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Budapest is the capital of Hungary, a country located in Eastern / Central Europe. With a population of 1.7 million, Budapest is geographically divided into 2 main areas, namely Buda and Pest. Located west side, Buda is the hilly part of the city where you probably get the best panoramic views. Pest is at the opposite east side, a flat area where most pubs, restaurants, and residential places are at.

What I admire the most about Budapest is its pure elegance and rustic ambiance. Asked about what comes first into my mind of Budapest, it would be the medieval castles and buildings, which mostly face the long beautiful river called the Danube River.
Eastern / Central Europe is a region where most capital cities like Budapest are close to each other. This is why it’s very common to see people visiting several countries in a single trip when in this part of Europe for the proximity and convenience of traveling around.
At times though, first-time travelers aren’t sure on how many days to spend per city. For Budapest, I’d say spend at least 3 days to maximize the visit in a relaxed pace. It’s a pretty big city with several points of interest and every spot deserves to be seen. I’ve listed some recommended places in Budapest that I grouped per area for an easy breezy 3-day itinerary.

Day 1: Visit the Pest area St. Stephen’s Basilica
Hungary is a Roman Catholic nation and home of many century-old religious structures. One of which is St. Stephen’s Basilica (Szent István Bazilika) built in 1905. The church was named after the country's first king, Saint Stephen I of Hungary (whose right hand is said to be incorruptible).
With its neoclassical architecture distinguished by two bell towers, this basilica is one of the biggest and tallest buildings in Budapest. Eucharistic masses are held on a schedule. Entrance is free.

Hungarian Parliament BuildingIf I were to rank beautiful buildings I’ve seen in the world, the Hungarian Parliament Building is probably at the top of my list. But aside from being the most sought-after landmark Budapest for its architecture, it’s also significant in its history and government.
This building was constructed to house Hungary’s new government, the Parliament, in 1873 when the 3 cities (Buda, Pest, and Óbuda) finally united. Thus, it became a national symbol of sovereignty and unity. Right now, the building serves as the seat of the National Assembly, which is an all-important body in Hungary’s Parliament government.
Entrance fee is HUF 6700 for non-EU adult visitors. Entry is timed. Make sure to book in advance and online especially during its peak season, which is summertime from July to September in Europe.

Also read: Backpacking Paris: Tips, tricks, and more!

Széchenyi Chain Bridge
There may be a few bridges and paths to cross the Danube River, but the Széchenyi Chain Bridge is probably the most popular one.
While it’s basically a bridge that connects Buda from Pest that serves both vehicles and pedestrian, wait until you see it at night time: it’s very romantic!

Tip: Make sure that when you begin walking on the bridge, you already know which side you’d like to take. You cannot simply cross at the middle as it’s meant for vehicles. If you wish to cross and change side, you have to walk your way towards the end of the 375-meter bridge.

Shoes on the Danube River Bank
The Danube River is the heart of the city, which is why several activities are held by and on the river, such that of ferry boat rides for sight-seeing or several floating restaurants. All of these, of course, have a price to pay. But there are also free things you can do by the river. One of which is sight-seeing the Shoes on the Danube River Bank.
Located in the eastern side of Danube River, these shoes were sculpted in honor of the Jews killed there during World War II. They were ordered to remove their shoes and sadly were shot dead by the river.

Day 2: Visit the Buda area Zero Kilometer Stone
Just like any other kilometer zeros in the world, Budapest’s version of it serves as the reference point where all distances are measured in the country. Made up of limestone, this sculpture of a zero with an inscription of “KM” is located at the foot of Buda Castle in Buda and close to the Széchenyi Chain Bridge.

Buda Castle
Either from afar or up close, the Buda Castle is sure to amaze you for its size and Baroque style architecture, not to mention that it’s a World Heritage Site. Located on Castle Hill, the Buda Castle is a complex of palaces that have been there since 1265. It served as residence to several kings and queens during medieval times.

Since it’s on a hill, you either climb on foot that may take 15-20 minutes to get to the top or take the Castle Hill Funicular. The funicular ride costs HUF 1200 one-way and HUF 1800 for two-way. There’s a ticketing booth at the base and take note that only HUF is accepted.
Since it’s a complex, give it at least 3-4 hours to explore the area. The Hungary National Gallery and Budapest History Museum are also located there if you are into museum visits.

Matthias Church
Not far from Buda Castle is the tall and colorful Matthias Church, a Gothic style Catholic structure built during the 11th century. It has both religious and historical significance, as this church served as venue to coronations of former Hungarian kings. Also, during the World War II when the Soviets occupied Hungary, the church served as camp of the Germans and Soviets.
To get inside the church, there’s an entrance fee of HUF 1,000 for adults and HUF 700 for children.

Fisherman’s Bastion
If you want to see something like it came out of a fairy tale book, then the Fisherman’s Bastion is probably the place-to-be. It’s a beautiful terrace in Gothic and Romanesque style located across Matthias Church and part of the Castle Hill District.

Aside from being a very Instagram-worthy place, spending time there with the view of the Danube River from its arched windows and staircases is simply relaxing. Entrance is free.

Day 3: Do what the locals do Széchenyi thermal bath
One of the things that you shouldn’t miss on your Hungary itinerary is going to their thermal baths. It’s an authentic experience that not only gives you a taste of real Hungarian culture, but also relaxes you in every way. There are several thermal baths in Budapest, but the Széchenyi thermal bath is probably the largest and most popular.

This thermal bath consists of several indoor and outdoor pools with varying temperature. As said, the therapeutic way to do it is to dip into hot water first for a few minutes, then switch into cold water, and return to the hot pool. Thermal baths are said to give health benefits such as improving blood circulation, relieving muscle pain, and promotes good skin.
There are several packages, but the basic and cheapest entry to the Széchenyi thermal bath costs HUF 5500 on weekdays and HUF 5700 on weekends and holidays. The price includes usage of the locker room, shower, and changing room.
- It’s better to bring your own towel. Otherwise, a towel for rent costs HUF 2000 plus HUF 2000 deposit.
- Keep yourself hydrated while doing the thermal bath. Bring bottled water and drink every 20 minutes.
- The flooring is, most often than not, wet and slippery. Bring and wear flip flops (especially for the cemented area of the pools because it hurts to walk barefoot!).

To get there, take the metro line 1 and go down at Széchenyi Furdo station. Once you exit the station and go up, the thermal bath is in right in front.

Also read: When in Taiwan: Beitou District, Taipei

How to move around Budapest
Budapest is a tourist-friendly city with easy-to-use and accessible modes of public transportation. While the usual taxis, buses, trams, and subways are there, and even touristy rides like ferry boats on the Danube River and cable car to climb and descend the Buda Castle, what I can recommend the most is to move around on foot.

Just make sure to wear comfortable shoes such as rubber shoes. Aside from the fact that most paths are cobblestones and hilly, which tend walking to be a bit more challenging, landmarks aren’t always too close from one another. But just take your time and enjoy the sights. You will get there anyway.

You may also rent a bicycle to move around. Budapest promotes bicycle riding, and there are lanes dedicated to cyclists.

How to get to the center
Aside from taking a taxi or Uber (which I always find expensive in any given city), there are cheaper means to reach the center from Liszt Ferenc International Airport. There aren’t metros connecting the airport and the city center, but you can take the bus.

