Touch Down Kota Kinabalu: Satay Galore at the Filipino Market

Before I came to Kota Kinabalu for a short visit, Baba and I promised that we will not eat at fast food while we’re in the city. We’ll feast on authentic Malaysian cuisine and foodies that we’ve seen and drooled over online. Arrived at the airport on time but the lines at the immigration was very long. I was thankful that when my turn came in, I just breezed through it.

We took a cab from the airport to our first accommodation: City Park Lane. Cab
costs RM25-30. After freshening up, we headed to the Filipino market for some mouthwatering Satay dishes.

Baba was doubtful and really asked if I wanted to eat there, he was expecting me to find something fancier.

Authentic Asian Street Food 

Satay or “sate” according to Wikipedia is a “dish of seasoned meat, skewered and grilled and served with sauce. It originated from Java, Indonesia and is popular in Southeast Asian countries including Malaysia.

Food was really great in the Filipino market stalls and you can eat with your hands. Hawkers provide water for you to wash before and after eating. Aside from Satay of different sorts, there are also other munchies you can buy and try.

We walked around the streets of Kota Kinabalu afterwards, we might have passed through landmarks but I hardly noticed anymore. I still can’t believe I’m outside the Philippines and I have Baba here with me.

Kota Kinabalu City Hall at night

We ended our night stroll at BB Cafe which is just a few steps from our hostel. The place is actually an alley that connects Jalan Pataii and Jalan Gaya turned into a group of bars and coffee shops.

There’s a band playing that night, we weren’t sure of their Nationality but they sang a couple of OPMs (Bakit ngayon ka lang…) and some Korean pop music too. Baba had a couple of beers while I had some cold creamy coffee.

My first night in a foreign land went out really well. We were able to stick by the Kota Kinabalu itinerary we prepared and was cool budget-wise, we spent less than RM100 including the cab from the airport. Next day we’re off the islands 🙂

The Land Below the Wind: Kota Kinabalu Accommodations and Itinerary

Last October 2012, I was able to book cheap flights from Clark, Philippines to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Malaysia. Roundtrip airfare costs only Php3,200 and Baba and I were both excited for my visit.

A month before the trip we constantly chatted to arrange our schedules and itinerary since he would need to file leaves from his work in Papar. I’ve searched online on how others spent their visit to Kota Kinabalu (KK) and wondered at how much we’ll spend for our trip.

We made advance booking for our hostels via Agoda, and because we can’t decide where exactly we want to stay, we booked three hotels for our three nights there (this Baba hope we won’t do again). Three days accommodation costs in these hotels totaled more or less P4500:

1. City Park Hotel (Jalan Pantaii)
 Double Room Rate in Agoda: RM 73 (at time of booking)

We liked this hostel a lot, the staff are friendly, the room is clean and spacious. We asked if we can extend a little like an hour after checkout because we’re going for the islands, we came back much later yet the lady in the reception did not ask for additional fee for our lapsed time.

2. Borneo Gaya Lodge (Jalan Gaya)
Double Room Rate (without windows): RM77 (at time of booking)

Baba thinks this hostel is over-rated in Agoda. The room we got was very basic for the price. It was just a room with a bed and a bathroom. No television and no windows and the wi-fi was so-so. Only good thing with this hostel is that it is located right in Gaya St where Sunday street market happens.

3. Cititel Express (Asia City Complex)
Standard Room with Sea View: RM 120 (at time of booking)

We wanted something fancier on our last night. There were negative remarks about this hotels’ room sizes but Baba and I just loved it. Their resto however is just an express diner so we just headed out to the waterfront for our candle-lit dinner date.

I think the price is just right for the comfortable room and convenient location of this hotel. We just hope that wi-fi would be free!

Itinerary for 4 days and 3 nights

Baba and I made our itinerary with both of us looking up the internet for things we wanted to do, foods we want to eat and places we wanted to visit while I’m there. He’s already three months in Sabah, but he haven’t really explored the city yet. So this is what we have prepared.

