Travel and Food Living

Life's tastier adventures on the road and flavor

Only quite a few number of Filipino folks are crazy about Japanese cuisine. Luckily, I'm one of them. And it's easy to guess why.

I'm extremely drawn to its inexplicable taste of flavors. And the palatable varieties.

I'm a typical Asian who loves everything about oriental dishes. And when it comes to oriental restaurants, I would not look further beyond a Japanese resto.

There's something about Japanese restaurants that draws my palate. Perhaps, it's the distinct flavors.

Succulent. Delectable. Magical.

This awesome uniqueness can be attributed to the country's long-cherished tradition of preparing dishes. Japan is home to the best cuisine in the world. Because Japanese are meticulous people. They're known to have prepared their dishes with great attention to details and taste. And always healthy and savory. As though there's always some secret hidden behind the flavor. The taste pinches to the bones, and down to the core. Terrific!

Japanese food never grows old. It has a long history of enticing diners with its luscious flavors. And it never runs out of tricks stimulating one's appetite. And anyone who's into Japanese dishes is going crazy with its plethora of recipes. The sushi craze, the ramen craze, the maki craze. And in recent years, the katsu craze. There's always an exciting discovery of flavors waiting in a Japanese restaurant.

And at YABU, my love for Japanese dishes only intensifies.

Dubbed as the House of Katsu, Yabu has been reaping praises from diners in the past years due to its high-end Katsu meals. According to its official website, chefs at Yabu in Metro Manila branches have been trained under chef Kazuya Takeda, popularly known as the Master of Katzu in Tonkatsu Takeshin, a famous Tonkatsu restaurant in Tokyo, Japan. Which explains why the Katsu meals at Yabu so far are the best Katsu  in the Philippines.

We visited the Yabu branch at UP Town Center last weekend and the atmosphere was perfect for a scorching summer weather. Light interior with a direct view of the garden. Cool! It was a blistering Sunday noon and we wanted nothing but a cozy place to relax over conversation and good food.

Jeff is my constant companion in all of my food adventures since last year and I am always confident I would end up an incredible meal each time I am with him. And in all our food trips, I always let him decide which one in the menu is perfect for a hungry appetite. 😁😁 He is quite expert in comprehending culinary terms and what suits my palate so I let him pick the best one.

Normally, when we're dining together, we never settled on similar dishes, we usually chose two kinds so that we could taste both. In this food outing, he chose a Katsu meal set and a bowl of Mozarella Katsu sticks. This Katsu set consists of creamy dory katsu, shredded cabbage and one cup of brown rice with sesame seeds on top.

Perfect lunch at Yabu!

And we're off to some ritual.

Japanese menu, as everybody knows, never runs out of tricks in captivating diners' appetite. It seems there is always new to delve on. And at Yabu, something new is bound to discover.

Creating our own Katsu sauce!

I've been to a number of Japanese restaurants in the city but I've never encountered such ritual as this.

Katsu meal and a bowl of mozarella katsu sticks with cheesy awesomeness!

At Yabu, diners are treated to distinct yummy sauces!

So how this ritual goes on?

First, you have to see this oval-shaped ceramic jar in front. It contains the Tonkatsu sauce. Then the waiter will give a small bowl of black and white sesame seeds. It must be pounded into powdery pieces. Jeff did the labor 😅 And I was more ecstatic while looking on because as sesame seeds crushed, the aromatic scent draped around.

It stimulates my appetite and sets my mood for a hearty lunch.

Jeff pounding the sesame seeds

After crushing the sesame seeds, we were told to get at least two scoops of Tonkatsu sauce from the ceramic jar and poured it to the crushed sesame seeds to create a perfect Katsu sauce. Incredible!

The aromatic smell filled the air with enticing scent that intensifies my hunger 😅 

Two scoops of Tonkatsu sauce, mixing it with the crushed sesame seeds,
and you will have a perfect Katsu sauce!

Scrumptious Mozarella Katsu sticks!

At Yabu, you will be introduced to a variety of sauces, some of which you might have not tasted in your life, just be careful with mixing each, you might not like the outcome. Because some of those are really strange. But with an adventurous palate, each sauce offers something new. A new flavor of excitement. It never bores you as long as it goes down to the tummy.