The easier but slightly expensive way is to take the airport city center bus, also known as bus 100E, which directly brings you to the city center at Deak Ferenc Square.
To buy the ticket, look for the purple ticketing booth. The only setback is the trip is every 30 minutes and tends to have more passengers since this is more known by many. Also, the fare costs a bit more at HUF 900. There’s a designated ticket booth to buy the ticket. You buy the ticket then insert it in the machine inside the bus for validation.

Another way is to take bus 200E. To buy a ticket, go to the right side of the airport’s arrival area to see the purple ticketing machines. The fare costs HUF 350. Once in the bus, do not forget to insert the ticket to get it punched by the validating machine.
Normally, bus 200E brings you up to Kobanya-Kispest district, but with the on-going construction where there’s no operation between Kobanya-Kispest and Nagyvarad ter metro line 3 stations, bus 200E currently extends up to Nagyvarad ter district. From there, you can take the metro line 3 at Nagyvarad ter station by buying a single ticket at HUF 350. Other ticket types such as 24h, 48h, and 72h tickets are also available, which you may find useful if you wish to take public transportation several times for a couple of days.

Do you find Budapest romantic? Which landmark is your favorite? 

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Spain has got to be one of my favorite travel destinations in the world. For the many breathtaking sites and its world-renown culture, there's always a reason for me to go back in this country. But more than that, Spain spells deeper impact to me given its historical link to my country, the Philippines. Traveling it is somewhat a travel to the past, with much of it highly resembling the old side of the Philippines, such that of Intramuros, Ilocos Norte, and many others.

Also read: Spanish for Filipinos: Tips to Learn Spanish

However, not everything in Spain hits home to me. There are those habits, customs, and traditions that surprised me, made me laugh, and tickled my curiosity to know more about it in one way or another. I’ve listed some of them, explaining likewise as to how they’re different from the way I travel as a Filipina and Asian.

1. Everything starts late in the day
Think of 7AM as a ghost town in Spain. If there’d be someone on the street, it would probably some guy with a bad hangover from last night’s party. One thing's for sure: The early-bird-that-catches-the-worm person is definitely not from Spain.

That's the reason why this shocked me first as it's the exact opposite of my usual travels in Asia. I’m so used to starting as early as possible (say, at 7AM), and I do so because 1.) it's a rule of thumb to be early to avoid the swarm of tourists and 2.) it's my way to cover as many places as possible in a day.

Also read: When in India: My Number One Tip to Enjoy Taj Mahal in Agra

The way I see it, the Spaniards love to take their time. Lazy times in Spain are golden moments. When you're there for travel, the fact that everything starts late in the day could be treated badly, but you'd probably appreciate it; as slow mornings and taking everything slowly is what makes Spain travel unique.

During my first time in Spain, I once got up way too early to look for a breakfast place. Grumpily, I ended up hungry for hours after not finding any open restaurant or bakery at 7AM. With that lesson learned, that same night, I hoarded and stacked food for next day's breakfast (and for the next ones too!).

It's also worth mentioning that most tourist attractions in Spain do not open earlier than 9AM. This includes museums, parks, and even government buildings. On the other hand, what’s good is that these attractions have nighttime and extended operating hours, especially during summer (that runs July-September) where the days are longer.

2. Even meal times are lateMeal time in Spain is as late as you could ever think of. While breakfast starts at 7AM in the Philippines (or earlier), el desayuno (the breakfast) in Spain is stretched until 9AM or later. You do not expect a lot of restaurants or supermarkets to open before 9AM, but if you’re lucky enough, the earliest would probably a panaderia (bread shop) at 8AM.
Photo from womanscribbles.net
Fun fact: Speaking of panaderia, every Filipino would've probably eaten a Spanish bread or simply know what it is. A Spanish bread is that sweet, rolled bread sold in local bread shops in the Philippines, which sits along with pan de sal, pan de coco, and ensaymada. I assumed it originated in Spain, given the fact that..DUH? It was named Spanish bread? However, after visiting several cities in Spain and barging through every bakery, I realized that Spanish bread in Spain is just an urban legend. It’s like Vienna sausage and french fries where the name doesn’t live up to the existence in that place.

Aside from breakfast, lunch time is as late as 2-3PM and dinner is at 9-10PM in Spain. Thinking of a reason why, I noticed that most Spaniards live by the night as they’re nocturnal. When traveling Spain, it’s no excuse to be a sleepy Asian at 10PM because that’s only when the party gets started! As it's said and done there, you must go out and party hasta las tantas (until the wee hours)!

3. Rice isn't life, but it does existRice is life for the Asians. It's a staple food that's part of every meal. Most especially for the Filipinos, rice is eaten 3 times a day.
On the other hand, even if rice is well-known in Spain (thanks to paella), I realized that it's unlikely to eat it all the time, neither to have it for breakfast.
In Spain, people don’t usually eat rice very early, so don’t expect paella to be on the menu at breakfast. They’d probably eat pan con tomate (bread with tomato - yes, tomato as a spread! And I love it!) with coffee. Usually, people tend to eat more there at lunch and dinner, with most of them heavily relying on meat as their main source of energy. If you haven't heard of the Spanish tapas, then this best describes as to how they love their meat big time!

Nowadays though, with the influx of Asian migrants in Spain, there have been a number of restaurants that serve rice meals  As I noticed, there are a lot of Chinese and Vietnamese across Spain and whenever I crave for rice close to how it’s cooked in my country, Asian restaurants are my go-to places.

4. Booze is an appetizerIf you don’t have high tolerance for alcohol, then prepare to get drunk early in Spain. Unlike in Philippine culture where happy hour starts after dinner, wine or beer gets served first before any meal in Spain. In fact, when you sit in a restaurant, they’d usually hand over the liquor menu to you first.
In Catalonia region, for example, there’s this liquor called vermut (vermouth), which is a common appetizer taken before lunch. It's said to trigger hunger, gives a huge appetite, and an aphrodisiac as well. There are several types of vermut, which is usually classified between dry and sweet. In Barcelona, I was able to try one, which I believe was a dry vermut. I enjoyed every sip of it, which to me highly resembles the taste of a martini, and I also enjoyed the green olives that came as a pica-pica (side dish). 

Also read: When in Barcelona: Itinerary Ideas for Easy DIY Travel

Also, there are Filipino drinking traditions that, as I noticed, are very unacceptable in Spain. Things like: there’s no chaser, there's no shared shot glass, and there's no ice cube at all (it's a no no for them to put ice in the liquor as they say it ruins the taste!). On top of all, there's no way for them that San Miguel beer is Filipino! It's been a highly contested debate that you don’t even get started with them because you'll never get the end of it. LOL!

5. They kiss in a different wayIn the Philippines, socializing with friends, colleagues, or relatives usually begins with a smack on the cheek, or most likely just a damp of cheek-to-cheek if you aren’t that close with the person. In the Philippines, this beso-beso is also done, but usually among the ladies only. With such conservative culture in the Philippines, it’s unlikely that a guy and girl do this, unless they’re close friends, siblings, or a couple.
In Spain, on the other hand, given its open-minded liberated culture, people can kiss each other there without any malice. During casual acquaintances, even if it’s the first time you meet a person regardless of gender, you usually give him/her dos besos (two kisses), which is a kiss on both cheeks. So you have to remember that when in Spain, kissing is always done TWICE.
The way I perceive it, kissing is very casual in Spain. Just like other Europeans, the Spaniards treat a kiss with less to none value as compared to the Asians. When a guy kisses a girl (vice versa), it doesn’t right away mean the person has romantic feelings towards the other. This is why you have to remember that you must not right away fall in love IN Spain; you just have to fall in love WITH Spain!

