Pitt Meadows, The best Day-Trip from Vancouver

Aside from being a gorgeous city, Vancouver is also a gateway to tons of stunning gems in British Columbia. One of the gems which I recently visited is the city of Pitt Meadows. Pitt Meadows is located just an hour’s drive away from Downtown Vancouver. And I can pretty much say that it is one of the best day trips to do when you are visiting Vancouver. 

READ ALSO: EXPLORING ALBERTA, THE ULTIMATE CANADIAN ROAD-TRIP

I never heard of Pitt Meadows before. I only found out about it through my friend Jeff who is also my photography mentee who’s workplace happens to be based in Pitt Meadows. Often times, during his free time, he goes to Pitt Lake -one of Pitt Meadow’s major attraction to practice and apply what we have discussed from our prior photography session.

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Here is a little fact about Pitt Lake according to Wikipedia:

Pitt Lake is the second-largest lake in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. About 53.5 square kilometres in area, it is about 25 km long and about 4.5 km wide at its widest. It is one of the world’s relatively few tidal lakes, and among the largest. In Pitt Lake, there is on average a three foot tide range; thus Pitt Lake is separated from sea level and tidal waters during most hours of each day during the 15 foot tide cycle of the Pitt River and Strait of Georgia estuary immediately downstream. The lake’s southern tip is 20 km upstream from The Pitt River confluence with the Fraser River and is 40 km east of DowntownVancouver.

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So one weekend, we decided to have our photography lesson at Pitt lake in Pitt Meadows. We did some portrait sessions, with ourselves as models taking turns being each other’s muse haha. 

READ ALSO: EXPLORING CANADA, THE BEST COUNTRY

Then we took some landscape photos from different areas of the lake. Of all the photos we took that day in Pitt Lake, ninety-nine percent of it is pretty much incredible! The lighting, the scene, and the vibe is just on point! You basically cannot take any bad photos here. 

Here are some more photos to convince you to add Pitt Lake in your bucket list when visiting British Columbia or should I say Canada. 

The best days to go to Pitt Lake is basically during the weekdays where you can have the whole place all for yourself. During the weekends, it’s just a bit crowded. 

Thanks for reading! Happy travels! 

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Exploring Madrid and Oliva in Spain

I traveled to Madrid from Lisbon by bus. It was an overnight one leaving Lisbon around 7pm and it took almost 11 hours before it was able to reach Madrid South Station. Well, there are also some flight options from Lisbon to Madrid but it’s five times more expensive than the cost of the bus fare. As a budget-traveler, I always opt for the more practical option. 

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It was a weekend when I arrived in Madrid, so basically everything was closed. And I realized that the data sim I bought in Portugal doesn’t seem to work in Spain. Fortunately, there was this one cafe in the station which was open, and thank goodness they have wifi, so I just booked an Uber instantly to my accommodation which in this case was the house of one of my good friends. 

On my way to my friend’s house, I got a really good glimpse as to how beautiful this city is from the Uber car. The streets were just bustling with lovely people walking their dogs and people sitting on outdoor cafes enjoying their cup of coffee. And upon arriving at my friend’s house, I left my luggages and we went out to do a little bit of exploring.

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In the afternoon, we decided to go swimming to one of the public pools in Madrid. To my surprise, I didn’t expect the queue to the pool to be a mile long! Well, basically it was summer during that time, and since Madrid is from from the beach, people often flock into pools to cool-down. 

After queuing for almost two hours, we were finally able to get in. But again, to my surprise, the pool is so crowded, like literally, there is no more space to get into. I’ve never been to any pool this crowded, but it was quite an experience. 

On my second day, I went to explore Madrid’s old town, and damn, it’s very gorgeous! Madrid is one of the most beautiful capitals I’ve ever been to. It’s very clean and almost all streets are covered with trees. In the main part of the old town, gorgeous pedestrian streets, stunning monumental buildings and squares filled with monuments are just some of the things that you’ll see. Madrid is indeed a city of great monuments.

Gran Via is Madrid’s most famous street and also one of my favorite streets in Madrid. It is also described as a hustling and bustling part of Madrid’s city center with no shortage of interesting and exciting things to do and see. Here you can find lots of buildings with stunning architectures, luxury shops and department stores. Definitely the best place to go shopping in Madrid. 

The Plaza Mayor, which literally means ‘Main Square’ in english is my favorite place in Madrid. It is a major public space in the heart of Madrid where you can find countless shops and cafes offering authentic Spanish Cuisines. 

On the next day, we went to Oliva, a small coastal town in the Valencian community. A three-hour drive from Madrid, this gem is one of the most beautiful town in Spain but also one of the most underrated as people tend to go to its more famous neighbor, Valencia City. We stayed for a total of three days in Oliva, often times busking under the sun by the beach. It’s also here where I got sunburnt so bad, but I have no regrets as I had so much fun. 

