To Apply for an Australian Visa

There are only two visas that I have applied for since I started traveling : Korea and Australia. I was lucky that both were for official business (aka government related work) that I didn’t have to line up to get those precious visa labels.

Then, I decided to try on the tourist stream/visit visa/tourist visa for Australia last year. There were the usual form completion and submission of documents and a bit of waiting. The (first) second time I applied for an Australian visa was too toxic for me. The reason? I chose to cram when in fact, I have months to prepare since I already bought the tickets. Yes, I was so sure to go down under that I bought myself some AirAsia flights!

These are the steps I did on my road for an Australian tourist visa:

Download and complete Form 1419. It can be found at the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. You can either print it and complete the form hand written or download, answer and print the complete form (somehow, you can not save the file with the answers unless you’re using Mac where you can download, fill out, save and print later). Yes, I tried it both for Windows and Mac-run computers.

Prepare the documentary requirements that will identify you and provide enough information that you can afford the the trip and you will return to your country of origin before the visa expires. On my end, I prepared the following:

Identification:

A photocopy of your passport’s biopage and the stamped pages
Birth certificate from NSO

Finances:
Latest income tax return
Bank certificate
Credit card billing statement

Reason to Return:
Certificate of employment and compensation
Approved leave form
Title of property

A proposed itinerary indicating the places you intend to visit on given dates

2 passport sized photos

Manager’s check (latest fees can be found at http://www.immi.gov.au/Visas/Pages/Pricing-Estimator.aspx)

Write a good letter of intent stating the reason why you want to visit Australia and when do you plan to depart and return from/to country of   origin. Also state why you need to back in your country at a specific date. If you have a sponsor, mention what the person will be providing on your visit.

Speaking of sponsorship, ask the sponsor to write a letter of invite addressed to the Consul stating he/she is inviting you for —– (insert reasons here). State your relationship with the sponsor. Much better if it is signed by their Justice of Peace (similar to a notary public). Attach in the invite letters proofs that the sponsor has the capacity to provide the necessary support (e.g. bank statement, house rental statement,  certificate of employment)

 You can either submit the completed form and attachments in person (which I usually do at the VIA Center) or arrange for a courier to pick it up.

The center informed me that the average processing is 1month. I got my previous visa in 2 days while the latest was processed within one week. It varies, I suppose on the case officer who handles your application and the nature of the visa.

It was the longest week ever since I had a fast processing experience back in October 2013. I had to call the contact center after 7 days only to learn it was ready for pick up.

My first application through business stream was no sweat, thanks to a different color of passport.

My first application through business stream was no sweat, thanks to a different colored passport.

In my experience, just be honest on your intent to visit (and emphasize that you will not be overstaying) and submit the complete documents. After that, just wait for the decision that will be handed on a piece of paper (unless you want a sticker label similar to the photo above).

Happy visa lodging!

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Rocking The Rocks

The Rocks is one of the historic places in Sydney. One of the sites where the first settlers lived. One of areas I haven’t been to and was dying to see after I read its history.

One fine day, I ventured on my own to the city for a walk through the cobbled and touristy steps of this side of Sydney near Circular Quay. Alighting from the train station, I was so excited to find my way to Gloucester Street. Amidst the sea of people lining up at the wharf, I was so giddy walking towards the Museum of Contemporary Art and beyond.

The MCA

The MCA

Nurses Walk was the first area I stumbled upon and I got lost with the nooks and crannies of what I refer to as a walk through time. It was getting lost in a good sense because I could go around and around the area looking at old structures (turn of the century houses and pubs), climbing stairs and getting into an archeological find without thinking that my companion might not be enjoying this DIY walking tour.

Nurses Walk houses small cafes and stores. It pays homage to the nurses that served the country and the world during the war. A small bench and a commemorative plate describe the area.

Nurses Walk

Nurses Walk

As I was finding my way towards Susannah Place, I took a peek of what looked like an excavation at Cumberland. At the ground floor of YHA hotel is the Big Dig, a discovery of authentic remnants of late 18 century houses of local laborers with some of household tools on display. It was good know that they preserved the site and built the hotel on top of it. Think of an old bahay na bato with open space at the ground floor. I can’t describe how excited I was upon seeing the place. I felt like I discovered it by myself. Maybe because I used to dream of becoming an archeologist when I was in grade school.

