A bit of a history lesson…
March 16, 1521, Ferdinand Magellan, sighted the island of Samar Island, a large island located in the Visayas. Then in 1565 European colonization began and they formed the first European settlements in Cebu. Colonization of course spread all over the archipelago. Today, many of these Spanish colonial are gone due to wars, revolution, and age. However, one still stands and that historical town is called Vigan City.
In 2007, Vigan City was listed by UNESCO as the best preserved example of Spanish colonial towns in Asia. Its architecture is the conglomeration of cultural elements from the Philippines, China, and Spain, making it unique to the rest of the world.
I hope to go back there someday and really experience it. We missed out on eating Empanadas and riding a kalesa which are both a must! We did go shopping in the little shops and bought some souvenirs and even some antiques. We also went to Vigan Cathedral and listen to mass.
During our trip, we took a long road trip to Northern Luzon.
The Philippines is an archipelago comprising 7,107 islands, the Philippines is categorized broadly into three main geographical divisions: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Manila the capital is located on the largest island Luzon. Luzon is the only island of the archipelago that I’ve been on. Until now I’ve only been around the Metro Manila area and CALABARZON Region (formerly a part of Southern Tagalog)
My mom’s friend took us on a three day adventure to the north. She hired a driver, which is the best idea to tour around the Philippines. You have the freedom like having your own car but you have your own personal tour guild. Many of these driver know the areas and can set up activities for you to do. They also give you a sense of security and help to make sure you don’t get a shady deal. If you’re think of going to the Philippines please look into this option! Also for bring cash, once you move away from the big cities, ATMs are rare and usually out of cash or offline.
Here are some of the highlights of our road trip:
Kabigan Falls (meaning friend) a 120 meters of crashing white water is worth the 30 minute hike through farmland and jungle. Located in the town of Pagudpud it’s part of the tricycle tour and only cost 20 pesos per person. You will be assigned a guide to walked you to the falls. They even stick around while you swim and walk back with you.
Blue Lagoon in Pagudpud is know as a part of the “Boracay of the North.” White sand and blue water, it’s beautiful! There are a few local land marks around the beach area like Dos Hermanos islands and Bantay Abot cave. There are a few beach resorts around and several houses and huts to rent.
As I said before, if you want a safe and easy trip around the Philippines I recommend hiring a private driver. You can search for one or here is the email of the driver we used Ricky Daymil. Kuya Ricky was so nice and takes people all over, not just Luzon. firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy Birthday Buddha! I know I’m a bit late for this post but I wanted to share some of these great photos of Jeondeungsa.
The temple is said to date back to 381, which would make it the oldest temple in Korea. It’s a beautiful place, especially with all the Buddha’s Birthday festivities.
The Korea Tourism site mention to check out the corners of the main hall Daeungbojeon—you’ll see little carved figures of what kinda looks like a naked women holding up the roof.
“According to legend, the engineer building the temple fell in love with a barmaid in town. Unfortunately for him, she absconded with all his money. In revenge, the engineer worked her image into the temple, where, at least figuratively, she would have to hold up the temple roof for all eternity.”
Wow Korea is so good at revenge.
There are several national treasure here too, such as: Yaksajeon (Treasure No. 179), Beomjong Bell (Treasure No. 393, constructed in China in the 11th century), and Yangheonsu Victory Monument (Tangible Cultural Treasure No. 26). There are also many ancient trees.
We had a long weekend back in May for Buddha’s birthday. So with some friends we went straight down line 1 and went to the last stop headed west: Incheon.
Cheomseongdae (meaning star-gazing tower) is the oldest astronomical observatory in East Asia. The observatory was build during the reign of Queen Seondeok of the Silla Dynasty. It’s 9.4 meters tall and 5.17 meters in diameter. Built with square granite stones and filled with soil and pebbles to the 12th layer.
It’s one of Korea’s National Treasures and it’s only cost 500 won to enter the grounds. It’s easy to get to take buses 10, 11, or 70 and get off at Daereung-won Tumuli Park. There is tons to see and do in the area too.
Anapji (meaning goose and duck pond) is an artificial pond that was a part of a palace complex in the ancient Silla Dynasty. It went into disrepair, but during a renovation project in 1974 it was restored to it former flourishing glory. The complex is located in central Gyeongju and only a three minute walk from Gyeongju National Museum. You can take city bus number 11. It was highly recommended to visit at night.
Gyeongju is the former capital of the kingdom of Silla Dynasty that lasted for almost a thousand years. The city is rich with history and ancient treasures. One of the biggest and most famous spots is Bulguksa or Bulguk Temple.
The temple, along with Seokguram Grotto, was added to UNESCO World Heritage List in 1995. It’s also the head temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. The temple is classified as Historic and Scenic Site No. 1 by the South Korean government. With all that, you can see why it’s a big deal and a major tourist site in Gyeongju.
The most highly recommended thing to see at Bulguksa are the two stone pagodas. These pagodas were build in 751 and are prime works from the Silla Dynasty, which is considered the golden age of Buddhist art. One pagoda Dabotap (pagoda of many treasures) is elaborate, full of details and unique sculpting. In contrast, Seokgatap (pagoda of Sakyamuni) is a simple and basic design. Both compliment each other nicely in the courtyard of Bulguksa.
You see a lot of rock stacking in Korea, at temples and on hiking trails. Someone once told me that you add a rock to a stack and make a wish. If the stack stays the wish will come true, but if it falls then all the wish won’t come true. Some rock stack as a family, each rock for each member. Some use it as prayers. I have even seen rock stacking in the current video game I’m playing Skyrim. It’s a bit of an enchanting sight to see so many little stacks of rocks, it’s a peaceful feeling to gaze at all of the mementos of prayers and wishes of hundreds of people and families.