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the persnickety pioneer!

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1 note &

Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican City, Italia

St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the most visited and popular pilgrimage/tourist sites of the Catholic world. Over the course of my four or so visits to the place, I still haven’t quite gone around the entirety of the basilica. With hoardes of tourists bustling about all day, not to mention the long lines filing into the basilica, sometimes you’re left with not that much time to really explore the inside.

Usually, if you join a group tour, a visit to St. Peter’s is a staple when Rome & Vatican City are on the itinerary. But because there is just sooo much to see and do and eat in Rome, there often isn’t much time devoted to a single place, St. Peter’s included. We actually had about 5 minutes inside the actual basilica (after a 2 hour or so wait in line) running around taking random photos like maniacs. These photos are when we went back after our tour (since we stayed in Rome for ten more days after) and gave ourselves ample time to really look at the artworks, walk (not run!) around and just absorb everything. Albeit, we still weren’t able to see everything, but at least we had more time than we normally did.

(Photo Above & Below) The famedPieta,depicting Mary cradling Jesus’ body after his death and crucifixion. The details, especially the lifelike flow and movement of the cloth, is just one of the awesome aspects of the works of masters of yore.

All around the basilica, little “chapels” line the halls. Marble columns, gold, and religious (and some might argue, masonic) iconography abound!

Cool emblem things like these are also to be found

This roof thing is the altar, and where the Pope is at when he holds mass here

Sewage type grates, also in gold

Statues of past Popes and their surrounding saints, angels, etc.

I love this metal wallpaper-like pattern. Kinda baroque ish.

Lots of light gorgeously filtering into the hallowed halls.

Everything here is just so ornate and rich. It’s actually ironic that the beautiful (and very very valuable & expensive) artifacts and architecture and properties of the Catholic Church that pilgrims and tourists all visit and revere today are the result of the manipulations, conquests, blackmail, bribery and other shady deeds of past popes, who used taxpayers’ and religious devotees’ money to amass incredible wealth and expand the Church’s reign. (Saw that on the discovery channel haha)

Makes you wonder how extreme the Church’s propaganda was in the olden times when Twitter and Facebook and the internet weren’t in existence yet. Ha.

Photos: Canon 450D + 10-22mm + 24-70mmL

Filed under roma rome italy italia europe europa travel traveling traveler travels euro church catholic basilica cathedral saint peter st. peter's basilica di san pietro san pietro christian pope history italy 2010

0 notes &

Snowcapped Mountains, Turkey

On our way from the Ottoman house to Konya, we took the scenic mountain route. Turkey’s landscape is truly fascinating, and this time was no different. Where a few minutes before we were surrounded by lush greenery and blue skies, and a few hours before that arid rocky landscapes—we ascended the mount only to be greeted with fog and yes—SNOW!

It was definitely not a scene we imagined we would encounter in the springtime/summertime, but it was a pleasant surprise indeed. For the Americans and Aussies aboard, it was no surprise, but for our South African tourmates, the snow is a rare sighting, and for us Fillies (can I call us Filipinos that? Fillies?), not a season we even have back in the tropics. Our tour director graciously allowed us a quick photo stop with this Christmas-tree-filled backdrop—so European, yet we were in Asia. Fascinating!

A few minutes down the mount from this point, it was back to snowless rocks and trees. Ah, the wondrous faces of Turkey.

Photos: Canon 450D + 10-22mm + Sony P200

Filed under turkey turkiye eurasia europe snow travel travels travel blog travel blog philippines filipino mediterranean snowy forests christmas trees landscape snowcapped traveler traveling mountain ottoman turkish scenery nature turkey 2011

0 notes &

An Authentic Ottoman Lunch, Turkey

One of the highlights of our Turkey trip was having lunch in an authentic Ottoman hundred-year-old house. The food was not particularly good—most of it was strange; stews and crops I’d never had before, all cooked in the traditional ways of the nomadic tribes. The house and village itself, though, was out of a movie set.

It was a day with clear blue skies, stark greens and high contrast textures. The house was made of timbers and simple, but charming all the same. The bare floors were lined end to end with Turkish carpets—typical in a Turkish home. Carpets are actually better off in a “high traffic” area of the house. The tread of feet actually help to tighten the knots and strengthen the weave. Nomadic tribes basically lived on carpets. They roll them up, move, lay them down, and so on. It really is a sort of metaphor for Turkish way of life.

There were so many of us, so the main dining area was quickly taken up. Since we entered last, we got our own little private suite (one of the bedrooms turned eating area)—a much better arrangement for us!

Outside, National-Geographic-worthy faces and scenery. We were in a valley of sorts, with views of snowcapped mountains and forests all around. It was a really pretty scene.

