Exploring the beautiful Philippines with kids

Our neighbor has moved and took all the fighting cocks somewhere else, so there were no more crowing roosters nearby as I woke up at 3h30 and started preparing coffee while making sure we have our passports and tickets. At 4h,it was Carlo’s turn and then the girls . Half and hour later, everyone was ready to go.

At 5h in the morning as the village began to rouse we were at the bus station in Bayan, had a quick stop at 7-11 then off we went. We arrived at PITX around 7h30, then we took a taxi to the airport. After checking in our luggage, we went out and had some snack at the kiosk in front of the airport. We had a lot of time, our plane would leave at 12h55. Yes, we were so early. I told my husband that it would be better to leave early than be stuck in the traffic and it could be bad in Imus. We arrived in Cebu by 14h30 and queued for the white taxi.

OUR ITINERARY:

CaviteMactan(Cebu) -Tagbilaran, Calape, Jagna (Bohol) – Camiguin – Panglao (Bohol) – Siquijor – Oslob (Cebu)Cavite
black line-ferry except the plane from Manila to Cebu, blue line-by car or public transport

BEWARE OF SCAM

Week 1 We arrived in Mactan International Airport at 14h20 and took a taxi to go to our hotel. After various attempts of contacting the number which was given to Carlo we went straight to supposedly hotel which turned out not existing. He talked to a guard and found out that some people had the same fate that day. We resolved to go to a café and used their wifi. It was a bit late when we were able to book another accommodation which was far from the center and looked bizarre. To make the story short, this one was not ready yet and we decided to leave and took a taxi to look for another one. We ended up in Amethyst which we thought we all deserve after an afternoon of adventure.

The following day, we checked out from the hotel at 12h and went to the pier. Our boat was at 13h. More info here:

In Tagbilaran port, drivers approached us, asking about our destination. After some drinks and pansit, we called the one who gave us his calling card and headed to Calape. Once in our hotel, he insisted on being paid more than our agreed fare. Saying our destination was after the market, etc, but we didn’t pay more. The price was what the staff of our inn has told us.

We stayed for just a night in the Inn , a picturesque place in Calape town and the following day, headed to Jagna by taxi (₱3000). But along the way, our driver took us to the Sanctuary.

For my husband and I, this was our second visit to the Sactuary, having traveled in Bohol in 2005. Afterwards we had lunch in Loboc and tasted some carabao meat. In Jagna, we stayed in Partner’s Inn where we received some welcome cookies and hot chocolates. The inn can be found along the highway and our room has our basic needs. Plus the staff were kind and accommodating. Carlo bought our tickets for 13h ferry early in the morning and we did our check out at midday. The trip to Camiguin would be 4 hours.

Once in Mambajao, we were met by Alex. He is the brother of Ivan, whom Carlo met in Romblon.

Week 2 We stayed in Nautilus Cottages owned by Alex & Jenny,a swiss/Filipina couple.

THINGS TO DO IN CAMIGUIN with KIDS

HOT SPRING – Our host, Alex drove us to the spring. The weather was just right and though the water was not that warm compared to the other springs we have visited, it was good to be surrounded by greens. We chatted with a Pinoy/german and his french girlfriend who live in Spain. It was drizzling when we were about to leave so we stopped by the food stall and we had some grilled banana and bbq before walking back to our cottage.

BEACH – We walked along the rocky beach lined with coconut trees and met a few stray dogs along the way. Nonetheless, found a nice spot and later it rained. We took another route and walked by the rice field.

SUNKEN CEMETERY & SNORKELING – A must in Camiguin.

A tricycle brought us to Barrio Bonbon in Catarman and we registered to snorkel around the sunken cemetery. Guide: ₱150, Fee: ₱300 Materials: ₱50.

MANTIGUE ISLAND– From Hubangon, a boat (₱600 for 6 persons) took us to the island for a 4 hr stay. Cottages in the island cost ₱150 or you can just find a shady spot or sunbathe though it would get really hot. Bring a hat and sun screen though husband had his shirt on while snorkeling without any sun protection.

FALLS – We went to Katibawasan falls and had kiping for the first time. It’s a snack made of cassava with latik ( syrup made from muscovado and coco milk ). The water was a bit cold but refreshing. It’s best to come early and enjoy the quiet surrounding.

FOOD TRIP – Had dinner in Luna Café and tried their pizza.

