Pine-Scented Memories

Baguio City, the Philippines

September 1, 2015

Redolence could evoke memories as vividly as imagery. In an overnight visit to Camp John Hay in Baguio, a midnight walk shrouded in fog and darkness jogged pine-scented memories. Ki and I could sniff the scent of our childhood trips when the city was largely under pine cover. There had been less trees in the city of late, yet patches of forests remained in and around the Camp. Hours later, sunlight pierced through the pine grove by our hotel window and drew us out to take in the crisp morning freshness.

Pine-Scented Morning: Benguet Pine @ Camp John Hay, Baguio

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Food for the Gods

Bhaktapur and Kathmandu, Nepal

February 23 – 27, 2013

Namaste, literally “I bow to the divine in you,” was a word I often heard in Nepal. A greeting between gods, if you will. I had the chance to manifest the god within when I tried Nepali traditional food for lunch: the Newari khaja set, a solo-size smorgasbord of root veggies, meat, and spices. The dish included samay baji, a blessed food offered to the gods during festivals and family gatherings. The occasion was neither, but our guide decided on the dish as a worthy introduction to Nepali cuisine.

Newari Khaja Set / Samay Baji and Aaloo-Tama (soup) @ Bhaktapur, Nepal

Newari Khaja Set Meal: Samay Baji and Aaloo-Tama (soup) @ Bhaktapur, Nepal

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Chomping and Stomping Grounds @ Chuncheon

Chuncheon, South Korea

October 25, 2014

I just let the place surprise me. I didn’t know squat about Chuncheon. I only knew of the city when I googled the jump-off point for both Nami Island and Seorak Mountain, and that was as far as my research took me. I was traveling with friends, one of whom knew a local who graciously offered her flat. We hoped she would make touristy recommendations; otherwise, it would be no biggie to spend a couple of days in the city without any agenda.

Romantic Reflections @ Gongjicheon Park, Chuncheon, Gangwon-do

Romantic Reflections @ Gongjicheon Park, Chuncheon, Gangwon-do

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Om Shanti

Pokhara, Nepal

February 26, 2013

The things that made me go om. One was any form of hiking. For months before my Nepal trip, I trained by climbing up the stairs to my workplace on the 15th floor every day. It turned out I beefed up my quads and lung power only to get on and off the tourist van. My travel girlfies and I did not have the luxury of time to do any Himalayan trekking.

Pokhara Valley @ Pokhara, Nepal

Pokhara Valley from Ananda Hill @ Pokhara, Nepal

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Kimchi-Colored Fall

Chuncheon, South Korea

October 25 – 26, 2014

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.

– Albert Camus

I fell for my first fall. Nature had made a canvas out of the countryside and masterfully painted it with vivid reds and yellows, a dramatic departure from my country where forests were all of 50 shades of green all year. As the bus pulled into Chuncheon in the northernmost province of South Korea, a ginkgo tree came into view, its crown of golden leaves glistening in the sun. I squinted at the glorious scene. Fall had me at first sight.

Canopy of Colors @ Chuncheon, South Korea

Canopy of Colors @ Chuncheon, Gangwon-do, South Korea

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Express, No Stress

Shanghai, China and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

February 17 – 20, 2012 / March 1, 2013

The first impression of foreign visitors is usually their experience at the airport and the ride out. If that proves to be more stressful than the flight itself, then that certainly levels expectations. Tragically, that’s the way the cookie crumbles in my city. While I relish such convenience in most cities I visit, it depresses me that we don’t have the same luxury back home. Case in point: Shanghai. I flew in past midnight with my girlfies, Perfy and Vang. No other choice but to take a taxi. Metered, no haggling and overcharging. For our return flight, we could not pass up taking the Maglev train, the first in the world.

TTT @ Shanghai Maglev Train

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Beyond the Thunderbolt

Kathmandu, Nepal

February 24, 2013

The gigantic, gilded scepter was said to have packed the force of a thunderbolt. This indestructible weapon of destruction symbolized the power that had forged present-day Kathmandu Valley, the mountain-ringed dust bowl that cradled the city. Bhuwan, our guide, called it vajra, a legendary object laid out on a pedestal atop the 365-step stone stairway that led to Swayambhunath, a 1,500-year-old Buddhist temple at the center of Kathmandu.

Vajra (Thunderbolt) @ Swayambhunath, Kathmandu

Vajra (Thunderbolt) @ Swayambhunath, Kathmandu

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