The Big Dig

The Big Dig and its study center

A few more walks and climbs, I finally saw what I was searching for – row of houses that witnessed the development of the city for centuries. Susannah Place is just one of those actual houses preserved to tell the stories of the working class years ago. It is some sort of a living museum since some of which are still resided by locals until now. The museum was closed that hour but it didn’t stop me from walking up and down the small street.

Susannah Place

Susannah Place

After I satiated myself of the old world, I turned by attention to the open spaces and engineering grandeur. I walked through the Argyle Cut which was an under ground tunnel turned parking lot made possible by carving the large stone that used to face the harbour. I marvelled at the sight in Dawes Point Park where riders and tourists abound for some picturesque views. I contemplated of having lunch out in the sun while people  watching.

I managed to find myself at the foot of the Harbour Bridge. That’s what you get if you don’t tell manong cleaner that you’re a bit lost.

Since it was summer, people were having lunch out in the sun – at the First Fleet Park where a big anchor monument awaits, at the Rocks Market or any open spaces where one can sit and have a quiet lunch with the pigeons.

The Rocks Market

The Rocks Market (without the stalls that day)

I ended having calamari and chips at a nearby air-conditioned food court after hours of walking and changing from flats to fit-flops. I must say, having a historical tour all by myself is not so bad. I will definitely do this again.

