Monday, June 30, 2014

Pomp and Pageantry at Amalienborg in Copenhagen, Denmark

On the morning I arrived in Copenhagen, the capital of the Scandinavian country of Denmark, I chanced upon this eye-popping revelry, the changing of the guard of the Royal Danish soldiers on their way to Queen Margrethe's door.

This witnessing wasn't even planned, though it was in my checklist. But I was at the right place and time; noontime at the Amalienborg, the winter residence of the royal family. There were four similar-looking palaces ("mansions") in this beautiful octagonal square. To my mind, it was like stepping into a fairy tale land without the baddies, although if you've read a little bit about their history, you'd find some humorous stories concerning their royals. But then even kings and queens - and princes and princesses are humans like us.

The "Little Mermaid" was nearby, deftly reminding people that not all fairy tales, not even in a fairy tale land of royals, end mirthfully. The world in all its beauty has its share of despair and heartaches. We all have to learn grace in embracing slices of these.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Friday, June 27, 2014

In a Quiet Town Called Thiruvaiyaru, Tamil Nadu

Quiet town. Way beyond the consciousness of the restless traveling souls.

This is Thiruvaiyaru. On a whim, I decided to head further into the backroads of Thanjavur, heading deeper into the bowels of South India. The whole trip had me riding one of those craggy, dilapidated non-AC buses that I so ironically enjoy. So I walked within the confluence of narrow alleys. After almost being shredded to pieces by an unwelcoming stray dog, I finally found the unseemly temple, the site of a religious pilgrimage. But what I liked more was communing with the Cavery River.

"Hello, Mr. Cavery. Pleased to meet you." From its placid flow, I must have imagined a bump on the waters, like a gentle splash, as though it had acknowledged my presence. I smiled.

Meanwhile, the temple wasn't much of a sight but I knew of its sentimental, albeit religious significance to the locals.

Thiruvaiyaru is located 13 kilometers from Thanjavur in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Metz, France: Charlatans and the Northern French Countryside

Woke up on a train from Paris en route to Luxembourg. The sun was up and the view of the countryside inspires, flipping briskly like a slideshow of frozen lakes, farm lands, grass fields, and rows of chateaus. We were headed eastward and I had the leftward seat facing north. If there was a hint of the night weather, it would be in the form of intermittent snow flakes though there were flowers still abloom.

My train arrived in Metz at 4:20 PM. I only had 30 minutes to find my "voie" (platform). I saw a little shop on the platform and decided to buy some nourishment. I was famished. When I realized this, I decided to buy sausage croissant and another chocolat et sucre croissant from the old lady at the counter. I handed her the only available bill - then she pretended I gave a much smaller one. Of course, I huffed and puffed because she can't feign ignorance in lieu of her inability to speak English or my inability to speak French. There were no other customers so she can't be too confused unless she suffered from an acute case of selective Alzheimer's. You see, I don't take easily to being taken for a ride, unless it's a train or a plane going elsewhere. Not by charlatans.

Yes, even Europe has her share of scammers who pry on the innocent.

Metz-Ville is a lovely little northern French countryside; one that many of us actually daydream about. People from Paris, Spain or Portugal change trains here en route to Belgium, Frankfurt or Luxembourg.

I found voie 6. I tried the yellow-lined first class couches (which were enclosed) but there wasn't any available space. Second class had available seats. With the help of a Dutch man, I lifted my backpack and settled on my chair - then feasted on my croissants at record time. Luxembourg beckoned.

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Photo courtesy of Nicola e Pina.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Untitled in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of Brunei, has a lot of promenade and riverwalks. But the central tourist area isn't where most locals frequent. In fact, the place feels a tad too "deserted" in mid-day where the city mostly slumbers. In one of my walks, just across one of the newer malls near the mosque, I came across this "square" by the waters. At night, you hardly notice this gold-painted art work because the nearby buildings  when they change colors easily capture your attention.

But in the day time, it's hard to miss - a harp-like object with a golden ball beside it. What it signified escaped me. I couldn't find any sign. Maybe I wasn't observant enough? But does anything without a name defeat a purpose? Does it cancel out its meaning if it becomes nameless?

Not to me.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Last Royal Palace in Mandalay, Myanmar

I was actually anxious of Myanmar's military men so anything that had anything to do with a government post flashed red lights with me. Even the guards at the Mandalay Palace grounds, the bastion of the very last Burmese monarchy founded by King Mindon between 1857 and 1859. The whole complex is surrounded by thick walls and a lovely moat. From my observation, very few tourists seem to visit this place. Maybe it's the entrance fee? Maybe it's the long-standing recommendation from Lonely Planet and other travel guides (i.e. not to patronize any government institution), but that must have changed by now after the rise of Aung San Suu Kyi and her new democratic republic. Check out the photo above if you can spot anyone. I took this from a tower. Oops, I see my left hand in the frame. Dang! :)

Mandalay is the last royal capital of Burma and the second biggest city of Myanmar, located 716 kilometers  (445 miles) north of Yangon (Rangoon).

