Archive for the ‘Places to Go’ Category

Top Ten Places to Live in the World

Posted: September 23, 2012 in Places to Go

There are many factors that make the place we live the place we love to call home. Environment, weather, history, politics, economy, infrastructure, social climate, and entertainment all play a part. When choosing a place to live, your decision should be based on what issues are important to you. Finding the right combination of features is the key to loving where you live.

Healthcare and Tolerance – Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Meuse River, The Netherlands

Meuse River, The Netherlands

In 2009 the Netherlands was named as having the best healthcare system in Europe by the Euro Health Consumer Index. Six criterion examined were patient rights and information, e-health, waiting times for treatment, outcomes, range and reach of services provided and pharmaceuticals. The Netherlands is additionally praised for its minimal bureaucracy and patient empowerment.

The Netherlands, particularly Amsterdam, has become infamous for its tolerance of the taboo. The Dutch believe that people should make moral decisions with little interference from government. Marijuana is legal. Tattoo parlors, sex shops, and the red light district draw tourists. Hostels are packed during the peak summer season.

As far as culture, there are famous museums where you can see work by Van Gogh, Vermeer, and Rembrandt. One can learn the story of Anne Frank, relax in beautiful parks and ride a bike almost anywhere. According to Claudio.Ar, “It is said that Amsterdam has more canals than Venice, more cafes than Vienna and more bridges than Paris. The tours let you discover them and other secrets of the city.”

Best Place for Singles – New York City, USA

New York City

Hudson River, New York

In the mood for love?  Although the cost of living is still high in New York, it has become slightly more affordable due to the recent economic downturn. In fact with many singles now unemployed, unmarried folks are taking advantage of their severance packages and enjoying all the city has to offer. With 35,000 restaurants, 3,800 bars, and 734 museums there is definitely plenty to do in New York City. The popular dating site,, has more active accounts in the NYC area than any other locale. Living in New York does, however require a high tolerance for crowds of people.

“The City That Never Sleeps” comes by its title easily. From piano bars to jazz lounges (and a few dozen dives of course), New York’s nightlife keeps the city hopping until early morning hours. Nightclubs like the Marquee feature world famous DJs for the partiers who love to dance. Other locals favor the Gotham Comedy Club, which Frommer’s guide declares New York’s “trendiest and most sophisticated comedy club.”

Whatever your interest, you’re sure to find it in New York City – day or night.

Mild Climate & English Speaking – Malta

Island Sunset

The island nation just 60 miles from Sicily, Republic of Malta, is a repeated winner of Quality of Life Index awards for best climate.

With a daily average of over five hours of sunshine, mild winters, and hot summers – Malta is considered ideal by many.

Diving, sailing, and colorful festivals abound. Golf and horseback riding are popular pastimes.

There are few sandy beaches and yes – sometimes it does rain on the Maltese islands.

If it’s raining you can head indoors for opera, theater, music, and ballet at the Manoel Theatre in Valletta. The Manoel is the second-oldest theater in Europe.

The government is politically stable in Malta. Cost of living is low. Crime is minimal. Locals are hospitable. Travel is not difficult, despite island status.

Family-Friendly – Virginia, USA


Virginia Waterwheel

The state of Virginia has beautiful shorelines and beaches. Virginia is very family and community oriented, with plenty of fairs, festivals, and community events. The people are diverse and friendly. Many of the schools are highly-ranked and offer plenty of extracurricular activities and elective courses to choose from.

Virginia takes the health and safety of its children very seriously. According to the official Virginia government website, $515,405 was awarded to 17 projects that support youth substance abuse and violence prevention programs for 2010.

Low Cost of Living & Retirement – Brazil


Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro

Brazil is the largest country in South America and therefore offers a broad range of opportunities for travel and diversity. From the Amazon jungles, to famous beaches, you will find the inhabitants friendly and hospitable. Although the nightlife is well known in Brazil, few are aware that Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are among the cheapest cities to live in (according to the Economist Intelligence Unit).

Brazil is a good place to retire. Retirement visas are available with proof of income. It is common and legal for permanent residents to apply for Brazilian passports and keep their current citizenships and passports.

Brazilian health care is very good. You do not need to be a citizen to use the national health care system. Patients pay nothing out of pocket for most care. For the highest quality health care private market providers are also available – for a fee. Even so, the fees are much less than purchasing independent health insurance in the U.S. In general, you get more for your money in Brazil.

Due to the well-developed agricultural, mining, manufacturing, and service industries, the economy of Brazil outweighs other countries in South America, and is quickly expanding its presence in international markets.

Simply Beautiful – Belize



Belize, considered one of the most beautiful countries in Central America, has it all. Belize touts great beaches, subtropical climate, diverse wildlife, and a low cost of living.

