Travelogue: Olango Island


I have started taking time out to explore new places nearby or around the cities where my work takes me. Yesterday, I had half a day in Cebu before the evening flight back to Hong Kong. There are many islands around Cebu where tourists go on chartered boats for scuba diving, snorkeling, water sports and seafood restaurants. I asked the locals for an island that’s not too far, non-touristy, populated and accessible by public boats. The answer was Olango! But I was warned about bad weather, unreliable boat timings and the risk of getting stranded on the island. That added to the excitement, and I am so glad I went ahead!

Olango was a 40-minute ride on a small boat. There were rickshaws available at the pier to take you around the huge island. On one end is the Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary, on the other are beaches and in between is a huge village/town. I insisted to go to the Wildlife Sanctuary through the village, so I got a chance to stop at a local shop for coffee and conversation. At the sanctuary, I found out it was the season to watch migratory birds. There were guides available with powerful telescopes and information about all the birds. It was a beautiful walk up to the bird-watching tower in the middle of the wetland. I was shown Bar-tailed Godwits, Golden Plovers, Rufous-necked Stints, and a few other birds on their winter/summer break from Japan, Korea and China. I also saw Ruddy Turnstones and few kinds of Egrets from amongst the local birds! Continue reading

5 reasons why I travel solo sometimes

The pagoda at the Dongjiang Lake, Chenzhou

Same time last week, I was struggling with my translation app while chatting to a local family over dinner, overlooking the quiet Dongjiang Lake in a remote area of China, called Chenzhou. The family owned the small hotel I was staying in. I had no hurry to go back to my room; no plans for the next day or the day after. I was discovering the joys of traveling solo.

For most of my life, I believed traveling alone for leisure/holiday could not be fun. I even let go of many opportunities to see new places just because I didn’t have company. Sometimes the idea seemed very selfish, considering that I have a wonderful family I love to travel with. But my first solo trip to New Zeeland changed it all. I realized the benefits of traveling alone and have never missed an opportunity. After my trip to Chenzhou, a couple of friends asked me how could I travel alone to such places. And that inspired this post, which answers the why instead of how:

  1. It’s easy to pick any place you want if you don’t have to worry about the preferences of your companion(s). If the journey, place or the experience turns out to be a disaster, you don’t have anyone else to blame. I would have never picked Chenzhou of all the places!
  2. You can freely experiment destinations, modes of travel, accommodations that you have never tried before, knowing that you wouldn’t be ‘ruining’ someone else’s trip. The amazing train journey in China was a result of such an experiment.
  3. You are more likely to engage in conversations with fellow travelers during the journey, and with locals during your time on the ground. These conversations tell you more about the people and place than any guide book or the
  4. You can make your own spontaneous plans. I was up at 5:30 and out by 6, hiking up a trail I knew nothing about, discovering the waterfalls the local family had mentioned. It was truly a path only walked by the locals living on the other side of the mountains.
  5. Traveling solo gives you time with yourself – to think, meditate, find answers or new questions, or just enjoy the beauty of the world in quiet solitude. The half an hour I spent sitting quietly at this pagoda seemed like an eternity. It was one of the toughest things to just sit and not do anything, but also the most rewarding and memorable part of the trip.

I am all in favor of enjoying holidays with family and friends, which can be great fun and some of the best bonding experiences. But traveling solo has its own joys that you must experience.

Please share your experience if you have traveled solo, or your fears if you haven’t. These eCards were part of an inspiration during the same trip. Check them out and let me know what you think.