I have been doing this annual exercise since 2008 to keep track of all the places I have been to (2008 and 2009 lakwatsas). My destinations for this year certainly outshone the past years since I got to go out of Asia. I had the opportunity to explore Europe. Being a lakwatsera wasn’t easy on the pocket, but it was more than alright since I got richer in experience and memories.
1. Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan – This was just a continuation of our Christmas trip. We celebrated New Year in Tokyo and got to see the Japanese Emperor and the Family while waving Japanese flags. We went back to Kyoto to visit the temples and shrines that we weren’t able to visit the week before.
2. Kumamoto, Japan – I finally got to meet my Tita (family friend) and her family at their lovely home. They gave me a tour of the places in Kumamoto City that I haven’t visited yet. I especially liked Suizenji Park, because it’s has everything that traditional Japan has to offer, from the toriis (Shinto gate) to the plum trees and the landscape.
3. Manila Bay, Philippines – I went back to the Philippines for fieldwork and I stopped by Manila for a few days. We walked around the bay in the late afternoon to see the sunset that the Bay is so famous for.
4. Sibutad, Zamboanga del Norte, Philippines – This is one of my areas of study, and the people at Philex mines made sure I had a fruitful and comfortable stay. I went around a lot to get rock samples and I was lucky to have guides and geologic aides that know the area well.
5. Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte, Philippines – Since these towns are just next to my study area, we decided to stay there for a weekend for the famous Dakak beach and historical attractions. Dakak Beach Resort is a nice, well-developed resort with a lot of amenities. But I think the best thing about it is its relatively cheap rates. We also got to see the Rizal Shrine in Dapitan and got to know our national hero better.
6. Zamboanga del Sur, Philippines – This is still part of my study area. We stayed there for over a week going to different corners of even the most farflung towns to get rock samples. This was where an insect wing got stuck on my eyelid, and I was obliged to go to the doctor to stop my eye’s swelling.
7. Zamboanga City, Philippines – The third part of my fieldwork, where we went to a mining camp in Siraway for more samples. This trip was where an inch-thick piece of wood entered my wrist and I had to go to the doctor (again) to have it removed.
8. Bicol, Philippines – There are a lot of places to see in Bicol. We went to see the Cagsawa Ruins with the Mt. Mayon background in Albay, swam with the magnificent whale sharks and enjoyed a secluded beach spot in Sorsogon. The close encounter with the whale sharks still remains one of my most unforgettable experiences.
12. La Mesa Ecopark, Quezon City, Philippines – One very hot and sunny day, my friends and I decided to have a picnic at the EcoPark. The park is a nice place to lounge around, but it was too hot that time (2010 Manila summer was one of the hottest!) so we did not stay very long. After having our lunch, we went to the mall immediately to keep cool.
13. Subic, Olongapo, Philippines – We went there for the International Triathlon competition. On our first day we were cooking and lounging around by the beach. We spent the night sleeping by the beach, in the tents that we set up. The next day was spent supporting our athlete friends participating in the triathlon.
14. Puerto Princesa Bay, Palawan, Philippines – My friends and I (all born and raised in Puerto Princesa) tried dolphin watching for the first time. We watched many dolphins swim and play alongside our boat.
15. Sta. Lourdes Hot Spring, Puerto Princesa, Philippines – For someone born and raised in this city, I feel ashamed that this was my first time to go to our local hot spring resort. Taking a dip in the warm pool water isn’t really a popular idea with the warm summer temperature,so we had a pool to ourselves and had a lot of fun.
16. Dazaifu, Fukuoka, Japan – The Shinto Shrine in Dazaifu is said to be one of the most beautiful graves ever built. The area is very large with thousands of plum trees and a number of ponds, creating a very idyllic scenery. We also visited the Kyushu National Museum nearby, where we learned more about the history and culture of Japan.
