Explore beyond the usual
Filipina Explorer is a travel blog that believes in the power of stories to connect us to the world, shape ideas, and move us to action. Read these stories from the archives.
Readers also love these
About Filipina Explorer
Hi! I'm Gretchen, a travel writer based in the Philippines. I created Filipina Explorer in 2009 to document my journeys through places, parenthood, and word weaving. This blog is a collection of those stories and everything in between. (Photo by Martin San Diego)
latest posts

7 Best Ways On How To Start A Travel Writing Blog

Back in 2015, the blogosphere predicted the imminent death of the travel genre. Audiences argued that travel blogs are useless from a practical point of view and are lost to forums. Many said readers are fed up with travel reports and postcard views, and there are only a few really interesting travel bloggers. However, it is mid-2019, and the genre is still alive and flourishing, although it has changed. Some travel bloggers changed the main platform, added a more personal touch and developed other projects, strengthening their personal brand. 
There are two important things you have to be aware of before starting a blog on traveling. 

First, begin to work on your travel blog if you indeed travel constantly. You do not need to search for all information and materials on the internet and base your articles on them. All this will not lead to anything good, as people only trust information that is obtained first-hand.

Secondly, there should be at least some experience in traveling before you run a travel blog. If you have never traveled before, then you might end up making a bunch of mistakes. Here, professional travel writers from AdvancedWriters share how to run a travel blog, find loyal subscribers, and stay in the genre for a long time.

7 Simple Tips to Make Your Traveling Blog Great

There are many useful ways on how to run a blog, but we’ll focus on the key ones. 

Here they are:

  1. Blog name. The name of a travel blog should convey its essence. This is important for readers, as the name of the blog gives them some idea what it is about. It must be noticeable, catchy, and easy to remember. It should cause intrigue among readers so that they certainly want to read your travel blog. If the name is too long, it will lead to the loss of potential visitors.
  2. Chatting with other travelers. Visit other travel blogs and see how much work you need to do. Before you start writing, check with other travelers what they expect from a travel blog. Make a list of things they do to attract readers to their pages. After comparing information obtained from the internet, analyze it carefully to come up with something truly unique. If your blog is not unique, it will simply plunge into the gray mass of similar travel blogs.
  3. Unique Concept. Search #Prague or #Istanbul in any tourist community or on Instagram. What do you see? A lot of posts with the main attractions, wonderful photos, and honest reports. How much will you read from a dozen? That is something to think about. Is it worth making 1,001 posts about what 1,000 people have already written before you? As with all other topics, unique presentation and specialization are important and must be equal to the best. Murad and Natalia Osmann (@muradosmann) found their style, which brought them worldwide popularity. Photographer @paperboyo transforms familiar tourist objects by adding carved paper figures to them. Do not try to do everything at once. Focus on one thing and become an expert at it (for example, communicating with local people, kitchens, budget vacation, hitchhiking, markets, travel mentality, etcetera. Most importantly, avoid clich├ęs like "New York is a city of contrast."
  4. Site selection. Your professional success depends on choosing the right platform for your blog. Site selection depends on the concept. If you want to write useful reports and make detailed guides, it makes sense to start a text-heavy blog. Its advantage is that the reader can easily find information on the web and refer to your blog as a guide. If you are starting a blog on YouTube, you need to objectively evaluate your charisma, sense of humor, and oratorical skills. In Instagram, you can get attention by incorporating high-quality visual and textual content in your style. This is probably the most popular travel blog format and the easiest to find an audience.
  5. More benefits. It will be great if your blog is more useful than a guide to the country. Put geotags when you find a delicious cafe, vintage shop, private gallery, or a beautiful location. This will increase the number of saves and subscriptions, ensuring repeat visits when readers need to clarify the details. Balancing between advantage and interestingness, remember that most users do not have time to read extensive reports. If you want to share useful information, try to squeeze it in a few sentences.
  6. Study user requests. What interests you most as a traveler when preparing for your next trip? Most likely where to live, where to eat, how much it cost, and how to get there. Be sure that these same questions are addressed for your readers. Satisfy their curiosity. You can make a small survey in the blog and ask what it would be interesting for readers to learn about the country or city where you left off.
  7. Author's identity. Impersonal travel blogs are perceived as art galleries or guidebooks. The personality of the author, his thoughts, comments, emotions, and style will help a blog to win the love of readers. If an interesting story is your forte, let subscribers know new places through the lens of your perception.

