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War is obviously an ugly thing. History books are teaching us indirectly about it but we usually never learn. In Ho Chi Minh city (formerly called Sai gon), a different lesson is being taught to tourists and it is a form of a building. The War Remnants Museum in Vo Van Tan, in District 3 of the city not only houses vintage aircrafts and military machines but it also stores photo collections that will give you first-hand accounts of the infamous battles in war-torn Vietnam. The building has floors and floors of history-worthy materials that encompasses from aged real weapons to bloodied clothes of fallen combatants to bullet-ridden cameras to propaganda posters to photographs of the horrors of war to name a few. There are themed rooms which exposes war crimes and aggression. Most photos exhibited will even make you teary-eyed as you see victims of Agent Orange, Napalm and Phosphorus chemical weapons presented in their past and present lives. You will have an outlook of how chemical warfare resulted to long-term agonies to many Vietnamese people. You will also find images of the missing-in-action photojournalists who risked their lives just to take dramatic photos of the war. Famous photos by LIFE magazine photographers such as Larry Burrows are also highlighted in the galleries. I even shed some tears upon seeing and reading the hardships of the innocent people back then. The children weren’t spared even. More details and photos soon in shuttertraveler blog. The museum is open from 7:30 am- noon and 1:30 – 5pm.
Note: Do check out some of my travel photos that you can use for your projects via this link: http://www.123rf.com/profile_crystaleyemedia
One of the memorable things that Cambodia has to offer is its sunset experience via its massive temples. For us, we chose Pre Rup, an aged pyramid temple built as the state temple of Khmer king Rajendravarman. The name means “turn the body” in modern vocabulary. It shows the common belief among Cambodians that funerals were conducted at the temple, with the ashes of the body being ritually rotated in different directions as the service progressed. Upon arriving, we were greeted with a temple mountain made of brick, laterite and sandstone. And as we climb its steep stairs, we found out the area is already filled to the brim with tourists of different nationalities. Searching for a good spot was not that easy. Unfortunately, the sun seemed shy that day as it hid behind cotton clouds but for us, the shared experience of coming up to see the solitary view was one great thing we couldn’t forget for sure and will stay with us especially we risked our limbs climbing the awe-inspiring temple.
LAST NOTE: If you want Cambodia photos for your projects, you can buy my Angkor Thom gate photo via this link http://bit.ly/146nIes (via 123rf stock image site) or message me for more alternative links.
Year 2011 was an eventful timeline for me. It was a year when I tied the knot with my lovely bride and so to celebrate our lifelong commitment, we flew to Hong Kong for our Honeymoon via Mactan Airport in Cebu as it was the nearest gateway for us.
This set up gave us the opportunity to revisit* the oldest Roman Catholic Church established in the Philippines. The Minor Basilica of the Holy Child is a minor basilica at the heart of Cebu City and it is a heritage site as it was founded in the 16th century.
Inside the Basilica is a prayer room where an image of Santo Niño is encased in glass. Providing a heavenly aura is the a classical angelic painting motif, a symbolic sun rays halo, flower bouquet in both sides and the absence of human silence. The chirp of the birds coming from the Basilica’s garden gave a warm feeling and relaxing atmosphere too. Indeed, we got close to a heavenly bliss that day.
As pilgrims come in droves, one has to fall in long lines during rush days to offer a brief solemn prayer in front of the Holy Infant. That day, we didn’t wait that long. We were surprised to see Actor Eddie Gutierrez and her wife Annabelle Rama, a Cebu native, who were also waiting in line just ahead of us.
Meanwhile, if you want to have a glimpse of one of the famous religious sites in the country, a walk outside the Basilica will take you to Plaza Sugbo where the Magellan’s cross is located. And If you want be closer to the history of Philippine Christianity, a museum will take you to a time travel as antique relics, century-old furniture, classic paintings, Sto Nino’s old cloaks and priestly vestments abound.
The Basilica is located in the city block bordered by Osmeña Boulevard, D. Jakosalem St, P. Burgos St.
(*My first visit was when I was in Grade 5 being a delegate to an inter-Don Bosco schools sporting event. My wife, on the other hand, also visited the site when she was in High School.)
The end of the Year 2012 is fast approaching. Not that I’m talking about the so-called Mayan End of the World prophecy here but I wanted to share the part 1 of our SE Asia adventure before the year ends (not literally, of course). My wife and I decided to trudge the path that’s different this time compared to our past adventures. It’s a trip, I guess, that’s worth-sharing and telling; a sort of country-hopping with full of amazing stories infused with beautiful sceneries and a myriad cultures that are awe-inspiring. In a very brief period of time, me and my wife had fun despite our fast-paced schedules. We had to squeeze everything in 10 days.
