Everybody Loves A Parade


Parades allow people to publicly express themselves in large gatherings, marches, walks or formal processions.  Every Independence Day in the USA there are parades of military might, heritage floats and demonstrations of national pride.  Across this great nation, people gather from all walks of life to express their love of country.  The process is supported by citizens, immigrants and visitors alike.  Standing shoulder to shoulder, people will witness all the displays, listen to the speeches whether in agreement or not, applaud or demonstrate anti-behavior towards all that may go on.  The visiting tourist may not have a clue about all that they see once they encounter a procession but are often drawn to the sidelines to watch in amazement.  It has been my experience in different countries to follow processions, if only to be nosy and to see what was going on.  I could easily tell from all that I saw what type of parade it was, and whether I should get closer or watch from a safe distance.

Besides witnessing the pomp and pageantry of parades stateside on special holidays, if possible, I like to view parades while on vacation.  I was drawn to large crowds of people in Barbados, Ecuador, Greece, Hawaii, Peru and Philippines, respectively, some marching in protest and others celebrating a national holiday or cultural heritage.  On most occasions, it was not a part of my travel itinerary, but a pleasant diversion and an opportunity to mingle with local residents.  So, I never miss standing on the sidelines to capture the event even though I may not understand all that may take place or the reasons behind the cavalcades.  Some parades can present dangerous situations for outsiders.  Tensions may rise and if caught in the heart of demonstrating protesters, the tourist may find themselves outside of their element.  It is always good to stand away from large crowds just in case you may need a quick getaway.  Find or look for a quick route to escape if things turn ugly.

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In Athens, Greece and Lima, Peru respectively, marchers were protesting against government policy.  Police with riot gear were out in full force to keep the peace.  Placard bearing marchers and the masses were shouting slogans as they filed pass government buildings.  I moved along with the train of people for several blocks just to watch the developments as they unfolded.  In both cases, the protests were peacefully carried out although the gravity of the situation was not underestimated by the police but keenly observed.  It was obvious they were ready, and capable of handling any imminent danger.

In Quito, Ecuador and Oahu, Hawaii, the respective processions demonstrated their cultural heritage.  Ethnic groups, dressed in fancy colorful duds paraded down the streets dancing to drumbeats, clapping and stomping.  Floats carrying musical bands, costumed characters, and people waving to the crowds were fun to watch.  Both parades were more festive and celebratory.  It was easy to blend in, enjoy the fun, and to mingle with the sea of people that lined the streets as the participants moved slowly along.  The gaiety from the revelers was contagious, did not present a stressful environment but a relaxing atmosphere.  Still, as a visitor, I was careful, observant and had an exit strategy should a disruptive incident like a fight arise.

In Bridgetown, Barbados and Sagada, Philippines, correspondingly, their parade emphasis was on a national anniversary, much like Independence Day here.  In Barbados, the parade is formal and excitedly anticipated by citizens.  It is well planned, and the main drills are performed at a cricket oval or a horse racetrack (depending on the weather) where residents can go to view in comfort.  Different arms of the public and civil service march pass to the beat of the national police band in salute of the various dignitaries, after which a street parade follows.  Residents follow the procession for miles along the parade route.  Separately, the day I arrived in Sagada; the marchers were made up of some adults but mostly children.  They were dressed in uniform and marched to the music of the school band.  The expressions on everyone’s face was one of pride as they twirled batons and pompoms.  They were celebrating an anniversary and had walked to the town square where they were on display.  Their demonstration was formal and clearly a moment of local pride.  Attendees, most likely proud parents, lined the streets, cheered for the children as they went by.

Community Peeps, everybody loves a parade if only to watch others stand for their cause, celebrate heritage or represent their country’s national honor.  What has been your experience?  If you have encountered a good or bad incident while attending a parade, at home or abroad, please share it with me here.  Write it in the comment box below.

Readers, as usual, I invite you to click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support.  Share this post on your social media site.  Write your comment in the box below.  Your interest, time and attention are always appreciated.  Thank you for reading.

