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F I K A

May 27, 2016

Sweden, one of the happiest countries in the world, is famous for FIKA. It’s a Swedish culture that basically means “to have coffee”. But it isn’t just your usual quick coffee break. They put a lot more meaning into pausing once in a while through out our busy day, having a cup of coffee and dessert with friends and family, and really just living in that moment. The few times I’ve been to Sweden, FIKA is something I have learned to look forward to. And even in the Philippines, my Swedish boyfriend and I always make sure we incorporate it in our daily lives. I think it teaches us a valuable lesson – that pausing once in a while throughout our busy and sometimes stressful days, can do us more good. It reminds us to slow down and breathe a little, to look around and savor the moment, and to truly interact with the people around us whom we often take for granted due to the fastness of life. A simple tradition, yet a strong reminder to appreciate life at this very moment. So, shall we have a fika? 🙂

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So much character found in this cozy little spot.

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Global Living – One of the cutest little coffee shops in Västerås!

 

XX,

Cath

Travel Travel Tips

San Francisco

May 22, 2016

It was my first time in the famous San Francisco Bay Area and so like every eager tourist, I did almost everything touristy! 🙂 Most of the major attractions aren’t located far apart, hence a good 3 days is actually enough to appreciate this lovely city.

Also, location is key! If you are staying in a hotel or airbnb, key to exploring the city in the best most efficient way is by picking a location at the very heart of the city. In our case, we picked Grant Avenue in China Town, which allowed us to navigate around the city quite easily and stress free! The moment we stepped out from our hotel, we can already walk around to explore the gorgeous San Francisco streets.

So, here are my top recommendations on how to truly maximize your stay in SF. Enjoy! 🙂

  • San Francisco’s Famous Cable Cars – Another great way to enjoy the city aside from walking around, is by riding the iconic cable car. If you pick a good enough location for your hotel, you can simply walk to a nearby Walgreens to buy a whole day pass for about $20, or go straight to any pick up/ drop off point and ride one way for $7. This is the best way to wander fast through the city, experience the unique steep streets that really set SF apart, and just get to feel the locals’ way of life.
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The cable car driver, a Chinese man living in SF for over 20 years, volunteered to take my photo hehe =)

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Enjoyed my first cable car experience =)

  • Lombard Street – Now if you actually ride the cable car, one of its routes will take you right in front of the famous Lombard Street, or what is known to be the World’s Crookedest Street! Since we were lucky enough to be driving around with my aunt, we got to experience driving right through this very street! And for someone who drives on an almost daily basis, I would say it was quite the challenge. In fact, driving through the steep streets of SF is a unique experience altogether! 🙂
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Famous house right in front of the world’s crookedest street! Loved the flower details!

  • Palace of Fine Arts – Aside from its history of housing famous art exhibitions, it is actually a favourite location for weddings and photo sessions. In fact, when we were there, we saw about 3 couples having their post wedding photos taken, and about 5 debutants having their birthday photo shoot. So I just had to join in and did a bit of photo shoot myself haha! :p
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Gorgeous day for my mini photo shoot. =p

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Truly a dreamy spot for a wedding venue!

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Got lucky with the Spring weather too.

  • The Golden Gate – It is actually one of the most internationally recognized symbols of San Francisco and the United States. Hence, your SF trip would not be complete without a visit to see the famous Golden Gate!
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A bit of trivia: Before having my aunt and mom take this photo of me, I had about 10 groups of tourists asking me to take their photos. Shortly before that, I volunteered to take the photo of a family, and soon enough I realized everyone was lining up to have their photos taken! Quite funny but it felt good taking tourist shots of random people =) Should’ve charged a dollar per photo haha!

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Taken by my cool aunt Tess =)

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Little Miss Tourista! =)

  • The Twin Peaks – To have a 360 degree view of SF, head to the top of the Twin Peaks, which is about 1000 feet high above the city!
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Another Trivia : They call it the Twin Peaks cos they kinda look like boobies =p

  • Union Square – Of course, what trip is complete without visiting the shopping centre and food district? Union Square is the city’s top spot for all your shopping and dining needs 🙂
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Mom doing a blogger pose too! 🙂 Most favourite person in the world.

Really enjoyed hanging out at Union Square =)

Really enjoyed downtown SF!

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Took this over lunch at Cheesecake Factory, overlooking Union Square =)

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Every corner, so instagrammable!

  • China Town – One of the most legit China Town’s I’ve seen, felt almost like I was back in Hongkong. It is the oldest China Town in North America and truly houses the largest Chinese community outside of Asia.
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Felt right at home in good ol’ china town.

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Lots of Chinese restaurants and shops in every corner of this long stretch of road.

