Travel

Hallstatt: The Breath taking Town by the lake

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Stunningly beautiful, One of the most common adjectives we probably would utter when looking at this picture perfect mountainous side of Australia. This is why Hallstat has been one of the places regarded by UNESCO in the World Heritage List.

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Hallstatt is oftenly said as one of the most beautiful places that Australia can offer you.  This town will not just satisfy your eyes with its scenic view and different facets to discover but also will offer you a wide variety of things to do like rock climbing, hiking and even boating!

Location

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A village that has a total are of 59.8 km2 (23.1 sq mi) in Salzkammergut region in Austria, near the Hallstätter See on the national road linking Salzburg and Graz.

Getting there

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The nicest way in getting to Hallstatt is by train. From Vienna or Salzburg, you can take a train from there towards Bad Ischl and Obertraun. The Hallstatt station is at the south side of Bad Ischl and north of Obertraun which is on the east bank of the Hallstättersee (Hallstatt Lake). a regular ferry ride will meet at an arriving time; the ferry will then take you to the town across the lake.

The People

Census shows that this little town is inhabited by 946 people as of 2011, it would probably be safe to say that now the number of population in the town had grown.

Things you should try in Hallstatt

Have a look at the whole town, try hiking!

For those who are planning a brief visit and want to have a panoramic view of the magnificent look of the whole town, you should consider Hiking at the mountains of Hallstatt. One that is most visited for this is the “panorama hiking trail” just above the lake.

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•    Panorama hiking trail

Take a walk by the Brine Pipeline Trail and explore Hallstatt more.

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•    Brine Pipeline Trail

The trail is from Lake Hallstatt goes through the Inner Salzkammergut encompassed by majestic mountains and charming little villages the route follows the river Traun and ends up at Lake Traunsee. The trail from Hallstatt to Ebensee is considered to be the World’s oldest Pipeline which is established in 1607.

Discover the Hallstatt lake, try boating!

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If you’re a person of adventure, you might want to rent a rowing or pedal boat just at the corners of the lake and you can try and rent pedal boats or even row at the serene waters of Hallstatt lake. A bicycle path, lush green trees and clear waters is an impressive thing to see on a boat trip in the lake.

Try something spooky yet new. Go inside their famous Charnel house!

Beautiful mountain, serene lake, and hiking trails, Hallstatt isn’t just a place full of cheer, try going inside a room full of skulls.

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The Charnel House is just located at the back of the Hallstatt Catholic Church; the Charnel House is a small, lovingly made building that consists of over 1200 skulls. This is because Hallstatt is such a humble location, the early inhabitants found it hard to find burial grounds. So in 1700s the church decided to dig up the corpses to make way to the newly dead.

Indeed, by just looking at the picture of the humble town of Hallstatt, it is undeniable that this is an escape from the buzzy world to a tranquil paradise.

Archie Fegidero

Three must see places in Italy

When talking about heritage and splendid history, Italy has many sights to offer. From famous temples, ruins and churches- it is a classic spot that can allure people from all parts of the world to come and have a glimpse of the past by the various infrastructures that have withstood the test of time.

Location

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Italy is actually a boot shaped peninsula extending into the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. It is located in Southern Europe and has a total land area of 113,570 square kilometres surrounded by water on the sides; Italy indeed has amazingly captured us by its distinct beauty.

Know before you go

When we travel, it is essential to know when it is best to go. So the best months to go to Italy are from April to June and mid-September to October; because the temperature is expected to be comfortable.

July is the hottest month with temperatures from 73° up to 86° and the coldest month is January where it is about 44° at the coast and about 38° to 42° inside the country.

If you want to go sight-seeing, the best season to go is spring (March, April, May), summer (June, July, August) and autumn (September, October, November).

Places you should visit in Italy:

The leaning tower of Pisa

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It is located at Pisa, the ‘Torre Pendente di Pisa’ is famous for its uniqueness for unlike any towers, it literally leans to one side; like what its name suggests. Its leaning position is because of the fault in its foundation. The tower has been built in a soft ground that’s why it kept on leaning during the construction. But the mistake made in the 11tth century had now been turned into one of the world’s most famous historical landmarks.

Milan

Was once bombed during the WW11, but Milan now has been reconstructed and regarded as one of the most prominent cities in Europe. It is famous because it has the World’s Largest Gothic Cathedral called .

