Happy New Year!
I hope everyone had an amazing Christmas and New Year’s Holiday like I did. My family and I spent it aboard the luxury cruise ship, Mariner of the Sea. Pincky, my sister in Japan, met us in Singapore and we got to spent 10 days together with her and her kids, 6 days aboard the ship.
Looking back, 2016 had been an amazing year of travels; 3 liveaboard dive trips and more sponsored trips than I’ve ever did in a year. I normally take one long term travel (2 months) and a couple of short trips (weekend — 1 week), but I decided to accept (almost) all invitations, so I did not have my usual long trips (South Africa & Europe in 2014; Tonga & Australia in 2015). But it was amazing because I got to meet so many new people and made lots of new friends from the same travel blogging industry.
The Year of 3 Liveaboard Diving
I’ve never had 3 liveaboard dive trips in my life, heck, I’ve never done 2 in 1 year. In fact, my record was 1 liveaboard dive trip in 2 years beginning in 2010 when I did Tubbataha for the first time. In 2012, I did the dream dive in the Galapagos. In 2014, I got back into diving with a trip aboard the luxurious Maldives Princess.
Diving Komodo is on every diver’s bucket list and I got to check mine in April, 2016. It was super amazing because we had a lot of manta ray encounters! Here are some pictures from Ryan. I lost my Gopro on the first dive and my Olympus TG3 housing kept flooding!
The current in Komodo was crazy, even more so than in the South of Maldives. Our experience in the 3C dive sites: Crystal Rock, Castle Rock, (especially) the Cauldron or the Shotgun is out of this world. We also saw the Komodo Dragons in the wild. I have not blog about this trip yet, but I did post some pictures in instagram.
And of course, it was more special because I was with a bunch of my friends and we even had some days chilling at a villa in Bali.
My first Tubbataha trip was memorable because I saw my 1st to 100th shark underwater. I’ve wanted to go back since 2013 because of the raves of seeing other types of sharks. However, since Scuba World sold their fleet, Tubbataha dive trips has skyrocketed. From 38,000 pesos we paid in 2010, today you can’t get less than 95,000 pesos. But this year, I was lucky to take part in a sort-of exploratory dive with Solitude One in the last week of June. It was offered at friend’s price of $1,200 so I jumped at it even if I’ve already done a liveaboard for the year. I was invited by Bo Mancao, dive friend who was the resident marketing/uw photographer/dive master of Solitude One. It was also the first year Solitude One did Tubbataha.
Tubbataha, if you don’t already know, is only available to dive from March ~ June every year. I did not encounter hammerhead nor the tiger shark, but did see a lot of whale shark and other sharks.
When it rains, it pours. I got the fantastic invitation from Paul to join the exploratory dives in Hanifaru with Maldives Princess.
The experience in Hanifaru is amazing and I intend to write about it soon. But basically, it is this vortex where hundreds of manta rays come together to feed. You’re only allowed to snorkel in this area but there are enough dive sites around to see beautiful reef, mantas, and feeding station. This is a photo by Oliver Ang of Scuba Studio, and that’s me in pink being run over by mantas! It can be said that this is a year of mantas for me.
Year of FREE Trips
I really feel that brands now embrace social media and recognize the value of blogs. I’ve received more invitations for collaborations and trips despite not being a serious blogger. I mean I’ve been blogging on and off for almost 10 years now but I don’t post as often as I wanted to. Only about 50% of my trips are ever documented. However, because of this phenomenon, I’ve decided to give my blog a major renovation. I hope that I will be able to keep up with my travels and also be able to write about past travels.
In 2016, I’ve been invited by Cebu Pacific to visit Osaka and Kyoto, by Air Asia to take part in the Ati-atihan Festival (January) and Penang (May), both of which were first time for me. Air Asia also flew me to the Maldives to join the exploratory dives with Maldives Princess. I flew business class with Thai Airways to visit Bangkok and the nearby region. And finally, I joined Trip of Wonders organized by the Tourism Board of Indonesia in Wonderful Indonesia.
I used to not enjoy press trips because of the hectic travel schedules, but I love it that you get to see so many wonderful places, VIP treatment, and also I don’t only met cool people, I actually made friends with many of them, be it other influencers or our hosts.
New Country: #51
This 2016, I visited my 51st country: Vietnam. With a bunch of my friends from school, we visited the beautiful Hanoi.
The farthest we’ve traveled together was to Cebu over 10 years ago to attend a friend’s wedding. In this short 4 days trip, we had endless laugh trip and more group selfies than ever. It was so much fun, I hope we’ll do it again. Perhaps I’ll organize one again in 2018.
First Time in Luxury Cruise
I’ve been on boats. But to go on luxury cruise ship was never on my bucket list. I thought it would be confining and boring. But was I wrong!
Candie, my sister, thought we should do a family cruise for the holiday. So she booked us to a 5 nights cruise with Mariner of the Seas (Royal Caribbean Line). My family travels together twice a year; once during Easter Holiday and the Christmas–New Year holiday. This year during Easter, we were in Guangzhou.
Barely 5 minutes inside the boat, I knew it was going to be an amazing trip. No wonder so many families do it all the time. Confining? It was so big that I kept forgetting I was aboard a boat. Boring? It has 10 pools, 24 hour casino, several bar & restaurants, theater, and an ice skating rink! It’s so Vegas! It’s quite an experience! I will blog about it! Soon.
Anyway, with a great year behind me, I’m super excited to welcome 2017. I know it’s going to be another awesome year filled with travels. And to start off, I’m going to Europe this January! In fact, I’m leaving in less than a week.
It’s winter, I know, and I’m really scared. But this is the only season that I will be able to catch the northern lights. The Aurora Borealis has been on my bucket list for a long time, but the cold has been the deterrent. I recently read that by 2017, the northern lights is going to be infrequent. The news is a hoax, according to my friend Dan, but it had prompted me to decide this is the year to see it. So, I’m headed to Scandinavia!
I applied for visa last November and it was super fast, only 2 days. I will write another blog post on how to apply for Schengen visa, but for now, my energy is focused on packing for the long winter!
Since this is my trip, it will be at a very relaxing pace. Girlie, my sister will be joining me later on. It’s her first time to Europe, but it’s also my first time in Scandinavia, so we’ll be exploring this region at our sweet pace.