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Tbilisi is a real pearl hidden among the high mountains of Georgia. This ancient yet modern city has so many exciting opportunities to offer...

Tbilisi is a real pearl hidden among the high mountains of Georgia. This ancient yet modern city has so many exciting opportunities to offer to its guests. Here on the crossroad of Europe and Asia, the Eastern culture intertwines with Western. As a result, Georgian culture has become so unique and diverse. In this article, I want to introduce you to the top 4 exciting ways to spend your tour in Georgia, namely in the capital Tbilisi.

1. Get lost in the old town

Georgia is a country of incredible contrasts. I believe that the charm of any city is hidden, first of all, in the part that brightly represents the greatest historical value and is usually referred to as the Old Town. It is in the architecture, old winded streets, and colorful wooden houses with carved balconies that the real ancient soul of Tbilisi is hidden. All these fragile and old buildings are full of charm.

Tbilisi Old Town, being once the historical center, is abundant in fascinating sights that should be included in any must-visit list. "Abanotubani" is one of such places. According to legend, this place was indicated by the falcon of King Vakhtang Gorgasali. Subsequently, hot springs were discovered here, and it was decided to found a new capital. Bath Quarter is perfectly preserved. In public baths, curative sulfur waters are used. Baths are located under the ground and on the surface, the only visible part are the hive-like domes.

Tbilisi Old Town is the most attractive and touristic part of the city. Kote Abkhazi Street, more known as Leselizde, is the main and longest street of the old city, which starts from the Freedom Square and stretches to Vakhtang Gorgasali Square (another name is "Tatar Meydan"). Shardeni Street is the liveliest and most buzzing street. Resembling those cozy Parisian lanes, Shardeni Street is literally filled with plenty of cafes, restaurants, comfy wineries, souvenir shops and galleries where you can buy amazing pieces of Georgian applied arts such as minankari jewelry or fashionable clothes from Georgian designers.

2. Visit the ruins of Narikala Fortress

The ancient ruins of Narikala fortress are one of the exciting places from where you can admire the breathtaking views of Tbilisi from bird’s glance. Narikala Fortress is considered the heart and soul of Tbilisi as from its construction in the 4th century, the history of Tbilisi has begun. Being situated on the Silk Road, Narikala Fortress had constantly been invaded by numerous enemies during the centuries. In the 19th century, it was destroyed as a result of an earthquake. Visiting Narikala ruins is a must: you can reach the fortress by a cable car from Rike Park, enjoying astonishing views of the city on the way (one-way ticket costs only GEL 1 or EUR 0.4).

3. Visit Mtatsminda Park

Mtatsminda is a holy mount for the Georgians. The first thing that comes to one's mind when imagining Tbilisi is the funicular leading to the top of Mtatsminda Mount. Being situated at the height of about 800 meters above the city Mtatsminda Park offers panoramic views over Tbilisi. If you want to have fun and relax, you should definitely visit Mtatsminda amusement park especially when travelling with children. The way to the top is easy and full of joy: you only need to take a cable car and admire the stunning views on the road.

4. Try national cuisine

Georgian national cuisine is probably one of the main attractions in the country. The local dishes are so various and appetizing that one will not be able to remain indifferent. So, what I do advise to try first? Of course, khinkali and khachapuri. Khinkali are like dumplings: they're stuffed with spicy meat. Khachapuri is a pie with hot and viscous cheese. Don't forget to try different kinds of local barbecue with spices and of course the most famous Georgian sweet called churchkhella which resembles a sausage made up of various nuts and grape juice.

That was the most interesting things you can do in Tbilisi. After your Georgian tour, I advise you to continue exploring the South Caucasus and to visit Armenia, a no less beautiful and attracting country. You can also book Armenia and Georgia combined tours and discovers for all-the-hidden-secrets of these countries in a short period of time. These countries are also very popular among extreme lovers. You choose among adventure options and enjoy cycling, jeeping, paragliding, trekking and hiking in Armenia and Georgia.



I went solo backpacking in Sri Lanka and got truly amazed by its rich natural resources! I was able to visit the the provinces and cities of...

I went solo backpacking in Sri Lanka and got truly amazed by its rich natural resources! I was able to visit the the provinces and cities of Colombo, Negombo, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Dambulla, and Kandy.