Though I have to mention that it’s very common to see people kissing (torridly!) and making out in public spaces across Spain--something that truly shookt me as a Filipina and an Asian at first, as it’s something that I don't often see when traveling Asia. It's also worth sharing that Spain is LGBT-friendly, so it's no taboo to see the rainbow community expressing themselves freely in this country - love wins!

6. Siesta time is for realSiesta is a Spanish word that refers to an afternoon nap, which takes an hour or two, and is usually taken after eating lunch. Many times I experienced this in Spain and even took siesta myself there, and that’s when I was able to convince myself that siesta is a habit that we, Filipinos, truly got from the Spaniards.
In Spain, a typical afternoon break time lasts for 3 hours. This is far from what it's like in the Philippines, which is just limited to an hour. I don't even know a lot in the workforce who take siesta in the Philippines because given the heavy traffic or queue in restaurants during lunch time, there's no spare time anymore to take a nap.
I remember an afternoon in Granada when I saw a nice blouse by the glass of a local clothing store. When I was about to enter the store to hopefully to fit it, I realized that the store was closed because of siesta time. I had to come back a little later, to find out the señora at the store had just woken up from her long siesta.

While siesta is taken seriously in Spain, they kind of compensate the lost hours by extending the hours at night. Although it varies, the office hours usually end by 8PM (or later) in Spain.

Have you been to Spain? What are the things that surprised you the most while traveling this country?

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Armenia and Georgia are 2 countries that sit beside each other. They’re both beautiful in their own way and distinct from one another. Given the time, it’s best to visit them both. In this blog entry, I’d like to share my experience on how I was able to visit these 2 countries in a single trip.

I started the trip in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. It took 3 long haul flights to get there (Manila-HK, HK-Moscow, and Moscow-Yerevan) since there are no direct flights coming from Manila. While a common route is Manila-Dubai then Dubai-Yerevan served by several Middle Eastern airlines, I opted out of the long 19-hour transit in Dubai.

Also read: How to: Apply for Tourist Visa to Armenia for Philippine Passport Holders
I'd described Armenia as a country with strong Orthodox Christian influence, with the numerous beautiful churches around Yerevan where I spent most of my time and for the religious Armenians I met during the trip. A popular side trip when in Yerevan is going to Kotayk province, where the Garni Temple and Geghard Monastery are at. I wrote a separate and detailed blog about it in my Armenia backpacking travel guide.
What’s good about Yerevan is that you can land travel to Georgia’s capital Tbilisi in 5 hours with a distance of around 272 km. The Armenia-Tbilisi route (vice versa) is very common, and public transportation is easily accessible. Unlike common commercial buses though, the public vehicle is a 12-seater van locally called as the marshrutka.
In Yerevan, you can get a marshrutka to Tbilisi at the Kilikia Bus Stop located at Admiral Isakov Avenue. From Republic Square, you can ride a taxi that may cost around AMD 800 (USD 1.65).

When I reached the bus stop, I was greeted by several local drivers, all speaking in Armenian. Since I didn’t understand any of them, I simply told “Tbilisi” and I was eventually pointed at the right marshrutka. A one-way fare costed me AMD 7,000 (USD 15) and I just bought the ticket from the driver.
The bus stop is quite old and very simple. There's a small store if you wish to buy snacks and drinks. Also, toilet is available but you need to pay a small amount (AMD 100) to use it.
The 5-hour ride from Yerevan to Tbilisi was smooth. There was one stopover for snacks and toilet usage somewhere in Tsovagyugh where I glimpsed upon the snow-capped mountains of Armenia. I traveled in late March, a time when winter is still in season.

A few kilometers before reaching Tbilisi, at the Armenia-Georgia border, the marshrutka stopped and all passengers were requested to go down, enter the building, and pass through the immigration. Luggage also need to be brought in for security checks, thus the process is just like in any other airport.
Holding a Philippine passport, I had to secure a Georgian visa, which can be either applied when you’re there (via VOA - visa on arrival) or ahead of time and online (via E-visa - electronic visa). I opted the latter since I feel more at ease knowing my visa is approved ahead. I wrote a detailed guide on this and you can check out how I applied a tourist visa to Georgia.

So after sliding the luggage through the x-ray machine, I went straight to the immigration counter.  If you have to get a VOA though, you have to fall in line at a separate counter, then go to the immigration counter afterward.
With my experience, the immigration officer wasn’t as strict as I expected. He only asked for my passport and the e-visa, plus asked how long I'll stay in Georgia. Even if the e-visa indicates health insurance is required (and I got one), I wasn’t asked to present it. Likewise, I wasn’t asked to show proof of accommodation, financial means, and return ticket. To be on the safe side, however, always have all the requirements ready.
That’s it! After all the passengers immediately got cleared at the immigration, the trip continued and in a few minutes it reached the final stop in Avlabari, Tbilisi. The Avlabari Metro Station (line 1) serves a landmark and when you walk further up, the huge Tbilisi St. Trinity Cathedral is just 15 minutes on foot. I also had a great time in Tbilisi and in other Georgian towns, and you can check out my Georgia backpacking travel guide for more details.

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Armenia is one country in Asia where I felt more like I was in Europe. As it sits between east Europe and west Asia, it makes sense to feel such European vibe. While some travelers tend to overlook Armenia for the wrong impression that it's just another European country, Armenia deserves to be known more.

Armenia 101
Armenia is a small nation with a population of 3 million only, majority of which are Orthodox Christians. As mentioned, it's located in Asia, and borders Europe. Its neighboring countries include Georgia, Turkey, Iran, and Azerbaijan.

The Armenians have their own language and alphabet, but most people also know Russian, being a former member of the Soviet Union. Very few can speak English, but most likely you won't have much problems when you're in the capital, Yerevan.
The local currency in Armenia is called dram (AMD), where AMD 1 is around USD 0.0021. Expenses in Armenia are generally cheaper than in other European countries, including food where a full meal starts at AMD 3,000 (USD 6). Armenian cuisine varies, but as noticed, they heavily eat bread-based and soup-based dishes.

Why visit Armenia?It may not be known by everyone, but Armenia is one of the earliest Christian nations in the world. This can be seen in their architecture and culture. I find most Armenians religious: a characteristic that made me feel secured as a solo female traveler in Armenia. Generally speaking, Armenia is a safe country to visit. The people may not be as bubbly and jolly as the usual Asians like me, but they're good people.

Armenia doesn't often land in the list of must-see countries, but that doesn't mean there isn't much in there. During my short stay in Armenia, I saw a lot even if I only centered in the capital Yerevan and went to a few side trips outside the city. Here are the places that shouldn't be missed:

Republic Square
The Republic Square is the town’s central square in Yerevan. It used to be the venue for military parades during the Soviet Union period. Now, it serves as the center of arts and culture. It’s also the melting pot of tourists as local taxi vans called marshrutka are very much in the area and double-deck buses carrying tourists (mostly Russians) are frequently there.

There are 6 buildings surrounding the Republic Square including the National Museum, National Gallery, Government House, Mariott Hotel Armenia, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ministry of Transport and Communications. Their architectural design is neoclassical, a style that adds depth to the European feel in Armenia.

