Travel and Food Living

Life's tastier adventures on the road and flavor

I’ve been to four Asian destinations so far: Hongkong, Macau, Vietnam and Cambodia. And though I did not travel in comfort during the adventure, I could vouch that my travel experience on each destination was fascinating enough to brag that I am a prudent traveler. 

I learned a lot exploring those places.


At the Victoria Harbour in Hongkong, 2013


At the Venetian, Macau, 2013

I always traveled through a DIY (do-it-yourself) budget trip. I find it more practical because I have all the freedom to explore different options how to create a travel itinerary that suits my budget and adventure preferences. I always made my own travel itinerary, doing a laborious research about the destinations and creating a budget plan that would not make squander in another country.

Preparing a DIY budget travel offers thrill and tons of learning and discovery. You are alone, pulling a wise itinerary plan that never guarantees comfort. There’s a chance that you might get lost or overshoot your travel timeline but that’s the essence of the travel adventure. You go out there, discover things on your own, and learn from it. The experience is worthy of a book.

I’ve done quite a few times following this unique travel pursuit, and so far I did not mess up horribly. Everything went well as planned. Though each destination has a unique story to tell, including the mishap and the thrill of discovery, the outcome is always the same – I’ve gained insights and learned massively.

Hongkong is a terrific place for people who adored amusement park and oriental dishes. All the wonders you’ve lost in your childhood can be recaptured in Hongkong through Disneyland and Ocean Park, and even Noah’s Ark. While Macau is a perfect destination for travelers who love elegant shops and casino boutiques. It’s a quaint city where the influence of Portuguese is still alive.


This French colonial architecture is so gorgeous! 
At Saigon, Vietnam, 2015

Saigon (officially Ho Chin Minh City) in Vietnam is a beautiful place where serenity still thrives. The relaxing environment with huge trees and flower gardens provide comfort and peace of mind. It’s a place where travelers can still experience the French colonial feel through its artistic buildings and landmarks. Even food. Saigon is an ideal destination for foodie junkies. It offers a wide array of international cuisine and authentic oriental dishes at cheaper rates.

Siem Reap in Cambodia (where Angkor Park is situated) is a modern city that managed to maintain a classy atmosphere despite Cambodia’s struggling economy. It is home to cozy and affordable hotels, great food and cheap bargain shops. The historical landmark of Angkor added fascination. It’s where travelers can witness the rich cultural heritage of Cambodia.

Having a fun moment at world's largest religious site! 
Sunrise at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, 2015

Basically, when you enter Angkor Park, it feels like you’re entering the jungle and get lost in time. The ancient trees, which are as tall as the temples around the archaeological park, will leave you in so much awe. It provides tranquility and silence, a perfect diversion from the chaotic atmosphere in Metro Manila.
But asking where would I revisit if given a chance to travel again?

I would say Saigon, Vietnam. The place is very relaxing with an atmosphere that strides back in time. The environment is very cozy. Huge trees and public parks are everywhere. And French colonial buildings still dominate the landscape. It’s a great place to choose when you are looking for an out of the country destination to relax and get out of the hustle and bustle of EDSA. Food is great and everything is so affordable and cheap, including hotel rooms.


Another one is Siem Reap City in Cambodia. The atmosphere is really magnificent. Ancient trees still thrive across the province and Siem Reap a tourist hub where shops, boutiques and restaurants dominate the city. It offers the best of a travel experience to visitors. Closer to Bangkok, Saigon (only 8 hours) and even Myanmar and Laos, Siem Reap City is a good place to start if you’re planning to embark into a long week South East Asian adventure.
This is a special feature and part of the LINK WHEEL

Taking off from writing food reviews and travel articles to honor someone’s birthday today. He has been part of the journey of this travel blog almost every weekend, thus, deserves a space here to mark his special day.

One of the most fabulous things in life is really to find a person whom you can go so naturally, it already feels as though you’ve been best friends for the longest time. Even if you’ve just met lately. It feels so good that being with that person already feels like home. And that’s how I described my connection with this remarkable human being who is celebrating his birthday today. He has been my constant companion on several weekend food crawl in the city, providing this site with amazing food photos.

And oh, well, unfortunately I could not personally greet him today, we're like "he's there, I'm here" sort-of-thing, so I'll just write an open letter to let him know how much he is in my thoughts today and how much I feel so blessed to have him as a friend.


Happy Birthday Jeff!!

This might not be your happiest birthday in years. 
You’ve gone through a lot of emotions the past weeks due to your father’s sudden demise, and the process of getting rid of those torments over losing a dear parent is a tough one. But I’m hoping every inch of joy found in this world be upon you today. You deserve to be happy because you are a marvelous person with so much goodness in your heart. I am pretty certain bright hues of life will shine upon you after passing a devastating emotional storm.
You’ve brought light to every room you’ve entered, making you so extraordinary in every aspect. For so long, it felt like I’ve been gazing at the cracks of life’s wall, wishing something brilliant would filter among the grayest shades. Then there’s you, providing that single hue. And it shone the brightest.

