The Table Mountain

I didn’t know what to expect weeks before my trip to Cape Town in South Africa.  I had mixed emotions and like what I normally do before traveling, I lower my expectations.

I did my research about South Africa. I looked at pictures, read its history and browsed some personal experiences of people who have been there in the internet.   With only a week to go around Cape Town, I did my usual top 10 list of  where to go, what to do and which ones must see.  Table Mountain ranked number 1 on my itinerary which I based on the many personal accounts of people from travel sites and blogs.  What I read excite me.  The Table Mountain grew on me as the day drew nearer to my trip to Cape Town.

The Table Mountain is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, I have been to the 2 others on the list (Underground River in Puerto Princessa in my country the Philippines and Halong Bay in Vietnam).  The Table Mountain definitely deserved its spot in this prestigious list though (I believe) there are just so many that should have been included or the list does not just consist of 7 (make it 12 or something!).

This captivating mountain which I found absolutely remarkable and nothing like I’ve seen before became the backdrop of my stay in Cape Town.

The Table Mountain as seen from my hotel room made my every morning in Cape Town truly awesome.
Table Mountain as seen from the Waterfront
The V&A Waterfront is a prime tourist area in Cape Town. The Table Mountain makes the waterfront even more picturesque.
Table Mountain
One blogger wrote, “it is a mortal sin to miss the Table Mountain”.. I didn’t want to commit such sin, so off to the top I go.
On top of Table Mountain
On top of the world, I mean the Table Mountain overlooking the stunning Cape Town and the Atlantic Ocean.
On top of the Table Mountain
On top of the Table Mountain overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean.
The Table Mountain
The Table Mountain as seen from my seat on board the Emirates Airlines. I surely left my heart in Cape Town.

Cape Town is probably one of the most beautiful cities in the world and South Africa is on my top 7 list of the world’s most picturesque countries.

Africa: The Big Five

One of the highlights of my recent trip in South Africa was a visit to a wild animal reserve about 2-hours away from Cape Town. Africa is known for the Big Five game animals though I always thought that the giraffe should be on this list but the lion, buffalo, leopard, rhinoceros and the elephant completes the list.  And after this ‘wildlife’ tour, I wanted to include even the zebra and the hippos.

The term big 5 was coined by hunters and not because they are all big literally (of course the elephant is huge), but because they are the most difficult animals to hunt and the degree of danger involved.  The big 5 are believed to be among the most dangerous yet very popular for big game hunters. Which I hope is no longer a popular past-time for hunters !

African Bush Elephant Big5 Cape Buffalo big5 lion Big5 leopard Big5 rhinocerosAfrica now uses the Big 5 for marketing purposes, thus my collection of key chains and ref magnets after the tour aside from the wonderful photos I took.  The Big five animals can be found in South Africa, Botswana, Congo, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Kenya, Namibia and Uganda.

These Big 5 however can be found from the Aquila Private Game Reserve,

Adventure in Southeast Asia

I embarked on a 12-day solo adventure in 5 southeast Asian countries exactly a year ago. It has been  the most adventurous travel escapade I had until now.

Unlike last year where I can hop-on and off from buses, running trains and sorts with ease; this time, I get to travel with my 62-year old mom, my best friend, closest friends and their families. All ten of us experienced an exhausting but fulfilling 9-day adventure trip in Southeast Asia.

After several days of thrilling fun and adventure we made it to Singapore.

We traveled more than 2,000 kilometers on land from Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam then crossing the entire Cambodia nation with a two-nights stop in Siem Reap.  Crossed the border to Bangkok in Thailand for a night and then rented a van to Penang in Malaysia.  An overnight bus to Singapore concluded our trip with an awesome escapade in Singapore.

Welcome to Vietnam, the Motorbike Capital of the World, and so it seem.
One has must cross the streets of Saigon with care. The motorbike drivers are the kings and queens of the road !
Ho Chi Min formerly Saigon is the historical hub of Vietnam. Make sure to visit the infamous Cu Chi Tunnels where the Vietnamese dig an enormous underground tunnel system to win the battle against the America.
Our historical guide (seated) claimed that he was a Vietnamese solider. The stories he told based from personal experience.
A relaxing river cruise along the Saigon River kept us busy while waiting for the bus to Cambodia. Saigon’s skyline glitters at night.