This is the Eye in the Sky!  

Monday, June 16, 2014

No Middleground in Basco, Batanes

There is no middle ground in the oceans of Batanes. It's either a haven of calm or a tempestuous cauldron that sequesters life. My first sunset in Basco, the capital, was the former. This was taken at the terrace of my hotel facing the Pacific Ocean in the east. And if you think "beautiful" is nothing but a cliche, you'd have to believe me when I use it to describe the islands of the Batanes archipelago at the northern end of the Philippine territory. It is in fact closer to Taiwan than mainland Philippines' Cagayan.

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Durians of Davao and Pungent Wonders

Pungent and powerful smell with a taste that's a slice of heaven. But look at the fruit, it's thorns of husk are steely and dangerous, thus if it falls on your skull straight from the tree, you'd probably end up with a horribly "crackling" head injury. It's no wonder then that it's southeast Asia's King of Fruits. If it were an animal, it'd be a lion. There are so many varieties in Davao alone, but my favorite is the "Puyat". They even have the "Cojuangco", which is really a "Malaysian". One even sounded like an ophthalmic brand name, "Alcon". There's a Monthong (the most popular in Thailand), the chanee, the "Davao native" etc.


Elsewhere, the "Chantaburi no.1" is a specially cultivated odorless durian, straight from the brilliant mind of Thai scientist Songpol Somsri. I have never tasted it. But come to think of it? What is a durian without its pungent odor? What is food without its characteristic smell?

Durian is gradually spreading all over the world; it's even found in Madagascar and Australia. In the Hainan Island (south China), the fruits are similarly cultivated so you can be sure the Chinese would lay claim over ownership of all Durians of the world based on fictitious historical data. Soon, they'd ask every other country to pay royalties, otherwise, they'd bomb the shite out of the infringers. After all, Durian just might be a communist fruit! (Just wait for the historical writers to finish their new novel!) Yup, the durian is imaginatively Chinese in origin - all the way back from the Xia Dynasty - and the Qin and the Sui... or whatever comes into the Chinese figment of imagination.)

This fruit on a tree (above) was taken at Loleng Resort, a farm resort up in Mount Talomo, Davao City.

This is the Eye in the Sky

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

One Tagaytay Place - Pleasant Getaway on A Summer's Day

Barely 1.5 hours south of Manila, Tagaytay has always been a favorite weekend getaway for the busy city dwellers. It's also where scenic Taal Volcano, the Philippines' second most active volcano is located. But people also come here for its cool weather, laidback atmosphere and retreat-worthy environment. I've been here so many times, but so have others. In fact, featuring Tagaytay isn't our main intention in writing this. In one of my fast sojourns, I have come across "One Tagaytay Place Hotel Suites", and this is our focal feature.

Located along the city's Tagaytay-Calamba Road, this 6-floor, 155-room complex is an efficiently run modern establishment. The rooms are tastefully designed and well maintained.

My room in divided into 3 parts which includes a TV room and the main bedroom. The bed is comfortable. The rest of the place is clean. It has a bathroom, 2 LCD cable televisions, a small sofa, a ref, lamp shades and an AC, and enough chairs with laptop tables. The walls are sturdy and the halls are quiet. I also had a veranda with a view of a farm. The hotel is tucked away from the road so you don't hear a lot of noise emanating from the nearby road.

The hotel, which opened in 2008, has a swimming pool with breath-taking views of the area and the posh village below where One Tagaytay is a part of. My booking included breakfast buffet (see photo below) at the Azalea Restaurant at the first floor beside the front desk. There's Verve Art  Gallery, the Aurora Ballroom, a sports bar, a fitness and a business center, a spa, and Rowena's Tarts for those sweets and pasalubongs. There's a 7-11 in front of the hotel that's open 24 hours a day. Wifi is fast.

This Tagaytay visit was short but sweet. I did roam a bit, but I wasn't there as a tourist so there was no checklist of places to see. The lookout view overlooking the volcano didn't have perfect visibility, but the view wasn't bad. What caught my attention was how Taal Lake teemed with a huge number of fish pens so it's really no wonder why "fish kill" intermittently occurs in these parts. You do wish the local government would regulated construction of these fish pens to protect the ecosystem. For the first time, I also visited Our Lady of Lourdes Church. If you have petitions, this I feel is one of the best places for the faithful owing to its serene surroundings. Besides, it's an auxiliary center for the devotees of Padre Pio because this is being managed by the Capuchin priests.

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One Tagaytay Place Hotel Suites is located in 445 Barrio Sungay West, Tagaytay-Calamba Road, Tagaytay City. For inquiries, please DO NOT inquire in this blog. Call (+632) 584 4111 | or (+6346) 483 0111 for more information. Mobile No. +63922 8348874. Their Manila Sales Office - (+632) 477 7111 | (+632) 633 1311. You may also email them -

Visit their website at

Hotel lobby. Fast check-in and out with their friendly staff.

