Archive for January, 2012

Hagdang hagdang Palayan Part 3: Visiting the Village

Hagdan hagdang Palayan Part – 1: Journey to Batad
Hagdan hagdang Palayan Part – 2: Trekking to Batad

We ordered lunch as soon as we arrived at Simon’s Inn. While the food was being prepared, we were taken to our room assignments and settled in. I slept for a bit so I will have energy for our trek to the village.

Lunch was simple – chicken, mixed vegetables and rice- but filling.

Around 2:30 pm, everyone was ready. The group had 2 guides, ours was Kuya Vicente.

Just below the inns in Batad is the only school in the village, Batad Elementary school. I asked our guide where the children take their high school classes. He said, you have to go to Banaue if you want to study high school.

Here are some of the pictures I took.

 View of the terraces from the trail.

 Mini falls along the trail. Falls such as these gives continuous water supply to the rice terraces below.

 Rooster in one of the village homes.

 Another community on top of a small hill.

 Yellow wildflower along the terrace walls. Kuya Vicente said they use this as fertilizers for the rice.

 This is Kuya Vicente, our local guide. I told him I will be posting his picture in the internet. He gamely posed for me.

 Sadly, our rice terraces succumbed to the forces of nature. This part of the Batad rice terraces collapsed during typhoon Juaning in July 2011. Forty-three rice paddies owned by thirty owners were destroyed.

 Our first pit stop was this hut in the middle of the ampitheater. Notice the dog. 🙂

 Kuya Vicente pointed out an interesting fact about this hut. Look at the foundation.

 The whole structure sits delicately on top of the rice terraces’ stone wall.

 Grave of a rice terrace owner.

 We finally arrived at the village.

Huts were built on stilts. The lower part serves as the owner’s workshop of some sort.

 I am amazed by this mortar. It is completely carved out of stone.

 Cute kid with his mother. I asked permission first before taking their picture.

 The village walkway.

 Kuya Vicente pointed at this pile of stones (covered by weeds) beside our trail. He said it is actually a grave about 20-feet deep into the mountain.

 Almost two hours of walking and we were tired. We needed some rest and a beautiful view.

 Remember the dog at the hut earlier? He followed us throughout our trek, acting as our second guide. 🙂

 See our canine friend climbing up the steep trail? 🙂

 At the end of our trek, we were rewarded by this view of the mountains.

Given the chance, I’d go back here and enjoy some more of the community, the history, and the view.

Next up is Part 4 – The morning in Batad.


January 23, 2012 at 1:32 pm 2 comments

Visiting the Bayon Temple

The Siem Reap Trip Series

The Making of our DIY Family Trip to Siem Reap-HCMC
Trip to Siem Reap
First Glimpse of Angkor and the South Gate of Angkor Thom
Baphuon and Phimeanakas


27-December-2011, Tuesday.

Angkor Thom, literally translated as ‘big city’ or ‘great city’, is the capital city of the Khmer Empire during the reign of Jayavarman VII.

From the South Gate of Angkor Thom, we drove on to the next temple. From the road, we saw what seemed to be a majestic stone mountain.

The Bayon Temple.

Heang said it was the Bayon Temple, the state temple of Jayavarman VII. He told us there were originally 54 peaks on the Bayon, now there are only 37. If there’s one thing I regret not doing before this trip, it is me not reading more about the Angkor temples. I only knew Bayon as the temple with a lot of face towers. I didn’t know it has a number of important bas reliefs, which I unfortunately didn’t find and take pictures of during our trip!

The good thing about this, though, is that I now have one reason to go back to Angkor. 🙂

Bayon face towers.

Smiling face. Bayon.

Reclining Buddha. Bayon.

Going inside the Bayon Temple.

Dancing apsaras carved on one of the pillars in Bayon.

Side view of one of the galleries in Bayon.

What remains of what was once, probably, a hallway. Bayon.

One advise. Read before you visit. The bas reliefs, as I’ve seen from the book I bought after my visit, are amazing.

January 15, 2012 at 12:47 am 2 comments

First Glimpse of Angkor and the South Gate of Angkor Thom

The Siem Reap Trip Series

The Making of our DIY Family Trip to Siem Reap-HCMC
Trip to Siem Reap
Visiting the Bayon Temple
Baphuon and Phimeanakas


27-December-2011, Tuesday.

I woke up at 5:30am and was greeted by this.

Heang was picking us up at 7:00am so we could transfer and deposit our things to MotherHome Inn before hitting the temples at 8:00am.

We drove to towards Angkor Archeological Park and got our 3-days in a week temple passes for 40USD each. After we paid, our pictures were taken then waited for our tickets to be printed. We were told not to misplace it as tickets will be checked before we can enter any of the temples.

Our tickets were checked by the APSARA staff before we got in the car. Then, we were off to see the temples.

We passed by Angkor Wat’s moat. I took out my camera and hastily took a picture of it from the car window.

The hastily taken picture of the moat from the car window.