Amidst the harshness of the world and the rudeness of the people around, you’ve shown to me that hope has not lost. That I can still meet God-fearing, gentle, kindhearted person who could understand my oddness. Someone I could count on when life becomes unfair. You’ve shown to me that, despite the notorious lifestyle in the city,  I can still live in a safe environment free from fears of getting harassed.

You’ve been so good to me and I can’t thank you enough for that. For your thoughtfulness, for being so protective when we walk in the street, for being so generous with your time when I need someone to talk to, or go with. For being so supportive. For continue helping me to see the other side of the world I never knew existed. For understanding the core of my being. For accepting me of who I am. For respecting my life’s choices.

And for just being you.


While others badgered me stupidly to explore and try new things, you would tell me that there’s no need to change my ways because this is me, and I am entitled to my own preferences. You’ve got that wonderful uniqueness in you that radiates in everything you do.

I remember the first day we met. It was my birthday and my first day in work. And all the misfortunes seemed piling up in my horizon. I looked terrible. I’d a bad hair, my eyes were droopy, my shoes got tangled up, I wore a shabby pants and I did not have a company badge. I thought I was going to have a dreadful day on my birthday. But you’ve got a great sense of humor, you made everything so light. And did something unique out of the ordinary. 

You announced to everyone that it was my birthday. I had a silly laugh because I haven't greeted by a crowd in such a long time. Call it weird but I find it uncomfortable when people greet me on my birthday. I hate to be the center of everyone’s attention. So I always kept my birthday a secret.

That day was different. I began to acknowledge the importance of recognizing birthdays. Because birthdays are special. It reminds us that there’s a beautiful reason why we were born. That is to see God’s miracle each day through the people we encountered. Looking back, I know it was God’s work. He made things possible. As if the whole world was perfectly aligned.

I’m so wrapped up in a small world with a very tight circle of associates. Only fewer acquaintances ever became my close friends. Because I don’t easily open my door to others. Not that I am snooty and a bloody snob but because I have reservations toward individuals who breathed an unconventional lifestyle.

I would turn my back to acquaintances whose level of openness and vulgarity shocked me. Who are boisterous and insensitive. Especially when they start carping every inch of my timid self. I hate it because it feels as though I am losing part of my individuality each time they would criticize my gone-with-the ages lifestyle. I always feel they have crossed the barrier. And that's something I could not just simply take.

 Here's to more weekend food trip!





I am often misunderstood. Misjudged as outdated. They thought I am a lost generation that needed to be re-calibrated to conform with the current norms. Deep inside, I felt humiliated.

But you’re different. 

You always put up with me and defended me. You accepted my flaws and queerness. You never peppered me with humiliating questions and never criticized my pathetic, monotonous life. You know how to handle my “little tantrums”. And you know impeccably how to please me. My being introvert is quite an issue to others, but you understood it pretty well and accepted it.

But I know things are temporary.

In the morning, when I gaze at the bright sunrise shimmering on trees, everything looks magnificent. But in the afternoon sun fades and trees wither, acknowledging the fact that nothing lasts forever. Even connections. Tomorrow or the next day, the story might be entirely different. Circumstances might push us to different directions. To a separate intersection of life.

Each day, my fear of losing you to someone sounds like a roar of an approaching train. It becomes louder as moments pass by. So I am savoring every minute that I spend with you while you’re still free to go with me. But whatever lies ahead, I am grateful the encounter happened. Your friendship is always a great blessing. It taught me so many things. It opened my eyes to many realizations.

As you celebrate your birthday today (and welcoming another significant milestone in your professional career), my earnest wish is not so much on material abundance but for you to have a richer wisdom. Because having a gift of wisdom spills a huge difference. It makes you wiser, decorous and a more balanced human being. It allows you to reflect the real value of humanity. It gives greater meaning to life and will bring you further into your life's journey. You’ll be ahead of others. Ahead of your contemporaries. 

Always surround yourself with the right people. They will provide you with good influence in acquiring greater wisdom. 

May you will be blessed also with a healthy mind and body, a thriving career, a peaceful heart with genuine happiness, a fulfilling future and a secured existence. And grant every wish that your heart desires. 

Though somewhere in your heart, a sting of emotion on your papa’s passing still lurks, and you might find the idea of celebration a little ironic, I still wish you a happy gathering today with your loved ones and the friends you’ve chosen to share the joy. Relish each moment, but acknowledge your grief and don’t forget to remember your father in silence.

I may not be there every second of your life to witness your triumph, but I will be watching you from a distance, lauding you as you reach the pinnacle of your dreams. Keep the faith and be grateful for another chance to witness and experience God’s benevolence.

Life itself is a gift and it should be cherished. Having to enjoy every moment is a gratuity. So have that special moment of discernment today, watch the beauty of the world as it unfolds, recognize the bounty of blessings you have, savor the pleasure of reaching another milestone, both in personal and professional life, and create memories. 

Have a wonderful day ahead and more happy returns! 

Until then.


Proceed to the LINK WHEEL HERE
Just another day of food blogging.

