2019 Q1 roundup: making the best out of Asia
This is all that went down from January – March 2019.
Malaysia and Singapore with the boys
After the wonderful Indonesia press trip in November 2018, the separation anxiety hit us. If you remember, I became really close to these photographers whom I joined the trip with. After that, we made our Whatsapp group and went impulsive on planning a trip to Malaysia and Singapore.
Luke, our friend from Singapore didn’t think we’d come this soon. It has only been 30 days of separation but we all found ourselves boarding a plane to Malaysia, on January 5, 2019, with the hopes of seeing these so-called Asian underdog countries, and of course, making new memories with each other.
I find this friendship really comforting because this group is a 5-man 1-woman team. Getting along with boys has always been easier for me so this trip did not include drama. It was way more relaxed. These boys are like kids who never complains about anything. They will just go wherever you instruct them to. To be fair, I did not make them my soldiers (if you only knew how equal they treat me) but I did book all our accommodations and planned our week. They never complained about our itinerary and everyone followed my lead.
You won’t believe how different we are in this 6-people group but each of us has a distinct relationship in twos. Individually, I can say that I am really close to all of them: I laugh a lot when I hug and talk with @seathebreezee; when I want to speak another language, I go to @ninjarod; when I want to smoke and drink (which I can never get from the rest of the group), I go to @_deepsky; I go to @zeebachi when I want to talk serious and put some sense in this wretched planet. @holdingwind is also part of this group but he wasn’t able to join this trip due because of his work trip in Japan. He’s the true mix of everyone – quiet, intelligent, talkative and man, his Korean kidneys are too strong for shit tons of alcohol.
And yes, Instagram handles are my references for them not only because I want you to follow them (yes, do it! They will spark joy in your news feed!) but I also because this is how we call each other in real life most of the time. Except for me. They find my Instagram handle a really hard reference.
I don’t know when we are able to do that again but I am really happy we did. Every single day of those 7 days with these boys was all just about laughing, giving, forgiving, creating great content, and of course, constantly making fun of each other.
What we did in Malaysia
- I stayed at the Face Suites, a hotel with a rooftop pool overlooking the Petronas Towers. I only paid $20 USD a night for a nice room with a view! You can check this photo to see how this hotel rooftop pool looks like!
- We visited the newly painted Batu Caves. It’s better to go before sunrise to take better pictures. Click here to see how my Batu Caves pic came out!
- We also went to the Thean Hou Temple, Chinese sea goddess Mazu’s temple located at the heart of Kuala Lumpur. This is my favorite picture on this trip. You should definitely come to visit!
What we did in Singapore
- We stayed at Studio M Hotel in Clarke Quay. Hotels in Singapore are usually small but Studio M’s rooms are more spacious than the usual. It’s not that cheap but Singapore, in general, isn’t cheap anyway!
- We visited the Super Tree Groves and the Cloud Forest at Gardens by the Bay.
- Most of our time in Singapore is all about exploring food. Singaporeans are voracious eaters and their food selection is definitely unique in Southeast Asia.
- I made a post about things to do in Singapore. Click on the link to see the top 16!
Tokyo for Cebu Pacific Air’s A321 Neo flight launch
After the success of my Airline Insider show on CNN Philippines, I decided to work again with its airline sponsor, Cebu Pacific Air. A321 Neo is a new engine option manufactured in Europe. The new Airbus joined the CEB family from Hamburg, Germany on February 28, 2019. You can now enjoy this single-aisle plain to flights going to Tokyo and Bali!
Brunei, just because.
Many of you were puzzled why I decided to go to Brunei. My reason? It’s the only Southeast Asian country I never had a chance to visit. Since I made good friends with Bruneians on a trip to Indonesia three years ago, I’ve been planning to visit and it finally happened!
In Brunei, I stayed with a local family, did a volunteering gig at a hostel and experienced Couchsurfing! In those 11 days, I was able to explore the whole country, plus side trips to Miri, the border town of Malaysia and Brunei.
