Recapping My Benguet Adventures

              Since I’ve been coping  well dealing with my travel withdrawals, I finally dug my “inspiration box” to write something about my hiking adventures in the Philippines. So, pardon the lengthy Volume of pictures you are about to see. When you are being bombarded by the social media of the magnificent hiking trails located near your hometown every now and then, it gives you this strong urge to hike these trails once you get the chance. These pictures and posts made me feel like I was missing out a lot since they are mostly located in the Cordillera regions of the Philippines where I’m originally from. Hence, I made a promise to myself to hike at least one or two trails when I go home, and it finally happened last month. As I have done my fair share of the most grueling hikes in my life such as the infamous Wedgemount Lake hike I did last summer, it is safe for me to assert that these hikes are appropriate for beginners. Despite the fact that they are considered effortless hikes, the stunning view as you navigate your way towards the summit will absolutely knock you off your feet and literally give you the “feels.” And once you get to the summit of these trails, the mind-blowing sceneries you get to see and experience will make you realize how lucky you are to be witnessing such  stunning creations.

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“Gungal” Rock

  1. Mt. Ulap- This trail is located in Ampucao, Itogon, Benguet which is about forty-five minute ride from Baguio City. The hike takes about 5-6 hours depending on how fast you are. Before even starting the hike, it is mandatory to get a guide in the Ampucao Elementary School which costs about 600 pesos and 100 pesos for the registration. Having to descend the steep stairs in Quirino Hill every morning made this hike bearable, as I did not get the after-sore effect that I was quite expecting from the hike. You will indulge yourself with acres of grasslands and scenic views of Mt. Santo Tomas and Mt. Ugo to Mt. Pulag as you continue your assault up the mountains. The terrains are mostly flat with amazing rock formations along the way where you can challenge yourself getting rid of your fear of heights while taking pictures of the amazing view.

Standing on one of the rocks

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60709af0-5940-4009-9517-76cedab9ee3c The lack of shades makes it a must to continuously hydrate yourself on the way.

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Tangled bees?

There’s a reason why it’s called Mt. Ulap (Clouds) because you’re pretty much playing hide and seek with the clouds in these mountains.

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The mini store found in Mt. Ulap

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Nature at its best

  1. Mt. Yangbew- This thirty-minute hike is probably one of the easiest hikes I have done so far. It is situated in Tawang, La Trinidad, Benguet, a half an hour jeepney ride from Baguio City. For some reason, we got off way before the designated jump off point that we had to ask the locals how to get there from where the driver dropped us off. We literally had to pave our way through tall grasses, bamboos and muddy trails before we got to the top of Mt. Yangbew. The good thing about it is that we did not have to pay for the registration (30 pesos), as we pretty much walked through the trails where locals normally walk their horses. And yes, the trail was full of horse shit, literally. Once you get to the top of the mountain however, you get to roll on the grasslands to your heart’s content, get your tan and enjoy a panoramic view of La Trinidad, Benguet.
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Mini Mt. Pulag of La Trinidad, Benguet

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The “cleaner” pathway to the summit

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The mandatory jump shot

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Reminiscing while looking at those miniature horses

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Some of the rock formations and the grassland

  1. Mt. Kalugong- This hike is recommended for beginners as it only takes about 45 minutes to get to the peak. The starting point is in Barangay Cruz, La Trinidad, Benguet which is about half an hour ride from Baguio City. Once you get to the eco-park, you are required to pay 50 pesos as a registration. It was a bit awkward when we went there, as most of the tables were occupied with couples that we literally only took few pictures and started walking towards the rock formations. We did not get to sit on the tables to take a break because there were couples in every table who were “ruining” the view (LOL). Once you get to the rock formations, you will be welcomed by the magnificent view of La Trinidad. Wearing proper shoes as the rocks are jagged and uneven is highly recommended. I learned this the hard way when I almost fell few times because my shoes were very slippery.
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    Panoramic view of La Trinidad, Benguet

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    “But wait, let my tie my hair before you take a picture” photo

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Trying to reach the cloudy sky to reveal the sun

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One of the huts found in the eco-park

