Mount Costa in La Trinidad, Benguet: Its artistic gardening and lovely flowers

We will spend our Christmas in Baguio City and for our fifth time, we decided to skip visiting places we frequented in the past, except at PMA for some nostalgic feel and at Camp John Hay for coffee moment in the quaint old American bungalow of Starbucks Coffee. Guess where are we heading this time? It’s in Mount Costa! The newest attraction in the foggy land and the first stroll around garden of the North.

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Singapore’s Pulau Ubin-Part 2: A Memorable Walk at Chek Jawa Wetlands

Chek Jawa Wetlands or Tanjung Chek Jawa is the most popular tourist destination in Pulau Ubin and the highlight of our trip. The 100-hectare cape is located on the eastern tip of the island and is about 3 kilometers away from the public jetty. What makes it unique is that it is home to several ecosystems found in one area-the sandy beach, mangroves, seagrass lagoon, rocky beach, coral rubble and coastal forest. Indeed Chek Jawa Wetlands is unusually rich in biodiversity.

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these are my new found friends and fellow Pinoy I met inside the bus while I’m on my way to Changi Village-Pinky, Mavie and Rachel

The interesting fact

Check Jawa Wetlands is an intertidal area where the perfect time to visit is during the low tides of 0.5 meters and below for a chance to see their rich ecosystems. To avoid disappointment, do refer to the tide table when planning your visit.

According to Wikipedia, intertidal referred to as the littoral zone that is above water at low tide and under water at high tide, in other words, the area between tide marks.

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abandoned kampong house which is said to be the original shelter house of the residents of Pulau Ubin

 How to get there

Chek Jawa can be reached by hiring a local van for SG$35 or renting a bike at Kampong Ubin (near the entrance) from S$8.00, S$15.00 or S$25 depending on the style or condition. Just be reminded that it is not allowed on the Boardwalk. Park and lock your bike near the Punai Hut. If you want a dose of adventure, walking is the best for you.

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there are lots of bikers during my visit because it was weekend

As for me and my new found Pinoy friends whom I met inside the bus-Richel, Mavie and Pinky, we opted to take a walk. We visited Butterfly Hill, Sensory Trail, Pekan Quarry and our last stop is in Puaka Hill. From there we set out to continue walking to Chek Jawa Wetlands.

It was fun walking on the paved road because of the lush greenery and peaceful environment. Who would have thought that a highly urbanized Singapore managed to retain and safeguard the island’s natural heritage? Amazing!

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the paved and two-way road in getting to Chek Jawa Wetlands

It is Sunday today and I was so happy to see many bikers on the road. There were adults, young and even little kids.

We passed by the Ubin Fruit Orchard along Jalan Ubin. The fruit tree arboretum about one hectare in size planted rambutan, durian and starfruit.

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the entrance to Urban Fruit Orchard

A moment later we passed by a little store and stopped to buy cold refreshments. They were so kind that they allowed us to use their restroom free of charge.

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Not all roads leading to Chek Jawa are paved. Few steps from the turnoff, the road was surfaced by gravel where some portions had patches of water. This is the most challenging part for the bikers. The road was one-way and some parts were steep. There is signage to dismount on a downhill part. It’s best to follow the rules to avoid an accident.   

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this is the road to Chek Jawa, one way and surfaced by gravel with patches of water

Meet-up with the animals

Along the way, we came across dogs, monkeys and wild boars. There were monkeys scattered on the road. It is advised not to provoke these primates because they might attack you. One of the monkeys looked at me straight to the eye and later it followed me humming an unusual voice. Pinky dismissed it by waving her hand then I slowly walked away. The monkey ran away from us.

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these monkeys were playful so we walked away from them slowly

Wild boars were so tame. A sow and its young were roaming around everywhere. They don’t mind if they were being taken a picture by lots of curious visitors.

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the wild boar and the visitors

In a little while, we reached the entrance to Chek Jawa and headed to Visitor Centre. Information Kiosk, rules and guidelines, concrete benches and a vending machine are found here. This is a nice place to stay after biking or walking.

