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I am a solo traveler in my recent travel adventure to San Francisco, California. Prior to leaving Manila, I tried to read a couple of blogs and view a number of vlogs on tips of being a solo traveler, which I hope would help me in this first time solo expedition.

There are however two worthy items that all these blogs and vlogs seem to have missed. First, is never to arrive in your destination at night time. This is actually what happened to me when I arrived in SFO.  My flight landed at 10:30 PM and was only able to go out of the airport after about 40 minutes.

waiting for BART train at SFO. looks tired and clueless of what is going to happen…

Arriving in an unexplored location in the middle of the night somehow gave me chills and some dash of fear.  Good thing with my childhood background, I grew up in a slum-like area of Pasay.  Dealing with street weirdos is like something that I am used to. With this rich experience, I know I can handle goons and crooks out in the streets of San Francisco.

But goons and crooks of US are actually not my problem when I arrived super late at night in SFO. It was the rain!

While rolling my humongous luggage and drenched in a very cold rain, there was literally no one in the streets of San Francisco to ask for possible directions and location of my super budget hotel. Even the goons and crooks seem to have gone to some freakin’ dry and warm shelter.

Thus, may you fear lurkers in the night or dread the horrors of unforeseen weather condition, never land to your area of destination at nigh time when you are a solo traveler.

Second, when you have just arrived in your destination and it’s in the middle of the night, drenched with heavy rain and can’t seem to locate your hotel, the thing that you should do is to proceed to the nearest five star hotel. Not the police station, not a hospital neither a 24-hour convenience store. You should run to the concierge of the nearest 5 star hotel.

Concierge of 5 star hotels are more knowledgeable, more efficient and more helpful compared to bellhops and front desk beings of most non-5 star accommodations. They are always there to help, may you be a guest or a mere “tambay” (loiterer) of their establishment.

And this is exactly what I did. Drenched, tired and worried, I run to the nearest hotel concierge that I can find. The obliging concierge pointed that it’s only walking distance from their hotel but since it’s raining he volunteered on calling a cab for me. He summoned a bellman to blow his whistle and automatically a cab arrived. He even helped me with my luggage by putting it inside the trunk. I of course handed the guy some hefty tip for being such an angel towards a co-angel in distress.

still thinking of where to go next…

Though these experiences adds up to the spice of my learnings of being a solo traveler, I hope these two tips would help a lot especially those who plan to go on solo. Good luck, have fun and stay safe!

Basang basa sa ulan sa lugar na di ko alam!

 

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Milford Sound has been considered as the most visited tourist place in New Zealand.  It is the crowning jewel and quintessential spot of New Zealand.  Many visitors say that it is the most beautiful place they have ever seen.  It so beautiful, it is usually included in blogs and publications that enumerates the places to go to before an earthling dies.

Milford Sound is a body of water, thus, one has to take a boat ride to really appreciate its beauty.  And that’s exactly me and my friends did.  We took the tour as operated by Southern Discoveries which is inclusive of a sumptuous buffet lunch served right inside the boat.  It was actually a smooth connection between the 5-hour bus ride and that of the ship ride.  No worries, no hustle and surprisingly, no overcrowding!  Everything went smooth and organized.

cruising...

cruising…

And when the boat embarks into the water, further excitement about my NZ experience sets in.  The sights of the Sound were just gorgeous.  Limestone cliffs, snowcapped mountain peaks, amazing waterfalls and the clear water of the fiords were all so stunning.

I particularly loved the part when the boat would get so near the waterfalls throwing water down the sides of the sheer cliffs.  And according to the boat’s tour guide and narrator, water coming from above the cliffs were actually melted glacier from the mountains.  The narrator told all passengers to be ready to get wet and secure a raincoat because the bow of the ship will go right underneath the pounding falls.

The up-close look of the waterfalls were simply spectacular!  Only when the ship maneuvered right at the bottom of the falls did I realize how high, how strong and how massive the waterfalls were.  The sprinkling, the shower, the downpour of the glacial water on my face was something to behold.  I totally agree with the boat narrator’s description that the feeling would be like having a “glacial facial”!

Another add on about the Milford Sound cruise were the animals that tourists got to see.  We were unfortunate that we did not see pods of dolphins or rare penguins.  But what we found were lazy seals sunning themselves on low lying rocks.

getting ready for my glacial facial!

getting ready for my glacial facial!

strike a pose!

strike a pose!

