Korea 2016: Petite France

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Petite France is located in Gapyeong area, which is about an hour away from Seoul. It is famous because of a scene from an episode of the hit Korean TV show My Love From The Star. This is my kind of town 😂 basically the cute place is comprised of even cuter French-style buildings in pastel colors.

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Inside the Orgel House is a 200-year old piano

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Inside Gallery Cote d' Azur are paintings and beautiful furnitures and a fireplace

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Inside Gallery Cote d' Azur

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Petite France is also referred to as the Little Prince theme park because it houses a memorial hall for Antoine Saint de Exupery, author of The Little Prince.

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This walkway is located at the back part of all the buildings

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Chillin' at the back part of the village. Joke we're in a hurry

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Awkward position is awkward

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There was a puppet show but I was too busy making selfies

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Like this

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And this

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We stayed there for an hour (more like ran around). We were in a rush because we had to go to Nami Island and Jade Garden that day. I will go back to Korea in the near future and DIY the trip (any taker for a travel buddy? :)). The reason I got a packaged tour is because of my mother, I don’t want to tire her with all the walking and getting lost. A private van toured us around all the places we went to (expect Myeongdong).

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All About My Poor Eyesight

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Transition lenses: My specs turn darker when exposed to sunlight.

My eye grade is -2.25 both sides, (-) means nearsighted, which further means I see clearly the things which are NEAR to me. That’s why I can read my books without eyeglasses (or spectacles – specs for short). Sadly, nowadays I need my specs while using the computer.

This is also why many people around me think I’m a snub, because when I’m walking I usually wear my specs as a headband (sometimes I just feel the need to rest my eyes) hence I tend to not see people while walking, so I fail to greet them. Sorry! I’m friendly in real life. Lol

Because of this I’m also very prone to thinking that someone is talking to me, when in fact he/she is talking to someone behind me. I’m very used to such awkward situations now.

When I don’t have my specs everything is blurry. Just now when I remove it, I have to move my head some 30cm from the screen to see what I’m typing.

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Transition lenses: My specs turn darker when exposed to sunlight.

When I was younger I thought wearing specs is cool. When I grew up I realized what a burden it is to have poor eyesight. I always thought it started in high school when I was too addicted to Harry Potter. I would stay up late, sometimes reading while lying down on the bed, even when the light is dim. I had my first prescription eyeglasses when I was 15 years old. From -1.75 it went up, now it’s -2.25.

I got used to it. But there are just a few occasions when I would wish I had a 20-20 vision:

1. During swimming, because I can’t see properly underwater and the surroundings. But there are prescriptive goggles now available in the malls.
2. During formal events where I have to wear a gown. I have to wear my contact lenses there.
3. When watching a 3D movie. I have to wear the 3D glasses over my specs. Good thing it’s dark inside the cinema.
4. When riding extreme rides. It’s not everyday it happens, so it’s kind of sad when I rode SG’s GMax Reverse Bungy, USS’ Battlestar Gallactica (Human and Cylon), HK Ocean Park’s The Abyss and The Dragon, among others, without my eyeglasses! More likely the same if I skydive (because yolo). Certainly there are many things we miss because of our poor eyesight, so if you have a perfect vision, be thankful for that!

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Contact lens in sandalwood color

Because of this I can’t just buy any sunglasses available out there. It has to have grade, so I came across different kinds of eyeglasses. First is the transition lens kind, where the lenses darken when exposed to sunlight (instant shades); and tinted eyeglasses, where the lens are permanently dark.

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Looks like a normal pair of sunnies, but it's a pair of eyeglasses, just tinted

I have thought of having LASIK, too. It’s a laser treatment for the eyes to restore your 20-20 vision. It costs some Php 25k in Shinagawa Aesthetic Center. Maybe later in life I’ll have it, but for now I’m fine with living as a girl with the poor eyesight. Wearing specs for around 10 years now made it to become a part of my identity. People might not recognize me without it! Joke. Clark Kent? 😀

Korea 2016: Myeongdong

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We spent all our 3 weeknights in Korea walking the streets of Myeongdong which is a stone-throw’s away from our guesthouse. Myeongdong shopping district is an area of cosmetic and fashion shops and endless variety of street foods, and the place becomes more alive in the evening.

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On our first night we went inside a busy restaurant. Some Koreans have difficulty with the English language, and the staffs of this restaurant are no exception. But we understand, we are just visitors to their territory 🙂 we ordered something from the menu without expecting it to be spicy.

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If you’re not a fan of spicy foods, say “no spicy” and they will understand. We didn’t do it, so we ended up taking out the spicy fried rice with chicken since we were not able to finish it.

