Weekly Photo Challenge: Juxtaposition

These are photos from my trip to Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines in response to the juxtaposition photo challenge.

*** contrast between natural light as seen from the opening of an underground river and light from the flash of a camera inside the river cave

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***contrast between solid rock and crystal water as they met to form the opening of the underground river in Sabang, Puerto Princesa

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***contrast between wood and glass materials imbibing a modern rustic vibe to this gazebo at Haim Chicken Inato

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***contrast of colors and decors centering on a bunch of off-white garlic at Kalui restaurant

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Imprints of Batad

I felt rather than saw Rimas stopping behind me.  I sensed him smile, following my stare up those several flight of stairs spaced one and a half feet apart each other.

“It’s as if you’re the guide,” he complimented.  It was one of his statements prodding me on, approving and comparing me to previous visitors he once toured around.

We were on our way back to the Junction Point at 7:30 in the morning.  I was in a hurry to catch the 9 a.m. ride, the only jeepney to transport both tourists and locals to the town center of Banaue.  Rimas said there was no need to hurry.  At the rate I was going, I could cut off the regular trekking time by half.

Not again! My weary part disgustedly echoed.   I do love trekking, but the thought of departing made the task ahead of raising wobbling legs one after another on slippery and narrow steps a hundredth times grueling.  I had to push myself to keep on moving upward and set aside rest as the final prize.

I was leaving Batad, home to the UNESCO World Heritage amphitheater-like rice terraces, home to the longing of a searching, clueless heart.  As I struggled to move up the only-one-person-at-a-time trail under the early morning drizzle, panting, half-listening to Rimas’ anecdotes, I recalled how I dreamt of this trip for months.

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I longed to witness the tribal Ifugao’s ingenuity and confirm my amazement of their skillful hands able to build unequaled structures like these rice terraces thousands of years ago.

I invited friends to backpack with me to this off-beaten path.  But the prospect of an hour-plane ride from Cebu to Manila, 12 hours overnight bus ride to Banaue, Ifugao, an hour-plus bumpy tricycle ride to the drop off point, more than an hour uphill trek to Batad Junction and an hour-plus downhill trek to the zero-communication signal village proper, definitely put them off.

A few steps before the Junction Point, I turned and faced one more time towards the direction of the village peeking between windows of leaves silhouetted by fog and soft rays of the early sunshine.

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I remembered the contentment felt from waking up to the chirping sound of birds outside my window.  I savored those moments perching by the window sill, mesmerized a thousand times by the stupendous presence of the terraces.  Then I looked beyond the mountains and felt the trickling down of cold waters from the Tappiya Falls onto my body.

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I arrived in Batad eager but restless, in search of something.  I departed from it still eager but now able to name and give meaning to that restiveness.

I arrived to that point of knowing more of myself, when I choose to depart and embark on this trip alone, among strangers who came to regard me as their own.

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“When are you coming back?”  Rimas’ voice cut me off from my reverie.

“Soon…”  We both grinned.

I was raring once more for another departure.

Must-See Ruins/Spots in the Old Kingdom of Ayutthaya, Thailand

You should not miss going to Ayutthaya if you are in Thailand.  It’s very accessible, an hour-plus van hire ride from the Victory Monument in Bangkok.  This old kingdom had been the Thai capital for 417 years and is now one of the country’s major tourist attractions.  Its magnificent ruins indicate that Ayutthaya was one of Indo-China’s most prosperous cities.

Let’s look at some of the ruins (and tourist spots) that made the city’s historical park earned a spot in the UNESCO World Heritage list since December 13, 1991.

1)  The monastery Wat Phanan Choeng, that houses the image of Big Buddha, the most revered by the inhabitants of Ayutthaya.

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2)  The Wat Yai Chai Mongkol, a magnificent ancient royal monastery conveying a sense of the power of the Ayutthaya kingdom which once expanded in all directions.

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On each side of the temple and front are elegant rows of sitting Buddhas.

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3)  The Ayutthaya Elephant Village.

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One can also see a replica of a Thai house.

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There is a small floating market too.

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4)  The Wat Maha That, the most sacred royal temple in Ayutthaya during the glorious time.  It is renowned for the remains of the sandstone Buddha image of which the head lies beneath a Bodhi tree while the body has disappeared.

