Category: Bucket List

Bogya Hot Spring – Banaue

Bogyo Salt Spring, photo by JMorton

Bogya Hot Spring, photo by JMorton

Bogya Hot Spring – Banaue

During our trip to the north of the Philippines, we visited many wonderful places and one of these places was the Bogya Hot Spring in Banaue.

This is not for the faint hearted as discovered by my darling husband, who had decided to have an attack of vertigo. 🙁

Peter, dicing with fate, photo by JMorton

It was not really an ideal day to visit the hot spring as it was drizzling a bit and the road was wet and can be very slippery.  But our tour guide, the lovely and kind Arlene, did not give us much information about how we will be going there terrain-wise if there was any hazard or whatever.  All she said was that we would be walking for 45 minutes on a fairly steady pace.

All I can say is OMG!!!

It was death-defying to reach the water source.  To start with it was a fairly steep climb. We were still out of breath when we discovered that we had to navigate some parts of the terraces, which one side is a shallow rice planted paddy, while the other side from a foot-wide only footpath was a deepening ravine/cliff.  It was mind-numbingly scary.

This trip does not have any nod whatsoever to health and safety; no wonder Peter decided he was having one of his vertigo episodes.  He was screaming like a girl!  Actually, that was really not the case as we were a party of 4 women/girl including, our guide, and Peter.  None of us females was screaming. LOL  All we wanted was to get to the end of a very long winding rice terraces footpath.  Peter was crawling on all fours, at some point, with sheer panic written all over his face.  I did tell him to go back but he would not have it.  To distract him I was mentioning names of great English navigators, explorers and travellers.

Of course, now and again we would stop and admire the most glorious view and take photos, (I had my mini camera with me which has been so useful).

After the eventful long trek, we got to the hot spring, which we thought was really just a small hot bog.  It was a tiny pool which did not really look that amazing.

Though we did not plan to go swimming as we did not bring our swimsuit. we thought we do a bit of paddling only.  But the moment we got into the water it was so inviting we threw caution to the wind and we had a soak in our clothes, we thought the weather was so hot it would dry our clothes as we were walking back.  The water was hot; hot bubbles were rising from beneath the rocks.  It was quite wonderful.

It was just the thing to calm our challenged nerves and weary feet.

We stayed for a while and had our ham and cheese sandwiches among crops of rocks by the spring. It can’t get any better than this, I thought.  Until some German tourist ruined my self-satisfied reverie as she joined a growing number of other Europeans enjoying the spring as well.

This particular woman made my blood boil.  Not a care in the world she was.  She went into the pool with a lit cigarette.  Obviously, she knew, being bloody German/European that even when there was no visible sign of No Smoking, one just consciously not smoke in a very public place.

I went mental. I loudly said that she was disrespecting the Philippines.  She should not smoke.  But the stupid woman just did not care and after smoking, she made a point of stubbing her cigarette butt just above the water.  That did it for me.  I think I mentioned Holocaust and the murder of 6 million Jews during  WWII.

Peter had to tell me to calm down.

I can see that my compatriots agreed with my no smoking policy but they were just too polite to complain especially to foreigners!

At least I had my say as the other foreigners/tourists gave me sympathetic looks.

Anyway, going back was a trek I would not want to try again in a hurry but we did not have a choice.  So we went.  I supposed we were more aware, which somehow lessen the scare factor a little bit.  We were more careful and it felt that the walk was much shorter and not as shockingly frightening compared to before.  We were also going downhill.

Peter was ok, more confident.  However, that did not mean we did not have an almost heinous accident.  Our youngest member of the group, Leah, decided to take a selfie but almost lose a footing.  We were in shock. We felt 50 per cent hilarity and 50 per cent horror from the incongruity of taking a selfie near a cliff.

We made it alive with pegs and digits intact back to our hired people’s carrier.

We agreed that if we only knew beforehand that the Bogya Hot Spring was that small, about 3m² only, we would not have gone but then we immediately had a change of heart; despite the sheer fright we went through, walking through the rice terraces was a gift – a privilege.  We had an adventure of a lifetime!  Something we can cross out from our bucket list.

I am sure the same thought would go through the mind of those elderly Chinese tourists, in their walking sticks, we met in the narrow rice terraces on their way to Bogya Hot Spring.


