Hello First-time Travelers!

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Are you going on a trip to a particular place for the first-time? Will you be setting foot in a foreign and unfamiliar soil? Rest assured that you have fellow travelers on the road who are embarking on new journeys.

I have been to many places, and the first time I stepped into unfamiliar territory I had to feel my way and rely on what I have on-hand especially when all I had were travel books, maps and print-outs from the web. My friends and I make our own itinerary. It is truly advisable to check out anything about the place before going on a trip.

Yet, you need not necessarily hire a travel agent or tour guide to get you around every time you visit a place for the first time. A little help from locals can add spice to your first-time travels. It can give you the freedom to explore the place and enjoy the feeling of not spending much, based on my own travel experiences.

You can take my word on some tips and information on the places I visited but feel free to be creative and be adventurous. I may offer some advice here and there but, as they say, “experience is the best teacher”. So, read on and find out more about my first-time travel adventures.

I want to make things easy for you. If you want to view the articles I wrote in this site, click the Table of Contents tab.

Photos used in this site are taken by the author, unless otherwise indicated.

Different Kinds of Travels

We travel for different reasons and purposes. Traveling is an activity that encompasses a lot of things that it’s even harder now to box it in just one kind. The constant debate and comparison between a “tourist” and “traveler” had always been interesting but my personal take on this, which has been echoed by several people who have been on the road for long, it is a waste of time setting these two apart because one is conjoined with the other.

We wander. We explore. We travel.

We wander. We explore. We travel.

I may not have been to many places or may still lack experience when it comes to traveling but I have picked up bits and pieces here and there that had me thinking about this passion of mine. When you are at an airport, you’ll see different kinds of people  with different destinations. And for those who are going to the same place, each have different journeys as well.

Sometimes you travel just to unwind or to take a vacation and time off from the regular thing you do. Other times, it is because traveling is needed, whether for work or for learning or for something else. As I have come to interact with other travelers, I found out that there is now an increasing number of people who travel for a longer period of time, often staying in a place or on the road for an extended interval.

Let me share with you my discoveries and learnings, not necessarily factual, but more of my own observations about the varying types of traveling depending on one’s purpose and activities. This is not to create labels but to provide an understanding on the kinds of traveling people take and to know that there are varying needs for these types of travels.

Family & Friendly Visits

This is the  most basic traveling that I have done. Our country, the Philippines, is an archipelago with 7,107 islands. Our culture, especially in the provinces, is known for close-knit families. During Christmastime, parties and reunions take place and there are people who travel to their hometowns just to reconnect with their roots. And with many Filipinos now living in various parts of the globe, reunions during special occasions, anniversaries, alumni homecomings, and festivals are customary.

My early travels, during my childhood years, were primarily composed of having a vacation for weeks or months with relatives every time we have our school break. I usually stayed with relatives living near the sea and I remember watching fishermen arrive with their catch every sunrise and collecting shells along the beach during sunsets.

These kind of travel would often involve bringing of goods from one place to another, such as food or souvenir items, as gifts to the people you visit or their gifts to you.

Backpacking

As I have begun working, I have met friends who share my passion for traveling. We love to explore and tour cities and towns, whether urban settings or the countryside. We often set a trip or two each year within the Philippines and abroad. Traveling within our country is mostly composed of going to the beach, snorkeling and island hopping while traveling abroad is filled with visiting famous landmarks and trying the local food.

We try to keep a low budget when we travel so we take advantage of low-fare airlines and promo fares, we stay in hostels or backpacker’s inns, we go around cities by local commute, and we eat in local eateries. It’s fun because we get to see how locals go about in their own place and experience those, too.

Since this travel would require a traveler mostly on the road and can move about easily, clothes to be used must be convenient and comfortable and the items brought must be packed lightly and compact.

Business Travel

My first trip abroad was to attend a seminar in Thailand. And for the first time, I have also crossed continents and have visited the United States because I had to attend a seminar in San Francisco, California, and moderate a particular session. Because of work, I have traveled to Indonesia and made Jakarta my home for seven months while granting me the opportunity to visit Bekasi, Bandung, Yogyakarta, Solo and Surabaya.

Many people travel for business.

Many people travel for business.

Since business traveling would require attending social functions, suits and dresses that are apt for the occasion should be packed. Oftentimes, gadgets used for work, along with papers and notebooks are also brought for the trip.

