Sagada’s Cave Connection

Tony enters a chamber while spelunking in Sagada

Sagada, a cool mountain station in north-central Luzon, is a restful escape from the tropical heat of the Philippines. The destination offers up forests full of pines and tree ferns, exotic burial rituals, a once grand head hunter culture, and gorgeous slopes filled with extreme rice terracing.

Our principle reason for coming here was to bone up on our spelunking skills by doing the famous Sagada Cave Connection, a four-hour cave crawling tour linking the Lumiang and Sumaging cave systems. This tour requires its participants to repel down vertical shafts, crawl, squirm, dangle off of ledges, slip, slide, wade waist-deep through underground streams, and clamber over wedding cake cave formations – in other words, it’s serious food for your inner child.


La Mercè

La Mercè in Barcelona

Today marks the end of La Mercè, Barcelona’s most famous festival. The celebrations honor the Mare de Déu de la Mercè, the Virgin of Grace, who is said to have delivered the city from a plague of locusts in 1687. Festivities include parades of papier maché “giants,” booming gun salutes (not for those who overly value their ear drums), acrobatic human tower building, fireworks, and more. It’s tons of fun as well as a photographic delight. And there wasn’t a locust in sight, so the Virgin of Grace still seems to be keeping up her end of the bargain. 🙂

La Mercè in Barcelona

Flashback: Egypt 1994

In a time of great tension, we thought we would flash back to 1994, a somewhat less volatile period when Thomas and I spent two and a half months in Egypt. It’s an amazing country with an unparalleled history; we desperately hope it remains open and accessible to outsiders. If the pictures look old, that’s because they are from the last millennium. 🙂

Neighborhood Graffiti

When I think of Berlin, I think of graffiti. The colorful spray paint art is everywhere in the city. Although the most famous canvas is probably the Berlin Wall, massive works of art can also be found under bridges, on subway cars, on facades, and down narrow alleyways. Walking around my neighborhood, I snapped away as I encountered giant aliens, cartoon character cocktails, and amazing sunflower fields.

This is just a small sampler of Berlin’s graffiti art, but I know there will be a lot more to follow. 😉

Sukhothai Historical Park

While there may be some debate among historians, Sukhothai is generally considered the birthplace of Thai culture. The sprawling Sukhothai Historical Park preserves what’s left of the first capital of Siam and makes for a leisurely day out biking through the ruins. The site features a series of crumbling monasteries, temples, stupas, palaces, and stunning Buddha statues as well as portions of the original city fortifications.

While not on the same scale as the Southeast Asian super-monuments of Bagan and Angkor Wat, Sukhothai is still quite impressive and rivals the grandeur of Ayutthaya. For its historical and cultural significance, Sukhothai has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s definitely worth a day or two on the way north to Chiang Mai.

As with Ayutthaya, the Thai government has been playing around with ticketing and ended up with a rather absurd and impractical zone system. To make the situation worse, the current government has eliminated the combined ticket which requires visitors to buy individual tickets for each zone. Because the majority of the best preserved monuments are in the core zone, most visitors limit themselves to that single ticket. Despite the bureaucratic missteps, Sukhothai represents one of Thailand’s architectural and historical highlights.

Kek Lok Si Illuminated

To celebrate the year of the rabbit, Penang’s massive Kek Lok Si, the largest Chinese temple in Malaysia, has been decked out with 12,000 red and yellow Chinese lanterns as well as over 250,000 decorative bulbs. In addition to the temple, the newly constructed super-pagoda built to house Kek Lok Si’s 30 meter (100 ft) Kuan Yin statue is also being lit up each night. The twinkling complex sitting high above historical Georgetown gives a whole new meaning to the term “Buddhist enlightenment.”

Island Hopping

Island hopping is THE reason to come to El Nido. For days, we’ve been exploring the stunning scenery of the Bacuit Archipelago, which, like Coron Island, certainly qualifies as one of the world’s most beautiful locations. More insane karst geology, endless turquoise and emerald waters, and perfect beaches everywhere. Does scenery get any better than Palawan? If it does, let us know where.

Three Years on the Road

Can you believe it? We’ve been on the road for an amazing three years straight. At times, it feels like we left yesterday. At other times, our old life in Berlin seems like it was decades ago. Three years, and we are still in Asia. I guess we had better consider some other continents. But, there’s still so much more to see here. 😮

Rice Terraces of Northern Luzon

We just wanted to share some of the beautiful rice terraces of Northern Luzon with you guys. Often labeled the “eighth wonder of the world,” many of the 2000-year-old terrace locations have been listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites and are generally considered the finest examples of mud and stone-walled terracing in the world.

While the Ifugao terraces in Banaue are the most famous, visitors to the region should consider visiting some of the remoter terrace sites including: Batad and the surrounding villages, Maligcong, villages below the viewpoint of Mt. Kiltepan in Sagada, Barlig, and sites further afield in Kalinga. There are plenty of terraced mountainsides without a tourist in sight just waiting for you to explore!

Frequent visitors to our site might notice a striking resemblance to the equally beautiful terraces along Long Ji, the Dragon’s Backbone, in Guangxi, China. Clearly, there is some serious competition in the “best terrace” category.