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Duomo di Milano

For fashion enthusiasts, this is the best place in Milan for you. With its various Designer shops and Fashion centers that will really lure you.

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The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Italy’s oldest shopping mall in Milan.

Vatican City

The smallest independent city state in the world, Vatican City is known as the Home of the Roman Catholic Church. One’s vacation will not be complete without going to the St. Peter’s Basilica which is just at the Heart of the city.

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St. Peter’s Basilica

Food

Aside from the fantastic historical places to go to, one more thing that we should not go home without trying is their Mediterranean cuisine.

Pasta

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You might probably try their very own, and our all-time favorite Pasta. It is primarily seasoned with herbs and spices lathered with rich sauce.

Pizza

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One of the things Italians take pride in is their pizza; because of the simplicity of the use of the freshly picked herbs as ingredients. One of the most prominent varieties of Pizza is their “pizza Margherita” made with basil, tomatoes, and mozzarella and a little bit of meat.

These are just some of the Italian foods that will surely make you feel love at first bite. Try it, you can easily order it at almost any restaurants at the place.

Travel and learn more about Italy- all its various historical spots and experience the rich culture of the Italians, this is surely a trip you wouldn’t dare to miss!

Buona Giornata!

Archie Fegidero

Venice: City of Water

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When we speak about Italy, there are a few things that immediately pop in our mind. We think about the Roman Empire, Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the delicious and delectable food. But Italy would never be complete without a visit to Venice.

Venice has been dubbed with various nicknames such as “La Dominante,” “Serenissima,” “Queen of the Adriatic,” “City of Water,” “City of Masks,” “City of Bridges,” “The Floating City,” and “City of Canals.” The mere mention of Venice sounds so romantic. In fact, according to Times Online, Venice is “one of Europe’s most romantic cities.” Imagine riding a gondola while being serenaded. It is indeed a dreamy trip. Aside from this, there is so much to do, see and experience.

So sit back, relax, as we talk about Venice Italy.

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Venice, Italy (1)

Where is Venice, Italy?

Venice is located at northeastern Italy. It is composed of 118 small islands divided by canals and the islands are connected to each other by bridges. In 1987, the whole city was listed as a World Heritage Site.

How to get there?

Due to the high volume of tourists visiting the country each year, many modes of transportation have been developed. The fastest way to reach Venice is by plane. The nearest airport is Marco Polo International Airport or Aeroporto di Venezia Marci Polo in Venice itself. Another airport that could get tourist to Venice is at Treviso Airport in Treviso which is 30 kilometers away from Venice.

One could also reach Venice by train. It takes approximately three and a half hour to Rome, and two and a half hour to Milan. These trains also reach London and Paris.

What is the mode of transportation within the city?

To facilitate transportation within the city, a sole public company (Azienda del Consorizo Trasporti Veneziano) is responsible.

Despite continuous urbanization and development, Venice remains to be a car-free area – there are no motorcars or trucks. The main mode of transportation is by motorized waterbuses which connect the islands. The gondola which is the classical Venetian boat is mainly used for tourists and weddings. Throughout the years and with the increase in number of tourists, gondole had improved, cushioned velvet seats and Persian rugs had been added.

Road transportation could be seen on Lido, Pellestrina, and the main island. There are buses and trains linking Venice with neighboring Roman cities.

What to do?

When we visit a place we want to experience the locality and uniqueness of the place. It is a must to try things that are uniquely theirs and taste the local delicacies and national cuisines. The same goes when visiting Venice.
Here are the things that should not be missed when in Venice.

Take a gondola ride

This is the highlight of your trip to Venice. Riding the gondola would cost you; the price depends on the length of travel, the longer the ride, the higher the price to pay. So if you want to experience a gondola ride and you are on a budget, you could always ride a short trip.

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Gondolas in One of the Canals of Venice (2)

Visit the famous Rialto Bridge

And since you are on that gondola ride, why not visit and take a picture by the famous Rialto Bridge. This bridge was built more than four centuries ago. Surrounding the bridge are alfresco dining areas and shopping centers.

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Venice – Rialto Bridge (3)

Take a sightseeing tour

Venice is known for its rustic yet beautiful buildings. There are a lot of notable buildings, palaces, and cathedrals worth visiting. Here are just three of the places to see.

