February 05, 2018

INDIA | My Taj Mahal Story

For most, the Taj Mahal is what traveling to India means. Its a must, to visit this magnanimous tomb.  No doubt about it, Agra has been the center of Indian tourism because of love and honor – Taj Majal is a symbol not only of India but of overflowing love and devotion of a Mughal Emperor to his favorite wife. 

We arrived in Agra the night before our half day tour in the Taj Mahal. We had enough time to rest and wash some clothes used during the first half of our India trip. Time wasn't really on our side, but nevertheless, we had a good sleep and a nice mood because we were about to see one of the world greatest structure made by man. A UNESCO Heritage Site that draws the attention of some 15 Million tourist annually.  
The view inside the Great Gate

Five minutes walk from Moustache Hostel is the East Gate Parking lot where free shuttle bus going to the Taj Mahal is located. We boarded the empty bus for tourist when I realized that I left the battery of my camera charging at the hostel. I stepped down of the bus and run back to the hostel. Thank God we were early and the bus is still waiting for more tourist. When I get back, Claire was already carrying my Packsafe Bag outside the bus. The bus is about to leave and she thought I cannot make it. Well, I did make it, just in time. Lesson, don't get too excited, check all the things that you need before you leave. 

Great Gate
Taj Mahal Ticket for foreigners is exponentially higher than those of
the Indian National
We arrive in the Eastern Gate early enough not to catch a big crowd. They implement strict regulation in Taj Mahal about food and sharp objects. You cannot bring food inside the complex. Water is allowed. They will open your bag and get the food inside. They grab it and throw it in the garbage box. We didn't know that we cannot bring food inside so our snack was snatched away. Those guards are ruthless with my moong dal. 

Heaviness in my heart followed as we walk to the Great Gate where all visitors will enter to see the Taj Mahal. 

Inside the Great Gate, the white marble structure will shine amids the darkness of the place. Most people would stop inside to capture the Taj Mahal with the dramatic view from the Great Gate. Light will come through as you walk towards Taj Mahal. Standing in front of a vast space of greens, flowers,symmetric waterways and and manicured pathways, Taj Mahal is like a beacon of greatness in front of millions of spectators. 

Taj Mahal is an epitome of Persian and Mughal (Islamic) architecture. Its grandness and detailed fortification is very evident. When you take a closer look, you'll see that every spot of the structure has a fine detail that celebrate the Persian and Mughal culture. 

The dome structure and detailed ornamental pattern is a signature Islamic architecture.  
There is no place in the Taj Mahal complex that is not picturesque. Travelers of all ages pose their signature shot for a lasting memory and of course for social media purposes. 

After hours of going around with Claire, we decided to have our own moment and appreciate Taj Mahal on our own. She roamed around while I sat on a bench observing the Taj Mahal, the people and the nature. 

From where I was seating, I overheard a hired tour guide giving architecture and history lesson to travelers. We all know that the Taj Mahal is a tomb build by Emperor Shah Jahan's favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Engineers and architects then employs smart design to protect the structure from natural calamity such as flooding and earthquake. The four towers surrounding the main mausoleum was built 2 degrees inclined away from the dome so that it will not hit it during earthquake. 

We went inside the mausoleum with excitement all over us. We wore an aqua color shoe cover as a respect to the place. There was no long queue as I have expected. People are everywhere though enjoying their own Taj Mahal experience. Some are sitting on the marble floor while some are busy chatting with friends and making friends. The tourists were so diverse. There were Westerners, Asian, Africans and even Indians! 

When we were about to entered the mausoleum, I felt a little uneasiness with my tummy. It must be my morning ritual plus excitement. I had to look for a comfort room to release the stress. The comfort rooms though are located at the Great Gate. Great, I had to walk back again. It took me so much time because its far plus I took some pictures when I was about to go back to the marble palace.

While I was looking for Claire, which I had a hard time doing so, a lot of Indian men came to me asking for a picture. Roll eyes. I just don't know why, but this was very common to me in India. One Indian tourist told me that its his birthday and asked me to have picture with him. Then he asked me for a present because it was his birthday. He was asking for my eyeglasses! I smiled because I thought he was just kidding. I went ahead to find Claire, only to found that the birthday boy was still behind me asking for his present. I ignored him but I was scared. 

One of the additional structure inside Taj Mahal Complex. This one is now a museum
The location of Black Taj Mahal across Yamuna River
I went inside the mausoleum to do the strolling on my own and to find Claire inside. It was very dark and crowded. Pictures are not allowed but there were still tourist taking pictures – I saw a lot of Asian violating the rules. There are very detailed patterns on the marble walls of the mausoleum which makes it a great work of art. 