There you have it! And if you do find yourself in the gorgeous bay area, hope you find this article useful! 😉

XX,

Cath

Lifestyle Travel Travel Tips

Spring In Sweden

April 1, 2016

The Swedish countryside is richly filled with rolling hills, open landscapes and mountains lined up with pine and birch trees. Freshwater streams and lakes are equally abundant especially on the Southern parts. If you love nature as much as I do, you will definitely enjoy experiencing the 4 different seasons in this gorgeous country. This time, I am really enjoying Spring in Sweden.

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Since the climate varies in different parts of Sweden, temperatures can vary widely too between summer to winter, sometimes making summer still quite cold and winter season long and dark. Spring this year ranges from lows of 2 degrees (Celsius) to highs of 12, with cool winds and sunlight starting to shine, melting the winter ice away.

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Taking all of nature in and really taking advantage of the fresh crisp air  as much as I can during my stay here. Our days are filled with early morning hikes at the woods and long afternoon walks along the countryside.

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Taking short regular breaks from our hectic city lives can be very good for the mind and spirit. Being away from crowded buildings, noisy cars and endless traffic can be quite refreshing. Most importantly, taking a good long pause from running around the daily marathon of life, allows us to put things in better and bigger perspective.

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I have been more alive in the past two weeks than I have in a very long time. Grateful for this time to be surrounded by loved ones, the magnificence and calming power of nature, and to simply just be.

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XX,

Cath

Travel Tips

Things To Do in Thailand (Minus The Throng of Tourists)

February 14, 2016

There are loads of things to do in Phuket apart from just the usual island hopping and beach activities. Given that there are so many tourists visiting Thailand especially during its peak season within January to April, finding ways to enjoy can be a bit tricky if you’re not too keen having random people photobombing all your selfies. Patong, Kata and Karon are packed – from their beaches, restaurants and bars! Especially the islands like Phi Phi, Krabi and Samui are crowded at this time.

So if you are like me, who prefers a more steady way of exploring a city, while still having a taste of its culture and traditions at the same time, then here are a couple of fun activities we did, which allowed us to experience Thailand’s beautiful culture, sans the hectic crowd.

Visit the Tigers – Getting up close and personal with these amazing tigers isn’t exactly how our average day looks like. So we thought we’d give it a shot, especially since the Tiger Kingdom wasn’t as packed with tourists. We of course had our reservations after watching a lot of Animal Planet and reading horrifying zoo mauling accidents. But after talking to an 8 year old American boy about his experience with the baby tiger, and telling us coward adults to just give it a go, we then went for it with me silently praying for a safe encounter.

The cage guides will of course give you safety instructions (for strict compliance) on how to proceed as you enter the cage, how to touch the tigers (always from the back!) and no camera flashes. You then proceed to the cage of the tiger you picked based on their sizes : small, medium or large. We, feeling mighty after our pep talk with an 8 year old, picked the large tigers.

Our cage had 5 huge tigers in it. One was happily swimming in the pool, the other lazily sleeping under the sun, while the rest were just playing around. They turned out to be very nice and gentle, as long as of course we humans follow the rules strictly. Over all, despite me still having a bit of fear the entire time we were in the cage, I was still glad we went for it.

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Take a Thai Cooking Class Ok I’ll be honest, the top reason why we are here in Thailand is because of their food! Mathias is most likely a Thai Chicken and Cashews certified addict by now, and so learning how to cook Thai food just made perfect sense. We enrolled in our villa – sponsored Thai cooking class, a private class done by their own resort chef. (Other resorts and hotels have this class too, together with Muay Thai and Yoga classes, plus massages!) We had it at the villa patio right across the glistening ocean. We learned how to cook 4 traditional Thai dishes :  Tom Yam Goong, Chicken Curry in Coconut Cream, Crab Meat Curry in Coconut Broth, and of course what we came here for, Stir Fried Chicken and Cashews! Best part was, we got to eat everything we cooked, with the ocean as our view. And because we got too hungry, we didn’t get to take any food shots (which I hardly ever do anyway hehe). Such a perfect lunch treat for us!

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So there you have it, two great and delicious ways to immerse in Thailand’s culture! Hope you find these tips fun and useful should you be visiting sunny Phuket anytime soon! ☺️

XX,

Cath

 

Travel Travel Tips

E L N I D O

February 12, 2016

We are truly blessed to have one of the greatest wonders of the world at the very heart of our beloved Philippines. El Nido or what is known in Spanish as “the nest”, is surrounded by enchanting marble cliffs and magical looking lagoons with their turquoise green waters, that give this place so much more character. It is also known for its white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters perfect for island hopping, snorkelling and scuba diving.

