Travel

A different kind of exhilaration in six flags San Antonio

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When we plan for a travel, we normally put into consideration the more mature stuff like soul searching, relaxing and discovering new things as part of our main priorities. We often end up choosing a wildlife park, a remote island or a people-crowded beach and spend money and time on it for the sake of being able to travel.

Yes, we definitely would end up happy when we get to pick the more ‘ideal’ path, but have you asked your inner kid on where he/she wanted to go? Have you ever considered a theme park as your main destination? If not, and you’re planning to, peruse this magical place where you can end up feeling like a 10-year old again after you left its gates. Get your feet moving and your stomach churning with Six Flags San Antonio.

Location

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Six Flags San Antonio is a quick 15-minute ride from San Antonio Downtown. It is wedged between Interstate 10 and Loop 1604 by where you need to take Exit 555 La Cantera Parkway. The theme park’s specific address is at 17000 IH-10, San Antonio, Texas 78257.

Six Flags covers an approximate are of 200 acres of fun and excitement and is currently being one of the major entertainment parts of La Cantera, a well-planned development estate in northwest San Antonio.

Climate

Being part of San Antonio, Six Flags’ adapted climate takes on two ways — tropical and desert. Typically, when you visit Six Flags in the months of July and August, the sun would be your best friend as it shines at its zenith and let you enjoy the amusement park at best. The location where Six Flags is situated uncommonly experiences snow.

If you don’t have a strong affinity with heat and sunshine, choose the month of January as this is identified as the coldest all year long. Skim the veins of Six Flags at this month and never sweat your way to happiness and excitement, literally.

Transportation

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If you want to know if there is a mode of transportation inside Six Flags itself, then ask your feet to do you a huge favor in not giving up while staying there. Unlike Disneyland franchises, Six Flags don’t have their Disney buses careening inside the complex. The management deemed it inappropriate and would want to instill physical activity to their guests, thus, the absence of in-house transportation.

However, if you’re coming from Downtown San Antonio and other parts of nearby cities, you can board the VIA Metropolitan Transit bus which will drop you off in front of the theme park. Some hotels dotting Six Flags and nearby accommodations offer their own versions of servicing you in and out of the theme park at specific times and days.

What to See

Thrill Rides

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If you’re one of the many theme park visitors who would want to experience the thrill and excitement of riding the highest rollercoaster and death-defying mechanical engineering, then pick the thrill rides bunch to start and cap your Six Flags visit.

Choose from selected and most patronized rides such as Batman: The Ride (world’s first 4D free-fly rollercoaster), Bahama Blaster (world’s steepest waterslide which ends on a Texas-shaped pool), Boomerang (a quirky kind of rollercoaster which will not lurch your forward, but backward), Frisbee (quite self-explanatory, imagine yourself seated on a giant Frisbee and being thrown at fast and gut-wrenching speeds), Goliath (if they can give a backward rollercoaster ride, experience this inverted this time, at 50MPH).

Family Rides

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Be in touch with the family through Six Flags’ selected family-oriented rides which includes Gully Washer, Fender Bender, Hill County Racer, White Water Rapids, Mine Shaft, Ghostblaster, Whistle Stop, White Water Canyon, and Wave Runner.

Kids Rides

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Parents who want the kids to be enjoying while at par with their safety standards, don’t ever fret as Six Flags had a lot of rides made just for your kids.

Let your kid enjoy every inch of space in Six Flags with wholesome rides such as Buckarooz, Daffy’s School Bus Express, Bamboo Chutes, Kiddee Koaster, Kinderstein, Taz’s Tornado, Texas Treehouse, Up Up and Away and Zoomjets.

Dining and Shopping

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Due to Six Flags’ humongous space, it will be such a bore if there are no restaurants or even a store present on its premises. When the day had been ultra tiring as you covered almost half of the total rides, be not afraid in regaining your energy through a course of selection for restaurants and eating chains.

There are clusters of All-American fare, vegetarian restaurants, places where you can experience Mexican, Asian and Italian cuisines. And if you want to also squeeze in some shopping on the side, options are available for souvenirs, apparel when you get splashed on their water rides, gifts for loved ones, toys and candies for the kids on your way back home and other shops that are Six Flags approved.

Images:

(1) www.satxmilitaryrelocation.com
(2) www.drakecommercial.com
(3) www.businesswire.com
(4) www.youtube.com
(5) forums.wdwmagic.com
(6) www.guidetosfot.com
(7) newsplusnotes.blogspot.com

See more:

Six Flags Fiesta Texas, San Antonio
http://www.vacationsmadeeasy.com/SanAntonioTX/activity/SixFlagsFiestaTexasSanAntonio.cfm

Things to Do
https://www.sixflags.com/fiestatexas/rides-and-attractions

Paul Intalan

Prayer warriors in pink

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The Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters are publicly known as The Pink Sisters. They are fondly termed as the Pink Sisters because of their rose pink-colored habit, which they wear to honor the Holy Spirit, although they can only be seen behind the iron grills of the altar.

The nuns’ presence in the chapel gives the place an even more revered ambiance. It further influences visitors to bow their heads and kneel before God. If you feel like rushing and you want the nuns to help you pray, there are boxes on both sides of the chapel where you can drop a piece of paper of your prayer intentions.

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Their convent was established by St. Arnold Janssen together with Mother Maria Michael and Blessed Maria Virgo on 1896 in Holland. The Adoration Chapel of the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters is famous in Tagaytay because of their frequent visitors, from priests, seminarians, nuns and thousands of pilgrims and adorers of the Blessed Sacrament from all over the Philippines and even other Catholic nationalities.

The Pink Sisters Convent is located at the Holy Spirit Drive in Barangay Maitin, Tagaytay City. The Pink Sisters first came to the Philippines via the invitation of Bishop Alfredo Versoza, who is considered as the first Filipino bishop of Lipa, 10 pioneer sisters, 5 Germans and 5 Americans from Philadelphia, who arrived in Manila in 1923.

They stayed in the convent of the “Blue Sisters” (Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit), which they consider as their “sister order”, before going to their convent in Lipa, Batangas.

The humid and inconvenient weather of Batangas didn’t suit the Pink Sisters and many of them got ill. Because of this, the Pink Sisters were relocated to Baguio City which is the Summer Capital of the Philippines, currently one of the many convents of the Pink Sisters in the country.

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The convent was established through the Society of Divine Word, Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters and Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters all founded by Saint Arnold Janssen.

Also, the best contribution visitors can give to the monastery is the act of purchasing their souvenir items and the must-have Pink Sister Cloister Cookies which happen to be their trademark delicacy. The cookies are personally made by the sisters and they really taste divine.

One thing to keep in mind when entering the Pink Sisters’ Convent in Tagaytay is that, it is a holy place. The sisters live a life of silence and contemplation and it is disrespectful if you are boisterous or cause disturbance.

Phones should be turned off or be on silent mode and taking of photos are also discouraged. You should also wear modest clothing.

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Silence fosters prayer and allows us to contemplate deeply. The Pink Sisters Convent is a good place for prayer. Another plus is that you are praying in front of the Most Holy Eucharist.

Thus, you are praying directly to Jesus Christ when you pray inside this convent. Another reason why many people flock to Pink Sisters’ convent is that many people say that it is a miraculous place and that their personal intentions were answered after they prayed with the Pink Sisters. The Convent has daily masses and Sunday masses.

Daily masses: 6:30 AM
Daily vespers or benediction: 5:00 PM
Sunday mass: 7:30 AM. and 5:00 PM (with Vespers)
First Saturday mass: 4:15 PM

See More:

Adoration Convent Of Divine Mercy Tagaytay, Philippines
http://www.generalatesspsap.com/convents/17tagaytay.htm

General Information:
http://pinksisterstagaytay.freehostia.com/founding_generation.html

Raphy Salvador

Four Historical Cities in Morocco

The Kingdom of Morocco is an exceptional country on the northern part of the Africa. With its geographic location and terrain there are a lot of things to see and visit. In addition to the natural landscape, there are man-made attractions such as buildings and architecture. Their culture influence is a mixture of Arab, indigenous Berber, Sub-Saharan African and European.

LOCATION

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Morocco is located in the northwestern area of Africa. On the west is the Atlantic Ocean, on the north is the Strait of Gibraltar and Mediterranean Sea, on the east is Algeria, and on the south is the Western Sahara.

The country is composed of different land forms. From the northeast to the southwest of the country are the Atlas Mountains, and to the northwest to the northeast are the Rif Mountains. On the southwest of the country, one could see the Sahara Dessert. Furthermore, there are coastal areas on the west and northern section of the country.

PEOPLE

Majority of the Moroccan citizens are descendants of Arab, Berber, or Arab-Berber. A minority of the people are Haratin and Gnawa descendants. There are also Sub-Saharan African and European people.

Majority of the people believe in Islam. Other religions are Christianity and Judaism.

And the people speak Berber, Arabic, Darija or Moroccan Arabic, and French.

GETTING THERE

The best way to reach Morocco is by plane. There are many international flights from other countries that fly direct to the country. Some airlines that fly in and out of the country are Aer Lingus, Easyjet, Ryanair, Royal Air Maroc, Aigle Azur, and many more.

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Rabat-Sale Airport

Other ways to reach the country is by land (by road and railroad), and ferry. If by travelling by ferry, the most common route is from Spain, France, and Italy which would take around 35 minutes to 2 hours.
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On the left train Station at Morocco, on the right Nador Port

There are so many things to see and do at Morocco. There are numerous mausoleums, tombs, mosques, museums and palaces to see. Aside from this, there are various jovial festivals celebrated throughout the country. All of these could be seen in every city of the country.

Here we have cited the four historical cities that is a must to be seen.

FOUR HISTORICAL CITIES TO VISIT

Rabat

The capital and second largest city in Morocco is Rabat. In 2013, CNN awarded the city as the second Top Travel Destination. There are indeed a lot of reasons why tourists should visit the city. There are a lot of places to see and things to experience.

Here are a few of the places to see and experience:

• Mausoleum of Mohammed V

This is the resting place of the King Hassan II and his son, Prince Abdallah. The mausoleum is painted white with a green tiled roof.

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• Hassan Tower or Tour Hassan

This is actually a tower of an unfinished mosque. The tower was supposed to be the largest at a height of 86 meters; unfortunately construction was halted in 1199 following the death of the sultan. The tower reached a height of 44 meters.

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• Rabat Archeological Museum

The museum opened in 1932 and is the home to a wide array of archeological artifacts. Included in the collection are human remains, artifacts, and other objects that date back to the Paleolithic period.

