Quest for Seventh

Travel + Photography = Bliss

Las Casas Filipinas

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Today, I am posting my first entry for Throwback Thursday. In addition to religion, one of the lasting influences of Spain to the Philipines is through architecture. Houses of the nobility and well-to-do during the colonial times were built to suit the climate of the Philippines and also made use of indigenous materials. It resulted to houses that are not totally Hispanic, but are certainly Filipino.

There are towns in the Philippines which are good in taking care of their heritage houses, however, most of the effort in maintaining these houses fall into the families who inherited them. Unfortunately, some of these families either do not have the financial capacity to maintain them or just do not care at all. As such, some of these houses are left in disrepair, or worse, demolished.

A realty developer then came to the picture and stepped in. He started buying old houses and then one by one, brick by brick, each piece of the house is transplanted from its original location to his beach property north of Manila. He started it as a hobby, saw the niche and opened it to the public. I had the opportunity to visit the place in 2010 when it was just newly opened and then again in 2015 during one of my Christmas trips to the Philippines.

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This gallery contains 8 photos


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Weekend with family

So here it is, my first Wandering Wednesday post.  Well, back in May, I posted about my 12-hour layover in Taipei on my way to Seoul.  I went out of the airport and toured some of the city’s famous tourist sites. I had a great time that I decided I will go back…perhaps in December.

I decided to go back to the airport at around 3 pm even if my flight was not until 8:30 pm. The clouds were getting darker and I knew I only have a few minutes / seconds before the rain will pour. True enough, big drops of water came rushing down when I got to the Taipei Main Station where I took the bus back to the airport.

The moment I stepped back to the airport, I had only one thing in mind — SHOWER! Haha. At that time, my last shower was before I left Canada and that was more than 24 hours ago. Great thing that I have access to the EVA Air Lounge so I was able to freshen up. One would think that I probably am waiting for my flight to Seoul, my ultimate destination for this trip. However, I am actually transiting to another country. It is a country that holds a special place in my heart. It is the place where I was born and where my family lives. It is the Philippines.

My family was not aware that I am transiting to the Philippines. They are travelling to Korea too and they thought I will just meet them in Seoul. However, I figured since I am already travelling to Asia, I might as well visit them. Mom’s reaction upon seeing me at our doorsteps was priceless!

It was Holy Week when I got to the Philippines, Good Friday to be exact. For those not in the know, Holy Week is when Christians, especially Catholics, commemorate Jesus’ death and resurrection. It starts on Palm Sunday and ends on Easter. It has no definite date, but usually falls between March and April.

When I was growing up, a part of me hated this part of the Catholic calendar because there are so many rules that you need to observe and so many things you cannot do.  For starters, you cannot eat meat from Wednesday till Saturday. You also cannot wear anything red and you should not be talking or laughing loudly because, as my grandmother would say, “god is dead”. The most annoying part though is that the tv networks are also off the air, so you are stuck with listening to AM radio!

Ever since I left the Philippines, I started to let go of some of these Holy Week traditions (and most other events in the Catholic calendar). To me, most of these are just practices handed through the generations by our dear abuelitas (grandmothers) that really has no biblical / doctrinal basis. However, even if my inquisitive mind have so many questions about religion and the Catholic faith, I still do appreciate that these practices are already part and parcel of the Filipino identity. As such, I do not mind people still doing these things to express their faith. And I do enjoy participating in (some) of them as well — just like during this weekend trip, I joined the Good Friday procession where the images of biblical characters during Jesus’ time is paraded throughout the town. It is actually a very common practice for Catholics as I have also witnessed this in Cusco, Peru. And I know a huge tourist draw in Antigua, Guatemala are their Good Friday processions too. Anyway, here are some pictures from our town’s Good Friday procession and I also added a short clip.

