Sunday, September 20, 2015

The View from the Hills of Sagaing (Myanmar)

I crossed Ayeyarwaddy River to get to Sagaing. Like Bagan, I could see several Buddhist structures rising from the hill and down below. Unlike Bagan, these structures were white pagodas, were newer, and were mostly white with golden peaks. An old kingdom, Sagaing has had 7 kings during the reign of the Sagaing Kingdom: from Sawyun of 1315 to Minbyauk Thihapate of 1364. And then there was King Naungdawgyi who reigned in 1760.

While riding my "tuktuk", I was in awe of the gorgeous queue of pagodas from the hill. It was something you don't see everyday in your short life span - and it was beautiful. Like a very fast slideshow that displayed magic. I was on my way to a couple of pagodas - the U Min Thonze Pagoda and U Pon Nya Shin Pagoda accessible through a covered staircase that ran up the 240 meter (787 feet) hill. It would be a harrowing climb if you think about it, but the ascent is gradual, and you can take your sweet time to get there. From the top, I could see Ava Bridge crossing Ayeyarwaddy.

Sagaing is located 20 kilometers southwest of Mandalay. It is 566 kilometers north of Yangon, roughly a 7-hour bus ride from Mandalay.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Friday, September 4, 2015

A Corner of Bali in Davao City

Bali? Nu-uh. It's an odd fountain-cum-pond standing in front of a chapel at the GAP Farm Resort in Davao City. Located along the Diversion Road (a few kilometers from D' Japanese Tunnel), the place is a recreational and leisure center with agriculture and Philippine History as its theme.

The air in this little corner is fresh. I could sit on a bench and allow my mind to wander. This is a great place for that. There's a parade of busts of Philippine presidents and heroes. Gabriela Silang lead the pack; her bolo waved on the air as she mounts an emaciated horse. Elsewhere, there's a fascinating, albeit comprehensive list of Mindanao's indigenous tribes and their corresponding statues and costumes - and to my knowledge, no other place has done this.

But let me get back to my peaceful Balinese corner, standing awkwardly in front of a chapel. Here, my mind can travel farther than any distance.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Spa Special in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Devoured by ravenous little swimming creatures at a fish spa in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The sensation is exquisitely ticklish because you feel their nibbling mouths taking on your dead epidermis. Though you don't noticeably see the "smoothness" in your skin after this ordeal, there's a degree of catharsis to be had. Think survival from mini-piranhas. Think micro-vanity. Think trying on a new experience... and you go back to your hotel room smug.

There's plenty of these touristy endeavors along Street no. 8 otherwise known as "Pub Street" where rows of restaurants and shops congregate.

This is the Eye in the Sky

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Creepy Crawlies in Cameron Highlands' Butterfly Farm (Malaysia)

Butterfly Garden. Seems too benign, right? I have never enjoyed any Butterfly Garden until my visit at Cameron Highlands' Butterfly Farm, 3 kilometers north of Brinchang. They weren't limited to butterflies, but display other creepy crawlies as well: the leaf insect, the stick insect, spiders, scorpions, beetles, etc. With a minimum fee of 5 RM (PhP70/$1.50), you can enjoy all these amazing, unique, terrifying insects. A tour guide would show you around the place, point the ones that needed emphasis, and even take them to crawl on your hand. The photo above is of a giant stick insect, overgrown and plump. Hmmm. Very extra terrestrial.

