A year ago, I was in South America, enjoying the Colombian culture and hike Machu Picchu in Peru. But for personal reasons, I had to go back to Southeast Asia. For this same reason, I’ve decided to stay in the Philippines for a while.
Confession: I’ve never stayed in one place longer than four (4) months. While living on the road has been fun, educational, challenging, and eye-opening, I knew I had to find some normality in my life.
I’m one of the people who don’t think much about normal. As they say, normal is boring, right? However, I also believe that the routine of life has been deeply engraved to the human race were trying to live outside the norm will take a while and hard work.
In simple words, people like me who are trying to break out from what society expects one to be, it will take a while to see the result we are aiming for – and that’s fine.
When the moment of “I want a home” knocked on my door, I tried to push it aside for a while, but eventually, I had no more energy to pack another bag, book another hotel, take another flight. I feel like I only want to sleep.
It feels like I’ve been jet-lag for so long, and I need to catch up with sleep for God knows how long.
I was travelling and living in South America a year ago; partying in Colombia, hiking Machu Picchu, swimming on a Brazil beach. A month before 2018 ended, I had personal situations which was the reason I flew back to the Philippines with a plan of staying there for a while.
What my 2019 was like?
Most of my 2019 was spent in the Philippines. I found myself spending January 2019 renting an apartment in Manila, spend five days in the city to work on my websites then take the weekend trip somewhere in the Philippines to find my “new home”.
After three weeks, I visited Panglao, Tagaytay, and Baler. The moment I arrived in Baler, I knew that’s my place.
Baler wasn’t a smooth transition, most of the places I’ve been, I can easily find an apartment that is furnished and a landlord willing to take me for three to six (3-6) months rent. Baler is an exception. It’s a small surfing town where mostly locals visit and some French and Australian surfers. If I were to stay here and rent an apartment, I’ll have to buy furniture and appliances.
But I was eager, I signed up for an apartment for a year (that’s the minimum and actually the first time I signed something for that long) and applied for internet service. After three months of waiting for the internet to be installed and bearing seven (7) barking dogs that my neighbour own, I left this apartment and found a new one.
The new apartment worked like a charm, I had the internet installed in just two weeks, only one dog is barking all day and night. The new situation is, the town’s local government just launched a daily power outage to replace the electric posts from rotten wood to a metal one.
Baler: Favourite Unknown / Off-the-beaten Place
Baler is a surfing town facing the Pacific Ocean. I’ve explored Baler from February to the end of July. It’s a fresh breath of air, undisturbed (unless it’s peak season), raw, and full of potential. The locals are very engaging and always happy to talk about how beautiful their town is. They are proud of it and brutally honest how fast it’s changing, many express the dislike of it.
It’s one of the few places I’ve been where the locals care a lot about the serenity and being an unknown travel destination. While many of them are relying on the business that tourism brings, a lot also concerns how Baler is becoming crowded during peak season and how living costs are slowly climbing while income is not able to catch up on this change.
It’s probably because I’m Filipino, the conversation I can have from the locals are different conversation a foreigner might have.
If you are looking for a less-touristy surfing town or even if you don’t surf, this town is a great place to pick a book and head to the beach or rent a motorbike and take it on a coast drive.
Bali: Favourite Busy Destination
The moment my airport transfer enter the surfing town of Canggu, I knew Bali is an excellent place for those who are only starting their backpacking in Southeast Asia. The crowd might be a turn off to many travellers. Still, if this is your first time in this part of the world, I believe Bali will make you feel safe as you will see many young and family travellers in every corner of this town.
Ubud, which is only two-hour (2) drive from Canggu is a great place little town filled with great food, yoga retreat, and a tour close to nature.
South Africa: Favourite New Destination
I spent almost a month in South Africa where I explored Port Elizabeth (PE), Jeffrey’s Bay (JBay), Kruger National Park, Johannesburg (Joburg), and Cape Town.
Even I only had a short period, I managed to explore different parts of South Africa. I had experienced different things such as the surfing culture of this country, how Kruger National Park is working hard in letting the wild animals live in the wild, the apartheid in South Africa, and the beautiful and colourful town of Cape Town.
I don’t think I’m done exploring this country and I honestly can’t wait to go back. It’s the place I can see myself taking up an apartment and live for a while.
Many of my travel friends had a bad experience in South Africa, and even South Africans in the travel blogging and travel communities have left because they felt unsafe there.
I don’t think I can comment anything about the safety issues there. I wasn’t there long enough, I didn’t have a bad experience, but I can see why some people feel unsafe. All I can say is, if you are up for it, you should visit and make a personal decision for yourself.
Da Lat, Vietnam: Favourite New Town
Here’s a fun back story. I flew to Ho Chi Minh in July to visit my friend Craig who was my roommate in this city back in 2017. I’ve decided to take a trip to Da Lat, just six-eight (6-8) hours from Ho Chi Minh City (depending which mode of transportation you’re going).
Da Lat is a town on top of a mountain. The weather during my visit was spectacular, despite the small rain here and there, after living in a highly humid city in the Philippines, this region is heaven.
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The town is small enough while still having everything you need. They even have their own domestic airport.
I flew back to the Philippines and got on with my life in Baler. But after all the troubles I’m running to in my apartment, I asked myself if it’s worth it to stay.
The answer was no. On November 22, I’ve made a decision and booked a flight for December 9 to Da Lat. I packed my bags, sold all my furniture which I bought just 7 months ago or less. Notified my landlady, terminate my internet, and I’m out.
Now, it just under a week, I’ve found a new apartment. I’ve walked almost everywhere, the temperature is around 12 at night and 20 during the day – it’s fantastic. I can easily walk to the coffee shop, restaurant, grocery store, and even the tourist area.
Da Lat is an excellent destination for those who want to experience Vietnam minus air pollution, heavy traffic, and humidity. Here, you can still enjoy the tasty Vietnamese food, drink a delicious Vietnamese coffee, go for a hike to see a waterfall or simply ride a cable car and visit a temple.
Soon, the flower festival will start. Then after that the Lunar New Year, it’s going to be a busy few months in Da Lat, but I’m excited to experience it.
How about you? What’s your favourite part of 2019 and which trips are you looking forward to explore next year? Let’s discuss on the comment section below.