Skip to content

Faces and Phases of the North Island (Te Ika-a-Māui)

January 31, 2017

New Zealand’s North Island offers a glimpse to the country’s unique and awe-inspiring landscapes. Just minutes away from the cosmopolitan cities are large expanses of green pastures, verdant mountains, and captivating beaches.

This is the reason why Auckland, the country’s largest city, is among the world’s best places to live in. Similarly, the multicultural city of Wellington is as vibrant as it can be. The way of life in these cities is largely shaped by the islands’ strong Pacific roots with influences of colonial Europe and the growing migrant communities—making them distinctly Kiwi.

A drive up north of Wellington—through the coastal highway in the island’s western edges—is the university town of Palmerston North. Off the coast of Auckland is the island of Waiheke known for its picturesque vineyards. Further up north is Mangawhai, a popular holiday spot for local Aucklanders because if its charming surf beaches.

01.jpg
Auckland by the bay

02
Windmills of Wellington

03
Palmerston North clock tower

04.jpg
Vineyards of Waiheke

05
Kaiwaka sunset

06.jpgMangawhai Heads surf beach

07.jpg
Auckland Harbour Bridge

More photos here.

2016

December 31, 2016

For many, this year was like a bad very good Mr. Robot episode—a part of you can’t get enough even though you know how fucked up it is and another is wishing that it should’ve ended way sooner.

Some say that this year was in desperate need of some rays of sunshine. But the way I see it, maybe we were just too consumed by the dark gloomy clouds of skepticism and rancid smell of hate that we’re exposed to these days—further compounded by what we see on social media on a daily basis, where we “[spam] each other with our burning commentary of bullshit masquerading as insight”. Because apparently, everyone’s an expert nowadays.

While it’s tempting to cough up more pseudo-philosophical musings on how messed up this year was, I’d rather look at it in a different light. I know 2016 scarred many of us. But scars should remind us of healing and willingness to endure. Yes, battling your own demons is emotionally taxing but it is also equally humbling.

If you just sift through the surplus of negativities, the much-needed rays of sunshine are just hidden in obscurity. They’re persistently present, if only one knows where to look.

As 2016 comes to a close, here’s a look back on the year that was, captured in some of the following posts and photos.

To wrap this up, I am sharing the last paragraph I wrote for my master’s thesis earlier this year, a part of a longer piece(!) I wrote for my acknowledgment page:

There’s nothing more consuming than dealing with those gloomy clouds of self-doubt. We often go through life aimlessly drifting and wading through this neck-deep water filled with unmet expectations and gnawing fears. But we also find ourselves purposively pushing ourselves further and deeper armed with that profound sense of confidence and confusion of where we’re really headed.

We are all but wanderers in this sea of worries and triumphs.

Here’s to a fruitful year ahead, fellow (battle-scarred) wanderers!

2016.jpg

JANUARY
Words to live by in 2016: Live life, love life.

That thumping beat on your left chest? That’s called purpose.

FEBRUARY
The last thing this country needs are presidential aspirants with massive egos and messiah complexes. Our country deserves better. #PHvote #PiliPinasDebates2016

MARCH
Looking for a more effective way to wake up in the morning?

Try having deadlines for breakfast—probably more potent than the world’s strongest espresso. #gradschoolproblems

APRIL
There’s nothing more consuming than dealing with those gloomy clouds of self-doubt. We often go through life aimlessly drifting and wading through this neck-deep water filled with unmet expectations and gnawing fears. But we also find ourselves purposively pushing ourselves further and deeper armed with that profound sense of confidence and confusion of where we’re really headed.

We are all but wanderers in this sea of worries and triumphs.

MAY
Finding the ‘good’ in goodbye.

JUNE
Let me photograph you in this light in case this is the last time. #byeAIT #sepanx

JULY
Why I love LB? You get to ride the jeepney with a Palanca awardee or buy groceries with one of the country’s top scientists. In short, you get to rub elbows with the who’s who of science and arts on a daily basis. #whyLB

AUGUST
Sometimes, we have to remind ourselves that no one has it all figured out. We spend too much time thinking about the what-ifs and planning out our lives that we forget to be present in the present.

SEPTEMBER
One of the many things I learned from being perpetually peripatetic in the last few years is that when in doubt, take a leap. Have faith that you’ll always end up where you’re supposed to be.

Also, don’t be afraid to be afraid. As everyone’s favorite hopelessly romantic douchebag Ted Mosby puts it: “If you’re not scared then you’re not taking a chance. If you’re not taking a chance, then what the hell are you doing?”