• Kasbah of the Usayas

This is a fortress located near the Bou Regreg River. In 2012, the place was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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• Mawazine

In 2001 Mohammed VI started a joyous music festival. Since then, it became an annual tradition. It is a week-long celebration of culture and music. Aside from performances, there are also workshops for dancing and many more.

Casablanca

The largest city in the country is Casablanca located near the Atlantic Ocean. Aside from being an important city economically and demographically, it is an important tourist destination. Here are a few things to see.

• Hassan II Mosque

Another name for the mosque is Grande Mosque Hassan II or Casablanca Hajj. It is noted to be the largest mosque in the country and the 7th in the world. The tower has a height of 210 meters which is the tallest in the world. On top of the tower is a laser that points towards the direction of Mecca.

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• Morocco Mall

For tourists wishing to go shopping, they should not miss Morocco Mall. The mall opened in 2011 and it is the largest shopping mall in Africa with an area of 200,000 square meters. A stunning feature of the mall is the giant aquarium which is the home to a number of different fishes.

Marrakesh

Marrakesh is the third largest city in the country. It is one of the four imperial cities located at the foothills of Atlas Mountains. It was dubbed as “Red City” or “Ochre City” because buildings were constructed from red sandstone, giving a reddish hue on the buildings.

There are many reasons to visit the city. Listed here are a few things to see.

• Jamaa el Fnaa

Jamaa el Fanaa when translated means “the assembly of trespassers.” It is a place where in the past meets the present. Culture and tradition had blended with modernization. It was and continues to be the main square and market place in the city. In 1985, the place was included in the UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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• El Badi Palace

El Badi Palace, when translated means The Incomparable Palace. Although, the palace had been destroyed and ruined, it is still remains a famous tourist attraction.

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• Bab Agnaou

During the 12th century the city is enclosed with high walls for protection. Interspaced in the walls are nineteen gates. One gate on the south is Bab Agnaou.

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• Menara gardens

In the midst of palaces, walls, and trade lies a relaxing garden, Menara Gardens. It was built under the reign of Abd al-Mu’min during the 12th century.

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• Koutoubia Mosque

The most famous and largest mosque in the city is Koutoubia Mosque. Parts of the mosque were inspired by Giralda in Seville and Hassan Tower in Rabat.
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• Marrakech Museum

For those seeking a cultural immersion, take a tour at Marrakech Museum. It was built during the 19th century inside the Dar Menebhi Palace. It was inspired by Andalusian architecture. In 1997, the building was declared a museum and dubbed “an orgy of stalactite stucco-work.” Visitors would be able to see Moroccan art, books, coins, and poetry.

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Fes

Fes was once the capital of Morocco. It was dubbed as “Mecca of the West” and “Athens of Africa.” With these nicknames, it is truly a place worth visiting.

There are two old towns in Fes: Fes el Bali and Al-Qarawiyin. Aside from these two there are other places of interest.

• Fes el Bali

Between the two towns, Fes el Bali was built earlier during the years 789 to 808 AD. It is famous for two things: having the oldest university (University of al-Qarawiyyin or al-Karaouine) and being a car-free urban area.

In 1981 Fes was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

• Madrasa Bou Inania

In AD 1351 to 1356 Abu Inan Faris founded an educational institution and congregational mosque that followed the Marinid architecture.

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• University of al-Qarawiyin or al-Karaouine

The university was built in 859 by Fatima al-Fihri. It is both an educational and spiritual center. And in 1963, the university became one of Morocco’s state universities. Lessons include Islam, Arabic grammar or linguistics, Maliki law, French, English and IT. Until present, the university is still open to students. With that it gained Guinness World Record and recognized by UNESCO as the oldest educational institution.

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Meknes

Meknes was once the capital of Morocco from 1672 to 1727. During these years different infrastructure and buildings were established. Here are a few of the famous buildings within the city.

• Dar El Makhzen – the official royal palace

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• Bab Mansour gate – The gate’s design was inspired by Almohad patterns, zellij modaics, and Roman ruins of Volubilis.

• Lahboul gardens

• Dar El Beida – it was once a palace, but now it is a Royal Military Academy

Kristine Capanzana

Viva La Espanya

The Kingdom of Spain or simply called Spain is an independent democratic country at southwestern Europe. It was once ruled by Romans, Germans, and Moors. But in the 15th century, Spain rose and become the first global colonial empires.

Spain is an interesting country because of the merger of cultural influences from neighboring countries as well as its own. These have influenced their architectures and artworks. In addition to this, their natural topography and geographical location had attracted foreigners to take a trip to this country.

LOCATION

Spain is located on the Iberian Peninsula of southwestern Europe. It occupies a total land area of 505,992 square kilometers.

The mainland is bounded on the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea, on the south Gibraltar, on the north and northeast by France, Andorra and the Bay of Biscay, and on the west and northwest by Portugal and Atlantic Ocean. Also included in its territory are Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean, Canary Islands in Atlantic Ocean, three exclaves in North Africa: Ceuta, Melilla, Penon de Velez de la Gomera, and the islands and rocks of Alboran, Chafarinas, Alhucemas, and Perejil.

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PEOPLE

Approximately 88 percent of the population are Spaniards. The remaining 12 percent are of American, European or African descendants who have migrated and lived in Spain. The predominant language spoken by its citizen is Spanish.

Other languages spoken are Basque, Catalan, and Galician. The main religion in the country is Catholicism.

GETTING THERE

Here are a few travel reminders when travelling to Spain:

• You need a Schengen visa – a Schengen visa is valid for all European countries who have accepted this agreement. Take note that not all European countries signed the agreement.
• The monetary unit of the country is Euro. Make sure to have your local currency changed to euro upon arrival at the airport. Credit card is accepted in most stores.
• Make sure to have accommodations – before entering the country, tourists are required to fill up a form that includes accommodation. If no address is filled, tourists are not allowed to enter the country.

Once all of these are settled, entry to Spain is easy. There are different ways to enter the country. The common is by plane, but there are also road and sea transportation.

• By plane – there are 96 international and national airports in Spain; the largest and one of the most beautiful airports is Barajas International Airport in Madrid. Other busy airports are located at Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Malaga, Seville, Valencia, Bilbao, Alicante, Santiago de Compostela, Vigo, and Gran Canaria. The official flight carrier is Iberia Airlines. Other airlines that operate within the country are Air Europa, Iberworld, Pullmantur Airlines, Vueling Airlines, Binter Canarias, Pyrenair, and Islas Airways.

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Barajas International Airport in Madrid

• By train – the best way to reach Spain via train is from France. There is a railroad connecting Madrid and Barcelona with Paris. There are also railroads connecting Spain with Portugal. There are also metro and light railway trains across the country and important key cities.

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High-speed train from Madrid to Barcelona

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Madrid Metro

• By tram – in addition to trains, there are also trams across the country. These serve as an alternate mode of transportation.
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Eukostran in Bilbao

• By bus – Travelling by bus is a cheap alternative in and out of the city. There are numerous bus terminals along the key cities.
• By sea – There are sea routes from Britain and Northern Africa to different sea ports and harbors in Spain. There are ferries serving tourists who wish to experience something different. These are also used in transporting goods, cargo, and shipments.

TOP FIVE (5) CITIES

MADRID

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Aside from being the capital and largest city in Spain, Madrid is also known for its cultural and artistic heritage. There are a lot of tourist attractions and activities to do; there are museums, plazas, cathedrals, and parks.

Some of the tourist attractions are listed here.

• Puerta del Sol

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El Oso y el Madrono and the Tio Pepe Neon Advertisement

Puerta del Sol or “Gate of the Sun” is a very famous place located at the heart of Madrid. Also known as kilometer 0 wherein other Spanish roads are connected. Mass demonstrations and rallies are also hosted here. It is also the venue for New Year’s celebration.

There are a lot of famous buildings surrounding the square. Included in the buildings is the old Post Office which now serves as the office of the President of Madrid. There is also a mounted statue in honor of Charles III of Spain which spearheaded different public works. Other attractions are the Tio Pepe sign, Calla de Alcala, Carrera de San Jeronimo, and Mariblanca. Of course, the iconic symbol, El Oso y el Madrono, a bear and a madrone tree, is located on the east side.
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Monument of Charles III in front of the former Post Office (now the Office of the President)

 

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Kilometer 0 on the pavement at the entrance of the old Post Office

 

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El Oso y el Madrono, monument of Charles III, and the former Post Office (now the Office of the President)

• Plaza Mayor

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This is another famous plaza located near Plaza del Sol. It measures 129 meters by 94 meters. It is surrounded by a three story residential building. The most famous landmark in the plaza is the Casa de la Panaderia or Bakery House and a bronze statue of King Philip III.

The plaza has been used as a marketplace, bullfights, soccer exhibition games, public executions, and there are also a number of shops and cafes.

• Palacio Real

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This is one of the largest palace in Europe, and the most beautiful and symbolic buildings in Madrid. It serves as the official residence of the royal family at Madrid. However, the family prefers to stay at a simpler palace near the borders of the city. It is mostly used for state ceremonies. Some rooms are open to the public.

• Plaza de Cibeles

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Plaza de Cibeles surrounded by Cybele Palace and the famous Cibeles Fountain

Plaza de Cibeles is famous for its neo-classical design surrounded by marble sculptures and a fountain. It is also surrounded by four known buildings: Bank of Spain, Palacio de Buenavista, Palacio de Linares, and Cybele Palace.

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Cibeles Fountain portrays Cibeles, the Roman god of fertility, being pulled by two lions

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Cibeles Palace

• San Nicolas de los Servitas Church

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San Nicolas de los Servitas Church or Church of San Nicolas de Bari is the oldest Catholic Church in Madrid, built in the 13th century.

• Golden Triangle of Art

This is composed of three museums: Museo del Prado, Reina Sofia Museum, and Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, which are all in close proximity to each other.

Museo del Prado

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Museo del Prado is a Spanish national art museum. It houses European art collections and pieces that were made during the 12th to the 19th century. Works of Francisco de Goya, Diego Velazquez, El Greco, Titian, Peter Paul Rubens and Hieronymus Bosch are displayed here.

Reina Sofia Museum

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Reina Sofia Museum is the Spanish national museum for 20th century art. It includes the works of Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Juan Gris, Joan Miro, Julio Gonzalex, Eduardo Chillida, Antoni Tapies, Pablo Gargallo, Pablo Serrano, Lucio Munoz, Luis Gordilo, Jorge Oteiza and Jose Gutierrez Solana.

Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

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This is one of the three museums included in the Golden Triangle of Art. It is the home to art collections from the “historical to contemporary art.”

BARCELONA

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Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain and receives a great number of tourists annually. It is located at the northeastern coast along the Mediterranean Sea. Just like Madrid, Barcelona is a city of great cultural importance. There are a lot of things to do and see in this city. One would need to stay for a couple of weeks, maybe even days to fully enjoy what Barcelona has to offer.