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We took a flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa and took a 6 hour van ride to El Nido. For those looking into a side trip to explore Puerto Princesa, or have more time to spend in this island, or simply want the cheaper mode – then taking this route is advisable. However since we only had 4 days, we realized taking a direct flight from Manila to El Nido would’ve been more efficient for us. Hence we took the direct flight via ITI (Island Transvoyager, Inc.) from El Nido back to Manila to spare us more time to explore the island.

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There are quite a number of hotels and resorts registered in Agoda or Booking.com, which you can choose from within El Nido Town Proper, Corong Corong, Dolarog Beach or Matinloc Island. Tour guides and boat tours are pretty much everywhere, which makes it accessible to see all the famous tourist spots. Just make sure to bring enough cash since there are no banks or ATMs around. There are a few places where you can do foreign exchange or where credit cards are accepted, but it would be best to have some cash with you.

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We took one of the day tours that brought us to 10 breathtaking spots around El Nido. You can choose from different tour packages depending on what you want to see and how long you prefer to stay in each spot. We were lucky enough to have such a cool tour group composed of different nationalities just in awe of how gorgeous the Philippines is! We saw caves, hidden and secret beaches, big and small lagoons and the famous Matinloc Shrine built to honor the blessed Virgin Mary.

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Our tour group, had so much fun with these guys! ☺️

On the other days we didn’t take the tours, we rented out a scooter and just rode around the island. We went to Nacpan Beach, a good 45 minute scooter ride from town proper, and it did not disappoint. It was a private stretch of long beach all to ourselves. ?

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If we were to decide on which place to go back to, may it be anywhere in the world, El Nido is definitely top of mind. Truly world class and a gem worth seeing! And as for me, it makes me even more proud of being a Filipino, to have such beauty in our country.

XX,

Cath

 

Lifestyle Travel Travel Tips

Nothing But Basics!

November 14, 2015

I love basics! This mostly stems from how I always crave for simplification in almost all aspects of my life. Be it at work, traveling, fitness, and even down to what I wear – I always attempt to simplify the processes involved, while getting the best results. If you rummage through my closet, probably half of it is composed of basic white shirts and black tops. (The other half would be my gym and tri clothes from the olden days.) I think no matter the time, no matter the season, black and white always stay in style, just like a true classic!

So each time I travel, my go to clothes are mostly composed of white and black tops, which I mix and match with the classic blue jeans or maong shorts. This of course doesn’t mean I don’t own any printed or bright colored clothes, because I like a splash of color here and there. But I always tone down a louder shade with a basic black or white.

For my recent Autumn trip in Denmark, my love for basics super came in handy. It streamlined my clothing choices and saved a lot of space in my luggage. And hopefully I didn’t look so bad. 🙂

I brought a few white tops, but since it was quite cold, I had more black pieces with me. I did a lot of mix and match permutations with my clothes, but for these particular looks, what I used were my basic white and black long sleeve tops, classic blue jeans, winter boots and a couple of coats. Pretty basic! 🙂

A closer look at the white version. I have such a soft spot for white! ❄️

A closer look at the white version. I have such a soft spot for white! ❄️

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This is the black version of this look. Switching the white top for a darker shade, giving it a more Autumn- ish feel. 

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Since November in Copenhagen gets really cold, a thick coat is a must! But it also means, it’s layering season! 

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A closer look at layering and the coat details. 

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Love how a simple coat can change the look all together! ☺️

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There you have it, ladies! A couple of pretty basic black and white looks, with a touch of khaki and a bit of layering, to add that extra oomph to your classic style.

XX, Cath

 

Travel Tips

My Top 3 Tips on Staying Fit and Healthy While Traveling

November 6, 2015

I know it can be quite challenging to stay as healthy and fit when you’re out on a vacation, and you break away from your usual eating and exercise routines. But staying fit even while traveling can still be done!☺️ And it doesn’t have to be too complex that you no longer get to enjoy what the new places have to offer.

I am in no way any fitness expert, but allow me to share a few things, which have worked for me over the years. Here are my top 3 go to tips on staying fit and healthy, even while vacationing in the land of bread and honey!

1. Stay active. No gym, no problem. I like taking a good run outside (especially during summer so I enjoy the sunshine as well), or even taking long enjoyable walks from my hotel to the next museum or train station. Best way to explore new destinations is always by foot. So keep that sexy butt moving! ? You can also do home work outs like lunges, squats, sit ups and the famous plank, which I also do regularly at home,  on normal work days that I can’t squeeze in a trip to the gym.

Running around the King's Garden in my Little Black Dress. ?