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One of the magnificent prangs.

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5)  The Thanon Si Sanphet, the path leading to Wat Phra Si Sanphet, the most outstanding monastery located in the grand palace compound.

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6)  The Wat Phra Si Sanphet, with its bell-shaped chedis.  The three large chedis contained the ashes of different kings.

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7)  The Wat Lokayasutharam, the site of the large reclining Buddha made of brick and covered with plaster.

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8)  And the finale, which for me is the most gorgeous (I’m out of fitting adjectives), the Wat Chaiwatthanaram.  Its great beauty has been reflected from the main stupa and its satellite stupas along the gallery. Its architecture was influenced by Khmer.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Family 2

ImageAnd of course, I cannot resist from highlighting my own family in this photo challenge.

“The family that travels together, have fun with each other…”

– against the scenic greenery of the Chocolate Hills in Bohol, Philippines, May 2013 –

Weekly Photo Challenge: Family

ImageLet me play it backward.  I focus on this couple to signify the beginning of a family.  It is at this stage that the institution of a family is being crafted.  I took this shot, caught up with the couple’s private world as they enjoyed each other’s company against the falling waters of Nam Tok Sai Yok Noi in Kanchanaburi, Thailand.

Hopefully, they will still travel as a family like the one I met traversing the old charm of the Bridge of the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi, Thailand.

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Bohol Before the Quake

Oh no!  Why am I swaying?  Am I awake?  Definitely not.  Then I woke up.  My daughter woke up too.  Rather, let me emphasize, we were forced to wake up.  Involuntarily, we hugged each other.  I hold her tight while we both watched the vigorous dancing of the electric pole line outside the bedroom window.

Though the heavy shaking of the bed waking us happened last October 15, 2013, around 8:10-8:15 in the morning, that moment when I thought “This is it Lord, is it?” is still vivid up to this day. We later learned that the epicenter of the 7.2 magnitude earthquake hitting the Philippines was in  Bohol, the nearest province to us in Cebu reachable by 4-hour plus regular boat ride.

We watched the evening news and was devastated to find out that the most hit were those destinations Bohol is so proud of, the Chocolate Hills and its century-old churches.  I remembered how quaint Bohol is.  Its charm originated from its provincial and laid-back appeal.

And we did witness this allure Bohol offered to its visitors.  My family explored Bohol in May 2013.  This is what I aim to feature.  Bohol, as beautiful as it was, before the earthquake.  Just don’t mind the presence of my family in most pictures.  As it was a family trip, they claimed it their right to plaster their faces on most photos.

Let me start with a close-up look of one famed Chocolate Hill.  So called because of rows of hills in chocolate brown color during summer.

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Bohol is also well-known for the smallest primate Philippine Tarsier, commonly known as the world’s smallest monkey.  It’s so small you can’t really decipher it from the picture (haha! I’m just actually making excuses for this bad shot).

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But this is how the tarsier looks as drawn.  There were few of them housed in Sagbayan Peak Resort and Recreation.

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Sagbayan also had a view deck overlooking the rows of thousands of chocolate hills.

ImageAnd a butterfly sanctuary as Bohol is rich with different species of butterflies.

ImageThere was a themed-park for children…

Imageand for child-like adults too.

ImageAfter Sagbayan, we drove down to the town of Carmen, the original viewing place for the chocolate hills before the town of Sagbayan built its own view deck.

ImageOne has to climb those steep steps if one wants to see a more captivating view of the hills.  So there…

ImageWhile driving through to the town of Bilar, we came upon a rare structure along the road.  It was a house built like a ship.  No wonder since the owner is a ship captain.

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It was raining hard when we arrived to the Simply Butterflies Conservation Center in the town of Bilar.  It was educational for kids and adults alike to see different species of butterflies and learn their life cycle.

ImageThe rain did not stop the kids from hoping for butterflies to land on any parts of their bodies, just to feel how ephemeral their delicate wings are.

ImageNext town to check out was Loboc.  But before arriving at Loboc, we passed through the man-made forest in Bilar.  It was a long section of the road, and we felt too the cool air along this part.

