A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: HelenaK

Fun Facts

Cebu & the Philippines

-Did you know that Cebu is the oldest city in the Philippines? It's true! Cebu was the first Spanish settlement in the Philippines (7 years before the current capital of Manila).

-Colon Street in Downtown Cebu is the oldest street in the Philippines.

-Filipinos were introduced to the English language in 1762 by British invaders, not Americans.

-The Philippines is the world's 3rd largest English-speaking nation, next to the USA and the UK.

-Los Angeles, California was co-founded in 1781 by a Filipino named Antonio Miranda Rodriguez, along with 43 Latinos from Mexico sent by the Spanish government.

-Mayon volcano (in the province of Albay, in the Bicol Region, on the island of Luzon) has the world's most perfect cone.

-Founded in 1595 by Spaniards, the University of San Carlos in Cebu City, Philippines is older than Harvard and is the oldest university in Asia.


Posted by HelenaK 10:58 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Quickest way to Hong Kong

Airport to Hong Kong/Kowloon

If you're like me, you probably want to know the quickest way to get from the airport to the city center. We booked our hotel on a package tour which included the transfer to/from the airport. For those who are interested in other types of transportation, see below:

The Hong Kong Airport Express may not be the least expensive way to travel to and from Hong Kong Airport but it is definitely one of the most convenient.

The Airport express runs on 12 minute intervals between 5:50 pm and 1:15 am, and stops at three stations other than the airport - Tsing Yi, Kowloon and Central.

A one way ticket on the Airport Express is HK$ 100 (approx. $13 USD) for travel between Central and the airport, HK$ 90 between Kowloon station and the airport and HK$ 60 from Tsing Yi to the airport. Round trip tickets which are valid for a one month period are also available at slightly cheaper rates. Children between the ages of 3 and 11 travel for half those fares. And the journey takes roughly 25 minutes either way.

What makes the Airport Express so convenient is the check in counters at both Kowloon and Central stations where travelers can check in their luggage and claim their boarding pass from one day in advance up to 90 minutes before departure. Unfortunately for passengers traveling to the US this service has been suspended on many airlines, due to security measures, and they advise you to check with your airline for any changes.

Source: http://www.asiatraveltips.com/HongKongAirportExpress.shtml

For more info, click here http://gohongkong.about.com/od/travelplanner/a/AirportTravel.htm

Posted by HelenaK 23:27 Archived in China Tagged transportation Comments (0)


A city of two faces

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I'm jet lagged so I've decided to keep my blog entries going.

Macau. Just an hour by ferry from Hong Kong, Macau is another great destination in Asia. We went on a day-trip to Macau (from Hong Kong) and wish we could have explored the island a little longer. I would recommend staying 2-3 days in Macau to really get a feel for the city.


The ferry ride to Macau was quite rough. The waves were crashing, the ride was very bumpy and just about half of the passengers on board got sick. Not a good start for a day-long tour, but lucky for me, I brought some dramamine along and took it as soon as I hopped on the ferry.


Here's an introduction to Macau from Lonely Planet:
Macau is a city with two faces. On the one hand, the fortresses, churches and food of its former colonial master Portugal speak to a uniquely Mediterranean style on the China coast. On the other, Macau is the self-styled Las Vegas of the East.

And while that comparison might sound overblown, it’s not. During the past few years charismatic-but-sleepy little Macau has experienced the sort of boom usually associated with cities like Shànghǎi. But rather than skyscrapers and office towers, the construction here is all about Vegas-style mega-casinos and hotels. The reason, of course, is that casinos are legal in Macau, while in China and nearby Hong Kong they’re not.

There is, however, much more to Macau than gambling. The peninsula and the islands of Coloane and Taipa constitute a colourful palette of pastels and ordered greenery. The Portuguese influence is everywhere: cobbled back streets, baroque churches, stone fortresses, Art Deco buildings and restful parks and gardens. It’s a unique fusion of East and West that has been recognised by Unesco, which in 2005 named 30 buildings and squares collectively as the Historic Centre of Macau World Heritage Site. There are also several world-class museums.

Especially if you’ve been in China for a while you’ll also find there is a distinctly different feel to Macau. While about 95% of residents are Chinese, the remainder is mostly made up of Portuguese and Macanese (people with mixed Portuguese, Chinese and/or African blood). It’s this fusion of Mediterranean and Asian peoples, lifestyles, temperaments and food – oh, the food – that makes Macau so much fun.