The scuba diving and snorkeling is fabulous. The gorgeous waterfalls underneath the Maya Mountains are rivaled only by the hundreds of colorful species of birds flying the skies.

Rent of a large house in Cayo district is only $300/month. Food at the local markets is very reasonably priced. The official language is English. The Retired Person’s Incentive Program starts at the ripe young age of 45 and allows tax free living.

Consider a snowbird lifestyle when it comes to living in Belize. The wet season is May to October. It rains all the time and there is a chance for hurricanes.

But I’d stay November through April in this beautiful land, which is just where I’d like to be rather than the cold snowy land I call home that time of year.

Stunning Scenery – Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town features some of the most beautiful beaches and fascinating attractions in all of Africa. Families enjoy swimming in the warm waters along the False Bay coast, where whale watching is also popular. Kids swarm to Boulders Beach to see the penguins, and for a small fee, even swim with them. The hallmark of Cape Town is Table Mountain, a gigantic slab of sandstone with breathtaking views, trails for hiking, and paragliding for the adventurous. (Cable cars are available for the not-so-adventurous.)

The second most populated city in South Africa; Cape Town is known for being socially tolerant and culturally diverse. This coastal city is mild and rainy during the winter months, but dry and very warm the rest of the year. The bistros and restaurants offer a variety of world class cuisine to satisfy every palate, and are famous for their delicious wines. Clubs, lounges, and other entertainment venues make Cape Town ideal for the musically inclined.

Thanks to the 2010 World Cup, business is booming in Cape Town. The real estate market is also on the upswing as more people relocate to this beautiful coastal city.

Economic Opportunities – Frankfurt, Germany

Those looking for a certain quality of life find their high standards met in Frankfurt, the economic capital of Germany. The Frankfurt Stock Exchange is the largest in Germany, and one of the world’s most important. According to the Mercer Quality of Living survey, Frankfurt has the highest concentration of jobs in Germany, with 922 jobs per 1,000 residents.

Frankfurt inhabitants enjoy their city for more than its economic security. The museums, historical sites, and shopping districts are popular with the locals as well as tourists. Frankfurt is easy to travel in and out of, with one of the busiest airports in the world. Frankfurt Central Station is one of the biggest train stations in Europe, and few can resist the allure of the Autobahn. The views along the Main River are lovely, and Frankfurt is home to a number of beautiful landmarks such as the Imperial Cathedral, and the 50-acre Palmengarten flower garden.

The cost of living is high, but is compensated with a low unemployment rate, easy transportation for business trips, and the fact that it is an industrial and financial powerhouse.  Germany’s businesses are booming.

Most Romantic – Paris, France

Eiffel Tower, Paris

Eiffel Tower, Paris

The air in Paris simply breathes romance. Not only is the enchanting ambience the perfect setting for romance, (who can see the Eiffel Tower without thinking of L’amour?) the cozy bistros and dimly lit restaurants are ideal for couples in love.

Paris is not just for lovers; its rich heritage and stunning architecture draw millions. The Louvre, Palace of Versailles, and Notre Dame are just a few of the beautiful buildings that grace the Paris skyline. An incredible array of paintings and art are sure to please museum goers.

As the fashion capital of the world, Paris is home to some of the most popular designers. Those looking for a career in fashion couldn’t find a more fitting place to study or work. The drawback for Parisians is a high cost of living. The good news is- Paris features some of Europe’s largest corporations, and researchers expect an increase in employment opportunities in the future. So for those who can swing it, the comfort and quality of the French life is a truly unforgettable experience. Not to mention, absolutely delicious.

Sizzling and Sexy – Miami, Florida USA

Miami, Florida

Miami is known as the “Magic City” for good reason. With the sensual Latin flavor combined with its tropical location, Miami is home to an eclectic group of fun-loving people. Singles flock to Miami for the beaches and exciting nightlife, and then discover attractions and career opportunities that offer more than they were expecting.

As the “Gateway to Latin America”, Miami is a city of diverse ethnicities. This sunny city is bursting with new developments, has surprisingly low rent and taxes, and an exceptional education system at the University of Miami.

Miami ranks highly with the Globalization and World Cities Study Group and Network, which rates each city’s importance to the international economy. Professionals work in a number of fields including tourism, trade, and international banking. Sports and recreation enthusiasts adore Miami for the wide variety of watersports and boating activities. Everything from snorkeling to sailing, kayaking to kitesurfing; Miami’s beaches offer it all. For landlubbers, Miami features rock climbing walls, golf courses, and tennis courts. Wherever you travel, wherever you call home, remember to make the best of where you are. The people you meet, friends you make, experiences you acquire – those are the things that make life worth living.



There are many beautiful mosques in the world.  Mosques are some of the most stunning pieces of architecture that can be found. But don’t take my word for it. Let’s take a look at some of the most beautiful mosques in the world as examples.