Piazza San Marco or St. Mark’s Square

Some people simply call the place as “the Piazza.” It is the venue for different public social, religious, and political activities. Within the square, on the eastern side, is the famed St. Mark’s Basilica and Campanile could be found.

St. Mark’s Basilica and Campanile

Everything about the basilica is worth looking at: the façade, altar, and mosaics. The Campanile bell tower makes the place more interesting. It stands at a height of 98.6 meters. Climbing the tower could give you a great panoramic view of Venice.

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View of St. Mark’s Square, St. Mark’s Basilica and Campanile

Piazzetta di San Marco

Adjacent to the Piazza is the Piazzetta di San Marco or the ‘little Piazza.’ This is located at the southeast area of St. Mark’s Square and extends to the lagoon. Together with St. Mark’s Square, the adjoining spaces are used for various public social, religious, and political activities.

Within the Piazzetta, one could see the Doge’s Palace.

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Piazzetta San Marco in Venezia – view from Basilica San Marco (4)

Doge’s Palace

The Doge’s Palace was built in 1340 as the home of the Doge of Venice. The design and architecture of the building followed a Venetian Gothic Style. Due to natural wear and tear, and unforeseen events, the palace needed reconstruction. And from time to time, the palace had served different purposes including office for different government agencies. And in the year 1923 to present, the palace serves as a museum.

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Doge’s Palace (5)

Watch and be amazed at the Carnival of Venice

The annual Carnival of Venice is known for the beautiful and colorful masks. The masks are available in different shapes, designs and color. The most famous type of mask, that is well known to Venetian culture, are the masks covering the eyes and part of the cheeks with a long protruding nose or beaks. To match these masks, citizens wear elaborate and elegant gowns and costumes. The festivity is a two week celebration beginning two weeks before Ash Wednesday and ends on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday which is called Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras. During the festival, there is a contest in search for the most beautiful mask called la maschera piu bella.

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Carnival of Venice (6)

Take a bite of Venetian cuisine

Do not leave Venice without trying their food. There are foods that are distinctly theirs such as polenta. Polenta is grained mush. It could be prepared boiled, fried, or baked. It is also topped with anchovy, herring, or different sauces.
Common ingredients that are used in their dishes are butter, sunflower oil, olive oil, vinegar, mostarda, salsa verde, senape, and kren.

The coastal towns and communities serve delicious seafood. While communities located on the plains serve grilled meat with side dishes like potatoes, vegetables, or polenta. They also serve risotto which is a mixed rice dish, and pasta like bigoli, fettuccine, ravioli, and gnocchi. A common sauce for their pasta is ragu. Towns located in the mountains serve pork and polenta.

Kristine Capanzana

 

References:
“5 Fun Facts about Venice, Italy.” Venere Travel Blog 5 Fun Facts about Venice Italy Comments. Web. 6 Oct. 2014. <http://www.venere.com/blog/venice-fun-facts/>.
“Top 10 Venice Attractions – Candid Venice Tips You Can Trust.” Top 10 Venice Attractions – Candid Venice Tips You Can Trust. Web. 8 Oct. 2014. <http://www.hillmanwonders.com/top_10_venice/top_10_venice.htm>.
“Venice.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 10 Apr. 2014. Web. 6 Oct. 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venice>.

Photographs:
(1) Chensiyuan. venice grand canal rialto bridge 2012 evening Italy. N.d. commons.wikimedia.org. Photograph. October 8, 2014.
(2) Rumbling Traveler. Gondolas in One of the Canals of Venice. 2006. commons.wikimedia.org. Photograph. October 8, 2014.
(3) Barbieri, Nino. Venice – Rialto Bridge. 2004. commons.wikimedia.org. Photograph. October 8, 2014.
(4) Janmad. Piazzetta San Marco in Venezia – view from Basilica San Marco. 2006. commons.wikimedia.org. Photograph. October 8, 2014.
(5) Balet, Andrew. This is a photograph of the Doge’s Palace in Venice. 2007. commons.wikimedia.org. Photograph. October 8, 2014.
(6) Scarantino, Luigi. Maschere al Carnevale di Venezia. N.d. nfoturisti.com. Photograph. October 8, 2014.

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

Philippine Eastern Beauty

When talking about white sand beaches and crystal clear water, everybody turns their heads to Asian countries. Not only because it is less expensive compare to other nations in America and Europe, but of course with the quality of nature’s aesthetics found in there.

