Category Archives: lakwatsa

Not all who wander are lost

Applying Tourist Visa to Taiwan

It’s one of those days when I am gritting my teeth and beside myself with worry since I will have to submit my application for a visa to Taiwan by tomorrow.

This is the part of traveling that I dread — proving to the embassy that I have plans of returning (I mean, why wouldn’t I?), that I have capacity to travel and that I promise to be a good tourist and take nothing but pictures and memories. Honestly, this is the part of being Filipino that annoys the hell out of me. The need to get visas and not having the freedom to go to places you’ve always dreamed of going because you have to prove that you have intentions of going back to your home country after the trip.

taipei

Honestly, I really can’t blame these countries — there were many cases of illegal immigration, as well as cases of “tourists” suddenly disappearing into thin air to find employment in a country that promises a better future than what is available here in my country. Any country will impose restrictive measures to ensure safety and economic security of its citizens.

To soothe my frayed nerves and the fact that I am already shitting myself with worry, I went on a mad research spree trying to get tips on how to go through the agony of getting a visa.

So, if you are a Filipino, scored really drop-dead cheap tickets to Taipei either via Cebu Pacific or Air Asia and plans on getting a Taiwan Visa soon, here are the requirements for business and visitor visa (as of September 2012):

1. An online Visa Application Form – please note that as of April 2012, the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) of Manila no longer accepts handwritten application forms. Please access the system-generated forms at https://visawebapp.boca.gov.tw. Fill up the forms and print it on A4 paper after. Please avoid leaving spaces blank, for questions that does not apply to you, write N/A.
2. Two (2) passport size photos 1.5”x2” with white background – should be taken within the last three months.
3. Passport valid for at least six months and old passport showing previous travels (if any)
4. Birth Certificate issued by NSO
5. Marriage Contract (if applicable) issued by NSO
6. Supporting documents related to the purpose of VISIT such as :
A. Confirmed round trip Air ticket or Booking Certificate
B. Certificate of Employment and Letter of permission to leave from the employer
C. Financial statements of the applicant such as:
(1) Income Tax Return (ITR)
(2) Bank Book or Bank Statements – I got my bank certificate at BPI for less than an hour. To apply for a bank
certificate, just approach the teller and she will give you a form that you need to accomplish. You have to pay
PHP100 for a copy of the certificate.

If Traveling on BUSINESS, you must also submit:
A. Business letter or trading records from Taiwan Company
B. Certificate of Business Name Registration and SEC Registration(If owner of the company)
C. Invitation Letter from Taiwan company / organization in Chinese letterhead that outlines clearly purpose of your visit and duration of your stay
D. Official letters or request letters from concerned authorities for official trip
E. Seminar program
F. Certificate of Employment; Professional Identification; Company ID
G. Other Supporting Documents if Required such as SSS contribution lists, Pay Slip etc.

Aside from the original copies of documents, you also need to prepare one photocopy. Also note that the applicant will be scheduled for an interview, if needed.

You need to pay PHP2,100 for a single entry tourist visa. Multiple entry tourist visa goes for PHP4,200.

For more information, you may refer to this website: TECO

Just to make sure, we also printed copies of the reservation confirmation from the hotel and plan on presenting them also tomorrow.

Anyway, I hope things will be okay tomorrow. Wish us luck.

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Clinging for Dear Life. Literally.

Yes, I’ve heard about that saying about “…hanging on for dear life” — apparently I didn’t counted on doing it last weekend. For Real.

Being the newly re-booted KamikazeeGirl 2.0 that is yours truly — the one who has been transformed to be a serious health buff, far from the Doritos-munching, remote-control wielding, Coca Cola-guzzling bitch that I am — has decided to sign up for the fitness group’s first-ever mountain climbing activity. The mountain, rated medium level in difficulty, is a favorite among Filipino mountain climbing enthusiasts. Technically, newbie climbers (like MOI) are encouraged to begin with a mountain that is more beginner-friendly. But no, my fitness group had other things in mind.

An hour into climb, I started questioning my sanity, i.e. “WHY DID I EVER SIGN-UP TO THIS?” and the more pressing and appropriate, ‘WHAT THE EFF WAS I THINKING???”