Cameron Highlands is located in Pahang, West Malaysia. It is 200 kilometers from Kuala Lumpur with a population of 43,000 people. As a hill station, it functions as a holiday destination (though there's not much party scene if you're into that); coffee and tea plantations; a fruit haven, hiking trails, a waterfall and a food destination as well. Cameron has 7 settlements: Kampong Raja, Taman Tringkap, Kea Farm, Brinchang, Ringlet, Bartam Valley, and the town center called Tanah Rata where most holiday makers stay. I did because that's where the the bus terminal is located. There's a post office, ATM machines, tourist center, hotels, parks and rows of restaurants.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Shipyards of Burigangga River in Old Dhaka (Bangladesh)

In Old Dhaka, even the riverway is congested. There are 35 shipyards based in Keraniganj area alone by the side of the Buriganga River. They are part of the approximately 100 shipyards throughout the Buriganga Coast. Meanwhile, 15,000 workers are being employed for this trade. I'd say this is a very conservative number. Further on, if you're just cruising the river, you wouldn't notice this ship congestion.

When I visited the Pink Palace, I had to hop through three ships just to get off the river and on to the palace. There was no adequate space for my boat to dock at. Imagine the riverways in, say 10 years?

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Wildlife Traffic in Phnom Penh

Out of the way, civilization!

I was on my way to a temple on a hill, Wat Phnom, riding my moto (tuktuk) when I chanced upon an elephant walking along Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh's major riverside boulevard, running along the confluence of Mekong and the Tonle Sap Rivers. The 3 kilometer tourist strip is filled with hotels and cafes, a pleasant "tourist trap". The promenade has changed a lot in the last 5 years or so. It's a great place to watch people and spend a few cambodian riel for street food which includes fruits, corn on a cob, chestnuts, etc.

If an elephant "strolled" through Roxas Boulevard, Manila's riverside road, traffic would literally stop, wouldn't it?

This is the Eye in the Sky!  

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Moral Stand, Genghis Khan and the Death of 40 Million (Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia)

Mongolia celebrates the life and times of their national hero at any chance they get. Airports, food and beverages, hotels, grocery stores, travel agencies, even art works are named or dedicated after him. But Genghis Khan, conqueror of nations, is attributed the massacre of 1,748,000 people - all in a single hour! In one biography, the leader of the Mongol Empire was said to be responsible for the death of 40 million people.

Meanwhile, at the Museum of Natural History, located beside Sukhbaatar, in the capital of Ulaan Baatar, you'll find this moralistic stand against the death penalty - on display at the museum's entrance. You can't miss it. While I understand that times have indeed changed since Khan's reign of terror, the stark contrast between the national hero's conquest and modern Mongolia's stand against the death penalty is all too obvious.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Animated Fun at the Rose Centre in Cameron Highlands (Malaysia)

A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose. Right.

But it isn't all roses at Cameron Highlands' Rose Centre. There's more. If you love flowers, you're get more than your fix here. What's more, there are animated statues fit for Disneyland, playful tunnels (photo above), and even Snow White and her seven dwarves. Children will have a blast. Romancing couple would get their vibe. Budding photo enthusiasts would have a field day. It's a complete leisure resort (sans a swimming pool - but who goes swimming in chilly Cameron?) set on a hilly slope.

Located at Kea Farm, 3.5 kilometers away from Brinchang, Rose Centre provides a very cheap excursion in the highlands, with an entrance fee of just 5 RM ($1.50/PhP176). If you've a touring vehicle, this is usually part of a tour itinerary. If not, go suggest it.

Cameron Highlands is located in Pahang, West Malaysia. It's about 200 kilometers from KL.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

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!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Fastfood Surprises at Sorya Food City (Phnom Penh, Cambodia)

During one of my arrivals in Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital, I decided to check out Sorya Mall again where I once watched Khmer movies, badly made chopsuey of horror and comedy, with slapstick sensibility. I proceeded to the fourth floor - "Sorya Food City" is what it's called. Not food plaza, not food court, nor food salon. I purchased my coupon at their coupon booth so I could start the "hunt" for an acceptable fastfood entree a la Khmer. It was chicken with curry sauce, meticulously wrapped in a cup-like banana leaf that sat on a lettuce. A cup of rice beside it. Yum.

So allow me to masticate and speak no further.

