Saturday, May 30, 2009

Chua Phuoc Hai Tu- pagoda-hopping in Vietnam part 4

It is a temple of numerous names. The most popular is the Jade Emperor Pagoda but it is also referred to as Chua Phuoc Hai Tu (Chua is the Vietnamese term for temple), the Fuhai Monastery or even as the Tortoise Pagoda.

Phuoc Hai Tu fountain
a fountain sits in the front yard of Chua Phuoc Hai Tu, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

Not surprisingly, the central court features the prominent figure of the Jade Emperor. Flanking him are other Taoist deities made of papier-mâché. Traditional decorations fill the hall, including beautiful inscriptions in Chinese that are as old as the temple which was constructed in the early 1900s. Elaborate carvings filled the other side hall which curiously, depicted visions of hell.

Chua Phuoc Hai Temple door
the carved wooden door of Chua Phuoc Hai Tu

I did remember my friend telling me that the temple is Vietnamese and not Chinese. This somehow confused me as all the pagodas I went to, from Thien Hau, Tam Son Hoi Quan and Chua Ong, were Buddhist or Taoist and are definitely Chinese in design and origin. Perhaps he meant that the temple is maintained or managed by ethnic Vietnamese and not by Chinese immigrants.

Phuoc Hai Tu conical coil bokeh
a conical incense coil inside the temple

Phuoc Hai Tu medallion bokeh
a medallion as offering

It was my second time to visit this temple. As in my past, the pagoda was teeming with not just tourists like myself but also with the faithful who brought with them incense, food and other offerings. I tried not to get in the way and observed silently with my camera.

worship at Phuoc Hai Tu
Chua Phuoc Hai Tu worship

To go:
Jade Emperor Pagoda aka Chua Phuoc Hai Tu and Fuhai Monastery
73D Mai Thi Luu, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

For more of my pagoda-hop series in Vietnam, visit:
part 1: Thien Hau
part 2:Tam Son Hoi Quan
part 3:Chua Ong

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

the Cacing Diaries #39

at Tirta Gangga, the royal pools of Karangasem

Cacing is almost 1 year 4 months now and she now can walk confidently. Once she learned how a few weeks ago, she progressed fast as kids her age are wont to do. Soon enough she’d be running and we really would be on our wit’s end.

Cacing with Ketut, with the 11-tier fountain at the background
Cacing with my good friend Ketut at Tirta Gangga’s 11-tier fountain

Her eating habits are still that of a fickle hummingbird, nibbling here and there. Her curiosity always the gets the best of her so she’d try anything. What she likes she’ll savor. What she doesn’t she’ll spit out.

Cacing enjoying her walk with Dia on the bridge
Cacing enjoying her walk with Dia on the bridge

Cacing practicing her walk with Dia on the bridge
bridges are perfect for practice walk

While she doesn’t have the command of oral communication yet –her speech, while seemingly not random, is still unintelligible – Cacing’s level of comprehension appears high. She loves running small errands, bringing a doll for her mom, or even a pen to me.

Mommy waving at the Mahabharata pond
Mommy waving from one end of the Mahabharata pond

Mommy posing on the stepping stones of Mahabharata pond
Mommy, posing on the stepping stones of Mahabharata pond

They say it is natural for kids her age to ape everyone around her. She has a liking to the broom and she got that from our housekeeper. She also likes to dust off furniture with any piece of cloth. At home, she likes to comb our hair, feed us with a drinking bottle, rub us lotion or even massage us with her hands.

Cacing and company posing at the bridge
Cacing and company posing at the bridge over Deman Island

Mommy at the bridge over Demon Island
Mommy’s turn to pose on her own

And did I mention that she sheds crocodile tears already? She’d pretend to get upset when she doesn’t get her way and engage us in a battle of wills. And when she’d realize that she has made a mistake and get us angry, she’d sit still and then approach and kiss us on the lips.

getting wet in the refreshing spring
Cacing, finding the spring refreshingly cool

Cacing carried by Ketut at the Mahabharata pond
Cacing with Ketut at the Mahabharata pond

How can we get mad? In the battle of manipulations and persuasions, there is one clear winner. Need I to tell who?

Dia leading the gang at Tirta Gangga
my wife Dia leading the gang at Tirta Gangga

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Boracay and Willy’s Rock

It’s strange, incongruous and you have to admit it, almost downright ugly. But for the fact that the rock is just the only mass dotting the almost 4 kilometer world famous White Beach, Willy’s Rock is instantly recognizable.

