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The Great Wall of China in Mutianyu

The Great Wall of China is referred to in Mandarin as Wanli Changcheng (10,000-Li Long Wall or simply very long wall) BEIJING, CHINA- S...

Friday, May 3, 2024

Tranquil Escape: The St. Francis Xavier Seminary Bamboo Sanctuary

Breathe Deep in Baguio's Bamboo Haven: A Day at the St. Francis Xavier Seminary Sanctuary. 

Baguio's refreshing air is a welcome break from the scorching heat in Manila, where temperatures can hit a sweltering 43°C to 48°C!

The cool mountain breeze of Baguio is a constant draw, but sometimes you crave a little more than just crisp air. Enter the St. Francis Xavier Seminary Bamboo Sanctuary.  This hidden oasis tucked away in the city that offers a serene escape into a world of rustling leaves and towering stalks.

This past weekend, I decided to trade the usual tourist spots for some tranquility and ventured out to the sanctuary with a backpack full of curiosity and a camera eager to capture the beauty.

A Walk Through a Living Cathedral

Stepping through the entrance, I was immediately transported to a different world. Towering bamboo stalks, reaching high towards the sky, formed a natural cathedral overhead. Sunlight filtering through the leaves created a dappled mosaic on the pathway, and the gentle rustle of the wind in the bamboo was the only sound that broke the peaceful silence.

The walking trails wound their way through the dense bamboo forest, offering glimpses of hidden nooks and quiet corners. Each turn presented a new photo opportunity – the way the light played on the bamboo, the intricate patterns formed by the stalks, or the surprising burst of color from a hidden wildflower.

Nature's Symphony and Sustainable Charm

The sanctuary wasn't just visually stunning; it was an auditory treat as well. The rustling bamboo leaves created a calming symphony, perfect for quieting the mind and allowing nature's music to take over.

Beyond the beauty, the eco-friendly aspect of the sanctuary truly impressed me. The thoughtful use of bamboo in walkways, signage, and even some shelters highlighted the versatility and sustainability of this natural resource. It felt good to be exploring a place that embraced nature and promoted responsible practices.

A Moment of Mindfulness

After exploring the various trails, I found a quiet spot atop the cardio trail and simply sat, letting the tranquility wash over me. The gentle breeze rustling through the bamboo forest created a peaceful atmosphere, perfect for relaxing and clearing your head.

A Baguio Must-Visit

Whether you're a nature enthusiast seeking a peaceful escape or simply someone looking for a unique Baguio experience, the St. Francis Xavier Seminary Bamboo Sanctuary is a must-visit. It's a place to reconnect with nature, find inner peace, and capture some truly stunning photos. So next time you're in Baguio, skip the crowded tourist spots and take a walk through this hidden gem. You won't be disappointed

Have you ever visited a bamboo sanctuary? Share your favorite hidden escapes in the comments below!

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Baguio's Sweet Escape: A Dreamy Afternoon at Vanilla Cafe

Nestled amidst the cool charm of Baguio City, Vanilla Cafe isn't just a place to grab a coffee – it's an experience for the senses. Stepping into this cafe is like stepping into a whimsical wonderland, and I recently had the pleasure of indulging in its sugary sweetness.

Did you know that within Kamiseta Hotel in Baguio City lies a secret haven? None other than the Vanilla Cafe'. Unlike most cafes where nature takes center stage outdoors, Vanilla Cafe's magic unfolds indoors.

Imagine stepping into a world bathed in gentle light. A glass wall within the cafe acts as a portal, where a breathtaking bamboo and nature backdrop unfolds. It's like having a slice of the cool Baguio wilderness right inside, adding a touch of serenity to the charming interior.

But the true enchantment lies in the cafe's captivating decor. Picture rows of rose tables – not your typical floral arrangements, but tables themselves designed to resemble delicate roses!

Surrounding them are luxurious Victorian furniture pieces, their classic design contrasting beautifully with the whimsical tables. Chandeliers, sparkling with elegance, cast a warm glow overhead, completing the fairytale-like atmosphere.

Vanilla Cafe isn't just visually stunning; it's a haven for the taste buds too!  While their signature vanilla cupcakes were unavailable during our visit (turns out their chiller needed a little TLC!), the menu boasted a tempting array of vanilla-infused delights.