ImageThen came Loboc, famed for its river cruise…

Imageold bell tower…

Imagescenic old church…

Imageas repository of culture…

Imageand not to forget, the town that bred the Loboc Children’s Choir (sadly, I don’t have a pic of them).

Further down the road, next town to offer us something was Loay.  We went to the Xzootic Animal Park in Agape, Loay to check out primarily their pythons.  Yikes!  I abhor snakes.  I really detest them.  But you know kids, they fear and at the same time are fascinated with these slimy, treacherous crawlies.  Be quick Jim!  My hands were shaking taking this shot.

ImageAt least there were other attractions in the zoo.

ImageAlmost there, down to the last spot.  Baclayon Church, declared as a National Historic Treasure in 1995. It is considered the best preserved church in the region.  And I’m so proud of this church and the town itself as this is my father’s native town.

ImageThen the Sandugo or the Blood Compact Shrine in Tagbilaran City.  Sandugo, a Visayan word meaning “one blood”, was performed between the Spanish Explorer Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and Bohol chieftain Datu Sikatuna on March 16, 1565.  It was considered the first treaty of friendship between Spaniards and Filipinos.

ImageBohol is also a beach getaway.  Never miss the white sandy beaches in Panglao Island.  Let me showcase such beauty at Dumaluan Beach Resort.

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the long shoreline…

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lovely nipa hut…

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the powdery sand…

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to infinity & beyond…

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low tide charm…

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and sun setting beyond rows of coconut trees…

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Before parking for the night, we dropped by the town of Dauis.

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The cave closed at 6pm.  While going down to take a quick look, bats were also clamoring to go outside to I don’t know where.  Our fun-loving grandma reminded us it’s time to head back home.

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So long Bohol!

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Window

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Well, yes, mine is not really showing a traditional window.  But I’m trying to showcase a glimpse of Lantau Island in Hong Kong as seen from inside the glass panel of the Ngong Ping cable car.  It was my first cable ride in June 2010, from Tung Chung to Ngong Ping Village.  As with any transportation, the cable car served as my window to this beautiful island in Hong Kong.

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Sunday Stills: Bridges

I love bridges. It’s a genius how men can build a structure suspending on the air, connecting two lands separated by a body of water, more so if built emphasizing the beauty of the place as captured by Michael. Bridges they may be, but they will surely take one’s breath away. 😉

retireediary

Readers who have been following my posts may know that I was a bridge design engineer some decades ago.

I have a few posts which highlighted some bridges I encountered during my travels in various parts of the world. One of the posts is http://retireediary.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/travel-theme-bridges/

I am delighted that this week’s Sunday Stills is Bridges –which is my favorite subject.

Here I try to group some masonry bridges together. They look aesthetically pleasing, simple and some of them even romantic. They have helped our ancestors to cross over many troubled waters – a big contribution to our present civilization.

My bridges here are mainly masonry. The masons carved the stones into blocks of various sizes, assembled them together in a form designed by engineers who were masters of art and also structural engineering. They were skillfully laid into an arch form so that most part of the bridge are in compression – their…

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Beginning

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In October 2012, I had my first experience as a solo traveler within my country.  I’ve dreamed of seeing the UNESCO World Heritage Batad Rice Terraces in Batad, Banaue, Ifugao, Philippines.  I invited friends to backpack with me to this off-beaten path.  All were interested but eventually, none could spare the time at this particular month and year.  I thought of it several times then decided it wouldn’t be a problem.  I would just force my courage and determination to accompany me.

Aside from witnessing the craftsmanship of the Ifugaos in building the amphitheater-like rice terraces, one is also afforded the rugged beauty of the Tappiya Falls above.  Reaching the waterfall entailed an hour-plus of trekking along the terraces and up and down mountains that were visible right across the window of my rented Ifugao hut (see picture below).  These two pictures depicted a beginning of one adventurous day in Batad, from the moment I woke up to the chirping birds and misty mountains outside my window to building up my excitement of splashing in the cold waters of Tappiya.

But as a whole, this solo trip marked a beginning of believing.  I came to believe the possibility of going to places I’ve dreamed about by acting on this dream, not just daydreaming in the corner.

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