This time a Latin food trip. It has been my desire to explore other dishes, other than oriental, to delve better on other cultures.
Last weekend, I took a chance to join some colleagues on a dinner out. And though my appetite spins a bit when Mexican comfort dishes come into the picture (I’ve reservations over nachos because it smells like shawarma, something I vowed never to eat again), I was thrilled when Jeff told me the dinner would be at Silantro in UP Town Center. 
Silantro Fil-Mex Cantina serves Mexican concoctions. But while it is touted to be originally created under the influence of the local culture, the serving mode is highly westernized. Bulky. And neither the taste has a comparison to any regional Filipino fare. It was thoroughly Mexican. And, was it Latin? I wonder.


Beef Quesadillas Php160.00


Paella Fajita mix Php250.00
We tried several selections: Paella, Nachos, Quesadillas, Calliente Wings, Fritas and Burritos. No, we were not on a glutton brigade, we just love to eat hearty meal. And, man, I’ve no penchant over spicy food with the smell of nachos and pungent herbs! So when each dish was laid on the table and the whiff of those piquant spices hits my nostril, it felt like something in my stomach had twisted!.

Beef Nachos Php160.00

But I was perfectly fine while devouring the dishes. I am a certified gastronome adventurer whose appetite rarely tumbles over strange smell on food. I could eat whatever is laid on the table for the first time, without getting sick in the abdomen. So everything went well on that beautiful Saturday evening. We'd a lot of laughter while sharing meal. 

I love food. I love to eat. I love exploring new dishes. And I always enjoyed dining out with familiar people. It makes the whole food adventure really fun and cozy, never mind the long period of waiting on the queue just to grab a vacant seat.


Papi's Fritas Php130



Silantro takes pride on their yummy Papi's Fritas, a fusion of pan-fried potatoes, delicate herbs and spices and drizzled with rich lip-smacking melted cheese! So delightful that when you scoff it, the gooey cheese will slink over to your mouth. Creaminess at its finest!


Silantro's Burrito Php180.00
Another Silantro's best is the beef burrito, which everyone has been raving about. Though I only took a few bite (because I am not into meat), this type of burrito is really gratifying. Prepared on a paella-styled dish with a fusion of beef chunks, rice, vegetables and wrapped in soft pita, this dish satiates hunger if you're looking for a complete meal.  
However, my honest take on the recipes might not be favorable. Paella, for instance. Yeah, Paella. We’ve known this dish as a Spanish original recipe. But at Silantro, the Paella did not taste like there was a trace of Español influence on it (or was it my taste bud only?) nor come nearer to its recipe cousin, arros valenciana. It seems like something was missing on the mixture. The spike of some spices perhaps, and the savory pinch. It was simply rice, coated with chili powder, pepper and seasonings. Even the mussles never tasted savory at all.


Calliente Wings Php205.00
Calliente Wings (sweet and spicy chicken wings) did not successfully capture my fantasy over some delightful-chicken-new-recipe-finds. Aside from its really hot tad, the absence of some flavorful tang on the recipe made my oriental appetite flinched. But everyone in the group appreciated this fare and savored every piece of the dish. So I guess this dish is perfect for Mexican food aficionados.
But I like the quesadillas. Thoroughly Mexican. The rich tomato salsa and all the goodness of Mejicano dish ingredients were delicately mixed and wrapped in soft tortilla pleats. And it was top with peeved potatoes. Good earth, luscious! 
I’ve misgivings over Latin food because I find the thick tomato salsa and the smell of nachos very revolting, but the potions of quesadillas and fritas with all the goodness of guacamole salsa, light tart, creaminess and spices capture interest. It went on some varieties. Flavorful but not too spicy. Cheesy but not too creamy. And these characteristics of most Mexican food were on the dishes at Silantro.
The good side of Silantro is its very generous serving. In fact, each order can already be shared by three persons. And very affordable! So far the cheapest I’ve tried for a continental fare. Indeed, diners can devour anything they want in the menu without ruining their budget.
The downside of this restaurant at their UP Town Center branch, however, is the service. A bit annoying. Okay, there was a bulk of diners streaming to the restaurant when we got there, tables were quickly filled in, prompting customers to stand outside, painstakingly waiting for some vacancy. It’s fine. Everyone can wait. Patience can be stretched. But the management should have at least anticipated the overwhelming flow of the crowd and had foreseen the bottleneck of a tight space on a weekend!
We ended up like queuing for Star Wars or Wonder Woman, with a throng of people fidgeting with us. We waited for almost an hour! When we finally had our turn to occupy a table, another disappointment seethed in. With hunger pangs already rising and falling beneath our gut, our precious food still nowhere in sight. 
It took almost 30 minutes before our orders were served. And it was not until we followed up like, four times! Oh, customer service. Anyway, when each plate was laid (it was served on interval. My God! Why those precious orders could not just be put down altogether? Felt like the kitchen of Queen Elizabeth II where royal servants served the food on queue!), the sumptuous appearance of food and the modish plating thoroughly thawed the annoyance I silently felt.

