Lakad Pilipinas
Vigan Itinerary and Travel guide Coron Itinerary and Travel guide Baguio Itinerary and Travel guide Tagaytay Itinerary and Travel Guide Iligan City Itinerary and Travel Guide Bacolod Itinerary and Travel Guide Antique Itinerary and Travel Guide Tarlac Itinerary and Travel Guide Corregidor Itinerary and Travel Guide

Taipei 101 Grand Hyatt Taipei

Four days has passed and still, we haven’t taken a single photograph of city’s landmark building, the Taipei 101. Hailed as the tallest building in the world in 2004, it has only been topped by Dubai’s Burj Khalifa five years after. It stands right across our hotel and can actually be seen right from our room window. It is, in most probability, the reason why we were taking it for granted.

TOUCHDOWN TAIPEI!

We arrived in Taipei quite late, taking an almost midnight flight from Manila. There were no delays, but the flight time took about an hour and a half, take in the immigration lines and we were out into the nippy Taipei night in the wee hours of the morning, our chauffer from Grand Hyatt Taipei, waiting for us at the arrivals area with a welcoming smile.

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Posted by Christian Sangoyo on Friday, December 2, 2016

7 Reasons Why Central Asia Should be on Your Bucket List

With all the excitement of Japan and China to the east and India in the south, it’s little surprise the bulk of central Asian nations wrongfully go overlooked. Today, we’re going to endeavour to provide you with seven spots in the region you simply have to add to your bucket list.

 

1. Shymkent Zoo – Kazakhstan

Shymkent Zoo – Kazakhstan

While the Kazakhs have become famed somewhat in recent years for the backwards-exploits of the fictional character Borat, in reality this central Asian country is actually incredibly advanced.

Shymkent is a city located in the south of the nation (the most densely populated region) and has a zoo situated slap-bang in the middle of it.

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Posted by Christian Sangoyo on Thursday, December 1, 2016
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Antique Travel Guide and Itinerary

More than its tourist spots, Antique is more known for its legendary folklore of aswang and mananangal. Those mythical legends probably have kept tourists from pouring in to the province, making Antique one of the most unexplored places in the Philippines. But during my brief visit to this off-beat province, I found places, culture and eco activities that are at par with any famous tourist spots in the country. Allow me to welcome you and peel the mystery behind the province of Antique.

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Posted by Christian Sangoyo on Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Health & Home Antique Attractions

My article and photos appeared recently on the September to October 2016 issue of Health and Home, a subscription only magazine. This is my third contribution to the publication and this time, Antique Province took the spotlight.

Health & Home Antique Attractions
ANTIQUE ATTRACTIONS ON HEALTH AND HOME MAGAZINE

It’s a summary of a trip I did a couple of years back, visiting Sira-an hot spring, Anini-y church, Antique’s muscovado sugar mill, Nica Rambutan Farm and the Tibiao Fish Spa. I also added the activities we did, like the buri and Patadyong weaving, Antique clay pottery, Tibiao white water kayaking and lambaklad fishing.

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Posted by Christian Sangoyo on Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Coron Travel Guide Itinerary Budget

Coron, a town in the province of Palawan, is one of the most sought after destinations in the Philippines. And you can easily understand why. It has pristine white sand beaches, unbelievably turquoise waters, rich marine life, World War II shipwrecks and karsts-dotted landscapes that can rival the best that the world has to offer. Often referred to as the country’s Last Frontier, it is located at the upper region of Palawan, 595 kilometers from Metro Manila.

Coron is the perfect destination for the casual vacationers, the hardcore backpackers, the beach lovers and adventurous divers. Once you’ve visited, coming back for a second time is really something you won’t need to decide on; Coron would automatically make the decision for you.

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Posted by Christian Sangoyo on Thursday, November 24, 2016

Langkawi Geoforest Park Cruise

It was strange, a chilly morning in Malaysia. The only temperature I know when in the country is hot, and hotter. The clouds were low, thinly blanketing the ridges of the karsts surrounding us, overgrown with hardy vegetation. Below, the water was almost green, its color muffled by the gray clouds overhead. Boats zigged and zagged along its placid surface, ferrying early tourists along the mangroves, their faces marveling at the scenery along the geopark.

