I have this conviction that to travel is to learn twice. Thus, with my travelings both in and out of the country, I have learned so much about the places and people and their culture, especially their food, and these learnings have definitely enriched me personally. Among the many places I have been to, here's my list of my favorite places both within and outside of the Philippines.
Boracay Island - in Aklan, Visayas, Philippines, is still the best beach for me. While it may be a crowded beach, the white sands of Boracay are unlike any other. I have been to Boracay many times, either with friends or family. Among the best places to stay is at La Carmela de Boracay. There are other cheap accommodations as well and most of them are a few meters from the beach. Off-peak season starts at June which is usually the rainy season in the Philippines. If you are coming from Manila or Cebu, there are available flights to Caticlan which is in mainland Panay. If you are coming from other provinces like Bacolod, you can ride a 1 and half hour ferry ride to Iloilo City where you can rent a van or take a bus that will bring you to Caticlan, Aklan. There are a lot of activities in Boracay Island. Of course, nothing beats the night life.
Cozumel - in Mexico, has been a home away from home for me during the last 7 months. This Mexican island in the Carribean is definitely a gem, with its nice beaches and accessible resorts. There is more than just sand and surf. My favorite activity was swimming with the Dolphins. You can go around the island on a cab or you can rent a scooter or a jeep. If you have plenty of time in Cozumel, I would suggest renting a car or jeep for the day so you can go around the island and hop from one beachfront to the next.
Clark - in Pampanga, Philippines, is an ideal city for me. Very clean and very safe, this former U.S. Military base is a good place to retire. The first I was here was with a group of fellow doctors on a conference. One of the most enjoyable activities your family or friends can do is spend the day in Fontana Water Park. I enjoyed the giant water slide and the artificial waves in one of their pools. There are flights from Manila and Cebu that can bring you directly to Clark. Of course, Subic is close by so a sidetrip to the Subic Safari and Ocean Park is also a must-do.
Venice - in Italy, is definitely a place for lovers, both the romantics and those who are fascinated with art and architecture. I enjoyed my stay in Venice, trying to find my way through the labyrinthine streets of this ancient and historic city. Of course, riding on a water taxi would bring you much faster. I would suggest walking from Piazalle Roma to St. Mark's Square. Not only can you see a lot of sites, it is better for one's health anyway. Food can be a little expensive but if you are patient enough, you might be able to find a reasonably affordable pizza or pasta. Oh yes, and don't forget to ride the gondola.
Koper - in Slovenia, is a beautiful historic place, with a good mix of the old and the new. A walk through the old town transports you to a different time and space. A few minutes out of the old town and you will find yourself in modern-day Slovenia where malls greet you and entice you to shop till you drop. I fell in love with it the moment I stepped into the old town. I have been to a lot of "old towns" but Koper's is one of those very breath-taking old towns.
Stockholm -, well, speaking of old towns, in Sweden, the old town in Stockholm is definitely a place one must visit. I was able to go to Stockholm on a weekend cruise with fellow doctors while studying in Finland and it was a good decision to spend the weekend. Beautiful place really. Very accessible as well. Cabs can bring you in and out of the old town and bring you to other places in Stockholm. The Stockholm palace is also breath-taking and if you have some extra dough with you, you can pay your way in to the royal palace museum.
Mijas - in Spain is a picturesque old town. Located in the South of Spain, this well-preserved historic town is a place to go if you want to have a good feel of authentic Andalucian culture. The white-washed houses along the slopes of the hills of Mijas is a sight worth-seeing. I was fortunate enough to visit Mijas a few months ago and I was there to do some wine-tasting in their Wine Museum. It is only a few minutes away from Malaga, Spain. There are a lot of places to visit within the old town of Mijas itself. A must-visit is the little chapel of Our Lady of the Rock.
Rome - the eternal City, is a must-go place when you are in Italy. If you are coming in from other parts of Italy, there are trains that can bring you to Rome. I came to Rome from Civitavecchia. The "slow" train from Civi to Roma took me only an hour to travel. There is a train station a walking distance from St. Peter's Basilica. From there you can visit the Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and the Square. If you are lucky (like I was), you can even see the Pope in the Square. Then you can either take the bus or walk your way to the other historic sites in Rome, such as the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum, the Parthenon and the Spanish Steps. And of course, when you are in Rome, don't forget to do what the Romans do.
Hong Kong - is one of the most memorable places I have ever visited. It is our first family trip outside of the country and it was our first visit to Disneyland. Well, it isn't perhaps as huge as the one in the U.S. but still it was a blast for the entire family. What I loved about Hong Kong is its amazing international airport and its shopping district. Food is cheap as well and if you know where to look, you can even find good deals when it comes to souvenir items. If we had time, we could have had visited the Ocean Park as well. There is definitely so many things to do in Hong Kong and going to these places are not even difficult.
Florida - USA, is not the first U.S. state that I have been to. Nevertheless, among the few States that I have been to, Florida so far is my favorite. Yes, Chicago was also a memorable visit (especially standing on the Skyledge of Willis Tower) and definitely the trip to Washington, D.C. was also an educational and unforgettable trip (particularly our visit to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum). But Florida's sun, sand and surf (Miami's South Beach) definitely beats them all. I was able to stay in Tampa where I was able to visit the Busch Gardens thanks to my host family. Busch Garden is a Theme Park a la Zoo which is really a good place to bring the family.
Home - in the Philippines is still the best place to be. Despite so many places I have visited, both within and outside of the country, nothing beats home. It may not be as beautiful and breath-taking as many of these places that I have been, but the comfort and familiarity make home my most favorite place in the entire world. For now, home is in the City of Smiles. But of course, it is possible that in the future, home can be relocated somewhere near or far. It doesn't really matter where.
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