17. Hishikari Mine, Kagoshima, Japan – This world-class mine is not really open to the public, so I was lucky to have the opportunity to see their underground high-grade deposits. We stayed at a traditional Japanese hotel, a ryokan, where their public bath was a natural hot spring with gold content.
18. Yahoo! Dome, Fukuoka, Japan – Baseball is such a big thing in Japan, and so I didn’t pass up on the opportunity to watch a game and support the local baseball team. With my labmates, we cheered the Softbank Hawks to victory!
19. Keia Beach, Itoshima, Japan – The residents of our floor in the dormitory were invited to a barbeque party by Yazuya, a big Japanese company specializing in agricultural products. They picked us up and returned us to the dormitory, fed us with delicious Japanese food and toured us inside the owner’s beautiful summer home.
20. Meiji-jingu Shrine, Tokyo, Japan – We weren’t able to visit this during our last trip to Tokyo, so when I went there for a short visit (to get Schengen visa), I decided to spend an afternoon here. The shrine is dedicated to the Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. It is a large expanse of forest, and walking in the area made me forget that metropolitan Tokyo is just outside. The biggest wooden torii can also be found here.
21. Yamakasa Festival, Fukuoka, Japan – The Yamakasa is a 750-year old tradition in Fukuoka, in which Japanese men in traditional costumes carry 1-ton floats and parade it around Hakata. This traditional festival is really a must-see event for people who want to immerse themselves in Japanese culture.
22. Mt. Fuji, Shizuoka, Japan – This is one of my best experiences ever. We started our ascent of Mt. Fuji from 10 pm and climbed the whole night until we reached the summit at around 4:30 am. It wasn’t just about the climb, it was being there with all those people (the line of people did not break from Station 5 to the peak) having the same goal: reaching the top. The amazing sunrise was also a bonus that was worth the whole night’s shivers.
23. Yokohama, Japan – We went here for a day trip, since it was just a two-hour trip from Tokyo. We walked along the bay at Osanbashi Pier and Yamashita Park and then had lunch at Japan’s largest Chinatown.
24. Sakurai Futamigaura, Fukuoka, Japan – This place is very near Kyushu University, a half-hour bike ride took us there. This is a nice beach with two “married” stones and a torii, indicating that the place is a Shinto shrine. The perfect time to go to Futamigaura beach is in the late afternoon, because of the splendid sunset.
25. Kurume – We visited some friends in Kurume, and for once we did not go to all the traditional touristy stuff. Instead, we went shopping, tried ice skating (the first time for me) and toured the red light district before ending the night with karaoke. Fun!
26. Fureai no Sato, Itoshima shi, Fukuoka, Japan – I have actually been here twice, with the trips just two weeks apart. For my first time, we biked for 3 hours in the hot summer sun to reach the waterfalls. My second time was less exhausting, since we took the bus. The cool air and the icy water of the falls makes it a very popular summer destination. We also enjoyed eating somen nagashi, noodles that you have to put in cold water before dipping in soy sauce and wasabi.
27. Mt. Aso, Kumamoto, Japan – This was my fourth time in Kumamoto but it never fails to give me something new. We went up to Mt. Aso and visited the Mt. Aso museum. Unfortunately it was too foggy to climb (or see anything for that matter), so I have an excuse to come back again!
28. Kokonoe “Yume” Otsurihashi Bridge, Oita, Japan – The “Dream” Bridge is said to be the highest and longest suspension footbridge in the world. We crossed the 390-meter long, 173-meter, 1.5-meter wide walkway while enjoying the view of the gorge and the waterfalls. It really is like being in a dream.
29. Momochi, Fukuoka, Japan – This part of Fukuoka is like a one-stop destination for tourists. We went to the Fukuoka Museum, Fukuoka Disaster and Prevention Center (where we laughed our asses off trying to get out of the simulated burning building), Fukuoka Tower and Momochi Beach.