Why you should travel to Riviera Maya now

The Caribbean coast awaits you and your travel companions. If you've never been to Riviera Maya, Mexico, you're in for a real treat. There is sun, sand, and a slower way of living that you won't find in places such as Puerto Vallarta and Cancun. It's a low-key part of the country that supports eco-tourism, which contributes to a more sustainable and enjoyable travel experience without harming the planet or its inhabitants.


Source: gratefulgirl29

One of the things that stands out the most about the Riviera Maya is its extensive coral reef, which makes it the perfect place for divers and snorkelers. The marine life visible in the area impresses, too, with tropical fish, stingrays, and the occasional whale shark making an appearance. You can stick your feet in the sand, sunbathe, and watch the sunset from the comfort of your chosen spots on the beach, which sees fewer visitors than most of Mexico's most popular hotspots.

When planning a trip to the area, you'll need to think about things such as lodging and even the ways on which you want to spend your days. The trip goes by faster than you anticipated, so you want to make sure you're able to enjoy every single minute of it without apprehension. Having a plan in mind allows you to give your days more structure and meaning without requiring that they be rigidly booked to the maximum with activities.


Where to Stay While Visiting Mexico

After making the decision to visit the area, you'll want to plan your accommodations accordingly. Where you stay plays a big factor in your overall experience. If you want to steer clear of hotels, you'll find the option of renting luxury homes appealing. It's far more accommodating for your current lifestyle and traveling party size.

One of the questions you'll be posed with while planning your vacation to Mexico is where you plan on staying. Riviera Maya Villas is an amazing choice because of the value it provides. Living a luxury lifestyle while in Mexico is easy, thanks to the large selection of beautiful homes you have to choose from. Each has its own distinct advantages and list of amenities for your consideration.


Things to Do While on Your Vacation

In addition to exploring the beach, there are many ways to fill your days in the Riviera Maya. Depending on your interests, you may find exploring the ruins of Cozumel ideal. There is incredible history to learn about as you learn more about Mayan culture, its architecture, and commerce. It's somewhere you don't have to just read about or see on TV because you can witness it in person.
You can even witness how Mexico's jungle meets the sea. Chetumal is one of the places you'll never forget once you set eyes on it for the first time. It's part of the Mesoamerican Reef System and a protected area of the state. It remains home to many incredible species of wildlife.

Other points and activities of interest include going on a food or nightclub tour. Get to know the cuisine and culture of the area by hiring a guide to help you experience everything you possibly can in Riviera Maya. If you've never had Pozole before, you'll get your fill in Mexico. If skipping the line at Palazzo - one of the area's hottest nightclubs - seems more of a priority, you can do that, too.


The Premium Vacation Spot is Riviera Maya

Mexico has a lot to offer in terms of providing you with beautiful scenery, incredible beaches, sought-after entertainment, and delicious food. Riviera Maya, in particular, is among the most popular locations to visit because of its landscape, kind-hearted locals, and premium accommodations. Finding the right home to stay in requires no extra effort on your behalf, thanks to the sheer number of luxury rentals available in the area.

Your ticket to paradise is within reach. Enjoy everything that the area has to offer including its rich history, cultural celebrations, vibrant food, and authentic people. Call Riviera Maya your home away from home. With the gorgeous rental home you've acquired this trip, you're never forced to do without any of your creature comforts.

Laiban Circuit: How Hiking 3 Peaks in Tanay Taught Me Humility


We have been hiking for two hours in pitch-black darkness; six hours prior, in unbearable noon heat. I was wet, frustrated, and spent. I glanced at poor Lia, asleep on some guy's shoulder. It could be our guide or any of the cluster of men who fetched us at the river. I didn't know anymore. All I know was I never want to hike again.

We arrived in Laiban's barangay hall at 11:30 am after a series of transfers that seemed longer than Filipino soap operas. We were to hike Laiban Circuit in Tanay, Rizal, a 16-kilometer hiking route consisting of three peaks - Mt. Lubo, Mt. Ngusong Kabayo, and Tangwa Peak - and culminates in multi-tiered Laiban Falls.