Usually, when I get home and thought about the food I’ve just taken, I would often recall which among the dishes captured my curiosity, something that made me want to go back to the resto. With Silantro, I could not think of anything,other than Papi's fritas. Not that all the selections I tasted sounded terrible but because Mexican dishes are not really on my card. 
However, it was gratifying to finally try Mexican comfort food! Though Mejicano dishes rarely fascinate me, dropping by at a Mexican restaurant has been on my mind for quite sometime now. Been hearing a lot about the goodness of quesadillas, enchilladas, tortillas and fajitas while still hooked watching Mexican soap operas some years back. And it was good to finally try some of the specialties.

The taste couldn't be considered as something new because Mexican dishes shared something in common with Spanish cuisine, which is a very familiar taste to Filipinos. The fusion is very rustic. Felt like striding back in time, to colonial days where Spanish paella, pomodoro and enchilladas also dominated the dining tables of most Filipinos. 
For Latin food junkies, the savory recipes at Silantro are really worth of a repeat visit. Dishes were good. Yes, in fairness to the restaurant’s chef. Flavorful and lip-smacking. Because most potions were cheesy. And cheesy concoctions always pacify hunger and irritation. At least on my part. I always believe that cheese and creamy concoctions are tonics for a disgruntled spirit. 
And yes, nachos (did I say nachos? :-D) even if I detested the offensive smell, the melted cheese saved the day. Moreover, I like chips! All those big savory triangular crispy cuts that creased in my mouth as it crashed. Delish!
Overall, Silantro’s selections of Mexican fare are satiating. And if you’re on some tasty Latin cuisine exploits, and provided you can tolerate the agonizing moment of waiting while stomach grumbles, this branch at UP Town Center is an ideal dining choice. However, if you’re on a hurry, very hungry and have a tendency to be impatient, I guess you need to think twice. And look somewhere else. The place is very crowded during weekends. You will really hit the roof while waiting for a vacant space.
Nonetheless, it’s a good place to feast on Mexican comfort food without getting overboard in spending. Silantro offers an enormous serving of all items in the menu at reasonable prices. A budget-friendly restaurant, indeed, for every gourmand.
I rarely eat meat.
Though I appreciated beef, consuming it with gusto is hardly a desire. I am a typical Asian with a taste bud that is so very oriental. Japanese and Chinese, with a little bit of Korean and Cantonese cuisines, often ruled my dining desires. But when we dropped by at Torch restaurant one fine Saturday afternoon, I momentarily discarded my oriental food hankering to try something new.
This swanky restaurant in Trinoma offers a wide array of continental dishes where everyone’s cravings for high quality international cuisine is gratified. There’s a unique set of fare for everyone. People who prefer oriental fare, a delectable selection of sushi rolls is available. While diners who love a fusion of hearty westernized dishes, succulent steak, baby back ribs, beef belly are both on board.
While checking the menu I could not decide which one to choose. Everything looked delish. So Jeff suggested something that we’ve been talking for months. Steak. Oh steak! My reaction, however, was not something for the book. It was more of a pinch of delight bordering curiosity because we’ve been planning to do some steak hopping for the past months.

US Angus Tenderloin Salpicao Medallion Php579.95
We chose one of Torch’s signature dishes, U.S Angus Tenderloin Salpicao Medallion, compose of two chunks certified US angus beef wrapped in bacon, served with sautéed carrots and French beans on the siding. This meal has a choice of either garlic parsley rice or mashed potato. Jeff is never into mashed potato, and I don’t like potato either when taking the main course. So we picked the safest choice, Rice.
I’ve never ordered a steak in a restaurant before so naturally I have no idea how I would like it to be prepared! I let Jeff decide and he chose medium-rare. And I was like “Oh God! Bloody stuff!”. Though still anxious how my appetite would react if I could see patches of blood in a piece of meat, my eyes popped in wonder when the order was finally laid on our table.
My reaction was not attributed to the two slices of steak placed atop. but on how it was presented. It was served in a double-decker marble tile with a heater (look like a bunsen burner) below. Stylish! The heater cooked the meat gradually. And it was even tastier when the infused bacon sizzled. Luscious!
I already heard this medium-rare sort of thing. But I have never actually tried it. So when I took a few bites, it felt like “okay, this is the stuff that some hearty steak lovers raved about”. The taste was fairly good. I did not faint. Haha! In fact, it was absolutely delightful. Something I would want to try again. 
So what’s this medium-rare thing?
Medium-rare is where meat is still pinkish with some blood coming out from the surface. It sounded gore because of those patches of blood. But some food experts, especially those who adored steak, vouched that medium-rare is the best way to  cook a steak. Temperature is perfect! The exterior is not too crisp nor too dry, and the core remains soft and tasty without the gummy feel. Because the meat is still tender, succulent juices of the flesh flow over, blending on the infused herbs and spices which made the taste really incredibly flavorful. So the next time you're on a dinner and order a steak, always choose medium-rare and never well-done.
So how was my first medium-rare steak experience?
It was impeccably satisfying. The gross feel of blood and the nasty smell of a pinkish meat seemed just only misconceptions. In fact, it was really savory. The exterior still very tender but never gummy. And because there was a flame beneath the marble tile heating the meat, the flesh was thoroughly cooked, blending on the savory tang of the sizzling bacon. Oh man, perfect!
But here’s the cliché. If you don’t like your precious medium-rare steak to be thoroughly transformed into well-done (especially if you detested a well-done steak), request the staff to put off the flame.  They will be gladly obliged.