Willy's Rock- blue silhouette
a blue silhouette of Willy’s Rock at late afternoon

Willy's Rock- day's ending

willy's rock north face
north face of Willy’s Rock

Obviously, it has to be the most photographed natural landmark in Boracay. By default let me add. Still, it is curious how the elements sculpted the volcanic outcrop in odd and mismatched forms. Today, it has a Marian grotto at one end.

photographing willy's rock
sunset rendezvous by the Willy’s Rock is popular

To go: Willy’s Rock is right across Station 1 of White Beach, Boracay Island. It is accessible by foot during low tide.

willy's rock sunse
a classical Willy’s Rock postcard shot

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

5 things I learned about skimboarding

I don’t skimboard. Let me get that straight.

sunset panorama
a sunset panorama with skimboarding boys in the background at Station 1, White Beach, Boracay Island, Malay, Aklan, the Philippines

A long time ago, way back when I was stationed in Bali, I fancy myself that I’d learn to surf or at the very least, to skim, but I never did create the time to study it. Today, my body simply might not just hold up to the rigors of the sport.

White beach sunset
boys with skimboards at White Beach, Boracay

I’m more now of a spectator, or better still, of a photographer of people who can. There are several things about skimboarding though that I found interesting. Learning trivia never hurts.

going home

1. A skimboarding is sort of little surfboard that is used to ride on an incoming wave.

2. Surfing begins in the waters, often in the deep right where the surf breaks, but skimboarding starts on the beach, by “skimming” out to breaking waves and then riding them back to shore.


3. Skimboards, whether of the oval or teardrop shape, are basically shorter than surfboards, and when stood on end, can reach only up to the midchest.

among friends

4. Skimboarding is not limited in beaches as it can be done in lakes, rivers, puddles, or even wet grass.

skimboarding time

5. Skimboarding can be done even in shark-infested beaches as skimmers can ride waves near the sand where waters are too shallow for sharks to enter.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

beyond Boracay- the Caluya islands, part 1

For a region so blessed with some of the best beaches in the Philippines, Western Visayas has an enviable northwestern arc from Aklan to Antique which is spoilt for choice when it comes to tourism. The headliner undoubtedly is Boracay island in Malay, Aklan which is frequently mentioned as one of the best beaches in the world. However, further west is a group of islands which boasts of the same fine sandy beaches and rugged forested terrain that have potential for development. This group of island is Caluya.

the beach of barangay Imba, Caluya island
the beach of barangay Imba, Caluya island, Antique, Western Visayas, the Philippines

seaweed farms on the reef of Caluya
a glimpse of the seaweed farms on the reef of Caluya

Sibato, Sigay, Panagatan, Semirara, Sibolon, Dinago and of course Caluya, are the major islands of Caluya. Politically belonging to the province of Antique, Caluya has a total population of around 25,000.

long lines of styropor floaters being cleaned along the coast of Imba, Caluya Island

seaweed lines
empty seaweed-farming lines being readied for seedling tying

Of late, it is probably Semirara which has gained some name recall, specifically as a rich source of coal. Notwithstanding this recent rise, coal mining is not the main industry of the Caluya group of islands. Neither is it fishing although many would have assumed this to be the case as the network of islands is on a healthy and thriving reef. Agriculture would be the next easy guess. Close but not quite. The biggest “employer” actually is seaweed.

seaweed being hang-dried
seaweed being hang-dried immediately after harvest

seaweed line with floaters being cleaned at Imba coast
seaweed lines with floaters being cleaned along Imba coast

By most estimates, some 70 to 80% of the people in the Caluya group of islands are into seaweed farming, wherein seaweed of the cottonii variety is grown in long and extensive lines in the sea covering several hundreds of hectares. Such is the success of the industry that today, the islands for the last 15 years or so could harvest several hundreds of dry tons of the produce during summer season.

Imba beach
typical beach scene in Caluya Island

poles for drying seaweed
bamboo poles for hanging freshly harvested seaweed

As is becoming obvious by now, where there is seaweed, I need to go. Coincidentally, the most convenient route to these islands is the island of Boracay so business travel cannot be more welcome.

seaweed farmer carrying seaweed for planting
seaweed farmer carrying seaweed for planting

Coming up: Visiting the island

To go: Caluya is 4 hours by ferry from Libertad port of Antique, which is about 4 hours by bus from Iloilo. Other public jump off points are Pandan, Antique and San Jose, Mindoro Occidental. A convenient alternative is hiring a private boat from Boracay Island, which is some two hours away.

