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Northern Luzon Roadtrip

October 11th, 2014 No comments

The kids had a 5-day weekend in August so we took advantage of that and went on a road-trip. I must confess that I was a bit apprehensive since Blake was only 8 weeks old and was colicky. But, Matt did a wonderful job planning this road-trip and all of the kids did great. I really like spending time with my little family and exploring more of this country.

The route we traveled in northern Luzon in 5 days. We discovered once again how beautiful this country is outside of the big city

The route we traveled in northern Luzon in 5 days. We discovered once again how beautiful this country is outside of the big city.

Our first stop was to Baler where we stayed at Coasta Pacifica. We stayed here for 2 nights and enjoyed the swimming pool, beach, having a tour of the area and getting out of the car. There were 2 routes to get to Baler and we took the route that goes through the mountain which tacked on 3 extra hours...thanks Google Maps for the recommendation

Our first stop was to Baler where we stayed at Coasta Pacifica. We stayed here for 2 nights and enjoyed the swimming pool, beach, having a tour of the area and getting out of the car. There were 2 routes to get to Baler and google maps recommended we take the route that goes through the mountain which tacked on 3 extra hours.

All of the kids on a surf board. This was Blake's first time in the ocean/pool & Kalani's first time back in the ocean after being stung by a jelly-fish

All of the kids on a surf board. This was Blake’s first time in the ocean/pool & Kalani’s first time back in the ocean after being stung by a jellyfish

Our "city tour" took us to Cunayan Falls. The kids were a bit disappointed that they didn't have their swimsuits, but we told them they could swim in their clothes like the locals and that made them happy

Our “city tour” took us to Cunayan Falls. The kids were a bit disappointed that they didn’t have their swimsuits, but we told them they could swim in their clothes like the locals and that made them happy

We got to explore the "Millennium Balete Tree" where you can walk through it since there is a path "carved out". And the kids could have stayed here for a couple of hours climbing all over it

We got to explore the “Millennium Balete Tree” where you can walk through it since there is a path “carved out”. And the kids could have stayed here for a couple of hours climbing all over it

We left Baler and the only road to get to Tuguegarao was a bit scary at times with it only being dirt roads and even some roads were washed away

We left Baler and the only road to get to Tuguegarao was a bit scary at times with it only being dirt roads, land slides and washed away in some places

On this road to Tuguegarao we saw some of the descendants of the very first people in the Philippines called "aeta"

On this road to Tuguegarao we saw some of the descendants of the very first people in the Philippines called “aeta

After a few hours in the car we made it to Tuguegarao and met up with our friend Mavis. She and our driver Juan joined us exploring the C caves

After a few hours in the car we made it to Tuguegarao and met up with our good friend Mavis. She and our driver Juan joined us exploring the Callao caves

There are 7 "openings" at Callao caves and in the 2nd opening is a "church" that holds services once or twice a month

There are 7 “openings” at Callao caves and in the 2nd opening is a “church” that holds services once or twice a month

We said our good-byes to Mavis and continued driving north to reach Cagayan Resort. This is the place that Survivor 2012 was located

We said our good-byes to Mavis and continued driving north to reach Cagayan Holiday & Leisure Resort. This is where the Survivor Cagayan crew stayed

Cagayan Holiday & Leisure Resort has a bunch of homes (5 bedrooms & private pool) to rent out, a casino & private airstrip...mostly caters to Chinese clients

Cagayan Holiday & Leisure Resort has a bunch of homes (our had 5 bedrooms & private pool) to rent out, a casino & private airstrip…mostly caters to Chinese clients who like to gamble

On our way to our next destination we came across the "Filipino Family Vehicle"

On our way to our next destination we came across the “Filipino Family Vehicle”

We stopped at Padgudpud beach and enjoyed the powder white sand and beautiful scenery

We stopped at Pagudpud beach and enjoyed the powder white sand and beautiful scenery. They call this place the Boracay of the north.

Our hotel on the north/west of Luzon was at Fort Ilocandia and it was wonderful. There was so much to do/see at the resort

Our hotel on the north/west of Luzon was at Fort Ilocandia and it was wonderful. There was so much to do/see at the resort that we will most likely go back since we didn’t get to do everything we wanted to

We got in this jeep and went on some sand dunes as a family

We got in this jeep and went on some sand dunes as a family

Mason really liked sliding down the sand dunes

Mason really liked sliding down the sand dunes

Kalani went horseback riding around the resort and on the beach

Kalani went horseback riding around the resort and on the beach

She also tried out archery for the first time

She also tried out archery for the first time

After staying at 3 wonderful hotels, our last hotel, in La Union, would be considered a dive. But, we enjoyed a walk on the beach and were now only 6-7 hours away from home

After staying at 3 wonderful resorts, our last hotel in La Union would be considered a dive in comparison. But, we enjoyed a walk on the beach and were now only 6-7 hours away from home.

