Gone Home 2018

It’s my annual vacation again. Last year 2017, I went home and visited various countries such as Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and South Korea. This year, I had a quick trip to Japan and before I head back to the United States, I will also visit another country and another state of the US. Anyway, as my stay for 3 weeks in the Philippines, these were all my activities and I called this article, gone home 2018.

The whole time of me going home was spent meeting and setting up reunions with my relatives, friends and also went to have a weekend getaway with family in a world class resort. In my first week, my schedule was full of meeting with friends and relatives. Dining to different restaurants old and newly opened. These are the restaurants we dined:

  • SMOQUE Bistro + Cafe

SMOQUE Bistro + Bar is located at CPG East Avenue, along ACE Medical Center near Bool Basketball court. The name goes from Smoked and Barbecue foods. For me, the crispy pork knuckles was the cherry on top. I loved it so much that I ordered it twice. They also have platters which are good for big group of diners. For inquiries and reservations, call +63 918-300-8180 or visit their location during Tuesday til Sunday from 11AM to 2PM for lunch, and 6PM to 10PM for dinner.

Meatlover Platter with pulled pork burger, fries, steak, ribs, deep-fried pork
Crispy Pork Knuckles
Calamari
  • Boy Zugba

Boy Zugba is a chain of restaurants located mostly in Visayas and Mindanao area. It has branches in Cebu City, Iligan City, Davao and their main restaurant in Cagayan de Oro City. Boy Zugba centers on serving food with different varieties such as smoked, boodle, kinilaw, and many more. For more information, visit their site at boyzugba.com

Bandihadong Karne which consists of pork bbq, chorizo, and liempo
  • Monina RM Inn and Restaurant

Monina RM Inn and Restaurant is located in Tagbilaran North Road, Tubigon, Bohol with telephone number of +63 38-237-2890. The venue served as the location for my mini reunion with my relatives. Seeing them all coming, I forgot to take some photos of the food. But what I can say is the food were really good. We ordered crispy pata, lechon kawali, corn soup, grilled fish, and for dessert was a gallon of ice cream.

  • Lantaw Native Restaurant

Lantaw Native Restaurant just opened in Tagbilaran City last September. The location has good view of the sunset and Tagbilaran Bay. It was spacious, airy and the foods were good, a wide range of Filipino dishes and cuisine. The only downside about it that I can think of is they weren’t still equipped with credit card readers so, diners have to pay cash. Who pays cash these days? Lol. If you want to try Lantaw, visit their location at V.P. Inting Avenue, corner Mansasa-Dampas Road, Tagbilaran City, Bohol, Philippines or call them at this phone number: +63 38 427 2485.

Cordova Express
  • Gerry’s Grill

Gerry’s Grill Restaurant is located in Level 4 Cineleisure Centre, BQ Mall, CPG Avenue, Tagbilaran City 6300, Bohol, Philippines. This restaurant never fails me if I’m craving for Filipino dishes since it is within downtown. It is inside the mall so, after I shop or watch movies, then I can just head to Gerry’s Grill without having to leave the mall. In terms of food, they were well-seasoned and very delicious. If you want to dine with them, just visit their location or call them for reservations or questions at this phone number: +63 38 411 3164.

Lechon Kawali
Chopsuey

I didn’t just eat the whole time I was home. I also spent time with my family. I gave them a treat on going to a 5-star hotel in Panglao Island. We went to Henann Resort. I’ve been there one time few weeks after their soft opening. At that time, it was still only 50% operational. That is the reason why I wanted to go back and I brought my family with me. Check my previous blog when I first visited the Henann Resort.

Henann Beach Resort – Alona, Bohol

Henann Beach Resort still remained to be one of the resort hotels to visit and stay in Panglao Island. The location was perfect for sea lovers since it was right next to Alona Beach. They still have plenty of pools where guests will be confused on which one to dive in.