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There are just too many street foods in Myeongdong!!! 😬

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Myeongdong is dotted with countless beauty shops which might be familiar to you, because these brands already started to dominate the malls in Manila: Etude House, Tony Moly, Skin Food, Banila Co., Nature Republic and The Face Shop, among others. I haven’t seen Missha or Innisfree in our malls yet, but they are plenty in Myeongdong.

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What I find weird is that they have like 4 branches for each cosmetic brand in Myeongdong. But, I like the fact that these shops always offer freebies even when you’re not going to buy anything. And they will give you even more freebies when you buy!

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I fell in love with all these Korean beauty products because they smell so good, especially that Super Aqua cleanser from Missha! More importantly, the prices here are far less than the selling price in Manila. For example, that Missha BB cream costs only Php630 in Myeongdong, but is sold here in Manila for Php1600.

Korea 2016: Discover Asia Travel and Tours, Welcome Guesthouse Myeongdong

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It was January when I saw on Facebook a sponsored post of a travel agency named Discover Asia Travel and Tours. It was timely because I was writing my travel goals for 2016 on my planner and that includes Korea and Japan. I’m not really a KPop fan but a lot of my friends have been to Korea, and judging by some Koreanovelas I saw on TV, I think going there is worth it.

Discover Asia offers installment basis on their packages without the need for a credit card. I think the rate is a steal also, at Php28k/person for a 4d/3n package. That includes the flight, transfers, accommodation and tours. I booked for myself and Mama the tour package on March 18-21, which I learned later on was too early for cherry blossoms.

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With only less than 3 months before the travel, the payment was divided in 3 installments, which were conveniently scheduled every 15th of the month (Jan, Feb, Mar). I googled hard about the visa application requirements and spent some time preparing those (details here). I also monitored the daily average temperatures days before the trip so that we know which clothes to pack.

We got our visa 1st week of March. Travel documents were sent to me immediately after I made the last installment, which was 3 days before the trip. Off we go!

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Our flight was set at 7am. By 1pm (Korean time) we arrived in Incheon International Airport. Korea is ahead of the PH time by 1 hour. Upon arrival, we were fetched by our Korean driver/tour guide Daniel, and met the other 2 ladies (solo travellers) who would join our group tour. We learned that our group will be comprised of only 6 people, all girls 🙂

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Outside the airport we set foot on the proper Korean soil (or concrete, whatever) and were immediately welcomed by the cold weather. Daniel placed our luggages at the back of the minivan then drove some dizzying 1 hour to our guesthouse. He turned off the aircon inside the van and I remembered I haven’t eaten that time yet, hence the feeling. Too much sun + hunger = headache for me, those are my greatest weaknesses. So don’t talk to me if I’m hungry. Lol

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We stayed in Welcome Guesthouse Myeongdong. The area is a very hilly residential area where budget accommodations (guesthouses) are located. I presented my hotel voucher to the guy at the front desk then he helped us with our luggages to our room located in the second floor. He instructed us about the tv and floor heater. They conveniently posted the FAQs on the wall.

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We had some rest and Mama flicked on the tv channels where everything is in Korean. Then at about 4pm we went outside to find something to eat. I led the way like a boss as if I’ve been there before. Well, I was familiar with the area, thanks to Google Street View.

Hong Kong 2015: Garden View Hotel

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View from room 1012. Actually, you have to stand by the window to see this. From the bed, you’ll just see the wall of adjacent building.

Our first day in Hong Kong was spent on arriving there and getting lost. Supposedly we’re going to stay in Lan Kwai Fung, Central but due to another stressful unexpected circumstance that caused me a literal headache, we booked another hotel. Like, a real hotel we don’t typically choose when traveling.

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Lobby

We booked the first Google search result which is Garden View Hotel in Central. Though it’s in Central, it’s still far from MTR stations that everyday we had to walk about 5 mins down the street to hail a cab going to either Central or Hong Kong station. Oh the stupid choices we make in our lives.

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We arrived in Garden View Hotel around 6pm with my head throbbing. We never had lunch that time yet and the problem with me is that too much sun + hunger + fatigue with all the walking with our heavy suitcases = headache. I was really looking forward to eating, and the fastest way was to eat in this hotel’s in-house Chinese restaurant (which do not offer in-room dining, oh you could imagine how pissed I was). Note that there are no restaurants outside this hotel, you have to walk God knows where and how far.

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Sorry for the mess. I also wonder why I don’t have a proper photo of our room.

