SPECIAL FEATURE: The Travelers, The World (TRAVEL)

Traveler of The Month: Gian’s Greek, Russian, And Turkish Routes

Yes, you’ve read that right!  GREECE, RUSSIA, and TURKEY are this month’s featured travel destinations! 😀

As for the featured traveler, well, I can assure you that he’s 100% Filipino (just in case you misread the title and thought of the last word’s homophone “roots” instead of what it actually is!  But then again, maybe that’s just me!  Hahaha!)

So I’ll cut to the chase and finally present to you August’s Traveler of The Month, who also happens to be my childhood friend — Gian.

Gian at Giza, Egypt

But first thing’s first!  What does my featured traveler think of TRAVELING itself? 😛  Well, he said, “I think of it as education outside the classroom.  Traveling is a learning process.

“First, I get to know myself more especially when I’m confronted with different situations.  It brings out the street-smart in me.

“Second, it provides me the opportunity to see what I’ve read in history books.  As a matter of fact, I just travel to see historical sites.  Every time I see a site or landmark, I just can’t help but be amazed with it.

“Third, it enhances my social skills as I interact with people from all walks of life.  I enjoy talking to locals because it shatters my stereotypes and impressions.  It allows me to have a deeper understanding of who they are — their culture, opinions, disappointments, dreams, and aspirations.”

Very well said for this soon-to-be attorney!  Traveling, indeed, is a big part of Gian‘s life (aside from law school, of course!).  Proof?  So far, he’s been privileged to visit the following countries: Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Russia, France, Turkey, Greece, ItalySpain, China (Hong Kong and Macau), Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, and Thailand.  But he’s not just any traveler!  Last May, he and some of his friends participated in the International Labour Organization’s Youth Employment Forum, wherein they were awarded by the Director-General of ILO himself, and was of course held at — you guessed it right — Switzerland!  In fact, that didn’t even have anything to do with law school.  They simply did it because they are passionate advocates of youth empowerment!

So yeah, you can say that he’s a traveler with a cause! 😉

awarded by Juan Somavia, the current Director-General of ILO

And just like anything, there’s always a beginning — even when it comes to traveling!  So when exactly did the travel bug “bite” Gian?  He admitted, “I started traveling just recently.  It was three years ago when my family decided to go to Hong Kong and see Disneyland.  Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond our control, that trip didn’t push through and that made me quite disappointed.  So when we went back to Qatar, I thought of a wonderful idea: to visit the neighboring countries in the Middle East.  And eureka!  I found out that Egypt’s only a three-hour flight away from Doha, and I thought that visiting that place was a perfect time to revive my childhood curiosity about history — and that’s pretty much the beginning of my travel escapades.”

The Routes

GREECE

at a marketplace in Athens

Gian traveled to Greece with his whole family (a.k.a. his mom, dad, and younger sister).  He shared, “It seemed like they hired me as their tour guide.  I explained the history of almost everything we saw.

“Traveling with them was very comforting especially during nighttime when we got the chance to have long conversations.  But the downside with this is it’s also difficult to travel as a group because I have to think of my mom and little sister since they can’t walk as much as I do — which makes it difficult to visit everything we plan.

“We went to Athens and visited the Acropolis, the Parthenon, the Agora (where Socrates used to hang out!), Temple of Dionysius, Roman Agora, and the Greek Parliament (where we saw the changing of the guards in their funny uniforms).”

Top- Parthenon; Bottom left- Agora (Socrates’ hangout); Bottom right- Temple of Dionysius

Left- Greek Parliament; Top right- changing of the guards; Bottom right- authentic Greek sculptures displayed in the subway

Unforgettable moment in Greece: “When I saw the Acropolis in Greece, my reaction was unexplainable and I almost cried when I first set my foot on it.  The word ‘fascinated’ is an understatement.  I felt like I was back to the era of Greek civilization!”

RUSSIA

at St. Basil’s Cathedral with his dad

In Russia (and Turkey), Gian was with his dad.  “We’ve been partners and backpacking buddies since our Cairo trip.  My dad has been an OFW for almost 20 years and we seldom had quality time with each other.  So this trip was also to catch up for the lost years of my childhood.

“We went to Moscow and went to these places: the Kremlin, the Red Square, the tomb of Lenin, St. Basil‘s Cathedral, and some other Russian Orthodox cathedrals and parks.”