This is the  Eye in the Sky!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Grandiosity at the White Temple, Thailand

A holy temple? Nah, it's a singular structure at the White Palace's complex in the Rong Khun area of Chiang Rai. The "temple" is in immaculate white and most times, filled with tourists - truly one of the most gorgeous sites to grace North Thailand. This eye-popping rendition of a temple is built by artist Chaloemchai Khositphiphat. But let me turn right back into the structure above. Hold your breath - literally! It is the temple complex's toilet!

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Monkey Forest in Lombok's Gunung Sari

If my driver-guide spoke English well, he'd be eloquent, I thought.

My driver for the day, Ajam, was a far cry from the morose Odin, my driver the day before. He was particularly receptive and personable. He would open doors (which I disliked), and curiously tiptoe whenever he'd see me finish a visit. He was one of those who was eager to please. One of the places he took me to was a mountain called Gunung Sari (Sari Mountain) which the locals refer as "Monkey Forest".

The uphill eastward ride through "Pusuk Pass" was pleasant and scenic. A few minutes after our ascent, we pulled by the roadside. Lush trees abound, and cheeky monkeys wait for visitors to feed them, usually bought from a nearby traditional market.  

I am in no way fond of these mammals. Never have. This visit reinforced that. A school of monkeys were already waiting by the roadside, hanging on trees, and hopping on to newly arrived vehicles which, expectedly, came and went. If you didn't bring any banana, the monkeys would come near you and check you out. I was, of course, not amused.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Curious Novice Monk of Innwa (Myanmar)

There are 3 ancient imperial cities that can be visited as day trips from Mandalay in Myanmar. Innwa (aka Ava) was my favorite. I crossed Ayeyarwaddy River to get there, hired a horse-drawn carriage to take me around, and checked out relics of old temples. Catastrophe got the better of this ancient Burmese kingdom, which reigned between 14th to 19th century. The Big Earthquakes of March 1839 leveled the grandeur that was Innwa which literally means "mouth of the lake". The location couldn't be more strategic because it sits at the confluence of Ayeyarwaddy and Myitnge Rivers. But natural forces seem to have cast Innwa's fate.

From Ava Palace, now just a watchtower, I visited Bagaya Monastery. At a relic nearby, I found my youthful welcoming committee - two novice monks who were curious of my presence. I caught my shy but curious little host in one of my photos (above).

Red robes characterize the garbs of Burmese monks. You can't miss them.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Masyarakat Park in Petaling Jaya (Malaysia)

At least Metro Manila has Pasig River. The folks from Malabon and Novaliches have their Tullahan River. Kuala Lumpur, unlike most thriving great metropolises, doesn't have a major river flowing through it. The ones they have, Titiwangsa and KL Lake Gardens, are man-made, albeit worth visiting. Thus when I ventured into another pond at Taman (Park) Masyarakat, it was like finding needle in a haystack.

My destination was Petaling Jaya (PJ), essentially a new city (declared a city in 2006) and a satellite township of Kuala Lumpur, located in the Petaling district of Selangor. If you think it's far from KL, you'd be mistaken. It's just 5 stops from KL Sentral's Kelana Jaya line, a mere 2 ringgit travel. I've long wanted to visit.

From the train station (Taman Jaya LRT), you could visit the Amcorp Mall, a 4-level shopping and business complex, situated just across a football field. To it's left is the city's green lung, Masyarakat Park. It's a great place to just watch people walk by, jog, fish (yes, there's plentiful in the lagoon), etc. There's a couple of children's park in the vicinity too. There are places of worship in the area: Christian churches (St. Francis Xavier Church), a Hindu and a Taoist Temple. I may have to check them out one of these days. Mostly though, the area isn't meant for tourists so I kind of felt like I was eavesdropping on the locals. Not quite.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Suspense and Idyll in Phuket's Patong Beach (Thailand)

I was trying to avoid a Vietnamese monk who was following me around from the airport in Yangon (Myanmar) to Bangkok, then took the bus with me to Phuket. Everything was peachy. After all, what's wrong with traveling with a new friend, right? People do that all the time. But along the way, things turned hairy and I felt like I was being stalked. So I avoided him - and I'd find him hanging around places I'd go. Ever been stalked by a monk? That's one of my contentious "claims to fame", apparently.