We enjoyed the beautiful countryside on the north

We enjoyed the beautiful countryside of Norhern Luzon

More photos from our road trip here.

Brothers and Sister-in-law visit

October 11th, 2014 No comments

In 2013 we missed the yearly festivals where our family in the Philippines live by a week. So, Matt really wanted to be sure to attend in 2014. However, I was about 35 weeks pregnant didn’t want to risk having a baby in the province. So Matt started contacting our brothers to see if anyone would be willing to come out to visit us and then go to Siquijor for the celebrations. One thing led to another and in the end we had 3 of my brothers and a sister-in-law coming out to see us! The boys stayed for 1 week since they had to return to school and work. My sister-in-law stayed for 11 days and we were able to have some girl pampering time together.

They arrived early Sunday morning and were jet-lagged the whole week they were with us. But, luckily they can sleep anywhere, like at the movie theater, restaurant & lounge (which my 17 year old brother did)

They arrived early Sunday morning and were jet-lagged the whole week they were with us. But, luckily they can sleep anywhere, like at the movie theater, restaurant & lounge

A morning of shopping at Greenhills where we bought knock-off purses and other souvenirs. And of course they got to see "lady-boys"

A morning of shopping at Greenhills where we bought knock-off purses and other souvenirs. And of course they got to see “lady-boys”

We had a nice dinner at The Peninsula and then went to the lounge to watch/listen to a live band

We had a nice dinner at The Peninsula and then went to the lounge to watch/listen to a live band

These guys flew to Dumaguete from Manila, and then took the hour long ferry boat to get to Siquijor

These guys flew to Dumaguete from Manila, and then took the hour long ferry boat to get to Siquijor

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Getting ready to take our cousin’s boat to Salagdoong Beach (on the way they snorkeled from the bamboo arms)

3-man jump from the platform at Salagdoong

3-man jump from the platform at Salagdoong

My 17 year old brother about to jump off the platform in the tree at Cambugahay Falls

My 17 year old brother about to jump off the platform in the tree at Cambugahay Falls

They enjoyed their time at Cambugahay Falls and made friends with the locals that were also spending the day there

They enjoyed their time at Cambugahay Falls and made friends with the locals that were also spending the day there

They played some basketball with cousins

They played some basketball with cousins

They enjoyed the decorations for the "Coconut festival"

They enjoyed the decorations for the “Coconut festival”

And they danced the night away with cousins and new friends

And they danced the night away with cousins and new friends at the village disco

Photo of cousins at the disco

Photo of cousins at the disco

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is now on the island of Siquijor and they were able to attend worship service and classes before heading on the ferry and plane back to Manila

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is now on the island of Siquijor and they were able to attend worship service and classes before heading on the ferry and plane back to Manila

Our siblings enjoyed our club pool and gym that we have at our condo

Our siblings enjoyed the pool and gym at our condo

After the boys left, my sister-in-law and I did some girl things...like attending a baby shower that they ladies from church threw for me

After the boys left, my sister-in-law and I did some girl things…like attending a baby shower that the ladies from church threw for me

And I threw a "Pamper Me" Party at our condo and had some friends over and each person had their own massage therapist for an hour

And I threw a “Pamper Me” Party at our condo and had some friends over and each person had their own massage therapist for an hour

My brother Robbie was also here, but had to stay in Manila with me since his online Master's Program started that week. But the kids were happy to spend more time with him

My brother Robbie was also here, but had to stay in Manila with me since his online Master’s Program started that week. But the kids were happy to spend more time with him.

We love spoiling our family when they come to visit us and to show them life in the Philippines. And they took full advantage of this opportunity to meet our extended relatives and see how ex-pats and locals live in this 3rd world country

We love spoiling our family when they come to visit us. And they took full advantage to meet our extended relatives and see life in a 3rd world country

A favorite phrase from my 17 year old brother: "I can't, I'm only 17!" And he posted this photo that lets us know he had a good time with us...now he just needs to learn how to spell Philippines, or at least use spell-check!

My 17 year old brother wrote this on a photo he took to let us know that he had a good time… now he just needs to learn how to spell Philippines, or at least use spell-check!

