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Trip to magical Cape San Agustin  

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(PHILIPPINES) If you ever want to experience the feeling of standing at the edge of the world, head out to Cape San Agustin, the southernmost tip of Governor Generoso in Davao Oriental, Philippines.

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Up at the very tip of this quiet municipality is one magical destination known to many but dreamed about by more and continuesto draw visitors from all over the world.

Pundaguitan is the last town in Governor Generoso where the buses either make the round trip to Davao City or sleep for the night. From the bus stop, my photographer buddy Arjoy and I hired one of the motorcycles for 200 pesos per passenger and up we went to passing barangay Lavigan heading to the famed Cape San Agustin.P1220473

I had been to the Cape twice in the past, but a lot has changed in the last decade. The once-rough road that I used to call stomach-churning, butt-numbing motorcycle ride as drivers try to reach the destination without falling into the deep ravine was now smooth and paved snaking its way up and around the mountain until we reached a clearing on top of the hill and then we were there.

There was no one at the Cape aside from a family with a small child who takes care of the property. I was back to one of the places I consider my favorite on earth.P1220391

I wanted to stand at the very edge of the Parola and watch the endless stretch of blue ocean merging with the blue skies, dotted by the red and yellow sails of a couple of fishing boats in the far distance but Arjoy and I got to work right away. For the next couple of hours, I forgot about everyone and everything and only my camera and the magical place I was in mattered.

A few meters away from the very end of the cliff we were standing on was The Islet which looked like a small piece of the island chopped and pushed off from the cliff a bit farther.P1220421

Under the cliff facing the Last Islet is a hidden cave that opens out into the ocean. The waves come in through the small openings in the rocks. The best feature of the Pagoda is the three lighthouses, with the oldest built in 1938 featuring an external spiral staircase

I was looking forward to climb hundred-plus steps to the top of the middle lighthouse but the door was locked and our guide/motorcycle driver told us the key keeper was out for the day.

The top of the lighthouse offers a 360 degree panoramic view of the Cape and the point where the raging waves of Celebes Sea blends with the peaceful calm of Davao Gulf.

From the Pagoda, we made our way down the hill under tall coconut trees to the Pagoda Beach below. The ocean seemed angry at the interruption and sent out huge waves rolling to the shore but it was not even scary, only mesmerizingly beautiful. A few hundred feet away is the Altar, an extra-ordinary rock formation believed to be the place where the Spanish missionary St. Francis Xavier, the Spanish missionary said his first mass in 1550. I’ve climbed it in the past but didn’t have time to do it on this trip as we had to catch the last bus that leaves at 3 p.m. to stay the night in a delightful fishing village but that is another story.P1220558

Half the fun is in getting to Cape San Agustin. The four-hour trip on a public bus from Davao City takes you through green lush forests and picturesque coastal views past quaint fishing villages, vast rice fields, jungles, limestone walls, mountainsides and breathtaking cliff lines. It is where goats and cows rule the road and won’t budge so that buses and other vehicles have to go around them to pass through.

When in the southern part of the Philippines, don’t miss a visit to Cape San Agustin. It’s a place that never ceases to mesmerize everyone.

Getting there

From Ecoland Terminal in Davao City ride any of the public buses to Governor Generoso. The buses travel daily from 3 a.m. to 2 p.m. at one hour interval. As an option, check out the L300 vans outside the bus terminal.  Travel time for L300 vans is about two and a half hours.

Destinations Festivals & Events Oklahoma road travel roadtrip USA Travel for everyone Travel USA

In search of drums and feathers

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PONCA CITY–The number one item in my bucket list when I visited Oklahoma a few months back is to shoot real cultural dancers from the Oklahoma Indian tribes in photos and video.

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I searched online and saw one that was scheduled for that weekend in Ponca City about two hours drive from Oklahoma so we started out early one morning and drove all the way through long flat interstate highway which I described later as “endless stretch of nothingness.”