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Itinerary Planner

Right On The Wrong Side Of Town


Manila is teeming with traffic.  The thriving metropolis in the Luzon Province of the Philippines has every mode of transport imaginable including: jeepneys, motorbikes, rickshaws, horse-drawn carriages, all jostling for the right of way.  However, the colorful jeepneys dominate the streets.  The drivers artfully maneuver in and out of traffic, vying to pick up passengers as they go to their respective destinations.  To travel a short distance, could take double the time due to the overwhelming amount of buses, cars, trucks, etc., on the road on any given day.  To be punctual it is advised to leave hours ahead of the expected arrival time.  As I mentioned in previous publications, there seems to be no respect for road laws especially in the densely populated areas where everyone is competing to get ahead of the other.  The only fiat obeyed is the traffic light, there, everyone stops and goes as directed.

I arrived in Manila safely after a terrifying drive from Sagada.  Inquiries on how to get to the hotel in Quiapo, a bustling commercial district in Quezon City was easy, and like a pro, I quickly boarded the back entrance of the Victor-Cruz jeepney, instructed the driver to stop at my hotel’s address, and sat back to enjoy the ride.  We headed down the wide boulevard, stopping intermittently to let passengers on and off.  When the driver gave the nod alerting me of my arrival, I hesitated for a moment.  I thought there must be a mistake and that he did not understand my initial request, but he insisted it was my stop.  I disembarked looking around in bewilderment.  A few seconds passed when a neatly dressed security guard approached me.  Seeing the puzzled look on my face and obvious travel bags, he ushered me to the entrance of a building which looked hardly like a hotel.  I noticed the hotel’s name on the door but was still skeptical when he told me to ride the elevator to the third floor.  Not wanting to be scammed, kidnapped, or robbed (it’s amazing what goes through your mind when you are suspicious of everyone and everything) I asked again, and he assured me I would enter reception on the third floor.  Strange that a hotel would begin on the third floor versus the lobby entrance of the building but who says it can’t begin at any level.  So, I rode the elevator to the third floor saying my prayers all the way.  Because I am a budget traveler, price sometimes override quality, comfort, location or room amenities.  Bracing myself to experience mediocre service and a lack-luster stay at this establishment ran counter to my low expectations.

Albeit surprised at the twist of location, I can only say good things about the hotel that began on the third floor.  From the moment I stepped off the elevator,  I was greeted by the manager and reception.  Check-in time was not for another six hours so my bags were taken, I was shown to a powder-room where I could freshen up, given a map of the attractions in the area, and a bottle of water.  Even though I was tired and very sleepy, I decided to walk around the neighborhood to pass the time.  On the map was the Intramuros, a must-see lodestone in the vicinity.  A rickshaw ride helped me cover the important points within the 166-acre walled-in city.  The Intramuros is a significant national heritage site and historically important.

On the way to Intramuros and mere steps from the hotel’s entrance, food and vegetable stalls, specialty vendors, sweat shops, and hustlers ply their ware.  Because of my curious nature, I wandered onto the side streets and into a sea of people buying and selling every conceivable thing you can imagine.  The labyrinth of makeshift setups was close and tight-knit as I meandered from street to street inspecting and gazing on things I did not recognize or that were unfamiliar to me until I realized I was lost.  Determined not to overreact or to ask for directions, I kept on walking, all the while, conscious of the curious onlookers who would smile, finger point, stare and sometimes even dare to ask a question.  I bumped, brushed, edged my way along the thronged streets seeking an exit.   I eventually stumbled upon the well-known Quiapo Church overflowing with worshipers, a customary practice every Friday.  It became a distinct landmark, and that day was the way out of the maze for me.  Back at the hotel, I checked into my room which was spacious, comfortable and clean.  Room service was efficient and attentive.  They went the extra mile to give me a daily dose of vitamin C (thanks to Nestor who brought limes along with my breakfast) when I felt ill the last two days of my stay.