Over the distance, I saw a glimpse of it’s famous spires. The feeling was great. It felt almost surreal that I was finally going to see the temples of Angkor.

The South Gate of Angkor Thom

We reached the South Gate of Angkor Thom where numerous of other tourists are already ahead of us. Despite that, I still marveled at the sight of the gate. Fifty-four Devas (gods) lined the causeway to the left with the same number of Asuras (demons) to the right.
We asked Heang why didn’t the ancient Khmers just line it with the gods on both sides instead. He explained that the good and the evil balanced the creation of the world.

 The South Gate of Angkor Thom, lots of tourists.

View of Angkor Thom’s moat.

As I’ve learned later on, each row is holding a naga as if tugging at each other. This may have been taken from a popular Hindu myth, Churning of the Sea of Milk.

The gate itself is adorned by a stone tower carved with faces facing N,S,E and W. Inside, the gate is flanked by a three-headed elephant. Free roaming monkeys are everywhere.

Faces of the gate.

Three-headed elephant.

A monkey going about with his own business.

There are actually 5 gates to the city: the North, South, East, West and an additional gate on the eastern side named Victory Gate, where soldiers would enter after winning a war.

Though each of these gates would seemingly be identical, the South Gate is arguably the most popular and photographed as it is the first gate that would greet tourists upon entering to the Angkor Thom complex. Being so, it follows that it is also the most restored.

The gate was already breathtaking, what more could it be inside?  This was the start of an exciting (and exhausting) day in Angkor.

January 10, 2012 at 7:10 pm Leave a comment

Trip to Siem Reap

The Siem Reap Trip Series

The Making of our DIY Family Trip to Siem Reap-HCMC
First Glimpse of Angkor and the South Gate of Angkor Thom
Visiting the Bayon Temple
Baphuon and Phimeanakas


I was so excited that I was not able to sleep until 2:00am.

Our family left our house at 4:00am to catch the first Philippine Airlines flight to Manila.

While we were packing up the night before, we agreed to have everything handcarried so we won’t be wasting time at the baggage claim in Vietnam. We only had 2 hours in between our arrival from Manila to Ho Chi Minh and our Vietnam Airlines departure from Ho Chi Minh to Siem Reap not counting plane taxiing, immigration, customs, transfers and check-in. While it took a while for the plane to get to its assigned tube, immigration up to the Vietnam Airlines check-in procedures were a breeze. Among all my out of the country travels, Vietnam was the first country not to require filling-out of arrival/departure cards nor customs questionnaires.

Our flight for Siem Reap was delayed for about 30 minutes which was somewhat a good thing since we had ample time to unwind in the business class lounge (free food!).

Vietnam airlines airport lounge

Plane snacks which served as our dinner already

It only took an hour from Ho Chi Minh to Siem Reap.

We arrived at sunset. Siem Reap International Airport with its traditional Khmer architecture was beautiful. I was physically tired, but excitement suddenly rushed in as soon as I stepped out of the plane.

Immigration was a breeze. Filipinos didn’t have to pay for the Visa fee, so we were told to go to the “Cambodian passports” line. I was pleased to find out that they have the same finger printing and picture taking facilities as that of Japan and the USA. Impressive.

Mr. Kim Leang of MotherHome Inn was waiting for us outside the airport. Unfortunately, though, they had some problems with our reservation and they had to look for another hotel where we could temporarily stay for the night before transferring to MotherHome Inn the next day. We spent the night in Monoreach Angkor Hotel and slept soundly, recharging our energy for the full day ahead.

January 7, 2012 at 2:35 am 1 comment

The Making of our DIY Family Trip to Siem Reap-HCMC

The Siem Reap Trip Series

Trip to Siem Reap
First Glimpse of Angkor and the South Gate of Angkor Thom
Visiting the Bayon Temple
Baphuon and Phimeanakas


Angkor Wat had been one of our family’s goals for 2011.

The idea initially came to us after our family trip in Bangkok the previous year when we learned from your Thai guide, Mr. Anurak, that the Cambodian town of Poipet on the Thai-Cambodian border, is just about 3 hours drive from Bangkok, if we hire a taxi.

However, 2011 did major changes to our family.

In January, our father passed away.
In February, I got engaged.
In July, my brother got married, albeit the “sukob” superstition of the Filipino culture.
It was an emotional roller coaster ride for everyone in the family.

In August 2011, we decided on pushing through with the originally planned Cambodia trip so I started to do some research.

We initially wanted to include Bangkok-Hanoi-Ho Chi Minh-Siem Reap (not in any order) in our trip but since we only have 5 days from 26-Dec-2011 to 31-Dec-2011, we decided to just concentrate our itinerary on Siem Reap and include an overnight stopover at Ho Chi Minh City.

At first, I thought of getting a customized package tour so we won’t have to worry with anything. It was a bit expensive since our dates were within the peak season, so we scrapped the idea. We decided I should just plan the trip myself.