The beautiful view made up for it
The beautiful view made up for it

The irony of me scaling a 664 feet above sea level behemoth is not lost on yours truly. Me, the girl who gets herself hurt even while sitting in bed or walking near an electric fan, has decided to trust Mother Nature with her clumsy, aging body. True enough, I have come to develop very close and intimate relationships with the numerous thorns, sharp rocks and protruding tree branches along the way. Our routine would be like this:

Me: Wow! Nice view….(moves closer to inspect a tree/plant/whatever — knee connects with a protruding rock/tree branch)
Rock/Tree: There yah gow!
Me: Ow! Ow! khidhvinsdkdl@!!!!! (various unprintables)

P

My view while lying in the forest floor
My view while lying in the forest floor

Nearing my second hour, I am ready to call it quits and come crawling back to the jump off point. But I kept thinking that I have come all the way for nothing if I start to chicken out now. Plus, the idea of going back alone in the midst of a densely-packed forest is not exactly my cup of tea. Plus, I watched two seasons of The Walking Dead (Sophia running off the forest alone, hello?), kinda made up for a pretty insane and active imagination. For times I can feel my knees giving in, I grit my teeth and shoulder on. So, I was particularly thankful for five-minute breaks, majority of which I spend with my back on the damp forest floor, just looking at the trees and the thin sliver of sky peeping through the leaves. That part was heaven 🙂

After what prolly seemed like eternity, we reached the entrance to the summit.

This way to the Summit!
This way to the Summit!

At first, I was afraid to try and scale the Summit. Especially after hearing that there would be no trees in there to serve as guide and that the sand making up the mountain is slippery. In my head, I kept thinking how much of a wuss I am and that it will be pretty embarrassing and painful should I tumble down the mountain. It jut doesn’t make up for a very pretty sight.

But something in me just kinda kicked in. I was there already, why not make a go to the very end and get it over with?

That brilliant decision made me discover the word, “hanging on for dear life.” Let me tell you two things: it was an almost 45 degree incline and your nearest safety insurance are the clumps of grass dotting the mountain floor. The sand was slippery and I can feel earth giving out to my weight. I was clinging for dear life and I was trying to kick and kick, hoping to find a solid earth where I can leverage my weight. Good thing one of our guides saw my predicament and literally snatched my hand and drag me all the way up where I saw…

…beauty.

Parrot's Beak
Parrot’s Beak

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The view on top was simply amazing.

After going through all that, it was simply worth it. An endless stretch of blue ocean in front of you, tiny green islands and hawks flying below you, circling the forest canopy. It was the exact moment that I learned to understand what the mountaineering guys usually say about “the view on top simply worth any pain.” It was so beautiful that I felt a certain swell of pride for my country.

Whatever good vibes I was feeling was dissipated by the fact that after climbing, we eventually had to go down. Imagine repeating the same process (the hanging on for dear life, the constant falling over and the various grim thoughts of free falling) all over again. It was nerve wracking. I pretty much frayed the threads of my hiking shorts as I pushed my way down the mountain.

To add further excitement to our adventure, my group (ten beginner climbers) was stuck with the rapidly approaching sunset and had to navigate the mountain going down with just the moon and three wonky flashlights lighting our path. The guide told us to keep our hands to our sides, not to touch anything – lest a snake had decided to wrap itself on the protruding branches.

I kept to myself and resorted to looking at the road ahead of me. I was simply petrified for words — for the snakes, for the fact that it was already pitch dark and we are still in the midst of the freaking forest and lastly, I was petrified of the fact that I listened to the silly ghost stories when I was still young. The only consolation was whenever I look up, I see a blanket of stars shining brightly like diamonds — looking so near and within arms reach.

It was simply too beautiful for words.

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERA

I don’t think I’ll climb another mountain again — I think this climb will be my first and last. The important thing for me is being able to cross an item off my bucket list and being able to prove to myself that I can do it. It was a scary climb, but the experience was worth the frayed nerves.

See you in March…!

The land of F4...and yeah, the 101!
The land of F4…and yeah, the 101!

After two years of pining after the land of F4, the Taipei 101 and the birthplace of the milk tea — I finally had the courage to go for it and book a trip to Taipei. Actually, the cheapo tickets from Cebu Pacific and the upcoming birthday of my constant travel partner, my sister The Queen. Apparently, her mantra nowadays is to celebrate her birthday anywhere as long as it’s not in the Philippines.

I am again her plus one, her constant navigator and her travel research fiend. This time, we made a challenge to ourselves to limit our spending to PHP15,000 for the whole trip (roughly less than USD400). This means that I have less than 2 months to research and plan for the trip, including the visa requirements.

Maybe what gave me courage to go ahead and just throw caution (again) to the wind is the trip to Korea. Whenever I get doubts about my ability to see a particular place, I always refer to the time when I had almost zero money in the bank and was still able to go to a place I could only dream of.