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Anyway, the hotel is good with comfy bed and a good view (should be) because duh Php8k/night. Oh the unfortunate choices we make indeed. But then it was a good stay so won’t bother lamenting further. I could have bought a Go Pro with the money instead. Shut up it was a good stay.

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Elevator

So after dropping our bags and having a little rest in the mercifully comfortable bed, we headed to ground floor where the restaurant is. It was busy with customers but we were able to get a table and order right away. The food was good (BBQ pork ribs) but the waiter seemed to be in a haste to shoo us after we finished eating. I really didn’t mind because I immediately felt better after eating.

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Jowa walking down the street.

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Inside the taxi going to MTR station

After wasting our first day, we decided to totally have a good night’s sleep to have enough energy for the 3 remaining days. The next day, we went to Disneyland. I wrote about it here.

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Lobby

Do I recommend it? For budget travelers no, certainly expensive given there is no free wifi for guests inside the room. For the price you’d expect to at least have wifi, right? Sorry, no wifi in the room, though you can use the free wifi in the lobby as a consolation. Also there are no restaurants or convenience stores outside the hotel. For me this is for people who want to be in the more quiet part of the city center. We only booked this due to stress, but overall we had a good stay. Because duh, Php8k/night.

 

Hong Kong 2015: Ngong Ping

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On our third day we went to Ngong Ping where the Big Buddha is. Rode the MTR to Tung Chung station and had a quick brunch in Starbucks outside Citygate Outlet mall. This particular branch had waaaaay too many selections for food. They even have pasta (spaghetti bolognese, ravioli, etc). Too bad I wasn’t able to take a photo of their counter where the food and pastries are displayed.

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Then we headed to queue in Ngong Ping 360, that’s what they call the cable car going to Ngong Ping. It was about 11am and the queue was toooooooo long. I was relieved when I found out Klook voucher holders had a different express line which was a lot shorter! Thanks Klook!! I suddenly remembered I bought tickets to 4 attractions using Klook app! You see, this is 5 months ago so forgive me 😀

imageFinally! Each cable car seats around 6 people. You pay extra if you want to have it private, or glass bottom (Crystal Cabin). We’re fine with the regular cabin.

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Here we go!

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I always refer to Hong Kong as a crazy mixture of mountains, skyscrapers and bodies of water.

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Believe it or not there is a walkway underneath the cable car trail and we saw a person or two walking the heck of it. Like, seriously.

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There is the Big Buddha!

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Almost there

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We have arrived!

 

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The statue does not seem to like jowa at all

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Am not a photographer but I wish I also have a shot like this lol

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I am no stranger to MRT Shaw Station so this is easy peasy for me

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Hello Big Buddha

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Because I got tired of climbing all those steps

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Went down from Big Buddha to go to Po Lin Monastery

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imagePo Lin Monastery

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Bye Ngong Ping! Aboard the return cable car back to Tung Chung

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You can see the airport from here

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Papunta pa lang kayo, pabalik na kami

Hong Kong 2015: Disneyland

I love this, I can blog from my phone. Lol

Last November 2015 my jowa and I went to Hong Kong. It was my 2nd time there. If given all the resources i.e. time and money, I’d always travel abroad or local. Metro Manila is just too stressful.

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After wasting our first day (read the story here), we decided to totally have a good night’s sleep to have enough energy for the 3 remaining days. Went to Disneyland the next day. Jowa was so happy he suddenly learned how to selfie at every corner.

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Jowa is not a fan of rides so we just walked around (and had food trip) most of the time. But we did go to It’s a Small World, Jungle River Cruise and Festival of the Lion King.

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It’s a small world

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Sobrang intense nung It’s a small world ride nagutom ulit kami

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We also rode this – river cruise – yung ex ni cristine reyes? Charot

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After ng Jungle River Cruise as usual nagutom kami.. Korean Grilled Squid

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Buti na lang nasakyan ko na to during my first time in Disneyland, kasi sobrang wow ng ride na to hahaha. Grizzly Gulch Roller Coaster

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It was November and approaching Christmas season so we were very fortunate to witness the lighting of Frozen Christmas tree with Princess Anna and Queen Elsa, alongside Parade of Lights and finally the spectacular fireworks display. Also Hong Kong Disneyland was at its 10th year so it was eventful when we were there.

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To be fair nakakapagod maglakad so we had some egg tarts and iced coffee before the lighting of the Frozen Christmas Tree

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“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”

What I learned from my recent travel and my dreams for the Philippines

What I learned from my recent travel and my dreams for the Philippines:

-Koreans are responsible humans. I did not see a single trash on the road. The rivers and streams are clean. Our Korean tour guide always arrives 5-10 minutes ahead of call time. They eat healthy food. They love to walk.

