Way back in 2006, I mounted a surf event for beginners in San Juan, La Union. It was called “Surf’s Up!” and it was an event of GO! Travel Magazine (R.I.P.). The event was a unique concept then because it was a surf trip specifically for beginners and anybody could sign up. It was also on that particular trip that I met Tikoy and Leia who would later on become my good friends and business partners at Travel Factor. At that time, I thought that the event was a huge success, getting heaps of city dwellers to get hooked on surfing. Looking back, I realize now how mad and wild the event was. We were struggling with logistics, accommodation, bus assignments and all the small little things associated with a group tour. As imperfect as it was, the event set the precursor for the creation of Travel Factor, and subsequently all the similar adventure tour groups in the market today.
Travel Factor started offering surf tours to La Union in 2006 and did it almost on a weekly basis, mostly because of the owners’ own addiction to the stoke. From there we began exploring other places and diversified into all these adventures. Today, Travel Factor remains as the leading adventure travel company in the Philippines. Sure there’s lots of competition now but we’ve proven that determination, originality, continuous innovation and a whole lot of passion allows us to stay on top.
In 2008, Travel Factor introduced the SURFVIVOR Challenge. Having organized dozens of surfing trips, we thought of raising the experience to a next level by creating a surfing competition for beginners. We did the first year and second year in La Union, both events we count as great successes. It’s even inspired others to create their own beginner competitions. We outdid ourselves last year when we hosted the SURFVIVOR Beach Games in Baler, Aurora and received a record number of participants.
This year, we are so excited and proud to bring to you the Aloha Boardsports & Travel Factor Surf & Music Festival 2011. It’s going to be our biggest event ever and we can’t wait for it to happen. We’ve never thought that we’d be able to invite you to an event of this scale, mashing together two of life’s most awesome things: surfing and music.
Registration is now doing exceedingly well! We’re now scouring and exhausting even all the little places in Baler where we can put people in. It’s crazy. It’s stressful. It’s all good.
Travel Factor was born because of surfing and so surfing and the SURFVIVOR series will always hold a special place in our heart (Cheesy!). So join us on October 29-31, 2011 and let’s have an awesome, awesome time.
Some four years ago, I was in the States backpacking and a random traveler told me he was heading for Texas to watch a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert. I was in Chicago then and I really wanted to just take a train to Texas and watch the concert. I consulted my map and my wallet and realized it was too far from my original itinerary. I boarded the train to Seattle with a heavy heart.
Fast forward to 2011. (Hey where’s my flying car?)
When my friend Blaise buzzes me in Yahoo Messenger, it usually means she’s hungry, or she wants to meet up for drinks, or that she has awesome news. It was the latter. Sometime in June, Blaise messaged me some really awesome news: The Red Hot Chili Peppers was going to play live in Hong Kong. Of course we had to go. And we had to bring our friend Carms along.
Our initial plan was to have one of our HK-based friends to buy tickets for us. We were gunning for these standing only tickets, giving us the opportunity to get really up close. We monitored the ticketing website and noticed that the tickets were selling fast. As in real fast. We therefore booked our tickets online and had it couriered all the way here in Manila. In hindsight, mailing really expensive tickets was kinda risky. But hey, they arrived in less than 5 days!
Fast forward to the concert day.
We mistakenly killed our feet the previous day by going to Disneyland. Who knew that a small theme park can cause so much damage?
On the concert day, we decided to go around the Tsim Sha Tsui and Mongkok areas so that the girls can shop for a bit. We decided to do some alternate routing. From our hotel in Wan Chai, we walked on over the the Wan Chai Dock and took a star ferry to Tsim Sha Tsui. Not only is the ferry a novelty, it’s also a tourist attraction. Now if Pasig River was just clean.
The world just stopped when we reached H&M. Blaise and Carms entered their shopping focus and I scanned the area for good eats. After about almost 2 hours, I finally dragged them to Din Tai Fung, said to have one of the world’s finest xiao long bao, which is essentially a soupy dumpling. (Din Tai Fung is in Silvercord Mall, Tsim Sha Tsui). Man, that was a good meal.