Listed below are things that should not be missed at Barcelona.

• Beaches of Barcelona

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Being a coastal city, Barcelona has a great number of beautiful beaches. As a matter of fact, it has been named as one of the best beaches in the world by National Geographic and Discovery Channel.

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Barcelonata Beach

• Eight (8) World Heritage Sites Declared by UNESCO

Park Guell

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Park Guell is a public park on Carmel Hill built in 1900 to 1914 and opened in 1926.The park was designed by Antoni Gaudi with a theme of urbanization. He was inspired by organic shapes found in nature. The park was designed with comfortable artistic homes with a lot of symbols. They fused politics with religious belief. UNESCO declared the park as a World Heritage Site under “Works of Antoni Gaudi” in 1984.

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Viaduct

 

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Colonnaded footpath under the roadway viaduct

Palau Guell

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Palau Guell was designed by architect Antoni Gaudi as a mansion for the industrial tycoon Eusebi Guell. It was once used to entertain important guests. But in the year 2008 the mansion was opened to the public.

Casa Mila

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Casa Mila or La Pedrera was designed by architect Antoni Gaudi in 1906 to 1912. It was themed with a stone façade and wrought iron for the balconies and windows. It also became popular due to the underground garage. UNESCO declared it as a World Heritage Site in 1984. Currently, exhibitions and activities are being hosted here.

Casa Vicens

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Casa Vicens is another building designed by Antoni Gaudi. It was originally built as a home for the industrialist Manuel Vicens in the years 1883 to 1889. It was inspired by Moorish architecture. In 2005, it was listed as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.

Façade of the Nativity and crypt of the Sagrada Familia

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This is one of the largest Roman Catholic Church which was designed by Antoni Gaudi in 1883. However, he died before the church was completed. It is expected to be completed by 2026. Although the church is still undergoing construction is was names as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, and Pope Benedict XVI named it a minor basilica in 2010.

Casa Batllo

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It was redesigned by Antoni Gaudi in 1904. Like his other works, it was unique, followed an asymmetrical pattern, and mosaic façade. A striking feature of the house was the arched roof that looks like the back of a dinosaur or dragon.

Palau de la Musica Catalana

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Palau de la Musica Catalana is actually a concert hall designed by Lluis Domenech I Montaner in the years 1905 to 1908. The hall and the architect had also received various distinguishing awards such as the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. The architect was also recognized by the Barcelona City Council in 1909.

Hospital de Sant Pau

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Hospital de Sant Pau or Hospital of the Holy Cross and Saint Paul was built in 1901 to 19030 and designed by Lluis Domenech i Montaner. It served as a hospital until mid-2009. After that it underwent restoration and reconstruction. Currently it is used as a museum and cultural center.

CORDOVA

Cordova is a city situated in southern Spain. Because of its cultural importance, the city has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was once the capital of a Roman province, the capital of an Arab State, and a Caliphate. Now, the city boosts its unique art, culture, and entertainment.

Here are some places that should not be missed in Cordova.

• Mezquita

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Mezquita or Mosque-cathedral of Cordova is the most famous attraction in the city. It was originally built as a cathedral dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. During the middle ages, it was converted to an Islamic Mosque. And during the time of Reconquista, it was converted back. It is known for the numerous pillars, columns, arches, chapels and beautifully designed doors.

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The massive bell tower

• Roman Bridge

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The Roman Bridge on the foreground and Mezquita on the background

The Roman Bridge was built in the 1st century to cross the Guadalquivir River. It was originally built during the Roman Empire with modifications during the Islamic domination.

• Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos

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Torre de los Leones and Torre de Homenaje – part of Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos

Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos is a castle located near the Guadalquivir River and the Grand Mosque. It was once the home of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II or Aragon.

• Synagogue

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The Synagogue is a Jewish quarter built in the year 1315. It served a various functions such as a prayer room, hospital, chapel, and nursery school. In the year 1885, the place was declared as a national monument.

GRANADA

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Granada is one of the most visited places in Spain because of the place rich history and culture. It is located at the southern portion of Spain and about an hour drive to the Mediterranean Coast.

• Alhambra

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There are different things that could be done here in Granada, but the most famous attraction of all is the Calat Alhambra. Originally it was a small forest built in 889. Through years, there was rehabilitation and renovation until 1333 when it became a royal Islamic palace. It follows Moorish architect and design. Moorish poets dubbed the place as “a pearl set in emeralds.” It 1984, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

• Generalife

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Generalife Fountain

Next to Alhambra is the famous Generalife garden. It is a place for relaxation and recreation of Muslim kings. Together with Alhambra, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.

• Cathedral of Granada

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The Cathedral of Granada was built in the 16th century over the Nasrid Great Mosque of Granada. It was originally built in Gothic design but due to changes, a renaissance inspired design was done. In 1664, the baroque style was introduced and added to the church.

VALENCIA

Another city not to miss out is Valencia, the birthplace of paella and the home to Fallas Festival. It is located along the Mediterranean Sea, making it a nice place to relax and unwind.

Here is a list of things that could be done in the beautiful city of Valencia.

• Go to the beaches

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Playa de las Arenas

It is undeniable that there are a number of great beaches in Valencia. Take some time and relax in the beautiful fine sands.

• City of Arts and Sciences

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The city of Arts and Sciences has a marvelous and stunning exterior as it reflects on the Turia River. It is used as an entertainment complex.

• Valencia Cathedral

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The whole name of the cathedral is the Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady of Valencia or in English, Saint Mary’s Cathedral. The church is a combination of Gothic, Romanesque, French Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Neo-classical architecture. Christian historians believe that the Holy Grail is kept inside one of the cathedral’s chapels.

Kristine Capanzana

Perfect Weekend at Hong Kong and Macau

Looking for the perfect weekend getaway with family or friends? Look no further, because a trip to Hong Kong and Macau will definitely suite you. It is a perfect weekend destination for all ages – from grandparents, parents, teenagers, to grandchildren.

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Map showing the proximity of Macau(dark green) and Hong Kong (mint green)

Why is it a perfect weekend destination?

Hong Kong, alone has a lot of attractions such as the famous Hong Kong Disneyland, Ocean Park, Madame Tussauds, temples, monastery, and the city skyline. And do not forget about the amazing shopping centers. Accommodations are easy because there is a wide range of prices that is good for budget travelers and those wanting luxury. Travelling and transportation is also easy. There are airports, seaports, and land transportation in and out of the city.

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Kowloon, Hong Kong Island, and Hong Kong skyline

The group can also extend their vacation to nearby Macau which is dubbed as “Monte Carlo of the Orient.” Macau is popularly known for the high-end casinos and the gondola ride at the Grand Canal Shoppes. And just like Hong Kong transportation and accommodation is a breeze.

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Macau

Sit back as we take you on a sample itinerary for four days and three nights to these two places.

Hong Kong

Location

Hong Kong or simply HK is a Special Administrative Region of China. On the east, south and west is the South China Sea. Approximately 60 kilometers to the east is Macau. On the north is Guangdong City of China separated by Shenzhen River. Hong Kong occupies 1,104 square kilometers and over 200 islands.

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Travelling to HK

It is easy to travel to Hong Kong. Despite it being a Special Administrative Region of China, it has a separate and independent immigration system. One does not need a visa to enter Hong Kong if they are travelling as a visitor or tourist for a certain number of days. Each country has its own limitation and duration of visa-free days. If staying for more than those days, then a visa is recommended.

The main airport is Hong Kong International Airport, also known as Chek Lap Kok, and it caters to hundreds of flights from all over the world daily. Some airlines include Cathay Pacific, Dragonair, Hong Kong Airlines, and Hong Kong Express. It is one of the “World’s Best Airport” according to Skytrax.

Other airports that could be used are Shenzhen International Airport at mainland China and Macau International Airport at Macau. These two airports are relatively more affordable. However, a connecting flight to Hong Kong is needed. Furthermore, travelling to China may require a visa.

Other ways to enter are by ferry or by land. These two modes of transportation are advised if the group is coming from nearby countries such as China, Vietnam, and Taiwan.

The best way to enjoy your stay at Hong Kong is by getting the earliest trip to the city or arriving there by lunch. If your flight arrives early and worried about leaving luggage, Hong Kong International Airport has a ‘manned left luggage facility’ at the arrival hall wherein you can leave baggage and claim it later on. The cost of leaving baggage depends on the duration. Or you can always go straight to the hotel and have an early check-in or ask if you can leave your bags at the reservation area. Most hotels would agree to this.

One can always have a pre-booked hotel or find a hotel at the airport. As mentioned, there are hotels to suite any budget and any group.

You are now settled, bags are safe and you have a place to stay. It is time to explore the place.

Getting Around

Transportation system here is easy. Tourists could buy an Octopus card which provides access to public transportation system. All you have to do is tap a loaded card on a reader before entering and upon exit. The system and use is similar to other transport systems in Singapore, London, Chicago, etc. If the card runs out of load, reloading is easy: by value machines, MTR (Mass Transit Railway) stations, stores and credit card. An Octopus card costs $150; the $50 is a refundable deposit. If you return the card within three months, there is an additional charge of $9. You can always maximize the use of the card and keep it as a souvenir.

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Octopus card

Mass Transit Railway

One could always travel by MTR. It offers a fast, easy and affordable means of transportation around the city and nearby places. The downside of riding MTR’s is the absence of view. MTR’s are located underground, thus, tourists would not be able to enjoy the sites.

Tram

If you want to enjoy the view, you could always tray the narrow double-decker city trams. It is slower, ride could be bumpy, and it is sometimes hot (since it is not air-conditioned), but it does provide tourists with a view of Hong Kong. It is the most affordable method for touring the whole city.

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Tram

Bus

They also offer bus transportation at the south side of HK Island and Lantau. There are designated bus stops and schedules. There are different types of buses: double-decker buses and van-sized public light buses carrying 16 passengers.

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Taxi

There are also taxis that have routes going to and from the airport and Hong Kong Disneyland. There are three types of taxis: red – the most expensive and can travel anywhere within HK, green – travels to rural areas and New Territories, and blue – the most affordable and only available at Lantau Island. Remember, as required by their law, it is mandatory to wear seatbelts.

Ferry

Since HK consists of islands, sea transportation is common. The most popular ferry ride is Star Ferry. It provides passengers a view of the city skyline. There are ferries providing upper and lower decks.

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Star Ferry and the Island Skyline

All these transportation system could bring you to popular tourist destinations. Here are some of the destinations at Kowloon and Hong Kong Island that should not be missed.

Popular Tourist Destinations

Avenue of Stars

Avenue of Stars is located at Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront. It is a 440 meter path that celebrates HK’s cinematic history and displays plaques honoring celebrities.

