Fox Glacier, NZ

I stayed in Fox Glacier for total of 33 days doing help exchange at the Lake Matheson Motel. I apparently liked this place a lot since this is the first time I stayed at one place for more than two weeks during my travels. This small town boasts a beautiful view of Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman. 

The best thing to do here is to do the heli hike which I couldn’t afford. 🙂

My favorite place is the Matheson Lake of course. 



There’s the Lake Matheson Cafe with good food. I had breakfast and lunch here with my hosts and colleagues. But of course, this is perfect for coffee and a slice of cake.


I highly recommend The Last Kitchen restaurant though if you want good food. 

There’s the Fox Glacier viewpoint which was just okay. 


Franz Josef is the nearest town. Here, you’ll have more options for restaurant, they have a cinema and hot pools! I paid NZD 8.00 since I was with a local.


There’s only one store in Fox  Glacier and it’s expensive so people usually buy food before coming here or go to Franz Josef for Four Square. 

The good thing is there’s no shops to shop at so if shopping is your problem like mine, this is the place where you can save money LOL. 

Nelson, New Zealand

I started my South Island trip in Nelson on August 15th. I stayed here for two weeks doing help exchange. I previously posted World of Wearable Art and Classic Museum and my Abel Tasman Full-day Trip.

I’d say that they are my top two favorites here. But aside from that, I also loved The Centre of New Zealand. It was so only 15 minutes easy walk to the top and the view was just amazing and serene.

There’s Founders Heritage Park which was kind of a throw back. Plenty of interesting little museums. There’s NZD 7 entrance fee for tourists.


The Queens Garden was also nice but since I came during the winter, still not much flowers.


Who would want to miss the Saturday market in Nelson? They’ve got pretty cool stuff and yummy food.



The Nelson Provincial Museum is tiny but worth visiting.


Nearby is church hill.


Tahunanui Beach is my 3rd favorite with another beautiful relaxing views!


And don’t forget to visit Penguino in town if you’re an ice cream lover like me.


And here’s a beautiful view from one of the lookouts.


It was mostly sunny during my stay in Nelson and of course this place is just one of the “a-must-visit” in New Zealand.

Abel Tasman National Park

Located between Golden Bay and Tasman Bay at the north end of the South Island, this national park in New Zealand is definitely a must do specially when you are in Nelson. I availed the full day trip package from Nelson for NZD 67 which was absolutely worth it. Details below;


When we arrived in Kaiteriteri, the bus driver directed us where to get the boat ticket. It was through Wilson’s. A small fast boat and it was full. At least 20 people in there. 


We made a quick stop to this big split rock and the seal colony where we got to see quite a few cute seals. 


It was a beautiful day although it was a little cloudy. 


When we arrived in Anchorage Bay, I was the only one they dropped off so apparently I was the only one doing this package! Well, it’s the cheapest package! Then I was left alone in this island which was quite nice. The boat driver told me I can do the Anchorage loop for 1 1/2 hour before I head to Marahau. I am however anxious about the time so I only went to Te Pukatea Bay which took 30 minutes walk going and back. 


Still alone in the island, I took photos before I headed my way to Marahau using my gopro, thanks for the app I can use as remote control. 

And selfies of course! 



At exactly 11am, I started tramping. So here we go, 4 hours to Marahau. 


I was literally alone but it wasn’t scary instead I found so much sanity walking alone with the mother nature. 

First stop was the Watering Cove, it was definitely worth a stop. 

Super clear water and I had it all for myself. It was so peaceful and I felt so isolated. 


As I continued my journey, there were lovely views on the way. 


Then there’s Apple Tree Bay which I checked out as well. 


There were few creeks along the way and the sound of water is relaxing.

It wasn’t until halfway when I started to come across few people who apparently started where I’ll finish. After 2 1/2 walk, I felt tired but at the same time relieved that I’m closer to Marahau lol. Then I saw the sign 55 minutes to go, woohoo! 

Finally, I reached the end of the track.

I did it! At least 13km walk in 4 hours. 

My feet and legs were sore but it was a good pain.

Accompanied by these birds while resting. 


Until my bus arrived and there I fell asleep on the way back to Nelson. I was beat but feeling accomplished. 


This definitely is one of the most beautiful trips I’ve done.

World of Wearable Art & Classic Cars Museum

I’ve never been this amazed to a museum. Located in Nelson, New Zealand, this museum is devoted to wearable art and classic cars. I paid NZD 24 to enter and I must say it was super worth it. 

Before I went in, I stopped at their cafe and had a cup of cappuccino for NZD 4.50 which is an average price. 

You’ll be impressed right when you entered. Lots of interesting items before you even in the actual museum. 


The wearable art costumes are unbelievably amazing. No words can describe how well the talented artists created these. 


I can’t help but stare.


They even have glow in the dark costumes. 


I love classic cars and they have an amazing huge collection of them.


If I live in Nelson, I’d purchase the VIP pass for NZD 55 which will allow you to visit all year. 🙂

Hawke’s Bay Region, NZ

Hawke’s Bay is the renowned wine-producing region in New Zealand but I went there on the first weekend of August which is still winter and unfortunately, it was raining most of the days I was there. 

Napier is a coastal city known for art deco. I stayed here for 3 nights with the hope of visiting the nearby towns but then again it was raining. I got couple hours of sunshine before I had to leave though so that’s something. 

I got to visit the National Aquarium of New Zealand which is not that big but this is where I got to see real kiwis for the first time. I watched the cute little penguins being fed and I saw some interesting creatures. They also have a huge squid which I think is better than the one at Te Papa Museum in Wellington. 


I like Napier’s Marine Parade which has the tree-lined waterfront promenade. 

I visited Arataki Honey which was so cool specially the Bee Car. LOL


Of course, there’s the famous Cape Kidnappers which was closed for the winter. Got some nice photos though. 



I went to Te Mata peak but it was just okay for me but maybe this place is better when it’s not winter. 

And the rest are just beautiful random photos taken along the way. 😊


Hawke’s Bay region is definitely a place I would want to go back to after the winter. Nonetheless, it was nice to see it even though I was stuck in the hostel for couple days. 😉

Matiu/Somes Island Weekend Gateaway

Matiu/Somes Island is only 20 minutes ferry ride from Wellington Queens Wharf. A roudtrip ticket cost NZD 23 per person. 

The first ferry on the weekend starts at 10am which we took.


We rented the Education House for NZD 200 which can occupy up to 10 people. It’s a beautiful 3-bedroom house, a fully equipped kitchen and has stunning harbour views. You can make a reservation here; http://www.doc.govt.nz 


Since it’s winter, it’a cold and unfortunately, it started raining after we got settled in which lasted through the night so we were pretty much stuck in the house all Saturday. I spent time coloring instead. 

And stayed warm with my cute Kathmandu thermals.



Blessed with a beautiful Sunday, we finally got to explore this little island. 

According to DOC  this Matiu/Somes Island lighthouse was the first inner harbour lighthouse in New Zealand.

Love this super clear water!


That was a great escape. It felt like you are isolated yet the city is still within reach. Overnight or day trip, this island is a must to visit. 

A roadtrip marking my 1st month in NZ

When I arrived New Zealand on June 15th, I got to go on a really nice roadtrip in Wairarapa Region on my first weekend; https://iamryshel.com/2016/06/20/my-first-roadtrip-in-new-zealand/

And after completing a month, I got to go back to Wairarapa Region on July 16-17. This time, I visited Castlepoint. 

Castlepoint is a small beachside town on the Wairarapa coast about 2 1/2 hours drive from Wellington Central. 


Blessed with a beautiful weather although it was chilly and windy.



I got to see one of the most beautiful sunrises along the Castlepoint Beach. 


Before heading back to Wellington, we swung by at West Wind farm located in Makara. 


Spent few minutes at Wellington Botanic Garden but since it’s winter there wasn’t much flowers. 


Next stop was Shelly Bay where I once again felt in peace. It was just so relaxing here.


Finally, Mt. Victoria before heading home. 


What a productive, wonderful weekend. One month in New Zealand has been completed, 5 more months of NZ  adventure to go. Thank you Lord God. 🙂

The Thermal Wonderland of NZ

Rotorua is famous for hot springs, mud pools, geysers and interesting Maori culture. As I am a budget traveler, I didn’t get to see a lot of what this geothermal city has to offer but I sure had a great time here. 

I first visited Redwoods where I spent at least couple of hours in the woods. You can easily take bus no. 3 in the corner of isite which cost NZD 2.60. 

This is where I get dropped off and the Redwoods isite is just kilometer away. 

Here are your choices. 


I was going to do the Tokorangi Pa Track but when I went up there, there was not one person and I didn’t feel safe doing the trail alone so I went back down and continued on to Quarry Track instead.

Beautiful giant redwoods welcome you ar the start point.

What do you expect in the woods? Of course, beautiful trees along the way! 

Here’s the view from Tokorangi Pa Track where you could see a little bit of the city.


On my way back…

After my nature adventure, I decided to soak myself at Polynesian Spa which was very close to my hostel. 


I paid NZD 45 for the Lake Spa. It includes the use of locker room, towels, shower with shampoo/body wash, conditioner, hair dryer. I rented their swimsuit for NZD 10 where you get NZD 5 refund when you return it. They have 5 pools with different temperatures from 36 to 42 degrees. It maybe a little expensive but I swear it was worth it. I spent at least 4 hours here. I left around 4PM when the crowd started to get crazy. 