Going straight to Asia, take a tour down the south eastern part of it, where exotic places are surely present. Take for example, the Philippines, this archipelagic country is composed of 7,107 islands and surely contains jaw-dropping places. Taking a closer look, one of the best places in the Philippines is the island of Palawan.

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Where’s is located?

The MIMAROPA region based island is found in the south western part of the Philippines. The island stretches far north to Mindoro, another province in the Philippines, and down to Borneo, located in the south west of the island. Its capital is Puerto Princesa but is governed independently unlike other parts of Palawan

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How to get there?

The island does have an airport in Puerto Princesa International Airport. Guests and tourists may connect a flight to Manila, Philippines, first upon going to Palawan. Cebu also offers a stop-over to connect to the said island.

Aside from the lone international airport, several airports and airstrips are also accessible in the said island. National airports like Francisco B. Reyes Airport in Coron or Busuanga Island and El Nido Airport.

For private trips, airstrips are available in some parts of Palawan, Coron, Cuilon, Brooke’s Airstrips are ready to serve flights for tourists.

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Puerto Princesa Airport

When travelling by sea, there are major shipping lines, which navigate from Manila to Puerto Princesa. When tourists lands in Palawan and they want to roam around the island, here are the transportations they might consider; road trips are indeed famous for tourists in Palawan.

Jeeps, vans and buses are ready to transport tourists around the beautiful. In this case, tourists may enjoy the beauty of the island along the way. But take note, roads are harder to travel during wet and rainy seasons.

Boats and ferries are also ready to transfer tourists who prefer to travel the peaceful and calm waters rather than by land. Ferries connect Coron to Puerto Princesa, and between Coron and El Nido.

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What to see?

There are many of jaw dropping resorts found in Palawan, and here are some of them:

El Nido

It is probably the most majestic place in the island of Palawan. Simple, calm and peaceful village lifestyle, stunning limestone cliffs, the rich jungle and the vast marine life, name all of them, El Nido is ready to offer it.

Indeed, a perfect place to unwind for its long range white sand beaches and most of them are still virgin or untouched. El Nido also offers a wide array of adventures such as island hopping where tourists can enjoy the view of many private islands, and tourists may also explore the crystal clear water and the life underneath it.

Resorts such as El Nido Lagen Island, Cove Island and Secret Paradise Resort and Nature Reserve are ready to make people forget their hectic city lives.

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El Nido Lagen Island

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Puerto Princesa

It is probably one of the famous places in Palawan in all due respect. The island capital has many exciting adventures and stunning places to offer to guests. If breathing fresh air and enjoying clean and peaceful places is what tourists look, the acclaimed cleanest and greenest city in Asia is the perfect place.

If tourists seek to witness world renowned places, they could visit the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park which is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The famous park features an underground river and vast and healthy lime stones await tourists upon looking up.

It is also famous because it goes and emerges directly to the crystal clear sea. It also contains biodiversity and important forests considerably in Asia. Indeed, nature is close to the hearts of the people of Palawan. Puerto Princesa also has heavenly resorts such as Dos Palmas Arreceffi Resort and Crystal Paradise Resort and Winery are perfect places to relax, unwind, sip ice-cold liquor and refresh their selves.

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Puerto Princesa Subterranean River

Coron

If adventure seekers want to experience some sort of extremes during their stay in Palawan, Coron group of islands is the perfect fit for them.

Considered as the best island destination in Southeast Asia, these group of islands located in Busuanga, northern part of Palawan is a delight for divers and adventure seekers.

Coron Reef is blessed with rich dive sites and perfect for scuba diving to enjoy its crystal water ecosystem, coral reefs, fishes and Japanese shipwrecks.

After a tiring day full of underwater adventure, take a rest on famous Coron resorts. White sand and turquoise water resorts such as Club Paradise Resort, El Rio Y Mar Resort and Mangeguey Island Resort are just a glimpse of peaceful haven Coron has to offer.

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Coron Reef

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El Rio Y Mar Resort in Coron

Busuanga

Busuanga is located in the mainland Palawan. It is famous for its ecosystem with its healthy and green jungle and also a famous diving spot for bunch of Japanese shipwrecks which sunk within its scope.

And yes, Coron group of islands is a part of Busuanga. Its resorts include Busuanga Island Paradise Resort, Club Paradise Palawan and Cashew Groove Beach Resort.

