Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Boy in Angkor Wat (Cambodia)

Not all visitors in Angkor Wat are foreigners. Some locals find their way inside. They mill around, sit on windows, observe the manual traffic inside. You find them after entry into the most popular temple, the sprawling temple. I found this boy asking for alms. He seemed very comfortable talking to strangers. And though this may be cliche, he's better off inside a classroom, isn't he?

Angkor Wat, the largest of the Khmer monuments, is located 6 kilometers north of Siem Reap. The temple grounds require entry tickets, a day pass, to visit. King Suryavarman II built the temple in the first half of the 12th century. Siem Reap, where most visitors are based, is located 320 kilometers (199 miles) north of the capital Phnom Penh.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Friday, June 26, 2015

A Scene from Long Beach Cafe in DaNang (Vietnam)

A few blocks from the famed China Beach, at an underdeveloped area of DaNang in Central Vietnam, I found Long Beach Cafe, one of the few decent restaurants in the vicinity. With very few people (locals and tourists) around, you have the surroundings mostly to yourself - and you'd find yourself monopolizing empty streets.

I stayed at Mango Hotel which is just 7 kilometers from Marble Mountain. Despite the relative nearness, DIY-transport is almost difficult to arrange. You have to book a taxi or approach a motorcycle biker if you want to get away to roam DaNang.

Long Beach Cafe looked modern, it even had a miniature waterfall, a garden, a raised platform, airconditioned main bar and very accommodating staff. I ordered "Com Ga" - fried chicken with rice - worth 80,000 dong (PhP124.50/$3). I loved being one of the small number of tourists in that area. There was always the sensation of eavesdropping on the locals who eagerly wait for throngs of tourists that would probably come in the next 3 or 4 years.

The photo above: a wall beside a stair leading to the main restaurant. There were "boxes" with colorful pots on display. The luminescent color is accentuated by the gray tiles. "Look at me," said the plants. I gazed for a second, capturing the moment for posterity, then walked away.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Rattan Fruits in Davao - Of Violin Dyes and Dragon's Blood

Rattan Fruit or Littuko is a rarity in Southeast Asia. I've traveled all over the region and hardly see the "fruits" in abundance. It's scaly, as though they come from snakes or some other reptile. You peel them like you do with lansones and out pops a triumvirate of clustered pods with the sourest taste this side of Datu Puti. While I love fruits, these are another matter. 

Online research reveals that, and I quote, "The fruit of some rattans exudes a red resin called dragon's blood. This resin was thought to have medicinal properties in antiquity and was also used as a dye for violins, among other things." Red resin, I didn't notice, except for the stains at the bottom of the fruit stalk, but the fruit inside is fleshy, almost transparent. "Dragon's blood" sounds interesting though, and I'd love to know the origin of such terms.

I'd probably acquire the taste after a hundred pieces. But allow me not to wait for a hundred.

This is the Eye in the Sky

Friday, June 19, 2015

Koalas in the Wild in Otway, Victoria (Australia)

Somewhere between Apollo Bay and the lighthouse at Cape Otway of Victoria, the road levels and spreads inland through Otway's rainforest. My tour bus stops at a roadside filled with gum trees. Perching on forked branches were koalas in the wild. The tourmates had a field day koala-spotting. Even from a distance, it was easy to spot them. I would look for a fur ball jutting out of branches. While most koalas ignored us, the gentle animals steered clear from the road. But when our vehicle pulled out to go, one furry soul grew curious and stood very near my window seat. Perfect opportunity to snap a close-up of the cuddly marsupial.

This was a personal coup for me, considering that most koala photos I get to see (from other people's visits in Melbourne and elsewhere) are taken in sanctuaries, controlled environment. This photo was taken from a eucalyptus forest. How cool is that?

Why are koalas sluggish? Information provides that these Eucalyptus trees are delicious, succulent and provide adequate water content to insure their hydration. Other than that, there's nothing much in terms of nutrients. Wouldn't you be sluggish if you only drank water? These koalas, however, looked ravenous if we base their appetite on the bare branches in that part of the forest. These koalas would occasionally fall from the trees (where they eat and sleep), but they'd easily survive and climb back up. Koalas in Victoria are bigger in size than their counterpart in the north because the weather here suits them well.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Clouds Over Kuching: Drama in the Sarawak Skies (Malaysia)

Kuching, capital and most populous city of Sarawak (population: 325,000), was dubbed the wettest place in Malaysia owing to the abundance of rain fall in the region. I expected to get drenched sometime during my trip. This didn't happen.