  1. Ambuklao, Bokod, Benguet- How I ended up on a road trip to Ambuklao was unexpected. It was supposed to be a visit to the famous Ambuklao dam, one of the oldest power plants in the Philippines, but it did not happen due to some circumstances. However, I still got the chance to actually take pictures of the beautiful forestry and rivers around the area. I also got the chance to experience the hospitality of the locals there when I randomly hitched a ride in a truck of some strangers. When I handed the money to the local in front of me thinking that I needed to pay, I was told that it was not needed because I was literally sitting inside a police car. So thank you to those policemen who were very kind. You’ve made one stranger proud for your good service. I would have been stuck there for ages if not for you guys who were nice enough to drop me off where I could take a jeepney going back to Baguio City.

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Trying to balance life

 

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Mount Pulag, The Playground of the Gods

             Hiking Mount Pulag is one of the things bolded and capitalized on my bucket list. As an avid hiker, the strong urge to conquer Mount Pulag had been mounting as long as I could remember until it finally happened few days ago. I was initially worried about not being able to finish the hike, as I haven’t been physically active as much as I wanted. The long hours working in the hospital makes me want to hibernate forever on the days I’m off. It wasn’t helping either that one of my best friends had been feeding me with this irrational fear of possibly having a heart attack in the middle of the trek due to lack of exercise and training. Nevertheless, I survived the hike with flying colours despite my aching knee and the drizzly, freezing weather.

                  Mount Pulag is considered as the highest peak in Luzon while third in the Philippines. It stands 2922 meters above sea level thus explains the bird’s- eye view of

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Sea of Clouds

some parts of Benguet, Ifugao and Nueva Vizcaya if you are at the peak of the mountain. It has three trails you can choose from; Ambangeg, Akiki, Tawangan and Ambaguio trails. The Ambangeg trail which we did is the easiest hike recommended for beginners and for people who do not have the time to train. It’s mostly flat terrains and several not “so want to kill myself” elevations. It can take about 4 hours going up to the summit and another 4 hours going down to the ranger station which is the starting point depending on how fast you are. Like any other trails, having a guide when hiking Mount Pulag is mandatory. Registration can be paid in the DENR station while camping fee can be given to your guide or at the ranger station.

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The view from our campsite

           Mount Pulag shelters various plant and mammal species, rats being one of them. I came across a huge rat while trekking, and I almost had a seizure thinking it was a snake. Additionally, the temperature is not something to joke about since it can drop to a freezing point, so covering yourselves with jackets, scarves, bonnets and gloves is necessary if you don’t want your butt freezing at night or while at the summit. As what Miss “Chastity” said during the 45-minute orientation, the freezing temperature is not enough reason to compromise your safety and chastity. Having a good waterproof of everything (tents, shoes, bags and ect.) is also vital since it usually rains in the area. It was windy and pouring rain while we were in the ranger station that some of the people I was with had to move their tents inside the man-made shelter in our campsite. Whereas the others had to tolerate being caved in their soaked tents while being wrapped with garbage bags, me and my friend only had to worry about being swept away by the strong wind outside.

              The mesmerizing mountains shrouded with grass, the mossy forests covered with trees, and the different types of spectacular flora and fauna found in the mountains which I came across with made the experience surreal. Not only this, as I continued to watch the fiery sun rising on the horizon while I stood at the summit, I was paralyzed with its glorious, overpowering beauty. That the lack of sleep, aching feet, freezing weather, and exhaustion were forgotten in an instant. And that despite only seeing a small fraction of the sea of clouds which Mount Pulag is known for, the magnificent sun beaming proudly with its orange colour while peeking through the clouds filled me with raw awe and overwhelming emotions. As I continued to bask in its endless beauty, it made me realize how lucky I was to be standing there witnessing such spectacle once in my lifetime (or maybe more in the future). It indeed lives up to its famous name the “playground of the gods.”