Tip: Look for an accommodation near the Republic Square. In that way, you can save money in transportation as common places of interest are nearby. Also, there's a metro station at the corner of Aram and Nalbandyan streets. Metro is considered the cheapest transportation in Yerevan.


The Vernissage is a culturally rich outdoor market in Yerevan. The stretch consists of 4-5 rows of local items good as souvenirs from magnets, keychains, wallets, shirts, up to bigger items such as paintings, stainless steel kitchen items, and carpets.
The price of items at the Vernissage are reasonable. At times, haggling is possible. The vendors at the Vernissage are very courteous and aren't pushy at all. In fact, I was able to look around without being forced to buy right away.

Also read: How to: Apply for Tourist Visa to Armenia for Philippine Passport Holders

Blue Mosque
While majority of the people in Armenia are Christians, Islam is also practiced by the minority, including the Iranian migrants and visitors.
The Blue Mosque is a small Islamic mosque located in Yerevan. During Soviet era, this mosque was closed down and got turned into a museum. But after Armenia’s independence in 1991, the Iranian government funded its renovation and re-opening.

The Cascade
A unique attraction in Yerevan is the Cascade, a huge artistic staircase that consists of several levels with a panoramic view of the city and Mount Ararat. There's a museum with escalators underneath the outdoor staircases, making the indoor space very functional as well.
The Cascade’s base complex is surrounded by posh cafes and restaurants, some of which play live jazz music and are dramatically well-lit at night.
The peak of the Cascade connects it to the hilltop district where Victoria Park can also be visited. In this park stands Mother Armenia, a female statue with sword that signifies the peace with strength in Armenia.

Also read: Why You Should Travel to the Country of Georgia

Aside from Yerevan, interesting side trips await in Kotayk, a province in Armenia one hour or less away from the capital. As expected, Kotayk is less of a city thus very relaxing and close to nature.

Arch of Charants
Mount Ararat is visibly everywhere on the way to Kotayk. For them, Ararat has a strong biblical significance, believed to be the place where Noah’s Ark first landed after the great storm.
The Arch of Charants is one of the best spots to see the vast plateau of Ararat. Though basically it’s just an arch in honor of a great Armenian poet Eghishe Charents, the view after passing through the arch is awesome and a must-see.

Temple of Garni
This is the Temple of Garni located in Garni village, Kotayk, a structure very similar to Rome's Pantheon. It’s an ancient pagan temple built during 1st century AD, way before Christianity was brought to Armenia in the 4th century. With this, it's the oldest and last remaining Greco-Roman structure in Armenia.

Entrance fees:
AMD 1,500 (USD 3) for foreigners
AMD 500 (USD 1) for locals

Geghard Monastery
Armenia is the first country to adopt Christianity and it all began here at the Geghard Monastery. This medieval monastery was built by Gregory the Illuminator in the 4th century. Named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO,  it's said the spear that pierced Christ’s ribs at the crucifixion was brought to this monastery by apostle Thaddeus.
Similar to Roman Catholicism, a cross is also part of Orthodox Christian symbolism. In Armenia, including in Geghard Monastery, the cross is well-represented by khachkar, a local term for the carved cross. The cross is usually accompanied by other biblical figures including patterns of leaves, grapes, and solar discs.

Geghard Monastery's complex is very peaceful. It reminded me so much of the great Montserrat in Barcelona, Spain. Aside from being surrounded by huge cliff rocks, the Azat River also flows through one side of the complex.

Entrance to the monastery is free.

Tip: A lot of private Kotayk tours are offered at Republic Square, which vary depending on how many places and how many people join the tour. It usually starts at AMD 45,000 (USD 93) for 2 persons, covering at least 6 places. On the other hand, for a more flexible DIY trip, a Yerevan-Kotayk taxi ride costs AMD 10,000 (USD 21).

How to get to Armenia?
Typical neighborhood in Yerevan

By airThere’s no direct flight from the Philippines to Armenia. The common route is Manila-Dubai-Yerevan (or any other city in the Middle East replacing Dubai), so Middle Eastern airlines such as Qatar Airways, Fly Dubai, and Emirates serve this route.

In my case, however, I looked for another route since the 19-hour layover at Dubai International Airport (DXB) on my intended travel date was too long.
Alternate route: If you want to avoid a long layover in Dubai, fly Manila-Hong Kong (I flew via Cebu Pacific), then fly Hong Kong-Moscow and Moscow-Yerevan (I flew to both via Aeroflot). Though there were 3 flights in total, at least I didn't wait for 19 hours in transit.

By landYou may enter Armenia by land from either Iran or Georgia. Actually, after traveling Armenia, I crossed country to Georgia by taking a 5-hour marshrutka (local public taxi / van) ride that costs AMD 7,000 (USD 15). I hailed the marshrutka at Kilikia Station in Yerevan.

Tourist visaFor Philippine passport holders, tourist visa is required to enter Armenia. You can either get visa on arrival (VOA) or electronic visa (e-visa) that costs USD 6. For Filipinos who live or work in GCC member countries, visa requirement is exempted. To learn more about visa application and its step-by-step guide, check out my blog on Armenia tourist visa application.

You can also watch my vlog that highlights the places I visited and things I did in Armenia!
Viajera Vlog: ARMENIA - YouTube

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History explains the huge influence of Spanish in Filipino language. As Spain colonized the Philippines in 1521 and stayed in the country for more than 300 years, a lot of Filipino words are actually loan words from Spanish.

However, there are some that got its meaning changed, veered off course, and ended up lost in translation. I decided to collate some of them, explaining how it became different when it got adopted in Filipino language. A few blog entries back, I wrote the first set of these and in case you missed it, check out my article Filipino & Spanish Words: Lost in Translation Part 1.

Let's begin! ¡Vamos!

Todas vs. todasIn Spanish, todas is a simple adjective that means “all” in its feminine form. It’s usually accompanied by a noun to make sense and give meaning, such as todas las flores (all flowers), todas las chicas (all girls), todas las playas (all beaches), etc.
Meanwhile, todas somewhat has a heavier meaning in Filipino. Used as slang, todas describes someone who’s in a big trouble, possibly at the verge of being dead for whatever might have caused it. Here’s an example:

Kung hindi ka titigil sa droga, matotodas ka.
(If you won’t stop from drugs, you’ll be dead.)

When you slash the “s” and make it only toda though, right away the meaning changes as it’s most likely understood by the Filipinos as "tricycle drivers."
Image source
In fact, it’s very common to catch toda painted on either the front or back of the tricycle. While most people think that toda is a word, it’s rather an acronym that stands for Tricycle Operators and Drivers Association (TODA).

So now you know the next time you go to the toda =p

Also read: Filipino Phrases Borrowed from Spanish that You May Find Amusing

Konduktor vs. conductorSpeaking of transportation, another loaned Spanish word is being used by the Filipinos in a different way. When you take a public vehicle in the Philippines, particularly a bus, you don’t expect the conductor to be the driver.
Image source
While conductor refers to a “driver” in Spanish, the konduktor, on the other hand, refers to the driver’s assistant who collects the fare. He’s the guy in the bus who holds the bills between his knuckles and punch holes on strips of paper, which is actually the bus ticket.

To call a “driver” in Filipino, it’s simply the English word that’s used, or sometimes spelled as drayber. A few call the driver a tsuper, the loan word with the closer meaning to its Spanish origin, which is chofer.