Definitely one for the books! Nothing like a real immersion into a totally foreign culture to make one underscore the hope for a future where we can all just get along. Apart from the meal shared, we probably had nothing in common with the people we met, but a little hospitality and openness of mind can really build bridges across the culto-religious divide.

Photos: Canon 450D + 10-22mm

Filed under turkey turkiye europe eurasia travel travels traveling traveler globe religion culture turkish carpets ottoman nomads nomad turkish culture food national geographic immersion turkey 2011

3 notes &

Lone Pine Cemetery, Gallipoli, Turkey

Lone Pine cemetery was farther up the mountains after we visited Anzac Cove (which was on the coast). The terrain in this region of Turkey was quite fascinating, as it was full of dense shrubbery and dark green trees (the “Turkey” in my mind was more of sand and stone).

At the tippy top of one of the hills/mounts is the Lone Pine cemetery. The tall fireplace-looking monument could be seen even from the base of the mountain! It rises up like a great battle tower from above the sea of dense dark green.

Here, more memorials for the fallen Australian and New Zealand soldiers

Touching little tokens left at people’s memorials

"Lest we forget"

Across the road, a few ways away, another part of the memorial.

Looks sort of like stone henge, but with huge marble blocks with people’s names on them and quotations of sorts.

If you look just beyond the giant marble monuments, you can see the gulf’s coastline below

All in all a restful and serene site for the memory of the fallen, but a bit of a boring stop. Nice spot for a picnic, maybe!

Photos: Canon EOS 450D + 10-22mm

Next: Crossing the Dardanelles (Eurasian border!)

Filed under travel turkey turkiye gallipoli gelibolu lone pine cemetery travels traveling europe asia eurasia dardanelles turkey 2011

18 notes &

Istanbul to Gallipoli, Turkey

Interesting and colorful sights as we cross the bosphorus and leave Istanbul (for now) for the region of Gallipoli.

Istanbul’s cityscape is teeming with these colorful house-piles

They almost look like lego blocks. Don’t you love those rows of rooftops creating that zigzag pattern?

Gallipoli was a region that was pretty involved during the world war, or so I would guess owing to the number of monuments and war memorials we visited and saw along the way.

Ruins and farmhouses

Seeing more of the coastline as we approach Gallipoli

Monopoly-esque red-roofed houses scattered by the coastline

Next: In Gallipoli - Anzac Cove & Lone Pine Cemetery

Photos: Canon EOS 450D + 10-22mm + 24-70mmL

Filed under travel traveling traveler istanbul gallipoli turkey turkiye europe asia eurasia turkey 2011

2 notes &

Floating Forests, Tonle Sap, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Upon arriving in Siem Reap from Phnom Penh via the Mekong Express bus line, we were, first and foremost, worn out. Six hour bus rides can do that. To top that off, we had a momentary panic attack when the tuktuk driver we hired, Samate (pronounced sah-meht), was a no show in picking us up.

Luckily, and very comedically, the hotel misunderstood my emails and thought that we did need a pickup from the bus station after all. Sometimes fate just happens, albeit in a sitcom sort of way :| So here was this dude who I thought was Samate (Me: Samate? Him: Yis, yis. Me: You Samate? Him: Yis, yis.—but he wasn’t.) picking us up in his tuktuk, and turns out the hotel sent him to fetch us, even though in my emails I said we didn’t need them to. Plus points for clairvoyance, Golden Temple Villa.

We checked into the hotel, and let me just say a few things about it. The Golden Temple Villa is a charming little locally run establishment tucked in to a side street just off the main road (and where my sister stayed when she went to Cambodia before) that was an absolute steal at around USD10/person/night (and this is high season rate already). They have free wi-fi everywhere and 24/7 free coffee and bananas in the in-house restaurant. The rooms are quite tiny, but well-kempt and a welcome respite after a long day of climbing around temples. You even get a free massage, and the staff (except for one douchey looking bloke at the front desk) was super nice and accommodating!

Anyway, after checking in, we grabbed a quick late lunch at the restaurant and went upstairs (no elevator so I really felt bad for the porter who had to heave my bulging suitcase up three flights of stairs!) to turn in for the night. But lo and behold, who should email me but Samate! Turns out, he was coming from another job and wasn’t able to pick us up in time. He still wanted to take us on the scheduled Tonle Sap sunset river boat ride, so ten minutes later (heads a bit foggy and eyes nearly shutting) we were out the door and in Samate’s newly-acquired Toyota (a touching tale of how he saved up to upgrade from a tuktuk to a car!)

The drive was long and was around the time of day when the sun casts a dreamy halo around everything and the dirt road beneath the tires lulls you to sleep. I think that, coupled with the long, bumpy and hot bus ride, was enough to almost knock me out for most of the way. There was even a portion of road, near the river, when a herd of cattle (or cows?) was crossing the road.