 MICE

This stands for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions. Whether you are a presentor, moderator, or participant, you have to be prepared to bring things needed for this purpose. Oftentimes, there are kits given out, which will add to your luggage. Attending such would sometimes require you to be cooped inside the hotel or venue and will only provide you with an opportunity to explore the place after sessions are done. Unless you extend for a few more days to tour the place on your own, then business travel becomes pleasurable. The good thing though is that business travel often billet you to posh accommodations where the setting of the MICE or business activities are held.

Business travels are often held in hotels and convention centers.

Business travels are often held in hotels and convention centers.

Familiarization Trip

This is one kind of travel I experienced when I became adept with blogging. I have attended some familiarization trips where the organizer pamper you to give you the best experience they can offer. A fixed itinerary is prepared and some activities would require you to dress properly, whether for cocktails or a formal gathering. A fam trip is often given to the media or target market and the traveling party is expected to promote the trip through whatever means they have.

Medical Tourism

I went on one familiarization trip geared towards medical tourism. It opened my eyes to travelers who go to another place for medical purposes. One often does this because there are medical procedures that are cheaper in a particular country compared to where the traveler comes from. Those who do this also takes advantage of a vacation to recover faster. However, travelers who go for medical tourism must be prepared to bring the necessary items for the procedure, especially medications that the traveler must take while on the trip.

Volunteer Travel

I have come to know of this kind of traveling when I was in the non-profit sector. Others call this voluntourism, but it has elicited a negative connotation to the development world. Some have coined this volunteer vacations. For those in school, they call this their gap year. Whatever it is called, traveling to volunteer is something that people see as worthwhile because there is a purpose and it effects change and impacts the local community. When I went to Vietnam and Cambodia, I found out that many travel and tour agencies offer this as an activity to tourists. Even in business traveling, volunteerism is often included as a corporate social responsibility activity for companies and organizations.

There are those who travel to volunteer to help the local community.

There are those who travel to volunteer to help the local community.

Those who volunteer travel does not bring much and they are prepared not to experience comfort nor convenience. They bring clothes that are appropriate when they “sweat it out.” Volunteering in a particular place, whether it is done in days, weeks, months or years, requires sacrifice but the returns are often fulfilling and priceless.

Academic Travel

There are those who travel to study and this is often done in a year or two. Others take a short course which can run in days or weeks or a few months. I have experienced academic travel because my group and I had to do research in a local community and we had to gather data and observe the locals for a number of days. I also met a Polish girl and her friend in a train from Beijing bound for Shanghai because she was in China to study.

A person who travels for studies will have to bring materials that are being used for learning. He or she sometimes live in a dormitory, along with fellow travelers, such as exchange students.

Religious Travel

One goes to another place through a pilgrimage. The whole journey is a prayer and a spiritual exercise to delve deeper into oneself and one’s faith. It is a process of spiritual communion with the divine. Others do this type of traveling to attend to a religious activity. My sister and I traveled from our province to Manila when Pope Francis visited it recently. During holy week, my friends and I visit a holy place to pray and reflect. There are some who go to a remote place as a spiritual retreat.

Many religious travelers go on a pilgrimage.

Many religious travelers go on a pilgrimage.

When you do religious travel, be sure to bring decent clothing and to experience the simplicities of life. An inspirational book or a holy literature is also a help when you bring one.

Sports Travel

There are travelers who visit a place to play or to watch a big sporting event. With sports events happening all year round globally, sports travel is something that others do on a regular basis. I have once met a golfer who travel around the world just to play golf. Similarly, when I had to oversee organizing a golf tournament in our locality, there were several players who traveled from different parts of our country just for this event. When I was in Indonesia, surfers with their huge surfboards, were seen in the airport in throngs as they were bound for Bali and other parts of the country.

There are those who travel to play or to witness a sports event.

There are those who travel to play or to witness a sports event.

Those who travel to participate in a game would have to bring the necessary equipment, tools, uniforms and other essentials. They would be very particular when it comes to proper handling of their things.

Eco-travel

There are a quite number of people who visit a particular place to commune with nature, study the natural habitat of that locality, and help preserve the biodiversity of the ecosystem. Some who backpack and/or take a vacation inject some form of eco-travel as there are many ecotourism activities that are being offered to travelers. Often, eco-travel is also being made in conjunction with volunteer travel.

There are those who travel to commune with nature.

There are those who travel to commune with nature.

Others travel for an entirely different agenda and purpose. There are some who mix many of the activities above. Terms such as fashion tourism, farm tourism, and many others are also cropping up as time goes by. You might want to add to this list. I’d be happy to learn more and hear from you. If you have something to share, please feel free to add them at the comments section below.