31. Singapore City, Singapore – I was able to come here twice since this is my place of transit from Japan to Denmark. We went to all the usual destinations like Sentosa, Little India, Chinatown, Orchard Road, Marina Bay Sands Skypark etc. But I think what I remember most distinctly is all the good food I ate! Food trip galore!
32. Lund, Skåne, Sweden – I considered this charming university town as my home for almost 3 months. I met some very nice people who made my stay enjoyable. I enjoyed jogging around downtown Lund and in the university grounds.
33. Smögen Island, Västra Götaland, Sweden – We visited this small fishing village as part of the fieldwork for masters students of Lund University. The place was sooo idyllic! But the best thing about Smögen is the seafood! I stuffed myself with crabs, shrimps and crayfish until I couldn’t take it anymore.
34. Fykan – Nordön – Kungälv, Southwest Sweden – We went site-hopping that day, looking at different rock types. We walked to the coast of Fykan and got to experience the rain and cold in the morning. Then we visited the coast and trekked the hill in Nordön (stunning view!) in the afternoon and then spent the night in Kungälv.
35. Algön Island, Bohuslän, Sweden – I consider this island one of the best places in the world. The quaint houses, the meadows with the fruit trees and grazing animals, and the beach with its rocky cliffs (not to mention the unique geology) make this island seem like paradise.
36. Gothenburg, Sweden – We took a night stroll of Gothenburg (since we had no time to do it during the day) and checked out the Maritime Museum. Learning about all the different kinds of war ships and submarines was pretty interesting. We also walked the length of the city’s main street and visited the city’s major landmarks. Too bad I didn’t see Gothenburg during the day, I’m sure it would just be as interesting.
37. Varberg, Sweden – We went all around the forests of Varberg to look at eclogite rocks (Boy, did this make me very excited!). These forests were logged and reforested, which make up one of Sweden’s major industries.
38. Oslo, Norway – I went to Oslo to run the Oslo Marathon (I only participated in the 10k, though :p) and met up with friends. I was really lucky to have nice Filipinos in Norway to tour me around so I can enjoy this expensive city.
39. Malmö, Sweden – Malmö is the third largest city in Sweden and is just a 20-minute train ride from Lund. I went there one Sunday to walk around and see the famous sights of the city. This was also where I got to go shopping in IKEA! :p
40. Tromsø, Norway – My friend was kind enough to host me at her place in Tromsø. That trip was my first time to the Arctic, and I sure hope it won’t be the last. I also fulfilled one of my childhood dreams when I saw the Aurora Borealis outside my plane window going to Tromsø.
41. Stockholm, Sweden – I stayed here for a weekend and toured the more famous tourist spots. Stockholm might be one of my favorite cities in the world. I loved that everywhere I look I can see the sea! I also got to have coffee at one of the older cafes in Stockholm and enjoyed chatting with new Filipino friends.
42. Hamburg, Germany – I visited Germnay because it’s such a shame not to, since it’s so close to Lund (a night’s sleep via the night bus). I joined the free walking tour of Hamburg and learned about its history and culture. I met some pretty cool people during the tour and we had coffee before I boarded my train to Berlin.
43. Berlin, Germany – I joined the Berlin bike tour where I learned and got to appreciate its rich and colorful history. I stayed at a hostel where I gained new friends and together we went to the Pub Crawl to enjoy Berlin’s nightlife. I really enjoyed Berlin and I wish I could live there for a short time someday.
44. Milan, Italy – Since this was the airport closest to Bologna (I was visiting a friend there), I spent a night in Milan and made time to tour the city. I was especially amazed by the Milan Cathedral and of course, by the sheer number of Filipinos that I met in the streets and on the train.
45. Genova, Italy – I got to visit this place by accident, when I took the wrong train (I was supposed to go to Venice). Since I was already there and I had time to kill (the train going back to Milan wasn’t until a few hours after), I walked Genova’s UNESCO-world-heritage-site streets and alleys. I really liked Genova’s seaside not only for their prized aquarium, but because it felt very Mediterranean, with its palm trees and view of the sea.