As usual, it is my custom to find and fellowship among people of like faith wherever I go, and Manila was no exception.  I located my church, this time riding in an air-con jeepney to get there.  Even though I arrived late, I enjoyed the service and later socialized with a few folks who became fast friends.  They took me under their wing, invited me that same night out to dinner, and from there, itinerary plans were laid to give me a tour of the other side of Manila lest I should walk away thinking that Manila was a completely run-down, dilapidated, poverty-stricken city.

These recently acquired friends jokingly enlightened me to the fact that I was living right on the wrong side of town, in the heart of a non-descript location.  Up until that moment, I had indeed accepted that the city’s infrastructure was derelict, old, ugly and in need of serious repairs.  Thanks to friends:  Mary Ann, Edgar & Resa, Matt & Ellen, Ricky & Lisa for changing that perspective.  They treated me to an excursion (showing off the other side of Manila) I would not have witnessed or experienced where it not for their kindness, hospitality and love of country.  We drove to well-known points-of-interests nearby Quiapo like: Rizal Park, home of the Filipino Performing Arts, the picturesque boardwalk with arresting views of Manila Bay, and SM-Mall of Asia – a sprawling complex of stores and entertainment  galore, the largest of its kind in Asia.  Surrounded by casinos, hotels, million-dollar high-rise condos and affluent neighborhoods, the mall is a major destination for foreigners and locals evident by the huge number of shoppers on a daily basis.  The time spent with my new friends was sweet and relaxing.  We ate, laughed, talked, got to know each other and had an enjoyable day site-seeing in Manila.

Community Peeps, the Southeast Asia exposé was long.  This is the final account.  As I recounted each episode, it was like reliving the moments over again.  The best and most memorable experiences have been those I’ve had interacting with the natives of each country and fellow travelers.  They are priceless.  I have not eaten rice nor plan to for a few more months.  Jet-lag has confused my internal body-clock in that when I should be sleeping I’m awake and vice versa.  Hope you enjoyed the reading and are eagerly expecting to view the photos.  The selection is extensive, but I will do my best to bring you the most interesting ones.

All, thanks for reading this post.  Remember to select follow to receive timely updates, click like to show your love and support, share on your social media page, or comment in the box below.  Did I tell you where I am planning to go next? Take a guess and tell me in the comment section.  I will let you know if you are warm, hot or way out in the Antarctic.

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Itinerary Planner

Great Trip to Sagada, But


I do not have a death wish.

Sagada is best known for its hanging coffins.  It is located in the mountain region of the Luzon Province in the Philippines.  The town is a popular tourist destination for spelunkers, hikers, nature lovers, adventure enthusiasts and inquisitive persons like me.  The community is not very large, but they are welcoming and friendly.

I arrived in the Philippines excited about executing my DIY itinerary to Sagada.  It took 12 hours by overnight coach to arrive at my stop.  As we pulled out of the station, curtains were drawn, and I along with other passengers settled down and prepared to sleep as best I could in my seat.

TIP #1:  If your time is limited and you want to maximize on sightseeing, opt to travel overnight.  Though it may be uncomfortable, you will save one night’s hotel expense and cover the distance to your destination while you sleep.

Through the night we rumbled along.  I awoke to the first signs of daylight and drew back my curtains for a better look.  We had stopped in a small village where the first stirrings of life were evident by the vegetable hawkers and a few sleepy dogs.  Vehicles drive on the right side of the road and as we made our way along I saw many signs that said: Sharp Turn, Check Your Brakes, Slow Down, Steep Incline, Winding Road, etc.  I was captivated by the views I could see in the distance, rice terraces, mountainside, local villages, raging rivers and rapids.

I arrived in Sagada and alighted from the bus to walk a few meters to the town square.  In less than an hour after arrival I arranged with a couple (Sopiya & Matt) to go on our first adventure of the area.  We chose to hike Echo Valley, visit the hanging coffins, trek through the subterranean river and finish at the cascading waterfall.  The ground was wet, muddy, slippery and at times we were knee deep in water.  Our guide clambered deftly over rocks wearing only rubber slippers, but the three of us moved much slower to maneuver over the rocks, slipping and sliding all the way.   The tour took us two and a half hours, double the time to complete.