We were brimming with hope as Laiban kagawad Kaka drove us on his habal-habal and pointed at several peaks, from General Nakar to Rizal. The drive going to the hall wasn't breezy all the way. Our motorbike halted and treaded carefully and over again as it crossed one stream to another. But the sky was a beautiful December blue, and we couldn't imagine it raining even if it did the past days.


A woman at the town hall looked at the four of us - Celine, Dennis, Lia, and me - and chuckled nervously. "Here's the truth," she said, heaving a deep sigh, "You will climb three peaks. After that, you will cross several waterfalls. It takes us locals around three hours to complete the route. You have a four year-old with you. The trail is wet. It will take you at least five to six hours. It will be nightfall by the time you finish."

She was waiting for us to throw in the towel and just call it a day. We spent four hours from Cubao going there. There's no way we will do that.

Swinging it at the barangay hall. Pre-hike. 

"Kaya namin 'yan, ate (We can do it)," we replied in chorus. The high I felt, being among the first ones to have set foot on the circuit since it opened in October, made me oblivious to the difficulties that lied ahead. 

The sun bore down as we walked the uphill path to Mt. Lubo, the first and lowest mountain in the circuit. Trees were scarce. The steep incline, coupled with the searing sun, didn't make things easy. Locals can reach the 488-meter high summit in 30 to 45 minutes. We did it in two hours.


At the foot of Ngusong Kabayo. Photo by Dennis Murillo.

From Mt. Lubo, we had an excellent perspective of the second summit: Ngusong Kabayo. Ngusong Kabayo means "horse's snout" in the vernacular, and after an hour of passing through exposed grasslands and bamboo forests, you will see why.

Pointy, craggy, and precarious, its rock formations resemble a horse's snout. Thrill-seekers may opt to scramble to the top (considered the summit at 602 masl), but we were just happy to finally find shade and eat our lunch of homemade spaghetti at the base.

One of a number of bamboo forests on the circuit

Tangwa Peak, though the highest peak in the circuit at 625 masl, is the easiest to get to. One simply has to navigate the narrow tunnels of Ngusong Kabayo (which are pretty manageable even for a kid) for around 30 minutes.

A passage at the base of Ngusong Kabayo that hikers must negotiate to get to Tangwa Peak

Like many mountains in Rizal, Tangwa offers a panorama of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range. Those who start very early in the morning are in for a treat: Tangwa Peak is famous for magnificent sunrises and a sea of clouds. 

We enjoyed the view so much that we stayed here until way past 4 pm, which later proved to be excessive. We were only halfway done, and darkness was looming on the horizon.

Tangwa Peak

Over the next hours, grasslands became our constant. We were flanked by 4-foot tall grass on either side. The sight of nearby mountains Binutasan and Sapari afforded us relief from monotony, though only brief. I got cuts from sharp blades of grass and  slipped more than I can count that eventually, the joke lost its novelty.

As the sun dimmed and everything turned black, debility overcame me. I couldn't even carry Lia. We aren't even at the main falls yet, and there are a few before we can complete the circuit.


Things weren't going so well for Lia either. She didn't refuse to be carried by our guide - which is rather unusual. She usually enjoys hikes. She no longer did.

By the time we got to the first leg of the falls at past six, she was exhausted, scared of the dark, and wailing like a beast. What have I gotten ourselves into, I thought.

First part of Laiban falls

I remember refilling our depleted water bottles from a nearby stream. No longer caring as Celine and Dennis mused about  stars and fireflies overhead. Being fetched by a group of worried barangay officials somewhere along the way.  A short but heart-pounding vertical scramble down a gushing waterfall and entrusting my asleep daughter to a stranger.

But everything in between during those final hours was a blur. We were walking nonstop. We couldn't afford breaks. Food and rest became my obsession.

Trail from Tangwa Peak going to Laiban Falls

Our cellphone torches offered little help. We played everything by ear. But in a night hike that only has sound of water, our hearing probably didn't help much either. 

By the end of the nearly nine-hour hike, Kaka noticed my silence. "You aren't used to these kinds of hike, are you?" he asked. 

"Apparently not," I replied with utter embarrassment. There was no thrill or joy in my voice. Only the certainty that I am fucking tired of mountains.


We came to Laiban without a hint of the terrain we are dealing with. We didn't even know those mountains' names. We had a local guide. What could possibly go wrong?