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some stopped in the Visitor Centre to rest, some read the informative posters while the others bought drinks from a vending machine

These are the places to visit in Chek Jawa

House No. 1

This Tudor-style bungalow and the nearby outhouse were built in 1930 by the chief surveyor, London William for a holiday or weekend retreat. The architecture behind and its historical significance to Singapore attracted many tourists to visit the place. Aside from the house, there is the concrete jetty that extends about 100 meters to the sea and towards Pulau Sekudo or Frog Island.

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it was so nice to go inside House No.1 and see what’s inside

Restoration had taken place and original materials were used to preserve the architecture behind it.

How I wish I have a rest house like this where I could sit near the sea to contemplate on many things or take a quiet walk along the concrete jetty. House No. 1 by the way, is the postal address in Pulau Ubin.

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I was mesmerized standing at House No.1 while looking at the water and the concrete Jetty

Jejawi Tower

Standing at 21 meter high is a seven-story viewing tower where a panoramic view of the lush canopy of trees can be seen. It was so wonderful to stand a while at the viewing deck while looking at the awesome sight and the birds flying nearby. Only twenty persons could accommodate the viewing tower at a time. Be patient waiting for you turn.

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it was so peaceful standing at the view deck of Jejawi Tower while watching the canopy of trees and the hovering birds

Boardwalk

They say the best part to see and enjoy the beauty of Chek Jawa is to take a stroll along the 1.1 km Boardwalk which is divided into Coastal and Mangrove Loops. For venturesome people who want to explore more of Chek Jawa can access both routes. But for us, we chose the latter to minimize time travel because afterward each one of us will visit other places on the mainland.

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time was running out so we did not take the two routes in getting to the Boardwalk

The time we stepped into the Boardwalk the water had engulfed the entire beach area. We were deprived of seeing the animals like Fiddler Crabs, Pistol Shrimps, and Barnacles. Anyway, we have to move on to enjoy walking on the boardwalk while savoring the beautiful view.

Along the way, there were educational boards telling what plants and animals can be seen in the area. It was flickering hot so we walked fast to avoid the heat. Halfway there was a rest station where we paused for a while to quench our thirst with water to avoid dehydration.

Who manages the island?

On June 4, 2016, National Parks Board was designated as the central managing agency for Pulau Ubin at Ubin Day 2016 by the Guest-of-Honor of the event, Minister Lawrence Wong. They are responsible for the maintenance of most aspects of the island, maintaining its greenery, the recreation for the public, education and research as well as the licenses issued to the community.

It’s good that there is an agency like this who will surely keep the island clean, green and safe for the residents and to the visitors as well.

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without the National Boards Park, Pulau Ubin will not be this unique as the way it is now

Getting Back

Coming from an awesome adventure at Chek Jawa Wetlands, we took the Jalan Durian route in getting back to Kampong Village. The trek back was easier and seemed shorter. We made it for about 45 minutes only.

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seeing its rustic charm… hearing the sound of nature…it’s so wonderful roaming around in Pulau Ubin…

We were all famished when we reached a seafood restaurant Season Live Seafood Restaurant facing the mainland Singapore and the Ubin Jetty. As we browsed on the prices of the food we found out it was a bit pricey. My buddies decided to eat at Hawker Centre at Changi Village.

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you may eat your lunch at Seafood Live Seafood Restaurant after biking or walking from Chek Jawa

It’s time now to say goodbye to my new found friends. I thanked them for the unforgettable journey we had in Pulau Ubin. I decided to stay for I haven’t fully enjoyed exploring the island.

I went to the picnic area near the sandy shore and ate my packed lunch. There were several people having a picnic there. I felt I was in the Philippines because of the serenity and tranquility defined in that area. After I had my fill, I breathed deeply of the lovely afternoon air and let the beauty of the island sink into my consciousness. I listened to the silence of the place and to the friendly waves.

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the picnic ground and resting place of bikers and trekkers

I was savoring the gentle wind brushing gently into my face. This is a wonderful quiet moment. I enjoyed watching the bumboats go back and forth to Changi Point as well as the airplanes hovering in the sky.

I went back in time and saw how life was in those days on this Island. This was a rewarding experience for I had gained a deep understanding of Pulau Ubin. The journey to the olden times was beyond compare.

After I regained my energy, I went to Nature Gallery and started reading about the rich history of Pulau Ubin. Then later I went back to Ubin Jetty and bid goodbye to what has been said, the last frontier of Singapore.

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My next destination -> Gardens by the Bay, the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest.

