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Lake View Sapa Vietnam

Sapa welcomed us with a bright blue sky. The air felt nippy and it felt wonderful walking about with Vietnamese mountain people on their colorful garbs along its sun-strewn sidewalks. Trees abound, pines mostly, making us reminiscent of certain regions in the Philippines.

Park Sapa Vietnam
MORNING AT SAPA PARK, THIS WAS WHERE OUR BUS DROPPED US OFF

“This feels like Baguio”, I told C. “No, it’s more like Sagada,” she threw right back at me. Well, Sapa seemed like a combination of both, ten or twenty years back. Throw in a dash of Banaue into the mix and it almost encapsulates our first impressions of the town. Well, almost.

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Posted by Christian Sangoyo on Friday, November 24, 2017

Hanoi to Sapa Vietnam

Coming from Hue’s relative idyllic pace, we took a sixteen-hour overnight ride via Sinh Tourist’s Open Bus to the chaotic streets of Hanoi. It’s been almost a year since we first visited this northern Vietnamese city, and it felt like coming home; we’re definitely much more enamored by Hanoi than its southern counterpart, Saigon. But we were not about to stay just yet.

Hanoi Mask Shop
BACK IN HANOI’S OLD QUARTER

Arriving bleary eyed early the next morning, we dropped our backpacks at Cocoon Inn Hanoi (where we would eventually stay) asking nicely if we could deposit them for a few days while we continue our journey north. Our target destination was Sapa, one of Vietnam’s mountainous regions. We reckon we really didn’t need to bring all our bloody belongings all the way up there, we just needed a few change of clothes and our cameras with us.

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Posted by Christian Sangoyo on Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Imperial Citadel Hue Vietnam

We walked the same path leading to the Imperial Citadel of Hue, the same one we trodded on twelve hours ago. The difference was, it was fully dark then—the former imperial capital of Vietnam, its red walls shining bright like a gem against a darkened sky. Now, with a background of gray brooding skies, it looked drab and lifeless. But we really didn’t have much of a choice, we can’t wait for bright blue skies and sunshine with less than a day left in Hue.

Imperial Citadel Hue Vietnam Flag
THE CITADEL FLAG TOWER IN HUE

Waking early from Flora Hotel Hue, we hailed a cab that took us straight to the ancient Imperial City. It was about thirty minutes away by foot, definitely walkable, but we were chasing time. We exit out of Hue towards Hanoi that same afternoon.

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Posted by Christian Sangoyo on Friday, November 3, 2017

Imperial Citadel Hue Vietnam

With intuition as tool, we roamed the evening roads of Hue, looking for its crown jewel, the Imperial Citadel—the country’s former seat of power before modern Vietnam. And finally after an hour or so of dodging motorcycles, with cameras aimed, we came face to face with what we came to this old city for.

Hoi An to Hue by Bus
TAKING THE BUS FROM HOI AN TO HUE

Coming from the ancient town of Hoi An, it took a three-hour bus ride before we arrived on our third stop for the Vietnam leg of our Same Same Summer Trip, Hue. Using the very convenient hop-on hop-off bus from Sinh Tourists, we alighted late in the afternoon right beside the Perfume River, one of the things Hue is known for, and proceeded on foot towards our lodging.

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Posted by Christian Sangoyo on Monday, October 30, 2017

Hatsu Hana-Tei Makati

My knowledge when it comes to Japanese cuisine is limited to tempura, maki, sushi (which I don’t even eat), tonkatsu, and Nissin’s Ramen. Kidding on that last part. I’m not really that familiar with anything Japanese, except for those that I get to try at the popular fastfood joint, Tokyo Tokyo. I actually go there before because I wanted to practice using chopsticks, lol. A weekend or so ago, before our actual trip to Japan, we were invited by the guys from Herald Suites in Chino Roces to try their in-house Japanese restaurant, Hatsu Hana-Tei.

HERALD SUITES’ LOBBY

Located right in front of the famous Little Tokyo in Makati, Herald Suites—sister hotel of Herald Suites Polaris—sports a very turn-of-the-century Filipiniana look—intricate Machuca tiles, faux Amorsolo paintings, classic wooden furniture. You’ll never guess that they’d have a legit Japanese restaurant at the second floor. The only inkling you’d have, if ever you notice it at all, are the Japanese businessmen lounging about the lobby.

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Posted by Christian Sangoyo on Saturday, October 28, 2017

Herald Suites Polaris Makati Lounge

Customized Machuca tiles spread across the floor while wrought iron railings flourish along the interior balconies overlooking the central atrium of the lobby. On hand-crafted wooden tables, metal sculptures sit, looking eternally at guests making their way to and fro. Entering Herald Suites Polaris, it was as if we were transported to a time past when arts and crafts were all the rage and things were a lot more elegant than the ascetic modern times that we were in.

Herald Suites Polaris Makati Facade
HERALD SUITES POLARIS IN POBLACION, MAKATI

It was a rainy Saturday afternoon when we headed out—first to binge on authentic Japanese cuisine at Hatsu Hana Tei in Makati, and second, for a staycation at the newest hotel this side of Poblacion, Herald Suites Polaris.

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Posted by Christian Sangoyo on Thursday, October 26, 2017

Baler Travel Blog Guide Itinerary Budget

Baler is the birthplace of surfing in the Philippines. Once a laid-back coastal town on the eastern side of Central Luzon in the Philippines, surfing has since pinned it on the tourist map, bringing in tourists, quirky restaurants, and posh hotels on its shore. Besides surfing, this small town in the Province of Aurora also boasts of a few historic sites—being the birthplace of Manuel L. Quezon—a spread of beaches, interesting rock formations, waterfalls and lighthouses.

While the town of Baler is but a small spot in the whole of Aurora, it has since become the starting point and base of operations for touring the region. From here, visitors can check the nearby municipalities of Maria Aurora, Dipaculao, and San Luis, all the way up to the farther reaches of Dingalan, Dinalungan, Casiguran, and Dilasag. For the purpose of this travel guide, I would be limiting the scope to those areas readily accessible from Baler.

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Posted by Christian Sangoyo on Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Free The Sea Movement 2 Baler

The waves weren’t as strong as I remember it to be, yet there were still a few bodies paddling across the darkening waters of Baler, hoping to catch one last swell before calling it a day. On the horizon, the silhouette of the Sierra Made mountain range was capped in wispy clouds, and above, a hue of pink glowed across an overcast twilight. Us, we were happy just to be here, sprawled on the sand, with spicy chips on one hand and bottles of beer on another.

Free The Sea Movement 2 Baler
BACK IN BALER AFTER FOUR  YEARS

It was my third time to visit Baler in Aurora Province; the first time was with office friends, the second, a tour. This latest one has a much more meaningful purpose—we were here to do a coastal clean-up of Baler’s famous surfing spot, Sabang Beach.

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Posted by Christian Sangoyo on Friday, October 13, 2017