Rose Coloured Petra

Rose Coloured Petra

Today in the news, President Barack Obama of the USA was given a private tour of the ancient city of Petra, in Jordan.

What is so famous about Petra?

Well, its sheer magnificence has been shown in several films over the years, famously in the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Petra comes from a Greek word meaning stone.  A variation of Peter which means rock/stone.

Anyway Petra is an archeological city in Ma’an which is under Jordanian governorate.  It is famous for the rose-coloured sculptured architecture and a water conduit system.

Despite its historical heritage, Petra was virtually unknown to Europeans until 1812, when a Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt introduced this man-made wonder of the world to the west/Europe.

Such is  its wondrous beauty that it is high up in the UNESCO world heritage ranking and the Smithsonian counts it as 1 of the 28 places to visit before one kicks the bucket.



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A young John William Burgon was so intrigued that he composed a poem about Petra, a place which was a Xanadu to him; he has neither seen nor been to Petra at the time he wrote his poem while a student in the University of Oxford.  His effort won him the Newdigate Prize in 1845, awarded to Oxford undergraduates for Best Composition in English verse.


It seems no work of Man’s creative hand,

by labour wrought as wavering fancy planned;

But from the rock as if by magic grown,

eternal, silent, beautiful, alone!

Not virgin-white like that old Doric shrine,

where erst Athena held her rites divine;

Not saintly-grey, like many a minster fane,

that crowns the hill and consecrates the plain;

But rose-red as if the blush of dawn,

that first beheld them were not yet withdrawn;

The hues of youth upon a brow of woe,

which Man deemed old two thousand years ago,

match me such marvel save in Eastern clime,

a rose-red city half as old as time.


John William Burgon (21 August 1813 – 4 August 1888)

View from the Shard

Wow, this building is one to add to the Must-See places in London.


It’s billed as ‘a new symbol for the city’ where you can see for 40 miles on a clear day, but do the lofty heights do justice to the hype surrounding the £500m attraction?

Yahoo! NewsBy Chris Parsons | Yahoo! News – Thu, Jan 10, 2013

Yahoo! News UK takes a trip up the 1,015ft tower to see what visitors can expect for their £25. Looming large over the capital’s skyline, the unmistakable shape of the Shard has been a familiar London landmark for almost two years.Next month, 12 years after its design was sketched on the back of a restaurant menu, the tallest building in Europe will open to the public.

Already the opening day for the attraction – February 1 – is sold out, as is the second day, February 2.

Spectacular: The Shard has been 12 years in the making (© The View from The Shard)

Visitors will get the chance to scale 72 floors of the 1,015ft skyscraper, before marveling at the panoramic views of London below.

It’s billed as ‘a new symbol for the city’ where you can see for 40 miles on a clear day, but do the lofty heights do justice to the hype surrounding the £500m attraction?

From the moment visitors step through the glass doors at ground level of the Shard, it’s clear its makers want you to experience more than just ‘the tallest building in Europe’.

Next to the sleek and spacious entrance hall, tourists are greeted by pictures of famous Londoners in bizarre computer-enhanced situations.

Think Kate Moss marrying Henry VIII, Richard Branson manning a hot dog stand, and Margaret Thatcher and Karl Marx on a tandem bike ride.

It’s one of several imaginative touches designed to help visitors ‘learn about London in a different way’, rather than just take in the spectacular view.

Visitors are given a tongue-in-cheek look at famous Londoners on the ground floor ( © The View from The Shard)
Digital telescopes on the 69th floor provide extra info for tourists (© The View from The Shard)

Those heading straight for the upper echelons will see various other visual aids before they reach the summit.

A painted floor on level 33 maps out London and describes the highlights of each suburb, before challenging you to ‘test your knowledge of London’.

The floors above this level will feature a hotel, spa, and private residences.

London’s landmarks look tiny from the 800ft high viewing platform (© The View from The Shard)After an 18-second lift ride up 35 floors, you arrive on level 68, where the view is tantalisingly obscured by clouds drawn onto the glass.

The designs describe the types of clouds you can expect to see from the top, as well as heightening the anticipation for the main event.

Climb a small flight of stairs, and you finally arrive on the level 69 viewing gallery – and the sight that greets you is undeniably breathtaking.

