Scenes from Bali

The chartered car from Denpasar took me on an hour and a half ride to Ubud. Closing in, we passed by strings of shops, restaurants, yoga studios and t-shirt places. Streets were getting filled with travelers and locals out for a late lunch or on their way back to their hotels or homes. A beautiful temple on the left, a charming gilded shrine on the right, and a few more in the next 500 meters.

The car pulled over on the side of the road, just right across the central market and Ubud Palace. I slid out of the car and the scent of incense from the nearby fountain shrine did it for me. I’ve arrived in my spirit town.

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My first hello world

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I started traveling – at least my earliest recollection of getting from point A to point B – when I was around 7 to 9 years old. My mom’s family was originally from Mindoro, an island province off the southwestern coast of mainland Luzon. During summer and when school’s out, the family, with my aunts and uncles and cousins would spend a good week or two in Mindoro.

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White obsessed about it

Unmissable on the beach front of Diniwid beach was this all-white apartment. I loved the minimalism, the ceiling-to-floor glass doors and windows, the white flowy curtains, the bamboo balcony – all that and being away from the famed Boracay crowd but still just few steps away from the shore and the sea salt breeze. Add a good book and a mug of coffee and you have exactly all that you need.

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The English-speaking kids at Diniwid

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Outside the Microtel Hotel in the secluded beach of Diniwid, I met two kids who were likely skipping siesta and enjoying themselves in the swing. They were both super friendly, especially the boy, who speaks English. He asked me to push him on a swing really hard. And I did. He said his father’s Italian. His father owns, he said, a local Italian restaurant in Boracay. He talked a lot.

I met his mom that night beside the pool and she confirmed everything the little boy said. He was really madaldal, she said. She invited me to their restaurant but had to say no because I was flying back to Manila the next day.

A treehouse overlooking Taal Lake

When you say Taal, people almost equate it to Tagaytay. That’s why it was a surprise to find the other side of Taal quite literally when we found this cool treehouse on Airbnb. The treehouse was in Kapusod Lake Conservation area in Mataasnakahoy, Batangas, opposite the hills of Tagaytay if you cross the lake. The location featured one of most gorgeous and longest running sunsets we’ve seen.

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Side trip to a mangrove forest

On a solo trip to Kalibo in June, while en route to the island of Boracay, I took a side trip to Bakhawan Ecopark, a massive and tranquil 220-hectare mangrove forest.

You’ll navigate through the forest via a 1.3-kilometer bamboo boardwalk intersecting with turquoise riverbeds and narrow streams, and finally ends at the mouth of the Aklan River. There was barely anyone when I was there and it was one of my most relaxing nature stroll ever.

Midway, I ran across a small family on their way to the market after a quick harvest at a riverbank.

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