Travel Vlog: Boracay

I feel like though I’ve posted many times about Boracay in the past, it’s never enough to explain how much that island means to me. Maybe it’s because pictures are worth a thousand words, and no matter how many photos or paragraphs I used, they never quite captured why Boracay is so magical for me.

With the closure of the island by the end of the month all but assured Read more

How to Waste 9 Hours at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport

By a sheer stroke of (bad) luck, my flight to Germany a few weeks ago was booked via China Southern Airlines and had THE WORST layover times: 9 hours in Guangzhou, and 9 hours in Paris Charles de Gaulle. This turned what could normally be a 21-hour trip into a 36-hour nightmare that seemed never-ending.

Paris Charles de Gaulle

Hello, Paris Airport.

I guess it wouldn’t have been so bad to be stuck at CdG had I not had to go through the 9-hour layover in Guangzhou before boarding a 12-hour flight to Paris. Free wifi at the airport but stuck behind the Great Firewall meant it was a huge ordeal trying to browse the internet or even blog, which was what I had planned to do. No Google, no Facebook, no Flickr… I ended up subscribing to a VPN service just to Facetime my family back home in Manila.

China Southern to Paris

so much legroom!

cloudy landing in Paris

cloudy landing in Paris

Paris Charles de Gaulle

Air France planes at Paris Charles de Gaulle

The flight to Paris was uneventful: I was knocked out even before take-off in a great window seat that had tons of leg room. We landed around 7am Paris time and my onward flight to Munich was scheduled for around 4pm.

While you might think that’s a decent amount of time to get to the city center and maybe see the Eiffel Tower or the Arc du Triomphe, I had these things to consider…  Read more

Noelle in Bavaria: Munich

Because I took so long to write this next post in the series, I ended up going on a second trip to Germany this year! Let’s see if I can keep things straight while trying to write about the previous visit to Munich, though.

I arrived on a train from Regensburg into Munich Main Station (Hauptbahnhof). It is a MASSIVE rail transportation hub with trains coming and going not just from Bavaria, but all over Germany and even to other cities in Europe via international high-speed trains. The main platforms contain the regional and international trains, while another subterranean area contains the S-Bahn city trains. A few steps outside the door and you’ll find the U-Bahn (tram) and bus lines.

a panoramic view of the main platform Munich Train Station

a panoramic view of the main platform

Read more

Noelle in Bavaria: Regensburg

Regensburg is just a train ride away from Nuremberg, so the day after the Roth festivities I boarded the S2 from Roth to head back to Nuremberg Main Station, where I would change to get on a regional express. I had already pre-booked my Bayern ticket, so all I needed to do was show my printout and the credit card I’d used to book it to the ticket inspector.

(While there are no turnstiles at the train stations, it’s really not advisable to travel on the German trains without a ticket — the fines are punitive!)

It took about an hour to get to Regensberg, which was earlier than the estimated time shown on my DB Navigator app. Apparently, I had boarded a different regional express that had less stops. Happy accidents 🙂

My lodging in Regensburg was a bed-and-breakfast called the Castle Hotel. No it wasn’t a castle, but it was located right next to the Palace St. Emmeran house of Thurn und Taxis. It was less than a kilometer’s walk from the train station, although dragging my luggage on the cobblestone streets the last few hundred meters was a bone-jarring experience.

The reason I chose the Castle Hotel is that it was right on the edge of Regensburg’s Old Town, the reason Regensburg was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Culture Town. The Castle Hotel is a refurbished old house, and as such it had no elevator and very steep stairs. But the good thing is my room had an en suite bathroom instead of a shared bathroom you might see in other European hotels. The bed was comfy, the pillows soft, and the air through my shuttered windows cool, so after walking about my area of Old Town to familiarize myself with it and find dinner, I crashed and slept well.

The next morning I woke up to a great breakfast spread. I had my choice of eggs, yogurt, cold cuts, and breads prepared by Castle Hotel’s proprietor.

breakfast in Bavaria

I was relieved to bite into a soft croissant — most breads in Germany are a bit harder. (Notice the Bavarian emblem on the decorative bowl.)


An omelette is a great way to start the day and stay full until lunchtime.

I had mistakenly brought along the keys from my homestay in Roth, so I needed to find a Deutsche Post office to mail it back to them. (Lucky I discovered my mistake while I was still in Germany instead of halfway home to Manila!) I used the Castle Hotel’s fast WiFi to do my research on DP branches and found that it was right across the Regensburg Cathedral (or Dom St. Peter). So off I went on two feet to explore.

The post office staff were very helpful even if they said they spoke “only a little English.” They helped me choose which kind of box to package the keys in and gave me a small envelope as an extra layer of protection for the keys. So into the mailbox that went, and I headed out to explore the rest of Old Town.

