Mabuhay! That means ‘welcome’ in Tagalog, the language used in the Philippines. My following on Twitter has grown quite a bit over the past month. So, I want to take a minute to reintroduce myself for all those new here and explain where I’ve been for those who have been patiently waiting for a new post.
For starters, my name is Dianna! Last year, around this time, I decided to change my life for the better. I wanted to experience all that life had to offer. So, I booked a one-way ticket to Sweden because YOLO. Do people still use that term? I hope not. Anyways, I started traveling country to country in August and haven’t looked back since. During that time, I discovered the digital nomad lifestyle first-hand by becoming a copywriter. Fast forward to November, I ended up using all my allowed Schengen Area days. So, after Sweden, I made my way down to Asia!
I’m in the midst of planning my trip back up to Europe in November (a year after I left, ironically) and then I’ll be heading back to North America. Except this time, I’ll be exploring Mexico for the first time ever!
Now that you know a little bit about me and my travels, I think my regular readers are probably wondering what I’ve been up to. In April, I re-visited Thailand for the second time since I’ve been southeast Asia. Except this time, I traveled to Chiang Mai. My time there was only 3 weeks, but every day was amazing. I love that city, I really do. Also, the strangest thing happened to me there. I ran into a high school friend while getting dinner in Maya Mall… can you believe that?! Hi, Nick! If you’re reading this…
After Chiang Mai, I flew to Bangkok to spend my last week in Thailand. There, I met an old friend for the first time. Who said traveling gets lonely? I honestly have met more people in the past 9 months than I have the past 2 years at home! Then from Bangkok, I made my way to the Philippines.
Are you traveling to southeast Asia soon? Check out my packing list necessities here. I’ve downsized a lot while traveling, often throwing away clothes and other items… don’t make my same mistakes!
Arriving in Manila
When traveling around Asia, I’ve usually stuck to only flying with Air Asia. This time around, I booked my ticket with Cebu Pacific Air. I’d say the experience was as average as it gets with flights. I touched ground in Manila around 3pm. The main reason for my trip was to meet up with my mom who was flying in from America for my birthday. Her flight was scheduled to arrive later that night, so I met up with my aunt and uncle and they were my tour guides for a few hours!
We headed to the Manila Bay and checked out that area. This wasn’t my first time in the Philippines. I have probably visited around 7 times throughout my life and although the last time was 11 years ago, I vividly remember the Manila Bay area. Everything seemed to be the same, although I can’t recall the ferris wheel and little amusement park area. We also walked around Mall of Asia to kill a bit more time while waiting for my mom’s flight.
Driving to Ilocos Norte
Once my mom arrived, we headed straight to the north! Ilocos Norte to be exact. This is where my family lives. I’ve survived this trip every single time I come back here, but this time was seriously a struggle. Normally, it’s just my mom and I and we hop on a charter bus. This time, it was us plus 4 others packed tight in an SUV. I was completely squished, should to shoulder, for 12 hours.
It was not fun whatsoever. I was barely conscious from lack of sleep, but yet couldn’t sleep because the roads were so bumpy. During the middle of the ride, I ended up getting sick. Traveling really stresses out my body!
Finally, we reached out destination. Paoay, Ilocos Norte. At this point, I was so happy to see a bed! My family welcomed me with a huge banner of myself with the words ‘Welcome to the Philippines’ written on it, it was such a surprising and thoughtful gesture! This area is where I spent the next 10 days. It was great because if you’ve ever been to Manila, then just imagine the complete opposite. Calm, peaceful, and away from the madness. It was a breath of fresh air after staying in Bangkok.
White Sand Beaches
Never in my life have I been to a white sand beach, at least none that I could remember. We checked out two beaches in Currimao, which is a town or two over from Paoay. The first, I can’t remember the name, the second was Subli-Subli. The water was crystal clear, warm, and the sand was as fine as powder. It was unreal! By far the best beach I have ever visited. There was even a cute little beach puppy hanging around us.
Celebrating My Birthday
The purpose of this trip was for two reasons, to hang out with my mom and celebrate my 25th birthday. My birthday is on May 5, you know, Cinco de Mayo. So, celebrating in the states has always been an exciting time. It’s a party everywhere! However, birthday celebrations in the Philippines are over the top. There was a food buffet including lechon (an entire roasted pig) and lots of cake, a live band, and a family member of mine MC-ed the party for a few hours. The entire village came by and never in my life have I been the center of so many photos. It’s really an awesome experience because they sure know how to make you feel special. Truly a birthday that I will never forget!
During my time in Paoay, I reunited with many relatives that I hadn’t seen in at least 11 years, if not longer. Even some neighborhood friends who I remember hanging around when I was 14! It was refreshing to meet up again as adults. Every day, I was constantly being introduced to relatives. However, the culture in the Philippines is that everyone is your cousin. So, I’m still not really sure who is actually related to me. Seeing my cousins who I remember from their teenage years now being surrounded with their little families that they’ve created really made me so happy to witness it all. And I have to admit, my little cousins are the cutest!
Perfecting My Ilocano
Who am I kidding, I can’t speak Ilocano or Tagalog! If you didn’t know, the Philippine language is very diverse. Tagalog is the overall spoken language but each area of the Philippines has their own dialect. Some are dying, but Ilocano is still going strong! I learned basic words from my little cousins and even still message them asking them how to say phrases. It’s like I’m 5 all over again… I know how to say a number of farm animals and random things like watermelon. It’s odd though, I grew up around my mom who speaks Ilocano. So, I can actually understand most of it when spoken, but I can’t speak it myself. Is anyone else like that with a language?
The Heritage Hotel
Eventually, we made our way back to Manila to prepare for our flight. We left a couple days beforehand and checked into the Heritage Hotel. It was nice a treat (from my mom) because I haven’t stayed in a hotel at all while traveling and this one had all the luxuries. If you’re looking to splurge, I highly suggest this place. It’s close to the airport and even closer to Mall of Asia. It’s a perfect location if you’re the tourist type! I also ordered room service for the first time ever in my life, so naturally, I was a dork about it. To feel extra fancy, I even put on the robe that was in the wardrobe.
Now that you’re all caught up with me, I want to know what’s new with you! I’ve felt a little disconnected from the blogging world the past few weeks. If you’re traveling somewhere new soon, let me know in the comments below. As for what’s next for me, I’ve already situated myself in Lovina, Bali at the moment. I’ll be here for the next 3 weeks and then after that… well, you’ll just have to sign up for my newsletter to find out!