Week 3

someone learned his lesson 😉

Checked out from the cottage and took a ferry to Tagbilaran, then another one for a 45 min boat ride to Panglao and stayed in Panglao Island Inn for the night. We took the girls for a swim and had dinner in a greek restaurant which was really good.

The following morning, we took a ferry boat to Siquijor.

We stayed for 4 nights in Casitas Siquijor . We were later joined by Sophie, my husband’s friend in Geneva and her girls. Their family now lives overseas.

S I Q U I J O R W I T H K I D S

There are beaches and some places we have visited.

SAN JUAN BEACH a beautiful white beach where we swam and had our mango smoothies.

LUGNASON FALLS there was a bit of dry spell and the falls was not full nevertheless the kids jumped and swam.

As we were heading up to leave the falls, a man told us to go left where we’d find another area with more water. 😉

OLD ENCHANTED BALETE TREE never knew about this particular tree, to be honest though growing up, I heard that Siquijor is an island of sorcery which made me not want to go and there I was with my family and friends sitting by the balete tree while letting the fish took over our feet.

CAMBUGAHAY FALLS some steep steps will lead to a beautiful body of water.The kids and my husband did quite a few rope swing jumps. But be wary of your personal belongings.

captured by Sophie

SALAGDOONG BEACH this was our last stop in our day tour. The restaurant could get busy at lunch time. The slide was under repair so the kids and Carlo just jumped off the cliff. We, moms were patiently waiting for our bunch to jump. We shrieked with joy and triumph every time one of the girls made it beside us.

OFF TO SEE THE WHALE SHARK

Along with Sophie and her girls we ferried to Oslob and arrived late at night. We took a tricycle to our hotel and the following day we left early to see the whale shark. But we were not the only one to see them. Our group was registered by the hotel staff who organized our tour.

by Sophie

Before leaving Oslob, we had lunch at Le Bistrot with Sophie and her girls. We said our goodbyes then hailed our bus which would take us to Cebu after 5 hrs or so ride.

The next day, our flight was more than 5 hours late and so we arrived late in Manila. Others have flight that night in Europe and were hoping to catch their plane on time. In PITX there was no more bus for Cavite.

We then tried to find a hotel nearby for the night which would not cost too much. Tired, we slept as soon as we arrived in the hotel.

In the morning, after the free breakfast, we took a taxi to the PITX, hoping that our Alfonso buses would still pass by the terminal. Unfortunately, we had to take 2 buses and arrived early afternoon in Alfonso.

It was a indeed a great trip and made special because of meeting special friends from abroad. Hope to see you again,les filles!

TAAL VOLCANO Day Tour with kids

Taal Volcano which is in Talisay, Batangas is visible from Tagaytay that is few minutes away from my town. We always take this route going to Mendez or up north. Unless we want to avoid the traffic and take the Indang road. But I have never been there so it was a good opportunity to take the girls and their little cousins for a little day tour.

IMPORTANT THINGS I HAVE LEARNED

1.Only six people are allowed in the boat. We ended up taking two boats.

2.Negotiate the price. Though every operator have fixed their price we were able to lower down the cost of our 2 boats.

Once in the Tourist Reception Center, students who have their IDs do not need to pay the fee. Only one of my nieces has her number memorized.

3.Bring a towel and some extra clothes. There might be some strong waves and though they provide a tarp to keep you dry it would not be the case all time. I was worried for the children but immediately lighten up because getting wet became part of the adventure and we had fun. Just leave your stuff in the car.

Once you get back to your car after the tour and you’re soaking wet, you’ll be thankful to have some dry clothes going back home. Specially, when you and your family decided to eat in Jollibee.

4. Good walking shoes. It would get dusty and slippery at times, so to avoid slipping and falling down you need one.

5. Hike. There were horses for rent but it was more interesting to walk and enjoy the view. The girls ran,sang and chided each other all the way to the top. There might be few occasions of frustrations of not being able to ride a horse. But seeing its state with the guide and the client riding together (most of the time), I was glad we just hiked, besides during some stops we were able to chat with some tourists.

It was a lovely, sunny day.

contemplating the view

6. Bring your own water/drinks. Because the cost of everything usually tripled and when you have 5 children with you, wow, that would hurt the budget.

Though some slid and ended on their bottom, we came down safe and sound. It was a fun a day which culminated of course in Jolibee, where else?

And we’re HOME!

