No Excess Baggage

The Leftovers of a Travel Experience

Shopping at Thamel, Kathmandu


Thamel is the busy commercial district of Kathmandu. Bright lights, loud music, honking cars, this district is far from the tranquil environment of Nepal’s landscape. But it’s a refreshing escape from the wilderness when you want to feel the energy and lively vibe of tourists and locals. In the evening, Thamel is lined up with dance clubs, bars, food, and intense traffic.

This is also the place to shop for Nepali products like tea, condiments, Himalayan pink salt, clothes, swords, flags, souvenirs, and so much more. This place is also famous for the unique papier mache figurines only made in Nepal. Other shops also sell Hindi products from India and even metal ornaments and jewelry.

Don’t forget to use your best haggling skills when visiting here and scout first before buying!

By the way, the Philippine Peso has a strong rate here and they do exchange pesos to rupees!

The famous tea shops and I spotted a bar with San Miguel beer logo!
The Nepal flag, swords, paper mache products

Thamel on Google Maps

The Elusive Guardian of Kathmandu


Kathmandu Valley is as astonishing as the mountains that surround it. It is at the heart of Northern India’s mountainous regions and not far from this location is the stunning view of Mt. Everest, the tallest landform above the ocean. It’s presence is truly breathtaking, like heaven descending on land. The snowcapped summit only reveals itself, according to local legends, to people who are lucky or fated to be in Nepal. On a monsoon September, Everest is very elusive as it is usually hides behind the clouds.

I was a bit unlucky to see Everest on my first day in Kathmandu as it had been drizzling prior to my arrival. But the second day was promising with clearer skies. Early in the morning, I rose from bed and saw from the rooftop of a house I was staying in, the elusive white mountain.

It was a rare sight to see and how lucky I was to witness this.


Baguio’s 50s Diner


More than the cold climate, it’s only recently when I’ve started to realize that Baguio has this thing about cheap food and big servings.

One such place is 50s Diner along Leonard Wood Road. Taking it from its name, it’s a classic recreation of an American diner from the 1950s. The look and feel of the place is definitely a blast from the past, not to mention the old jukebox by the corner.

But more than the theme is the food. And that’s where we made a beautiful mistake. My colleagues and I were hoping for a light breakfast so maybe the diner had pancakes and sandwiches of which I opted for over rice meals and heavy dishes.

So looking at the menu, we got a BLT, a cheese sandwich, cheeseburger, and a fruit medley. And on top of that, we got soup and milkshakes just in case we ordered too little.

Turns out, when the food arrived, the servings were twice the size that we expected. And our initial thought of ordering too little now became too much!

It’s interesting because the price, based on size, is only half of what you usually pay for in Manila.

Quality wise, their food isn’t the best tasting, but if you are after the quantity then its definitely worth it!


Google Map Link

The Journey to Nepal


Nepal was the journey I had never planned. And it’s probably the farthest country I’ve been to aside from Australia. And that is why it will come down as my most memorable travel experience to date. It was a journey of firsts: my first time to travel this far without my family, my first time to meet total strangers who eventually became my family, my first time to travel with a companion that is amazing and inspiring.

It was through a phone call when I was told that I was accepted in a Fellowship and that I will be travelling abroad for a conference. Upon hearing the destination, which was Nepal, I didn’t know what to say. In my head, it was like “Wow, Nepal…hmmm” This was totally a country that I never thought of visiting. Maybe India or China, but Nepal? I only knew the country because that is the place people go to if they want to conquer Mt. Everest. Beyond that, I had no idea. And that scared the heck out of me but it thrilled me.

As soon as the conversation on the phone ended, I got so intrigued and baffled and nervous that I didn’t know what to do. The very first thing I did was to consult the wisest man in the universe… Google.

Google: NEPAL. Then a list of images and websites appeared. I saw temples and mountains and nature…. and more nature. The pictures were breathtaking. And it started to sink in. I’m gonna go there. I’m going to see Mt. Everest! Not climb it… but at least see how beautiful it really was. And that’s how it all started.

Nepal is a country tucked in between the massive countries of India and China. It’s the point of origin for many people who want to conquer the “big mountain.” The people and the culture are familiar yet unique. It’s an eclectic mix of Buddhist and Hindu, China meets India; you can see it in their cuisine. It’s a country where hills are like mountains and mountains are like… well, huge mountains. And the Kathmandu Valley, lush and full of life where the city lies at its heart.

My trip was through Malaysia Airlines with a single flight transfer at Kuala Lumpur. This is where I met Vincent, the very first person I met in the Fellowship and the very last person I saw when the trip ended.

It’s a four hour flight from Manila to KL and five hours from KL to Kathmandu. If you’re sitting by the window of the plane, you’ll see the massive cities of India lit up at night. You’ll be flying through the subcontinent.

If you are a Filipino citizen, Visa is upon arrival with minimal fee to pay.

What happens next? Stay tuned for more of my Nepal adventures!

Visit the page:

See the travel route below. Time difference is -3 (MNL time).



Clearwater Resort and Country Club

Clearwater offers a lakeshore kind of vacation.

As soon as the American bases pulled out from Clark, Pampanga back in the 90’s, this buzzing town of foreigners and locals were mostly replaced by sounds of crickets at night. Much of the PX stores closed down, the casino closed down, many establishments ceased operation as the American soldiers bade goodbye.

It seems like a sad story (or not, depending on your political view) but I was fonrtunate enough to discover a gem within this semi-deserted town. In a trip with my colleagues when I used to teach in school, we had our annual retreat and vacation at this place: Clearwater Resort. I know, it’s not a beach, it’s not fancy hotel in the city- it’s a place close to nature where I could actually write a book or paint a portrait.