A lot mentally, as it turns out.

I went there thinking, "We've hiked the highest peak in Luzon. We've hiked a considerable number of mountains. These are average-height mountains. Three are doable."

Celine at Tangwa Peak

I was that annoying hiker who underestimated mountains based on their sheer height and the negligible knowledge I incurred from past hikes. For Christ's sake, I didn't even know how to pitch a tent. I wasn't prepared. Yet, there I was, priding myself in what little I knew.

Mountains are unforgiving. However small, one has the power to destroy your will. Mountains do not adjust to humans. Humans adjust to mountains. Once we step foot on a mountain, we are at the mercy of the elements. We are in nature's territory. Out there, anything can happen.


The next day found me crushed, both body and spirit. The proud woman who hiked to prove she knows something only to be proven she doesn't know anything. I wanted nothing to do with mountains, because I wasn't worthy of them.

It took more than a month before I had the courage to go at it again. The beautiful thing about mountains is that if you keep your eyes open and come to experience them without prior judgement or expectations, there are life-changing lessons to be learned that are worth keeping. Above all, this: Mountains hurt, but they are home.

Much thanks to the sweet tanods who went to check on us, Kaka, and our amazing guide, Kuya Efren, who tirelessly carried then-17 kilogram Lia for nearly seven hours. We are eternally grateful for your thoughtfulness and concern. The people of Laiban are a gem.






P.S. 
  • Pinoy Mountaineer rates this circuit as 3/9 in difficulty, according it the same level as Mt. Pulag via the Ambangeg trail, Arayat, and Balagbag. I can tell you it's much harder than those mountains. I'd probably rate it at 4.5 to 5/10, particularly the descent from Tangwa Peak to the falls. It's very slippery especially during the rainy season. Going down the falls requires a bit of scrambling. Come prepared.
  • This is an account of our hike in December 2016. Things might have changed since then. Refer to the contact person below for inquiries.
  • For inquiries on hiking the Laiban circuit, contact Kagawad Kaka Munoz at +639984943595 or send him a Facebook message.
  • Celineism has a useful Laiban Circuit guide with expenses, itinerary, and directions. Check it our here.
  • Contact details and schedule of fees as of 2016:


Mt. Yangbew Guide: How To Get There and What to Expect



Looking for an easy, budget-friendly, and scenic hike near Baguio that wouldn't cost an arm and a leg? Mt. Yangbew in Tawang fits to a T!


Also called Mt. Jumbo and Little Pulag, this mountain rose to fame in recent years due to its vast grasslands which many say, resemble Mt. Pulag's. As well, its proximity to Baguio - accessible in just 15 to 30 minutes - makes it one of the best day hikes for those who want to experience something beyond the usual city tour.

View on the eastern side the summit shows Tuba mountains. At the center is Strawberry Farm (not in photo).

The first three to five minutes is cemented road, followed by an unpaved terrain (turns muddy during rainy season). The trail features a gentle incline, making it easy even for kids and pets. You can even take your bike up to the summit. You don't need a guide since the trail is very straightforward and clearly established.

The summit is a vast, rolling grassland with a smattering of rock formations where you can take selfies while appreciating the spectacular views of La Trinidad and nearby mountains in Benguet.


Summit
When you see this marker, it means you are only 10 minutes away from the summit!


DIFFICULTY


1.5 to 2/10


WHY HIKE MT. YANGBEW


Very chill and easy. Ideal for beginners, kids,seniors, and pets
Accessible by both public and private transportation
Budget-friendly. No guides needed. Minimal hiking fees (P30 for dayhikes).
Offers stunning 360-degree views of La Trinidad center, Benguet mountains (Tublay, Tuba, and Kapangan), and the famous Strawberry Farm from the summit
Faces both east and west, so sunrise and sunset viewing are both excellent
Possible sea of clouds when you hike before sunrise
Biking and horseback riding can be done at the summit


HOURS TO COMPLETE


From the jumpoff, it takes only one hour to reach the summit in a gentle, relaxed pace (30 minutes if you only take one short five-minute break, which is doable).

ACTIVITIES AND FACILITIES ON THE SUMMIT


Bike rack; biking
Huts for resting
Horseback riding (P150 per 30 minutes per horse; P100 minimum for one round)
✓ No restroom



WATER SOURCE


None. Bring one liter of water per person.

