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Solsona: Zone of the Rising Sun

I went for a short holiday at my home town before our move to Reading, UK. I was so happy to be back for a quick visit.  I took some pictures showing the countryside I love so much. It is always nice to come home.

magnificent view of the rice fields

I always make it a habit to have a swim in the river every time I am home. I love the cold and fresh water which are coming down from the surrounding mountains.

Enjoying the water in the river

Growing up in the countryside was really nice and I miss the landscapes, the neighbours and the happy atmosphere in the village, where everybody knows each other.

We went for a walk one morning were we picked some green leafy vegetables on the way. The vegetables are what we call “ampalaya leaves” or  bitter gourd leaves. The ampalaya leaves are really bitter in taste as the name also indicates, but I love that special taste. That day I had it both for lunch and dinner as a side dish.

Every morning after breakfast,  Paula, my 2-year-old niece, is in a hurry to go to her “Ate Adrienne”, who is a relative’s 9-year-old daughter, because Paula wants to go to school as well. She takes her bag, which is bigger than herself, and walks around together with her little friend. They are both too young for school, but can hardly wait.

Meet my niece Paula and her friend

On the day I was bound to go back home to Singapore again, I had a chance to visit my old high school, The Solsona National High School (Talugtog Campus) and watch the school intramural. I met my former high school teachers, chatted and enjoyed watching the cheering competition between 2 teams.

cheering team

We watched the Sepak Takraw, a ball game where the players can use the head, back,  legs and any other body part except for the arms,  from shoulder down tot he point of the fingers.

Sepak Takraw

We also watch volleyball for women and baseball for the guys. We had so much fun, it is like bringing back the old  high school memories.

On that same day, I went for a short stroll in town and I took a picture of our municipal hall.

The tree house

 

The town Plaza

 

The Municipal Hall

Saying goodbye was not easy but I had to. I remember a friend said, “saying goodbye makes the new hello closer”.  Looking forward for the next visit, can’t wait.

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Koh Phi Phi Don Island: Romantic Getaway place

For my 30th birthday, I got a surprise gift from Thomas, a 3-nights stay in Koh Phi Phi island, Thailand. He had booked a beachfront cabin in a resort called Phi Phi Paradise Bungalow Resort, situated on Long Beach. We had a fantastic ocean view from the terrace and there is a nice breeze and a white sandy beach right in front of us. An excellent place to celebrate my 30th birthday!

Tonsai Bay Pier

As soon as we arrived at the Tonsai Bay Pier, as tourist we paid another 20 baht, Tourist fee. There were a million long tail boat drivers waiting for guests to bring to the various resorts. So don’t fear you will miss a boat, there are so many here, just waiting for passengers. As there are no roads and therefore no cars on Phi Phi, most resorts are only reached by boat, so the many long tail boats works as taxi boats.

We were taken up along the shore, a 10 minute trip and dropped off on the beach, in front of our resort. We quickly found the reception and were shown to our cabin.

When everything was settled with our room, we hurriedly changed and took our first swim of the day. Thomas and I loved the water. It is so warm, relaxing and soothing. Finely white sands, blue water and panoramic view of the whole island made me think I’m living in a paradise.

The next day, Thomas and I rented a boat with a driver that would bring us to the best places for snorkeling, and swimming around this Island. There are plenty of excellent places for snorkeling and scuba diving. We went snorkeling at Koh Phi Phi Ley, with its scenic Maya Bay where the famous “The Beach” movie was taken.  We also went to a secluded area where we saw thousands of different colored fish, big and small and a lot of beautiful corals. We also went to Shark Island, but unfortunately we did not see any shark that time. Maybe they had their lunch break or something :). We enjoyed the 3 hour trip where I experienced for the first time the excitement of swimming with beautiful fish and corals around me. Thomas has been diving for many years when he lived in Saudi, but for me it was the first time experiencing the sea like this.

What a boat trip. Thomas loves it.

Boat trip with a long boat. Let's go snorkeling.

 Thailand is a beautiful place, with a lot of nice people and they make excellent food.

Every single day, we had our breakfast, lunch and dinner at our resort restaurant located just next to the beach. The food was so good and just sitting and having food while overlooking the blue crystal clear water was really an amazing experience. Here in Koh Phi Phi we discovered and fell in love with “Tom Ka Ghai” also known as Chicken Coconut Soup. A traditional and aromatic Thai soup made with coconut milk, galagal, lemon grass and chicken. We have cooked this soup many times at home since.

Waiting for breakfast at the beach restaurant

At night after dinner, we walked hand in hand down by the shore until we came to a beach bar by the neighboring resort. A drink or two and a fire show completed our day. Awesome!

On our second night, I couldn’t sleep because of heavy rains and loud thunder throughout the night. I was too scared to sleep. However, the next day, the weather had cleared and we had a blue sky again.