-And because to them values are of paramount importance, they have good people in the government, which means having planned and effective infrastructures – very huge tourist-friendly airports located at the edges of the country (not in the middle of the city), traffic-free roads and bridges, efficient public transportation (you can ride the subway to almost anywhere). The city is very clean and neat-looking. Their Internet is at lightning speed. I uploaded a 3GB-video on Facebook and it took only a few minutes.

-They love their own country. They preserve their culture and give importance to it amidst modernization. They idolize their local artists (actors, singers, etc). They watch their own movies and TV shows. I struggled to find a TV channel in English, everything is Korean! They make their own cartoons. They manufacture and use their own products. They have their own world. They don’t have to globalize. That’s why they have difficulty with the English language. They don’t need outsiders. They are a world of their own.

I dream of having subways in the Philippines. Imagine commuting around clean, traffic-free Metro Manila and reaching your destination in a few minutes without being robbed of dignity. Imagine gettting to Pangasinan, Zambales, Rizal, Quezon, Batangas, Laguna and other outskirts, in about an hour or less. Imagine ferries going to and from other islands especially in Visayas. Imagine having Manila/Cebu/Davao city tour package which includes visits to historical sites which are well-maintained and respected, where tourists can have a chance to wear historical costumes like Koreans showcase their Hanbok, where they can cruise on a clean Pasig river, similar to Singapore’s river cruise.

Probably we can erect a gigantic national symbol where tourists and locals can pose with, similar to Merlion. Probably we can plant more trees in the metro. Probably we can build buildings with crazy architectures and tall Ferris’ wheel (but not necessarily a priority). Probably we can have impressive Botanical Gardens and Safari Zoo, too, to remind us of the importance of other living things like plants/trees and animals and teach us to care for our environment. We already have theme parks, so I don’t know what to comment on that, probably putting up a Disneyland in Pampanga to attract more tourists but it is yet to be real. Or we could have many beautiful public parks, minus the informal settlers and pickpockets. Or we could build cable cars or trams going to mountain peaks, just like in Hong Kong.

Philippines can be designed for such city tours, though our main tourism selling point should be the beautiful beaches given our natural resources and tropical climate. It is when I grew up and exposed to travels that I realized it is not just a cliche. Philippines is indeed rich in natural resources. We are very lucky to be living here.

Metro Manila is just too over-populated. Maybe we could have more business districts in the outskirts of Metro Manila, where people in the north can work in the north and people in the south can work in the south, but not compromising the lands for agriculture. I have always wondered why some skyscrapers in Hong Kong are located beside mountains. How come Ocean Park is ON a mountain? I realized they don’t have much choice, Hong Kong is tiny, but certainly not their economy.

I dream of this country having more civilized and disciplined citizens who have values, manners, morals, etiquette, whatever you call it (can’t emphasize it enough), and are time-conscious, disciplined, goal-oriented and diligent, who care for the surroundings and people like they would in their own homes. Imagine a crime-free country where you can walk in the streets anytime, anywhere, without your backpack becoming a “frontpack”, where all people are too busy and too capable with life to become criminals. Imagine having little to no informal settlers, because everyone has a job/business and everyone had proper education and that they can afford decent shelters.

Imagine a country of people who really love our own because we produce everything with quality and beauty, in all aspects like food, clothes and other consumer goods like cosmetics and toiletries and electronics, and even in entertainment such as movies, TV shows, cartoons and music. I believe we have so much talent in this country. Hence we can really be “proud pinoy” to ourselves, not just because of someone else’s globally-acknowledged achievements.

Yes we were too influenced by the Americans and Spaniards. I don’t know if it’s a good thing. I just imagined that probably if we were not colonized centuries before, we would be using our own alphabet now (Alibata) just like our neighbors Korea, Thailand, Japan, and China, so we would also have difficulty in speaking English like them, but it would not be a big deal because we would have been a world of our own.

Moving on, it is imperative to have a leader who can somehow up our chances of becoming a better Philippines. Someone who can inspire (or discipline) us hard-headed Filipinos. Someone who’s result-oriented and gets jobs done. Times have changed. I believe our generation can no longer be lured into corruption, because we are far more interested in living life. Personally, I’m looking forward to having younger, driven public officials. I don’t understand why older people in the government tend to become overly greedy, probably to support their dialysis or whatever.