My best experience at Yabu however is creating our own Katsu sauce and devouring the Katsu meal and the Mozarella sticks! The Japanese breadcrumbs, known as the fresh Panko, are great coating for dishes and I like its texture. Its close to perfection.

And one thing I adored about Japanese dishes is the way it cooked and prepared. Meticulous, grand, enticing, sumptious. And did I say healthy? Yes. I've heard at Yabu they used Canola oil instead of those unhealthy lard.

You can have your own Yabu experience by visiting any branches of Yabu in Metro Manila. Trust me, you will never regret the trip. It's the best Katsu experience!

The blistering summer heat in the Philippines makes your appetite to crave for more coolers and refreshing sweets every now and then. And on weekends when you're outside, the punishing temperature makes you rush to grab a cup of ice cream.

That's what we felt when we were strolling around UP Town Center yesterday after taking our lunch at Yabu. I adored gelato so much because of its sturdy, yet ultra smooth and creamier texture, so when we saw a life-sized poster of Manila Creamery where luscious gelato menu has been featured, we didn't waste time. And rushed to the third floor of the mall to sample the flavors. 

Interestingly, Manila Creamery has a wide array of gelato flavors with some twists. Not settling on the usual boring ice cream flavors, this refreshment shop concocted some unique creations. Mangga't suman, tutong na kanin, mango pomelo, Davao chocolate.  Tutong na kanin? How's that for an ice cream flavor? That's for everyone to find out. 

Meanwhile, we ended up choosing the gelato parfait creations for an intense afternoon refreshment! Because the heat outside was simply terrible. Usually, when Jeff and I went out for a dinner or any food adventure, we usually chose two different items so that we can taste both or exchange if I don't like the one I pick 😂

At Manila Creamery we chose two kinds of parfait - halo halo and mais con yelo, both mouth-watering and incredibly luscious! With a big blob of gelato on top how can we not be amazed? 

The halo halo variety is a creative mixture of black sesame seeds,  roasted rice and a creamy gelato coffee. The mais con yelo tasted like a mango cheesecake with some caramel sauce drizzled on top. 

Scrumptious and delicious flavors and definitely will be back there and try other flavors in the menu. 
If there's anything I can rave about this latest "It-place" in Tagaytay, it's the stunning view of the ridge and the relaxing atmosphere!

Spectacular view of the ridge and valleys

Twin Lakes estate, a stretch of land spanning across 1,300 hectares of rolling hills and valleys, is currently  creating so much hype in the social media due to its spectacular landscape and breathtaking view of the Tagaytay vista, prompting tourists and Philippine locals to throng to the area to experience the best of nature.

Gorgeous garden atop the hill, the outdoor view of Starbucks

It is touted to be the first vineyard resort complex in the Philippines with wine producing community that would surely remind us of Europe's most popular wine-producing regions, Burgundy in France and Tuscany in Italy.   

This breathtaking commercial strip has numerous reasons to stun visitors. With its natural scenery of nature, rolling hills and an unobstructed view of the majestic Taal Lake, it is home to a flourishing business center with numerous high-end food establishments lining up the cliff.

Stunning ground where visitors can relax and enjoy the view

One of these food establishments that has been reaping quite a number of praises due to its terrific location above the hill is Starbucks. Dubbed as "The Most Beautiful Starbucks in the Philippines", this branch in Twin Lakes has a good reason to fascinate coffee and likewise not-so coffee lovers. Perched above the hill and surrounded with a manicured garden and LED-glowing white roses in full bloom! This Starbucks branch is set on a quaint Mediterranean architecture with a homey outdoor feel.

Enjoying from first solo travel on my birthday

However, Starbucks is not the only food strip that lined up the edge of the Twin Lakes ridge, there are numerous bistros and restaurants that find its home above the hill overlooking the magnificent valleys and Taal Lake. Some of these establishments offer the best of Filipino and international cuisines. This makes Twin Lakes a spectacular destination for food lovers and adventure-seekers.

