15 Highlights of 2018

Let’s skip the long intro: My 2018 was, in one word, UNBELIEVABLE. At the early part of the year, I claimed that it was going to be a travel year—and damn right, it was! Adventures were coming so fast, it was as if I was constantly in a whirlwind of them. So below, I have compiled my top 15 highlights of 2018. As always, thank you for still being here! Let’s conquer more of the world in 2019!

15 | Witnessing the spectacle that is The Lion King (Manila, Philippines)

Unknown to many, I’m such a hardcore Lion King fan. I have all kinds of toys, books, and tapes as a kid, and I know the songs by heart—even until now. So when the Lion King musical was staged in Manila, I wasted no time and booked myself a ticket—EVEN IF I’M ALONE AND EVEN IF IT’s THE CHEAPEST TICKET (things sold out fast). I ended up not going alone, but my friend Leica and I were, like, 5 rows apart or something, hahahaha. So, needless to say, I bobbed up and down alone during the “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” sequence and bawled alone on “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”—but it’s okay, pretty much everyone around me was doing the same. 

14 | Experiencing sun after having nosebleeds for three weeks (Boracay, Philippines)

After spending winter in Texas, I was super eager to get some dose of the tropics so upon arriving in the Philippines, my brother and I flew to Boracay (this was before the island was rehabilitated). Our trip coincided with the Boracay Latin Festival, where folks can learn salsa, bachata, kizomba, and a bunch of other dances. The fun part was that some dancesport friends were also in the island, so we ended up partying together. I really like traveling with my brother because we don’t live in the same house—this was a good way to catch up.

13 | Getting all drenched in Baguio (Philippines)

My Baguio trip with my family was disastrous in a lot of ways. One, on the way there, there was a huge road accident that blocked the highway for hours (almost half a day, fuckers)—and we were forced to WALK to the city and find another way in. Two, it rained super hard upon arriving, spoiling all our sightseeing plans. But towards the end part of the trip, the weather became a bit cooperative and we got to roam around a bit and of course, taste Baguio’s specialties. The finale was a sumptuous lunch at Maeve Café—it was my mom’s birthday so we decided to take her here to relax. Not sure if the trip was actually relaxing overall, but at least we got to spend time together.

12 | Being forced to canoe in El Nido (Palawan, Philippines)

I have never traveled with my best friend Joan who lives in London, so when she visited Manila this year, I told her we need to go somewhere together. We were supposed to go to Maldives—but of course, I didn’t have any money (hahahahaha) so we ended up in … El Nido! LOL! She booked a really expensive luxury resort where we stayed in an amazing villa. It was rainy season when we went but it didn’t stop us from having fun. She forced me to canoe because she knew I didn’t like water stuff, LOL. Just catching up and spending time with one of my closest friends who is from the other side of the world is enough for me—even though the resort food was blah (yes, I couldn’t resist saying that last part, LOL).

11 | Having a taste of the “Big D” (Dallas, Texas)

Big cities kind of scare me—but I have this stubbornness in me. People kept saying, “there’s nothing to do in Dallas!” so instead of being dissuaded, I got even more interested to go. Well, guess what? I LOVED DALLAS. Indeed, there’s not much to do if all you’re after is sightseeing and going full tourist mode, but if you want to get immersed in the city—then you’ve come to a great place! My friend living in Dallas took me to the “must-sees”, toured me around the best places to eat and drink, and let me stay in her house. I mean, for you, walking down a beautiful park, clad in layers of clothes, holding the most delicious cup of hot chocolate probably sounds like nothing, but for me, during that moment (my first winter), it was everything.

10 | Witnessing Pride for the first time (San Antonio, Texas)

Witnessing Pride for the first time at a friendly city like San Antonio couldn’t have been any better. It was amazing—positive vibes were everywhere, you can feel a sense of unity among the attendees, and people were simply having fun! I went alone but ran into some acquaintances—it helped that I have made several friends in San Antonio after going there multiple times now. There were so many people that day and I think I was the only Filipino there—and I loved it!

9 | Lining up 6 hours for ribs and brisket (Austin, Texas)

I’m not the type of person who would line up for food (I’m looking at you, milk tea shops!), but if it’s something as iconic as Franklin’s, I would definitely consider .. in fact, I ended up waiting for 6 hours! People say Franklin’s has the best BBQ, so I figured I had to know for myself. Together with my Pinoy friends in Texas, I lined up outside the restaurant at 6:00AM—and what do you know, when we got there, there were already about 20 people in line. Wow! They say queueing up is part of the experience, and indeed it was! Everyone brings his own chair, and soon you will find yourself talking to the person beside you. Girl scouts pass by, selling delicious cookies. Hungry, eager patrons bring things to entertain themselves. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Will I line up again? Maybe not—as I would like to explore more of American barbecue.