Langkawi Geoforest Park Cruise
MANGROVES ALONG THE KARSTS OF KILIM GEOFOREST PARK

Langkawi was the second stop for the Star Cruises SuperStar Gemini Singapore-Malaysia cruise. The day before, we explored the historic Georgetown for our Penang shore excursion, a UNESCO World Heritage City. This time, we’re checking out Langkawi’s Kilim Karst Geoforest Park, another UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Posted by Christian Sangoyo on Sunday, November 20, 2016

SuperStar Gemini Shore Excursion Penang Cruise

The narrow asphalt-laden streets of Penang sparkled after a particularly heavy downpour. We were just in time, alighting from our van as the rain abated. We walked and found a delighted boy clutching mightily at her sister while riding a bike; a wall painting that is now synonymous with the city. I have seen this boy through the years, his face always the same, still giddy with excitement, his sister, still confidently pedaling the bike several times bigger for her size. I have grown older every time I see them, and they have not.

The UNESCO World Heritage City of Georgetown was one of the two, the other being Langkawi, shore excursions that the SuperStar Gemini offers to its cruisers. The ship’s guests can actually choose over several tour packages while on the cruise, each varying in activities to suit any traveler’s taste.

SuperStar Gemini Shore Excursion Penang Cruise
DETAILS OF PENANG

Us, we went for the historical tour which costs SGD110.00 per head. The tour touches on four sites in Georgetown, a trishaw ride, two local shopping sessions and a dinner buffet. It lasts for about six hours and is inclusive of transportation and tour guide. Not bad, if you consider the posh buffet dinner.

SuperStar Gemini Shore Excursion Penang Cruise
DOCKING IN AT PENANG

I thought our Penang tour would be ruined when it started to rain just as we were about to dock, but as we boarded our van, our tour guide cum driver was quick to hand out raincoats. We were soon zipping our way to our first stop.

 

CHEW JETTY

Chew Jetty Penang
NEW STREET ART AT CHEW JETTY

A caricature of a laughing grandma and his grandson welcomed us at the Chew Jetty. It is actually one of the six existing jetties in Penang. With the multitude of souvenir stores and cafes lining up the wooden jetty, you’d know right away that this is the most famous of the six.

Chew Jetty Penang
LOCALS RELAXING ON DECK

Chew Jetty Penang
WALLS ARE CREATIVELY PAINTED

These jetties are actually centuries old. Settled by Chinese immigrants looking for work on the docks, they eventually named each jetty after their surnames. So the one we were standing on is actually from the Chew clan.

Chew Jetty Penang
VIEW OF A NEIGHBORING JETTY

These two-meter wide wooden jetties, made of thick wooden planks on concrete stilts, stretch for about 300 meters into the Penang Harbour. And on both sides of them are wooden stilt houses, most of which in Chew Jetty particularly, have now been converted into shops and restaurants.

Chew Jetty Penang Hawker
LOCALS HAWKING FOOD

Chew Jetty Penang
A ROW OF RESIDENTIAL HOUSES

You can still, however, see some structures being used as homes, especially if you check out the narrower side streets, or side jetties to be more precise. But if you do, make sure that you’re not invading on their privacy, nobody likes a paparazzi.

 

PENANG STREET ART

Penang Street Art
BOY ON A BIKE BY ERNEST ZACHAREVIC

There used to be a wall mural by famous Lithuanian street artist, Ernest Zacharevic, on one of houses along Chew Jetty, unfortunately, the elements has left it to nothing but a faded outline. We were told not to worry though, as several of Ernest’s artworks are still well-preserved in Georgetown.

Penang Street Art
EVEN ALLEYS GET AN ART TREATMENT

And so we walked and passed by one of his most famous works, the Boy on a Bike. I have photographed this mural several times before and it’s getting harder and harder to come up with a new angle for this particular street art. I looked around and found a bicycle parked on the sidewalk parallel to the wall, aha.