Spending my late lunch in Starbucks. And chose this outdoor location. Terrific atmosphere!

You can chill at one of the restaurants and coffee shops, breathe the smoothness of the valleys and enjoy the incredible view of nature. Or enjoy a cup of tea or coffee while waiting for the sun to set. Or simply just let hours pass while emptying your mind from toxic thoughts. Twin Lakes estate is a perfect destination for a tired soul. Tranquility at its best!

I visited this amazing complex on my birthday - alone, and had a great moment of "me" time. The view was simply magnificent and relaxing. Everywhere was a charming natural beauty of the countryside that I thought I would never see for as long as I lived in a highly urbanized city like Metro Manila.

Incredible! Simply incredible. Twin Lakes charm is so fascinating I thought I was lost temporarily to its majestic appeal. The stunning view of the valley brought so much relief to my tired body and I was able to enjoy my first solo travel on my birthday.

Twin Lakes is located along Brgy. Alfonso in Cavite, passing Ayala Serins and Sky Ranch. It's almost on the boundary of Tagaytay and Laurel, Batangas. It can be reached through a Tagaytay-Nasugbu bound bus or jeep. From Olivarez proper in Tagaytay, Twin Lakes is almost an hour ride. Jeepney transportation fee is Php20.00 from Olivarez. 
It's been three years since my last out-of-the country travel and I'm longing to have another one this year. Hopefully. Plans have been in the table though.

Together with my former colleagues in the university we are planning for a South Korean trip this autumn. I always believe that autumn or fall is the most romantic season of the year. And the most calm. The environment turns colorful due to brilliant foliage when autumn season comes and I often associate this to romance, and for someone like me who hasn't into a relationship ever since, these wonders in the environment brought delight to my senses.

However, Korea wasn't my original choice. It was Japan. Because the countryside of Japan (my favorite is Kyoto) is so awesome during autumn season. Magnificent. Magical. Breathtaking. But my friends chose South Korea because it's less expensive. So I conformed.

South Korea offers a dazzling experience of wonders and amazement to travelers. It's the country of great contrasts. Ultra modern but retains its spectacular landscape in the countryside. With its thriving economy and beautiful infrastructure, the country assures visitors with comfort.

Korea is very popular in the Philippines due to the K-pop wave and the rise of Korean nobela in Philippine television where almost all Filipinos are enamoured to Korean celebrities. This fascination towards the K-pop culture has extended to Korean products. Korean brands have also invaded the cosmetics industry in the Philippines. 

No wonder my colleagues chose a South Korean travel than a Japan trip. So the plan is finalized and our Korean travel is set this September in time for the autumn season. I'm yet to create a travel itinerary plan, I'm still searching for the best spots to visit in South Korea. 

I've learned also that for Philippine passport holders, Korean visa is free as long as the visit won't go beyond 59 days.  We're planning to visit this beautiful nation for five days only. 

However, I'm still longing for a Japan getaway. Though this Asian country is so amazing during spring season due to cherry blossoms, I still prefer an autumn travel to the land of the rising sun. Perhaps, in the years to come. Keeping my finger cross. Kyoto and Osaka are my favorites. These places offer the best of Japan travel experience according to some accounts from other travelers. Osaka is home to the best authentic Japanese cuisine, while Kyoto amazes visitors with its scenic landscape, age-old tradition, cultural wonder and magnificent countryside scenery, especially during autumn when trees turned brighter and poetic. 
Batangas is quite known as home to some of the finest beaches outside the Visayas and the Mindanao islands in the Philippines, with its front-runner destinations - Calatagan, Nasugbu, Anilao and San Juan. It offers the best of both worlds for beach fanatics, depends on the budget, and the mode of travel

It’s closer to Metro Manila. With so many options of beach resorts to choose from, ranging from boutique-style villas to luxurious residential beach properties, and from plain cottages to affordable casitas. The beaches are perfect for every fun getaway activity with its sun-kissed shorelines beacon amusement to outdoor thrill-seekers and ball game lovers. So whether it’s a water sports adventure you’re looking for or just want to chill with friends along the rugged coastlines, Batangas seaside has plenty to offer.

