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Mt. Pulag's Akiki-Ambangeg Trai

A day hike to Luzon island's highest peak

Sunday, May 19, 2019

SOCCSKSARGEN Region : A Morning at GenSan's Fish Port Complex

Initially, I wasn't keen on joining my friends for an early morning trip to the fish port, a popular attraction in the country's tuna capital, GenSan. Due to lack of information, I had misjudged the place to  be a big tourist trap, chaotic, wet and smelly. Admittedly, I was wrong and I'm thankful I was swayed to join them. 

General Santos Fish Port in Barangay Tambler covers 32 hectares and is the Philippines' second largest fish port, next to the one in Navotas. (See traveller reviews on Trip Advisor here.)

That morning, we were up before the sun lit up the sky. Fortunately, our hotel, Square Suites, was willing to serve breakfast earlier than usual (Book here). By 5:00 AM, we were out trying to hail a tricycle to the fish port complex (if I remember correctly, we paid around 200 Pesos for 4 people). It's about 25 KM away from the hotel and by  6:00 AM, we were at the gate. We registered and left one  ID for the entire group. Then we hitched a ride to the office to rent boots and jogging pants since I didn't have any clean ones left after our hike up Mt Apo. (Tip: Bring your own socks to wear inside the boots. If you forgot, there are socks on sale for 20 Pesos.). 
With Adela and Zul at the Gen San Fish Port. Photo by Edgar | eazytraveler.net
The port was a short walk from the office. At the sight of water, I was immediately drawn to the seaside. Though it was crowded with fishing boats, its water was attractive and clear, an enlivening view. 

Just across the boats is the area where the main action was - batches of tuna displayed on tables, people walking around carrying fish on their backs, half the size of their bodies.  I noticed some carrying a long, thin metal rod which I later learned is called a sashibo,  a tool used by tuna graders to determine the value of a fish. It's plunged into the  core of the tuna to extract a portion of its flesh. Its color, fat and texture determines its price.

The most exciting thing was witnessing the bidding where people shouted maniacally to get the best ones. The energy was as electrifying as watching the finals of a football game. As quickly as the mania began, the bidding ended. People plastered stickers on the fishes, names of the businesses that won the bid.

We took a few more photos around the port. We were careful and made sure to stay out of the way of the people who were actually working. In less than an hour, we were ready to go and we stopped by the office to return the boots and pants and buy souvenirs (they sell unmarked canned tuna, shirts and magnets at reasonable prices).
With Ed of EAZYTRAVELER.net,  newfound friends from Malaysia - Adela  of Gaya Travel and Zul in
our mandatory ensemble of pants and white boots. :P (Photo fr Ed)
Much as this was a fun and exciting experience, it brings to mind, a conversation I had with a vegan friend who shared with me the issue of depleting tuna population as a result of exploitative fishing practices. If we can't avoid tuna, we can help by being mindful of supporting brands that adopt sustainable fishing methods. For awareness, here are some articles on this issues  : Jamie Oliver.com : Is Eating Tuna Sustainable and *MSC : Buy Sustainable Seafood. *MSC or Marine Stewardhip Council is a non-profit organization that believes that "everyone can play a part in protecting the future of our oceans and fish stocks, while enjoying seafood, not avoiding it."

Travel Notes:
Be respectful and keep out of the workers' way. Be mindful when taking pictures as you might accidentally get hit by workers carrying large fishes.  

Saranggani Highlands is a good stop to have a snack  or breakfast after. You can take a tricycle to the main highway and get off at the junction and hire a motorbike. 

Other places of interest : You can drop by GenSan after your hike at Mt. Matutum, a volcano with a beautiful forest in Tupi, South Cotabato. Blog post here.

Where to Stay in GenSan:
We spent two nights at Square Suites which is right along the highway. Rooms are clean and beds are comfy. The bathroom could be improved as the tiles are getting yellowish. Overall, with its friendly staff, cold aircon and good beds, I'd stay here again. (Rate : Triple Room at 1500++.) More details here.

This post is part of a series about our travel around SOCKSARGEN region, an acronym of the provinces and city that comprises Region XII. It stands for South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos (Gen San) city.  We have collaborated with the local tourism unit to help share the beauty of this region and encourage fellow travellers to visit SOX next. 

Friday, January 11, 2019

Visiting the Borobudur Temple Compounds

Considered a must when visiting the region of Yogyakarta is Borobudur temple. Built in the 8-9th century AD, this Buddhist temple in Magelang City is a glorious structure, made up of 3 tiers surrounded by stupas. Its base has 5 square terraces, topped by 3 circular platforms and then 1 huge stupa at the top, a total of 9 floors, covering an area of 2,500 sqm.