Day 1 (Friday)
1505 ETD from Clark Airport
1705 ETA in KKIA
1800 Check in at City Park Lodge in Jalan Gaya
1830 Head to Filipino Market for Dinner
1930 Check out nearby landmarks
2100 Night cap at BB Café in Rainforest Lodge
2300 Back to lodgings
Day 2 (Saturday)
0700 Check out and Breakfast at Jalan Gaya
0830 Jesselton Point jump off to Manukan/Sapi/Mamutik Islands
1130 Lunch at one of the Islands (Manukan)
1400 Back to city and check in at Borneo Lodge
1530 City Tour (Blue Mosque, Atkinson Tower, Signal Hill Observatory etc)
1800 Head to Tanjung Aru Beach to watch the sunset/Dinner
1930 Mall (Centerpoint/Wisda Merdeka)
2100 Coffee/Nightcap at Old Town White Coffee
2300 Back to lodgings

Day 3 (Sunday) Option 1

0600 Breakfast
0700 Bound for Kinabalu Park
0900 Explore Kinabalu Park
1300 Leave for the City
1500 Movie/Mall
1700 Sunday Mass
1800 Filipino Market for Souvenirs
1900 Dinner Date
2100 Back to Lodgings

Day 3 (Sunday) Option 2
0700 Breakfast
0800 Sunday Mass
0900 Explore Gaya Sunday Market
1000 Mall
1200 Early Check in at Cititel Express/Lunch
1300 Lok Kawi Wildlife Park
1500 Monsopiad Cultural Village
1700 Pacific Sutera/Shangrila (Sunset/Dinner)
1900 Back to City Center
Day 4 (Monday)
0700 Breakfast at Hotel
0800 Head to Filipino Market/Shop
1000 Mall
1100 Lunch then Airport
1540 ETA Clark

Baba did not allow me to change any peso to ringgit because he said he’s prepared for the expenses. When I got there, he handed me a bunch of ringgits that was our budget for the whole trip.

So do you think we were able to stick to our IT? Will post more about my first ever out of the country trip soon!

Pongas Falls: One Mighty Sight and Uncaptured Moments

If you haven’t yet read our first taste of Sagada Adventure read about it here 🙂

After a hectic afternoon exploring the caves of Sumaging and Lumiang Cave connection, we were already doubting our capacity to trek to the falls the next day. We wanted to see Bomod-ok or the Big Falls but it was closed due to some event with the tribes. SAGGAS suggested Pongas Falls instead. It is one of the newest discoveries by the Association and they guarantee us another amazing experience of Sagada.

Our second day started with a hearty breakfast at the Yogurt House. Baba had Tapa meal and I choose the Hiker’s Breakfast which I can hardly finish!

Then we headed to SAGGAS office to check our scheduled trek to Pongas Falls. We opted for a jeepney ride to Suyo (southern part of Sagada) which is the jump off point of the trek. The guide fee for this site is P600 and a vehicle can be rented for P600 for convenience, but we did not think about our ride back to town and simply hopped on the top load of the jeepney bound for Suyo.

Trek starts at Suyo and we passed by the Sitio’s rice terraces where harvest time is happening. Our sourly guide said the trek will be about 1-1.5 kilometers across the rice fiels and will take on a rocky and slippery route.

first sight of waterfalls

Pongas Falls was indeed a magnificent sight to behold. It was a challenging and fun trek with an amazing reward. There were other traveler when we reached the site with whom we had friendly and funny exchanges. One thing we all agree on is that this site should never be missed by anyone visiting Sagada.

Our Sagada Adventures are soo sulit. We crave the thrill and the challenges of both the caves and the trek to Pongas Falls. I think surviving all these challenges together bonds us even stronger. We hiked back to Suyo mainroad and waited for something that will take us back to Sagada. Our guide was a little cranky because me and Baba were already considering just walking back (5km :D)

We waited and considered other options such as renting motorbikes, fortunately, Sagada MPS pick-up was in Suyo that time and allowed us to hitch hike. Me and Baba settled at the back and once again savored the sight of nature. Our guide was comfortably settled inside and had our camera with him so we didn’t have any pictures. Still we can’t help smiling at our fortune and the best memories we’d forever treasure in our minds.

Baguio Budget Escape 2: What Eats and Where To’s?

We surely had a blast on our Baguio Budget Escape Day 1, and the weekend was far from over. We woke up early the next day and prepared for our host – my housemate and Baguio resident Lalai with her son Kabay will take us to The Manor for a buffet breakfast which Baba and I promised in exchange for the free ride up and down the City of Pines.

The Manor, Camp John Hay, Baguio City

Lalai and her family took me to The Manor the last time I was stuck in Baguio so I was pretty excited to have another round of delicious breakfast meals in a beautiful location.

Breakfast Buffet Rates at The Manor are:

Adult : Php 550
Kids : Php 275

please make me an omelette with everything on it!
winner waffle with maple syrup and blueberry jam

Kabai with his fruit plate

Lai’s plate

We took turns at getting some time off and exploring the grounds of the hotel before we had our part 2 of the brekkie. We would love to spend an over night here on Baba’s next vacation.

the Manor

we love it here!