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My combo lunch

 

~~~

Getting There

(source: http://www.therocks.com/getting-here.aspx)

On foot: The Rocks is an easy, 15-minute downhill stroll from Town Hall station, 10-minutes from Wynyard station and a two-minute walk from Circular Quay. The main entry point to The Rocks is via George Street. If you’re walking from Darling Harbour, you can take Hickson Road via Walsh Bay, or Kent and Argyle streets through Millers Point.

By train : Take the train to Circular Quay, head in the direction of Sydney Harbour Bridge, and you’re only a stroll away. If you’re coming from Wynyard station, walk north down George Street towards the harbour and you’ll be here in 10 minutes.

By Ferry : Take a ride to Circular Quay and it is s short walk from there.

A Year of Travel

2013 seem so distant yet a few hours ago, everyone was celebrating like it is the last night of the world. For instance, I was on my way to Sydney (or the nearest place to be) to watch the spectacular New Year’s Eve fireworks. Alas, we can’t even get near Balmain backstreets or get a parking space for people were getting ready to party. The fifteen minute spectacle was viewed in a faraway park with only the upper half of the fireworks can be seen. I knew from that moment, that I will be back in NSW – Sydney to be exact for another run of the NYE celebration.

Another run holds true for the travels I have made in 2013. My travels were more of revisiting the places I have been to in the past. Not bad for some have changed through the years. Some changed after I left. Some changed me.

January was revisiting San Vicente after a long hiatus of field work in the area. It was also a return trip to Ilocos after a long time. It reignited my love for dinuguan (blood stew) with crunchy pork strips and Batac empanada.  February was focused on Siargao for the much needed presentation of the one year work we have done in the island. March is a birthday in Guiuan, which will never be the same again. It was also an opportunity for me to visit Indonesia for the first time. Ties were binded among ASEAN representatives and German colleagues after we were holed in Bogor for nineteen days.

Windmills in Bangui

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Surf Camp in Calicoan Island, Guiuan

Dinner at Bohol Bee Farm

Dinner at Bohol Bee Farm

I am grateful with my work which showers me with travels once a month. Second quarter of the year gave me an opportunity to visit Bohol, Cagayan and Hanoi. Places you learn to love as your own. A stay in Bohol Bee Farm was all natural, including the fresh flowers as salad. Tuguegarao and its vicinities made you realize there is more to Region 2 aside from the Sierra Madre and hot weather. Hanoi was an adventure for it was my first time to negotiate with the airline staff after my luggage was left in Hongkong. It made me realise that I don’t get intimated when going out socially with people from G8 countries. (big smiley here)

Inside Callao Cave, Cagayan Province

Inside Callao Cave, Cagayan Province

Tuguegarao Church

Tuguegarao Church

It was an adventure for the women in the family when we all visited Hongkong in the height of Typhoon Utor. The storm signal no. 8 didn’t deter us from walking along Mongkok, Nathan Road, Disneyland and Lantau Island. I wish to have more trips with Nanay and Lyn in the future. After Utor/Labuyo, it was all habagat on my way to Legaspi City. Thankfully, Mayon Volcano welcomed our LGU guests with open arms (and beautiful view of the cone).

Night Market in Hongkong

Night Market in Hongkong

Magayon na Mayon, Legaspi City

Magayon na Mayon, Legaspi City

The last quarter of the year was a roller coaster ride. I experienced first hand the magnitude of Typhoon Haiyan when I was in Tacloban on the day it made landfall. I endured the nite of sleeping in cold floor, the day with minimal water to drink and the long and depressing walk out of the city. No interviews, photos and videos can describe the fear I felt from 7.30 AM to 9:00 AM on 8 November 2013 in Algo Homes in Tacloban City.

What was left of everything after Haiyan. San Jose, Tacloban City.

What was left of everything after Haiyan. San Jose, Tacloban City.

George River in NSW, Australia

George River in NSW, Australia

As they always say, there is a rainbow after the rain. What a big rainbow indeed! Christmas and New Year were spent in Australia after months of dreaming of coming back. I remembered posting that I wanted to go back there in the midst of summer. Look, I was there when Sydney reached 40s. My three week stay in a suburb, faraway from home, was an eye opener. I realize that wherever you place me, I will find a way to see the sights. I will always be a wanderer by heart.

Happy 2014! More opportunities to get lost!

Made for long walks.

Made for long walks.

Sunday Morning In A Suburb

Day three in NSW and it has been cooler than expected. I am still recovering from the pizza I devoured last nite thus a simple coffee and crackers will do for now.

Yagoona is a quiet neighborhood filled with Asians and Lebanese. I only saw a few of “my neighbors”…mostly in the mornings when I sit in the frontyard. People going to work. People walking. Or cruising along Willet and Saltash streets.

I have been to the local grocery store (that’s Aldi with a very cool Christmas ad being shown every commercial break), a local bank, a farmer’s market (to buy coffee beans) and a park. Yes, I am living the suburb life at the moment. Far from the madding crowd, which is really good. News on TV shows that a lot are being rounded by police in Sydney due to violence resulting from alcohol. Hah, I imagine what is it like in Westend Hostel area where I spent my weekend last year.