Finally arriving in some dense wood of sorts. Unpaved roads, low hanging trees, green waters…not exactly the setting you’d imagine for a sunset boat ride.

Me & my friend Tara, just before literally walking the plank (a rickety couple of wooden twigs) to board the boat

This narrow canal is where the boats are parked and lead out into the main river

Boat cap’ns

Me taking photos (not knowing that these frantic clickety-clicks would soon be erased. weep.)

The “floating forests”

But really what we saw were floating houses

After a long ride through the floating village (how I imagine Vietnam would look like) we finally burst into the open waters just in time to see a panoramic sunset

Even though my memory card got wiped, I’m glad Tara’s didn’t, and we at least have a decent photo of us with the sunset!

Dreamlike landscape+waterscape

Night falls

After the glorious sunset on the water, we were taken back through the floating village. Samate asked if we wished to see the village on land, so we took to a section of town on foot—and it was quite the experience. No street lights or paved roads, and basically traipsing into the dark street with the sound of children playing in the background, and the occasional bonfire or candlelight glowing faintly from behind some houses. Children were even playing makeshift football in the dark. A few minutes later, Samate rejoins us with a bag full of snake bits (it’s a snack, you see.) and a wide, toothy grin.

On the boat we went, and back to the dark canals where the boats are parked. The boat drivers actually pitch blankets around the boat and live in them…most had hammocks hanging from them, and the dim glow of candlelight, and from some, the faint clatter of forks and spoons. It made me kinda sad.

Samate drove us back the long way into the city, and back to our hotel. Dinner (I’ll do a separate food post, I think), and then, predictably, sleep.

Photos: Tara’s canon point and shoot

Filed under travel siem reap tonle sap floating forests travels traveling asian jaunt orient khmer rouge angkor wat tonle sap river sunset tonle sap sunset asia cambodia cambodian asian khmer asia 2010

9 notes &

Istanbul, Turkey

It’s my family’s first time ever going to a Muslim country. Even though 1 of 3 of the main islands of the Philippines is Muslim, I myself am pretty clueless to the culture and ways of life. Needless to say, it was quite expectedly a fish-out-of-water sort of feeling, and I was a bit scared and apprehensive about how I would feel being immersed in something so foreign to me. Then again, that’s also something about traveling that both scares and excites me.

Summer of ‘11, and off we went to Turkey, which lies partly in Europe and mostly in Asia. I half expected sand and caravans in my mind, but was surprised to see how modern and developed Istanbul was (clueless me).

I love these funny road signs coming out of the airport. We were picked up at the airport by the Trafalgar rep (in Turkey working via Neon Tours), and taken to our hotel, the Dedeman Hotel Istanbul, which is in the “new city”.

Istanbul, the only city which is straddled across 2 continents, is divided into the new and old city. The Old City, which houses most of the major sites, lies on the European side of the Bosphorus River (which is what splits the city in two), while the New City is on the Asian side.

Below is an example of something we saw everywhere—those castle turrety things/alien spaceship things that sound off the call to prayer five times a day

Stunning views of the Bosphorus River from the car

In the distance, the bridge that links the two halves of Istanbul

Migros, a little convenience store/minimart near our hotel

Cute/creepy kitties!

My brother, Jourdan

Our hotel, the Dedeman Hotel Istanbul

Our tour bulletin

Photos taken by my sister with her Canon 450D + 10-22mm + 24-70mmL

Filed under asia eurasia europe istanbul neon tours trafalgar travel traveler traveling travels turkey turkiye tour touring group tour group tours traveling with a group turkey 2011

11 notes &

Phnom Penh, Cambodia


After our adventure-filled stint in Phuket, Thailand, we flew via Bangkok to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Because of our limited time, we only did a quick overnight stay, opting to concentrate on Siem Reap. Still, Phnom Penh was a good preparatory course for the busy days ahead.

After quite the cab ride, we checked in to our hotel, a really pretty, quaint, tucked-in-a-side-street boutique sort of place, which my friend Tara booked for us online as a package along with the bus ride that would take us to Siem Reap the next day.

I love my Levi’s purple/maroon plaid scarf shirt. It was the perfect coverup+blanket for the 6 hour bus ride to Siem Reap.

Sadly one of my memory cards got wiped (still not sure why) :( These photos are courtesy of my friend Tara. I feel sad about the hundreds of photos I took that got lost—everything from Phnom Penh and even until the Tonle Sap ride in Siem Reap. Weep.

Filed under mekong phnom penh travel traveling mekong bus line bus tonle sap asia cambodia cambodian asian khmer asia 2010