Since the cupcakes weren't available, I opted for their potato chips for a savory bite. Thinly cut, seasoned perfectly, and offering a satisfying crunch, they provided a delightful contrast to the sweetness I'd been imagining with the cupcakes.

For those with hypertension, it's important to let the waiter know about your dietary restrictions and request the chips unsalted. Better safe than sorry!

Rounding out the experience, I chose a classic Caesar salad. All the ingredients were fresh and crisp, dressed in a light and flavorful sauce. Perfectly textured croutons added a finishing touch.

Vanilla Cafe is more than a place to eat; it's an experience. The gentle murmur of conversation and the soft clinking of silverware create a peaceful ambiance, perfect for escaping the city's hustle and bustle. Whether you're catching up with loved ones, enjoying a solo read, or simply seeking a moment of tranquility, this hidden gem offers a delightful refuge.

So, if you find yourself at Kamiseta Hotel, or anywhere near Baguio City, don't miss the chance to discover Vanilla Cafe. With its enchanting decor, delectable treats, and peaceful atmosphere, it's a guaranteed escape into a world of pure vanilla dreams.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Uh Oh! Excess Baggage at Narita Airport: A Traveler's Guide

Let's face it, packing light is an art form some of us haven't quite mastered. You get to Narita Airport, all excited for your trip, only to be hit with the dreaded news: excess baggage! Don't panic! Here's what you can do:

1. Repack and Reshuffle:

Channel your inner Tetris master: Before you head to the check-in counter, see if you can redistribute some items between your carry-on and checked luggage. This might mean sacrificing some in-flight comfort by swapping a bulky sweater for a lighter one.

2. Befriend the Scales:

Spot hidden weight wasters: Hit the restroom scales! Those souvenirs might seem small, but they can add up. Consider consolidating toiletries into travel-sized containers or leaving behind anything non-essential.

3. The Bribery Option (with Limits):

Tread carefully: This is a gamble and not always advisable. Some travelers mention trying to charm the check-in staff into overlooking a small amount of excess weight. Be polite, but don't overdo it. Remember, they have rules to follow.

4. Divide and Conquer (if flying with companions):

Share the load: If you're flying with friends or family, see if you can distribute some of your belongings among your group's checked luggage. This can be a lifesaver, especially if someone else packed lighter.

5. The Final Frontier: Excess Baggage Fees

Be prepared to pay: If all else fails, you'll likely have to pay excess baggage fees. Rates vary depending on the airline and destination, so be sure to check their website beforehand.

Pro-Tip: Many airlines allow you to pre-purchase checked baggage online at a discounted rate compared to what you'll pay at the airport.

Learning from Experience:

Pack strategically for next time: Use this experience as a learning opportunity! Reflect on what led to the excess baggage and adjust your packing strategy for future trips.

Stay organized and under the weight limit on your next adventure!

Remember, staying calm and having a plan will help you navigate this situation smoothly. Hopefully, these tips help you breeze through Narita Airport and onto your fantastic journey!

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Japan Visa Jitters: The Bank Certificate Struggle is Real!

Hey everyone,

So, like many of you fellow Filipinos, I've been bitten by the travel bug! Japan has always been at the top of my dream destination list. I recall doing some research and planning befire finally applying for a visa. But let me tell you, this whole process has been a whirlwind of emotions – definitely exciting, but also came with a surprising amount of stress!

One hurdle I wasn't quite prepared for was the bank certificate. Apparently, the Japanese Embassy is pretty strict about how recent it needs to be – no more than three months old! This might seem reasonable, but trust me, it adds a whole new layer of complication.

Here's the thing: Bank statements tend to take a while to arrive by mail. By the time I get mine, submit my application, and wait for processing, there's a good chance it'll be outside that magic three-month window. I know, #AdultingProblems, right?

This might seem reasonable, but trust me, it adds a whole new layer of complication especially if you're utilizing a digital bank.

So, what are your options?

Get a fresh bank certificate directly from the bank: This seems like the safest bet, but it can also be time-consuming, especially if you have a busy schedule.