Top left- Alexander Garden; Bottom left- Cathedral of Christ the Savior; Right- at Kremlin with his dad

Left- GUM Department Store (where billionaires shop); Right- “M:I 4” lang ang peg!

But it might surprise you to know that he almost didn’t go to Russia!  Gian remembered, “At first, I was hesitant to go to Moscow because of my impression of Russians — as depicted by Hollywood movies.  But alas, Russians were very helpful to us even though most of them couldn’t even utter an English word.  My trip to Moscow was very challenging as a backpacker.  If it hadn’t been for the Russian words and phrases that I brought with me, we wouldn’t have survived.  Everything was written in Cyrillic, so I was decoding almost every letter of the street signs just to look for our accommodation.

“Also, the food in Russia was very expensive.  One memorable experience I had in Moscow was when I asked for ketchup (in sachet) at McDonald’s and the lady charged me 24 rubles (or about 32 pesos!).”

TURKEY

the Blue Mosque in the background

“Turkey is a melting pot of cultures — this is where the EAST meets the WEST.  And the food was to die for!  A gastronomic experience at a very cheap price!  My fine dining experience in Manila is just as good as what I ate while walking in Istanbul.  The Turks are absolutely known for their prowess in their cuisine!

at Topkapi Palace

“In Turkey, we visited the Hagia Sophia (one of the 7 wonders of the Medieval World), the Blue Mosque (part of the 7 wonders of the Muslim World according to Nat Geo), Topkapi Palace (where the Sultan kept his concubines), Dolmabahce Palace (the former seat of the Ottoman Empire), and then we had a cruise at the Bosphorous strait — the body of water connecting Asia and Europe.

at Dolmabahce Palace

“Moreover, Turkish people are very nice, friendly, and GOOD-LOOKING!  They have a tourist police who managed to help us with everything we needed to roam around the city.  Istanbul is a fantastic place to visit.  I can say that it’s on the top of my list.  I was overly fascinated with the beauty of all the mosques and the ruins of the Ottoman Empire.”

Left and Bottom right- inside the Hagia Sophia; Top right- the Blue Mosque at night

Now that you’ve seen Greece, Russia, and Turkey through the personal experience of my friend Gian, what kinds of travel tips does he have in store for all of you?  Well, here goes…

Prepare by at least learning the language.  “When you are knowledgeable about their language, locals appreciate the effort and they become extra kind to you.”

Read about the city you’re planning to visit.  “It adds flavor to the experience when you know something about the country.  It can be about food, history, culture, or even politics — but try to be sensitive at all times.”

Know the routes.  “The best way to visit a city is through public transportation.  Get an online copy of the metro station maps.  Know where the bus stops are and how much money you have to allocate for transportation.”

Don’t keep your money in one wallet.  “You should put some of your money in hidden pockets.  Traveling won’t always be a perfect experience.  Beware of pickpockets and don’t be an easy prey by acting like a local.  Also, always bring photocopies of your passport and visa/s in case the originals get lost.  Don’t forget the contact number of your embassy for emergency purposes.”

Be adventurous.  “Stay out of your comfort zones.  If there’s something you can try in a particular country, try it as long as it’s legal.  Enjoy the food.  Visit the sites that they are known for.”

Maximize your time.  “Plan your trip very well.  Research where you can stay and eat at very cheap prices.  You can always have fun by not spending too much.”

Be an ambassador of goodwill.  “I’m always mistaken as Thai, Malaysian, Japanese, or Chinese but I always tell them that I’m Filipino.  Always be proud to be one.  Tell them good things about our country.  Be genuinely nice and friendly to everyone because foreigners will remember you not just as an Asian, but as a Filipino.”

Love, love, love that last tip!  And I’m sure Gian will always put that tip to use as he pursues his other travel plans.  “I plan to visit Madrid (for another competition), Paris, and Vienna within the year.  This December, I might also avail of the visa exemption granted to permanent residents of Qatar to Georgia (a former member of the USSR).

“But overall, my dream is to go to the Hague, Netherlands (legal capital of the word) and eventually take my masters of law degree there through a scholarship.  The thought of becoming a scholar someday thrills me!  I just can’t wait to live there and go to other European cities that I still haven’t visited yet.”