Aburido vs. aburridoIn Spanish, the adjective aburrido usually refers to the feeling of boredom.

Estoy aburrido. Llámame.
(I’m bored. Call me.)

Also, it can refer to a person with a boring personality.

No hay nada interesante en él. Es aburrido.
(There’s nothing interesting in him. He’s boring.)

In Philippine vocabulary, however, the loan word aburido exists but with a slightly tweaked meaning. When you say someone is aburido, he/she may be feeling worried, disturbed, or anxious. Here’s an example:

Ang tagal maipadala ng pera kaya aburido na ako.
(The money takes time to be sent so I’m worried already.)

Also read: Filipino and Spanish Words: Spelling the Difference

Karo vs. caro/carroWhen you say caro in Spanish, it usually means “expensive,” so it’s like saying El billete es caro (The ticket is expensive). Also, there’s another Spanish word carro, which may refer to a “carriage” or “cart.” In some Spanish-speaking countries, carro may also mean “car.”
Image source
On the other hand, what first comes to mind of the loan word karo for the Filipinos is neither “expensive,” “carriage,” nor “cart.” Rather, karo may most likely mean “funeral car” in Filipino. A karo is usually that long vehicle where the coffin is placed in order to transport the dead and bring to the grave.

There’s even a joke that when someone drives very slow, he/she acts like a tsuper ng karo (funeral car driver) since during interment, the funeral car is driven as slow as possible.

Bale vs. valeThe word vale has several meanings in Spanish. It comes from the verb valer, which can be used to ask for the price: ¿Cuánto vale este imán? (How much is this magnet?) or to tell what’s more worthy: Vale más un gramo de hacer que un kilo de decir (A little action is better than a lot of talking).

In Spain, vale is commonly used to say “okay” or “fine.” Funny thing was, while I was in Spain, I heard it A LOT from my friends. It's such an overused word I got shookt on how many times they can insert vale in a single conversation! Haha.

- ¿Me voy, vale? (I'll go, okay?)
-- Vale. (Fine.)
- Vale, ¿te vas o no? (Okay, you'll go or not?)
-- No. (No.)
- ¡Vale vale vale vale! (Okay, okay, okay, okay!)

Also watch: Viajera Vlog: Spain

In Filipino, the word bale that came from the Spanish vale means something else. If you’re a boss with an employee who often asks for bale, then brace yourself. Bale means “cash advance” in Filipino.

Ma’am, babale sana ako ng dalawang libo.
(Ma’am, I’d like to cash advance two thousand pesos.)

Bale can also mean “so” or “therefore” in Filipino. It’s sometimes used as a filler especially during flow of thought.

Bale...pagkabayad ko ng bale ko kay ma’am, magbabayad naman ako ng utang sa bumbay.*
(So...after paying my cash advance from ma’am, I’ll then pay my dues to the bumbay.)
Image from YouTube thumbnail
*Bumbay refers to the Indian immigrants in the Philippines who do business by loaning money, usually stacked with an interest. The term bumbay originated from Mumbai, a city in India.

Also read: When in India: Thoughts on Solo Female Backpacking in India

SusmaryosepOne of the influences the Spaniards gave to the Philippines is Christianity, which is to why there are a lot of religious Filipino words borrowed from Spanish. Some of these include Diyos (Dios in Spanish) that means “God,” ebanghelyo (evangelio in Spanish) that means “gospel,” and bibliya (biblia in Spanish) that means “bible,” and many more.

Meanwhile, there’s one Filipino expression that's of religious origin and I assume also came from Spain. “Susmaryosep!” is an expression of surprise, disbelief, or anger in Filipino. Its connotation depends on the context, but it’s most likely something negative. Here’s an example:

A las 9 na pero hindi ka pa umaalis! Susmaryosep!
(It’s 9AM already yet you haven’t left! Susmaryosep!)

DUTERTE response to De Lima: SUSMARYOSEP | September 26, 2016 - YouTube
As to how this word got created, susmaryosep is actually the contracted names of Jesús, María, y Josep. Some people shorten it up to make it Sus! but its meaning is just the same.

Now that you know what it means figuratively and literally, you can say susmaryosep with all conviction =p

Do you have other Filipino and Spanish words in mind? Share and comment below!
Shelly C. Dimaculangan was a language translator in the Philippines. She finished AB Journalism at University of Santo Tomas in Manila where she took her first Spanish classes. After college, she continued learning Spanish at Instituto Cervantes de Manila. 

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Kota Kinabalu is a destination I can recommend to first-time travelers abroad. Traveling this small Malaysian town is easy, cheap, and friendly, with a variety of activities to offer. This blog explains in detail why.
Kota Kinabalu is the capital of Sabah state and a territory of Malaysia. It’s tucked in the northern tip Borneo island that neighbors the country of Brunei. Separated from mainland Malaysia, Kota Kinabalu presents a slightly different culture and vibe compared to when you travel in the capital, Kuala Lumpur

Easy travel
Kota Kinabalu is just small, so it isn’t too overwhelming to know where to go and what to do. This, therefore, goes to to the advantage of first-time travelers. I can say Kota Kinabalu is also a good jump start to those who want to try solo traveling abroad. 
Several points of interest in Kota Kinabalu aren’t that far from each other, and you can easily reach them on foot. If there’s a need to ride though, transportation network company Grab is very common. Unlike in the Philippines where Grab has insane rates even for short-distance rides, Grab in Kota Kinabalu (and in the rest of Malaysia) is a lot cheaper. From the airport to the city center, for example, it may only cost around MYR 11 (PHP 150) and takes 20 minutes or less, depending on the traffic.
For a much cheaper transportation from and to the airport, an Airport Bus is available at MYR 5 per ride. It runs on a schedule with the first trip from airport to city center at 8 AM and the last trip at 8:30 PM, while the first trip from city center to airport is at 7:30 AM and the last trip at 7:15 PM.

Cheap travel
Flights from Manila to Kota Kinabalu are usually the cheapest, with or without promo. It’s usually low-cost since Kota Kinabalu is very near the Philippines. The flight only takes 1 hour and 45 minutes and perhaps one of the shortest international flights coming from Manila.
Compare flight rates at skycanner.com!
When I booked mine with Air Asia, I scored a round-trip regular ticket for around P5,000 only. Compared to other Southeast Asian destinations like Singapore, Bangkok, or Macau, I find Kota Kinabalu flights the cheapest. This is why it’s best for budgetarians as there’s no need to wait for a seat sale to travel abroad!

Friendly area
Kota Kinabalu is like a neighborhood where the locals know each other really well. If you need to ask for directions or have other questions, they’re also very approachable.

Hostels are the trend in Kota Kinabalu. If you’re a first-timer or solo traveler, it’s recommended to stay in this accommodation type where facilities are usually communal or shared. Not only it’s very cheap to stay in a hostel, but it’s the best place to meet and socialize with guests who are mostly backpackers.
With my experience, I stayed at B&B@21, a friendly hostel that costed me around MYR 32 per night including breakfast. It’s located at Lorong Dewang, a backpacker lane in Kota Kinabalu where you can find the strip of hostels and cheap local restaurants. 

Variety of activities
Despite its small size, Kota Kinabalu can offer a few activities. On top of all, of course, climbing Mount Kinabalu is the most popular. However, this requires at least 2D1N climbing, some heavy cash (price starts at whopping MYR 1400 per person!), and a fit body as it’s said to be a challenging trail. Skipping it doesn’t make you feel missed out though, as there are other activities you can do and places you can visit. 

