Travel is one of my deep loves and to be able to share that joy with so many people, friends and strangers alike, has been very rewarding for me personally. For 6 months, I passionately ran this blog to favorable response, but unfortunately, for reasons that are personal, I am deciding to close it.
I couldn’t decide if I’m closing it for good or just temporarily, but for now, taking out all my past entries and deciding to stop updating just seemed like best thing to do, so that’s what I’m doing. I’m really sorry if this will disappoint you but be assured that I thought (and prayed) long and hard about this and that this wasn’t a decision a made out of impulse.
I didn’t take all of my entries out though. I left 5 posts (aside from this) on the blog and I left them for (I think) good reasons. I left my photo essay “Please Don’t Be a Travel Snob” because I want to share this view with everyone. I left an entry about Fenghuang because the place has been such a big part of my traveling life. Another one is the Van Gogh entry because I really loved the place and it shows a different (wackier!) side of my homeland. I also left the entry about my handicraft dolls collection because it’s like a collection of all the places I’ve been to and wish to visit soon, Lastly, I’m leaving the very first entry I made in this blog which is my introduction, just because.
Thank you for the 6 months of support. I will not stop blogging (will still blog at my main account: sheenalovessunsets.tumblr.com) and I will most definitely not stop traveling! Thank you for the sweet messages on how this blog has encouraged you to see the world; that was the point of it and so I’m glad it was able to serve its purpose while it lasted.
Maybe our paths will cross someday while we’re traveling to some far off place. Here’s to living, loving and seeing the rest of the world. Til’ then!
Traveling is different for different people. Walking outside the neighborhood could already be traveling for some, while for others, it could mean taking a trip much farther away. Likewise, “home” is different for different people. The Philippines is my home, but to some of my readers, it’s Serbia, Slovakia, Trinidad and Tobago or Spain (based on actual stats!)
Some prefer traveling solo, making friends along the way, while there are others who prefer to travel with their family and friends. There are people who enjoy traveling on their own, making their own itinerary, while there are some who think that planning is a hassle and prefer to join tour groups.
Some people like to travel “on a budget” and some people like to spend as they please along the way. Some enjoy traveling on a shoestring, camping out or sleeping in hostels. At the same time, there are some who enjoy going all-out on luxurious trips! And sometimes you get people who enjoy doing both.
Some people get excited visiting places not many have been to, but there are also some who get equally excited visiting places everyone has been to! It’s true that traveling off-the-beaten-path is quite an adventure, but why should your preference make you look down on people who visit Paris just to see the Eiffel Tower? Do you hate on people who don’t travel the way you do?
Some people make a big deal out of the difference between the words “tourist” and “traveler” but seriously, people, stop being such a travel snob! The Leaning Tower of Pisa is just as “Italian” as the secret pizzeria you discovered at the corner of Bologna.
People travel for different reasons and we all have our different preferences. And guess what? It’s okay. It annoys me so much when I hear people saying “Travel is supposed to be done this way and that way” or “What you’re doing is not traveling because to really travel means you have to go to this place and do this” Is there even such a thing as real travel? Travel means different things to different people, you guys! Nobody’s right or wrong.
My travel blog is where I share what traveling means to me. Do I know that there are people who don’t travel the way I do? Of course! Traveling to me is going to new places where people do things differently from where I’m from. It’s not necessarily climbing mountains or attending festivals, but it could be either of those and more! I get excited visiting provinces in China, but I also get excited going to the different Disneylands and watching shows in Vegas!
I guess my point is simply this: I really believe that no one can tell others how they should or shouldn’t travel. Traveling is a love that many people share, but not in the same way, and that’s one of the beauties of it. We all have different experiences and in turn, we all have different stories to tell.
"We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again — to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more" — Pico Iyer (From “Why We Travel”; my favorite travel essay of all-time)
Fenghuang, also known as Phoenix Old Town, is situated at Hunan Province in China. As the name implies, it is a well-preserved old town and is geared generally to tourists, although more for local tourists. This is where I had my first ever backpacking experience and it is still by far one of the craziest, and best trips I’ve ever done! If you get the chance, I highly encourage you to visit!