OCTOBER
Pursuing a life “rightly lived” doesn’t mean you have to follow a prewritten narrative. Stop beating yourself up whenever you feel the current plot of your life doesn’t fit the supposed arc of your story. There’s no template and no one has it all figured out. Your story is much more riveting than you think.

NOVEMBER
How many development professionals does it take to change a busted light bulb?

It depends on how many the donor requires. Perhaps, initially hire a consultant—preferably someone from the Global North—to ‘assess the needs’ and ‘identify areas of interventions’. Then, form a committee composed of local stakeholders and ‘build their capacity’.

After a series of capacity building initiatives, organize a meeting to discuss challenges and share lessons learned. Call it a knowledge-sharing session, writeshop, stocktaking meeting, or any other dev world buzzword to make it appear that this meeting is important. In reality, this meeting could have just been an e-mail since you already prepared a draft of the workshop proceedings and listed down salient discussion points.

Lastly, hire another consultant for monitoring and evaluation to identify training gaps and enumerate ‘unforeseen’ change barriers. Based from the M&E results, submit a new proposal to donors even though the first busted light bulb has yet to be replaced. #devworkproblems

DECEMBER
Nothing like Christmas at home.

Engendering solid waste management

November 3, 2016

An average Filipino produces at least half a kilo of garbage on a daily basis. For someone who stays in a rural area, at least 0.30 kg of solid wastes are produced per day, while an urban dweller throws away 0.60 kg of daily garbage. In total, the country produces 36,000 tons or 5,000 trucks of solid waste per day (Aguinaldo, 2012). Land- and ocean-based pollution, when unmanaged, greatly contribute to the continuous degradation of the environment. This issue—alongside exponential population growth, rapid urbanization, unsustainable use of natural resources, and rapidly changing global climate, among others—further increases the country’s vulnerability, especially of the poor and the marginalized.

Since the early 2000s, the Philippine government has put in place several legal frameworks and implementing mechanisms to scale up local solid waste management (SWM) initiatives. However, it failed to take into account some significant gender dimensions related to waste disposal. In many countries, gender roles are often overlooked by policymakers in shaping SWM plans and policies.

1d43866c00000578-3148193-image-a-4_1435913702803

 

Issues and challenges in solid waste management and gender mainstreaming
In 2001, the Philippine government enacted Republic Act (RA) 9003 or the Philippine Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000. Broadly, RA 9003 targets to strengthen institutions and decentralize SWM at the local level. Among its salient provisions include (a) establishing local SWM committees at the provincial, municipal, and barangay level; (b) adopting local SWM plans and policies; and (c) putting up materials recovery facilities (MRFs) or low-maintenance buildings or spaces where reusable and recyclable wastes can be received, sorted, and processed.

However, recent estimates by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) show that the targets set in RA 9003 have yet to be fully achieved. Out of 1,634 cities and municipalities, only 614 (61 percent) have active SWM committees. At the village level, only 30 percent of the country’s 42,026 barangays have active local committees. In terms of local plans and policies, about one out of five cities/municipalities have adopted SWM plans but only a few have fully implemented it. Lastly, only 18 percent of all barangays in the country have set up their own MRFs (NEDA, 2011). There is still a need to strengthen and expand existing SWM strategies in the country, especially at the barangay and household level. As such, this also provides an opportunity to look into the vital roles gender play and integrate them in addressing key SWM issues.

Several legislations have also been adopted focusing on reducing gender inequality in the country. However, despite recent improvements in Filipinas’ access to education and employment, they continue to face serious threats, such as lower pay than men, discrimination at the workplace, as well as domestic violence and exploitation.

The Philippine Development Plan 2011–2016 also mentioned mainstreaming gender in the social development process as one of its key priorities. NEDA (2011) specifically emphasized the importance of addressing the differentiated needs of men and women, “so they can equally participate in and benefit from the development process.” This would be achieved by promoting strengthened investments, developing job-generating sectors, and involving equal participation in the decision-making process in the national and local levels.

 

Why gender matters in managing wastes
Several empirical studies have highlighted the need to look into SWM issues through a gender lens (Muhammad & Manu, 2013; Poswa, 2004; Woroniuk & Schalkwyk, 1998). These studies emphasized the importance of addressing gender-specific issues in managing solid wastes, which may cover (a) access and control over resources; (b) roles and responsibilities in the household or community; (c) extent of participation and capacity to contribute in civic activities; and (d) prevailing societal constraints and opportunities. These underscore the significant and complementing role of men and women in community development processes.