The thing with coming from the Philippines is, most of our “old” structures are only a few centuries old. Regensburg has been around since the time of the Romans, and even has a stone bridge from the 12th century. The Steinern Brücke and the Dom St. Peter are the two iconic sights Regensburg is famous for; unfortunately when I visited it was during what they consider the off-season for tourists. The bridge was under repair, and half-covered by scaffolding.

I headed back into the center of Old Town for a little more sightseeing. I was fascinated by all the narrow streets with the old buildings hunched up against each other. Most of them are now shophouses and hotels thriving on the tourists Regensburg draws in.

Regensburg began as a Roman fortification on the Danube, and ruins are all over the city integrated into more modern buildings.

Because of the mild climate, food doesn’t spoil as easily; it’s kind of like being in a giant crisper. Fruit was sold in open-air markets like this one.

fruit market, Regensburg

Just don’t mentally convert from Euro to PHP. You’ll end up starving 🙂

Oskar Schindler once lived here. I nearly missed the marker of the house and only caught it when I stopped to take photos of some bicycles parked in front of it.

Oskar Schindler's house Regensburg

took photos of bicycles in front of Oskar Schindler’s house

plaque at Oskar Schindler's house Regensburg

“Oskar Schindler [saved over 1,200 Jews from the Nazis]. From November 1945 to May 1950 he lived in Regensburg in this house…”

Walking through Regensburg was like walking through history that I had only previously read about in books and online. I ended up walking 11 kilometers on my one full day there just looking at everything. I lamented what the Philippines had lost in cultural heritage when Intramuros was bombed, and what we continue to lose every day with the razing of old buildings to make way for new developments. Preservation of heritage houses and architecture, and simply placing plaques where historical figures resided and events transpired goes a long way toward preventing national amnesia. The Germans seem determined not to forget both the good and the bad, as I would see in my next stop: Munich.

Noelle in Bavaria: Nuremberg and Roth

From Munich I took a train to Nuremberg Main Station, where I would then switch to a smaller train line heading to the town of Roth, my first actual stop on this trip. The total land travel time was around 3 1/2 hours, but at 23 Euro I can’t really complain (versus 100+ Euro to fly from Munich to Nuremberg).

the town of Roth

the town of Roth

I wrote in length about my Roth stay and Challenge Roth spectating on my running blog. Continue to read here if you want more travel-related insights instead of triathlon 🙂 Read more

Noelle in Bavaria: Getting There

In 2014, I flew to Germany to compete in Challenge Roth, and that’s pretty much all I did there. Arrive to acclimatize a few days before the ironman race, do the race, recover for a day, and then get outta there. Last year I had the opportunity to fly there again to observe the race. Since I wasn’t going to be exerting myself much I decided to go see places afterwards.

Challenge Roth is held in the region known as Bavaria which itself has a long and storied history as an independent kingdom as well as part of the country of Germany. I decided to focus my touristy attentions within the region, traveling between Munich (my point of entry into Europe) and Nuremberg (the major city near the town of Roth). I would also make a stop at the UNESCO World Heritage City of Regensburg, then take a day tour into Salzburg, Austria.

Getting to Germany from the Philippines was an easy affair once my visa had been processed. I booked via Etihad, which was the best bang-for-buck. While Manila-Munich vv is priced at over $1000 USD, you can get a much cheaper fare by going to Kayak and booking a multi-city flight. I booked Singapore-Munich-Manila which came out to a little more than $730 USD. For Manila-Singapore I booked a cheap one-way flight via Jetstar that cost me $90 USD (including baggage allowance and meal). So have a play around with the booking engines and try to find the best price. As an added plus, I was never on a plane longer than 8 hours. (My previous flight to Germany with KLM killed me with a 14-hour nonstop flight from Taiwan to Amsterdam!)

flying Etihad to Munich

flying to Abu Dhabi for the connecting flight to Munich

Read more

Phang Nga Bay Tour from Phuket

When in Phuket there’s so much to do on the water as well as at the beaches. While there are many islands less traveled you may visit, as a solo traveler I decided to put my fate in trusted hands and signed up for a tour to Phang Nga Bay by Two Sea Tour, the #1 Phuket boat and watersports tour according to TripAdvisor. I had heard rave reviews from a fellow hotel guest staying in Thanyapura, so I went for it without hesitation. Read more

Getting to Know Phuket, Part 1: Big Buddha, Wat Chalong, Promthep

Phuket has been a frequent destination for me the past few years, but not really as a vacation destination. The first time I set foot on the “pearl of the Andaman Sea” I was there for a triathlon, and the next few times were work-related because the people who outsource writing jobs to me are expats based there.

After the initial novelty of traveling for sport wore off, I was determined to see more of the island than I had previously. Read more