Aside from Batanes, the other island usually battered by the storms is Catanduanes. Found in the south-eastern part of Luzon, it is usually the first path typhoons go through during the Philippines’ wet seasons. For that reason, the island earned the moniker as the “Land of the Howling Winds.” While it seemed illogical to visit the island during the typhoon season, it didn’t stop me from discovering the island shaped by the storms.
Among the ASEAN Countries outside the Philippines, I think Malaysia is the one I have frequented most. I remember it being my first passport stamp out of the country when we climbed Mt Kinabalu in Sabah, and since then Kuala Lumpur has become a gateway for my travels in Asia but have never really gone out to explore the city except for climbing one of the nearby mountain peaks of Bukit Tabur before. So when Tourism Malaysia sent an invite for a Familiarization Tour in conjunction to their Merdeka (Independence) Celebration and suddenly my schedule got free on the said dates, I didn’t think twice of course. It’s an opportunity to get to know the country more.
I have been fascinated with our Philippine National Railway (PNR) but never really got the chance to jump in on the train and ride it. I got a thing for trains and I was able to ride a few trains on other countries. There’s just this different joy when riding a train for travel. I was really hoping that the PNR would be revived and alas it has recently been re-opened with brand new trains. So one weekend morning we decided to just ride the new PNR and see what has changed.
It was officially my last day of my two weeks trip around Laos. I can’t help but feel sentimental while I’m having my tea, toasted bread, jam and fruit breakfast at Lao Heritage Hotel. I was already awake by 5:30am just to get ready to go to the airport. Wattay International Airport is just less than half an hour away so I wasn’t in a hurry.
For me who has lived just a block away from Ilog Pasig (Pasig River) most of my life, I have seen how the river turns from bad to worse in this urban jungle. In the early 80’s I remember we were able to catch some fishes on its brown water (as rivers usually are). But now I’m not sure if there are still any. But with the efforts of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC), they hope to bring back the previous glory of the of the old Pasig River.
I was swatting mosquitoes while sitting on the Northern Bus Station in Vientiane. It was 7:30pm, 30 minutes before my boarding time and I started applying a mosquito cream lotion on my exposed skin. There were several buses online and I wondered which one would be the VIP bus I would be taking. I saw other foreigners starting to move on to the last bus on the right. Yep it was our bus, “Luang Prabang” as the sign says. I placed my large pack at the lower storage and hopped in.
After getting cozy and comfortable at Lao Heritage Hotel, I set excitedly off to the streets of Vientiane to start visiting the sights. Unlike Pakse, Vientiane is many times larger, sprawling and streets are a lot busy. Tuk-tuks rules the streets here and my first foray with them was a hard (and expensive) at first but I learned to adapt as always and learned to travel the way the locals do and somehow minimize how the drivers here charge on a tourist basis.