But during my stay, the weather cooperated and only rained on my way back to the airport. It was downpour with thunder and lightning, and fury reminiscent of Philippine storms. My plane ride was mild though. I mostly ignore the scenery up there, but something caught my attention. The color of shadows on cumulu-nimbus clouds beckoned. There was unspoken drama in the skies.

This is the Eye in the Cloudy Sky!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Wat Kaew Korawaram - The White Temple of Krabi Town (Thailand)

Located along Thanon Maharat, the main street where songthaews to Ao Nang wait, Wat Kaew (Wat Kaew Korawaram) indeed looks like a "shiny white wedding cake", as described by wikitravel. The gorgeously new temple, in iridescent white, sits on the top of a hill, accessible through a series of stairs lined with naga sculptures (snake-form deities) from the commercial street.

I have to say that the temple, up close, possesses an eye-popping beauty inside and out. I wandered around and found an old monk tending to the potted plants located around the temple. There were dogs at the other entrance (just outside a winding street) so I steered clear from there though it would have been interesting to check out the periphery of the temple.

Krabi Town isn't the tourist town where most visitors stay. It is at Ao Nang Beach, the "poster child" of Krabi province. Krabi Town is similar to Phuket Town, instead of "Patong Beach" referred by most as "Phuket". It slumbers in midday. I was so hungry when I arrived from Ao Nang (where I was staying), and could hardly find eateries in Krabi Town, or anything that was open between meal time.

This is why I always try not to miss meals during my travels. Because you never know where to find your next gastronomic encounter.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Boundless Awe in Ta Promh (Angkor Wat Complex, Cambodia)

I never get tired of Ta Promh, the temple built by King Jayavarman VII as a Mahayana Buddhist monastery and university. This was going to be a place for learning as well as a dwelling for the monks. Built between 12th and 13th century, Ta Promh, aka Rajavihara, is built in the Bayon style. These days, huge silk cotton trees and strangler fig trees with gigantic adventitious roots have coiled among the ruins. I was as amazed on my second visit as when I saw it for the first time. I suspect that the novelty won't wane even on a third visit.

Another feature of this site is the dearth of narrative bas-relief found aplenty in other temples. One explanation: Hindu iconoclasts destroyed most of them during the death of Jayavarman. This culture of destruction keeps on repeating time and again. Why is man so destructive? One wonders. These days, India is helping in the restoration of the site.

Ta Promh is located 1 kilometer from Angkor Thom, roughly 6 kilometers from Siem Reap in North Cambodia.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Stories a Side Pocket Tells

My backpack is 3 years old. It's been a steady companion whenever I travel out of the country. Though I mostly empty its 4 compartments, there's a side pocket that I never bother thinking that what's in there is inconsequential.

But side pockets tell stories. I wondered why my bag was still heavy despite it being practically empty. Lo and behold, I found a variety of coins, some of them starting to corrode or rust. No wonder gravity was pulling it down to the ground.


What's harder was separating the different local tender. Some of the engravings were in fine print. This was a lot of work, But the coins reminded me of the far off places I have been. The exercise turned into a walk down memory lane. What have I found? Malaysian ringgit, European euros, Singapore dollars, Brunei dollars, Hong Kong dollars, Australian dollars, Peruvian soles, Brazilian rials, and Philippine peso.

Where are the Maldivian rufiyaa and Mongolian tugriks? The coins do not exist presently! Bhutanese ngultrums don't have coins either (at least not in wide circulation).

But why such accumulation? Blame the airports. During transits, you have to place your coins (and anything with metal) inside your bag - so I just drop them at this particular side pocket. Who'd have thought they've grown into quite a King's ransom? :)

Perhaps I shouldn't clear my side pocket for the next 3 or 4 years.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Sinking Long Tail Boat of Ao Nang (Krabi, Thailand)

I saw a sinking boat while waiting for Ao Nang's famous sunset - a tail boat gradually sinking. And I remember having come across a long'ish poem about sinking boats, probably a metaphor to life. The author, George Krokos, is Greek who now lives in Melbourne. He usually writes about philosophy and the spiritual aspects of life, and of nature. I'd like to share an excerpt from Mr. Krokos' poem here:

The Sinking Ship

by George Krokos

"The ship is sinking and we all have to get out
I wonder if there are enough life boats about, 
that are able to take us safely to the distant shore
where we may live happily for a while once more.

