Taking a bath. #ItsMoreFunInThePhilippines

Most of you may already seen the Twitterverse exploding with the #ItsMoreFunInThePhilippines meme. This is part of the Philippines’ Department of Tourism (DOT) campaign to encourage visitors to come to the Philippines. I think it’s a clever and viral way to do it!

Come join the fun and make your own at http://www.morefunmaker.com/

POTM’s Best of Travel 2011 #besttravel2011

My friends Mica from Senyorita and Debbie from European Travelista recently tagged me on the Best of Travel 2011 project that Jeremy from Budget Travel Adventures started. I’ve been meaning to do a quick recap of 2011 and thought that this would be a great way to capture a year of travel.

I must say that I have not traveled as much as I want to in 2011 as I spent most of my time focusing on a new job in a new city. It has, however, given me time to sit down and finally create this travel blog back in March 2011. It’s been an enriching experience which has also allowed me to meet a wonderful community of travelers and bloggers who share the same passion.

So cheers to 2011 you’ve been good to us. But now 2012 is here so we gotta keep on moving! In fact, I’ve been thinking of some exciting trips from traveling by horseback in Mongolia to cheap holidays to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands.



Best Travel Destination 2011

The Big Easy was my best travel destination in 2011. I didn’t know what to expect during my first trip to New Orleans which happened to be on a weekend where they were predicting a tropical storm as epic as Hurricane Katrina. It turned out to be a dud. But the trip turned out to be awesome! You can catch a glimpse of the sights, sound and spirits of New Orleans on this post I wrote. Also, I got to meet one of my favorite travel bloggers Glen Abbott of The Travelin’ Gringo and his wife since they now live the sweet life in NOLA.



Best Travel Experience 2011

Going back home is always a great travel experience. In May, I had the opportunity to not only spend time with my family but I was also able to visit my parents’ hometown province of Nueva Ecija after a decade of being away. This was a place I used to spend my summers as a child which made it really special. I had a blast watching carabaos race (you gotta see the video on this link…totally rad action shot of the race) and loading up my plate with delicious fiesta fare.




Best International Destination 2011

El Nido, Palawan which is in the Philippines. It was the only international destination I could go to in 2011 so I made every bit of it count by visiting some destinations that I haven’t been to. Palawan is home to some of the best dive spots and white sand beaches in the world. It’s a rustic paradise with little secluded islands where you can set up camp and experience life as a castaway.  I’ll write more about the trip soon.



Worst Travel Experience 2011

I would have to say waiting next to the mound of trash outside the US Embassy in Manila had to be the worst travel experience in 2011. That’s a photo of me looking miserable beside it as I wait for my visa appointment. The mound of trash was washed onto the boardwalk in Manila Bay due to a storm so it was yet to be cleaned up when I got there. I’ve been to Manila Bay before and I know that it usually doesn’t look like this but the part I didn’t understand is why the US Embassy, with all it’s resources, could not provide a proper waiting area outside of its building that was away from this mess.

Now to be fair to the US Embassy, they have a really nice waiting area inside their building. But you can only go inside during the time of your appointment (after which you get a number and wait some more before you get to meet with a staff). Since they require you to come an hour before the time of your appointment, I thought it would only be courteous to provide even a makeshift waiting area outside the Embassy (how expensive is it to buy tarp and build some wooden benches?). Another alternative is to just let people in especially if there is space inside their official waiting area.

I was sorely disappointed to see that everyone had to wait on a narrow sidewalk where there wasn’t any place to sit or protect you from the elements (note the Philippines has a very hot and humid weather plus during rainy season it really pours). There were also a lot of armed guards that would shoo you away from the gates so you really had to go and wait a good couple of yards from the building. I was in a bad mood by the time I got inside. I kept thinking that they would never try to pull something like this in America. Plus, it’s not like we all just dropped by to see if we could walk-in. All of us waiting outside had scheduled appointments and paid the $140 fee (this is equivalent to $6,000 pesos of hard earned cash for most Filipinos) so I think we deserve to be treated better.

Ok, enough ranting because this post is about the best of 2011. But in case anyone from the US Embassy is reading this or anyone who knows someone from the US Embassy in Manila…I hope they do something about this situation!


Most Embarrassing Travel Moment 2011

I think the story above would also be my most embarrassing moment since I was made to wait next to a mound of trash and witness other people suffer the same situation. I actually saw a couple of old folks standing and waiting under the sun- not cool.


Best Local Destination 2011

I have to say Austin, Texas. The city has a hometown charm to it but is still pretty hip. Labelled as the live music capital of the world, there are 1900 live bands living and performing around the city. In fact, there was a blues band performing at the coffee shop where I bought my tea on a Sunday morning. Aside from music, Austin has a lot to offer when it comes to food and active travel. It’s a perfect weekend getaway so watch out for a weekend itinerary I’m publishing soon just for you guys.




Best Travel Lesson from 2011

I may have not spent a lot of time on the road but I spend most of 2011 following the 5 life lessons I learned from climbing Mount Fuji. As a result, I’ve started a wonderful journey with this travel blog and I’ve met a lot of fabulous people along the way. I even got a nod from the Philippine Blog Awards for my post about Filipino Names.

It’s truly amazing what you can accomplish when you start doing what you are passionate about. That’s why for 2012 expect more stories and more adventures from POTM. Happy New Year!

Escape the Canary Island Crowds

If you are looking for something a bit more than a paradise island with gorgeous beaches and year round sunshine, do a bit of research into the Canary Islands. You will probably have heard of the big, popular resorts in Tenerife, Lanzarote and Gran Canaria. But what about the other four, less well known but just as stunning islands that sit of the west coast of Africa who find it hard to come out of their bigger, more commercially aware neighbours shadow? What do they have to offer?

Well the answer is lots, and you could even find one of the many unspoilt spots of natural beauty which made the Canaries famous before mass tourism took over and cheap holidays to tenerife even became common place.

La Gomera

You may not think of mountains when the Canary Islands are mentioned, but on the small island of La Gomera you’ll be taken aback by the rugged cliff tops and jagged coastline which define it. In the centre of La Gomera sits a UNESCO World Heritage site, a national park called Alto de Garajonay which is in places nearly 1500 metres above sea level. You could quite easily spend a few hours exploring the park and taking in the breathtaking views that are available from most points on La Gomera. Although there are no international flights straight to the island, you can hop on a plane from Tenerife or, for a more relaxing experience, take one of the regular ferries.

El Hierro

El Hierro is the least travelled to of the Canary Islands, which is either a blessing or a hindrance depending on how you view such things. The beaches here are free from the crowds and as a result are totally unspoilt and pollution free. In fact, you will not be able to experience a more tranquil experience than at Tamaduste or Monacal, as here are natural swimming pools which you can splash around in and let all of your troubles pass away. It is also worth visiting El Golfo where the best views on the island are possible.

La Palma

The word ‘quaint’ is often overused these days, but there is no better word to describe the small – but big in character – island of La Palma. Unlike its bigger neighbours there are not miles upon miles of sandy beaches packed full of visitors. Instead expect to see postcard-like scenes a million miles away from the tower block style resorts found elsewhere. This island really has managed to escape from the downsides of mass tourism and long may it continue. The National Park of La Caldera de Turburiente is a crater formed by the erosion of a volcano many years ago and has a depth of around 700 meters. When you visit and you’ll be surprised at the dense forest which covers the park from one side to the other.

Of course there is nothing wrong with traditional packaged lanzarote holidays. In fact, why not book one and then spend a few days exploring one of these smaller islands?

This is a guest post written by Ricky Durrance for Beat the Brochure.