You may download the map here.

Notes:

  1.  If you want to savor the lush greenery of the island, it’s better to take a walk in getting to Chek Jawa Wetlands.
  2. Singapore is a tropical country, expect it to be hot so wear comfortable clothes, shoes and also bring hats, sunglasses and arm warmer.
  3. Apply sunblock for there are portions of the roads exposed to sun.
  4. Apply also mosquito repellant for there are gnats and mosquitoes to some part of the island.
  5. Water in the public toilet is not potable so it is advised to bring at least two liters to avoid dehydration.
  6. Biking is safe but be sure to check the bicycle if it’s in proper condition, wear a helmet and follow the road signs. Take it slow during downhill and if possible dismount on the uphill portion to avoid an accident.
  7. For a solo girl biker, it is advisable to go to the island on weekend for your own safety because there are lots of people on the road during those days.
  8. Food and drinks are a bit pricey on the island compared to the Hawker Centre in Changi Village.
  9. It is advised to bring food, snack and water because there is only one store along the way to Chek Jawa and sells beverages only.
  10. Do not feed the animals nor provoke them.
  11. Stay calm and walk away slowly when you encounter a wild boar or a monkey.
  12. Do not use flash photography when you take pictures of the wild boar because this may upset them causing them to be aggressive.
  13. In case you encounter monkey, put all your things inside your bag because some of them are playful. They hastily grab things which attract their attention like water tumbler, monopod and sometimes even the bag is being taken away.
  14. For your safety, stay away from the edges of the river, cliffs and granite quarries.
  15. If walking, stay always on the left so as not to obstruct the others especially the bikers because some of them were in a group.
  16. Take good care of the facilities so that the others can enjoy using it.
  17. Do not litter.
  18. No fishing.
  19. No smoking.
  20. There is no wifi signal on the island.
  21. Appreciate the beauty of the island, the sound, the wildlife, the stillness and its rich biodiversity.
  22. Leave nothing but memories. Take nothing but pictures.

Chek Jawa Opening Hours: 8.30 am – 6.00 pm

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Singapore Trip 2017: Part 1 – My Second Visit

I’ve been to five countries in Asia and so far, the best among them is Singapore when it comes to cleanliness, safety, efficient transport system, environment (pleasant and smoke-free) and language (English as a common language). It simply amazed me how a small country, a once hinterland and lacking natural resources had progressed rapidly. Their jaw-dropping man-made attractions, grand buildings and luxury shopping malls attracted an influx of tourists from around the world. With that, I’m so excited in getting back to the “Lion Country”.

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the towering Supertrees in vivid and colorful lights at night

This is my second time to travel solo outside the country. As much as I wanted my family to travel with me, they simply can’t. My hubby was so busy with various projects in his company and my children did not want to be absent from school. Since Singapore is so safe for female solo travelers I braved this trip and made sure that this is another record-breaking adventure like I did in Hong Kong and Macau!

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I’m so excited in getting back to Lion Country with more adventure this time

Singapore is surging with great places to explore. This time, I wanted to see and visit places I had never been. I will be staying for five days in my brother’s condo unit which is few distances away from the MRT Station. This saves a lot in my budget. Hotels are quite expensive in Singapore but if you are on a budget there are homestays, apartments, and rooms ranging from P1,500 to P5,000 depending upon your choice of accommodation. 

Stored Value Card

Since I was solo, I’m the boss of my itinerary. I made a keen study of the transportation which I found it now easy as 123. My brother gave me a stored value card, the NETS Flashpay card loaded with cash that I will be using in MRT, LRT, buses and in grocery stores. EZ-Link is the other card but with limited retail stores to purchase.

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I will be using this NETS Flashpay card in public transportation and grocery stores

Promo Fare

Plane fare going to Singapore is quite expensive but I booked in advance a two-way fare via Jetstar Asia for only P6,000. This is another savings for me. Though it was a low-cost airline from Australia I never get scared during series of strong turbulence. Captain announced ahead of time the expected turbulence. Coming from a good experience I won’t hesitate to fly with them again in my future travels. And one good thing is, the seat width in the restroom is wider so the comfort level is better. 