After a hearty breakfast, Lalai took us to Good Shepherd Covent in Mines View Park to buy a couple of Pasalubong favorites – the famous Ube Jam. There was a long line of customers so Baba and I decided to take pictures while we waited for Lalai to complete her purchases.

Good Shepherd Convent, Baguio City

From here, we passed by the Botanical Garden and the Mansion but we did not go down, instead Lalai dropped us off at our Inn to rest while the rain poured over the city. This trip was completely unplanned so Baba and I don’t have anything in mind to go to.

After our siesta, we then decided to take merienda-cum-early dinner and go to the Lourdes Grotto. I was still raining on and off so we just took a cab though we had some idea on how to go there already.

the Veniz Cafe

counted the steps up the Lourdes grotto

Despite our lack of planning, we thoroughly enjoyed exploring the City of Pines. We’ve both been here before but have not really explored the city, and now it felt really good getting lost and finding the right way together. We do plan to re-visit Baguio next year and maybe we’d be able take Teloy along with us then.

Baguio Budget Escape: Food Trip in the City of Pines

It was a quiet Friday evening when our housemate, who hails from Baguio City announced that she’s driving alone to Baguio early in the morning. Out of nowhere, Baba and I decided to join her on a road trip. With a couple of clothes and 5K budget, we hit the road at 4am the next day.

The drive was uneventful, we stopped by Sison, Pangasinan to eat something and we’re a little disappointed that Kenon Rd was closed so we had to take the much longer route via Marcos Highway.

We reached Baguio City at around 9am. Baba and I declined Ate Maricar’s invitation to stay in their house and searched for cheap Baguio City accommodations instead. We found La Brea along Session Road and made reservations for 2 nights. We did not prepare any IT and made this trip a completely spontaneous one. We just noted recommendations and jump into what we have in mind next.

After freshening up, we headed to Glenn’s 50s Diner in General Luna Road in front of Brent Road  for our late lunch. The ambiance is great and they have big servings of food. Baba loved his Swimmers while my Schintzel was just okay.

waitresses at 50’s diner wear sailor uniforms!

we love their coffee here

Baba’s Swimmers – 3 seafood delights in sweet-spicy sauce
schnitzel for me (okay lang)
ka-table namin c Marilyn Monroe!
the red car parked outside 50’s diner

After lunch, we decided to walk back and pay visit to the Cathedral and offer prayers of thanks. Then we played corny and headed for Burnham Lake for some rowing action.

can’t believe these oars are so heavy!!
should have tried those paddle boats instead

It was raining on and off and we were tired. We couldn’t think of anything to eat for dinner just yet so we headed for SM Baguio and waited for the rain to stop. We stayed at the veranda and was awed when the fog enveloped the city.

Then we walked to Session Road where there are more choices when it comes to foodtripping. We ended up at one of my friend’s favorite Pizza place – Pizza Volante. The place looks unorganized and seems to be a series of expansions – might be because of the growing number of diners. They have great pizza and pasta choices here – the price is also just right for students on a budget.

love this cheeze burger pizza!

Baba suggested we eat only light dinner tonight because he wants a nightcap at one of the bars we passed by earlier. It’s called the Bohemian and they have angelic acoustic singers here. We had a basket of fresh potato fries and a bucket of beer to end the night…

frothy milk! 😀

a basket of potatoes

lassheeng Baba?

Day 2 of our Baguio Trip was spent at the Manor, Good Shepherd and Lourdes Grotto. Blog soon 🙂

7 Things I Prepare for When Backpacking

Following backpacking blogs by Filipino travel bloggers simply puts me into vagabonding mode. They’re all awe-inspiring, motivational and passion-driving. You can’t help but admire their guts and how they managed to attain their world-weary statuses. I’ve also longed for exploring countries other than my own. I enjoy exploring around the Ph and managed to see places, sights and scenes that not many are blessed to witness.

twosome travelers

Reading from different travel blogs seems to caution would-be traveler on the many unexpected things on the road. And of course, preparedness on these things is the key. So, when you travel do –

1.  Prepare to get lost.
One of the best challenges of backpacking is exploring unknown and unfamiliar places. Load up on info about your destinations and keep your wits handy at all times.

2. Prepare to get down and dirty.

Generally, backpacking conjure up images of muddy, dirty and smelly-looking travelers with full-packed backpacks(but that’s optional actually). Exploring the world this way may mean that you have to leave luxuries and comforts of your home to experience the sights, culture and people of some foreign land despite your lack of budget.

