Author Archives: Mai Flores

About Mai Flores

Mai writes from Manila, Philippines. She’s a Filipino, budget-conscious wanderluster, who notes expense breakdowns and writes various trip itineraries for family and friends. She shares her adventures and misadventures through her travel blog as a means to document her dreams of seeing the world, one step at a time.

Lake Mohicap

Things to do in San Pablo, Laguna by Mai Flores

The province of Laguna is known for its attractions. You can visit the hot spring resorts in Los Baños, the footwear market in Liliw, the historic town plaza in Pila and more. But if you’re a nature enthusiast, then you’ll definitely enjoy San Pablo Laguna’s “7 Lakes.” Visiting all seven lagoons can be done on your own. If you want a hassle-free trip, hire a local tour guide. You can hire a tricycle for the day ($16 for a day tour that’s good for five people), and request to be taken around all seven reservoirs.

Breakfast

Lola Esteling

Start your day by trying out the sumptuous pastry selections at Lola Esteling — a cozy restaurant that’s just beside the San Pablo City Library Hub. Buy a hefty slice of their delicious sylvana/s, and have it paired with a hot cup of coffee.

Morning Activity

Sampaloc Lake

Once you’re done with breakfast, make way to the nearest and most accessible lagoon in all of San Pablo City — Sampaloc Lake. You can either ride the tricycle to get there faster, or take a leisurely stroll towards the largest crater lake. The beautiful inland sea that holds a few houses on stilts and fish pens also offers a beautiful backdrop of Mt. Cristobal.

Lake Sampaloc

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The next lagoon that you can visit via tricycle is Lake Mohicap (covers an area of 14.5 hectares) — one of the city’s main water suppliers. Trekking towards the reservoir can give out a daunting descent due to its uneven manmade stairs. There aren’t any sturdy railings to hold on to, so caution is really needed when going down. But you’ll certainly feel mesmerized once as you get to the base. You can appreciate more of the lagoon’s beauty by renting out a floating raft ($0.45 with local guide).

Lake Mohicap

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Lake Palakpakin is another lagoon that will surely impress you. The reservoirs shoreline is even more striking to look at, given its beautiful layout of water lilies. But that’s not all! The lake, which covers an area of 43 hectares, is also used as a breeding ground for cultured Silver Carps and Tilapia.

Lunch

Balsa Raft

You can have lunch on top of a floating raft (also called ‘Balsa’ in our local language) while admiring the view of Pandin Lake. If you opt to do a DIY day tour, then it would be convenient to bring your own food. But you can also try the packages that are offered by the locals who dwell by the lake. Most of them offer a raft tour with lunch for around $9 per person.

Afternoon Activity

Yambo Lake

Lake Pandin

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Lake Pandin would probably be one of the hardest to get to, especially if you’re not into scorching hot, half-hour treks. The uneven path towards the lagoon was a long one. But let the lake fascinate you with its picturesque attraction once you reach its shores. It’s one of my favorite lakes from all the 7, which covers an area of about 20.5 hectares.

Yambo Lake is just a short hike from its twin lagoon, Pandin. But you’ll still have to prepare yourself for an intense climb up on its hard slopes. But you’ll surely be enthralled by its expanse and magnificence right after your ascent.

Lake Kalibato (covers an area of 42 hectares with a maximum depth of 135 meters) is another lagoon that’s worth traversing. But before you reach the reservoir, you’ll have to get through a rocky stream and some uneven landscape.

Lake Kalibato

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Lake Bunot, on the other hand is the last lagoon on the list. It covers an area of 30.5 hectares, and is used as a breeding ground for Tilapia.

Dinner

Jollibee

You’ll probably be tired by the time you finish all of San Pablo City’s 7 Lakes. So indulge yourself with some local fast food meals by heading out to Jollibee Plaza (near the San Pablo City Plaza). There are plenty of tasty rice meals in Jollibee for just under $3.

Evening Activity

San Pablo City Plaza

After dinner, do a leisurely stroll by the San Pablo City Plaza. You can also say a prayer by the San Pablo Cathedral, or take pictures of old houses nearby. And if the library hub is still open, visit that as well.