HOW TO GET THERE


  •  Via private transportation: Take Ambiong Road to Tawang. Parking space is limited but available a few meters after the jumpoff.

  • Via public transport: Take an Upper Tomay-bound jeepney in front of Center Mall. This will take 30 minutes or more depending on the traffic. Fare is

If you are trying to catch sunrise, taking a cab is advisable, especially if you are in a group (cheaper to split). Tell the cab driver to take Ambiong Road. This is the shortcut and takes only 15 minutes from Baguio city center. Fare is P120 to P250 (depending on the traffic).




GOING BACK TO BAGUIO


Going back to the city is a bit harder since public transpo is hard to come by. If you are not in a hurry, take the jeepney with the signboard "Pines Park/ La Trinidad" from the side of the street across the jumpoff. This will take you down to La Trinidad proper. Cross to the other side of the highway and take a jeep bound for Baguio. Travel time may take anywhere from one to one-and-a-half-hours.

Alternatively, UV Express vans going to Baguio via Ambiong Road pass by on rare occasions. We've not tried this though.

View on the westerly side. That bald, rocky mountain is Mt. Kalugong.

Some taxis carrying passengers to Pines Park or Tomay may also pass by but quite infrequent (though it’s recommended if you want to escape the traffic in the city, since they can take Ambiong Road). Normally you’d have to wait for them to come back after dropping off passengers elsewhere in the area. 

If taking a cab, I suggest from the jumpoff you take the jeepney bound to Pines Park, then go down at intersection at the Tawang Police Station. This is where most UV’s, cabs, and jeepneys pass by. We didn’t know this and had to walk about two kilometers (20 to 30 minutes) to reach the police station.


FEES PER PERSON (ENVIRONMENTAL FEES)

Guides are not required. The only fee you will pay is for the environmental fee, which goes to the upkeeping of the place. You are to pay this at the Tawang barangay hall a kilometer away from the jumpoff. However, please note that if you come on a weekend or early in the morning (i.e. before 7 to 8 am), the hall is most likely closed anyway (happened twice to us). 

Tawang barangay hall


LOCAL VISITORS

  • Day hike - P30 (P25 for students)
  • Overnight camping - P100 for both regular campers and students 
  • Biker - P30 (P25 for students)

FOREIGN VISITORS*
  • Day hike - P50
  • Overnight camping - P100
  • Biker - P50
*Same for both regular hikers and students.


NEARBY SIDE TRIPS


 Strawberrry Farm. Tourist-popular attraction famous for strawberry picking. This is a seasonal activity best done during November to May. We went there in September and was told the strawberries are not yet ready for picking. You can take a jeepney from the jumpoff of Mt. Yangbew going to the farm.



 Mt. Kalugong. If you want to maximize your time in Tawang, I highly recommend doing a twin hike as well to Mt. Kalugong, about one kilometer northeast of Mt. Yangbew. You can walk or take a jeepney going there from the Mt. Yangbew jumpoff. Tell the driver you are going to the barangay hall.



Like Mt. Yangbew, the trail to Mt. Kalugong is roughly 1.2 kilometers long and is very straightforward. It’s also relatively easy, except maybe for the super steep, breath-taking (literally) cemented road that runs from the barangay hall going to the first 100 or so meters. You will pass by a small burial ground for locals. Please observe silence and respect.

After that, you’ll find rolling red soil, with rock formations on either side, similar to those found at the summit of Mt. Yangbew. The last leg of the trail consists of a beautiful array of pine trees leading to the summit, where you can find more rock formations, a wooden swing, picnic tables, and Ifugao huts. The summit offers a good view of Mt. Yangbew and Benguet mountains.

Note: Sadly though, mining activities were being done when we visited recently. Blasts can be heard from the summit of Mt. Yangbew. The rocks comprising the belly of the mountain are now fully exposed, with rare pine trees on the side, whereas in 2017, it was still very lush.

  Kape-an. This is a quaint and popular coffee shop serving local brews and cheesecakes at the summit of Mt. Kalugong. Cafe opens from 9 am onwards.


OTHER PHOTOS OF MT. YANGBEW



Connect with @filipinaxplorer on Instagram

BOOK CHEAP HOTELS ON AGODA

© Filipina Explorer. Design by FCD.