Monday, December 30, 2019

Thank you, 2019

2020 is just around the corner, and I am grateful for all the things I've experienced this year. When it comes to my travels, 2019 is probably my most traveled year yet. It seems that every year, I'd try to exceed what I have achieved from the previous years. It's not that I'm in a hurry or in a contest, but I just grabbed the opportunity because they rarely come these days.

Anyway, I won't keep this long. Let's go back and relive the travel highlights of my 2019.

February-March 2019
Toronto and Montréal, Canada

Securing a Canadian tourist visa was already an adventure alone. The first time I applied through a travel agency, I got denied. I was furious, fuming mad, and disappointed. All for one, I cannot wholly accept the consul's reason why they didn't grant me a visitor's visa. Well, I have the right to feel that way because I paid Php 7,000, but everything went to drain. Instead of sulking and giving up, I took it as a challenge and reapplied. Moreover, I can't just throw that chance because I have already booked a roundtrip ticket to Toronto. I am talking about throwing a thousand dollars to the trash bin! I submitted my application online, flew to Cebu for one day to submit my fingerprints, and waited in vain. It is probably the most expensive visa I've got, but I didn't mind it. Anyway, I got a multiple-entry visa valid until a day before my passport expires. Not bad!

Toronto Skyline, view from Coronation Park.

Niagara Falls during winter.

The day of my flight had finally arrived, and I can't hide my excitement. It felt surreal. This trip was full of firsts–first trans-pacific flight, first time to experience a legit snowstorm, and first time to feel jet lag. I traveled alone to the other side of the world and met up with my friends there. Together, we explored Montréal and Toronto, and the famous Niagara Falls. I stayed there for 15 days. How I wish I could stay longer, but I am running out of leave credits. I am thrilled that I'll be back there in a few months.

Old downtown of Montréal.

On our way to Mount Royal.

April 2019
Seoul, South Korea

I may always win the raffle prizes and tickets, but when it comes to travel contests, I always win. This year, I won a free trip to Seoul. It is also my first time to travel through a group tour. I thought it would be chaotic since we were like 40 in a group, but it was actually fun. I met new friends along the way from different parts of the country, mostly from the Visayas and Mindanao region. We toured around Seoul and the nearby town in Seorak Mountains. Shout out to Viaje Travels and Tours for making trip a successful one.

N Seoul Tower.

May 2019
Sydney, Australia

Australia is my most visited country since 2018. There's something about Sydney why I always keep on coming back here–their culture, their laidback lifestyle, or the warm temperament of the locals. Either way, I love Sydney, albeit expensive. I became mom's tour guide because it was her first time to visit Australia. Also, upon arrival, it was the first day of Vivid Sydney, an annual light show of the city.

Three Sisters, Katoomba

Sydney CBD at night.

The famous landmarks of Sydney - Opera House and Harbour Bridge during the first night of Vivid Sydney.

We also visited the Blue Mountains National Park at Katoomba. We were lucky enough to witness the first day of snow in New South Wales. It was my mom's first snow experience. Seeing her happy during the unexpected snowfall was truly a magical experience.

August 2019
Melbourne, Echuca, Bendigo, and Ararat, VIC, Australia

It has been my yearly tradition to spend my birthday abroad. I've been doing this since 2015. This year, however, I have to break the tradition and move it a week later due to work schedule. I went back to Melbourne but this time, I went to different towns of Victoria. My friend told me that life in the countryside is so different. It was my first time to get drunk abroad–so drunk that I had a hard time walking on a straight path. I spent more than a hundred Aussie dollars for beer alone, but the life lessons I learned were priceless. I also did ghost tours at J Ward Asylum and Pentridge Prison (again).

Snow in Australia!

Flinders Station, Melbourne

Brighton Beach

State Library.

October 2019
Tokyo, Japan

Japan will always be my favorite destination. I don't know, but there are so many things to do and to explore. This year, I went back to Tokyo with my close friends since grade school. It is our first time to travel abroad, a plan that was four years in the making. We initially planned to visit Singapore, but to no avail, our plans did not push through. Fast forward, we finally made it to our first trip. It was also their first time to visit Japan, so basically, I was their navigator around Tokyo. This trip was one for the books. There were no major catfights along the way. All we did was to enjoy the tour, shop like there was no tomorrow, and eat at delicious restaurants.

Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, Tokyo

Shibuya Crossing at night.

Typical train in Tokyo.

Shinjuku, Tokyo

December 2019
Hanoi, Vietnam

Okay, this trip was totally unexpected, and probably the most spontaneous trip I've booked for the past three years. Hanoi wasn't originally part of my plan but, my colleague invited me for this trip. When I checked the fare, it was still cheap. It only took me less than five minutes to book a flight to Hanoi. To describe our trip as fun is a total understatement. We got lost in translation, got scammed numerous times, and shopped way beyond our check-in baggage limit. I didn't regret booking a flight to Hanoi as I've finally had the chance to compare it with his southerner brother, Saigon. Like the Philippines, Vietnam also has different cultures per region, and I am thinking of exploring the central part of this country. I've heard Da Nang, Hue, and Hoi An are also great travel destinations in Vietnam.

Hoan Kiem District.

Old Quarter, Hanoi

Halong Bay, Vietnam

UNESCO Heritage Site.

Some people will never understand the joy of traveling. They think that I do not have enough savings and that I have an expensive lifestyle. Truth is, traveling shouldn't be extravagant. Y'all have no idea that I'm very frugal. I know my limits. Besides, I worked hard for it, so why not spend a bit on holidays, right? I keep on telling people that they shouldn't worry and feel guilty if they splurged a bit whenever they travel. Firstly, you still have a job, which means, you are still making money. But, the experiences of your travel will last a lifetime. I will never get tired of sharing my travel stories–how we got scammed in Vietnam, my first snowstorm in Toronto, drunk stories in Australia, and how I got lost in translation in Japan and Thailand.

I know it sounds cliché, but I think 2020 is going to be a good year for me. A brand new adventure awaits.

Have a prosperous new year, everyone! Safe travels, as always.

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