DECEMBER 2018

We arrived on the 20th of December in Manila from Bangkok and were excited to see my brother, Rolan, cousin, Pogi and some of my daughters’ cousins at the airport to welcome us. It felt great to be back in my home country.

our family

We have spent Christmas with the whole family and met most of our relatives during this festive time.

My sister-in-law,Zem who was supposed to spend Christmas with us, went back to Bangkok after spending a night with us due to her boyfriend’s accident.

JANUARY 2019

Instead of partying with a friend and her family, we opted staying in our town to spend the New Year with our family. My parents were happy that we were all together.

My friend, Fibs came home as well and we went to Puerto Galera without the girls.

The girls started their schooling after New Year. They both didn’t like putting on their uniform. But rule is rule and without exception. I usually woke up before 5h and prepare their pack lunch. They were up at 6h and should be on their way to school by 6h45 with their pack lunch and P20 allowance.(After a few days, my cousin, kuya Kawe told me that I should give them P30 more 😉 Then, they discovered the school canteen and everything in their”no canteen & no school allowance lives” suddenly changed.

They sometimes came home with their untouched rice and half-eaten salad. It seemed that french-fries and bbq in the school canteen tasted better. But the positive thing about all this was Karen dared to buy her food on her own.

Their days would vary from missing friends back home to settling well in their new school, then chagrin once again. But there’s family and relatives who showed them love. Making them feel at home and welcome.

Carlo on on the other hand went to Romblon on his own. He prefers this town to Boracay. He appreciated the former and loves its beaches.

While home in Cavite, I have stopped using the social media even writing. I did backyard veggie garden and take advantage of the time to be with my family.

We also went for a DAY TOUR of TAAL VOLCANO with KIDS.

It was also at this month that Marie and Zach came and stayed with us for a few days.

FEBRUARY 2019

I would organize after school meet-up with some of their cousins and did some fun activities with all of them. The goal was to lessen the Ipad use of everyone.

I visited this garden created by my sis-in-law and other parents. They used a vacant lot near the school and planted veggies using recycled materials. Apparently, this lot will be converted into new rooms in the future.

NO SMOKING

In most municipalities in Cavite, smoking ban is being upheld in public places. And one day, after exiting SM in Trece, Carlo lighted a cigerette and soon enough 3 persons with matching shirts approached him. “NO SMOKING, here, sir. Pls. follow us.” The situation irritated me, there we were ready to take a jeep to go home and suddenly… Anyway, we went with them along with my 2 nieces and our daughters.

Then their team leader came and talked to Carlo. Explained the ban and my husband resolved not to pay the fine but instead did the community service. The team leader,on the other hand, decided to give my husband a lesser time of service finding him more pleasant than the other foreigners caught smoking.

After my Mama’s birthday, we went out of town for the week-end and stayed in Quezon City. I soon realized that we were just in front of the ABS-CBN and some meters away from Bahay ni Kuya.

Karen and I did an AirBnb experience with teacher Roxy. Then we saw one of our Swiss favorite personalities in this shop. Saw a cousin by chance in a restaurant and met, George, the husband of Carlo’s friend, Sophie.

Raised bed by February

MARCH 2019

art by the church

And with my family’s help, I had a garage sale near the church. It was also an occasion to be with some relatives for a day. We set up our tent and a table where kids and kids at heart can paint, draw or just sit. This day was made possible by my family.

After the girls schooling, I took my nephews and nieces for a road trip to Banaue to see the rice terraces. Then a day tour in Batad and later on headed to Baguio.

PASSING BY BAGUIO

Afterwards, we went to travel at some parts of the country. We have met Carlo’s friend and new people along the way. I will soon post about it here.

APRIL 2019

A day before our departure, we celebrated my father’s 69th birthday. Then, it was time to go. I cried buckets, really sad that our vacation was over.


It was a great 3 month vacation. Seeing everyone in my hometown. Talking to my family and relatives, laughing and crying with them. It felt good to just sit down and catch up.
We didn’t take any souvenirs with us this time given that we still have 2 months before going back to Geneva but those times spent with everyone was enough as our souvenirs.

We are really lucky to have all of you in our lives, dear family and relatives. Thank you for your generosity & time spent with us.

Cambodia

03.12.2018 From Bangkok, we took the bus for Cambodia and our tickets were purchased the night before. We have decided to do the visa procedure ourselves instead of paying an additional fee. We were told to wait by 8h in front of the travel agency and someone would take us to the bus but it was almost 9h before someone showed up.

