Four weekends ago, amidst the threat of Super Typhoon Ruby (international name Hagupit), my friend Silia and I headed to Sitio Liwliwa in Zambales for the SSSF 14 weekend. SSSF, short for Sun Surf Strum Festival, is a yearly event organized by Ukulele Manila together with partners and sponsors.
True to its name, the Sun Surf Strum Festival lived up to the expectations of festival patrons — bright and sunny days, awesome waves and chillax music!
Roughly 4-5 hours from Manila lies Fortune Island, a semi-isolated-used-to-be-super-private island off Nasugbu, Batangas. They say this is as close to Greek’s ancient ruins as could be possible, with the clear blue waters as your backdrop! Who would have thought that the typhoon destruction to an uber exclusive island paradise would result to a steadily becoming popular destination for beach bums and island campers? Known for its picturesque rows of Athens-like pillars and half-destroyed half-gorgeous statues, Fortune Island gives each traveler a nice reward for climbing atop the stairway-lined hill that leads to it’s “viewpoint ruins” and, as my friends saw and experienced, cliffs and caves. To reach Fortune Island, take the San Agustin Bus line at Coastal Mall in Pasay, going to Nasugbu (3-4 hours, PhP 200-220 AC (about $5), PhP 130-150 (about $3.5) non-AC). From there, take a 15-minute tricycle ride to Fortune Resort Dive Center (pre-booking necessary with caretakers Mang Dante 09394895292 or Chris 09087225628 is necessary) which is the jump-off point to Fortune Island. The 45-minute 10 pax-max boat ride costs around PhP 6000/$135, plus PhP 400/$9 island entry fee (overnight price, negotiable; day trip is cheaper). With upper limit calculations, that’s about PhP 1250/$28. Add in food, booze and other expenses, a beach camping (yep, no rooms) weekend at Fortune Island would be about PhP 1700/$38 which, I must say, is quite cheap to “experience” Greece and of course, enjoy the Philippines’ endless summer with the company of family and friends under the sun and stars. [Special thanks to Hazelle for organizing this CouchSurfing trip back in May and providing all these info I’ve already forgotten.]
The Me Nam Chao Phraya is a major river in Thailand, even referred to as the River of Kings. On my second day in Bangkok, during my Rattanakosin Island walkabout, I ended up in a plaza across Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn) where the Chao Phraya river has overflowed, swallowing most of the benches by the riverbanks. If you remember the flooding in Bangkok and Thailand in October 2011, you wouldn’t think that the overflow from the calm Chao Phraya River can be the cause for severe flooding in many of the provinces and its capital city. This photo, taken the next day when I explored Bangkok outside of Rattanakosin, was when I took the Chao Phraya Express Boat so I can have a closer look at some of the sights I have missed! Also coz I’m so cheap to buy the dinner river cruise ticket. Hehe 🙂 We passed under the towering Industrial Ring Road Bridge or officially, the Bhumibol Bridge, named after King Bhumibol Adulyadej (apparently, naming bridges after Kings is customary). By the time I left Bangkok the day after, the city was already frantic trying to prepare for the floods — communities passing and arranging sandbags, construction of 2-feet cemented walls by their homes’ doors, diversion of traffic in some areas. Although the Chao Phraya River caused misery to many Thai people, the River of Kings remain to be an important part of their daily lives — either for agriculture, trade or transport. I hope measures, by government and the communities, are being taken so that the October flooding won’t happen to Bangkok or to Thailand again.
I know it’s already five months overdue but still, I would like to write a personal post about my 26th year, highlighting the travels I’ve had and the people I met along the way.
Contrary to my 25th year’s travels which were mainly as a solo backpacker or with a travel buddy, 2013-2014 was more of a group travel kind for me. It’s also during this span of time that I’ve met several important people in my life — from CouchSurfing acquaintances to really great friends, and from total strangers to favorite companions and partners in crime. And yes, ’twas also late last year that I met someone whom I’m looking forward to have more travels and adventures with.
In my desperate attempt for a weekend escape from all the hustle and bustle of Metro Manila, I turned to newly-found and not-yet-met CouchSurfing friends and folks to go surfing at Zambales!
But of course, backtrack a little bit: most of us got bottomless on tequilas and hit the dance floor first (Payback Friday mode at Agave and 7th High) before hitting the beach! Special thanks to Jen for organizing, Craig for keeping our bags at his pad, and Abby for the magic password for Guest List at 7th high!