Going around, you will find detailed stone carvings  on the walls, a depiction of Javanese culture and Buddhist doctrine (Source: Lonely Planet), but what I found most fascinating is how it was built by hands and kept intact by interlocking stones! To a playful mind, it's like walking inside a giant lego structure. 
Waiting for the sun at Borobudur temple
A volcanic eruption has kept it buried under volcanic ash, until it was rediscovered in 1815. With the efforts of the government together with UNESCO, it was restored to its grandiose state.  Along with two other smaller temples, Mendut and Pawon, it's collectively known as Borobudur Temple Compounds and inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.

From Plataran Heritage Borobudur, the temple is a short, 15 minute ride (this is a good and very comfortable option when visiting Borobodur temple) and by 4:00 AM, we had reached the temple grounds so we could secure a good spot to watch the sunrise.

Located in Kedu valley, Borobudur temple offers a good vantage of nearby hills and volcanoes, making sunrise or sunset watching a popular activity.  Another good thing when visiting at these times is to avoid the heat. The weather in Yogyakarta is typically humid, like being in a Philippine beach in summer, minus the breeze. There aren't any shades within the temple and it can get really uncomfortable when the sun's out. 

Being a popular site, the temple gets a lot of visitors even on a week day, but it's quite enormous  and one can still find a quiet spot to sit down and enjoy the enigmatic view of misty mountain peaks.   

Helpful post : Out of Town blog | 23 Tourist Attractions and Best Things to do in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Though the sun playfully stayed hidden under the clouds,  it was still was wonderful experience walking around the temple with our delightful guide Denny sharing some information. 

Since it was still quite early, wtook a calesa and made our way to Andhong Village to visit the temples of Pawon and Mendut. On a slower pace, we were able to look around and if not for the signages in Bahasa, it looked like a typical scenery in a progressive Philippine province.
Quick stop at Pawon temple
Apart from Pawon and Mendut temple, the Andhong Village tour involves a stop at some local establishments producing local delicacies and The Original Pawon which is a bed and breakfast that produces civet coffee or what is commonly known as kopi luwak. 

By 9:00 AM, we were back at Plataran Borobudur, enjoying the huge buffet spread. :)

Helpful post : Drowning Equilibriums | Yogyakarta, Indonesia 4 Day Travel Guide

How to get to Yogyakarta
There are no direct flights to Yogyakarta from Manila but you can take a plane to Jakarta, then take a train from Gambir station. Travel time via train is 8 hours but there are comfortable options available. Cebu Pacific has flights to Jakarta.

While Boroboudur temple can be a DIY trip, to avail of the sunrise or sunset tours, you'll have to book with Manohara Resort. Below are the details from their website : 
Rates : 
Foreigner Visitor : IDR 475.000 per person
Domestic Visitor / KITAS : IDR 350.000 per person
Children Price :
Foreigner Visitor : IDR 250.000 per person (6 to 10 years old)
Domestic Visitor / KITAS : IDR 185.000 per person (6 to 10 years old)
** Children under 6 years old free of charge
Inclusions : 
Entrance to Borobudur Temple from 4.30am (before public open time).

Notes :
Ticket counter open starting from 4.00am
There is no limitation for the number of Borobudur Sunrise visitor.
Everyone could purchase the ticket directly without a reservation.
Copy of passport is required for Borobudur Sunrise registration, you have to bring it when purchasing the ticket.

Contact details :
Website : Manohara Resort

Where to Stay near Borobudur Temple
a view of the pool from my room at Plataran Heritage Borobudur
Plataran, an Indonesia hospitality group that aims to promote local heritage by incorporating it in their resort interiors and services has three resorts in the area.  We stayed at Plataran Heritage Borobudur - which I find quite solo traveler friendly since its closer to town. If looking for a romantic destination or traveling with a family, I'd recommend Villa Borobudur Resort and Plataran Borobudur Resort & Spa. For more info on rates, please visit their website here.

Tips :  
- Dress code applies when visiting Borobudur temple. No shorts/skirts above the knees. You will be asked to wear a sarong if you forgot to wear appropriate clothing. Slippers/sandals are allowed but note that you will be climbing flights of stairs. 

- Yogyakarta can get really uncomfortably hot and humid, even for someone born and raised in the tropics like me.  If visiting mid day, bring water, cap, umbrella or a fan. 

- Note that you will be doing some walking and climbing stairs made of stone, with some parts uneven so wear adequate footwear. (I wore an open toe sandals from a Filipino brand called Suelas and it was really comfy - was not paid to say that BTW :))

For more information of places to visit around Indonesia, check out the informative 
Ministry Tourism of Indonesia site

Related post : 
Traveling from Jakarta to Yogyakarta on PT KA's Priority Train.

Note : This trip was made possible by Cebu Pacific through their PR agency, Stratworks and the Ministry Tourism of Indonesia.

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