Friday, September 28, 2012

Taiwan: An Underrated Destination

I have to admit. I wouldn't go to Taiwan had my sister isn't working there. Rarely do I hear people talk about Taiwan. For me and for some of us I guess, Taiwan is just another Chinese country. But my notion was totally absurd.

It was 6PM of January 23, 2012 when I and my twin sister were driven off to NAIA Terminal 3 for a 10PM flight en route to Taoyuan. Without so much expectations about our destination we boarded and off the plane flew.

After a little more than an hour flight, we arrived Taoyuan International Airport. Passports stamped then headed towards arrival area. With pretty much excitement to see our sister who by the way was staying there for 5 months at the time of our visit, we patiently waited for her coming to pick us up.

Came ate along with food for us. We went out of the terminal. First impression - it was so cold. Our bodies were chilling. Thanks to ate's ardent reminders to bring thick clothes with us we got proper attire to combat the cold temperature.

On our way to hotel in Shilin, I noticed that the houses were lego-like. They were cute! Some parts were also occupied by rice fields and vegetable farms. Pretty much because Taiwan is one of the main exporters of rice in the world.

In Taiwan, we got to experience a lot of things without compromising our budget. The attractions we got to visit are as follows:

Mao Kong Gondola
Mao Kong Gondola is like that of Hong Kong's Ngong Ping 360. The differences? Price and length of traversal. For only 100 NT Dollars you could ride a crystal gondola with great sceneries down there. During the time of our ride it was foggy with ambient temperature of 3 degrees Celcius. Hence, we can't see most of the landscapes vastness but still we enjoyed this ride a lot.

Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Square
Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Square is just less than five-minute walk from the MRT terminal. The area is huge and truly a wonder. You should not miss this if you happen to be in Taipei.

Taipei 101
Of course, who do not know about Taipei 101? It was number 1 on my to-visit list in Taiwan. This portion of Taipei is just so modern and clean.

Overlooking Maokong landscape

Taiwanese go to Maokong for a tea aside from relaxation. There are so many tea houses here. We did not try any for none of us were hot tea sucker. From the Maokong MRT station we walked to find th e temples but found ourselves complaining about our aching legs. haha! So we decided to stop our hunt for the temples and headed back at the Maokong train station.

Walking up to the temples of Maokong
Taiwan is also a haven of good food. Coco is the most popular nai cha or milk tea in Taiwan. My sister was so into it. My twin sister and I tried it ourselves but we still prefer the taste of coffee with cream. haha!

Coco Milk Tea

Mos Burger is a must try. I don't think we have one here in the Philippines. Their rice burger is so delicious! 

It was in Taiwan that I got to taste Cold Stone ice cream. One of the best ice creams ever produced.

Taipei 101 Food Center. They offer variety of food selections of different cuisines. They also give complimentary tea. We tried Jasmine tea. I liked it but sisters did not. 

Taiwan people friendly and willing to help you out with directions in any way they can. The vendor in one of the markets gamely posed for a picture with us. And in here I noticed that they would use the peace sign whenever they are photographed.

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The peace sign in the Taiwanese means they are happy.

My Taiwan trip was one of the memorable ones I had in my head. I dad so much fun and had the opportunity to bond with my sisters. Too bad my brother was able to join us. Maybe next time, we could have another bonding abroad - complete.

To all travelistas I reckon that Taiwan is a must do. With its great places, friendly people and cheap food, I will definitely come back to this underrated country. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

101 Things I Certainly Enjoyed: No. 9 - Celebrating My 27th Birthday in Pearl Farm Resort

I had been wondering how was it like celebrating my birthday out of your base yet still your dearest ones are with you. And then came the opportunity to bring the whole family to Davao last December 13 to 15 of 2011. Thanks to Cebu Pacific's promo fares. I considered that as their advance gift to me.

After staying for a night in a hotel in Davao, we headed the next day to Marina Bay Port for our transfer to a much coveted stay in one of the famous resorts in Samal Island - Pearl Farm Resort.

The views are scenic and the beach though sands are artificial was the main attraction. Not to mention the buffet lunch included in the package. See photos.

Truly, my 27th birthday last year was memorable because it was spent with lifetime memories shared together by loved ones in a tranquil paradise of Pearl Farm Resort. 

My Inang Yaya Is A Balikbayan

Last August 2011 my inang yaya was able to visit her home town Culaba, Biliran with me for the first time in 23 years. I was with her 23 years ago when she last visited the place. I was just 3 years old then but my memories of the place, people and events are still vivid. One memorable incident was when I fell off the bed in the middle of my sleep! :))

It was I think on February 2011 when I booked our flight to Tacloban. Thanks to Cebu Pacific's Piso fare! Would you believe that our return ticket (MNL-Tacloban-MNL) was only 534 Pesos? Yes! And that's for 2 already.

She was so happy when I informed her of our scheduled flight. She was longing to visit her relatives there for a long time. Another reason of our visit and probably the main one was her late registration of birth to her municipality. Since she was turning 60 then, I want her to travel and tag along with me in some of my trips abroad. Thus, a passport is necessary. First step to getting one is an NSO-certified birth certificate. Having said that, we were really obliged to come to the town where she was born (for live birth late registration).

Came August 10, 2011 we headed to NAIA Terminal 3 for an early flight enroute to Tacloban. We arrived Tacloban at around 7AM and headed to the terminal going to Biliran.

The trip to Biliran from Tacloban would eat 5 hours of your time. Not to mention that transportation service to her home town has schedules. We weren't informed that the earliest trip was 10AM. We were at the terminal before 8AM. Patiently, we waited. We left the terminal past 10AM.

During our trip, we witnessed the great views of nature. There were lots of coconut trees. Not to mention the 2 gory dead men we saw along the way. May they rest in peace.

We arrived at her home town at around 3PM. We headed to her cousin's house and waited until she arrived from her teaching job. As soon as she came and freshened up, she toured us around. The first stop was inang yaya's elementary school. I must say that there were pretty much renovations and changes occurred since our last vist. Talking about 23 years!!!!

Culaba Elementary School: where Inang yaya attended and finished her primary schooling. 

Not too distant from the school was the location of Culaba Municipal Hall. This was where she filed her late registration form.

Staircase of Culaba Municipal Hall

NSO Local official getting info and verifying inang yaya's requirements

Inang yaya was filling up the application form

Weeee! It's finally signed. Ready for transmittal to NSO Main.

After our main mission was accomplished, we thought that it was time to meet the rest of her relatives. Off we went straight to Odette's house where fortunately one of her cousins was celebrating her birthday. It was normal for them to drink tuba almost everyday. That's their local beer. And as expected, tuba was present during the celebration.

Inang yaya with her relatives.

Come following day we went back to Tacloban and stayed at one of her cousin's house. Took a short nap and headed to the airport for Manila-bound flight.

It was too short a trip. As mentioned, sole purpose was to register her in her hometown for her passport. Last May 2012, she was booked for a retun flight to Tacloban to attend her relative's wedding. Unfortunately, her doctor and I did not allow her to travel for she suffered from mild stroke last February 2012.

As of this writing, my Inang Yaya is scheduled for a passport application. next week Weeee! We are both going to Singapore on September 1, 2012. My dream of bringing her abroad is not so distant anymore. It gets nearer and nearer.

My family couldn't get any luckier for having such loyal of a yaya like her. No. She is not just my yaya. She is my nanay. She is my Inang Yaya. I feel that what i do for her right now is not enough to be of equal to what she has done for my family most specially for me.

My inang yaya will be a balikbayan again. Right after we come back from Singapore.