The drive to Ponca City is uneventful because unlike the routes heading to Texas where the roads are bounded by rivers, lakes, mountains and hills, the road to Arkansas is flat and all you see are the roads looking like slender ribbons stretching to forever.P1340433

We and took the turn to Ponca City and started to wonder if we were in the right place. We had to rely on Siri for instructions until we finally saw the sign. I was expecting a whole campsite filled with “real Indians” but it did not look like that at all. Except for a couple of Indian tepees, the site was filled with modern regular camping tents and cars. It was siesta time and everyone was just milling around, except for a couple of kids were taking a bath from a hand water pump.P1340272

I could not call them exactly friendly and it was like we were like stepping into a private territory. I could not blame them. We “crashed” into the area with a GoPro mounted on the hood of the car, and I was rapidly shooting at everything alternately with two cameras—one with long and one wide lens. Everybody stopped and stared at us then went back to what they were doing like they saw nothing at all.P1340504

My buddy went down and bought sodas from a makeshift store but he got no information because no one was willing to say anything. We finally found a police car and parked right next to it. The friendly cop told us that all activities were going to start at 7 p.m. and onwards. There was no way we can wait and drive all the way back.P1340501

My search for drums and feathers finally ended up right where we started off—at the Noble Museum in Norman at the University of Oklahoma campus where a whole section is allocated to exhibits about the different Indian tribes of Oklahoma. The exhibits are something worth a visit. The shelves contain traditional clothing of the early tribes, accessories, footwear, bows and arrows, culinary items, toys, pottery, jewelry, feather bonnets, moccasins, and everything else that depicted the rich history of the different tribes.

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Fast facts:

The Sam Noble Museum is located at Chautauqua Avenue, Oklahoma City.

Operation hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Closed on holidays. Contact number is (405) 325-4712. Visit www.samnoblemuseum.ou.edu.

Destinations Hawaii Pacific Islands Photo Galleries Travelling tips

Cruisin’ in the rain around Honolulu

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WHEN you are visiting Honolulu, Hawaii briefly and the skies welcome you with torrential rains, don’t despair. Rain is not a hindrance to enjoy a scenic albeit wet drive around the best parts of Honolulu and count on leaving the island with hundreds of photos captured during a rainy drive.

I was all set to shoot some aerials with my friend Doc Nathan who is also a pilot a few months back during a quick stopover from Denver.IMG_2529

The plane started to descent from 38,000 feet and weather was perfect good.  Alas, when we reached 8,000 feet I could not see a thing but dark clouds and fat raindrops started hitting the window panes. I learned a storm has just passed the island and visibility was impossible.

We didn’t have luck to fly the next day too  as it was still raining so we decided to make the most of it and have sneak peek of Honolulu, rain or not.

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Driving along Honolulu’s highways is a wonder by itself. The huge mountains shrouded by thick fluffy clouds in the early morning mist and the and scenic roads zigzagging around and through the mountains add a mystic feel to the adventure.

Rivulets of water streamed down from the mountaintops forming mini-waterfalls and adding to the beauty of it all.

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We drove through the Nuuanu Pali Drive while traveling up the Pali Hwy.toward the lookout—a very beautiful, 2-mile tropical rain forest drive through dense jungles it makes you feel like you’re in an enchanted forest.

Must-not-miss sites include the Nu’uanu Pali Lookout which looked unreal in the mist, located 1,186 feet up overlooking Oahu, and the scenic Makapu’u Lookout, Hanauma Bay, and the list is endless.  IMG_2847

All I had was a few hours’ quick drive through of the island. I haven’t scratched the surface and there is so much more to do and see around the islands that you won’t run out of things to do even if you stay there for good. Nature lovers, you have the best options of cruising around the island, hiking or walking, explore waterfalls, beaches and coastlines, see botanical gardens and more. The islands also house rich historical treasures and locations, and if you’re up for shopping and night life, you got it all.IMG_2875

Don’t be scared of rain. Next thing you know, you’ll be photographing the most spectacular landscapes that only Honolulu can offer. And oh, pack beachwear, flip-flops and sunscreen because you’re going to need it. Of course, it doesn’t rain  everyday.

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Destinations History Photo Galleries Thailand Travel Asia Travel for everyone

Twilight at the ‘Dawn of Happiness’

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With a backdrop of the setting sun, the sight of the old bricks and stones and Buddhas which used to be the Thai capital during the 13th century was surreal.

P1300259 OVER seven hours bus ride away from Bangkok will take you to the old city of Sukhothai— one of the most impressive World Heritage Sites and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Thailand.P1300202

Located at the lower northern Thailand, the most famous ruins of the ancient city of Sukhothai is a must-never-miss in one’s itinerary. Nestled amid lush jungles, lakes and neatly manicured lawns, the ancient city of Sukhothai which means “the dawn of happiness” is a history buff and a photographer’s dream.