The old boat is going down as it has had its day
and all that we know and love is passing away.
It seems strange and sad how this has come about
but the evidence is clear without a shadow of doubt.

For those who have been prepared the way is certain
but for those who are not there's an invisible curtain
between them and that to where they could be going
as the paths to that destination are not at all showing.

There's been too many changes in a world gone mad
and so many of them have only turned out to be bad.
And when people think too much of themselves and so little of others
they perpetuate ignorance which neglects we’re all sisters and brothers."

The poem is 8 paragraphs long and reminds me of Edgar Allan Poe's "Annabel Lee" by virtue of its sentiment and length, though Poe's poem was more of a homage to a loved one.

Ao Nang Beach is a resort town, a beach community unabashedly geared towards tourism, in the Krabi province of South Thailand. It is located 20 kilometers from Krabi Town where more local activities occur. The mildly chaotic' albeit restless population of Ao Nang is mostly transient. 

That afternoon, by the beach, I realized that even sinking ships have ways of getting out of the water. Isn't that reflective of our own travails and failures? 

This is the Eye in the Sky

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Promenade at Manly Beach, Sydney (Australia)

"Their confidence and manly behaviour made me give the name of Manly Cove to this place," said Captain Arthur Philip, founder of the settlement which became Sydney and New South Wales' first governor, referring to the place's indigenous inhabitants.

The adjective stuck. Now imagine if he saw very feminine inhabitants. It would have been named "Girlie Beach", wouldn't it?

My visit was a 30-minute ferry ride to Manly from Sydney's main ferry terminal, the Circular Quay. While the harbour at Manly was almost deserted, a leisurely walk to the main beach, passing by a pedestrianized shopping district,  was its opposite. Manly has a charming vibe. But the tree-lined promenade beside the beach, a couple of blocks from the shops, was a favorite spot. Not a lot of tourists. My kind of spot for adequate introspection.

This is the Eye in the Sky!   

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Cabanas at the Turtle Sanctuary in Gili Trawangan (Lombok, Indonesia)

The Turtle Sanctuary of Gili Trawangan was a minor site to visit; as though an after-thought conceived to provide harmless, if fleeting entertainment for the myriad of backpackers roaming the big Gili island. What was more fascinating - a row of colorful umbrellas and equally huge multicolored pillows languidly sit in front of the aforementioned sanctuary. It was a good spot to be lazy and watch people walk by.

I imagined little upstart turtles rushing into the shore. But that was just an overactive imagination. With the island's relative congestion, this wasn't the place for mother nature to play this scene. That happens in National Geographic and Discovery Channel documentaries, or wistful romcoms and dramas. Clearly, this isn't the movies. It is just a scene in my traveling days.

It was time to take stock.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Mad Rush From Cube Hotel (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

So I checked out of Cube Hotel (above), the budget-friendly hotel located along Jalan Pudu. Cube would be one of the better surprises although if you wanted "space", you'd have to look elsewhere. 


It was going to be a mad, mad rush to LCCT. Procrastination involves an eventual degree of palpable suspense. Somehow, it will catch up with you. It almost caught me. I had all day for a relaxing ride to the airport but I kept putting it off until I realized the possibility I might not make it to my flight. 

But I did. Barely. 5 minutes before the boarding gate closed. Thank heavens for web check-ins.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Dawning of a New Day in Mactan Cebu

Isn't it amazing? 

That we’re continuously blessed with a new day to clean the slate of our lives; to re-invigorate the body and rejuvenate the soul; to make new beginnings; and to once again view the world in a better light? Eleanor Roosevelt, the longest serving First Lady of the United States (1933-1945), once said, "With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts." It's a chance to change something in your life to make it better, a chance to feel blessed for what you have; a chance to be grateful. 

This was sunrise at Mactan Cebu International Airport in idiosyncratic Cebu.

This is the Eye in the Sky!