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For as long as I can remember, there’s always been a lot of hype over Bali as a leisure destination. That brings about a mixed reaction of curiosity and, simultaneously, skepticism. Nice beaches… we’ve got better in the Philippines. Unique countryside… dime a dozen all over in Asia. Amazing arts and culture… there are much older and richer Art & Cultre scenes in other places. So I’ve been thinking that way and sort of challenging Bali to answer my question: “so what is it with you, huh ?” My question was answered in a big way last week when I made my first visit.
Yes, there are the beaches. The most famous, of course, is Kuta Beach. This 5 kilometer-long stretch is the island’s most popular and, consequently, busiest. Kuta attracts the sunbathers, surfers, party people and the sight-seeing tourist alike. The street approaching Kuta beach, Jalan Pantai Kuta, and bordering it, Jalan Legian, are teeming with resorts, restaurants, pubs and stores of all shapes and sizes so the road can get quite congested. At the same time though, this gives the area its beach party vibe. Kuta is adjoined to the north by Legian and Seminyak beaches which are quieter with its more upscale resorts and shops. Further south is the exclusive enclave of Nusa Dua where global brand names such as the Westin, Four Seasons and the Grand Hyatt are situated making this yet another face of Bali seafront.
A tour of Bali’s interior countryside may sound mundane to one who hasn’t experienced it yet. This, however, was the highlight of my Bali trip. Going into Bali’s interior is like entering into another dimension; an Arts & Culture paradise. The small villages in Bali’s interior are home to Bali’s artisans and craftsmen; painters, stone sculptors, wood carvers, batik makers, silver and gold smiths all creating an intoxicating array of beautiful works of art. There is a certain, almost subliminal, spirituality in these villages; their creations aren’t just their work, it’s the way of life in their village. All roads from these villages lead to Ubud, the main town and the epicenter of this Arts & Culture scene. Ubud is the best place to see traditional Balinese architecture as well. Wikitravel also notes that in Ubud pervades a “general feeling of wellness… all thanks to the spirit, surroundings and climate of the place”.
The northwest coast of Bali is a rugged coastline where the sea pounds on the dramatic cliffs forming this part of the island. This part of the island is the home of the 600-year old Tanah Lot temple; Bali’s most iconic landmark and most important temple. The juxtaposition of the serene Tanah Lot temple and surrounding structures with the rugged cliffs being lashed by Indian Ocean waves is both breathtaking and spellbinding with a dreamlike quality.
It’s the combination of all these – the different beaches, the arts & culture landscape and the dramatic sceneries that make Bali what it is.. a destination truly deserving of the hype and praises lavished upon it. I feel kind of sheepish having doubted and challenged Bali’s allure in the first place. “Never do that again, my friend”, Bali would tell me, if it were a person, and envelop me with its charm as it has with so many visitors from all over the planet.
Panoramic triscape from Harbour Square, CCP Complex.
Photo by John Niño
Manila possesses the greatest resources for recreation and refreshment in its river and its ocean bay. Whatever portions of either have been given up to private use should be reclaimed where possible, and such portions as are still under public control should be developed and forever maintained for the use and enjoyment of the people.
-D. H. Burnham, Report on the General Plan on the Improvement of Manila
The harbor of Manila Bay is justly famous worldwide for having one of the best sunset views. With just one swerve from the City Hall, Manila might lose one of its greatest assets forever with reclamation of the bayside from the coastline of the US Embassy to the Manila Yacht Club. The Baywalk is almost a kilometer long, so that’s quite a big area already. The reclaimed bayside will be home to another High Density District complete with skyscrapers and other ultramodern city delights. For a congested city like the City of Manila, another High Density District is the last thing you’ll be building on it, as it badly needs parks and other public recreational facilities as its breathing space. Undoubtedly, the harbor view of the sunset is one of these rare city delights.
As I believe that a city’s progress, identity and beauty is not alone measured by concrete and skyscrapers, saving the bay for the enjoyment not just for the Manilenos from all walks of life, but also for the whole nation is better than to have a few businessman benefitting from that place.
On February 12, 2013, the Heritage Conservation Society and the Heritage Conservation Society - Youth will hold a synchronized sunset viewing and and Human Chain at the Manila Baywalk at 4PM. Our group, the JaywalkersPH, supports this advocacy and we are actually encouraging you to attend the said event and learn more about the impending reclamation project. Register here: http://bit.ly/U7oYhs. Also, show your support here in Tumblr (and twitter too!) through the tag: #SaveManilaBay
PS: I think it would be nice to attach some nice photographs of the Manila Bay sunset to highlight what’s at stake in this issue. Photos courtesy of (from upper left clockwise) some JaywalkersPH members. Click on the photos to know who owns the photograph and as well as their sites.
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I Love Manila
Quite recently I’ve “discovered” a new view of Manila which, I have to admit, I’ve grown to be fond of. It’s from the Sky Deck bar and lounge on the roof top of the Bayleaf Hotel in Intramuros.