I Love Henann
Sea view of Alona Beach
Pool with Bars
More pools
Relax under the sun with umbrellas

There were more to the resort that meets the eye. Henann Beach Resort has spa service, and bountiful restaurants. I haven’t tried the spa but the foods in one of the restaurants were really delicious.

Kai Spa
Sea Breeze Cafe

The whole Henann Beach Resort premises was wide. It’s on 6.5 hectares property on the pristine shores of Alona Beach. But it wasn’t a problem since upon check-in, receptionist gave out map of the resort. In every corner of the resort, there were signage telling directions where is where.

Check-In Counter
Lobby
Directions within the resort

When it comes to rooms, we got the family room which was good for 6 people. It has 2 rooms; 3 full size beds and a queen size bed. It has one spacious bathroom and toilet. The room also came with a porch.

The first room with 1 queen size bed and 1 full size bed
The 2nd room with 2 full size beds
The toilet and bath

Henann Beach Resort has also villas for larger numbers of guests. It offers a lot of activities such as biking on the shores of the beach or downtown, sailing, or just enjoying the beach and pool. Due to the resort’s location, there were other activities but offered by independent providers not by the resort like snorkeling, island hopping, and etc.

For Villa Guest
Walkway to rooms
Picking flowers in early morning
Koi Pond

The whole time I spent during my gone home 2018 was great. I’ve gained some weight due to every night dining out. But the best experience I had was spending my time with my family. Seeing them smile and having fun was worth the treasure in the world. Next year, I might not be able to go back home since I have decided that it will be my mum visiting me here in the United States.

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Visa to the State of Japan

I’ve gone to East Asia. I’ve already been to South Korea and one other country popular in East Asia is, of course, the land of the rising sun, Japan. I have dreamt of visiting Japan when I was a kid. Thus, I made sure to go and visit the capital of Anime. I am currently holding a Philippine passport. For a Filipino citizen to enter the nation of Japan, he/she should have a visa.

Visa is a form of documentation issued by the nation’s government allowing the bearer to enter or leave that country.

Japan’s Transit Visa

Japan or officially called as Nippon-koku or literally the ‘State of Japan’ is an island country in East Asia. It is located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies off the eastern coast of the Asian mainland and stretches from the sea of Okhotsk in the north of the East China Sea and China in the southwest. The symbol that make up the nation’s name which mean, ‘sun origin’, that’s why it is called the Land of the Rising Sun. Japan lies in the Pacific Ring of Fire consisting of more than 6,000 islands. The largest islands are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku.

I have a layover in Japan for about 8 hours and I would rather go out of the airport and explore the city than staying inside the boarding gates for the whole duration of the layover. So, I have decided to get a transit visa to see Japan. Since I live in Ohio, I have to check online where I can lodge my application. I found out that I have to send my requirements and paper application to Consulate  General of Japan in Detroit, Michigan. Here are the following documents that I needed to mail:

  1. Valid Passport
  2. Visa Application Form
  3. One Passport-sized Photo to be attached to the Application Form
  4. Proof of Current Address in the States of Michigan or Ohio
  5. Proof of Legal Residency Status in the US
  6. Documentation Necessary to Enter the country after Japan
  7. Flight Itinerary
  8. Release of Liability
  9. Self-addressed envelop with tracking system

Since the Philippines and Japan have a travel agreement, thus, Filipinos don’t have to pay for visa fees if they stay in Japan less than 30 days. Another additional requirements are if your stay exceeds one night, you have to provide itinerary in Japan and bank statement.

I mailed my application on the 18th of September and the consulate called me on the 21st, telling me that I got the transit visa to visit the country. I received my passport with the visa pasted on one of the pages on the 25th of the same month. The whole application was fast. Now, my bags are packed to travel and I’m ready to have a transit trip to Tokyo.

