Archive for the ‘ travel ’ Category

The day I almost died or how I learned to never give up.

In 2006, I was inspired the team who went up Mt. Everest with the Philippine Everest Expedition and wanted to go there too. When they came back, they said it was the most amazing place they have every seen.

Abner Mercado and Val Cuenca at Everest Base Camp

Photo by Val Cuenca

So in 2011, after I learned I got accepted into ITP, my father and fellow photographer Patrick Uy decided to make it happen. We had been aware of the expedition in 2006 and 2007 since we were involved in it one way or another. Patrick contacted the same trekking company the expedition used.

Henry and Emma Pariyar of International Adventures Treks and Expeditions handled the entire journey. We took a Cathay Pacific flight from Manila to Hong Kong and switched to a Dragon Air flight from Hong Kong to Kathmandu via Dhaka. The plane trip took almost the entire day and we arrived in Nepal at midnight.

We were greeted by Henry and Emma at the airport. We got our visa upon arrival and headed to the hotel. During the dry season, Nepal undergoes 8 hour power interruptions. Meaning the city was very dark and I do mean very dark. Bull mastiffs run free through the streets and it seemed that a map would actually be useless in navigating the streets.

Essential things to bring to Nepal. A flashlight, which my father lost 2 days later 😦 so we had to buy a new one. There is excellent mobile signal in the city but up in the mountains, you’ll only get them in big towns. I’ll get to that later.

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Our journey took us 7 days over the Annapurna range of the Himalayas. It may not be Everest Base Camp (that takes at least 10 days) but enough to take pictures.

We rode a van from Kathmandu to Bandipur and stayed overnight. It gave us a glimpse on what was to come.

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Our camera setup

From Bandipur we headed to the lakeside town of Pokhara where we would leave our belongings before heading to the mountains.

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It was another van ride to the start of the trek at Nayapul. Here we met with our guides and porters and set off just before 9am.

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Mule train of of Nayapul

It’s here in Birethanti (elev. 1065m)  where supplies are replenished and brought up the mountains on the backs of mules. You need to step aside when they pass since they have a tendency to bump you off the cliff if you’re in the way.

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This is also the last part where vehicular traffic can pass since the roads are still being built.

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Since electricity is something of a rare commodity up in the mountains, I had a solar panel on my backpack as I went on the trail slowly charging my iPod or iPhone. It wasn’t much but enough to help me have some touch with civilization with my playlist.

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Don’t fall into the water. There are leeches.

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Just beyond the structures up there is where we would be staying for the night.

We arrived at Tikhedhunga (elevation 1525m) a little past five and had dinner and slept.

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Traditional Nepali dish.

The following day was going to be the killer. But we didn’t know it then. We set off at 6am for Ghorepani (elevation 2775m).

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The trek to the next town was tough. Ulleri was a steep acent of 1,300m.

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We had only hit part of Ulleri by lunchtime and it would be difficult to make it to Ghorepani by sunset. Our trek was not made any easier by the afternoon rainshowers. We were getting really tired. By 5pm we were still at least an hour away from Ghorepani and we were basically out of energy bars, water, eletrolytes and warm clothing. It was hot in humid during the day and it started to snow as the sun went down. Our guides were worried that I might be suffering from altitude sickness. But I wasn’t. Each step was painful and my body was telling me to stop. Stop here for the night. It’ll be ok. Apparently we were all in the same predicament. We were all just waiting for someone to say it. But nobody did.

As the sun went down the rain slowly turned into snow and at this point we didn’t have flashlight. There was nothing else in my mind but the next step. Each step was closer to a hot meal and a bed. During the trek, all sorts of things could fill your mind. There was the view, the odd thing that you would see along the path and checking on how much water we had left. But not at 6pm in the snow. We finally reached Ghorepani just before the sun went completely down.

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Last photo for the day. Entrance to Ghorepani.

Then I learned that it was another 30-45 minutes uphill to reach the lodge for the night. Crap.

I was feeling much better now that we reached the town and our goal for the day was within reach. But going through a town in almost total darkness with the exception of the moonshine that guided our path from time to time while it hid behind the clouds. Since it was really dark I stepped on crap. Literally. Oh well, washed my shoes before heading indoors. But it was something to laugh at and bring my mood up as I was already physically drained.

I reached the inn by 7pm and immediately went for my winter gear. I then suggested that we stay an extra day in Ghorepani since it was very evident on our very tired faces that there was no way we could climb another 1k M the following day.
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Sunrise showed us exactly where we were. Annapurna South filled our window and it was spectacular.