The taxi boat

We took a taxi boat into the main village where locals are selling their products, t-shirts and other things aimed at tourists. A lot of tourists like us are roaming around the shops buying souvenirs for a very cheap price.  A lot of food stalls as well offering traditional Thai food and European food. The village and the whole island was severely damaged by the tsunami in 2004, and there are still clear traces of the damages, despite the many efforts and help from various organisations to rebuild houses, restaurants and resorts.

We enjoyed it so much and hope to be back in Koh Phi Phi again! It is really a fantastic place, and everything is very inexpensive. The bungalows, the food, the activities, everything is cheap compared to the Singapore price level we are used to. If you have the chance to come to Thailand, go to Phi Phi, it is a true paradise.

I have the whole world alone:)

Weekend getaways

This long weekend 4 days-holiday Thomas and I decided to spend the days at outdoor getaways. Visit the Mother Nature.

Saturday:

 

Pulau Ubin, the last “kampung” directly translated as village, in Singapore. People are living here with generator supplied electricity. For someone who loves the sanctuary of nature this is the place you want to try.

The trip begins at Changi Point Ferry terminal for a 10 minute ride on bumboat for only $SG2.50. It is wonderful with the beautiful scenery of the coastline.

As soon as I stepped out off the bumboat I felt so relaxed. It is like I’m back in childhood, still living in the countryside in Philippines. In the village you arrive at, there a lot of stray dogs roaming around, but clearly they are used to a lot of people around them.

We rented a couple of bicycles in one of the many rental shops for $10 per bike for the whole day. The shop offer $2 to $10 per bike depends on the age, tear and wear estate of the bike, so better have a test ride before you start the trip.

When we came to the junction of a fork road, we choose the way going west. The nature here is really stunningly beautiful. On our way, we saw traditional kampong houses, the Pekan Quarry- a beautiful deep pool surrounded by trees but forbidden for swimming.

We continued and we passed by the beautifully colored chalets of the islands resort until we reached the beach. The beach itself was not the nicest, but here a lot of locals here, fishing and chatting. Just after the beach we followed a dirt track which ended up overlooking this beautiful and magnificent blue water Ubin Quarry. It says on the sign “No Climbing” but Christian, our friend from Denmark apparently forgot his glasses at home:)

On our way back, we stopped by the lone resort in the village called Celestial Resort for a quick lunch at the restaurant. The resort offers a lot of activities like kayaking by the lagoon, beach volleyball, rock climbing and many others. Fish  body and feet cleansing are also available.

For more info about the resort check out:

http://www.celestialresort.com

Overall experience about Pulau Ubin: Excellent. We loved the quiet and nature aura. This was my 3rd  visit here and I definitely would  love to come back, given the chance.

 Sunday:  

Afternoon of Sunday we went for a long walk together with our friend Pearl. We started our journey at the Henderson waves, a structure not to be missed that connects Mount Faber Park to Telok Blangah Hill Park. The bridge is breathtaking architecture standing at 36m above Henderson Road. It’s artistic, distinctive wave-like structure is really well made and amazing. The curves are not only used as a design but it serves as a shelter as well. Some people used it as a picnic ground.

We continued our walk until Mount Faber and up the hill to Mount Faber park where the Restaurant “Jewel Box” is located and overlooking the southern part and shore of Singapore. After a few minutes of rest, we walked downhill again and continued down to the Danish Seaman’s Church, a black and white house used for gathering and for Sunday mass.

Then all the way to Kent Ridge Park where we saw monkeys steal food from an bypassing Indian family. They took the whole bag of food and started eating it in the middle of the path way (the monkeys, not the Indian family).

 

Monday:

On Monday afternoon, me and Thomas went for a stroll along Chinatown, Bugis and Bencoleen St. We passed by the La Salle School of Arts Singapore, which I found really amazing. We walked around Chinatown but quickly got tired of the crowd and went home to cook instead.

 

Tuesday:

Thomas the hulk at HSBC tree top walk

On Tuesday afternoon, we finally decided to go and experience  the HSBC tree top walk. The free-standing suspension bridge that connects the two highest point of Bukit Peirce and Bukit Kalang in MacRitchie. It took us more than 2 hours to finish 7km trail from Venus Drive parking space through the jungle to the bridge and back. We followed the dirt track of Terentang trails wherein we were amazed with how Singapore managed to keep a place like this as it is. Huge trees, different kind of plants, tiny and huge mushrooms growing on dead trunks of trees. Listening to the sound of nature is the best way to relax. True jungle in the middle of a city. It is really amazing.

mushroom growing on dead tree trunk

The 7km map trail from Venus drive car park

Its me fascinated with the beautiful view

To end a trip like this, Thomas had a beer while Pearl and I had soft drinks after the 2 hour walk. We are tired but happy!

Have a break! Lets have a beer!