Puerto Princesa City Tour

Palawan is amazing. Many who flock to the Philippines opt to travel to Boracay or Cebu when they have only a few days to relax. However, if you’re in the mood for something really fun, getting out to Puerto Princesa is a great alternative. Not only is it home to one of the longest underground rivers in the world, there are several close by locations where you can really take in the scenery. Today, Jo and I explore the city itself on a tricycle, the preferred method of transportation in the Philippines. We hired out the trike for P1400 ($35) and had it all day.


Here’s a run down of where we visited on our day out.

puerto princesa palawanBelieve it or not, the trike we had was quite comfortable. Jo and I found the best sitting arrangement was to have one person sitting on the rear bench and one on the front. These trikes are a bit larger than the one in Manila and can comfortably seat 3-4 people. The rear shelf can also hold your bags.

puerto princesa palawanBaker’s Hill was our first stop. It features a few animals and a great view; however, the reason to go there has to do with food. Come on, with a name like Baker’s Hill, how can you not go for food? There are a few restaurants (including one featuring Korean food). What really caught my eye were the sweets. I picked up some wonderful brownies and ube filled hopia.The total was P85, or just over $2. It was well worth it. If you’re looking for some great food, definitely stop here.

puerto princesa palawanA short distance away is Mitra’s Ranch. In fact, Baker’s Hill is on the same road. Folks come to the ranch to see the view and little else. If you have a young one with you, the can sit and ride a pony/horse. Other than that, there’s not much to do. You can totally skip this location.

puerto princesa palawanOne of the best values for the day was the butterfly Sanctuary/Garden. Entry is P50 per person and well worth it. The owners do a good job of sharing the history of how the garden was created and then allow you inside. Unlike other butterfly gardens I’ve been to, this one had a great selection of butterflies that fly around. They also seem to be quite accustomed to visitors, because when I was filming, they often landed very close to me. This is a must see stop.

puerto princesa palawanThe day trip took us next to the Crocodile Farm. Both Jo and I opted to hold a baby croc for P30 total. Then we did the hatchery tour. The tour itself was about 20 minutes in length. I was thankful I had the QuikPod and GoPro, becuase I could get the camera quite close to the animals. A few times, the baby crocs wanted to eat the camera and I had to pull it back fast. It was a fun outing and one I think most would enjoy. After the hatchery tour, guests are allowed to walk through a “zoo” of sorts with other animals.

puerto princesa palawanThe Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm is a popular tourist stop. I personally don’t recommend it just because it is out of the way. Inside, you can see dancing inmates and pick up a number of souvenirs. The price for them aren’t too bad, but it’s the same sort of stuff you can pick up in town.

puerto princesa palawan The final stop on our day out was the Firefly Eco Tour. I cannot stress this enough – AVOID AT ALL COSTS. The tour is P600 for 1-3 people. That’s because it’s P600 for one boat and it will hold up to 3 individuals. Tours leave after sunset and last about 45 minutes. On the tour, you travel up and down the waterway along groups of mangroves. In the mangroves are the fireflies. No flash photography is allowed, and the only time the fireflies light up is when the tour operator shines a red light at them. Seriously, that’s it. 45 minutes of blackness with short periods of sparkling lights. Not worth it.

Earlier in the week, Jo and I walked through the town and found some great places around the city center. Puerto is a great place – one I think many will enjoy!

It’s More Fun Island Hopping In The Philippines – Coron Edition

It’s time once more to head back to The Philippines for another grand adventure. This week, we’re in Coron. It’s located about and hour from Busuanga on the southern tip of the island. When locals talk about escaping to a beautiful place in the Philippines, this is one spot that often comes up.

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When walking around Coron, you’ll see several tour operators, offering various island hopping packages. While in some cases you will need to make a reservation, many of the packages are the same, so you’ll need to look at the specific destinations and the price to get the deal that best suits you. We opted for a six-stop tour that was only P650 per person (just over $15US).

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Calamianes Expeditions offers ten different packages and was by far the cheapest we found in town. They have a variety of all-in tours, meaning that all fees are included and you get water/drinks/lunch while out. Many of the other operators in town were charging p100 or more for the same packages. Aside from the Coron Island Tour we took, other popular ones are the Banana Island Tour and Calauit Safari Tours. Follow the link for more information on each tour.

The first stop on our journey was at CYC Island. The boat dropped anchor and allowed us to go swimming and snorkeling for about 45 minutes. The water was quite shallow, allowing me to stand in about chest-high water. But I wasn’t there to stand; I was there to see what lurked beneath the surface.