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Our living conditions for the past few days have been sparse but I was confortable enough. Though it was plywood, sleeping bag then me. This was one of the few places where we had a thin cushion.

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Annapurna South

The rest day did us a lot of good and set back on the path the next day. This time it would take us along the mountain range which was a little easier than the day before but not that easy.

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Highest point on this journey. My father in the background.

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As you pass, put another stone for the next traveller.

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Hot in the morning, freezing in the afternoon until the night.

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We’re suppposed to trekking somewhere here.

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Solar water heaters up in the mountains.

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Up and down the mountains and edges.

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Going through the forest isn’t easy especially when the path you’ve been walking on suddenly ends in a cliff. Look on the far end of this photo and see the steps that we still have to climb. Essentially we have to climb down to the river, cross the river and climb back up over 1000 steps.

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Over the river

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Up and up again.

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Find a way around this boulder.

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More steps.

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I’d say the walls were really paper thin. I could hear everything that was going on on our floor. Seriously. But we were gifted by this view the next day.

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Breakfast was always simple for me in the morning. Cup of coffee, toast and peanut butter. No eggs for me. Allergies. Peanut butter I carried all the way from Manila.

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The guy brought up apples from the city and is selling them to our innkeeper in red. The other ladies in black jackets are from the Three Sisters Trekking company.

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Wild bull mastiffs just lounging under the sun.

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This is is a short trek to Ghandruk.

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Holy cows.

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We spent the past few days going up, now it’s all the way down.

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Entering the town of Ghandruk was a bit of a shock. It is the most developed town in all of Nepal. It’s home to the Ghurka warriors who are known for their fearless and vicious fighting skills. Just recently, a Ghurka warrior on vacation took on a gang of 10 train robbers in India with a knife and won.

The town has it’s own hydroelectric plant which means there are no power interruptions here.

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Amazing! There’s still light and we made it to our inn!

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Best inn on the trek by far.

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They purify their own water. Bring your own bottle, no bottled water. Up in the basket next to it are around 5-6 iPods and iPhones. This is the most amazing inn ever.

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The innkeeper is well educated and very modern. All the trash you bring up must go down with you if it’s not biodegradable.
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Later that afternoon a mule fell in an accident. Vultures were circling above waiting for it to die.

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Note the solar panels, it’s just for the hot water. That means no hot water at night.

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View of the fishtail mountain at dawn.

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Mailbox in Ghandruk.

This was our last day on the mountain and it was all downhill. Like 3km downhill.

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Mules taking a detour so they don’t have to pass by us.

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This is how chickens are brought up.

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The one cat we see up in the mountains.

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Road being paved. I wonder how long will it take to build?

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Almost feels like a painting.

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Mule train back to Nayapul

Mule train

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This river is significant.
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Looks familiar.

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OMG! It’s the bridge where we started all of this!

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The last mile.

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You need to check back in to make sure you went down the mountain.

No more space inside

Fellow Belgian trekker had to ride above their bus since there was no more space inside.
Korean restaurant in Pokhara

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Taking the plane back to Kathmandu.

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Luggage waiting for the plane

Luggage at the tarmac.

Luggage being loaded

Luggage loaded.

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Back in Pokhara and having a Korean meal.

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Back in Kathmandu.

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bike share?

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More sightseeing in Kathmandu

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Coca-Cola ad.

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Let sleeping dogs lie.

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Pots for drying.

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Yes. Weed grows like weed.
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Waiting for our Dragon Air flight to Hong Kong.

This trip was amazing and I wish I could do it again to Everest Base Camp. Really big thanks to everyone my dad, Patrick, Evelyn and Timmy, Henry and Emma, Dipendra and Nim. I promise I’ll come back. I’ll just need to train going uphill.

35,000 feet with 5 hours to go

I knew I had to try the inflight wifi while going to New York. For this trip, the wifi was free. I quickly checked in foursquare and got the Mile High badge. Gogoinflight provides the service on this Delta flight who also services other airlines such as Virgin America and American Airlines.

Internet is provided in the air via two ways. One is via satellite as the signal is sent to receivers on the aircraft while the most common method is via cellular towers on the ground. This is the reason why inflight wifi is only available over land.

I will be tweeting more in the next four hours to see if Internet is better than television at 30,000 ft.

UP Lantern Parade Part 2

More lantern parade pictures.

UP Manila College of Pharmacy winning float. Happy 100 years next year!

You know you’ve got it made when you have an effigy. NO TO EDUCATION BUDGET CUTS!

