Showing posts from December, 2012

Welcome 2013!

I'd like to greet the readers and followers of BoardingGate101 a happy and prosperous New Year! Here's for another great year of travel and exploration!

Above is my family's preparation for media noche, the traditional Filipino feast partaken on New Year's eve to welcome the coming year.

Christmas in the Philippines

The celebration of Christmas in the Philippines, to put it mildly, is a big affair. Officially the season starts on December 16, when the daily traditional simbang gabi (or dawn mass) is first held, culminating on an evening mass on Christmas eve. People though, start decorating and playing carols when the -ber months hit. It is not uncommon to see Christmas decor together with Halloween stuff at the end of October. Decors are put everywhere, and are not taken down until the Feast of the Epiphany.

The most iconic of these decors and symbols is the parol, a star-shaped lantern hung in the windows of homes and in the trees. Traditionally the parol is made of a bamboo frame and colored paper, although the modern versions use cellophane and are lighted from within. I remember my dad used to create one, a large parol to adorn our porch.

Another Christmas icon that is commonly seen in the Philippines is the Belen.  It is the Filipino version of the Nativity Scene, which depicts the birth of J…

Encounter with Mayan Civilization

The Mayans are getting a lot of press lately, thanks mostly to the brouhaha over the Mesoamerican long count calendar. According to doomsayers, the world will end on December 21, 2012, which coincides with the end of the 13th baktun, or creation era in Mayan mythology. 

Whether the doomsayers were accurate with their reading of the Mayan calendar (we'd know that soon enough, maybe as soon as tomorrow), or not, the Mayan civilization is  very fascinating in its own right. The Mesoamerican civilization, which encompassed parts of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras, has developed a written language, architecture and art. They were also made advances in astronomy and mathematics that enabled them to developed calendars and constructed pyramids for astronomical observations. 
Although I haven't visited any Mayan site, such as Tikal, Piedras Negras, or Chichen Itza, during my travels, I have encountered the remnants of the civilization in the museums I visited.
My firs…

End of the World

A doomsayer preaches his message of the coming Apocalypse to the passing throng - mostly unmindful of his message - in Times Square, New York. 

It seems apt to post this on the eve of 12-21-2012, the date of the supposed end of the world, as a tongue-in-cheek nod to the (misplaced) hysteria about the impending doom.

Bangkok 360

Another city, another supertall to climb up. On my  visit to Bangkok, I had the chance to go up Baiyoke Tower II, the tallest building in Thailand.
Located in the Ratchathewi district, the building, which contains the Baiyoke Sky Hotel (the tallest hotel in Southeast Asia) is 304 meters tall. In itself, the design of the building is quite bland, but the view from the top is great. 

The revolving observation deck, which gives a 360 degree view of downtown Bangkok, is in the 84th floor. There is also a public viewing area at the 77th floor.
A bar, called Rooftop, is located a floor below the revolving deck and is perfect for chilling out with a cocktail while admiring the Bangkok skyline.
How to Get there: Taking the BTS train, you may get off at Siam or Ratchathewi station and walk to the direction of the building. The supertall is not easy to miss. There is a 250 baht entrance fee to get to the observation deck, but it comes with a free drink at the Rooftop. 

by Kin Enriquez

Central Park, New York

Central Park is one of the most prominent landmarks of New York City. The picturesque public park, which receives around 35 million visitors a year, is also the setting of countless movies, including Serendipity, The Avengers, Eat Pray Love, and Cloverfield, making it the most filmed location in the world. 
The park has a lot to offer: gardens, skating rinks, baseball fields, a zoo, woody and grassy areas for picnics, and a large artificial lake at the middle, the Jacqueline Kennedy Onasis Reservoir. Around it are jogging tracks popular to New Yorkers and tourists alike. During my visit in New York I went there to jog around one morning, as my hostel was close by. After jogging you may drop by the Loeb Boathouse, a lakeside restaurant, for breakfast. The Express Cafe in the boathouse opens at 8am. 
Artworks also abound in Central Park. On display are sculptures scattered around the park, including works by Emma Stebins and John Quincy Adams. Most prominent of them all is Cleopatra's…

Homestay in Caramoan

Caramoan, the present location of the reality TV show Survivor: Philippines, is relatively unspoiled. The sleepy little town, home to countless islands, beaches and karst formations, is not well developed yet in terms of tourism facilities. It does get a bit busy during the summer, so when we went there last April, we looked at doing a homestay as an alternative to finding an inn or a resort where we can stay.  