Imitating a lakeshore vacation spot somewhere in the US, Clearwater Resort is like a summer camp place with log cabins, dirt paths, and giant trees. When I went there, I thought it was a perfect place to reflect and take a step back in life. I was so inspired by my surroundings that I just immersed myself in taking photographs of the place and my colleagues enjoying it. And that time, we just had it all by ourselves.

This beautiful respite offers some peace of mind and some great activities as well. You can do enjoy all of the following: fishing, kayaking, boating, swimming by the lakeside, playing beach volleyball, biking, playing basketball, swinging under a tree, exploring the dirt paths, and sleeping in their comfortable beds.


– Clearwater Resort is just an hour or two from Quezon City via NLEX.

– Pleace is perfect for office retreats and team-building activities.

– Food is not offered in the place. You can bring food, take-out from nearby restos in Clark, or have it delivered.

– Activities mentioned above have separate charges and fees (like boat rental, rental of fishing equipment, etc…)

– Bring a torchlight. It can get quite dark at night.




In Photos: Hunter Valley Gardens

wonderful landscape of Hunter Valley

We end our Hunter Valley Trip in the most picturesque location in this county. The green rolling hills, the cool autumn breeze, and patches of flowers growing by the countryside… No wonder, so many weddings happen on this place- the Hunter Valley Gardens. We timed our visit during the cold season so there aren’t much people here. It’s during the summer, when all the flowers are in bloom, that grooms and brides flock to this side of Sydney.

But this scenic countryside spot still looks magnificent in its autumn shades. And it’s perfect for an afternoon respite, a simple picnic over wine, cheese, and crackers.

It’s also good to know that even during off-season, the village (where the souvenir and chocolate shops are) and chapel are open for your convenience!

Check out the gallery to see the nice pictures we took! And make sure to include this in your itinerary when you visit Sydney!



Hungarian Pastries in Sydney

Erica, my sister’s Hungarian friend living in Sydney, was kind enough to invite us for a late afternoon snack after our visit to Wine Valley. She had prepared some really nice Hungarian pastries worth remembering!

Hungarian Sour Cherry Cake
Feta Cheese and Spinach Puff Pastry
Feta Cheese and Spinach Puff Pastry

A Sentosa Adventure Part 1


Sentosa Island is such a massive theme park/island resort that it has its own transportation system. So I’m warning you, touring the whole place by foot is something you might want to avoid (you can rent out a segway if you want, and feel like you’re Tron or something).

So by bus, we had our group dropped somewhere at Siloso Point where the plan was to visit Singapore’s Underwater World. Unfortunately, we were too early and everyone else in the area was still setting up. Even the Ben and Jerry’s joint, whose ice cream I am a big fan of, was still tightly shut.

It was truly unfortunate, but we had to move on. So off we went for another bus ride to Imbiah Lookout which was right at the centre of the island. I guess this is the most tourist friendly place because you’ll find the information centre here, ATMs, currency exchange, and some souvenir shops. Tickets for rides are also sold here. Somewhere around the area are several attractions like the Butterfly Park and the Sentosa Nature Discovery. But I decided to skip those and opted for the rides that’s going to give me the adrenalin rush.
Well we didn’t have much time in our itinerary, so we had to choose: the Tiger Sky Tower or the Luge and SkyRide Adventure. Well the group agreed for the two-in-one and I’ll tell you what happened in the next post.
So we’re off to our next stop!


Check out the RSW MAP!



Australia’s Wine Country: Hunter Valley Chocolates


After dropping by the Visitor Information Centre (as in my previous post), we’re now headed to Hunter Valley Chocolates. It’s not a trip to the winery yet but we just could not resist the urge to dip our tongues in chocolate. Located inside the Peterson Wine House just along Broke Rd., we dropped by this little stone shack which is home to the region’s finest chocolates. Wines, chocolate, champagne… Don’t they all go well together?

Once inside, we found stacks and racks of different chocolates produced by Hunter Valley. They’ve got dark, white, milk chocolate, with nuts, with fruits, with both… It’s a sweet tooth haven! Now enough about what we saw because the more thrilling story is what we got to taste!

What actually caught our attention was the chocolate fondue swirling at one of the store’s displays. For $2 they’ll dip a marshmallow for you. For $2.50 they’ll dip a fresh strawberry for you. And for the wild child, go for the $3 for a shot of pure chocolate madness.

Without hesitation, we tried them all. And heavens be, the chocolate was darn good. It was warm, silky, not so sweet but very luscious.

This chocolate store is one of the three located within Hunter Valley. The second store is in Hunter Valley Gardens while the main store and factory is located at Lovedale Rd.

This is a must try if you plan to visit the area!

Special Note: You’ll find some VERY naughty candies here!




Australia’s Wine Country: Pokolbin


One of the best experiences I’ve had in Australia was being able to visit their Wine Region in New South Wales. Known as Hunter Valley, this region boasts hectares upon hectares of vineyards, producing some of the best wines exported around the world.

It’s quite a long journey to the valley if you’re coming from the CBD or the Sydney suburbs. It was a three-hour trip for us by car and might take a bit longer if you take it by rail. In my previous posts, we travelled westward from Sydney to the Blue Mountains. This time, we headed north of Sydney.

As soon as we were out of the metropolitan area and through the Pacific Motorway, we already got a feel of the Aussie countryside. The lush greenery, the open road, and cool breeze just make you savour the moment. This is what makes travelling such a fulfilling experience.

More photos after the jump! >>

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