He looks at my passport, and I know something is not right. The bank teller stares at my currency exchange form and gives me a look I can’t decipher. My stay in Zhangjiajie is ending, and I need some yuan to catch the last train out. His fingers tap the desk anxiously, adding an uneasy…

Train Scene Lizhou

Noodle Soup for the Soul

The train from Liuzhou to Guilin was packed that Saturday afternoon. I was pushed to endure the two-hour ride standing at the space in between cars — by the toilet, next to the garbage bin, beside the smoking area — with the other passengers who booked a ticket too late. I shared the cramped room…

2013 favorite destinations asia

My Top 25 Most Unforgettable Travel Moments of 2013 (Part 2)

Something beautiful popped up in my Facebook news feed in April last year. It was a link to a Bored Panda post featuring 22 places that are hard to believe really exist. Instantly, it became a bucket list. When I reached the bottom of that page, I promised myself that I would visit all of these…


Five-Hour Connections*

We stepped out to the garden almost at the same time. And almost at the same time we placed a bottle of softdrink on separate tables. “Would you mind if I smoked?” I asked politely. “Absolutely not, I’m here for the same reason,” he smiled and introduced himself. His name is Aurelian, and he’s from…


Burns and Mirrors

He came bearing change. His arms were stretched forward as the little boy tiptoed towards my table with utmost caution. His cupped hands carried my change, a couple of bills under a small mound of coins. His mother, the cashier-slash-waitress at the small eatery, watched him do the delivery from behind the counter. “Thank you,”…


Everyone’s Looking

“Dance with me.” His order is delivered with an adhesive stare and in a stoic tone. No distinct accent. Deep, raspy voice. But it is his deeper eyes that scream a million sexy words. Just ten minutes earlier, he said I could call him Ray. He pressed his back on the wall next to me, asked for…


People Along the Way: The Solo Backpackers

“No stars tonight?” She put down her glass of pina colada and sat next to me on the bench on the top deck of the boat, floating softly in the middle of Ha Long Bay, Vietnam. “Not even one,” I painted a faux pout on my face while picking up my bottle of Tiger Beer.…

Lights and Sound Show Corregidor

Twice I Heard Death

I was 10 when I heard it for the very first time. No one would look after me at home so my mother brought me along with her across the street to a neighbor’s. My mom offered a crying shoulder and a helping hand to the family. As she did some chores in our neighbor’s…


Sometimes We Burn to Live

Whenever I meet people for the first time, it always happens. When they start their sentence with “I hope you don’t mind me asking but,” I know they are going to ask about what happened to my left arm. Most of my online friends are not aware that I have a huge third-degree burn covering…

Forest Trail

Godless Course

Every Friday she came to our school, a public school, and taught the Catholic ways to pupils whose families shared the same faith. The non-Catholic kids would then move out of the room and play outside. The catechist, as our teacher would call her, always began her lesson with a story. All of these stories…

Nagsasa Cove

Ashen Uncertainties

“Summer is coming.” His excitement equalled the dread the Starks felt toward winter. Randy, our boatman for the day, looked forward to the peak of the dry season, which was sure to bring hordes of tourists to the shores of Pundaquit, Zambales. He would wait a couple more months. February had just started.


He used to ask me how he could be stronger. Even that night three years ago when he showed up at my door, he asked me the same question. He was in tears, and he didn’t want to be that way. He said he was too lost, too weak. “You’re too kind,” I would always…

Top 20 Songs I Listened to the Most During Travel in 2013

In another life, U2’s Beautiful Day or the Beatles’s Across the Universe would be my travel anthems. But in this life, I love *pop* just as much as I love any other genre of music. Perhaps even more, to be honest. And while it’s productive to use travel time to reflect and make life-changing decisions,…