Hong Kong get-away

October 5th, 2014 1 comment

I have been to Hong Kong twice for a church conference, but wasn’t able to do a ton of sight-seeing. And since Matt had not been to Hong Kong yet, we decided to take a little “Baby-moon” to Hong Kong before I got too far along in my pregnancy and the airlines wouldn’t let me fly. We took advantage of the May 1st Labor Day holiday and spent a long weekend with just the two of us while Kalani and Mason stayed in the Philippines with Helen and Marilyn (our house help). As always, we booked a tour guide through Viator and found Frank Law. We felt like he showed us all of Hong Kong and gave us good information on the things and places that we were visiting. He was fun, enthusiastic, and tailored the tour to meet the needs of a very pregnant lady.

Day 1

We booked a room at the Intercontinental Hotel and had a spectacular view of the Victoria Harbor

This is our room at the Intercontinental Hotel, which had this spectacular view of Victoria Harbor

We took a tram up to Victoria Peak

We took a tram up to Victoria Peak

BIG groups of Filipinos were gathered at parks since they all had the day off

BIG groups of Filipinos were gathered at parks playing games since they all had the day off

A local market in Hong Kong

On our tour of Hong Kong Island we stopped at a local market

Over 1,000 people live in this apartment building. There are many of these apartment buildings all over Hong Kong

Over 1,000 people live in this apartment building. There are many of these apartment buildings all over Hong Kong

A nice quiet area on Hong Kong Island

A nice quiet area on Hong Kong Island

Heading back to our hotel, we passed this "ship" that is really a department store inside

Heading back to our hotel, we passed this “ship” that is really a department store inside

Day 2

We took the metro to head to Lantau Island. We were headed to the Big Buddha, but these girls were going to Hong Kong Disney

We took the metro to head to Lantau Island. We were headed to the Big Buddha, but these girls were going to Hong Kong Disney

Heading up to the Big Buddha by cable car

Heading up to the Big Buddha by cable car

Our tour guide arranged for us to have a glass bottom cable car going up to Big Buddha

Our tour guide arranged for us to have a glass bottom cable car going up to Big Buddha

From the cable car we could see construction of a bridge that will give another access to mainland China

From the cable car we could see construction of a bridge that will give another access to mainland China

Off the cable car and we see Buddha in the distance and a bunch of western type of shops for the tourists

Off the cable car and we see Buddha in the distance and western types of shops for the tourists

Buddha (34 meters high) is blessing us as we climbed the 268 steps to reach the statue

Buddha (34 meters high) is blessing us as we climbed the 268 steps to reach the statue

Across from the Big Buddha is the Po Lin Monastery. Here are statues of Buddha as Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow

Across from the Big Buddha is the Po Lin Monastery. Here are statues of Buddha as Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow

We hit up the "Ladies Market" to buy some cheap gifts for the kids

We hit up the “Ladies Market” to buy some cheap gifts for the kids

We also went to the Night Market to have a look, but they basically have the same things as the Ladies Market

We also went to the Night Market to have a look, but they basically have the same things as the Ladies Market

Day 3

Our last day we started out visiting the beautiful Nan Lian Garden

Our last day we started out visiting the beautiful Nan Lian Garden which is right in the middle of the city

Chi Lin Nunnery was just across the bridge of the Nan Lian Garden

Chi Lin Nunnery was just across the bridge of the Nan Lian Garden

Guardians of Buddha

Guardians of Buddha

People get fortune sticks at the temple and then go to these fortune tellers to find out their future.  There are at least 2 dozen of these fortune tellers on site

People get fortune sticks at the temple and then go to these fortune tellers to find out their future. There are at least 2 dozen of these fortune tellers on site

We had a wonderful time spending time together as a couple and really enjoyed our tour guide and driver

It was wonerful to spend time together as a couple and we really enjoyed our tour guide and driver

We actually saw and did more than I showed in this post, but the rest of our photos can be found here.

Categories: Family, Travel Tags: , , , ,

Vacation – Brunei

May 29th, 2014 No comments

The last country we visited during spring break was Brunei. We were excited to visit this country since the only cousins from the Philippines that we had not met yet live in Brunei and we were anxious to meet them. Matt booked us a wonderful tour guide through ViatorEsjay was a great fit for our family and easy to work with, and without her I don’t know how we would have gotten around since there are NO taxis in Brunei. We only had 2.5 days in Brunei and at first the kids were done traveling, but they had a wonderful time meeting our cousins and seeing the sites of Brunei.