UP PEP Squad at Melchor Hall

Professor Edru Abraham with the College of Arts and Letters

College of Law

UP College of Mass Communication

I wonder how much work went into this?

The winning float from the College of Engineering. Happy 100 years!!

Pictures don’t do this justice. The guy on top pedals and the feet and head move.

Institute of Chemistry

Fellow lecturer Ramon Bautista also taking pictures.

They walked 2.2kms in these.

That’s no Clown fish. College of Fine Arts


Piggy floatation device

Merman in a can

College of Fine Arts

Fireworks finally!

I found this year’s parade kinda weird. There were no screens at the Amphitheater which led to no views for those who were there. The sound kept cutting off, probably because of grounded cables due to the rain. The angle of the fireworks were dangerously close to the audience with the explosions happening right above the crowd. Because of the close proximity of the fireworks, the whole area was covered in smoke. I hope they fix these next year.

See, the lights were on and it still looks great.
Lantern Parade 2009

I hope you enjoyed the parade as much as I do. See you again next year!

UP Lantern Parade 2010 Part 1


We’re all finally on Christmas break! The UP Lantern Parade this year was a bit iffy for me. Probably because of the heavy rain right before the parade started. But it did not dampen the mood of those who were there. As soon as the rain stopped, the streets were filled by all sorts of student creations and the students who made them.

Part of the parade route

College of Home Economics

Palma Hall crowd

UP Pep Squad

Free Coke Zero!

Statue of Liberty c/o College of Architechture

Melchor Hall crowd

NISMED Lantern lit up

INC Central Temple from the College of Architecture

Hagikhikan costume makes it reappearance

School od Economics Lantern

College of Education

UP Belly Dancers!

More pics to come!

UP Lantern Parade survival guide 2010

It’s that time of the year again. The last event of the season is the most attended.

At the amphitheater

The faculty, students and staff of the University of the Philippines Diliman come together to put up a parade of lanterns usually with a theme. It’s great day for family and friends to enjoy the Holiday Celebrations. Here’s this year’s guide to prepare (somehow) for the 2.2 km route of the parade.

Roads will be closed.

I couldn’t get Google Map to do what I want so I’ll just type the road closures.

University oval will be closed beginning 6AM on Friday.
Magsaysay Avenue will be one way going in.
Quirino Ave leading to Katipunan will be one way going out.
University Ave. from E. Jacinto will be closed.

University Avenue

What to bring?

A chair. Folding and easy to carry. You’ll need this, the parade usually starts at 4pm and may end at 10pm depending on the activities.

Food and drinks. There will be a lot of vendors around but to be safe you can bring your own. Alcohol is not allowed inside the university and dispose of your garbage responsibly.

Keep everything you’re bringing light. It’s going to be quite a walk to your car after and lugging that huge water cooler will be quite a task.

If you are taking pictures, just bring one lens, zoom preferably with a focal length 35mm-150mm around that range will be great for everything.

A memory card of at least 8GB if you’re taking pictures in RAW format. Believe me, there’s a lot to take in.

Tripod. You’ll need this for the fireworks.


Best seat in the house?

Recommended places to stay,

Palma Hall steps
Melchor Hall steps
University Amphitheater – My personal favorite. Bigger space, great view of the fireworks. You get to see the performances of each college with a short introduction.

WTF – UP Open University

See you on Friday!

Yosemite day 1

Finally reached Yosemite after four hours of driving. It was pouring! Talk about a bad mix, cooled and rain. Temperatures definitely went into the zeroes as snow closed off highway 120 and Tioga Pass. Just basically drove around and checked the places we’ll go to over the next few days. I ran these pictures through Photoshop express on the iPad and posted them here. I’ll post the more spectacular colored pictures when I get another decent wifi place. I really need to get some thermal socks. I left them at home.

The fails of the trip. I forgot my photo chair in San Francisco. No T-Mobile service here. Only At£t. Wifi at the hotel is lobby only for $9/day. Wifi at Yosemite Lodge is only for guests, no pay access. gas is an incredible $4.36/gal.

But the views make up for all that.

2009 UP Lantern Parade

Fireworks, originally uploaded by mdelamerced.

I finally finished uploading and partially tagging some of the pictures I took in yesterday’s lantern parade and created a photoset along with it. Click on the flickr link on the left of the page or here. More posts to follow.

AFA 09 Videos

All shot with a Kodak Zi6. I really need better gear for this. Actually I do. I didn’t think I needed it. Obviously I do.

Moe Cafe line at AFA 09

Mamoru Hosoda signing at AFA 09

Witchblade on stage AFA 09

Will add more as I edit them.

