Showing posts from November, 2012

Basilica of St. Louis, King of France

The first cathedral to be built west of the Mississippi River, the Basilica of St. Louis, King of France was constructed - in Greek revival style - in 1831 (the original church was built in 1770). Named after King Louis IX of France, the cathedral was St. Louis's only parish church until 1845.

The main altar, which is made of marble, has a painting of crucified Christ instead of an altar crucifix. The painting is a copy of Diego Velasquez's The Crucifixion. Statues of saints, such as Joan of Arc, are also displayed inside the church.

How to Get There:
The basilica is located at 209 Walnut St., near the St. Louis riverfront, and adjacent to the Gateway Arch and the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. If taking the Metrolink, Stadium station is the nearest to the church. It is open Mondays to Fridays, 9am to 6pm.
by Kin Enriquez

Taal Volcano from the Air

While flying to Zamboanga City from Manila last October I chanced upon this sight from my window seat: Taal Volcano, showing its caldera and Vulcan Point, an island within the main crater lake. The volcano itself sits on Volcano Island, which in turn is located in Taal Lake, in Luzon island.
Taal, located just 50 kilometers from Manila, is one of the Philippines' most active volcanoes, having erupted 33 times since 1572. The last eruption was in 1977.
You can view the crater lake and Vulcan Point up close, here

Museum Mile, New York

The Museum Mile is a stretch of road in Fifth Avenue in New York, from 82nd street to 105th Street on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. 

This stretch of road is the location of several notable museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art (above), the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of the City of New York, the National Academy Museum and School of Fine Arts (right), Museum for African Art, El Museo del Barrio, The Jewish Museum, Copper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Neue Galerie New York, and the Goethe Institut. 

El Museo del Barrio, with around 6,500 pieces in its collection, specializes in Latin American and Caribbean art. 

The Jewish Museum, which opened in 1947, contains the largest collection of Jewish art outside of Israel. It is located in Felix M. Warburg building, a Gothic Revival mansion in 92nd St. 

Cooper-Hewitt is a design museum managed by the Smithsonian Institution. It is housed in the Georgian-style Andrew Carnegie Mansion in 91st St. 

The Neue Galerie New Y…

Top of the World: Shanghai World Financial Center

I climbed up the observation deck of the Shanghai World Financial Center during my first visit to Shanghai. The supertall, shaped like a bottle opener with a trapezoid aperture at the peak, used to be the tallest structure in China (and the second in the world) when it topped out in 2007. 

Before the construction of Burj Khalifa, the 492-meter SWFC also has the highest observation deck, at 474 meters and 100 floors above ground. The observation deck has a glass floor, which offers a view to another observation deck below.

The sight from the highest observation deck is simply breathtaking. From there I can see the Pudong district below, and beyond it, Huangpo River and the Bund. 

Close to the building are other notable skyscrapers that you can admire, the 421-meter Jin Mao Tower, and the 468-meter Oriental Pearl Tower. That building on the right on the picture above is where Tom Cruise jumped in Mission Impossible III. 
We came in the building in late afternoon and we waited until sundown …

The Guns of Corregidor

Corregidor, the island that's guarding the mouth of Manila Bay, is not called  a fortress island for nothing - it's armed to the teeth. The United States spent hundreds of millions of dollars fortifying its defenses just before World War II. In fact, it and 3 other islands in the Bay (Caballo, El Fraile and Carabao Island), plus Grande Island in Subic Bay in the north, constitute the harbor defences of Manila and Subic.

Scattered all over the island are 23 batteries of heavy artillery and howitzers - named after US servicemen - such as Battery Crockett and Battery Geary. These batteries are self-contained structures with 14-inch anti-ship artillery and their own magazines and ammunition stores.

Some of these batteries were destroyed, such as this one below, which suffered a direct hit from a Japanese bomber.

When the Japanese took over the island, they also installed weapons, including this anti-aircraft gun, below.

How to get there:Suncruises offers a day trip to the island, for …

Hotel Review: Glow Trinity Silom by Zinc

Usually I stay in hostels when I visit Bangkok. During the food tour I deviated from that and stayed in a hotel this time (included in the tour). The hotel where we stayed is Glow Trinity Silom by Zinc, located in downtown Bangkok, in Silom area. It is right in the middle of all the action, but the hotel is located in one of the side streets of Silom, so you'd be far from the noise of the Bangkok traffic.

Glow Trinity is a small boutique hotel just a stone's throw from the Chong Nonsi station of the BTS Skytrain. It has about 200 rooms, divided into 4 types: Superior, Deluxe, Premier and Executive Suite. We stayed in a deluxe room with 2 twin beds.
The room has a tasteful contemporary decor. It has an LCD television and a DVD/CD player, as well as an iPod/iPhone docking station. You may borrow DVDs from the concierge if there's nothing on cable that catches your fancy.
WiFi connectivity is also available and for free. 
There is a mini-refrigerator, as well as complime…

White Island, Camiguin

White Island is a sand bar located 2 kilometers from the coast of Mambajao, Camiguin. Shaped as an "I" or a "C" depending on the tides, the sand bar, with its white sand and the cerulean waters surrounding it, is perfect for a lazy day of beach bumming.