On my last day in Rotorua, I just walked around. I went to Kuirau Park where you can see geothermals for free. 


I then went around the lake front where you can see lots of birds and swans. 



And if you walk your way to the Government Gardens, you will pass by the Sulfur Point Wildlife Sanctuary. 


The Rotorua Museum where you have to pay NZD 20 to enter so I didn’t get to go inside.


The Gardens…


Rachel’s Spring…


I didn’t get to spend much time and money in Rotorua. I sure have many reasons to come back here. Anyhow, I enjoyed my 3 days here and the little things I got to do. 🙂

Mount Maunganui, NZ

I hitchhiked for the first time from Matamata to Mount Maunganui (Tauranga). Within 3 minutes standing on the side of the road, a car stopped. A lady named Linda who happened to have visited my country, The Philippines before. She was very kind. She even gave me her number to call her in case I get stuck, I can stay at her house. 🙂


I decided to stay at Pacific Coast Lodge and Backpacker though. A little over a kilometer away to Mount Maunganui which I visited right away. 


Here it is. Not too high. 🙂

I’m only starting and here’s my view already. 



What can you expect from the top? 


I spent at least an hour on this spot. It was just so serene. 


Here’s on my way down on the other side. 


The harbour side is where I ended when I came down.


I then went to Maunganui Beach. Lovely weather!


Nice little town. Bay of Plenty indeed. 😉

Matamata, NZ

I luckily found a couchsurfing host in Matamata (well in the suburb actually). I didn’t expect it would be in the so this is like a dream come true to me since I’ve been wanting to stay in the farm. 

This is the house! 


Simon gave me this room for 3 nights with an awesome view. I could literally watch the sunset from my bed.



I visited the Wairere Falls which is only around 2km from his house. 

The hike took me an hour and 15 minutes while it only took an hour going down. It was muddy and slippery as you get closer to the top. The view was amazing of course. 


These are the views from the secret place my host told me about on my way to the falls. 😉 


I got to join my host, Simon for his morning routin at the farm. I got to ride on his cool big ass tractor and helped him a little by unwrapping food for the cows. 


While in Matamata, I got to do the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour; https://iamryshel.com/2016/07/05/hobbiton-movie-set-tour/

I had a great weekend here. I learned a lot about farming and the industry’s current situation. My host was amazing who willingly picked me up and drop me off to places. Cooked meals and shared a lot of interesting information. Staying with the locals is really the best way to get that amazing experience while traveling. 🙂

Hobbiton Movie Set Tour

I’ve never read the book nor watched the movie but I did this tour anyway. 

I booked my ticket through Naked Bus company when I booked my bus online from New Plymouth to Matamata where it is $9 cheaper compare to booking it through Hobbiton Tours website. I got the 2pm tour which seemed to be the only option. 

I arrived at Matamata i-site at 1:30pm, I had to check in then I was given my ticket. 



The bus departed at exactly 2pm. Our guide/driver was funny Big John. 


The Hobbiton Movie Set is located at Alexander Family Farm southwest of Matamata in Waikato, NZ. It took about 30mins. to get there, beautiful view on the way of course. Lucky the weather was beautiful too.


Our guide was Charlie. She was funny and friendly. Here we go…photos from the actual set. 😉

One of the trees is fake.


Yup, this small tree is fake! They did an awesome and expensive job to make it look so real. 


And this is the billion dollar tree. This is the main reason Alexander Farm was chosen for the set. 


At the end of the tour we had our free drinks. I had Amber Ale. 

We got back at the i-site by 4:50pm.

NZD 70.00 maybe a little too much  but I think it’s worth it. I’m not a scifi fan but I’m definitely watching the movie after this. 🙂

New Plymouth, NZ

So what’s in the major city of the Taranaki Region? I guess the Coastal Walkway is one of the biggest attractions here which I visited first. It’s a 13km path which is good for bicycling or walking or just simply enjoying the breathtaking view of the west coast. The pathway includes the iconic Te Rewa Rewa brigde. I cycled here for 2.5 hours. Here are some of the beautiful photos I’ve taken alomg the way.


Unfortunately, it was too cloudy for me to see Mt. Taranaki but the bridge itself is awesome.


I visited the Pukekura Park next. It was a nice walk as I expected. 



I headed straight to Puke Ariki museum and library. If you need to use a computer, you can simply ask for your log in details at the reception area. 

I also checked out the Art Gallery. There wasn’t much there but it’s worth a visit while in town. 


On my last day in New Plymouth, I went to the rooftop of the Centre City’s parking lot. Mr. Mt. Taranaki showed up just before I left. 🙂

What a lovely stay in New Plymouth. 😉

Peru Hop: 3-day Tour From Lima

After my Machu Picchu Adventure https://iamryshel.com/2015/10/29/the-best-birthday-ive-had-so-far/, I headed back to Lima with extra few days before I fly out to explore the city and to relax but my plan changed when I saw Peru Hop’s advetisement in my hostel offering to discover the southern coast of Peru which sounds pretty interesting. 

Peru Hop offers safe, flexible and fun travel. Did I get all those? You be the judge!

I went to their website http://www.peruhop.com/ and abruptly booked their 3-day Tour from Lima for US $159. They accept international credit card and the process was hassle free.

  

Aside from the 2 nights accommodation, the package also includes the fees for the Paracas Natural Reserve, Ballestas Islands, and the Dune Buggy and Sandboard. 

DAY 1:

I went on a Saturday so the bus was scheduled to leave at 6AM. I was advised by email that I’d be picked up between 4:50am and 5:10am. To my surprised, the hostel’s doorbell rang at exactly 4:50AM by Peru Hop’s staff. I honestly expected them to be late lol. We picked up other passengers on the way and believe it or not, the last pick up was at 6:00AM. So we left on time and that gave me a good first impression about Peru Hop because I am very, very particular when it comes to time. 

When the passengers were all boarded, our english speaker tour guide, Maurice oriented us on our activities for the day and handed our Peru Hop wristband. We were also given a copy of our whole itinerary which is very nice because you won’t be puzzled about what’s going to happen next and it contains information that will truly set your expectations. It was written in English and in an entertaining  way too. 😉

   

We arrived Paracas at around 10:10AM. I was accompanied to Kokopelli Hostel with two other people. It was just enough time to check in and get breakfast before the Natural Reserve tour at 11AM.

  
This place is very relaxing. We were given 30 minutes to enjoy the peaceful view and the peaceful sound of the water. 
  
  

After the tour, I decided to get lunch at their suggested Restaurant Paracas who offers a special menu for Peru Hoppers. 

  
You can choose an appetizer and a main dish for only PEN 29.90. 

I opted for ceviche and arroz con mariscos. Their ceviche was a bomb and as of writing, I am still salivating. I tried their pisco sour which of course I had to pay extra and it was the best pisco sour I’ve had in Peru!

 
The rest of the day was all mine and I chose to just chill at my hostel to make sure I’m all rested for the next day’s itinerary. 
Day 2:

Visiting Ballestas Island was the activity for this day. We left the meeting point at 10:05AM. Unfortunately, we had to wait about an hour before we actually got on the boat. 

I captured this bird on our way and how I wish I could also fly like birds. 😊

  
As we were not allowed to get too close to the natural habitat of these birds, sealions and tiny penguins, we were just on the boat but close enough to get a good view of these beautiful creatures.   

   
    

  

The overall Ballestas Island tour took an hour. It got really hot so sunscreen protection and sunglasses are a must. 

When we finished the tour, we had enough time for lunch  before the bus to Huacachina at 2pm. It was about an hour bus ride. They gave me Casa Arenas for my accommodation. The rest of the day was all mine and I again chose to just chill in my hostel. 

  

Day 3:

The last activity was the dune buggy and sandboard. We were picked up at 4PM. 

  
Our driver was a crazy, fun man. I can’t even find a word to describe how crazy the dune buggying went. He is an awesome, amazing, crazy driver. I’m not even sure if I’d want to be able to drive like him.  LOL!

    
 

I’ve never done sandboarding before but I sure had fun. This adrenaline activity was just sooooo much fun. 

 
After the sandboarding, it was time for sunset and our driver took us to a very beautiful spot. 

He asked us to lay down for 3 minutes with our eyes closed. It was so quiet, it was so relaxing, it was so peaceful. 

  
Oh, did I mention that our driver is such a good photographer too? He took all these wonderful photos. He totally nailed it and he absolutely deserved the tip! 

   
    

   
   
 

 Before we called it a day, we stopped  to get a nice view of the oasis. 

   

 We headed back to the hostel at 6:05PM. Just enough time to get rid of the sand and grab my bag for my 6:30pm bus back to Lima.

Before we reached Lima we were given a Peru Hop’s keychain and were told to drop by at Peru Hop’s office to get a free t-shirt. I arrived at my hostel around 11:45pm. The next morning, I went to Peru Hop’s office to claim my free shirt. Who doesn’t want that? I was assisted by Pete and Jennifer who were very, very friendly and accommodating. 

  

My overall experience with Peru Hop was indeed pleasant. The tour guides were friendly and attentive. For their two years in the business, Peru Hop surely knows how to take care of the travelers whether a group or solo traveler like myself. I’m glad they exists because it sure made my trip hassle free and I felt safer.

