Palawan: It's More Fun In the Philippines

El Nido and Puerto Princessa, Palawan

The Stressor My trip to Palawan was not without its complications. The Philippines was not part of my Southeast Asia travel plans. But when I found a low fare to the Philippines, I decided to add the Philippines to my epic Southeast Asia 2018 trip. El Nido had been on my travel radar for a while. Since there's no airport in El Nido, I booked a flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa with Air Asia and a separate package tour through Asia Travel that included the transportation to El Nido and a hotel.  I also booked a hotel in Puerto Princesa through I pre-paid everything that was booked through Asia Travel.  
The trip to El Nido from Puerto Princesa was long (6 hours), but not as bumpy as I expected.  The road was paved, winding with lush scenery. However, the stop to get food was far in between. We arrived in El Nido tired and hungry to find our pre-paid hotel room not only ready, but the hotel was fully booked. I could tell from t…

Sagada: It's More Fun in the Philippines

It's More Fun in the Philippines Part 1:  Trekking in Sagada

Not long ago, Sagada, one of the municipalities of Mountain Province, was isolated and essentially an unchartered frontier. It became famous for its hanging coffins and coffins found in the crevices of limestone rocks. For this reason alone, most people find Sagada a fascinating place to visit. Today, tourism in Sagada is going through crazy rapid growth, not only because of its ancient culture and undiscovered beauty but for inclusive mountain adventure – trekking, hiking, caving, spelunking. And it seems that the municipality of Sagada tries to capitalize on its mountain playground. All visitors in Sagada are required to register with the Government Tourist Bureau and pay forty pesos for registration. Visitors must hire a registered tour guide. The price for tour guide services, tours, and activities offered by different tour operators are pretty much the same. Most tour or trek starts at The Church of St. Mary the Vir…

Cuba: Our Time in Havana

As I wandered through the street of Havana, I was reminded of a quote by Hippocrates, “Life is short, the art long, opportunity fleeting, judgment difficult."

Wandering the streets of Old Havana is like walking into a living museum. The art is manifested in many different ways. I joined a walking tour that started in the San Francisco de Asis square just in front of the cruise terminal. While the basilica and monastery were the main centerpieces, the square was surrounded by other colorful buildings dressed in intricate details.

Our walking tour was interrupted by a visit to Teatro Retazos to watch some dance performances. Teatro Retazo is home to one of the city’s most avant-garde dance troupes. The theater included an art exhibit – paintings of local artists – at the lobby. We listened to a short talk about the Teatro Retazos contribution to the world of dance. It’s credited with organizing the annual dance festival where both locals and artists from different countries take t…

Mexico: Beneath the Yucatan Peninsula

I’ve traveled from country to country visiting museums, seeing different architectures, experiencing different cultures, but I’m mostly drawn to the natural world. So, imagine my delight when I discovered the beauty of Rio Secreto, a subterranean world. Rio Secreto or Secret River is Mexico and Central America’s leading Nature Reserve that features wonderful ‘cenotes’ or cave pools, limestone caverns and rivers beneath the Yucatan peninsula.

My adventure began at Playa del Carmen. The drive into the National Reserve from Playa del Carmen was about thirty minutes.  After the paved road, we bounced farther away from the park entrance over a bumpy and dusty strip into the depth of the jungle.  I had expected a bare minimum changing and restroom facility in the middle of the jungle.  But when we arrived, we were greeted by a professional guide who handed us our keys to our lockers.

A professional guide by the name of Carolina led our group step-by-step through the journey. There was a la…

Grand Cayman: From Paradise to Hell

After two days of rough sailing, I was not really in the mood to participate in any water sports activities.  When we reached Grand Cayman, I decided to just relax on the beach.  Our driver took us to the Royal Palm Beach Club with beachfront access to the Seven-Mile Beach, a sun-bathers mecca of Grand Cayman.  Although it’s said that the Seven-Mile beach could get crowded with people from the cruise ships, the cabanas and lounge chairs were mostly empty.  There was no crowd, and the weather was just perfect for me.  I did not have to use the umbrella.

I saw a couple popping in and out of the water and three others swimming away from the beach. After drowning a mango smoothie and a blue alcoholic drink, and lounging for almost an hour, I was tempted to swim in the clear turquoise water.   I went in, face first into the wave and gave myself no moment to adjust to the water.  It was invigorating.  I swam along the wave and was enjoying it until a big wave hit me like a truck and pushe…

Puerto Rico: Post Hurricane Maria

A Stroll Through Old San Juan 
We took a bus ride uphill past the Puerto Rico Capitol and San Cristobal fortress along the Atlantic Coast before the walking tour. While it was sad to see a few buildings damaged by the hurricane, it was exciting to come over the hill for my glimpse of the ocean. The ocean has incredibly Caribbean and Atlantic blue color. Before starting our walking tour, our guide shared plenty of information about the historical buildings, with details about life in the Old City.  As we walked the broad lawn to the entrance of Castillo del Morro, he continued to describe what we were seeing - from the Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzi cemetery by the seaside to the Bacardi Distillery on the other side and the karst from a distance. During the early 16th century, San Juan was the point of departure of Spanish expeditions to the New World. Today, it’s one the busiest ports for cruise ships in the Caribbean. Old San Juan is one of the 3 distinct areas of the metropolitan S…

Eastern Caribbean: Escape from the Freezing Cold

I always wanted to visit Cuba, but there were specific regulations that must be met to get travel authorization to Cuba. When I learned that participating in group people-to-people program by a sponsoring organization such as Holland America would make me eligible to travel to Cuba, I booked a 14-Day Cruise to Cuba. However, the 14-day cruise turned out to be a two-part cruise. The first segment was to the Eastern Caribbean. And it worked out fine because I also wanted to see the hurricane-ravaged island's recovery progress. Also, the timing of the cruise coincided with the freezing weather in the US. So, sailing to the Eastern Caribbean was a great escape from the freezing cold, so I thought.

Our first port of call was Half Moon Cay. Half Moon Cay is a private island owned by the cruise ship. People pretty much come here to enjoy the beaches. I signed up for the Eco Lagoon Kayak Adventure. We were taken by a tender, but as we reached the island, it started to rain. I took shelte…