Kenny Rogers Roasters is roasting in Bacolod

With all the restaurants and food outlets sprouting all throughout Bacolod, it is no big surprise to find global brands, like the Kenny Rogers Roasters, finding its way in the City of Smiles. After all, just utter Bacolod and food instantly comes to mind. Travelers who come to Bacolod find their checklist of must-dos full of food menu and restaurants to try. And if there’s one big thing Bacolod has to offer, apart from its Masskara Festival, it’s the hodgepodge of eateries that will leave visitors full and satisfied.

The newly opened Kenny Rogers Roasters in SM City Bacolod.

The newly opened Kenny Rogers Roasters in SM City Bacolod.

Chicken inasal, or barbequed chicken, is a favorite food fare in town. Walk by the Manokan Country and you will find each stall enticing you to choose their outlet. It may sometimes make you dizzy with all the choices spread out before you that you opt for some comfort food, something familiar yet not common.

Roasted chicken.

Roasted chicken.

If you prefer your chicken cooked in a different fashion, where it is done healthily, you can always rely on Kenny Rogers Roasters to serve you with its mouthwatering  Kenny’s Classic Roast Chicken marinated in herbs and spices, slowly roasted in an open fire.

A hefty meal with a siding.

A hefty meal with a siding.

Add to that the slew of delectable sidings: coleslaw -crunchy vegetables sliced thinly and tossed in a creamy sweet and tangy dressing; steamed vegetables – choice fresh vegetables perfectly steamed and seasoned; macaroni & cheese – perfectly cooked macaroni mixed with a creamy cheese sauce; mashed potato – creamy mashed potatoes with delicious gravy; fresh fruit salad – a variety of sliced fruit in a light sugar syrup; corn on the cob – grilled to smoky flavorful perfection; chicken macaroni – delicious macaroni and chicken chunks with carrots and pineapple in creamy mayo dressing; and my all-time favorite corn and carrots – tender corn and crunch carrots, steamed and buttered.

Fruits in Cream for dessert.

Fruits in Cream for dessert.

Kenny Rogers Roasters is now located in the food strip of SM City Bacolod’s North Wing. It is really convenient especially if you go there to dine in the store. Freshly cooked and fast service combined. If you want to bring home some goodies, grab a box of those freshly baked cornmeal muffins.

Oh, those muffins!

Oh, those muffins!

A “Bitter” (Better) Way to Help Negrenses

As July ushers in, the rainy season has arrived in this part of the globe. Being in the tropics, where it’s warm and sunshiny all year round, and in an archipelago, where sea travel is a common mode of transport, the heavy rains and typhoons are not welcome visitors especially to beach lovers and travel junkies. Rains are fine as long as they don’t disrupt one’s itinerary. I, for one, was planning on a road trip to the southwestern part of the Negros Island but had to cancel it due to bad weather.

Philippines, an archipelago and a tropical country, has many beaches.

Philippines, an archipelago and a tropical country, has many beaches.

Apart from beaches and warm weather, another thing to enjoy in the tropics are the fresh tropical fruits. Those who are from the other side of the world who want to enjoy a vacation in the Philippines and other parts of Asia delight on consuming these fruits. And when you happen to be in Negros Island, you will surely want to taste the freshly squeezed sugarcane juice or go the local way of chomping on sugarcane.

Tropical fruits are plenty in the Philippines.

Tropical fruits are plenty in the Philippines.

However delectable these food are, it is always good to go easy on one’s intake especially on food with high sugar levels (I’m not sure on the sugar level of raw sugarcane, but having everything in moderation is precautionary). And if you think you went overboard and consumed too much of high-sugar content food, you can turn to an all natural solution to counter this concern.

Sugarcane abound in the Negros Island. Sugar is one of its primary products.

Sugarcane abound in the Negros Island. Sugar is one of its primary products.

I recently met executives of Nattural Quality Corporation (NQC) and they shared their advocacy on wellness and healthy lifestyles. Among their products are Ampalaya Plus, formulated for diabetes; Ampalaya Plus Junior, version of Ampalaya Plus Capsule for children ages 7 and above; Delite Herbal Tea, tea form of Ampalaya Plus capsule; Renalin, supports kidney health; Slenda, for weight loss and obesity and Enduranz Capsule for Men, for male infertility problems and promotes men’s health.

Go Natural with these products from Nattural Quality Corporation.

Go Natural with these products from Nattural Quality Corporation.