To the elevators.

Interiors of the elevator.

Painting at the lobby.

My bed

TV room (above and below) although there'also television in the bedroom. Perfect for quarreling lovers? :)

My room's balcony.

Swimming pool

View from the pool . The posh neighborhood of Barrio Sungay West.

One Tagaytay Place

My haul from the breakfast buffet table.

(courtesy of the hotel's website)

If you’re traveling via the SLEX:
Take the Sta. Rosa Exit and turn right immediately after the expressway tollgates. This takes you to the Tagaytay-Sta. Rosa Road. Drive west, where you’ll pass by Paseo de Sta. Rosa, and travel all the way to the junction where the Tagaytay City Market is located. Turn left at the junction toward Picnic Grove and People’s Park in the Sky. Our Tagaytay lodge, found on the left side of the highway, is about 800 meters from this junction.
If you’re traveling via the Aguinaldo Highway:
Drive straight toward Tagaytay Circle (Rotunda). Turn left toward Picnic Grove and People’s Park. Our Tagaytay lodge, found on the left side of the highway, about 4 km. from the Tagaytay Circle (Rotunda)

Taal Volcano has a lake within a lake. It has 33 historic eruptions in the past.

No government regulation. Fishpens scatter around in Taal Lake.

Teriyaki Boy

Rowena's Tarts

7-11 at the front of the hotel. This photo only courtesy of their website.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Retracing the Past in Rajah Humabon Park and Dining at the Rodeo Grill (Cebu City)

I chanced upon this mostly ignored little park after visiting Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, just across the Cebu Diocese residence. It's really just a small slice of forgotten history etched on a parcel of land not usually mentioned in travel books. But it might as well be.

Rajah Humabon was the first chieftain to embrace Christianity. When Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan landed here on a Sunday, April 7, 1521, Humabon was regarded as the bravest and wisest man of the island. As a symbol of their newfound friendship, the rajah sealed his friendship with Magellan with a Blood Compact. Soon thereafter, the chieftain was captured by Christianity's noble teachings and henceforth converted.

On a Sunday morning, exactly a week after Magellan's arrival, Rajah Humabon and his wife, Queen Humamal were baptized along with 800 Cebuanos. The Rajah was baptized as Carlos, in honor of King Charles V of Spain. His wife was baptized Queen Juana after the Spanish King's mother. As a remembrance to this occasion, Magellan gave Queen Juana an image of the Child Jesus as a gift, while a large cross was erected to mark the baptismal site. In this simple tale of baptism lies the advent of Christianity and Catholicism in the Philippines, Southeast Asia's predominantly Catholic nation.

Origin of the Names: Cebu, Mandaue, Mactan
It was during Humabon's reign that the region became an important trading center. The harbors of Sugbo became known colloquially as sinibuayng hingpit ("the place for trading"), shortened to sibu or sibo ("to trade"), from which the modern name "Cebu" originates.
In the same period, Lapulapu Dimantag arrived from Borneo. He sought the help of Humabon for a place to settle. He was offered the region of Mandawili (now Mandaue City), including the island known as Opong (or Opon), hoping that Lapu-Lapu's people will cultivate the land. Lapu-Lapu succeeded in doing so, and the influx of farm produce from Mandawili enriched the trade port of Sugbo further.
The relationship between Lapu-Lapu and Humabon deteriorated later on when Lapu-Lapu turned to piracy. He started raiding merchant ships passing by the island of Opong, affecting trade in Sugbo. The island thus earned the name Mangatang (literally "bandit" or "those who lie in ambush"), later evolving to "Mactan".
Now consider if Rajah Humabon did not welcome Magellan and his galleon ships? Would there be Mactan or Mandaue? We would probably be a nation of Muslims like the rest of Southeast Asia.

In the vicinity of Humabon Park, I found Patria de Cebu which is said to accept indigent people seeking affordable accommodations. I even heard that a small room could be had for PhP250 for a month's stay. Now that's budget housing, isn't it? Also in the vicinity, aside from the Cebu Cathedral, is Cebu Eastern College which looks like it's seen better days.

Later that day, I checked out "Rodeo Grill Restaurant", the only stand-alone restaurant (i.e. not a part of a guesthouse or a hotel) along Archbishop Reyes Street in Cebu's Ayala Center. Before the advent of Tune Hotel's 7-11, Rodeo Grill was the only restaurant one could find along this row of hotels.

Rodeo Grill specializes in barbecues and grills and their fast food entrees are labelled "Cowboy Meals". I picked the very tasty lonestar fish at PhP119. Rodeo Grill has this rustic, southern atmosphere. It's located near Hotel Elizabeth and set back to a quiet side street from Archbishop Reyes's occasionally congested road.

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Patria de Cebu

Cebu Eastern College

My tasty lonestar fish at the Rodeo Grill Restaurant.