When I was searching for places to check out using Google maps, I was honestly a bit wary about Mequon Nature Preserve because it was all brown in the satellite images. I mean, wth Google?! I was more interested in going to Kohl Park (long story short, after three attempts of finding it I never did), so I went to Mequon Nature Preserve anyway. And oh, how glad I was that I did, for three weekends in fact.
Situated along W County Line Rd., there are signs leading to Mequon Nature Preserve (thank God for that haha^^;) and the entrance is easy to find. The land was repurposed to restore nature and attract wildlife and the trail is open to the public. It’s a great place to unwind, connect with people and reconnect with nature. Here are some of my favorite shots from my visits:
Quitinday Hills is an upcoming attraction in Albay (or maybe it’s already popular). It boasts a magnificent view of the Mayon Volcano on a clear day, but the hills are a sight to behold on their own.
This stop is one of my favorite moments of last year. I still remember how it would drizzle for a few moments then the sun would shine again, and then drizzle again. I remember how clean the breeze was and how light and unburdened I felt. I remember how proud the locals were of their place and how kind the tricycle driver who brought me to the foot of the hills was.
There are so many beautiful places in the world, but this experience reminds me to come back to the Philippines and visit more.
It’s my seventh month here in the US and I’m still yet to slip back into the corporate cogwheel. There have been days when I’d feel really down, but after a third time breaking down I decided to choose looking at the good things God has given me since I got here.
This pic is from my daily walks, something that has become a routine for me, a way to clear my head and reflect at times too, keep healthy in all aspects, and pause and appreciate my surroundings. I’ve always admired how beautiful prolific wild flowers can be. It also reminds me of Matthew 6:26 – 34, particularly v. 30: “Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (NKJV)
Apart from all the food and shopping, Hong Kong does have beaches, mountains and greens so for my trip last year, I thought I’d try hiking there for a change. This trip would also be the first time for me going to HK without seeing a concert^^;;
I allotted a day to hike a portion of the MacLehose Trail. It’s 100 km long and traverses various territories of Hong Kong, but it’s generally well marked and cut in stages (emphasis on “generally” intended). There are longer and more challenging stages, but this one I tried is manageable for a total amateur like me. The views are rewarding though.
About half an hour or so from Stage 1’s starting point is the High Island Reservoir East Dam. The road is paved and there are markers so the trail is easy to follow. The view is very easy on the eyes, too.
Further down the trail is the entrance to Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark. There are taxis parked nearby so if you feel like turning back after this stop, grab this chance. (I kind of beat myself mentally a few times down the trail for not doing so, but then I digress.)
hexagonal rock formations
Walking along, there will be several climbs but there are coves you’ll see on the way, too. In a couple of beaches, there were hikers who pitched tents. I didn’t have the luxury of time though so I had to keep moving.
There are a few beaches along the way, and six hours into the hike, I was already looking for the Chui Tung Au exit point. It was tricky figuring out where the exit to Sai Wan Pavilion is and I almost didn’t make it, but in any case, the pavilion is a small gazebo where minibus NR29 passes by a few times every hour to take you to the Sai Kung town center.
So, how to get to the starting point? Get to MTR Diamond Hill, and at exit C2, take bus 92 going to Sai Kung Town. The starting point is marked so you can alight there.
Here are some of my other tips (more like lessons learned ahaha):
Start early. A large portion of the trail is not lit at all.
Bring plenty of water and make sure your gadgets are fully charged. The only store I remember encountering was in Sai Wan, and that was after more than five hours of walking.
Take advantage of the many rest points. In the rough trails, I just looked for a place flat enough to sit on.
Breathe and enjoy the scenery.
Don’t be afraid to ask fellow hikers for directions. I needed to do so when I was trying to locate Sai Wan Pavilion.
There are portions with no signal and there are no other hikers in sight. Just keep walking.
If you want to read more about the trail and other recommended hiking spots in HK, this is a good place to start.
Energized by my venture into Albay, I was pumped into looking for my next destination. After scouring the net, this beach in Sisiman, Bataan kept calling to me. And as we say here in the Philippines, I’m very agreeable so I packed my bag and spent a weekend there.
Sisiman’s beach is rocky and even has hardened lava in some sections. Although sandwiched by two factories, the beachfront itself is a beauty and the local community surrounding it is charming in its own way. Fishing and making dried fish appear to be the main livelihood. Videoke is very much alive as early as 7 am too! Hahaha 😀
Until now, pitching tents there is free, and the local community also rent cottages for a minimal fee. Toilet and bathroom are communal, and they charge per pail.
The best time to go here is either by sunrise or sunset; it looks like it gets pretty crowded later on in the day. In fact, groups of people started arriving by 7:30 am. Not by the busload, but it’s getting challenging to take decent landscape photos.
How to get there?
Take the bus going to Mariveles
Alight at Baseco
Take a tricycle–tell the driver to drop you off at Sisiman Beach.
