Travelers of The Month: THE WORLD Through The Lens of George And Angelo

“Save the best for last,” they say.

And that’s exactly what I’m doing here as I conclude my 2012 (travel) blog project — by featuring two of the most well-traveled people in the country I can think of: George and Angelo. 😉

No specific country or place will be highlighted in this post because as you’ve seen in the title, THE WORLD itself is the focus.  From Africa to North America, Europe to Asia, my featured travelers surely went and will go there!

Best of all, the photos you’ll see in this post were ALL taken by themselves.  And despite not being professional photographers, I definitely had a hard time choosing which photos to include here not just because of the number of albums (they’ve been to A LOT of places!), but because of the endless great shots that truly captured each and every place they’ve traveled to.

So I’ll stop rambling now and share with you what George has to say about TRAVELING…  and why it’s always better when he’s with his “better half,” Angelo.

Angelo and George in Borobudur, Indonesia

Angelo and George in Borobudur, Indonesia

“I never counted the countries I visited; even if I would, I would’ve already lost count.  I just remember places and faces and even if I revisit, something novel will emerge or I will simply make it happen,” George answered when I asked him about the number of countries he’s been to.  And it’s true.  If you counted the countries he has traveled to, you would’ve lost count too! 😀

But like most people, George‘s first take on traveling happened in the country.  He shared, “I first ventured out of Manila when I was four or five years old (1981 or 1982); we went to see Mayon Volcano.  It was a great experience just to leave but then one had to endure long hours of land travel and as a child, I never looked forward to this.  I can’t remember if I successfully articulated in my consciousness that passion for travel; what I know is just that I was glad that we left and that I went to a place that I’ve never seen before.”

It wasn’t until a few years later when he found himself traveling to Japan — his first international destination.  “I first ventured out of the country when I was 9.  It was a dream come true because I grew up being fascinated by Japanese pop culture and anime.  Godzilla, Voltes V, and Daimos amongst many Japanese cultural artifacts have become indelible memories.  Tokyo Disneyland was so surreal.”

A young George in Tokyo, Japan (top) and Taipei, Taiwan (bottom) both in 1987

A young George in Tokyo, Japan (top) and Taipei, Taiwan (bottom) both in 1987

And thanks to those childhood memories, Japan — as it turns out — is now one of George‘s favorite countries to visit.

That AND Spain.  When I asked him about his favorite countries, this is what he said: “Spain and Japan are the foremost countries that come to mind.  The diversity of experiences and cultural depth have always inspired me and my soul mate [Angelo].  I’m not so sure if it’s the historical/cultural connection but I guess it all boils down to what I learn regardless of repeat visits.

“I’m just drawn to the rich art scene in Madrid, while Barcelona breaks the boundaries of art.  Think of Gaudi and one will just want to stay.  On the other hand, Valencia has exquisite and modern architecture (Calatrava’s City of Arts and Sciences).  Spanish food (eating authentic paella should not be dismissed), markets, and the warmth of the Spanish people are always worth looking forward to.

(photos by Angelo Lacanlale and George Binay)

Clockwise from top left- Cordoba, Barcelona, La Sagrada Familia, La Alhambra, Madrid, and Garden of Alhambra

Clockwise from top left- Peñiscola, Parque Guell, Streets of Granada, Valencia, Zaragoza, and Toledo

“On the other hand, the paradox of the modern and the traditional core is the contradiction that defines Japan.  For me and Angelo, Japan has become an annual journey.  I don’t even know where to start.  I guess the historic monuments of Ancient Kyoto so much so that it’s named UNESCO World Heritage City; it’s only second to Rome.  We also make it a point to go to Japan not just to welcome the new year but to spoil ourselves with all the fukubukuro (mystery bags) in all our favorite Japanese stores and signature labels.  With such significant discounts, we shopped like hoarders to our hearts content.  Never mind overspending in this time of the year.  The food — need I say more?  The precision/attention to detail in all aspects such as gift wrapping makes Japan what it is.  More importantly, the civility and strict order that defines Japanese society are truly remarkable and exceptional.”

