Sagada to Besao Walk

That Sagada to Besao Walk

As expected, we arrived in Sagada at 2:30 in the afternoon. We could have chosen to stay on the bus until Besao – the next town and the venue for our family reunion – but our itchy feet decided to walk.

Can you tell we love to walk?

We spent our 20-hour layover in Kuala Lumpur walking from KLCC to Bukit Nanas. We also led our friends on a Ho Chi Minh walking tour to check out top landmarks and attractions.

“How much time did it take?” a cousin asked when we finally reached Besao’s St. James High School. It took an hour and 40 minutes. It was an easy 7.1 km route along the well-paved Sagada-Besao road.

Here’s the itinerary.

15:20 – After lunch at Alapo’s, we put on our UV-protection jacket and started walking. A few meters from the cafe is Sagada Homestay. There’s a vantage point where you can see a part of Sagada.

Sagada Homestay

15:34 – We passed by Sagada Pottery.

Sagada Pottery

15:40 – It had been six years since we last visited Sagada. There were many changes, but it was refreshing to chance upon these traditional houses. The last time we saw one was in high school.

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Traditional Houses in Sagada

15:44 – When a van stopped in the middle of the road, we felt nervous. But as we walked past it, we noticed that the driver was fixated at this cottage. We can’t blame him. It’s a pretty sight.

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Cute Cottage along Sagada Besao Road

15:50 – At the top of the first waiting shed along the Sagada-Besao road, we found these cute children having a fun time.

Waiting Shed Sagada Besao Road

15:59 – We passed by the entrance of Lake Danum, where two tourist vans were parked.

16:04 – We had to pick up a stick and a stone because two dogs were ready to attack. Earlier, we encountered another angry dog, which made us think that dogs here aren’t friendly to tourists. We had a similar experience when we went cycling around Nyaung Shwe in Myanmar.

In the image below, one of the dogs was following behind.

Rabid Dog Sagada Besao Road

16:11 – At this point, everything you see is pine trees.

16:21 – We arrived at an arch that says “Welcome to Barangay Kin-Iway.” We were no longer in Sagada.

Brngy Kin Iway Besao Arch

16:35 – We arrived at a vantage point of the Besao Rice Terraces. It’s not as beautiful as Maligcong, or as grand as Sapa’s terraced rice fields, but it’s a testament to the “ingenuity” and “agricultural astuteness” of the Igorots.

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16:40 – Houses started to emerge.

Besao

16:44 – We reached a junction where another waiting shed can be seen.

Besao Waiting Shed

16:47 – There was a wedding celebration taking place.

16:50 – We passed by the Barangay Hall of Kin-Iway in Besao.

16:53 – We arrived at St. Benedict’s Parish. From what we were told, our great grandfather helped build this church when he was a mayor of Besao.

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St Benedict's Parish Church

17:00 – We were greeted by the family who were at the playground near St. James High School

Candi Bentar in Indonesia

That’s Uniquely Southeast Asian! Must-Experience and Must-See in the Region

When you travel, the tendency is, you have a checklist of what to do, what to eat, what to see, and what to try or experience. If you’re budget-traveling across Southeast Asia, try a “uniquely Southeast Asian checklist.”

Here are some items to include in your list.

Thailand: Muay Thai

You’ll probably find a gym near you, but the teaching style may not be the same as what you can get in, say, Master Toddy’s in Bangkok. It may be quite difficult to get a trainer to teach you proper punching and kicking techniques.

That said, when you’re in Thailand, enroll in a multi-day course with a camp or gym that has a solid reputation. At the end of the class, you’ll walk out more confident, for sure.

Philippines: Jeepney

The jeepney is a remnant of military jeeps brought to the country by the Americans during WWII. It’s elongated and more colorful than the original. It’s the most popular public transport in the Philippines, and it’s a unique and cheap option to do some sightseeing.

On a side note, Vin Diesel was pictured on a jeepney checking out the streets of Manila.

Myanmar: Thanaka

Thanaka cream comes from the bark of the thanaka tree, and it is used for beauty purposes and for sun protection.

On your trip to see the temples of Bagan, stop by for a chat with the ladies selling this all-natural face mask. They might give you a free sample. To complete the experience, you might want to wear a lungi.

Thanaka Tree Into Thanaka Cream Bagan Myanmar

Indonesia: Candi Bentars

A candi bentar is a split gateway that’s unique in Bali. According to Wikipedia, it is an integral feature of a Balinese temple architecture. It serves as an entry way to the temple from the outside world.

When in Bali, check out the iconic Handara Gate in Pancasari Village Bedugul and the Gates of Heaven at Pura Lempuyang.

Vietnam: Ca Phe Sua Da

Vietnamese have a unique way of making delicious iced coffee.