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These processions, together with other Christian practices in the Philippines actually make the country a bit of an odd ball. In a sea of Buddhist temples and pagodas, Islamic mosques or Shinto shrines, you have these group of islands which are dominated by century old churches and hispanic style towns. My personal opinion about the church and religion in general has since changed, but I think this oddity of the Philippines can be used by the government to get a bigger slice of the tourism pie in Asia. I am not saying that focus should be made on the hispanicized Philippines alone, but this could very well be a good selling point. It is a piece of Spain / Latin America transplanted to the Pacific. I mean just look at some of these photos.

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I thought my weekend in the Philippines would be uneventful, but boy I was wrong! After the procession, we got home and I actually felt I was about to get sick. I did not mind it and figured it was just due to fatigue from all the travelling. However, the next morning, I was burning with fever with my temperature already pushing to almost 40 degrees celsius! I decided it is time to go to the hospital. Several tests were done and their initial finding was pneumonia. The doctor wanted me to stay, but I told her to just give me a shot. They did and my fever subsided.

However, when we got back home, fever started kicking in again. I just slept and hoped it would go away. At around midnight, I asked my parents to bring me to the hospital as my fever is not going down and I am very concerned that I will not be able to get well in time for my flight to Seoul.  Haha!  See, even when I was sick, all I can think of is travelling.  Anyway, wait for my next post to see if I was admitted to the hospital and whether I was able to make it to Seoul.


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Keeping up with this blog

I now realize that keeping up with writing a blog can be challenging.  The last time I had written something here was a month ago.  Not that someone is hounding me to write something nor do I have deadlines to meet, but I feel like I am doing a disservice to myself for not writing things that are going on in my head. Besides, I feel like my brain is almost full and I need to unload some of its content by writing them down. Haha.

So I decided that I have a schedule. I will post entries relating to travel every Wednesdays. As they say, it is a hump day — it is the middle of the work week and only a few more days and it is the weekend again. So what better way to help me to get into travel mode than by writing and posting about it on Wednesdays, right?  I will categorize these posts as Wandering Wednesdays.

In the spirit of camaraderie with the rest of the online world, I will post throwback pictures every Thursdays. One could argue that most of my pictures here are from the past and technically are all “throwback” photos. I will not argue with that. But my throwback Thursday pictures will just be that — pictures. I will make some captions, but for the most part, they will just be pictures.  These posts will be categorized as Time Travel Thursdays.

There would be times when my creative juices would just flow like Niagara Falls, regardless of the day of the week. However, just to keep a schedule, I will post random thoughts and other travel musings on Mondays. I tried so hard to think of word plays so I can put Monday in the title for this category, but it was so hard so I just decided to just call it Anything Goes.

Hopefully, I can keep up with this new schedule (seriously, good luck to me!). So keep posted, as tomorrow will be my first entry for Wandering Wednesday.

Happy travelling and happy blogging everyone!


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12 hours in Taipei

As I mentioned in my previous post, I decided to transit through Taipei, go out of the airport and see some of the key tourist attractions. I find that doing so is a good way of getting a taste of the city or country.

I will admit that my knowledge of Taipei, or Taiwan for that matter, is very limited as I was not paying too much attention during our Asian history class in second year high school. Few things I know about Taiwan is that they have very good food. Afterall, it is the birthplace of Din Tai Fung! It is a restaurant famous for its xialongbao (steamed dumplings). If you want to know more, you can visit their website.  I did not visit the restaurant in Taipei though as I already had my sampler of their delicious dumplings was when I was living in Sydney. I figured, the food probably taste the same.

So, for my 12-hour layover, I relied heavily on the Taipei city guide I got from the tourism information centre in Taipei Main Station to help me find places to visit. Being a fan of skyscrapers, on top of my list is Taipei 101. It once was the tallest structure on earth, to be later on eclipsed by Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

Taipei 101 and surrounds

I read that the best way to view Taipei 101 is hiking the nearby Elephant Hill.  From one of the many view points there, you can clearly appreciate how this mega structure lords over the Taipei skyline. However, since I only have limited time, I decided to just go to the site of the building itself. And I can tell you that this building is definitely impressive up close. I really liked how the design incorporated Asian aesthetics.

