Wednesday, May 31, 2017

30 Places to Visit in Macau If You're Not a Casino Lover

At Ruins of St. Paul

Macau, Macau. An hour away from Hong Kong is another tourist destination in Asia - Macau. Usually a side trip or part of the "Hong Kong" adventure, Macau is a good get-go for people looking for extra fun.

Clueless about the place, I've always thought that it is only a big casino - like Las Vegas, but with Chinese characters. I did a few research, and a lot said that going there would give anyone a taste of European culture. With such curiosity of how things REALLY are in Macau, it gave me a reason to head there right away.

I was lucky enough to reach this place safely. Previous flights were canceled due to inclement weather. I thought my whole trip would be put to waste (I visited August of last year, might as well take note of its rainy seasons).

Strolling down the streets of Macau

Again, I'm telling you, I had no idea how things would be even before I reached my destination. My arrival was around midnight, and it gave me a beautiful sight of tall buildings and casinos. All were of different colors, and all looked fancy...

... However, I don't play cards.

So what do I do in Chinese Vegas? It felt like a big joke, but I know the best things in life are those unplanned. I only listed a few things in my phone to do here, but I neglected them and challenged myself to look for things that would surprise me.

I wish I knew Macau's websites, so I had an itinerary beforehand. And I won't let that happen to you, so here you go:

OR, if you're feeling lazy like me, go ahead and grab tour maps in the airports. They have a wide selection of maps written in different languages! Tourist-friendly, aye!

BUT, what's the point of reading this post? Yep. I listed down here the places you need to visit in Macau if you don't play poker. Hope that this article will be your ace of spades.

1. A-Ma Temple

The longest surviving building and oldest temple in Macau.
Location: Largo da Barra
Opening Hours: 07:00-18:00


2. Barra Square
Location: In front of A-Ma Temple


3. Moorish Barracks
This has an Islamic design, but surprisingly, this was built by an Italian architect, Cassuto.
Location: Largo da Barra
Opening Hours: 09:00-18:00


4. Mandarin's House
Former residence of the famous Chinese thinker, Zheng Guanying.
Location: No. 10 Antonio da Silva Lane
Opening Hours: 10:00-18:00 (closed on Wednesdays)


5. Lilau Square
Lilau is a Portuguese word that means 'mountain springs'. This used to be the main source of water in Macau. A place where apartment blocks are built in Portuguese style.


6. St. Lawrence's Church
One of the three oldest churches in Macau. Built in neo-classical style with hints of Baroque.
Location: Rua de Sao Lourenco
Opening hours: 10:00-16:00


7. St. Joseph's Seminary and Church
Built in Baroque style and has many similarities with St. Paul's Church. Houses a relic of the first missionary to East Asia.
Location: Rua de Seminario
Opening hours: 10:00-17:00


8. St. Augustine's Square
Brings together notable monuments such as St. Joseph's Seminary and Church, St. Augustine's Church, the Dom Pedro V Theatre, and Sir Robert Ho Tung Library. A traditional Portuguese streetscape it is.


9. St. Augustine's Church
Also known as "Long Song Miu" or "Temple of the Long-whiskered Dragon", this church was first constructed by a group of Spanish Augustinian priests as a seminary from wood in 1586, and later moved to Santo Agostinho Square in 1591.
Location: No. 2 Largo d Santo Agostinho
Opening hours: 10:00-18:00


10. Dom Pedro V Theatre
A commemoration built by the Portuguese for King Pedro V during the 1860s, now a place for staging plays and concerts.
Location: Largo de Santo Agostinho
Opening hours: (Theatre) 10:00-18:00 closed on Tuesdays
                            (Garden) 10:00-23:00


11. Sir Robert Ho Tung Library
Originally the residence of Dona Carolina Cunha, later on purchased by Sir Robert Ho Tung, a wealthy Hong Kong businessman. This was donated after his death and is now being used as a public library.
Location: No. 3 Largo d Santo Agostinho
Opening hours: 10:00-19:00 (Monday to Saturday)
                            11:00-19:00 (Sunday)


12. "Leal Senado" Building
Originally Macau's municipal office during 1784, it is now a library. The 1st floor takes the Biblioteca de Convento de Mafra as its model. It has a Southern European architectural style. It also holds China's first Portuguese copy of  "A Abelha da China".
Location: No. 163 Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro
Opening hours: (Gallery) 09:00-21:00(closed on Mondays)
                            (Garden): 09:00-21:00

13. Senado Square
The centre of Macau ever since.


14. Sam Kai Vui Kun Temple (Kuan Tai Temple)
Originally a meeting place for merchants long time ago.
Location: Rua Sul do Mercado de Sao Domingos
Opening hours: 08:00-18:00