1. The Blue Mosque – Turkey

The Blue Mosque

Credit: heydrienne (via Flickr)

This mosque in Istanbul, Turkey is called the Sultan Ahmed Mosque but is popularly known as The Blue Mosque.  It was built during the reign of Ahmed I from 1609 to 1616.   This large mosque has six minarets, one main dome and eight smaller domes.  Part of its beauty is the architecture which combines Byzantine elements with traditional Islamic elements.  It is known as the Blue Mosque due to the blue tiles that are found on the interior.

2. The Crystal Mosque – Malaysia

The Crystal Mosque

Credit: didiz rushdi (via Flickr)

The Crystal Mosque is a new mosque located in Terengganu, Malaysia.  It was built between 2006 and 2008 and officially opened in February of 2008.  This stunning structure is constructed from steel, glass and crystal which make it one of the most beautiful in the world.

3. Faisal Mosque – Pakistan

Faisal Mosque

Credit: Guilhelm Vellut (via Flickr)

The Faisal Mosque is located in Islamabad and is the largest mosque in Pakistan.  It was completed in 1986 and when it was completed it was the biggest in the world.  Today it is the sixth largest.  The Faisal Mosque has four minarets but lacks a dome like most mosques giving it a unique look.

4. The Great Mosque of Xi’an – China

The Great Mosque of Xi'an

Credit: Yoshi (via Flickr)

Not only is the Great Mosque of Xi’an one of the most beautiful mosques in the world, it is also amongst the oldest.  While it was founded in 742 in the Shaanxi province of China, it was built between 1368 and 1398 and renovated many times since then.  This mosque does not have the traditional elements of mosque architecture such as domes or minarets.  It is instead constructed with more traditional Chinese architectural elements.

5. Masjid al-Haram – Saudi Arabia

Masjid al-Haram

Credit: Al Jazeera English (via Flickr)

Masjid al-Haram is the largest mosque in the world and surrounds the Kaaba in Mecca, the holiest place in Islam.  This mosque has both outdoor and indoor areas that can hold 4 million people at once.  It covers a total of 88.2 acres and it dates back to 630. But it has undergone renovations and expansions to grow to the size it is today.

6. Masjid Al-Nabawi – Saudi Arabia

Masjid Nabawi

Credit: RabunWarna (via Flickr)

Masjid Al-Nabawi is another mosque in Saudi Arabia that is among the largest in the world.  It is located in Medina and is one of the holiest sites in Islam.  It dates back to 622 and is known as the Prophet’s Mosque.  Over the centuries it has been built up and renovated many times.  It has 11 minarets and 27 domes.

7. The Mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha – Egypt

Mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha

Credit: David Berkowitz (via Flickr)

The Mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha was built between 1830 and 1857 and is also known as the Alabaster Mosque.  It was commissioned by Muhammad Ali Pasha in memory of his son.  The mosque is built in an Ottoman architectural style with 5 domes and 2 minarets.  One unique aspect of this mosque is a brass clock tower that was given to Muhammad Ali by King Louis Philippe of France.

8. The Shah Jahan Mosque – Pakistan

Shah Jahan Mosque


The Shah Jahan Mosque in Thatta, Pakistan dates to the 17th century.  It was commissioned by Shah Jahan, a Mughal emperor, and was built with a Mughal architectural style which makes it stand out from many other mosque designs.  The mosque has 100 domes and was constructed from red brick and tiles.

9. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque – United Arab Emirates

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Credit: ChildLight (via Flickr)

Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque is the 8th largest mosque in the world and it’s located in Abu Dhabi.  The first ceremony held in the mosque was the funeral of its namesake, Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who initiated the building of it while he was President of the United Arab Emirates.  Artisans and materials from around the world were utilized in making the mosque which has 82 domes and 4 minarets.

10. The Umayyad Mosque – Syria

The Umayyad Mosque

Credit: Arian Swegers (via Flickr)

The Umayyad Mosque is also known as the Great Mosque of Damascus.  It is a site that holds significance to both Christians and Muslims.  It was completed in 715 on a site that was previously a Christian basilica dedicated to St. John the Baptist who is honored as a prophet by Muslims and Christians.  This is one of the few old mosques in the world that has not had its style and general structure significantly altered since being built.



The Most Beautiful Place on Earth?

Posted: September 20, 2012 in Places to Go

Welcome to Navagio Beach aka Shipwreck Cove on Zakynthos Island, Greece. One of the most beautiful places on the planet.
The Most Beautiful Place on Earth?

The Most Beautiful Place on Earth?

The Most Beautiful Place on Earth?

The Most Beautiful Place on Earth?

The Most Beautiful Place on Earth?

The Most Beautiful Place on Earth?

The Most Beautiful Place on Earth?

The Most Beautiful Place on Earth?

The Most Beautiful Place on Earth?