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The Pulag Team

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While the rest of our group slept, we took pictures.  🙂

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Orientation Site

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First Day

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The Ultimate Selfie

A response to The Daily Post’s Photo Challenge:Earth

Summer Adventures: Winter is Coming!

img_4048         I’m the type of person who goes through “summer withdrawals” once the cold weather starts to kick in. Gone are the days when I wake up at five in the morning with the sun bathing my skin with its gorgeous sunbeam. Gone are the days when I do not have to worry about chicken skin, chattering teeth and frosty hands and feet. Yes, I’m notorious for having “cold intolerance” which is ridiculous at times. While everybody is complaining about the hot weather and wearing those summery, cute dresses, there is my poor self in the corner wrapped like an Eskimo. When you are surrounded by people who work in healthcare, you tend to diagnose each other. I have been diagnosed by most of my friends with hypothyroidism as being cold all the time is one of the signs of the said disorder. However, my rational is that I barely gain weight despite my habit of constantly eating like a pig. If you have hypothyroidism, you tend to gain weight despite not eating that much because you have an issue with your metabolism. Having said this, I have self-diagnosed my self that my thyroid is fine and that my body simply cannot tolerate the cold.

           As I was browsing the photos on my phone, I realized that my relationship with summer is over. My nemesis and my least favorite season is just around the corner waiting to bite me in the a**. Winter is coming! To console myself from this impending doom, I like to delude myself that summer went for a long walk to the South Pole, and all I have to do is be patient and start painting my nails. In the meantime, looking at the adventure photos I’ve taken this summer will do for now to curb my hunger for more adventures and hiking.

        The Quest for the most awesome adventure for this year’s summer was nothing intentional. It was plainly whimsical after long shifts in the hospital. It is necessary to detach yourself from the depressing environment, or burnout will catch up with you in the long run. Because we only get two months of summer here in Canada, it was still fortunate that I was able to do fun things and make the most of the short season. From land to the river and sea, I survived the challenge.

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Garibaldi Lake

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Garibaldi Lake

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Rafting and rescuing “swimmers”

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Thompson River

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Whippoorwill Point Trail

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A pleasant walk in Tofino Beach

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Dog Mountain

What made my summer adventures worth to write about are the hiking trails and mountains I clambered with sweat and tears. Enduring the two-hour drive or more going to these trails was worth it despite the fact that my head felt like it was about to explode from motion sickness. The thirst, hunger and the trip back are different stories to rant about. Nevertheless, once you get to the top, the “high” and satisfaction from surviving another hike purge whatever self doubts you had when you were at the starting point arguing with yourself whether you could force your legs to start moving or not.

 

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Bridal Veil Falls

          The more I climbed mountains and trails, the stronger the urge of my “Igorot” legs to conquer another harder and more challenging trail. The harder the hike gets, the more splendid the view is. The pictures below prove my statement.

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Lindeman Lake, Chilliwack

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Lindeman Lake

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Joeffre Lakes

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Joffre Lakes

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The Chief, First Peak

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Wedgemount Lake

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Wedgemount Lake

As I grudgingly watch my tan fades every day, I’m reminded of the approaching ordeal of wearing sweater and winter jackets again. Yet, I compose myself and look at the positive side of another summer next year full of whimsical adventures and exploits. This time, it would be international. As my friend says, Mt. Everest should be my next goal, but I refrain from being too ambitious because of how dangerous the hike is not to mention the freezing climate there. Packing my bag to conquer Mt. Pulag or Machu Picchu to search for a Sagittarius constellation up in the sky has a higher chance of happening than training how to climb glaciers using snow boots and hooks. Besides, I still want to go home to my bed in one piece and brag about my adventures to the people around me without worrying about frostbite.

A response to the Daily Post’s photo challenge Quest.

 

Hiking Wedgemount Lake

img_3725Vancouver is one of the places where you can find magnificent hiking trails. Growing up in the mountains somewhere in the Philippines, I never learned to appreciate hiking mountainous terrains and trails. Unmoved by the beauty of nature in front of me, I hated the fact that I had to walk up these mountains every single day to go to school, rain or shine. However, as I age, I have slowly learned to unconsciously appreciate the outdoor sceneries that I started looking forward to summer season because this means more hiking adventures. Hiking Wedgemount Lake yesterday brought back memories of the past when I was huffing and puffing my way up the steep hills. The cloud of dust I was inhaling along the way made my lungs want to give up at one point, and thank the nature god I didn’t. The dust brought back the ghost of the constant asthma attacks I had when I was younger, and I was grateful I managed to last the hike without passing out.