It is rainy season in the Philippines, and not to waste time, I moved quickly to arrange the tours I wanted to accomplish.  I joined a different group the next day to go spelunking with Danica & Greg, Nico & Kim.  We arranged to visit the Lumiang and Sumaging caves, respectively.  Along the way our guide identified points of interest.  We got to know each other a bit as we went along: where we came from, our professions, and our travel ambitions.  Our first stop, the Lumiang Cave has a few hanging coffins.  This tradition is no longer practiced.  Also, this cave is connected to the Sumaging Cave.  To walk the course would take approximately four and a half hours, but experienced spelunkers do it in less time.   After a photo session there we headed over to the entrance of the Sumaging Cave.  This is where things got real interesting.

We descended the tiny steps into the cave.  Our guide armed with a lantern and feet clad in slippers (slippers are the preferred footwear) advised us to change our sneakers for slippers too.

Tip #2:  When spelunking travel lite.  You will need to use both hands to help hold, pull, grab or steady you along the way.

We were all excited as we followed the leader, but that excitement turned to disgust when we had to hold onto rocks covered in slippery bat poop.  I know bats live in caves and that I would encounter such things, but who thinks of those things when expecting to see wonders they have never seen before?  Trying my best not to touch anything I eventually gave up because the rocks were slippery and refusing to hold on would mean a hard fall (that would come later, :)).  We slowly made our way down, down, down into the cave.  We were shown formations of stalactites and stalagmites that resembled one thing or another such as:  pig sty, elephant trunk & ear, turtle, chocolate cake, king’s curtain, and parts of the human anatomy.

At one time I pondered, “What on earth am I doing in the belly of the earth?”  Trying not to panic or to allow foreboding thoughts to take hold, I focused on scaling slippery rocks, wading through pools of water, and at times sitting down in the cold cascading water flow to better transfer from one level to the next.  At the site where all groups turn around to climb back to the top, a few implements are used for the ascent:  a thick knotted rope and a tire-ladder.  Every step needs to be sure and steady otherwise you will land firmly where yours truly landed with a heavy thud – on your backside.  No injuries were sustained except to my pride.  The two men in the group rushed to assist me (thanks Greg and Nico), to make sure I was alright as we continued our journey to the top.  The climb out of the cave seemed to go faster than when we first went down.  No one commented on the bat poop as we exited, relieved to see the daylight at the mouth of the tunnel, and to wash our hands and feet.  To cap off the experience we ate a hearty, delicious lunch at a local vegan restaurant.

Tip #3:  Wear light clothing and water shoes.  Be prepared to get wet.

Tip #4:  A flashlight would be handy.

Tip #5:  Use sports camera strapped to head or chest for your photos.

Tip #6:  Spelunking is more fun when done in a group.

Tip #7:  Follow the guide closely and obey instructions.  They have done it numerous times and are more experienced.

Tip #8:  Pack wipes for easy clean-up.

Tip #9:  If you must carry items use a water-proof bag.

Two and a half days of exploring and experiencing life in Sagada gave me memories more than I anticipated.  The cool fresh mountain air, the slow laid-back life, the beauty of the valley polka-dotted with rice terraces, rivers, waterfalls and lake presented an idyllic lifestyle that is addictive and one I could easily adjust to.  I truly didn’t want to leave but Manila beckoned.

At the beginning I told you I do not have a death wish.  I was not being facetious.  Such a morbid concept seemed to loom large, consciously or unconscious, at every turn.  First, in the hanging coffins, then a real possibility in the slippery descent and ascent into the cave, and lastly the drive from Sagada.  I recall Greg saying the road to Sagada was considered one of the most dangerous roads in the world.  He was not lying.  I was not fully aware of this fact until my departure.

