Travel Bites: Luca Cucina Italiana

After leaving our bags with the staff at Amami Beach Resort, Ate Karen, Teloy and I decided to explore more of the quieter side of Puerto Galera – Talipanan Beach. Passing through several beach resorts such as the Infinity Resort and others along the way, we ended up at the far most corner where Luca Cucina Italiana was located.

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Ate Karen and I settled on some seats in the restaurant veranda while Teloy take a dip and socialize with the other kids. The view from the restaurant is quite gorgeous as it faces the sea and the rock formation on the far side of Talipanan. We ordered a chocolate shake for me and Teloy and Ate Karen got herself some beer. We decided to eat there next day for lunch.

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I have read about Luca when I was  still planning for this trip and we were anticipating a delicious treat when we dine. We were in for a big, really big surprise. It is true that Luca Cucina Italiana serves mouthwatering Italian meals, but we were overwhelmed with the serving size! We ordered a pizza and carbonara. It was the first time that we ate carbonara made with egg and we won’t forget how good it tasted.

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Luca Cucina Italiana is great for groups because of the huge serving size of their food. Ate Karen, me and Teloy could not finish the two meals we’ve ordered as we easily became full so we just asked the staff to pack them for us. We have a refrigerator in our room in Amami so we were able to keep it for dinner.

 

Travel Bites: Sweet Treats at Tampuhan Cafe, Taal, Batangas

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After our exploration of the St Martin of Tours Basilica, the largest Catholic Church in the Orient and Our Lady of Casaysay Church, we walked down the cobbled Calle Marcela Agoncilio and admired the Old Hispanic houses we passed by. The sumptuous lunch we had earlier at Feliza Cafe seemed to have vanished and now our throats are feeling parched from the heat.

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While walking, we passed by a lovely street art depicting how life was lived in 19th century. We took pictures but we were mostly enticed by the seemingly cool interiors of the adjacent cafe called, Tampuhan.

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The word “Tampuhan” basically means lover’s quarrel and as unique as it’s name, the cafe has a lot of quirky stuff going on inside. They seem to encourage free-form art and you can find many interesting pieces on display. A freedom board also invites guest to share and leave something significant in this quaint cafe.

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We ordered three cold drinks and a small pizza and took our time scrutinizing the place. They only had four tables though the place is very cozy and inviting. Teloy gamely drew something on a paper so that he can post something on the freedom board. We decided we had enough exploring for that day and that we should leave anytime soon to get back to Sto. Tomas.

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Before leaving the cafe, we noticed the stairs going up and asked if we can check it out. There were more memorabilia and antique pieces upstairs on display, but the kid is getting quiet restless so we decided to move on.

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Taal, Batangas: A Haven for History Buffs

It was scorching hot with the summer sun beating down on us, we look back at Cafe Feliza and longed for it’s cool and comforting interiors. But it is already afternoon and we still haven’t explored the famed heritage town of Taal, Batangas. So we walked on and headed towards the massive St Martin of Tours Basilica.

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St. Martin of Tours Basilica is awe inspiring in real life. It is huge and can accommodate thousand churchgoers in one sitting. We decided to explore more of the church by going up to it’s bell tower which then gave us a bird’s eye view of the town.

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Right outside the church is the Escula Pia which is currently being used for a community meeting. Walked on and the side of the Municipal Building and wondered where we can find Our Lady of Casaysay Shrine. Tricycle drivers seemed hesitant to direct so we just asked them to take us there. I have no idea what we will find there but learning about the story of Our Lady of Casaysay gave us goosebumps!

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After praying at the shrine, we headed at the back of the church and found the St. Lorenzo Ruiz Steps. We decided to ascend, now knowing where we are headed but we were quite surprised that at the top of it was the same spot where we hailed a tricycle and asked for directions to Our Lady of Casaysay. Instead of pointing us to these steps, he told us to ride his tricycle because he can take us there and took a long and winding route to reach our destination.

Miffed but still enthused about roaming around Taal Town, we headed down the street without much knowledge of what we might find. We passed by Galeria de Taal and Villa Tortuga which are just some of the lovely heritage houses that draw tourists to this charming town. We also passed by the Leon Apacible ancestral house and was quite taken by the story written on it’s marker. But we were not able to see inside because it was closed for some renovations.