Reach 4 Countries in 10 days was our adventure’s mantra. (The countries we trudged on were Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Singapore) Yes, we saw magnificent sites, ate great food, immersed in different customs, met great people, found photo worthy lives of ordinary and fantastic people but the traveling itself is one great experience that we just can’t get enough– it was exhausting yet enriching. There was a sense of fulfillment in both of us and it is greater than the exhaustion one can get in a cross-country experience. The challenges and risks we faced in our traveling is a great story in itself.
Here are some notes with tips on how we survived our grueling travel with flying colors:
1. We did experience long stays in airports. Oh, waiting for your plane is a pain in the butt specially if you woke early morning just to catch your flight. It’s not easy to rest in airports, you know. That’s what happened to us when we embarked from Mactan Airport in Cebu to Clark, Pampanga and then from Clark to Bangkok. There were nonstop waiting, lining up in counters and waiting again. Good thing we had our excitement with us in our first day that kept us in good aura. Being excited can help you to be patient during this long transits esp when you find out there is no WIFI connection available in a certain airport. We also had long stays in Bangkok’s Don Mueang International Airport, Chaing Mai International Airport, Vietnam Ho Chi Minh Airport and of course Changi airport of Singapore. The great thing with these airport is that they are comfy and modern though most of them have no free WIFI in gate areas which was the sad part. But we are lucky at least that Changi Airport has a WIFI zone like Clark. So, if you’re in Thailand and you wanted to check your Facebook from time to time, you better buy a sim card (which comes with internet data). It can be helpful in GPS tracking, too. Meanwhile, in Vietnam, you can have WIFI access in a cafe. Just buy a coffee or two and you’re good to go.
2. Long flights from country to country and from city to city. Just like waiting in an airport for your flight, a plane ride requires patience too. However, they are actually time-savers. Riding a plane is better than taking a bus for a 9-hour trip or a train for an 11 to 15-hour trip if you are traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai which a great tourist destination in Northern Thailand with its unique culture called Lanna. Choosing the plane as our mode of transportation during our 4th day Southeast Asia adventure was a great decision in our part since we saved a lot of time and got to enjoy Chiang Mai more. Train and bus rides are cheaper though so it’s your choice if you want the fast or the “snail-pace” way.
3. Trainride from Bangkok to the Thailand-Cambodia border and riding a mini-van to Sieam Reap. What do you expect from a very slow train (yes, NOT a bullet train) with no air-condition? Well, this one requires a lot and lot of patience and a very early waking time if you plan to cross the border between Thailand and Cambodia. Yep, the first train leaves in the morning. Why we chose a train? For one, the plane to Siem Reap from Thailand is very expensive considering there’s a decade airline monopoly present. And for a bus ride, we were fearful after reading some reviews online but so far we got to meet a Korean who had a comfy bus ride with aircondition. With lots of tourists from around the world on it, the train arrived at noontime in Aranyaprathet, Thailand where we had our passport stamped for exit at the Thai border immigration office. After walking for a few minutes and meeting some “Visa scammers” (which we ignored) along the border, we arrived at the doors of Cambodia’s immigration office located in Poipet. Then, fresh from our stressful yet scenic train ride, we chose to ride an airconditioned mini-van for us to reach Siem Reap faster. For 3 hours drive, we finally arrived in our Cambodian crib, The 1961, which is owned by a Filipino who hails from Iloilo. We shared the van with other nationalities like a French couple who gave some bananas out. 🙂 (Airconditioned Bus is available, too)
4. Riding a tourist bus for a 13-hour travel (Siem Reap,Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam). A day after our rushed day tour in the 4 major temples of Angkor, we took the opportunity to rest and see the Cambodian countryside through a Mekong Express bus bound for our Phnom Penh, Capital of Cambodia . At 6 am, we were fetched by a terminal service van in The 1961 for us to catch the first bus. (We did reserve our seats by buying a ticket the day before in one of the tour bus ticketing offices in Siem Reap). Inside is a steward who readily gives food, wet wipes, safety instructions and helpful warnings to the passengers. The bus has a rest room (W.C.) and offers entertainment such as videoke and English movies. Upon reaching Phnom Penh, we transferred to another Mekong Express that took us to Ho Chi Minh (formerly SaiGon). The steward, who knows English very well, was very helpful regarding the ease of passport stamping at the border. (Note: X-ray scan of baggages is a must in the Cambodian-Vietnam border.)