Fast forward to finding the concert venue.
We made the unfortunate mistake of taking an untried, untested route to the concert venue. For a few days already, we have become accustomed to using the Causeway Bay station whenever we needed the train. Just that one time, we decided to head for Wan Chai station, which is, as it turned out, a lot farther. Panting, we made it to Central station.
We then started looking for these cheap Airport Express tickets. During event nights, roundtrip tickets cost only HKD 52 (about P250). Regularly, the ride costs HKD 100 (bout P550), one way.
The MTR lady we approached told us to go straight then take a “left” and there we would find these tickets we were looking for. And so we went straight and I was puzzled why it came to a dead end. The MTR lady seemed to know what she was talking about, but she did just led us to a dead end. And an elevator. I complained “Wala namang left!” (There’s no left turn!)
I then gazed at the elevator. And then it occurred to me. LIFT!
Lift pala amputsa.
And so we found the cheapo tickets, took their world class train into the Asiaworld Expo and giddily took our place at the arena.
I’ve been to Coron about 6 times already and now I realize that the smattering of islands over there in Northern Palawan has got to be one of my favorite places in the Philippines.
Limestone cliffs jut out of the sea and stand tall, like a naval blockade protecting its treasures – inland lakes, sandy beach pockets, magical reefs. And Coron never seems to run out of it.
For four days we traipsed across the sea in our cozy boat, feasted on delicious seafood, and got buzzed on beaches. Oh it was fun, fun, fun.
I’d like to thank my companions who also star in this simple video I made: Blaise, Ayla, Cha, Tee, Ver and Ayie. The trip was awesome!
I hope you guys enjoy the video as much as I enjoyed making and editing it.
And there’ll be love, love, love.
Music: Five Years Time by Noah and the Whale
“Where the hell are we?” That’s what I thought when we broke out of Udon Thani Airport in northeastern Thailand. Sort of a border town between Thailand and Laos, it’s the city we chose to fly into when Air Asia went on a mad sale. I say “sort of a border” because the actual border is about 2 hours away. You see, crazy low cost carrier sales drive us nuts into buying all sorts of tickets. We should have bought tickets direct to Vientiane instead.
Admittedly, we went on the trip under-researched. Our wanderlusting gang usually assigns an expedition leader, sort of a rite of passage. Yeah, we met up before the trip and came up with one understanding, to scrap the idea of a Vientiane – Vang Vieng – Luang Prabang trip.
And so we exited the airport hesitantly, knowing that outside the airport lies the real world – where touts and drivers and pushy peddlers abound. But there were none. Most of the passengers on our flight were commuting locals. Most of them too had people to pick them up. And so we stepped out into an uncomfortable scene. The airport looked like Mactan International in Cebu, but without people. There weren’t even taxis. It was disarmingly quiet.
What there was were shuttle vans going to the city proper and to the Nong Khai Friendship Bridge. Our dodgy research instructed us to find the bus station in Udon Thani proper and ride the aptly named Friendship Bus. Really, such a bus exists.
A nice and cool Toyota van brings us to the city proper and we wonder how the hell this place is called a city. I began to think we should’ve taken the van direct to the border, the van being comfortable and all. Instincts. You should trust them, really.
We arrive into the bus station and surprise, surprise, there’s nothing in English. Sawasdee kap. Let the charades begin. We attempt to decode some of the Thai script figuring out where all these buses are headed to. There’s not a backpacker in sight, the usual people I approach to affirm or confirm something. I think nobody ever arrives in Laos from Udon Thani. Just us.
After evading numerous touts wanting to put us on a double-decker bus back to Bangkok, we finally figured out the lone bus bound to Laos. The man said we’d have to wait for 2 hours. We tried finding a private car to take us to Vientiane but the language difference scared us away.