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Busuanga and Coron, Palawan

More to witness

Under the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Tubbataha Reef Marine Park is another place for adventure. The park contains a vast biodiversity of coral reefs, exotic fishes and sharks.

Palawan also features endemic species such as Palawan Peacock-pheasant, Philippine Mouse-deer, Philippine Pangolin and Palawan Bearded Pig, which inhabits the diverse jungles of the said island.

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Tubbataha Reef

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Palawan Peacock-pheasant

Archie Fegidero

Islands of Maldives

When merely everything gets hectic, when people are too busy with their schedule and work, when the weather gets hotter, when heavy traffics in the highly polluted cities arise, vacation is in demand. After spending tiring days, weeks, months and even years inside the four walls of the office, it is time to take a break.

Commonly people take a vacation to rest in their homes, take a breather in mountains and ranches and enjoy the blistering heat and the relaxing breeze of beaches and resorts. Well, when talking about beaches, there are surely over a hundred or maybe a thousand beaches that are on a tourist’s radar. And for sure, one of them is Asia’s tropical islands in Maldives.

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Where’s it located?

These archipelagic groups of islands are found in the vast Indian Ocean. They are considered to be a part of the Southern Asia where it lies on the southwestern part of India. These highly divided islands consist of 1,192 coral islands to be exact are made up of two large chains of 26 atolls. As of the current date, 200 islands have inhabitants and with the addition of 80 islands having jaw-dropping resorts.

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How to get to Maldives?

Worried about your length of stay in Maldives? No problem because the paradise has an easy visa policy. Every tourist gets a free; take note, free 30 days free visa upon their arrival in Maldives, of course with the required and valid documents on hand. And if a tourist wants to enjoy the islands further more than 30 days, it can have an extension up to 90 days with proper agreement on where will they stay during that time.

Commonly, tourists arrive by airplanes at the Male International Airport. It also serves a wide array and variation of flight from some parts of Europe and to various destinations in Asia such as China, Dubai and even Sri Lanka. Gan Airport also serves flights to Milan and flight from London. Unfortunately, riding boats or yachts have irregularities because the path towards Maldives is hazardous and permits are quite expensive.

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What do Maldives offer tourists?

Upon asking that, people sitting on their offices would probably imagine themselves lying down on pure white sand, coconut trees shadowing and towering over them, birds gliding in the air with ease, the sound of forceful waves travel their ears and the crystal clear and transparent sea, where everything underneath it is visible. Well, they are imagining what Maldives has to offer.

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Wanting a perfect beach vacation? Maldives might just be the perfect place. Aside from the peaceful and soulful feel that Maldives is offering its tourists, adventure is also another thing that the islands can serve. If one wants an adventurous journey beneath and underwater, diving and snorkeling are perfect activities to enjoy.

Scuba diving is a definitely a trend for tourists as the islands highly visible waters offer a good view of the life underneath it. Exotic species of fishes, rays, sharks and even few shipwrecks, name all of them, they are present in Maldives. For those lovers of extreme sports like surfing, they would definitely love the Maldivian waves.

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As the time passes, the country’s popularity as a surfing destination fast increases. Its blue water and perfect wave variation is ideal for surfers who love not so crowded surfing spots. March and October are probably the perfect months for smooth surfing while for those danger seekers, June to August serve biggest waves.

Indeed, tourism is a big part of the Maldives’ economy. Enjoy the activities, adventures, beaches and resorts that it has to offer, enjoy the sunny side of life in Maldives.

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Archie Fegidero

Picture Perfect Bruges, Belgium

Bruges City, in Belgium, is one of the many places worth visiting. As a matter of fact, it is a “postcard perfect stop” There are many sights to see such as medieval buildings, famous sculptures, and landmarks. The city was dubbed as “the Venice of the North.” And in the year 2000, the historic center in Bruges was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These are just a few reasons why you should see Bruges.

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Panoramic view of Burges canal one of the “Venice of the North”

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Historic center in Bruges, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Location

Bruges is located in the town of Flanders on the northwestern region of Belgium. It has a total land area of 13, 840 hectares including the coast.

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Getting there

The best and easiest way to reach the city is via plane and train. One could get a direct flight to Brussels, Belgium’s main airport, Charleroi, or Lille. From the airport, one could easily ride a train straight to Burges.

