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Asean Affairs   10 September, 2014

Reinhard Hohler, Chiang Mai (08.09.2014)
The Filipino identity is a confluence of its many cultures. They are famous for the “bayanihan” spirit of kinship with close family ties and generous hospitality. The national capital of the Philippines is home to around 12 million people, a bustling melting pot of indigenous cultures from all over the country. Sought first by the Spanish and then Americans, Manila still sports the influences of her colonial history, notably in the Latin-flavored Christian traditions that permeate every layer of its culture and society. Dining and shopping are popular past times, and here one can find regional Filipino delicacies, including some that challenge the boldest gastronome.

It has been said that it would take three decades to properly visit and experience each island in the Philippines. Over 100 ethnic groups scattered throughout the archipelago gives each island a distinct identity. Add to this the still prevalent Spanish influence, and one gets a cultural experience to remember for a lifetime.

Apart from festivals, scuba diving is a must-do in the Philippines. With long coastlines facing the Pacific Ocean, the Philippines offer blue, tranquil waters and lively reefs. Golf is another popular attraction, with world-class courses available on most islands. There are also around 60 national parks where one can indulge in caving, trekking, camping, white-water rafting, and mountain biking.

The 4 days/3 nights Taste of Manila brings visitors the experience of utmost comfort, staying at the Traders Hotel, Manila, conveniently located on Roxas Boulevard with the finest leisure, entertainment, and shopping districts nearby. It is adjacent to main conference and exhibition centers, and a short drive from the Makati business district. The hotel was selected for its spacious rooms and suites with panoramic views of Manila Bay and its radiant sunsets.

A half-day city tour of Manila is included to give visitors a brief orientation of the city, with a visit to prominent landmarks and glimpses of off-the-beaten tracks. This light and enjoyable sightseeing tour is to give a sense of familiarity of the place whereby visitors can later self-explore or purchase another optional sightseeing tour. In this half-day tour, visitors will visit the following:

 • Bustling metropolis of Manila from the financial district of Makati including Fort Bonifacio and the American Cemetery, as well as the city of Manila, the country’s capital.

• Rizal Park, named in honor of the country’s national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, for a brief picture stop.

• Historical Walled City of Intramuros. Travel through the cobbled streets of San Agustin Church, the country’s oldest stone church, and view its wide collection of ecclesiastical icons, vestments, and other religious articles. Across from it is Casa Manila, a reproduction of a 19th century house equipped with Oriental and European decor, as well as Philippine antique furniture.

 • Fort Santiago, Manila’s main line of defense against invaders from the sea. It is a stone fort guarding the entrance to the city from Manila Bay. It has been the site of many tragic moments in Philippine history.

• Quiapo, Manila’s central district, often referred to as the heart of Manila with its market, pilgrimage church of the Black Nazarene, Jeepney terminals, and bazaars.

• Chinese Cemetery, where the mausoleums are as big and as elaborate as houses, and where the fusion of eastern and Christian religions are very much in evidence


• Tagaytay Ridge Tour: The city of Tagaytay is located on a ridge 2,250 feet above sea level, about a 2-hours leisurely drive south of Manila. Along the way, pass small towns, orchards, fruit stalls, and coconut plantations. Admire a magnificent volcano and the quiet surroundings of Taal Lake from a vantage point along the ridge. After enjoying local refreshments, visit the world-famous Bamboo Organ of Pinas Church and the Jeepney Factory.

• Hidden Valley with lunch: Tour starts with a scenic countryside drive 48 miles south of Manila to the towns of Alaminos, Laguna, and Hidden Valley. Hidden Valley is situated between two mystical mountains - Mt. Makiling and Mt. Banahaw. The landscape features a crater of 110-acres wide and 300 feet deep, believed to have been formed by a violent volcanic upheaval thousands of years ago. Today natural vegetation flourishes with an impressive collection of rare orchids and other exotic flora. Several naturally-heated volcanic water pools are waiting for those wanting to take a refreshing dip!
Last not least, don't miss to fly from Manila to the islands of Cebu, Palawan or Mindanao, where there is a lot to discover.
GMS Media Travel Consultant Reinhard Hohler by e-mail:

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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