One morning in Phuket Town, after hiding inside my room, I rushed out and hopped on a 20-baht (PhP27.50) bus that would take me to the popular Patong Beach, Phuket's "most happening" stretch of beach. Bought my lunch at McDonald's and guess who I found walking by the Phuket coast? My hair stood on end! Literally!

Later that day, I wound up sitting by the beach. The spot was unusually deserted, and I felt tranquil. For a few seconds, I forgot I was avoiding someone. Looking back, it was one of the most surreal situations I have been in. Something to tell your friends about. Or not.

This is the Eye in the Sky

Monday, May 18, 2015

Candi Brahu in Trowulan, Mojokerto (Indonesia)

Trowulan, a subdistrict of the Mojokerto Regency in East Java, boasts of almost a dozen temple-relics of the vast Majapahit empire (the last Indianized kingdom in Indonesia), many of them in disparaging states of disrepair. Candi Brahu (Brahu Temple) was among the more special. It sits on a majestic garden lined by flowering plants. Two kilometers from the Mojokerto-Jombang Highway, my motorbike dropped me in a gorgeous clearing with a brick temple rising like a reddish phallic symbol. A cryptic window peeks from the top.

Founded sometime in the 15th century A.D., Brahu Temple was believed to have been a crematorium of kings. Their dead bodies were allegedly incinerated here. Subsequently, statues, royal jewelries made of gold, and ceremonial tools were dug and found in the vicinity. Now here's the mystery: ashes of the dead were never found during its pre-restoration studies. So what was its reason for being? No one really knows for sure. Part of its beauty is in its mystery.

Like a window with no portal of entry. I was thinking of Rapunzel, only with Majapahit head garments and nose rings. "Let down your hair, my damsel in distress," I was imagining of course.

This is the Eye in the Sky.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Philippines' Sabah Claim at the Muzium Negeri (KL Malaysia)

The National Museum of Malaysia has several entries that mention or reference the Philippines, I was of course surprised. But why not? The Malays and the Filipinos have always been friendly neighbors. Some issues are of valid concern because they involve territories and sovereignty. I shall not discuss this fully, but will feature them as they are presented at the museum.

The photo above is of Alfred Dent, a British Merchant, who provided Baron de Overbeck, the Austrian Head consul in Hong Kong with 10,000 British Pounds to obtain the concessions of North Borneo from Sultan of Brunei and the Sultan of Sulu. As a result, he managed to request a charter from the British Government and later formed the North Borneo Company to administer Sabah in 1881.

Sometime during the regime of despotic Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, a group of young Muslim Filipinos were gathered together to "claim" Sabah. They were trained for this takeover, but when the mission was aborted, these young Muslim men were summarily executed, thus the "Jabidah Massacre" which has recently been accepted as part of a cantankerous chapter of our history as a nation.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

The formation of Malaysia also affected Malaysia-Philippines bilateral relations over claims to North Borneo (Sabah). In 1962, the Philippine government demanded that the British Government hand over the land which the Philippines claimed as theirs, because North Borneo was part of the Sultanate of Sulu. After the formation of Malaysia in 1963, the Philippines submitted a claim to the government of Malaysia.

On February 10, 1964, both parties agreed to meet in Phnom Penh in order to negotiate a solution. Finally, on February 12, 1964, Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman formally announced the restoration of the diplomatic ties between Malaysia and the Philippines.

A copy of the Borneo Cession papers in Jawi script given to Baron de Overbeck and Alfred Dent in 1874 by the Sultan of Brunei.

An indenture made out to Alfred Dent by the Sultan of Brunei for all the islands of North Borneo in 1881. 