46. Bologna, Italy – I visited my friend in Bologna. This was where I got a taste of real Italian cooking (10 euros for a set meal in a very nice Italian restaurant). My friend was also kind enough to tour me to the major tourist sites (Bologna is not that big), bring me to the pub (of course!) and cook a delicious Italian dinner for me.
47. Venice, Italy – This is one of the most unique places that I have ever visited. I walked around and relished the Venetian atmosphere with the gondolas, old churches, bridges and the many, many tourists. I met some Filipinas at St. Mark’s square and together we went to the island of Murano to witness glass making (Yes, I’m kaladkarin like that).
48. Copenhagen, Denmark – Copenhagen truly is wonderful! I did the walking tour that was recommended by their tourism office and then visited Tivoli Gardens when nighttime came. I really love how biking is an essential part of the city’s culture (they lend bicycles for free!).
49. Amsterdam, The Netherlands – The first time I arrived in Amsterdam was during the night, which was I think a perfect introduction. Amsterdam must be one of the most interesting capital cities ever! :p We spent the night walking around the Red Light District and then we went pub hopping until morning. We then joined the free walking tour of Amsterdam. My second visit (after a few days) was with a different set of people. This time we visited the Rijks Museum to see the works of Rembrandt and then toured Amsterdam by going on a boat cruise (where I fell asleep midway).
50. Enschede, The Netherlands -Enschede was where my friend was studying, so I stayed here for a couple of days. It was a relatively small town where everything can be reached by bike. I got to visit a traditional Ducth windmill, which I think was so one of the highlights of my Netherlands trip :p I also crashed their University’s party for international students and then tasted the local autumn beer the next evening at a nice, cozy pub.
51. Oldenzaal, The Netherlands – Because we were crazy, we rode our bikes (my single speed bike was borrowed) with our thick jackets on to go to Oldenzaal, the town next to Enschede. We had our snacks at a traditional Dutch snack bar (where an old lady kept staring at me haha) before heading back to Enschede.
52. Delft, The Netherlands – We visited this small town for a daytrip. Delft was a quaint, small Dutch town that could be toured on foot in a day. We climbed the seemingly unending spiral staircase of the church tower 🙂
53. The Hague, The Netherlands – We took a stroll around the city to look at the Parliament building, the Queen’s summer residence, museums and other landmarks. We also enjoyed a nice dinner overlooking a small park.
54. Pulau Ubin, Singapore – This island is said to represent the ‘old’ Singapore, before all the high rise towers and modern architecture. We took a ferry and biked around the island. We really felt we were not in Singapore because of the marshlands and the forest.
55. Akiyoshidai, Miyazaki, Japan – The trip was part of the conference organized by Kyushu University. There were many majestic rock formations inside the cave, and you can view them at your own leisure and just listen to the recorded descriptions of each area.
56. Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur, Philippines- It was our first time to visit Ilocandia. From the white sand beaches of Pagudpod, the windmills in Bangui, the lighthouse in Bojeador, the old churches in Paoay and Laoag and to historic Vigan, Ilocos did not disappoint. The gastronomic experience was also one of the best ever!
57. Port Barton, San Vicente, Philippines – Port Barton is being promoted as the next El Nido in Palawan, so we decided to check it out. El Nido still is the best beach destination for me, but Port Barton’s islands are also worth a visit (yes, even with that darned muddy road).
58. Balsahan, Iwahig, Puerto Princesa, Philippines – It has been years since I got to go to Balsahan Pool again. I missed swimming in the cold river water and I especially missed the warm service of the Iwahig Prison inmates-turned-staff that attend to our every need.
So that was where I have been to for 2010. Hmm, there are only 56 weeks in a year and I surpassed this number! I might not surpass this number this year if I plan on saving up, but we’ll see at the start of next year, won’t we?