I definitely made a good abrupt decision purchasing their tour package. The price I paid was definitely worth it and the fun I experienced was absolutely priceless! 

What are you waiting for? Whether you’re already in Peru or just planning your trip, check out what http://www.peruhop.com/ can do for your travel. 😉

The Best Birthday I’ve had so far!

I spent my 29th birthday on top of Machu Picchu which was exactly what I wanted. 

The entrance fee was PEN 142 (around US $42) which includes the entrance to Machu Picchu and the Machu Picchu Mountain. 

  

I decided to take a bus from Aguas Calientes which costs PEN 78 (US $24) roundtrip. The first bus leaves at 5:30AM. I left my hostel with my dorm mate at 4:30AM. My hostel is just couple minutes walk to the bus station but when we got there the line was already long. We go on the second bus and it left at 5:25AM. The ride was around 20 minutes and it was a beautiful, beautiful ride. 

  
We arrived at 5:50AM so we had to wait until they let us in at 6AM. At the gate you have to show your passport along with your ticket. 

  
I walked around with my dorm mate from France and we took beautiful pictures before it got really crowded.   

    
    
    
 
We were hiking different mountains so we separated our ways 15 minutes before 7AM. I went to the entrance of Machu Picchu Mountain and waited 5 minutes to open. Taken from the main gate to Machu Picchu, here’s what I was going for and man it’s high. 

  
We started at exactly 7AM. I was walking with Mr. and Mrs. McMillan from Georgia, USA. They are cool couple celebrating their 20th Anniversary in Peru. We took turns taking our pictures. We stopped on almost of the stops! LOL!!! The stairs are tiring. From normal to small to huge steps! 

We had fun walking our way up. We were all determined that we’d reach the top no matter what because that’s where they’ll sing happy birthday to me. 

Here are some of the pictures taken along the way.

   
    
    
    
 After 2 1/2 hours, we finally reached the top and we screamed for being so happy and then they sang happy birthday to me. 

Here are some of the pictures taken on top of Machu Picchu Mountain. 
   
   
Going back down was just as hard which took us 1 1/2 hour. Our legs were like noodles and going down seemed like forever. 

We decided to have lunch and the couple invited me to join their tour because they will get a guide and they enjoy having me around. They said I won’t have to pay anything for that is their birthday treat to me. 🙂 

After the big lunch, Mr. McMillan found Marco Guevarra as our private guide which cost US $60. The others will charge you US $150 for private tour. 

  
   
   
We had an awesome two hours tour in Machu Picchu Pueblo. Knowing the history is amazing. I wish there’s a video I could watch because I just can’t imagine the life of people who used to live there many years ago. 

And I finally got Machu Picchu stamp on my passport! 

  
We then headed our way back around 3:30PM and boy we were beat! 

The day before my Machu Picchu adventure, it was raining all day and all night in Aguas Calientes. On my birthday, the weather was perfect just like what I prayed for. 

I had my birthday dinner at Indio Feliz. I then called it a day. 

  
This was so far the best birthday I’ve ever had. I am blessed. I am grateful. I am Ryshel and I am now 29 years old. ❤️❤️❤️

  

Cusco to Aguas Calientes

https://iamryshel.com/2015/10/26/my-dream-peru/

I was going to buy my ticket in Lima airport but they only accept credit card there. As soon as I arrived in my hostel in Cusco, I went to Peru Rail office to purchase my ticket and the representatve Isabel was very nice when assisting me. I got the Vistadome class which cost US $184 roundtrip. 

This is the current timetable they have. 
 

I opted for the one that leaves at 8:25AM. It departs from Poroy train station which was around 20 minutes taxi ride from Intro Hostels Cusco and cost 35 PEN (around US $10). 

This is what the Vistadome class looks like. 

   
   

We pretty much left on time. The 3 1/2 hours train ride was just astonishing. It was beautiful! I just can’t find the right words to describe how amazing this experience is.    

    
    
    
   
Below is the famous insane SkyLodge where I would’ve stayed if only I could afford it.

  

I think PeruRail could’ve served better and more portion of food. Yeah, this is the only snacks you get for the price you pay. 

   
 

Overall, the train ride was absolutely worth it. Something I will never, ever forget. 

My dream Peru! 

The main reason I came to South America is because I wanted to go to the site of an ancient Inca city, high in the Andes of Peru—Machu Picchu. 

I originally applied for my company’s branch in Peru but they sent me to Colombia instead. At least, I was closer to my dream! 

I have been shopping for plane ticket to Peru since I arrived in Colombia in June and on September 13th I finally purchased it through VivaColombia for US $275. I booked it in time for my 29th birthday! 

On October 24th, I finally flew from Bogota, Colombia to Lima, Peru. I couldn’t believe it! It’s now my third day in Peru and I still can’t believe it. 

I feel blessed and I am so thankful for this opportunity. It sure will be the best birthday ever! 

I will post more of my 29th Peru Birthday Adventure soon. 😍😍😍

The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá

Catedral de Sal de Zipaquirá is a catholic church built within the tunnels of salt mine 200 meters underground. This is one of the most popular tourist destination in Colombia. 

My dear friend Nelson and I decided to visit this place one weekend. We took a bus to Zipa from portal norte trasmilenio station. The bus terminal is inside the transmilenio station so that made it convenient for us. The fare was COP 4,500 ($ 1.50) per person one way which was ridiculously cheap! According to my map it’s about 30km from portal norte and it took us about an hour to reach the town of Zipaquirá. 

We had to walk about 5 minutes from where the bus dropped us off then we saw a shuttle which takes tourists to the salt mine which is at about 5 minutes ride. It costs COP 29,000 including the entrance ticket and you can hop on and off  of this shuttle all day. It will also save you time getting in line at the ticket booth so I’d say it’s worth.

  
  
It was packed due to the long weekend. The good thing was there were only couple other people in line for English speaking tour guide. 

  

The tour started at 12nn. We had an amazing tour guide. The tour all over was astounding. It was breathtaking inside and out. The history was extremely compelling. 

   
    
   
There are stores inside mostly for souvenirs. There is a coffee shop as well and  a theater. I got myself a miner helmet keychain for COP 8,000. 

  
It was such an amazing experience. This place is definitely worth a visit.

Great finds at Centro Comercial Santafé

Today, I decided to go to Centro Comercial Santafé which is said to be the fourth largest mall in Colombia. 

  

I went there for “window shopping”. 

The first store that caught my attention is Jugar (specializes in sports and hobbies). I was hoping that they sell pepper spray which I’ve been looking to buy since I arrived in Colombia almost two months ago. I searched on google as to where I can buy it but I didn’t find any information.

I walked in even though I was afraid that the staff wouldn’t even know what pepper spray is but as the young male staff approached me, I asked him about it and he immediately knew what it was and showed me 3 different options. The cheapest they have is COP 25,000 but it’s a little too big for me. I wanted something I can easily put in my pocket so I bought this one for COP 45,000. 

 
I used to carry pepper spray all the time (thankfully, I never had to use it yet) but prior to coming to Colombia, I gave mine to my mother. I didn’t want to carry it with me since I didn’t know what kind of rules Colombia has when it comes to bringing stuff in the country. I feel more confident with this specially when in a taxi or walking alone. I’m glad I got one now! 

As I kept walking around, I saw Sally Beauty! 

  
Sally Beauty is one of my favorite store in the US. I used to get a lot of freebies from them for being a regular customer. Seeing Sally Beauty here in Bogota was totally a surprise. The saleslady said it’s the only one in Bogota opened 5 months ago. I like curling my hair but one thing I couldn’t find at Carulla, Jumbo or Exito is a heat protector for my hair. I knew Sally Beauty has it! I walked in and there were my options! I bought the same thing I used to buy in the US. Mira Curl and Argan Oil Dry Scalp Treatment made by BaBylissPRO. I also bought my favorite hair conditioner by Tigi Pro! I am a happy lady indeed! 😊

  
I spent around USD 40 at Sally Beauty but these are something I can use for a month or so. After stopping at this store, I decided to go home before I spend more money in this mall. LOL 

I hope this post will help people especially expats in Colombia. Should you need anything for your hair or want to have a pepper spray for self defense, Centro Comercial Santafé is a place to go. 😊

Mount Monserrate by foot…

According to Wikipedia, Monserrate rises to 3,152 metres (10,341 ft) above the sea level.

My friend Aletta agreed to join me to hike Mount Monserrate last Friday. We started walking from Las Aguas transmilenio station at exactly 9:50AM. 

  

Well what can I say? Bogotá is already lying 2,640 meters (8,660 ft) above sea level.  Going further up was a real challenge specially that I’ve only been here 6 weeks. 

  

Look at our faces here. We’re like…”what the heck are we thinking?” 😂

Aletta is one of the funniest people I know. She surely made our hike fun. Eventually, laughing while hiking was making us more tired so we had to prevent ourselves from laughing. 

We of course made a few stops. Banana, anyone? 😉 

  

Look at us…still happy despite the fact that we were exhausted. 

 
I think we were halfway when this picture was taken. This is my favorite picture of us. 