The trip consisted sleeping in buses and vans and getting caught in horrendous 9-hours queue to cross the 10-minute ferry ride across the Mekong river. We experienced first hand together with all the tourists on board our bus to bribe a traffic officer to help hasten our ferry ride to no avail.

This is the queue to cross the Mekong River, it was several kilometers long and kept us 9 hours behind schedule. The long weekend and the burial ceremony of the King of Cambodia made traffic in the key areas of Cambodia terrible.

Crossing international borders were not as smooth too as it was last year because of the surge of tourists to Thailand and a looming long weekend due to national holidays.

Siem Reap in Cambodia is home to the World Famous Angkor Wats

My mom and friend’s dream to cross the southern Thailand peninsula to Malaysia did not happen since outbound trains from Bangkok to anywhere are all fully booked.  We experienced to eat exotic (super spicy) street foods and practically dining in street corners and market stalls.  We slept in dormitories and hostels much to my mom’s shock and surprise since she had to share a room with a total stranger.  We experienced running while pulling and carrying our luggage that gets heavier after every major stop in a city.  And we endured the driving ability of a Thai man trying his best not to fall asleep to reach Malaysia in an overnight 12-hours ordeal. And to top it all, language barrier did not do much of course to ease our desire for a wonderful escapade, in fact it made it all the more challenging.

The best way to indulge in Thai cuisine is to dine in at the many food stalls found around the Grand Palace , like this one.
This is a must see in Thailand along with many other Wat and palaces in Bangkok.
If shopping is your deal, Bangkok’s Chatuchak market definitely got it all.
A short stop over to the historical Georgetown in Penang Malaysia became our gateway to Singapore.

After what seem like forever but truly an adventurous one, we made it to Singapore with a grand accommodation in a friend’s posh condominium and a big celebration in Singapore’s Universal Studios.  My mom and friends especially those who traveled for the first time abroad thrilled and surely will never forget our ordeal in an adventure to Southeast Asia.

The Marina Bay Sands
At the Merlion Park
A wonderful and fun night at Sentosa.

To cap the entire SEA trip, my mom and I enjoyed the rides at Universal Studios in Singapore.

I will soon post a per country escapade of our Southeast Asian adventure.

The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen in my life. I came to realize that even the term ‘grand’ is an understatement to describe this amazing scenery.

There are no words to describe the grandeur of the Grand Canyon.   I hope that these photos give justice to the awesome Grand Canyon.

Thanks to the bloggers who inspired me through their Grand Canyon photos and their recommend to see the Canyon from the South Rim.  Although further away from the nearest view decks, the drive was well worth it.

The five-hour drive from the Las Vegas, Nevada was spectacular.  I would have preferred myself as a passenger to enjoy these views at this time but we have no other choice.  Nevertheless, I had the ‘grandest’ time, adventure and thrill in my life.

The road to the Grand Canyon

I have experienced a lot of ‘firsts’ in this trip that I will definitely treasure, as always, forever.  First time to drive in the United States on a rented SUV and on my first 5 minutes after leaving the drive way, I was pulled-over by the police for driving on the other side of the road.

I had the shock of my life when I noticed that I am driving head-on the approaching vehicles, I made a U-turn immediately and in seconds a police car was behind me.  I was so nervous thinking that I might go to jail or my international driver license revoked that would eventually postpone our trip to the Grand Canyon.  But, just like the videos I see on TV’s Most Shocking,  the police who was very pleasant and polite forgave me and let me go.

It was my first to navigate through a foreign highway with stricter traffic laws with a GPS. I really followed speed limits and traffic signs.  I miss the voice of the ‘lady’ that commanded me to turn right, stay right and turn next left, etc.

First time to self-serve for gasoline.  I made so many gas-stops because I certainly enjoyed it.

I wish to thank the Mabanta family for letting us in their home in Las Vegas and renting an SUV for us free of charge.  And to their mom for accompanying  us to this wonderful journey to the great state of Arizona.