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Avenue of Stars

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Bronze sculpture of Bruce Lee

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Handprints and signature of director John Woo

From the Avenue of Stars, tourists could see the Museum of Art, Space Museum, Cultural Centre, and the Clock Tower. It also provides an impressive view of Victoria Harbor during the day, and a spectacular display of Symphony of Lights.

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Victoria Harbor including the Clock Tower and Cultural Center

Madame Tussauds

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Entrance of Madame Tussauds Hong Kong

Speaking of celebrities, one destination that should not be missed is Madame Tussauds. It is located at the Peak Tower in Hong Kong Island is the first branch of the international chain of wax museums in Asia. The other branch is at Shanghai, China. It houses approximately 100 wax figures of international celebrities.

Victoria Peak

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View from Victoria Peak looking at Central, Kowloon, and Victoria Harbor

Victoria Peak is the highest point, at 552 meters in Hong Kong Island. It is sometimes called Mount Austin or The Peak. It provides a magnificent view of adjacent areas such as Central Victoria Harbor and Lamma Islands. Aside from the view, it is also the home to different species of birds and butterflies. There are also a lot of things to do here such as visiting Peak Tower (where Madame Tussauds is located), do shopping, and eat.

To reach the top you can take the tram, bus, or take a hike.

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View at Victoria Peak at night

Wong Tai Sin Temple

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Wong Tai Sin Temple is a Taoist temple located at the southern side of Lion Rock at Kowloon. It is popular because of the many answered prayers. Tourists who visit the temple often participate in a practice called kau cim.

Chi Lin Nunnery

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Aside from Taoist temples there are also Buddhist temples, the most famous is Chi Lin Nunnery at Diamond Hill, Kowloon. Within the temple walls are temple halls, monastery, Chinese gardens, hostels and a vegetarian restaurant. There are also gold, clay wood and stone statues.

Ladies’ Market

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Ladies’ Market is also known as Ladies’ Street is located between Boundary Street and Dundas Street in Kowloon, Hong Kong. It is one of the popular shopping destinations for affordable and quality items. Contrary to its name, there are also products for males and kids.

Temple Street Night Market

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Temple Street Night Market, also known as Men’s Street because majority of the merchandises are for men. The streets are closed and the market is open from 2pm until early morning. Some of the merchandises include phones, watches, jeans, shirts, shoes and a lot more. Bargaining is also common, so do not be afraid to haggle for a lesser price.

These are just some of the places to go to at Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. Neighboring islands also offer something unique and interesting. If you have more time you could try visiting other tourist attractions at nearby islands.
But if planning a day trip is hard, you could always join group tours and packages. The tour coordinator would guide you throughout the city to important and key attractions. It is easy and a hassle free way to explore Hong Kong.

Your groups can also plan a whole day visit at one of the two most popular amusement parks in the world: Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park Hong Kong. To make the most out of your stay, spend the whole day at each theme park.

Hong Kong Disneyland

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Sleeping Beauty Castle

It is everybody’s dream, especially children, to visit Disneyland; luckily Hong Kong offers just that. Visiting Hong Kong would never be complete without a trip to this famous amusement park.

HK Disneyland is located inside the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort at Penny’s Bay, Lantau Island. It is 12 kilometers east of Hong Kong International Airport. It is the 13th most visited amusement park in the world. Despite being an international theme park, it incorporated Chinese themes and culture such as feng shui.

The amusement park is divided into seven themes: Main Street USA, Fantasyland, Adventureland, Tomorrowland, Toy Story Land, Grizzly Gulch, and Mystic Point. Each themed land has exciting and adventurous rides, shops, restaurants, and live entertainment and performances.

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Ocean Park Hong Kong

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Another famous park at Wong Chuk Hang and Nam Long Shan in Southern District HK is Ocean Park Hong Kong or simply Ocean Park. Unlike the former park, this is a marine mammal park. It is also larger in terms of area. This is an internationally acclaimed park and won “The World’s Seventh Most Popular Amusement Park and one of the 50 Most Visited Tourist Attractions in the world by Forbes.” In 2012, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions awarded it with the Applause Award. It ranks as the 12th most visited theme park in the world.

Within the park grounds are different rides such as roller coasters and it showcases habitats of different animals. It is both an educational and entertaining park.

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One of Ocean Park’s roller coasters

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Penguin show

On the third day of your vacation you can travel to Macau.

Macau

Location

Macau is another Special Administrative Region of China. It includes the islands of Taipa and Coloane which is connected with the mainland by bridges and causeway. It is located to the west of Pearl River Delta and southwest of Hong Kong. To the north is Guangdong Province, China; to the east and south is South China Sea.

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Travelling to Macau

Just like Hong Kong, Macau has its own system including immigration. Certain nationalities could enter without a visa depending on the number of days staying in Macau.

There are different ports of entry for tourists coming in from Hong Kong. The most famous would be taking a ferry. This is just an hour ride away. Ferries are stationed at Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, and at Hong Kong International Airport.

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Another way to reach Macau from Hong Kong is by plane. Macau International Airport is located at Taipa Island. There are a number of airlines operating at this airport including Air Macau, AisAsia Group, Tigerair, Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, Thai Smile and Jin Air.

And just like Hong Kong, you could always book your hotel in advance. You can also ask the hotel for an early check in or ask if you could leave bags at the counter. Once this settled it is time to take a tour of Macau.

Popular Tourist Destinations

The Venetian Macao

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The most prominent tourist destination is The Venetian Macao at Cotai Strip. This is a luxury hotel and casino resort owned and managed by the Las Vegas Sands. It is considered to be the largest casino in the world.

What attracts tourists here is the famous gondola ride which is similar to The Venetian at Las Vegas. One could experience riding a gondola for a fee and be serenaded by people. Along the sides of the canal are high-end shops and restaurants.

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Casinos

There are other casinos and gambling forms like horse racing, and greyhound racing at Macau. Gambling is legal since 1850’s. It is in fact the primary source of income.

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Casino lights at Macau

Other places of interest include:

• The Ruins of St. Paul – became part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005

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• Macau Tower – an observation deck and adventure site. It was also featured several time in the Amazing Race

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• Macau Museum

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• Senado Square

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Just like HK, Macau offers tour and travel packages. You can even find packages that offer both accommodation and a tour to the city.

Below is a sample 4 days and 3 nights Itinerary to HK and Macau:

Day 1:

• Travel to HK
• Check in at a hotel
• Take a city tour (either plan your own or join a tourist group)
• Go shopping at Ladies’ Market and Temple Street Night Market

Day 2:

• Go to HK Disneyland or Ocean Park

Day 3:

• Check out of hotel
• Travel to Macau
• Check in a at a hotel
• Take a city tour
• Enjoy the Macau nightlife and casino

Day 4:

• Do some last minute shopping
• Check out of hotel
• Travel back home

Tips

No matter what your travel destination is remember to:

• Plan in advance. Get early flight and hotel bookings. Some offer discounted rates when tickets are purchased in advance.
• Read about the place. Know tourist destinations, currency, modes of transportation, and prices.
• Bring your camera. A trip would never be complete without taking a picture of the places you have been to.
• Enjoy and have fun!

Kristine Capanzana

Four Things to Do in Greece

Hellenic Republic, popularly known as Greece, is a country located at southeastern Europe on the Balkan Peninsula. It is in a strategic location for trade between Europe, Asia and Africa. Aside from trade, it is a tourist destination because of the long coastline along the Mediterranean – a perfect place for rest and relaxation. The place would also allow foreigners to have a grasp and see a rich cultural history. Greece is the cradle of western civilization and had a great influence on both east and west. Greece introduced and propagated the idea of democracy, philosophy, Olympic Games, literature, political science, mathematical principles, and drama.

There are a lot of different activities one could do at Greece. A visit to this rich country is worth it.

Geographic Location

Greece has a total land area of 131,957 square kilometers. It is bounded on the northwest by Albania, on the north by the Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria, on the northeast by Turkey. On the east is Aegean Sea, on the west is Ionian Sea, and to the south is the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean coast on the south has a length of 13, 676 kilometers, the 11th longest coastline in the world.

The country is divided into nine regions: Macedonia, Central Greece, Peloponnese, Thessaly, Epirus, the Aegean Islands, Thrace, Crete and Ionian Islands.

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The country consists of more than a thousand islands. The largest and most populous island is Crete. The next largest islands are Euboea, Rhodes and Lesbos. Other islands included in Greece are the Ionian Islands, Sporades, Cyclades, Samos, Samothrace, Chios, and Lemnos.

The mainland is approximately eighty percent mountains or hills. The Alps stretch from the northwest to the southeast area. The highest point is at Mount Olympus at a height of 2,917 meters; this is the highest mountain in the country. On the western region, the Pindus Mountain Range could be found; the highest point is at Mt. Smolikas at a height of 2637 meters, the second highest mountain. To the northeastern area, Rhodope Mountain Range could be found. It is known for the flora and fauna.

There are also plains that are used for economy. The seas are home to marine species like seals and loggerhead sea turtles. The forests serve as habitat for endangered species such as the brown bear, lynx, roe deer, and wild goat.

Transportation System

There are a total of 82 airports in the country. Athens International Airport “Eleftherios Venizelos” is the main point of entry at Athens. This is the biggest airport in the country serving approximately 13 million passengers annually. Other international airports are located at Crete, Ionian Islands, Peloponnese, Macedonia, Aegean, and Thrace.

There are also domestic airports that serve as connecting flights to reach the different islands of Greece.

The official airline that operates and flies in and out of Greece are Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air.

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Thessaloniki International Airport at Thessaloniki is the second largest airport

Another way to travel within the country is by waterways. The country consists of islands and to connect these islands for trade and tourism, water transportation has been improved. There are a number of ports located within the country.

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Port of Patras

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Port of Kos

There are also different modes of road travel such as trains, tram, taxis, and buses. Roads have been improved and are continuously improved to cater to the increasing number of tourists.
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Proastiakos commuter rail

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Athens Tram

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Vintage trolleybus at Athens

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Aerial view of Attiki Odos

Demographics

Majority of the citizens, 91.56% are Greeks. The remaining are Albanians, Bulgarians, Romanians, Pakistani, and Georgian. The official language is Greek and the predominant religion is the Orthodox Christian faith. There are also Roman Catholics, Protestants, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

What to do

Visit the Capital City, Athens

For those wishing for a cultural immersion, and being connected with ancient roots, then a visit to the capital, Athens is worth the time.

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Panoramic view of Athens

Athens is the capital and largest city in Greece. It is known to be one of the oldest cities and a cradle to civilization. It was known in history to have a huge impact to culture and philosophy. Now, Athens is the economic center, financial district, industrial complex, and political abode in Greece.