Photo credit: Tere Hilis

Last February 3, my friends and I took a well-deserved break from work and hopped-in to a beach trip in San Juan, Batangas. It was a chill weekend rather than a fun-filled beach escapade. We didn’t embark into amusing water sports activities but just did what stressed-out people supposed to do on weekends  – relax, eat, sleep, talk, take a slow dip into the swimming pool and wait for the sunrise along the seaside while holding a cup of coffee. Chill!

But getting there wasn’t easy, in fact it was a little tiring. We left Buendia in Makati at 9:30 in the morning and arrived in Lipa City at 11:00. Heavy traffic greeted us along the busy street leading to Robinsons mall so we disembarked before reaching the traffic light intersection. It was already 12:00 noon so we decided to drop by at KFC inside the Robinsons for lunch before catching a jeepney ride to San Juan.

While on the road bound for San Juan, traffic jam seemed hitting in every corner of Lipa City. Vehicles of all sorts crammed along a single lane street, in a very disorganized highway where all types of vehicles jam-packed the already crowded route, making our travel a punishing adventure. 

Photo credit: Tere Hilis

But the moment we got out of Lipa, the smoothness of the Saturday afternoon washed off my disappointment. And had a terrific moment, basking at the soothing view of the Batangas countryside where life seems just taking a slow turn. The weather was subdued, almost cloudy, and the greenery on both sides of the road provided relief to tired senses!

We arrived at San Juan before 2:00 in the afternoon. It was a strenuous travel from Lipa City because we're not able to stretch our legs. And my pelvic joints seemed cramping. We just came out from our night shift and we'd only an hour sleep during the travel. But we're too excited for this weekend trip to be distracted with weariness. So we carried it well and still all smile.

Well, if you're someone who dislikes long road trips with nothing to amuse your sight but hinterlands and farm villages, this San Juan sojourn might be a boring affair, but if you're someone who loves the off-the-beaten track adventure, this long route is an exciting journey. 

From San Juan, we took a tricycle ride to our ultimate destination, barangay Abung, about a 30 minute-drive from the San Juan town market, and where we booked an overnight stay at Balai Sa San Juan resort. It's a lone and exclusive beach farm resort in barangay Abung where tendrils of the modern world seem all forgotten. Mobile signal is weak. No wifi and television provided in the room. But such a very relaxing vacation haven.

When we got there we’re rewarded with a unique silence and comfort in the environment. Tranquility at its best! And all rooms are built above the water facing the wide fishing ground and surrounded with mangrove trees, very  far from the beach line. Each room has an open-space airy veranda. 

No television and wifi in the room so that guests can have a well-deserved rest. And perhaps because the theme of this resort is country living and vintage so, naturally modern technologies are out of the deal. But all rooms are air-conditioned equipped with hot and cold showers. Free toiletries and towels are also provided. 

But don't worry, there's a free wifi connection in the club house.

The swimming pool area is smacked between the mangrove trees and the fishing village. A few distance from the club house 

Such a languid tropical environment. Breeze rolling from the wilderness is perfect for a warm night, so no need to switch on the air-con at early dawn to whisk off the heat. 

All rooms are built along the mangrove trees, so guests need to pass across the narrow wood bridge to reach the club house, the swimming pool area and the beach side. The bridge, though a little worn-out, is fairly secured with bamboo supports on both sides.

Balai is not your typical beach resort where loud noises from other beach trippers reverberate across the place, or where water sports activities tear the calmness of the sea, but it’s a unique place where the softness of the day and the relaxing silence of the surrounding can be truly felt. Quiet and calm. As though the resort is a retreat sanctuary of monks that is so remote from the world.

View of the club house in the early morning
Nobody's home except us on that beautiful weekend 
 Photo credit: Chin Dizon

Photo credit: Nemie Macaya

Everything was so tranquil! We heard nothing but the chirping of the birds, the whistling of the afternoon air from the wilderness and the rushing of the  breeze from the mangrove trees. The wide stretch of the fishing village reflects a serene country life, reminding guests of the old days in a forgotten time. 