Smoked Jabanero Glazed Salmon Php435.95

We tried another best-seller, the Smoked Jabanero Glazed Salmon, served with unagi sauce, mango salsa and a cup of rice topped with parsley. Yum!. I have no idea what’s Jabanero by the way. Jeff told me it’s a piquant spice of some sort with a very sharp tone. I cringed, of course. So he requested the lady crew to separate the Jabanero, and reduce the spicy strength.
Salmon always tastes great and at Torch, this fish variety even tasted superb! The medium strength of the Jabanero spice helped balance the creamy taste of the flesh. Though the salsa was a little revolting, I enjoyed the dip which I mistakenly thought, a whipped cream. Good thing I did not scoff it all! One great advice I could give to diners who don't like extra hot dishes, when at Torch and you order this meal (which I would really recommend), always ask the lady crew to separate the Jabanero sauce and never glaze it on salmon. The hot tad might spoil your appetite, but for people who love spicy meals, go with this potion without changing the attitude of the recipe!




Earth-toned with a soft lighting interior makes Torch in Trinoma a cool place to loosen up over good food and smooth conversation
We had a great dinner experience at Torch. Indeed, an excellent place to feast on eastern and western food. Plus a cozy atmosphere! Torch in Trinoma has an earthly warm-toned interior with a delicate lighting which provides a relaxing ambiance to diners. And its location on the second level of the mall facing the garden and water fountain made it even a cool place to unwind after a tiring week.
It’s a fine dining resto and with a menu that is so continental in nature, expect a pricey selection. But it’s worth the value of your money. Food choices are really sumptuous and gratifying! Flavorful and on high quality. No single cent is wasted. So there's nothing to fret. 

I heard their sushi rolls rock! I love to go back there sometimes and try the oriental recipes. 
I haven’t gone to a cozy café shop in a while. Been awfully busy with other stuff, loping off with some editing task on my books. And though I’ve gone quite a few times to oriental restaurants, I didn’t get a chance to drop by at any bistro for a warm cup of tea. Something I sorely missed.

Until lately.

Last Saturday, July 1st, I took off from writing to go elsewhere and spent time with a friend, moseying around, and just let moments passed by over conversation, laughter and food. It was a snug afternoon, though raining, but the atmosphere was perfectly comfy.

UP Town Center indeed is a perfect place to hang around. Surprisingly quiet! You can engage on a long, private conversation with someone without competing with the noise of blaring cars and raucous mall goers.

But before enjoying a cup of tea and coffee at CBTL, my friend brought me to Kumori, a Japanese bake shop with a wide selection of delectable pastries and mouth-watering desserts (a little strange because I always associated a Japanese food counter with Maki and Sashimi). Then bought a scrummy tart called, well simply, cheese tart (no trimming of overflowing descriptions lol!) for me to try.

The decadent Kumori Cheese Tart. Photo credit: www.looloo.com
Haven't taken a single photo of the cheese tart I gorged (maybe I was too excited to eat the concoction and Jeff did not bother taking one! 😄) but the above photo from looloo site is exactly the same as the one I've tried.


It was so insanely scrumptious!

Okay, I have no penchant over sweet food. I detested the sugary feel of cakes. And unlike other girls who yearned sweet desserts as badly as they longed for chocolates and roses during valentine’s day, I never crave for cakes and chocolate mousse.

There is something in it that made my appetite churn in repugnance. It’s the ugly spike of plain sugar in pastries perhaps. I find it revolting. But I love to devour cheese cake! I always love creamy and cheesy food and all the awesomeness of tarts and buttery fusion.

Kumori cheese tart is just so luscious! It perfectly suited my flimsy appetite over pastries. It has a very smooth texture. Cheesy but not overly greasy. Velvety but not watery. A fine balance of a creamy smoothness and the silky consistency of a cheese!

This custard tart variety is quite delicate. So don't rush (just like what I did haha!) when you take a bite. The moment you nibble the tart, the core easily slithers, maybe due to its very creamy texture, and the crust easily crumbles, so take it cautiously. 

To eat it without splintering the crispy tart shell, take a few, cautious nip of the milky part (the core itself) before nibbling the crust. It won’t spill a mess in your mouth, trust me. You can savor the creamy taste afterwards.

The downside? Quite pricey! Jeff (Thank you so much!) paid P60.00 for just a single piece (smaller than the size of a regular cupcake). And for a few seconds I gazed it like I’ve just seen a magical stuff laying beneath the cutie transparent wrap. Too transfixed (over the high price) to gobble it. Until he nudged me to eat it. 