Important landmarks in the city that marked its modernization include: Hellenic Parliament, National Library of Greece, Athens University, and the Academy of Athens.

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Hellenic Parliament

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National Library of Greece

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Academy of Athens

There are two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Athens: Acropolis of Athens and Daphni Monastery.

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Acropolis of Athens

Acropolis of Athens is Greece’s ancient city located on top of rocks. It overlooks the city of Athens. It was once the site of important buildings such as the Parthenon, Propylaea, Erechtheion and the temple of Athena Nike. Unfortunately, these buildings were destroyed during war. The remnants of the building are currently being preserved.


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The Parthenon was originally designed as a temple dedicated to the Greek goddess, Athena. It was built from the years 447BC to 438BC, during the height of Greek art and architecture. Throughout time it served different purposes such as a treasury, Christian church, mosque, and now a museum. The temple serves as a symbol ancient Greece and Athenian democracy.

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Propylaea is a monumental gateway to the entrance of the Acropolis.

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Erechtheion is a Greek temple built in dedication to Athena and Poseidon in the years 421 BC to 406 BC.

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Daphni Monastery

The Daphni Monastery was built during the 6th century. It was once a Sanctuary of Apollo Daphanios but was converted to a Christian site. It was the home to mosaics depicting the life of Christ. But during the war, the place has abandoned. Natural disasters occurred causing the monastery to fall. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1990.

There are many other points of interest in the city of Athens. There are many museums, temples, parks, and zoos that tourists should visit. Athens is an abode to a great civilization worthy of exploring.

Visit the mountain ranges

There is more to Greece than ancient ruins and civilization. There are mountain ranges that are definitely a must climb for mountaineers. These mountain ranges serve as tourist attractions all year round. There are organized mountain refuges and guides to reach the peak of these mountains. Here are some of the mountains and peaks that mountaineers would love.

Mount Olympus

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Mount Olympus has 52 peaks and deep gorges. The highest peak at 2,917 meters was named Mytikas which means ‘nose.’

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Mytikas

It is popularly known and used in Greek Mythology as the home to Greek gods and goddesses. Aside from being prominent in mythology, it is noted for the flora, fauna and diverse species. In 1938, it became the first National Park of Greece and a World’s Biosphere Reserve.

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Hiking path to Mount Olympus in the background

Pindus Mountain Range

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The Pindus Mountain Range is often called “spine of Greece” because of the location and serving as a border of Thessaly and Epirus. It spans approximately 180 kilometers and a width of 56 kilometers. The highest point is at Mt. Smolikas at 2,637 meters, the second highest point the country. There are two national parks within the mountain range: Vikos-Aoos National Park and Pindus National Park.

Vikos-Aoos National Park was established in 1973. It got its name from two famous gorges in the area: Vikos Gorge and Aoos Gorge. Located between the two gorges is the Tymfi Mountain Ranges. There are natural pools, and lakes along the mountain range. There are also vertical caves.

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Vikos Gorge – the highest part of the gorge is 1000 m above Voidomatis River

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Aoos Gorge

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Tymfi

Tourists trekking the mountain would have a breathtaking view of rivers, lakes, caves, canyons, coniferous and forests. It is named as a UNESCO Geoparks. There are activities within the park such as rafting, canoe-kayaking, hiking, and mountain biking.

Pindus National Park or Valia-Kalda was established in 1966 and occupies an area of 6,927 hectares. It is famously known for the thick forests of European black pine, rocky ridges, peaks, streams and lakes.

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Rhodope Mountain Range

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Rhodopes Mountain Ranges serve as natural borders between Greece and Bulgaria. Majority of the mountain ranges are under Bulgarian territory; only the southern slopes are on Greek territory. Nonetheless, the flora and fauna are outstanding and exquisite.

Visit the coastline

If you are inclined to have some rest and relaxation, then head down to Greece’s coastline. Greece has one of the longest coastlines in the world. Another option for rest and relaxation is by visiting Greece’s islands.

One island worth visiting is Santorini or Thera. It is located approximately 200 kilometers southeast of the main island in the middle of Aegean Sea. The island is only 73 square kilometers.

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Location of Santorini at Aegean Sea

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The island is a remnant of a larger island that was destroyed due to a volcanic eruption. One feature created after the eruption is a rectangular lagoon surrounded by cliffs on the east side and an island on the west.

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Santorini Caldera

Tourists visit the island because of its calm and serene view. The buildings follow Cyclades architecture. It is built along the slopes and cascades down to the lagoon, making it a wonderful place to wake up and have breakfast.

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Buildings at Santorini

Another island getaway in Greece is Crete. It is the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.

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Location of Crete

There are a lot of things to do and see in the island. One could always explore forests, hike the mountains, take a look in history, take a dip in the lake, and cross rivers. But one thing that should not be missed are the beaches.

Palm Beach of Vai is one of the sought after beach destinations in Crete. It has an extensive pal forest, one of the largest in Europe. The best time to visit is during the month of August.

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Palm Beach of Vai

Another beach destination in Crete is Matala. It is famous for its artificial caves made during the Neolithic Age.

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Caves of Matala

Myrtos Beach could be found at the Ionian Islands in the middle of the Ionian Sea. It is well known for the beautiful contrast of colors between the blue and turquoise sea, and white beach. To add beauty and splendor are the mountains. For this reason, it has been referred to as “one of the most dramatic beaches in Greece”, with its “mile-and-a-half long arc of dazzling white pebbles.”

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Myrtos Beach

These are just a few of the beaches to choose from. The other beaches are just as beautiful as those mentioned.

Take a bite to Greek food

When in Greece do not forget to try their local cuisine. It is delectable, delicious and distinctively Mediterranean. A staple ingredient in Greek cuisine is olive oil. It is used in most Greek dishes.

They start their meal with Orektika or appetizers. They also serve pita bread with some dips. They also serve mezes. Mezes is a collection small dishes accompanied with wine or anise-flavored liqueurs.

They love cooking with vegetables especially tomato, aubergine, potatoes, green beans, okra, green peppers, and onions. They also use herbs like oregano, mint, garlic, dill, bay laurel leaves, basil, thyme, and fennel seed. The northern regions of Greece would sweetness to their meal.

A meal is not complete without a serving of wine.

Their desserts consist mostly of nuts and honey.

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Classic Greek Salad

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Lagana – a type of Greek bread

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Pita with Gyros

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Moussaka

Kristine Capanzana

Japan: the Land of the Rising Sun

Japan or ‘the Land of the Rising Sun’ is well known for its modern technological advancements – health, gadgets, transportation, research and a lot more. But there is more to Japan than technology.

It was once isolated from the world, no foreigner was able to get a glimpse and influence their culture. But when the gates had opened the world had a chance to see a distinct rich culture that blended with their peaceful surroundings. With the changing of time and genre the people have been able to fuse distinct Japanese culture with a touch of foreign culture. They had also managed to bring balance between culture, environment and technological advancement.

Japan’s Geography

Japan belongs to East Asia and lies at the Pacific Ocean. It has a total land area of 377,801 square kilometers and consists of 6,852 islands. The four largest and main islands are Hokkaido on the north, Honshu at the middle and the largest, Shikoku and Kyushu on the south. These four main islands make 97% of the total land area. Each major island is separated by a strait. To the southernmost end of the archipelago are Ryukyu Islands which include the famous Okinawa.

Location

It is bounded on the west by the Sea of Japan which separates it from China, North Korea, South Korea, and Russia. On the north is the Sea of Okhotsk separating Japan from the rest of Russia. On the south are East China Sea and Taiwan.

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Japan is considered to be part of the Pacific Ring of Fire in which earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis are common. There are a total of 108 active volcanoes within the country. And in the past years earthquakes had claimed thousands of Japanese people. The latest major earthquake had a 9.0 magnitude followed by a large tsunami.

Terrain

Approximately 70% of Japan is mountainous; the highest point is at Mt. Fuji at a height of 3,776 meters. In order to gain habitable living space, Japanese had different land reclamation projects. They extended land to the sea and used the carved the slopes on the mountainsides for rice paddies. Some efforts to increase usable land area included demolition of mountains.

There are also rivers that have been sources of hydroelectric power.

Climate

Generally Japan is a temperate country. It is highly influenced by the Asian continent and Oceanic major currents. At the north end there are short and warm summers and long, cold winters. As one travels to the south it there are longer summer and shorter winter. Also the amount of rainfall increases as one goes south.

The average temperature during winter is 5.1 degrees Celsius and 25.2 degrees Celsius during summer. Rainy seasons starts from May until July. The climate from July to September is hot and humid. On average five to six typhoons visit the country.

Japan’s Demographics

Majority of the people in Japan are Japanese. It comprises around 80% of the total population. The remaining 20% are Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos, and Brazilians. There are also minority groups called Ainu who live at Hokkaido and Okinawans who live at Ryukyu Islands.

Out of the total population 80% live in Honshu, 12% in Kyushu, 5% in Hokkaido and 3% in Shikoku.

The official language is Japanese. Other dialects include Ryukyuan language and Okinawa Japanese at Ryukyu Islands. Students are also taught English.

The main religion is Buddhism which was influenced by Chinese in the 6th century. Other religions are Shinto, Confucianism and Christianity.

Japan’s Transportation System

Japan has been well known for its advancements and modernizations including the transportation system. The country is proud of their railroads and train systems. All roads are connected to major cities. There are nearly a hundred airports in the country. Their ports are also considered to be one of the busiest.

Railroads

This is the major means of transportation between cities because it is fast and reliable. There are also subway systems, streetcar and monorail networks at some key cities. Some stations are linked to malls, and hotels for easy access to passengers, shoppers and guests.

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Streetcar in Hiroshima

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Kyoto Station being linked to a mall and hotel

Japan is also the first to build a bullet train. This inspired neighboring and other first world countries to build their own bullet trains.

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Bullet train

Roads

Another way to travel in Japan is by road. They follow a left-hand drive. Each city is connected by national roads and expressways that have toll ways.

Air

The three main airports are Narita International Airport at Tokyo, Kansai International Airport serving Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto area, and Chubu Centrair International Airport at Nagoya. Domestic flights are catered at Tokyo International Airport and Haneda Airport. Other airports important airports are Osaka International Airport, New Chitose Airport and Fukuoka Airport.

Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways are the two major airlines operate and serve flights to other countries. Other airlines that fly in and out of the country are Skymark Airlines, Skynet Asia Airways, Air Do, Star Flyer, Fuji Dream Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Airlines.

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Narita International Airport

Seaports

Japan is an archipelago consisting of thousands of islands. Thus, water transportation is common. Ports have been constructed to help in trade and delivery of foods. Furthermore, these ports are open for ferries. It allows tourists to travel by sea to neighboring islands and nearby countries.

