What good surprise happened to me this year? 2018 became a travel year. The last time that happened to me was in 2015 – but that wasn’t a surprise because I declared that year to be my travel year. This year, I had no definitive plans of places to go to. Sure I made plans with my best friends of where we wanted to go but until we actually have the tickets, set dates and leaves filed, it’s all just plans on paper.

I revisited my Belle de Jour Power Planner for 2018 and saw that I made three travel plans for the year:

1. Iloilo (because that’s C’s hometown)
2. Cambodia (because I’ve always wanted to see Angkor Wat especially now that they say this place that’s part of the 7 new wonders of the world could be gone)
3. Bataan (because I’ve always wanted to go to Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar)

Now that we’re just two sleeps away from 2019, it’s time to answer what actually happened to my travel plans for the year. Well, out of the three travel plans I made, I’m happy to say that I was able to go to 2 out of 3 of those places listed above… and more.

First travel: Iloilo

I blogged about my travel in Iloilo where I talked about why I wanted to go to this place and all the things we did while we were there. You can read about them here, here, here and here. But to give you guys an abridged version of the story, I went to Iloilo (a place I’ve never considered before!) because 1) I wanted to see Garin Farm which they say is the heaven on earth and 2) Iloilo is C’s hometown. I wanted to see where he grew up, hoping you know we could connect more by talking about it. Okay, so my reason for inviting my friends to go to Iloilo was mostly because of the latter. We did talk about my travel there after I got back and even managed to delight him when I gave him mango bars as pasalubong (as it turns out, he loves those!). But if you’ve been a regular reader of this blog, you know the happy story ends there because a week later, our falling out happened and we never talked again.

Out of the places we went to in Iloilo, my favorite would of course be the city tour – seeing all the heritage houses and the churches.My least favorite activity of that trip would be Gigantes Islands – not because of the place itself – no. The islands are beautiful. But the land travel to get there and back to the city wasn’t exactly the most comfortable x hours of my life.

Second travel: Bataan

Out of all the places I went to this year, Bataan was the most accessible. After all, I only had to take a ferry to get there and a bus back to Manila. In particular, I went to Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar. I’ve always wanted to go there ever since I saw it on Deal Grocer – pre- Instagram famous days. My initial plan was to stay there but a night’s stay there is quite pricey. Finally, this year, along with two of my friends, I went to check out the place but on a day tour instead.

It’s such a beautiful place! Yes very IG-worthy. From the heritage houses to the river cruise to the hotel. You won’t run out of spots you’d want your photo taken at. I’m glad I finally got to cross this off my list of places to visit after all these years!

Third travel: Malaysia

My mom loves traveling. She always tells me when her credit card company sends her a text message about a travel now, pay later promo or installment promo for a certain country. She also likes to tell me when she spots travel deals online. So far, we’ve traveled together to Hongkong, Macau and Singapore. This year, I picked Malaysia for us. Luckily, PAL held an anniversary seat sale promo so I was able to book us affordable flights to Malaysia.

I’ve been to Malaysia before. In Kuala Lumpur to be exact but that was for work and just really an overnight thing so I didn’t really see anything except the famous Petronas Twin Towers from afar. This travel allowed me and my mom to experience what Malaysia had to offer. We were able to see a lot of places during this five day, four night trip of ours. It’s all thanks to the tours I booked via Klook. If you want to know more about my travel here, I blogged about them here, here and here.

Malaysia is nice. Kuala Lumpur, just like my initial impression, is so much like Manila except cleaner! If you want the more laid back, country feels, check out Malacca which is one of the places we went to. There are still so many places in Malaysia I want to see like Georgetown and Penang so I definitely want to go to back. Luckily, it’s near the Philippines and also an affordable place to go to!

And since the year is about to end, Instagram has released its annual IG best nine already. I’ve already checked mine and was surprised to find out that my best nine photos on IG are from my trip to Malaysia.


Fourth travel: Hongkong and Macau 

Wrapping up my surprise year of travels is my most recent trip to Hongkong and Macau which my friends and I were able to book because Traveloka had a travel promo in partnership with Cebu Pacific. I was able to score a round trip flight to Hongkong for only Php4k+!