When in Hanoi, go on a food tour and look forward to having ca phe sua da, a cup of iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk. Also try egg coffee (ca phe trung).

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Ca Phe Sua Da

Laos: Tak Bat

Tak bat is a sacred Buddhist ceremony that happens early in the morning. The monks line up to collect alms (food) given by the locals.

Tak bat is practiced in all of Laos, but Luang Prabang‘s is the most organized. If you’re in LP, wake up early so that you won’t miss this unique procession.

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Tak Bat in Luang Prabang

Singapore: Changi Airport

Changi is one of the best airports in the world, if not the best. If you’re too tired to check out the city during a long layover in Singapore, fret not because Changi has a number of things to do and see to pass the time.

Some of the attractions in Changi include the Sunflower Garden and the Rain Vortex at Jewel.

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Malaysia: Mt. Kinabalu

Mt. Kinabalu is one of the tallest mountains in Southeast Asia, towering at an elevation of 4,095 m (13,435 ft). Hikers and enthusiasts sign up for a 2D1N sunrise Kinabalu trek to witness the beautiful blanket of clouds and granite slabs at the peak.

You don’t have to be a seasoned climber to summit this mountain, but a certain level of physical fitness is required, so it’s best to prepare beforehand. Cardio-related exercises are recommended at least 4 weeks prior to the climb.

On the first day, tour operators would pick you up at your hotel. Check out the link to know the best area to stay in Kota Kinabalu.

Cambodia: Apsara Dance (Robam Tep Apsara)

The Apsara dance dates back to the 7th century, according to sources. It is both a cultural and religious tradition, performed to showcase the Khmer culture and to bring blessings to the king and his people.

Witness this one-of-a-kind dance when you visit Siem Reap. Hotels such as Bou Savy arrange a buffet dinner with a performance from Apsara dancers.

At the Bayon temple, find carvings of apsaras.

Apsara Dance in Cambodia Buffet Dinner

Brunei: Royal Regalia Museum

There was a time when the Sultan of Brunei was the richest in the world. When in Brunei, head over to the Royal Regalia Museum to see exhibits used during the Sultan’s coronation such as a huge gilded chariot at the entrance hall.

Timor Leste: Uma Lulik

An uma lulik is a sacred house found in East Timor villages. Its pyramidal roof and slender posts make it appear like it’s a house on stilts. It’s similar to a traditional Ifugao house, and to the traditional huts we saw during our Sagada-Besao walk in the Philippines.

According to this post, an uma lulik serves as a link between the past and present, the dead and the living.

What to Expect: Mekong Delta Tour with Sinhcafe Travel

Sinhcafe Travel’s Mekong Delta tour caught our attention because of its low rate. We booked online two weeks before our trip and paid 29 USD each via Onepay.

How was the experience?

The tour itself was nothing special, but for the price, we can’t complain especially because we felt we were treated like VIPs.

We were supposed to join other tourists in a group tour of approximately 22 people but got upgraded to a private tour. Aside from that, we were also picked up at our hostel located within a popular urban district in Saigon. If not for the upgrade, the meetup point should be at Sinhcafe’s office.

Here’s what to expect during the Mekong Delta tour with the agency. This tour preceded our self-guided walking trip in Saigon.

10:30 AM: Vinh Trang Temple

After a 2-hour bus ride, we made our first stop at Vinh Trang Temple, a wat near My Tho. If you check the itinerary on the tour’s webpage, this should be the last attraction.

Vinh Trang Temple

At this beautiful temple, we witnessed a rare gathering of monks. According to our guide, a leader passed away and the monks have lunch everyday to contemplate on who the successor should be.

SCAM ALERT!

Be careful when buying from one of the stalls outside the temple. Always count your change, and as much as possible, pay only in smaller bills. One of our friends got shortchanged. Thanks to our guide, she was able to get back most of her money after a heated argument.

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Rare Gathering of Monks Mekong Delta Tour Vinh Trang Temple

11:40 AM: Lunch

From the temple, we were led to a dock where a private boat took us to lunch at a not-so-touristy restaurant along the Mekong river. Lunch was served at around 12:10.

Lunch Mekong Delta

Along the way, we saw some floating houses and some structures that we assume were fish farms.

Floating Houses in Mekong

1:00 PM: Coconut Candy Factory

After lunch, the boat took us to a coconut candy factory, which was also along the Mekong. The guide showed us the process of creating the candies, starting from dehusking a coconut up to the finished product.

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Coconut Candy Factory Mekong

1:10 PM: Vietnamese Musical Performance

A few steps from the coconut candy factory, there’s an open resto where we were treated to a song number while eating some tropical fruits: pineapple, guava, dragon fruit, and jackfruit.