The Most Beautiful Place on Earth?

The Most Beautiful Place on Earth?

The Most Beautiful Place on Earth?


Well-known for its cafe culture, Italy has some of the best coffee shops in the world you’ll find anywhere. Take a tour of some of the oldest cafes in the world on your trip & get a true taste of Italian history.

Caffe Florian, Venice

Caffe Florian, Venice

Caffe Florian, Venice

Thought by some to be the oldest café in the world, The Florian opened in December 1720 with just two rooms in the elegant city of Venice. Goethe and Casanova were amongst its famous patrons, the latter no doubt attracted by the fact that Florian was the only coffee house in the city that allowed women.

Today, the Caffe Florian has an ever-changing display of artworks from across the globe ranging from classical paintings to comic strips. As home of the Venice Biennale, Caffè Florian is right at the heart of Italian cultural life.

Caffe Baratti e Milano, Turin

Caffe Baratti e Milano, Turin

Caffe Baratti e Milano, Turin

A visit to Turin would not be complete without a visit to Caffe Baratti e Milano. First founded in 1874, it is a well-known landmark for the City of Turin.

Inside, the cafe’s elegance hints at the splendour of its past. Outside, film buffs will recognise its location on Galleria Subalpina as the setting for the famous Mini chase from The Italian Job.

Order a signature Bicerin – the classic mocha coffee of the region – and enjoy the views of one of the most famous streets in Turin.

Antico Caffe Greco, Rome

Antico Caffe Greco, Rome

Antico Caffe Greco, Rome

Almost a rival for Caffe Florian in terms of longevity, Caffe Greco first opened its doors to coffee lovers in Rome in 1760. Throughout its 250-year history, the cafe has been popular with musicians and writers, with poets Keats and Shelley regularly patronising this popular café.

The interior doesn’t look like it’s changed much in at least 150 years and outside the views are beautiful. In the height of the Roman summer, get a Paradisi – the cafe’s speciality drink of oranges and lemons – and sit outside to watch the world go by.

Caffe Cova, Milan

Caffe Cova, Milan

Caffe Cova, Milan

Established in 1817, Caffe Cova is one of the oldest paticceries in Italy. Inside, you will find a mouth-watering array of pastries on offer behind the glass. Most notably, Cova is thought to be the birthplace of the modern version of the Panettone, the Milanese cake that’s become popular in the UK at Christmas time.

Although as one of the best coffee shops in the world, popular and gets extremely busy, the charming will make sure you’re not overlooked. The cakes and pastries are particularly tempting, but the cafe also offers freshly-made sandwiches to order. Thickly sliced smoked salmon on fresh rye bread baked in-store will fortify you for an afternoon of Milanese adventures.

Caffe Gilli, Florence

Caffe Gilli, Florence

Caffe Gilli, Florence

Second only to The Florian in age, Caffe Gilli opened in 1733 and has been an integral part of Florence’s city centre for nearly three centuries.

The terrace offers some of the best views of Florence’s Piazza Della Republica, but it’s most famous for what it has to offer hungry visitors. Visit early for a freshly baked pastry and the best cappuccino in Florence.

Caffe Gambrinus, Naples

Caffe Gambrinus, Naples

Caffe Gambrinus, Naples

The Gambrinus is famous not just only as the city’s oldest café, but also for its famous patrons. Since it opened in the mid-1800s, royalty, artists, and celebrities have visited, attracted by its beautiful interior.

The Caffe Gambrinus has paintings by some of the greatest artists of 19th century, for you to admire over coffee and a cake. There are tables outside, but with such a beautiful interior most choose to stay inside the cafe known as “Naples’ living room.”

Antico Caffè Spinnato, Palermo

Antico Caffè Spinnato, Palermo

Antico Caffe Spinnato, Palermo

Dating back to 1860, Antico Caffe Spinnato is the oldest cafe in Palermo and offers a range of sumptuous cakes, coffee and gelati as well as sweet marsala wine.

A particular favourite of the locals in Palermo, Antico Caffe Spinnato is popular on weekend evenings where a night of wine and chatter can be rounded off with a fresh brioche to take home up to midnight.

Caffé Mangini

Caffé Mangini

Caffe Mangini

Established in 1876, Caffé Mangini is a relative newcomer to the cafe scene compared to its cousins across Italy. However, it has the rare honour of having served as the location chosen by Giuseppe Garibaldi and Nino Bixio, to celebrate the departure of the expedition of the Thousand at the Antica Osteria del Bai.

Today, the cafe is the perfect place to write your postcards home on the terrace under the watchful eye of Vittorio Emanuele II, whose statue stands over the terrace.


Thailand is situated in south-east Asia and is a rapidly developing country that combines ancient traditions and cultural values with modern developments and industrialization. Tourism is a key industry here and every year hundreds of thousands of people from around the world visit the country for leisure, fun and adventure.