Here are a few photos from my trip to Macau.


Posted by HelenaK 17:29 Archived in China Comments (0)

Hong Kong

The city that truly never sleeps

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Hong Kong. There's something about HK that keeps me coming. It may be how alive the city is, or the delicious food, or the shopping. I can't quite figure it out but there's something special about this island. I've been to Hong Kong many times and I've enjoyed every visit.

This time around, we stayed at the Novotel near Jordan Station on the Kowloon side. The hotel, which my sister-in-law recommended, was newly refurbished and in a great location. Although the rooms were quite small, you can't beat the convenience. We were also pleased with the clean rooms and the free internet service in the lobby. From the hotel, we weren't far from the shopping areas (Mongkok, Harbour City) and the subway and bus stations. And we definitely took advantage of the transportation in HK and took the bus or the subway while we were in the city.

IMG_7464.jpgIMG_7466.jpg Novotel, Nathan Road

Shopping - For cheap night shopping, try going to the night market in Mongkok. There they have knock-offs (watches, purses, designer shirts). You name it, they have it. Also, you can try going to Sogo by the water (Kowloon side). On the bottom floor, I found a place (Emporium) with cute tops and sweaters for women. There are also clothes for men there, but it was mostly active wear (Adidas, Nike, etc.). And every store you can name will be at Harbour City. This mall is HUGE and its right by the harbor on the Kowloon side. In fact, it's Hong Kong's largest shopping complex. If you'd like to stay by Harbour City there are a few Marco Polo hotels there - Marco Polo Prince, Marco Polo Gateway, Marco Polo Hong Kong (in order from least to most expensive).


Places to eat - Definitely try the egg tarts - they're delicious! Especially at Macau Restaurant on Lock Road (Kowloon). Speaking of Macau Restaurant, they are also known for their delicious pigeon. Yes, I said pigeon. It's a delicacy in Hong Kong so you'll have to try it. There isn't that much meat on the pigeon but the skin is crispy and it tastes just like duck. In all honesty, I was a little grossed out since I can't stand the sight of pigeons, but its worth a try. Also a good place to eat is Yung Kee Restaurant near Lan Kwai Fong. Their specialty is their roast goose. Delish!


The sights - This time around I didn't do much sightseeing in Hong Kong but I would recommend going to the top of Victoria Peak and just walking around this amazing city. We walked all around the city and on one of the nights we went to see the Symphony of Lights (which is a light show of the buildings on Hong Kong island) from the Avenue of the Stars. Other top attractions: http://www.12hk.com/misc/top10_HongKong_Sights_Attractions.shtml


Also, I couldn't believe how many people were out and about in the wee hours of the night. There were so many people - shopping, eating out, walking around - at 11pm and later. Here's a pic of a packed subway at 11:30 on a Wednesday night. Unbelievable! This is definitely one of the reasons why I love Hong Kong.


Hong Kong is a must-see for anyone who wants to experience a vibrant city with culture. If you haven't been, you must go!

Posted by HelenaK 06:26 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (0)

The trip - Southeast Asia

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My trip to Southeast Asia did not go exactly as planned but nonetheless, my time there was amazing. In fact, nothing ever goes as planned which is the best part of traveling - all the unexpected adventures.

My travels led me to explore the islands of Cebu, Manila and Boracay in the Philippines, as well as Hong Kong and Macau. I haven't written in quite a while so the next few postings I'll feature the places I visited and the must-see's in those areas. I hope you'll enjoying reading about my adventures as much as I enjoyed my trip.

2 months in Asia was unbelievable and I'm looking to my next visit.

Posted by HelenaK 23:20 Comments (0)

Conde Nast Traveler

Readers' Choice Awards

In Conde Nast Traveler's November 2008 issue, they published the top 100 readers' choice awards for the best places to go to in the world.