What do you like to wear when you travel?

When I was younger and I didn’t know any better, I was the type to bring twenty pieces of clothes on a two day or three day trip. Never mind if its domestic or foreign travel, somehow I still manage to pack too many clothes and too many shoes for my own good.

I was always the girl with the heavy bag or the traveler lugging a heavy and overstuffed luggage while boarding.

I always tell myself, what if I happen to need it?

But I guess too many trips and too many overnight jaunts taught me to stick to the basics.

During our first out of town travel, I finally decided to trim down the number of clothes I bring and instead stick to solid, easy-to-wear pieces that can be used over and over again. Save for the number of underwear (which I always bring in oversupply — for me, you can’t have too many underwear in a trip), I decided to tone down the clothes I wear and instead bring shirts and shorts which is quite appropriate for the humid HK weather. Of course, I still have my favorite shirt dress, my favorite eyeglasses and my latest hat with me.

comfort and style.

After bringing too much clothes and bags during the Seoul trip last March (and feeling like a harassed porter navigating Seoul’s underpasses), I decided that this time, I will just bring one carry-on luggage and my personal bag, nothing more, nothing less.

I manage to squeeze three pair of shorts, eight shirts, a pack of my various unmentionables, 2 dresses and 2 pairs of thights on a small carry-on luggage. I also managed to bring a shawl, a sandal and my very comfy boat shoes–and still have room to spare in my luggage! Going to the airport, I wore my trusty goth boots which I just can’t seem to leave at home.

I know various travel sites usually tells us to opt for the comfortable slip on flats which we can take off in a hurry whenever we pass through security at check-in but wearing boots has always been my guilty pleasure whenever I travel. Again, my so called “security blanket.”

I’ve read somewhere that it’s also recommended to opt for solid colored and wrinkle-free clothes which limits you from having to look for an iron and ironing board in your hotel. During plane rides, it is recommended you stick to comfortable pieces which will allow you to move freely, even when bound by the seatbelts, and sleep in peace.

When I was younger, I used to just dump my clothes in my luggage a few hours before travel and just coordinate the clothes I wear before I leave the hotel. Now, I have learned to think ahead which goes with what and coordinate the pieces in my head even before I pack. In the end, I managed to maximize what I have brought with me (and even ended up not wearing some of the clothes) and still look good, minus the hassle of an overstuffed luggage.

Well, I am learning after all.

An awesome Trip to the (Mind) Museum

I love museums. Being the history buff that I am, there’s something about museums that I find blatantly creepy yet oddly comforting. I don’t know about you but I love the sweet smell of old clothes slowly disintegrating through time, the aged books and the little manuscripts bearing a past hero’s secret.

That is why history museums bring an old nostalgia each time I step foot, anywhere they may be. Sadly in Manila, there’s only a few historical museums and I pretty much seen almost all of them during elementary field trips.

Imagine my excitement when I started planning our activities for the media event (which turned out to be successful yet proved to be exhausting) and found out that we will be going to the newly-opened The Mind Museum, located in Burgos Circle Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, a nice developing commercial area a few minutes away from Makati City, the country’s business district.

The Mind Museum, is the first science museum of its scale and scope currently in the Philippines. With displays that entice students to learn on their own and through active questioning on the roving “mind movers” — the Mind Museum allows kids to play and learn from the impressive displays in the area. Currently, the museum accepts limited people in every three-hour time block, from 9AM to 12NN, 12NN to 3PM and 3PM to 6PM.

After reading some of the blogs about The Mind Museum, my attention definitely zeroed in on one distinct display:

Say hello to my new friend, Rexy!

I love dinosaurs! Being a history buff — it also follows that I am crazy about geology and paleontology. As long as it is featured on The History Channel and The National Geographic, you can be sure that I am also extremely interested.

Too small, in the grand scheme of things

Comparing both my shoe sizes against a single T-Rex footprint gave me an epiphany. (Yes, I find meaning during random times of the day): Sometimes, I worry too much about the little things. But when you actually look at it on a bigger perspective…my worries are too minuscule compared to the worries of the world. In this great universe, I am nothing but a speck of dust. Now, I am thinking of printing above photo and hanging it somewhere in my office cube so that I’ll always be reminded not to worry too much on small things.

Say hello to the crew!

This display, showing prehistoric men, is one of the interesting ones on its side of the museum. However, I was also freaked out taking this picture because of one thing:

Can you spell creepy?