Poswa (2004) argued that waste is not a “neutral concept” and that men and women may have different perspectives on what constitutes wastes. Woroniuk and Schalkwyk (1998) further emphasized that these differing views between genders affect how wastes are collected and disposed at the household level. In most societies, women, especially mothers, are often more involved in managing household wastes due to their perceived role as primary caretakers, i.e., they are often primarily responsible in domestic chores, such as cleaning and cooking.

At the community level, men are more likely to participate and have a say in shaping plans and policies. The NEDA (2011) estimates that only 18 percent of elected positions in the country are occupied by women. Thus, as Woroniuk and Schalkwyk (1998) pointed out, “community consultation processes often fail to take gender inequalities into consideration and thus neglect women’s preferences.”

Women are also more susceptible to the pangs of unemployment and poverty. In the 2006 paper, Engendering Globalization, Mary Hawkesworth briefly discussed the feminization of poverty or the marked inequalities faced by women due to the patriarchal market and society (Ahmad, 2015). Hawkesworth noted that globalization is a gendered phenomenon as it puts women in a comparative disadvantage with men. In the Philippines, there are less women (13.3 million) than men (21.3 million) currently employed in the labor force. Likewise, majority of unpaid workers (55.8 percent) are Filipinas (NEDA, 2011).

 

What the Philippines could do to close the gender gap while going green
In the Philippines, the biggest challenge is aligning national gender-related strategies and investments to local SWM plans and policies, especially at the provincial, municipal, and barangay levels. Since 1995, gender-responsive budgeting (GRB) has been adopted in the country as a strategy to mainstream gender and protect women’s rights (Edralin, 2011). RA 9710 (2009) mandates all government agencies at the national and local levels to allocate at least five percent of their overall budget as part of the country’s gender and development (GAD) budget.

Broadly, the Philippine government can focus on three major targets including: (a) further raising awareness and knowledge on proper waste disposal at the household level; (b) increasing women’s participation in local decision-making process; and (c) scaling up alternative livelihood initiatives from reusable and recyclable wastes.

National and local communication campaigns on the impact of solid wastes should utilize gender-sensitive messages and channels. Building the capacity of local governments and establishing effective implementing mechanisms is also critically important since these local units are in the frontline in responding to threats brought by unmanaged solid wastes. Local committees have already been established in some existing MRFs. More focus should be given in ensuring that both men and women in the community have equal access and opportunity to be involved in managing MRFs. These committees can also be exposed to various training workshops on GRB, gender sensitivity, etc.

Lastly, alternative sources of income and livelihood could be provided especially to less privileged sectors. Reusable and recyclable wastes collected in the MRFs can be reused as compost and handicraft. Biodegradable wastes, including fruit and vegetable peelings and other food wastes can be re-converted into compost. On the other hand, non-biodegradable wastes, such as glass bottles, papers, plastic bags and drinking straws can be made into handicrafts. These alternative livelihood initiatives should target home-based and/or unemployed mothers, fathers, or young adults.

To date, the Philippine government has laid out a solid foundation in managing solid wastes and reducing gender inequality in the country. However, mainstreaming gender in SWM initiatives has yet to be fully explored. As such, collaboration and synergy among government agencies, research institutions, private sector, academe, and local communities are essential in strengthening policies and programs aimed at promoting gender inclusiveness while protecting the environment and key ecosystem services. Good governance and transparency should also be championed once legal and institutional frameworks have been set.

 

References
Aguinaldo, E. C. (2012). Ecological solid waste management: Legal framework, current situation and programs [Powerpoint presentation]. National Solid Waste Management Commission Secretariat, Quezon City, Philippines.

Ahmad, M. M. (2015). Community empowerment and development [Powerpoint slides]. Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok, Thailand.

Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, Republic Act No. 9003, 11th Congress of the Republic of the Philippines. (2001). Accessed 6 July 2015, from http://bit.ly/2e4tcWv.

Edralin. D. M. (2011). Gender-responsive budgeting and its impact on the status of women and men in Pasay City. DLSU Business & Economics Review, 21 (1), 29–60. Accessed 6 July 2015, from http://bit.ly/2fe8LGv.

Muhammad, M. N., & Manu, H. I. (2013). Gender roles in informal solid waste management in cities of northern Nigeria: A case study of Kaduna Metropolis. Academic Research International, 4 (5), 142–153. Accessed 6 July 2015, from http://bit.ly/2fk8Y7u.

National Economic and Development Authority. (2011). Philippine Development Plan 2011–2016. Pasig City, Philippines: NEDA. Accessed 6 July 2015, from http://bit.ly/1VOAtGU.

Poswa, T. T. (2004). The importance of gender in waste management planning: A challenge for solid waste managers. Paper presented at the 8th World Congress on Environmental Health, Durban, South Africa. Accessed 6 July 2015, from http://bit.ly/2ff0vDq.