Here are the winners in the Philippines:

Top 10 Islands (Asia/Indian Ocean):
#7 Cebu

Top 25 Resorts (Asia):
#16 Plantation Bay, Cebu

Top 100 Hotels (Asia):
#44 Pan Pacific, Manila
#67 Makati Shangri-La, Manila
#98 The Peninsula, Manila

To read more on other destinations and resorts that made the list, follow this link. http://www.concierge.com/tools/travelawards/readerschoice

Posted by HelenaK 10:33 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

El Nido, Palawan

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One of the 'must-see' places on my list is El Nido, which is on the northwestern tip of Palawan in the Philippines. El Nido showcases Palawan’s geology and diverse wildlife with its limestone formations that are over 250 million years old. The limestone cliffs tower over the pristine waters with its innumerable species of tropical fishes and corals, and three species of endangered sea turtles. Also, its forests are host to more than 100 species of birds, thus making El Nido one of the most important sites for biological diversity.


The unrivaled beauty of El Nido rests on its massive collection of limestone islands, bordered by powder white sands, with cliffs jutting from translucent waters. We stayed at the Lagen Island resort and had an amazing time exploring the resort and the islands nearby. What I love about El Nido are the endless activities - whether its an early morning fishing trip, a hike or a picnic on a nearby island, kayaaking in the lagoons, or just lounging by the pool, there's so much to to do.

DSC03139.jpg Kayaking in one of the crystal clear lagoons

I took this photo at one of our island-hopping excursions to a nearby island. We had a beach picnic with bbq, rice and other delicious Filipino food. After lunch I was so stuffed that I needed a siesta.

CBS in its 5th season of the Amazing Race chose Lagen Island as the 11th pit stop in its race around the world. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Amazing_Race_5 This brought plenty of attention and fame to El Nido, but has not spoiled the island's serene and idyllic beauty. Its definitely not touristy in El Nido, in fact, its an ideal place to honeymoon or to hang out with family and friends. I know my family and I had an unforgettable trip there. We stayed at the resort on Lagen Island so I can only speak of our experience there. There's also another resort nearby on Miniloc Island (which I think is smaller and older, so I've heard).

Our stay on Lagen Island was fantastic! The staff was very friendly and courteous, the food was delicious (the resort is all-inclusive - food, activities, everything!), and the resort was very well-kept. I would suggest staying at one of the water cottages which are built on stilts over the water or at one of the beachfront cottages. Definitely take your time exploring El Nido and all that it has to offer - 3-5 nights is ideal since it will give you plenty of time to take in the beautiful surroundings and relax. http://www.elnidoresorts.com/index.htm

Lagen Island:

Some of Lagen Islands recognition's:
2007 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards – Finalist for Investor in People category
2007 Smart Travel Asia’s Top Leisure Resorts Award for Lagen Island Resort
2007 Travel + Leisure’s (US edition) “Our 15 Favorite Green Hotels”
2007 Island Magazine’s Blue List
2008 Green Hotel Recognition Award from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN)
2008 Travel + Leisure (South Asia and Australia) “Our 15 Favorite Green Hotels”

Posted by HelenaK 09:58 Archived in Philippines Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

Preliminary trip details

Countdown: Less than 3 months

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I am quite excited for an upcoming trip this December as I will be spending the holidays in Cebu, Philippines with my family. I love spending the holidays in Cebu. Since it's a predominantly Catholic country, the whole country comes alive at Christmastime.

I already have a lot of activities lined up. Thus far, I'm planning on hanging out at some of my favorite resorts in Cebu - Shangri-La and Plantation Bay. And for New Years, I'm planning on heading to Boracay for some sun, fun, and relaxation.


I'll be back in Cebu on January 1st so I'm planning on hanging out in Cebu for few days, and will possibly head out to a nearby island, Bohol, to dolphin-watch. I wish I enjoyed scuba diving (Bohol has some of the best diving spots in the world). I tried it once but I think I'm too claustrophobic. Anyways, I'm content with just snorkeling. Around January 5th, my friends are planning on visiting and would like to go to El Nido, Palawan for their honeymoon. I've already been to El Nido and would love to go again, but I'm guessing the newlyweds may want some privacy on their honeymoon.

Speaking of honeymoons, my younger brother John, cousin Eric and I actually went to someone else's honeymoon. My eldest brother Jason got married a few years ago and decided to honeymoon in Boracay. John, Eric and I wanted to go as well, and if that wasn't bad enough, we didn't like our hotel and we decided to crash in the honeymooner's suite instead.

Ahia_s_pics__20_.jpg The Newlyweds
Boracay__19_.jpg The Honeymoon Crashers

Posted by HelenaK 22:10 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

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