I decided to write about this particular hike because I consider it as one of the toughest and brutal hikes I have done this summer.  I was swearing and castigating myself for deciding to hike this trail while I was hanging on to a rock for my dear life. It was not helping either that the pain in my knees decided to attack like it was nobody’s business. However, knowing that this is a seven-hour hike, I am proud to say that we did it in 5.5 hours with few water breaks. Yes honey, we are that fit! (LOL)

img_3726-1Wedgemount Lake is a 14 km hike (roundtrip) with an elevation gain of 1160 meters. It’s a part of the Garibaldi Provincial Park located in Whistler and about two-hour drive from Vancouver.  The hike to get to the viewing point is gruelling, but once you get to the top, the magnificent view is worth it. Unlike Garibaldi Lake, there are no trees in Wedgemount Lake but stunning rocky mountains sprinkled with some left-over snow from the winter season. Also, you can take a dip in the refreshing, milky, turquoise water to wash off the dust you accumulated from your way up, or you can watch chipmunks and birds as they try to run or fly away from you.

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The trail is a combination of steep, jagged rocks and dusty hills. One wrong step and you can easily slip and hit your head on these jagged rocks. There is also a chance that these falling rocks can knock the person behind you if you’re not careful.  My advice is to take one step at a time, crawl if you have to, and never look down if you have fear of heights. The moment you decide to cast a glance below, your knees will start to buckle from fear, and that is not good. This is not a joke!

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One of the rocky pathways

Stunning view on the way up

You also need to bring lots of fluids to hydrate yourself. Your risk of dehydration is high because you will be sweating buckets. Some parts of the trail do not have trees to provide a temporary shade, so sunscreen is a must to protect yourself from skin cancer and sunburn. Your skin is the last thing you need to worry about because you will be preoccupied groaning and moaning when you walk the next day. This will last for about a week if you are the type of person who does not exercise on a regular basis. The scorching heat coupled with the slippery, ridiculous steep and unpaved pathways can make you lose your mind and start spouting profanities. Try to encourage yourself and ignore the nagging voice of wanting to go back down to the parking lot once you start hiking your way up. The view on top is worth it, and you will feel glorious afterwards for pushing your limits and conquering one of the most difficult hikes of your life.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Landscape

   I have always loved hiking. There is something about nature which gives me the exhilarating feeling of being on top of the word. Literally at times. I am fortunate that I live in British Columbia where beautiful mountains and hiking trails can be found. Since summer is approaching, I cannot wait to start hiking again. This is a photo of Garibaldi Lake I took when I went hiking with my friends. The hiking took us five hours to complete with little breaks along the way. Nevertheless, the awesome view below was worth it.

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Garibaldi Lake

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Seawall Vancouver, BC

This is a photo I took yesterday. The weather has been getting warmer lately, so we decided to take out sushi and drove to Seawall to eat our food.  Yes! Spring is finally here and we’re getting closed to summer.

Weekly photo challenge: Landscape

Hola! Cancun, Mexico Part 2

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Chichen Itza

The best part about not having an itinerary before visiting a place is the excitement of winging everything. You get to challenge yourself finding answers on your own be it online or asking the locals around the area. Your creativity and resourcefulness materialize as well. We never thought of creating an itinerary before travelling to Mexico because it is more thrilling to do things on a whim and just literally “winging everything.” Having said this, it took us until the second day to officially finalize a plan of places we wanted to visit and activities we could do while in Cancun.


We paid $67 US for a tour in the renowned Chichen Itza and Ik Kil Cenote. The package included a shuttle bus for our trip, buffet lunch, our own tour guide, and a bottle of water.