Watch my Sri Lanka vlog below:




Laos or Lao People's Democratic Republic is a small country in Southeast Asia landlocked by Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Chi...

Laos or Lao People's Democratic Republic is a small country in Southeast Asia landlocked by Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and China. It's known for its rich natural resources and a backpacker haven for its affordability and friendly environment. Also, Laos is said to be generally safe, thus recommended to solo and female travelers.

WHAT TO SEE IN LAOS?

I spent 5 days and 4 nights in Laos where I was able to cover 2 cities, Vientiane and Luang Prabang. Here's a rundown of what I did and the recommended places:

Day 1: Vientiane
While very few speak English in Laos, the street signs are reliable and so you won't get lost in the capital. As general tip, Lan Xang Avenue serves as good reference point in the city center because it's where most tourist attractions are at.

Patuxai Monument
At the end of Lan Xang Avenue is a very noticeable Patuxai Monument, a memorial for all the heroes of war during the French colonial period. Its Europe-inspired architecture highly resembles the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Entrance fee: 3,000 kip (PHP 18) if you want to climb the monument to get a 360-degree view of the city.

Presidential Palace
At the other end of Lan Xang Avenue is the Presidential Palace where all important ceremonies and events of the government are held. Though not open to public, the exterior is a sure standout thus a good stop for taking photos.

Entrance fee: Free

Sisaket Temple
The Wat Si Saket or Sisaket Temple is one of the oldest temples in Vientiane. It's distinctly known for the striking and yellowish color of the pillars. Several bronze and stone Buddhas can be seen around. Try going in the morning to catch the locals and monks praying in this temple.

Entrance fee: 5,000 kip (PHP 30)

Day 2: Vientiane

Pha That Luang

Seeing Pha That Luang was the highlight of my short trip to Vientiane. Also known as the Great Sacred Stupa, it's the main religious monument in the capital. Buddhists believe that it contains relics (a breastbone) of Buddha. Pha That Luang is also a national symbol of Laos. In fact, an image of it is depicted in their banknotes.

Entrance fee: 5,000 kip (PHP 30)

Mekong River
What's good about Vientiane is that despite being a city, the riverside provides a relaxing suburb feel. If you've been around Southeast Asia, you probably heard of Mekong River already. It's a long river that flows throughout the Indochina peninsula. The side of Mekong River in Vientiane is a perfect spot to catch the sunset. Then, stay until nighttime to chill at the riverside bars and restaurants.

Entrance fee: Free

Chao Anouvong Park
Next to Mekong River is this small park featuring a huge bronze statue of Chao Anouvong, Laos’ last king from the Lan Xang Kingdom. A short stop here is nice for taking photos and marveling at the size of the statue.

Entrance fee: Free

Day 3: Luang Prabang
On the third day, I left Vientiane at 8:30PM then took an 11-hour VIP sleeper bus to Luang Prabang, a province north of the capital and was named a Heritage Site by UNESCO for its rich cultural heritage. Here are a few places that I visited in the province:

Mount Phousi

From downtown, you can climb for 20-30 minutes to Mount Phousi, a 150-meter hill with a total of 335 steps. It sits between 2 rivers, the Mekong River and Khan River. The view from the top is breathtaking and a good place to catch the sunrise or sunset.

Entrance fee: 20,000 kip (PHP 122)

Luang Prabang Night Market
Starting at 6:00PM, the stretch of Sisavangvong Road gets closed for the Luang Prabang night market. Vendors slowly pull out and spread different products for sale, which are mostly souvenir items. Similar to other night markets in Asia, it's very common to haggle for the price here. Cheap and delicious local food are also in the night market. (The Lao baguette is a must-try!)

Entrance fee: Free
* Prices of items at the night market vary. Make sure to bargain. Fridge magnets, for example, usually start at 30,000 kip (PHP183) but I was able to bring the price down to 15,000 kip (PHP 91).

Day 4: Luang Prabang

Kuang Si Falls
As said, a trip to Luang Prabang won’t be complete without seeing the natural gem Kuang Si Falls, a huge 150-meter waterfall with 3 tiers of strong and rapid water. Looking at it is like a painting that came to life, which is truly a gift from nature. A 30-minute trek to the top can let visitors swim in the mini pools located at the peak (Tip: Two trails are available. The easier trail is at the left when facing the waterfalls)

Kuang Si Falls is far from downtown Luang Prabang, so a cheap way to get there is by joining a half day group tour that's usually composed of 12-15 participants. This tour is convenient since an air-conditioned van fetches you from your accommodation. The rate usually starts at 50,000 kip (PHP 305). Another way is to get a group of 6 travelers and negotiate a two-way ride with a tuktuk driver.