There is a mall complex in the building with a huge food court. While I was there, I decided to sip milk tea with boba (pearls), another great Taiwanese invention. You can tell that I love food since the things I know about Taiwan are about food. Haha. After roaming around Taipei 101, I went to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.

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Milk tea with boba is soooo good. Although I think I am now becoming more and more lactose intolerant as I had to rush to the toilet after finishing this drink. Haha.

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

The hall was built in commemoration of Taiwan’s former president, Chiang Kai-shek. Construction began in 1975 and was completed in 1980.

There are two sets of stairs leading to the main entrance, both of which have 89 steps representing Chiang Kai-shek’s age at the time of his death.

Upon reaching the top of the stairs, the main hall can be found where a giant statue of the late president can be found. It kinda reminded me of the Abraham Lincoln statue in Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, although Abe’s image is bigger (I think). There is a changing of the guard ceremony as well which happens every hour on the hour.

Surrounding the memorial hall is a park and like guards that are always on duty, two magnificent buildings stand at its gate — the National Theatre and the National Concert Hall

After a few hours of taking pics and strolling around the memorial hall and the park around it, I decided to check out Lungshan Temple.  It is located in the Wanhua district and was only a short subway ride from the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.  The area kind of reminded me of Kowloon in Hong Kong, but a calmer and less busy version of it.

The temple was amazing!  There were lots of people — both faithful and tourists alike. I noticed that most of those who came to pray were offering gorgeous flowers or lighting incense sticks. Although the most interesting practice I saw was some of the people were using two pieces of wood while they were praying.

I did not know what they were, so I googled it. Apparently, it is call a jiaboei. It is used to ask questions to the gods and depending on how the blocks fall when you drop it, an answer has been provided to you.

The skies were turning darker and small drops of water started to fall from the sky. I decided, it is time to head back to the airport, freshen up and get ready for my next flight. I went back to the Taipei Main Station to take the bus to the airport. And even before I purchased my bus ticket, my mind is already telling me that I have to go back to Taipei. Next time, it will not just be for a few hours.


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A surprise that is Taipei

It has been a while since my last entry, but where you able to guess the places pictured in my last post?  If you said Taiwan, Philippines and Korea, then you are right.  That post shows Taipei 101 in Taiwan, a Good Friday procession in the Philippines and Hyangwonjeong Pond inside the Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul.

The purpose of my travel to Asia was to meet my family who was vacationing in Seoul. They were able to secure cheap airline tickets back in 2016 so I told them that I will meet them in Seoul and we could all enjoy a quick break. Yes, this trip was almost a year in the making!

It definitely was meant to be a quick break as the trip to Seoul was only for a week. However, even before my family’s tickets were confirmed, I already made a decision to spend more than a week’s time in Asia. I figured I better maximize my time there since flying from Canada to Asia takes a loooot of time.  So I started looking for places where I can have long layover between flights. I usually book direct flights when I am flying within Canada or the US. However, for longer haul flights, I prefer to transit through another country so I can go out of the airport and explore. It is like hitting two birds with one stone.

I thought of transiting through Tokyo, Shanghai or Taipei. Among these cities, I have only been to Tokyo. And I actually do not mind setting foot here again as I do want to eat ramen and mochi again. One thing common for these cities though is that all the countries they belong to require me to apply for a visa in advance. While I have been living in Canada for more than half a decade now, I am still not a Canadian. As such, I do not have Canadian passport, ergo, visa is required to a lot of countries.

I sadly struck Tokyo out of my list since applying for Japanese visa is burdensome as they require personal appearance at their consular offices and unfortunately their closest consular office to me is 2.5 hours of airplane flight away!  The Chinese visa application does not require personal appearance but they do require you to submit a lot of paperwork. I have done a lot of visa application in the past so collecting the documents no longer bothers me, however, I was too lazy to exert effort in applying for it. So I was happy to see that Taiwan has easier travel requirements for me. Since I am already a permanent resident of Canada, I just need to apply for an e-visa.  I will not detail the Taiwanese visa application process here, but in case you stumble upon this post and would like to know more about the process, you can find it on this link.