Gazing downward, giant landmarks like the Gherkin, Monument and Tower Bridge appear as stumpy childrens’ toys.

Getting a bird’s eye view as tiny trains snake away from London Bridge station directly beneath you is also an unforgettable moment.

On a crystal clear day it is claimed you can see to France from this platform.

Unfortunately, drizzle and mist on the day I visit mean anything beyond the London Eye is obscured by fog.

Canary Wharf and the Olympic Stadium also remain disappointingly out of view.

Visitors on sunnier days will have no such misfortune, and can look forward to stunning vistas across the entire south-east.

Those looking for London’s landmarks are given a helping hand with interactive ‘Tell:scopes’ – state of the art digital telescopes which present factoids for the various buildings in users’ line of vision.

While admiring the view, I learn that the Gherkin is London’s most energy-efficient building, and that the Monument is the tallest isolated stone column in the world.

The digital telescopes were originally going to cost extra to use (they each have a credit card slot), but bosses decided against charging extra on top of what is already a hefty entrance price.

Loo with a view: Even the toilets have spectacular vistas (© The View from The Shard)

Kevin Murphy, from Event Communications who helped develop the Shard as an ‘attraction’, says they wanted to give visitors ‘impact’ when they arrive at the Shard, and not just from the vertigo-inducing views.

He told Yahoo!: “This is the Eiffel Tower of London. When you go to the top of the Eiffel Tower though, what else do you get apart from the view?

“If you have an attraction in a tall building you can get people up there, show them the view, and take them down again.

“We wanted to provide a premium attraction with lots more information.

Level 72, where visitors are exposed to the elements (© The View from The Shard)

“It was very important that we gave visitors lots of impact in addition to the view, with video and audio.”

If you want the authentic Shard experience however, climb up another three levels.

Floor 72 is the highest habitable level of the Shard, at a stomach-turning 244m (800ft) above ground.

It’s on this floor – exposed to the elements – that your heart will skip a beat as you gaze across the capital.

The temperature drops several degrees, the wind swirls around you and street noise is clearly audible below.

The nighttime views from the Shard are equally stunning ( © The View from The Shard)

Rather than the glass walls and roof of the floors below, up on 72 the Shard’s highest glass panels jut into the open air.

There is a fair amount of scaffolding still in place around the top floors of the building, but bosses insist the Shard will be shiny and complete by the time the first guests stream in on February 1.

The ‘experience’, as it is called, is certainly memorable – but many tourists will baulk at the £30 pay-on-the-day entrance fee.

Tickets in advance will set you back £24.95, while a child ticket costs £18.95 if booked ahead.

Kevin Murphy says the price should be taken relatively to other London landmarks.

The Shard views are unbeatable, if you don’t mind the hefty entrance fee (PA)

He said: “You have to compare it with what you get at other attractions around London.

“If you go to the London Dungeons you will pay a similar amount, but we believe you get a better experience here.

“That’s not to say the Dungeons aren’t a great attraction – they are quite different experiences – but there is nothing quite like the Shard in London.”

There’s no denying the Shard is a tourist trip which will hit you in the pocket, but for seeing London (and beyond) like never before, there isn’t anything else like it.

Bicol Tourism (Philippines)

Mayon Volcano, Photo by PH Morton

Bicolandia beckons as new tourist magnet

By David Casuco, Contributing Writer


LOS ANGELES – Time was when the picture-perfect Mount

in Daraga, Albay is everything there is to Bicol tourism. Today, there are a great number of destinations that had been developed as global tourist magnets like the Camarines Sur Water Sports Complex, the thrilling whale-shark experience in Donsol, Sorsogon, and the majestic waves in Catanduanes that are ultimate jewels to every surfer’s dream.

And as the visitors keep coming, DoT-5 Regional Director Maria Ong-Ravanilla and her team are going places to do road show events that seek to drum up more interest and to lure visitors and investors to Bicolandia. Since 2006 Ravanilla and her group annually travel to North America to update the FilAm expats on Bicol’s fun-filled travel experience.

The Bicolandia or Region-5 sits at the southeastern peninsula of Luzon island. Daet, the northernmost and first important city of the region, is 342 kilometers southeast of Metro Manila, a 10- hour drive by bus or a 45-minute trip by plane. Bicol Region is composed of six provinces, namely: Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Albay, Sorsogon, and the island provinces of Catanduanes and Masbate.