Visit mosques
In Kota Kinabalu, there are several interesting mosques that you can visit. For one, the Masjid Bandaraya Kota Kinabalu, also called as the “floating mosque,” is a beautiful white-and-blue mosque surrounded by a man-made lagoon.

To enter the mosque grounds and see the interiors of the mosque, there’s an entrance fee of MYR 5. Renting proper vestiture (i.e. arms, knees, and head are covered) is required that costs MYR 5. 
For its distinctive and striking color, most tourists also visit the Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) Mosque, more popularly known as the “pink mosque.” It’s primarily meant for UMS students but is also open to the public. To enter, there’s also an entrance fee of MYR 5 and vestiture rent of MYR 5. It’s located on top of a hill and part of the UMS campus. 

Go island hopping
The Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park is the collective name given to the 5 closest islands from Kota Kinabalu namely: Gaya Island, Manukan Island, Mamutik Island, Sapi Island, and Sulug Island that can be visited in a day. 
Jesselton Point is the starting point when you want to go to the islands. Aside from being the port where you ride the boat, it's also where you can buy tickets or book packages at any ticketing counter. You can simply buy on the spot and choose the island/s you prefer to visit. Among the 5 mentioned islands, you can visit from 1 up to 3 islands with their respective rates:

One island: MYR 23
Two islands: MYR 33
Three islands: MYR 43

On top of island hopping rate, there’s a terminal fee of MYR 7 collected at Jesselton Point. There’s also a conservation fee of MYR 20 collected at the island you’ll first land on. Note that conservation fee one-time only, which means even if you visit more than one island, no need to pay anymore in the next islands (so make sure to keep the receipt!).
The first boat trip is usually at 8:30AM and last boat trip is at 4:15PM. I suggest you start early to maximize the day and to avoid the crowd. There’s a schedule of transferring from one island to the other so be mindful of this. But anyway, once you reach the island, the marshal who checks the receipt usually informs you of the transfer time. 
While most people visit 3 islands in a day, I only took 2 islands which felt more relaxed and I didn’t feel rushed with the transfer. In Mamutik Island, the first island I went to, I got to do some snorkeling and spent 2 hours there. While its beach and water were okay, I find not as enchanting as Manukan Island, my second island. The only setback with Manukan is that I find it very commercialized and tends to get crowded. 

Experience the local market
There are several open-air markets in Kota Kinabalu to fill in your stomach all the time. One of which is the Gaya Sunday Morning Market located at Gaya Street, a street that’s considered the Chinatown in Kota Kinabalu. Gaya Street also holds night markets to find interesting local and Chinese cuisines, except on Saturday night. 

Since Kota Kinabalu is in the coastal area, seafood is the staple food. At the Waterfront Seafood Night Market, you’ll get the variety of seafood. The idea is to buy the seafood first, then let them know how you want it cooked. The ambiance is very similar to the paluto at Macapagal Road in Metro Manila. 

Go for trekking
For a quick exercise, climb a few stairs to get to the Signal Hill Observatory. The steps are easy and doesn't take more than 15 minutes to reach the top. The different trails are usually surrounded by trees, thus the trekking experience is nature-friendly and relaxing.
The view at Signal Hill Observatory gives you a bird eye’s view of the city. From afar, you can also get a glimpse of the sea. 
A lower and shorter trail, you also climb the Atkinson Clock Tower. It’s one of the very few historic places in Kota Kinabalu that serves as memorial to Francis George Atkinson, the town’s first district officer who died of malaria or the so-called Borneo fever. The clock tower is also one of the oldest structures in Kota Kinabalu that dates back before World War II.

Have you been to Kota Kinabalu? Do you also recommend it to first-time travelers abroad?

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Laos or Lao People's Democratic Republic is a small country in Southeast Asia landlocked by the countries Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, more popularly known as the Indochina region. This is why most travelers criss cross in these countries to cover all of them on a single trip, but going on Laos alone isn't a bad idea either. Whatever your route or travel plan is, make sure not to miss Laos and this blog entry tells you why.

What to see in Laos?Laos is a natural gem of Indochina and Southeast Asia. It's gifted mostly by beautiful waterfalls, mountains, and other natural resources. I got to spend 5 days and 4 nights in Laos where I was able to cover 2 cities, Vientiane and Luang Prabang. Here's a rundown of what I did and the recommended places:

Day 1: VientianeWhile very few speak English in Laos, the street signs are reliable and so you won't get lost in the capital. As general tip, Lan Xang Avenue serves as good reference point in the city center because it's where most tourist attractions are at.

Patuxai Monument
At the end of Lan Xang Avenue is a very noticeable Patuxai Monument, a memorial for all the heroes of war during the French colonial period. Its Europe-inspired architecture highly resembles the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Entrance fee: 3,000 kip if you want to climb the monument to get a 360-degree view of the city.

Presidential Palace
At the other end of Lan Xang Avenue is the Presidential Palace where all important ceremonies and events of the government are held. Though not open to public, the exterior is a sure standout thus a good stop for taking photos.

Entrance fee: Free

Sisaket Temple
The Wat Si Saket or Sisaket Temple is one of the oldest temples in Vientiane. It's distinctly known for the striking and yellowish color of the pillars. Several bronze and stone Buddhas can be seen around. Try going in the morning to catch the locals and monks praying in this temple.

Entrance fee: 5,000 kip

Day 2: Vientiane
Pha That Luang

Seeing Pha That Luang was the highlight of my short trip to Vientiane. Also known as the Great Sacred Stupa, it's the main religious monument in the capital. Buddhists believe that it contains relics (a breastbone) of Buddha. Pha That Luang is also a national symbol of Laos. In fact, an image of it is depicted in their banknotes.

Entrance fee: 5,000 kip

Mekong River
What's good about Vientiane is that despite being a city, the riverside provides a relaxing suburb feel. If you've been around Southeast Asia, you probably heard of Mekong River already. It's a long river that flows throughout the Indochina peninsula. The side of Mekong River in Vientiane is a perfect spot to catch the sunset. Then, stay until nighttime to chill at the riverside bars and restaurants.

Entrance fee: Free

Chao Anouvong Park
Next to Mekong River is this small park featuring a huge bronze statue of Chao Anouvong, Laos’ last king from the Lan Xang Kingdom. A short stop here is nice for taking photos and marveling at the size of the statue.

Entrance fee: Free

Day 3: Luang Prabang
On the third day, I left Vientiane at 8:30PM then took an 11-hour VIP sleeper bus to Luang Prabang, a province north of the capital and was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its rich cultural heritage. Here are a few places that I visited in the province:

Mount Phousi

From downtown, you can climb for 20-30 minutes to Mount Phousi, a 150-meter hill with a total of 335 steps. It sits between 2 rivers, the Mekong River and Khan River. The view from the top is breathtaking and a good place to catch the sunrise or sunset.

Entrance fee: 20,000 kip

Luang Prabang Night Market
Starting at 6:00PM, the stretch of Sisavangvong Road gets closed for the Luang Prabang night market. Vendors slowly pull out and spread different products for sale, which are mostly souvenir items. Similar to other night markets in Asia, it's very common to haggle for the price here. Cheap and delicious local food are also in the night market. (The Lao baguette is a must-try!)