Hope to get to the city (that is Sydney) soon. And the other places. My list at the moment include the following, which Boo promised to take me in the next few days (or else I will take the next train to Sydney CBD):

        1. Cronulla Beach

          Cronulla Beach. Source:  http://www.sydney.com/destinations/sydney/sydney-south/cronulla

        2. 2012 NYE Fireworks in Sydney Harbour. Source: http://www.sydneynewyearseve.com/fireworks/archive-gallery/

          2012 NYE Fireworks in Sydney Harbour. Source: http://www.sydneynewyearseve.com

        3. Hugging a Bear at Featherdale Wildlife Park. Source : http://www.blacktownaustralia.com.au/directory_details.asp?ID=1658

          Hugging a Bear at Featherdale Wildlife Park. Source : http://www.blacktownaustralia.com.au

As of now, I will be enjoying Boo’s neighborhood. I hope hindi bawal tumambay sa balconahe.

What’s Eating Down Under?

I am a sucker for food. As much as possible, I will try to have a taste a place has to offer. Then, a visit to land down under was presented to me.

Fast forward to palate journey in Oz. The food was beyond the Aussie fare and I just can’t forget the sight, smell, texture and taste of these delish food:

10. Fish and chips. At last, I got to taste white fish bathe in beer batter with chips (or fries, as we American-ized call ’em) and a piece of lemon.

Fish and chips in Canberra
(photo credit: Tin Villarino)

9. Grilled burger. Yes, not the fried ones I am used to. Juiciest and largest pattie I’ve digged my teeth into.

8. German sausage with sauerkraut. Who would have thought I am having this meal straight from a German market in the middle of Brisbane City Center? Did I mention how I love mustard?

Half of the sausage

7. Meat Pies. I tasted my first meat pie in Brissy. Then in Sydney … and I can’t get enough of it especially the ubiquitous Face Pies with creamy mushroom and ham stuffed in the crust. Now, I have to make do with London pies from Eat&Go.

6. Hungry Jack. Yes, it is fastfood. Yes, it looks like Burger King. Yes, it is Burger King. (Search why it is called Hungry Jack downunder). Why HJ is unforgettable? It serves cappuccino in their bbreakfast meal without additional cost.

5. Malaysian Curry. I can’t get enough of the large plate filled with dahl, curries and roti while waiting for the rain to stop in downtown Sydney.

4. Indian vegetarian dish. Another curry made into the list. I just can’t help it…between anything else and an Indian dish, there is no doubt I pick the latter for the fireworks of spice it creates in my mouth.

3. Sweet and Sour pork. Very Pinoy. After 3 days of not eating rice, my colleagues were in dire need of the ultimate carb. After searching high and low, we found a nondescript food stall (reminiscent of a carinderia) inside a train station in Brisbane. It was the next best thing to truly Pinoy food.

2. Nuts and nuts. I had them for dinner in Sydney. I traveled with a pack going to Bondi. Ultimate pantawid gutom. I am going nuts with all the different nuts available – macadamia, walnut, peanuts, pecan…eerrr, coconut? (yes, they do have the dried diced coconut meat mixed with the various nuts :D)

1. Falafel. And my love for Alibaba just can’t be denied. I love the falafel in pita wrap. I had it fried with hot sauce. Thoughts of falafel as I write now make my mouth water.  Chick peas (or was it gigantes?) mashed, mixed with spices, formed into balls and fried are so yummy, I had them 2 nites in a row back in Canberra. That is how I love the texture and taste and everything else about the real Mediterrenean delight.

Inside Alibaba in City Centre, Canberra

Morning Walks

There is no better way to feel the place than observe what’s goin on after the break of dawn. Every place I’ve been to, I at least tried once to walk so early in the morning. From the back streets in Boracay to the side market in Hanoi to the main street in Brisbane to the sunrise jog in Palawan. Nothing gives me the best experience of the place in its natural state, aka place replete of tourists (since they are most likely asleep at 6a.m.).

All’s asleep in Anyang, South Korea

These walks are more than fitness walking. It all started with a goal to catch the much revered sunrise which graduated to seeing the sights due to limited time (especially when I am in a place for an official business)

I have no favorite morning walk destinations but I do have vivid memories of the places that I had the chance to do some exercise and photowalk.

Boracay

It was back in 2005 that I roamed the main street of Boracay, and I am not referring to the main avenue of D’Mall.

It was a different side of the party island. When all are still stuck in their rooms, a different life actually exists. It wasn’t a time space warp thing but in “real island life,” kids walking to school, lolas sweeping the yard with stick brooms, moms prepping for a day of laundry.

There is life aside from parties.

HaNoi, Vietnam

Walking along the streets in Hanoi is walking with the morning risers on their way to the street market. I never met joggers or office walkers at 6 A.M. In the morning. The streets were so quiet that it is impossible to think that these same streets are ruled by motorcycles in the later part of the day.

Instead of motorcycles, bicycles roam the crooks and cranny of every Trung streets. It felt I was transported back in time while doing my walks.