As the bus drove away from the town, my thoughts were of taking the last photos of spectacular views of the area.  This time we are driving on the other side of the road where I could clearly see the dangers ahead.  Deep ravines, precipices and gorges lay below.  At every turn it seemed to me the bus was about to drive off the edge of the road.  I looked around and most passengers appeared to be doing alright (their window curtains were drawn, probably for good reasons I’m sure).  Two girls, one behind and the other sitting across from me were sick.  I wanted to take photos but could not look and at times felt like vomiting myself.  I prayed, “Lord, this is not how I want to die.”  Seriously, you may laugh, but that ride was terrifying.  It made me wish to be back among the regular traffic jumble I’d observed so far.  To me it would’ve been better than navigating a road where at certain points there were no guardrails or barriers, the barriers that were in place where either not high enough, a thin metal sheet or the height of it not even a foot tall.  Also, in some parts the road was eroding and unpaved.  There is a lot of roadwork going on causing the road to become even narrower.

To tell you of my dread is an understatement.  The driver hardly blew his horn going around the hairpin bends which were plenty.  I sat on the edge of my seat and held onto the seat in front of me for 12 straight hours.  I could not sleep on the way back to Manila.  Even when we got closer to the city, the driving was scary.  When I told the conductor, how scared I was, he laughed and said they are used to it.

The trip to Sagada was great, but I am glad it is over and checked-off my to-do list.  I made new friends, got to see and do cool stuff like: exploring the area, spelunking caves, walking through the subterranean river, meeting and chatting with locals, and eating the local cuisine.  I especially enjoyed drinking their mountain tea.  However, I do not think I will be driving there again.

Tip #10:  My experience may not be yours.  You can’t know what it is like until you have tried it.  Go see it for yourself.

Community Peeps, this has been a long post, and still the half has not been told.  I have more than 1000+ photos to organize and arrange of my Southeast Asia tour for future postings so stay tuned.  Next will be one last post about Manila.  You don’t want to miss that one.

As always, remember to select follow to receive timely updates, click like to show your love and support, share with your friends and family on your social media sites and your comments are always welcomed.  Write them in the box below.  Until next time, I eagerly look forward to hearing from you.  Thanks for reading.

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Itinerary Planner

 

 

Two Weddings, A Funeral And More


It is funny how the unexpected happens to you even while enjoying a bespoke vacation. In all my planning and preparation, I did not expect that I would be in attendance at two weddings and a funeral. All this took place on the beautiful island of Cebu, Philippines.

Let me back up a bit to give you a total picture of my travels thus far. My Southeast Asia trip began in Manila. From there I flew to the overcrowded tourist destination of Palawan. The city’s main transport – tuk tuks crowd the streets. I missed the opportunity to go on tour of the subterranean river because of a flight delay. Guess I’ll have to return again someday 🙂. Instead I toured the city of Puerto Princesa, went zip lining, site seeing via my very own tuk-tuk driver to places like Baker’s Hill, crocodile farm, butterfly farm, etc.

Moved on to Cebu, the second largest city in the Philippines. I like it here. Less crowded, people are friendly, sites are spectacular and lots to see and do. I visited the Kawasan Falls to the south, passing through the town of Moalboal where divers go to experience the sardine run and Tabogon to the north passing by the Temple of Leia. Both were long rides, but along the way the sites and views were breathtaking.

I rode the bus to Kawasan Falls. While riding along I heard a commotion on the bus. I turned to see what was going on. The bus stopped. The conductor of the bus held a limp little boy and proceeded to drop the boy on the side of the road. I thought the lad was sick but when the bus started up again and the conductor got back on barking out in a dialect I did not understand what obviously were some stern words to the lad, that I realized the child was a stowaway. I could tell from his looks that he was a street kid. I turned to my seat neighbor and asked if he was and she confirmed it. Sad 😞 situation.

Now about the two weddings and funeral. I peregrinated the city of Cebu and while cooling off, resting my weary legs, and observing the beauty of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Cebu, back to back weddings occurred. I sat quietly as the uninvited visitor to observe the proceedings. The flowers and decorations were pretty. The music was sweet and the bridal parties were dressed to the nines even though the temperature was in the high 90s. My presence was not a disturbance because other visitors and locals were there too. The cathedral is actually a historical site.

