!

Advice to fellow newbie travel bloggers

I’m still a newbie travel blogger myself but my one piece of advice would be to be yourself!


Get to know more about Beverley from her blog –

Beverley from Pack your Passport

“Pack Your Passport is the hopefully-inspiring, sometimes-hilarious, always-honest adventures of a 20-something English girl travelling the world and writing about it: Australia, New Zealand, Asia and beyond!”


Do you want to be interviewed on our next session of Talk with a Travel Newcomer? The only requirement of course is that you have to be a newbie travel blogger.  Contact me if you’d like to be featured!

Travel Blog

Confessions of a newbie travel blogger

October 12, 2011
Balloon festival

It”s been six months since I started this travel blog and I realised that this is a tough gig to crack.

For the most part, I”m enjoying the experience.  But as with any endeavours, I developed a  love-hate relationship from making this travel blogging work.

I”m not saying goodbye to travel blogging. I am not keen on doing that. But rather, I would like to tell a few experiences I”ve realised from a few months of being part of the community. Here are a few things that have made this whirlwind experience both challenging but most of the time, inspiring.

  • Travel blogging is, at most, a one-person show

It’s not easy to work and manage a travel blog. You work from start to finish – from buying the domain, doing the design work and fixing technical issues, writing blog posts to scheduling tweets and managing social media channels. It has become a juggling task, that  has taken most of my free time.  Building a blog from scratch requires a steep learning curve,and in order to get your head on the game – you need to have both discipline and patience.

It”s been difficult to keep up and you can see it with the ireggular number of posts I do per week. This is not what I want and I”m trying my best to put it back into a good rhythm – but mind you that it”s not an easy task to do to make sure that you have fresh & interesting content available.

But despite that most of the tasks belong to me,  I have friends helping me out with 25travels – proofreading, writing posts and giving editorial advice – I couldn’t do it without them.

  • Success doesn”t come easy

From a travel blogging context , it means that building your name online won’t happen in days, weeks or even months.  This is an accepted fact. But keeping the momentum going to write and improve your blog, without any return on investment, is sometimes discouraging.

  • Every new visit, follower or fan counts.

Checking my analytics has become a daily obsession. I check fanatically my blog”s search keywords, visits, page views, time spent  and comparing it with the previous months hoping that it’s going to be better. But that single increase on my page views is enough to put a smile on my face.

I watch the numbers closely and with every milestone – my first 100 twitter followers, my first blog comment, my first 25 fans on Facebook –  comes as a challenge to work hard and invest more time.

  • Comment Lover

Once you write and upload your post, then you wait on how your readers respond. How will your post fare to the reading public? Will they gate it and love it?

For me, comments are big metrics to see how popular your posts are. Also, if someone re-tweets your post – you are happy. If someone famous (more on #4) re-tweets it, then you start jumping out of your seat. 🙂

It bothers me when a post doesn’t get any comments or feedback.  If I don’t get comments on a post then I assume that there must be something wrong with it. Was my post boring,  uninspiring or just plain unreadable?

  • I get excited when talking to travel blogging celebrity

My first days as a travel blogger was like going to a new school. I am the new kid joining a pool of people who have been in that community for years.They, the popular travel bloggers,  have mastered the art of travel blogging and amassed a huge amount of followers, fans and comments on their every posts.

As a new kid, I get excited every time a travelblogger celebrity reply to my tweets, RT my blog posts or comment on my blog. I can’t help to get star struck. So if you are one and you are reading this, please do say hello and comment back – that will surely bring smile to my face.

  • Travel community is a great bunch

Being a part of a travel community like #TTOT, have given good traction for my blog and a supportive hand in improving it. New & fulltime bloggers work hand in hand in making everyone new feel welcome.

The community allowed to meet people who appreciate and value travel like I do. I’m continuing to learn about places I’ve never heard off , food that I never knew existed and experiences that is now on my ever growing bucket list. Through this community, I also got inspired to work towards doing an #rtw trip soon.

And I’ll also like to extend my thanks to the great people I met in the journey particularly beforeiam35, amzkiz, packsandbucks, hyperren, shivya, fourjandals, 2girls1journey, pckyourpassport, toniwonitravels, our_oyster, a6packofstories, confusedjulia, budgetplaces, AE_carhire.

  •  Small words can have an impact

I talked about success in the context of building a name online. And I”m far from achieving that form of success. But what is the measure of success anyway?

My biggest realisation in doing this blog is that through telling stories about my goal and adventures, I can impact the way you, my readers, think about travel.

This keeps me going,  knowing that through my work, I  manage to influence another person”s travel decisions – even if it’s just a simple hostel recommendation or to begin their own travel goal.

I remember that the reason why I started blogging was I was inspired by other bloggers to start my own.  And now that I am actually doing it, it’s been rewarding to see emails & comments pouring in. That validates me as a travel blogger, even if it”s only in a small way. It’s only a handful of emails since I started – but all those emails, tweets and posts, inspire me to continue this work.

Travel Blog

My Seven Links: 25Travels So Far

July 31, 2011
My Seven Links- Brussels

Starting My 7 links post was difficult as I don’t have much material to begin with. It’s been only a few months since I started theblog and with only 13 posts to date, there’s not much material to work on.

I’m not new to blogging and I’ve been writing my thoughts since 2005. But I’ve had moved from one blog platform to another, hoping it will bring the writing sparks back and 25travels was my latest – and my blog solely for travel.  I’ve written a few travel posts in between for my family and friends to read.  But for the purpose of this exercise, I’ll try to keep it within my 25travels posts.

