Tag Archives: Philippines

Travel theme – texture

20 Sep

After skipping a week of the travel theme at Where’s my Backpack, I am back this week with two shots that symbolize “texture” to me.

Can you feel the scales?

The first shot was one that Li took when we were on holiday in the Philippines earlier this year.  This extreme close up of a snake still makes me feel slightly uncomfortable when I look at it – but the shot itself captures the texture of the snake’s skin almost perfectly.  Looking at it I almost expect the snake’s tongue to come out of the monitor hissing towards me.

We took lots of shots of different wildlife while on that trip – if you’d like to see any of the others, you can check out my post from earlier this year on Wildlife in the Philippines.

Stone pocked texture

The second shot is one that I recently took when in Seoul, South Korea at the palace complex in Seoul.  I was fascinated by the different guardian animal/humans that surrounded various buildings and this one has the contrasting texture of the carving in the sculpture, but also the pock marked stone itself creating an interesting contrast.

I haven’t decided if this was a guardian of good or guardian of evil.  What do you think?

How do you view texture in the world around you?  If you’d like to see other people’s ideas of texture, please click on the link at the top of the post.

Travel Theme – Silhouette

30 Aug

I am returning to Ailsa’s at Where’s My Backpack?’s travel theme again – the theme this week is “Silhouette.”  This will be the fourth week that I’ve participated in the theme and I almost didn’t participate.  Her photos of people in front of a fountain are amazing and I had to think pretty hard if I had anything that I felt worthy of sharing.

Initially my head went back to our trip to Boracay – the same place that inspired the beautiful sunset photos that I posted for last week’s theme.

Idyllic Boracay – sailing at sunset

This photo in particular called to me – but I had already posted it earlier this year in February and I wanted something else, something new to share.

After thinking a while I started going through our photos from our 2011 trip to Phuket, Thailand and found these two shots of palm trees.

What is paradise?

Silhouetted against white clouds in a blue sky

We had gone to spend two nights away from Phuket on a very small island where every single way that you looked was beautiful.  The water was aqua, there were very few people and I bobbed and floated in the sea, even enjoying a massage at a pavilion on the edge of the ocean, the water and the Thai masseuse coaxing me into the ultimate relaxation.

In darkening what is typically the focus of a photograph a silhouette gives you a different perspective.  If you’d like to see how others defined a silhouette, please click on the link above.

Have you successfully taken silhouette photos of people?  Was it on purpose or an accident?

Photos above courtesy of Li.

Travel theme – Sunset

23 Aug

This week the travel theme at Where’s my Backpack is “Sunset.”  I chose the two photos here from our trip to Boracay this year from Chinese New Year.  I had already published a post on this same topic (click here to see the other shots which I published on Valentine’s Day), but going back through our photos there were so many unique sunsets that I chose two more.

Each night seeing the sun set on White Beach was magical.  Looking at the photos makes me want to go back!

The day that Ailsa published the post I walked out into a Shanghai night where the clouds were tinged with pink as the sun started slowly moved through the sky, but I didn’t have my camera.  Some sunsets are best seen with your heart instead of through a lens. Do you have any special sunsets?

If you’d like to see other views of sunsets please click the link above.

Exploring – churches in Bohol and Cebu

1 Mar

While in the Philippines we had the opportunity to see some of the oldest Catholic churches in the islands, both on Bohol Island and Cebu City.  The presence of the Jesuits was seen in full force with monuments and plaques.  The churches themselves are impressive, but European style architecture and the heat and humidity that occurs in a place like the Philippines means that constant care and uptake are required.  The architects were clever with the usage of local building materials – Baclayon church is the oldest coral stone church in the region, dating back to 1727.  In Bohol especially though, the moss and mold and vines were creeping to places unknown.

The Baclayon Church was part of our whirlwind Bohol tour that I wrote about in two previous posts a few weeks ago: Exploring – Bohol Island, Philippines – a river cruise and chocolate mountains and Exploring – Bohol Island, Philippines wildlife.  The church was a different type of tourism and so I thought that I would combine it with the views from Cebu.