Whew, right?  Well, best of luck to you, Gian!  And we also wish you more HAPPY TRAVELS to come!!! 🙂

P.S: You can help send Gian and his partner to Madrid and support their advocacy by voting for them!  You can do so by clicking this link.

Their entry is this: THE 1K PROJECT: Entry from the Philippines

Thank you!!!


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

You can also check out my other featured travelers HERE.

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SPECIAL FEATURE: The Travelers, The World (TRAVEL)

Traveler of The Month: Europe As Cara Knows It

EUROPE.  Who doesn’t dream of traveling there? @_@  In fact, there was even a time (during one of those end-of-the-world false alarms) when I was able to tell somebody, “Hindi pwedeng mag-end of the world!  Hindi pa’ko nakakapuntang Europe!”  So random, I know.  But that’s how I felt and still feels about Europe.

Honestly, I want to go to only two European countries: ITALY and of course — being your resident Anglophile and all that — THE UNITED KINGDOM. 😉  If I’m able to go to the rest, I won’t complain!  But I’ll just consider those as my “bonus.”  For me, Italy and the U.K. are my “all or nothing” when it comes to traveling to the EU (yep, even the Eiffel Tower takes only third place!).  But, and a BIG BUT at that, I told my sister that if we’re going to those aforementioned countries, we have to go to Florence, Milan, PisaVerona, Venice, and Rome ; England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.  Uh-huh, syempre the whole Italian and English package dapat noh!!! 😛

But enough about my European dreams first.  I think it’s about time I finally introduce to you this month’s very special featured traveler.  Why muy especial?  Well for starters, she’s a Creative Writing graduate at the Ateneo de Manila University and the current (female) lead singer of The Executives Band.  She’s also passionate about blogging, photography, and of course, traveling (she’s been to four continents; 21 countries and still counting*).  And most of all, I’ve had the privilege of meeting her in person (thanks to my cousin) and actually convincing her to agree to do THIS…

So without further ado, my dear readers, I’m talking about the very kind and gorgeous Ms. Cara Manglapus. 😀

with Cara 🙂

So let’s start, shall we?

♥♥♥

One of the first things I ask my featured travelers is about the first time they were “bitten” by the so-called travel bug.  So when I asked Cara when her love for traveling started, she shared,

“The first time I was on a plane, I was two months old.  I was born in New York and traveled back and forth to Manila as early as then.  When we moved to the Philippines, my parents made sure to expose my younger brother and I to the beauty of our own backyard, so we would spend Christmas vacations in local tourist destinations (Palawan, Davao, Cebu, Bohol, Boracay, Baguio, etc.) and summer vacations in the US (New York, California, and Florida).

“Lucky that my first job when I graduated from college involved a lot of travel.  I was relocated to a different country every four months.  Aside from the US and the Philippines, I’ve lived in Hong Kong, the Czech Republic, Brazil, Taiwan, and Sweden.  From these ‘bases’ where I was working, I’d travel to neighboring countries and cities on the weekends.

“There’s something very magical about how you seem to just connect with certain cities, and you can’t explain why.  Two things I consider when I’m in a new place are: how is the food and would I want to live here?

“Strangely enough, I love long-haul flights.  Most people hate airplanes, but my head feels the most clear when I’m up in the air.  For that certain number of hours, you are untouchable, unreachable by anybody.  It’s just you and the book you brought or the in-flight entertainment.

“Most people count the number of countries they’ve been to, but that is actually an irrelevant number.  I count cities.  Why?  Think of it this way, if a foreigner comes to Manila, has he really seen the Philippines?  Each region has a different experience to offer, different culture, different food, different landscapes, different dialects, different people even.  The same goes for other countries.  Especially big ones like the United States and Brazil, each city has a polar opposite within the same country.”

Europe As Cara Knows It

“My first taste of Europe was a family vacation to Italy when I was 14 years old.  My parents rented a car and we drove all throughout the country in three weeks, passing through quaint little towns, making a sort of religious pilgrimage, and visiting the known tourist destinations.  Some notable places and things we saw that most tourists don’t look for: the fully preserved head of St. Catherine of Sienna, the ‘host turned to flesh’ in Lanciano, the ancient city of Pompeii preserved in volcanic ash after the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D., the chapel of the Cappuchin Monks in Rome made entirely out of bones, the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, and Da Vinci in Santa Croce, the wood from the table of the Last Supper in St. John Lateran Basilica, the home of Dante, the tomb of Padre Pio.  To this day, Rome is my favorite city.