General Post Office - Ho Chi Minh

Things to do in Hồ Chí Minh by Mai Flores

General Post Office - Ho Chi Minh[media-credit name=”Mai Flores” align=”aligncenter” width=”634″]

Formerly known as Saigon, the modern-day capital boasts of remarkable structures that are of French colonial descent. On top of that, the metropolitan is also known for its scenic tourist spots. The most famous ones are actually the Notre Dame Cathedral, Reunification Palace, City Post Office, and Saigon Opera House.

Breakfast

Nothing beats eating a big bagel, some eggs and a nutritious fruit all for breakfast. Most hotels will give this as a complimentary meal during your stay. But if breakfast isn’t included, you can always leave your accommodations and just head out to the nearest food stall (most food stalls sell bagels with meat and vegetable fillings). If there’s something that stands out in Ho Chi Minh City, it would have to be their sumptuous food. Cuisines are aplenty in the Pham Ngu Lao area, which ranges from local to fast food choices.

Morning Activity

City Tour

If you’re strapped for time, then you can always avail of those affordable city tours for your convenience. Most accommodations will offer their own tours (i.e. Nguyen Khang Hotel by Pham Ngu Lao offers their city tour for only 10 USD per person). You can try the City tour so that you’ll get to see several sites in just under a day. Most of these guided trips will already include the War Remnant Museum, Shilaiten Shopping Plaza, Thien Hau Pagoda, and Binh Tay Market.

War Remnant Museum - Ho Chi Minh[media-credit name=”Mai Flores” align=”aligncenter” width=”634″]

Afternoon Activity

Sights Around Notre Dame Cathedral

The guided tour/s in the afternoon will generally bring you to the Handicraft Workshop, Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral, and General Post Office (conveniently located from one another). And if the tour is on-time, you’ll still be able to see the City Hall, Saigon Opera House, and Rex Hotel. But if you can skip these last few sites in the afternoon, you can always choose to see these edifices at night — as these attractions look more stunning during the evening.

Dinner

Cho Ben Thanh Market

You can always try and eat at Cho Ben Thanh Market for some local chow — as the marketplace hosts some of the best eateries around. The food choices aren’t pricey, and there’s always a wide selection of cuisines to choose from (from vegetable-stuffed spring rolls with shrimp to beef Pho noodles). The site may not have the best ambiance. But if you’re willing to try the best-tasting Vietnamese grub around, then it’s the place to be.

Evening Activity

Bui Vien

If you already feel beat up from the day’s activities, you can always chill and have a few cold ones by Bui Vien. The street that’s adjacent to Pham Ngu Lao (backpackers haven) is packed with restaurants and bars. Now, the trick here is to find the best spot that sells the cheapest beer (from 10,000 to 12,000 VND per bottle). The Bui Vien pubs that actually sell low-priced beers are those located by the sidewalks. It’s where you can drink, socialize and people-watch.

Bui Vien Scene - Ho Chi Minh[media-credit name=”Mai Flores” align=”aligncenter” width=”634″]

Harbor Bay

Things to do in Manila by Mylene Flores

Harbor Bay[media-credit name=”flickr” align=”aligncenter” width=”634″]

Manila never fails to set any mood, even if you’re a local or tourist. It’s just one of the many delightful cities in the Philippines that will truly keep you exploring for more. There’s plenty to do here like travel back in time (go museum-hopping or visit Intramuros), dine by the bay, or stay at one of the hotels near the harbor to witness the famous Manila sunrise and sunset.

 

Breakfast

Jollibee

 

A visit to Manila will not be complete if you haven’t had your fill from the famous fast food chain—Jollibee. The food joint has been recognised not just for its giant bee mascot. It has also been distinguished for its delicious burgers, spaghetti and breakfast meals.

So get a taste of authentic and affordable Filipino viands by tasting some Tapsilog, Longsilog or Hotsilog for your early morning meal (served with garlic rice, egg and your choice of drink). Several outlets can be found in Manila, so you can be sure you won’t miss out.

