Day 1: The Journey Begins #OneYearLater


So today was the day. After months of planning, booking, researching, the trip of a lifetime was about to begin.

The day starts with my bed empty; my wife had to leave early for work, so we said our goodbyes the night before.

I take a look at my luggage: My bag is full and I worry I may have overpacked. Inside were about 6 shirts, 2 pants, 5 pieces of underwear, an extra pair of shoes, a Macbook Air, an iPad mini, 2 DSLRs, 3 lenses which include a giant 70-200 lens, an extra waterproof camera, a battery pack, my TMA-1 Headphones, plus other accessories.

Yes I had more gadgets than clothes in my bag!  Even though it weighed about 30 pounds, it looked quite compact. I wonder how I’ll be lugging this around all over the world.

I pick up my bag, all set and ready to go,  but not before leaving with one more picture with our son Diego. 


I head out and it was slightly drizzling. I hail a taxi, and as usual the taxi driver tries to milk me for more cash. We settled for an additional P50. I knew I shoulda did GrabTaxi instead. I expect to be at the airport around 9:45AM, enough time before my flight leaves at a little past noon.

I arrive at NAIA1, and a LOOOOOONG line was waiting for me. NAIA was old, antiquated, due for an overhaul, but hey, it’s still my home airport. I just realized this is one of many airports I’ll be visiting on this trip. 

Being a Citibank miles cardmember, I was able to hang out at the MIASCOR lounge for a bit. If you’ve never been there, it’s a nice quiet nook in the middle of one of the world’s most crowded airport. You can get unlimited snacks and drinks, plus free wifi. It’s not much, but it’s a nice oasis in the middle of the hulaballoo.

I eventually take my first flight for this journey: Cathay Pacific for a layover at Hong Kong, then fly to India via Jet Airways. 

As most Pinoys now, HK isn’t very far. Davao is actually even farther from Manila. The trip was an uneventful 2 hours… or so I thought.

In just the very first leg of my trip, I already lost something! After going past the gate, through security, and the arrival lobby, I realize I left my travel pillow in the plane! 

I searched for the CX desk, and they said the plane already left. Uh oh. They said I can try calling Cathay Pacific when I get back to Manila. Realizing that I won’t be back for a month, I figure my neck pillow was gone. Knowing myself, I was pretty sure this was not the last thing I’ll lose in this trip. 

This leg was also the LONGEST layover in my whole trip. I had a 5 hour gap before my next flight. Good thing HKIA has a lot to offer, with free wifi to boot, and plenty of places to charge my devices. 

I grabbed a mid afternoon snack, and noted the tables were getting filled up. I wasn’t the only one who was waiting for the next flight.

A gentleman approached me and asked if he could share my table. After a while, we got to talking (part of my plan to be more social in this trip). 

His name was Michael Bromfield. I tell him my plan to circumnavigate the globe. 

Turns out… he arranges travel adventure tours! Apparently he organizes experiences similar to what i was doing, to travelers from all over the globe! What a funny coincidence. 

He showed me pics from his last trip: Antarctica! Which is again perfect, because my wife and I were planning to go there someday. We shared our stories (he was quite an interesting character) and the time flew by quickly. Eventually he had to leave for boarding; we said goodbye, exchanged cards, and said maybe I’ll talk to him about Antarctica one day. You can find out more about him at http://www.notesfromanomad.net. 

Not too long after that, I went to board my own plane to: Jet Airways to New Delhi. Jet Airways would be the first of many airlines I’ve never flown in, so that’s another part of this adventure. 

And wow it was different. Take a look at business class. The photos don’t do it justice, but each seat was actually angled in the plane. It’s kinda like a small pod, to give them more legroom. I was in economy though, so I didn’t get to enjoy those seats. 

Having said that, economy in Jet Airways wasn’t so bad! The food was indian of course (never had Indian on a plane, this was the first). 

I don’t know how, but somehow I found myself in a conversation with my seat mate, Raj. And wow, did I learn so much about India in that conversation. I didn’t realize that India was a collection of states, similar to the USA, and sometimes they go in conflict with one another. 

Looks like this “more social” thing is working. In just my first day, I’ve made two friends, and I haven’t even reached my first country yet!

After a few hours, I finally land at New Delhi. 