Cara in Italy, age 14

“There was a time I was living in Prague in the Czech Republic for work.  I was living alone and traveled with colleagues on the weekends.  My trips to Vienna, Berlin, Dusseldorf, London, Paris, and Barcelona all happened weekend after weekend in early 2010.  Some of my fondest memories were made with some of my favorite people, friendships formed by our common love for travel.  In early 2011, I was living in Stockholm, and from there I visited Denmark (and the very cool Freetown Christiania), and the Baltic states of Europe: Latvia and Estonia.  Estonia was one of my favorite destinations [check out Cara‘s blog post about it here].

Prague, Czech Republic

“My last two Easter holidays before this one were both spent in London (2010 and 2011).  If you know the right people, it’s a great place to visit and stay for an extended time.  I absolutely love the east side, very vintage chic.

London, England

“Every city I’ve been to has made its mark on me, I carry a little bit of every place with me everyday.  I’ve got stories to tell from all over that wouldn’t fit on a blog, really.  Pictures will just have to suffice, but even pictures don’t do these places justice.”

Austria

Denmark

Estonia

France

Germany

Spain

Latvia

Sweden

Based on what you just saw, it’s obvious how much Cara loves traveling.  She admitted, “I love to travel because it reminds me that we live in a global community and that there is so much more to see and learn.  Learning is the best part about traveling.  Learning and eating.”

Having said that, here are some of her travel tips:

Let a local be your guide.  “Don’t get too caught up in packing in all the tourist sites, what’s more important is experiencing what it’s like to live there.  If you can’t see all the museums, so what?  You can get all that information on the Internet.  Go out on the street, meet new people, eat local food, walk into random art galleries, shop at the vintage markets, learn history by having conversations with anyone that will talk to you.  Sit down, have a cup of coffee and a piece of cake.  Pretend for a day that you are living there.  Trust me, you won’t regret it.”

Another interesting place to visit in every new country is the supermarket.  “You’ll be surprised what goods are in store and how much you’ll learn from something so simple.  For example, one time I was looking for peanut butter in the supermarket in Prague, and found it in the ‘exotic foods’ section — something so normal for me to eat, but so strange for the Czechs.”

Be smart.  “They say some places are more dangerous than others, but the truth is, EVERYWHERE is dangerous.  Even your hometown is dangerous.  You just need to be aware of your surroundings, be with a friend, call or text someone so they are constantly updated by your whereabouts.  Don’t be afraid, but trust your instincts.  If you’re feeling uncomfortable, listen to your own body.  Don’t be paranoid, but be smart.”

Don’t be afraid to ask.  “Most often than not, locals are more than willing to give you tips and advice, to tell you where to go and how to get there.  Why?  Because they want you to love their country as much as they do.  They want you to have a great time, so you’ll tell your friends about how awesome their country is.  No one knows their own turf better than them, so don’t rely on Google or Trip Advisor — ask!”

♥♥♥

*All in all, Cara has been to the following places:

Europe: Italy (Rome, Florence, Venice, Pompeii, Corato, San Giovanni Rotondo, Lanciano, Assisi, Padova, Sienna, San Domenico, San Gimignano, and La Verna), Czech Republic (Prague, Brno, Plzen, Liberec, Ceske Budejovice, and Karlovy Vary), Austria (Vienna),  Germany (Berlin, Dusseldorf), England (London), France (Paris), Spain (Barcelona), Sweden (Stockholm, Gothenburg, Uppsala, and Sundsvall), Denmark (Copenhagen), Latvia (Riga), and Estonia (Tallinn)

But aside from Europe, she has also been to…

North America: the US (New York, Washington DC, San Francisco, Sonoma, Monterey, Tahoe, LA, Orlando, and Tampa)

South AmericaBrazil (Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, and Iguacu) and Argentina (Buenos Aires)

Asia: all over the Philippines (as in all over, no exaggeration!), Thailand (Bangkok and Krabi), Cambodia (Siem Reap), Taiwan (Taipei, Tainan, and Kaoshiung), Japan (Tokyo), Singapore, and Hong Kong

Yep!  Cara surely takes the word “wanderlust” seriously if I may say.  In fact, the next big trips she’s planning and praying about include Turkey, Peru, and Egypt.  But even before those, she already has upcoming regional trips to Malaysia, Vietnam, and China (Beijing and Shanghai).