  
Look behind us! We’ve come a long way. We thought we were close here and boy we were so wrong. But hey, we still look happy. 😊

  
At this point, we thought we were about to reach the top but then again, we were wrong. We don’t look tired at all, do we? We were still happy while Aletta sings “The World’s Greatest” which was perfect for this journey.

  
Until we finally saw something white! Must be  part of the church! We were getting close!!!

  

Apparently here,  we were almost on top. Almost, but not quite.

  

   
We finally reached the top at 11:20AM. It took us 1 1/2 hours which was not bad at all. We did good.

   
 

We headed to Casa Santa Clara for lunch! Bandeja Paisa seemed to be perfect after that hike. An order costs COP 25,000 which I think was worth it considering we were on top of Mount Monserrate. 

  
We took the train on the way back down for COP 8,500 per ticket. Cable car would have neen nice but the waiting time was 40 minutes compare to the 5 minutes wait for the train. The train looks scary from afar but it wasn’t once you’re inside. 

  
When we took the transmilenio to head back north, it was almost empty. We decided to sit on the chairs dedicated for disable, elderly and pregnant women. We considered ourselves disabled after that hike. 😂  

 

 We  headed to the Nike Factory Store to get our reward and then we called it a day. 

  
It was such an achievement. I can’t believe we did it! We survived! We’re proud! 

Mount Monserrate is now ticked off our list. 😊


 

Downtown Bogotá was calling me…

I wanted to see more of downtown Bogotá. I think there’s a lot to see there. I met someone who lives there so he accompanied me to walk around and of course he took all my photos. 

  
   
 

 

  

For some reason, this graffiti below is my favorite. 

  

The Museo Botero is a must to see and entrance is free. 

   
    
    
 
We had Mexican food for lunch at Dos Gatos y Simone. 

  
Their food was sooooo delicious and for reasonable price. All these with drinks cost COP 40,000. Definitely, definitely worth it. This seemed to be the highlight of my day in La Candelaria. Highly recommended and I’m definitely going back for this restaurant.

   
   

I also bought a traditional handmade Colombian purse for COP 25,000. It’s cute, good quality and my colors. I love it! 😊😊😊
  

TransMilenio in Bogota, Colombia

I took this photo yesterday, Friday at exactly 5:50PM. That was during the rush hour! Look at that lane on the side dedicated for TransMilenio buses for faster travel and ensure that buses are not delayed by mixed traffic congestion. 

  

I’ve been in Bogota, Colombia for exactly a month now. For the last two weeks, I’ve been taking TransMilenio. I can’t help to compare this cool transport system that Bogota has to poor transport system that Metro Manila has in the Philippines where I am from. 

According to Wikipedia, TransMilenio has 12 lines serving 144 stations in the city of Bogota. One TransMilenio bus can accommodate 160 – 270 passengers. It says as of October 2014, there were 1500 buses circulating on the trunk line system. 

So far, the longest time I waited for a TransMilenio was 7 minutes and that was right after I missed my bus! My travel time has been consistent. Of course, the bus can get very crowded during rush hour. 

There is this map at every station which will help you to find out which bus you should take. 

 

Or if you have a smatphone like I do, you can download their userfriendly app and check your route ahead of time. 
   

The fare is between COP 1500 – COP 1800 (US $0.50 – $0.65), depending on the time of the day you take it. This is the TransMilenio card I have which I believe is for frequent travelers. 

 

And this is what the TransMilenio bus looks like which I grabbed from google images. 

 

TransMilenio is such a cool way to travel around the capital city of Colombia, Bogota if you want to avoid the traffic. This transport system may not be ideal for everybody but it sure is nice to have.

How I wish that my own country has this awesome transport system in Metro Manila. 😓

  

Downtown Bogota

My Colombian friend was kind enough to show me downtown Bogota on my second weekend in Colombia.

We first had a very good and huge meal at Mama Lupe’s. My favorite was the tamal! 

  
Then we just walked around and I got to see these beautiful architecture. 

   
    
    
 
There’s more to see but we had to head back for the Chile vs Colombia football game. 😦 

I will definitely go back to see more of the Southern part of Bogota though. 🙂 

1st weekend in Colombia

Julian is a Colombian guy I met in Kuala Lumpur when I was backpacking in Malaysia. I contacted him prior to coming here. He is nice enough to set up a weekend with his family to go out of town. We took a road trip to Villa De Leyva with his mom, brother, sister in law and his niece.

  

  

We had lunch on our way but I don’t remember the name of the resraurant. I think it is somewhere in Sopo. It was a huge and very good lunch!   
 
We then stopped in Boyaca to check out the place where Colombia achieved independence from Spain. 

   

   
We arrived in Villa De Leyva late in the afternoon so they decided to sleep in a hostel. It was unplanned and nobody had something for overnight stay! 

   
    
 
We went to the church for few minutes. 

  

Then we had dinner at Martina Franca and finally took our rest. 

It was a very long day but I definitely had fun. 

On our way home the next day, we stopped by at this Rock House. I didn’t enter though because I did not want to pay the entrance fee. 😕

  
And lastly, the pozos azules. 

   
 
Thanks to the Navia Family who gave me a great first weekeend in Colombia. ❤️❤️❤️

Getting Work Visa and Cedula in Bogota, Colombia

On my second day in Bogota, my company asked me to get my work visa. They provided me with all the documents I will need. 

I left my hotel to go to Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores around 6:30AM to be there when they first opened. I arrived before 7AM and they did not let us in until 7:30AM. Good thing, I was on the first batch. 

We were sent to the 3rd floor, the first window is to get your number then go to the next window to pay the processing fee. 

After just 5 minutes of waiting, my number was called. I faced the interviewer with a big smile. The only questions I remember him asking were my educational background and if I have been to South Africa which I told him not yet, but it’s next on my list. He seemed very nice. After he put my information on the computer and checked my documents, he asked me to go back to the waiting room. After about 30 minutes of waiting, my number was called again. I went back to the same guy, he told me my visa has been approved and he gave me a piece of paper to pay for my visa. I went back to him with the receipt, he stamped my visa to my passport in front of me. 

  
I was on a cloud 9. I wanted to hug him but of course I did not. I just told him how happy I was which was very obvious anyway. 

It took about 1 1/2 hours to get my visa. I then walked about 15 minutes to get to Migracion for my Cedula. 

I first went to Information area where you have to show the filled out form required, a copy of your passport, visa and a photo. Then, I was sent to second floor where I had to wait literally 1 1/2 hours before my name gets called. Then the lady put my information on the computer, gave me a piece of paper to pay the amount of 162,000 COP in the nearby Banco de Occidente. I went back to the same lady with the receipt, then my photo and finger prints were captured. That’s it! My cedula will be available for pick up after 4 business days. 

The visa and cedula cost no more than USD 350 and getting them only took 4 hours. 😴 😊

My Dream Travel to South America

After I backpacked in Asia for a total of 10 months, I wanted to travel South America next. I was volunteering to teach English in Thailand when I finished my online TEFL course. I immediately searched for job postings and I found one located in Peru. On April 17th, I hit the submit button to apply for a job as an Instructor in a language center. I got an email from the company on April 22nd inviting me for a Skype interview on April 29th. I was so happy and so excited. After the interview, I did not feel good about my performance. It was my first official interview for a teaching job and I thought I messed up. I went back to the Philippines on May 5th and as soon as I arrived home, I got an email from the company inviting me for a second interview that night. After the interview, I was told that I will get an online training schedule next week but I did not hear from them again until May 19th. I had the online training from May 25th to May 29th. While on training, I was discouraged because I found everything to be difficult. To my surprised, I passed the training. Next step? Fly to Colombia! OMG!

On June 9th, the HR sent a copy of my flight ticket from Singapore to Colombia for June 23rd. I was like, is this really going to happen?

I flew to Singapore on June 22nd. I stayed a night because I will have a long flight to Colombia. Here comes the 23rd, my flight was not until 10:45PM. I was going on a tourist visa even though I will be working. I was in Changi Airport by 5PM because I wanted to have time in case I get some problem with the immigration. I have a copy of my job contract and all other documents sent by the company for getting my visa. With the helpful and friendly British Airways staff, I got my boarding pass with no problem at all.


I was still not confident about the whole thing though because I was still unsure about the immigration in Colombia. I was not worried though because I know everything will go according to God’s plan. So for me, whatever happens, I know it’s for good.

After more than 30 hours of flight time, I landed in Bogotá, Colombia on June 24th. I got through  the immigration with no problem.


I got my bag and a taxi sent by my company was waiting outside holding my name.

It was only 8 degrees celcius when I landed which I found very nice. I am in South America! This is really for me. ☺️

Around 6PM, I arrived in the hotel which my company provided. Perfect, just perfect after the long flight.

South America is one of my dream continents to visit. By the end of March 2015, I told myself that South America is my next destination. I got to set my foot in South America on June 24, 2015. I did not expect it to happen that quick. I’m now about 11,000 miles away from home and in one of my dream destination. 😉

Dreams do come true if you pursue them. ☺️

Angkor Wat, Ta Phrom… (Siem Reap, Cambodia)

The tour includes visiting Angkor Wat, Bayon, Ta Keo, Ta Phrom, and Banteay Kdei. I shared a tuktuk with 2 other guests in the hostel.