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A few more steps brought us to a quaint street art beside a cafe. It did not take a second thought for us to enter and try out Tampuhan Cafe’s cool refreshments. The cafe has a number of artwork on display. It also allowed visitors to leave a bit of something on their freedom board.

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After our meryenda at Tampuhan, we decided it was time for us to head back to Sto Tomas. I find myself and my son very lucky to have visited this Heritage Town and we hope one day we’ll be able to explore and learn more of it’s historical nooks and spots.

Animal Encounters At Baluarte Zoo, Vigan

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It was our last day in Ilocandia and we are to explore Vigan City today. I wasn’t very enthusiastic about visiting a zoo, but Teloyskie had a grand time inspecting all the animals that we saw here.

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Baluarte Zoo in Vigan is own by the famed politician, Chavit Singson. There is no fee for visitors here and they are open from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm. You can find a wide selection birds, deer, camels, ponies, snakes and other rare animals. There are animal shows that visitors can enjoy watching, these are very entertaining and kids like our tot are pretty much amazed.

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Although the sun is blazing, we tried to walk around and cover much of the park as we could. We went to find the tigers and tried really hard to get a picture with him but when I went out to get something from the van, I was surprised that there we tigers in cages near the gate of the park!

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Much to Teloy’s delight, ostriches and some sheep where roaming around the park like it was the most natural thing in the world. He also loved reading the signboards around the cages specially those about the reptiles. Among the places and activities we’ve visited in Ilocos, this is one of the best for him.

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And so I learned to really consider his ideas when I’m working on our travel itinerary. While he’s not the kind that throws tantrums when he’s bored or when he doesn’t like something, his lack of interest in some “grown up things” can really scrape on what could be an amazing travel experience.

The Long Road to Taal and the Comforting Interiors of Feliza Cafe y Taverna

It wasn’t near, really. We’ve always been curious about the largest Catholic Church in the Orient so when we were in Batangas last summer, we decided to take the high road that led to Taal as part of our Visistas Iglesias for the Holy Week. We asked around for directions, and decided to take jeepneys to get there. It was not easy, it took us three long jeepney rides to finally get there and more or less 1.5 hours amid the hot summer morning of April. When we finally alighted from the Lipa-Lemery jeep, it was almost 1 in the afternoon. We checked out the very first cafe/establishment that caught our attention, and was immediately thankful that we did – the Feliza Cafe y Taverna.

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A group was finishing lunch when we arrived so we curiously checked out the antiqueties displayed around the restuarant first. The cafe has a cool and comforting ambiance and sitting in one of the tables will give you an impression that you are dining in another century.

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Although we’ve read that it is best and more affordable to try Taal food in the public market, we are already too hungry to search for the market. Food in Cafe Feliza is not that affordable but they are not too expensive either. I ordered Tapang Taal for me and Teloy and Ate Karen choose the Sinaing na Tulingan. Teloyskie ordered San Rival Cake and I asked for Suman Taal for dessert.

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Tapang Taal

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After attacking our food with much gusto, our waitress offered to tour us around the cafe and upstairs. The name Feliza came from the owner of the house, Feliza Diokno. She was the secretary our country’s very first president – Pres. Emilio Aguinaldo. History buffs will surely fall inlove with this cafe. The larger dining area keeps a circa 1900 typewriter, copper pans and pots and a Flag of the revolution.

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The second floor of the cafe-resturant showcases memorabilia of the late Feliza. Her office table, steel cabinets and other items which will easily give you that late 1800’s feel. Our waitress/tour guide offered 2 available rooms for Php2000 if we are to stay overnight. There was also grand dining area and a door opens to a balcony in the second floor area.

The original desk and caja de yero of then Secretary Feliza Diokno.

 

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2nd floor area of the cafe is a B&B and lots of interesting stuff.

We took a lot of pictures with the help of our tour before we decide it’s time to start exploring more of the historic town of Taal. She was very nice to offer us to try their coffee after our tour.