I was flying to Taiwan on the same week when United made headlines for dragging a man off the aircraft who did not want to give up his seat after being randomly selected to be offloaded.  So when I was boarding and was told to step aside and hand over my boarding pass, I could not help but panic. I was afraid they will not let me in for some weird reason. Another airline crew then came up to me.  He said that the economy seats were overbooked and that they have to assign me to another seat. He handed my new boarding pass and I saw that I have been upgraded to premium economy! I was so relieved and happy! Flying for more than 12 hours with more space is definitely a huge plus. With this said, I would like to throw props to EVA Air for the upgrade! Thank you so much!

We landed in Taoyuan Taipei airport at around 5 in the morning. There was a long line in immigration and I only got cleared after almost 40 minutes. At the arrival hall, I found luggage lockers where I was able to leave my things. After a quick bite for breakfast, I am off to the city. It took me a while to get oriented with my surroundings, so I did not see that there was a metro connecting the airport to the city. I took a charter bus instead which costed around 6 Canadian dollars (one way), which is still not too bad. I also found the bus ride to be a good way to see local scenery, so all in all, I still think it was a good choice.

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Taoyuan International Airport – clean, efficient and great looking airport.

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Art display at the airport

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Luggage locker pay machine.

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The very user friendly luggage lockers at the airport

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C$6 for 40km bus ride from airport to Taipei Main station

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Clean and comfortable coach

Our last stop was Taipei Main station.  And as its name suggest, it is the main / central station in Taipei. It is where a number of trains and buses originate and end.  I will admit that I got a little confused as to where the subway trains were. Good thing I found a tourist information centre who gave me instructions on how to go the subway and even handed me a Taipei city guide.

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Taipei Main Station

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East Gate

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Inside Taipei Main Station

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West Gate

The Taipei city guide proved to be very helpful. It clearly depicted the tourist attractions and the subway stations that are closest to them. Speaking of subway, I love Taipei’s metro! Just like any other progressive and modern Asian cities, the metro system in Taipei is efficient and very clean! It is also very affordable. I opted to buy the metro card so I can keep it as souvenir. However, you can also opt to buy a token which kinda works like the card too as you can reload / top it up.

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Taipei Metro’s EasyCard

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Picture courtesy of borderless-house.com
(For more info on Taipei Metro, you can also ready their detailed post here –> http://www.borderless-house.com/tw/community/blogs/useful-information001/)

When you are in a new city and you are using their subway, it is kind of annoying when you get on the street level and you find out that you should have used another exit to get to where you are supposed to go. Another thing I loved about Taipei’s metro is that even before exiting the turnstiles, it has signs, both in Mandarin and English, of where you should exit. I really found it very helpful.

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Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall Station

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Queuing

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Exit information

While I only have limited time to explore the city, I will say that I was very impressed with Taipei. I have friends who have been here before and now I understand why they say Taipei is one of their favourite places. There is a good balance of modernity and history, of east and west. I also thought that even if the city is big, it does not feel overcrowded like other megacities in Asia. I definitely think that this is just an appetizer. My few hours in Taipei definitely made me crave for more. I will go back, stay longer and experience more of Taiwan. More of the sites I visited on my next post.


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Canada: Alberta and New Brunswick

One would think that it is an unlikely pairing — a province in the west and a province in the east.  Well, the reason I grouped these two is because I only spent a few days in each province and my experience was very limited.  This is not to say that there is nothing to see in both.  I actually would like to go back, see and experience more of these provinces.