Back in Madrid, I spent my remaining days in the city, exploring and experiencing it like a local. Often times, I have no concrete itinerary and just wander around till I find a nice local pub. For me, wandering is often the best way for you to actually discover the best things any city has to offer. 

While writing this article, I actually cannot wait to visit Madrid again, or Spain in general. Also, would love to be able to visit other Spanish Cities like Barcelona next time. 

Have you been to Spain? How was your experience? Share it with us through the comment section below. 

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Exploring Tallinn, Estonia | Top Reasons to Visit Tallinn | Top Things to See in Tallinn

Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It is a coastal town with lots of history. I arrived in Tallinn from Helsinki. Tallinn can easily be reached through a two-hour ferry-ride from Helsinki. Ferries from Helsinki to Tallinn and vice-versa regularly leaves every hour, so basically, most visitors in Helsinki tend to go on a day-trip to Tallinn. But in my case, I didn’t go for a day-trip as I wanted to experience this city at a different level, so I spent a total of three-days exploring and discovering what this city has to offer. 

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In this article, I will be sharing some of the Top-reasons why you should consider Tallinn in Estonia as your next destination. As well as some of the top things to see in this beautiful capital.

Hospitable People

Upon arriving at the Ferry-Dock in Tallinn, we were meet and greeted by our Airbnb host. She also drove us to the accommodation at no additional cost. And upon entering our Airbnb accommodation, a welcome basket with local chocolate and wine was lying on the table, literally two of my favorite things! So I was totally speechless. It really is true, small gestures often make the biggest impact. 

Great Location

Tallinn has a strategic location in the Baltic Region. You can pretty much reach other countries like Latvia and Russia in less than seven-hours from here, and Finland for two-hours. 

Stunning Old Town

Tallinn’s Old Town is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe. Here you can find countless cobbled passages. It is also home to many local cafes and restaurants where you can indulge in local cuisines. Although extensively bombed by Soviet air forces during the later stages of World War II, much of the medieval Old Town still has retained its charm.

Its Cheaper than most European Cities

Coming from Helsinki, I’m pretty surprise as to how everything here in this city is quite affordable. You can basically have a cup of cappuccino from a cozy cafe for a Euro. Hostels in Tallinn can be quite cheap as well, and most of them have affordable private rooms that are a good alternative to an average entry hotel. But Airbnb can be a great option too. Your Euros can go a long way in this city. 

Kiek in de Kök Museum and Bastion Tunnels

Restored cannon tower from the 15th century in Tallinn. It is converted into museum with exhibits & tours of secret tunnels. Definitely a must-visit when in Tallinn.

Tallinn Town Hall Square

The Tallinn Town Hall Square is basically the city’s main square. Here you can find countless outdoor cafes and restaurants serving authentic Estonian Cuisines and beers. It is here where they hold community events as well, and during winter seasons, the square transforms into a giant Christmas market. 

Kohtuotsa Viewing platform

The Kohtuotsa Viewing platform is basically a must visit when in Tallinn. Located just a few hundred meters from Tallin’s Main Square, you can easily reach it by foot. The best time to go here is either during sunrise or sunset to see a dramatic view of Tallinn. 

St Olaf’s church

St Olaf’s Church is one of the tallest churches in Tallinn. Here you can see a wonderful 360 degrees view of Tallinn from above. Though I’m warning you, the climb can be a challenge, for you to reach the viewing deck you need to pass through a narrow spiral staircase with a slight traffic of other people heading up and heading down. Basically not for those who are claustrophobic. 

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is an orthodox cathedral in the Tallinn Old Town, Estonia. It was built to a design by Mikhail Preobrazhensky in a typical Russian Revival style between 1894 and 1900, during the period when the country was part of the Russian Empire. 

Reference: Wikipedia

Onnelik Korstnapuhkija

Onnelik Korstnapuhkija or the Lucky Chimney Sweeper is a bronze statue of a short chimney sweeper standing in Suur-Karja in Tallinn’s Old Town. Locals believe that by rubbing the statue, you are welcoming luck to come into your life.

Tallinn Town Hall

A gothic structure in Tallinn’s main square. A site to behold of architecture lovers.

Have you been to Tallinn in Estonia? If so, how was your experience! 😀 Share it with us through the comment section below. 

New to the blog, click here to get to know me more. 

Buscalan, Then and Now

Buscalan is a small village situated on the mountains of Tinglayan in the province of Kalinga in Northern-Philippines. It is home to the famous traditional tattooist Whang-od Oggay. Buscalan Village is also considered as the last traditional-tattoo haven in the Northern Philippines. Despite the distance and difficulty to reach the place, it doesn’t stop visitors (both local and foreigners) from visiting this village. That’s why sometimes, people’s journey to the village is considered a pilgrimage. 

Whang-od Oggay. Circa 2014

Recently, I went to Buscalan for a visit after three long years. I first visited Buscalan back in 2012, then been going back and forth between 2015 and 2016. Most houses back then were completely made from traditional materials, its foundation and walls are made-up of woods and the roofs are completely made-up of cogon grasses. But now, almost all houses are made from modern materials, like concrete and metals. Most of the houses were also converted to transient homes to accommodate all the people who visit the village. 

