The Flaming mountains, dirty shoes and edelweiss flowers

Waking up in a room with a view like this.

As Goethe quoted “A picture book come alive “ is the the best way I can describe this little town in the Bavarian Alps. I had no idea what is this place all about and I was totally clueless. All I know is that we’re going somewhere near Garmisch-Partenkirchen . While on the road,the element of suprise was there for sure and as the days went by, I am just glad that we visited this place. We spent 4 days in Mittenwald and Garmisch-Partenkirchen area and there are bunch of things that really stayed in my memory.

Someone asked me “Why do you always go to the mountains?” I thought, why not?

For me, mountains are so special as beaches are gems in my life, they have such magic to them that nothing substitute. I think ,nature absorbs boredom and everything. It’s another world up there. I wrote here in my Blog how many times nature provides solitude and peace for me personally. I always love a great adventure but somehow I am always guilty that I am scared of heights and altitude. It really takes time to get used to all the deadly curves in the high Alpine roads and the crazy mountain culture. Maybe it is the fact that mountains are can be so dangerous or maybe it is because they make me feel so small, both figuratively and physically speaking.

I was even bewildered seeing myself that finally now I have proper mountain shoes! This is really what expat life does to me.

Tired feet and dirty mountain shoes

I felt that even if I don’t normally climb the mountains so to speak, the mountains really has a way to call you, its like wanderlust.

Beautiful small villages and towns with ornate walls are tucked in at the foot of the Alps

As a parent of an active toddler, we visited many playgrounds that are way up in the mountains and I really find that super exciting. The views pays it all plus the children really have unforgettable experience as well as eating in restaurants with the panoramic views of Glaciers and mountains covered with snow! I have this feeling that all my problems in my life dissolve when I am around them or that life slows down a bit . All that I can tell you is that after spending time surrounded by them, my views about everyday routines were changed. For me, its priceless just to drink my cup of coffee surrounded by these gigantic peaks. It’s pure luxury for me because I don’t have them everyday.

A charming find from the valleys

The mountain views we have from our balcony everyday and the richly ornamented houses especially in Mittenwald’s inner city (or Obermarkt) are really worth the effort. I really wonder if the people living there know how lucky they are.

View of the mountains from our balcony, not a bad birthday threat, right?

In Mittenwald, we rented an apartment with a direct view of the mountains (Karwendel) in our balcony. I think its definitely better than a penthouse view! It’s like having a giant wallpaper changing non- stop. I can’t forget how it looks in any time of the day. At one time covered with clouds, on a rainy day, dawn and dusk and one time with the full moon hovering over it! In the surrounding countryside, the scenery of the Wetterstein and Karwendel peaks constantly changes and one lovely afternoon, it looks like flaming and turns to burning orange! The feeling can be surreal that I can watch it nonstop.

Whenever I see these mountain peaks it directs me to a goal.I wanted to see and explore more but I always wondered how it is to be on top. I can still remember the time we are sitting on a cold winter day on New Year’s day in Fulpmes in Schlick 2000 where we have the snow capped mountain views for hours while I watched my daughter playing with all the skis. It’s becoming a habit now that we celebrate special occasions with mountain views! This summer, my five- year old daughter had her first walking stick when we trek up to view the Krimml Waterfalls where we reached up to 1,390 m (Bergerblick Platform) and wandering and playing through the Mooserboden at 1,200 meters. I think we are getting used to these altitudes more often. What is even fascinating is that mountains nowadays are not intimidating because of the high technology lifts that brings you up in minutes!

The mountains are calling and I must go…
Watching the clouds dissapear from the peaks is magical, like a time relapse!
The elusive mountain flower –the Edelweiss ( Leontopodium nivale)

It’s a surreal feeling when I finally got to see the Edelweiss flowers which are totally highly treasured and valued. The Edelweiss flower symbolizes the Alps and prefers rocky limestone places of about 1,800–3,000 metres (5,900–9,800 ft) altitude. Now I understand why its called the cliffhanger’s flower!

Don’t look at the whole mountain take it one piece at a time…This is something you will come to understand. You will learn to never give up; to know that the reward will be worth the work it takes .
Mountains that teach me to value the small luxuries in life. It taught me how to treasure a great jacket to protect me from cold winds and chill.
I’m sure, every mountain that I see now in my life taught me a lesson.