Ok now let’s talk about the Visa thing. If you remember, the countries I was going to were specifically selected because for Filipinos they had other no visa requirement or they were visa on arrival. India was one of those that were visa on arrival. So how does the process go?

Well, it’s simple. You got to the Visa on Arrival desk, you fill out a few papers, pay the $60 fee, and in a few minutes… you’re done! I was the only guy who went straight to the desk and the whole process took about 5-10 minutes. The best thing about it was that I didn’t need to go the immigration line anymore!!!

So yes I have landed. Welcome to India!!!!

This is going to be fun. 

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The Plan: Brazil

So India, Israel, Kenya… and now BRAZIL!!!

Brazil is my first time ever in South America! I’ll be visiting Rio De Janeiro, home of the famous Sugar Loaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer, and some of the famous beaches of the world. Rio will also be hosting part of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.

For this one, I’m staying at probably their most popular beach, the world famous Copacabana (yes from the famous Barry Manilow Song) where Ipanema is found (yes from the famous Antônio Carlos Jobim song). Unlike the previous 3 legs of my tour, I decided to make this stop more open-ended and unstructured. It seems like a good time to take a break and relax a bit.

I met with my friend travel photographer Joey Zaballero and he agrees that Rio is a great place to get lost and explore. He did share something to me that got me excited: he expressed one of his big regrets in his last Rio trip was that he didn’t take time to do this one SPECIAL activity, something he looks forward to doing next time he visits, something I had not known and not planned for. A

fter he told me what it was, I knew I WANTED to do that special activity. And when I found out the cost (only USD 150!) I knew I had NO EXCUSE not to do this SPECIAL activity,.

So what was this SPECIAL activity that can’t be missed?

Hang Gliding in RIO! Image from http://www.rioadventures.com

HANG GLIDING!!!!

Yes, you get to soar over the skies and see the city from the clouds above!! See Christ the Redeemer, Sugar Loaf Mountain, the beach, while floating over the sky!!! AAHHHHHH!! The moment I heard it I knew I had to do it!!!

So there you go! My adventure in Brazil will be limited to Rio where I plan to get lost, get some sun, swim, and sand, and soar across the city. Not bad right? 🙂

Trip’s almost over. Next stop… THE GALAPAGOS!!

Leo

The Plan: Kenya

And so to our third stop: KENYA!!

Originally, my plan was just to go around Nairobi and get into the culture. My very smart wife convinced me, “if you’re there, might as well go for a safari“.

My first reaction was, I’D LOVE TO!!!! But isn’t that expensive? After some research, I found it wasn’t as bad as I thought.

I’ve decided to go with Gamewatchers, who can be found at http://www.porini.com

They’ve been able to make a package for me that picks me up from the airport, brings me practically immediately into the WILD, where I stay FULL BOARD (all meals, rooms, game drives)  and back to the airport.

Total cost? About USD2500 (PhP100,000). It’s not exactly pocket change, but with all that inclusive it’s not bad at all!!!

So here’s the plan. I arrive early, before sunrise on Day 1. They’ll have a representative pick me up DIRECTLY from the airport, where they bring me to a hotel in Nairobi for Breakfast.

From there, we IMMEDIATELY go to Lake Nakuru. And what’s waiting for us there?

Flamingoes! Image courtesy of 8thingstodo.com

More Flamingoes! Image courtesy of http://www.amusingplanet.com

Rhinos! (note flamingoes in the background). Image from Wikipedia

FLAMINGOES AND RHINOS!! Thousands and thousands of Flamingoes!!!  Rhinos in their natural habitat!!!

And this is just Day 1!!! I stay here overnight and then on Day 2, I then fly into the world famous Maasai Mara…. most famous for its big cats!!!

Leopard in Maasai Mara – Image ℅ http://www.maasaimara.com

Lion at Maasai Mara – Image ℅ http://www.maasaimara.com

Zebras – Image courtesy of http://heldervuetravel.blogspot.com/

I’m staying at the Maasai Mara for 4 days, where I’ll be doing game drives not just in sunrise, sunset, but also at night!

The place I’m staying is called the Porini Lion Camp. It’s the newer “branch” of the Tripadvisor #1 Porini Mara Camp. Just staying at the camp alone seems like a crazy experience.

Porini Lion Mara Camp

After 4 days in the Mara, we fly back to Nairobi and they bring me again to the airport. There’s actually a bit more detail, but I’ll tell you more about it when I’m actually there.