Ampalaya is bitter gourd, known for its bitter taste. Not a favorite of many, especially children, but it has medicinal qualities and great nutritional content. It can help level sugar in our body. Recently, NQC started a promotional campaign, dubbed as the “Gusto Kong Makatulong” (I Want to Help) promo that will help residents of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental, the two provinces in the Negros Island. What better way to combat diabetes than to begin a campaign in the sugar capital of the Philippines, right?

Their campaign, in partnership with radio stations such as MOR, Love Radio and Aksyon Radio, will benefit three Weekly winners of P1,000.00 from each partner FM Station for the months of July and August and three Grand Prize winners of P5,000 (one from each partner FM Station). My fellow Negrenses who are interested on this campaign can definitely join by following the mechanics.

If you are planning a trip to Negros, understand that the people are not just sweet and friendly but we also have a sweet tooth. If you share this sentiment, then, probably you’d want to try a “bitter” solution to moderate your blood sugar level. You might just want to give ampalaya or bitter gourd a try.

How to be part of this promo. It is NQC's way to help Negrenses.

How to be part of this promo. It is NQC’s way to help Negrenses.

For information on Nattural Quality Corporation, visit their website www.gonatural.com.ph or check out their Facebook page.

Your Stay, Your Rule at The Inns Bacolod

Different kinds of travels demand different kinds of needs, such as your accommodation, for instance.

Business trips often take a whole day of meetings and conferences and it is appropriate if your stay is in a business or luxury hotel, where these activities happen and where there are facilities that can cater to your official needs.

But if you’re on a tight budget and you prefer to spend your money on experiences and options that will immerse you in the local scene, you sometimes choose hostels or inns.

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The Inns by the Oriental, which opened its first property, located along San Juan St. in Bacolod City, provides you options, be it for business travel or backpacking or somewhere in between. Since it is situated at the heart of the city, right at the downtown area, The Inns is accessible to malls, shopping places, church, and interesting attractions.

Hip, Modern Hotel

One thing I really love about The Inns is its vibrant teal green color theme. The color is interesting as it exudes a relaxing feel yet an adventurous vibe. The lobby is like your home’s living room – very inviting and casual.

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Understanding the varying needs of different types of travelers, The Inns has come up with options where you can customize your room package. You can choose from a Quick Nap of 3 hours or 10 hours of stay or 24 hours or the regular rate which includes breakfast, soap, shampoo, dental kit, tissue and bottled water. But you have the option if you want to avail of the other amenities or stay within your budget.

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Every room has comfy beds, television with cable, wi-fi, air conditioning, clean towels, hot and cold shower, electronic keycard, and IDD and NDD telephone system.

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There are also different kinds of rooms – Zingly, Perky, Snappy, Churpy, Bouncy, Groovy, or Sprightly – depending on the size of the room and the type of beds available.

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The Inns is managed by The Oriental hotel chain in the Philippines that has properties in Legazpi City in Albay, Leyte, and Bataan.

Relaxing Stay

At the second floor of The Inns is The Spa which offers various types of massages – Oriental Signature, Bamboo, Krapok Herbal, Swedish or Shiatsu. You can also get a Body Scrub or a Glutathione Body Scrub.

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They have common rooms good for three, a room for two and a VIP room with Jacuzzi.

Filling Meals

At the ground floor of The Inns, the Hot N’ Juicy Seafoods and Ribs finally opened its doors to diners. We were few of the lucky ones to have first dibs on their menu.

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We were afforded the experience of eating with our bare hands while servers placed plastic on our tables so we could have an improvised boodle fight. Should you plan to eat at Hot N’ Spicy, don’t be afraid to enjoy the experience. But, remember to wash your hands well before eating.

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You can choose from five seasonings or dips: Louisiana, Cajun, Garlic Butter, Lemon Pepper or Hot N Spicy. You can also opt for a particular spice level: Baby Spice, Mild, Medium, Spicy, or Extra Spicy.

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I really enjoyed their Ribs, Mussels, Tiger Prawns, as well as the Chicken and the Liempo dishes. They gave us buckets where we could put the shells, bones, and leftovers.

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We were served with glasses of Sangria, aside from the iced tea given to each one of us.

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It was an enjoyable visit at The Inns. As a traveler myself, it is something that backpackers and business travelers will consider because of its flexible services and packages. After all it’s “Your Stay, Your Rule.”

For more information about The Inns by The Oriental, visit their website or Facebook page.

Villa Iska: A Kingdom on A Sand

Since I got home in 2014, I never had the opportunity to go out on a swim, especially in the beach. I miss my travel buddies with whom I constantly plan our yearly excursions. We make it a point to travel each year to one destination within the Philippines and one destination abroad.