GETTING THERE: We took a 15 hour train ride from Guangzhou to Jishou for 300 RMB (train ride experience told in detail here!) From Jishou station, we took a bus which took us all the way up to the town. The bus ride was bumpy and disgusting, or maybe I was just lucky because the lady at the seat in front of me was barfing like crazy, but it was all okay after I saw the beauty of the town.
WHERE WHERE WE STAYED: We had absolutely no itinerary, no pre-bookings and no plans when we arrived. So we walked the streets asking around for a place to stay at. Initially we were looking for hotels (more like houses) which had what they call a “western toilet”, but hotels with such were too expensive for our budget so we gave up and ended up in this place.
It’s 135 RMB per room, which we split into 4. How cheap is that?! We just joined two beds together so that three of us can fit in it. Our other two friends stayed at a separate room for the same rate. Anyway, check out the bathroom! Yeah!
FOOD: Spicy food at its best. I’m not even a fan of spicy food but Fenghuang’s was a big, big exception. You know that a town takes its spicy food seriously when they only let you choose between “mild spicy” or “very spicy”. And the number of times I used the word “spicy” just on this paragraph should give you a very good hint already. YUMMY. THE POTATOES ARE CALLING ME.
For dinner, we would usually order a lot, and I mean a lot. So the estimate of 20 RMB per person per dinner is really very cheap already.
Something you shouldn’t miss: the local rice wine. It was so good, the boys bought extra bottles for our next trip (we were off to Guangzhou after) but it spilled in their bags. Lesson learned: do not be greedy. Enjoy it while it’s there. Or just make sure the bottles are properly sealed. An average of 8 RMB per regular sized bottle.
THINGS TO DO: The town can easily be explored by foot and there’s really so much to see already just by walking around the old town. But if you want to go hike mountains or go boat cruising, there are various tours being offered along the sidewalk which you could easily join. We joined two in particular:
TOUR- WHITE CLOUD MOUNTAIN: This tour took us on a hiking trip up on the White Cloud Mountain, or at least that was what they told us it was called. I’ve been trying to research online and I’m not so sure now about the accuracy of the name. Oh well. Say hello to the Miao people! I will be posting a separate entry about this tour in the future.
Just a gist: It was a tiring hike but I survived, so I’m pretty sure you will too (I’m not exactly the fittest person around!) According to my journal, we paid 100 RMB for this tour. What I’m not sure about is if this is 100 RMB per person or already for the 6 of us. They sure fooled us if it’s per person, because everything in Fenghuang is crazy cheap! Haha!
TOUR-RIVER BOAT CRUISE: A relaxing river boat ride around the Old Town’s river. This nice man paddled all the way and even sang us songs as he did. It was cool to see the town from a different angle. Like the hiking tour, I will be writing more about this cruise in detail next time.
THINGS TO BUY: If you’re into handicraft items, you’ll love this place. Shops are lined up and each of them selling different quaint items. Woodcarving keychains like these are around 4-6 RMB, depending on how big or if you want it on both sides. I had a quote from my favorite Chinese author/illustrator, Jimmy Liao, written on a keychain. One of my favorites!
Loads of colorful textiles and trinkets. 10 RMB for three small fish pouches. 25 RMB for 6 of the big ones.
JUST FOR FUN: We wanted to do something silly so we rented some costumes and joined in a local tradition that they do every night; have paper flowers and candles float along the river as you make a wish! 5 RMB for the costume per person (haha so cheap!) and 6 RMB for all of our paper flowers already.
SOME FINAL TIPS:
- Hardly anyone speaks English. So brush up on your Mandarin!
- It was really cold when we were there in May and we weren’t really prepared (hence the shorts and t-shirts!) because the rest of China was already really hot. So just be prepared. :)
- Definitely bring home packs of dried kiwi. I’m still craving for them three years later. Someone please bring me some…
- This is so cliche, but seriously, just enjoy. Try to do as many things as you can, no matter how silly or tourist-y! For more ideas, check out my other Fenghuang entries and let me know if you visit!