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Before I knew it, the crew called us back and it was time to move on to the second stop: Twin Peaks Reef. It took about 20 minutes to cruise over the open sea, but that was fine by me, our group enjoyed the open water and took in the rays. The reef location here was far superior to CYC Island. It also offered up from deeper waters, allowing me to dive down to examine the fish and coral closer. What I found on the bottom was predominately spiny coral; but as fun as it was getting down with the fish, I’d rather be SCUBA diving so I wouldn’t have to bob and down as frequently.

While we were swimming, our crew never let a moment go to waste. They began cooking our lunch, preparing fresh fish and chicken. When our time was up, we hoisted anchor and set sail for Bulunga Beach. It looked like something out of a post card.



After lunch it was time to depart for a couple of more stops before ultimately reaching our final destination of Kayangan Lake. If you thought the beautiful islands we had seen so far were amazing, you haven’t seen anything yet. Navigating through shallow water, we pulled up to an old bamboo dock. Then we took our snorkeling gear and hiked up a short mountain, through lush woods, and then down to a pristine brackish water lake (a mixture of salt and fresh water). Swimming here was incredibly peaceful – but adventures were also to be had. We were shown a small cave, large enough for ten… and of course I had to go in. It was certainly the highlight of the trip.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end. As the sun began to sink lower on the horizon, we boarded our seafaring vessel one last time and began heading back to port.

Island hopping in Coron is a great experience and there is enough to do on multiple days. The entire video was filmed with the GoPro and QuikPod. Probably the shot I am most proud of in this video is the swimming/snorkeling shot. I’m amazed it came out so good. I had to do a fair amount of color correction for the underwater shots, but that took just a few seconds to sort out (it’s easiest with the three-way color correction tool in FCP and just adjust the whites).

So there you have it… what’s your favorite island hopping activity?

Boracay Sunset

When I say that I love Boracay, I mean it. Some may say that it’s too touristy and crowded – that’s a fair assessment – but what I love about the island is the White Beach and the ability to catch a great sunset each and every day.



The above video was taken from the bar that Jo and I frequented nearly every night while on Boracay. It’s in front of the dive shop on Station 3 and offers a great view. This video was shot with the GoPro Hero2 and sped up 330%.

Where do you like to catch the sunset?

Fresh Snow, but not in the Philippines

I’ve been back in Korea for just a few days. Thankfully, stepping off the plane Saturday night wasn’t as bad as it was last year. The temperature, to be sure, was a bit colder than the Philippines (a difference of about 35C), and the fresh layer of snow on the ground clearly shows that. However, I am still enjoying the warm memories of my days in the sun and a new coffee mug.

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During my month traveling with Jo, I took advantage of Flickr to upload a number of images. While  many were shared on Instagram, and subsequently on Facebook, I thought I would post the whole set here for those that may have missed it.



I have also just culled through 90 images from the GoPro and will be uploading that as a new set to Flickr during this month.

In addition to the photos I’ll be uploading, I have 6 new travel videos from the trip to edit. All will be featuring the GoPro and shot with a QuikPod Monopod.

Korean Brandy: Omaerak

Last year, Jo purchased a bottle of Omaerak (오매락) while out on a trip with some friends. She thought it was a fancy bottle of makgeolli (막걸리), since she bought it a makgeolli brewery. I never looked into to it, since that made sense. We were both wrong. Omaerak is a traditional Korean brandy.

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According to the box, it won a design award in 2002, and it’s easy to see why. The bottle is encased in a clay jar that you have to bust open. Pictured above, you get the “pug” and mallet, as well as a sheet of paper to catch any flying debris. the bottle is wrapped in a cloth to contain the chips of clay as you break it.

I was a little nervous cracking things open, but I have to say, the packing was superb. The Omaerak also tasted great. I had a heft glass as we retired and watched a few television shows.


The video was another test for me, and it worked great! The video was shot with Jo using my primary GoPro Camera. I call it my primary GoPro, since it has the LCD backing on it. For sound, I used the Edutige ETM-006 lav mic plugged into the second GoPro and synced the sound in post. The result was just want I wanted to achieve, and I’m really happy with the sound on this one. This means, that while out in the field, I can either use my iPhone or the second GoPro for sound and leave the H2 home, since it is rather bulky.

What do you think?

What did you have Friday night?

The Best Chocolate Shake… EVAR!!!!!!!!