(photos by Angelo Lacanlale and George Binay)

O-torii

Clockwise from top left- Itsukushima Shrine, Hiroshima, Shinkansen, and Okunuin

Top- Arashiyama; Bottom- authentic Japanese food

As a seasoned traveler, those two countries must be really special to stand out among the number of countries they’ve visited…  and still counting.  Having said that, how does “traveling” still affect them?  George admitted, “Traveling is empowerment and a liberating activity that must be experienced; imagination becomes a reality and it is essential precisely because it’s education.  It removes you from your shell of ignorance.  My work and ministry as an academic have been largely enriched by this.  Creativity, innovation, and inspiration at work and my relations with other people have largely been nurtured by my travels.”

More thoughts on traveling: “There are times that you have to venture on your own (business trips) but the better half and I have always valued shared experiences and yes, we discuss the lessons that we’ve learned simultaneously as we discover the people, places, and the cultures we experience.”

The World

all photos by Angelo Lacanlale and George Binay

Bandar Seri Begawan

Vienna

sampling authentic Japanese food

Brussels

Vancouver

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

Shanghai

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya

Penang

Penang

The Great Wall of China

Clark Quay

Vatican Museum

Zagreb

Prague

London

Chateau de Versailles

Delphi

Budapest

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal

Borobudur

Gyeongbok Palace

Montenegro

Marrakech

Auschwitz

Bangkok

Bangkok

Trojan Horse

Trojan Horse

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

Starbucks mugs (personal collection)

Seeing those shots, it makes you wonder, “What’s next for these two?”  Well George said, “Nepal.  Simply because I haven’t been there.  You always want to visit an unchartered territory.  The unfamiliar excites me.”  In fact, he recently posted this on Facebook,

“Thanks to National Geographic, Gelo and I will welcome 2013 on a spiritual note which is inspired by Tibetan Buddhism and Hinduism and by the grandeur of the Himalayan peaks — most notably, Mt. Everest.  A lifelong dream that will finally become a reality.”

National Geographic?  Mt. Everest?  A dream turned into a reality?  By the looks of it, there’s no doubt that 2013 will be another great travel year for these two!  As George put it, “I look forward to equally interesting journeys next year.”  And so do we!

Lastly, George leaves us with one, but very useful travel tip: “Research, research, and more research so you will welcome, appreciate, and enjoy the unique absurdities that will come your way.  Just go and be modern-day global nomads.”

♥♥♥

Once again, I’d like to say thanks to Sir George (and his partner, Angelo) for sharing with us their travel adventures.  It’s truly an honor!

As for all of you, it has been a wonderful year sharing with you the different travel stories of “people like you and me — who just happen to have ‘wanderlust’ as their middle names!!! ;)”  May all of us embark on interesting journeys this coming 2013 as well!

To repeat what George advised,

“Just go and be modern-day global nomads.”

The Lady’s 2012 Blog Project…  signing off. 🙂

Happy New Year in advance, everyone!!!


This post is brought to you by The Lady’s 2012 Blog Project.

You can also check out my other featured travelers HERE.

Traveler of The Month, Part 2: Carol’s (East) Asian Experience

Time to share with you Part 2 of this month’s travel feature!  And I’m glad to say that my chosen traveler is one of my closest college friends and fellow blogger, Carol. 😀

M and C 😉

Carol has been to 13 countries (excluding the Philippines): China (Hong Kong, Macau, and mainland), the USAMexicoThailandSwitzerlandFranceItalySingaporeSouth KoreaMalaysia (Kota Kinabalu), BruneiVietnam, and Japan.  And when asked what’s TRAVELING for her and how it affects her, she said, “Traveling’s a good way to waste money.  Instead of spending so much on clothes, shoes, bags, electronics, and other things, I realized that going to places and exploring new things are better ways to exploit my savings.  In this way, I invest on experience and memories.

