Friday, January 31, 2014

Photos from Our Winter Mountain Trek to Huangshan, China

As it usually goes with me and my travels, it only takes a photo, a good one, to compel me to get my gears running. A year ago, I came across this post by Fiona Reilly of Life on Nanchang Lu, a travel and food blog I avidly follow. The first of her photos from a snowy Huangshan (Yellow Mountain), located in Anhui, China, did it for me. And then came another photo. And another. Wanderlust fully ignited, there was only one more thing to do: Go.

So it was really lucky that a month before the weekend leading up to my birthday, the same weekend I was planning to go to Huangshan National Park, I discovered some fellow Pinoy travel bloggers were headed there, too. Itineraries adjusted and I ended up tagging along with them. Great decision.

China: Lotus Peak, Huangshan, Anhui
Visitors on Turtle Peak look out towards Lotus Flower Peak. With an elevation of 1,873 meters above sea level, Lotus Flower Peak is the highest point in Huangshan National Park.

From Shanghai, I and my travel companions Ron, Agnes, Chyng, Dong, and Lauren headed west to Anhui province, took a cable car car ride, and began trekking on foot through snow and fog in Huangshan National Park. As most of us grew up in the tropics, the freezing cold proved to be a challenge. The confusing mountain trails and poor visibility certainly did not help. You can read about our unexpectedly difficult trek here: A Wintry, Snowy Mountain Trek to Huangshan, China.

Today though, let me present the photos I took the following couple of days, when weather was definitely better, as we walked around exploring Huangshan National Park.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Wintry, Snowy Mountain Trek to Huangshan, China

The tunnel provided some respite from the biting cold outside. This concrete, man-made structure stretched a few meters up through the slope of a mountain. Posted on the tunnel walls were photos of these same mountains taken when weather was better, more tolerable. Up ahead outside stood a building.

I took my time climbing up the tunnel to prolong my being shielded from the snowy fog. We had been walking for almost an hour then, fully exposed to the freezing breeze which, at times, became frigid winds. The cold dried out my eyes, numbed my face, and turned my hair white (apparently from the temporary loss of melanin). We reached the building at the end of the tunnel hoping that it was one of the hotels on top of these mountains. It wasn't. Rather, it was a broadcast tower.

Weather outside was worsening and dark fast approaching. We did not get decent sleep last night and we had been traveling all day just to get here. Yet there was still more than an hour of walking to do.

Trekking through Huangshan, China would be harder that I expected.

Huangshan, Anhui, China
Huangshan in Anhui, China

Friday, January 24, 2014

Foodie Friday: Pad Kra Pow (Stir-Fried Meat with Thai Holy Basil)

(We all know I love to eat, so you know I am not kidding around when talking about food. On Fridays, let me torture myself and anyone who might stumble upon this travel blog with a photo of a delicious food I had in my travels. This week, Foodie Friday features my definition of Thai comfort food: Pad Kra Pow, or Stir-Fried Meat with Thai Holy Basil.)

Pad Kra Pow
Pad kra pow, or stir-fried meat with thai holy basil. Notice the two cups of iced water. It is by default very spicy.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

That One Time I Got Lost Trying to Find a Panda, so I Went to IKEA Instead

Getting lost seems to be a recurring theme in my travels. On one hand, getting lost is one of the best ways to truly get to know a travel destination. Walking around direction-less brings you to places you would not encounter otherwise. On the other hand, aimless exploration does not really work when you need to get to a specific place in mind.

Case in point: I missed seeing the most lovable creature in the world—the giant panda—in the city they have the utmost celebrity status, Chengdu.

But let's back up a bit.

Aren't giant pandas the cutest? Yes, they are. Look at that face!
By Paul Wolneykien in Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Thursday, January 16, 2014

There Ain't No Party Like a Dumpling Party Because a Dumpling Party Is Chengdu-licious

(Yes, I went there. What of it?)