This countryside landscape evoked so many surreal childhood memories in me, back to the days when I still lived in the farm with my family. Exactly the same atmosphere, the same farm landscape where I grew up. Oh, the sweet sounds from the valley. I still remember those days. I'm always a country girl by heart. 

The name of the resort itself reflects calmness and serenity. And offers warmth and relaxation. In the visayan term, Balai means home. Indeed, this place beacons a homey atmosphere. A perfect place for people who are seeking moments of privacy and stillness amidst the chaotic life in the city. A place away from the crowd and the noise. In Balai, you're seem a civilization away. Something worthy to savor. Very relieving.

But don’t expect too much. 

The amenities are not really what you’re expecting. In fact, there was nothing in there except swimming pool. The beach side is not inviting, shoreline is rugged and the sand is brownish. Water isn’t crystal clear, in fact it can be harsh and rough during high tide, with billowing waves rushing to kiss the seashore.

The beach side has a long coastline with no water break and its spacious 
ground is an ideal venue for team building and some fun activities

The rugged shoreline with its chocolate-colored sand

However, this place offers the best of respite for a tired soul, weary mind and over-stressed body. Cozy, serene, smooth and quiet. Not crowded. In fact, during our visit, except for the two couples, we’re the only guests frolicking around the area as though we rented the entire place. The experience was a little more of a private vacation in an exclusive farm rental home than being in a commercial beach resort.

Food choices are terrific, as though everything is prepared by a great chef! Staff are attentive, warm and very accommodating. They’re always on call, providing service to guests at every turn. And they’re very courteous. 

In fact when we arrived, someone greeted us in the entrance area and courteously took our bags. He guided us to our room and left instructions where to proceed to present our booking confirmation. Unlike other resorts where guests needed to drop off first at the information desk to confirm the booking, at Balai we jumped off directly to our room. And took more than 30 minutes before we went to the office.

While presenting our booking form, another staff handed us a welcome drink, a glass of tamarind juice which really tastes great. It was my first time to drink a tamarind juice and I love the spike of its sourness!
 Photo credit: Nemie Macaya

Photo credit: Nemie Macaya

It was close to 5:00 in the afternoon when we pranced to the beach. The afternoon sun was fading south, and the cold wind was roaring from the open sea, lapping on waves to create a crushing lurch. But we still managed to enjoy the windy atmosphere, taking pictures, poking fun at each other, and having the best of our lives finding some angle for a picture-perfect pose.

 Photo credit: Chin Dizon

  Photo credit: Chin Dizon
 Sumptuous breakfast as if we're taking our meal at a Cafe Shop 
in the metropolis 

As the twilight fog slowly covering the earth, the late afternoon breeze was also getting colder so we decided to move to the swimming pool area. But by this time, the evening air was also spewing an almost frosty February mist that when I took my first dip into the pool, it was as if my muscles were frozen and my jawline locked up. Still, I enjoyed the water and had so much fun with my friends. Our laughter was tearing the silence of the raw evening and rolled down to the mangroves. Liberating, indeed!

We returned to our room at 6:30 and had our dinner at 7:00. After an hour of belting tunes in the karaoke with lots of laughter and conversation in-between, we slumber to bed, feeling relieved. And we’d the best sleep ever. Bed was comfortable, and the room was cozy. Outside, the soothing evening air rustled smoothly through the wide glass sliding door, providing us a conducive moment of a long night rest. Now, I understand why the management didn't put wifi and television in the room.

  Photo credit: Chin Dizon
Photo credit: Nemie Macaya

We woke up very early to witness the dramatic sunrise at the seaside. And while getting ready for the day, we bragged at each other how liberating it was to have slept that long and how relaxing being billeted in a very quiet resort with no one around creating a fuzz. 

Breathe! Such a fascinating day ahead.

As we headed to the club house and looked around, we're amused with the unique quietness of the place. As though the world stood still. As we took a cup of coffee, we looked at each other and confided how much we longed for an extended stay. The softness of that Sunday morning seemed like a priceless therapy that it already felt like home. Everything was so relax.

After calling the staff and relaying our order for breakfast, we thronged to the beach with so much thrill. We’re so excited to see the ascend of the morning sun at the seaside. So we rushed to the shoreline with some of us still holding a cup of coffee!