Running around the King’s Garden in my Little Black Dress. 🙂

2. Drop the “I’m on a holiday I can eat whatever I want” mentality. In the first place really, you should be allowed to eat whatever you want, but as the famous and super true saying goes – always in moderation. So be nice to yourself by taking in all the must try meals a new place has to offer, but keep in mind to not overindulge all the time. Maybe a cheat day / cheat meal would do, even on trips.  My weaknesses are bread and desserts, so they are my fave once in a while indulgences.

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My staple meal in Denmark is the Duck Salad! And my favorite bread, of course! And my go to beverage is always just a glass or two of water. 

3. Drink lots and lots of water! I live by this. I drink a glass of water first thing when I wake up and a couple more before I sleep. I always stay hydrated during the day by bringing with me a tall sized bottled water, which I refill and consume through out the day. You can also substitute water with fresh fruit juices, but do stay away from processed sugary drinks as much as possible.

So there you have it! My top 3 tips on staying healthy and in shape even while on a holiday. Hope this helps! 🙂

XX, Cath

Travel Tips

How to Pack Effectively?

November 6, 2015

It’s packing time! Who among you loves to travel, but deep down wishes they could just skip the packing part? Well, you’re not alone my friend. 🙂 I used to think of packing as such a chore, especially for long trips that last for weeks. Just imagine how many #OOTDs you have to fit in just one 30kg luggage?

But over the years, I learned how to be more effective with my packing skills. I use the word “effective” instead of “light”, because we need to ensure we cover all our travel essentials for our trip, “while” staying within our baggage allowance.

So how exactly do we pack effectively? Again, a gentle reminder that I am in no way a packing expert, but this is how I’ve managed to take all my must haves with me in every trip, without having to pay for excess baggage fees.

Three simple steps to consider: (Apologies ahead if the terms I use sound too corporate, can’t help it. But they are super applicable in real life!)

1. Plan – Just like pretty much anything else, planning is already half of the battle. Part of my planning involves the following factors. And it helps if you have like a mini- checklist of these items. I use post its or the Notes app in Iphone to write them down.

  • Season / Weather – Is it winter, spring, summer or fall? ? And is it sunny, windy, rainy or snowy? Cos the clothes you’ll be bringing depend largely on not only the season, but the weather as well.
  • Exact Travel Duration (# of days) – This will give you an idea on how many sets of clothing you should bring and the more appropriate luggage to use. For example, a duffel hand carry bag perhaps for a weekend trip. Or a medium sized rolling luggage for a week’s worth of trip, and the largest size for anything longer than one week.
  • Modes of Transportation (Plane, Train, Bus, Boat) – This determines, aside from the appropriate travel wear, what type of luggage to bring (do I need waterproof bags if via boat?) and if you need extra stuff like meds for sea sickness etc.
  • Type of Travel (Backpack Style, Hotel Living, Camping) – This too sets the tone for what type of luggage to bring and what clothes to pack. For example, backpacks and comfy clothes are more perfect for campings or backpacking, while the rolling luggage is more suitable for hotel living.
  • Activities (Gym, Swimming, Other sports, Special events like wedding and formal dinners, etc) – You’ll know if you need to pack a pair of bikini or bring your cocktail dress based on your planned activities for your trip. Also take this time to consider if you need other medications/ vaccines/ first aid kits for safety purposes.

2. Execute – And the actual packing begins! As mentioned, if you did a good job on the planning stage, which basically dictates the type and size of luggage you will use, and the clothes you will bring – then the actual packing should now be more organized.

3. Follow through – This is actually done during the actual trip already. Of course in every trip you take, there’s gotta be some level of shopping involved, right? ? But before we start swiping those credit cards, revisit your initial planning results.

  • If your mode of travel is via backpack, then you might want to tone down on the shopping. ? When I backpacked Europe at 22, I only bought refrigerator magnets as pasalubongs because I was carrying a 15Kg backpack the whole trip, slept in trains and showered in train stations. ? Absolutely inconvenient to carry around extra shopping bags, and they slow you down from country hopping.
  • If you are staying in only a couple of countries and in hotels, and can afford an extra hand carry, got extra space in your luggage (another perk of packing smart!), or don’t mind paying excess fees – then by all means, shop till you drop!

So there you have it folks, a few of my packing tips to help you get through your next holiday! Plan, Execute and Follow Through. ☺️ Again, these are just based on my own travel experiences. Know that there could be more extensive articles dedicated solely for the types of luggages you should use, or an entire article enumerating what travel activities to do per destination, or the different modes of transportation you should take. But what I’ve shared is a bit of a basic summary which you can quickly apply on your next trip. Hope this helps! And most importantly, have a blast on your vacation!

XX, Cath