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MASUNGI GEORESERVE

Half a day Adventure

rain

KM 47, Baras, Rizal, discreet signage on the side of the highway

KM 47, Baras, Rizal, discreet signage on the side of the highway

My friends and I visited the Masungi Georeserve last week and it was a revelation! I never thought that there was such an adventure destination so near the city! We left Cubao at a little past 6:00 a.m. with the watery sun peeking out of a rather dark cloud and we arrived at KM 47, Baras, Rizal at 7:45 a.m. almost an hour earlier than our 8:40 a.m. slot. The day turned from overcast to drizzly as we started our tour but it was refreshing and kept us cooler as we went on the hike. The final half of the tour was done in a down pour. Not bad, really, but it kept us from using our DSLRs. Good thing I brought along my waterproof point and shoot.

Masungi got its name from the limestone krast formations that dot the landscape. These formations looked like crooked or uneven teeth -- sungki (in Tagalog) hence, Masungi! :) At least that's the story our "Park Ranger", Reynante told us.
The original of the Masungi logo

The original of the Masungi logo

We booked our reservations through the Masungi website: http://www.masungigeoreserve.com/. It is cheaper to visit during weekdays (P1,500.00/pax) than during weekends (P1,800.00/pax). The tour lasts 3-4 hours and the activity is a mix of hiking and climbing through the varied terrain of the reserve. The area's forest cover had been destroyed by illegal loggers and charcoal makers. It's fauna haunted almost to zero. Right now, the reserve is trying to restore the place (I don't know if they will succeed, but I hope they will). The plant life is interesting and varied, making for an interesting trip through the whole trail which is composed of eight (8) interesting stops.

1. Sapot - a giant spiderweb made of steel which serves as a deck for viewing the canopy and the limestone karst formations. It was a great start to the tour. The giant spider web kinda pumped you up for the next stage. A lot of photo ops could be generated just from this spot alone! Hahaha
Sapot

Sapot


Resting after the photo ops on Sapot

Resting after the photo ops on Sapot

2. Yungib ni Ruben - a small cave discovered by, drumroll please.... Ruben!!! A good place to take refuge during downpour. The cave itself is lit by tea candles and there is a pleasant smell of floral oil to dispel the dank.
Taking refuge inside Yungib ni Ruben

Taking refuge inside Yungib ni Ruben

3. Ditse - a swaying bridge of black and white that spans across the forest canopy to connect you to Patak. It was kind of motion sickness inducing :) but before you get dizzy from the height and swaying of the bridge you get to Patak and you can get some relief.
Crossing Ditse

Crossing Ditse

4. Patak - a little tree house shaped like a raindrop. A good place to take a rest and have some down time before forging on to the next destination. They discourage jumping inside the tree house because of the glass windows :)
Patak

Patak

5. Duyan - a rope bridge that sways and flexes (with the movements of the people crossing it) just like a giant macrame cradle. It is easy to navigate because they provided rope handholds at convenient intervals.
Taking a breather on Duyan

Taking a breather on Duyan

6. Tatay - tallest spire of blocks of limestone. Good vantage point to see the surrounding area and the rest of the trail. Tatay afforded us a good view of Nanay too. The climb from Patak to Tatay is interesting but not that difficult. The gradient is steeper but quite manageable.
The route to Tatay

The route to Tatay


View of Nanay from atop Tatay

View of Nanay from atop Tatay

7. Nanay - a lower spire topped with a giant rock that looks about to topple over with a single itty bitty push. There is a bridge connecting the five limestone columns that is a good spot for photo ops with the surrounding mountains as backdrop.
Standing on one of the bridges spanning Nanay

Standing on one of the bridges spanning Nanay

8. Bayawak - or monitor lizard. A giant macrame shaped like a giant monitor lizard climbing up the side of a limestone cliff. It is the final stage of the tour before the guests are welcomed to the rest area were they will be served a heavy snack of healthy sandwich, fruit and freshly prepared juice.
Last stage! Going down the back of Bayawak

Last stage! Going down the back of Bayawak


Done!!! Now posing for posterity. We conquered Masungi!!!

Done!!! Now posing for posterity. We conquered Masungi!!!

In between the main stops along the trail, there are interesting spots which the Park Ranger points out to the guests and there are flora that are worth checking out. This prolonged our time a bit and we ended up spending more time on the trail than we bargained for. The rain also made our time slower and most of my friends came out of the georeserve cold and wet (my rain jacket worked great and kept me dry the whole time). But having said that, the Masungi Georeserve tour is really worth doing specially if you want an active half-day and you are all beached out! :) I highly recommend it!
Collage of some flora and fauna in Masungi

Collage of some flora and fauna in Masungi

Posted by neena329_cab 23:05 Archived in Philippines Tagged and fauna nature hiking walk climbing flora spelunking masungi georeserve Comments (2)

Myanmar

A dream come true

all seasons in one day

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I have been dreaming of traveling to Burma ever since I first read Rudyard Kipling's poem, Mandalay. If asked why I became attracted to this place, I can never explain it to you, dear reader.

