Travel Spotlight: Bino from “I Wander”
You can say that I found out about Bino by accident and did not realize that I have been following his Instagram photos all this while. I was looking at an interesting story from the Filipino Travel Bloggers page when I saw a posting about Kota Bharu, Kelantan. To my surprise, it was written by Bino who is a part time traveler with a full time job. With similar background, I decided to approach him for an interview for this months Travel Spotlight.
What’s it like to be a part-time traveler while having a full-time career? How do you find the time to balance them both?
I have been fortunate enough to have a job that affords me a work-life balance. That being said, I only get a fixed number of vacation leaves in a year and I try to make the most of it by planning my trips around holidays or weekends in order to maximize my time.
I’m guessing that you maximize the Public Holiday that takes place and use that to for your travels. Where have you traveled recently and what did you like about it?
I have not really traveled that much this year compared to the previous years. That being said, my most recent trip took me to Alor Setar in the state of Kedah in Malaysia. I liked it as the place is relatively untouristed and I don’t have to compete against a multitude of people just to check out a particular attraction. Also, not being charged “tourist prices” in hotels and restaurants also add to the charm.
Another place I visited within the last one year is Tokyo. It’s always been one of my favorite cities and my last visit certainly did not disappoint. I think a lot of people have the misconception that it’s an expensive place but it needn’t be so. It’s very much possible to visit Tokyo on the cheap if you know where to look.
You spend some of your travel time staying in luxurious hotels. Which hotel has so far blown you away in terms of their 5 or 6-star quality services?
One that immediately comes to mind is the St. Regis Hotel in Singapore. The rooms there were probably the most elegant that I’ve encountered so far. They even have a complimentary butler attached to every room who I can ask to pack/unpack my stuff, prepare coffee or tea for me or to iron my clothes.
Where’s the most unique place you’ve ever slept in during your travels?
Hmm… that’s a hard one. But one that definitely comes to mind was the hotel I stayed in when I visited the silk road city of Khiva in Uzbekistan. The hotel used to be a madrasa in the 19th century and was built in medieval Persian-style architecture. Its location right in the heart of Khiva’s old town also gave it a sort of “Arabian nights” vibe.
What would you advise travelers who have gone through bad experiences during their hotel stay?
Never trust a hotel just by the pictures you see online. I think in this day and age, it’s easy for people to get a well-balanced view on a property so I can’t emphasize enough the need to research before jumping in!
You’ve been to Malaysia and visited our east coast states. Did you try any of the local food or experience any of the local culture?
Yes, I did get to try a number of the specialties around that part of Malaysia. The most memorable one was probably Nasi Kerabu with its blue-colored rice, which I tried in Kota Bharu. I also had Nasi Dagang when I was at Terengganu.
Where is your favorite place to be on earth?
I think it would have to be New Zealand. I wasn’t really an outdoorsy type of person when I visited, but I think being there just unleashes the outdoorsy side in everyone. The entire country is so scenic! I would definitely love to go back!
Which exotic countries would you advise travelers to visit at least once in their lifetime?
The term “exotic” is a subjective term. But in my book, one that travelers need to visit at least once in their life is Iran! The people are just so friendly and it’s totally not what the media portrays it to be. During my trip to Iran some 4 years back, I visited some majestic UNESCO World Heritage Sites, snow capped mountains as well as desert towns which were all impressive.
What would you say is the best travel experience you’ve ever had so far?
It’s a split between what I answered in #7 and #8 – New Zealand and Iran. It’s hard to decide on just one!
What would you advise travelers who wish to visit your home country?
Because of the reputation, most tourists to my home country, the Philippines, tend to skip the island of Mindanao which is the second largest island in the country. I think that’s a shame. While I agree that parts of it need to be avoided, it’s unfair to avoid the entire place altogether. Places such as the Enchanted River in Hinatuan or Lake Sebu in South Cotabato have the same level of safety as the rest of the country and deserve to be part of any trip to the Philippines.