3. Prepare to be shocked/frustrated.

In most cases, what you hope for doesn’t really happen. There are things, events and people that will truly test your tolerance. Always look at the brighter side of things in such occasions.

wandered around Maharlika Market instead when Typhoon Mina stopped my ascent to Sagada, Mt. Province in Aug 2011.

4. Prepare to be unconventional.

Being in a place where everything seems soo unfamiliar will require you to make adjustments. Even if it means that you have to give up what you’re comfortable with and what you’re used to do and just make do with what’s available.

sleep here? yes, here.

5. Prepare to welcome strange new sights, smells, tastes and culture.

Part of traveling is try out local food and delicacies from places you visit. Some also join community immersion to learn more about the culture and beliefs of the people. And of course, you can help but drink in some of the loveliest sights nature has created for us. 


Igorot Women of North Luzon

shy Mt. Mayon
smelly Marang in Davao City

6. Prepare to be intoxicated.

Traveling can be a heady and intoxicating experience. And I’m not talking about alcoholic drinks here. (though night outs are also fun when you’re in a new place).

7. Prepare to fall in love – need I say more?

Traveling has a lot of risks, and depending how you prepare for the things on the road, you’d find yourself surprised countless times. Either way, don’t panic and simply enjoy these experience – good or bad – and adjust your preparedness level for the next leg of your journey.

Tsinelas Festival 2009, Liliw Laguna

I know sooner or later, I’d be able to realize my wish to explore other countries in Asia. Most specifically “the banana pancake trail” as claimed by many western backpackers. While still unsure when or where I’ll start with my greatest Asian Backpacking dream, I simply savor the moments and experiences I had while travelling the Philippines. I do not consider myself as a seasoned traveler, but I’m proud to have visited the places I’ve been to so far and I would always look forward to the places I’d go to in the future.

Travel Diaries: Coron, Palawan Trip, IT and Budgets

Coron Trip 3 Days and 2 Nights June 25-27, 2009
PAX: 5
Budget: 9000 Per pax 
Accommodations (Board, Lodging, Fees and Transfers) & Tours – 
Coron Village Lodge Tour Package III 6400
RT Tickets (Cebu Pacific Promo) 950
RT Terminal Fees 220
Pocket Money 1500
  1. 2 Days room accommodation (aircon, TV, hot & cold shower, T&B)
  2. 6 Meals & 2 snacks
  3. 1 Day island hopping for swimming, snorkeling, nature tour and adventure plus hot spring
  4. 1 Day Calauit Animal Sanctuary tour
  5. Entrance fees to tribal and private islands
  6. Services of a guide/ staff during tours
  7. Free- flowing coffee
  8. Airport transfers
  9. Tricycle transfers within the town
  10. Welcome drink.

Day 1
9:00 am
Off to the islands – Cayangan Lake , Lake Barracuda , Twin
Lagoon, Banol or Caliwantay Beach , Siete Pecados, Makinit Hot
5:30 pm
Back in town / free time
Day 2
4:30 am
Off to Calauit
7:30 am
Arrive at Calauit Animal Sanctuary after a 2 hour jeep or
van ride and a 10 minute banca ride across the channel.
8:30 am
Tour of the sanctuary by safari truck.
11:00 am
Early lunch
12:00 nn
1:00 pm
Travel back through Salvacion town. stopover for snacks.
4:00 pm
Back in town / free time
Day 3
6:30 am
7:00 am
Off to airport for trip back to Manila.

Reminders! (A series of Unfortunate events)
Check your Air tickets! LOL!! We missed the 9:05 flight to Busuanga and therefore had to buy another for the 2pm flight to Busuanga and shell off another P900. Instead of just having a light morning meal before the flight, we were forced to partake a ridiculously pricey lunch at Chaikofi while we pass the time and wait for the next flight to Busuanga.

Also, consider the weather, because of the apparent climate change I was confident that the rainy month of June will still grant us fair and travel friendly weather. Unfortunately, a typhoon came up early in the week made the flight to Busuanga a little shaky. When we were just about to land, the pilot’s voice started talking about coordinates and told us to look at the build up cumulo-nimbus clouds that is visible from where we are and goes all the way to Busuanga. After which, he announced that the plane has enough fuel to stay in our position for 30-40 minutes and wait for the “clouds” to disperse. So the plane just circled over the islands, islets and seas for what seemed like endless minutes until finally God heard our prayers and allowed us to land safely.
Busuanga Airport served the towns of Busuanga, Coron, Culion and Linapacan or the Calamianes Group of islands in the Northern part of Palawan. The town proper of Coron is on Busuanga mainland while there is also the Coron Island facing the town and can be reached by boat within 15 minutes.