Entrance fee: Free
* Prices of items at the night market vary. Make sure to bargain. Fridge magnets, for example, usually start at 30,000 kip but I was able to bring the price down to 15,000 kip.

Day 4: Luang PrabangKuang Si FallsAs said, a trip to Luang Prabang won’t be complete without seeing the natural gem Kuang Si Falls, a huge 150-meter waterfall that consists of 3 tiers where you can climb up to the peak. Looking at it is like a painting that came to life, and it's truly a gift from nature. A 30-minute trek to the top can let visitors swim in the mini pools located at the peak (Tip: Two trails are available. The easier trail is at the left when facing the waterfalls)

Kuang Si Falls is far from downtown Luang Prabang, so a cheap way to get there is by joining a half day group tour that's usually composed of 12-15 participants. This tour is convenient since an air-conditioned van fetches you from your accommodation. The rate usually starts at 50,000 kip. Another way is to get a group of 6 travelers and negotiate a two-way ride with a tuktuk driver.

Entrance fee: 20,000 kip

Day 5: Luang Prabang
Old Quarter

The Old Quarter is a long street of ancestral buildings preserved through the years. Looking at this street is like traveling back in time. It's a cool place to meet backpackers as most of the restaurants, bars, and guest houses are in the area.

Entrance fee: Free

How to go to Laos?At the moment, there's no direct flight from the Philippines to Laos yet. With that, the cheapest route I found was from Manila to Kuala Lumpur and then Kuala Lumpur to Vientiane. On the way back, instead of returning to Vientiane, I departed in Luang Prabang to save time and money.

How much to spend in Laos?
In Philippine peso, my expenses only summed up to around PHP16,000 including airfare, airport taxes, accommodations, food, transportation, and other basics. Overall, I can say that Laos is cheap. Here's a breakdown of the expenses:

Expense Details
PHP 1620
Philippine Airport Tax
PHP 700
Manila to Kuala Lumpur flight (promo fare)
PHP 2990
Kuala Lumpur to Vientiane flight (promo fare)
PHP 3300
Luang Prabang to Kuala Lumpur flight (promo fare)
PHP 1125
Kuala Lumpur to Manila flight (promo fare)
207,000 kip (PHP 1258)
Transportation in Vientiane for 2 days
105,000 kip (PHP 638)
Accommodation in Vientiane for 1 day
13,000 kip (PHP 79)
Entrance fees to attractions in Vientiane
100,500 kip (PHP 611)
Food expenses in Vientiane for 2 days
150,000 kip (PHP 912)
VIP sleeper bus to Vientiane
60,000 kip (PHP 365)
Transportation in Luang Prabang for 3 days
163,645 kip (PHP 995)
Accommodation in Luang Prabang for 3 days
50,000 kip (PHP 304)
Kuang Si Falls half day tour
40,000 kip (PHP 243)
Entrance fees to attractions in Luang Prabang
189,000 kip (PHP 1152)
Food expenses in Luang Prabang for 3 days
65,000 kip (PHP 395)

TOTAL: PHP 16,687

Have you been to Laos? What do you think about the Kuang Si Falls?

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Toledo is a city in Spain where it feels like you’re being brought back in time. It’s the historic capital of the Castilla La Mancha region located in central Spain and a declared UNESCO World Heritage Site for its cultural significance to the country.

The city of 3 cultures
Backed by its rich history, Toledo is a city where Christian, Jewish, and Muslim influences co-existed despite the differences in their respective traditions and beliefs. It traces back in 192 BC when the Romans first occupied the city who introduced Christianity. The Romans were also behind Toledo’s grand circus events, probably the biggest ones in Spain during that time, that featured chariot races for entertainment during the holidays.
Years later, the Fall of Roman Empire took place, so the Romans left and Toledo was occupied by the Visigoths from 570-711 AD. But their reign was short lived when the Moors conquered Toledo next who then inserted Muslim influence in the city. It's said to be the dark times, as blood shed between Arabs and Christians in Toledo.

Eventually, the Christians overruled that made Toledo more peaceful, a time in Toledan history called as the “Golden Era." It was when the Moors built great architecture, the Jews arrived and held positions in the government, and Toledo became the seat of the Catholic Church–probably the best time when the 3 cultures existed all at the same time.

Toledo now and what to see around

Despite the test of time, a lot of history has been kept in Toledo. For one, this is the Santa Iglesia Catedral Primada de Toledo, or simply known as the Toledo Cathedral. It’s one of the long standing proofs of Christian influence in the city where construction started early in 1226. It’s a huge church with Gothic style of architecture.
Not to far from the cathedral is this Ayuntamiento de Toledo or the Toledo City Hall. It’s an old medieval-looking building that looks very similar to the rest of the structures in the area. In front of the city hall is a spacious public square or plaza, which serves as a common meeting place or starting point of group tours in Toledo.
Located at the peak of Toledo, the Alcázar de Toledo is a square-shaped fortress with towers on 4 corners. Back in the day, during Roman era, it served as a watch tower against intruders. Now, it serves as the Army Museum of Toledo and is open to the public with an entrance fee of EUR 5 for non-EU visitors.

Toledo is beautifully seated on top of a hill. It's also surrounded by the Tagus River, the longest river in Iberian peninsula that extends up to its neighboring country Portugal. These go to show that Toledo isn't only historically rich, but also gifted with nature. A picturesque panoramic view can be enjoyed almost everywhere, especially at a viewing point called in Spanish as the mirador. 

What to buy from Toledo

It’s said that a trip to Toledo won’t be complete without even trying or bringing home a box of mazapán (marzipan), the most popular Christmas dessert in Spain. These cookies are sold all year round in Toledo, a testament of the strong and long tradition that started as early as the 1500s.
Also, Toledo has a long tradition of sword making and steel working. It began as early as 500 BC when Hannibal, a Roman warrior, used Toledan swords during the Punic Wars and won. From then on, Toledo supplied quality swords and other war weapons to the Romans. Up to now, steel shops are a common sight in Toledo. Steel products vary, from big to small, and are very popular souvenir items.

How to get there
Toledo is a perfect side trip coming from the capital, Madrid. I myself spent a day in Toledo then returned Madrid in the afternoon. The best way to go there is by bus. Aside from the fact that it only takes 1 to 1.5-hour ride, it's also very accessible as daily buses from Madrid to Toledo (vice versa) are available. 
In Madrid, the bus station is located at Plaza Eliptica and the bus stops at Toledo Bus Station in Toledo. One-way bus ticket costs EUR 5.47 that can actually be booked online and in advance via ALSA

What do you think about Toledo's 3 cultures? Do you find Toledo as your next travel destination?

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Philippine passport holders are required to get a visa to enter Nepal. But since it’s visa on arrival only, the chances of getting denied are low. As long as you meet all the simple requirements and very easy steps, you can see the Himalayas or Mount Everest in no time.

Note: This article ONLY discusses the requirements and steps to get a tourist visa applied through visa on arrival. For other visa types and other modes of applying, you can visit Nepal’s Department of Immigration.

How long can I stay in Nepal
For tourist visas, you can stay up to 150 days in an entire visa year (January-December). Visa extension is possible (which I'll discuss in detail below).

What do I need- Passport valid for at least 6 months at the time of return to the Philippines
- Filled up arrival card
- Filled up visa application form
- Visa fee
- Supporting documents*: Round trip ticket, reserved/purchased proof of accommodation in Nepal, proof of financial means (e.g. ATM cards, credit cards, cash, etc.)