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When we got off the bus at the Sukhothai terminal, my buddy and I rode a songthaew, a long wooden jeepney that transported us to the Old City about 12 kilometers away. We picked one of the hotels right across the street from the Sukhothai Historical Park and hurried to catch our first real glimpse of temple ruins.

I discovered there are just too may temples and ruins to visit you can’t walk all the way. We rented a motorbike for 200 baht good for 24 hours, but there are lots of bicycles for less than 100 baht.

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When we reached the nearest temples or what was left of it, my jaw just dropped. With a backdrop of the setting sun, the sight of the old bricks and stones and Buddhas which used to be the Thai capital during the 13th century was just surreal. P1290957

Historical records show that the Old Sukhothai was the first capital of the Sukhothai Kingdom from 1238 to 1438. Since the 1960s restoration work has been done to preserve the ruins, but I learned later that if you follow the unmarked tracks, it will lead you to more temple ruins in their untouched state. We drove around some more after dark and got a real taste of fear when we stumbled into more ruins in some territory we haven’t seen in thP1300593 copye maps that sent us going around in circles for a long time.

It was kind of spooky going around the ruins especially when darkness fell, with the orange glow casting shadows. You get this uneasy feeling that someone is watching you from behind the pillars and stones but I guess it is part of the mystery and attraction that lures thousands of visitors from all parts of the world every day.P1300428

Accommodation in Sukhothai is not a problem. Hotels and guest houses abound and at whatever budget suits you.

Sukhothai is a place where life starts very early in the morning with vendors selling food in carts and tables on the sidewalks, and where you see hundreds of monks in orange ply the streets in the early morning hours.

Getting to Sukhothai from Bangkok or other parts of Thailand is half the fun and you get to explore the Thailand countryside. The long bus rides are worth it but you can check out other options like trains and airplanes.

Destinations Malaysia Travel Asia Travel information Travelling tips

Kuala Lumpur quickie tour

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The Hop-on Hop-Off city tour is your best bet to explore this city with is skyscrapers, mix of towering  buildings and colonial architecture, mosques and temples on your own.

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IF it’s your first time to visit the bustling city of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, the best way to get the most of it is to buy a ticket for the hop on, hop off bus and explore the city at your own leisurely pace.

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After failing to find a tour agency at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 a couple of weeks ago, I boarded the Express Train to the KL Sentral about 30 minutes away to try my luck. I had one day to spend and I was not going to sit it out at the airport, no matter how world class it is. I was really planning to visit Malacca but the tour agencies I found only do hotel pickups.

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The Hop-on Hop-Off city tour was my best bet. I bought a ticket for 45 Ringgits which was good for 24 hours—one ticket to see it all and explore this city with is skyscrapers, mix of towering  buildings and colonial architecture, mosques and temples on your own.

I waited at the spot where P1340479 - Copythe bus was supposed to stop and hopped on along with a handful of other tourists.

The Hop-on Hop Off tour will bring you to sites that will cost you more and more sites than you can cover in a day if you go out on your own. A voice over narrates a brief history of your current as you drive around.

The city tour will bring you close to over 70 attractions including the Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur Tower, National Museum, Bird Garden, Little India, China Town, Putra World Trade Center, Parliament House, museums and more.  The route will also stop by the rows of hotels, night clubs, restaurants big shopping malls are as well as bargain shopping centers and coffee shops. You can hop off at one street, shop till you drop and hop on the next bus to get to your next destination.

This is your ultimate city tour where you’ll never have to spend much for taxis or tour guides and you can snap thousands of photos along the way.

As long as you know how to read, you will never get lost.  English is a widely spoken language in Kuala Lumpur so communication is not a problem.

The buses go around in 20 or 30 minute intervals so you can take as much time as you want in a certain attraction or hurry up to the next.P1350106

I decided to do it lazy and stayed onboard for the whole route, and did yet another round. The fun of shooting photos minus the hindrance of a bus roof and windows is a big bonus.

Travel tips: Instead of hopping during the busy afternoon hours and spend time in the traffic, you can do your sightseeing in the different attractions. And oh, prepare for a stiff neck. Kuala Lumpur City is all about tall buildings.

city travel Destinations Thailand Travel Asia Travelling tips

Tuk-Tuk: Thailand’s ride of a lifetime

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Remember that 2002 Visa card commercial where James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) rode a tuk-tuk to cut through the traffic and catch up with his date Zhang Ziyi in Bangkok and how the tuk-tuk collapsed to the ground from fatigue? Now i know why James Bond picked up the tuk-tuk.