No ATV rides, no sili ice cream, but it was still quite an experience.
I swore that this year, I’ll explore Philippines more, so one seat sale or so ago, I looked for a place to go to and decided on Albay. I want to see Mt. Mayon up close! But after this trip, I found gems, both in places and people. So enough with the narratives and on to the pictures!
Even if you end up sitting at the wrong side of the plane, you’ll still get a nice view of Mayon after the plane lands. One of the best runway views I’ve seen so far 🙂
Lignon Hill is just behind Legazpi Airport, so I hopped on to a tricycle right away. Manong was very helpful; he was actually teaching me where to go, how to go around and he practically got that I prefer experiencing the place like how locals do. He assured me that I, with no exercise at all and practically sits all day in the office, can reach Lignon Hill’s peak. He said he even jogs there in mornings. Okay then, I thought, I’m ready!
The road was paved, yes; you won’t get lost, yes; but it was steep. Not exaggerating here, but I was tempted to crawl up at some parts of the trek haha^^ I was that out of shape. Thankfully though, I was able to reach the peak and was rewarded with these views:
Lignon Hill boasts of a 360-degree view of the city. This is just a nice snapshot of Legazpi City. At the far end is Sleeping Lion, or Kapuntukan Hill.
It’s been a while since I last saw a bed of cosmos so I had to take a pic!
Mayon was practically covered, but the cloud formation surrounding it was pretty interesting. It’s as if it took the volcano’s shape
A lot of people were exercising there too and there was someone selling coconuts.
Lignon Hill has a minimal entrance fee after 9 am but it’s free in the mornings (and personally, considering how hot it can get later on in the day, mornings are the best time to go there).
After Lignon Hill, my next stop was Cagsawa Ruins. Two jeepney rides away from the foot of Lignon Hill, Cagsawa is hard to miss since there’s a sign pointing to the park. About half a kilometer’s walk and you’re already by the entrance. They charge a fee of 20 pesos and you’re free to stay there as long as you like.
There are plenty of souvenir shops and some restaurants inside, and I don’t really like to say this, but it’s a little too touristy for me. There are plenty of locals too offering to take pictures for visitors for a fee. What I appreciate about them is they just ask you once and then if you say no, they leave you alone. Here are shots of the bell tower, the church hall’s remnants and a rice field:
If I could, I would have waited til the clouds cleared away but it was starting to get hot when I got to the park
Here’s the path leading to the back of the bell tower.
Through the walls of Cagsawa church’s ruins
Mt. Mayon + rice fields, one of my favorite things to draw back in elementary school. It’s really something else seeing this sight up close^^
After about an hour, I headed back to Legazpi City to check out Starbucks in Ayala Mall Legazpi. I chose the seat with the best view of Mayon, but I wasn’t satisfied because a column was blocking the view. So no picture from there. After recharging, I headed to Embarcadero de Legazpi, but upon reaching the mall, I realized it’s not worth killing time here for the rest of the afternoon, so I did a quick research and stumbled upon Quitinday Hills. And I’m glad I chose to go to this place.
From Embarcadero, jeepneys going to Camalig pass by. So I got on one, and the jeepney driver guided me and had me alight at Sentro, where the tricycles are. The roundtrip fare costs PhP350 – 500 pesos, and the tricycle drivers will allow probably just 2 or even at most 3 per ride. It takes about half an hour before you reach the drop-off point. That half-hour though is through a grueling rough road, so as a tip, don’t eat too much before heading off to Quitinday, and make sure you don’t have stomach problems.
Quitinday is a relatively new attraction which boasts of two viewing points where you can see Mayon (and the rest of the hill formations as well). According to one of the locals, Quitinday is better than Chocolate Hills because you actually get to climb its hills, while with Chocolate Hills, you just get to see it from a viewing deck. From my trip, Quitinday is definitely my favorite stop. Why, you ask? Here’s why:
I wish I had time to check out Quitinday falls and Hoyop-hoyopan cave which was on the way, but I had to go back to Embarcadero to view the sunset and I had to be within Legazpi City so I won’t miss my flight back home. Still no luck seeing Mayon, and the sunset was on the other side of the port, but I still enjoyed the scenery.
After I had my fill of shots from the port, I had dinner at a local coffee shop then headed to the airport.
Being Japan’s icon and rightfully so, seeing Mt. Fuji is definitely a must for me. There are so many ways and so many places to enjoy the view, but for my trip, I chose to see Mt. Fuji from three vantage points in two days from the Fuji Five Lakes region. I tried viewing Mt. Fuji from the Chureito Pagoda, Mt. Shakushi and Lake Kawaguchiko. So yeah, these are the more nature-leaning sightseeing spots for Mt. Fuji.
