Showing posts from May, 2013

In Pictures: Kuala Lumpur

For this week's In Pictures we travel to Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. I have traveled to KL thrice, first in 2009, then a year later when I went to watch a Formula One race in Sepang, and last year, as a secondary destination during a trip to Langkawi.

Kuala Lumpur is a cosmopolitan city, although the people, majority of whom are Muslims, are on the conservative side. It's a safe city to visit, with an efficient public transportation, which includes a monorail and a very fast train service to and from the airport

If you like skyscrapers, like I do, then you'd Kuala Lumpur. Two of the cities iconic structures are hard to miss: the 452meter tall Petronas Twin Towers, which was once the world's tallest building (now 7th), and Menara Kuala Lumpur, the 421-meter communications tower and the fifth tallest in the world. 

Being on the observation decks of Petronas and Menara (I've been to both) is a great way to get a vista of the city. From that vantage point you…

Soyuz Spacecraft in Intrepid

If I have to draw up a bucket list of my ultimate travel destinations, there will be no contest that the number one on the list is a destination at least 100 kilometers above - space. Even 80 kilometers above would be acceptable to me, as NASA considers anyone who ventured 80 kilometers up as "astronauts." I think other travelers would agree that space tourism would be the Holy Grail of all travels.

For now, aside from astronaut and cosmonauts employed by space agencies, there's only a very elite field of travelers (seven) who's ventured to space. It is not a surprise that these guys were loaded. Each of these space flights cost between $20 to 40 million, more than enough to do a hundred round-the-world trips. But orbiting the earth would count as a round-the-world trip too, and you'd be circling the earth hundreds of times during the flight.  

One of those lucky few is Gregory Olsen, an American entrepreneur who went up to the International Space Station in 2005. …

Langkawi International Airport (LGK)

Langkawi International Airport (IATA code: LGK) is the main gateway to the Malaysian island of Langkawi. It is located in the state of Kedah, in the northwest, which faces the Andaman Sea and shares a border with Thailand.
I passed through this airport during a few day's visit to Langkawi last year, flying from Kuala Lumpur via an AirAsia Airbus A320 (my review of the airline here). The flight is less than an hour.

The airport is located in the southwestern part of the island, about 25 minutes from Kuah, which is the town center. The resort where we stayed, Four Points by Sheraton Langkawi, is nearer, about 5 minutes away by taxi.

The airport is not very large nor very busy. It has a single, 3.8 kilometer-long runway and it serves about 1.5 million passengers a year. It is serviced by airlines AirAsia, Malaysian Airlines, Firefly, and SilkAir.connecting Langkawi to Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Subang, and Singapore. Other airlines, such as  Singapore Airlines, Air Mauritius, KLM and JAL, ar…

To Be a Kid Again: Disneyland

A travel experience doesn't always have to be profound or "deep." Sometimes you just want to enjoy and experience something fun, be a kid again. And there's no better way to do that than to go to Disneyland, right? So, for this week's In Pictures, we go to the Magic Kingdom.
I've always wanted to go to a Disneyland every since I was a kid. I know some "hardened" travelers might scoff at the idea of going to theme parks as pedestrian, but at the risk of being labeled as a tourist, I'd say that I did went to Disneyland (twice) and that I enjoyed it a lot. 

The Disneyland that  I've been to is the one close to home, the Hong Kong Disneyland. The 55-acred theme park opened in 2005. 

Well, as far as theme parks go, the experience that you get is pretty much linear and packaged. You go in, go through the themed areas named "lands", and meet the Mickey and company. It's like eating a candy. You know it's just empty calories, but it s…

Throwback Thursday: Scuba Diving Lessons

For this week's Throwback Thursday, we'll go back to May 2008 when I got my first scuba diving lessons.
I've always wanted to get a license back then, and one day I went to Glorietta mall and there was a trade show for scuba diving. I talked to one of the instructors who have a booth there, and I got his contact info. I managed to convince James, a friend of mine, to sign up too, and a few days later we met Mark Genuino, the instructor, for some introductions and instructions, as well as get some gear. We met again on that weekend to do our first pool session!

The first pool training was done in a Scuba World facility in Makati, although the subsequent ones were done in Greenhills. There were five of us taking lessons. 
I was pretty much confident about the lessons, I have taken a skin diving class for my college PE before - so I thought my finning was OK, I know a bit how to equalize, and I'm familiar with some of the hand signals - but I am still excited with learning n…

The Glass Flowers

I think botany is one of the least exciting branches of science. With the exception of carnivorous plants, such as the Venus flytrap and the pitcher plant, and the poisonous ones, there's not a lot of plants that could capture one's imagination. I mean, plants just stand there, swaying in the wind, bearing fruits that animals would just eat, until some hapless human hacks them away for firewood. They can't really move, unlike the fictional triffids, or talk to each other and  kill people, like the plants in M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening. Only vegans get excited by them. 

But my somewhat tepid view of plants got bumped up a little when me and my frields Joan and Ian visited the Harvard Museum of Natural History in Cambridge. Aside from the 50-foot kronosaur and the million-years-old coelacanth, one of the popular attractions of the museum is the Glass Flowers collection. No, it's not some new species of silica-based dicotyledon, but rather models of plants and f…

Fort Santiago, the Citadel of Manila

If you read books such as the Song of Fire and Ice series or just going over medieval history books, you'd become acquainted with the different forms of medieval fortifications, such as the citadels, redoubts and star forts. As these were developed during the Middle Ages, it's not a surprise that almost all of the examples of these structures are found in Europe. But  Filipinos need not go to Europe to see these kind of structures, as several were built by the Spaniards during colonial times. 
Intramuros, the walled city established by the Spaniards when they occupied Manila in 1571, is one good example of "medieval" fortification, which I visited again recently. Another example is Fort Pilar in Zamboanga City. Fort Pilar is a star fortification, which is also known as a trace italienne

Guarding over Intramuros, which means "within the walls," is the citadel called Fuerza de Santiago, or Fort Santiago. The citadel is augmented by redoubts (reductos) bastion…

Hotel Review: Crowne Plaza St. Louis Airport

I stayed in Crowne Plaza - St. Louis Airport twice when I was in St. Louis, Missouri - for five weeks the first time I was there, and for two weeks on my second trip to the city.

I usually get the room with the queen-sized bed, non-smoking. You can specify if you want a room facing the atrium and the pool (the kids can get noisy), or facing the interstate. Rooms come with bath tubs, television with cable, a writing desk, an electronic safe, a CD player and alarm, and a coffee maker.

The decor of the room is somewhat dated but I don't really have gripes about it. The television is a CRT though. 

Amenities Amenities include a gym, pool and jacuzzi at the lower ground level, a business center, same-day laundry and access to the executive lounge, which opens in the afternoon until evening. There are free food and drinks in the executive lounge, and you can chill out there having a light snacks while watching your favorite sports team. 

The is free WiFi access in the lobby area, but th…