It should be easy in the border, so I thought. Using my Philippine passport, I was not to pay anything. But the officer asked for my date of entry which was of course posted in my CH passport. To make the long story short, I went back to pay for my visa using the CH passport. I apologized to the other passengers for waiting and they were all understanding.

We made few stops before reaching our destination and in one of those stops we were told to buy first before using the toilet. No, we didn’t need the sim card, yes, some water please. 😉

SIEM REAP

We arrived in Siem Reap early evening. At the station, tuk tuk drivers were waiting for the passengers to be taken to the center. We have negotiated for two tuk tuks to take us to our guesthouse. We stayed in Thngay Soben Guesthouse , a family run guesthouse, where the owner organized our rides and most of our tours.

WHERE TO GO

Art Box:

Good for children. Not for husbands. 🙂 We haven’t been to any 3d paintings and murals so it was a good occasion to visit this museum. We came early and luckily we were able to avoid the other tourists who came in buses. The tour took us less than an hour and at the end of the visit one can get free ice cream once a Trip advisor comment was done.

Sunset in Angkot Wat: After purchasing our pass for the next day tour, we went to Angkor Wat as people were exiting the temple.

Meet Up:

We have met some people in Siem Reap thru this Facebook group, some with children who were also traveling for a year and we were able to do things together on the duration of our stay in town.

Temple tour: With our hired tuk tuk, we left our guesthouse around 8h and started the tour from the last temple, we were hoping to avoid the influx of visitors. But that could not happen here. On to our 2nd temple, we have crossed path with fellow Asians who arrived in buses. However, it didn’t really matter. We entered the temple in awe and wonder while music floated on the air. For me, visiting the temples was about one’s communion with the sacred place, the nature and one’s inner peace.

We skipped some of the temples, thinking that we have seen those we wanted to visit.

Dine for a cause
On our second night, we had dinner with two french families at a french restaurant called Chili Pepper where students of Krousar Thmey performed.

Floating village tour We were picked up from our guesthouse then the driver continued picking up some more guests. Arriving in our destination, we were then driven to another area coz the first one did not have enough water. It was exciting at first, sailing by the houses painted with vibrant colors but as we reached the dry land, we were greeted by hawkers. And I wonder why do they sell pens and notebooks. Then as we moved along with our guide, showing us a small class underneath the houses, I understood then. But it felt uneasy walking in the area. I felt like an intruder. There was no interaction with the locals or any leader of the community.

We didn’t join the others in the mangrove visit. Instead, we stayed in the boat while waiting for the rest of the group to arrive and then watched the sunset.

BATTAMBANG

From Siem Reap, we have shared a ride with les Macax in their camper van. We stayed in Por Chey for 3 nights .

Phare Ponleu Selpak – The one not to miss here. There are performances every night and we were able to watch the “Village Market”.

We arrived early and had some drinks. There were some students who could create a caricature for anyone who were interested. My girls, of course had a tour of their souvenir shop.

Battambang bat cave A 45 min spectacle. The street was lined with tables and chair ready for the spectators. A girl pointed us an empty table when we arrived. She later told us that she was glad to be able to practice her english. We had some drinks while watching the bats went out of the cave and flew together.

Night market

We had a quick stop here after watching the circus and tasted some balut with the local sauce.

FOOD TRIP

Aside from eating at the Battambang Town restaurant with the whole family, I went to Jaan Bai with my daughters,
one afternoon while husband was resting. It was really good though a bit expensive.

Bamboo train We we’re driven to the station by Rith who was a nice fellow and explained us a bit about the bamboo train.

That afternoon we experienced riding the norry. It was an hour to and fro ride where one cruise along a green scenery. When another norry came in our direction, we stopped and our driver would lift the whole thing at the side of the track with the help of the other norry driver. And of course at the end of the trip, there were souvenir shops. My husband purchased a krama. I guess, no knitting this winter for me.

PHNOM PENH

Independence Monument

We hired a taxi for our trip to Phnom Penh. The staff of our guest house has given me a post-it where he wrote the english and khmer translation of toilet, stop and restaurant. The driver, incidentally, has already filled his trunk with some merchandise to be taken to the city. Luckily, we were able to fit our luggage inside.


Booking.com fiasco– arriving in our guesthouse, we found out that though we received Booking.com‘s confirmation, it was not the case for the owner. So we didn’t have any room. They found us a room for the night and then we came back to stay one more night with them.

What to do:

Musée du Genocide de Tuol Sleng A visit not to miss.