I wolfed it within 10 seconds. And the P60.00 was gone. Nah! You’ll get the value of your money though. It’s no ordinary cheese tart. It’s incredibly different from those dull tarts crowding the bakeshops around the metro. It’s a decadent sweetie concoction you can indulge once in a while. A perfect treat for yourself after a tiring week. 

Photo credit: www.looloo.com


Kumori Japanese Bakery is located at the ground level of UP Town Center, Katipunan, Quezon City, with branches along SM Makati and SM North Edsa.
This is an excerpt from my upcoming travel memoir book: 

TIMELESS CHARM OF SAIGON AND ANGKOR


Budget traveling is not so much on the comfort side of life, but more on the idea of discovery and adventure. From going up on air with a budget airline to the lucid possibility of sleeping on a hard bench at the airport, and to the prospect of getting lost while exploring the city.

But it entails a lot of fun and unforgettable memories, trust me!
A budget/DIY traveler is one that plunges into the unknown, to uncertainties while basking in the thrill of discovery. It is sometimes risky but provides a unique experience, with plenty of anecdotes to share to the world. 

Budget and DIY travelers never usually book for a tour guide, it is more of exploring the place on their own, but an excitement of unearthing the unique frills of the destinations always awaits.

With this attitude of traveling, the experience is more fulfilling. Just take extra precautions to avoid plunging yourself into danger. Learn to adjust with the local culture to avoid disappointment and enjoy the moment while discovering things on your own.

Depends on the timing of the travel, budget travelers usually prepare a travel itinerary five months before the trip. By this time, the budget plan has been drafted and you're almost ready to go.

A budget plan should start on determining where to go to allow enough time to scout for an airfare promo. Most budget airlines offer a cheaper rate three months before the travel date. I've noticed this strategy while checking the rates for Vietnam in 2014. So never book a ticket for your travel one year ahead, it will cost you a lot. Try checking with your favorite budget airline three months before your target trip.

Budget traveling on a DIY plan is always wonderful and liberating, all you have to do is be prudent, smart, flexible and resourceful.

Plan ahead of time, scout for cheaper rates, do research with the places you are going to explore, the most practical way of getting around the city, the top attractions to be visited, activities and best things to do once there. You should also take note how to fit in with the locals, the do’s and don’ts and the most practical items to bring home.

Always take extra precautions the moment you get there but don’t allow fear to dampen your spirit. Do not limit yourself to just going around what other travelers are recommending. Delve better into the wonders and frills of place. Know their history. The culture of the locals. And try the local cuisine.
How to become a DIY traveler on a budget?

Traveling is always liberating and provides a different level of excitement, it pumps vitality and inspiration and offers a temporary sanctuary from the sordid life in the city. When we travel we are able to whisk our minds away from concerns, angst and worries and even if it is only a passing escape, being in a different place, doing exciting activities, wandering around and just being there to relax is enough to give us motivation.

However, as much as we want to travel and experience life unfolds in another territory, the cost of travel is one hell of a concern, therefore, a lengthy planning to get on with the plans and fit everything is needed.

For people who have comfortable sources of income, traveling might not pose any problems but for folks who are struggling to accommodate daily expenses, travel causes a real distress. But if the latter is the hindrance, start practicing frugality to fine tune your monthly spending. It's not that you have to sacrifice your food cravings and other fad, but you just have to cut your spending prudently. The greater the sacrifice, the better the reward.

As long as your burning desire to travel is alive, finding ways to make things happen is always probable. Try to become a budget traveler in a DIY plan instead of contemplating to travel in comfort and luxury.

This means you should not seek a tour guide or scout travel packages but just on your own, planning everything, from creating a concise budget and itinerary to scouting cheaper airfare and room accommodation.  It is more convenient, practical and exciting than wait for the stars to fall to realize your travel plans.

Here are tips how to become a DIY traveler on a budget:

Save for your travel

The most crucial part of traveling is the budget. If your income is just enough to cover your monthly expenses, try planning a year ahead and create a separate account for your trip. 

You can open a bank account for your travel and shred a specific amount from your monthly income for this account. However, if you find opening another bank account slightly uncomfortable and impractical, you can just put the amount in your existing bank account and just monitor your savings. Have a notebook to serve as your monitoring sheet for your travel plan savings. List the amount you will have to set aside every payday and make up your mind never withdraw it the following day. Never cheat!

To make things easier, cut back on monthly expenses (avoid too much dinner out especially on expensive restaurants, too many night outs with your friends, etc, remember that traveling is life, and sacrificing is an integral part of it). Do, the planning ahead of time, around seven months before the scheduled trip. Spend time researching for the best attractions to be visited, the associated cost of getting there, the expenses on food and transportation, the hostels and guesthouses. Then check your net pay how much you need to set aside for your travel.
The most important reminder: DO NOT CHEAT with your budget. If the allotted amount on souvenir shopping is only $50.00 then stick with it. Be serious and honest when creating your budget plan, list down everything and assign a specific amount (by this time, you have already exhausted available information and resources online) to determine your total budget.
Normally, I will make plenty of sacrifices before the scheduled trip just to save. I will limit my grocery shopping and refrain from dining outside or I’ll cut back on unnecessary expenses like weekend outing, movie trip or buying accessories and apparels. 