Visa to the Commonwealth of Australia

It has been more than a month that I haven’t posted in my blog after migrating all my articles from my previous site. It also happened that the northern hemisphere of the world is under winter season and people tend to hibernate with this kind of weather. Thus, I ended up to be a home boy for quite awhile. Anyway, while I was under the roof of comfort of my apartment, my mind was somewhere else. My brain kept on wandering and planning on my next trip. Then, I opened my blogsite and checked the menus and discovered that I’ve only been to two continents still. I looked on the map of the world and has decided that my next trip will be somewhere south and in a different continent aside from Asia and North America. It was then finalized that I’ll be going to Australia. Since I am holding a Philippine passport, I need a visa to get to Australia and here is the process I needed to follow.

Visa is a form of documentation issued by the nation’s government allowing the bearer to enter or leave that country.

Australian Tourist Visa

Commonwealth of Australia is a country and sovereign state in the southern hemisphere, located on its own continent between the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean. Its capital city is Canberra and its largest city is Sydney. Australia is the sixth biggest country in the world by land area, and is part of the Oceanic and Australasians regions. Oceania or Australasia region is a region that includes Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, and several other island nations in the surrounding area.

Getting a tourist visa to enter the country of Australia is easy. As a start, travelers can lodge their application online which I also did by myself. You just have to have all the necessary documents in hand to finish your application within a day. Mine, it took me a week since I was also busy working and I have to go to the county library to have my paperwork scanned and sent to my e-mail for them to be ready to be attached as application documents. Once you have all the documents needed such as:
1. Passport Bio Page
2. Recent Passport-size Photo
3. National Identification Card (I am a legal permanent resident in the US, so, I have to add it to my application.)
4. Previous Travel Stamps in your Passport (It really helped a lot if you travel frequently.)
5. Travel Itinerary
6. Pay Slips
7. Bank Statements or Proof of Sufficient Funds (I included my credit cards.)
8. Visa Application Fee (It cost AUD140 for the application with AUD1.37 as handling fee. as of 03/08/2018)
Then, you are ready to follow these steps:

First, Find out what kind of visa you need.

Australian Visa application has different classes and subclasses. The main reason of your trip to the land down under will determine the appropriate visa application. It will also set the criteria you are eligible for applying a visa. Several choices are Visitor Visa (subclass 600), Partner Visa (subclasses 801 & 820) and many others. To find out what classification, you can visit the Department of Home Affairs site by clicking here.

Second, Create an ImmiAccount.

Apply online by visiting this site https://online.immi.gov.au/lusc/login and create an immiaccount. This is where you will put all the information. This is also where you are going to attach your documents and pay your application fee. Your account will be your source in getting updates on your application.

Third, Filling out the online application form.

Once you got your ImmiAccount, you can start filling out the online application form. Make sure to answer the questions and provide information that are true and correct. Information include personal data, travel dates, travel history, proof of sufficient funding for the trip, and many more.  If you plan to visit some of your friends, relatives, or family member, you are required to put their pertinent details.

Fourth, Attach the required documents.

To meet the requirements of your application, you need to attach your scanned paperwork. These paperwork are important such as passport pages, bank statements and financial capabilities, itinerary, visas from other countries, residence status in your home country, evidence of employment, letter of invitation from relatives or friends if you are visiting them, certified copy of birth certificate, and so on.

Fifth, Make a payment.

The last part after attaching the scanned documents is reviewing all the information that you put in the application. Once you submitted them, make a payment thru credit card. Credit card fees apply. The visa fee differs in the type of visa you applied for.

Sixth, Wait for the processing time.

It takes about 20 to 33 days to have your application reviewed but for the meantime, just wait. You can always visit your ImmiAccount for information on your visa application.

Processing Times

The whole process was easy. The platform of the online visa application was user friendly and straightforward. I lodged my application on the 8th of March, 2018. By March 16th, I got my granted visa letter from the Australian Government giving me a year validity to visit the country down under. Now, I am just waiting for an affordable airline ticket to check Australia off of my list of places I would love to visit.