“Traveling has affected me in many ways such as learning different cultures, tasting new kinds of food, understanding different languages, and many more.  Furthermore, traveling is a way to renew bonds with my co-travelers — family or friends.  It made me and my family grow closer and it made my friendships deeper.”

Having said that, she has these TRAVEL TIPS for all of you:

Read.  “Study everything you need to know before traveling — customs, tourist destinations/attractions, modes of transportation, food, etc.”

Make a checklist.  “Make sure to pack everything you need.  Also, pack light.  Make a checklist of all the things you need, so you won’t forget anything.  Don’t over pack because it is downright impractical.  Always save some extra luggage space for shopping just in case.”

Learn how to decipher a map.  “Trusting your gut feeling alone is not really advisable when traveling because getting lost is a terrible waste of time.  Learn how to read maps.  This also includes the maps of metro/subway/bus stops.  In this way, you’ll know where to go.”

Always have a back-up plan.  “Make sure to have Plan B in case Plan A doesn’t work.  For example, what will you do if you’re left by the train or when the weather isn’t cooperative?”

Check (electrical) sockets.  “I always bring a universal adapter whenever I travel just in case my hotel room only has local sockets.  Sometimes, the hotel lends adapters or sells them (for double the price).  So for practicality, I prefer to bring my own adapter just in case I need it for charging my electronic devices.”

Eat like locals.  “Be adventurous in trying their food.  Choose a restaurant where the locals eat because it’s a sign that the place has authentic cuisine.”

Seize the moment.  “There will always be instances that your plan won’t work out.  Nevertheless, don’t cry on spilled milk and enjoy the moment.”

Carpe momentum, indeed!  But can you believe that the travel bug has only bitten Carol around February 2011 when her family booked a trip to Shanghai, China?  She admitted, “Prior to that, the last travel I went to was in Europe back in 2007.  Traveling again after more than four years of hiatus made me realize that I was missing a lot.  After that I decided to travel with family and friends when I have the time.”

As a law student, Carol sure knows how to make the most of her breaks.  How?  By traveling, of course!  And today, we’re privileged to “travel” to the best of East Asia — China, Japan, and Korea — through her experience. 🙂

The East Asian Experience

CHINA

Carol was with her family the first time she went to Shanghai.  “It was my first time to go to East Asia.  I was just along for the ride because it was my mom’s dream travel destination.  The weather was cold and perfect since we went there in mid-February 2011.”

And then just last month, she went to Guangzhou with other college friends.  “It was an unplanned trip to China over lunch.  Our stay there was almost a week, so we decided to maximize our tour by also going to Shenzhen and Hong Kong.  In truth, there was nothing spectacular in Guangzhou but my friends made it a super special vacation.”

More thoughts on China: “I’d say that each city has its own beauty.  You can never have too much travel in China since every place is different and nothing like the other.  As for the food, everything’s sumptuous.  It’s really a paradise for foodies, especially dim sum lovers like me.  One notable thing about authentic Chinese cuisine is that it doesn’t taste of MSG — what Filipinos usually assume.

“The most unforgettable place I’ve been to was the Fanyu Lotus Hill.  The view was an amazing reflection of mainland China.”

JAPAN

The most recent trip Carol has been to was in Osaka.  She and her family toured the major cities in the Kansai region.  She shared, “I went to the major cities in the Kansai region namely Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe.  All of these cities are connected by train, so it’s easy to take a day tour for each.  In my travel, I was surprised to know that all the Japanese know how to speak English.  I never felt the language barrier dilemma.  I was truly amazed that every person we talked to knew how to speak English.

“Another thing that I have to praise the Japanese for is that they are truly nice persons.  I’ve never met one rude local in my stay there.  In fact, everyone was truly courteous and helpful.

“As for the food, takoyaki is a popular food in Osaka, so it’s a must-try.

“The most unforgettable experience I had in Japan was going to Nara.  The place has the traditional ‘Japan feel’ much like Kyoto.  It has a lot of temples as well.  What’s very interesting though is that there were a lot of deer roaming around the area.  You can take pictures and feed them…  and it was so much fun.”