Coron is still an hour away from Busuanga Airport; a van we shared with 6 or 7 other people that will stay in the lodge next to ours.  Coron Village Lodge was quite a surprise for us. When we were still searching for accommodations and tour in Coron, the Lodge’s website offered the best tours and prices, however we were a little unsure of what to expect about the rooms and the place because of the limited photos displayed. Feedback on the packages was also scarce, though I got a really positive feedback at one time.

I was looking at the starfish decoration with so much wonder! @ the Coron Village Lodge

The staff were nice, we had welcome drinks (uber sweet ice tea!) brought to our lovely rooms. The whole of the Lodge had a real nice and cozy atmosphere with framed collections displayed on rooms and on the resto’s wall. We got two rooms, both with a double bed and a single bed, dressers, TV, cabinets. Our room had a terrace where a hanger stand and a table with chairs are conveniently placed.
We were served the lunch we missed even if it was already 4PM. One of the best things about the Lodge aside from the staff and the ambiance is the FOOD!

the lights looks even more inviting at night

We were not able to have our island hopping on the first day but we were able to relax and have a dip at the Maquinit hot springs which is only 15 minute tricycle ride away from the town. The Lodge staff also advise us no to go on with our Calauit Safari Tour the next day because of the possible landslides caused by the heavy rains the past few days. We then decided to have a whole day island hopping tour the next day instead.
Maquinit Hot Spring have a max temp of 40 degrees celcius  (yup sooo hot!)
Island hopping in Coron simply is one of the best experiences you can have. Our tour guide, Kuya Gary was very informative on the history and fact and trivias of the island and places we visited.

docking site  to cayangan lake

they call this the Blue Lagoon

descent to Cayangan Lake
the Philippine’s cleanest lake so far – Cayangan
Cayangan Lake and Blue Lagoon are sites to behold though going around Coron Island would really give you a restful and serene feeling. We had lunch of yummy adobo, grilled fish (huge!) and ensaladang talong at what seem like our very own private beach before moving on Twin Lagoons. I can’t say much about this place except that it is also one of the must sees. Towering limestone and surround a peaceful but really deep lagoon which you can access by diving into a hole during high-tide or if it is low tide, you can easy pass through it.
waiting for low-tide to get through the Twin Lagoon
I experienced snorkeling in Bohol, but snorkeling in Siete Pecados is way more exciting! Here fishes are like trained to eat from your hands though the larger ones really freaked us out! And please don’t step at the lovely corals when you get tired, just go get back on your banca.
tired after a day of island hopping
On our third day, we tried climbing Mt. Tapyas (rumored to be more than 700 steps high) but we only reached the middle part because of the sudden heavy rains. When the rain stopped, we decided not to continue the climb and just take pictures of the amazing site we have where we were stranded – two rainbows appeared in the island of Coron, one end on an island, and the other end on another island!
After breakfast, Nina, Arvin and me went to Coron Gifts and Souvenirs to buy trinkets and handicrafts. The Lodge also displays beautiful crafts in their resto and garden. We had an early lunch and left for Busuanga airport at 12noon.
And because of the cancelled Calauit Safari, we had as much as P2000 savings each on our bill!
Must see for a 2nd Coron Trip is Cagban Beach and diving on some of the WWII Japanese Shipwrecks as well as the Banana and Macalapuya(?) Islands.

Upcoming Vacation (Just a Little Bit Excited)

i’m really excited with my upcoming vacation this month. its been 2 months since my last visit to my hometown already and im missing my little man too much.

i having a hard time adjusting with my new life as a student so i want to take it easy for awhile. though it’s tough to schedule a leave now since i also need to consider my classes on mondays and wednesdays. i’ve been truly stressed out with all the assigned reading and never ending analysis and reaction papers. it must be because it’s been a long time since i studied and the fact that i am also working now.

but luckily, even if i am broke and i have to conjure up a problem paper for organizational studies before the end of july, i will be seeing my little man in two days time! yeeey! and… tadaah! its gonna be my very first plane ride! haha! imagine being 26 years old and just having my first plane ride! am sooooo excited!

i’m really praying for good or fair weather this coming thursday and for the rest of the weekend. i hope we can go to the zoo, and have time for playing and boding with my little man.