The weather is to be considered good all the year around although some people choose to avoid the short rainy season between July and October. Many people from Europe visit Thailand during the European winter in order to break away from the bitter winter cold at home. The most popular tourist destinations within the country are Ayutthaya, Pattaya, Bangkok, Phuket, Krabi, and Ko Samui amongst others.

Thailand Holidays

Thailand Holidays

Each of these destination spots has its own attraction and uniqueness, whether it is the centuries old temples and palaces in Bangkok or the idyllic beaches of Phuket. By western standards, Thailand is one of the cheapest countries in the world to visit and this means that it offers great value for money. In particular, it enables more people to stay at higher quality luxury hotels which can be found throughout the country. For travelers from the UK, there are several flights available to Thailand. British Airways flights from London Heathrow is one of the preferred operators serving the route together with Thai Airways.

Spoilt for Choice of Unspoilt Beauty

Thailand has a great deal to offer the tourist and so it might be hard at first deciding on where to stay and what to do. Those people seeking a simple beach holiday might prefer to visit the small islands of Ko Chang and Ko Samet, both of which have undergone considerable development in recent times. For unspoilt beauty, the island of Ko Lipe with its reefs and beautiful beaches are an excellent choice.

Phang-nga Bay

Phang-nga Bay, Thailand

Exploring Thai Heritage & Culture

Anyone interested in the ancient culture of Thailand will undoubtedly first spend some time in Bangkok but would then need to travel further afield. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Ayutthaya is a UNESCO world heritage site and was also the old capital of Siam.
  • Kanchanaburi is home to numerous second world war museums and the infamous Bridge over the River Kwai.
  • Sukhothai, which was Thailand’s first capital, contains some of the most amazing ruins in the country.

Places to stay – from Backpacking to utmost Luxury

There are a number of accommodation options throughout the country, which range from the most basic, appealing mostly to backpackers, to luxury five star hotels. Bangkok alone boasts dozens of five star hotels, with the most exclusive being the St Regis Bangkok and the Sukhothai Hotel Bangkok. Most of the top hotels offer spa facilities where of course the famous Thai massage can be experienced.



Local Cuisine at its Best

Thai Cuisine has gained a lot of popularity throughout the world over the last ten years or so and experiencing some of the fabulous local dishes is an essential part of any holiday there. There are numerous colourful dishes, featuring curries and stir fries, noodles and soups. One word to listen out for is “phet”. This means hot, and if a choice is available, most tourists should avoid it unless you are a lover of hot food of course!

Thailand is a wonderful country to visit, with friendly, welcoming people, a unique culture and great weather. It is suitable for every taste and need – whether for visitors seeking a spa break, a relaxing holiday on an exotic beach resort or for those who interested in exploring the historical and cultural treasures the country has to offer. The choices are manifold – Thailand is truly a hundred holidays in one.


Athens is one of the oldest cities in the world and is Greece’s capital and most populous city. The food, vibrant street life and relaxed lifestyle are popular drawcards, however Athens is known foremost for its remarkable history, mythology and spectacular ruins.

There are many things to see and places to explore in Athens – these are just a starting point.

The Acropolis and the Parthenon

The Acropolis and The Parthenon

The Acropolis and The Parthenon, Athens

Perched high above the city of Athens, is the Acropolis – a symbol of Greece and the Greek Empire. The Acropolis is home to the Parthenon, the Temple of Athena, and a fantastic (must-see) museum.

Make your way up the hill and explore. The structures leading up to the Parthenon are beautiful and the Parthenon itself is striking with its white marble pillars – it’s hard to believe that it was built in 438BC. From here, wander down to the ruins of the Theatre of Dionysus and then on to the Temple of Olympian Zeus, which begun construction in the 6th century BC and took more than 600 years to complete.  The size of these structures is unbelievable – they are massive! Also visit to the Roman Stadium which hosted the first Olympic Games of modern times in 1896.

Syntagma Square, Athens, Greece

Syntagma Square, Athens

Syntagma Square, Athens, Greece

Syntagma (or Constitution) Square is the heart of modern Athens and well worth a visit. Lined with luxury hotels and cafes, Syntagma Square is a great place to relax, enjoy a traditional Greek coffee or snack, people-watch and soak up the atmosphere as locals go about their day around you.

In the area between the square and parliament, you’ll find the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, every hour there is a changing of the guard ceremony – on Sundays it is especially impressive.

Plaka, Athens

Plaka, Athens

Plaka, Athens

Plaka, at the base of the hill topped by the Acropolis, is the oldest neighborhood in Athens. Head here in the early evening and wander the maze of cobblestone streets – filled with restaurants offering amazing Greek food (try the moussaka), live entertainment, and a range of shops to find the perfect gifts or quality souvenirs.