Hotel Review: Amami Beach Resort, Talipanan Puerto Galera

Puerto Galera is a famous destination for people craving a dose of “Vitamin Sea” yet have limited time to travel away from the metro. Galera’s proximity to Metro Manila makes it a favorite weekend vacay thus, one can easily find accommodation options for every budget and taste.

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Amami Beach Resort in Talipanan was a welcome respite from the chaos we’ve experienced when we landed in White Beach. Yes it was far from the action and happening, but it was pure restfulness and peace that we’ve experienced during our stay here.

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We arrived at 9:00 which was clearly too early for check in, so when the owner Favio told us that we might want to check the “playa” first, we did. We left our bags at the resort restaurant and made our way towards the farthest end of Talipanan were there were rocks and the famed Cucina Luca was located. After spending several hours sipping shake while Teloy play in the water, we decided to spend the remaining two hours at the resort.

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Fabio seems to be having a fit when we arrived back at the resort. He saw us and exclaimed, “Where have you been? I’ve been waiting for you all day! Your room is ready since 10:00 AM!” Oopps sorry we really wasn’t expecting that. But it was really a nice gesture for them to prepare the rooms so that we can check in early. He carried our bags, gave us the wifi password and gave us some tips and pointers for our vacation.

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Amami Beach Resort is a well-acclaimed family resort in area. Agoda users will find nothing but praises for this native-themed resort in the quieter side of  Puerto Galera. Baba’s sister was quite impressed to see that we were the only local guest in the area. Most of the other guests were foreigner families looking for some amazing R&R.

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The staff were friendly and truly accommodating. I asked for something that’s not in the menu and they said they’ll see what they can do about it, and they made it for me! So whatever you need or want, you just have to ask them and they will work wonders for you. I have originally booked for a night in the resort and we decided to extend our stay.

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The resort has limited number of rooms so they get fully-booked and overbooked sometimes. We stayed in a De Luxed Room which has a double bed and a single bed. The rooms have comfortable beds with canopy, wooden floors, nipa roof and abaca mats. These rooms face the garden and the sea beyond it so Ate Karen and I have spent a lot of time on our own veranda too.

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They have dogs, puppies, cats and kittens which young guest can pet and play with making them feel like they’re just at home in the resort.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne thing that I did not enjoy much though is the pricey meals. Although we got free breakfasts and unlimited coffee and tea, we had most of our meals in nearby restaurants because we didn’t think we can afford the food in our resort! Other than that, our stay at Amami was pure bliss!

Barkada Trip Series: Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, Ilocos Norte

After exploring Laoag, our team of weary explorers pushed forward to Pagudpud. Baba, though a major complainer of long trips seem to be enjoying the opportunity of being somewhere really far from where we came from.

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Pagudpud is located in Ilocos Norte and it is very very far from Legazpi. It faces the South China Sea and is known for its wonderful beaches. Well, our tour operator booked us in a beach front property with a very forgettable beach with really overpriced room rates.

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Anyway, we snoozed off most of the trip and woke up somewhere near the lighthouse. The sun was glaring hot and there was already a surge of tourists in the area. We hesitated knowing that there will be another fiesta like atmosphere and thongs of people trying to take the perfect picture of the light house.

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Lighthouses always seem haunting yet they are very intriguing. I’ve seen several lighthouses and each one of them has it’s own mystique and charm. Like many lighthouses, Cape Bojeador was built atop a hill overlooking the West Philippine Sea. It was built in the Spanish Era thus it has that signature red brick material for the most of the structure. The lighthouse is still considered as an active lighthouse that guides and keep our marine trade safe to this date.

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse is situated in the municipality of Burgos, Ilocos Norte. It has become a landmark that one shouldn’t miss when visiting Ilocos Norte.

Puerto Galera, Mindoro: A Quick Dose Vitamin Sea

Summer of 2015 came in a rush. As early as February, I’ve been planning for a getaway with Teloyskie soon as school days are out. We wanted a relaxing beach stay and the kid wanted to see the Boracay that was mentioned in his books. But because we kept on stalling, fares soon started to mount so we settled for our second option – somewhere nearer and cheaper. We headed to Puerto Galera.