At a community presentation last week held at the Rizal Hall of the Philippine Consulate General in this city, Ravanilla told a highly-engaged crowd that Bicol tourism is looking up once more and she expects more good things to happen in the near future. Ravanilla said the tourism industry in Region-5 is definitely on the upswing. She asks the FilAm expats to help promote Bicol as an important tourism destination.

“We need you to achieve our goal for 2016… we ask you to be our partners in promoting the Bicol region,” she said. Ravanilla’s group included Legazpi City (Albay) Vice Mayor Vittorio Roces, Victor Zepeda, Vice Chairman, St. Expeditius Golf & Residential Estates, and a representative from the Oriental Hotel in Legazpi City.

Ravanilla said that DoT’s goal for Bicol is to receive 1.5 million foreign tourists in 2016. The projection was based on the Region’s performance in the last five years that saw tourist arrival figures register dramatic upturns of up to 30 percent from 2009 to 2010. That year, Bicol ranked number two among the 15 regions in tourist arrivals. Also, in 2010 Camarines Sur overtook Metro Manila and Cebu as top tourist destinations in the country. Last year, though, the 9.3 percent gain was far less impressive compared to the past five years.

Asked by Pinoy Watchdog about security issues, Roces said that there are no threats whatsoever to foreign tourists visiting Bicol. “The growing tourism industry in the region gave the locals more jobs, including the rebels, a lot of them have returned to the fold of the law,” said Roces. “It is so inspiring that this positive thing is happening.”

Bicol, no doubt, is not wanting in tourist attractions. Aside from the natural wonders and man-made landmarks, the Bicolanos hold festivals the whole year round, the most famous of those is the Magayon Festival. Other big festivals include Bantayog Festival (April 15, Camarines Norte), Kaogma Festival (Maytime, Camarines Sur), Kasaggayahan Festival (October, Sorsogon), Catandungan Festival (Catanduanes), the Rodeo Masbateno Festival (Masbate), and the Penafrancia Festival in Naga. Camarines Norte.

Magayon (beautiful) Festival is a month-long summer festival that celebrates the legendary “Daragang Magayon,” from which Mayon Volcano got its name. Legend had it that a beautiful maiden “Daragang Magayon” and her lover were killed by another scheming and jealous man, who is also one of Magayon’s zealous admirers. The lovers were buried side by side and from that grave rose a majestic mountain that is now the Mayon Volcano.

The Bantayog Festival (April 15) is held annually to commemorate the first monument built in honor of national hero Dr. Jose Rizal. The monument was erected on December 30, 1898 by the Filipino revolutionaries. The Bantayog Festival features civic and military parade, agro-industrial trade fair, exhibits, and sporting activities.

Last year, Bicol had a total of 742,038 foreign tourist arrivals out of the total 3,917,454 million that visited the Philippines. During the first quarter this year, Bicol Region ranks fourth in the foreign tourist arrivals among 15 regions in the country. The national target this year for foreign tourist arrivals is pegged at 4.2 million.

Compared to its Southeast Asian neighbors, the Philippines remains a lightweight in the tourism market. Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia posted 24, 19, and 8 million tourist arrivals respectively last year.



I have always wanted to see  the Mayon Volcano.  As children we learnt from school that Mayon has a perfect cone, or near enough.  It is expectacular that it is a natural wonder of the world.  One for the bucket list.  Must see Mayon.


I spent my childhood in Marag, the eden then of the Philippines.

Birabid, photo by JMorton

Birabid, photo by JMorton

My young Manilanian palate was greatly challenged by exotic fare found in Marag. One I remember most were the birabids. Birabids are fresh water shellfish which we used to gather from our rice field just after the palay had been planted. They are tiny, the size of petit pois. They were easy to spot as they produce bubbles on the surface of the watery rice paddy.

They are washed and salted and left to ferment for at least a couple of days. They were eaten with boiled rice. I must admit the taste takes getting used to. I would say it was pretty disgusting at first because of its fishy and very salty taste, but you develop an appetite for it.

My mother does not like them so she did not use to make them but my Auntie Caring did and used to send a bowl of it for my father, who liked it. The birabids are eaten whole with their soft crunchy shells.


One for the bucket list:  To try  birabid again to see if it tastes just like I remember it.