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Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia, the great Byzantine structure built in the 6th century, was the main reason why I wanted to visit Istanbul. It was the first landmark I visited after arriving in the city and checking in the hostel.

Originally Hagia Sophia, which means Holy Wisdom, was built as a basilica, under thw direction of Emperor Justinian. It was converted into an Orthodox church after the Great Schism, which caused the split between Western and Eastern churches. After the fall of Contantinople it was converted into a mosque, and then into a museum at early part of the 20th century.

There was still a sizeable crowd when I arrived at the site late afternoon. I purchased a museum pass (instead of a single entry pass, as I plan to visit it and other museums in the city) and proceeded inside. The first route was to go up the upper galleries, some of which host crypts belonging to sultans and bishops past. Some parts of the building are off limits, because of repairs, but the scaffoldings cannot obst…

Live Blog: Journey to Constantinople

I will be live blogging my trip to Turley, which starts today. I will be flying to Istanbul via Abu Dhabi. I will update the post as much as I can, and as I have done before, the latest post will be at the top.
Cheers Hostel, 8:00pm I'm back at the hostel and resting for a bit and catching up on my messages and posts. I might sleep early; busy day tomorrow. 
Kybele Cafe, 7:00pm I finally settled at this cafe to have dinner, which I got al fresco (may not be such a good idea, as it was cold outside. I got the kebab with roasted tomatoes. 

Gulhane, 6:30pm I went around the area near my hostel to look for food. I also chanced upon a pastry store - Efezade - which sells Turkish delight and baklava. I made a mental note to come back and buy some before I leave Istanbul.

Hagia Sofia, 4:30pm After check-in I proceeded to Hagia Sophia - the most important Byzantine structure in history. (See separate post) 
Cheers Hostel, 3:15pm I arrived at the hostel a little over 3pm, and I promptly ch…

F1nale: The Last F1 Race in Malaysia

On and off I have been following Formula One Grand Prix since the last decade. Back when I had cable (now I have Netlifx) I would dutifully tune in on Star Sports on weekends to watch the fast-paced action of race cars zipping by the tracks. Seven years ago I was also able to attend one race - the Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang.

Seven years later I was back in Sepang - not just to see the race again in real life, but also as a witness in history. The year 2017 is the last year the F1 will be conducted in Malaysia. I made plans to attend it as soon as I heard that such will be the last in SIC.

The Malaysian Grand Prix was first held in 1999, in the Sepang International Circuit, just a stone's throw away from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Aside from the F1, the 5.5 kilometer-long Sepang Circuit also hosted other motorsport events, including the Motorcycle Grand Prix, MotoGP,  and kart racing, among others.
I flew into KL on September 28, arriving in the capital past midnight.…

National Museum of Natural History

I had the chance to attend the preview for the  National Museum of Natural History today (on my birthday!). My friend Nyel and I trooped to Rizal Park early in the morning to be able to get in line for the preview, which is only limited to 200 visitors.

The construction of the National Museum of Natural History started in 2015, in which the neo-classical Department of Tourism building, built in 1940, was repurposed to house the new museum.

Only the courtyard and one floor of exhibit area was open.

The courtyard is the one that I was most excited about, as it has as its centerpiece the architectural feature called The Tree of Life - a steel helix resembling DNA, housing a glass elevator. Above it is a glass mosaic dome that lets in natural light into the museum.

We were guided through the exhibiy areas that showcase the endemic species of flora and fauna in the Philippines, a lot of which is, sadly, already extinct. Among these animals include Lolong, the crocodile caught in Agusan, t…

Castillo San Felipe del Morro

Binge-watching on the pirate-themed Netfix series Black Sails made me remember I haven't blog about my trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico last year. The series follows the exploits of the buccaneers Captain Flint, and Long John Silver, along with pirates such as Charles Vane and Edward Teach. Although it was set in New Providence (Nassau), the Caribbean setting made me remember the fort that I visited in San Juan - the Castillo San Felipe del Morro.

Castillo San Felipe del Morro, also known as Fuerte San Felipe del Morro, was a citadel built by the Spaniards in the 16th century. It was named after King Philip II, the same king for which the Philippines is named after. Construction started in 1539, the aim of which is to build a fortress that will guard the old city of San Juan. Throughout its history the citadel, which was protected by fortifications such as high, thick walls, crenelations, and lookout stations,  was able to fend off attack from several pirates, including the English pr…

Gadget Review: DJI Spark Drone

One of my quibble about my DJI Phantom 3 drone is its size and portability. When carried in its own case, the quadcopter could be as bulky as the  allowed carry-on in airplanes. This could be a pain when traveling, as I would be carrying two backpacks with me. 
The Phantom 3 also takes some time to set up - installing the propellers, the RC remote, and the app in the tablet or phone. The boot up sequence, including finding the GPS fix, could also be lengthy. I love my Phantom, I think it's a great drone, but sometimes I wish I had a smaller drone that's easy to pack and carry when traveling.

With the release of the DJI Spark, I think my prayers were answered.
The Spark is the newest drone from DJI, the same maker of the Phantom series. What's so distinctive about Spark is its size - about the size of a smartphone - making it perfect for traveling. I got mine as soon as they're available in the Philippines.  See the unboxing video that I made below.

Like its older and bigge…

Ifugao Rice Terraces - Batad, Hapao, and Bangaan

This is probably the first tourist spot that I learned about, as did millions of Filipino kids reading their Sibika textbooks. At the top of this list of "magagandang tanawin ng Pilipinas "(beautiful sights of the Philippines) is the rice terraces, which is located in the northern part of Luzon. It's also one that which I kept on putting off to visit. To remedy the oversight I booked an overnight bus trip to Banaue and finally added the Ifugao Rice Terraces to the UNESCO World Heritage sites that I've been to.

There were five sites in Ifugao that were included in the UNESCO inscription, and I visited three: Batad, Bangaan and Hunguduan (the two I missed were Mayoyao and Kiangan).  It is believed that these rice terraces were constructed around 2000 years ago, and if put end to end, will go halfway around the world. I also remember my history professor pointing out that it is the only ancient megastructure built without slave labor.  

These five were distinct from the o…