So that’s it in a nutshell. Kenya looks like an amazing trip just by itself. But the round the world trip isn’t over yet.
Next stop: BRAZIL!!!

The Plan: Israel

So after India, I’m heading to the holiest of all Holy Places: JERUSALEM.

Did you know all of the three major religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) are actually spin-offs of one another? They all come from the same root, Abraham! In essence, here’s the differences:

– Christians believe a saviour has come and his name is Jesus.
– Jews believe a saviour will come one of these days, and it’s not Jesus (he’s just a prophet, as far as they’re concerned)
– Islam believes that Muhhamed is the last prophet, and restored the original Abraham religion

In any case, all of them believe that Jerusalem is a truly valuable place. Given it’s cultural importance, and seeing that this was a non-visa country, I could NOT resist visiting for my round the world trip!

I have a more open schedule here compared to India, given that I’ll just be staying in Jerusalem.

The Dome of the Rock, located at  Al-Aqsa Mosque, photo courtesy of Wikipedia

One place I don’t want to miss is the most significant place for all three Abrahamic Religions: the Dome of the Rock, considered as “the most contested real estate on earth”. How so?
– Islamic scholars believe this is where the prophet Muhammed rose to heaven. For a time Islams faced here when they prayed, later changed to Mecca.
– Jewish tradition says this is where Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac before the angel stopped him. The Foundation Stone is here, which Judaism believes connects Heaven & Earth.
– Christians believe Constantine set up his first church here, leading to the rise of Roman Catholicism. And yes, it was in Jerusalem that Jesus himself walked and preached and eventually crucified

There’s also a rumour that the REAL Ark of the Covenant was buried. Either way, how can you not miss this place?

Other important places worth visiting are the Wailing Wall, The Mount of Olives, The Holocaust Museum, The Garden of Gethsamane, and so on and so forth. I think I won’t run out of things to check out in Jerusalem. I was actually panning to visit Tel Aviv too but Jerusalem was just too rich a place not to stay longer. Maybe I can go to Tel Aviv next time.

Floating at the Dead Sea, care of Wikipedia

In addition to Jerusalem, I plan to take a trip to the infamous Dead Sea! The Dead Sea is the densest sea in the world, where you can actually float unassisted. It’s also hear where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. But did you know there’s way way more to discover about it? Here’s a list: http://twistedsifter.com/2012/06/10-things-you-didnt-know-about-the-dead-sea/. The Dead Sea is apparently only about an hour away from Jerusalem, so it looks like it’s worth the trip.

To make things simple I’ll be staying in one place, it’s called Abraham Hostel. Going a bit budget so I have more to spend to tour. It’s only 500 meters away from Old Jerusalem (just about a 5 minute walk) , and it’s also a tour operator. One of the things I’m looking forward to is their Market Cooking Tour where we go to a local market to buy Jerusalem food stuff which we’ll then cook and have a feast in the evening! Good out-of-the-way not-the-usual-touristy thing event.

Fist you shop…

…then you eat!! Images courtesy of Abraham Hostel.

Anyway, I’ll be in Israel for 4 days, and looks like I’ll have a ball here…. at last that’s the plan. We’ll see how the actual experience goes. After Israel I’m off to one of the biggest stops in my trip: KENYA! I’ll tell you more about it later.

Leo

The Plan: India

The trip is almost upon us!!!

So I’m getting a lot more questions now on what I’ll actually be doing for the trip. Well, to make it faster, I’ll tell you my plans!

So let’s talk about the first country in my list: INDIA!!

India is a fascinating country when conversations come up in world wide travel. Some people I’ve talked to are clear that they will NEVER go to India. They’ve heard some not-so-good things, and have sworn it off. Some people I’ve talked to absolutely LOVE India and they’ve either visited it many times or are looking forward to a grand trip someday.

India fit the bill for a country in this particular trip. It’s very different from all the other countries I’ve been to, and I’m not sure if I have people who’d join me if I asked them too. Either way this trip goes, it looks like quite an adventure!

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My Travel Bag for the Trip Around the World – Part 1

Whoa! It’s been a while. Life is getting hectic!

It’s less than a month to go before the big trip. So I’ll start this off by some questions you’ll want to ask yourself as you go.

First, and probably one of the most important questions: how many bags are you planning to bring?

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