15. Holy House of Mercy
This was founded by the first bishop of Macau in 1569. The first western-styled hospital in China. It is currently a museum.
Location: Largo de Senado
Opening hours: (Museum) 10:00-13:00, 14:00-17:30 (closed on Sundays & public holidays)

16. The Cathedral
One of the most important Catholic churches in Macau. Built as a dedication for the Virgin Mary in 1622.
Location: No. 1 Largo da Se
Opening hours: 07:30-18:30


17. Cathedral Square


18. Lou Kau Mansion
Used to be the residence of a prominent Chinese businessman named Lou Kau.
Location: No. 7 Travessa da Se
Opening hours: 09:00-19:00 (closed on Mondays)


19. St. Dominic's Square


20. St. Dominic's Church
The first church to be built in China. Built by Domonican priests in 1587.
Location: Largo de S. Domingos
Opening hours: 10:00-18:00

21. Ruins of St. Paul's
Almost everyone will tell you that you haven't been to Macau if you don't have a picture with the ruins. This is the facade of what remains of the Church of Mater Dei built in 1602-1640. This was part of St. Paul's College and was also the first western-styled university in the Far east.
Opening hours: (Museum of Sacred art) 09:00-18:00

22. Company of Jesus Square

23. Section of the Old City Walls
Walls built by the Portuguese for defense. What remains now is only a fraction of the original city walls.


24. Na Cha Temple
Built in 1888 as a dedication to Na Tcha in an attempt to halt the plague rampaging at the time.
Opening hours: 08:00-17:00

Credits:Trip Advisor

25. Mount Fortress
Used to be the heart of the Macanese defense network. Originally an altra, it was converted into a fortress by the Portuguese. It is currently known as Macau Museum.
Opening hours: (Fortress and garden) 07:00-19:00
                          (Museum) 10:00-18:00 (closed on Mondays)

26. Camoes Square


27. Casa Garden
Used to be the summer residence of the Portuguese aristocracy, politicians and Manuel Pereira, a wealthy merchant. It is now the headquarters of the Oriental Foundation.
Location: Beside Camoes Square
Opening hours: (Gallery) 09:30-18:00 (closed on weekends and on special holidays)
                          (Garden) 09:30-18:00


28. Protestant Cemetery
It was Macau's first protestant cemetery. Buried here are hundreds of officials from Britain, USA, Germany and Netherlands.
Location: Beside Casa Garden
Opening hours: 08:30-17:30


29. St. Anthony's Church
It is one of the three oldest churches in Macau. The church we see today is a 1930s reconstruction of the original church.
Location: Largo de Santo Antonio
Opening hours: 07:30-17:30

Credits: Trip Advisor

30. Guia Fortress
Built in 1622. It is the highest point in Macau. Lighthouse not open to the public.
Opening hours: (Fortress) 09:00-17:30
                            (Chapel) 10:00-17:00 (no photographs allowed)


Listed are only 30 spots you can visit in Macau. You might get interested in trying Macau Sky Tower, entering the casinos for picturesque moments (The Venetian and Galaxy are jaw dropping), and strolling down the streets of Taipa village and have a taste of their mouthwatering burgers! Also, don't forget to buy Macau's famous egg tarts! There are a lot of stalls selling them, but I recommend Koi Kei Bakery. If you miss this out on Macau, you can actually buy them in Hong Kong too. And oh, don't forget, Macau is known for its pastries! It's heaven down there. They have a lot of free tasting and for sure you'll take home boxes of biscuits!

I think I had a dozen of this in one sitting. That's how delicious they are!

I personally don't recommend riding taxis in Macau because it's really gonna cost you, however, take note that there are free shuttles from the airport and around Macau mainland. Feel free to ask the locals what are the bus numbers and you'll save a couple of bucks.

I hope that this post will help you getting around Macau. All credits to Macau World Heritage ( for the detailed info. Happy travels! ***

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The 2, 500 Php Mark - Traveling Yogyakarta

Fig. 1: Prambanan Temple at a glance

Yogjakarta, Java, Indonesia. While a lot of my backpacker friends are in Bali and Jakarta, I visited my co-worker here in Yogyakarta.  Often called "Jogja", this place may not be popular to a lot of people but it's worth the miles! It's an hour away from Jakarta by plane, and it's a paradise of good food and interesting culture.

Aside from my co-worker, my Couchsurfing family took care of me. Having local friends is the BEST way to budget everything. And they can help you bargain too! Surprisingly, the CS community in Jogja is super active! They'd be glad to tour you around the city anytime!

So where do I start? 


1. Visit Prambanan Temple

Fig. 2: Early bird at Prambanan Temple!