Vietnamese Musical Performance

Tropical Fruits

1:30 PM: Rach Xep Canal

This is one of the most popular attractions in Ho Chi Minh, so this is what we were looking forward to the most. Unfortunately, it was so touristy. Hanoi’s creek (at least the one we signed up for in 2012) was better and much wider.

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Rach Xep Canal

2:40 PM: Bee Farm

It’s not really a bee farm. Just like the coconut candy factory, this spot is just an excuse to sell a product. Here, you can take a picture while holding a trap swarmed with bees. There are also free samples of honey products that you can try.

Bee Farm Mekong

3:00 PM: Snake

Put a boa constrictor around your neck, and ask one of your friends to take a picture.

Snake Mekong

3:50 PM: Riding a Bicycle

We were led back to where we had lunch, from which we had to ride a bicycle towards a pick-up point back to the city. The bicycle ride was only 10 minutes.

Riding a Bicycle Mekong Tour

Muay Thai at Master Toddy's

Muay Thai at Master Toddy’s| Must-Heed Tips for Absolute Beginners

We spent about a week learning the basics of Muay Thai at Master Toddy’s in Bangkok. Overall, it was a fulfilling experience.

We came in with zero knowledge about this wonderful Thai martial art, and finished more confident. We would definitely go back to continue training.

If you’re a beginner and would want to train at Master Toddy’s, here are some tips that can help you have a better first-time experience than we did.

Learn how to count to 10 in Thai.

All of you ( i.e., you and your fellow trainees plus the coaches) will start counting in Thai after each round/set. You don’t want to be the one who keeps checking the others to see who else is clueless.

Use this post and start memorizing today.

Master Toddy Gym Muay Thai

Training is the follow-what-I-do type. Read up on the basics of Muay Thai.

Master Toddy teachingWhen we received the confirmation e-mail from Master Toddy’s, we were promised to learn the fundamentals of Muay Thai, which include the following: 11 cobra punches, 4 axe elbows, 3 powerful knee strikes, and 3 Thai whip kicks. There was also a “free private lesson” waiting for us.

We did get the private lesson on our first day, but it was nothing fancy.

The lesson was done inside the ring, and it was a one-on-one session with an instructor to teach us two techniques that we’d have to practice at the start of every training – the “eye of the tiger” and the “toro” techniques.

After that “private lesson,” we were expected to attend two group sessions everyday – one at 7:30 in the morning, and another at 4:00 in the afternoon. The sessions run for two hours. If you skip a class, you won’t get reprimanded, but it’s your loss.

Perhaps it’s the instructors’ limited knowledge of the English language that makes the training a follow-what-I-do kind of learning. It was more demo than talk.

The only time we were treated to an English explanation of a technique was when Master Toddy himself – who has good command of the language – comes by and checks on us. If you get lucky and have a fellow trainee who speaks both Thai and English, you can ask unlimited questions.

That said, it’s better to do some research to at least know what happens during the training. This article is a good resource.

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Master Toddy Muay Thai

The gloves at the gym stink.

It’s not a requirement, but if you plan on training for more than a week, get your own gloves. You’ll be in the ring two times everyday except Sunday.

If you’re traveling light across Southeast Asia, it’s understandable that you want to keep your backpack as light as possible. You can always mail the gloves back home.

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Gloves at Master Toddy's

You don’t have to own a pair of Muay Thai shorts.

You might be tempted to buy Muay Thai shorts, but it’s not a requirement. Sure, you’ll look like a legit Muay Thai trainee, but if you’re on a budget, use your quick-dry shorts instead.

Muay Thai Shorts Master Toddy's

Prepare physically.

Group sessions always follow a routine. First, you’ll do some stretching, then you’ll practice the “eye of the tiger” and “toro” techniques. Next comes shadow boxing. After, you’ll spar with another trainee, and then with an instructor.

It’ll be exhausting, so you need to be prepared mentally and physically.

Do some cardio exercises at least two weeks before the training. Go out and spend some time jogging. If you can’t, you can always jump-rope or do some jumping jacks indoors. Check out the link to choose from other cardio exercises that you can do at home.

Learn to breathe properly.

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Headed to Chiang Mai next?

At the Old City, there are other Muay Thai gyms to continue your training. Here’s a list of cheap hotels in Chiang Mai near Old City.

How to get to Master Toddy’s

Take the BTS Sukhumvit Line, and get off at Bearing station. Take Exit # 3. Walk about 5 minutes to 7-11 along Sukhumvit 107 Road.

There, you’ll find motorcycle taxis with drivers wearing an orange vest. These taxis will take you to Master Toddy’s. Just say “boxing,” no explanation needed.

Exit Bearing Station

Motor Taxi Master Toddy's