Many times, I’m asked why I exercise so much. The truth is, I like to eat. I mean, I don’t necessarily have to go for fancy meals, but I do like good food and large portions. That’s why when I was growing up, two Big Macs were the standard starter meal. In college, a 20″ pizza succumbed to my hunger. So I took to exercising to make sure my waistline didn’t surpass my hunger.

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Songtan

A short subway ride away is Songtan. It’s the area right outside Osan US Air Force Base. Since it has a large American presence, a number of establishments have opened up over the years catering to these service men, women, and families. Much like the Yongsan Garrison that spurred Itaewon’s growth, this military installation had the benefit of bringing with it Thai, Turkish, and a whole other range of food. Rather than trekking into Seoul for meals, we often find ourselves here.



The Best Chocolate Shake

Seriously it is.

We first found CF Café when we traveled to Songtan to partake in our favorite meat buffet. It’s located on the second floor of the main shopping street across from the Rio Grill. CF stands for CoFfee. I love it.

Inside, you’ll find a café with comfortable chairs and couches, perfect for groups of four or couples out on a date. It’s a smoker’s paradise, and in the afternoon, a cloud of tobacco hangs in the air. That aside, it really is a delightful place with an impressive menu of coffee, tea, ice cream, shakes, and cocktails. Yup… you heard me… cocktails! BONUS!

The Cocholate Shake I speak of – Choco Shake (초코 쉐이크) – is currently W5,500 and worth every bit of it. It comes in a large glass and is hand-made behind the bar. The shake is not only made with love, but with real chocolate ice cream, milk, and Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup. The final touches on top include real whipping cream, and Oreo cookie, and Frosted Flakes.

I know what you’re thinking, “Frosted Flakes? OMGWTFBBQ?!?!?!?!” It doesn’t sound like it would work, but after two years of downing these bad boys, I assure you they do.

If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend stopping by and ordering this treat.

What’s your indulgent treat?

 

Fun Things At The Suwon Fortress

This month’s video series concludes with look at the fun activities one can enjoy at the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress.


You can read more at The Korea Blog. We actually filmed this video on two different outings. Once with KBS (the tea and archery). When we returned to film the other segments, I couldn’t help but purchase a new hanbok – not to mention my first. I’ve wanted one for some time, but never found one off the rack that fit. While filming this episode, we especially had one tailored for me and I can’t wait to pick it up.

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One funny note as well. The “mannequin” fooled a few people while we were filming . Right after Jo took the video clip we used in the film, a man stopped and asked to take a few pictures of me posing, because he thought I was fake. That was an experience!

Korean Street Food: Hotteok

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Fall is quickly approaching, and that means one thing: the piping hot street foods are set to return and I thought I’d take a moment to share with you one of my favorite street foods. What makes it even more interesting is that this singularly named street food comes in two varieties. What is it? The hotteok (호떡).

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The Hotteok

If you ask most people what a hotteok (호떡) is they will tell you something like this: a doughnut fried up on a griddle and pressed flat with cinnamon inside. It’s believed that hotteoks made their way into Korea with Chinese immigrants near the end of the 19th Century. While the Chinese variety are often stuffed with meat and savory fillings, Korean hotteoks usually have a sweet center. The most common filling is cinnamon and sugar, but sometimes honey and nuts are added. Recently new varieties have been popping up using vegetables, green tea, bokbunja (raspberry), and other sweets to liven up this traditional treat.


But what about the other kind? I’m glad you asked!

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The Bubble Hotteok (버블호떡)

The above is the second variety. While traditionally hotteoks are fried, bubble hotteoks are baked. They are still made from dough and filled with cinnamon/honey/sugar, but are rolled out flat and then placed onto griddles over an open flame and baked. The result is a light and crispy shell filled with a gooey inside that is delicious. Of the two types, this is Jo’s favorite. I will also admit to liking this one a little more, since it isn’t as greasy.

Initially these treats were served primarily during cold weather months, but now they can be found on streets year-round. Price for each hovers around W1,000 per tasty morsel, but have seen a few roadside stands offering up a great 2-for-1 deal. If you’re walking the streets in Korea, and are craving a sweet snack, this may just be for you – but try to get a fresh one. If they’ve been sitting for a while, they’re not as great.

Back to Hwaseong

Suwon Hwaseong Fortress - QiRanger - Korea

This month on the QiRanger Adventures, we’re exploring one of my favorite sites in Korea: The Suwon Hwaseong Fortress. This particular UNESCO World Heritage site holds a special place in my heart because it was one of the first places I visited when I arrived in Korea in 2008. Since then, I’ve been back a few times, even covering it for CNNGo. Today we begin the series by taking a look at what many deem as the iconic structure of Suwon.