Be awed by the magnificent Hindu temple, listed as one of Indonesia's UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Candi Rara Jonggrang, or Candi Prambanan. This was built during the 9th century for Trimutri - God is the "Creator" (Brahma), "Preserver" (Vishnu), and "Destroyer" (Shiva). If you didn't rent a motorcycle, you can ride the Transjogja to reach this place. 

Fig. 3: Climb up, enter and you'll see the gods inside.

Aside from climbing the temple, you can also do archery and deer feeding in the area. The area has a museum and restaurant inside too. If you're lucky, you may witness cultural dances if there's an event. 

Fig. 4: Deer feeding!
Price list:
Local: 33, 000 IDR/ 124 Php/ 2 USD (I look like a local, and I'm with my local friends, I got the same ticket price!)
Foreign: 252, 000 IDR / 940 Php / 19 USD

Student Discount:
Local: 17,000 IDR/ 63 Php/ 1 USD
Foreign: 252, 000 IDR / 940 Php / 19 USD

Deer Feeding - FREE. But you have to buy the Kangkung, that's 2,000 IDR/ 7 Php/ 0.1 USD

2. Hike Mt. Merapi 

Originally, this was part of my bucket list. Sadly, it was raining cats and dogs when we planned to go here. BUT, this is one of the main reasons why I will go back to Jogja! And oh, take note, this is an active volcano. I have a video which I took when I was on board going back to Jakarta.

3. Learn Jogja's History at Kraton

This used to be a palace for Sultans before, and believe it or not, it looks good as new! You will learn every single detail about Jogja's history here. You will also witness cultural songs and dances as you enter. There are a lot of souvenirs sold outside the palace. But the best part is trying your luck between two gigantic Banyan trees. These are located South after Kraton, and myth says that if you are able to get past through it blindfolded, you will get whatever you are wishing for.

Fig. 5: At Kraton Palace

Fig. 6: This is real gold!

Fig. 7: Gongs used for rituals
Price list:
Local: 5, 000 IDR/ 19 Php/ 0.4 USD (I look like a local, and I'm with my local friends, I got the same ticket price!)
Foreign: 12, 500 IDR / 45 Php / 0.9/ USD 

Guide (optional): 30, 000 IDR/ 112 Php/ 2.2 USD
Photo Permission: 1,000 IDR ea/ 4 Php/ 0.08 USD

4. Jalan Maliaboro and Pasar Beringharjo Shopping!

Fig. 8: It's shopping time!

You don't want to go home without shopping for Batik! Aside from pants, tops, and other fancy clothes available here, you will surely fancy the affordable jewelries and home decorations that they have! This is where your local friends come handy! Bargaining!!!

Fig. 9: Words aren't enough to describe these!

And when you travel, you don't just explore places, you also taste the local food! Indonesia has a lot to offer and will surely give you a gastronomic experience! You will never regret tasting their dishes.

And after all that is said and done, what's left for you to do is visit Jogja! I missed out 2 places, Borobudur and Taman Sari but I will make a blog once I come back (with my fiance). If ever you book your flight going to Jogja, don't miss them out. :)

Special thanks to Jed Resurreccion, and of course, to my Couchsurfing sisters, Mareta Yolanda and Irani Kurniawati.

Round trip flights from Jakarta going to Yogyakarta is around 3,000 Php/60 USD/ Rp 802, 800 above depending on availability. Hotels are affordable too (just in case you don't have a host family). For transportation, you can rely on Uber Motor or Grab Motor. And oh, Go-Jek is there too! (did not know that even your masseuse can be fetched by Go-Jek!). Traffic is a bit heavy in the city so I don't advise you to take a taxi. Pocket money I spent is less than 2,500 Php (including my transportation, food, clothes, gifts, Jakarta side trip and all my souvenirs). Indonesia has a low cost of living and is recommended for budget travelers. Happy traveling!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

What I Wish I Gave Myself This Christmas

Santa Rosa, Laguna, Philippines. It is the season of giving! And more often than not, aside from empty pockets, knowing what to give has been one of the biggest dilemmas we always face. Right? So I will take advantage of this moment to tell you what I think is the best present you can give yourself and your loved ones!

... and I'll keep the chase short: TRAVEL INSURANCE. Don't get me wrong, I'm not promoting anything in particular, but I'm raising the awareness that as travelers, regular or not, we all need one. Life is unpredictable, and I'm not saying that we should expect the worst, however, even though it sounds cliche, prevention is always better than cure. May it be a business or leisure trip, we can't control e v e r y t h i n g. Nobody said it will be definitely easy traveling in a different province, city or country. And hey, ho! Hi to all solo backpackers like me, let's keep ourselves safe. Always

If you love someone, protect them!

