This will be my last Flashback Friday for the Philippines adventure. I’m back in Seoul now and want to keep you all updated on my adventures here. But I had one last area to talk about and that is Laguna.
No, not that clown show Laguna Beach on MTV. It has nothing to do with that.
Laguna hugs the southern shores of Laguna de Bay, the largest lake in the country.
Laguna is notable as the birthplace of Dr. Jose Rizal, the country’s national hero.
Two big reasons to go to the Laguna province is 1.) the hot springs of Los Banos and the surrounding area and 2.) Pagsanjan Falls.
Los Banos has many hot spring resorts to choose from. I recommend getting a private one for small or large groups. We went as two couples and the four of us had a blast in the hot water. All the pools are filled with water from local hot springs. Some say the hot springs have healing powers and I believe it! My boyfriend was really sick on the first half of our trip in Batangas but as soon as he went swimming in the hot springs he was back to normal the next day!
Los Banos is also famous for it’s Buko Pies. Buko means young coconut in Tagalog. The pie is not like coconut cream pie, because it doesn’t have cream or custard filling. Instead it’s made with slices of buko meat and condensed milk. We went to Orient- The Original Buko Pie. It’s the best buko pie in Los Banos.
I met the owner of the shop, a sweet lady named Tita Helen (I think that’s what she told me, it’s been so long I forgot) who’s sister created the recipe for Buko Pies! She immigrated to the US and Tita Helen continued her sisters recipe and shop!
We also went on a river rapid adventure to Pagsanjan Falls. It was the location of the final scene of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 film Apocalypse Now.
There are many places in Pagsanjan to rent a boat and boatmen to take you to the falls. Be sure to bring extra cash, it’s customary to tip each boatman at least 50 pesos if not more.
Ah, this randomly popped up one day after posting. WordPress usually gives some kind of random inspiration to bloggers, like a muse or excessive drinking. This title caught my eye. “What travel lessons have you learned the hard way?” Let me put this out there and say I am in no way a globe trotter. I have been to my share of strange, different, and exotic places but I haven’t been everywhere. But in my time overseas and a few self-planned trips I can say mistake were made….
# 5. No Faffing About: On the way to Sokcho, Chad and I were almost left behind during a routine pit-stop in the lovely countryside of middle-of-nowhere Korea. Luckily, Chad and I can run fast. However much time the bus drive says you have, just take a piss and hurry back. Whatever you want to buy, or do, or look at, forget it, just pee and hop back on the bus.
#4. On the Map: maps, most are for free, we have them on smart phones and GPS and navigation systems. There are all kinds of neat and niffy way to access a map nowadays. Don’t waste your vacation time lost- look at a map! Everywhere I go, I bring a map or get one at the local tourist information center. If you don’t want to look touristy, cause you’re just too cool for that, check your map in a private location, like a bathroom. Just check it. Most places in Korea (if you look pretty lost and are staring at a map) some kind Korean, will an urge to practice English, will ask you if you need help. You never know, you can make a friend!
#3. Sail the 7 Seas with me, just find your own way: don’t book trips for friends. It’s been a few times now that I’ve planned and booked a trip and was a kind and handy travel agent for my friends. But unlike a travel agent I didn’t get paid and got the shaft. Then I’m left to pay the bill and make the recalculations. (Ya know like reckoning the price on sharing a condo with 5 instead of 6.) If you want to travel with friends, that’s find and it’s a great idea to travel with others, but have everyone book their own way and meet up later.
#2. 867-5309!!! This may seem simple but make sure you have the address and phone of the hotel or hostel or where ever you are staying. Lots of things ask for this. Customs want to know it, some random forms at the airport want it and it’s good to have it on hand if you get lost. (Also try to have it in English and it that country’s language/alphabet.) Even if you know the location and everything- just in case! I knew exactly where our hotel was from the subway station, unfortunately, I forgot which subway station and the name of them hotel once we arrived in Tokyo. It wasn’t until I was staring at a neighborhood map that it click, we were at the WRONG subway station…. This may seem like a no-brainer but simple things just confuse and scary me.
#1. Ah, take the Cash in hand: This may seem strange to some, and I’m sure some people will say I’m all wrong about this one, but trust me when I say, keep cash on you. Not a lot, and always enough to get a train, or bus, or cab, back to the airport, ferry or whatever that brings you home. The morning we were headed back from Tokyo we had spent all our cash, not wanting to carry a bunch of yen back to Seoul. “I’ll just use my card” I thought. Except in Tokyo the only ATM’s that have any English options require you to withdraw a minimum of 10,000 yen which, at the time, was roughly 100 USD. We had just under 100 bucks in my home account, because the night before I used my card to buy dinner. We were stuck with the crippling fear of no way to buy a train ticket to get back to the airport. We were stuck in Tokyo! We had Korean won and even a 50 US dollar bill in my wallet but no Japanese yen. Luckily, the other train company in that station opened at 6:00 AM and Chad was able to scrap enough Japanese to buy two tickets to the airport. This train company had a ticket booth that took card. Thank God for the JR line (Japan Railways Group.)
So these are my top 5 tips for travelers. Bon voyage!!