Penang Street
A TYPICAL GEORGETOWN STREET

It took some minutes before our guide was able to peel everyone off the bicycle kids, people just love having their photographs and selfies taken here.

Penang Street
LOVELY SHOPHOUSES REUSED FOR A MORE MODERN HELLO KITTY ERA

We took several steps along Lebuh Ah Quee, admiring the old shophouses, now converted into, errrr, shops, but more modern ones, before taking a left turn and entering a gate where more old shop houses stood. Georgetown can definitely give our very own Vigan City a run for its money when it comes to turn-of-the-century structures.

 

KHOO KONGSI TEMPLE

Khoo Kongsi Temple Penang
INSIDE KHOO KONGSI TEMPLE

Khoo Kongsi Temple, the name doesn’t ring any bell for me. For someone who has frequented Penang, this actually excited me; finally, something new. After entering the temple compound, it suddenly dawned on me that I’ve been here before, well on its outer court, to be more specific. An entrance fee of MYR5.00 thwarted us from proceeding onwards before. This time, with all the fees shouldered by the shore excursion, I went in without being stopped for tickets.

Khoo Kongsi Temple Penang
ENTERING THE COMPOUND

Built in 1851, this ornate Chinese temple is hailed as the grandest of its kind in all of Malaysia. The temple was constructed by the Khoo clan who came from China’s Hokkien Province. It is set on a granite-paved courtyard, fronted by a traditional theater and surrounded by row-houses from its clan, a sort of gated protection for the temple.

Khoo Kongsi Temple Penang
THE TEMPLE FACADE

From its rich intricate decorations, you’d immediately assume that this was built by a powerful and wealthy clan. But if the level of ornamentation is already intense on the facade, it even pales in comparison to the interiors’ main hall where every inch of the walls, roof, beams and columns are decorated in reds and golds.

Khoo Kongsi Temple Penang
SPELL O.R.N.A.M.E.N.T.A.T.I.O.N.

Khoo Kongsi Temple Penang
CHECKING OUT THE MUSEUM

Latching off the temple’s right side, a small structure which I reckon to be the former clan house, now functions as a museum, relating the history of the Khoo clan and housing relics of their former lives.

 

TRISHAW RIDE

Trishaw Ride Penang
TRISHAWING OUR WAY AROUND PENANG

To clean our palate off too much history, we then proceeded to Jalan Penang where a score of red trishaw carts, fully decorated with flowers, were parked. Trishaws are three-wheeled bicycles with drivers set at the back. I have seen these guys before when we stayed at the nearby E&O Hotel Penang. With the garishness and kitschiness of their trishaws, I swore I would never ride one.

Trishaw Ride Penang
RELUCTANTLY RIDING A TRISHAW FOR THE FIRST TIME

But it was such bad form to beg off riding one when everyone was gamely hopping on to each of their own trishaws. So, even with a bad taste in my mouth, I grudgingly boarded one myself.

Trishaw Ride Penang
AN EASIER WAY OF EXPLORING PENANG

The seat was comfortable enough and since the driver was out back, we had a full view of the road. An old Malaysian dude pedaled us along the historic core of Georgetown, I can tell it wasn’t that easy, what with the combined weight of my cameras and my tummy.

Trishaw Ride Penang
FROM NARROW STREETS TO THE MAIN HIGHWAY

We meandered along parts of the city we usually walk on in the middle of the day, the sun making as sweat buckets. This was a different kind of Georgetown tour, however. I was wont to admit it, but I was really enjoying the ride. It was easy and effortless. I guess never swore off anything until you’ve tried it. These trishaws, at least, weren’t as bad as those at the Melaka Dutch Square, haha.

 

PENANG SHOPPING

Cocoa Boutique Penang
PICK YOUR CHOCOLATE

For shopping, I thought we’d go inside one of Penang’s many malls along Gurney Drive, but was surprised when we were herded to a chocolate shop, and later, to an herbal store, I think.