We were both moved by this. I would sometimes go out and just cry. How about the girls? I would ask if they would like to go on or tell them the the images would be shocking and there were some rooms where we didn’t let them visit. When we finished the visit, both of them had a fervent hope that this would not occur anymore.

Food trip in images

Miss Universe 2018

To celebrate Ms. Catriona‘s winning, we went out to eat at this restaurant with wall covered with clients’ drawings. My daughter, Karen, did the one above.

We were at VS Sweet Home,
(our guesthouse, a bit far from the center but our host went his way to make our stay comfortable) when the telecast for Miss Universe was going on.

then it was time to go…

So long, Cambodia!

From Phnom Penh, we took a plane for Bangkok where we’d stay for a night then fly to Manila with my sister-in-law, Zem. Really excited to finally see our relatives.

Thailand

Our ride to Noi Bai International airport was scheduled at 6h and I wondered if the driver would arrive on time. My apprehension came to a halt when the car arrived 5 minutes before. Then, there was traffic but fortunately our driver carefully and easily maneuvered us on the road.

Our plane for Bangkok was at 10h35 and we arrived in Suvarnabhumi Airport after 1h50 hours. From the arrival area,we went down the ground floor where we bought our tickets for  a shuttle bus for Khao San Road. The staff provided us with bottled water and then dropped us off by the road near our accommodation.

We stayed two nights in La Rivetta  before heading to Ko Pha-ngan and on the first night we bought our tickets (train, bus & boat combined).  Our train for Surat Thani was at 19h30.

Night time in Khao San road is so busy and animated. Walking around gave me an exciting vibe plus the fact that we’re few hours away from my country. We’d be seeing more of this, having Bangkok as our stop during our stay in Asia.

Our family met with James, my friend’s son and who is currently staying near Khao San road. We had dinner near our guesthouse, by the street where we were welcomed by an enthusiastic man. Their food was so good and really affordable.

Are we ready?

Our things are always arranged the night before our departure. I make sure that everything’s pack but sometimes there were little things left behind like a cap and this time it was my phone.

I charged it while waiting for our time to take a taxi and kept telling myself that my phone was charging.

Then it was time to go, fortunately there was no traffic and we arrived at  the Hua Lamphong station before 19h. 5 minutes later I have realized that my phone was still charging in the hostel. Panicked then Karen and I took a taxi (150 bht) to get my phone. I asked the taxi to wait for us and would pay him later but he kept telling me “money, money”. After paying him and making sure he understood to wait for us, we hurried out the taxi and recuperate my phone. Then we went back to the station. All along, praying that there would be no traffic. 15 minutes before our train departs, we arrived at the station. Grateful.

Trip to Ko Pha-ngan

Ours were combined tickets (bought from an agency in Khao San road) to Koh Phangan. The train from Hua Lamphong station in Bangkok left at 19h30. After a few minutes the staff started converting our seats to beds. Our girls were excited of the transformation. We had dinner in the train’s dining area, where the windows were all open and bringing in some breeze with the night scenery of the life outside.Then we found out that my husband had made an error on the reservation date for our bungalow in Ko Pha-ngan . He reserved for the following week.


The night in the train was fine though it was so chilly. I have asked the staff if he could lower the AC’s temperature but he might have forgotten about it. Luckily, we have our malong with us and leggings in our backpack, except of course for Carlo.

We arrived early morning in Surat Thani, someone asked we if needed help, our destination and pointed the bus we should take to the pier. It was almost 2 hours of bus ride and at the pier there was a restaurant where they served pad thai and fried rice. (Don’t hesitate to ask for some nam pla pric). Then,we were told to walk up to where the ferry boat for Ko Pha-ngan was docked.

Arriving at Ko Pha-ngan , we were approached by a guy and showed us some flyers. As my husband made an error on our reservation(remember, he made the reservation for the following week), we agreed to see the guesthouse and our taxi cost us 300 bht from the pier to Baan Haad Yao guesthouse. We stayed there for a week and have enjoyed the beach which  is only away from us. The mistake turned out to be a blessing.

A week later, we transferred to our new bungalow in Haad Gruad. There would be intermittent rain during the week,nevertheless, we have enjoyed our stay.

While in Haad Gruad, we went to a nearby beach resort called Salad Beach where we had massage, swam and relaxed. I was able also to exchange one book and we ate in Prung Tip restaurant which is not far from the beach just behind Jack’s bar.