Tagaytay

The bed weather in the city is the only reason why one wants to be in a coma state at 5:30. A.M. I can’t help it, though, that everytime I am in Tagaytay, I always end up doing the morning rounds.

From rotunda to Mushroom Burger (as point of reference) or from Dominique to San Jose road. Ahhh, don’t you just love the cool breeze greeting you so early in the morning?

Canberra, ACT

A run along Northbourne Avenue

With good urban planning in Australia’s capital, it is no doubt a jogger’s paradise. The cold summer breeze didn’t deter people from running from their residence past Rudd Street to thr city centre. It was a bit of a challenge for to actually run at 6A.M. with uber cold wind embracing you. It was really a bit of a challenge to sweat it out literally.

It was comforting, though, to meet a couple of joggers doin the rounds. It makes me not afraid that a dog would run after me.

Siargao

The quiet street in Sayak in Del Carmen makes fitness walking in the island a good way to shed all the crabs and carbs consumed the day before.

If one is too high endurance, one can do the 15km stretch to the Poblacion But not me, of course. I will be taking the trike once I reach KM. 5.

With no jeeps and large trucks travelling the main highway, one is secured to run crisscross without being hit. You might step on a carabao dung, though.

With all the food consumed during travels, it is, but necessary to pack your trainers  to balance out everything. And of course, a great way for photo-ops sans tons of people.

What are your favorite places for morning walks?

Oh My Darling Sydney

Sydney. One of the four cities* I want to visit in my lifetime since I started daydreaming of traveling. What started out as one of my goals in 43things in 2001 has become a reality 11 years after.

After 3 days of scrambling through the numerous not-so-cheap budget fares and last minute hostel reservations, I knew I am enroute to Sydney when I made my way back to Brissy domestic airport holding the much precious Virgin Airlines boarding pass. Yay for red deals!

As the plane was touching down the Kingsford Smith runway, my mind was working double time. What is the first place that I will visit? Did Westend really reserved a space for me? How can we get to the city?

After a few minutes and more, Tin and I deposited our stuff in the storage area of Nomad Westend backpacking hostel prior to heading to Paddy’s market for a little shopping.

Chinatown

Paddy’s Market is situated in the Sydney’s Chinatown, specifically in Hay Street in Haymarket. It is open from Wednesday to Sunday for people like us that want a good deal. We got cheapo shirts, bags, ref magnets which all screamed Sydney or Australia. After all the searching for good finds, we went to the upper floor (food court) for some lunch. The foodcourt looks like the usual foodcourt with various foodstalls located side by side. Since Paddy’s is located in Chinatown, most of the stalls were selling what else but—-Chinese food! What did I have? I had Indian food as my first meal in Sydney (okey, I had Hungry Jacks while waiting for my flight to Canberra a few days before).

Welcome to Paddy's Market

Walking along the streets in Chinatown makes one feel you’re transported to old Manila. It did feel like Manila with the old buildings, rails, signages in Chinese characters and the overall aura. The mix of people also reminded be of some place in Asia. It felt like home.

Inlove with Darling

With a map on hand, the next stop was Darling Harbour. It sounded easy but it was a good 10 to 15 minutes walk with photo-ops. We passed by Tumbalong Park and the Chinese Friendship Garden, took some photos and sat on the bench to pass time and talked about our so-called lives. Since it was summer and we were walking at 2 P.M., we stopped by the steps looking over Cockle Bay and ate our iced pops. The sun was out but it didn’t actually feel so hot. So, this is summer in Sydney.

Darling Harbour is well, a harbour and an entertainment center. It is surrounded by restaurants, hotels, stores and museums that would keep visitors busy. What I love about the Harbour, though, is the Pyrmont Bridge. A bridge that actually is like a walkway connecting Cockle Bay Wharf to the Maritime Museum. I didn’t appreciate it the first I saw it but when I came back the following day to view the magnificent harbour, my heart goes in Lilo fashion, “I love this, I can tell.” It must be the sun and benches on the bridge. I had a good time sitting on one of them and just people watch (and talking over the phone).

Soak up the sun

Pyrmont Bridge from below

Opera and Bridge

Two of the iconic structures that are synonymous to Sydney are the sails and magnificent bridge in Sydney Harbour known as the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, respectively. From Martin Place (one of the famous meeting places in the city), it is a long walk towards the Circular Quay. But no worries, summer rain in Sydney is a welcome treat as long as you got your umbrella.

Compared to Pyrmont, Harbour is imposing. It may not be the longest suspended bridge but it still had me at ‘gday mate!’ Now, I can say that I’ve met Brisbane’s Story bridge’s famous sister. I dunno but since I stepped in land downunder, I became so fixated with bridges.

Harbour Bridge

Harbour’s well-known neighbor, which is a short walk, kept me in suspense. When I got a glimpse of one of the sails’ tip, I was raring to go. We couldn’t wait to take our photos but Dana told us the that view farther was way better.True, being on the steps of the Opera House gave justice to what is usually seen in photos and postcards.