In Cebu we went to the place where they had placed a replica of the Cross of Magellan – a heavily symbolic site where Magellan supposedly made the first converts to christianity on his famous voyage around the world.  We then went into the huge Santo Nino complex which includes lovely cloisters, a convent, museum and the Santo Nino – a replica of the child Jesus.  One thing that I found interesting about the Sto. Nino is the large murals, painted in very bright colors that are on the ceiling and the walls surrounding the complex.  It reminded me of the stories that I heard in Spain where initially the vast majority of people who came to church were illiterate and so they used the pictures to explain the stories of the bible.  I’m sure that it was similar here as well.  Literally across the street from Santo Nino is the modern Cebu cathedral with its tasteful interior and a wonderful exhibit on the life of Mother Teresa which absorbed me for the better part of an hour.

With the Mother Teresa exhibit in a prominent place, in Cebu another key thing to note is the poverty.  After we visited the cathedral we walked around the downtown and while I didn’t feel unsafe, it was not an area that I would like to be in by myself or after dark.  It is very important that we have individuals who strive to make a difference in developing countries.  One of those is my father’s good friend who is heavily involved in an organization called The Lingap Children’s Foundation in Cebu.   It is an orphanage and surrounding programs that is based in Cebu where street children are cared for and provided opportunities.  I knew that the organization was based in the Philippines, but it wasn’t until I came back and was talking to my father did I realize that I was very close to their headquarters and didn’t go.  The programs that they have provided the area over the years have served a very important purpose.  I would strongly suggest checking out the link to the foundation that I provided above to read about the wonderful works and accomplishments they have made.

Any thoughts about religion and travel?  Visiting new places and seeing where people worship – from temples to churches to mosques can be another way of understanding your own spirituality.

With this post, this is my final post from my Philippines trip.  I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Exploring – Boracay final photos

28 Feb

It’s been nearly a month since we came back from our trip to Boracay.  I’ve now had time to go through all the photos and remember the blue skies.  Here are some of my favorite photos to commemorate the trip.  Please enjoy!

It really says…

23 Feb

Our last night in Boracay, we had dinner at a Greek restaurant.  Towards the end of the meal, Li grabbed his camera and started taking pictures of something behind me.  When I asked what was up he said that there was a foreigner (meaning white person) who was wearing a shirt which said – “Socialism is good” in Chinese characters on the back and he was trying to get a picture.

Our conversation was going back and forth between English and Chinese and suddenly a woman with an Australian accent standing behind Li came up to us and said, “That’s my boyfriend you’re taking pictures of.  He’s paying the bill.  We bought the shirt in Shanghai at a really cool shop.  What does it mean?”

Li looked at me and I looked at him.  We had been found out.  He then asked the woman if her boyfriend was a socialist.  She said that likely not.

At least now he knows!

Our subject for today's discussion - Socialism is good!

I put this akin to getting a tattoo of a character that you don’t know the meaning or the shirts I see in China with random expressions in English.  Anyone had those moments?

Helmet Diving in Boracay – 海底漫步

21 Feb

“Parasailing? Heidi man boo? Windsurfing?  Sunset sailing? Island hopping? Do you have plans for tomorrow?”

On the beach side path and on the beach were endless hawkers, each trying to drum up business for their particular enterprise – each guy (they were all men) soliciting your favor with the hope that you would spend a morning or afternoon having fun with their company.  I wasn’t in the mood to deal with them – you have to bargain and compare and so I told Li that was his job.

As I alluded to in my posts about Chinese New Year, I was going to Boracay slightly down for the count, as previously I had a very bad cough/cold and had pulled a muscle in my side from coughing, straining my ribs.  The warm weather was exactly what I needed, but windsurfing and parasailing (which I had done in Malaysia) were pretty much off the table this trip.  Li tends to get seasick as well, so I didn’t think that he would choose a sailboat ride, which left us with “Heidi man boo”  My initial thought was – “Who is Heidi and is she wearing a costume to scare someone?”

海底漫步 is actually helmet diving – you wear a helmet which has air piped in and then you can walk along the ocean floor feeding the fish and getting an idea of life underwater.  Your head doesn’t get wet at all and it doesn’t require that you know how to swim.  It is extremely popular with Chinese tourists (who often don’t swim) and “Heidi man boo” is the Filipino pronunciation of the Chinese words for helmet diving.

I think the pictures are the best possible description.  We were in about 12-15 feet of water, so not too deep, but enough to see the coral and fish.  Short of learning how to scuba dive, it was pretty cool and definitely a view of the ocean that I had never seen before – plus, my helmet matched my bathing suit!

Acclimating to life "under the sea"

It was a well oiled machine, the company that took us there – the entire thing, from finding the “fixer” to landing back on the beach after the dive took, at most, 90 minutes and the next day a CD of pictures and video was delivered to our hotel.  A very positive experience.