At the end of the day, its only the good things that we cherish that matters. Flaming mountains, dirty mountain shoes, loaded backpacks, 200+ photos in my camera and empty water bottles meant only one thing : FUN.

Until next time , Tchüss and Have a happy week!

One fine day in Utrecht

Livin’the Dutch Life

Last Easter we had the chance once again to visit the Netherlands !It’s been two years in a row now that we’ve spent our Easter break in our second home in Europe, the bike capital of the world, the place where Tulips are goddess of beauty and pancakes are eaten for dinner! See, I always look forward going to Holland in Springtime for so many reasons. One, I’m still over the moon by the colors of Spring which I can only see in the Netherlands. Last year we have visited the Keukenhof in Lisse and I must say it again that it is really the most beautiful Spring garden in the world! If you won’t agree with me then you must see it by your own eyes to believe. Actually, we went to Holland right after we visited Berlin which is just 4 hours away by train on a direct Intercity train. I am glad that we made the right choice for this place because it turned out to be an amazing place add to the fact that we are having a wonderful spring weather in the spring capital of Europe!

Looking down on Manholes in Utrecht, Netherlands

We arrived in Utrecht at around 11 a.m . First thing I did was to look down for some manholes to ponder. I didn’t see much but I found some. Most of the shops are already open from 10 a.m on Maundy Thursday. Utrecht is the 4th largest city in the Netherlands, located 50 km southeast of Amsterdam and only takes about half an hour by train. Netherlands has a great train network so Utrecht is easily accessible from Schiphol central station. Trains runs very frequently so the ride is really quick.What I find unique in the Netherlands is their scanning gate system in the train station which is really impressive and have better control of the passengers.

One fine day in Utrecht, Netherlands
Dutch gable houses: Every angle is different wherever you look

Feels like Amsterdam

For me, Utrecht is a mini version of Amsterdam, less chaotic, trendy but less crazy, but can also be full of frantic crowds, and also very touristy. It’s a great family get-away because it has everything for young and old. The crowds can be so diversed and multi-cultural. Along the canal areas I saw rows of coffee shops and you know that they don’t sell the ordinary Cappucino or Latte! Looking very “Dutch” is Oudegracht’s full of “Fiets” or bicycles. Only in Holland you can see this bicycle fever (ever!). Netherlands is really the country of bicycles. In Germany, people also cycle a lot but I’ve never seen the same amount of bicycles than in Holland! Of course, with the unique “Gezellig ” flair of the two major canals that runs through the city center, the Oudegracht and Nieuwegracht, a daytrip in Utrecht is a great escape from big cities like Amsterdam or Rotterdam. It’s Easter break so the whole canal area was full of people, relaxing,chilling, and basking in the sun.There was so much activity going on around. Never a dull moment and time really flies so fast. But be warned though, if you’ve never been to the Netherlands,brave yourself when cycling and watch out for other cyclists! Aside from the fact that the roads are smaller, most streets in the city center is one-way.

Traditional Dutch gable houses along the canals of Utrecht


Canals of Utrecht

I am really looking forward to spend time exploring the canals of Utrecht. While walking, I was taken back to the time when we are in Amsterdam’s Prinsengracht and the Red light District areas. With the long rows of cafes, shops, boutiques and restaurants along the canals, visitors can have a nice walk. Time flies so fast and it’s really cozy strolling around. This is a feature that is unique for the city of Utrecht. Utrecht is a small city and compact so exploring it doesn’t take that long and walking is the best way to explore it so make sure that you wear comfortable shoes. But because we had a toddler with us, we took our time going with her phase. I just realized that my daughter walked as much as we did even from our days in Berlin. The stone boulders and poles became her jump poles and playground. My daughter was fascinated by the ducks along the canal banks and she wanted to feed them with coins!

Utrecht, Netherlands
Bikes and even more bikes
Oudegracht on a fine Spring sunny afternoon

It is never boring to walk along Oudegracht with rows of houses because everywhere I look is so pretty! I took so many photos because every angle is just different, and as usual, they are never aligned!

Wandering along the canals of Utrecht

Domtoren ( or Dom Tower)

As soon as we exited the mall, ( I totally forgot its name..) which was adjacent to the the Utrecht central station we follow the crowds leading further to the canal area which directly led as to the iconic Domtoren (or Dom Tower).Built of design by John of Hainaut and is the tallest church tower (112.5 meters) in the Netherlands. It was completed in 1382 and the tallest belfry in the country. I’ve heard about this church before but seeing it for real is really great.The exterior of the church tower is heavily renovated from the time of our visit but still on operations so its still accessible for visitors. I’ve heard that renovations are expected to be completed by 2022.