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When we were getting good at taking group selfies 🙂

Our first stop was the historic Chichen Itza of Mayan ruins which is considered as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It is also one of the largest Maya cities located in the Yucatan state of Mexico which is almost two hours from where our resort is located. This tourist site is mainly composed of massive stepped pyramids, temples with detailed designs of the Mayan people on their walls, sacrificial sinkholes, massive stones and archeological structures. My keenness on the information the tour guide was bombarding us did not disappointment me in the beginning of the tour until half an hour later. The fact that some of the people in our group were uttering words about history which we never heard of slowly made me and my friends divert away from the group from time to time. Because I felt like I was taking an advanced history class with bunch of historians and geologists, I pretty much lost interest on the subject. Suffice to say, it shifted my attention to admiring the magnificent man-made creations in front of me and religiously taking photos of these structures. Don’t get me wrong, the information was great, but it is hard to digest and retain such if you’re battling the scorching heat and possible dehydration. One thing for sure though, since Chichen Itza was built more than 1000 years ago, I was honored that I got the chance to set foot in the court where the first basketball game was created by the Mayans.

We also visited Ik Kil Cenote located 5 minutes away from Chichen Itza, a sinkhole open to the sky where people can swim to their hearts’ content. According to the tour guide, this sinkhole was used for diving competitions during one of the Olympics.  It is more than 50 meters deep and if you are like me who doesn’t know how to swim, wearing a life jacket is a must. You would expect that the water is extremely cold but it wasn’t too bad. My body eventually got used to the temperature of the water, and I definitely enjoyed swimming in the water. While one of my friends started crying because she was too scared to go in the water, I was confidently paddling with my hands in the middle of the water while pretending that I was doing an excellent job of backstroking and flutter kicking hehe. Thanks to the life-jacket I was wearing of course.

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Ik Kil Cenote

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Selfie up in the air

The highlight of our trip is the parasailing which we paid for $58 per person. It was a 15 minute tour around the lagoon plus 15 minutes being up in the air. There are two bodies of water where you can do water activities in Cancun. One side is the ocean where sharks are enjoying themselves while the other side is the lagoon where crocodiles are relaxing. The locals had the habit of joking about which side we foresee ourselves being served as dinner to these creatures. There was no such better option. One way or the other, the outcome is going to be the same. That is, you are a dead meat if you happen to encounter one of them. Because the weather was windy the day we decided to parasail, the crocodiles pretty much won over the sharks. Being up in the air and having a bird’s eye view of the beautiful Cancun is definitely once in a lifetime experience. The glorious water down below and the magnificent view made me thank the unknown for being alive at that moment and experiencing the thrill of finally having to do something I never thought of doing in my whole existence. While my friend was screaming her lungs out because she was too scared being up in the air, I was squirming with glee and excitement while taking selfies and videos.

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Lagoon dock

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Glow-in-the-dark glass

We also had the chance to experience the bustling nightlife in Cancun. Of course, where else are you going to experience the nightlife but the clubs where blaring music, unlimited alcohol, twerking, grinding, awesome heels and sexy crop tops are found. For $65 US entrance, our own private area and unlimited alcohol, the City Nightclub in Cancun which is apparently the biggest club in Latin America was the best choice. They had awesome music, and we definitely had fun dancing all throughout the night. What’s interesting about the club is the hardcore service from their servers in terms of getting their guests drunk until they drop on the ground. The servers were literally pouring bottles of vodka right in everyone’s mouth with no chase and literally shoving glasses of beer and tequila on people’s faces. I definitely saw how people around me were having a blast. And this is probably one of the reasons why some guys started becoming excessively confident of themselves (a common scenario in a club I should say LOL). At one point, I had to hide multiple times from this guy who was pestering the living heck out of me. I literally punched him on the face while screaming at him to get the f*ck away from me before he finally gave up. Overall, the club was sensational. The choice of music was mind-blowing. The crowd was energizing. And most importantly, I still manage to walk back to our hotel sober and intact.