We decided to feed ourselves to kill off at least an hour of our waiting time. We scope out the nearby areas, hoping for an air conditioned restaurant (Hey, it was a hot day.) but found none. The distant smell of something grilling led us to a simple roadside eatery. Flies, half-washed utensils, hands-on-your-food and all. I even saw a worm or two on the vegetables served at the middle of the table. This is why I don’t eat veggies. Although, people say that worms on produce are a good thing. They’re an indicator that they’re still safe for consumption. The grilled chicken was seriously good though but I had to get used to the accompanying sticky rice. They’re like tasteless suman. I wanted to put latik on it.
Nearby, another stall sold dark, thick, iced coffee and authentic Thai iced tea. Awesome stuff.
Thirty minutes before our departure time, an old, squeaky, blue and white bus arrived. I began unloading a lot of passengers and consequently people in the waiting area began to rise from their seats. I was hoping that it wouldn’t be our bus. And then the conductor began shouting announcements and looked at our way. Of course it was our bus.
The bus was a typical poor man’s bus. The stuffy kind that you wished it wasn’t air conditioned so that you can open the windows and breathe the fresh(er) air. Baggage weren’t allowed to be placed below because they were filled to capacity with rambutans and mangosteens. The aisle was filled with people, bags and G.I. sheets. Yes, they had to buy their roof materials over at Thailand and bus them over to Laos. Let’s not get started on how cramped my legs were. I am a tall man, at least in Asian standards.
Two hours of stuffiness later and we’re in border control. Most of the passengers on board are either doing visa runs or gambling over the Lao side. They produce all sorts of beat up travel documents and passports. Some are just pieces of paper, and other passports looked like small cute notebooks! We do this twice. The first one, upon exiting Thailand and the next one, upon entering Laos.
I remember my first border crossing. I was excited then, the idea of traveling from one country to another, on land, enchanted me. I was amazed at the idea of a neutral zone, or a DMZ, a place between two countries which was nobody’s property. The thought of the place’s nothingness thrilled me. It also helps that I am fascinated with geography.
But in reality, border crossings are a boring, and sometimes painful, ceremony. If for anything, the “Welcome to <insert country here>.” signs are a cute souvenir. I think it’s because I come from an archipelago. Our childhoods were denied of crossing borders.
Soon enough Vientiane loomed into view and I marveled at how simple the city was, how this place was already the capital of a nation. I was surprised at how this collection of small buildings on public roads was already embassy row. I think it shocks us Filipinos whenever we visit places which are simpler than our humble Manila. It makes me wonder how Westerners react when they visit our Manila.
We arrive at the bus station in Vientiane and immediately we charter a nice and cool van to Vang Vieng. We’ve had enough bus for a day.
Welcome to Laos.
*Photos by AJ Fajardo
I cannot even recall how many times I’ve been to Sagada but each and every time I go there, I take home with me a new experience.
This time around I’m on a Travel Factor trip, observing CONQUER Sagada 2.0. Just as I thought I’ve done everything in Sagada, Kuya Erwin, our main man in Sagada shoves onto my lap a white, live chicken.
I clutch her with me until Marlboro Country, our campsite for the night. About an hour from the town center, Marlboro Country beckons. Unreal, sweeping views of rice terraces and smaller towns. The occasional wild horse, showing itself. I wish it had a better name though. I hate it when we reference to Western, well-worn places, when naming our places. I’m pretty sure ours can hold its own candle.
But the place has been named already so let me just patronize it by saying “Come to where the flavor is.
Come to Marlboro Country.”
I would like to thank the participants of this very first CONQUER Sagada 2.0 for making the trip a memorable and fantastic one. The usual props to Erwin Quiore and the rest of the SAGGAS team for making everything safe, unique and unforgettable.
“We were the kings and queens of promise.”
Music: “Kings & Queens” by 30 Seconds To Mars (who is coming to Manila on July 29, by the way)
The video is actually viewed better on Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/25408949