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

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Falling for Hulugan Falls

Fig. 1: Hulugan Falls from a distance


Hulugan Falls, Luisiana, Laguna, Philippines. Who says falling in love has to be expensive? Well, not at all the time! Prep your bags and have a getaway that will surely capture your hearts. I know the cold season is just around the corner, but hey, our hearts don't need to be frigid too.






If you'd like to have a rewarding experience of seeing Hulugan falls, the best months to visit are actually December-May. Rest assured, you don't have to worry much about the rain ruining your trip. Especially that the route to Hulugan falls, when it rains, can be a bit messy and difficult to trek (regardless of the rain, be on proper foot wear). However, if you could risk a little, June-August can actually be more surprising! The falls looks magical with more water pouring down after the rainy season.

HOW TO REACH THE AREA:

A. PRIVATE VEHICLE
Well, it's easier to have a car. The area doesn't have lockers for your baggage, so if you have a car, it's a plus. It's a 3 hour drive away from Manila. 

1. Take the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and exit at Calamba.
2. Take the national road, and you will pass by different towns (Los Banos to Pagsanjan). Before you get to the town proper of Cavinti, turn right to Cavinti-Luisiana road
3. Look for a signage that says "Hulugan Falls". This might be difficult to notice so keep an eye on it. 
4. You will see a long road once you see the Hulugan Falls signage. You can ask any local to guide you going to "Bahay ni Kapitan". You will pay the Tourism Fee (P20) after registering.

B. PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

1. Go to Cubao or Buendia and ride a bus going to Santa Cruz (P140)
2. Ride a jeepney going to Lucena and tell the driver to drop you off at San Salvador (P30).
3. You will see a long road once you see the Hulugan Falls signage. You can ask any local to guide you going to "Bahay ni Kapitan". You will pay the Tourism Fee (P20) after registering.


Time duration of trek: 30 minutes - 1 hour depending on your pace.






THINGS TO TAKE NOTE: First, there's NO FIXED PRICE for the tour guide. But please, be generous enough to give a good amount. Next, if you want to do overnight, you'll pay P50 (bring your own tent). If you feel hungry, there are food stalls around the area. Lastly, there are houses where you can rinse after the long trek, so you don't have to worry going home muddy (P10).


This can be a tiring activity but you'll surely enjoy it! Perfect for weekday warriors (yes, not all people have weekend day offs, right?!) and perfect for those avoiding the weekend rush. What makes this trip more appealing is the budget damage- for less than P500, you get to fall in love with Hulugan falls. ***






Friday, November 18, 2016

Fukuoka Guesthouse Little Asia Kokura's Review

Fig. 1: Fukuoka Guest house Little Asia Kokura's reception

Kitakyushu-shi, Fukuoka, Japan. Visiting Japan is no joke- so, being good with your budget plan is recommended. Whether you know someone there or not, having emergency cash comes in handy! Yen might be low when it comes to conversion, but the cost of  living in this country is something that you should never underestimate. The good thing is, everything's worth it! From the transportation system, food, museums, Anime and Manga, people-name 'em! So after a long day, what will you need? A good night sleep!

When it comes to traveling, you might think that having a bed is all that matters as long as you're able to explore the area. Well, that's a fact. But, why be tight on budget if you can look for a good place with an affordable price? Right?

I checked Booking.com, and I was actually looking for a traditional type of place to stay. There were a lot, however, none can cover my whole duration of stay that time (I went there during Halloween week, and cultural day was also held the same week). Since I have no plans of transferring hostels to another, I searched further. There I found Fukuoka Guesthouse Little Asia Kokura. I found it strategic because one of my targets was Kokura Castle!





Fukuoka Guesthouse Little Asia Kokura
1-5-15 Sakaimachi, Kokurakita-ku | Nakamichi Bldg 4F, Kitakyushu 802-0005, Fukuoka Prefecture


Local name 福岡ゲストハウス リトルアジア小倉
Local address 〒802-0005小倉北区堺町1-5-15中道ビル 4階 
NOTE: Keep the local address! Just in case you don't speak Nihongo and you're having a hard time looking for it, ask! Keep a screenshot of the address, I know this will help.