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Puerto Galera is a popular beach bummer’s option because of it’s proximity to the metro. It is located in Oriental Mindoro and has three major beach options – White Beach, Sabang and Talipanan. Travel time can take, 2-3 hours by bus from Manila to Batangas Port and 1 to 1.5 hours by boat. But for us traveling from Legazpi, it took us more or less 10 hours to arrive in Turbina and another hours to get to Batangas port.

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Just a couple of days before heading to Batangas, I checked out several hotel booking sites and found a long list of accommodations in Puerto Galera. Based on blogs I’ve read, Talipanan is the best beach for people who want to relax and unwind. Among the hotels suggested in Talipanan, Amami Beach Resort got a fantastic rating and this made me decide to book for one night.

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We met Baba’s older sis in Turbina before we headed to Batangas Port. Teloy and I are tired and weary from the overnight bus ride from Legazpi when we arrived in Batangas and the throng of travelers and assist-you-pay-me-dudes in the port made me a bit irritable. We rode the Gallerian en route to Puerto Galera, and we will not ride it again for the very lousy customer service.

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Finally arrived in Amami at 9:00 AM got our welcome cold drinks and met with the “Fabio.” He advised us that check-in time is at 2:00 PM but we are welcome to leave our stuff if we want to explore the beach which is fine with us of course. After finishing our brekkie, we headed towards the beach and explored Talipanan. Teloyskie wanted to play in the water already so we allowed him to enjoy while Ate Karen and I enjoyed the shade, the view and some cold drinks at the famed Luca’s Cucina Italia.

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We’ll talk about the lovely, lovely Amami Beach Resort in the oncoming post. Anyway, Talipanan Beach was indeed a quiet strip of white sand and clear blue waters. Most guest around this area are couples and families who want to relax and unwind. The beach here is not as white as “White Beach” and some portion have rocks and corals. There are bars and restaurants in the resorts in the area but they are not the noisy kind that you can find in White Beach. Our resort  has a very restful and relaxing ambiance, it is also very near the snorkeling area but we hardly explored that and enjoyed beach bumming to the fullest!

Barkada Trip Series: 4×4 Ride and Sand Surfing at Paoay Sand Dunes

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Among all the activities we had during our Ilocandia Trip with my lifelong buddies, this must be my son’s most favorite part.

After a tiring day of museum hopping and sweltering under the hot summer sun, we’re all weary and eager to rest our tired bodies. Just a few moments of shut eye, I heard my companions stirring. A message from our new found buddies and a couple of nods and grunts, we all agreed that we need to experience Sand Surfing in Ilocos.

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Our driver, though a bit disgruntled, agreed to take us back to Paoay. It was almost sunset and we reveled in the last rays of sun as we rode the 4×4 jeep over sand dunes. Teloy would scream in excitement and enjoyment while we adults try hard to swallow our nervousness every time our ride seems ready to topple.

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We reached the highest dune where we’re supposed to surf just as the first stars started to appear. Our instructor hurriedly but carefully gave tips and how to’s of sand surfing. It would have been an unlimited surfing spree but soon darkness set in. We didn’t bring our cameras and most of our pictures are just taken with out phones.

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We could hardly see anything around us anymore when we started to climb up to our 4×4 jeep on our way back. Everyone is on high spirits, even when our preferred restaurant couldn’t accommodate us anymore, we gladly settled for the second one on our list.

On Travelling with A Kid: Raising A Considerate Traveler

Teloy: Mommy where did you keep my Piattos?

Mommy: It’s inside your bag.

Teloy: Okay. Then he started to open his bag while I lean back, close my eyes and tried to sleep inside the moving commuter van  from Tiwi to Legazpi.

Moments later, peered at Teloy and asked  him, “why are not you eating your Piattos?”

Teloy:
“I’ll just eat it later, were near already.There are people sleeping and they might get disturbed by the sound of the plastic.”

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I smiled inwardly and allowed him to lean on my side as we tried to sleep out the remaining minutes of the trip. My son is turning nine this year and I feel really proud that he’s becoming a well-mannered travelling kid.

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Most moms or parents dread travelling with their children because it is difficult, it’s complicated, it’s chaotic, nightmarish, yes, but travel with kids could also be the coolest, most enjoyable and the happiest moments of your lives.

teloy8Three years ago, Baba and I finally decided to cut the crap on long-distance parenting.