Determine where to go

The most crucial part in travel planning next to saving, is where to go and what to do once there. Your appetite in traveling and the choice of destinations depend on your lifestyle and preferences, the purpose why you travel and your expectations.
This will also depend on your preference in traveling. Are you a beach person who want to escape to a beautiful resort and relax? Are you a history fanatic who want to explore the cultural heritage, remnants, museums, historic landmarks and echoes from the past? An adventure junkie looking for some adrenalin rush activities like trekking the mountain, discovering off-the-beaten track destinations and looking for some daredevil activities? A nature lover looking for a laid-back environment and just wander around the parks, lakes, ponds, beautiful trees and scenic countryside? Or a city life person who just want to be in a high-end surrounding with amusement parks, elegant shopping malls, fancy restaurants, luxurious boutiques and high-tech establishments.
Once you finish identifying your preference in traveling and the activities you want to engage, you can start looking for a specific destination to visit. And once you finish making a choice where to go, check the season and the timing of your travel.
Is it dry season, spring, summer, winter, fall? Determining the timing of the season is always necessary so that you can prepare a prudent budget plan and a list of stuff to pack in your bags. Essentials, clothes, accessories, time of visit and moments of wandering vary depending on a particular season, thus, it is wise to check your destination’s climate. Once this element is put into considerations, you can move to the next step.

Scout for airfare
Other travelers will create first the budget plan and just insert the airfare cost. I have a different approach. To avoid too much stress in creating my budget list and to prevent sacrificing my basic needs, I will scout first for airfare promos before finalizing my budget plan to save my energy in editing and recreating and rearranging my budget list.
You can try this budget traveling approach. It works for me so I guess it will work for every budget traveler. Scout for airfare promos five months before your travel. Usually and based on my experience, airlines offer a lower rate three to four months before the scheduled departure. It is a tried-and-tested approach and lots of travelers are doing this technique. 

Set a specific amount for the travel

When I started planning for my Hongkong and Macau trip in 2013, I was determined to just spend Php25,000.00 including accommodation, airfare, shopping, transportation around Hongkong, dining, entrance fees to amusement parks and ferry ticket to Macau.
So I created a budget plan  around this amount and chose an affordable transient inn. In Hongkong, affordable transient inns are everywhere so planning a DIY travel on a tight budget is not so much of a concern. I was able to achieve my goals.

Do research on your destination

Whether you are traveling to Hongkong on a budget or embarking into a luxurious cruise to the Caribbean, it is important to do your homework before making decisions. Read guide books, magazines, travel blogs related to your chosen destination.
Doing research is very crucial. It is where you can get valuable tips from other travelers. Even if you seek a tour guide or avail a package from a travel agency, researching for practical guide related to your travel is always useful.

List down the best attractions on the destination

To avoid missing the point and to have a comprehensive itinerary plan, check the best attractions in your destination and what it offers to travelers. List down these attractions and decide which one you would prefer to visit.

Check the admission fees, guide how to get there and how far each spot from your hotel so that you can make enough room for the transportation budget.
Before the scheduled departure, revisit the information you got if there are changes in route or admission fees and if there are things needed to be brought during the visit. Edit your itinerary plan if necessary.

Read reviews about the place and attractions
Learning from other travelers helps a lot. It will give you an idea what to expect and if there’s a need to reconsider. It will also provide you useful ideas how to make the most of your time exploring the place.

Check and compare room accommodation rates

If you are traveling in a country that has a higher cost of living, it is wise to just choose a transient inn, hostel or a decent guesthouse than a three star hotel. After all, you are traveling there to see the place and not to sleep whole day in the hotel. Transient inns, guesthouses and hostels are ideal for budget travelers and backpackers.
Before finalizing your accommodation bookings, compare prices with other hotels and guesthouses in the area if there’s a need to switch. Always consider the safety of the surroundings.

It is also wise to check the amenities and perks of the guesthouse so that you can prepare your things smartly. If the accommodation includes bath towel then do not bring your own towel so that you can save space in your bag.
Choose the ideal location of your hotel/transient inn

When you choose a hotel, make sure it is closer to the top attractions in the city and accessible by any public transportation. This is to avoid getting lost and minimize expenses on transportation.

If you are up for shopping, choose a hotel within the vicinity of shopping markets. If you want to explore the city by foot, book a hotel closer to top attractions. This way you can create a concise and prudent budget plan.

Create and set a budget plan wisely

The most difficult part of creating a travel itinerary plan is always the budget. It poses so many troubles. And tension. Remember that you still have a life to live, you still need to eat three times a day, still have to pay your monthly bills and make grocery and buy basic stuff, thus, setting an amount for the travel is very challenging.
However, creating a budget plan prudently can save you a lot from stress, just be honest and practical in creating your list. Whatever amount you have to set aside and assign in the list restrain yourself from modifying the budget plan to make room for your frequent night outs and bar hopping with your friends.