I guess Burma plus Kipling is just one of those mixes that sparks a young person's imagination and won't let go. So decades on, I finally got to realize this childhood dream.

This trip was too short for my liking but despite the limited time I managed to visit the following places: Yangon, Bagan, Popa, Kalaw and Inle. Myanmar in December is a great experience. The days are sunny but cool and nights are cold. A little rain is to be expected but the inconvenience is minor. The cost of traveling in Myanmar is higher compared to, say, Vietnam or Thailand.

I had a great time tasting the food, shopping for gifts and most especially longyis that I also got to wear when we visited the temples and had dinner in the resorts we stayed in. Most of all I learned a lot of Burmese history and beliefs from well-informed guides who took pride in their work and their country.

Yangon.

Our first stop. We got in from Singapore just in time for a late lunch which we had at a local restaurant called Feels. It was a good initiation into Burmese cuisine. We were served spicy and flavorful dishes with lots of condiments and fresh vegetables which was kinda familiar to my tongue. To me it was a mixture of Chinese, Indian and Thai influences which are also found in my country's culinary landscape. :)

After lunch we visited Scott market (kinda like Ben Tahn Market in Vietnam) so we can look at the possibilities for when we did seriously shop for gifts and souvenirs. I immediately zeroed in on the long-yis which were sold in abundance at the market. At sunset we went to the Shwedagon Pagoda (aka Shwedagon Zedi Daw, aka The Great Dagon Pagoda and the Golden Pagoda), a gilded stupa. It is probably the most popular tourist destination in Yangon. We stayed overnight at the Esperado Lake View Hotel. The hotel had a pretty clear night view of the Shwedagon and the lake.

A pilgrim taking her rest

A pilgrim taking her rest

Birthday celebrators doing their duty by sweeping the temple floors

Birthday celebrators doing their duty by sweeping the temple floors

Bagan.

From Yangon my friends and I took an early morning flight to Bagan via Yandanaporn Airlines and were served breakfast on board. We were given the standard tour of the different temples that dotted the landscape of Bagan. We checked in at the Myanmar Treasure Resort Hotel. The hotel rooms were well appointed and clean. The staff were helpful and prompt in answering queries. One plus in Myanmar Treasure is their dinner cultural show (it was interesting but could use more polishing).

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My friend and went on an early morning motorcycle tour to see the sunrise on Shwesandaw Pagoda and to take some pictures of the countryside before the heat of the day drove us indoors again. It would have been difficult for us to navigate around the temple complex in the darkness before sunrise so we were doubly glad that we took guides with us when we went for the morning run.

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There are a lot of restaurants serving local dishes in Bagan and we had a great time tasting the local dishes and soon enough I noticed that we started to have our favorites. Mine was balachaung, tomato salad with peanut sauce, pickled tea leaf salad and the curried mixed vegetable dish. :)

Inle Lake

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WORK IN PROGRESS -- Let me get my pictures organized :)

Posted by neena329_cab 02:42 Archived in Myanmar Tagged temples bagan burma monks yangon myanmar roadtrip kalaw inle popa balanchaung Comments (2)

Caving and other Activities at theBiak-na-Bato National Park

-- worth a day trip

overcast

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Biak-na-Bato National Park is located in San Miguel, Bulacan about 2.5 hours drive from Manila. This protected area is more than 2000 hectares and covers the towns of San Miguel, San Ildefonso and Dona Remedios Trinidad in Bulacan. In 1937, President Quezon declared it a national park due to its ecological and historical significance (it was the site of the Biak-na-Bato Republic).

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The park is of mixed use... there are hundred of caves (some still remain unexplored), rivers and well established hiking trails and picnic areas. Some of the most popular caves for day hikers are the Aguinaldo Cave (where President Emilio Aguinaldo used to have his headquarters), Paniki Cave, Reception Cave, Hospital Cave, Ambush Cave, and Storage Cave.

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It is also popular destination for bird watchers and photographers. Several species of birds, bats and mammals make the national park their home. There are also interesting trees and other flora that grows spectacularly well inside the park. Having said that, do not be surprised to see thriving vegetable gardens and orchards while out on a hike inside the park. Our guide told us that the farms and orchards were established long before Pres. Quezon declared it a national park .

There are picnic spots dotting the whole trail going to the Bat Cave which is convenient for families who opt to bring their own food into the park. There are also a couple of carinderias serving simple fare for park visitors. The vegetable dish I tried for lunch tasted quite good because of the fresh ingredients sourced from the vegetable gardens located inside the park perimeter.

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Weekends are busy and the park office prefers that guests book ahead so that they can arrange the tours properly. The entrance fee is P50/pax and the guide fee (max 10pax/group) at a sliding rate depending on how many caves you want to see. BTW, there is an additional standard entrance fee per cave (P150). The park management does offer a great all-in price if you want to explore several caves in one go like what my friend and I did when we went to the park on a day trip.

All in all, Biak-na-Bato National Park is worth a day trip with an option of staying overnight for a more thorough exploration of its caves and wilderness trails.
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Posted by neena329_cab 00:05 Archived in Philippines Tagged hiking picnic spelunking Comments (3)

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