 

Morning activity

National Museum of the Philippines

 

Nothing beats learning a country’s history by visiting it’s museums and one of the celebrated ones in Manila would have to be the National Museum of the Philippines. The official repository of the Philippines has preserved some of the most interesting artifacts, paintings, life-size sculptures, old manuscripts and more.

You’ll also get to see up-close the famed Spolarium painting by Mr. Juan Luna (finished in 1884), several Jose Rizal monuments, prehistoric animal skeletons and more. So whether you’re in a group or flying solo, a trip to this national treasure trove is certainly worth experiencing when in the city.

P. Burgos Drive, Rizal Park, Manila; Open on Tuesdays-Sundays, 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM

 

Lunch

Harbor Square

 

You can never go wrong by having lunch with an Al Fresco setup. Lunch at Harbor Square is something that you should definitely try before visiting Intramuros in the afternoon. Harbor Square is an outlet of food joints that offer Filipino, American, Italian, Persian and Japanese specialties. You can choose to dine in those situated by the harbor to have a more scenic and panoramic view of Manila bay.

 

Afternoon activity

Intramuros

 

One of the most recognized landmarks of Manila would have to be the old fortress called Intramuros. The walled city has a lot to offer in terms of showing its guests the historical background that it holds. For starters, visit Fort Santiago. The old barracks where Jose Rizal was imprisoned holds several rusty prison cells and small museums.

 

Dinner

Dencio’s Harbor Square

 

You can go back to Harbor Square and dine at Dencio’s Harbor Square – CCP for dinner. Al Fresco dining is very different at night. You can enjoy the cool breeze and yellow-lit lamps while watching several docked boats sway. You’ll enjoy eating by the bay even more when you order a hot bowl of Sinigang na Baboy, a plate of Sizzling Sisig (pork or fish) and a few bottles of Manila’s famous ice-cold San Miguel Light beer.

 

Evening activity

Rizal Park

 

You can explore Rizal Park (also known as Luneta) and get a chance to watch the Free Rizal Park Musical Dancing Fountain Show. It usually runs from Friday to Saturday, 6 PM – 12 MN. You can stay here and have a picnic setup whilst admiring the beautiful light shows playing through the night.

Snow City

Things to do in Singapore by Mai Flores

Merlion: Singapore as “Lion City”[media-credit name=”Sophia Fu” align=”aligncenter” width=”634″]

Singapore, an independent city in Southeast Asia, is considered one of the most progressive countries globally. The city (also known as the City in a Garden) is also one of the most entertaining places in Asia, given its array of sumptuous food, exciting nightlife, picturesque structures and more. Because it’s such a popular destination, there are plenty of things to do in Singapore.

 

Breakfast

 

Airport in Singapore[media-credit name=”Mai Flores” align=”aligncenter” width=”400″]

There are plenty of fast food joints at the airport terminals of Singapore if you happen to fly in the morning. For familiar food chains, you can eat at Burger King, Starbucks, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, or Carl’s Jr. If you have more time to spare, going around the terminals for other dining options can also be an experience. You might even find yourself dining at Subway at T1 or even at Toast Box at T2.

 

Morning Activity

Science Center

 

Science Center[media-credit name=”Mai Flores” align=”aligncenter” width=”400″]

As soon as you’re settled at your hotel, a nice start-up activity is a visit to the Science Center. It’s an educational and very entertaining place where both young and old can enjoy. There are plenty of interactive exhibits that display current global situations, historical backgrounds, and art & science presentations.

15 Science Centre Road, Singapore 609081; Opening Hours: Daily (10 AM – 6 PM / Last admission at 5.15 PM); Tel: (65) 6425-2500

 

Afternoon Activity

Snow City

 

Snow City[media-credit name=”Mai Flores” align=”aligncenter” width=”400″]

The Snow City (a man-made snow hill) is just across from the Science Center. Here you can experience a cool time while you slide down a mountain of snow. Even if you came without any snow wear and gear, Snow City offers their stuff for a minimum rental fee. Picture taking isn’t allowed inside. But there are photographers on site who can take your pictures. You’ll find their snapshots being sold at the reception area.