And to you, corrupt officials, whoever you folks are, from national government down to the barangays, tell me in my face that you didn’t steal a single centavo. Tell me in my face the results of your leadership, what have you achieved for the common good? Where are they? Have you been of use to the world? Were you valuable? Please tell me you were more than the pretty faces on countless posters you plastered on the walls but didn’t bother to clean after the elections. I really am not a fan of politicians especially those in the local government. Just who the heck are these people? Why do they put up posters with their faces to greet us Happy Valentines’ Day or Happy Mothers’ Day?? This whole idea of posters and print ads with their faces is borderline pathetic and cringe-worthy. As if we’re going to vote based on their faces.

You can’t bring all your riches to heaven. There is nothing wrong being rich, but the government is not the right place to become rich. Build your own business or something, just don’t steal, you obnoxious bastards! We could improve the airports, make it like Changi! We could build subways! We could build more schools! Oh, the things we can afford with the billions you stole from us!

To borrow Trump’s battlecry, #MakePhilippinesGreatAgain

Was it ever great? Will it ever be great? I certainly hope so.

#PiliPinas #PiliPinas2016

The 3rd Decade

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Our first decade (0-10) meh, childhood

Our second decade (11-20) school

Our third decade (21-30) work, save money, “business” sounds good, “investment” sounds good, build a career, buy house, buy car, get married, have children, but this is “the best time of your life” so what the heck go travel! but wait let’s also pursue graduate studies, and go workout cuz you’re fat

Thus the term “quarter-life crisis”. Why do all of these have to happen altogether?

“WAIT!! Don’t grow up!! Adulthood – it’s a trap! I repeat! it’s a trap!”-inspiring words from a confused and pressured millenial

Congratulations if you always get your sh*t together. But for most of us it’s hard. (cue in Annie’s “It’s a hard knock life – for us!” song here). Kidding. It’s not particularly hard but there are just TOO MANY THINGS on our plate it messes up with our logic and ability to decide and prioritize, let alone act on them.

Doing good in your life now? Great! But if you’re messed up and resorted to Google for answers and somehow stumbled upon this post, well, foolproof advise: do what makes you happy, but don’t be irresponsible. (And talk to God if you’re a believer. He hears our inner struggles!)

xo,

Me, the author

Korea 2016: How to get Korean Visa

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Visit the website of Korean Embassy in the Philippines for complete and up-to-date requirements. The usual requirements would include: accomplished visa application form with passport size picture, passport, ITR, bank certificate, bank statement and other supporting documents.

Scenario: I’m an employee  who wants to travel to Korea with my unemployed mother. I sponsored her, so I produced 2 copies each of all the needed documents (my old ITR, Form 2307, my bank certificate/statements, proofs of relationship i.e my NSO and my mother’s NSO).

I coursed our visa application through Discover Asia Travel and Tours (look for Jonathan Domingo). LBCed the heck of the requirements to their office in Sta. Maria Bulacan and after about two weeks they LBCed back our passports with the visa 🙂 500php/head visa assistance fee.

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I had my old ITR that would cover January to June 2015 (Q1 and Q2), and Form 2307 (Certificate of Tax Withheld) for Q3 and Q4 of 2015. I applied for visa on late February 2016 via travel agency, got my visa first week of March 2016, then traveled March 18-21 2016.

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As for bank certificate/statement, I got mine from my bank Metrobank. Again, 2 copies each because I sponsored my mother. I paid around 400 pesos for all those.

How much should your bank account have? Don’t worry I had the same question before. My travel agency said not to worry too much because a mere Php30,000 per head is a good ballpark figure.

Sorry I just throw info here and there. I hope this helps! In summary, here’s the list of documents I LBCed to the travel agency for visa application:

-accomplished visa app form (one for me and mama obviously) with  passport size photo glued on it
-our passports (more than 6mos valid)
-2 original copies of COE (take note of the details the embassy wants to see like the LANDLINE NUMBER of your employer whom they will call and confirm whether you are really connected to them)
-my old ITR (1 original, 1 photocopy for mama)
-2 copies of Form 2307 for Q3 2015
-2 copies of Form 2307 for Q4 2015
-2 copies of Bank Certificate
-2 copies of Bank Statement
-supporting documents:
-NSO of mama (she doesn’t actually have one, so I submitted the photocopies of letter exchanges between NSO Manila and Local Civil Registrar of Samar. At least they have a record, but just not NSO format)
-photocopy of mama and papa’s marriage contract
-my original NSO
-2 printed copies of my Stock Certificate from COL Financial (they emailed it to me)
-my mama’s own bank certificate and bank statement

I thought that was an overkill but better be sure than sorry 🙂

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