It is also the perfect place to appreciate the grandeur of Mt. Vulcan and Hibok-hibok, the two volcanoes that figure so much in Camiguin's history.

How to Get there: Small boats called bancas can be hired at the Paras Beach Resort in Mambajao, Camiguin to take you to the island, for PhP400 with up to 7 passengers. There is an entrance fee of PhP 15 per person to the island.

Where to stay: Enigmata Ecolodgepics, from above: the sandbar with Mt. Hibok-hibok in the background; beach goers trooping to the other side of the sandbar; jetskiing around the island; perfect sunset 

by Kin Enriquez

Exploring the Meramec Caverns

A visit to the Meramec Caverns in Stanton, Missouri does not really count as spelunking, as there was no equipment like ropes and carabiners were ever employed, and paths were already set along the cave. Being a commercial cave, the tour inside the 4.6-mile long cave system is just like a walk in the park - only that the park is deep underground, and the environment is cold and full of stalactites and stalagmites.  

The cave - located below the hills of Meramac Valley in the Ozarks - was (re)discovered in 1720. 

Formed around 400 million years ago by the erosion of limestone, the caverns have been used by Native Americans as shelter. It were then used by the notorious bank and train robber Jesse Jamesas a hideout when he was hiding from the authorities. 
The caves also figured prominently during the  American Civil War, as saltpeter - primary ingredient for gunpowder - was mined from the caves in the 19th century. 

A Union gunpowder facility in the vicinity of the cave was destroyed by Co…

Fort Pilar Museum

The National Museum housed in Fort Pilar in Zamboanga City has several collections related to the history of the city and nearby places. Currently  the two main exhibits feature the Sama, Yakan and Subanen tribes that reside in the peninsula. The Sama and Yakans are sea-dwelling peoples, while the Subanens live near rivers (the rootword of the tribe's name, suba, means river).

The exhibit includes several full-scale boats used by the two sea-faring cultures, several tools, weapons, fishing and farming implements, clothes, as well as dioramas that depict the dwellings of the three indigenous peoples. 
Useful Info: The museum is located at N.S. Valderoza Street. It is open from Monday to Saturday, 8:30am to 5pm. Entrance is free.

After a visit at the museum you may drop by the Marian Shrine located at the side of the fort, and have a knickerbocker at Paseo del Mar, a seaside promenade located just a block away. 

by Kin Enriquez

Foodie in Bangkok

Our last trip to Bangkok was a special one. It was my first time to join a group tour, and it was a special tour. Organized by a Thai chef currently based in Manila (he owns Thai Dara restaurant), the tour, composed of around 20 people, was about experiencing food in Bangkok (and Ayutthaya) the way the locals enjoy them. 
The choices of places that we went to for three days range from popular and high-end restaurants to a small street food stalls that locals flock too and no tourists normally go to, because the menus are in Thai and there aren't even pictures on the menu.   

One of two of them are even so obscure that I couldn't find them on Foursquare to be able to check in (by the way, that's how I remember the names of the restaurants we went to, by checking in on Foursquare). 
Here are the places we went to, chronologically and according to my Foursquare history. I recommend them to travelers who want to experience authentic Thai food in restaurants that don't serve b…

Manila Ocean Park

This is my third time to visit the Manila Ocean Park, but it's always fun every time. The park was built in 2008, near Rizal Park in Manila, just behind Quirino Grandstand. It features several attractions, including an oceanarium with 5,000 creatures and 300 species. 
Aside from the oceanarium there's a marine animals show involving sea lions, a jellyfish exhibit hall, a glass-bottom boat ride, a "fish spa" where you allow fishes to nibble on your calluses and corns, and a chance to interact with the fishes with a diving system that uses a special helmet akin to an astronaut's, that will enable one to walk inside the aquarium. I usually skip through all these and just go straight to the oceanarium.

The oceanarium is divided into seven sections: the freshwater and rainforest-themed Agos (flow), with 8 tanks of freshwater fish and crocodile; bahura (reef), with 48 tanks complete with corals; laot (fishing ground), a long tank with plenty of huge fishes; buhay na kara…

Top of the World: Macau Tower

As mentioned before, it has become a mini-activity for me when I am traveling to visit and ascend to the tallest structures of the city I am in. During my stay in Macau I made it a point to go up the Macau Tower, which, at 338 meters, is the 10th highest in the world.

The tower, completed in 2001, is located in the heart of the city, about 15 minutes taxi ride from Cotai Strip. There is a convention center/mall built beside the tower, and the entrance to the tower is through there. 

After paying the entrance fee (MOP 90/HK$90), you will be ushered to the elevators that will take you to the observation decks, at 59th and 61st floors. The observation deck has glass floors and walls, giving a spectacular, albeit vertigo-inducing, view of Macau's glittery casinos and downtown. 

If you're feeling a bit adventurous, you can walk around the outer rim of the 61st floor observatory while being in a harness. you can bungee jump from a height of 233 meters - the highest bungee jump in the w…