Create your DIY Travel Itinerary Plan

I always find joy in creating a travel itinerary plan. My excitement often relies in planning and listing down the details of my expenses and destination. It offers a different level of excitement. It motivates me to work hard.
Creating a concise do-it-yourself budget travel itinerary is very simple. In your notebook or if you are using your personal computer, just open the MS Excel and put the necessary items:

1. Time/Place of Departure
2. Time/Place of Arrival
3. Destination/Address
4. Transportation
5. Attractions to visit
6. Estimated Budget
7. Actual Budget

Print your Itinerary

This is very important for DIY travelers. This serves as a guide while on the road. You are going there without someone to assist you, therefore, a hard copy of your itinerary should be printed.

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 including each 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 destination and the spots you will going to visit. Season says a lot when preparing what type of clothes to wear and the accessories to include in the list.
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. And I never wear thick clothes or jeans, this will overcrowd my bag. I only wear light dresses and shorts.

Here are the basic things usually pack by budget travelers:

1. Passport and other travel documents
2. Clothes
3. Face towel
4. Comfortable footwear
5. Sling bag
6. Candies and biscuits
7. Light night outfit
8. Sunscreen lotion, hair conditioner, body lotion
9. Sunglass
10. Shawl or long scarf
11. Swimwear if going to the beach
12. Digital camera
13. Battery charger and extra memory card
14. Toothbrush kit
15. Medicine kit (for fever, headache, stomach upset)
16. Something to cover your head in case of hot weather

Pack Light and Smart

If you are traveling for less than 15 days, avoid stuffing your bag with excessive accessories and unnecessary gadgets to avoid having a check-in bag. Budget travelers don’t actually have check-in bags, so pack light and carry up to two bags only.

Bring light clothes such as cotton-based shirts, sleeveless, leggings, shorts, scarf instead of sweatshirt and jeans. Secure valuables on a separate pouch, toiletries on a transparent-based pouch. This way you could maximize the space in the bags.

How to pack light and smart:

1. Count the number of days of your travel.
2. Each day assign a pair of clothes to wear
3. If you can mix and match your clothes, the better.
4. Avoid bringing thick and heavy clothes such as jeans and denims, boots, unless you are taking a hiking adventure, and heavy jacket, except if you are traveling on winter and fall.
5. Choose a transparent and light pouch for your toiletries that can be put only in the bag’s pocket.
6. Unless you are not on a business trip, avoid bringing laptop, this will consume a large space in your bag. You can choose to bring your tablet instead.
7. If you are bringing toothpaste, lotion, sunscreen, moisturizer, shampoo and conditioner, do not bring the whole bottle, squeeze a few amount on a separate, individual container with a cap, or just bring the sachet version to avoid overcrowding your bag with unnecessary things.
8. If you want to bring a pair of slippers, choose the lighter varieties. 
9. Bring flat shoes instead of wedges and heels.
10. Check the accommodation of your hotel or guesthouse if it has a bath towel for visitors, if there is, then avoid bringing an extra towel to save space in your bag. In case the guesthouse does not offer a bath towel, just bring a small towel.
10. Arrange your things properly in your bag, important documents like passport, tickets, booking details and identification cards should be put separately in a sling bag together with your wallet.

Choose the right luggage

Not unless you are traveling for a business trip or taking into a one month adventure, carrying an over-sized luggage is very impractical.
It will not only drain your energy from walking or moving around with those bags in tow, but also poses an added cost on your expenses for a check-in baggage. 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 and move around than the rolling bags. Maximize the space in your bag. 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, 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.
Edit and Check your list

Four days before your departure, start packing things to allow adjustment on your list what to bring and whether everything can just be put in one medium-sized backpack or you will need another bag. This is the best time also to buy necessities such as toiletries and other needs.  A day before your departure, check the list to ensure nothing would be missed out. You may edit the list to fit other necessary stuff based on your itinerary. Make last minute shopping.
Do not Cheat with your budget plan
To avoid cheating with 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 on a DIY trip, you are exploring the place on your own, therefore, you will be checking every attraction in the area alone or with your friends.
You will find fabulous things, tempting souvenir items, nice clothes, attractive accessories and want to eat and drink and visit as many spots as you can and the danger of overshooting your budget plan is on the way. But don’t cheat.
Don’t get overwhelmed with your adventure. Despite being there to relax and experience the thrill of a liberating escape, be conscious with your budget plan and check the amount you have set for each activity.
During the actual trip, if in case you have overshoot the target of your expenses due to unforeseen events: you cannot resist the scrummy taste of the local cuisine or the admission fee has some changes, make adjustment with your expenses on other items to stick with the budget. But if you have extra money for some extra events and fad, it's fine.
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 taking a taxi.
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. It is very impractical.
During my Vietnam trip, I suppressed my desire to buy a nice Kipling backpack even if the price was really tempting. I had a budget list prepared ahead of time and Kipling bag was not included. The key to everything: Do not Cheat.
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. But if you have extra resources of your finances, or if your budget still allows, well, good, you don't need to sacrifice on your cravings.

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