Maybe I watched too many “Shutter” (Ananda Everingham!!!) reruns but I kept thinking that this lady will slowly turn its head to look directly at the lens while I was shooting her pictures. It didn’t help that we chose the last time block and were the only guys inside the museum by closing time. Anyway, after taking this picture, I immediately went over to the next gallery. Classic wuss, I know.

this looks like a cute and unique name for a blog

After looking at the third species of insect, I’ve began to lose interest. Maybe because science was never my strong subject even while I was studying and I was failing miserably in Chemistry. Finally, after another quick tour of the second floor, I called it quits and decided to just sit near the museum entrance to wait for my companions.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen kids inside the museum and they were ecstatic, and simply loved everything they could get their hands into. Kids will love the interactive games and even the 4D film showing detailing the history of civilization.

The Mind Museum is not just a place to keep the kids entertained. It’s also an opportunity to teach kids that well, learning can also be fun.

The Mind Museum
www.themindmuseum.org
Entrance: PHP600 for adults; PHP450 for kids; PHP150 for public elementary school students

The world is a few Google Map clicks away

Technology is a wondrous, wondrous thing.

I spent the day touring the streets of Ginza, Shibuya and then had a quick jaunt at Mt. Fuji. When I grew bored salivating the many amazing sights of Japan, I made a quick jump at Namsan in Seoul, and revisited my old neighborhood in Myeongdong. I made a quick stop at Nature Republic, trawled the streets of the Myeongdong Market then changed my mind again and strolled the pleasantly chaotic Nathan Road in HK, checked where we will be staying in October then made a quick jaunt at Chungking Mansions before ending the trip at the Avenue of Stars.

Amazing, I know. And impossible to do in one day unless you have Harry Potter’s Firebolt.

I was actually doing all these through good old Google Maps.

tokyo tower, minato
A quick visit to the Tokyo Tower

I was actually doing research for my sister, who is Tokyo-bound this September for a seven-day vacay. She wanted to have an idea on how the hotel would look like and its surrounding neighborhood and I had the brilliant idea to look for it via Google Maps. After I managed to find her hotel, I thought about visiting my sister’s future neighborhood and boy—was I crushed and envious that I am not going with her.

From there, I just followed the many streets and little alleys around Ginza and had fun looking at the quaint restaurants and the people crossing the street. Before I knew it, I already had a look around Shibuya, Harajuku and Keio University neighboring areas. I also managed to lose track of time.

It amazes me how technology allows us to see the places we want to see, “to visit” them and enjoy the view while thinking what would it be like being there for real.

HK Nathan Road
Our little hostel is located here, Nathan Road between Bowring and Pilkhem Street

Of course, nothing comes close to being there and soaking the view for real, feeling the vibe of the place and the energy of the people. When I saw the places in Tokyo, the more I wanted to go. I knew that the reason why I can’t go this time is because I am penniless and I am afraid to go broke in the city I loved most. A part of me kept on telling me how pathetic it looked–seeing the places you’ve always wanted to see through Google Maps.

But then again, why not? It was never wrong to dream or hope or even yearn about things, people or places. Deep in my heart, I know, that the next time I’ll post a picture of Tokyo Tower here–it’ll be the one with me standing next to it — grinning from ear to ear.

Oh! The Places I’ll Go!

I decided to develop a travel blog, separate from this blog (The Adventures of Kamikazee Girl) where I usually keep my varying rants and issues in life, fashion, cats and my favorite topic, myself.

The decision to have a new blog is due to the fact that I needed a place where I can write and gather all my travel adventures. You do know that my only happiness in life (save for shoes and satchels) is traveling. Weird as it may sound, I only feel a semblance of being alive when I am making travel arrangements. It may drive me crazy but I am most happiest when I am making spreadsheets for our travel arrangements and cost. This insane OC-ness started in 2008, for the bonding trip I had with my siblings prior to getting married and continued to this day. The last one in fact was our seven-day sojourn in Busan and Seoul.

oh the places you will go
here’s the cover of my new blog.

Obviously, the inspiration for the name is Dr. Seuss’ famous novel “Oh! The Places You Will Go,” a staple gift for graduating kids anywhere. Personally, I love the message of the book – a kind and determined reminder of the long travel ahead. I don’t believe that one must graduate from school in order to appreciate this book.

All of us are travelers, after all.

In one way or the other, we are going somewhere – either in the middle of a really complicated journey, or stuck in a God-forsaken station. I’d like to believe (and hope) that I am one of those who are in the midst of the exciting journey. I do not like being stuck somewhere.