Day 1

Our flight arrived in Brunei around midnight from Manila

Our flight arrived in Brunei around midnight from Manila

We spent our first afternoon swimming with our cousins at the Radisson Hotel pool

We spent our first afternoon swimming with our cousins at the Radisson Hotel pool

Royal Regalia Museum you can see things that the Sultan has used like this chariot that is about 50 years old

Royal Regalia Museum, where you can see things that the Sultan has used; like this chariot that is about 50 years old

Brunei has proboscis monkeys in the wild; along with other animals that we were fortunate enough to see

Brunei has proboscis monkeys in the wild; along with other animals that we were fortunate enough to see

We visited a water village that we had to take a "water taxi" to reach. There was a home that was open to tourist and it was interesting to see how people live at this water village

We visited a water village that we had to take a “water taxi” to reach. There was a home that was open to tourists and it was interesting to see how people live at this water village

From the water village we took a boat to try to find some wild animals. Our bout driver spotted this crocodile

From the water village we took a boat to try to find some wild animals. Our boat driver spotted this crocodile.

We also found these monkeys near the water edge. We also found proboscis monkeys and a lizard, but they were too far for a clear photo

We also found these monkeys near the water edge. We also found proboscis monkeys and a lizard, but they were too far for a clear photo.

Esjay, our tour guide, was well prepared and brought along binoculars that Mason loved using

Esjay, our tour guide, was well prepared and brought along binoculars that Mason loved using

 Day 2

We also got to tour around the Mosque that the current Sultan had built. It caught me a bit off guard when the men wouldn't even acknowledge me or the kids while there

We also got to tour around a Mosque that the current Sultan had built. It caught me a bit off guard when the men wouldn’t even acknowledge me or the kids while there.

In order to tour the mosque we had to dress appropriately and remove our shoes

In order to tour the mosque we had to dress appropriately and remove our shoes

Our tour guide drove us around Brunei and told us how the country/government functions. This is a government built home.

Our tour guide drove us around Brunei and told us how the country/government functions. This is a subsidized government home.

At the Marco Polo Club there is an elephant kept there. We were told that the elephant belongs to the Sultan's sister.

At the Polo Club there is an elephant kept there. We were told that the elephant belongs to the Sultan’s sister.

Our last night we stayed at the Empire Resort and it was spectacular. The kids didn't want to leave.

Our last night we stayed at the Empire Resort and it was spectacular. The kids didn’t want to leave.

Matt took Kalani kayaking for the first time in one of the pools of the Empire while Mason and I hung out at the kids pool/playground.

Matt took Kalani kayaking for the first time in one of the pools of the Empire while Mason and I hung out at the kids pool/playground.

Our family in Brunei stayed with us at the airport while we waited to board our plane. We LOVED being with them and getting to know them better...Family is what it is all about

Our family in Brunei stayed with us at the airport while we waited to board our plane. We LOVED being with them and getting to know them better…Family is what it’s all about!

More photos of Brunei here.

Categories: Family, Travel Tags: , , , , , ,

Vacation – Myanmar (Burma)

May 28th, 2014 No comments

Burma, officially the “Republic of the Union of Myanmar” (commonly shortened as Myanmar) was an adventure. We had 4.5 days there and went to 3 different cities via airplane. So basically everyday (except for one) we were on a plane and visiting a new part of the country. The Myanmar government hasn’t been very open to tourism tour in the past and only in the recent years have they made it easier for foreigners to come visit. And because it has had “closed boarders” it is a country fairly untouched and well preserved in its heritage. We booked a tour guide through Tint Tint Travel but were not that impressed with our guide. She spoke French, some Spanish, plus the native language, but her English was very poor. It was easier for us to understand her in French or Spanish than it was in English. I would also eavesdrop on other tour guides in Spanish to figure out what exactly we were looking at and why it was important. So, the tour guide wasn’t awesome, but we still had an enjoyable time in the country.

It’s also worth noting that our vacation happened to fall during “Thingyan” — the Buddhist New Years Water Festival. The entire country celebrates for 3-4 days by engaging in non-stop water fights, concerts, disco dances, parties, etc. It was an unbelievable spectacle, and we had a blast participating!