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Tirta Gangga, the royal pools of Karangasem

The eastern part of Bali does not see much tourist traffic. Visitors who only have a limited time in the island normally would concentrate their sightseeing in southern or central Bali where cultural and recreational attractions are densely packed.

Tirta Gangga
the Mahabharata pond of Tirta Gangga, Rejasa, Karangasem, Bali, Indonesia

Tirta Gangga pool with koi- bridge at background
the South pond at the lower level of Tirta Gangga, Rejasa, Karangasem, Bali, Indonesia

Tirta Gangga fountain w/ algae
fountain at Demon island overlooking the South pond

I myself am guilty of this oversight and my forays in the Karangasem mostly were up to Besakih or Tengenan only. This April though, I decided to take my family in a different detour and went further up to the regency.

Tirta Gangga panorama of the stepping stones
panorama of the Mahabharata pond’s stepping stones

statue closeup- Sagriwa?
Mahabharata pool statue closeup

statue closeup- the teeth
a statue bearing her teeth at the Mahabharata pool

The three hour drive from Nusa Dua practically worked for us as our one year old daughter had the penchant of taking a nap inside a moving car. The destination I plotted was the royal fountains of Tirta Gangga.

Dia and Mommy stepping over the stones
Dia and Mommy hopping over the stepping stones

Literally meaning “holy water from Ganges”, Tirta Gangga is the summer garden of Bali’s last king of Karangasem. Spreading over a little more than one hectare in Rejasa some 5km south of Amlapura, it was built in 1947 by the rajah who as a budding architect, got inspired by his visit in the gardens of Versailles, France.

Tirta Gangga bridge
the bridge over the South pond, leading to the Demon island

Carved at the foot of Gunung Agung, the garden is laid out on 3 levels. One enters the lowest level first in the east. On the left is the South pond, the biggest pool. It is bisected by a longitundinal patch called Demon island which boasts of a series of flower-shapped fountains. On the right is the Mahabharata pond which is popular for its “floating” stepping stones that allow people to hop around the water. There are also several stone sculptures that depict characters of the Indian epic from which the pool got its name. In the middle level is what is mostly recognized as the architectural centerpiece of Tirta Gangga- a beautiful eleven-tiered fountain called Nawa Sanga which resembles a lotus and is Victorian in style. In the highest northern level lies the holy spring under the banyan tree, a royal swimming pool and two more ponds.

11-tier fountain
the Victorian lotus-style 11-tier Nawa Sanga fountain

Tirta Gangga from the bridge entrance
the Demon island as seen from the bridge

Tirta Gangga by local folklore, is Bali’s Fountain of Youth. Legend says that if one bathes in these waters on full moon one will be blessed with youth and be cured from illnesses. Regardless of belief, these are the same waters that run through and irrigate the adjacent ricefields which Karangasem is famous for. Myth or not, the royal pools remains the source of life, forever flowing, forever refreshing.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Pasar Badung, part 2

To conclude Pasar Badung, part 1, here are more pics of the biggest flower market in Bali.

sleepy vendor
a sleepy vendor tending a flower stall in Pasar Badung, Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia

mussaenda flowers for sale
mussaenda flowers for sale

In between, I’m sharing a lesson in language which I learned when I was studying Bahasa Indonesia on my own 16 years ago.

canang vendors
vendors selling canang offerings

old flower vendor
an old lady selling flowers in Pasar Badung

Then, I discovered the intertwining relationship of dialects in Southeast Asia. Take the case of the Indonesian word for flower which is bunga. I always confused bunga with buah (pronounced bu-wa) which means fruit. You see, in Cebuano, fruit is bunga while flower is buwak. Somewhere, sometime, during the centuries of direct contact between the archipelagos that are now the Philippines and Indonesia, words jumbled and blended.

fragrant flowers
baskets of exotic fragrant flowers

lombok (pepper) varieties
varieties of Lombok peppers that are also on display in the flower market

Somehow, it doesn’t really matter much. The flower and the fruit are interchangeable in a biological sense, both being bearers of progeny of the plant. First, the flower blooms, withers and ultimately becomes the fruit. One can’t be without the other. You might as well mix them up.

pink and red rose petals
petals of pink and red roses that are sold for Balinese offerings

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