So if you want to know more about her adventures and travels, I highly suggest you visit her blog.  Trust me, it’s one of the best out there!  (I, personally, am a fan!  Heehee.)  So don’t hesitate and click HERE — now!!!

And there you have it!  Once again, I’d like to take this opportunity to say THANK YOU to Ms. Cara Manglapus for giving me some of her precious time and sharing with us her travels, especially in Europe! 🙂

And of course, see you again on the 12th of May to meet my next featured traveler(s) and read all about our “home” continent: ASIA!!!

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.

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Down Memory Lane, Gathered Thoughts, Mi Familia y Mi Amigos, Reviews, The World (TRAVEL)

traveled, TRAVELS, will travel

Look who has just been bitten by the TRAVEL BUG…

…OUCH! 😛

I’ve been to only six countries (including The Philippines!) as of press time (September 2011)…  And as much as it’s appropriate to add “unfortunately” at the beginning of the previous sentence (as in: “UNFORTUNATELY, I’ve been to only six countries so far…), well I’m not complaining.  Besides, I think of my “travel” glass as HALF-FULL, so I’ve nothing else to do but SMILE and BE THANKFUL…  Thankful for the opportunity, experiences, company…  Thankful for ALL MY TRAVELS — past, present, and future included! 😉

THE PAST

Australia

Sydney, Australia

Hong Kong

at the Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA)

Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Singapore

Singapore, Singapore

Thailand

Phuket, Thailand

(SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN) THE PAST AND THE PRESENT

Of course, my beloved homeland,
The Philippines

Baguio, Bataan (including Corregidor), Batangas, Bicol, Boracay (Aklan), Bulacan, Davao, Ilocos, Metro Manila, Palawan, Pampanga, Pangasinan, Subic, Tagaytay…  and many mooore!

Baguio

Boracay

Davao

Palawan
(I highly recommend visiting http://www.elnidoresorts.com/)

As for my FUTURE travels, my bucket list has all the answers! 🙂  Of course it’s just a general list of the countries I want to travel to and the things I want to do, but if we’re going to be MORE SPECIFIC, then take a look at SOME of these:

France

The Eiffel Tower (Paris, France)

The Palace of Versailles (Versailles, France)

Italy

Florence

Rome

Tuscany

Venice

Verona

Maldives

Conrad Hotel (Maldives)

The United Kingdom

Big Ben and the London Eye (London, England)

M&M’s World London

Kung hindi niyo parin alam kung BAKIT ko gusto magpunta dito, ay ewan ko nalang! Hahaha! 😛

University of St Andrews (St Andrews, Scotland)

Haaayy.  Those are SOME of the specific (and dreamy) places I want to see! 😀  If you know Patty Laurel…  Well, she’s basically one of my favorite bloggers (if not my most favorite!), and it’s actually her who inspired me to be more active in the blogging world!  PLUS, she’s a TRAVELER!  Nakooow, halos lahat ng nasa bucket list ko, napuntahan na niya!  Just check out her blog to find out what I’m talking about!  Anyway, I adore you, Idol Patty! 😉

Moving on, I just noticed that travelers like collecting keychains, magnets, PHOTOS (of course!), or any other souvenirs or trinkets of their travels…  Having said that, ME?  I prefer to think that I keep BLOG ENTRIES of my travels!  Sabay Weh?  Hindi nga?”  Wahahahaha!

Ah basta, you’ve already read the title of this entry and if you noticed, the last phrase is in the FUTURE TENSE!  Kaya my dear friend, you just WAIT and SEE… see the world with MEEE!  Gaaah, kinikilig na’ko sa “thought” palang na ‘yan!  Hihihi. 😛  Anyway, back to *serious mode*  EHEM!  EHEM!  EHEM!

So to my ever dearest friend THE WORLD, I can’t wait to have my adventures with you and explore and WRITE about your wonders!!!
See yoouuu SOON! 😀

XOXO,
The Lady 😉

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