Domkerk, Utrecht’s landmark

The Tower contains 14 bells that weigh 32 tons and what makes it unique is that its still rung by a group of dedicated ringers or the Utrecht Klokkenluiders Gilde. There are two chapels in the tower; the Egmond chapel and the St. Michael’s chapel. Take note that you can only visit the Dom on a one hour tour. If you are in a hurry, you can still enjoy its exterior facade.

Eye- catching statues in Utrecht
Lush labyrinth garden in Domkerk

Website : http://www.domkerk.nl/

Welcome to Miffy Museum !

Nijntje Museum ( or Miffy Museum) and Centraal Museum

Actually, the main reasons why we visited Utrecht is to see the Nijntje Museum ( or Miffy Museum) .I’ve been longing to see this museum for a long time because of my four year old daughter.She had a blast in Berlin in the Legoland Discovery Center, going crazy over lego and the indoor playground, but inside Miffy Museum she had a total world of fun and interactive learning. Miffy Museum is the pride of the Netherlands in memory of its creator Dick Bruna. Seeing the museum, I can say that this place is definitely true to his words–” I create a world that children fill with their own imagination”. For once, I think the Netherlands has the most wonderful museum for young children and adults.

Adjacent to Miffy Museum is the Centraal Museum which houses the great works of local artists such as Joachim Wtewael and Gerard Van Honthorst. Another interesting feature is the “Utrecht ship” located in the cellar of the museum.It’s located in front of Miffy museum. There was a cozy Cafe in the corner of the Museum which you can enjoy a quick bite and enjoy the beautiful gardens.The souvenir shop can be found in the main entrance of the Museum.

Website : https://nijntjemuseum.nl

St. Martin’s Cathedral (Domkerk)

We walked a bit further and we discovered the beautiful Labyrinth gardens in St.Martin’s Cathedral (Domkerk) .St.Martin’s cathedral is the main cathedral in Utrecht and once connected to the Dom Tower but due to the collapse of its nave from the Tornado in 1674, the two building have been separated.This church was once the largest church in the Netherlands.What remains of the interior is still of high quality and extremely ornate with many vaulted arches and colorful stained glass windows. This is the lone church in the Netherlands that has a close resemblance to the style of the Gothic architecture.The building has a sole 367 ft tower named Dom tower which is Utrecht’s landmark. I was rather surprised to see the serene green surroundings inside the square of the cathedral. It has a fountain in the middle and the naves creates a remarkable shadow from the afternoon sun that creates a very relaxing atmosphere. Unlike the other Dom that we’ve visited, the garden has no graves, only a Labyrinth that my daughter loves.

Nice wall art found in the streets of Utrecht

As we are getting tired from walking around 2 o’clock afternoon, we decided to look for a place to sit down and have a drink. We followed the train back to the canal areas and wander through the narrow streets. The crowds are still on frenzy and there were now street musicians playing along the canals. Super ” Gezellig “!

I don’t know its name but it looks yummy!

Grabbing an ice cream, we sat by the benches facing the canal and just enjoyed the view, languishing on the coziness of Dutch life. People of different skin enjoying every single moment of leisure and I know, I am not the only one who became a storyteller after visiting this wonderful little city in the Netherlands.

Indeed, it was one fine day in Utrecht.

Solitary crystal clear waters

img_0908
Solitary crystal clear waters

I am a self- confessed nature and beach lover, and I find true solitude in island hopping and discovering rugged virgin lakes and beaches. I just find natural beauty of bodies of water to be totally de-stressing. I am not a savvy traveler, I am just a normal girl who wants to be refreshed, away from the busy-ness of the city, and going to place like this, leaves me both satisfaction and awe without blowing a budget.

Solitude” for me is a personal business.

It takes your whole being to be in tune with yourself. It is not the absence of noise, it’s actually the absence of distraction, and when you found yourself floating in the clear waters of the claimed ‘ cleanest lake in Asia’, it is guaranteed that you’ll find zen and calmness, naturally. Your mind gets clear. Your senses becomes alive. Literally unplugging from all negative vibes. Kayangan Lake in Coron, Palawan is a picture of no filters, and crystal clear waters seemed to washed away all  the toxins in my mind. When you can actually see the bottom of the lake especially when the sun is up,you can feel the good aura of the place vibrating. Visiting this place is one of the most memorable holidays I have in my life.

img_5988
Revisiting the same spot, even in a bit gloomy weather, the waters still as clear as it can be.