Fredericton

Fredericton is New Brunswick’s capital. I had the opportunity to see the city as part of my work, again.  I never really had the chance to go around the city as the work was very hectic and we were on a tight schedule. Even on the weekend that we stayed there, I did not have a chance to go around as I had to work. Probably, the thing that sticks out in my head about this trip is how apologetic our client was about the traffic during the morning rush hour, when in fact, it can barely be called a congestion. Yes, the cars were stopping and there was some sort of build up, but it was because of the traffic lights and not car volume.

Oh and I do remember seeing my favourite Australian chocolates in one of the supermarkets there and could not help but take a picture of it.

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My favourite Australian candy! I especially like the one in blue wrapper

Calgary

My first and only encounter of Alberta is my visit to Calgary in 2006 to spend Christmas with a friend. I was just new to Canada and it was my first time to be away from family on such kind of holiday.  So I thought, the closest I can get to a family celebration was to spend it with a friend. I only stayed a couple of days so I was not able to see the famous mountains and lakes of Banff and Jasper. We mainly stayed in the city as the two of us were still not driving that time.  However, the trip was still memorable as we went skiing.

By the way, you might have read from my previous post about the Northwest Territories that I have been in Canada for 8 years now. If you take 2006, which is the year I was in Calgary and subtract it from 2017, you definitely will not get 8 years. The reason for this discrepancy is because I lived in Australia for 3 years in between my stint in Canada.  Sorry for the maths, I just had to. I am still an accountant and I would like everything to tie up. Haha. Anyway, back to Calgary.

Coming from the tropics, my knowledge of winter sports is limited to movies like Cool Runnings and the Mighty Ducks. So, I told myself that since I will be living in Canada, I might as well try to learn them. Besides, there is no other way to enjoy winter but to immerse yourself in it and be part of the winter culture. As me and my friend do not know anything about skiing, we signed up for a beginner’s class.

The class was at the Calgary Olympic Park. The first order of business was to fit our skis and helmets. The feeling of wearing heavy ski boots was weird and challenging.  I felt like a robot. When we finished gearing up, we were finally introduced to our instructor and our classmates. Our classmates were mostly kids! Hahaha!!! There was one other teenager, but we were definitely the only adults there.

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Skis on!!!

We were given some basic safety instructions and then we went off to the hill. It was a bunny hill — perfect fit for kids but kind of awkward for us. We had to get on a conveyor type of machine to get from the bottom of the bunny hill to the top.  Getting on was okay, but getting off was really challenging.  The skis are already attached to your feet so it was harder to manoeuver your way out of the conveyor belt. And the thing is you have to be very quick or else you will see human dominoes rolling down the hill.

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Our hill

When we were finally on top of the hill, we were given the basics — the form, how to change directions, how to stand up when you fall and most importantly, how to stop. It looked very easy on tv but it was very hard in person! I knew I will be sore the next day because my muscles were working extra hard that day.

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Looking down from the top of our bunny hill

Then the moment of truth, we have to apply what we have learned. One by one, we were asked to ski down the hill. We let the kids go first until finally it was my turn. I started moving slowly, then physics did its job and I accelerated. The wind started sweeping on my face. It felt awesome, but after about 5 seconds, I fell. Haha. After an hour and half of trying to perfect the art of skiing, I finally decided it was time to hang up the skis and rest. I was so exhausted and sweaty. So while my friend went to the top of the slopes and try her newly learned ski skills, I went to the cafeteria to get a hotdog and hot choco.

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No that’s not me, but I wish I was good as this guy.

We then went home. I do not remember eating dinner that night as I was really exhausted. I just slept. The next day, my body was so sore that I can barely move. There were parts of my body  that I never knew could hurt like that. My bum was especially sore due to all the gliding movement. Skiing is good for the ass! Haha!

We walked around her neighbourhood for a bit and met some of her friends afterwards. Here are some of the very few snaps I took in Calgary.

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Neighbouring buildings

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View of the Bow River

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This is the closest I have ever seen the Rockies

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Bow River Pathway

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Bow River

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Calgary skyline