August 31, 2015

Meiji Shrine

Meiji Shrine, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan

Named after Emperor Meiji, the Meiji Shrine or Meiji Jingu, is a Shinto Shrine located at the heart of Tokyo, Japan's Capital City. It was built on an iris garden whom the emperor and his wife, Empress Shoken, loved to visit during their reign. It was constructed at the early 1900's for the Shinto Japanese and is also a popular attraction for tourists and travellers nowadays.

Me and my cousin Carmina at the first torii of Meiji Shrine, Tokyo

It was my first day at Tokyo when my cousin Ate Carmina gave me a tour around her city. She was stationed for her work at Tokyo for almost two years and she was a great tour guide for me around Tokyo where we had so much fun and adventures. We both love this photo of us at the Torii because we both look very slim on this one. 

Toriis are gates usually made of wood or other material which marks the entrance or path to a Shinto shrine. it comes in various colors but some are left naturally unpainted like the ones at Meiji Shrine.

Barrels of Sake donated to the Shrine, Meiji Shrine, Tokyo

As we went through the first Torii that leads the path to the central shrine, a wall of big ceramic barrels are displayed at the side. Inside this colorfully painted barrels are Sake or Japanese Rice Wine that are donated by the visitors to the shrine.

As you walk through the path and pass another Torii, you will then approach a hut with wooden pails of water. This is called the Purification Through. You dip these wooden pail to fetch spring water and use it to clean your hands and mouth before entering the sacred shrine.

Me at the Purification Through. Clean both hands and your mouth.

Reminder: There are several things to remember in visiting these Shinto Shrines across Japan. They are all beautiful and designed very intricately, but we should never forget that these buildings are not just historical tourist attractions, they are a place of worship. Japanese people treat it with utmost respect and it will not be so hard for us to extend the same respect to the shrines.

The Meiji Shrine Complex, Tokyo

Ema, or small wooden tablets where you write your wish

Blessed Shinto Charms for Every Intention, Meiji Shrine, Tokyo

After we said our prayers and wishes at the the Main Shrine, Ate Min and I went walking back to a garden entrance we passed by on the way to the Main Shrine. In here, you will have to pay an entrance fee for you to get inside the beautiful gardens. It is said that during the Spring and Autumn, the trees here look so colorful. Well, it was in the middle of Summer but still it is beautiful.

The path through the iris gardens.

As Ate Min and I were walking along this path, I was actually shocked and quite terrified when I saw a big mantis praying on a bush just a foot away from my face. When I shouted that there is an insect, I never thought Ate Min is also afraid of insects so we both ran so fast screaming our lungs out! It was so funny but man, we really got scared!

Along the path is a beautiful terrace above a koi pond. There were fishes and turtles that are believed to be there since the iris garden was started there. We posed for some photos with the nice view of the surrounding woods.

Ate Carmina at the Garden Pond, Meiji Shrine, Tokyo

Ate Carmina at Samara's Well, Meiji Shrine, Tokyo

Before we said goodbye to Meiji Shrine, as we walked along the same path outwards, we passed through a cafeteria and Ate Min got us some Ice Cream Cones! It was so cool with flavors Vanilla, Green Tea, and weirdly, Sakura Flower. The curious that I am, I ordered the cherry blossom and I have to say, it does taste good! I haven't tried tasting the flower itself but if I would have to describe it, it was sweet, milky and a little bit woody. I really liked it.

Ice Cream Time! Ate Min's Green Tea and my Sakrua Flower

Ice Cream Flavors at Meiji Shrine, Tokyo

During the time of my visit to Tokyo, August 2013, Tokyo was still a candidate city for the 2020 Olympics. But now, I am very sure they are pretty much preparing to host the Olympiad as much as they were preparing for their bid before they were declared the rightful host.

Tokyo 2020 Candidate City Poster

Tokyo is a big city. And even through its vast population, there are still places preserved and nurtured not just for its religious importance but also to conserve the nature even in the middle of a world city. Being a competitive city, doesn't always mean just money, business and the corporate world. Moreover, having a place to breathe in fresh air and a quiet sanctuary to destress is a big help for any growing population.

Forest in Tokyo? Well, I was on it.


A very big thanks to my beautiful cousin Ate Carmina! It was a great bonding experience for us! It will never be a memory of Tokyo without her :)

August 30, 2015

Starbucks Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

A big part of my travels have something to do with my collections, one of them are my Starbucks Mugs. During our trip to Vietnam last 2014, I visited one of Ho Chi Minh City's flagship stores and got new babies for my collection back at home.


Me outside Starbucks New World, HCMC, Vietnam

Starbucks New World is located at Ho Chi Minh City's central part. Starbucks currently has three city icon mugs, Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, and Hanoi. During that time, the Ho Chi Minh City Mug was just released when we got there (actually one of the reasons I went to Vietnam) but very luckily, when we got there, someone from the Philippines bought all the mugs on display, not just on one but all three stores in Ho Chi Minh City. A very fortunate time for me isn't it?