27.11.18  7 minutes before 10h and the car has not arrived yet.  It should be here at 9h and we were supposed to be out and exploring the island. The moral of the story is: Do the business with the main man.

Anyway, after an hour the car arrived and we were able to drive around. We did not take lots of pictures though we had a great time going to a bookshop and eating in the market.

28.11.18 It rained last night. The waves are making their presence felt in front of our bungalow. Erin is reading her book found in a 2nd hand book shop yesterday while Carlo and Karen went to get the laundry. They might pass by 7-11, I was told. Lucie is in her post. Lazily lounging, seems to enjoy the cool morning breeze.

30.11.2018 The car came at 10h45 which left us ample time for our 12h30 departure from Ko Pha-ngan . By 17h30 we were at the pier where a bus would take us to Surat Thani train station.

While the others were boarding the bus, I have told the driver that we’d go to the toilet and he answered: “hurry, hurry.” So with my daughter Karen, we hurried to the toilet but when we get back our bus was nowhere in sight. They left us….We were told to go to the other waiting area, we ran then I hailed the other bus coming our way. Once in the waiting area, a lady told us to take another bus. This one took us and drove for 5 minutes where our bus was waiting for us by the roadside.

While in Bangkok, we stayed again in La Rivetta for two nights and there was a meet up with some families who are also travelling like us. We had a lovely time with the families of Poly,Celine (we met them in Bolivia) and Maxime.

The following day, we decided to go to Lumphini park with Celine and family but taxis would not take us with our proposed fare. Finally one came and our family took it. At the park while waiting for them, we walked around and came upon an activity called “Knowledge in the Park” in the Lumphini Youth Center.

Afterwards, we took the MRT and went to Siam.

Celine’s family was not able to join us that Sunday afternoon, we later found out that they were not able to get any taxi.

03.12.2018 We took the bus for Cambodia.

On nems, motorbike and birthday in Hanoi

The drive from the hotel to Haneda airport is less than 20 minutes and before 6h30 we were queuing for check-in. At exactly 6h30 the staff of ANA  had their little ceremony before opening the counter and then the check-in started. The staff in general were really nice and helpful.

We arrived in Hanoi on the 8th of November after 6 hours or so flight from Tokyo. Exiting the airport, I  saw right away the man holding the sign with my husband’s name on it. Our hotel has sent someone to pick us up from the airport.

The hotel is located at the old quarter, where every nook and corner has shops and restaurant. The alley to our hotel is lined with vendors where everything looks so delicious.

It was rare that I take pictures of what we eat and when I wanted to, my phone would be no where in sight. Hence, no picture of the first lunch of Karen which was evidently, a plate of nems.


A Vietnamese story

We became Vietnam dish lovers because of my friend, Jenna. A Vietnamese -American who is married to Tony, an Italian-Swiss. Both are in Geneva and we are their absent quasi neighbor for some weeks now. They moved into our neighborhood. Yey! Anyway, she introduced us to Pho and nems.

Her mom, who visited them, some years ago, taught me how to prepare summer rolls and its peanut sauce. And up to this day, I am so grateful to her for sharing that knowledge.

This is Us

After Japan, my husband and I decided to take it really easy. And as Karen’s birthday approach, we let her decide what to do. So, no boats or anymore bus for the time being. Just nems, mangoes and dim sum.Great!

I have never seen so many motorbikes in my life. The street here is filled with them and parked in front of of restos and shops. Crossing the street with my girls, was not an easy task.

We arrived the week when there was a festival called #INSPIREme Festival 2018. Everyday, there was a program and live music.

After two nights in this hotel, we booked another one in the french quarter.

We were able to watch the the water puppet show and bought our tickets the day before to avoid long queuing. Yet, there was a tourist group before us and the line was in state of complete disorder and confusion. Hats off to the cashier.

Our eldest daughter, Karen turned 11 (11.11.18) while here in Hanoi. We went to a restaurant for her bday dinner and later have the cake at the apartment.

She didn’t want to blow the cake in the resto and preferred to have it quiet with only her family .

As we prepared her cake, she got a WhatsApp call from her friends. I was really glad and thankful to Alessia, the mother of her friend, Diana,who initiated the call. Karen was able to talk to her other two friends as well. That made her day.

On our way to the airport, amidst the passing vehicles this wall captured my interest.

This long wall could take your mind away from the traffic for a few minutes and that’s a good thing.