Trains at Brussels Station leave every 30 minutes. The whole travel time from Brussels to Bruges takes approximately 50 minutes.

Once at Bruges, there are public utility vehicles such as buses and taxis for easier transportation and travelling within the city.

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Sights to see

As already mentioned there are indeed so many fascinating and interesting points of interest in this charming city. It has a unique architectural style that reflects those of the medieval times. With the government’s pursuits, the city was able to maintain its identity. Now, thousands of tourists flock to the country annually.
Listed below are some attractions that should not be missed out.

Church of Our Lady

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The Church of Our Lady was built during the 13th to the 15th century. It stands at a height of 122.3 meters which is the tallest in the city. Found within the church is a white marble sculpture, Madonna and Child sculpted by Michelangelo in 1504. The tombs of Charles the Bold, last Valois Duke of Burgundy, and his daughter, the duchess Mary are located behind the altar.

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Madonna and Child sculpted by Michelangelo

Belfry of Burges

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The medieval belfry of Bruges or Belfort is located within the historical center of Burges. It stands at a height of 83 meters. The tower actually leans to the east by a meter. One could reach the top of the tower and see the city for a minimal fee. It was once used as a treasury and municipal archives.

Basilica of the Holy Blood

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The Basilica of the Holy Blood was built in the 12th century (1134 to 1157) as a chapel to the residence of the Count of Flanders. During that time, a venerated relic of the Holy Blood was kept inside the chapel. In the year 1923, the chapel became a minor basilica.

Currently the Roman Catholic minor basilica is located at the Burg square. There are two chapels. The lower chapel, with a dark Romanesque theme, is devoted to St. Basil the Great. The upper chapel, with a Gothic theme, houses the venerated relic.

St. Salvator Cathedral

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The main church of the city is St. Salvator Cathedral. The cathedral was built in the 10th century as a simple parish church. In the year 1834, the church gained a new status, a cathedral. It became the home to the new bishop. After instating it as a cathedral, the tower was reconstructed to be more impressive and grander.

Old St. John’s Hospital

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The Old St. John’s Hospital was built in the 11th century and could be found next to the Church of Our Lady. A monastery and convent was added in the 19th century. Currently, a portion of the hospital became the Hans Memling Museum.

Groening Museum

Groening Museum is a municipal museum which is the home to Flemish and Belgian paintings. Works of Jan van Eyck, Gerald David, Hieronymus Bosch, Adriaen Isenbranst, Hugo van der Goes, Nicolaes Maes, and many are kept here.

Provinciaal Hof

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Provinciaal Hof or in English the Province Court was built in in 1887. It was used as a meeting place for the provincial government until 1999. Now, it is used as a ceremonial building and a place for exhibitions.

Choco-Story

Choco-Story is a chocolate museum is located inside the Huis de Crone buildings at the corners of Wijinzakstraat and Sint-Jansstraat. The museum was opened by a father and son tandem (Eddie and Cedric Van Belle) it features the health benefits of chocolates and a chocolate demonstration. The two also own a chocolate business, Belcolde. The chocolates from the shop “produce delicacies that chefs and connoisseurs hail as some of the world’s finest.”

Kristine Capanzana

Discovering Agra, India

Republic of India, the seventh largest country in the world, is located at South Asia. It also ranks as the second most populous country in the world. Through history, India was identified for its commercial and cultural wealth. It was also the known birthplace of Indus Valley Civilization. India made a great impact to the world and with its continuous improvements and developments, it is no wonder why it became a place to see and visit.

Location

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On the south of India is the Indian Ocean, to the south-west is the Arabian Sea, on the south-east is the Bay of Bengal. It is bounded on the west by Pakistan, on the north-east is China, Nepal, and Bhutan, and on the east by Burma and Bangladesh. Included in its territory are Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

India is divided into 29 states and 7 union territories. One place of interest is the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, wherein the city of Agra could be found.

Agra City

Agra is one of the three cities (the other two are Delhi and Jaipur) included in the Golden Triangle tourist. It is a place of interest because of the notable buildings, particularly Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, and Fetahpur Sikri. It is located next to the river Yamuna.

Getting there

Because of the tourists attraction, transportation to and from the city have been improved.

By Air

Currently the city has a domestic airport connecting the city to Mumbai, Delhi. Flights travel in and out of the city five times a week. Remember to book your tickets early to avoid any inconveniences.