The Bayleaf Hotel is a relatively new hotel located within the old walled city and it has become very popular with foreign visitors and local residents alike. Owing to its location within Intramuros wherein no tall structures can be situated besides it, it guarantees unobstructed 360-degree views of the city around it. To the north, one can see the old post office building, the Metropolitan theater, the rooftops of the Quiapo district including the dome of the Quiapo church and the northern sprawl of the metropolis beyond. The Manila city hall and the skyline of Makati are laid out on its east side. On the west, one has the rest of Intramuros including the Manila Cathedral, the Manila Hotel and a serene Manila Bay for one to take in.
It’s the view to the south and southeast, however, that has captured my heart. On the foreground is part of the greens of the Intramuros Golf Club. Sitting front and center is the poignantly majestic National Museum building which used to be the home of the Philippine senate. Providing a perfect background are the buildings of the Ermita district capped by a blue-grey sky.
Suddenly missed San Francisco with this pic.
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I have always been puzzled with the love affair Filipinos have with Korean TV dramas, the so-called “Koreanovela”, and its actors. Can it be the story lines? Nothing new there; almost all of the stories follow the time-tested “love-against-all-odds” formula. Can it be the actors and actresses ? Yes, Korean actors and actresses are good-looking but, and I dare say this at the risk of being mobbed by all the Koreanovela fans out there, there are other Asian actors and actress who are far more attractive and striking. The near-cult status following to Korean TV dramas and the influx of long-staying Korean nationals in the country have combined to create a sort of mystique about Korea for me. It’s against this background of mystique that I took a 4-day sojourn to Seoul recently.
The first stop on my Seoul trip was Nami Island. Two hours outside the city, Nami Island is a private nature park where the popular Korean TV drama, “Winter Sonata”, was shot. With pine trees and scampering squirrels, Nami Island definitely had the feel of a US West Coast park like Yosemite and the forests outside Seattle but with Korean touches. It was the tail-end of summer in Korea at this time but I could just imagine how much more beautiful Nami could be with the orange hues of autumn. A brunch of chicken Galbi before leaving Nami was the perfect cap to the morning.
Seoul residents love their skiing. In winter, I’ve learned that a weekend in the mountains surrounding Seoul for a day on the slopes is almost sacrosanct. This being the summer time, Seoul will still have its fill of skiing at the Woonjin in-door skiing dome. In all my travels outside the country, I haven’t had the chance to see snow so the visit to Woonjin, albeit artificial snow, was a highlight of sorts.
We stayed at the Hamilton Hotel in the middle of the Itaewon district. Most of Seoul’s clubs and bars are located in Itaewon making this district the busiest during Friday and Saturday nights. Seoul’s young and beautiful are no strangers to partying; going on well into the night until the crack of dawn fuelled by drink and egged on by catchy Korean club music.
No trip to Seoul would be complete without a visit to Lotte World - Korea’s largest in-door amusement park and its own home-grown answer to Disneyland. My travel companions and I took the mechanized hot air balloon ride which goes around, high above the complex which afforded us a view of this self-contained fantasy world.
While its heritage and history may not match in size and scope to that of neighbouring China and Japan, Korea has its own proud traditions and these are laid at out for all to appreciate in the sprawling Gyeongbokgung Palace complex. Almost totally destroyed except for a handful of buildings by invading Japanese in the early 20th century, restoration of Gyeongbokgung’s many structures are on-going even to this day. Laid out much like Beijing’s Forbidden City, Gyeongbokgung offers a glimpse into an ancient Korea that was ruled by the Joseon Dynasty. Unlike the Forbidden City of Beijing and the imperial palaces of Tokyo and Kyoto, Gyeongbokgung, for me, exudes a sense of tranquillity more than power. There is a certain calm and serenity as you walk through the palace complex.
Seoul has its share of shopping districts as well in the form of Dongdaemun and Myeongdong. Modern Korean fashion is known the world over for being fun and trendy and there are many shops in these 2 districts to find these and satisfy one’s urges for shopping. Shopping in Seoul is definitely not cheap but what the city has to offer is a wide, almost dizzying, array of choices for any fashion shopper’s taste.
We also had the chance to visit Seoul Tower. Perched on top of the city’s highest hill, the view from the top of Seoul Tower was inspiring. From here, you could see the city laid out below you bisected by the sprawling Han River.
One of the highlights of the trip for me was a visit to the Cheonggyecheon Stream. What used to be a sewer with a concrete street built on top of it, Cheonggyecheon was cleaned up by the city government in 2005. The concrete street covering it was removed and the sewer was cleaned up and made into a 5.8 km long green park which has been hailed as one of the best examples of urban renewal and greening all over the world. It was almost surreal to be taking a peaceful stroll along Cheonggyecheon Stream , knowing that it was no more than a covered-up sewer a less than 10 years ago. Today it is a quiet and refreshing respite from the hustle and bustle of the city surrounding it.
Waiting for the flight back home to Manila at Incheon International Airport ( recently voted as the best airport in the world ), I once again pondered on the Korea mystique. It occurred to me that Korea, Seoul in particular, didn’t have anything different or unique to offer a traveller like me but what makes it a special place is its vibe. The Seoul vibe is a mixture of the exciting and the tranquil, fun and serene, dynamic and friendly. It is this vibe, I know now, that gives the Koreanovela its pull to audiences in the Philippines. I also know that it is this vibe that will bring me back to Seoul many times over in the future.
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