 

We all decided to do the sunset. We paid $6 each for the transportation plus $20 for a one day temple pass per person which I find expensive. I’ve seen plenty of beatiful temples in other Southeast Asian countries so I was not excited to visit Angkor Wat but I did anyway just for the sake of visiting it. 🙂

We got this super cool angkor pass with our photo in it. We did not expect this at all so we were all happy. 😅

 

  

We first visited the Angkor Wat. What can I say? It was nice to see but I was not impressed. (Just because I’ve seen better temples in Thailand and Myanmar) 

   

  

  

It was too hot so we were exhausted after. When we visited the next temple we did not even go inside. We just got our picture taken oitside. 

  

Then the famous Ta Phrom which was featured in the famous film Tomb Raider. We just had to find that tree!  

 

The last stop was for the sunset. We did not wait until the sun set because it was crowded and we wanted to get downstairs and get on the road before the crowd. 

  

  

  

It’s nice to be able to tell that I’ve already been in Angkor Wat but I don’t think $20 was worth it. I had fun with the girls though. 🙂

Aranyaprathet, Thailand to Poipet, Cambodia

I was in Pakham District in Buriram Province so the bus to Aranyaprathet will be coming from Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat). The first bus left Korat at 5:30AM. The bus passed by in Pakham at 7:40AM. I paid 95 baht to the border. The bus arrived in Aranyaprathet at 9:45AM. We got dropped off in the intersection where the Border Hotel sign is. You will immediately see the picture below ahead of you so just keep walking this way (about 3 minutes walk) and on your left is the passport control to get your exit stamp. 

 

Tip: If you need to buy something, there is a 7-eleven in the corner. Just keep going straight passing a train track instead of getting inside the immigration. 

  

Once you head inside, you will see the immigration check point. I just went upstairs and there’s the passport control. There were 6 counters open and not much people so it took less than 5 minutes to get my exit stamp.

  

After I got my exit stamp, I went downstairs and there is an arrow that will lead you to Poipet border. This is where scammers wait for foreigners. Just follow the crowd and don’t talk to anyone. 

 

You will eventually see the sign where to get an entry stamp or visa. Since I don’t need a visa to Cambodia, I went straight to passport control.

   

There was this tiny immigration office where I got my entry stamp.

   

Then there are “free” shuttles to international bus station. It’s a bus station specially for tourist so I’m sure foreigners still get rip off here. We had to wait for other passengers (those who had to get visa) for about 20 minutes before the bus left. It took 10 minutes and we arrived at their so called international bus station. 

The bus to Siem Reap won’t leave until 3PM and we were there at 11AM so this forced us to take a taxi which cost $60 per car (500 baht per person). It should be $48 but they said it’s higher because of the New Year. Surprise! Surprise! Another way to rip us off. There’s no other people there so I shared taxi with two other foreigners. We paid 600 baht per person. 

The taxi dropped us off beside a hotel (about 3km to Old Market area) eventhough I asked him to drop me off in the street of my hostel. This is another way for them to rip off foreigners. They will tell you that your hotel is far, like 10km away and will ask for $6. My app CityMaps2Go has been reliable during my months of backpacking so I believe it’s not more than 3km. I opted to walk than get ripped off. 

When I got to the main road, (just 50 meters away from scammers) I saw a motorbike taxi and asked him how much to go to Steung Thmei Street where my hostel is. He said $3 and I haggled to $2 which he agreed on. He dropped me off at my hostel with no problem. 

I crossed the border easier than I thought it would be. It only took total of 5 hours from Pakham District to my hostel in Siem Reap. 

I learned that border crossing by land is easier if you search and read other people’s experience online before you do it. You have to show you’re tough and that you’re not an idiot they can just take advantage of. 🙂

Songkran Festival (Thailand)

Songkran Festival is Thailand’s traditional New Year celebrated for 3 days. It’s like a water festival since people play water along the road. They said the traditional pouring is meant to wash all the bad stuff. 

My friend, Nitty decided to take me to Non Din Daeng to play Songkran. 

Of course, we wouldn’t leave the house unarmed. We loaded two big buckets of water at the back of the truck. We also got water guns. 🙂

  

We splashed water to people along the way. Kids, elders, people on motorbike, people on bicycle and just anyone we saw. It was more fun to splash water to those who are still dry and those who are not expecting it. 

People splashed water on us too and sometimes we get water with ice so yeah that was cold. 

There were people who will refill your buckets. They get the water from the river. We got free refills four times. 

 

We finally reached the dam and as expected, it was crowded. There are restaurants there and my friend already ordered the food in advanced so we just had to set up our picnic mat and the food was served. We had delicious fish feast. 🙂

   

 

About an hour after we ate, there was a boy who drowned. Everybody went out of the water. It probably took about 10 minutes before the ambulace arrived. The boy is probably 12 years old. No idea if he survived but when I saw the boy while being carried by a man to the ambulance, he was already purple. 

This tragedy brought sadness to everyone. Most people decided to leave the area just like we did. A lot of people left at the same time so what do you expect? Traffic jam!

  

It was still fun going home because people still play water. People dance on the road. People put powder on your face. Since the car is idle, you have no escape. 

 

We were all soaking wet until we got back home. I had so much fun! 🙂 

  

A day in a Longan Farm

My Thai friend, Nitty invited me to come back to Thailand to help her with the English summer class for kids which we started on the 1st of April. 

We did not have any class today so I joined her relatives in their longan farm. The work was just to sit and check the quality of the fruit. We had to cut the excess stems and remove the unripe and the overripe ones. Sounds easy?

We started at 7am and finished at 3pm. It was tiring but the people I was with made it fun. 

   

I haven’t done this before and sitting for hours like this is very uncomfortable. I wanted to stop but I did not. Their smile and laughter sure encouraged me to keep working. Nobody can speak English. 99% of the time, I had no idea what they were talking about. The 1%? I know when they were talking about me. 😂

When we finished, they had to compute what they earned and then a lady handed me 318 baht ($10) saying “money for you”.

  

I did not expect to get any money. I thought I was just helping out while trying to get a new experience. 

It felt so good when I got the money in my hand though. I’ve had office jobs ever since so I never earned money this way. It may not be a lot but it is something in Asia specially in the country side. 

Also, I got to take home longans! 

  

I’m so beat but this experience is definitely something to remember and worth trying. 😊

7 days in Sri Lanka

After 30 days in India, I went to Sri Lanka to rest. Yes, to rest! 

I took SriLankan Airlines for the first time. Great service and great food which I did not expect to be served for this short flight. There were plenty of movies/tv shows/music to select from so I sure got entertained well for 3 1/2 hours flight.

  

 I arrived Bandaranaike International Airport around 10pm. I was picked up and a big surprise when I arrived to my reserved B&B which is 5th Lane House in Colombo. A huge room with huge bathroom and a bath tub. It can’t be any more relaxing than this.

   

 

 

   

I was in this place for 3 nights. Since there is really not much to see in Colombo, I spent most of my days and nights in this room. Watching  online or soaking in the bath or both! The breakfast included was quite nice too. It just felt perfect after traveling for at least 5 months.

I did a little walk in the city and saw nothing interesting. LOL!   

  

  

  

  

I transferred to Colombo City Hostel. I thought I’d like it but I didn’t. The place is too hot not to have AC. The fan was too dirty to blow air. I don’t think the value for money is good. I stayed one night and left with a couple from UK. 

 

 

We decided to stay in Negombo which is near the airport since we were all just waiting for our flight out. 

The beach is not clean so we went to Rani Beach Resort and rented their swimming pool for 500 LKR for the whole day.

  

 Beach is always nice for sunset though.

   

 

 

I stayed in Colombo Aiport Luxury Hostel for couple nights. 

 

I paid 650 LKR per night. No AC but it wasn’t too hot in the room downstairs. 

There are two lovely ladies running this place and they were like family to me during my 3 days stay. 

 

  

 

Here, I also met 3 Chinese travelers. We had good seafood lunch together.

   

 

Brad, Hollie and I decided to go to Lords Restaurant Complex on our last night. This being number one on tripadvisor, we saved the best for last. (At least we were hoping!)

 

  

  

 

After we ate, we got to have free fish spa. 🙂 They said they fed us so we feed their fish in return. LOL!  

 

  

  

The food was great and so was the service. We even met the owner Martin who approached us while in the premises. I’d say they definitely deserve their rank! 

Sri Lanka is an island and since I am from the island of the Philippines, I did not bother to go somewhere else because I’ve been to beautiful beaches in my own country. It was nice to set my foot in Sri Lanka though. 🙂


30 Days in India

I finally set my foot in India on February 16, 2015. It felt more like an achievement to me since I’ve been wanting to visit this country since 2012. 

Below are the places I was able to visit during my 30 days visa.

CHENNAI – 2 days
YELAGIRI HILLS – 2 days
PONDICHERRY – 2 days
COCHIN – 2 days
MUNNAR – 3 days
MUMBAI – 3 days
NEW DELHI – 3 days
JAISALMER – 6 days
JAIPUR – 3 days
AGRA – 2 days

The breathtaking views of Munnar and the relaxing atmosphere of Jaisalmer are my favorites.

There were local people who took care of me while I was in Chennai, Yelagiri Hills and Mumbai. There were expats I met in Jaisalmer who then took care of me in Jaipur and New Delhi. I’d say I had the most fun in these places. Having people to show you around makes a big difference. You get to see a totally different side of the city. 