Me and my friends were just too glad to do a 2-hour Milford Sound tour!  We were so happy that such an amazing place with all its natural splendor really does exist!

Kakaibang pasyal na may peyshal!

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Referred to as the 8th wonder of the world by Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling, I have zero idea on what and where is Milford Sound.  But with my recent visit to New Zealand, I can attest to what Rudyard Kipling has tried to imply.

The journey to Milford Sound from Queenstown (where me and my travel buddies were based) in New Zealand took about 5 hours.  But I can actually consider the 5 hour ride that we took (through a tour group bus) to Milford Sound as one stunning experience.

super cool bus...

super cool bus…

Reaching Milford Sound by land was half the fun of my Milford Sound encounter.  It is because the road to our destination is extremely scenic.  I can’t remember the number of times I uttered “Wow!” in the entire duration of the bus ride.

Part of the rewarding experience of the bus ride are the bus stops.  The modern and transparent ceiling bus would pull over so that passengers can go down, breathe the freshest air, take a short stroll and snap some awesome photos.

Three of the amazing stops that I particularly loved most were:

Egliton Valley

gorgeous! (parang ako)

gorgeous! (parang ako)

Monkey Creek

monkey!

monkey!

Mirror Lake

can't believe that I made this shot!

can’t believe that I made this shot!

picture muna

picture muna

I  definitely agree with most visitors of New Zealand declaring that the road to Milford Sound is one of the most scenic road trip on the planet.  This is particularly true on the super scenic State Road 94 which is the road between Te Anau and Milford Sound.

Can you just imagine? I am not even talking about my exhilarating experience yet in Milford Sound itself.  I was just talking about the road to this heaven of a place!  If given another opportunity, I would definitely do another bus ride to Milford Sound, may it take 5 or 6 or 10 hours and be amazed again by the beauty of these stunning places.

Mapapa-iyak ka sa wow!

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With the pretty numerous travels I had, domestic and abroad wise, I developed the preference of being seated at an aisle seat.  I am no longer the kiddo who prefers to be assigned at a window seat and stick my nose on the glass window every time the plane has to take-off or land at its destination.

My reason for particularly preferring the aisle seat is because I hate excusing myself from other seated passengers when I need to stand and proceed either to the pantry or the toilet of the airplane.  Seating on the aisle seat also gives me the pleasant feeling of being seated at a much bigger space! I can even extend my “long-legged” legs towards the aisle especially during the hours when lights are off and almost all passengers are in deep sleep.

But in my recent trip to Queenstown New Zealand, I was left with no choice but to rest my skinny butt at the window side of an airplane.  It is because the airplane that I, Joesel, Karen and Denton took was a small cessna plane that goes around the Queenstown region.  It is so small it does not have an aisle and only fits us and the pilot.

happy inside the hangar

happy inside the hangar

the gang! (banggang)

the gang! (banggang)

pilot alex assisting denton on his seat...

pilot alex assisting denton on his seat…

selfie muna

selfie muna

up!

up!

I consider my sitting at the window side for this specific flight as the most stunning flight I have ever had so far.  It’s a stunning 30-minutes flight that features the beauty of the whole of Queenstownship, the grandeur of the Gibson Valley region, the quaintness of Arrowtown, the intricacy of the Shotover Canyon, the serene Wakatipu Lake and the majesty of the Remarkables mountain ranges.

This scenic flight gave me goosebumps! I never expected that I would be so blessed to breathe, smell and see for myself up in the sky the magnificent beauty of Queenstown, New Zealand!  Only a crazy stupid soul will complain of being seated at the window side when the dazzling view out in the open would be an astonishing beauty such as this.

Sobra sobra! Owber sa ganda!

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Bucket lists allows people to hammer our their thoughts, determine their hearts desires and resolve what the bones would want to feel.  It is a unique and distinct reminded of what sort of awesome things we want to accomplish, what terrain our feet desires to step on or what our eyes would want to see.

One of the items in my long and complicated bucket list is to see, feel and breathe New Zealand.  Which recently, with the blessings from the holy heavens, I have accomplished.  I could not ask for more when my feet walked the streets of Queenstown, breath the freshest air of Glenorchy and chomp on the luscious dishes of Arrowtown.