The well known sails looked liked sliced white Japanese lanterns towering the structure. I wished it was sunny that day to have a contrasting color between the roof and the sky. Still, I got dozens of photos on the steps of the Opera House.

Yes, it is the one!

I'mm finally here!

Beside the Opera House is the Opera Bar. An alfresco dining and drinking area for those who want to eat and drink while enjoying the view. Since we were on a budget, we just sat on the benches while soaking in the sights in Sydney Harbour. This is the best of both world! We got the Harbour Bridge on our left and the Opera House on the right!

Parks and Recreation

I noticed that the city is full of open spaces. Open green spaces, to be exact. The long walk from the Opera House to Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair provided the proof for that (wide) open spaces named Royal Botanic Garden. Smack in the eastern part of the city, past the Sydney Harbour, it is the oldest scientific institution in Australia that houses native plant species from the land down under and South Pacific. I never imagined it was a scientific institution (hello, botanic nga eh!) but sure has a lot of flora.

(L-R, clockwise)Royal Botanic, Tumbalong, Belmore and Hyde Parks

The garden, I may say, is a perfect dating place (or breaking up place like the couple we saw in the area). Calm, cool and cozy for HHWWPSSP moments. Hey, there was even a couple getting married that summer afternoon we were there.

Aside from those lovey-dovey stuff to do, the Garden is also a venue for open cinemas. The screen and chairs were actually being set up while we were walking towards Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair (best view to see Harbour Bridge and the Opera House at the same time). Maybe, I should experience that the next time I am there.

Another famous park is Hyde Park, named after the park in London, near St. James Road and Liverpool Street. It is smack in the other part of downtown Sydney but feels so quiet. Why is it that parks look so quiet? It houses several war memorials aside from the blooms and the trees. I was about to stay near this place but the hostel ran out of rooms. Just imagine what it would be like doing the morning runs in the fig-line avenue of the park?

A stone throw from my place is Belmore Park. Well, a long throw, actually since I got there after walking and walking along the streets in China/Asia-town. Belmore is small in area but is surrounded by the Central Station in St. James and the church. It is a green space where one can propped anywhere when benches are not available. There were kids running around, Chinese oldies doing some meditation, couples dating and people like me who would like to pass time til rain starts pouring. Run!

Spice and Pies

For some reason, majority of my food intake in Sydney consisted of spicy Asian dishes – Indian vegetarian curry, Thai’s curry, Malaysia’s curry plate with roti and Turkish kebabs. Maybe my love of spice and curry was re-ignited because of the cold summer in the city. Never had so much Asian food in a non-Asian country. But hey, Sydney’s a melting pot.

Dishes the ruled them all

I was told to try Porters’ but I haven’t seen one in the many streets I’ve walked in the city. Face Pies are ubiquitous that I had my last meal in Sydney eating a happy face pie and drinking hot coffee at 1 A.M. in Campbell Street. I was trying to stay awake til 5 A.M. and I was there along with some late-niters biting mushroom and cheese pie in between talks over the phone. Oh yeah, someone is actually accompanying me in my quest not to sleep.

Backpackers

Aside from dormlife back in college, it was my first time to stay in one room with 3 other people that I hardly know. At least, back in the dorm, you get to know them after a few weeks. I had 2 French and an American as roomies. I think we were not the friendliest of the bunch although I tried making some small talks with French #1 and vice versa. She is taking a time off from the uni and solo traveller who seems to get to tired always (I always see her sleeping). I could have joined her in the hostel’s Saturday nite party but I got other plans…aka Bondi at nite! For the other 2, it was merely a hi-hello thing until I left. 😦

I did like Phil, though. The graveyard shift guy manning the reception who I pestered when I was making my room reservations and annoyed for the late shuttle service that I requested. He sounded friendly (he should be) and actually mistaken me for a Malaysian. Hah, looks like Pinoys don’t usually check in at Westends. Truth be told, most that I have seen are Europeans with one or two Asians. I’ve never been in a place with many Euro “kids” –and I am just talking about Westends’ elevator.

I will be back

I’ve experienced the city life but I think I still have to accomplish TWO more things in Sydney : Manly and Shelly. The two beaches I really want to see after Bondi. Yes, I need to swim in those three, not just the stroll along and take a photowalk.

I think I haven’t explored the historical part of the place – the place it used to be known for. A penal colony. In just my recent reads I discovered that Hyde Park is part of a sewerage system back in the days. How could I missed that? Then, there was The Rocks and King’s Cross. And Taronga Zoo.

My stay in Sydney was too short  and I should really be back. ASAP.

*The other 3 are Hanoi, Seoul and Florence. yay! 3 out of 4 na ako!