After my walk in China Town, I took an MRT to Singapore’s Little India. Immediately after stepping out of the MRT station up in the streets, I was greeted by a faint scent of incense and unknown spices in the air. I walked towards the Serangoon Road, the main road which intersects the community, is also one of Singapore’s oldest roads.
Still part of Hue’s UNESCO sites are the numerous Royal Tombs scattered along its area. Most of these are form the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945) which is the last of Vietnam’s Royal families. There were 13 kings then but for some reasons there were only 7 royal tombs constructed on the hilly regions just south of the Imperial Citadel. In order to access to these tombs, you can hire a scooter or a motorcycle to drive you in each tomb, most popular though are the Dragon Boats which will cruise you along the Perfume River. Dragon boats, which are the leisurely way to travel, cost about $3 USD per pax for a whole day including lunch. Downside here is once you docked on different points; you still have to hire a xe om (scooter) to take you to the tombs since. And you know you have to haggle for a really good price and a good price starts around $1 USD and in addition to that is the 55000 Dong in each of the tomb entrance. It takes a couple of days to see all the tombs. For us however, having only limited time, we were able to visit two tombs, via motorcycle (which we contracted for the duration of our trip). Our first stop it the Tomb of Tu Duc in Hue.
A new attraction around the Vigan area in Ilocos Sur is Chavit Singson’s Baluarte. If Ilocos Norte is Marcos territory, Vigan is where the Singson’s rule. The Baluarte is a 20 hectare land with a mini zoo, shooting range, and a chapel. It is also known as Chavit’s Fortress. Access to the mini zoo, where Singson’s numerous pet tigers and other animals are found are free for the public, as he considers this as a gift to the people.
Even if the place is still being developed, the place does look good. Harry, the friendly tiger is found at the entrance. Unfortunately, the handler isn’t around because I’d really want to touch that tiger. Seems like a giant stuff toy. I must warn though that if you are going to bring children, watch them closely as the cages for the wild tigers aren’t safe. The cages are too accessible and a child can easily slip their hands as the bars are too wide apart.
Moving along from the Sri Miriamman Temple I headed towards Cross St. where I would take a right turn towards the Thian Hock Keng Temple. It was only 5 minutes to 10 minutes walk and on your right along Telok Ayer St. you’ll find the temple passing by a small oasis park. The temple is a small typical Taoist Temple, said to be built by Seamen in 1821 for safe passage. The material construction of the temple boast of international origins, with ironwork from Scotland, tiles from England and the Netherlands, and towering granite pillars entwined with dragons from China. There was a small tour group there with a mixture of foreign tourist from Europe and some Koreans as well.
Lost in Lanterns. A Vietnamese girl inspects each lantern for tonight’s festival
We had no idea there would a festival in Hué at this time of the year. The Guide Books nor the internet doesn’t have any information on this, so we felt fortunate to have witnessed their celebration of the Chao Mung Festival 2006 in Hué. We were also worried at first since we don’t have any reservations in any hotel there. Thanks to Lee Tien, one of the Easy Riders, a group of Motorcyclist we met in Da Nang, he managed to book us a Hotel in Hué since there was an influx of tourists who are also attending the festival, most popular lodgings are taken. They booked us a double bed room in Ngoc Mai hotel, a bit distant from the central city but manageable enough and the rooms are elegant and cheap for $12 USD per night.
My recent visit to the North finally gave us a chance to visit a more secluded beach beyond the Saud beach in Pagudpud. The scenic cove of Maira-ira beach also known as Blue Lagoon is a 20 minutes drive from Saud Beach. I don’t know why they coined the place as “Blue Lagoon” since it’s more of a cove than a lagoon. I guess the title has a more mysterious or romantic feel to it. Romantic may be a better term as this once secret beach has only one resort available and is perfectly tucked away from the crowds. There are exotic cottages there for rent for only Php 20 if you are not planning on staying by the nearby Kapuluan Vista Resort.
The beach has off-white grainy sand and really blue waters like a gigantic swimming pool. The depth could get deep short distance from the shore but the floor is all sand so it’s safe to swim on your bare feet. There’s a slight undertow as well. We really have fun at this beach since it’s not crowded and the water is enjoyable.
“Do you know how I could get to Roosevelt road?” a middle aged man asked me while I was waiting on a bus stop in Geylang. He was wearing those large fashion sun-glasses and I could see the noticeable streaks of gray in his hair while he pointed on a location on his map. I was smiling and told him “Sorry. No. I’m also new here.”
I’m actually so new in Singapore that I was about to venture into the city that Monday morning. My friend has gone to work that day so I’m left by my lonesome to explore its nooks and crannies. And here I am on my walking shorts, horizontal striped polo shirt with my mini-bag on my back lugging my camera and cheap tripod along with a handy tourist map and a copy of Let’s Go Southeast Asia which a friend back home lent me before I left the country. Fear never got into me as my brief venture along its streets a few days ago gave a familiar feel of a modern city of Manila due to the numbers of Filipinos I encounter along the way.