A Busy 2014 For Me. But Not Too Busy To Greet Everyone A "Merry Christmas"!

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December 23rd 2014
Published: December 24th 2014
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Look Ma, No Hands! Look Ma, No Hands! Look Ma, No Hands!

In Tam Coc, these feet-paddled boats are an attraction by themselves.
I started this year 2014 choking on my "doce uvas" (12 grapes) as the clock in Puerta del Sol, Madrid struck 12. Lots of merriment with a thick crowd gathered around this landmark, sharing booze as spirits -- literally and figuratively -- ran high. My first New Year (and Christmas 2013 too) in Madrid , Spain where I spent nearly 2 months. I didn't miss the most important lesson learned here --- that Christmas is all about the Child Jesus, the Nativity. Not Santa nor the Snowman nor the gifts around the Christmas Tree. While in Madrid, I delighted on the many Nativity Scenes in Churches, Plazas, Malls, offices and homes. And come New Year, I froze as I stood watching the Cabalgata (3 Kings Parade) near the Palacio de Communicaciones. I had a lovely holiday time in Madrid, before heading home to the Tropics.
Iconic Metropolis By NightIconic Metropolis By Night

Iconic Metropolis By Night

January 5th 2014
The Belens, Christmas Bus, Luces de
Taj MahalTaj MahalTaj Mahal

Who'd miss this while visiting India? No way.....
Navidad, Doce Uvas y Cabalgata in Madrid

Off Again, to Sydney With Love

Before long, I was seated on a plane headed for Sydney . Off to surprise my sister who turned 70 last April. My niece, grandniece, grandnephew and a couple of family friends complete the "surprise party" and to say my sister was delighted is an understatement. We pulled it off! And so with the Great Gatsby-themed birthday party for this septuagenarian who gave us all a scare when she fell ill less than a year before. The event was made even more meaningful as I met the Dancing Hoopers for the first time. In true TravelBlog Family spirit, we hit it off like we're old friends, ready to rock and party. A Great TB Meet-Up While Someone Turns 70

During my stay Down Under, we found time to also visit Melbourne and revisit many Sydney attractions with my Manila-based fambam. A highlight of these trips in and around Sydney is our weekend in my nephew's lakeside house in Lake Conjola. The same house is being renovated now and I can't wait to head back and spend more time there. In fact, I told them they can drop me off there and come back for me a week after. Just make sure there's a couple of bikes stored somewhere which I can use to buy those deli, pies and bread from the next town's heritage bakery.

A Couple of Domestic Trips

In 2014, I pulled off only 2 domestic destinations . The first is Dumaguete City which is a perfect jump-off point to several other islands like Apo's Turtle Sanctuary, the mystic island of Siquijor and for dolphin watching and sandbar sunbathing along Tañon Strait. With friends, we hopped on and off bancas (small local boats) like we do it everyday. Seafood was great, and the islands were IMO utterly underrated. Island Hopping From Dumaguete City

The 2nd island destination was Iloilo from where we took a small boat to cross over to Guimaras Island and feasted on the best mangoes! I love going to the provinces as they are such great escapes from the chaos of living in a metropolis, as well as great "oxygen breaks" for us city folks who endure the smog and pollution of Manila. Not to forget , these islands offer the freshest sea harvest at very affordable prices. Perfect!

Not One, But Two Off The Bucket List

Finally. India has always been on my list but I just never had the nerve to go on my own. For some reason, I wanted to go with a group to visit this exotic place. And I found one. Old and new travel buddies, looking for adventures.
Now I understand why many visit and stay here, regardless of the dirt, chaos and the threat of Delhi belly. Too many heritage sites, incredible temples and way too many palaces. Pre-colonial and colonial architecture -- take your pick. Either will floor you. The culture is another one for the books. The mysticism can drive you incredulous but then again, this is one land that bred many ideologies and religious beliefs. Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism, and I'm sure there's more. Incredible India, indeed!

Then, there's the perennially-postponed trip to Hanoi , Halong Bay and Tam Coc . Too much planning got in the way in the past. This time, we impulsively decided to just go. Result was one of the best trips we've had. Very relaxing (no planning,
Tam CocTam CocTam Coc

A random shot of a lone fisherman.....
remember?) and a chance to be with good friends.

And Now, It's Nearly Christmas!

In a couple of days, it's Christmas. All's quiet in most malls now as the shoppers finally got them done and wrapped! I didn't do any shopping at all. (It's all about the Nativity, remember?) But I did order some baked goodies from friends to share with more friends. A friend of mine chides me for timing my medical check-up in this Season, but I figured the hospitals are quiet during this time as patients would rather stay home to celebrate the Season with family. For others, they'd rather simply postpone medical procedures after the holidays. Not pragmatic moí. It's a good time to do it because it's easier to make appointments, faster to get results, and hospital staff seem just a bit more cheerful during this time. Must be the lighter workload. More importantly, I typically go overboard with my holiday binge-ing so why not do those lab tests at "your worst"?

So now, all's well. I binged. Both on food and drinks. Results ok. And spirits high, looking forward to a great
At The Crack of DawnAt The Crack of DawnAt The Crack of Dawn

How relaxing to cruise Halong Bay and waking up to this scenery.
Christmas. Hope you all have a good one too.


Additional photos below
Photos: 20, Displayed: 20


Halong BayHalong Bay
Halong Bay

All of 1,969 limestone kartz!

A city in central Philippines which offered many historic and heritage churches.
Guimaras IslandGuimaras Island
Guimaras Island

Believe it or not, this island is just a 15 minute boat ride from the city. Claims to grow the best mangoes in the Philippines. I disagree. Best Mangoes IN THE WORLD!
Hoa LuHoa Lu
Hoa Lu

We passed by this ancient capital on our way to Tam Coc.
Tam CocTam Coc
Tam Coc

The feet-paddled boat ride took 2 hours, passing 3 caves like this one.

Was in Jaipur during the Diwali Fest. That Saree threatened to drop down to my ankles. Lol.

24th December 2014
Mobile Vendors in Halong Bay

25th December 2014
Mobile Vendors in Halong Bay

It was...
Glad I finally went. Vietnam is so near I just kept putting it off. Had a wonderful, relaxing time.
24th December 2014
Taj Mahal

What a fantastic year of travels. Glad you've had time with your sister and how wonderful to meet the dancing ones. it is always good to mark a couple of things off the bucket list and then back home for friends and family.
25th December 2014
Taj Mahal

Hectic-Happy, yes!
Kind of full this 2014. But so happy to have struck off a couple from the list , spending time with family and friends!
25th December 2014

What a wonderful year with plenty of travel...
and a very Merry Christmas to you and may your new year be happy!
25th December 2014

Hi there
A Merry Christmas to you from across the oceans!
25th December 2014

Maligayang Pasko at Masaganang Bagong Taon din sa iyo! Keep on traveling.
26th December 2014

Maligayang Pasko!
Sana'y mabiyayaan tayong lahat ng kapayapaan at magandang kalusugan sa darating na taon!
26th December 2014

Merry Christmas lili!
Looking forward to reading more from you in 2015 :-)
28th December 2014

Hi there
A Merry Christmas to you.... and yes, i should work on my backblogs this ,2015 :-)

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