Stunning Beach View of the Bahamas

I was in a Caribbean Cruise and the itinerary showed 2 days in the Bahamas exploring Half Moon Cay and Nassau. I’ve heard a lot about the Bahamas such as great beaches, top tourist destination in the Caribbean, and it has been a location for movies. Hearing those feedback, I was still doubtful since I came from an island with beautiful beaches in Bohol, the Philippines. But when I heard the overhead call that we arrived in Half Moon Cay, I was ecstatic. We needed to get to a smaller boat to get to the shore. When I got out and reached the Half Moon beach, I thought I was dreaming. Right infront of me was a stunning beach view of the Bahamas.

Half Moon Cay is one of the islands of the Bahamas. It is also known as the Little San Salvador island. It is a private island in the Bahamas only accessible by cruise ship. The island got its name for its crescent-shaped Half Moon Beach. Half Moon Cay  has luxury cabanas dot the beachfront that gives way to trail-lined country rich in birdlife. The island has this Stingray Cove that is a lagoon enclosure and is home to stingrays.

Welcome to Half Moon Cay

Fort San Salvador

Pirates Cove Plaza

Half Moon Beach

Stunning Beach View

Pirate Ship as restaurant/ bar

Half Moon Cay, the Bahamas

Half Moon Beach was surreal, it was like a heaven in earth for beach lovers like me. After spending almost whole day in the island, some of the guests and I have decided to go back to the cruise ship and call it a day but everytime I walked and almost get to the small boat, the beach kept on dragging me to take more photos. It was a picturesque image from a dream that came into reality. The next day in the Bahamas, it was scheduled that we will dock in Nassau.

I Love Bahamas

Bahamas skyline

Welcome to Nassau

The Atlantis – Nassau, Bahamas

Wherever part of the world, you will still find a Filipino restaurant even in the Bahamas.

Manila Grill

Nassau is the capital of the Bahamas and has been a popular hangout for pirates of the Caribbean, both historically and the Johnny Depp-type. The island also had a starring role in four James Bond films. It lies on the island of New Providence. Nassau is a popular cruise-ship destination. The city has a hilly landscape and is known for beaches too. The city retains many of its typical pastel-colored British colonial buildings such as the pink-hued Government House.

Columbus statue infront of the Government House

Government House Historical Mark

Government House

View from the Government House overlooking the Caribbean Sea

Providence House

Since Nassau is a town, there are also other sites to sightsee. A map is available for free at the tourist center. Here are the places that I have visited:

Queen’s Staircase signage

Queen’s Staircase

Queen’s Staircase is  commonly referred to as the 66 Steps. It was hewn out of solid limestone rock by slaves back late 1700s. It provided a direct route from Nassau to Fort Fincastle. The name of 66 Steps later was changed in honor of Queen Victoria who reigned in Britain for 64 years. Because the pathway that lead to the steps has been paved, the bottom step was buried and now, there are only 65 steps.

Fort Fincastle Sign

Fort Fincastle Historical Site

Fort Fincastle

Fort Fincastle, a shipshape

Prison Cell in Fort Fincastle

Fort Fincastle is one of Nassau’s fortifications built by Lord Dunmore during his term as Royal Governor. Fincastle stands out from Nassau’s other forts in its unique design, a shipshape. The fort was built on the highest point of the island, within view of Fort Montagu to the east and Fort Charlotte to the west. From the breathtaking vantage point, guests can easily imagine the excitement of the first sentry to sight an incoming ship, quickly hoisting the signal flags to pass the news along.

Nassau Public Library and Museum

Random Pink Building near Nassau Supreme Court

Monument

Supreme Court of Nassau

Supreme Court of Nassau in the Bahamas is located in New Providence. It is the highest court in the country. The building is of Neo-Georgian style and is similar in design to the Central Public Building  which is north of the building. It is in pink-hued building the same as the Government House.

Pompey Square

Pompey Square Marksite

Pompey Square is built to tell the heroic story of a slave named Pompey and to commemorate the official opening of the square. The square is the sure where the slaves were brought and sold. In 1830, Pompey led a revolt on the island of Exuma, in the Bahamas. Pompey along with other slaves were arrested and brought to Nassau. Rumors of freedom were instrumental in motivating their claim for land and setting up their own commonage property. In 1834, the passing of the Emancipation Act brought freedom.