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A ferry in the Inland Sea near Hiroshima

 

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Nagoya Port – the largest and busiest trading port in Japan

Japan’s Culture

During the Tokugawa period the country was isolated and kept away from foreigners. Thus, it was during this time that pure Japanese culture was developed. It was uninfluenced by other countries and it was distinctly theirs. Some of unique Japanese culture included art, architectures, practices like tea ceremonies and Geishas.

Currently, Japanese government established a protection and promotion of these cultures.

Art and Architecture

The most famous traditional Japanese buildings are Kabuki theaters. Here dramatic performances are staged with performers wearing elaborate make-up. Currently there are still kabuki theaters all across the country including the cities of Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Nagoya.

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A kabuki theater in Kyoto

A distinguishing feature in Japanese housings and buildings were the use tatami mats and sliding doors. They also patronize the use of wood.

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Traditional Japanese home complete with tatami mats and sliding doors

Wood is used in sculptures and art. An example of Japanese art is ukiyo-e or wood block print.

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Ukiyo-e woodblock printing: The Great Wave of Kanagawa

When the country was once again opened to foreign trade after the Tokugawa period, there was a mixture and infusion of both styles. This fusion had led to newer art forms such as manga and anime.

Music

There are notable musical instruments that are used by Japanese in their gagaku (court music) orchestra. Examples of unique instruments are koto – a 13-stringed zither, biwa – pear-shapped lute, tsuri-daiko – a large hanging drum, shoko – a small gong, and kakko – horizontal drum.

The introduction of American and European culture had led to J-pop or Japanese popular music.

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Koto

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Biwa

Clothes

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Traditional Japanese clothing includes the kimono for the female and haori and hakama for the male. Both wear tabi and zori for their footwear.

Kimonos are full-length robes wrapped around the body. It could be layered, and tied with an obi. It could be worn with accessories like obiage, obijime, obidome, haneri and kansashi. It comes in a wide array of style, colors and textile.

A haori and hakama on the other hand are paired kimono jackets and trousers. The haori is a hip or thigh length jacket that is tied with a haori himo. The hakama is pleated and tied at the waist.

Currently, these are still worn for ceremonies, festivals and special events.

Geisha

Geisha are traditional Japanese female entertainers. They act as hostesses during ceremonies and gatherings. They have mastered the art of performing a musical instruments, singing, dancing, and storytelling. They also facilitate games.

hey would wear exquisite and stunning kimonos and obi. The amount of makeup on a geisha depends on her level as well as her maturity. Younger geishas have heavier makeups while mature ones wear less.

After the war, there had been a decrease in the number of geishas.

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Geisha Kimiha

Literature

The earliest Japanese literature was Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matter) which is about cosmology. Man’yoshu (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves) was written in the mid-8th century is a collection of 4,500 poems. The kana, a syllabic writing system was introduced in the 9th century and helped develop prose writing. Other forms of Japanese writing included Haiku – a 17 syllable poem and waka – 31 syllable poem.

The most notable Japanese literature is the novel Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu written in the 11th century.

Cuisine

The staple Japanese food includes rice or noodles, soup, fish, and vegetables. They also value presentation of food.

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Japanese sushi

Japanese are also known for their tea ceremonies also known as the Way of Tea. Tea ceremonies involve the preparation, mixing and serving of tea.

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Tea ceremony

Sports

The national sport of the country is sumo. Other sports practiced by the people include martial arts like judo, karate and kendo. Recently foreign sports like baseball, football, golf and car racing have gained in popularity.

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Sumo wrestling

Japan’s Must See Destinations

Its rich culture and geographic location had greatly influenced tourist destination spots. Below are some must see destinations.

Mount Fuji

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Mount Fuji is the highest point in Japan and a prominent symbol used in photographs and postcards. It is located on Honshu Island and is approximately 100 kilometers southwest of Tokyo.

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Mount Fuji peeking in between skyscrapers at Tokyo

It is also a sought after mountain climbing destination during July to August. There are a number of routes to choose from to reach the summit.

It was listed as a Cultural Site in 2013. According to UNESCO has “inspired artists and poets and been the object of pilgrimage for centuries.”

Tokyo

Tokyo is the capital of Japan, busiest and most populated city. One could see tall skyscrapers and uniquely designed buildings. It is also the home of business centers and corporations.

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The Imperial Palace, the official residence of the emperor, could also be found at Tokyo. It occupies 3.41 square kilometers of land. There are several buildings used for museums, archives, and administrative offices.

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Imperial Palace

Kyoto

Kyoto was once the capital of Japan for thousands of years. Now it is known for the different shrines and temples. There are 17 UNESCO World Heritage Site and Historic Monuments. These include the following:

• Kamigamo Shrine

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• Shimagamo Shrine

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• Kiyomizu-dera

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• Kinkaku-ji

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• Ginkaku-ji

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• Kongobu-ji

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Mount Yoshino

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Mount Yoshino is located at Nara. It became famous for the cherry blossoms and sakura trees. It became the subject of several waka poems. There are also several shrines located along the mountain. It is one of UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Itsukushima Shrine

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Itsukushima Shrine is a well-known Shintoshrine at Hiroshima. It is noted for its “floating” tori gate. The tori appear to be floating on water during high tide. But during low tide, a walkway is accessible to the tori gate. This shrine is part of UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu

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Shuri Castle

This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located at Okinawa. This is a collection two sacred sites, one garden, and five castle (four of which are ruins and one is undergoing reconstruction).

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The garden

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One of the sacred sites

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One of the castle ruins

Shiretoko National Park

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Shiretoko National Park is located at the northeastern tip of Hokkaido Island. It is noted for the brown bears, the flora and fauna, and a view of Kunashiri Island. There is also a hot spring waterfall within the park. The only way to reach the park is by foot or by sea. And in 2005 the park was named as a World Heritage Site.

Kristine Capanzana

A Glimpse of Bali, Indonesia

There are many parts of the world worth exploring. There are historical and cultural sites, eco-adventures, and modern developments. One place worth exploring is Indonesia.

Indonesia

Republic of Indonesia has a total of 17, 508 islands spread along Southeast Asia and Oceania. It occupies an area of 1,904,569 square kilometers and considered to be the seventh largest country in the world. It is bounded to the north by the countries Malaysia, Singapore, Palau, and Philippines, to the south is Australia, and on the east is Papua New Guinea.  The five largest islands are Java, Sumatra, Borneo, New Guinea, and Sulawesi. The capital and largest city is Jakarta and could be found on the island of Java which is on the southern area. On the western section is the island of Sumatra and to the east is Irian Jaya, which shares land with New Guinea.

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The country is divided into 34 provinces. One province that is worth exploring is Bali.

Bali, Indonesia

Bali, Indonesia earned the nicknames Island of Peace, Morning of the World, Islands of Gods, Island of Hinduism, and Island of Love.

Where is Bali located?

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Map showing the location of Bali in color green

 

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Topography of the island province

The province consists of a four islands. The main island is approximately 3.2 kilometers east of the island of Java and on the western end of the Lesser Sundra Islands. Bali Strait separates Java and Bali. There are three smaller islands southeast of the main island: Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan, and Nusa Ceningan. The three islands are separated to the main island by Badung Strait. To the east of the province is Lombok separated by Lombok Straight.

The province occupies 5, 623 square kilometers. It is 153 kilometers from west to east and 112km from the north to south. There is a mixed topography; on southern part are plains that are great for rice crops. On the north are dry mountains that slope towards coffee plantation. The highest peak is Mount Agung also known as ‘Mother Mountain’ at 3,142 kilometers. It is an active volcano, located on the eastern side of the island. There is 75 kilometer river that flows in the island, Ayung River.

The capital of the province is Denpasar at the southern coast.

What is the demographic of Bali?

In a census done in January 2014, the population is 4,225,000. Majority of its citizens are Balinese who are descendants of Malays. Other ethnic groups are Javanese, Baliaga and Madurese. The predominant religion is Balinese Hinduism. A few believe in Islam, Christianity and Buddhist.

The official language is Indonesian and others speak Balinese.

How to get to Bali?

Reaching Bali is easy. The province has its own international airport, Ngurah Rai International Airport also known as Denpasar International Airport. It is the third busiest airport in the country. The airport serves both international and domestic flights. Tourists get a feel of Balinese culture as soon as they step out of the plane because the airport has a Balinese inspired theme and architecture.
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Ngurah Rai International Airport

Another way of entry is via sea at the Benoa Harbor which is 10 km away from the city center. In the year 2011, Benoa Harbor was award as the ‘Best Port Welcome 2010’ by London’s Dream World Cruise Destination magazine. Roads have also been improved and have been connected bringing in more tourists.

How to travel in Bali?

The main mode of transportation is by land. A coastal road encircles the island, and three major roads cross the mountains. To help transportation at Denpasar and the busy southern area, Ngurah Rai Bypass Expressway was built.

It is also common to see a moped or a light motorcycle. To drive a moped, one must be older than 17 years old, have a legal driver’s license, a registered vehicle, and wear helmets. The speed limit is 100km/h.

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Moped

As of the moment, there are no railroads in Bali. But there are plans to construct railroads.

What to do in Bali?

Despite being a small island province, it is a sought after travel destination in Indonesia. It is an interesting place to visit. There are a lot of things to do and experience in Bali. Listed below are a few suggestions.

Relax on perfect beaches

Bali has the best beaches which are really breathtaking. It is a perfect place to walk on the fine sand as it tickles your sole, watch the gentle waves as it approaches the shore, and the clear blue ocean is truly spectacular. Get your swimming attires ready and relax on Bali’s perfect beaches.

On the south of the main island are beautiful white sand beaches.

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Kuta Beachis one of the most famous beach and an international tourist destination.
 

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Sanur Beach at the southeastern coast of Bali is a soothing place to be

And to the south are unique black sand beaches.

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Balangan Beach is one of the famous black sand beaches and surfing destination

Aside from visiting the beaches along the main island, there are also great beaches along Nusa Dua. Nusa Dua is 22 kilometers from the capital Located here are large international 5-star resorts.
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Nusa Dua beach

Renew the spiritual faith

Bali is a place wherein religion, Hinduism is important. Temples have been erected all throughout the island province.