Light rain began trickling down as I was walking around one of the old quarters of Chengdu. Only a few tourists like me were out today braving the wet winter cold of the usually gloomy capital of Sichuan in Southwest China. I did not want to leave yet but the rain was making things impossible to walk around, much less take a decent photo. So I resolved to make my way back to the hostel.

I made the right decision.

China: Chengdu
I want to go to there.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Photos from New and Old Chengdu

Across the street from my hostel near the center of Chengdu was a small local restaurant. Tiled floors, white plastic tables and swivel chairs bolted to the floor. As soon as I arrived in the Sichuan capital, I dropped my bags and headed here. I realized that this province in Southwest China was known for its literally mouth-numbing spicy food, so I took pains to point out in the English menu the spice level I wanted for my dumpling soup: "mild."

It took two seconds for me to realize after I took my first sip that I should have ordered "not spicy." I coughed as I felt the Sichuan pepper-infused oils of the soup creep though my mouth, my tongue, and my throat, and then numb them. It was weird, and it was wonderful.

The experience will forever define my first impression of Chengdu. To the Sichuanese, mild means a bold and strong punch in the throat. On that note, let me present a few photos I took in the very short time I transited in the city. The couple of days I was in the bold and strong Sichuan capital was enough to get a taste of both new and old Chengdu.

China: Chengdu
The center of the center of Chengdu, Tianfu Square

Friday, January 10, 2014

Foodie Friday: Bun Thit Nuong (Grilled Meat on Noodles)

(We all know I love to eat, so you know I am not kidding around when talking about food. On Fridays, let me torture myself and anyone who might stumble upon this travel blog with a photo of a delicious food I had in my travels. This week, Foodie Friday features one of the all-time favorite dishes: Bun Thit Nuong, or Grilled Meat on Noodles.)

Bun Thit Nuong, Hoi An, Vietnam
One of the all-time favorite dishes: Bun Thit Nuong

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

10 Asian Travel Destinations on Top of My To-Do List

It is not a secret that I am utterly enamored with Asia. Heck, this travel blog is dedicated to Asia. I feel extremely lucky to have been born here and to have had the chance to travel to many of Asia's most beautiful corners: from the golden temple of Amritsar to the ocean-swept shores of Bali. Because of the size of this continent, however, I feel like I have yet to make a dent on it. There are still so many places here I desperately want to see.

So to start off the new year, let me present the 10 Asian travel destinations that found themselves on top of my to-do list. These will happen this year and in the next few ones. I swear it.

1. Ladakh and Spiti, India (Location)

The first time I saw a photo of Ki Gompa located in Spiti, I knew I had to see it in person at some point.
By Carlos Adampol Galindo in Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Sunday, January 5, 2014

21 Memorable Travel Photos from 2013

All this time, I kept thinking 2013 was a mellow year for me in terms of the amount of travels that I did. Really, for the better part of the year, I mostly just stayed put, working (well, more like trying) to build a career in travel writing and to earn a living in freelancing. Only now when I look back on all of my photos from 2013 do I realize that I had it all wrong. I traveled a surprising amount still. That's good, right?

Here are my top picks for 2013, the most memorable photos I took in the year that was.

Mount Pulag, Philippines
Having trekked to above 2,900 meters above sea level and having withstood near freezing winds, I witnessed the sunrise in the Philippines' third highest peak: Mount Pulag.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Quick Note about the Year that Was and to Hopeful Endings

To be honest, 2013 was just an okay year for me. Then again, I really should give the past year more credit. I did fulfill one of my absolute dreams last year and that is to have my travel stories and photos regularly published in various publications and websites: Travel Leisure and Adventure, Wild Junket Magazine, Melted Stories, etc.

It was a great year, sure, but if we are being honest and candid here, I did struggle. Being a freelancer and having the lifestyle that comes with it, you get your ups and downs a lot. This last year was filled with more downs than ups, unfortunately. It was my fault for not doing enough, for not pushing myself more. I was distant and closed-off, too, because often I was unsatisfied about the present and uncertain about the future. At the end of the day, I often asked myself at which point do I get my happy ending. (Get your mind out of the gutter. Not that "happy ending.")