Exploring Online Options: Some banks offer online access to certified statements. This could be a game-changer, allowing you to download a fresh copy right before submitting the application. Worth checking with your bank!

Double-Checking the Embassy Website: The specific requirements might vary depending on your location. The Japanese Embassy website is your best friend – always refer to the official guidelines for the latest information

Plan way ahead: This is probably the smartest approach. Don't underestimate the power of foresight. Factor in bank statement processing times and request a fresh certificate well before submitting your application.

When applying for a visa, especially one with specific document requirements like Japan's, planning ahead is key. You should factor the bank statement lead time when booking your flights (Opt for flexible tickets just to be on the safe side. This might be feasible, but it often comes with additional fees. Ugh, the struggle is real!)

Anyway, this is just a heads-up for anyone else planning a trip to the Land of the Rising Sun. Don't let the bank certificate become a roadblock in your adventure! Do your research, plan accordingly, and hopefully, your visa application will be smooth sailing.

Anyone else out there have experience with applying for a Japanese visa? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below!

Monday, April 29, 2024

Japan Tax-Free Treats: A Cautionary Tale from Tokyo!

Hey everyone, travelonshoestring here, fresh off an amazing trip to Japan! Land of temples, bullet trains, and enough kawaii plushies to fill a bathtub (not that I did that... maybe). But amidst the delicious ramen and dazzling neon lights, I encountered a travel snafu that could have turned sour. Let's talk tax-free shopping!

We all love a good deal, right? And in Japan, the tax-free system for tourists is a dream come true. But here's the thing: those adorable Tokyo Banana snacks or that fancy Shiseido face mask? They gotta stay sealed until you leave the country. Yes, you read that right. Consuming those tax-free goodies before takeoff is a technical no-no.

No, I'm not gonna lie, the temptation was real. After a long day of sightseeing, a KitKat calling my name from my backpack felt pretty darn appealing. Luckily, I remembered a quick internet search I did before my trip (travel blogger pro-tip, folks!). It turns out, while full-on customs checks aren't the norm, getting caught with opened tax-free items can land you in hot water.

The worst-case scenario? You might have to pay the tax you avoided, which puts a damper on those savings. In extreme situations, with a large amount of opened items or refusal to cooperate, there could even be fines or worse! Let's just say that wouldn't be a kawaii way to end your trip.

So, what did I learn?

Here are some key takeaways for all my savvy travel peeps:

Tax-free means exactly that: Only buy things you intend to take home unopened.

Patience is a virtue: Resist the urge to crack open those Tokyo treats until you're safely on your home turf.

When in doubt, declare it out: Unsure about an item? Declare it at customs and pay any applicable taxes. Better safe than sorry!

Japan is an incredible country with so much to offer. Don't let a misunderstanding about tax-free purchases put a damper on your adventure. Remember, following the rules ensures a smooth and stress-free travel experience. Now, excuse me while I go stock up on unopened KitKats for my next trip (because, let's be real, who can resist?)

Happy travels everyone!

P.S. Have any of you ever encountered a situation with tax-free items while traveling? Share your stories in the comments below!

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Japan's Tax-Free Rules: A Guide for Travelers to Avoid Unwanted Fees

Busted Before Takeoff: The Risk of Consuming Tax-Free Goods in Japan

In Japan, if customs checked your bags and found you'd opened and consumed tax-free purchases, the outcome depends on the situation:

Worst case: You might be charged the tax you avoided on the consumed items. In extreme cases, with a large amount or refusal to cooperate, there could be a fine (up to 500,000 yen) or even imprisonment (up to 1 year).

More likely: Customs checks aren't super common, especially for smaller amounts. They might just give you a warning and remind you of the rules.

Technically: Consuming tax-free items before leaving Japan breaks the rules. Japanese customs states you must export the tax-free goods.

Reality: Full customs checks with tax-free item verification are uncommon, especially for carry-on luggage.

Here's what to do if caught:
  1. Be polite and cooperative. Explain it was a misunderstanding.
  2. If asked to pay tax, comply.

Here's how to avoid the issue:
  1. Only buy tax-free items you intend to take out of Japan.
  2. Keep tax-free items sealed (especially consumables) until departure.
  3. If unsure, declare the items at customs and pay any applicable taxes.
Remember, following the rules ensures a smooth travel experience.