SOUTH KOREA

In October 2011, Carol also went to Seoul with her family.  “This time, it was my dream travel destination.  I guess the emergence of Korean media influenced me to go there.  I could say my family really did enjoy going to Seoul since we always talk about how we had a good time there.

“We went to Blue House, Gyeongbokgung Palace, National Folk Museum, Jogyesa Buddhist Temple, Korean Folk Village, DMZ, Myeongdong Shopping District, and Lotte World.

“Also, it was a culinary adventure for me when I went there.  I came to have much liking for Korean cuisine.  I especially love the fact that their food always has vegetables.  It’s healthy and delicious.

“The most unforgettable experience I had was the DMZ tour.  Being a foreign affairs student, I was really ecstatic to be in the 38th parallel.  They have a viewing deck wherein you can see a North Korean village nearby.  They even sell North Korean-made products at the souvenir shop.  Too bad they only allowed taking pictures in selected areas.”

BONUS:
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

Okay, I know that Kota Kinabalu is in SOUTHEAST ASIA…  but because one reader asked for it and Carol has been there already, might as well include it here too!

Having said that, Carol went to Kota Kinabalu last December 2011 with her mom, cousin, and aunt.  “Our trip was laid back.  The scenery was much like the Philippines but somehow, everything was a bit cheaper.  Worth mentioning are the white islands of Manukan and Mamuntik.  Chicken Rice is a very popular food there.  English is also widely spoken and people are very friendly.”  And to know more about Carol‘s trip to Kota Kinabalu, I suggest you visit her blog HERE and HERE. 🙂

Overall, Carol said that “traveling in East Asia is more expensive compared to traveling around Southeast Asia.  The costs of living in China, Japan, and Korea are higher compared to countries in the ASEAN region, so be prepared to shed a few bucks if you’re planning to travel there.”  And to make traveling in East Asia a breeze for all of you, Carol has more travel tips:

Bring a calculator.  “Japan and Korea have inflated currency rates, so it’s quite difficult to manage their money.  As for China, every city has a different price for goods and commodities.  For example, a commodity in Shanghai is more expensive than in Guangzhou.  Bringing a calculator can help you convert your money easily and compare prices from one city to another.”

Mind the weather.  “East Asian countries have four seasons, so it’s essential to research first the estimated weather condition before going there.  In this way, you know what type of clothing to bring.

Try to understand the language barrier.  “Not all East Asians can speak English, so study and arm yourself with a few local vocabularies such as customary greetings and ways to count numbers, ask for directions, buy food, and many more.”

Take note of cultural differences.  “Some people tend to mix Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cultures altogether.  This is rude for them, so take note of the differences of these three nations.  Each of them takes pride in their own heritage, so better not think that they’re all the same.”

If you think that Carol‘s travels end here, well think again!  When I asked her about her dream destinations, she answered, “For the short list, I want to travel more around Southeast Asia and visit cities like Phnom Penh, Penang, Chang Mai, Phuket, Hanoi, and Jakarta.  Most of these cities don’t have direct flights from Manila, so going there will really be an experience for me.  They’re not the typical Southeast Asian destinations for Filipino travelers, so they’re must-sees for me.

“For the cities I’ve been to, I want to go back to New York and Geneva.  I remember New York as a big city full of lights with a lot of people walking.  Going there is so much fun because it’s a melting pot of different cultures.  I enjoyed the crazy energetic way of life there.  In fact, this is the only city I would agree to live in on my own.  On the contrary, Geneva is a city with a peaceful ambiance.  The place is very clean and safe compared to other European cities.  I love to go back there because of its laid back atmosphere and its European feel without the tourist destination frenzy.

“For my future-future dream destinations, I want to go to the Hague, Madrid, St. Petersburg, Cape Town, Florida, Cancun, Dubai, and Havana.  I’m somehow curious to see these cities since I only see them in pictures and movies.  I want to go there for the simple reason that I want to see them.