One of the best places to go backpacking is in China because you can get to a lot of different places just by train and everything is really extremely cheap compared to backpacking in other countries. Also, China is so big that cultures are so different in each province (compare Inner Mongolia to Shanghai!) so it’s always gonna be a surprise each time!
Last August 8, my fiancé and I celebrated what would be our last anniversary in August (we’re getting married next March!) and he took me to a place I’ve been wanting to visit for the longest time now. I’m so happy to tell you that finally, I have been to Van Gogh is Bipolar and that the experience was incredible!
Van Gogh is Bipolar is by Jetro Rafael, a clinically diagnosed bipolar, who believes that food can affect our moods. Definitely only happy vibes here though as he shares with you his culinary experiments and discoveries. Don’t forget to take off your shoes before you enter and check out the house rules!
(Commercial: This is the first time I shot using a Lumix in lowlight because I didn’t bring my DSLR, and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing so do forgive the blurry photos)
As Jetro would later on tell us guests, Van Gogh is Bipolar is also his way of showing others a glimpse of “his world”, and oh, what a world it is. It’s like a brain on caffeine times one thousand. And I mean that in a very good way.
There are no waiters and everything is self-service. You may ring the bell though if you need anything and Jetro himself will be happy to assist you. Hello!
Van Gogh is Bipolar opens only to 12 diners per night and they’re by reservation only. This is the red room. A friend of mine visited months ago and the set up on this section was different (they sat on the floor). I think that’s one of the charms of Van Gogh is Bipolar; things are added, things are removed and there’s a lot of change all the time so it’s always a delightful surprise each time you visit.
This is the area for group diners. That night, I think they had around 5 people in this place. The shadows are so pretty and otherworldly.
And this is where we ate that night! People stick letters, calling cards and other things on this part of the wall. Sure made for a very interesting read.
Now let’s begin our enchanting feast. The drink with me here is called “Love Potion”. It was really good. So sad I wasn’t able to finish it though because there was no more space in my tummy by the end of the night. The cute thermos with the union jack is where you get hot water for the tea (see below!)
As you wait for your food, Jetro will invite you to make some tea first to relax. I love tea, so don’t mind if I do! Choose from a variety of not only teas, but also teapots! How cute and very Alice In Wonderland-ish!
I had one with banana leaves, my first time to try that! And if you wish, you may add sugar too! Or as my fiancé said, “some honey for my honey!” Haha!
And I eat! Reasons why I will never be a food blogger: One, I have no idea how to properly describe my food, and two, I easily devour the food once it’s served infront of me, which leaves me unable to take a decent photo of it. This explains why for this post, we only have photos of the appetizer, the dessert and of me drinking the soup. I’m sorry.
Aside from letting us choose if we’d have a 3, 4 or 5 course meal, Jetro also asked us to choose if we wanted “happy” or “chill” for our main course. “Happy”, as we learned, is fish based and “chill” is meat based.
I had the 3 course “happy” meal: turkey soup, well-done tuna sashimi with pasta and dessert and my fiancé had the 4 course “chill” meal which was turkey soup, special appetizer, lamb ratatouille with pasta and dessert. They were so amazing, I cannot describe them and will not even attempt to do so.
The experience here was one of a kind and it’s really hard to put to words. Everything felt personal and light. It was charming, beautiful, crazy and eclectic yet at the same time, relaxed and laidback. It’s something you would have to experience for yourself. I obviously, highly recommend this place.
To add to his many trinkets, I decided to leave one of the bookmarks I designed (available online!) I wonder if he’ll keep it here in this shelf! Heehee! If you visit and see it let me know! Anyway, as we were leaving, he came up to us and gave me a little souvenir, which I thought was really sweet and awesome!
Jetro said that this was from one of his many travels; it’s a Czechoslovakia postage stamp! This must be a rarity now because Czechoslovakia has been split in two since 1993 into the Czech Republic and Slovakia! How awesome? Thanks Jetro for the special gift and for the wonderful experience. We had a great time and we’ll be back soon. I’m taking my brothers and friends with me!