And throughout the visits in these lovely towns of New Zealand, I did not expect that I would be engaged in one awesome circumstance!  My visit, my plans and my list of things to do in NZ did not include my riding the KJet.  And I’m glad I did!  KJet is an exhilarating 1-hout jet boat ide on the deep crystal blue waters of Lake Wakatipu, the turquoise-colored waters of Kawaru Rivert and the shallow channels of Shotover River.

adrenaline rush

adrenaline rush

unforgettable ride...

unforgettable ride…

My riding the KJet has been one of the many awesome highlights of my visit to New Zealand.  The fast adrenaline rush was just spectacular!  Me and my friends particularly loved it when the expert driver would like throw the boat around and would do a 360 degree spin!  Add to this exhilarating ride are the stunning views of the remarkable snow-capped mountain ranges of New Zealand! The gorgeous view heightens further the already spectacular ride!

kjet groupie

kjet groupie

awesome!

awesome!

Here’s how fast and thrilling the jet boat ride is…

KJet was not in my bucket list, but this awesome thrilling ride will definitely be remembered…

Grabe! Ambilis-bilis! Angganda-ganda!

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I have one complaint about the recent adventure I had with some friends.  It’s about the place where we had a short weekend holiday.  It’s about Luljetta’s Hanging Garden!  My complaint is about my camera’s inability to capture the beauty and serenity of the place.

fun time with mj, jb and willie

fun time with mj, jb and willie

swimming by the mountain cliff

swimming by the mountain cliff

Knowing that it’s near Manila I set my standards low for Luljetta’s Hanging Garden.  But as soon as we arrived, this darling of a place simply became a big surprise.  The peaceful mountain environment and the invigorating fresh air were some of the things visitors can savor about.

I never knew that such a quiet gem exists just one and a half hour away from crazy Metro Manila.  Here’s one fun video which I guess failed to capture the unhurried, gracious and breathtaking beauty of Luljeta’s Hanging Garden.

Luljetta’s Hanging Gardens is a mountain resort located at Loreland Farm Resort in Barangay San Roque, Antipolo City.

Akalain mo? May ganun pala sa Antipolo?

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Mountain trekkers know that waterfalls are at their scenic best when there has been rainfall.  That is absolutely what I saw and experienced in Aurora Province on the day I conquered the exhilarating green forest of barrio San Luis which nestles the beautiful Ditumabo Falls.

my first waterfall trek

my first waterfall trek

pahinga muna

pahinga muna

wow!

wow!

The first gait I made to accomplish this adventure, I simply let my cares drop like fallen trees.  I did not expect anything to gain with this specific venture.  I was merely trying to endure what needs to be endured during the whole time I was walking up the mountain.  Nevertheless, while pacing my initial strides, I was already feeling the freshness of the air kissing my cheeks, similar to how the cool streams of water kiss the thirsty lips of earth.

love handles galore! hahaha!

love handles galore! hahaha!

the authentic "cool waters"

the authentic “cool waters”

But as I further my trekking, I eventually felt the flowing of nature’s peace inside my being just like how sunshine flows into the leaves and branches of a tree. And as I further went up the trail, I was feeling the fresh energy of the whole forest.  I felt no pain, I felt no fatigue.  It was sheer delight and pleasantness.

breathtaking!

breathtaking!

joyous...

joyous…

And when we reached our destination, the sight of the dream-like forest mist, the look of the inviting jade-colored pool and the magnificent appearance of the robust stream of the waterfall, resulted to a total feeling of intense joy and happiness!

Ditumabo Falls after the rain is indeed magical!

Wan wid da neychur ang peg…

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Nengkoy is the nickname of my mom during her pre-school years. Her parents and relatives call her ‘Ang Neneng Ko’. With her pretty charm and appeal, she was usually called in a melodic way using this lovely phrase. Until it evolved for easier articulation of the phrase, Ang Neneng Ko was shorten to Nengkoy.

Nengkoy

Nengkoy is the nickname of my mom during her pre-school years. Her parents and relatives call her ‘Ang Neneng Ko’. With her pretty charm and appeal, she was usually called in a melodic way using this lovely phrase. Until it evolved for easier articulation of the phrase, Ang Neneng Ko was shorten to Nengkoy.