Thanks to Ren of So Not Lost for the nomination.  🙂

My most beautiful post
My 10 Favourite Places in Brussels, Belgium

Grand Place, Brussels

I originally wrote this post for the Matador Network. However, I sent it haphazardly then forgot to proofread and it was eventually rejected (that’s why bloggers, it’s key that you proofread). I’ve since rewritten this piece and decided to upload it here instead.

I lived in Brussels for two years and it goes without saying that I miss the city and my friends there a lot. Writing this post brought back memories  from my time there. Brussels became my second home, and writing about a place where a part of you remains needs some thought and lots of crafting, that’s why I consider this as my most beautiful post.  I’ve put much thought in order to reflect my feelings for the city and the experiences I’ve had there,  hoping that people who haven’t been to Brussels will have the same feeling as I had.

My most popular post
Final Four: finishing my 25travels goal

Sahara desert Morocco, 25travels

My most popular to date is my recent post on countries to visit for  my 25-country goal. I’ve gotten my best amount of page views and social media sharing from this entry. At the same time, comments and suggestions from travel bloggers had made it useful for my upcoming trips. Now, I definitely am excited to boost my travels again!  Their advice will definitely help and I’m excited to pack and get myself back on the road again.

My most controversial post
25-country travel: Why That Travel Goal?

Bullfight in Madrid, Spain

The almost empty comment box on this post might not say anything about being my most controversial, but I do get lots of questions and emails about my travel goal of visiting 25 countries before I turn 25. Mainly, words of encouragement and well-wishes for my future travels. But I do get an occasional response that I shouldn’t ‘rush’ travel and force myself to visit countries for the sake of finishing my goals this year.  I’ve also received a feedback that  I don’t need to ‘count’ the countries and in order to ‘travel’ I should go beyond staying a few days in one city.

I do agree to some extent that travel should go beyond just a city visit and I would love to do so if money and time permit.

We all have our travel styles and unfortunately, long term travel isn’t for me yet. Some people dictate that there’s only way of properly travelling which is to immerse yourself through long-term backpacking. But unfortunately, not everyone has that privilege and capacity to do so. I want to do it DEFINITELY, but I can’t at this stage. And despite only being in Spain or in Austria for a weekend – that experience had inspired me to look into the world with a different perspective.

By starting this blog, setting this goal and working towards starting my travels, I’m hoping to inspire other people so see other ways of travelling. In the end, we are all travellers. Whether you have a full-time job, still in university, or a person short of money and time, nothing is stopping you from travelling and seeing the world beyond the confines of our four-walled homes. In the end, we all enjoy and reap the benefits of travelling – having an open mind and understanding that there is a world beyond our small piece of lot.

My most helpful post
How to: Travel by public transport from Manila to Clark airport


Philippine passport

This post comes from a horrible experience of having to go to Clark Airport ( Manila’s budget airport) early in the morning.  A normal route that can be done with a  2-hour drive took me more than 5 hours by public transport (includes waiting time, missing buses and haggling for the ‘better option’). Bus schedules are unreliable so I had to wait for an hour before it left. Shuttles run when they are already full of passengers, which at 5 in the morning is virtually impossible. I’ve extracted this post from my own demise and translated my frustrations into a short and easy to follow guide for those venturing out in the same way.

I’ve shared this post with many friends and travellers who will be doing this impractical journey to the airport from Manila and have gotten great feedback.

A post whose success surprised me
Two sides of the Cu Chi tunnels tour


Tank in Cu Chi

I wasn’t expecting that this post will be my one of the most popular but if we based popularity on numbers, then this was it. It got a good number of page views and clicks from external sources. It even got re-tweeted by Melvin from traveldudes.  But I’m not really sure what made it popular in the first place.  It’s a post I can describe as candid, it’s merely a telling of a story about the irony of the Cu Chi daytrip tour starting with a visit to Cao Dai temple and end up with shooting rifles in Cu Chi.  I guess there’s love online for a combination of church and guns.

A post I feel didn’t get the attention it deserved
El Nido: Our 48 hours in paradise


Bacuit Bay in El Nido

El Nido is paradise and  is my favourite place in the entire Philippines. El Nido is how I pictured it, pristine and almost secluded white beaches alongside grey limestone cliffs. I have all praises as well for the town’s atmosphere, food and local people and I can’t wait to come back there soon. It’s the perfect place for those seeking an island retreat or vagabond beachbum lifestyle. But I think the post was shabbily written and somewhat didn’t capture my emotions towards the place.  That’s the reason why I think it didn’t get the attention it deserved.  My writing had also become rustic these days and through this blog, I can hopefully bring back my passion and attention to content. But don’t let this mediocre post stop you from visiting it, go and go now. 🙂

The post that I am  most proud of
23 best travel moments at 23 years old

Riding a zipline in Loboc, Bohol

I’m proud of this post simply because of the travel experiences I’ve encountered over the past year. Looking back, it’s a good summary of what a great year filled with new  places I’ve seen and people I’ve met.  The fact that I’ve seen Angkor Wat, rode a zipline and experienced a great World Cup finals (even if the Dutch lost) – is something that I’m proud of. The world is beautiful and I’m happy that I’ve got to experience a lot during the year. Hope to continue this crazy adventure this year and the next!

Here are my five nominations:

Ally from The Further, The Better

Neil from Backpacks and Bunkbeds

Mica from Senyorita

Jade & James from The World is Our Oyster

Tina  from Tightrope traveler

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