There are plans to connect the Agra to other key cities in India. There is also a plan to build an international airport to cater to foreigners who wish to see the Taj Mahal.

By Railroads

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Agra Cantt Railroad Station

The city of Agra is connected to other cities via trains. Trains coming from Delhi to Bombay and Delhi to Madras stop at the city, thus connecting it to other important cities.

By Road

There are four major Bus Stands in Agra: Idgah Bus Stand, Taj Depot, Ford Depot and Inter State Bus Terminal. There are a number of national highways and an expressway connecting the city to other points in northern India.

Local Transportation

Transportation within the city is easy. There are buses, rickshaws, and autorickshaws available. The rickshaws operate on a specific route.

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Rickshaws

To reach the Taj Mahal, one would ride an electric auto or Tanga. This prevents pollution at the area.

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Tanga – a light horse-drawn carriage

People of Agra, India

There is a great diversity in the people’s religions. Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism are religions that originated here. But during colonization of the British Empire, other religions such as Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam entered the country.

There is no official language but people understand English, Hindi, Indo-Aryan, and Dravidian. The last two languages are dialects which have originated in the country.

What to see

Agra is the home to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, and Fetahpur Sikri. Aside from these three tourist sites there are other noteworthy mausoleums, tombs, temples, and gardens.

Below are places that you should not miss when visiting Agra.

Taj Mahal

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Taj Mahal is the number one place to visit when in India. It is regarded as “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.” This great piece of art could be seen near Yamuna River.

The Mughal emperor Shah Jahan commissioned the mausoleum in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Construction began in 1632 and was fully completed in 1653. It was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. And recently, it was declared as one of the New Seven Wonders of the world.

The style is a fusion of Islamic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish, and Indian architectural styles; this fusion is often called Mughal architecture. The exterior of the mausoleum is made from white marble. What is interesting with this building is its perfect symmetry. What catches the attention of tourists is its beautiful dome that measures 60 feet in diameter and has a height of 80 feet. Under this magnificent dome is the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal.

Agra Fort

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Agra Fort entrance gate

Another UNESCO World Heritage Site is Agra Fort or the Red Fort that was built in 1565 by the Mughal Emperor Akbar. Some have dubbed Agra Fort as a walled city. It is approximately 2.5 kilometer northwest of Taj Mahal and lies parallel with the river. It occupies a land area of 94 acres with walls with a height of 70 feet. Within the high fort walls, palaces, wells and a mosque were built. These were built and followed Bengal and Gujarat architecture. There are four gates on each sides of the wall.

Fetahpur Sikri

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Another must see attraction is the third UNESCO World Heritage Site, Fatehpur Sikri. It is actually a city and municipal board built in 1569 by Mughal emperor Akbar. It was once the capital of the Mughal Empire and named as Fatehabad. There were palaces, harem, courts, mosque, and private quarters. Later, it was renamed to Fatehpur Sikri. In the year 1585, this imperial complex was abandoned due to the lack of water and nearby disorder.

Tomb of Akbar the Great

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The Mughal Emperor, Akbar made a lot of important contribution to Agra and he was regarded as one of the best. One of his constructions that is worth visiting is his own tomb. Construction started in 1605 under the emperor himself, but his son continued the construction after the emperor’s death. The construction was completed in 1613.

I’timad-Ud-Daulah

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I’timad-Ud-Daulah also known as Baby Taj was built by Empress Nur Jahan in memory of her father, Mirza Ghiyas Beg. The base of the mausoleum occupies an area of 50 square meters and stands at the left side of Yamuna River. There are four hexagonal towers, one on each corner of the mausoleum. It has a lot of similarities with the Taj Mahal such as the garden layout, white marble, inlay designs and other elements.

Mankameshwar Temple

There are four ancient temples built in honor of Lord Shiva, one of which is Mankameshwar Temple. It is approximately 2.5 kilometers from the famous Taj Mahal and less than 1 kilometer away from the Agra Fort.

Ram Bagh

Aside from mosques, mausoleums, and temples, Agra is also proud of its gardens. One Mughal garden that should not be missed is Ram Bagh which is the oldest garden. It has an amazing view of the river against greenery which makes everything feel so relaxing. It was built in 1528 near Yamuna River under the rule of Emperor Babar. It was originally names as Aram Bagh or the Garden of Relaxation. The emperor would usually spend his time here in the garden. It is said that he died in this garden.

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