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approaching Singapore

Changi Airport Singapore

It was so amazing to set foot again in Changi Airport which is in its 5th year as World’s Best Airport according to Skytrax World Airport Survey. The airport continues to innovate and expands their facilities for customers thus making travel experience relaxing and memorable.

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the lush green in Changi Airport

Like what I described in my first visit in Singapore, Changi Airport is by itself a wonderful universe to explore. I suggest this should be included in the itinerary to have a better view of the exciting attractions inside the airport. But since I was running out of time, I decided to explore the airport on my last day. For now, I will savor its beauty and elegance beginning from walking at the impressive carpet down to the walkway at Terminal 1.

Changi Airport has breathtaking interiors. And despite the state of the art architecture, the airport has a surreal tropical setting that will bring you closer to nature.

What I enjoyed much this time is watching the moving sculpture, the Kinetic Rain which I did not pay much attention before. The copper-plated aluminum raindrops weighing 180 grams are suspended by a thin wire where computer-controlled motors are attached.

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The Kinetic Rain is one of the exciting attractions to watch in Terminal 1

I was mesmerized watching the glossy raindrops as it floated and moved slowly up and down. I felt the world had stopped from moving. It took me several minutes standing there amazed by this beautiful sight.

Another attraction I passed by at Terminal 1 was the Social Tree towering at almost nine meters tall. One can share and save their photos and videos to any of the eight touchscreen photo booths. If you want to be part of Changi Airport history, go share your photos there. You may retrieve it in your future visits.

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Social Tree is an interactive technology allowing travelers to save and share their photos and retrieve them on their next visit

Internet Connection

Free WiFi service is available both in public and transit areas in the airport. For a hassle and fast service in getting the password of free WiFi service, I headed to the information counter and presented my passport. In an instant, I was given a print-out password. I now had an internet connection which is consumable for three hours. I immediately informed my brother upon my arrival because he will fetch me as what he had promised.

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printed password upon presenting the passport to Information Counter

Aside from the counters, some chose to obtain the password from the WiFi kiosks located across the terminals and gate-hold rooms with three-hour access to the internet. In Changi Airport it is so easy to stay connected as there are more than 400 internet stations available to enjoy the free WiFi service. This is another thing I like in here.

On my way to immigration, I passed by several stores and boutiques offering luxury goods and necessities. But I was not into shopping, I just let enjoyed my eyes feasting on beautiful bags and shoes.

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Then I proceeded to the immigration after filing up the embarkation form. I grabbed a map and headed to the arrival area. I was already famished so I took a seat and ate my packed lunch. My brother arrived at 4:00 pm. I was so happy seeing him again and felt so proud because he has a very good job in this country. He is a manager in a Business Consulting and IT Solutions company.

It was my brother’s off from his work today. Since this is his free time and his wife Lyn is at work, he volunteered to go with me.

As per my itinerary, I will visit Flower Dome and Cloud Forest in Gardens by the Bay on my first day. But it was almost 5:00 pm and I do not want to indulge in a rush visit so I decided to move it on Sunday. Instead, I will visit temples and mosques in Telok Ayer and Chinatown.

I can’t hide my excitement as we set off to MRT station. My mind was thinking of the authentic food, places that I should explore alone and the thrill of visiting Pulau Ubin, Singapore’s last frontier. Can’t wait for another unforgettable trip!

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A stress-free day at Villa Filomena Natural Spring Resort, Indang, Cavite

The advantage of soaking in a natural mineral spring is the absence of harmful chemical treatment or filtration. Swimmers can freely open their eyes under the water because there is no chlorine or peroxide that will cause irritation. This is the reason why we went back in a laid-back natural spring resort in Indang, Cavite to celebrate my daughter’s 11th birthday. We chose Villa Filomena Natural Spring Resort as suggested by my son who had a wonderful experience there with his classmates.

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Summer getaway at Laiya Coco Grove, San Juan, Batangas

A lovely sunny day and glistening water are what we need after a busy month of filing ITRs (Income Tax Returns). It’s time now to rejuvenate our bodies and freshen up our minds from tons of paper works. We wanted to bask on a beach resort with swimming pool. To save time from a long trip we chose Laiya Coco Grove Resort in Laiya, Batangas which is three-hour away from Manila. After considering the distance and the expenses, we now set off to Finance’s 2017 summer getaway!

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the creamy white sand of Laiya Coco Grove

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