A homestay arrangement is to rent a room or a house from the local residents, as a way of helping the local economy and having a deeper immersion in the local culture. Another benefit is that it is also cheaper than renting a room in a hotel or a resort. The owner and his family would usually go about their business and keep you to yourself but there are opportunities to interact with them. Homestay arrangements may also include meals and laundry, but that would depend on the family who renting out the place.
We wanted to stay near the beach and away from the town center and we …

Air Passenger Bill of Rights

The Philippine government, through the Department of Transportation and Communications and the Department of Trade and Industry, recently issued the Air Passenger Bill of Rights. The highlights:
• Right to full, fair, and clear disclosure of the service offered and all the terms and conditions of the contract of carriage. Disclosure includes documents required to be presented at check-in, provision for check-in deadlines, refund and rebooking policies, and procedures and responsibility for delayed and/or cancelled flights.

• Right to clear and non-misleading advertisement of, and important reminders regarding fares
• Right against misleading and fraudulent sales promotion
• Right to Transportation and baggage conveyance

• Right to be processed for check-in. Passengers within the air carrier's cordoned or other designated check-in area one hour before the published ETD shall not be considered late or no-show. Air carrier must present proof that the passenger failed to appear within the …

Airline Review: Tiger Airways

For my Easter trip to Singapore I opted to take Tiger Airways; the airline started servicing Ninoy Aquino International Airport (previously only Clark), and the fares in Cebu Pacific, my usual budget airline of choice, was more expensive on the dates that I wanted.

Online Booking and Price
Booking online is quite easy and straightforward, but there were some caveats. First, the fares that they quote does not include taxes, so comparison shopping can be a bit tricky. Also, the airline charges you a "convenience fee" when paying online, to a tune of $20. I also made the mistake of checking the "convert to local currency option" box at checkout. The exchange rate that they use is very unfavorable to the customers (a difference of almost 2 pesos per $1), so it adds up. All in, I spent about $240 for a roundtrip flight. I probably would gotten cheaper fare if it the date I chose was not on peak.
Cabin and Amenities

The cabin layout of the plane, an Airbus A320, is typical o…

PSA: Call for Donations

The Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development is calling for donationsfor the relief operations of those affected by the typhoon Bhopa (Pablo). The needed goods are the following: 

Banig (woven mats) Children’s clothing Blankets Plastic sheets Flash lights Batteries
Tarpaulins are also needed for use as temporary roofing in the sites as well as generator sets to provide power to the centers. In Metro Manila, these goods and donations may be delivered to the DSWD-National Resource Operations Center located along Chapel Road in Pasay City with telephone number (02) 8528081.
Please visit the Crisis Response Page for Typhoon Pablo (, the Official Gazette Facebook page at (, and follow @govph@ndrrmc_opcen, and @dswdserves.

Wat Pho

Wat Pho, also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, is one of Bangkok's well-known attractions. The temple complex, a restoration of an old one originally built on the site, is one of the oldest and largest in Thailand, covering an area of about 80,000 square meters, having been built in 1788.

The complex is composed of a monastery where monks reside, a school, several shrines, and 91 stupas,  mounds that contain Buddhist relics. The smaller ones contain the ashes of the Royal family, while the large ones contain the ashes of Buddha. There is also a cloister that contain a large number of images of Buddha.

The main centerpiece of the temple, of course, is the Reclining Buddha. The statue is 43 meters long and 15 meters high. The feet - four and a half meters long - are inlaid with mother of pearl and decorated with symbols.
Along the hall where the statue is are 108 bronze bowls, representing the auspicious characters of the Buddha. People drop coins on the bowls to bring good…


Technically I haven't been to Siberia, Russia, but I was able to fly over it. My flight from New York JFK to Tokyo Narita (via Delta Airlines 747-400) passed over it (not sure if it was a polar route, but I heard someone mention that it was). Just a few hours before landing in Japan I woke up from my nap to see this ice-covered landscape. The stewardess told me that we were flying over Siberia at that moment.

The landscape (Kamchatka Peninsula?) was stark, with nothing but mountain ranges covered in snow and ice, making me quip that it is something The North, a mythical region in Game of Thrones, would look like. 
After a few minutes I was able to see winding frozen rivers, valleys and ridges. 
Still a few minutes later I was able to some unusual landscape, a series of grids and lines traversing a white terrain. It was then I realized that it was a town or a city, the first human settlement I saw on the area.

I tried to go back to my nap but I wasn't able to. When I open the shade…

Ayala Triangle Gardens Lightshow

Ayala Triangle Gardens is a pocket park tucked in the bustling business district of Makati, Philippines. Every Christmas season the park comes alive with a lights and sounds show that delights both young and old. 

The lights and sound show runs from November 16 to December 30, every 30 minutes from 6 PM to 9PM. 

How to Get There:
Ayala Triangle is bounded by Ayala Avenue, Paseo de Roxas and Makati Avenue. If taking the MRT, get off Ayala Station and walk along Ayala Avenue up to the Stock Exchange. 

by Kin Enriquez