I’ve read that Mt. Fuji’s visibility is somewhat unpredictable, so choosing the date to see Mt. Fuji (which I set practically four months in advance) was a gamble for me. But as you’ll see, it did pay off 🙂
Access to Fuji Five Lakes Region Coming from Tokyo
Let me start though by sharing how to get to the Fuji Five Lakes region. If you’re coming from Tokyo, the cheapest and fastest way to get to Fuji Five Lakes is via bus from the Shinjuku Bus Terminal. The trip roughly takes 2 hours and it costs JPY 1750 up to Kawaguchiko. You may purchase in advance and just approach the counter so you can get your ticket and have your seat assignment, or just purchase upfront. This is a hard lesson learned for me: to make the most of your trip, check the timetable and be at the bus terminal at least half an hour early so you can purchase your ticket.
The bus terminal is across Shinjuku JR Station.
At the fourth floor is the departure area. That’s the NTT Docomo tower.
I was seated at the first row so I had uninterrupted view (plus a ton of UV light haha) at times. The snow-capped scenery and fine weather were lovely.
really lovely. And that must be Mt. Fuji towering ahead 🙂
I was originally going to alight at Kawaguchiko Station, but the bus would stop at Shimoyoshida first, where Chureito Pagoda is, so alight at Shimoyoshida station I did. And then I wish I didn’t, because I felt I was in the middle of nowhere. Don’t get me wrong; the town was quiet and lovely, but save from a couple other passengers–a lady and a man–who got off, there was no one else around because the town was covered in snow. And there were no signage near the bus stop that tells you how far Chureito Pagoda is, or which direction you need to head. So I mustered up my courage and asked one of the other passengers. She started telling me that I had to walk, and when I asked how far, she was hesitating. That got me nervous, for sure, until the other passenger spoke up and told me that he’ll show me the way. So we kept walking for at least 10 minutes until he spoke up and pointed at the mountain on the other side of the road. And boy, he did point way up to the mountain’s summit. For the second time that day, first being the moment I got off the bus, I thought of giving up. But I didn’t want to waste the gentleman’s kindness so I kept on. He pointed the way to the train station, i.e., my save point, and then he gave me instructions on how to get to the shrine entrance. I walked on, but didn’t find the way, so I retraced my steps. I came across another couple and this time, they took me right at the steps to Arakura Shengen shrine (where Chureito Pagoda is). So here it is, in pictures:
This sweet couple, Mr. and Mrs. Haneguchi, guided me until the entrance. I wanted to have a selfie with them so I’m glad they let me. 🙂
Mr. and Mrs. Haneguchi were telling me that it’s been about 60 years since it snowed this early. Normally, snowfall starts in January. I wasn’t really looking forward to snow because I thought I couldn’t handle it, but I’m definitely not passing up an opportunity like this, either.
These steps lead further up to Chureito Pagoda. This is also where I decided to stop because my shoes aren’t fit for walking on snow and it was literally moments before sunset.
I had a clear enough view of Mt. Fuji from the viewing deck I stopped at. After taking a couple of shots or so, I stood still and admired the scenery some more. I tried to compose myself too because my phone battery died pretty much after I took this shot^^;;
For a second, I wanted to cry after my phone shut down. I haven’t texted my host yet to pick me up, and it was about to get dark in the next 10 minutes or so. But I steeled myself and focused on getting to the train station. Thankfully, I was able to charge my phone when I got to Shimoyoshida station, texted my host, and then waited at Fujisan station. I then spent the night at Peace & One resort which I wrote about here.
Mt. Shakushi’s summit is one of the underrated viewing spots for Mt. Fuji, but when you conquer the two-hour hike, it’s said to be worth it. Note that I wrote “said to be” because it was too cold for me and I didn’t have enough time. But the trail is beautiful, too:
just outside the resort
It’s one of those days when Mt. Fuji’s not too visible. Here it looks more like a volcano (which it actually is)
Following my failed quests to reach Chureito Pagoda and Mt. Shakushi’s summit, I had to ask my host several times if Lake Kawaguchiko is at sea level or not. The lake is one of the most scenic spots to view Mt. Fuji and this spot is the most accessible of the three, and is actually within the busy town. The lake is just a 5 – 10 minute walk from Kawaguchiko bus station and there are plenty of signs to guide the way. I was running on a tight schedule so I just managed to take a few shots of Lake Kawaguchiko:
This time, Mt. Fuji wasn’t completely visible at all (or maybe I was just looking at the wrong direction^^;;) In any case, it was still worth checking out Lake Kawaguchiko, mostly because I’d lose sleep for days in regret if I didn’t! Haha!
Two days, three spots, priceless encounters with places and people.
Sunken Garden, University of the Philippines, Diliman. Taken on a Sunday afternoon.
Occupied for a week in a year for the university fair; otherwise, it’s pretty much free for everyone to enjoy. The field is great for sports and the surrounding shade is perfect for picnics, studying or just plainly relaxing.