But it was still alright because I got myself some other Starbucks stuffs and things for my friends like their Bear-istas and some extra mugs. I also got to meet a lot of great Baristas and Partners on the store. They are all so friendly and they loved my collection when I showed them the picture of my growing collection, was then just half of what I have now.

The friendly partners at Starbucks New World, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam


The very nice Barista from Starbucks Nguyen Du, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

The handsome barista at Starbucks New World, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

 Me and My Starbucks Vietnam Mug

Ho Chi Minh City is starting to be one of the key cities of South East Asia and together as it opens its doors to more success, Starbucks was there to give coffee lovers, almost every Vietnamese, something to love. 


August 29, 2015

Midas Hotel & Casino

Midas Hotel & Casino, Manila

Last April 25, 2015, I was abound to one of my biggest challenges I ever signed up on, my first Half-Marathon. It was not just my first Half-Marathon but actually my first run! So me and my friends Myrcel, R-Jay, and Judy, decided that we will be spending the night before in the Pasay City area where the NatGeoRun 2015 run will happen. We chose Midas Hotel & Casino because my friend Myrcel used to work there and she told me how nice their rooms are.

 Midas Hotel & Casino, Philippines

Midas Hotel & Casino is a Boutique Hotel located at Pasay City in Metro Manila. The hotel was renovated from the old Hyatt Manila. almost everything was refurbished but they retained the sandstone walls at the lobby which I really think is beautiful.

The front office people were so nice and accommodating and after our reservation was confirmed and our pre-check-in details were processed, we were advised that our reservation for the Deluxe room for four was upgraded to the Executive Suite, for no extra charges! A very special thanks to Miss Cielo Ortega Reboredo, Director of Sales and Marketing. We were excited to take a quick nap so we hoped up the lift and got out at the 9th floor where our room is.


Me, Myrcel, Judy, and R-Jay at the Elevator, Midas Hotel & Casino

When we went to our room and opened the door, we were greeted by fresh flowers and a plate with a cute cake with something written on it. We can't stop laughing because it said Mr. Myrcel when Myrcel is a girl! It was so funny but when we tasted the cake, it was so delicious! We really did feel welcomed.

The room was spacious and the bed fits all four of us! But of course there's a nice couch so one slept in there and the other three on the bed. It was very relaxing, just perfect for runners needing a nice rest before their 21-Kilometer run the next morning!

 Welcome gifts for Mr. Myrcel, well she is a Miss actually


Midas Hotel & Casino, Manila's Executive Suite

 Me messing around with the drinks

 It was so much fun staying at Midas Hotel & Casino. The run went smooth but I have to be honest, was a bit bloody on the toes since my shoes are not so good anymore. But I made it! We made it! And that is a big Thank You to Midas for giving us a wonderful night and the day after the run for our Half-Marathon Experience will never be as magical without it!

We hope we can stay again at Midas Hotel & Casino with my friends. Anywhere we go is a great place, as long as we are all together! But memories will always last with places like Midas.


Me, R-Jay, Judy, Myrcel, and Lea at the NatGeoRun 2015

August 28, 2015

Cagayan River

Ilog Cagayan, Northern Luzon, Philippines
March 3, 2015

The Cagayan River is the longest river in the Philippines and has a number of tributaries as it goes open to the Basi Channel at the country's north. This one was shot while I was on a motorboat passing through the part of Cagayan River in Penablanca, Cagayan.

This post is part of Skywatch Friday that features different views of the sky around the world. Visit Skywatch and go on tour around the globe seeing sunrises, sunsets and so much more than the sky that you know at http://skyley.blogspot.in/

August 27, 2015

Seattle Skies


Me at Seattle, Washington, USA
July 10, 2015

When I was still on Cavite Daily Photo, I used to join Skywatch Friday. And now, I will try to join in again with this photo of me under a blanket of dark cloudy skies of the Evergreen State. Photo above courtesy of my dear friend and Seattle Resident Paula Orozco.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

 Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Located at the Southeastern part of the Khmer Kingdom, the capital city of Phnom Penh is home to a large number of the country's population. With the country's location in the middle of Vietnam and Thailand, Cambodia is popular for travellers especially for backpackers taking the French Indochina route. And for me, it was our midpoint on our long bus ride from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to the Ancient Capital of Siem Reap, Cambodia.

 Busy Streets of Phnom Penh

It was just about an hour stop at Phnom Penh before we continued our long trip due Northeast to Siem Reap. Most of the streets are narrow going to this city centre in the middle of the metro. Having a lot of locals and travellers alike, the streets are never sleeping.

 A Coconut Vendor at Phnom Penh

A Lady seems to go back home after a day of business in Phnom Penh

It took us about 5 hours from HCMC, Vietnam to reach Phnom Penh but we had no idea the second leg of the journey is the longer part. It took us a total of more than 13 hours of travel to reach Siem Reap that evening of the same day.


The Bus Station: Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap at Phnom Penh

Me at the Bus during hour hour's rest in Phnom Penh

Being in Phnom Penh gives me much excitement since it was my 11th country to visit. But never have a I realised that Siem Reap is so much more than Phnom Penh with all the temples and wats. Truly, Cambodia astonished my sight and taste, and surely, I'll come back soon for more.