Tourists should also not miss the seaside temples or Pura Segara. There are seven sea temples in Bali. One is Tanah Lot that is located in Tabanan, approximately 20 kilometers from Denpasar. The other temples are Pura Gede Perancak, Pura Rambut Siwi, Pura Luhur Ulu Watu, Pura Mas Suka, Pura Sakenan, and Pura Pulaki. Each temple is within sight from the next, thus forming a chain on the southwestern coast. The temple is a mixture of Balinese mythology and Hinduism.
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Tanah Lot is a rock formation and pilgrimage seaside temple

Another temple worth mentioning is the Mother Temple of Besakih or Pura Besakih which could be found on the slopes of Mount Agung. It is the largest and holiest Hindu temple in Bali.
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Mother Temple of Besakih or Pura Besakih

Take a dive and enjoy the sight of corals

There are also diving spots and areas wherein tourists could snorkel and see beautiful coral reefs. Diving and snorkeling spots are located all around the island. Examples of these spots are within the Marine National park, Tulamben, Amed, Candi Dasa, Padang Bai, Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan, and Nusa Ceningan.

Have an adventurous mountain climb

For adventurist and those wanting to experience a breathtaking view of Bali then try climbing Mount Agung or Gunung Agung. It is the highest peak in Bali. It is actually an active volcano. From a top, mountain climbers could see neighboring islands and the coastline.
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Mount Agung
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View from the top of Mount Agung

There are two ways to reach the summit. The fastest way is from Pura Besakih. This brings mountaineers to the western peak. The other way, from Pura Pasar Agung allows mountaineers to reach the southern peak.

When climbing, it is advised to wear and bring warm waterproof clothing since there are sudden changes in weather conditions. Since there are no sources of water, bring plenty.

Explore the capital, Denpasar
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Location of Denpasar in Bali

Denpasar is the capital and gateway of the province and the hub to nearby Lesser Sundra Islands. Being the capital, tourism had definitely improved. Tourists flock the city and visit tourist destinations such as:

•    Serangan Island which is a popular surfing beach.
•    Sanur beach is a popular sunbathing and kitesurfing area.

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•    The town of Kuta is a known place to eat, drink in cafes, shop at malls, and shopping district. The famous souvenir items are batik clothing, sarongs, pottery, artwork, and silverware.
•    Different temples like Pura Jagatnatha and Pura Maospahit.
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Pura Maospahit

•    Puri Pemecutan, the former royal palace.

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•    St. Joseph Church, a Hindu styled Catholic Church.

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•    Bali Museum that showcases Balinese art and history.

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Listen to Balinese music

It is common to hear the beautiful, soothing music of Bali. What makes it different from other Indonesian music is the kecak. Kecak imitates the sounds made by monkeys.
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A kecak dance and music

 

There are also different gamelans that only Balinese uses like gamelan jegog, gamelan gong gede and gamelan gambang.
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Musicians playing Balinese music
 

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A set of gamelan

Admire Balinese art

There is something unique and captivating about Balinese art. Here are some examples of Balinese art:

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Mask Dancer by A.A. Gde Anom Sukawati
 

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The Wheel of Life by I Ketut Murtika

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Beached Whale by Ida Bagus

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The Snake Tree by Wayan Pugur

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Rajapala by Lunga

 

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Stone carvings in Ubud

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Balinese stone guardian at Ubud Palace
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Woodcarving of an elderly Balinese lady

Kristine Capanzana

Jamaica: an Island in the Caribbean

Jamaica is a quiet island country located in the middle of the stunning Caribbean Sea. It is one favorite tourist getaway destination because of the beautiful and relaxing beaches surrounding the island, the rich cultural history in towns, and humble and accommodating Jamaican people. So take a break, and get ready to experience something truly extraordinary.
Jamaicans, call their country ‘Rock’ in which the country had been dubbed with other slang names such as ‘Jamrock,’ ‘Jamdown, and ‘Ja.’ While a group of indigenous people, Taino call the country Xaymaca which means ‘Land of Wood and Water’ or the ‘Land of Springs.’

Where is Jamaica located?

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Jamaica could be found along the West Indies, surrounded by the Caribbean Sea. 145 kilometer to the north is Cuba, and 191 kilometers to the east is Hispaniola (island where the nations of Haiti and Dominican Republic are located).

It has a total land area of 10,990 square kilometers making it the third largest island in the Caribbean. It has a length of 235 kilometers and a width of 82 kilometers. 80 percent of the island is considered highlands. The highest point, Blue Mountains is located on the eastern side at a height of 2256 meters.

The capital and largest city is Kingston.

How to reach Jamaica?

There are two ways to reach Jamaica: by air or by sea.

There are three international airports within the island: Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston, Ian Flemmings International Airport in Ocho Rios, and Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay.

•    Norman Manley International Airport is on the southeastern part of the island and close to the towns of Mandeville, May Pen, St. Thomas, St. Mary and St. Catherine.
•    Ian Flemmings International Airport is on located on the northern part of the island and close to the towns of Browns Town, Port Maria and Ewarton.
•    The last airport, Sangster International Airport is located at the northwestern part of the island and close to Negril and St. Elizabeth region. This is also the busiest airport since it is closes to popular resort areas.

There are hundreds of flights flying in and out of the country daily. Some airlines that serve flights to the country are Air Jamaica, Air Canada, American Airlines, Virgin Airways, British Jet Blue and Spirit Airlines.

The other option to reach the island is by sea, more popularly is by cruise ship. There are four ports that are used as a point of entry to the island: Ocho Rios, Trelawny, Montego Bay, and Port Antonio. Cruise ships would usually stay at the port for 12 hours. This amount of time is enough for one to get a glimpse of Jamaica.

What should you know when travelling to Jamaica?

It is a must that all tourists have a valid passport before entering the country. This is obtained from the country of origin.

Not all tourists would require a visa. If you are travelling as a tourist for a couple of days, you would not need a visa. However, if one is travelling for work in the country, an employment visa is needed. If one wants to study at the country, then a student visa is required. If one plans to make business in the country, especially if it is for more than 30 days, a business visa is mandatory.

The unit of currency is Jamaican dollar with a symbol J$ and a code of JMD. Since it is not an international currency, converting money is done upon arrival to the country.

The average temperature is 27 to 29 degrees Celsius all year round. The hottest months are from July to August, while the coolest months are from December to February. This temperature makes the country a perfect vacation spot.

How do you get around Jamaica?

There are different modes of transportation in Jamaica: by air, land, and sea.

There are domestic flights connecting the east and west side of the country. The three domestic airports are:

•    Tinson Pen Aerodrome – the largest and mostly used for business purposes
•    Ken Jones Aerodrome – mostly used by vacationers
•    Negril Aerodrome – mostly used by locals wishing to avoid the long road drive.

There are also helicopters and other chartered flights. Travelling by air would give one a nice aerial view of the island.

There are different means of transportation by land. There are car rentals, taxis, buses, and motorcycle.

•    Car rentals – if one plans to rent a car, keep in mind, drive on the left side and be careful of ruthless and careless drivers.
•    Taxis – There are two types of taxis: chartered and route taxis. The former type of taxi is more expensive but has less stop overs and is more comfortable. The later taxi is more affordable. Just remember to ask the price first before riding. More often than not there is an overprice in rate. Do not be afraid to haggle for a lower rate.
•    Buses – Rural areas are operated by mini-buses while urban areas are operated by government owned buses. Buses follow a schedule and are at a reasonable price. Riding the bus offers a unique experience and a chance to hear local stories through their local radio stations. For those who could afford, they could ride an express shuttle bus or sightseeing buses. These offer more comfort and are faster.
•    Motorcycle – this is a common mode of transportation for those staying at the northern side of the country. Alternative rides to motorcycles are scooters, mopeds, and bicycles. Just like cars, motorcycles, scooters, mopeds and bicycles could be rented.

Tourists could also try traveling by sea. The ports also accommodate local travel. There are chartered boats, luxury yachts, and cruises. Taking a ride in one of these would offer tourists a chance to see the island off shore.

Who lives in Jamaica?

According to a census done in 2011, majority of the citizens are Black Jamaicans including Black Indians and Black Chinese. They comprise 91.4% of the whole population. The remaining citizens are Asian Jamaicans and White or European Jamaicans. There was also an increase in immigrants who wish to live in Jamaica.

Communicating with Jamaicans is easy since the official language is English.  Some have developed a slang called Jamaican Patois.  It is a mixture of African language and Native American words.

The predominant religion is Christianity. There are also a percentage of Adventists, Pentecostal, Baptist, Anglican, Roman Catholics, Methodists, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Where to go in Jamaica?

Montego Bay

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Montego Bay is the second largest city in Jamaica and a famous tourist attraction in the country. It is most popularly known for the beautiful beaches lining the town.

The most popular Doctor’s Cave Beach Club. Tourists would enjoy a swim in the calm clear blue waters and a walk along the white sand beach which is 200m long.

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Doctor’s Cave Beach

There is also a nearby port wherein yachts and luxury cruises make a stop. Tourists on cruises can get off and take a glimpse of Montego Bay.

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Montego Bay Yacht Club

Another must see attraction in this city is the White Witch’s Rose Hall which is famously used in haunted stories.

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White Witch Rosa Hall

Negril

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Negril is situated at the western part of the country. It was once known for having a lighthouse to guide ships and sea vessels on the area. But when Montego Bay has developed and a road was constructed connecting Negril to the airport, tourists came to the area.

It is very famous for its long stretch of beach, four miles to be exact, although tourists have dubbed it as ‘seven-miles.’ On the southern end of Negril are famous cliff diving spots and snorkeling areas.

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Negril Lighthouse

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Cliff diving at the southern end

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‘Seven-mile’ beach

Ocho Rios

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Ocho Rios is a simple town located at the northern area of Jamaica. From Montego Bay, it is less than two hours drive. In recent years there has been a steady increase in tourists because of the nearby port that allows cruise ships to dock. Tourists on these cruises ships often take the time to do a little exploration.

The most popular attraction in Ocho Rios are Dunn’s River Falls, Dolphin Cove, Mystic Mountains, Margaritaville, and Dolphin Cove.

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Dunn’s River Falls

Dunn’s River Falls is waterfall with multi-step cascade or giant staircase interspaced with lagoons. It stands at 55 meters with a length of 180 meters. The water empties to the sea. It is a great spot for an adventure and mountain climbing. The path is lined with trees and different plants making it a refreshing climb. The climb would take approximately one to one and a half hour. This site is popularly used in different movies like Cocktail in 1988 and Dr. No in 1962. It was also featured in America’s Next Model Cycle 19.

Another attraction is Dolphin Cove. This place showcases performances and tricks done by dolphins. There are also other activities such as a nature hike and different animals like parrots, snakes, turtles, iguanas and sharks.

Kingston

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Kingston is the capital and largest city in Jamaica. Government transactions and negotiations occur here. Furthermore, an international and a domestic airport are found within the city. Unlike other parts of the country, Kingston does not have any beach. Nonetheless, tourists flock the city for entertainment.