How to reach the area:
From Fukuoka International Airport  > Transfer to Fukuoka Domestic Airport (bus, free of charge) > Take the subway going to Hakata Station (¥260) > Take shinkansen (bullet train) going to Kokura (¥2,110) or take the local train (which is cheaper), but that's going to take you an hour or so.
After you pass through Kokurajyo guchi, go along the monorail. You will find Kitakyushyu bank with a yellow mark on the left side of Heiwadai station's monorail. Turn left, walk into small alley (after a big car park). You'll find the hostel on the left side. It has a small sign, and is located at the 4th floor. Directions might be hard to digest, but I'm telling you, it's easier when you're there already.


CONS:

✘ Located in the red light district
✘ If you have an itinerary focused on Hakata and Fukuoka city, this might be the wrong place for you. Transportation budget back and forth will surely be affected
✘ Not much to see except Kokura Castle, Japanese Garden, Matsumoto Seicho Museum, Aru-Aru City (for Manga and Anime lovers), and Cha-cha Town. 

Fig. 3: Manga Area
Fig. 2: Area going to comfort room





















PROS: 
✔ Affordable price
✔ Has lockers 
✔ Has rooms strictly for girls - feels safe if you're a female solo backpacker like me!
✔ Free WiFi
✔ Non-smoking rooms
✔ Has a lot of comfort rooms (blow dryer and curler available)
✔ Free use of laundry machines
✔ Has a cool dining and sofa area- with PlayStation, guitar, television, Manga
✔ Free coffee and tea
✔ Free usage of refrigerator
✔ Shampoos, soap and even facial wash all for free
✔ A lot of hawkers nearby! Udon and other food at a good price
✔ Recycle shops every where (e.g. charity shops, ukay-ukay, pre-loved shops)




Fig. 4: Dining-sala area

Yu, the receptionist, will try her best to relay all necessary details you have to know. There are also posters with instructions (English) on areas that are frequently visited. Here's one:

Fig. 5: An example of the usual posters seen inside the hostel


The rooms are really clean. You have an option to choose your room- whether it's a mixed room (female/male), female, male and even with sharing, there are options. You can get bunk beds, or get a room for two or three. Bunk beds are spacious and are like capsule hotels. Inside one, there's a mini lamp shade and mini table. Comforter, sheets, pillows are provided as well. And oh, hangers for your clothes too!

Fig. 6: Sorry for my messy area

Fig. 7: Locker area

Fig. 8: Indoor slippers

Fig. 9: Hello, Winter!

So I stayed here for 5 days and 4 nights and got it for a good deal of ¥9, 200 only (roughly P4, 150.) Who said getting a decent place to stay has to be very much expensive? I have no regrets staying here and will surely come back! Fukuoka Guesthouse Little Asia Kokura, even if it's located in the red-light district never made me feel unsafe. It was close to feeling at home! 

Overall rating:



 










 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Applying For Japan Visa




Makati, Philippines. It was a sunny afternoon during that day. I'm sweating all over as I rode the MRT going to Ayala. My stomach was full of butterflies. I arrived at Dusit Thani and went upstairs to claim my passport. My heart was pounding as the receptionist took my receipt. He handed out my passport and I turned my back, too nervous to check the results. I opened it, and my heart was filled with joy when I saw cherry blossoms on print.

This was my first time applying for a visa. I know, I know, yes it was really nerve-wracking. I made this post because a lot e-mailed me. So let me keep your hopes high. I am a free-lancer, I have no guarantor (I was invited to teach Japanese students, but I don't want to undergo the hassle of submitting extra documents so I applied with No Guarantor) and yes, my visa was approved.


So let's make sure the steps will be easy to understand. Here are the steps as follows:

1.) Know your TYPE of Visa to know your requirements.