Steve

August 26, 2015

My San Francisco Birthday

My 25th Birthday at San Francisco, California, USA

It was a beautiful Northern California morning when I woke up for my 25th year as a human being. I arrived at the United States last June 1st and three days after, it was time for me to add up another year to my life, another number as my age. I have not been to America for almost 18 years and it was really thrilling for me to finally be back. I still have both vague and clear memories of my childhood in America but of course, things have changed, a lot of things have changed.

Hayward BART Station

Hayward, California is a quiet city along the bay area where my brother lives, a city I learned to love and call home. A train ride away to San Francisco, I left at around 8:30 am through the BART together with my brother Kuya Jon. BART stands for Bay Area Rapid Transit which services all the major cities across the Bay Area including Downtown San Francisco, the Peninsula Area, and the Cities across the East Bay. 

We got off at Montgomery Station, which was the first BART Station on downtown San Francisco crossing the transbay area coming from the Oakland and the East Bay. Kuya Jon and I parted for he has work for the day and then I started my birthday trip all around the foggy city.

San Francisco Contemporary Art Museum

I took some pictures at the San Francisco Contemporary Art Museum that has this giant Cube Building and just in front of it is the Saint Patrick's Catholic Church. There I prayed for thanksgiving for the gift of Travel that I received and am enjoying at that very moment. 

The Main Altar at Saint Patric's Church

Right after, I went and walked more up towards San Francisco Centre near Powell Street, which was still closed during that time. Passing through the Yahoo! Office, Union Square, until I found this giant weird looking tunnel that has a hanging street above it which was part of Stockton Street. Walking inside it led me to it, Chinatown!

The Street above a Street, Stockton Street

It was the second time I was there since my brother Erson toured me around the city on my second day so I am a bit familiar of the place already. I can easily get familiar through places especially if there are landmarks that I can follow throughout the streets. And also, I don't have a map or any mapping device at hand that time. Well, I do have my phone with GPS with me but I just don't want to use it the whole time since I'm in it for the adventure. 

San Francisco Yahoo! Office

I walked through Chinatown sightseeing all the shops and stores that were so busy during that time. it was a couple of hours before lunch time and food houses are packed with people waiting for their orders to be taken and served. I passed the bakery where me and my Kuya had lunch the time we were there and then went straight to one of the places I would really like to visit over and over again, the National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi. I was the only one inside and since the lunch mass was just abut an hour away, I decided I'll join the mass after I get myself some drinks and use the restroom.

National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi

I walked out of the church and look for the nearest Starbucks. I walked downhill towards the Transamerica Pyramid which is one of the famous landmarks of the San Francisco together with the Golden Gate Bridge. Went inside Starbucks and got myself a Venti Peach Green Tea Lemonade and used their restroom. I brought my drink with me and walked all the way up back to the church. 

Transamerica Pyramid

Peach Green Tea Lemonade

Still it was barren and quiet and very peaceful, when the clock struck 12:15, the priest came out and fixed the things needed for the mass and it started. It was a very solemn. I feel so blessed being on that very place, at that very moment. It really is a different way of celebrating my birthday with so much serenity and blessing. 

Inside Saint Francis Church

We were just about 5 or 6 inside the church throughout the mass and when it was done, I walked up in front to greet the priest. His name is Fr. John De La Riva and he is probably the nicest and the sweetest priest I have ever known. I introduced myself and I told him it was my birthday and when he knew, he prayed a special prayer just for me. It was a very beautiful prayer. After that, I asked him for a picture and he agreed and we even did a selfie with Saint Anthony of Padua. I will never forget Father John, ever!

Me, Father John, Saint Anthony and Jesus

I continued walking after I got out of Little Italy, all the way back to Chinatown, and said a prayer at Saint Mary's Church and then back to San Francisco Centre. There I went down to the lower ground floor and to this sport's apparel shop called CHAMPS. There I got this very pricey Golden State Warriors Finals shirt which I decided to give to my cousin. 

Just near the Centre was Yerba Buena Gardens which I would really like to visit next but then it happened, I got lost! I was walking around in circles and weirdly, I was still enjoying the fact that I was lost, I then saw something!

STEVENSON STREET! Now I knew why God made me lost for a few minutes so that I will see this street, it was my street! I took a few selfies and finally I found my way to Yerba Buena Gardens. I spent all the remaining time there and at St. Patrick's church which was just across the park. St. Patrick's is the church of most Filipino Catholics in the San Francisco Area. I lit a candle for San Lorenzo Ruiz. 

This is my Street, Stevenson Street

When Kuya Jon got out of work, we met up again at Montgomery and rode the train back home to Hayward. Kuya Erson was waiting for us and we continued the celebration at the Kokyo Buffet in Downtown Hayward. 

Me and my dear brothers Erson and Jonathan

It was truly one of the best Birthdays I ever had since my Mother threw me a surprise party when I was 16! This Birthday spent alone gave me a sense of independence, liberation and solitude and I thank God for this blessing. I will forever remember those momentsspent at San Francisco and will never get tired of going back to this city, my favorite city ever! Now the question is,"Where will I be on my 26th Birthday?"