Van Gogh is Bipolar is located at 154 H. Maginhawa St. Silkatuna Village, Quezon City, Philippines. Text (+63)922-8243051 for reservations.
Collecting souvenirs is such a tourist-y thing to do but I couldn’t resist! I have yet to take a decent photo of the entire collection, so for now, let me just share with you some of my personal favorites starting off with this Asian minorities set!
From left to right, top to bottom: Taiwan, China, China, Tibet. Thailand, Hong Kong, China and China! I love how colorful, ethnic and surprisingly alike they all look even though I got them from separate places.
Next up are these two, which I got from Jordan last 2010. One of the awesome things about collecting these dolls is that it challenges me to really look wherever I go. It’s like a treasure hunt! And then finding them in places I wouldn’t expect is always ALWAYS such a thrill. This was one of those times! Made me so excited!
This one here is a gift from a friend who visited Peru. It’s only as big as my pinky finger! Cutie patootie! Sometimes friends bring me home new pieces to add to my collection and it always adds that extra-special touch!
These two are kokeshi dolls from Japan and were surprisingly not purchased together! The taller one was a gift from my aunt and it’s funny because the only two kokeshis I have are both of the same color, which was not intentional! They even have the same ribbon!
Another gift is this one of a babooshka set straight from Russia! Yes, they’re nesting dolls! I haven’t been to Russia yet but my mom’s friend has and she brought us home this adorable set as a souvenir!
This quartet I got at the famous Ben Tanh Market in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. It’s the last set so I grabbed it when I saw it. I love that they’re actually ‘doing’ something (playing music) and not just standing straight like the other pieces.
Beijing Opera pieces which I got, not from Beijing, but from Zhu Hai, China. These are an example of what I call ‘cheat’ pieces on my collection because they’re not actually ‘handicraft’ dolls. They’re plastic and I just got them from a local toy store. Haha!
Now for what quite possibly be my favorite pair: two wooden nutcracker-looking fellas from Germany; Mr. Clockmaker and Mr. Toymaker! I love how funny and different they look out of all the other pieces from the collection!
And manning their posts as always are my cute Brit boys from London (with their mini phonebooth!) I named them Edward and Edmund! Edmund’s the keychain! Hee. Anyway, at the store they had another design, a policeman in blue, but I didn’t get it and I’ve been regretting eversince. :(
Special bonus! Here are my minis or keychain/cellphone accessories which I display together with the rest of the bunch. The two cuties in the middle are from Taiwan (which mommy brought home for me) and the others are from Vietnam!
When I get the chance to take them all out from the shelf for a photoshoot, I’ll definitely make a separate post about it. Consider this a teaser! Anyway, do you collect things from your travels? What do you collect? I wanna know!
There are a lot of things that I love in this world; ice cream, fresh towels, tea parties, raincoats, polka dots and of course, sunsets. But here, we focus on a particular love, which also happens to be one of my greatest loves: TRAVEL!
Here I will write about my different travel (mis)adventures, and by adventures, I don’t mean adrenaline-pumping, rollercoaster-riding, freakishly-dangerous and physically-tiring-activities that will make you scream “ICANTFEELMYLEGS” or “MYLIFEISFLASHINGBEFOREME” over and over again. Instead, my so-called adventures include riding camels that smile, taking 15 hour train rides, sleeping at a 24-hour McDonalds, pretending to ski, and acting like the tourist that I am.
Wait, don’t judge me yet! I actually HAVE done some “exciting” things, like climbing Mt. Sinai wearing my rainbow colored Adidas Chucks!
All kidding aside, I really do like trying out new things, seeing new places and meeting new people. But most of all, I absolutely love traveling because I get to experience God’s wonderful creations first-hand!
In this blog, I share with you guys my recent and not so recent discoveries, travel tips, packing tips, tips on tips, my favorite stops and many more. Hopefully you’ll enjoy and be encouraged to start planning your next travel adventure. So thanks for reading, thanks for following, and as Nat Geo Channel says, live curious and let’s get lost!