I have enjoyed swimming in this lake, exploring the cool, azure waters as far as I can. There is so much serenity in this place that you might think you are in another dimension. Surrounded with limestone mountains, you don’t have the right  to be ungrateful about life. I have tried snorkeling as well and seeing colorful marine life, it was a dream to see the world down there. I explored the whole surroundings by  boating,cruising through the native tribe’s area,the Tagbanuas, in between of the tiny islands and looking into their culture. There is an adjacent lake, the Barracuda,which is less commercialized in the sense that only a few visit the lake and most are armed with tanks and diving suits, making it a haven for professional divers.  Locals nearly discourage visitors to visit the place as the depth of the lake is unknown and is recommended only for professional divers.

img_5987
A fantasy island that actually exists

The surrounding mountains will leave you in awe. Everything is so calm and I felt  so secure.There’s an old tale I’ve heard that they are growing an inch every year. I haven’t tried climbing these mountains yet, but its on my list.  Large area is composed of Karst formations where swiftlets  or the Philippine Cockatoo, dwell and build their nest (edible birds nest). There are vertical limestone cliffs that reach up to 600 meters above sea level and eight (8) brackish lakes and three (3) smaller one’s that have underground connections to the sea.This place is on Tentative list in Unesco World Heritage List.

When you are in a place where there is a deafening silence, it’s  so uncomfortable and yet you never get tired of it. I still can’t believe that this fantasy island really exists. Claiming that it’s the cleanest lake in Asia or not–just look at the waters and you’ll know what I mean.

Do you love water-fun activities?

What is your ideal place of relaxation?

You might want to check out these posts if you want some inspiration from the tropical beaches and destinations I personally love. There are still so many beautiful beaches that I have been to but I haven’t made a post for them.

Coron, a fantasy island that actually exists.

What real summer looks like in Coco Beach.

Malcapuya Island : Accidentally in-love!

This post is in response to this week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge |Solitude

Giant White Buddha

IMG_0166
Giant White Buddha 

If your passion does not include yourself, it is incomplete { Siddhartha Gautama Buddha)

Coron , a fantasy island that actually exists.

I am not a savvy traveler, but my love for natural, virgin beaches and lakes brought me to a fantasy island that actually exists– it’s in Coron, Palawan!

Just look at these photos I am going to share with you, no filters, all exuding in beauty that left me in awe that I revisited this place not only once, but twice in a row. I am already looking forward for our next trip to this tropical paradise. If there is a place I wanted to bring my foreign friends, then it would be here.

Coron has a distinctive charm, it has a rich cultural history that it’s no wonder it’s on the Tentative list in Unesco World Heritage Centre.  It’s the best kept jewel for  beach enthusiasts and nature lover like me . It won my heart , and I’m sure it will capture yours. It already captivated millions of tourists .Well why not , Coron is simply wonderful !

47
Approaching Busuanga island, Palawan

DSC03456
No words…

Coron is just one of the beautiful travel destinations in the island of Palawan .What makes it quite unique from others is its virgin beauty and part of the cultural heritage of the Calamian group of Islands.  Coron covers half of the Southern part of Busuanga. It is the Island of Tagbanuas , natives or the local tribe inhabiting the vicinity , they are descendants of some of the oldest people in the Philippines . Coron has  steep limestone cliffs ,our friendly guide told us that every year, these mountain grows an inch . As your boat cruise around , you see breathtaking rock formations , crystal clear & white sand beaches , green virgin forests , and 7 mountain lakes. This place is so diverse .

92
Tropical Paradise Banol Beach

The best way to explore this place is by Island hopping  and explore the Islands of your choice . To get into the famous Kayangan Lake , you need to do a short  by trek  uphill into the wilderness in order to gaze  the amazing views .This can be done with a guide. While boating , you can  also see magnificent views of the steep mountains and the bird’s eye view of the sanctuaries which are protected by the local tribe . It is an Untouched Paradise .

The Twin Lagoon is one of the many beautiful lagoons in Coron. This masterpiece of nature has two lagoons, one where boats dock and another where tourists swim in.To get to the other lagoon, you need to either swim under an opening or climb up makeshift stairs and jump into the lagoon.Just like what you see in the movies. The lagoons are embraced by towering limestone formations. The mix of warm and cold waters of the lagoon adds to its mystique. Totally amazing experience!