Am I the damsel in distress?

Feeding the fish

What’s been your strangest vacation activity?

Dining at the beach

19 Feb

Boracay has every type of restaurant, shack, bar, stand or cafe that you can think of.  There are so many tourists from different countries that we saw restaurants specializing in everything from German food to sushi.  Eating on the beach is popular and for most restaurants shoes (and shirts) are optional.  Mango smoothies, fresh coconut water, unlimited ice cream and other beach snacks tempt you each time you walk down the path from Station 1 to Station 3.  At night, the rows of beach chairs are converted to tables with all you can eat buffets of barbecue and fresh seafood, each restaurant with its own live music and dedicated staff trying to convince you to choose their establishment.

The majority of restaurants along the beach sold seafood that was packed on ice – not alive – which after living in China makes you wonder if it’s really fresh.  To counteract that, there is a market called DiTalipapa that is off the beach where they sell the seafood fresh and then around it, there is a group of restaurants that will cook for you.  Lobsters, clams, oysters, shrimp, crabs… all sold by the kilo.

The other choice - roast suckling pig. Isn't he luscious?

Li liked the fresh seafood so much that we went in total of three times – each time trying new combinations of seafood and different serving styles.  Our favorites were the butter and garlic, as well as classic steamed oysters with lemon and chilis.  I also found fresh okra at one of the stands and we had that the last day – it was yummy.  I’ve never seen okra in China and obviously the other diners at our restaurant hadn’t either as one of the gentleman (also Chinese) at another table asked if he could take a picture of it!

Since we went three times, we got into conversations with the owner of the restaurant where we had our seafood cooked.  He was a returnee – a US citizen who had lived in California for many years and had just returned to the Philippines three years earlier to open up the restaurant, called Bella.  He had named it in honor of his mother and said that as the Chinese tourists have increased, that the popularity of the seafood market and the restaurants surrounding it have really taken off.  He also told us about the seasons of tourists – around the lunar new year is the Chinese season, then there is the Russian season, the Filipino season, the low season in the summer where the seafood is much cheaper and less people come because of the frequent rain.

We tried to take photos of our favorite dishes, but sometimes forgot in our hurry to enjoy them.  The slides below show a few – hopefully enough to inspire your next meal – or inspire you to take a trip to Boracay just to eat well!

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Where have you eaten your favorite seafood?

Sunset off White Beach

14 Feb


Happy Valentines Day.

Photos courtesy of Li.

Boracay

12 Feb

Boracay

An exotic word, linked to an exotic place.  Only accessible by boat.  A place where shoes are optional and blue sky days stretch into starry nights accompanied by acoustic guitar music.  The neighbors in the next room are Russians, Singaporeans, Americans, Europeans, Filipino, Chinese, Australians… all laying beneath wicker fans and listening to the rain beat down at night on the tin roof. A place where the white sand beach continues, uninterrupted.  Mango shakes, fresh coconut, mussels, lobsters and cuisine from around the world.  

I enjoy beach vacations.  Over the last three years I have gone to Honolulu, Hawaii, the Chinese island of Sanya, the beaches of Sabah in the Malaysian part of Borneo and Phuket, Thailand.  They all have been beautiful.  Hands down, Boracay wins. 

When I spoke to colleagues and friends about my planned Chinese New Year get-away, I got mixed comments – “I went in the early 90s, it was perfect then, unspoiled… now I’ve heard it may not be the same.”  “I went around 2000, it was great – but I’ve heard too touristy now.”  “I went last year, it was wonderful.”  Places may or may not have been better in the past, we only have our own sliver of experience to judge.  From the tourist advertisements in the airport, Boracay has been rated the second best island experience in the world by international travelers after Santorini, Greece and I can see why, though unfortunately that now makes me want to go to Greece!

Looks pretty idyllic to me!

Back now and thoroughly ensconced in Shanghai’s winter, I can see that it is a combination of the Filipino hospitality, the beautiful scenery and the difficulty in getting there (I wasn’t kidding that it is only accessible by boat) that have maintained this place as a jewel in the South China Sea.  The Chinese name 长滩岛 literally translates into long beach island which is a literal description of the locale.  The next few posts will touch on some of the beauty of the island and our short stay there.  Please enjoy and share any other places that you believe would make me reconsider Boracay at the top of my list!

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