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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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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.

Cemetery Tours Destinations New Orleans Travel USA

Cemetery Tours at New Orleans

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I paused infront of the tomb which famous actor Nicolas Cage bought for himself…it was very far from what I expected.

THE directions in the brochure pointed to a closed door at the deserted St. Peter Street at the French Quarter in New Orleans a couple of weeks ago.

P1030809There was no one on the street except for an elderly woman in a green shirt and long skirt sitting by the doorway. I and my travel buddy hesitated because she looked like one of the fortunetellers or palm readers minus all the paraphernalia but she turned out to be our guide for the cemetery tour indeed. Renee, her ID said, gave us black stickers and fans and told us to wait for the rest of the group.P1030585

At exactly 10 a.m., about 20 people from Sweden, Rome, New Zealand, United States and other countries showed up at the street side. Renee stood up and introduced herself and the tour then motioned us all to follow her with the words “follow me and you will know what I am going to do to you.”

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Tomb of actor Nicholas Cage

Our destination: St. Louis Cemetery 1, one of the oldest and most famous cemeteries in New Orleans opened in 1789. I know ghost and cemetery tours are best done at night but we happened to be there on a Sunday and almost all of the tour companies offer only one daytime tour.

Our first stop was in front of an old building at St. Peter Street and Renee who I discovered was one of the best tour guides to the cemetery tours from eavesdropping at the other tour groups we ran into at the cemetery told us the history of the cemeteries.P1030623

Renee told us how the first cemetery was near the Mississippi River but when the flood waters came in the dead were prematurely resurrected and showed up at the front doors of their families. She narrated how the cemetery was relocated to St. Peter Street but it was overpopulated in no time and when a fire broke out, the cemetery gained 200 new residents.

In a dramatic voice, shP1030546e told us that the city again had to push the cemetery backward to its current location. Right now, she said St Louis Cemetery 1 is ‘fully booked’ and there’s no vacancy.”

Renee, who comes with 12 years experience as a tour guide at the French Quarter tells great stories with her sense of humor and cheerful nature. She was telling us stories that were not in the books or brochures.

We reached the gates of St. Louis Cemetery 1 and Renee humored us ‘to all stick together and wander off on our own or she’ll be out of a job.’

Then we were in the middle of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, stopping every now and then as Renee pointed out the tombs of famous personalities and their stories.

I had to sneak away from time to time to take photos. In our group, there were only me and my buddy plus two other guys who were into serious photography. The rest used their cellphones or were just there for the tour.1

Under the noonday heat, the cemetery was not scary at all. There was none of the s hivers and goose bumps always associated with cemeteries. We kept running into other tour groups among the tombs.

A lot of politicians and famous personalities were buried at the St. Louise Cemetery 1, including the Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau. Renee told the group to put a hand on her tomb and make a wish because wishes were known to be granted. I didn’t do it.

Then we came to a white pyramid-shaped tomb with the words ‘Omni Ab Uno” engraved in it. In Latin it means “Everything From One. The tomb stands out because of its shape and we learned it was the tomb actor Nicolas Cage purchased for himself.

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Since March 1 this year, St. Louis Cemetery was closed to the public because of a rise in vandalism but tours are only allowed if you have a tour guide.

The architecture, the ancient tombs, decoration and history of the graveyard is absolutely worth your $25.

The tour ended after two hours and Renee took us back to St. Peter Street, with a final message “tips are appreciated but I like to earn mine.” You bet she got a lot.

Don’t leave New Orleans without taking a cemetery tour, and check out www.HauntedHistoryTours.com for more information.

This article was first published at The Guam Post October 25, 2015 issue

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