For those wanting to learn more about the fortress and it’s construction, you can read my full article here, on The Korea Blog.

Back to Suwon Hwaseong Fortress

I’ve been really wanting to get back to this site for a long time and create an in-depth series. The first video I created in 2008 is vastly different from the one I did for CNNGo in 2010. The 2012 edition improves upon that one as well. Every time a friend comes to my region of Korea, I make it a point to introduce this treasure, because it’s probably the best fortress to see in Korea and has a little of everything for everyone. Going back time and time again, I always find new things to explore and stories to tell. Because of some time crunches when we were filming this year’s edition, I made a point to dress the same as I did in 2010 so I could use some of the old footage. In fact when I screened the final version for Jo, she missed one of the scenes I had inserted as asked me when did I use a tripod for the shot – forgetting that she was the camera operator at the time. This year’s video also allowed me to use the GoPro for several scenes, which was important in capturing some of the wide-angle views you see in the released video.

Next week, we venture inside the Haenggung, or King’s Retreat. Until then, what’s your favorite spot to visit in Korea?

My Mom Does the Alaska Zipline!

Have you ever wondered where I get my adventurous spirit? If you thought it was from my days of practicing martial arts or volunteering as a Park Ranger, you’d be wrong. No, that spirit was instilled right from birth from my parents. Therefore, it should come as no surprise for my mother’s 70th birthday; we cruised up to Alaska for a rare family vacation and took to the trees on an Alaskan Zipline.

Alaska Zipline - QiRanger

 

From Seattle, the Miller clan rode aboard the M/S Rhapsody of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean vessel. After a day at sea, we were itching to stretch our legs on dry land. Juneau was our first port of call, and rather than simply going hiking, we opted to feed that adrenaline rush. Mother had always wanted to soar through the treetops and doing on a zipline would provide such an opportunity. Alaska Zipline Adventures operates a wonderful five-course route filled with thrills and chills.



Alaska Zipline Adventures owners Rachel and Matt gave much of their time to the 60 Mile Three Day walks benefitting Breast Cancer. These fundraising walks took place throughout the world, allowing ample time to travel and serve as a springboard for new ideas. One night, Rachel had the idea of opening up a zipline tour. Since the walk often had extra events tied to them, Rachel and Matt were afforded the chance to meet others in the industry and learn the business inside and out. Once they moved to Alaska, where Matt was from, the couple settled on the Eaglecrest area of Juneau. In 2006, Alaska Zipline Adventures opened and have since partnered with many cruise lines, affording visitors from around the globe the chance to see Juneau in a unique way. The zipline courses follow natural streams, making this facility eco friendly as well.

Alaska Zipline - QiRanger

Our tour started with Davy and Jesse (the guides) telling bad jokes while we suited up to put us at ease. Alaska Zipline provided each member of our crew with harnesses, helmets, and most importantly, jackets. While the temperature was splendid, the jackets were to protect our clothing from tree sap. When the two guides described the safety protocols, I could feel my heart beating faster, a sensation my mother shared.

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The zipline courses varied in height and length, but no matter where we were, the views were spectacular. Davy would inform our group a little about each zipline and then shoot over to the landing tower. Jesse’s job was to make sure our harnesses were secure and to give us the “go ahead” to soar. Unlike a few other ziplines I’ve been on, there was no running involved. Stepping off the platform was good enough to provide the necessary momentum to carry one across.

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Even though my mother thought she’d scream through the trees, she never let out a single peep. On the last zipline, she even went backwards! Time between towers averaged about 15 seconds, with a few shorter ones and one long trip lasting almost 30 seconds. When one arrived at the landing tower, Davy would catch the zipper and clamp them into the tree to ensure their safety. After four zips, we arrived at a suspension bridge.

After the final zipline, our group returned to the lodge for one last activity: ax throwing. Davy and Jesse filled us in on a few techniques and safety rules. Then, it was time to give it a go. Gary and I opted to try our luck first. My mouth fell open when my first throw landed on target. Everyone gave it a shot and this unexpected treat was just as thrilling as the zipline.

The adventure finished off with some downtime at the lodge, where we were treated to some snacks and a complementary aluminum water bottle. The lodge also had free wifi, which many took advantage of while waiting for our bus.

Overall, Alaska Zipline Adventures is a great experience and worth every penny. To get a feel for how much fun it is, listen to my 70-year-old mother, “If they said, ‘Do you want to go again?’ I’d line right back up and go!”

Information

Web: www.alaskazip.com

Phone: +1. 907.321.0947