You can’t travel to Athens without visiting the famous (and colorful) Brettos distillery – offering ouzo, brandy and the most amazing range of liqueurs. While exploring these beautiful streets, grab a Greek souvlaki wrap from one of the takeaway stalls – they are delicious!

National Archaeological Museum

National Archaeological Museum, Athens

National Archaeological Museum, Athens

To gain a true appreciation and understanding of the amazing ruins and Greek history, visit the National Archaeological Museum. Originally built to house and protect finds from 19th century excavations in Athens, it is now filled with an impressive collection of treasures from all over Greece. This amazing collection traces the history of Greek civilization from the beginnings of Prehistory to Late Antiquity.

Monastiraki, Athens

Monastiraki, Athens

Monastiraki, Athens

This bustling and vibrant quarter is filled with many restaurants, cafes and bars; it’s also home to the daily flea market – here you’ll find clothing, shoes, bead shops, jewellery, and antiques – bargain with the locals to get the best prices. Monastiraki has a great atmosphere, cheap food, and live music – stop, explore and get lost in the rambling streets.

Piraeus, Greece

Piraeus, Greece

Piraeus, Greece

Piraeus is the seaport of Athens and makes the list because it is the gateway to many of the stunning Greek islands. Watch the sunset and enjoy fresh seafood at one of the dockside restaurants, before heading off on a ferry to discover these breathtakingly beautiful islands, for what will be an unforgettable experience.


Lying at the heart of the Asia-Pacific region is the Coral Triangle, a spectacular underwater world brimming with wealth of unparalleled proportions. The Coral Triangle is the planet’s richest center of marine life, the nursery of the seas.

Few reefs within the Coral Triangle can rival the productivity of the Philippines’ own Tubbataha Reefs, located in the central Sulu Sea in Palawan.

Tubbataha, touted as the crown jewel of the Coral Triangle, is a project site of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This April, WWF-Philippines national ambassadors Marc Nelson and Rovilson Fernandez went on a five-day diving expedition to do hands-on conservation work at the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Marine Park.

Onboard WWF-Philippines’ research vessel M/Y Navorca, Marc and Rovilson stood at the front lines to ensure that the reefs remain pristine for generations to come.

“I’m an avid scuba diver and Tubbataha has some of the best diving in the world. Being able to see sharks and turtles on every dive and even running into a whale shark underwater is proof positive that WWF’s conservation efforts in the area is a success,” says Marc.

Since Marc and Rovilson were named WWF-Philippines national ambassadors in October 2010, the dynamic duo has led a slew of activities to create more awareness about the Philippine environment’s immense biodiversity.

These activities include WWF environmental education sessions to help empower thousands of public school students to become young stewards of nature.

The Tubbataha experience

The twin atolls of the Tubbataha Reefs lie in the middle of the Sulu Sea, approximately 160 kilometers southeast of Puerto Princesa City in Palawan.


The reefs are only reachable by boat, a journey which takes 10 to 12 hours and is only attempted from mid-March to mid-June.

Entry to the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Marine Park without proper clearance is strictly prohibited.

Tubbataha spans more than 97,000 hectares and hosts approximately 600 species of fish; 360 species of corals (approximately half of all coral species in the world); 14 species of sharks including the ferocious tiger shark; 12 species of dolphins and whales; a nesting population of endangered hawksbill and green sea turtles; and over 100 species of birds, including rare migratory birds.

“During our trip, we saw spinner dolphins, black and white tip reef sharks, stingrays, manta and eagle rays and a whale shark, which is rarely seen in Tubbataha. Such sightings manifest the excellent health of these waters,” says Rovilson.

“Best dive ever!” exclaimed Marc after seeing the four-meter juvenile whale shark. Marc has been diving since he was 11 and has had hundreds of diving trips around the world.

Marc and Rovilson likewise interacted with rangers from the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Marine Park, the best-managed offshore marine protected area in the country.

The ranger station stands on a sandbar in Tubbataha’s north atoll.

The rangers ensure that Tubbataha’s waters are protected from illegal fishermen and poachers. “They also maintain a steady watch on the licensed dive boats in the area and are trained to come to their aid in any emergency situation,” adds Marc.

The Tubbataha Reefs: ensuring food security

But the Tubbataha Reefs go beyond being a mecca of Philippine diving. The reefs’ rich marine biodiversity also ensures an ample food supply for over 20 million Filipinos, who depend on fish as a source of protein.

The Tubbataha Reefs’ twin atolls produce fish biomass of at least 200-tons per square kilometer. This is five times greater than the productivity of a healthy reef.

“Tubbataha is the seeding and growth area of the fish stocks for Palawan and the Visayas. Without this protected area, fish would not have the opportunity to grow to maturity and repopulate other areas,” says Marc.

