Read more about the article Laoag, Paoay and Santa Maria – Philippines
Laoag, Paoay and Santa Maria - Philippines

Laoag, Paoay and Santa Maria – Philippines

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City of Lights

On our next move in the Philippines after Manila we head to the northern region of Ilocos Norte, flying to it’s capital city, Laoag, where the only commercial airport for the whole region is located. We knew the night we landed and the following day would be extremely packed with a very explicit visit of Laoag in the night, Paoay in the morning, then the drive south towards Vigan, highlight for this trip but not before an unexpected surprise stop over by Pangil, an ancient dead coral reef and the UNESCO World Heritage listed Santa Maria Church; passing through countless tobacco fields plantations and beautiful landscapes; then back again towards Laoag for a late evening departure flight to Manila.

So right upon landing, our friend came to pick us from the airport and gave us a small tour around the landmarks of Laoag. Few minutes after we were already on way to the neighbouring village of Paoay where we drop our bags at the hotel and then enjoyed an amazing Northern Philippine dinner where we sampled the incredibly good Ilocano dishes. That was a great feast! We will always keep these great memories!

So here they are the key reasons in getting to this region: meeting my friend in Paoay, its World Heritage listed church, and of course, getting to visit the best preserved and almost untouched Spanish-Oriental colonial city in Asia, Vigan, a fascinating city like no other, and yet another UNESCO site visited in our growing list.

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Read more about the article Manila – Philippines
Manila - Philippines

Manila – Philippines

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The Pearl of the Orient

Finally the date has come! 10 months waiting for this moment since we booked our tickets, now a reality. And thankfully as we found a good air fare in hotukdeals app on our phones (remember you can also check the website version here, just type flights in the search box). Although originally on a split flight from London to Abu Dhabi with Etihad, and Abu Dhabi to Manila on Philippine Airlines (both companies do code-share on this route); the flight times dramatically changed for the Philippine Airlines leg meaning we could not make the connecting flight in Abu Dhabi on time. Luckily for us in this case, Philippine Airlines re-booked us instead on the direct London to Manila which they recently introduced.

If you are the kind of person who cannot sleep on long haul flights then try to make everything possible to get some sleep on the outbound flight, always any flight from west to east; otherwise the jet lag will be definitely terrible. If you can or have someone who can get for you some sleeping tablets then that’s a good bet however needless to say careful with it and mind the doses. This flight is among one of the longest direct in the world, and to this date the longest I’ve ever done. And it was our lucky day, we managed entire 4 seats rows for each of us since the outbound flight was half empty.

Our plan on this trip was not only visiting Manila, but some other places during the 9 days in total we stayed across the Philippines and Taiwan. For instance, our stay in Manila was shortened to 2 days on our arrival and a last one before our departure back home. The rest of the places we would visit are Taal, Laoag, Paoay, Santa Maria, Vigan, Boracay and Taipei.

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Istanbul – Turkey

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The City on Seven Hills

Finally we managed another of our destinations which was in our wish list for a long time. On this occasion, thanks to the air fare deal by Pegasus Airlines, the Turkish low cost. And although the flight times are not the most convenient ones, they give you in fact, the whole of the weekend to enjoy, by departing Friday night as the last flight of Stansted Airport and landing in Istanbul just before 5am on Saturday.

Don’t you worry about landing so early, Ataturk Airport is already getting busy by that time and you have everything already open and running, and so the bus to the city centre.

The city is the largest in Europe (by population within city limits, ref. Wikipedia) and also offers the visitor a great and vast amount of sights, monuments, museums and historical places. Once named Byzantium, the capital city of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople in the Ottoman Empire. Buildings from every epoch are still standing in great fusion with the modern and elegant city, where broad avenues where laid out on top of the ancient city. (more…)

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Read more about the article Goa – India
Goa - India

Goa – India

  • Post category:AsiaIndia

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Former Portuguese colony in India

The region of Goa is more than just beaches and Trance music. It’s a region full of great Portuguese colonial architecture, amazing food and gorgeous landscapes. It’s also a very small region, in fact, India’s smallest state where the points of interest and sights are located most of them around the old capital city, Velha Goa. You are never far away, and you are always near a beach, though not all of them are what you really expect or want.

You need to remember that since Goa is a key resort in India, locals have around 5 months to make money from tourism. The remaining months is when the monsoon hits the area, with very few people keen to visit the region and as such meaning no business for locals. Therefore, expect to pay higher prices on everything. less quantities or even less quality; although if you know how to move around and where to go, you will do wonders and have one of the greatest experience and fantastic holidays.

To bear in mind before coming here, heat. Yes, it can get very hot and super humid. And considering from our experience when merely days ago we had just 10 degrees centigrade in Delhi and Varanasi, this was a shock to have +35. Not a complaint but the contrary. I love the heat, but prepare to bath in your own sweat non stop, especially when visiting the old capital. Somehow it was even more humid over there.

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Almaty – Kazakhstan

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“The south capital”

Almaty, the largest and most important city in Kazakhstan ever since its foundation, and a very much awaited destination to travel to for being the best spot to start a Central Asia tour across part of the original Silk Road in this side of the world. Fair enough it will not be a complete tour this time through the 5 Stans due to time limitations, but that will be a good sign for return in the near future and complete over all, the grand cities of Uzbekistan. This time, the trip will take me through the nature and incredible landscapes across steep mountain passes, canyons and lakes once upon a time filled with merchants navigating their ways connecting the Far East with Europe.

After being to that many ex-Soviet cities in the past, here is no exception to find the very same architecture, urbanism, similar food blend of Russian, East European and that touch of Chinese and Arabian. Signs difficult to even understand, hard to communicate in English to anyone and that unique feeling of a bygone Soviet era. You can feel it anywhere in the city and that is without doubt part of the excitement for reaching countries like this, a bit more unusual.

The city itself is not the prettiest, definitely no, nor is the kind of place you come for holidays or spend the time as a cultural trip. It is in the other hand one of the most common place to start a Silk Road tour. Its location could not be any better, not to mention the incredible beauty and landscapes that lie merely few kilometres south and visible from most parts of the city, the famous Tien Shan Mountain range, an UNESCO World Heritage Site in its full length. And so, not many kilometres towards the east the incredible Charyn Canyon, nicknamed the Grand Canyon’s little sister, is the second largest in the word. Then the many lakes few minutes’ drive away, especially these with the dead trees inside the water, and plenty more. But for a day, the city alone is great and certainly has great architecture to admire and stunning food to enjoy. All very worth it. (more…)

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