Woroniuk, B., & Schalkwyk, J. (1998). Waste disposal and equality between women and men. Stockholm: SIDA. Accessed 6 July 2015, from http://bit.ly/2egi2ZU.

Putting Filipino farmers first

October 4, 2016

A brief history of the Philippine cooperative movement

The concept of a cooperative is not too foreign for Filipinos. The spirit of bayanihan (loosely ‘a sense of shared community’) is deeply embedded in psyche of early Filipino communities even before the first set of Spanish colonizers arrived in the mid-16th century. Similar to other developing countries in the region, the first Philippine cooperatives were primarily agricultural in nature. This is the reason why the evolution of cooperatives in the Philippines also highlights the plight of small Filipino farmers in the past centuries.

rice-bend.jpg

 

Cooperatives are formed to reduce cost of production, provide alternative source of capital and credit, and build up knowledge and skills for the mutual benefit of small-scale farmers. At its most basic, cooperatives offer these small farmers the advantage of economies of scale (Thapa, 2014).

As a “business model with a social conscience,” various literatures have already shown how cooperatives were able to reduce poverty, generate jobs, and promote social cohesion in developing countries, including the Philippines (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations [FAO], 2012). In fact, cooperatives provided employment to about 260,000 Filipinos in 2013 and contributed about 4.9 percent to the country’s gross domestic product. Moreover, the total volume of business for registered cooperatives in the country reached PHP 437.6 billion (around USD 9.75 billion) in 2013 (Terosa, 2014).

The gradual metamorphosis of cooperatives in the country can be broadly divided into three periods. The first period describes the early attempts by Europe-educated Filipino thinkers and the introduction of state-initiated cooperatives by the Americans. The second period covers the country’s involvement in World War II and the resulting post-war rehabilitation efforts until the declaration of Martial Law in the 1970s. Finally, the last (and current) period highlights the emergence of cooperatives as an influential sector in the country’s flourishing civil society.

 

Building rural roots
Dr. Jose Rizal, the country’s national hero, is said to initiate one of the country’s earliest forms of cooperatives. While studying in Europe in the 1880s, Rizal published two novels highly critical of the Spanish regime in the Philippines. Upon his return to the country, he was charged with treason and jailed in the southern Philippines. While in exile, he initiated a cooperative among hemp producers partly inspired by the cooperative movements he witnessed during his stay in Europe. Other Filipino nationalists followed suit, including Emilio Jacinto, who established a commercial marketing cooperative in 1898, and Isabelo de los Reyes, who established the first Philippine labor federation in 1902. While anchored on the ideals of social justice and economic development, these early cooperatives eventually lost momentum due to the onset of the Filipinos’ revolt against the Spanish rule and the subsequent American occupation in the late 1890s (Machima & Prakash, 1987; Sibal, 2001).

In 1906, the Corporation Law was enacted, which provided the first legal basis for cooperatives in the Philippines. A year after, the Rural Cooperative Bill, aimed at developing agricultural cooperatives in the country, was introduced in the Congress. This bill was drafted by Governor Teodoro Sandiko, who came across and learned about the Raiffeisen cooperative movement during his travels to Europe. Although initially disapproved, the bill was finally enacted in 1915 as the Rural Credit Cooperative Association Act, providing small farmers more access to agricultural credit. The country’s first rural credit cooperative and consumer cooperative were both established a year after. About a decade later, the Cooperative Marketing Law was passed in 1927 paving the way for the formation of state-initiated farmers’ marketing cooperatives, which provided farmers collateral-free loans and assisted them in effectively marketing their produce. However, these cooperatives eventually failed due to farmers’ lack of interest and appreciation on the benefits of forming cooperatives (Jarmin, 1996; Machima & Prakash, 1987).

 

Bringing coops together
During World War II, most cooperatives in the country understandably ceased operations, while others focused on the distribution of relief goods. Consumers and producers cooperatives established during the Japanese occupation were dissolved after the country regained independence in 1946. The following decades then saw the resurgence of state-initiated farmers’ cooperatives.

In 1952, the Congress passed Republic Act (RA) 821 establishing the Agricultural Credit and Cooperative Financing Administration (ACCFA) responsible for organizing and supporting Farmer’s Cooperative Marketing Associations (FACOMAs). Significant amount was allocated to support small farmers, including loans to finance facilities for production, storage, processing, and marketing. However, rampant corruption, mismanagement, and increasing number of unpaid loans hampered the further growth of agricultural cooperatives in the country (Jarmin, 1996; Machima & Prakash, 1987).