An in-depth discussion on the conference's proposals took place at the Kedah House, Cameron Highlands on May 24, 1964. WPhoto shows Prime Minister Abdul Rahman, Thai Foreign Minister Thun Thanat Khaman, Salvador P. Lopez representing President Diosdado Macapagal, and Dato Ong Yoke Lin.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

National Museum of Malaysia Part 2: Galleries C and D (KL Malaysia)

I wasn't looking forward to visiting the last two galleries (C and D) of Muzium Negeri (National Museum of Malaysia) because I was expecting static exhibits and pictography. What I wasn't expecting was a considerable entry on Manila and the Philippines' claim of Sabah, but I am getting ahead.

Gallery C concentrates on the "Colonial Era", thus there would be considerable mention of the Portuguese settlement in Malacca (Melaka) followed by the British influences.

Gallery D covers contemporary times in "Malaysia Today". There are of course entries on Singapore's break away from the Malay Kingdom, as well as Brunei's refusal to take part in the said Federation of 14 States.

To be quite honest, this was welcome information for me. My Southeast Asian history is close to nil. My collegiate education hasn't made adequate mention of these neighboring countries' history. We were more interested with what went on with America than the southeast Asian countries.

This "muzium" will provide at least a couple of hours' worth of informative roaming if you're into this stuff. There are a few things that one has to look out for, or might miss them in case you're rushing to another itinerary. There's a replica of Melaka's "A Famosa"; a good mention of James Brooke, Raja of Sarawak circa 1847; up until the Malaysian shouts of "Merdeka"! It's noteworthy to look for "The Speaker's Chair", a gift of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom as token of friendship for the country being a new member of the Commonwealth Association. The Philippines' claim on Sabah shall be posted separately to underline its significance.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

During the Portuguese Administration, the administrative epicenter was Melaka head by a captain of the fort who reported to the Viceroy of Goa who, in turn reported to the King of Porrtugal. 

Melaka's "A Famosa"

The Bunga Emas (the Golden Flower) was a gift sent triennial by the Sultans of the Malay states of Kedah, Kelantan, Terangganu, and Patani to the once powerful King of Siam in Bangkok as a symbol of friendship. The sending of the "bunga" began in the 14th century in a very elaborate and colorful ceremony. The King reciprocated sending items of similar value. However, this practice ended at the end of the 19th century. 

James Brooke, Raja of Sarawak of 1847.

Sarawak was in chaos.

Pangkor Treaty

Rubber tapping, the process of rubber gathering.

Sir Henry Nicholas Ridley was pioneer of the rubber plantation in Malaya. He earlier worked as botanist of the Kew Gardens of Singapore. 

The first locomotive used in the country traveling from Taiping to Port Weld in 1885.

Taiping Railway Station in 1885

Railway Station Hotel in 1915

Mail service using motor vehicle. This was taken as the vehicle passes through from Jalan Kuala Kubu to Kuala Lipis in 1910.

The jinriksha was a Japanese invention.

Some people used to ride on elephants as means of transportation.

Deputy Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak at the site of the Singapore riot on July 22, 1964 to observe the situation on the island. He urged the government to be calm and reassured them the restoration of peace and order in Singapore.This was during the 1965 separation of Singapore from Malaysia. 

The Speaker's Chair is a gift from the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, given to the Malaysian government on November 2, 1963 as a token of friendship and as a member of the Commonwealth Association. 

The different communities of Malaysia.

Masyarakat Chitty, the Hindu Peranakan community

Orang Asli, the pribumi or indigenous people.

The Siamese Community are mostly from the north, usually Kedah, Perlis, Perak and some from Terangganu.

The Serani Community denotes people of Asian-European parentage. They usually come from places like Melaka.

The Sikh Community. Men usually wear "turbans" to keep their hair neat because religion disalows them to cut their hair.

Straits-born Chinese, the Baba and Nyonya.

Kuching cats, maybe? They're on display at the souvenir shop.