The first time I rode a tuk-tuk last month, I had visions of going around Bangkok streets in a leisurely pace while I shoot photos to my heart’s content. Little did I know I would spend the next few minutes in that half-sitting, half-squatting position holding on to my bag and camera and for life. A couple hundred bahts was the magic word and the driver sprung into action and careened down the streets like it was the end of the world and we were racing against it. That moment I understood why a lot of the tuk-tuks have screens around them–so passengers or parts of them won’t fly on the streets.

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Until you have ridden a tuk-tuk–those sputtering, open-air three-wheeled motor taxis that ply and clog the streets of Bangkok and all over Thailand is one wild, daring ride that you should experience, you can’t fully say you have experienced Thailand. Tuk-tuks never die, but you will if you don’t hold on to the railing and keep your bags and hands and feet and head intact and safe inside.

One advice–don’t ever ride a tuk-tuk without first agreeing on the price. Learn to negotiate and haggle. It’s funny how the word tuk means “cheap” in Thai, but tuk-tuk rides are never cheap. You’re better off and more comfortable riding airconditioned metered taxis. If you really need to ride a tuk-tuk better hail one passing on the street and try to avoid those who are waiting outside tourist sites.

I gave it a couple more chances, and it was still the same. Different drivers, same madness, same sky-high prices. Maybe not all of them are mad drivers but i guess i picked the ones who are. Tuk tuks has become a symbol of Thailand and though they don’t have the best of reputations it’s worth experiencing one wild ride in your lifetime. Don’t leave Thailand without riding in one.

Dallas Destinations History road travel roadtrip USA Texas Travel for everyone Travel USA United States

Dallas: The X-Spot

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A spot in the middle of the road marked with a white X is the next focus of attention. This is the very spot where past US president John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963.

WHEN one is heading to Dallas, Texas for a visit, the most recommended and must-never-miss place is the Dealey Plaza at Elm Street, considered as the Front Door of Dallas and one of the most historic districts in Texas.

P1340006Stand on the curb of Elm Street and you can immediately identify visitors. They will all look up the windows on the fifth floor of the former Texas School Book Depository now turned JFK Museum, then down to the street below.

There is more to the place than just a park and ordinary street. It is a spot that carries volumes of extraordinary stories, a place where people come to “walk, feel, touch and experience history” all over again. It is a significant part in the history of the United States.

P1310526This is where Kennedy’s motorcade and his life ended while on his way to the Dallas Trade Mart to speak at a luncheon.

A spot in the middle of the road marked with a white X is the next focus of attention. This is the very spot where past US president John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963.

Despite the heavy traffic in this busy street, people risk their lives just to run and touch the white marker on the road and have their photos taken with the red brick historic building as the backdrop.

P1310539From the safety of the street, I took photos and watched a photographer mount a tripod on the roadside and make a dash for a ‘selfie’ shot standing near the white X mark in the middle of the road. Before his camera flashed, the traffic lights turned green and he had to run for his life.

My travel buddy and I circled the area in our car several times while we captured it all in GoPro attached to our windshield before deciding to check out the place on foot.

This Sixth Floor Museum tour will take visitors to a trip back in time through the precious historical collections of JFK’s assassination.  The collections include art, artifacts, audio, books, documents, films, magazines, newspapers, oral histories and photographs that you can go over to revisit that fateful day when bullets felled one of the US presidents.

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This corner window at the Fifth Floor is marked as the spot where the gunman fired the shot that killed president John F. Kennedy. Photos by Raquel C. Bagnol

There are buses and tour companies that offer special JFK Tours as well as other historic sites in Dallas but if you are daring enough and have the luxury of time, this is a tour best done on foot, at your own time and pace.

Driving around Deleay Plaza and around Dallas at night is a whole new world you should experience. The city lights are just dazzling and there is so much to see. I missed the market fair as it only opens on the weekends.

Dallas is a mix of tourist attraction sites as well as back streets where my friend who was driving told us to “lock our doors and windows because she forgot her gun at home.”P1340053

If you come from the islands where the limit is 45 miles per hour, be ready because people from other states have told us that “Dallas drivers have a reputation of being “mad, crazy drivers” on the road.” From what I saw, I guess I can easily believe that.

This article was first published at the Guam Post Daily November 15, 2015 edition page 12. See the story here.

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