 

Frolicking in Cancun, Mexico Part 1

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          Travelling becomes liberating as you age through the years. It gives you the freedom of getting to know yourself better and recognizing your potentials and skills when interacting with the people around you. As you gradually learn to survive in a completely foreign environment, this turns into a journey of accumulating experiences and knowledge about the places, the people and the culture you come across with. At this point in my life, travelling has become the unsated yearning which constantly bombards my thoughts every time I stumble upon travel blogs or pictures of places I want to visit. I have given up hammering myself the fact that I am still not financially ready to travel the world to my heart’s content because packing my bags and chasing my travel bug always happen in the end anyways. To me, nothing matters except satisfying the fervent desire of exploring places other than Vancouver. It maybe also the thought of being three years away from hitting 30 or the feeling of wanting to explore and discover the wonders of the world before finally settling down and start considering making babies (and looking at possible sperm donors if push comes to shove LOL).

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     Travelling to Mexico has always been in my bucket list as far as I can remember. It was supposed to happen last year, but I ended up detouring to Toronto instead for various reasons. Hence, I made it a mission to go to Mexico this year and it finally happened a week ago. With a ten-day break from school, I decided to fly to Cancun City, Mexico along with my friends. It was a rough start with security when we were in Vancouver International Airport because of minute things such as, believe it or not, apples and pears. Because I knew I was going to get hungry when we boarded the plane, I woke up at three in the morning to pack up some food. Of course, when you travel, some of the things you’re not allowed to have with you when checking in are any type of liquid more than 100 ml, poultry, meat, fruits and seeds. Because I was consumed by my hunger at that time, it never sank in to me what I had in my purse were technically fruits until security started interrogating me for carrying sliced fruits. So yes, as expected, I got held for having sliced apples and pears in my purse because apparently I was on my way do some serious planting in the US. I was brought in this room where the security person started lecturing me about smuggling and was eventually let go to join my friends for our flight.

img_1803  The moment we arrived in Cancun airport, I immediately felt invigorated from the warm and humid air. The reason we abandoned Vancouver in the middle of February was the nonstop rain coupled with the freezing weather, so having to finally relish the sun and warm weather along with the fact that we were finally in Mexico after 6 hours of flight was extremely exciting and gratifying. The locals who were wearing their own designated uniforms were lined up outside the airport to pick up tourists and drop them off to their hotels. One thing I would probably

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      We finally arrived in Park Royal Cancun Hotel where we stayed for five nights, and we were welcomed by the friendly bellboy with complementary drinks. Trust me, you need to  constantly hydrate yourself because of the warm weather in Cancun. The staff in the hotel were very friendly who made sure that every single guest was comfortable and taken care of. I was uncomfortable being helped with trivial things such as opening the door or bringing my own plate to the table but I eventually got used to feeling incapable by the end of our trip (hehe). I have nothing to complain about the staff except one of the receptionists who became our nemesis on the first day we checked-in. In fact, we christened him as the “he who must not be named” because of his not-so-friendly attitude towards the guests.

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       Our first night was mostly spent admiring the turquoise seawater and white sand, pigging out in the buffet restaurant and “cute hunting” at the bar while sipping our cocktails. The drinks and food were unlimited as part of our inclusive deal, so we did not have to worry about spending money for both. It was definitely worth it for the price we paid. I took advantage sampling the variety of foods in the restaurant especially their desserts. The alcohol was completely a different story because of my fear getting a hangover and having to crawl the next day.

 Our number one priority on our first day was to get our tan like there was no tomorrow. We spent most of our day frolicking around, getting baked under the sun, chasing the waves, burying ourselves in the white sand, taking gazillion pictures, admiring the beauty of the turquoise seawater and checking- out people’s butts and abs. 🙂 While one of my friends struggled getting her tan, the rest of us were already toasted the first day we were on the beach.

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Our view at dusk

 Whereas my body was set to waking up at 6 in the morning while we were in Cancun (that would be 3 am in Vancouver), my friends loved to sleep in. Every morning, I kept staring at the ceiling mumbling to myself why they were still sleeping when we could have gone walking on the beach or swimming in the pool. We were on vacation for gods sake! LOL, On the third day however, I finally decided to do something about my atrophying muscles and the extra calories I gained from the nonstop eating other than waiting for them to wake up. Since I did not want to spend $6 to use the gym plus another $6 for the Insanity class of our hotel, I decided to go for a  morning run. I never regretted doing so because of the awesome view below and visually awesome people I met while I was running (ahaha).

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