5. Riding Tuktuks (Motorbikes) and taxis These type of traveling modes are very challenging. For one, it’s hard to detect dishonest drivers from honest ones. And another is the language barrier. The latter is kind of okay since most of the Tuktuk drivers in Cambodia know and understand English well. The hardest part was in Bangkok and Vietnam where we were taken advantaged of some drivers. Thanks to the GPS app on an iPhone, it helped us tracked our destinations, helping us detect if we were being duped for extra money. By showing the GPS to the driver, one can have a peace of mind. In Siem Reap, we became early victims when we were charged more but eventually we found one honest Tuktuk driver which was introduced to us by our friends in The 1961 guesthouse in Siem Reap. In the end, we gave him a handsome tip for a great service as he just didn’t drive for us but he also sent us to Spa and night markets. Meanwhile in Ho Chi Minh, a taxi driver sped away after giving us the wrong change, bringing with him some extra dong (money of Vietnam). Being victimized was not a good experience but with us are lessons to be extra careful next time.
As a back story, we visited Singapore in 2010 and in Hong Kong in 2011 and these two countries have great things to offer like the great city skylines, dynamic resorts such as HK Disneyland Universal Studios Singapore, great malls and the nightlife. Getting from destination to destination inside of these countries was a breeze and most of the mode of transportation are ultra-modern. With just a swipe of a card, you can ride a bus, boat or trains that are really fast. Taxi cabs come with GPS and have automated Govt. receipts. In contrast, 2012 gave us a different kind of ride. The challenges and risks were greater. But, of course, we had great fun and got loads of photography images in hand to share soon.
Soon, watch out for the part 2 and I promise to share some more tips that might be helpful to your travel plans.
Today is Bruce Lee’s birthday. He would have been 72 years old today. Our Hong Kong Travel trail last 2011 included our visit to the Avenue of Stars located along the Victoria Harbour waterfront in Tsim Sha Tsui, HK. It is modeled on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Celebrating Hong Kong’s Film Industry, the avenue features a 2.5 metre bronze statue of Bruce Lee which was erected along the Avenue of Stars in 2005. Set into the promenade are star plaques honoring the celebrities. Some contain hand prints and autographs of the stars set in cement. According to wikipedia, most of the plaques only contain celebrities’ names as they are now deceased. Of course, we need to find popular names on it since we are not really familiar with some Chinese star. We are there were few people that night at the avenue so we easily spotted Bruce Lee’s star plaque and also Jackie Chan’s and Jet Li’s.
Me and my wife had our photo ops, of course, esp with Bruce Lee’s enigmatic statue which magnets a lot of tourists so it’s hard to look for a good vantage point for photography. Visiting Hong Kong isn’t complete if your camera data cards has no signs of this great martial artist who influenced a lot of media forms from television, movies, music, advertising and more. He is a pop icon who changed the image of Asian in films which we pictured as dorky before the era of superhero martial artists in films who can manage to put down gangs in few chops. Bruce Lee was born in the US but he was raised in Kowloon, and urban area in Hong Kong until he decided to go back in America due to threats he gained from local gang fights. His move to the silver screen is one history that is too big to blog. Nevertheless, you can Google it for free. 🙂
If you want a virtual Bruce in his famous yellow get up with black strip, you can get to Madame Tussauds wax museum located inside of Hong Kong Island’s Peak Tower (The Peak) which houses the Peak Tram and a complex of shopping malls. The Hong Kong branch houses nearly 100 wax figures of internationally-known personalities but we it was closing when we got there. We were lucky that Bruce Lee’s wax look-alike was placed along the free-of-charge photo op entrance area. Let me just say I had a great time posing in my best martial arts fun move with this living legend! Happy Birthday Bruce Lee! 🙂 ‘Til the next post…
Welcome to Shutter Traveler! This Phototravel blog will take you to places I captured through my Crystal Eye. I’ll by sharing the culture, the excitement, colors of life and adventure in vivid stills from DSLR and iphone shots. With the behind-the-scene and scenic photos will be notes based from my first-hand experiences, personal observation and interaction with the people of that certain country. Hope you will enjoy this blog as much as enjoy taking photos of my annual travels. Immerse yourself in a different and strange landscapes. 🙂