Snow City Singapore, 21 Jurong Town Hall Road, Snow City Building, Singapore 609433; Opening Hours: Daily (10 AM – 6 PM / Last admission at 5 PM) / School & Public Holidays (10 AM – 7 PM- Last admission at 6 PM).

 

Early Dinner

Bongo Burgers Night Safari

 

Bongo Burgers Night Safari[media-credit name=”Mai Flores” align=”aligncenter” width=”397″]

Have dinner at Bongo Burgers Night Safari, where you can order a platter of their quality-made decadent burgers, jumbo hotdogs, fries and more. Meals are typically combined with the freshest ingredients, while served in very hefty portions. They also serve some of the coolest looking drinking glasses. You can also chill at the Night Safari plaza where dancing and fire-blowing performances usually take place. So do watch out for that.

80 Mandai Lake Road Singapore 729826 (Entrance Plaza); (65) 6269 3411 / Opening Hours: 5.30 PM – 12.00 AM (Daily)

 

Evening Activity

Singapore Night Safari

 

Night Safari[media-credit name=”Mai Flores” align=”aligncenter” width=”400″]

A trip to Singapore will not be complete if you haven’t tried their guided Night Safari tour. The trip itself will take you into an open tram adventure while driving through a dark trail of wildlife habitats (inhabited by nocturnal animals). It’s a different and unique experience that is worth doing at nightfall.

80 Mandai Lake Road Singapore 729826; Opening Hours: 7.30 PM to 12.00 MN daily

 

City Hall Ho Chi Minh city

Things to do in Hồ Chí Minh City by Mai Flores

City Hall Ho Chi Minh city[media-credit name=”Mai Flores” align=”aligncenter” width=”634″]

Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) is Vietnam’s largest city. The metropolitan may already be a modern-day capital. But it’s historical French colonial past is still very much felt and seen on several edifices. Moreover, most of the city’s tourist spots comprise of the Notre Dame Cathedral, City Post Office, Reunification Palace and Rex Hotel.

Breakfast

Ho Chi Minh bagels[media-credit name=”Mai Flores” align=”aligncenter” width=”400″]

Most hotels in Hồ Chí Minh City will offer complimentary breakfast. So you can either take advantage of this to save money or just go right out for a quick meal. There are plenty of stainless steel food carts at almost every corner of the street that sells meat-filled bagels and drinks.

Morning activity

Saigon Square

If you’re looking for quality-made knock-offs (from Class A Deuter Rucksacks, Nike Windbreakers, Vans shoes to external phone batteries), then Saigon Square is definitely worth checking out. Saigon Square has 3 floors that you can shop at, from which you can bring home some of the coolest finds at a very affordable price. But of course, the secret to getting the best price out of any item is to haggle.

7-9 Ton Duc Thang District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Lunch

Chợ Bến Thành Market

Cho Ben Thanh Market[media-credit name=”Mai Flores” align=”aligncenter” width=”400″]

For several dining options, just cross towards the Chợ Bến Thành Market if you’re coming from Saigon Square. The dry market’s ambiance may not offer the most appetizing of viands at first glance. But don’t be deceived, as the tastes that will be introduced to your palate will surely be sumptuous.

It’s a must to try their Phở Bo – Ga (beef or chicken soup) and some Bún Thịt Nướng – Nem Nướng (Vermicilli with grilled meat). Each viand is usually priced at 40,000 VND.

Intersection of Le Loi, Ham Nghi, Tran Hung Dao Avenues and Le Lai Street, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Afternoon activity

You can also go around and shop for souvenirs right at the Chợ Bến Thành Market. The marketplace houses several interesting goods and services (i.e. intricately designed clothes, souvenir items in the form of embellished trinkets, Vietnamese leaf hats or Nón Lá, dried edible delicacies, tailoring services). The goods here may be a little bit expensive than the ones being sold at Saigon Square. But you can definitely spot something worth buying here, if you’re willing to look around.