Adds Rovilson, “With a burgeoning Philippine population, escalating food prices, and unmonitored unsustainable fishing practices, it is only imperative that we protect the Tubbataha Reefs. As ambassadors of WWF-Philippines, we want to raise more awareness about Tubbataha so we can better safeguard this cradle of marine life.”

Home from their trip, Marc and Rovilson are more determined than ever to protect the Tubbataha Reefs plus other critical ecosystems in the Philippines.

“We are privileged and proud to represent WWF, the world’s largest independent conservation organization. At the same time, Marc and I also carry the responsibility to communicate the need to protect the Philippine environment’s fragile beauty,” concludes Rovilson

Source: Phil Star /

Like anybody whose mind and soul have been crushed by the daily grind, I long for space and respite from the steel and granite setting of Makati.

The quest for the fabled Anawangin Cove started with a hot cup of MacDonald’s brewed coffee and pancake with syrup. My companions and I left the city behind us and traversed the hillybest philippine attractions, best philippine festivals, capiz, network for filipinos, philippine festivals may, Philippines, roxas city, Seafood Capital, talakayan at kalusugan, The Big NM until we reached the town of San Antonio where the SUV snaked its way to a quaint fishing village called Pundaquit.

We found ourselves in Pundaquit Paradise, a restaurant that serves sinigang na maya-maya (fish in tamarind broth). There was a sprinkling of European tourists relaxing and taking swigs of San Miguel beer. An unfamiliar Scandinavian tune drifted in the air.

We bought food from the local sari-sari store since food was pricey in the cove.  The locals were a tad curious but friendly. Children escorted us down the docks and fooled around on the sand. The boat danced on the sparkling waters, so cool and so blue, a luxury so unexpected, I allowed myself a sigh. The expert bangkeros put the banca in full throttle.

I saw a school of fish weaving patterns in the sun. It was fun trying to catch them with my hands. After 15 minutes of relaxed sailing, we spotted strips of beaches where sun worshippers lolled with nary a care in the world. We rounded a bend and amidst oohs and aahs, the cove appeared.

At once, the pine grove beyond the sands greeted us and we were transported to a temperate place. Balmy weather, unruffled sea, the sand khaki white and soft to the toes, how remarkable to know we were just a few hours away from home! But forget home. For now, we were adventurers. We set up tent and gathered dry wood for the fire.

At the back of the pine trees is a stream that leads to the sea. We crossed the swamp up to a point where fresh water met brackish water. I was excited and a bit uneasy but it was exhilarating.

In the middle of the water we took a break, and upon turning around and looking at the horizon, the glorious landscape that lay before us took our breath away. Pine trees surrounded the mountains and we imagined ourselves crossing the Alps.

There’s a saying that no two sunsets are ever the same. A perfect sunset capped the day for me. At dusk, most swimmers turned to their camps and left me alone on the beach. Some, though, were still in the dark waters a few yards away and all I could hear were their voices echoing in the silver and black skies while the waves whispered at me. Pam Munoz Ryan once said,  “Wander into that infinite space between soul and star..

Source:  Manila Bulletin /

Days are slow and hot, the nights short and cold. Shortly after five in the morning – when elsewhere it’s probably still pitch dark – Mahabang Buhangin (Long Beach) is already a pale turquoise, the sky a faint hue of pink and blue. It’s difficult to stay asleep once sunlight streams through your tent. Besides, daybreak in this island is, like a child awaiting a candy treat, something you’ll look forward to day after day. Ah, mornings in Calaguas.


Getting to the Calaguas Group of Islands in the frequently storm-ravaged region of Bicol is no mean feat, at roughly 12 hours by land and sea from Manila. But this relatively quiet beach off the northeastern coast of Camarines Norte province makes all the travel through winding roads and open seas worth it.

Here are five reasons why you should spare a weekend (or maybe more) in this quiet, happy beach before the rainy season comes.

1. It’s a natural wonder.

For a country blessed with countless patches of white sand and crystalline waters, Mahabang Buhangin fits the image of a Philippine beach to the hilt: a palm-fringed stretch of powdery white sand–the same fine consistency found in Boracay Island–as well as waters so clear it’s a shame to not take a dip even under the noonday sun in the middle of summer.

While it has the fine sands of the country’s most well-known beach, it also has the laidback feel of Bantayan Island in Cebu–fresh catch for lunch and all–as well as the rugged terrain of Zambales, the remoteness of El Nido, and the rolling hills of Batanes. But it’s far from a clichéd destination. You can trek up the mountain behind the beach and enjoy a panorama of islets against the Philippine sea, or explore the nearby islands by boat.

It’s a place that forces you–in a good way–to appreciate the simple pleasures of watching the sun set, crows gliding majestically against the orange (sometimes magenta) streaks of the sky.