India is such a beautiful country. I just wish that people are more disciplined specially with trash and traffic. I find it pretty intense to go from one place to another. India can be overwhelming and drain your energy. 🙂

Today is my 30th day and I am leaving India with a feeling of contentment. Despite all the scary news we often hear about India specially for women, I safely finished my 30 days. 

Here are my favorite pics taken during my  trip in India.























Taj Mahal 

Who doesn’t know the famous Taj Mahal in India? Who doesn’t want to see the most recognizable structures in the world? 

I think one person can’t say he or she has been to India if he/she did not see this one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. It stands as a symbol of eternal love built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal.

I just had to see Taj Mahal located in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India. Despite the rainy weather, I got up early and walked to the ticketing office. I paid 750 INR for the ticket, they gave me a small bottle of water and shoe socks. They provide shuttle to the entrance and back. It will be more convenient if you don’t bring anything with you other than your wallet and phone/camera. I met a guy who had to go back out to leave his selfie stick in one of the stores outside because it’s not allowed! One girl told me she was not allowed to get in with her journal so she left her bag in one of the stores as well. These stores won’t charge you for keeping your stuff but they sure hope you’d buy something in exchange of their “good deeds”. The restrictions don’t make sense but you are allowed to bring your camera and phone so I guess that’s all that matters. 

Stunning. Beautiful. Lovely. 





What else can I say? It was just stunning, beautiful, lovely!  🙂

This is my 28th day in India and Taj Mahal is my last stop before I reach my 30th and last day in this country. I can now tick this off my bucket list. 🙂

Here’s a selfie of me and Taj. LOL!



Yey, I got to see Taj Mahal in India! 😉


Jaipur to Agra

I went to the ticket resevation office in Jaipur where window 1 is dedicated to serve foreigners and senior citizens. I filled out a form and luckily there was available seat to Agra the next day when I intend to leave but it departs at 7:05AM. The guy said the next train is not until 3PM so I took the morning one. I was surprised about the fact that it cost 565 rupees for 3 1/2 hours journey. My 18 hours train from Delhi to Jaisalmer was only 460 rupees! Well, I did not ask any question cos I wanted to leave anyway so I just paid and left. 



Later on, I was told that Shatabdi train, chair car class is considered high class so that explained the cost. I was told they will give you news paper and a meal on board so that made me excited. 

I arrived at the train station at 6:30AM. As the train arrived, I already saw how the chairs look comfortable. 



The chairs are like those on economical planes except I think this is more comfortable. You get spacious leg room and the chairs are reclined in a comfortable position. 

As soon as the train departed, a guy gave out news papers (Hindi and English version), served bottle of water and a small tray consists of a packet of biscuit, tea, creamer and sugar. It was followed by a cup and a thermos with hot water.



I was  expecting a meal but this was perfectly fine with me cos these don’t get served on the planes anymore. 

I made myself comfortable and a guy woke me up after an hour to give this tray with a meal. I did not expect this at all.





No idea what that hot meal is but it is definitely vegetarian. It was a little spicy and yummy.

It was followed by a lime juice which was also good. 



What a nice short train ride! ;-)

Jaipur (Rajasthan, India)

The 12 hours train ride from Jaisalmer to Jaipur on a sleeper train was not bad at all. It departed Jaisalmer at 5PM and arrived Jaipur at 5AM. I slept most of the time. I made a reservation at Vinayak Guesthouse which is about 600 meters from the train station. It should be 40 rupees by rickshaw but I chose and managed to walk (at 5AM). There were small coffee shops that were already open so I just asked the people there and I found my guesthouse easily. Although, what I did was probably not a good idea for a woman alone! 

The gate was not locked so I just went in and rang the door bell. I waited couple minutes and a man who was probably half asleep opened the door and showed me my room. I got to check in at 5AM so that was nice! 



I got a single bed, shared bathroom. 

I got to sleep for couple hours then I decided to go to the famous Hawa Mahal (Wind Palace). A rickshaw cost me 70 rupees for one way. The entrance fee to the palace is 50 rupees for foreigners. I found it peaceful inside. This place would have been more peaceful and comfortable for me if there were not a lot of Indian tourists constantly staring at me. 😉





I went back to my guesthouse and met 3 German guys. We decided to see Amer Fort and monkey temple. We hired a rickshaw for 600 rupees for the 4 of us. 

I like Amer Fort because there are no people living inside unlike in Jaisalmer Fort and it’s cleaner! Jaisalmer’s Fort has nicer architechture than Amer Fort though (in my opinion).



After we visited Amer Fort, the view right across was inviting us. These seem to be never ending stairs made us want to go on top to see a better view of Amer Fort. 





We did! The steps were big so it was more exhausting for a woman like me with short legs! I almost did not want to continue but the guys kept encouraging me to go on so it helped. We made it to the top and here’s what I got. It was b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l! The sore legs the next day was definitely worth it! 🙂











We then went to the monkey temple. We got on top and there was this lady who welcomed us, put something on our forehead, tied a thread on our hand and asked for 100 rupees donation afterwards. Oh boy why this did not surprise me at all! I just knew it was coming. One german gave a hundred then she said it should be 100 rupees donation for each! I was like, “no way!” I told her donation should bevoluntarily  and no amount required. She then said, “okay, 50 rupees”. I said no and asked the guys to leave the place. As we were leaving she was asking for coins from our country instead. What the fudge! That ruined it so we just went back to the guesthouse. Later on, I find out we did not really get to see the monkey temple. Instead of going up to that stupid temple on top where donation is made to be compulsary, we should have went straight. I did not find this out until I met Maria the next day. I met her in Jaisalmer during holi festival. She is from Spain who works in Jaipur. Oh well, we just missed the monkey temple but no big deal to me because it was the guys who wanted to see it anyway.

So I spent my second day in Jaipur with Maria. She took me to central park and Jawahal Kala Kendra (multi arts centre). The central park was nice but mostly Indian men were there. I did like Jawahal Kala Kendra though. It was a quiet place and they have a nice cafe inside. The food was very cheap and good for the price. We then went to Maria’s flat which is near University of Rajasthan where she works. I just love this part of Jaipur! 

I found out that Maria uses Himalaya products and told her I use and like Himalaya products as well so she took me to a Himalaya store near silver square mall. I shopped for hair conditioner, toothpaste, lip balm, face moisturizer, body lotion, body soap, facial wash and facial scrub. All these for 585 rupees or about $10. That was extremely cheap so I am very happy. 🙂



My first day in Jaipur was fun and tiring. The second/last day was sure  fun and relaxing. Gracias Maria! 😉

Mystic Camel Safari Tour

A Camel Safari in the sand dunes is one of the main attraction in Jaisalmer. I decided to do it the day after holi festival. I availed the Mystic Camel Safari Tour for 1500 INR through Mystic Jaisalmer where I am staying. 

There was a total of 11 people in the group including myself. Each of us were given a bottle of water before we left the guesthouse at 2:30PM using a jeep and a car. We stopped to see couple villages. 





Then there was our camel waiting for us. Each person gets one camel guided by young happy camel drivers. 🙂




It took just a little over an hour then we reached the desert camp. The beautiful ride reminded me of the book I read, “The Alchemist”.



As we soon as we arrived, they served us tea. We then watched the beautiful sunset.



We gathered around bonfire, had snacks while they prepare our dinner. 

They served us rajasthani veg dinner and you can eat as much as you want. 



After dinner, we spent some time chatting, some of the boys were singing, some people were dancing, some were just chillin’ like me. I spent most of my time stargazing. 

I requested for my sleeping mat (no tent) to be set up just before 10pm. I’m sure it did not take long for me to fall asleep. Watching the moon and the stars over my head was just too relaxing. The weather was not too cold so I slept very well.

I found this poor dog sleeping at the foot of the mat when I woke up around 6:45AM. I was the first one to wake up in our group. 



The sun looks like a moon so we did not see a beautiful sunrise but for everyone, it was still a beautiful morning. 



We gathered for breakfast. (tea, toast, maggie noodles, fruits.)



We were given enough time to play in the sand before we leave the desert.



Then our camels arrived to pick us up.









With my camel driver. 🙂



We got back in the guesthouse around 10:30AM. The tour was well organized. The guides did an amazing job. They all seemed to be happy with what they do. 

Camel Safari Tour is definitely one of the most amazing and unforgettable experience in my backpacking life.  

Holi Festival in Jaisalmer

Holi is a festival of colours or love which happen to be celebrated on my second day in Jaisalmer. I was not going to play outside until a group of expats arrived from Jaipur. They were in the dorm I’m in and they invited me to go out with them which I’m glad I did. We started to walk to the fort and even before we arrived, we got all messy! 🙂 





After the fun day, I spent the night on the rooftop watching full moon. It was the first time I’ve seen the moon came out like a sunrise. It started from red to orange to yellow until it became white and lit the whole desert! It was just beautiful and relaxing! 

Oh I love Jaisalmer! 🙂






To Jaisalmer. In Jaisalmer. (Rajasthan, India)

For the first time, I am taking a train in India. A sleeper train for 18 hours only cost 440 INR! I expected it to be crazy. 

The train did not leave the Old Delhi station until 6PM. The next thing I know, the train is packed with locals travelling to home from work. It lasted until 9PM then I got my bed. 