183756_205733426109614_1534245_n
Twin Lagoons

190574_205777846105172_559374_n

The majority of Coron Island is still off limits to tourists  who do not have permits to be there. In 2003,  Coron Island and its surrounding waters was declared ancestral domain for the Tagbanua and they now restrict where people can visit on the island . We are told that many of the most beautiful lakes on Coron Island are sacred burial grounds for the Tagbanua and only those Tagbanua who own land on the island can visit them. A photographer and traveller Jacob Maentz , wrote a very nice article about  Coron , as well as Up close & Personal with the Tagbanuas  and their way of life. To view the full article and his amazing photography , See it Here .

4
Azure blue , crystal clear waters surrounded by mountains

It’s serene and away from the crowds . A perfect setting for slowing down and just do some reflection. It’s just between you and nature . Isn’t it one of the reasons why we are taking a vacation or a breather? To have a moment of peace . Here , you can  just swim to your heart’s delight , snorkel ,kayak and paddle yourself while gazing to the beauty around you while you hear the birds chirping. If you are interested in wildlife safari and game reserve,you can visit the Calauit island . It is home to various species of exotic African and endemic Palawan flora and fauna where hundreds of giraffes, elans, waterbucks, Calamian deer, monkeys, fresh water crocodiles, zebras, bear cats, bushbuck and a variety of birds roam freely.

188756_205257266157230_6851324_n
Little fishes in Siete Pecados

For years  now , Coron has also been  a popular destination among diving enthusiast and it has been listed in Forbes Traveler Magazine`s as one of the 10 best scuba diving sites in the world. It boast its unique underwater topography . With clear water as this, you have the best view underwaters!!! It’s like peeking into another world to see the colorful colors and fishes. Snorkeling here is absolutely the best.

IMG_3422
Barracuda Lake

Ever dreamed of owning an island for a day? that you can have the whole island by yourself?In Coron , you can have an island by yourself  for a day… and the options are priceless. I am so grateful that through traveling, I’ve got to experience this.

You can arrange with your guide and  if the island is free , then you can have the whole island for yourself .We were so lucky to experience the exotic Malcapuya Island to ourselves! This beach , with its rugged beauty is really a paradise. One word to describe it is ,WOW! Our guide arranged for us a packed picnic , barbecue , tons of tropical fruits & drinks and the whole beach front as our threat . We retreated in the hammock while sipping fresh coconut juice  while we watch our guide climbing and picking it fresh from the tree. We  also had a huge fresh catch fish .

For me, this is a perfect island getaway and  I had a beach overdose on this trip. The horizon is so beautiful, endless like a painting larger than life where the beach touches the blue skies in infinite contrast. My mind wanders off and my eyes never get tired of this beauty.

DSC04490
Malcapuya Island with its pristine powder sand beach

Visiting Coron would not be complete without  climbing Mt.Tapyas and having a wonderful Sunset experience . Here you can have a panoramic view of the Coron and just enjoy each moment  while you see painting in the sky.With 700 concrete steps ,this requires endurance & patience .Mt.Tapyas is the 2nd tallest mountain in  Busuanga .

IMG_3296

IMG_3274
Chasing the Sunset on top of Mt.Tapyas in Coron

Coron is a wonderful place . Life is taken in a slow pace and it seems that simple living makes the people here appreciate life more. If you spend some time exploring the markets , small native houses along the fields ,the quaint shops ,the neighborhood , the delicious food and the warm friendly locals ,then you would appreciate them more .

Waking up each morning with a view like this from your window is priceless .

photo 5
My morning view  from the window  in Coron

Travel Tips !

  • Coron is accessible all year round but its best to visit on the months of March to June where you can enjoy the most of good weather especially on your Island-Hopping trip. At the start of rainy season , and typhoon seasons , Flights are often cancelled.
  • Wear sensible clothing and water shoes.The treks could be slippery and you need to protect your feet from the sharp limestone rocks.
  • Watch the big waves during your Island Hopping .You can even watch a local fisherman get his catch of the day .
  • Experience diving in the sunken ships and diving spots and just enjoy the beauty of  underwater topography .

Where is your next tropical island destination ? How was the experience ?

Thank you for reading , my friends.