Daddy has been working outside the country, Mommy has been working in capital and Teloyskie has lived with my parents since he was three months old.  While both of us are busy making a living we only get spend 2 days or 2 weeks maximum with Teloy. We are hardly ever there to see how’s he’s growing up, how he’s developing  physically, mentally and emotionally.

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When I settled in Bicol in 2012, it was my first time to become a full time mom to Teloy. He was really skinny then, with a weird skin allergy on his face and neck because he won’t eat anything that’s not fried egg or hotdog. He’s bratty, he complains a lot about things that are not comfortable or familiar to him. The first time I took him on a trip is for a beach camp in Calaguas.

Teloyskie was just five years old then and he was really excited about going to the beach, but then he complained a lot about sleeping in a tent! “It’s hot inside Mommy, it’s hard on the back and I only have one pillow!”

After a long day of traveling to get to the island, sweltering under the intense heat of the sun, swimming, and keeping your eyes on the tot, any parent’s patience can tire out with this bed time scene. Well at least he isn’t crying and there are no more tantrums.

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I’ve always read about travel with kid tips and experiences so that each trip will become more and more enjoyable for all of us. Every time Baba comes home now, we try to explore together and talk to Teloy about travelling and the places we visit. We also learned some simple ways to make traveling with kid a little less stressful and  even more memorable.

  1. Food for picky eaters. When traveling, Teloyskie has learned to pack snacks, biscuits and drinks. We always tell him that snacks or chips are expensive on the road, so whether it’s just a day out or week-long trip,  he’d fill up his Nalgene with water, get  some Chuckie out of the fridge and pack some Pillows, Bread Pan, Dewberry or Oreos before we leave home.

teloy72. Kiddie Entertainment.

Although many people are against it, iPad, Tablets, mobile phones are very helpful in keeping the kid/kids entertained while waiting for the plane/boat/bus or jeep. But of course you have to moderate their time in using them. A booklet of crossword puzzle or headset plus his playlist on his mobile are also great tools for passing time.

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3. Listen to the Kid.  Although adults have a different appreciation of their destination, kids do too and they want to share their thoughts with you too. So aside from talking to them about the historical importance of a place or the eccentricities of Calle Crisolo, listen to them too. Teloyskie’s imagination can sometimes turn super silly and while some places bore him to bits, we draw him back quick when we ask him what he thinks about carved “Anitos.”

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4. Empathize with their worries and fears. Kids can be quite fearless with their exploration, but they worry and get scared too and they only got you to reassure them. Our first Zip Line experience was in Danao Adventure Park in Bohol, and it was scary! On our first run, I was so scared I couldn’t scream and so does Teloy. When I screamed my lungs out, he did the same. And as we walk toward the line going back, I asked him if he was scared, when he said yes, I hugged him and told him how scared mommy is too. Then I asked him if he still want to do it or not. He smiled widely and gamely said yes!

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5. Be a role model. Kids are sponges and they would readily copy what you do and say. If you freak out and panic, they will freak out and panic. If you keep your cool, they will too. If you leave your trash everywhere, they will too!

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Baba and I are keen on being good examples to our Teloy. I think having him around while we are traveling makes us even better persons because we would follow rules, laws and norms which most of us tend to bend or ignore.

So let us just take it easy. Stop and smell the flowers. As adults we tend to haste and hurry, we walk fast, eat fast, and do most of our stuff in a hurried fashion especially if we are on the road. We should never forget that when we are traveling with kids, no matter how responsible and how hard they try to cope up with us, they are still KIDS. They eat slower, walk slower, shower slowly and dress up like they’re dragging the luggage on their frail little shoulders. Sometimes they have short attention span easily gets curious by something or an event they notice along the way.

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Sometimes they just want to sit and watch cartoons than chase the ostriches in the zoo! Considering their needs every now and then, may create chaos with our itinerary, but what the heck?! We take them travelling because we want them to learn about the world outside the familiar. We are slowly but surely indoctrinating our little travelers worthwhile values that they can put into good use soon as they’re ready to take on their own adventures.