The capital is bustling with different activities. During the day, streets are filled with employees hurrying to go to work. And at night, the place is brightly lit with lights from bars, nightclubs, karaoke and other entertainment hubs.

Aside from partying at night, one could take a day or two and visit popular tourist attractions like the Bank of Jamaica Money Museum, Bob Marley Museum, Caymanas Park, Botanical Garden, Devon House Heritage Site, Emancipation Park, Fort Charles and Maritime Museum, Hope Garden and Zoo, National Gallery, Twin Sisters Cave, and the University of the West Indies.

Tourists could also buy souvenir items like chains, clothes, baskets, and wooden sculptures.

Blue Mountains

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Map showing the location of Blue Mountains (colored orange)
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Blue Mountains are the longest mountain range and the highest peak in the country. It encompasses four towns: Portland, St. Thomas, St. Mary and St. Andrew. Climbing the mountain serves as a good adventure for mountaineers. The view from the top is rewarding; both the north and south coast could be seen. And during a clear day, Cuba which is 210 kilometers away could be seen.

What to eat?

A trip to Jamaica will not be complete without trying the local cuisines. It is a must that tourists try Jamaican foods.

Be warned that Jamaican foods could be spicy.

There are a lot of fruits and vegetables. Their vegetables are served with a unique dressing recipe. The dressing includes mayonnaise, avocado dip, tartar sauce, mustard sauce, white sauce, mango chutney, or soy onion sauce. They offer coconut, sugar cane, melon, pear, banana, nasberry, soursop, ortanique, paw paw, mango, guinep, june plum, nutmeg, apple, tamarind, guava and a lot more. Some of these fruits are used in their pastries.

They have used bananas and plantains to make their famous banana chips. It is the number one export product and a great giveaway when you get back home.

For the main dish, guests should try the national dish, Ackee and Saltfish. The place is abundant in seafood. Their main dish would not be complete with a side dish. The most common side dish are rice and peas. There are also potatoes, bananas and dumplings served on the side.

Do not forget to taste their jerky. It comes in pork, chicken, fish, cow foot, stew peas, shrimp, goat, and lobster jerky. It is popularly served in parties and at the beach.

And a meal is not complete without a drink. There are a lot of natural drinks that come from fruits and vegetables. There are also bottled drinks; the most popular is Ting and Ginger Beer. It is also common to see and taste their alcoholic beverages like Appleton, J Wray, Nephew White Rum, Tallawah, Rumbar, and Red Stripe Beer.

Kristine Capanzana

Escape to Palawan

We all need an escape from the bustling city life. Our hectic schedule, demanding tasks, and polluted environment have caused us to be stressed and burned out. It is time to take a break. And the best place to unwind is with nature.
A popular getaway is at Palawan, Philippines.

Palawan, Philippines

Palawan, Philippines is a province with abundant and luscious forest, clean and sparkling water, and pristine nature. There are also mountains that are great for trekking. And of course there are beautiful quiet and relaxing beaches. There are a number of islands, 1780 islands and islets in particular, constituting the province. The largest is the main island spanning a length of 450 kilometers and a width of 50 kilometers.

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Lagoon in El Nido, Palawan

Location

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Left: Map of the Philippines, the pink area is Palawan; Right: Palawan Province up close

The province is on the western side of the country in between South China Sea and Sulu Sea. The nearest islands are Mindoro, Philippines on the northeast and Borneo on the southwest. There are almost 2000 islands in Palawan; some of these include Calamianes Group of Island (Busunaga, Coron and Culion) on the north, Balabac Island on the south, and the disputed Spratly Island on the west.

People

The main dialect of the people is Tagalog; half of the people could speak and understand the language. Other languages include Cuyonon, Illonggo, and Palawano. Majority of the citizens are Catholics. There are also Protestants, Christians, and Buddhist.

Transportation

The main way to get to Palawan is via plane. There are a number of airports and airstrips. The two main airports are: Puerto Princesa International Airpot in Puerto Princesa and Francisco B. Reyes Airport in Busuanga Island. The former is an international airport going to the capital, Puerto Princesa and the main island. It is also the port of entry for those wishing to visit the Underground River. Flight routes include Manila, Busunanga, Cebu, Iloilo, Davao, Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia and vice versa. The later airport is a domestic airport serving the northern part of the province. It is the point of entry to reach Coron Island and the municipality of Busuanga. Flight routes include Puerto Princesa, Cebu, Manila and vice versa.

One could also reach Palawan via ferries. There are ports in Puerto Princesa City and Coron. Ferries travel in between these two and to Manila, and Iloilo.

When in the city, there are varies modes of transportation such as buses, tricycles, jeepneys, and vans-for-hire. Most areas are promoting environment friendly transportation systems such as the e-tricycle. These e-tricycles do not emit harmful carbon monoxide and any noise compared to their gasoline counterparts. Furthermore, e-tricycles are cheaper to operate.

There are three places of destination in Palawan: Puerto Princesa City, Coron, and El Nido. Each Destination is unique, beautiful and definitely worth visiting. Plus, these places are great relaxation spots.

Puerto Princesa City

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Puerto Princesa City is dubbed as ‘The City in the Forest.’ It is also the provincial capital of Palawan; all economic activity and governance occurs here. It is located on the center of the main island. It is the second largest city in the Philippines but there are only a few living in here.

Despite being highly urbanized, this city has a lot of hidden travel destinations such as beaches and other breathtaking nature spots.

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park or simply Puerto Princesa Underground River is the most sought after international tourist destination. It is located 80 kilometers north of the city and under the Saint Paul Mountain Range. To the north is St. Paul Bay and on the east is Babuyan River. The reach the national park one could take a hike or a boat ride.

It is the longest underground river in the world. Along the ride, tourists could see amazing stalactites and stalagmites formation as well as limestone. The dome of the cave at some areas reaches 300 meters. There are also bats and different marine animals within the cave. During the trip to the Underground River, there are different flora and fauna striving along the path. In the year 2010, environmentalists and geologists discovered a second floor which creates mini waterfalls inside the cave. There are a lot more to discover, however, due to its depth and oxygen deprivation some areas are inaccessible.

In 2012, Puerto Princesa Underground River was named as one of the New7Wonders of Nature.

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Docking area to Puerto Princesa Underground River
 

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Entrance to Puerto Princesa Underground River

Tubbataha Reefs National Park

Tubbataha Reef has been a protected area for several years. It is located around 181 km southeast of the city in the middle of Sulu Sea. There is a wide range of marine life living in the reef these include manta rays, lionfish, sea turtles, clownfish, sharks, and a lot more. Some of these are already considered endangered and near extinction. There are a number of islets nearby. These islets are home to unique bird species.

In December 1993, Tubabataha Reef was declared a UNESCO Heritage Site. In 2008, it was also nominated at the New7Wonders of Nature.

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Honda Bay

Honda Bay is located on the eastern shore of Puerto Princesa. It is one of the most famous places to go island hopping at nearby islets, snorkeling at Pambato Reef, and relaxing at famous resorts. Some of the islands included in Honda Bay are Luli Island – known for appearing during low tide and disappearing during high tide, Starfish Island – with abundant number of starfishes, Panden Island – has fine white sand and tropical forest, and Cowrie Island – different sized snails live here and it had become a popular tourist destination.

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The most popular part of Honda Bay is the island of Arrecife wherein Dos Palmas Resort is located.

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Dos Palmas Resort

Sabang Beach

There are also beaches that are surely worth visiting such as Sabang Beach. It is a pristine, secluded beach in Puerto Princesa.

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El Nido

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El Nido is dubbed as ‘Heaven on Earth.’ CNNGo had claimed that ‘it is the best beach and island destination in the Philippines for its extraordinaty natural splendor and ecosystem.’

It is located on the northern end of the main island of Palawan; it is around 238 kilometers from the capital. There are approximately 45 islands and islets. The bay is surrounded by limestone cliffs as high as 640 meters. Aside from these astonishing cliffs there are at least 100 perfect beaches, thick jungles, and mesmerizing mangroves.

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Bacuit Bay

Bacuit Bay is composed of numerous islands and islets which are inhabited. There are also 30 dive sites that adventurous could try. The islands are surrounded by crystal clear waters. These waters are the home to marine life such as dugongs, turtles, manta rays, coral reefs and sharks.

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Some of the islands on the bay are Cadlao Island, Dilumacad Island, Pangulasian Island, Virgin Island, and Matinloc Island.

•    Cadlao Island is the largest island in the area and the closes to the main island. It is popular because of the white sand beaches, great beach swimming, lagoons, and mountain trailing. Imagine walking through a lush forest cover trail and end up at one of the most beautiful lagoons, Makaamo Lagoon.

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•    Dilumacad Island is also known as Helicopter Island because of the shape of the limestone cliffs. This island is a popular island hopping destination, picnic site and beach area.
•    Pangulasian Island has a longer stretch of white beach. It is perfect for a day at a beach, snorkeling, bird watching, and mountain trailing.
•    Virgin Island is also known as Snake Island because of the shape of the sandpit during low tide.
•    Matinloc Island is popular because of a secret beach. The secret beach could only be reached by diving in between a crevice in a rock wall. There are also other beaches on the island that are accessible.

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Coron

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Coron is located on northeastern area of Palawan Province; it occupies the eastern half of Busuanga Island plus 50 small islets. The main part of Coron, which is on Busuanga Island is a wedge-shaped limestone island.

Half of the coastal region is covered in mangroves, perfect for sightseeing. The other half of the coastal region is lined with perfect white sand beach. There are also seven lakes which are the cleanest in the country. The water is so clear that it is perfect for snorkeling and diving.

To get to Coron, one could get a direct flight from Manila to Busuanga domestic airport or ferry from Puwerto Princesa.

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Kayangan Lake

Calauit Game Preserve and Wildlife Sanctuary

Calauit Game Preserve and Wildlife Sanctuary is the home to exotic African animals and some endangered species.

Coron Reefs

Coron Reefs is located beneath the seven lakes which are surrounded by beautiful and magnificent limestone cliffs. Coron Reefs are a popular diving site. The most popular area is the area wherein 12 World War II Japanese ships sunk in the year 1944. The depth of the shipwreck varies; some are visible on the surface, while others are 40 meters deep. This site is ranked as on one of the best scuba sites in the world according to Forbes Traveler Magazine. Aside from diving, tourists could also try snorkeling at the area.

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Mount Tapyas

Mount Tapyas is the second highest mountain at the height of 210 meters. It is easy to recognize the mountain from a far because of the giant white cross on top of the mountain. The climb to the mountain could be tedious, but the view on top is spectacular. One could get a stunning view of the beaches, commercial buildings, and forest.

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The cross on top of the mountain
 

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The view on top of Mount Tapyas

Kristine Capanzana