Our flight for Bangkok was at 10h35. We were glad for the chance to visit Hanoi and would have wanted to stay longer, to be able to explore more. See you again, Hanoi!

Our family’s New Zealand adventure

After months in South America and taking buses, we were eager to finally take a plane. We were so excited for a change of scenery and discover a little part of New Zealand.

Our flight was at 23h55.

Prior to our departure, I read the information here and emailed info@mpi.govt.nz to be sure about the things we could take with us. I, then declared few things so as to avoid any issue in the custom,even the bamboo fan of Karen. 🙂

Auckland

Arriving at the hostel, we found out that Carlo made an error in our reservation dates. We missed one night. After admiring the grandeur of our first hostel in New Zealand, we went out and explore a bit our surrounding, searched for a grocery store and went back to the hostel.

While Carlo was napping, I took the girls to the zoo.

It was not only the girls who have enjoyed the zoo but me as well.

Juicy Snooze

There’s a well equipped kitchen in the hostel. The family room is actually immense and for the first time after two months, we have a lot of space.  We were hoping to stay for one more night but apparently all rooms were occupied. It was then that we decided to leave the following day for Tauranga.

During the late afternoon, we took a walk and ended up in a night market. There were stalls of Asian food which made us so giddy. We lined up for dimsum and siopao. Then, I let Carlo and the girls looked for a  table while I get some bbq and bubble tea. No, there was no beer for sale.

We stayed for a while and listened to the live music. Surrounded by my fellow Asians. It felt like home.

The following morning, while checking out, the staff advised us to first book our bus tickets instead of heading straight to the terminal without reservation. He then called the ticket office, reserved our seats and afterwards, we walked to the terminal.

We stopped from time to time. Checking some shops and going ga-ga over sushi display. Erin and I went to buy some sushi, while Carlo and Karen went to a dollar store. Erin joined them while I waited outside.

Along the way, we found a bookshop called Jason Bookshop. The girls found one book each and we continued on our way to the terminal. Stopping once for some smoothies and reminiscing the abundance of fruit juice stalls in South America.

Our bus  for Tauranga was at 12h25. Our driver, Nigel is a funny fellow and his announcement during our trip would elicit some laughter from the passengers.

After almost 4 hours, we finally arrived and being Saturday, almost everything was closed by 15h. We took a taxi, after passing by an Asian shop, to our accommodation.

I have booked our accommodation thru Airbnb. At first, we thought that we could do everything easily by foot or public transport. Then after grocery shopping and walking to and fro New World, with two bags (one for each adult) and two small ones for the girls we both agreed that renting a car was not a bad idea.

We spent one afternoon, walking in the Moturiki Recreation Reserve.

We also drove to Rotorua and along the way stopped at Kuirau Park. We tried the thermal foot bath in the park then the girls played for a while.

At Rotorua’s visitor centre, we asked info about the Kerosene creek and bought some cute post cards.

It was raining cats and dogs as my husband drove away from the center while I held the map and guided him, positive that this time my map expertise would not fail us.

After having our lunch here, we continued on our way. And it was a loong one. As luck would have it, I missed the sign for the creek.

Desperate for that warm water of the creek, we followed a sign of a  mud pool ,thinking it was like a thermal bath, so we went, ready to take a dip. And we learned that it was not.  Then we drove on. After driving for almost an eternity, we turned back and finally found it. There were some cars parked near the creek. The latter was not that crowded but I thought that rain would not hinder some people to visit the river.

 

While the three were already enjoying the warm water and I was changing into my swimsuit, it rained again. I put everything in my  backpack and covered it with my umbrella. Didn’t even  bother changing into my swimsuit top, I joined the rest of the tribe in my bra. We had a lovely time, laughing as we bathed in the warm water of the Kerosene creek  and all the while letting the pouring rain add its magic around us .

Erin and I slipped as we changed. We laughed it off and wet back to the car with our muddy clothes.

Then as we were heading back to the house, a twin rainbow appeared. What an spectacle to end our day of adventure.

31.10.2018 Tauranga. It’s our last day here and the sunniest morning of all 4 days of our stay. We would have liked to have a weather like this one during our excursions. Anyway, the chickens are having a blast. Check out time is 10h as usual. The plan is for Carlo to drop us near the bus stop and he’d return the car in the garage.

sWe went to the library of Tauranga while waiting for Carlo. It is next to the tourist office. We were so excited for different reasons. The girls for the free wifi connection and myself being surrounded with books and magazines. The two shortly read their books and afterwards Erin being the smartpants hid the Ipad with a magazine while her Ate continued with her book.