The major factors I worked with during my planning were the following:
1) We were not going with any package tour groups since we wanted to have our own pace.
2) We had to get most out of the days we have so have so travel time was to be at the minimum.
3) I need to find a hotel with at least an AC and a clean bathroom.
4) I would need to find an airconditioned car with a trustworthy, English-speaking driver/guide to get us to the places around Siem Reap.

I wanted our mother to be comfortable.

With these four major factors in mind, I started putting together our DIY trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia.

I read countless of travel blogs along with some Wikipedia facts/factoids to put together a DIY trip. Since overland travel will not be an option this time (factor # 2 above), I searched airlines that would get us from Bacolod to Siem Reap within a day.

After several mock-up flight itineraries, I booked our flights from Bacolod to Siem Reap, Siem Reap to Bacolod as follows:

(all times are local times)

UPDATE (Feb 2012): Finally! We now have direct flights from Manila to Siem Reap via Cebu Pacific! Yay!

Date: 26-Dec, Bacolod to Siem Reap

1) 06:20 – 07:25 – Philippine Airlines PR 132 – Bacolod To Manila
2) 12:40 – 14:30 – Philippine Airlines PR 597 – Manila to Ho Chi Minh (Tan Son Nhat Airport)
3) 16:30 – 17:30 – Vietnam Airlines VN 813 – Ho Chi Minh to Siem Reap

Date: 30-Dec, Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh

1) 10:30 – 11:50 – Cambodia Angkor Air VN 3818 – Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh

Date: 31-Dec, Ho Chi Minh to Bacolod

1) 10:00 – 13:40 – Philippine Airlines PR 592 – Ho Chi Minh to Manila
2) 17:00 – 18:15 – Philippine Airlines PR 135 – Manila to Bacolod

With Factor # 2 out of the way, I started looking for places to stay in Siem Reap and Ho Chi Minh. After a string of email inquiries, I finally booked the following hotels as early as the 1st week of September.

1) Siem Reap – MotherHome Inn

Address: Taphul Village, Sangkat Svay Dangkum, Siem Reap
Contact Number: +855-12-963-438 (if calling outside Cambodia), 012-963-438 (if calling within Cambodia)
Contact Person: Mr. Kim Leang (a Cambodian)
Email: /

2) Ho Chi Minh City – Beautiful Saigon 3

Photo courtesy of: TripAdvisor. Link here.

Address: 40/27 Bui Vien St., Pham Ngu Lao Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Contact Number: +84-839-204-874

With accommodations already out of the way, I would then have to find Factor #4: The trustworthy driver guide.

I had a hard time looking for this since, at first, I didn’t know where to look. I emailed several tourist guide services outfits to no avail. Either they were too “commercial” for my taste, too expensive, or too hard to communicate.

I was googling away one night and luckily found a list of recommended guides made by Andy Brouwer (see his website link below). Out of that list, I emailed Heang. He has a Camry that can fit our family (4), he speaks English, and he knows Siem Reap (and beyond) like the back of his hand.

                                                        Heang and his car.

A day after I emailed Heang, I received an enthusiastic reply. After a couple of email exchanges, I knew he was the one so I booked him. (I am glad I did. He’s such a nice, kindhearted, honest guy with lots and lots of stories to tell.) That was November, about a month before our trip.

I had a rough idea of what I wanted us to see and do in Siem Reap, so I informed Heang about this. He happily offered me a better itinerary to maximize our stay. Great! Now, we were all set to go.

For our Ho Chi Minh overnight stopover, I just got the airport pick up service offered by our hotel, a little bit steep for $20, but I thought, by then, we would have had additional carry-on weight from Cambodia (as I’ve expected, Mama bought a coffee-table book weighing a ton!) and I didn’t want us lugging around all the extra stuff while trying to find our hotel.

We explored a little bit of Ho Chi Minh’s District 1 by just walking and taking the cabs (VinaSun or Mai Linh only).

                     Taxi at far left is Mai Linh, taxi at far right is VinaSun.

Again, we just took the hotel taxi to the airport the next day. It cost us 10USD. Expensive, I know, but we were just too tired to worry about looking for a Mai Linh or VinaSun taxi.

That’s it. A long entry, yes, but hope you get the idea of how this trip came to be.


I would like to give my sincere thanks to some very helpful websites some travel blogs I’ve lurked in while gathering information for this trip.

1) Tales of Asia – Cambodia
A no nonsense guide to traveling, living, and working in Cambodia.

2) Canby Publications – Siem Reap
A web version of a series of print guides on major locations in Cambodia.

3) Just Wandering
Her entries about her Siem Reap trip is informative.

4) The Pinay Solo Backpacker
She has a number of entries about Siem Reap with great pictures to boot.

5) Andy Brouwer’s site – Guides
His list of recommended guides with a short profile of each.

6) Heang’s Website
Contact Number: 855-12-701-478 (if calling from outside Cambodia)
012 701 478 (if calling within Cambodia)

7) Dong Ho’s Eskapo 3.0
His entries on his Vietnam visit gave me an idea of what to expect. His photos are great, too.

January 5, 2012 at 1:34 am 2 comments


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