Anime Festival Asia 09

Anime Festival Mascot

It’s the closest thing we could get to an international festival and it was satisfying. Even before the doors opened, anime fans from all over Singapore descended on the Suntec Convention Center for Anime Festival 09. While I still had to pick up my tickets from Sistic, there were lots of cosplayers spilling out of the MRT and to the festival. Upon reaching the convention center it was really crowded. One it was a Saturday but then there were also events taking place adding to the crowd.

One thing I realized is that I would have to get used to lining up over the weekend. And I do mean lines.

This is just the line to buy tickets

It would take almost half an hour to buy the day tickets but the entrance itself was just a breeze. You just had to make sure that this wasn’t the line to the Singtel event.

Inside, the Bandai booth will greet you along with the Takashimaya booth as well as a line of various gashapons.

Gundam standing guard

Hello Kitty Gashapons

There was of course, Danny Choo’s booth as well as the Tokyo Figure Show courtesy of the Good Smile Company. Thank you for bringing it to Singapore!

Tokyo Figure Show in Japan

There was of course the Eneloop Dog from Sanyo who is major sponsor of the festival.

Eneloop Dog

Cosplayers and their friends!

Register your cosplay character and get in for free!

Look at all those cosplayers on this side!

Don’t forget the other side

Lots of Domo kun!

And the line really starts here

But the main event was of course the Regional Cosplay Championships where countries from all over South East Asia competed to be the Grand Champion. I was of course rooting for Witchblade. But still, congratulations to everyone and to the winner!

Witchblade on stage

Witchblade with Kaname

Everyone on stage

I’ll bring a longer lens and a tripod next time.

Finalists on stage with Shoko Nakagawa and Ichirou Mizuki

Cosplay make-up session

I sat through the cosplay make-up session to get a good seat for…

Danny Choo, the Tokyo Dance Trooper… in SINGAPORE!!! (Part 1)

Danny Choo, the Tokyo Dance Trooper… in SINGAPORE! (Part 2)

Thank you for the great videos you produced.

Here Danny Choo talked about his site and his passion and it’s simple beginnings to now one of the most influential blogs on Japanese culture in English.

Danny Choo @ AFA 09

Rather serious look from Danny Choo

Then I had to get souvenirs of course!


Too bad I missed out on the signing of the Otacool book ; ; but I’ll try next time.

As night came upon Singapore, the stage was set for the “I Love Anisong” concert!

AFA 09 Stage

AFA 09 Balloons

I didn’t watch the first night which featured Shoko Nakagawa, Ichirou Mizuki and the virtual idol, Hatsune Miku. I instead went to the Yoshiki Fukuyama and May’n concert which was the following night.

It’s forbidden to take pictures but Danny Choo can and has a complete coverage here.

It was really fun and exciting. Especially when they got to the end where May’n and Yoshiki Fukuyama had a duet of Diamond Crevasse from Macross Frontier (Sugoi!) and Dynamite Explosion from Macross 7.

After two hours, the concert ended and along with it the end of AFA 09. A lot of lessons learned and also a lot of memories to bring home. But it was well worth it.

Tired AFA staff

Yoshiki Fukuyama signing autographs

There was a raffle to determine who will be able to get an autograph with the performers but sadly I didn’t win the one for May’n. I was however able to take photos of Yoshiki Fukuyama signing stuff and posing for pictures.

I know I missed a lot such as the Witchblade sisters coming to day 2 dressed as the Sunegai sisters. I was too busy shopping in Orchard Road. I promise, no shopping next year. I will try to do better.

But now enough of AFA 09. We all have AFA 10 to look forward to and hopefully everyone from this year will return, get a bigger venue (please please! the other event is just crowding the AFA too much ;)) And maybe Alodia and Ashley will return next year and finally win the championship.

Aftermath of AFA 09

I need to rest my tired legs. As for the video, I’m uploading them to youtube as we speak and will be writing another post about it.

Baumkuchen from Japan

My family was strolling down Ginza last weekend and wondered why there was such a long line and they decided to line up themselves. At the end of the line was this bakery that was selling these freshly baked goodies.

According to Wikipedia, the “Baum Kuchen” or King of Cakes, is a kind of layered cakes from Europe. It is traditionally sold in rings. To create the effect, a layer of cake is poured on a core that is baking. Once a layer has been created, another is made on top of it thus creating the ring effect.

They got a box (which was sealed and could last up to 6 days) for around ¥1,500 I think.

They brought it home to me and we opened it.

These pictures don’t even do justice on how it tastes like.

Note how the rings are made.

I also like the card it comes with when you open it.