I went out and I'm still not seeing Claire. All I saw were Caucasians in their shorts and backpacks, Asian with their long dress while doing pictorials or selfies and Indians in their glorious outfits. I was worried but not enough to panic, she might be just talking to some strangers getting stories or creating stories. I stopped for awhile and a petite woman wearing a white hat tall tapped me on my back looking very worried. Claire was worried because I was gone too long. She had thoughts of me having abducted or raped in India. Thank God nothing happened to me. I told her about the men asking for my pictures and the guys who were asking for a birthday present then we both laugh and decided to go back to the hostel for lunch.     

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February 02, 2018

Foodspotting in Iloilo

This is not your ultimate Iloilo Food Guide nor I pretend to be a veteran foodie to say something about Iloilo's finest food offerings. I just simply want to show you the food that I love eating in Iloilo. I have been to Iloilo four times during the last 5 years and I always eat some of the food I am about to show you. 

Once you get out of that plane make sure you hit the road immediately for a hot bowl of La Paz Batchoy in La Paz Market. It is important to have it in La Paz Market and not in the malls or any air-conditioned restaurant. 

February 01, 2018

DINAGYANG FESTIVAL 2018 | The Colorful History of the Atis Through Dance and Chant

The alarm was set at 5:30AM. Barely 3 hours of sleep from last night hoorah, I woke up with the lights from the hotel window slicing my cheek while my body was buried under the tick blanket. I must wake up immediately, the major event of Dinagyang Festival 2018 is about to happen! 

Iloilo's Dinagyang Festival has turned 50. A golden celebration of festival in the island of Panay. Dinagyang started when the image of Señor Santo Niño de Cebu arrived in Iloilo in 1968.  Dinagyang Festival not only celebrates the arrival of the Señor Santo Niño de Cebu in Iloilo but also the arrival of Atis and Malays in Panay Island. 

January 28, 2018

DINAGYANG FESTIVAL 2018 | Fiesta Filipinas Kasadyahan Cultural Presentation

Upgraded to Fiesta Filipinas, 10 Festivals from Panay Island and Negros Island will compete for this year's Kasadyahan Festival. The colors, the fun, the laughter of all the festival in Panay and Negros  converged to produce one gigantic celebration in the City of Love - Iloilo City.   

Kasadyahan Cultural Presentation is the main event of the second day of the 3-days grand celebration of  the Dinagyang Festival 2018. The famous Ati Tribe Competition will happen today (Jan 28, 2018).

10 competing Festivals will have to perform in 5 judging area scattered all over Iloilo City. This is to ensure fair judgement and to showcase the culture and history of each towns municipalities and cities celebrated in the festival. 

Each of the participants showed the colors, culture, history, devotion, produce and the best offerings of their town. The plastered smile of the dancers along with the expressive faces of each performers are surely a major factor to win this year's Fiesta Filipinas Kasadyahan Cultural Presentation.

January 26, 2018

Hala Bira! AirAsia Celebrates Dinagyang Festival: Fly with AirAsia, the official airline partner of Dinagyang Festival 2018, and get exclusive discount treats and promo seats from as low as P1,066* only

MANILA, 26 January 2018 – For the first time, AirAsia, the World’s Best Low Cost Carrier for nine straight years running since 2009 by Skytrax, is this year’s official airline partner of Iloilo’s Dinagyang Festival - one of the Philippines’ biggest religious and cultural festivals honoring the Santo Niño or Christ child.

January 21, 2018

AirAsia Now Connects Manila and Bali, Fly as low as P3,690!

AirAsia is now flying direct from Manila to Bali. The airline which has been voted the World’s Best Low Cost Carrier for nine years running flew its maiden flight from Manila to Bali Ngurah Rai International Airport, also known as Denpasar International Airport, last January 29, 2018 with send-off ceremonies held at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3. 

AirAsia Philippines CEO Capt Dexter Comendador with Cabin Crew
AirAsia flight Z2 231 with pilot in command AirAsia Philippines CEO Captain Dexter Comendador left Manila with 180 pax load.

January 15, 2018

CEBU | Bantayan Island, Where I Questioned, Experienced Peace and Found Love

Fine white sand beach where coconut trees are lined up as if they are guarding you, suitable cliffs where you can find the first courage to jump, fresh seafood and most of all far enough so folks will frown going and eventually not to go – there certainly one thing in mind, I should set foot again here no matter what... or it will be a heartbreak of a life time. We did go back almost exactly one year since we first set foot in the island called Bantayan

Bantayan Island is in the Northern part of Cebu Province. Batayan Island has three municipality namely, Bantayan, Sta. Fe and Madridejos. There is a high chance that you'll stay in Sta. Fe because most hotels and restaurants are there.