Heritage City of Melaka

Melawat Melaka Bererti Melawati Malaysia

The slogan above translates to “Visiting Malacca Means Visiting Malaysia”. True enough, the heritage city of Melaka provides a glimpse of how Malaysia has become what it is now. A visit to Melaka broadens our understanding of the history, culture and heritage of the gem of the strait of spice trade.

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UNESCO Statement

In 2008, the historical city was declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Along with George Town in Penang, these two cities in the Strait of Melacca represent more than 500 years of history, culture and heritage unique to this part of the world. Georgetown reflects the East meets West influence during the British period from the end of 18th century. Melaka on the other hand represents the fusion of Asia and Europe from the 1500s up to the time when it was ceded to the British by the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824.

When in Malaysia, make sure to free up at least a day for the visit to the UNESCO World Heritage listed city of Melacca.

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My Luang Prabang Chronicles – Day 3 Part 2

The old town center of Luang Prabang is reminiscent of an old southeast Asian kingdom that entirely embraced Buddhism and eventually married a French colonial hand. Its charm relies on this distinct blend, a Laotian heritage that is a cut among the rest.

Tak Bat
Before we visited the temples, we woke up early in the morning, before sunrise to witness a venerable tradition of Tak Bat. In Luang Prabang, this ceremony happens before sunrise on the streets of the old town. Tak Bat is the ritual of collecting food by Buddhist monks from people who lined up in the streets of Luang Prabang. Monks clad in shades of saffron and orange, walk in line with their alms bowl in front. Tak Bat mostly happen at Sakkaline and Kamal Road.

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My Luang Prabang Chronicles – Day 3 part 1

Visit Luang Prabang to learn and understand why UNESCO included it in the list of World Heritage Sites. The old town center has a unique characteristic of fused traditional Lao architecture and urban structure with that of 19th and 20th century European colonial influence – a fine example of a remarkably preserved blend of two distinct elements reflected across the old town center thru its temples, palaces and buildings.

Allow one day of your Luang Prabang trip to wander in the old town and appreciate the charm of this former royal and religious capital of the Kingdom of a Million Elephants. Luang Prabang traces back to 14th-16th century as a powerful and strategic place in the Silk Route.

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My Luang Prabang Chronicles – Day 1

There are stories of long cross border trips and unreliable sleeper buses in and out of Laos. There are also stories of scenic boat rides on the Mekong which take more than a day to reach Luang Prabang. But no matter which mode of transport you choose, a planned trip to the old town of Luang Prabang is worth all the journey.

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Day 1 of my Luang Prabang travel began the moment when the Air Asia plane touched down at the LPIA. Laos is one of the 3 remaining ASEAN countries which I haven’t visited yet. I heard a lot of wonderful stories of Laos and why every traveler always include it in their trips. I always felt that Laos has a deep story – heritage and culture as enigmatic yet profound as those of neighboring countries like Cambodia or Thailand.

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Old Town of Luang Prabang

Most of us are not familiar with the city of Luang Prabang. But for those who have traveler and backpacker friends, this city is often mentioned for its heritage charm and tourist-friendly vibe on top of its old-world colonial draw. Luang Prabang is the heritage pride of Laos.

There are several ways to reach Luang Prabang. By land, there are sleeper buses from Hanoi, Vietnam or other places. There is no existing train network heading to Luang Prabang. Please do note that the distance from Hanoi to Luang Prabang is almost 900km and the trip might take forever to reach Laos. I had a terrible experience with the sleeper bus from Ho Chi Minh to Siem Reap so I put this one as the last resort.

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Baroque Churches of the Philippines: Paoay Church

To complete the UNESCO inscribed 4 Baroque churches of the Philippines is the church found in the town of Paoay, 18 kms southwest of Laoag City in Ilocos Norte. La Iglesia de San Agustin de Paoay or simply Paoay Church, is the finest example of earthquake baroque church in the Philippines.

This church was the first one I visited among the 4 UNESCO listed baroque churches. It was in 2009 that a visit to Paoay was included in our Ilocos itinerary. Paoay Church, in the middle of a sprawling churchyard is a main tourist draw of the town.

Paoay Sjanima wordpress

NHI marker. Photo credit to Sjanima.wordpress.com

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Baroque Churches of the Philippines: Miag-ao Church

A fortress church in southern Iloilo is part of the 4 Baroque Spanish-era churches of the Philippines inscribed by UNESCO in 1993 as a World Heritage Site. In Miag-ao, set on the highest point of the town to guard and watch out from the Tacas or the Moro invaders, the beautiful church dedicated to Sto. Tomas de Villanueva was built.

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It is said that this church is of Baroque-Romanesque style. It is Baroque because elements like colonnades and domes, the chiaroscuro as well as the bold play of volume and void is present in this church. This style was common in Europe during the 1600s. Romanesque on the other hand is characterized by bold semi-circular arches, typical during medieval times.

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Baroque Churches of the Philippines: Santa Maria Church

Every August 15, the town of Santa Maria in Ilocos Sur celebrates its fiesta in honor of Apo Baket, the Virgin Mary as Our Lady of the Assumption. The focal point of this celebration is done in their church which is one of the four baroque Philippine churches inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

I recalled that my only visit to this very striking church made of bricks was in 2009 as part of the Ilocos journey which started in Laoag down to Vigan then to Santa Maria and back to Laoag. The church sits on top of a hill. The detached bell tower and the side of the church can already be seen from the first step of the incredibly imposing flight of stairs.

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85 wide steps
(photo credit: SanJosenyongGala)

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Baroque Churches of the Philippines: San Agustin Church of Manila

There are several old churches that you may want to visit and explore. If you are interested with history and heritage, it is a great idea to visit the 4 baroque churches of the Philippines designated by UNESCO as a world heritage site.

Old structures in the country are mostly influenced by the Spaniards and the Americans. The former has colonized the Philippines for 377 years at the time when Spain was the greatest power in the world. The latter, when it has become a superpower and bought the country from the Spaniards. The Spanish conquistadores have brought along Christianity and spread it in our soils. In areas that were converted to Roman Catholicism, they turn it into pueblos and in almost every pueblo, they built churches.

The country, being predominantly Roman Catholic, had a huge number of churches built during the Spanish rule. Most of the designs were patterned after the churches in Latin America. These churches were built like fortresses, facing the sea and often on elevated surfaces. They were built as such to keep watch of possible attacks and raid either by the Moro and other ethnic groups. The baroque churches often have massive buttresses that serve to protect the church from earthquakes.

Because of their structure, these churches survived natural and man-made disasters.

The four churches inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site are:
1. San Agustin Church of Manila
2. Church of La Nuestra SeƱora de la Asuncion in Santa Maria in Ilocos Sur
3. San Agustin Church of Paoay in Ilocos Norte
4. Church of Sto. Tomas de Villanueva in Miag-ao, Iloilo

San Agustin Church of Manila

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San Agustin Church (November 2015)

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Ifugao and its Stairways to Heaven

A few minutes after breakfast, I found myself standing in awe, in front of the rice terraces, those fields carved from the mountain sides, perhaps made by bare hands of the Ifugao tribe. A massive work that covers the slopes of some of the mountains in Banaue and the nearby towns. They seem like stairways to heaven, revealing their beauty as the rising sun began to cast its morning light on the ancient rice terraces.

Ifugao, my 55th province.

A landlocked province, Ifugao belongs to the Cordillera Administrative Region, sharing its borders with Mountain Province, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya and Benguet. Ifugao means ‘people from the hill’. It is located high in the mountains of the Cordillera with river valleys and forest cover.

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