The funeral, on the other hand, was that of a fellow believer of my faith. Though I did not know the deceased, I was invited to attend by one of the officiating ministers who I met at church the previous day. Morbid thought, I know, but I wanted to experience a Filipino funeral. The grieving family members welcomed my attendance. First there was a feast at the home, which I was told is customary to host for days or even weeks. While at the home, the mood was very respectful, encouraging and comforting to the family. After eating we proceeded to the church for the last rites, ceremonies and interment.

Overall, my time in the Philippines has been very interesting, and exciting. These are my observations: Rice is a staple and eaten at every meal. I’ve eaten rice seven different ways already and counting (bud-bud, rice cake, puso, champorado, to name a few), durian, halo-halo, mangosteen, and other fruits I can’t remember the names. My favorite is still the mango which I eat every day. The traffic is horrendous in Manila and Cebu. Driving there is not for the faint hearted. The weather temperature is hot, hot, hot, but the rainy season is about to start. Every day there is something to see, enjoy, and taste. It is affordable and the USD goes a long way here. My weary body can’t wait to get to rest at night, I fall out the minute my head touches the pillow.

Community Peeps, readers, friends and family, it was wonderful in the Philippines. As of date, I’m already in Kuala Lumpur. Please forgive any errors in spelling, expressions and verbiage. I’m writing on the fly and access to Wi-Fi is not always available. I’ll have to save the photos for another time also.

Remember to comment in the box below, select follow to receive timely updates and postings, click like to show your support and love, and you may share this post on your social media. Here’s to keeping you in the loop. It’s been real.

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Itinerary Planner

Growing Too Old For This? Naaah!


In less than 24 hours my journey to four countries in the Southeast Asia region will begin.  Last minute to-do’s have put me into a tailspin and I am feeling a bit overwhelmed.  The reasons being:  it is either a case of putting off what I could have done yesterday for today, or I am growing too old to be still considering myself a backpacker and all that it entails.  I think I’ll go with the former because my wanderlust is unabated and my curiosity unquench.  However, I believe my energy and tolerance levels for backpacking/trekking to distant lands with flight or travel time more than 16 hours are waning to some degree.  This may be my last long-haul trip, at least for a while.  Don’t get me wrong, the world is still my oyster.  I’m excited to see what lies beyond the bend, and the only way to do that is to travel.

Bespoke itineraries do not always go as planned.  Even a well prepared, extensive itinerary can fall prey to the unexpected.  It is just a part of life with all its curve balls.  Things happen that even the best planner may not foresee.   Flexibility must be a key component to the plan when it begins to go south and the unexpected happens.  Change at a moment’s notice is never ideal considering the circumstances.

What kind of circumstances could hijack vacation plans, one might ask.  Well, to begin: flight cancellation, delays in traffic, inclement weather, and sickness/death for starters.  Of course, there are many other reasons one can add to this list.  Whenever these circumstances arise they may preempt or curtail your travel plans entirely.  Obviously, you have no say in the matter, and its completely out of your control.  Any of these anomalies if presented can cause your vacation to take a turn for the worse, no pun intended, and disrupt your well thought out holiday plans.  Knowing Murphy’s law only too well, I take the utmost care and caution in handling all the arrangements, but I have to admit I have experienced a few of these regrettable incidences myself.

My impending travels to the Philippines, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bali are ambitious an eagerly anticipated.  However, I am prepared to change plans on a dime’s notice.   The research on cost, best tours, most interesting historical sites and culture of each country has consumed most of my time from the day I decided to visit them.  It will be an eventful trip as I navigate solo each country barring any unexpected circumstance that may prevent me from doing so.

Community Peeps, do you have any unique tips you’d like to share on any of the countries I am visiting?  I would be happy to include and let you know what I think of the experience or savor.  I hope to check in and give you timely updates on where in the world I am.  Moreover, if travel plans change abruptly I’d want to keep you in the loop.

Remember to write your advice in the comment box below, select follow to receive timely postings, click like to show your love and support (I like it when you do), and share my post on your social media site (I’m okay with that).   There you have it folks, its been wonderful keeping it real and sharing with you.  Thanks for reading.

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Itinerary Planner

**Photo credits attached to photos.