Alas, with work and family catching up on me and with no travel buddies to fill my calendar, I realized that a visit to the beach has been long overdue. Summer in the Philippines has come to an end and the rainy season has been on us.

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My birthday this year fell on a Saturday so I made a rushed plan to celebrate it in a beach. The nearest one in the city is Punta Taytay and I picked a new resort called Villa Iska.

A Kingdom By the Beach

It is easy to commute going to Villa Iska. Once you get to the heart of Bacolod City, you can ride at the public plaza or at the SM Mall a jeepney plying the Punta Taytay (or Pta. Taytay) route. The jeepney will pass by in front of Villa Iska. For those who plan to bring a private vehicle, there is a parking space available across Villa Iska.

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You will never miss it. The gate looks like a fairy tale castle out of an animation film. The whole compound is covered with white sand and the rooms have colorful walls with Little Mermaid murals. Kids and the kids-at-heart will surely love to spend a day or two here.

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Villa Iska has two pools – one for adults, that seemed like an infinity pool overlooking the sea, and a kiddie pool, with a water shower from three giant mushroom figures. The adult pool is three to six feet deep while the circular kiddie pool is only two feet deep.

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Sadly, there is no beach for us to swim on. The area is closed from the beach because the one in front of the resort is used for oyster cultivation. Thus, it is not a good area for a swim by the sea. Still, we were content wading through the pool with the view of the sea in front of us and the fresh sea breeze we enhale.

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An elevated watch area is located at the corner near the beachfront that provides a great view of the sea and the whole resort. The silhouette of Guimaras and Iloilo islands across the strait could be seen from that point.

A Secure Place to Rest and Unwind

Many of the private resorts with open access to the beach are prone to vendors, beggars and burglars getting inside the property. But not with Villa Iska. The only entrance is the gate in front, with security guards stationed to watch every person entering it. There is a small port at the sea area but is closed most of the time.

Cottages are also secured as they have small doors to keep strangers out. Each cottage has a phone that connects to the administration office and the restaurant.

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No need to worry when your little ones go off dipping in the pool. There is an assigned lifeguard to watch over them. A floater is also on standby in case something happens.

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The pool area is also separated from the rooms, providing overnight guests some privacy while day visitors enjoy the sun and water while music is played at the tree house.

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It would be even better if Villa Iska is able to expand and provide a bigger space for more activities. It has been operating for only a year (it opened in 2014), so there are still a lot of things they can improve on, whether its amenities, facilities, or service.

I’m glad that during my birthday, we all had fun, including my aunties, cousin and nieces. How much more for kids who would pick Villa Iska as a place where they will celebrate their special day.

For more information about Villa Iska, visit its Facebook page.

The Nouveaulution of Fashion Tourism

“This is not just a fashion show. We want to showcase local products and local talent. We hope that through Nouveaulution, people will come to Bacolod City for fashion. It’s what we call fashion tourism.” These are the words of Nouveau Management owner Kez Pedroza during the press launch of Fashion Nouveaulution.

Kez Pedroza and her team during the press launch.

Kez Pedroza and her team during the press launch.

It’s a new concept in traveling. We often travel to another place for pleasure, to visit friends and relatives, to commune with nature, to participate in a business activity, to witness a festival or major event, to take part in a sport tournament, or to revisit history. But hey, don’t we also travel to shop? Imagine the many major sales and shopping events held in cities around the world to draw people to their place.

Shopping events can be a form of drawing people to a place.

Shopping events can be a form of drawing people to a place.

Pedroza and her team has a big dream and with the event they are mounting in the City of Smiles, they hope to put Bacolod City and the province of Negros Occidental in the map as a fashion place to visit.

A preview of Fashion Nouveaulution during the press event.

A preview of Fashion Nouveaulution during the press event.

Take for instance the world-class silk made at the Oisca Sericulture Farm in Bago City (which I still have to visit). Or the elegant bags made of “banig” or woven leaves and the many local fashion accessories and products by members of the Association of Negros Producers.

Fashion products available during the event.

Fashion products available during the event.

So, will Fashion Nouveaulution revolutionize fashion in the country? It’s for us to find out.

Models strut their moves at the catwalk.

Models strut their moves at the catwalk.

Fashion Nouveaulution is happening on June 26-28, 2015 at the Orange Gallery in the Art District, Mandalagan, Bacolod City. It will have three days (and nights!) of fashion shows, fashion and art trade shows, and the Nouveaulutionista Boutique. For more information on this event, visit their Facebook page Fashion Nouveaulution.

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