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Posts tagged ‘Travel’

Remaking Boracay

As the motorized tricycle loudly puttered down the two-lane road hugging the northwestern coast of Panay, the Philippines’ sixth-largest island, I could clearly see the effects of Typhoon Rosita (Yutu) as it approached the shores of Luzon some 530 kilometers (or 330 miles) to the north. The agitated waters of the Sibuyan Sea seemed to dance feverishly beneath brooding gunmetal-gray skies; it didn’t bode well for the boat ride I was about to take across the narrow strait to tiny Boracay. Read more

Finding Balance in Bhutan

What I remember most fondly about the week Bama and I spent in Bhutan last October is the untainted mountain air, cool autumn nights, an overriding sense of peace and tranquility. And of course, who could forget that heart-pumping arrival? Read more

Flores: It Takes a Village

One thing I relish about travel is the fact that it turns our daily routines upside down; it jolts us out of our comfort zones and tends to flout the unwritten rules we live by. I realize this one bright Monday morning in Kampung Melo, a small mountain village on the Indonesian island of Flores. It turns out that any visit here must involve a welcome drink of sopi – a clear, colorless spirit distilled from the sap of the areng palm – in a shaded pavilion beside a small field. “If you don’t drink alcohol,” a spokesman says to our group, “just touch the glass.” Read more

Sleeping Dragons and a Stirring Town

Five years ago this June, Bama and I embarked on an unforgettable week-long adventure across the island of Flores. It remains one of my favorite corners of Indonesia not just for its astonishing natural beauty. Here, in a predominantly Muslim nation, the Catholic faith brought by Portuguese missionaries mingled with tribal traditions; the rugged landscape held megalithic villages that seemed nearly as old as time itself, perfectly formed volcanoes, and superb coffee made with local arabica beans grown in the mist-laden highlands. At the end of our journey lay Labuan Bajo, a sleepy fishing village turned tourism boomtown, where a glorious sunset bode well for an overnight cruise around the UNESCO-listed reefs and islands of Komodo National Park. Read more

April Snow in Lebanon

Wafik was late. “Sorry, sorry,” he said as we shook hands before piling our bags – and ourselves – into his roomy SUV. “Very bad traffic coming here.” Beirut might be somewhat infamous for its clogged roads and lack of public transportation, but having come from Jakarta, Bama and I felt very much at ease with the whole thing. Once on nearby Damascus Street, Wafik gestured to the barely-moving stream of vehicles stretching past the heavily fortified French Embassy and the National Museum. “I was stuck here for 20 minutes,” he explained. Read more

A Taste of Lebanese Hospitality

Bama and I have just returned from our first-ever foray into the Middle East, and we cannot even begin to describe how much we loved Lebanon. It has been an exhausting 20-hour journey from door to door involving two flights and a nail-bitingly short transit in Doha, where I was felt up by airport security (lesson learned: do not attempt to smile at the staff when passing through the metal detector) – but the trouble and fatigue have been well worth the adventure of the past nine days. Read more

On Assignment in Hua Hin

“There’s not much there.” I looked on in surprise as a coworker wrinkled his nose at the memory of a trip to Hua Hin some years ago. That harsh pronouncement didn’t bode well for my own upcoming assignment during the middle of Thailand’s monsoon season – we had similar tastes in travel and the resort town roughly 200 kilometers (124 miles) south of Bangkok wasn’t exactly on my wish list. Read more

Lost in Buriram, Northeast Thailand

Barreling down a four-lane Thai highway on the back of a motorcycle, sans helmet, I wondered what on earth I was doing. Riding pillion was a risk I would never have taken back home in Jakarta – and yet there was no denying the thrill of feeling the wind on my face as we breezed past warehouses and low-slung cafés toward a monumental bronze likeness of King Rama I, presiding over Buriram’s main roundabout from atop a war elephant. Read more

The Chocolate Queen of the Philippines

As tears stream down Raquel Choa’s face, I wonder what grievous deed I have done – or hurtful words I have uttered – to make her cry at our first meeting. The chocolate maker has been telling me how she developed a deep love of cacao during some of the toughest times of her life. “I don’t know why I cried,” Raquel says, wiping away the tears with a tissue. “I was also sharing this with a group of six people yesterday, but no teardrops fell from my eyes. I can feel that you have an open heart and you embraced the story.” Read more

Spanish Whispers in Cebu

When Ferdinand Magellan witnessed the sunrise from the deck of the Trinidad on April 27, 1521, he scarcely knew it would be his last. In the distance, the large coral outcrop of Mactan Island beckoned with a strip of powdery, cream-colored sand lapped by rippling cyan waters – the kind of tropical idyll that sun-starved modern travelers go halfway around the world to see. But the celebrated Portuguese explorer was here in the service of Spain, midway through an epic circumnavigation of the globe. His more immediate mission was to fight on behalf of his newfound friend and ally Rajah Humabon, the chieftain of a nearby port town named Zubu. Read more