It was low tide, and the wide shoreline enticed us to make the most of our time while the sun still behind the morning fog. We cavorted across the mini-sand bar, and freely moved around with our mobile cameras, taking snaps at the vast horizon and everywhere. 

Because we’re the only guests having our moments in the beach side, we enjoyed the privacy. We savored the fun at the long coastline without interruption. It was still early morning and the weather was fine. The sun seemed hiding beneath the clouds and the sea water was calmed. Perfect for a leisure swimming.

Far across the beach line, two golden retrievers pranced back and forth, running after each other and seemed enjoying the morning breeze. Such a wonderful sight to behold, watching dogs freely frolicked across the area. Boy, I'd an amazing morning!

                                          Photo credit: Tere Hilis

We moved to the swimming pool after almost an hour because waves are started getting harsh. And since no one was there and the place appeared more like a private home than a vacay spot, I dared to wear my two-piece. Who cares anyway? After all, it's an appropriate attire for swimming, and I don't want to wait to become 50 years old to wear a skimpy bikini. 😂😝

Balai has two kinds of room accommodations. The hotel room type called the Kawayan rooms, with open verandas, and the single detached bungalow type  called the Aroma.  The Kawayan rooms, which are not really built from bamboos but from wood and concretes, can accommodate up to six persons for only Php3,300 per night. It has two queen-sized beds and a single bed. This is where we stayed.

While the Aroma villa can accommodate at least 3 to 4 persons for only Php3,300 per nightIt has its own living room and private terrace. All rooms have views of the wide fishing ground and the vast mangrove plantation.

The resort has no entrance fee and no corkage fees on food except on drinks. Guests can bring cooked food. For more information visit Balai Resort website. Check-in time is at 2:00 PM and check-out time at 11:00 AM.

Among the must-try dishes is pancit guisado. I'm not really into pancit but this one in Balai is really terrific with crisp vegetables. It only costs Php150.00 per serving and already good for 3 to 4 persons.

We left Balai on the following day, February 4, at 11:00 in the morning. An hour before our check-out I texted our contact, the tricycle driver named Mang Felix, the one who brought us to the resort. It's necessary to make an arrangement with tricycle drivers in San Juan because no permanent route of public transports going to barangay Abung.

Mang Felix brought us to the pasalubong store in San Juan and had lunch there before heading to the bus station. This time we took a bus from San Juan bound for Buendia. Travel time was shorter compared to the Lipa route. We departed San Juan at 12:30 in the afternoon and arrived in Buendia at 3:00.

Good Things about Balai:

Ø  Privacy is assured
Ø  More of an exclusive resort rather than a crowded commercial beach
Ø  Affordable room rates
Ø  Calm and very quiet
Ø  Rooms are clean with hot and cold shower
Ø Each room has a veranda facing the fishing village and surrounded with mangrove trees
Ø  Customer service is great with accommodating staff
Ø  Food choices are great!
Ø  A retreat haven where relaxation and smoothness of the day are guaranteed.
Ø  Beach is private with no neighboring resorts
Ø  Long coastline. Ideal for team building and fun activities
Ø  Free Coffee and Tea, available in the club house 24 hours a day.

The Not-So fascinating side:

Ø  No modern facilities, even the swimming pool looks vintage.
Ø  Sea water is not clear and can be very harsh during the day.
Ø  Sand is chocolate brown and rugged
Ø  Rooms are far from the swimming area.
Ø  No food available unless you place an order ahead of time. But the good side of this is, you can be assured of a freshly cooked food.

Must-try Dishes :

Ø  Pancit guisado (good for 3)
Ø  Suman with coco jam
Ø  Breaded pork chopped and fish fillet
Ø  Fried Tilapia 


Ø  Billiard hall
Ø  Karaoke (Php100/hour)
Ø  Volleyball
Ø  Kayaking
Ø  Fishing

How To Get There:

1. From Buendia in Makati or Cubao in Quezon City, take a bus bound for San Juan, Batangas (avoid the Lipa route, it's very tiring)
2. Alight at the San Juan town proper and look for a tricycle that would take you to barangay Abung.
3. Negotiate for a reasonable rate with the tricycle driver. Sometimes they'll ask for a higher price, but negotiate fairly. In our case, we're lucky to meet Mang Felix. He only asked Php150.00 for the 3 of us. You may contact him the moment you arrive in San Juan. He also agrees to bring visitors to Laiya beaches. Contact me through this site so that I can give you his mobile number. 