Indeed, the Grand Canyon is stunning, this is certainly not just the first.

The Hoover Dam on our way back to Las Vegas

Mt. Cabuyao, a destination closest to the heavens !

If you think you have seen everything in the Summer Capital of the Philippines, well, think again! There is an alternative destination perfect for those who seek high-altitude adventure or simply just tired of seeing the ‘usual’ but uniquely beautiful tourist spots in Baguio City.

There is of course, Mount Cabuyao!  This mountain is very visible from the city of Baguio and is often used as a backdrop by many photography enthusiasts.

Mount Cabuyao, which is sometimes mistaken as Mount Santo. Tomas (same thrill no matter how you call it) is just about 12 kilometers from the city center.

The mountain has been part of my family and friends’ itinerary.

We love to experience the ‘colder’ climate and ‘fresher’ mountain breeze on top of this mountain. The feeling of being at level with the clouds is rejuvenating and the chance to have a bird’s eye view of Baguio and its surroundings is breath-taking.

Thick fog and clouds envelop the mountain mostly in the afternoon or during rainy seasons, but the majestic mountain made famous by two imposing radars (I fondly call Mickey Mouse) can be seen clearly in the morning or during summer.

Going up the mountain used to be treacherous because of the thin rough roads but most of it are paved now making the hike or drive easier but still ‘treacherous’ (read on so you will know why).

Although, land and rock slides are very common, the police station at the foot of the mountain will inform tourists when the road is passable or not. The mountain is about 7,000 feet above sea level and perhaps the location with the highest altitude nearest the bustling city of Baguio.

The Department of Tourism of the Cordillera Administrative Region recognizes this mountain as a pilgrimage and adventure destination.

Found in the new tourism site, are fourteen 3 x 3 sized and 5 feet high structure of the Stations of the Cross and Our Lady of Miraculous Medal chapel, vegetables terraces, and a few home-stays for transient should you wish to stay for a night.

Dubbed as the Switzerland of Benguet, Mt. Cabuyao is an ideal place for pilgrimage because of its solemnity, exclusivity and exquisiteness. While a delight for the adventurers because of its narrow, rail-less and cliff-edged roads. The place has a cool invigorating climate, and the weather is cooler than the City of Baguio.

Best Time to Visit:

  • Schedule your visit early in the morning to enjoy the view of Baguio City from there.
  • Summer time (March-May) is the perfect time to enjoy the place.

How to Get There:

  • You may take a passenger jeep from the town center but the schedule is very erratic; trips depend on the number of passengers and weather conditions.
  • You may hire a taxi that you can hail from anywhere within the city. Just be prepared to pay a few hundred pesos should the driver requests for a contracted price. (The last time I asked, taxi drivers charge around 400 pesos back and forth)
  • Should you prefer ‘hiking’, you may hail a taxi and ask to be dropped-off at the police station found at the foot. Hike is about an hour going up. Don’t worry the roads are paved anyway, and the accent is not steep.
  • Drive; make sure you have a very good driver and a well-maintained vehicle. Ensure you have enough gas and the break is in immaculate condition.

What to Observe:

  •   Cleanliness! Make sure not to dispose any garbage in the vicinity. Bring all trash with you.
  • Respect the local culture. Do not be rowdy, noisy or boisterous.
  •   Greet and smile at people.
  • The place is practically a vegetable farm; you may purchase these from the farmer themselves.
  •   Maximize your experience but minimize your footprints in order to preserve the beauty and tranquility of the area.

What to bring:

  • Weather is unpredictable up there, make sure you have at least an umbrella or a raincoat but if your idea of adventure is to get soaked; be my guest.
  •   Dress lightly during summer; wear your most comfortable rubber shoes.
  •   During rainy seasons; make sure you wear a sweater or jacket.
  • Should you wish to stay for a night, there are a few transient houses in the area for a minimal fee, just bring an extra blanket or pillow and you will be fine.
  •   There aren’t any restaurants and the stores offer limited items, bring your own food, drinks and of course, utensils.

So, on your next trip to Baguio, why not venture further up and see Mount Cabuyao.  !