I’m not really into sweet stuff, but luckily, Cocoa Boutique’s chocolates are the dark types. You can even go darker, our guide said, as they also sell chocolates with more than the usual percentage of cocoa! I was wowed, then immediately proceeded to their free taste area, lol.

Shopping Penang
SHOPPING FOR STUFF TO BRING BACK HOME

The second shop we entered sells ginseng, spices and tea stuff. I’m really not that familiar with teas, preferring coffee or better yet, beer. But yes, they do have 3-in-1 coffee and instant teh tarik, so it’s not a total lost for a tourist like me, haha.

It wasn’t really the shopping that I’d had in mind, (what I had in mind, bootleg Star Wars Lego mini-figures) but it was good nonetheless.

 

BUFFET DINNER AT G HOTEL

G Hotel Buffet Penang
BUFFET DINNER AT G HOTEL

For dinner, we finally turned up at Gurney Drive. We sat our weary asses at the comfy chairs of G Hotel’s swanky Taste CafĂ© before raiding the buffet table.

G Hotel Buffet Penang
A BOWL OF NOODLES, PLEASE

G Hotel Buffet Penang
MY KIND OF BUFFET

I love how most of the offerings are local dishes, Penang being a center for culinary delights in Malaysia. I took in a serving of shrimp, some brown rice, a couple of baked mussels, some roasted duck and finally, a whole plate of mee goreng. Repeat two more times.

 

PENANG CITY HALL

Penang City Hall
THE HISTORIC PENANG CITY HALL

I thought we were done and were about to go back to the SuperStar Gemini when our van stopped in front of two white edifices, the Penang City Hall and the smaller Penang Town Hall. Everyone went down and proceeded to the adjacent field where larger-than-life cute bears depicting all countries of the world were on display. But I’m more into architecture than bears, so into the facades of the buildings I turned.

Penang Town Hall
THE ADJACENT TOWN HALL

The Penang City Hall, built in 1903, is a Malaysian National Monument. The structure is quite beautiful in its ornate Edwardian sort of way. It is said that this is the first building in the city that utilized electric lights and fans. Okay, then.

 

BOARDING TIME

Star Cruises SuperStar Gemini Penang
ALL ABOARD! BACK TO THE SHIP, EVERYBODY!

And finally, it was really time to go back on board. It was now officially my third time in Georgetown. But every time I come here, there are always new things I discover, from food to places and even people. Indeed, like that boy on the bicycle, no matter how old Penang is, it just never gets old for me.


Star Cruises
Address: 5/F Star Cruises Centre, 100 
      Andrews Avenue, Pasay City, Metro Manila
Contact Number: (+63) 836-6830 to 32
Email Address: salesmanila@starcruises.com
Book a Cruise: Click Here

~ THIS IS PART OF STARCRUISES MEDIA INVITE FOR SUPERSTAR GEMINI’S
SINGAPORE-MALAYSIA TRIP. OPINIONS & WHAT-NOTS, ALL MINE.

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Posted by Christian Sangoyo on Friday, November 18, 2016

Star Cruises Singapore Malaysia Cruise Top Deck

Under a thick blanket of clouds, the sun went down in Singapore without even bidding goodbye. Lights started to flicker on the topside of our cruise ship, illuminating the wooden deck and making the central pool glow. We leaned on the railings several storeys up, watching, hypnotized by the frothy waters of Melaka Strait below, waiting for evening to fully settle, waiting for the lands of Malaysia to come into view.

Star Cruises Singapore Malaysia Cruise
A SMOOTH CRUISE ALONG THE MELAKA STRAIT

A smashingly good time with friends isn’t really the picture painted when one talks of a cruise trip. Cruises are often associated with old retirees spending their built up fortunes to travel or rich couples out on a lavish honeymoon. But surprisingly, what we encountered during our cruise from Singapore to Malaysia (and back again), was just that. A smashingly good time with friends.

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Posted by Christian Sangoyo on Wednesday, November 16, 2016