Yes sweetheart. Aside from knowing if you can apply for a SINGLE-ENTRY (meaning you can enter Japan once, with a maximum length of 15 days of stay) or MULTIPLE-ENTRY visa, Applicant with no guarantor VS. Applicant with guarantor has different documents to submit. Check them below:


A.) Visa Application with NO GUARANTOR 

  1. Philippine Passport. - Make sure it is up to 6 months valid, and has blank pages (to be sure, at least 3.)
  2. Visa Application Form. (Download the form here and read the Sample Visa Application Form).
    Make sure that your hand writing is legible! If it's possible for you to have your answers printed (you can use a PDF Annotator), that's much better.
  3. Photo 2 x 2 white background
  4. NSO Birth Certificate issued within one year. (You can't fool them. Our NSO copies have serial numbers at the bottom part which states the date it was published.)
    For late registration or unreadable NSO, submit the following:
    a) Certificate of baptism.
    b) School report cards/school record form 137.
    c) Graduation albums/school yearbook.
  5. Marriage Certificate, if applicable. Issued within one year.
  6. Daily Schedule in Japan. (Download the form)
  7. Proof of income
    a) ITR Form 2316 from previous year or the year before the previous if it has not been issued yet.
    b) If you have your own business, submit your Business Registration issued by DTI or also known as DTI Permit.
  8. Certificate of Employment if you have one 
  9. Bank Certificate (please remember that a bank certificate is different from a bank statement)

B.) Visa Application with Japanese Guarantor

You have to submit documents 1-9, plus:
  1. If visiting a friend, documents or photos etc. *** This is not required if visiting a family member. Text/Chat conversations are okay, and provide at least 2 photos.
  2. Invitation Letter completed and signed by the Japanese Guarantor. (Download the form)
  3. Guarantee Letter completed and signed by Japanese Guarantor. (Download the form)
  4. Residence Certificate (Juminhyo) issued within 3 months.
  5. Family Registration (Koseki Tohon) issued within 3 months.
  6. Proof of Income:
  •  Kakuteishinkokusho Hikae or Bank Certificate (Yokin Zandaka Shomeisho)
  •  Income certificate (Shotoku Shomeisho) from City Hall
  •  Tax return certificate (Nouzeishomeisho: Form2) from Tax office






C.) Visa Application with Non-Japanese Guarantor

You have to submit documents 1-9, plus:
  1. If visiting a friend, documents or photos etc.*** This is not required if visiting a family member. Text/Chat conversations are okay, and provide at least 2 photos.
  2. Invitation Letter accomplished and signed by the non-Japanese Guarantor. (Download the form)
  3. Guarantee Letter accomplished and signed by the non-Japanese Guarantor. (Download the form)
  4. Photo copy of  the valid Residence card (both sides)
  5. Photocopy of his/her passport (including  pages of status items,  records of entry/departure, and of residence permit.)
  6. Certificate of residence with full details except for Individual Number (“My Number”) and Resident Record Code (please censor)
  7. Proof of Income:
  •  Kakuteishinkokusho Hikae or Bank Certificate (Yokin Zandaka Shomeisho)
  •  Income certificate (Shotoku Shomeisho) from City Hall
  •  Tax return certificate (Nouzeishomeisho: Form2) from Tax office

 NOTE: Just in case you lack any of the documents, you can submit a letter of explanation addressed to Japan's Embassy. I won't attach a template because I believe it has to be PERSONAL. Just be honest why you lack one. In my case, I haven't filed my taxes yet (I shifted from a consultant position to an ESL coach/blogger post) and I was not able to submit an ITR and COE (because, well, I'm a freelancer, technically!)

2.) Submit requirements to an accredited agency.

Yes, they have accredited agencies. The prices for visa application differ! I chose Friendship Travel and Tours located at 3rd floor, Dusit Thani. To check the rest of the agencies, click this link.


3.)  Chill and wait.

You have no choice but wait. Usually it takes 2-3 business days. The agency will call you when to claim your passport back.



FAQS:
Q: Does my bank amount matter? Do they require a specific amount before they approve my visa application?
A: Yes, it does! They are just concerned- they can't let a friend visit their country without sufficient money to support him/herself. But they don't require a specific amount. I've got friends who have  hundreds of thousands in their bank accounts yet got declined, and I've got friends who have around P50,000 yet got approved. My tip? Write an itinerary that matches your budget. If you have P50,000 in your bank, don't expect that you can have Tokyo Disneyland, then climb Mt. Fuji, then go to Hokkaido after. Be realistic.


