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 2

Second day of Luang Prabang visit revolved around the element of water.

Prior to our trip, we already arranged a tour with Klook for the visit to Pak Ou Caves, then to a wine-making village and finally, to the popular Kuang Si Falls.

Call time was 8am and we were fetched by a van. We were brought to Khem Khong Street which is behind the Royal Palace Museum. A few steps down to the banks of the Mekong, a long boat was waiting for us. It’s a traditional long boat that could probably sit around 30 people. When we got to the boat, we realized that we were the only passengers on that day. Our guide had instructed the boatman to head for the Pak Ou Caves.

Mekong River, the lifeline of Indochina.

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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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Asik-Asik Falls of Alamada

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A beauty in a form of water streaming out and down from lush green cliff walls joining the meandering Alamada River in the highlands of Cotabato – a simple description of a hidden gem in the town of Alamada, at the foot of the Blue Mountain that is Mt. Ragang or Mount Piapayungan to some. Asik-asik Falls, the pride of Cotabato, is a unique and beautiful curtain waterfalls tucked in a rift formed by the Alamada River.

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The Province of Quirino

Even up to this day, the province of Quirino is not on the list of must-visit places by the weekend warriors and the local tourists. Quirino is not found on the same path leading to terminal points of Tuguegarao or of Sta. Ana in Cagayan. Progress has yet to be felt in this laid-back province consisting of 6 municipalities and a population of less than 200,000.

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Most often, people would ask what’s there to see and visit in Quirino. It is not as popular as its neighboring provinces like Isabela and Cagayan or even Nueva Vizcaya to its south. It is relatively young, having formed as a sub-province in 1966 from the forested portion of Nueva Vizcaya and eventually became a province 6 years after.

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My Taiwan Chronicles – Day 5

Colors from the Walls

A day before I left Taiwan, I decided to explore some artwork in Taipei. Colors spread on walls often trigger my own eyes to marvel and appreciate the modern, non-traditional form of art. In some small streets within Taipei, the graffiti art screams like visual explosions, showing visitors and locals that this art movement thrives to add color to the community.

Such colorful display can be seen around the Wanhua District near Taipei Cinema Park. To get to the park by MRT, get off at Ximen Station, turn right for Hanzhong Street, then left for Emei Street. Hanzhong transforms at night as Ximen Night Market. At Emei Street, walk a few blocks to reach the corner of Kangding Road where the Taipei Cinema Park is located.

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My Taiwan Chronicles – Day 4

Panda, Beitou and Tamsui

It’s weekend in Taipei. Time to see my favorite animal on earth, the Giant Panda. Taipei Zoo has a pair of Giant Pandas as a permanent exhibition. Said to be one of the largest zoos in Asia, Taipei Zoo in its second and current location provides extensive display of animals, the most popular are the Giant Pandas.

My visit to Taipei Zoo was specifically for these black-and-white creatures.

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Taipei Zoo received two Giant Pandas in 2008. The two pandas were named Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan as a gesture of unity. It caused quite a stir 3 years prior as many Taiwanese disagreed on the gesture itself. But with the acceptance from the Taiwanese president of the endangered animals, it has made Taipei Zoo even more popular.

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My Taiwan Chronicles – Day 3

Outside Taipei in a Day

I joined a day tour to places outside of Taipei. Thanks to KKDay Tour, I was able to experience Yehliu, Shifen and Jiufen on my third day in Taiwan.

My initial itinerary was to visit these three places on my own, relying on tips and directions from blogs. To get to these places, I need to travel by bus and train with Taipei Main Station as the reference point. I need to choose between my orientation skills and travel convenience, so I choose the latter to save time and energy.

The KKday Tour has an English-speaking guide. The tour cost TWD 1,000 for a visit to Yehliu Geo Park, Shifen Waterfall, Shifen Old Street and Jiufen Old Street. Meeting and pick-up place for this tour is at Taipei Main Station, East Gate 1 from 8:40am to 9am.

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