8 | Learning how to cook Thai dishes (Chiang Mai, Thailand)

My first ever cooking class—and one which probably started and propelled a newfound interest in cooking. I’ve always wanted to cook but my Lola is a little impatient with me (plus she wants me to learn the Kapampangan ways—I wanted to learn international cooking, LOL). When we went to Thailand, Alej and I took part in a cooking class from Mama Noi Cooking School, where we learned to make a few Thai dishes. I guess the experience gave me a bit of confidence in the kitchen, and made me realize that I really want to be good at this and see smiles of people’s faces when I feed them with fucking fabulous food.

7 | Spending my birthday outside of the Philippines (Taiwan)

Taiwan is a special place for me. While it is not a country I would want to repeatedly visit, it is certainly a great place with its efficient modes of transport, cleanliness, sense of safety, and delicious food. Moreover, this was where I decided to spend my birthday this year. I booked a solo trip here to fulfill two items from my dreams: (1) to travel solo; and (2) to spend my birthday somewhere else other than the Philippines. More than the sights and the food themselves, what struck me the most about Taiwan is the people—they are so warm, helpful, and genuinely kind. Probably revisiting Taiwan after a year or two.

6 | Eating everything in sight in Malaysia (Malaysia)

In 2017, I booked a flight to Malaysia just so I could visit Penang, known as the street food capital of Asia. I wasn’t able to go because I was sent to the US for business—so when my friend Pinoy Travel Freak asked me to join a blogger tour in Malaysia in place of him, I said yes, of course! After the tour around Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh, I stayed behind and booked a flight to Penang, where I simply ate everything in sight! OMG THE FOOD THERE IS SO GOOD. I’m so sorry Taiwan fans, but you have to go to Penang for the best street food. I’m not kidding. This trip made Malaysia my top 2 Asian destination for food (the first being Thailand). Kuala Lumpur was such a nice surprise as well! I used to think there was nothing to do there, but I was terribly wrong!

5 | Crossing Los Angeles off my bucket list (California)

I’ve always wanted to visit Los Angeles to see the iconic palm tree-lined boulevards, the bustle of downtown, and the Hollywood sign, so when I was in Texas last June, I just said “fuck it!” and decided to book a weekend flight. I didn’t have much time but I was able to accomplish a lot of things: I met up with college friends who were both based in California and they showed me around LA; I partied in West Hollywood; we hung out at Venice Beach and the Santa Monica Pier; we climbed to the Hollywood sign; we explored Universal Studios Hollywood; and we ate our way around this exciting city! I would never forget LA because it’s currently the most expensive plane ticket I’ve ever bought, but this somewhat spontaneous trip is definitely one for the books!

4 | Discovering the beauty of Bali (Indonesia)

Bali has always been in my list of dream destinations, so when I chanced upon a really cheap flight, I didn’t think twice about booking it. Together with my best buds, I explored the breathtaking sights of this island and got immersed in its laidback vibes. It’s so easy to fall in love with Bali, and it can be quite hard to get over the obsession, to be honest. It’s one place you would want to go back to again and again. The locals are nice, the shops are quaint and beautiful, the beaches—while not as stunning as the Philippines’—are calming, like you just want to lounge around forever. Excited to go back again this year!

3 | Seeing the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Los Angeles, California)

I’m a huge fan of the Harry Potter books and so seeing the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood was like watching a fantasy become true-to-life. I was having goosebumps as my friend Charles and I entered the Hogsmeade, and I wanted to cry as the Hogwarts castle came into view. By the time we were inside the castle itself—aboard a 4D ride that took us to an adventure featuring all characters and elements of Harry Potter—the tears actually fell, LOL! The entire theme park is incredible, but the happiness I felt in the Harry Potter area alone was worth the expensive Express ticket to Universal Studios.

2 | Falling in love with Vietnam (Vietnam)

During our Indochina trip last 2017, we literally only spent 12 hours in Vietnam (Saigon) so I told myself I need to come back to this country. Coincidentally, our German friends from Munich wanted to visit Vietnam so we planned to go together this November. This trip was probably one of my most relaxed ones: not much itinerary, all eating and drinking, plus a couple of days in the beach in an island off Saigon. It was a “real” vacation—I LOVE Vietnam! We also helped our German friend Tobi do his proposal to his longtime girlfriend Christina—I felt so special to be part of a moment like that. Plus everyone in the trip was just exuding good vibes all the time!

1 | Exploring more of Thailand and finishing with Songkran (Thailand)

If you haven’t experienced Songkran Festival in Thailand, I highly encourage you to plan a trip to this country next April. The festival, which is Thailand’s traditional New Year, will have you witness the entire country explode into one big water fight. Everyone goes out to dance, drink, and spray water all over each other. Weapons of all kinds materialize, like water pistols, backpack tanks, hoses, and buckets. Don’t even try to avoid it—you WILL get wet. It’s definitely one of the most fun things I’ve experienced this year—the finale to our 10-day trip across Bangkok, Pai, and Chiang Mai last April (we celebrated Songkran in Chiang Mai and I highly recommend you do so, too).

What are your favorite moments of 2018?

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