It was a little cold throughout the night but I slept fine. I woke up around 6AM when we reached Jodphur then I went back to sleep and did not wake up until 8:30AM. I freshened up and had to use the disgusting toilet because I did not have any choice! I then just looked through the window as I wait to reach Jaisalmer.





The train reached around 12:15PM. 



Mr. EK from Mystic Jaisalmer where I chose to stay was outside to pick me up. It was not even 10 minutes and we reached the guesthouse. 









I got this cute little bed in the 6-bed dorm with a view.



I had brunch in their rooftop restaurant which offers a nice view of the fort. 





I tried the Rajasthani Thali which was very good! 



I chose to have dinner in the hotel next door. They also offer good views and I got to see a beautiful sunset. I ordered pasta which was okay.





First day in Jaisalmer was very nice. In fact, I loved it the moment I arrived! 

I decided to stay here for 6 nights so more Jaisalmer stories to come. :-)

A day in Delhi

Since I am not a city person, I was not too excited about Delhi. I landed from Mumbai and took the prepaid airport taxi which was very disorganized. It cost 300 INR to Arakashan road where Zostel is. It was a beautiful ride from the airport until I got to Arakashan area which was too crowded since it is near to the New Delhi railway station. I was too tired when I arrived around noon so I just slept. I signed up for the Zostel’s city walk the next morning in Old Delhi.





I then went to the railway station around noon to get a train ticket to Jaisalmer. 







I went to the International Tourist Bureau and I was surprised by the fast customer service. They did not have any available seat for the next day so I availed the sleeper class for the same day. For some reason, I was so relieved when I got my ticket. Some kind of happiness knowing I am leaving Delhi! 🙂

I did not get to see much in Delhi and I don’t feel bad about it!!! 😉

Mumbai (Maharashtra, India)

I flew from Cochin to Mumbai using IndiGo airlines. I chose to take the taxi with a lady driver in Mumbai which cost me 650 INR to my hotel. My dear friend Juhi hooked me up to her friend in Mumbai to show me around so she met me an hour after I arrived. She came to my hotel and after she saw the place she offered for me to stay in her place instead which was very nice of her. She first showed me around. Of course, we went to Gateway of India first. 



She had me tried some street food before we headed to Marine Drive.









After the tiring yet beautiful night, we went back to my hotel to get my bag then took train to her place. We were in first class and it was after 9PM so it was not that bad.



The next day, she had to go to college so she did bring me along with her. I got to meet her cool friends. We had breakfast then we went to Bandra Fort.





This time, they had me tried second class train to go home. It was c-r-a-z-y!!!





The following day, they showed me around again. We went to slum area and Jivdani Temple where we climbed 1500 steps to reach the top.





On my last day, Kinjal and I went on her scootie to a fort. 







We chilled out at her place for the rest of the day and they dressed me up with a beautiful saree which reminded me of my childhood where I would wear my mother’s clothes and play like a princess. 





Just before I went to sleep for my early morning flight to New Delhi, I had to make sure I get a picture with my friend’s mom. She is one of the sweetest mother I’ve met. 🙂



I am not a city person and I’d say I wouldn’t have enjoyed Mumbai if not because of these people. 

Munnar (Kerala, India)

I took a bus from Cochin to Munnar which took about 3 hours and the fare was about 200 INR. It was a non AC bus for 3 hours! 
The bus dropped me off in the bus stop near my guesthouse, Nakshathra Inn. I just had to walk a little bit and there was my place for couple days. It’s being managed by a young man. The place was okay but definitely not well maintained. The guesthouse is about 7km before Munnar City.

The rate was 1500 INR per night including breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast bread. We went trekking through the tea plantation the next morning. It was beautiful. Just beautiful! Once you get a little higher, you will hear nothing but birds and see nothing but greens. Just breathtaking! 






In the afternoon, we went around with his scooter. I saw more beautiful tea plantation landscape. 





We stopped for this ice cream and oh my God the mango was very delicious! I had two and I wish I could have taken more with me. Don’t miss this on your way to Munnar City!



Right next to it, is a cashew store. It was only 40 INR per 100 grams and that was cheap! I bought cashews worth 100 INR. 🙂



On our way back to the guesthouse, he took me to this place I don’t know where it’s at nor what they call it but it was right by the Muslim Mosque. 🙂







I had to leave early the next morning to go back to Cochin for my flight to Mumbai. Munnar is certainly one of those places I wish I could have stay longer. 

Backwater Tour (Cochin, India)

I availed the backwater group tour for 850 INR. I went with my dormmates. We were picked up a little after 8am. It took us about an hour to get to our destination.

We first went on this little boat for the first couple hours.



The water was dirty but it became clearer as we move along. There were fish and ducks and birds. 







I became bored after and was just looking forward for lunch. Our group had lunch with a whole bunch of French people.



We then hopped on a bigger boat for another hour. I slept most of the way. It was just tiring and the boat ride surely was relaxing. 



I was so glad when the tour was over!

To Cochin (Kerala, India)

I bought a bus ticket from Pondicherry to Cochin from a travel agency. It was a sleeper night bus. It left at 10pm and I slept almost all the way since I was very tired from all the traveling. I woke up around 6AM and saw churches every few minutes. Well, I must admit that I don’t usually read about the place before I went. I did not know that Christianity is big in this area. All churches I saw were beautifuly built just like this one I captured on the way.



As expected, it got busier when we arrived Cochin. The travel time was at least 10 hours. The bus doesn’t go to Fort Kochi where my booked guesthouse is so I had to take a rickshaw. The driver initially wanted 300 INR because it’s more than 10km but I was able to negotiate it to 220 INR. It took us 30 minutes exactly. He was nice so I got a photo with him which he liked. 🙂



I arrived Rampart Homestay around 9AM. The staff was helpful and very accommodating. I got to check in right away. The place was clean and had a very homey vibe. I was in a 6-bed dorm and it was spacious enough. 

After I freshend up, I walked around and I’d say Fort Kochi is one of the laid back places I’ve been.







Pondicherry (Tamil Nadu, India)

Before I left my friend’s house, his mom and dad packed lunch for me which was so sweet.



I took a 3-hour bus ride from Chennai to Pondicherry.



From Pondicherry bus station, I walked approximately 1.5km to get to my hotel Pleasant Inn where I had a not so pleasant stay. 

The next morning, I took the full day city tour by Puducherry Tourism Development Corporation. It only costs 300 IRs per person. 

Below is the itinerary. 



Most of the places we went, taking pictures was not allowed. I did like the house boat though and the main reason I did the tour…to see the outer view of Matrimandir in Auroville. 





We also stopped in a Christian Church which was beautiful. 





The next day, I just spent time along the bay since my bus to Kerala was not until 10pm.











Pondicherry is beautiful and definitely worth a visit for a day or two.  

Yelagiri Hills (Tamil Nadu, India)

My friend Krishna is part of the Book Lovers Program for Schools. It just happened that he had some work to do in Ebenezer School on Yelagiri Hills so I went with him along with his colleague, Sudarsan. 



It took us about 5 hours to get to Yelagiri Hills. The road going up the hill was very narrow. I was amazed how the houses, schools and hotels were built. 

I was going to get a hostel since I am not part of this program but luckily the people from the school allowed me to stay inside the school. I stayed in the girl’s dorm while my buddies stayed in the boy’s dormitory. 
Our meals were provided. All the students get together in the dining hall and get served. 


As they do their job the next day, I kept myself busy chatting with the students and taking pictures with them in a sneaky way because they said the teachers will scold them if they get caught. 





I learned that the teachers here can easily hit students as a way to discipline them. I’ve seen it and it was not very nice scene at all. 

Anyhow, I enjoyed this trip. As we were heading back to Chennai, there was this beautiful sunset. 🙂



I finally made it to India! :-)

I’ve been wanting to visit India since 2012. I made a list of top 3 countries to visit this 2015 and India is on the top. Why? Because I love Indian food, I have few Indian friends and I think India is one of the most diverse country in this world which I’ve been wanting to see. A lot of people told me that India is a dangerous country specially for a woman like me but hey, danger is everywhere! Let’s not judge a country or its countrymen because of media or just because of one or two bad stories you heard. 😉

As a Filipino citizen, we are only eligible for visa on arrival in Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata, Trivandrum, Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Kochi airports. I was backpacking Thailand and the cheapest flight I found from Bangkok is to Chennai. A one way ticket costs around US $120 through AirAsia of course. I did not book an outward ticket because I plan to cross the border to Nepal by bus. On the 2nd of February, I applied for my visa online https://indianvisaonline.gov.in. I just had to fill out information and paid US $60 fee. It says wait for 72 hours to process but the next day I got a confirmation that I’ve been granted a visa which made me very happy.

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My flight was last night, February 16th. I was so anxious and excited about this trip. The flight did not arrive Chennai until after 10PM. The immigration guy asked for my outward ticket which I did not have but he let me through anyway and just told me to have an outward ticket next time I come to India. So yes, I finally got a stamp on my passport from India! 🙂

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I booked a room at Royal Green Accommodation for $20 per night. They offer free airport pick up. This place definitely exceeded my expectation. The staff was polite and very attentive. The room was clean and spacious. It has TV with English channels.

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They also offer free traditional South Indian breakfast so I had Idli for my first breakfast in India.