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We arrived at the Yangon Airport and were greeted by our tour guide, the owner of the company and our driver

We arrived at the Yangon Airport and were greeted by our tour guide, the owner of the company and our driver

Straight from the airport we headed to a family's home to watch a puppet show...this group has traveled to the USA to perform their show

Straight from the airport we headed to a family’s home to watch the famous Htwe Oo Myanmar Puppet show…this group has traveled to the USA to perform their show

We took this type of airplane nearly daily to travel to our next city. At the airport we never once showed our ID since we had our tour guide with us and took care of everything for us

We took this type of airplane nearly daily to travel to our next city. At the airport we never once showed our ID since we had our tour guide with us and took care of everything for us while traveling domestically

We stayed at the "Amazing Bagan Resort" and really enjoyed the pool, especially in the afternoon when it was hot

We stayed at the “Amazing Bagan Resort” and really enjoyed the pool, especially in the afternoon when it was hot

Our first stop in Bagan was at the Nyong U Market. They have produce, meat, souvenirs, etc

Our first stop in Bagan was at the Nyong U Market. They have produce, meat, souvenirs, etc

With our tour guide at the Shwezigone Pagoda, which was one of many that we saw in Bagan.

With our tour guide at the Shwezigone Pagoda, which was one of many that we saw in Bagan.

At the top of a Pagoda during sunset. So many pagodas in Myanmar. It would have been fun to take a hot air balloon and see all of the pagodas from that view point

At the top of a Pagoda during sunset. So many pagodas in Myanmar. It would have been fun to take a hot air balloon and see all of the pagodas from that view point (but the balloons don’t operate in the summer).

We went to a lacquer-ware factory to see how they make things. This shows the different steps to making something from lacquer

We went to a lacquer-ware factory to see how they make things. This shows the different steps to making something from lacquer

In Bagan they have a Golden Palace...this only shows half of the palace

In Bagan they have a Golden Palace…this only shows half of the palace

While in Bagan the "Water Festival" started. The locals are out getting people wet and painting faces

While in Bagan the “Water Festival” started. The locals are out getting people wet and painting faces.

After 2 nights in Bagan, we went to Madalay and stayed at the Mandalay City hotel

After 2 nights in Bagan, we went to Mandalay and stayed at the Mandalay City hotel

We went to U Bein Bridge which was super busy and crowded

We went to U Bein Bridge which was super busy and crowded

We visited a monastery around lunch time and saw the monk procession where they bring in their donations for the day and then get their lunch meal

We visited a monastery around lunch time and saw the monk procession where they bring in their donations for the day and then get their lunch meal

Mason ready to all people to prayer with a prayer gong

Mason ready to call people to prayer with a prayer gong

Ladies could only get so close to a Buddha to worship

Ladies could only get so close to a Buddha to worship

So many people have put gold flakes on this Buddha that he looks like he is getting fat

So many people have put gold flakes on this Buddha that he looks like he is getting fat

We went to the Mandalay Hill Pagoda and had a beautiful view of the city and also saw the beautiful pagoda

We went to the Mandalay Hill Pagoda and had a beautiful view of the city and also saw the beautiful pagoda

The most memorable part of Myanmar was the "country-wide water fight!" We were able to open the sun-roof to our van and have people throw water on us...yes it got the van completely soaked inside

The most memorable part of Myanmar was the “country-wide water fight!” (Thingyan) We were able to open the sun-roof to our van and have people throw water on us…yes it got the van completely soaked inside

The locals here are making a traditional sugar snack that is only eaten during the Water Festival

The locals here are making a traditional sugar snack that is only eaten during the Water Festival

Matt and Kalani got out of the van and started dancing with all of the locals while getting water thrown on them

Matt and Kalani got out of the van and started dancing with all of the locals while getting water thrown on them

Matt and the kids joined in the fun of throwing water on people as they drove by

Matt and the kids joined in the fun of throwing water on people as they drove by

Yangon was first and last city we visited in Myanmar. They had awesome water stations to get wet

Yangon was first and last city we visited in Myanmar. They had awesome water stations to get wet

Getting wet with water wasn't bad since it was mostly warm water. But then there are some people who buy ice and pour ice cold water on you and of course you scream and they laugh

Getting wet with water wasn’t bad since it was mostly warm water. But then there are some people who buy ice and pour ice cold water on you and of course you scream and they laugh

They were done getting wet so they went inside the cab of the truck we had and were so much more happy

The kids were done getting wet so they went inside the cab of the truck we had and were so much more happy

Our very last stop in Myanmar was at Shwedagon Pagoda. It is pretty amazing looking especially at night

Our very last stop in Myanmar was at Shwedagon Pagoda. It is pretty amazing looking especially at night

More photos of Myanmar (Burma) here.

Categories: Family, Travel Tags: , , , , , ,