Typical Scene in Buscalan, Circa 2012

I also noticed a huge boom in tourism, there were like around thirty people waiting in line to get a tattoo. It’s nice that the village is receiving lots of visitors, however, this gives rise to some problems like problems with waste disposal, etc. I’ve observed that most visitors bring tons of plastic stuff with them and most of the time they just leave most of it in the village and this often leads to all of these plastics being scattered around.

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So basically now, you cannot go to the village without a local-guide which I think is nice since it gives livelihood to some people. You also need to pay a visitor fee of php75 like around 1.5USD when you enter the village, which I think is ok as long as the money collected are being used properly for the development of the village. I still remember before, when villagers invite you over for a coffee whenever you pass by their homes but now you need to pay around 20php for a cup. Well, I think everyone needs to put a price in everything nowadays.

Visitors from other countries smile as they mingle with the locals over some bread and coffee. Buscalan, Circa 2014

One major noticeable change I noticed when I visited Buscalan is the construction of a concrete road towards the village. It’s sti ll on-going, but from the most vehicle-accessible point of the road to the village, it can now be only journeyed for 30 minutes. Many people (mostly people who are not from the village) were against it before, but now I think they’ve realized the importance of it to the villagers, especially to those young students who needed to walk several kilometers on rocky, muddy and narrow paths just to get to school back then. 

Side of the mountain is carved to give way to the construction of the concrete road to the village. Circa 2019

Change is inevitable, especially in this modern world we are in. I don’t know when I will be able to visit Buscalan again, but I’m excited to see what changes will happen till my next visit. 

Have you been to Buscalan? If so, then what are your thoughts and insights on the current situation of the village? Feel free to share them on the comment section below. 

How to apply for a UK Visa for Philippine Passport Holders

Recently, I have applied for a Short-term UK Visa in Abu Dhabi upon my intention to visit my friend who lives in the UK. Before my application, I have read tons of websites and blogs. Upon checking, I just let a big sigh upon seeing all the list of requirements that you need to acquire and submit. I know it’s hard to be Filipino sometimes!

So one month before my application, I started to collect all the documents needed. I started with requesting a Certificate of Employment from my employer then requesting a Bank Statement from my Bank. Upon completing all my documents, I went to the UKVI website to book an appointment and paid 141.00USD online and received a confirmation booking for their office in Khalidiya. You need to print the confirmation letter before going to the application center, otherwise they won’t let you in the Visa Application Center without it.

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So on my appointment day, I went to the VFS Global Office which is located on the 25th floor of Shining Towers in Khalidiya, went for security checks then submitted all my documents to the agent. Upon verifying all of it I paid an extra 10aed for SMS and Email Tracking, he then asked me to proceed to the biometrics room for my photograph and fingerprints collection. The whole process only took about 14-minutes or less, so quick! They then informed me that the visa processing time will take up to 3 weeks.

To be honest, I was so nervous that my visa might get denied because I’ve read some blog posts from applicants who have been denied because they only have stayed here in the UAE for not so long, and since I’m only 20 years old and has only been staying here in the UAE for a year, the fear of getting denied is real! But after 8 working days, I received my passport anxiously praying and hoping to see a UK Visa stamped on it while browsing all my passport pages, Thank God! They gave me a multiple visa valid for six months! One of the happiest days of my freaking life! See you next year UK!

You should not worry about your application as long as you’ve provided all the required documents and that you’re completely honest with your intention of visiting the UK.  In my scenario, I got a letter of invitation from my friend who lives in the UK. It’s stated in the letter that I will be staying at his place most of the time and that he will make sure that I will exit from the UK before the Visa expires. And I also stated in my cover letter that I will only go there purely for tourism purposes and that I have no intention of looking for a job in the UK.

I hope this experience will help a lot of you, especially Filipino expats here in the UAE who are applying for a UK Visa for the first time.

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Documents required

Letter of sponsorship from sponsor/s

Cover Letter Addressed to the Embassy of UK in Abu Dhabi

Passport copy of sponsor/s

Statement of Account of sponsor/s

Six month pay slip of sponsor/s

Itinerary plans with Budget

Your Passport Copy

Residence Visa Copy

Employment Certificate showing your annual income and Approved Leave dates

Bank Statements For The Last Six Months

Application form, duly dated and signed 

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Frequently asked questions:

I’m in the UAE as a tourist, can I apply for a UK visa in any of the emirate?

-No, unfortunately most of the UK Visa application center only accepts applicant with a visa enabling the applicant to stay in a country/ territory for more than six months and in this case, UAE tourist visa is only valid for 3 months max.

Will the UKVI Accepts Scanned copy of the documents of my sponsor/s?

-Yes! They do, so you don’t need to ask your sponsor to courier all the original documents.

Should I have a confirmed return flight tickets before applying?

-No, not necessarily.

Thanks for reading!