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Krishna, is a theater actor from Chennai. He contacted me through Couchsurfing then we met in the Philippines in November 2014 when he was there for a dance festival. I contacted him the day before I flew to Chennai so we met on my first day in India. He came to pick me up in my hotel which is about 12km from his home.

On our way, I saw how many cows are on the road which is weird to me but seem pretty normal here.

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I’ve never been this fascinated on my backpacking days! Seeing a lot of Indian people wearing traditional outfit is just compelling.

I wanted to have Indian food on banana leaf which I had as my first lunch in India.

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He took me to his work place (The Little Theater) and had a glimpse of what he’s doing. I got to meet his co-workers, not to mention their director, Krishnakumar Balasubramanian.

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We then went to see Kapaleeshwarar Temple.

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Then we watched sunset at Elliot’s Beach.

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I invited myself (LOL!) for a dinner at his house because I always want to experience the local life. Thankfully, he agreed and so did his parents.

I had chapati for my first dinner in India. Nothing tastes better than a home cooked food!

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Krishna has a lovely family. I, of course got along with his parents and sister. Oh, yeah I bought Kurta near the temple. I wanted to have Indian outfit and thought this family dinner is the best time to wear it for the first time. 😉

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It has been an exciting, fun first day in Chennai. I am definitely looking forward to see other parts of India. 🙂

Visited a beach for the first time…

Since I started backpacking Southeast Asia, I always skip beaches or where the main attraction is water. My reason was always the fact that I’ve seen enough beautiful beaches where I came from; The Philippines.

My Thai friend, Nitty wanted me to see Ko Samet in Rayong so I came here after I visited Khao Yai. I took a bus from Pak Chong to Bangkok for 3 hours then another 3 hours van to Rayong. The pier is 20km from Rayong Bus Terminal so I took a songthaew. The boat ride to the island was 45 minutes. There were a lot of hotels right after I got out of the pier but they are not near the beach. I was surprised how expensive hotels/guesthouses are. I kept walking until I saw Tok’s Little Hut, a nice beach front bungalow costs 1500 baht and that doesn’t include breakfast. I just had to stay here!

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I woke up at 5:40AM to see the sunrise but it was still dark. I was alone in the shore. I got to watch the moon and the stars while listening to the ocean waves.

The sun did not show up until after 7AM. Sunrise is beautiful as usual.

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I walked around and sat on the huge stones. A Chinese girl asked me to take a picture of her then she took mine. 🙂

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I got a henna tattoo. 🙂

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I spent the rest of my morning at Tok’s Bar and Restaurant in front of the beach enjoying the feel of the breeze all over my body.

I haven’t been in the beach in a while and this is certainly a very nice little vacation from my backpacking life.

Khao Yai Garden Lodge (Thailand)

I called Khao Yai Garden Lodge in the last minute. Literally before me and my friend got on the bus from Korat. Fortunately, they have available room. They offer free pick up from Pak Chong. I called them again when we arrived Pak Chong and just after 20 minutes wait, their truck arrived.

I did not expect their location to be along the main road and beside a gas station where there is 7 Eleven. I always prefer a place with a nearby convenience store so this is a plus for me.

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I immediately liked this place right when we got off the truck. We were welcomed with drinks and smiling staff.

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We got the backpacker’s room for 350 baht per night. Simple and small but they provide toiletries, towels and water. We have a shared bathroom which was not bad. It is spacious and clean.

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They have a relaxing swimming pool and the garden is just beautiful.

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The restaurant in the hotel offers variety of food. We ate here during our stay. Almost all the staff is friendly and can speak and understand english.

We availed their tours and it was pretty awesome. You can read here: https://iamryshel.com/2015/02/12/khao-yai-national-park-tour-thailand/

Below are their room rates and contact information.

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They also offer free transportation back to Pak Chong at 9:30AM and 1PM. We left in the morning and the staff bid us good bye.

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I highly recommend this place to people visiting Khao Yai National Park.

Khao Yai National Park Tour (Thailand)

I availed the half day bat cave tour and the full day jungle tour for 1600 baht through Khao Yai Garden Lodge.

I did the bat cave tour on my first day in Khao Yai. The lodge’s truck was full. We had Tuk as our tour guide. We left at 3PM and just after 10mins drive we arrived in our first stop, the natural spring water. We were only given 30mins. Just enough to change clothes, get wet and take picture.

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We then saw two buddhist temples. One inside a cave where we saw some bats.

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The second was on a hill.

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We then headed to the highlight of our bat cave tour, to see the bats swarm just before dark. They said there are millions but there is no way to prove that. There was definitely a lot of bats though.

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Seeing them come out of this hill which is their cave was just nice.

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And of course, there was this beautiful sunset.

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The next morning, we left at 8AM for the full day jungle tour. Bonsai was our tour guide here. Our first stop was this view point.

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We then headed to the visitor’s center for toilet and to buy some drinks or snacks. We saw couple of deers here.

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Now, it’s time for the 3 hour trek in the jungle.

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I’m sure everyone was hoping to see some interesting creatures here. We only saw hornbill and gibbons swinging in the trees though. And of course, monkeys along the way.

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We went up to the watch tower on our way back to the truck. The view was just beautiful after that 3 hours trek.

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We went back to the visitor’s center for lunch. We had fried noodles and fruits.

Next stop is the first waterfall.

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Then the big waterfall which was a few kilometers drive from the first waterfall.

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We were given an hour. It takes at least 20mins to get to the waterfall and there were a little bit challenging stairs.

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On our way out, a tour guide suddenly asked us to hurry up because there was an elephant. I ran! Luckily, I was able to snap a picture of this male elephant just before he stepped inside the forest.

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I’ve seen elephants before. In the zoo or some tourist place for elephant riding. Seeing an elephant walking slowly on the road and getting into the forest was just unique.

That’s the end of the tour. It was tiring. It was fun. 1600 baht was definitely worth it.

Volunteering Makes Traveling More Meaningful

I have been wanting to volunteer as an English teacher since I started backpacking in Southeast Asia. I taught some university students when I was in Vietnam but not in an actual school. Here you can read my experience about that: https://iamryshel.com/2014/07/28/talking-with-the-tourists-group/

Almost all the ads I found online about volunteering requires you to pay certain amount of money which I can’t afford. I met an American girl in Vietnam who went there from her one month volunteering in Cambodia. She told me about helpx.net. Helpx means Help Exchange. Hosts provide either accommodation or food or sometimes both in exchange of you working for free. I paid 20 Euros for two years membership so I can contact hosts.

Nitty’s post first caught my attention so I contacted her. I have been in touch with Nitty since October 2014 but there was a conflict with our schedules so I couldn’t volunteer that time. I continued backpacking and came back to Thailand so I contacted her again. Thankfully, she was able to accommodate me for a week.

She picked me up from Nang Rong bus station on Sunday, February 1st. They have a lovely house in a quiet location. I had this cute room for a week.

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Nitty has a wonderful, lovely family from her mom and dad to her husband and their cat.

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I was lucky to be part of her birthday celebration so we had a not-so-big family dinner at their house. 🙂

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Unfortunately, I could only stay a week because I did not really plan this well. A week maybe short but long enough to be memorable though.

I got to meet all the students in Bantepphattana School. From Kindergarten 1 to Mattayom 3 which are 7 to 15 years old.

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I enjoyed every seconds of my one hour session per class within one week. The participation of the students were amazing. I liked them all but I specially liked the energy and willingness to learn of those in Pratom 3 (9yrsold) and Pratom 2 (8yrsold).

I haven’t taught in an actual school before so yeah this was my first. No practice. No preparation. I just did it and it was incredible.

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My last day in the school was emotional which I did not expect. There will always be one or two people who will touch your heart in a strange land. This is surely an experience I will never forget.

Before I left Nitty’s house, she made sure to make my stay more memorable.

She took me to her uncle’s longan farm.

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She took me to the temple to make merit.

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Nitty and her husband took me to a nice, relaxing seafood dinner.

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And the Asparagus farm of her brother!

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They had to go to The Mall in Korat where I planned to go so I went with them and they made sure I get to my guesthouse safely.

What a wonderful 7 days at Nitty’s place in Buriram Province! This opportunity I was given is definitely a remarkable one.

I wish I was able to stay longer. The end was heartbreaking but at the same time my heart is happy because I know I somehow made a difference to other people’s lives.

Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat), Thailand

I initially went to Pak Chong from Bangkok but there was almost nothing there. Although, I liked the surrounding because I only saw 4 tourists there. I went passed a market to check the schedule of the van to Korat the next day. The locals in the market were very willing to help me to find the station (a very small station) even though they had a hard time communicating in English.

I went to the station of the van the next day around 8:15AM. The fare was 60 baht. I got dropped off in front of the famous The Mall around 9:30AM. I walked to find my target hostel which is Sansabai House with the help of my awesome CityMaps2Go app. I got a very nice room for 450 baht per night.

After I checked in, I walked back to The Mall just to check it out. They have this beautiful man-made waterfall upfront.

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I then went to Safe One night market as suggested by my Thai friend Nitty.

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The next day, I took a bus to Phimai to check the Phimai Historical Park. The fare was 70 baht and it took about 2 hours. They said and apparently this is a Kmer (Cambodian) Temple.

The entrance fee was 100 baht. All stones but beautiful. Worth checking out when it Korat.

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