Evening activity

Saigon Opera House

You can save time by hopping into a cab and heading out towards the famous Saigon Opera House (Ho Chi Minh Municipal Theatre). Other famous tourist spots like Rex Hotel and the City Hall are also nearby (the statue by the park with the old French building as its background is picturesque at nightfall). Moreover, it’s better to see all three well-established structures, as each one looks more vibrant and alive with all the lights radiating at night.

Lam Son Square, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Rex Hotel: 141 Nguyen Hue Blvd., Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Telephone: (84 8) 38292185 Fax: (84 8) 38296536

Dinner

Tricolore

Tricolore[media-credit name=”Mai Flores” align=”aligncenter” width=”400″]

Have dinner at Tricolore Restaurant by Phạm Ngũ Lão should you find yourself in the area. It’s an Italian-Vietnamese Restaurant that serves a nice tasting dish of Sautéed Pork Ribs and Sautéed Chicken with Lemon Grass. The air-conditioned diner also has free WIFI.

275H Phạm Ngũ Lão Street District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

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Lying Buddha

Things to do in Bangkok by Mai Flores

Lying Buddha[media-credit name=”flickr” align=”aligncenter” width=”634″]

Bangkok is known for its temples, and this guide will take you to some of the city’s best temples. You can book tours easily to see as much as you want.

Breakfast

Sawasdee Inn

Most accommodations in Bangkok will provide complimentary breakfast. With that in mind, my stay at Sawasdee Inn by Khao San Road (backpackers haven) offered a plated American breakfast and a cup of coffee.

Morning Activity

City and Temple Tour

Booking a City and Temple Tour (800 Baht per tour) on your first day in Bangkok is a good plan. You can use the services of Great Bangkok Travel Co., Ltd., as their tour guides are always on time and are very professional (complete with uniforms and ID cards). You can be assured that you’ll get the most out of your time and money with them.

The City Tour lasts for only half a day, and will consist of trips to The Grand Palace, Wat Pho Temple and a few gem galleries.

The Grand Palace houses several edifices and galleries. It used to be the ‘official residence of the Kings of Siam’ back in the day. Apart from that, it’s advisable to refrain from entering the complex dressed in revealing clothes. Otherwise you’ll be clothed with a long wrap around.

Phra Nakhon, Bangkok, Thailand, Phone: +66 2 623 5500

The Wat Pho Temple, on the other hand, is where the famous reclining Buddha can be seen up close.

2 Sanamchai Road, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok, Thailand 10200, Thailand, Phone: +66 2 225 9595

Lunch

Order a plate of authentic Thai cuisine at Ch. Prathumthong Café, which is just across the Grand Palace. The restaurant is small with only a few tables arranged inside. But you can still enjoy the food and ambiance despite the restricted movement. You can already satisfy your hunger by only spending 50 Baht for a good meal and drink.

Afternoon Activity

If you’re staying by Khao San Road, then spending your afternoon won’t be a problem. The area houses some of the most interesting finds ranging from inexpensive clothes to exotic grub. There are plenty of small shops that surround Khao San that will definitely tickle your fancy.

Dinner and Evening Activity

Night River Cruise

You can choose to spend your night by sailing through the Chao Phraya River. You can opt to book a night river cruise via the same travel agency for a fee of 1500 Baht per person.

The night river cruise starts off with a quick photo-op with a lady that’s dressed in Thai costume. After your picture taking, you’ll be escorted inside the boat, and will be served free cocktails to start the night off. As soon as you’re settled, a buffet table is then opened for the guests. Different cuisines from all over the world can be expected from the table ranging from Asian to American specialties.

The tour will go around the Chao Phraya River for about an hour while an acoustic band serenades you. If you have a chance, be seated near the window. You’ll get to appreciate more of the spectacular view, as you’ll see several well-lit temples and the Bangkok Bridge. And if that’s not enough, you can go up the deck to take some photos or to just get some fresh air.