(GMA News)

2. It’s (as yet) undiscovered, and therefore peaceful.

Blame the distance–approximately 10 hours by land (or an hour by air) and two hours by boat from Metro Manila–for that untouched vibe many are looking for in a true island getaway. There are no fancy restaurants, spas, and resorts here. Calaguas is very basic: there are only bamboo cottages with tables and benches where you can lounge around and have your meals, but no rooms for you to sleep in.

The solution: camping! Everyone brings their own tent and cooks their own meals, and you will too. If you’re not a happy camper, Calaguas has the most genteel environment for you to try this outdoor adventure for the first time.

To fully enjoy the beach all to yourself, go on weekdays when nary a soul visits the place. It does get its share of crowds on weekends, although if you steer clear of the big groups and stay on the other side of the beach, you’ll still enjoy the peace and quiet.

3. It’s affordable.

When other more popular beach destinations get too pricey during the summer, Calaguas is a great detour for those who want to enjoy as much sun and sea without the hefty price tag. There are no peak, high, and lean season rates here. Save for the P100-per person overnight fee and a one-time cottage fee, you’ll shell out practically nothing while on the island. Of course, you can always wait for the fishermen shortly before noon everyday and buy fresh seafood at P50 per kilo and have it grilled in time for lunch. You’ll have more control of your food, although you’ll have to be prepared to let go of certain comforts, such as ice-cold drinks.

Although distant, the Bicol Region is easily accessible by land when it’s not feasible to travel by air. There are buses plying the Manila-Naga and Manila-Daet routes everyday starting at roughly P500, or you can always take the newly refurbished Bicol Express at P665 for a sleeper bed.

Roundtrip boat rentals typically start at P3,000 for one to five people, even cheaper depending on how well you can haggle. Boatmen are readily available at the Vinzons and Paracale ports, the two jump-off points to Calaguas.

4. It’s a place to unplug and de-stress.

There is only one spot along the beach where you can receive a mobile signal, and that’s just for one network. You need to hike up the mountain behind the beach, which may take anywhere between 20 minutes to an hour, to get the signal from another network.

In short, Calaguas is not the place to check on your emails or catch up on work. So leave your phone tucked inside your bag and just enjoy your time at the beach. Surely, you’re going to miss that feeling once you’re back in your airconditioned office cubicle.

And since electricity only becomes available when the caretakers run their generator sets — which isn’t everyday — you’ll be spending most of your waking hours alternating between eating, taking a nap, and taking a dip, just like we did.

5. It’s charming and friendly.

Life in Calaguas is laidback. The locals are very warm albeit the quiet type, but there’s nothing a little chat can’t solve. They can help the less-than-skilled to light a fire for grilling, bring fresh buko from one of the countless coconut trees in the island, or assist campers in fetching water from the lone freshwater pump at the beach. The young kids are a delight to talk to as well, and having breakfast with them was one of the more poignant memories of our trip.

This is how a day in Calaguas will be like: wake up to a faint pink and blue glow on the horizon; spend most of the day swimming in the shimmering aquamarine waters; end the day staring at the fiery colors of the sunset; sleep under the stars.

If you think you’ve seen the best of the country’s beaches, wait ’til you get to Mahabang Buhangin.


Travel tips and directions:

1. Bring a tent, mosquito repellent, cooking and dining utensils; candles, lamps, or flashlights; and a first-aid kit.

2. Wrap your belongings in drysacks or sealed plastic bags as waves can get a bit rough.

3. If you don’t want to lug around everything during the trip from Manila to Bicol, source your food and drinking water from Daet. Plan your supplies well ahead to make sure these are sufficient for your needs.

4. Bus trips need prior reservation. Manila-Daet buses of Superlines and Philtranco are mostly regular airconditioned buses starting at 500 pesos and are found at the Araneta Bus Terminal in Cubao. Alternatively, you may take a sleeper bus bound for Naga at P1,000 (lower bunk) or P1,200 (upper bunk) just like we did and get off at the intersection in Calauag town (Isarog has daily 9 PM trips from Cubao). This way, you can sleep throughout the trip in time for the remainder of your land and sea transfers.

(GMA News)

5. If you wish to take the train, call the PNR for reservations at (02) 319-0044 & 48 and visit for trip schedules. However, note that the Bicol Express train can only drop you off at the Naga station, which means another two-hour van ride back to Daet.

6. Similarly, you can hop on a flight to Naga and head to Daet on a van.

7. To take the Vinzons route, take a 15-minute tricycle ride from the Daet bus terminal to the Vinzons fishport and get a boat from there.

8. For the Paracale route, get off at Brgy. Talobatib in Labo town (for Manila-Daet buses) or Calauag intersection (for Manila-Naga buses) and take another bus for Paracale. Proceed to the fishport (5 minutes by tricycle) and get a boat.

Source:  GMA News