Tiki Bikini Hut

Lighthouse view from Tiki Bikini Beach

Tiki Bikini Hut is a handy work of Byron who has made the little spot in Junkano Beach a treasure. The land area for Tiki Bikini Hut was not wide making it congested for there were a lot of tourists and beach lovers. The vibe was lively with guests drinking at the bar, swimming at the beach, having fun by playing beach volleyball. I stayed for less than an hour.

National Art Gallery of the Bahamas

Pirates of Nassau Museum and Gift Shop

Christ Church Anglican Cathedral

It was a scorching hot in Nassau that I got to spend only 3 hours while there. It was purely walking around downtown Nassau and with its heat, my energy depleted that fast. I went back to the cruise ship and bought some souvenirs on my way there.

The Commonwealth of the Bahamas is an archipelagic state within the Lucayan Archipelago. The Bahamas is the site of Columbus’ first landfall in the New World in late 1400s. It became an independent Commonwealth realm in 1973 retaining the British monarch. It is one of the richest countries in the Americas with economy based on tourism and finance. The Bahamas is also on the list of places that I would love to visit, sitting at number 6.

caribbean

My 2-day shore excursions in the islands of the Bahamas has broaden my taste of finding an amazing beach. Indeed, the Bahamas has the stunning view of fine and powdery sands, crystal clear water, blue skies and perfect weather. Half Moon Cay for me is the best beach in the world. Now, I’m open to find the next beach to topple Half Moon Cay from its current position at number 1.

For my vlog, check my YouTube channel or watch it here.

Sparkling Korea! ‘Seoul’

South Korea has been on my favorite list of countries to travel. I’ve been dreaming about it for the main reason that I’ve been hooked with Korean drama series on TV way back before I left the Philippines. It even made to the point that I was studying their language and on how to write the Korean alphabet. I did a lot of research and back in 2013, I went to South Korea Consulate to ask if it’s allowed to submit a Visa application thru them but unfortunately, they don’t and it should be done thru South Korean Embassy which is in the capital city of the Philippines, Manila. But this time, I got the opportunity to visit the country  since I got a Korean entry visa easily using my permanent resident status in t he United States. Its travel slogan before was used to be Sparkling Korea which really stuck in my head but since it took me almost half a decade to get there, so, now, I am calling my trip, Sparkling Korea! Seoul.

Seoul is the capital of South Korea. Seoul is by far the country’s largest city and one of East Asia’s financial and cultural epicenters. The city has a fascinating blend of ancient traditions and cutting-edge technology. It is also home to endless street food vendors, lively vast nightlife districts, and extraordinarily high-pressure educational system and serene Buddhist temples. Indeed Seoul is a city filled with stark contrasts. With its contrasts, Seoul has a long history of dynasty. It is widely visible on well kept temples and infrastructures.

Seoul skyline

When I got the chance to set foot in Seoul, I made sure to visit the most famous tourist location and movie location too, the Gyeongbokgung Palace.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Gyeongbokgung Palace is the largest royal palace built in 1935 and served as the main palace during Joseon Dynasty. It was built about 100 years before the Forbidden City in Beijing, China was built. But it was destroyed during Korea- Japan War in 1592 and restored in 1865. The palace is still considered as being the most beautiful and grandest of all palaces in South Korea.

sk05

Gyeongbokgung palace is wide and huge. It may take almost  a day to totally tour the whole palace grounds but every halls and rooms are different and is assigned to different positions and royalties during the Joseon Dynasty. Geunjeongjeon is the main throne hall and the most photographed location of all the palace grounds and is also famous for movies and Korean TV dramas. We only stayed there for almost 2-3 hours but we were running just to cover the main history of South Korea and the said palace. The tour guide was helpful and informative but we skipped some minor details and still got the chance to ask questions. After we were done in Gyeongbukgong palace, the tour bus went to other popular destination, the Insa-dong.