Entrance fee: 20,000 kip (PHP 122)

Day 5: Luang Prabang

Old Quarter

The Old Quarter is a long street of ancestral buildings preserved through the years. Looking at this street is like traveling back in time. It's a cool place to meet backpackers as most of the restaurants, bars, and guest houses are in the area.

Entrance fee: Free


HOW TO GO TO LAOS?

At the moment, there's no direct flight from the Philippines to Laos yet. With that, the cheapest route I found was from Manila to Kuala Lumpur and then Kuala Lumpur to Vientiane. On the way back, instead of returning to Vientiane, I departed in Luang Prabang to save time and money.


HOW MUCH IS THE BUDGET IN LAOS?

I managed to spend only PHP15,000+ for this Laos trip including air fare, airport taxes, accommodations, food, transportation, and other basics. Overall, I can say that Laos is cheap especially the food. Here's a breakdown of the expenses:

Cost
Expense Details
PHP 1620
Philippine Airport Tax
PHP 700
Manila to Kuala Lumpur flight (promo fare)
PHP 2990
Kuala Lumpur to Vientiane flight (promo fare)
PHP 3300
Luang Prabang to Kuala Lumpur flight (promo fare)
PHP 1125
Kuala Lumpur to Manila flight (promo fare)
207,000 kip (PHP 1258)
Transportation in Vientiane for 2 days
105,000 kip (PHP 638)
Accommodation in Vientiane for 1 day
13,000 kip (PHP 79)
Entrance fees to attractions in Vientiane
100,500 kip (PHP 611)
Food expenses in Vientiane for 2 days
150,000 kip (PHP 912)
VIP sleeper bus to Vientiane
60,000 kip (PHP 365)
Transportation in Luang Prabang for 3 days
163,645 kip (PHP 995)
Accommodation in Luang Prabang for 3 days
50,000 kip (PHP 304)
Kuang Si Falls half day tour
40,000 kip (PHP 243)
Entrance fees to attractions in Luang Prabang
189,000 kip (PHP 1152)
Food expenses in Luang Prabang for 3 days
65,000 kip (PHP 395)
Souvenirs


TOTAL: PHP 16,687




It's hard to weigh which is better between Coron and El Nido in terms of beauty. Both are naturally beautiful and rich in marine life. T...

It's hard to weigh which is better between Coron and El Nido in terms of beauty. Both are naturally beautiful and rich in marine life. They've both set the bar high, which makes Palawan a top destination in the Philippines for past few years. 
But what's good about Coron is that it's less touristy than El Nido, making it a more relaxed site in Palawan. It's composed of several small islands and beaches, so tourists are scattered and they don't tend to congest one place all at the same time. 
To move around Coron, a motored boat is needed. Joining an island hopping tour, which is a group and package tour, is the most common way to explore Coron. If you're solo traveling, this is probably the best option because it's cheaper, safer, and fun because you go with a group. You can simply book one day before your intended travel date at any travel desk there, which most probably is offered in your hostel too. For a tailor-made tour, you can book a private boat for a day, but of course this tends to be more expensive. 

To give you an idea of the must-see relaxed beaches and islands in Coron, here are some recommendations:

1. Banol Beach

As most of the beaches in Coron are white sand, Banol Beach is distinguished by the amazing rocks in big chunks, which are naturally scattered on the seashore. They're so big you can pass through them and go underneath. Similar to most areas in Coron, this beach is also surrounded by tall and dark-colored limestone cliffs. 
This area is perfect for snorkeling and kayak for its calm surrounding water. Also, it's a good place for lunch as there are several huts present in the island. It's usually the lunch area of the island hoppers 

2.       Malcapuya Island

Around 1.5 hours away from Coron town, Malcapuya Island is a hidden gem. The beach is a stretch of fine sand that I noticed is finer and whiter than the rest of the beaches in Coron. 
Its fineness goes at par with the sands of Panglao in Bohol or Boracay Beach in Aklan.
The color of the water is so vibrant! Now you know where Gatorade comes from =p
Tip: If you aren't on a group tour and you have the time in your hands, I suggest you stay longer at Malcapuya Island. This island makes the long boat trip worth it. I find this island the most relaxed I've been to in Coron. 