Happy Japan Vacation! Arigato Guzaimasu!

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Electric Youth Forever: My Night with Debbie Gibson!

Hey everyone! Still buzzing from last night's incredible concert - Debbie Gibson's 35th Anniversary of Electric Youth at the New Frontier Theater! The place was absolutely packed, and the energy? Pure electric! It felt like we were all transported back to the 80s, singing along with our favorite pop princess.

Debbie Gibson was simply amazing! At 53, she still has that incredible voice and stage presence. Of course, she performed the iconic "Lost in Your Eyes," and the entire crowd erupted! It was a full-on singalong, lighters swaying (well, phone flashlights these days), pure nostalgia heaven.

Speaking of rocking the stage, Mickey Bustos totally blew me away! I always knew him as a hilarious comedian, but his voice? SPECTACULAR! Seriously, this guy can sing! Everyone needs to see him perform. Maybe even an ASAP guest appearance? Just throwing that out there, ABS-CBN!

Overall, the concert was a night of pure fun, nostalgia, and amazing music. Debbie Gibson is a true legend, and Mickey Bustos is a revelation! If you get a chance to see them live, don't miss it! You'll be "Lost in Your Eyes" of pure 80s magic! ✨

The entire band and dancers were incredible! The back-up singers' harmonies were flawless, the dancers brought incredible energy to every song, the saxophone added a beautiful layer of sound, and the drummer laid down a rock-solid foundation. You all truly elevated the entire performance and had everyone moving in their seats.

What were YOUR favorite moments from the concert? Share your memories in the comments below!

#DebbieGibson #ElectricYouth35 #NewFrontierTheater #MickeyBustos #ASAPnatinTo #RandomMinds 

Friday, April 26, 2024

Umeda Sky Building: Ticket Hacks for a Heavenly View!

Hey travel buddies! Let me share to you our amazing trip to Osaka, Japan, and one of the highlights was definitely visiting the Umeda Sky Building. The panoramic view from the Floating Garden Observatory? Unreal! But before I get lost in the memories, let's talk about something crucial: TICKETS!

Ticket purchases in a new country can be tricky, so we're here to share our experience and some tips for conquering the Umeda Sky Building!

There are two main ways to purchase tickets for the Umeda Sky Building in Japan:

Walk-in purchase: This is the go-to option for the spontaneous traveler. You can just head straight to the Umeda Sky Building and purchase your ticket at the counter on the 39th floor. Walk-in purchase is the most convenient option if you are flexible with your timing and don't mind waiting in line. However, tickets may sell out during peak times. Here's what to keep in mind:
  • Be Prepared to Wait: Especially during peak seasons or weekends, there might be lines.
  • Cash Only? Double-check if they accept credit cards or if you need to have yen on hand.
  • Price Check: While convenient, walk-in tickets might not be the cheapest option.

Online purchase
: This is the recommended option if you want to skip the lines and potentially save money. This is my preferred method. Why? Because by buying your tickets online you can skip the lines! Who wants to waste vacation time waiting? Buy online and head straight up. Plus, by buying online you can often find combo tickets that include entry to other Osaka attractions, such as but not limited to Osaka Castle or Universal Studios Japan. 

Compare several online travel platforms offering tickets to the Umeda Sky Building, often at discounted prices or bundled with tickets to other attractions.That way you can find deals or combo packages with other attractions that are also popular plus planning in advance especially if you're traveling during peak season, ensures a ticket. That way you won't miss out.

Based on our own experience, Kkday, klook, Rakuten 
Travel Experience and Headout had good deals and their websites were easy to navigate.

To save money think about what other places you want to see in Osaka. Maybe a combo ticket with Osaka Castle or Universal Studios Japan makes sense?

Super important! Don't forget to read the fine print. Make sure you know when your tickets are valid and if there are any days they're not accepted.

Bonus Tip: Download your tickets on your phone for a smooth entry process.

So, there you have it! With a little planning and these tips, getting your Umeda Sky Building tickets will be a breeze. Now, go forth and conquer those Osaka heights!

I hope this helps!



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