Just like Malaysia, it wasn’t my first time to go to Hongkong and Macau. I was there in 2013 with my mom, a couple of her friends and a couple of my friends. It was our first ever out of the country vacation trip. While we were there for three days, we didn’t really experience Hongkong so much. First because we didn’t exactly have a full blown itinerary. We just knew we had to go to Disneyland and Macau. Second was because my friends and I were really in Hongkong to meet another friend of ours whom we thought we could rely on to show us around since he was the most experienced traveler out of all of us and he’d been there before hence the no itinerary trip. So given the chance to go visit again, I jumped at it even though I already had one international trip coming up.

The travel was a surprise but so were my companions. From six people traveling together to Hongkong and Macau, we became four. The fourth person being Rej – a friend from the gym whom we extended the invite to and whose yes to the trip wasn’t exactly expected but nevertheless welcomed. We went  to the usual tourist spots like Disneyland because Rej wanted to (his main agenda for going to HK) and because it was Dom’s first time out of the country. Still it was a fun trip because the experience was definitely different even though I’ve already seen some of the places we went to because this time around, we were experienced tourists (Ryan and I) and the people we were with were two new faces. Rej has good photography skills and he was nice enough to offer to take some of my photos. On our next travel together, I definitely would love it if he would take photos of me again.

I blogged about this travel as well so you can read more about my experience here. And yes, I would like to go back again. I know there are so many places in Hongkong that I have yet to see!  

This 2019 and beyond…

Remembering all the wonderful places I got to go to this year makes me want to travel more, in and out of the country. Locally, though I’m not a beach person, I would like to go to Palawan both El Nido and Coron. I would like to see the Underground River in Puerto Prinsesa too. I would like to see Siargao because I also heard the beach there is wonderful! Oh and I would like to experience the enchanting Siquijor.

I would like to go to Thailand, to Bangkok and Chiang Mai to see the beautiful temples. Japan too – in Tokyo and Osaka (maybe this 2019, at the latter part of the year with the same people I went to Hongkong and Macau with). I want to take my mom to Vietnam, in Ho Chi Minh as well this 2019. I want to take her places while we’re financially and physically capable to do so. I would even go back to Malaysia and Hongkong given the chance to do so because every travel will bring a new and different experience. I even want to go to Turkey – to Cappadocia to see the hot air balloons. And of course, I dream of going to Europe and US!

But for next year, I’m definitely going to Cambodia come March. I’ve got my flight ticket ready. I am looking forward to visiting Angkor Wat and watching the sun rise there. I read it’s beautiful and I’ve never experienced watching the sun rise. I am super excited about it!

There are so many places I really want to go to! I know, I know. Typical millennial. Spending her money in travels. But what’s wrong with travelling anyway? Travel is a great adventure! But yes let’s be realistic. It can also be expensive especially when you want to try airlines that are not the low cost, budget ones like Air Asia and Cebu Pacific. It’s not bad to want to save money by choosing to fly in budget airlines of course. I have a friend who’s been to places like South Korea, Taiwan and Australia because she was always availing seat sale promos of the low cost airlines.

But I read from a travel blogger, I think it was Poor Traveler, that sometimes low cost isn’t always the best option for your travels. Ever since I read that article, it intensified my desire to look for more good deals on flights (read: not necessarily seat sale promos of low cost airlines). Actually, it was a good friend of mine, Mark (God bless his soul), who first told me about this. He was a frequent traveler too except he’d been able to try airlines like Etihad Airways. His mindset was always about comfort and convenience – if he was going to travel, those were his top priorities in the airlines and even accommodations he’d be booking.

I remember having a conversation about this with him. My wish to travel places and that’s really how I got to know about Skyscanner in the first place. He told me it was a good site to go to search for the best value flights to and from anywhere in the world! It compares various airlines and gives you the cheapest flight ticket prices so you can be sure to find a good flight deal there! And since I know most of us are glued to their smartphones, why not download Skyscanner app and start using it to score good flight deals?

Let’s go and explore the wonders of this world!