3.       Banana Island

Banana Island got the name not for its abundance in banana tree (there were none!) but rather, for its shape. Though not visible, the island is said to be like a banana leaf from an aerial view.
It's best to go snorkeling in this island especially the newbies. Why? Because even if you don't go too far and deep, the coral reefs are very visible. You can even touch some of them. It's also home of many clown fishes. This is probably Nemo's humble beginning before he went to Pixar! =p

Mind the sea urchins though. It's advisable to wear aqua shoes. If you don't have any, make sure to rent a pair of aqua shoes before leaving Coron town since there's no shoe rental in the island. A pair costs around PHP 150 for a full-day use.

4. Bulog Dos Island

To maximize and appreciate the beauty of this island, make sure to catch the sand bar. This island is known for its long sand bar that usually shows up when it's low tide either in the morning or before sunset. 

The rocks rest on one side of the island, bringing a variation in the perfect picture. 
Not all parts of this island are open to public, which includes a restricted beach front meant for guests of 5-star hotel Two Seasons Resort. Nevertheless, whatever is open to the public is enough to make it a beach worth visiting.

5. Black island


Black Island may be quite a distance from Coron town as it may take 3 lingering hours of boat ride to get there, but it's definitely a priced island. Aside from a beautiful beach, this island houses a cave that they call the Black Island Cave. 

When in Calauit, the Black Island is truly one of the most visited beaches. Some people make this a side trip especially when visiting the Calauit Safari


Have you been to Coron? Which island / beach is your favorite?




On my way to Armenia , I had a 6-hour transit in Moscow, making it my first time to land in Russia. Given a short stop, I opted out of get...

On my way to Armenia, I had a 6-hour transit in Moscow, making it my first time to land in Russia. Given a short stop, I opted out of getting a Russian tourist visa to exit and explore the country. Nevertheless, staying inside the Sheremetveyo International Airport was rather amusing for the sights and things that seem like only in Russia.

Stacked dolls

You’ve probably seen this somewhere: a wooden hand-painted piece that when opened, it brings up another smaller piece and goes on until you end up with an inch-long tiny doll. This is called a Matryoshka doll, more popularly known as the Russian doll.
There’s no way you won’t see this in the airport! It’s probably the most in-demand souvenir from Russia. But among the pack of dolls there, one fella truly captured me. Isn’t it too cute? ;-)

Lost in translation

Russia has its own alphabet, which was adopted from the Cyrillic script and is far different from the Roman letters that I’m familiar with.
When in a Russian airport, a lot of the store names are in Russian so prepare to get lost in translation. Thankfully though, once you enter a restaurant to check the menu, there’s an English translation next to the list.


Global chains in Russian

I had a second look at this fast food chain for hardly recognizing it. As mentioned, store names in the airport are written in Russian, thus global fast food isn’t an exemption.
So, if you’re wondering what chain this is, it’s a Burger King.

Emergency food

Did you know that first ever man to reach the outer space is a Russian? (By the name Yuri Gagarin) Alongside the United States, Russia is globally known to be advanced in aeronautics.
With this, I won’t be surprised if they can confidently sell space food like this. But what surprised me is that they even sell it in a vending machine…in the airport.

It makes me wonder, is there a secret flight in the Russian airport to the outer space?

World Cup items

Russia is set to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup in July, which is expected to the biggest, grandest, and much-awaited football event in the world. That’s why as early as March, the football fever was on even in the airport with a ton of World Cup merchandise.
This is Zabivaka, the official mascot of FIFA World Cup 2018 in form of a wolf. Much that I love to bring him home though, its crazy expensive price wasn’t part of the budget.

Drinking culture

What’s a Cosmopolitan, Bloody Mary, Screwdriver, and other alcoholic cocktails without it? Have you guessed the common ingredient among them? Vodka.
Where else to best get it than from where it all started. Russia has pioneered in manufacturing vodka. More so, it’s said to be one of the countries with the largest consumption. At the airport, you’d probably see a lot of waiting Russian passengers at the bar, drinking their favorite vodka. 


Have you been to Sheremetveyo International Airport? How was your experience?