* It's best practice to carry supporting documents with you especially when dealing with both local immigration (when departing the Philippines) and abroad. Sometimes, immigration officers ask for these to verify the purpose of visit and capability to travel.

How to apply for the tourist visaStep 1: Fill up the arrival card
The arrival card is usually given by the in-flight cabin crew. Tip: To save time, fill up the arrival card while still inside the plane. As Nepal’s airport is small, queue is always expected and passing through immigration takes time.

In case the cabin crew can’t give you an arrival card though, there are copies at the arrival area of the airport. They're found near the visa application form kiosks.

Step 2: Fill up the visa application formThere are 2 ways to fill up the visa application form.

First, you can fill up the form online. This can be done as early as 15 days before your arrival date in Nepal. While filling up, you need to specify your accommodation in Nepal and upload a passport-size photo. Once completed, of course don't forget to print it and present at the immigration counter.

Second, once at the arrival area, you'll see the kiosks where you can digitally fill up the form. You may have several fields to fill up, which may take 5-10 minutes, but most of them are self-explanatory. In case of questions or you encounter a problem, there are representatives who can help you there.

Based on personal experience, the only problem I encountered was that the first kiosk I went to got frozen halfway filling up the form. Sadly, I had to repeat the form, but I was gladly assisted by a representative to make sure it won't happen again.

After filling up the form, the last page will request to take your photo. Once done, it will print the form that you’ll present to the immigration officer later on.

Step 3: Pay at the cashierNext to the kiosks, fall in line and pay at the cashier. There are 3 types based on the duration of stay in Nepal with their corresponding rates:

15-day visa: USD 25
30-day visa: USD 40
90-day visa: USD 100

Aside from USD, other major currencies such as HKD, JPY, and SGD are accepted and converted to Nepalese rupees (NPR) based on the day's foreign exchange rate. The change will also be in NPR. There’s one money changer found beside the cashier, but I’m not sure if it’s open 24/7. To be on the safe side, bring cash and pay in USD.

The cashier will give you a receipt. Keep it as you’ll need it for the last step.

Note: The following are eligible for gratis visa who are exempted from the visa payment:

- Children below 10 years old
- SAARC citizens (except Afghans) visiting Nepal for the first time in a given visa year are provided a free 30-day visa. Afghan citizens are eligible for gratis visa on arrival only upon the recommendation of Department of Immigration backed by paperwork issued by the concerned institution / party that invited to Nepal.
- Non-residential Nepalese (NRN) card holders (issued by Ministry of Foreign Affairs / Nepalese diplomatic missions abroad)
- Chinese nationals
- Officials from China, Brazil, Russia and Thailand that don’t need entry visa based on reciprocal visa waiver agreement

Step 4: Go to the immigration counterPresent your passport, visa application form, and receipt to the immigration officer. The officer might verify your purpose of visit, duration of stay, and accommodation in Nepal, so just make sure you can answer them accurately.

As noticed, immigration counters are very few. Depending on the volume of arriving people, it may take 30 minutes to 1 hour to get through immigration.

(And oh, there's toilet beside the immigration counter! I just thought of mentioning in case someone would find it helpful :p)

How to extend the visa
If you need to extend your visa, go to the Immigration Office in Kathmandu or in Pokhara. Since the maximum stay is 150 days and let’s say you bought a 90-day visa at the airport, you can apply for 60 days more.

For the visa extension fee, the base amount is USD 30 for 15 days, then add USD 2 per day for the succeeding days. For example, if you wish to stay 20 days more, then it costs USD 30 (15 days) + USD 10 (5 days x USD 2) = USD 40.

Do not even think of overstaying in Nepal. There’s a fine of USD 3 per day, plus USD 2 per day for the visa extension. For example, if you overstayed 3 days, then it costs (3 x USD 3) + (3 x USD 2) = USD 15.

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El sol estaba a punto de hacer adiós, una tarde de crepúsculo y tráfico, me encontré sentada en el autobús, pensando profundamente, respirando pesadamente. Había mucha gente a mi alrededor pero era una ironía que me sintiera sola en ese momento, y las lágrimas acaban de caer lentamente. Estaba pensando en ti porque te echo de menos.

Lo que presumo que tengamos es algo prematuro. Es como decir que sólo estoy intentando de llenar la pieza que le falta - que aunque viniste con la pieza correcta era demasiado temprano para pegarla.

¿Sabes que veo muchas de las características de mi papá en ti? Un día después de la Navidad, el ambiente festivo en casa de repente se convirtió a algo muy triste cuando mi papá tuvo un ataque al corazón. Dos días después, falleció en el hospital. Tenía 48 años. Pasamos la víspera de Año Nuevo mientras el resto celebraba y abrazaba un año nuevo. Como una niña de 12 años, no sabía mucho el impacto de su muerte. 
No es que te veo como un padre sino que tu compañía es como si los momentos de lo que habían pasado entre mi papá y yo: hablar de viajes, hablar de libros, hablar de la vida. Me hubiera encantado viajar con él, y es tu presencia que, de alguna manera, lo cumple. Contigo, puedo decir cualquier plan de viaje en la mente. Sigues mis historias de viajes y siempre me convences de seguir viajando. De todos los cumplidos que recibo cada día, en cada meta de ser viajera, los que más valerosos son tuyos.

Eres conversador. Me parecen interesantes tus historias, las de viajes o no. Incluso si me cuentas cosas que me parecen diferentes con mías y a pesar de nuestras diferencias soy toda oídos contigo. Tal vez sea porque ya que no tengo un papá, deseo tener esas conversaciones profundas y sensibles como las que tenemos.
También tienes algunas miradas que me recuerdan mucho a mi papá. Cuando digo que tus ojos te brillan mucho, es la verdad sin ninguna broma. Es a diferencia de ti, a quien que le gusta bromear. Pero la verdad es que no hay nada más dulce que cuando me das piropos como mujer, aunque a veces me siento que eran bromas - que no debo ahogarme mucho de tu caricias. Sin embargo, había una vez que me sentí que eras tan sincero. En un lugar y tiempo inesperado de repente te pregunté cómo piensas de mi como mujer. Me alegró que respondieras a la pregunta casual sin bromear.

Al principio no podía admitir nada que fantaseo de ti. Siempre recuerdo cómo me abrazas fuertísimo que me siento muy protegida y cómo me besas que me llevas al cielo. A veces actúo como una jovencita, mirando a tu foto y la guardo en mi móvil. Prefiero ver tus ojos, tus sonrisas, tus labios a la distancia. Es que cuando te miro en persona, cara a cara, palpita mucho el corazón que grita nada más que tu nombre.

Pero ya que me parece prematuro todo entre tú y yo me quedo muda y no te he contado lo que me siento realmente por ti. Necesitamos mucho más tiempo para conocernos. Tengo dudas, como que ya que pareces muy caballero a las demás, y no sólo a mí, tengo miedo de que juegues con mi corazón como me hacían los tíos que conocí en el pasado. Nunca te lo he dicho pero en secreto sé que admiras a otras chicas hasta que dude quién es soy en tu vida. No sé, tal vez sea porque tengo miedo de que me niegues. 

Muy fuerte y poderosa soy yo pero admito que eres mi debilidad. La debilidad que también me hace más fuerte. 
Jueves, el 14 de febrero de 2019
Manila, Filipinas

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