Q: Will I know why I was declined?
 A: Sadly, no. So please, take your requirements seriously.


Q: If I get declined, how long will it take before I can submit an application again?
 A: 6 months.


Q: Should I include my plane ticket, hotel reservation, etc. in my application?
A: You may. I included my plane ticket and booking (you can use Booking.com, free cancellation hehe) school ID, registrar form,  and even the certificate of the house I bought to show that I have strong ties or reasons of coming back to the Philippines. (Specially that my clients are Japanese)


Basically, these are all the steps. But if you want to know more about it, visit Embassy of  Japan in the Philippines' website (click to view). If you're not a Filipino, you may have different documents to submit so please check the Japan Embassy's website of your country. Might as well check if your country is qualified to visit Japan visa-free. :)


I hope this blog post helps. If you've got any questions, please feel free to comment, or shoot me a message through e-mail. You can subscribe to my newsletter by entering your e-mail at the right panel of this site. Hoping to hear from you soon! ***







Saturday, November 5, 2016

An Escape From the Metro- Masasa Beach

 
Fig. 1: Majestic sunset at Masasa Beach

Masasa, Tingloy, Batangas, Philippines. Life can be really be stressing. Working 5 days a week or more, going to school and running after requirements, and the list goes on. We all somehow wish to have an escape from these daily routines.


However, thinking of having even a short vacation means having expenses too, right? We usually would burn our butts sleeping on coaches instead of running after majestic sunsets. But who said we can't do this on a tight budget?!


There's an adulterated beach located in Masasa, Tingloy, Batangas. It offers pure serenity as you spend the night there. The place is not crowded, and the locals enjoy spend time chit-chatting with visitors. The beach is a total get-away from the metro.

So let's get things working! You can actually reach the place with a P500 budget if you're from Manila, Cavite, Laguna (and/or areas nearby). But allot a thousand for your food. You can bring your cooking stuff and be a chef for a night. Grilling some fish and barbecues might complete your night, or toasting a marshmallow might give you a good night, sweet dreams sleep.

Break down:

(Transportation Fees)
1. Take a bus going to Batangas Grand Terminal. Price differs from whichever areas you are. We came from Laguna and we took a bus in Balibago. Manila and Alabang has a lot of buses that have routes going to Batangas too. Bring your student IDs if applicable. Price starts from P102-150.

2. From Batangas Grand Terminal, look for jeepneys going to Mabini. Tell them to drop you off at Talaga Port. Usual travel time is about 45 minutes - 1 hour. Price is P37.

3. From Talaga Port, ride a boat going to Tingloy Island. Price is P85.

Take note that they have cut-offs for boats going to Tingloy island. Earliest is around 10 AM, last trip is around 3 PM.

You will REALLY have an overnight vacation here because the boat schedule from Tingloy island going back to the port is from 6 AM to 9 AM only. Why? They make sure they get P5,000 a day whenever. They can make arrangements for you- if other visitors would like to go home, you can all talk about dividing the P5,000 mark price.


If you explore the area, you can discover places to have some jump-off sessions. They may not be as high, but can be fun. The place has a lot of sea urchins, so if you'd like to try them out, catch them!

You can opt to do camping or rent a place (price is negotiable depending on how you bargain with the locals). Usually, tourists prefer bringing a tent. If you need gas, food and drinks, stores are available too.

Going solo? If you're looking for a place to reflect, this is a good catch. If you're into winning friends, it's a nice place to do so too. This doesn't get flocked with a hundred of tourists, usually, less than 25 tourists stay on the island.

The best feature? The island dogs! They are so lovable!


Sharing some pics from our trip:







You don't really need to have a long vacation. It doesn't have to be very far. It doesn't even have to be very expensive. Sometimes, a short vacation filled of good memories can take all the stresses that you feel. These memories, in return, will fuel you up to get motivated again. ***