Insa-dong

Insa-dong is a famous traditional street, lined with a large number of antique shops and folk art galleries. It is a neighborhood of the Jongno-gu district of Seoul. Insa-dong was the largest market for antiques and artworks in Korea and it is still now or probably one of the largest markets.

While we were Insa-dong, we were introduced to this traditional Korean restaurant. The food choices were unfamiliar to me but I chose the beef bulgogi which is a  made up of thin sliced, marinated beef grilled on a barbecue or stir-fried in a pan in home cooking. I selected it coz I have tried it before and it was delicious but that beef bulgogi I got in that Korean restaurant was amazing and more tasty and delicious. I did enjoy dining over there. After we had lunch, we went to do some souvenir shopping. It was fun and I felt the Korean vibe.

As a conclusion of my Sparkling Korea! Seoul experience, it was one of the best trips I had. It was memorable not because of the location but because one of my dreams came to reality. I didn’t expect too much when I got to Seoul, I was only wishing to set foot in one of the progressive countries of East Asia, South Korea.

Check my YouTube channel and my vlog when I was exploring South Korea.

AirAsia ASEAN Pass Review

This is my review entry of my recent ASEAN trip using the AirAsia ASEAN Pass. It has been launched way back 2014. Before I left for the United States, I was eyeing to do an ASEAN tour and has been very interested to use the pass. I’ve been reading a lot of reviews and most of them were negatives so, I am making my own review based on the experiences I had.

AirAsia ASEAN Pass has two different kind of passes, the 10- and 20-credit passes. I bought the AirASEAN Pass for 10 credits costing USD160. Once I purchased the pass, it is valid for 1 year from the date I bought it or 30 days from the day I made my first redemption and 60 days for the 20-credit pass. Since I’ve been to Thailand, VietNam and Cambodia, the choices of countries to visit are cut in half. Thus, making it easier for me to decide since I also have a list of nation that I would love to see. I chose to visit Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore for these reasons;

kul38

Closer image of Petronas Twin Towers

Malaysia – due to the fact that it is the centerpoint of every flight and also the main hub for AirAsia. So, I can get really good flights spending only 1 credit.

img_7544

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan

Indonesia – for the main reason that my cousin wants to visit the famous tourist attraction, Bali, and;

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Merlion Park

Singapore – because I’ve been wanting to visit this place when I was still working back in the Philippines as a customer service representative.

This is how I allotted my credits to travel those countries.klI flew from Manila to Kuala Lumpur via different airlines since I got a really good deal with Cebu Pacific Air. Once I got to Kuala Lumpur, I spent my 3 credits to get to Bali then 3 credits to Singapore and the last 3 credits back to Cebu, making a total of 9 credits. I just made sure to check my flights early so I can have more choices to choose from. Seats are really limited so the earlier the booking, the better. After I chose my flights, I just pinned my bought credits to the chosen time and date of my flight and it’s automatically booked. The sad thing about it is the credits only pays the airfare so, other fees like travel tax, airline tax and airport fees are not included and it’ll be out of pocket expenses. But those fees are not that expensive.

airasia

I still have 1 credit for AirAsia ASEAN Pass.

As as summary, the pass is really great if you plan your trip ahead of time like 2-3 months. If you’re flexible with changing itineraries, your budget, your accommodation or places to stay then, you can save and have fun traveling the ASEAN countries. It is all about planning. So for my AirAsia ASEAN pass review, it was worth it and I got to save some money while having the trip of my life. Instead of spending those hard earned cash to airline fares and transportation, I got to spend it to tours, souvenirs, foods and etc. and of course, I got to take a photo of these picturesque places.

For full details, check AirAsia website at https://www.airasia.com/en/home.page?cid=1

Migrated to my new site at http://www.thelonetravelercarl.com/2017/11/16/my-airasia-asean-pass-review/