Individual expenses:

Bus from Buendia to Lipa Php124.00
Jeep from Lipa to San Juan Php58.00
Tricycle from San Juan to Balai Php50
Room Accommodation 1 night Php550
Ecological fee (this can be paid at the resort) Php20.00
Dinner at the resort Php110
Breakfast at the resort Php200
Tricycle back to San Juan Php65.00
Bus bound to Buendia Php198.00

Bring extra cash for some souvenir shopping in San Juan.

For more stories of my travel and budget traveling tips, like this FB page 

During our Vietnam budget trip. We just walked on foot while exploring Saigon

For budget travelers, creating a concise DIY (Do-it-yourself) travel itinerary plan is always an ideal thing to do because you are going out there without someone to assist you. But trust me, this is always fulfilling, it provides a different surge of excitement.
Creating a concise do-it-yourself budget travel itinerary is very simple, just write down the necessary items in your travel, destination, time of arrival and departure, means of transportation and attractions to visit and put an estimated amount for each.
Print your Itinerary
This is very important for DIY travelers. This serves as your guide while on the road. You will be exploring the place without contacts or tour guide, so you should have a hard copy of your itinerary.
In case you are lost or no idea where to go next and what to do, you can always refer to the list. Create a separate portion of the attractions you want to visit with a corresponding address so that you can show it to the locals.
Create a list what to bring
When creating a list what to bring, consider the season of your travel and the destination. Season is a big factor when preparing what type of clothes to wear and the accessories to bring.
Make sure you only bring enough outfit that can be worn during the trip to avoid stuffing your bag with unnecessary things. Personally, I always prepare outfit based on the number of days of my travel.
Pack Light and Smart
If you are traveling for less than 15 days, avoid overcrowding your bag with excessive accessories and unnecessary gadgets. In this sense, you don't need to have a check-in bag. Budget travelers and backpackers don’t actually have check-in bags. So pack light and carry up to two bags only.
Bring light clothes such as cotton-based T-shirts, sleeveless, leggings, shorts, scarf instead of sweatshirt.
Choose the right luggage
Not unless you are going out there for a business trip or taking a one month adventure, carrying an over-sized luggage is very impractical.
It will not only drain your energy walking or moving around with a heavy luggage but it also poses an added cost to your expenses as you might put this as a check-in bag. To be more practical, choose a light bag that can be hand carried in the plane.
Budget travelers usually carry backpacks, duffel bags or anything light. Backpacks and duffel bags are easier to carry than the rolling bags. Maximize the space inside your bag by putting things in the right place. Roll up pants, shirts, shorts cargo and square pants and place it at the bottom.
Fill small spaces with light things like undies, shawl, towelette and pack of candies. Put toiletries in the pocket of backpack and biscuits in another pocket. Secure your valuables like wallet, passport, cellphone, camera in the sling bag. 
Do not Cheat with your budget plan
To avoid cheating your budget plan, bring a copy of your budget list and check the amount allotted for each item and activity from time to time.
As a budget traveler in a DIY plan, you are exploring the place on your own. You will find fabulous things along the way, tempting souvenir items, nice clothes, attractive accessories and trendy restos.  The danger of overshooting your budget plan is probable. But don’t cheat.
Don’t get overwhelmed with your adventure. Despite being there to relax and experience the thrill of a liberating life, don't forget that you're traveling on a budget. Be conscious with your budget plan and always check the amount you have set for each activity.
If you get overboard with the admission and transportation fees due to unforeseen or sudden changes of rates or had overshoot your dining because you cannot resist that sumptuous local cuisine, make adjustment with your expenses on other items to stick with the budget.
You can cut back on your spending the next day, choose attractions that have cheaper admission fees. If you are visiting attractions on short distances, choose to walk around instead of riding. Exploring the new place by foot is one of the most exciting parts of traveling.
Or you may cut back on your shopping activities. Check high quality local items to be bought and refrain from buying souvenirs or accessories that can be found in your home country, these can be put off and can be bought in the future.
You can avoid cheating on your budget plan by putting a limit on each item. During your travel, always check your list and see if you are still within the parameter of your budget or already overspending, make necessary adjustment in  case of overspending.
My first out-of-the county trip was in 2013 in Hongkong and Macau. It was such a delightful experience. I'd just graduated from my masteral studies and being able to travel to a foreign land with nothing to think but to enjoy the place, taste local dishes and visit amusement parks was such a breather at that time.