Eating was one of the greatest adventures I did in Brunei. Hailing from Malayan cuisine influence, food in Brunei is really something worth looking into. Like the Singaporeans, they are voracious eaters, too! I couldn’t believe the variety of tasty food I had in Brunei and I never expected it to be a country of foodies. There may not be a lot of things to do in Brunei but in order to understand Brunei, you must like food.
The Bruneian people are also one of the highlights of my trip to Brunei. I’ve never met anyone so adventurous, so kind and so accommodating as the Bruneians! They took me around Bandar Seri Begawan, introduced me to people and showed me the hotspots (not to mention the most hidden) places to eat in Brunei!
I stayed at Kunyit 7 Lodge in Bandar Seri Begawan, located at the Kampong Ayer, the biggest water village in Asia. In here, I was able to learn about the water village life of the Bruneians and was able to interact with many locals. This is one of the most interesting accommodations I booked in Asia because of its unique setting and environment. In the Kampong Ayer, boats are the main transportation so you will use this a lot when going to the mainland (about 2-minute ride). The boat ride costs $1 BND only so don’t pay more than that!
2 weeks in Boracay
Boracay and I have a history – every year, I spend 2-6 weeks on the island because I’ve made a family there. Aside from the locals, most of my friends from Manila moved there in 2013 and started living the island life. With this, I made sure that I will get to visit my favorite island in the Philippines.
Of course, you are all familiar about the 6-month closure of Boracay in 2018 for rehabilitation. I am very familiar with the island so I can say lots of things changed, most especially the shores – it became extra beautiful! Our habits, however, stayed exactly the same. My friends and I still act like we are still those 23-year olds partying every night at Exit and Epic. I can’t believe we could still endure the partying-after-sunrise-kind-of-jam!
My friend and I decided to share an apartment in Boracay and I am renting my loft in front of Bulabog beach (literally) beachfront for the days that my friend and I are going to travel. If you are not a fan of the crowded stations 1, 2, 3 (and X), you should try staying in Bulabog Beach. Let me know if you are looking for accommodations! I’ll definitely hook you up!
Diving in Batangas
I would like to be serious about my scuba diving this year so I went to Batangas and did a refresher course. I stayed at Summer Cruise in San Luis, Batangas, and this small resort is really beautiful!
Unlike the other dive resorts in San Luis, Summer Cruise has its own area and doesn’t have a neighbor. Their open water dive certification is also very affordable, suitable for young people from Manila who are looking for a nearby place to get a certification. Unfortunately, after my 3-day course, I had an ear infection. I forgot that I was not allowed to dive with cold and I still pushed it — now, I am dealing with antibiotics and unbearable pain!
There are a lot of beach resorts in Batangas where you can take your diving course for cheap. Batangas is still the pioneer of diving in the Philippines and I can’t believe I was just discovering this now! It is only a few hours drive from Manila so definitely worth it for Manileños who are looking for a weekend adventure.
Hiking Mount Pinatubo
Did you know that I grew up in Zambales (Subic Bay) and never had a chance to visit Mount Pinatubo? A week before my flight to Mexico, I decided I will not be back for a long time so I needed to do this.
Together with 3 friends, I drove to Capaz, Tarlac (while all of them are sleeping soundly) and started the hike. The beginning of the hike is through a 1-hour 4×4 truck ride which was very painful and uncomfortable. Dust covered our faces as we paved the way to the Mount Pinatubo crater. The ride was pretty bumpy, too!
Another hour of hike (by foot) was required once we reach the inaccessible roads and man, that was amazing! Doing this before sunrise is definitely recommended!
Big announcement: I’m moving to Mexico!
Not moving, moving like I want to live there. Maybe I do? Maybe I don’t. In a week, I am going to explore Mexico for 6 months (with trips to Cuba in between) and see if there is something challenging for me out there.
I moved to Asia in 2017 re-visiting all the Asian countries, not to mention a lot of time in Taiwan and Japan and I started to feel very comfortable. Unchallenged. I want to be scared again.
This year, I only have Mexico and Cuba on the list as I want to take my time in traveling these countries. Of course, countries like Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic are in the list but I’ll worry about that in the future.
From this year, I will be in the Carribean and who knows until when. If you want to follow along with the journey, hit the “follow” button on Instagram, @psimonmyway. See you there!