Actually, it doesn't cost millions to have a travel insurance. There are travel insurance companies that offer their plans for as low as Php 50.00/year. Yes, you've read it right, it's that affordable. That covers both domestic and international. But for some countries like Europe, United States and United Kingdom, they are quite strict with their tourists' insurances. They have approved insurance companies, so do a research beforehand if you're about to set foot on these places. Not all travel insurance plans are the same, so don't be too over confident if you were able to obtain one. Read the coverage (how much is the principal rate and if it's just local, international, or both) and see if it suits you. Take note that plans can be yearly, monthly, or even be a specific number of days that you are traveling. Be smart and know what's best for you.

Here are some reasons why we need a travel insurance*:

1. Protection
You are not in your own country. If you encounter issues with your health, your Mom can't definitely be there in a snap! Remember that medical treatments in some countries cost more than you know. You don't want to be stranded in a hospital, don't you?

And when I say protection, this includes your luggage. Let's say you work wherever you are (okay, that sounds like me) and your luggage has been lost, damaged, or stolen, you are responsible for everything. But with an insurance, these can be reimbursed. 

By the way, some insurance plans offer 24-hour emergency assistance. So if you travel solo, and if you are in danger, you know who to call. 

2.  Emergency
Just in case you badly needed to be transferred to another hospital, or if you have to come home because of an urgent matter, having an insurance can save you. 

Also, disruptions such as delays in flights, cancellation or even things that get out of control are covered by some insurance companies. Some airlines offer such plans even while you're booking your flight.

3. Thrill-seekers
A lot of travel insurances don't cover risky activities, but some companies, like WorldNomads, believe that we "live for adventure." If you're a dare-devil, might as well check plans as such so that you'll be worry-free when you're into some action!

There are a lot of travel insurances to check out- WorldNomads, LonelyPlanet, Malayan, Pioneer, Travel Sure, and a whole lot more! Before enrolling yourself or a friend, it's best that you know what's suitable and what plans fit the most for all of you. Having an insurance secures you and throws all your frets away. To travel is to live, but to travel safe is a must. Your life matters most! Happy holidays and cheers to another year of adventures!

*policies differ per travel insurance company. Please contact your agent about it.

P.S.: I got myself an insurance this Christmas :) Title for attention.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Paragliding at Carmona Flysite

Fig. 1: Paramotor experience

Carmona, Cavite, Laguna, Philippines. It was the 5th of December last year, 2015, that I had my first paragliding experience. At first, I was bombarded with thoughts like "Can I make it?", "What if I fall?", "Will I survive?" and the list goes on. Nevertheless, I still tried it. 

Fig. 2: The best part: meeting new friends!

I accepted FlyXtreme Adventure Philippines and Paragliding School's invitation and joined a group of thrill-seekers. The fly-site is located at Carmona Ranch, Cavite. Since we had members from Manila, we all decided to meet at Alabang. The transportation is actually part of the package you can avail from FlyXtreme, but just in case you have an errand and you will be late:

A.) Private Vehicle: (recommended)
1. Take Southern Luzon Expressway
2. Exit at Carmona
3. Alight at national road going to GMA and you will see some signage going to Carmona racetrack.
4. After passing by Carmona racetrack, you will see a passageway (might something you can miss, so ask the locals to pinpoint it to you) going to the upper part of the ranch.

B.) Public transportation
1. Go to Buendia or Cubao, ride a bus going to Binan. Ask if it's exiting at Carmona.
2. After the exit, you can hop off and ride a jeepney going to GMA. Tell the driver to drop you off at Carmona racetrack. The problem is, the area is vast. You have to enter the ranch and trek going to the fly-site. You can ask some tricycle drivers at the ranch and negotiate if they can bring you there.

Fig. 3-4: You will undergo workshops before your attempt

Nobody wants to fall without having the assurance that someone will catch you, right? In paragliding, you never have to worry. You actually have to fall, before you can fly. It might be frustrating to discuss physics here in my post, so I'd rather leave that to the experience you will have. You don't have to worry because you will undergo a workshop session before you can try paragliding.

Fig. 5: Prayers, dear!

The school offers solo and tandem. But I must say, go for tandem paragliding. You will be accompanied by a licensed para-glider and you'll surely enjoy the view. Total damage:

Weekdays: 2,500 php
Weekends/Holidays: 3,500 php

Fig. 6: What did I get after falling? New friends to fly with.

Trying paragliding is somehow a step closer to skydiving. And yes, FlyXtreme also offers skydiving in different areas here in the Philippines. I know you're so much interested now, so I'll end my post with their contact details. Try it and see for yourself!

Contact person:
Michael Vincent 
FlyXtreme Adventure Philippines and Paragliding School
09063225304 09178980284