Hongkong is an ultra-modern environment, signs of development, both in economics affair, infrastructures and lifestyle, are visible everywhere. Having been a colony of Britain for more than five hundred years, this special administrative region of China retains some British influence in its lifestyle.

However, its culture is largely entrenched to its motherland. Still thoroughly oriental highlighting some of the most important traditions in the Chinese culture. Hongkong seems reminding visitors that despite being under the British rules for more than a hundred years, they're still very much a Chinese territory.

One of its landmarks that remind visitors of the territory's original roots is Nan Lian Garden, a fine example of a magnificent Chinese landscape architecture. This is a must visit place in Hongkong. Apart from the free entrance, this magnificent Chinese garden offers the visitors with a unique tranquility. A variety of oriental plants and trees spread throughout the area. And there's a water curtain that helps relax tired senses after having an exhausting day visiting the amusement parks.

It happens to be my favorite tourist spot in Hongkong. I adored its very serene atmosphere and quiet environment. The relaxing green landscape is cool to the senses.

Nan Lian Garden is a scenic public park in Kowloon that's beautifully built under the Tang Dynasty influence. Smack in the middle of Diamond Hill's myriad of apartments and commercial buildings, this garden covers an area of more than 3 hectares of land. 

At the bright pagoda within the ground of Nan Lian Garden 

It is meticulously landscaped according to the Tang Dynasty tradition. It has ponds, a variety of Bonsai trees and hillocks that run through the rock formation and oriental trees. Potted plants, clay avenues and waterfalls complete the picturesque atmosphere. If you're someone who enjoys the tranquility of nature, and the silence of the environment, this place is a perfect destination for you.

Within the garden is Chi Lin Nunnery, a huge Buddhist temple complex with cluster of wooden buildings that house precious treasures and Buddha relics. It has a lotus garden and a spacious ground for strolling in the upper level of the park, an area that overlooks the bustling thoroughfare of Diamond Hill. 

In the middle of Nan Lian Garden is the bright Pagoda temple. It is beautifully surrounded with a lotus pond that runs along the rock formation and water mill. However, going inside the complex is largely prohibited. During our visit we're only advised to take pictures outside.

Completing the oriental wonder of Nan Lian Garden is the vegetarian restaurant that serves authentic Chinese dishes and teas. Beside the restaurant is a wood and rock museum. Taking pictures while inside the museum is also strongly prohibited.

Museum and Vegetarian restaurant 

Tranquil atmosphere 

At the rock formation and oriental plant landscape 

Nan Lian Garden has no entrance fee and opens to the public everyday from 6:00 in the morning to 7:00 in the evening. The best time of the day to visit this place is at 4:00 in the afternoon when the weather temperature is no longer punishing. 

At the Chi Lin Nunnery complex with my friend, Dr. Maribeth Galindo

Exact location is at 60 Fung Tak road, Diamond Hill, Kowloon, Hongkong. If you're traveling from Tsim Sha Tsui (like we did), catch an MTR ride and alight at Diamond Hill station Exit C2. Then cross the street, Nan Lian is just around the area.

Important tip when visiting Hongkong: Buy an Octopus Card upon arrival, perhaps in the airport. This is a must and will make your Hongkong travel experience so much easier. Commuting in all public transport is paid through Octopus Card. Upon departure, any remaining balance in the card will be reimbursed to you provided you'll return it to any establishments that accept reimbursement of the card.


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