Tourists go where Pilgrims go

Today’s handprint story is not so much about our sharing, but more about how the people, ideas and religion had crossed the deserts, mountains and of course – the seas. In particular it was an intriguing way to combine not just sightseeing, eating (compulsory) and relaxation on any journey you embark on.

The Indonesian archipelago.

You might have read our series on the Philippines some time back. You will then know that there are 7,107 islands according to offical Philipines records. But this is dwarved by that of Indonesia. Depending on who you ask, there can be between 17,508 to 18,307 of them all over the entire territorial space of the country. Obviously this means one of the most important mode of communication (and transport) would be by sea.

What would neccessitate folks sailing the seas to another far off island? Fishing? Perhaps. Visiting relatives? A long shot. Mostly likely it would be about trade and diplomacy. And it was this way that ideas and religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam) along with the physical goods traveled to Indonesia.

Nearby the city of “Jogja” are two heritage sites, one dedicated to Hinduism and another to Buddhism. Despite the ravages of time and natural disasters, they have endured. And they are magnificent indeed! We enjoyed being here to take in the history and in awe of effort people more than 1000 years ago put into their faith and devotion.

Why not have a read here to and sample what you might see and do here? Perhaps be inspired to make your own journey to these UNESCO sites?

Clear Blue Waters

Did you know that the Dugong and the Manatee are relatives? And being separated by thousands of miles of ocean and living in very different environments, they have diverged in evolution too with the most obvious being the tail.

But today we are not diving into an anatomical treatise. Rather, we want to share with you our journey experiences of being on the tip of Palawan. No. Not the beach on Sentosa here in the little red dot in case you are wondering. Because clear blue waters aren’t what you’d find there.

We are referring to the island of Palawan just off the main archipelago that is the Philippines. Like an extended arm swaying to the side of a person, the island projects well into the west Philippines sea. And it is gorgeous, the waters that is. We spent quite a few days out in an idyllic location that was truly ‘off the grid’. We only hope it has continued to be so.

Swimming in the ocean, “hunting” for Dugongs was one of the expeditions we joined in. The idea was to “shoot” these magnificent creatures and capture them for posterity in our digital library. Alright it is also true we weren’t ON Palawan. Rather, we were on an island off the tip of it. But if this already what one can get here think about what more one can see further down the remote part of Palawan! Ok, let’s get to the essay (here) and start gawking at the photos!

Don’t need to go too far away, there is an alternative right in our little red dot’s ‘backyard’. Does this inspire you to make plans to Palawan?

Touching a volcano

Have you stayed on a volcano that is not dormant? We don’t mean visiting, but staying there. As you know, the Philippines lies on the pacific ring of fire. The Taal volcano is said to be the most active one after Mayon. Its most recent stirrings was in 2011, and fortunately did not lead to a severe seismic event.

That was where we spent a weekend.

Guess one can say we ticked a bucket list item: “staying on a volcano”… beat that! Heheh. Alright, so living it dangerously wasn’t really what we did. However it was indeed a beautiful place to be. It’s no wonder that the views are rated as some of the most picturesque in the country. You need to be here to witness it for yourself. Or, you could read more about our volcanic adventure here.

If you read the page, did you see how people have enterprisingly made use of the lake? We did not visit the island within an island. One of the few in the world… sigh. That would mean we need to make a return trip. Intrigued? You should be. For if it weren’t the crowds on a weekend we chose to be there, we would have seen and done more.

Wouldn’t this inspire you to come here too?

Surprising Manila

Heard about the Manila galleon trade? How about the fact that Manila having one of the best preserved colonial structures in Asia? Our stays in Manila was very memorable (here). In fact, the city actually surprised us.

Being in the city for business meant that it was the airport, taxi, office, hotel, restaurant… and then in reverse.

From the window of one’s taxi, one might view the seeming unending traffic of the city to be challenging for tourists to explore the metropolis. And it is. But that did not stop us from visiting friends to stay for a couple of days each time. For how can one turn away an offer of free lodging? We didn’t.

But free lodging shouldn’t be the decision criteria for one. Because the city’s absolute contrasts is one of its draws. We explored the city walls and fort that the colonial Spaniards left behind. Think about its history, as a site where the independence struggle of a nation took place.

And more importantly, use it as a base from which you can explore any one of the country’s other 7,107 islands… Guess the travel authorities in the country need to pay us if we keep mentioning this… heheh.

Have you been to Manila?

Wondrous Cappadocia journey

Have you watched the Disney feature Fantasia? You know, as kids we were fascinated by Mickey orchestrating. And one of the most memorable sequence of the animated feature for us is the dancing mushrooms. Do you recall them? Ok, perhaps this one’s only for antiquated folks like us…

But you see, we came to this part of Turkey where it seemed that the mushroom in Fantasia must had called its home. They stand tall, and they look like they could break into a dance at any moment. Cue the music…

Yes. We were in Cappadocia. The land from which hundreds of hot air balloons take to the skies every morning. You simply cannot miss them unless the winds were unfavourable rendering it unsafe. As the morning air begins to warm, the ballooners (us included) floated over the mushrooms that we referred to earlier. You can almost reach out and touch them… collect them if you will. Heheh. Today most of them are abandoned – or at least the inhabitants moved out. Because it is a giant museum.

However it is not just the mushrooms that we came for. For there are vast underground cities that housed thousands of people. No. They are not catacombs, but real liveable quarters carved into the rock, some as deep as 4 floors below ground! Why were they built? Read on here to find out!

Enjoy the Turkish riviera

The word Riviera conjures up visions of luxurious hotel resorts, multi-million dollar beachfront homes and beautiful sand beaches. Hmm… it is definitely not that far off as we trudged along the southern coast of Turkey. You might recall we were just in the ancient city of Ephesus (here).

So what did we do here?

For one thing, we swam in the Mediterranean sea. It was a cruise, one that took us over sunken cities that could have been the likes of Atlantis. Who knows? But the reality was an earthquake shifted the land and brought parts of it lower. It was October, so the waters still relatively warm, so we jumped in! Guess you can say we’ve ticked one more item off the bucket list! Highly recommended in fact.

However the highlight along this part of the road trip is one of beauty. Heheh… You know some people swear that it has curative ingredients. Others say their skin feel more supple and smooth after applying it. Yep, we are referring to a mud bath. How about bathing in some that even Sultans and modern day entertainment “royalty” have supposedly patronized? Would you scoop up some mud to being home with you?

The riviera was fun. Not exactly living it up at the hotel California, but we certainly wished that we did not have to check out and leave… you will understand when you are there too. Piqued your interest?

Read all about it here!