When husband arrived, we headed to the seaside and had some drinks and nacho in La Mexica.

Our bus to Auckland was at 12h40. It arrived in Manukau City around 15h49. From there, we took another bus, direction airport. We have booked a hotel near the airport for our last night in Auckland.

We waited at gate 11 , where the shuttle service of our hotel picked us up.

During our 10 min stop in Thames, Erin went down with Carlo and it was then that the accident occurred. She later told me that she was holding it until she gets to the toilet. I saw her vomiting and thought of getting down while Karen napped but decided against it. I told myself that Carlo could handle everything. 

01.11.2018 5h27 Hotel. Our plane for Tokyo is at 9h50 today. I reached out to my Facebook group for Japan tips and realized that I should have plan better. Anyway, let’s hope for a fun Japan sojourn.


Mauruuru koe ki Aotearoa!


Travelling to Uruguay and Buenos Aires

Concordia-Gualeguaychu-Fray Bentos-Colonia del Sacramento-Buenos Aires

It was sunny when we left Puerto Iguazú. We had hoped for the same weather during ourtrip to the Iguazú Falls the day before.

From P. Iguazú we took an overnight bus for Concordia and fortunately, I had taken our blankets out from our luggage because it was freezing at night. I have asked the staff if he could change the temperature but maybe he had forgotten my request.

Arriving early morning, I could not recall where our tickets were. The stickers for our luggage were attached to them. It took me ages to find them (side pocket of my backpack) and of course, caused delay which was not appreciated by the driver.

Once in Concordia, we took a bus for Gualeguaychu.

Our trip was only 4 hours, yet we were served coffee twice.

We thought of staying there for the night but changed our plan and instead decided to go to Uruguay the same day. Our destination: Fray Bentos.

We have passed the border without any fuss andt while the staff was putting a stamp on our passport,  I was so excited having crossed another country mainly by bus.

The travel time to Fray Bentos from Gualeguaychu was 1h15mins according to our tickets. And yes we arrived on time.  Inside the bus terminal of Fray Bentos, Uruguay, there’s a tourist  office. After getting some information, we decided to stay for the night.



We stayed in Hotel Colonial. My husband likes this kind of hotel with high ceiling, wide windows and spacious courtyard. This remind us of the one in Arequipa and in Vigan.

Before searching for a resto, we walked in the plaza as the sun went down. The girls excitedly running everywhere. I guessed they were so glad to finally being off the bus, the parents as well.

In the morning, Carlo bought some bread and pastries from a bakery nearby. The girls had their breakfast by the balcony while we drank our instant coffee by the door. Then, it was time to check out and to discover another place.

We took a bus for Colonia del Sacramento. We stayed for 2 nights in a hostel called Hostal de los Poetas. This is run by Ariel and his wife,Carla. Only 3 months in operation when we arrived. Breakfast is included and there’s a kitchen as well which we appreciate.

The girls were lent some coloring books and pencils. I, on the other hand,was able to exchange one book.


We also visited the Barrio Histórico.

After two nights, we left Uruguay and took a ferry for Buenos Aires.

Buenos Aires

Off shore, I was somewhat disoriented. Was it the heat, the traffic or the vastness which lay in front of us? Thinking that taking a taxi instead of a bus would be better, we waited for  one to stop in front of us. Then, when nothing was happening we crossed the street where a couple of them were taking passengers. We waited for another taxi to come which could accommodate us and our 4 luggage. 

Our hotel is right in the middle of the city. The staff were nice, but we were glad it was only for one night.

Second day in Buenos Aires

On the second day and the day of our departure, we were to meet Celine and her family. We decided to walk going to the resto, but we missed a turn and felt like we were moving far from the street where we should be taking, when we decided to take a taxi. We were getting late for our appointment.

That day, the street was full of life, people and ….traffic. There was a street demonstration going on. So we get off the taxi and walked again, until we reached our restaurant. Fortunately, we were not the only one who were late.

And as we walked around the city, the hotel staff let us leave our luggage till it was time for us to go to the airport.

As we cruised along the busy street of Buenos Aires, our taxi driver and Carlo chatted away. Football, politics and a bit of family. The girls were starting to dozed off. I was half listening to the men in front of me,  concentrating my gaze outside, as it changed from busy street to a long line of greens and trees.  We were almost at the airport.