“For my ultimate dream destination, I want to go to Jerusalem for a holy pilgrimage.  I chose this destination for historical and spiritual reasons.”

And that’s my friend Carol‘s (East) Asian Experience! 😀  Next month, I’ll finally reveal to you my last featured traveler for the first half of my blog project for this year!  And the best part is, we’re finally “going” to AFRICA!!!  So see you on Independence Day — the 12th of June.

Keep calm and travel on. 😉


This post is brought to you by The Lady’s 2012 Blog Project.

You can also check out my other featured travelers HERE.

Traveler of The Month, Part 1: Joanna’s (Southeast) Asian Experience

It’s that time of the month again!  Well, at least for The Lady’s Blog, it’s that time to give in to each and every one’s wanderlust! ♥

And since May’s featured continent is ASIA, I decided to divide it into TWO PARTS.  That’s right!  Two featured travelers, and two selected Asian regions for two days in May!!!

Okay, enough rambling.  Time to meet this month’s featured traveler who will share with us her adventures in Southeast Asia…

“Traveling is learning.  With every country I visit, I’d like to think I gain new knowledge.”  That’s what TRAVELING means for one of my college friends and former colleague, Joanna. 🙂

Joanna as Yoko Ono and yours truly as X’Men’s Storm (HA HA HA)

The first time Joanna traveled abroad was in 1996 when she was still just eight years old.  She shared, “I vaguely remember what happened on that trip, only that I was so excited to go to Toys “R” Us, visit Ocean Park, and be far from where I lived.  It took almost 15 years for my next trip to happen — an experience that brought upon me the desire of traveling.”

So far, she has been to five countries (excluding the Philippines): Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Singapore.  Southeast Asia at its best, eh?  Well, now you know why she’s my first Traveler of The Month for May! 😉

in Universal Studios, Singapore

The Southeast Asian Experience

When Joanna traveled to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand — “routes which, mostly, backpackers call the ‘Banana Pancake Trail,'” she was with her friends.  She said, “we were on a tight budget, so traveling with them wasn’t hard.

“We roamed the streets of Ho Chi Minh on our first day, were amazed by Siem Reap’s most treasured temple on our third day, and got lost in Bangkok on our fourth day.  We took the bus from one destination to the other.”

“Motorbikes are very popular in Saigon – a means of daily transportation for the locals.”

roaming the streets of Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

However, when I asked her about those that have left a big impact on her, she answered, “Angkor Wat had the biggest impact on me.  It thrills me still remembering the time we were entering the gates.

“The food prices were also overwhelming.  When I was there, I couldn’t believe how cheap and good the food was especially in Vietnam and Cambodia.

“The bus rides from Ho Chi Minh to Siem Reap, and from Siem Reap to Bangkok were long yet memorable.  I tried not to sleep, so I wouldn’t miss out on the sights.”

Having said that, Joanna has this advice for those planning to have their own Southeast Asian Experience: “Don’t take the taxi.  As much as possible, WALK.  This way, you get to have a feel of the place and know it better.  Plus, you get to save.”

“The night we got lost.” (in Thailand)

“We finally got to where we stayed, and met up with our friend Biboy.” (The Lady’s note: Biboy was then studying at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit. Click the image to visit his blog.)

The Grand Palace (Bangkok, Thailand)

Moreover, she said that when traveling in general, one should “research and learn to live without luxury (especially for those traveling on a budget).”  Couldn’t agree more!

As for her dream destination, Joanna plans to travel East — Japan!  “The people and the culture fascinate me.  Japan is breathtaking in photographs and movies.  I can just imagine how it is in real life.”

Perfect choice.  Why?  Because at the end of May, I’ll finally reveal to you Part 2 of this month’s travel feature!  A new featured traveler AND new Asian destinations!  But for the most part, it’ll be all about — you guessed it right — EAST ASIA!  So see you again on May 31st, alright?!

Ooh, before I forget…  THANKS, JO!!!

Keep calm and travel on. 😉


This post is brought to you by The Lady’s 2012 Blog Project.

You can also check out my other featured travelers HERE.