In 1957, the government began to recognize cooperatives for non-agriculture sectors, including those for electric, housing, and water services. In 1969, the Philippine Agrarian Reform Code was enacted establishing cooperatives as the primary channel for agrarian reform initiatives (Sibal, 2001).

The declaration of Martial Law in the 1970s gave way to the implementation of the intensive land reform program championed by then President Ferdinand Marcos. Small farmers were forced to join village-level farmer’s group called Samahang Nayon (SN) and form full-fledged cooperatives called Kilusang Bayan (KB). These SNs were then encouraged to form area marketing cooperatives (AMCs) to receive loans from cooperative rural banks (CRBs) and have access to farm inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, machines, etc. These initiatives eventually faltered due to weak links among SNs, KBs, and AMCs, as well as lack of financial support and corruption in CRBs. Furthermore, most of those who benefited were the rural elites and land owners, marginalizing the small-scale farmers who should have been the main beneficiaries of these reform initiatives (Jarmin, 1996; Ricablanca, 1985).

 

Bridging the gap
The 1990s welcomed major milestones in the proliferation of cooperatives in the country, including the ratification of the Cooperative Code of the Philippines and the establishment of the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA). The Philippine Cooperative Code of 1990 (RA 6938) outlines the national strategy in supporting cooperative development in the country with the CDA as the key government agency mandated to ensure implementation.

The rapid increase in civil society’s role in post-Martial Law years also affected the ensuing growth of Filipino cooperatives. In 1998, the Coop National Confederation of Cooperatives (NATCCO) earned a seat in the Congress after receiving significant votes from the national partylist election. Maintaining its Congress seat in the succeeding elections, NATCCO was given a platform to put forward policies and programs strengthening the country’s cooperative sector (Sibal, 2001; Romulo-Puyat, 2012).

In 2008, the Cooperative Code of the Philippines was amended to address recent challenges faced by Philippine cooperatives and scale up its operations to better contribute to the country’s economic growth. In essence, the updated law seeks to create a more conducive environment for the growth and development of cooperatives and encourage stronger partnership with the private sector (Philippine Cooperative Code, 2008).

The Philippine Cooperative Code of 2008 (RA 9520) provides an updated definition for a cooperative describing it as “an autonomous and duly registered association of persons, with a common bond of interest, who have voluntarily joined together to achieve their social, economic, and cultural needs and aspirations by making equitable contributions to the capital required, patronizing their products and services, and accepting a fair share of the risks and benefits of the undertaking in accordance with universally accepted cooperative principles.”

RA 9520 (2008) also identified the various types of cooperatives currently operating in the country. Among the major categories include credit, consumers, producers, marketing, service, and multi-purpose. According to 2011 CDA estimates, more than half of registered cooperatives in the country are multi-purpose cooperatives, distantly followed by credit and service cooperatives. Other types of cooperatives identified in the Philippine Cooperative Code (2008) include advocacy, agrarian reform, cooperative bank, dairy, education, electric, financial service, fishermen, health services, housing, insurance, transport, water service, and workers cooperatives.

 

Bracing for a bright future
At present, the CDA spearheads the implementation of the Philippine Cooperative Medium-term Development Plan (PCMDP) 2011–2016, which complements the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2011–2016. Formulated by National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the PDP 2011–2016 outlines the government’s national development targets, as well as its priority policies and programs, set to be achieved by 2016. In summary, the PCMDP 2011–2016 targets to build effective legal framework and supervisory oversight for cooperatives, which eventually contributes towards a more resilient and inclusive financial sector (NEDA, 2011).

Despite its dynamic transformation over the last two centuries, Philippine cooperatives continue to face various challenges. Most strikingly, there is a surplus of small and weakly-organized cooperatives in the country, as well as a limited access to formal or informal fund sources. Furthermore, low agricultural productivity and income, which affects most developing countries, result to the small farmers’ inability to repay loans. This may also lead to an increase in farmer’s burgeoning debt (Romulo-Puyat, 2012; Thapa, 2014).

The Philippine experience shows the need to build the capacity and strengthen interaction, especially among small farmer cooperatives. This would usher in more access to support services, such as markets, technologies, as well as training and extension. Effective governance and policy environment are also key to successful cooperatives.

 

References
Cooperative Development Authority (CDA). (2012). CDA Annual Report 2011. Quezon City, Philippines: CDA.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). (2012). Agricultural cooperatives: Key to feeding the world. Rome: FAO.

Jarmin, M. R. (1996). Philippines. In Asian Productivity Organization (APO), Agricultural cooperatives in Asia and the Pacific (223–233). Tokyo: APO.

Machima, P., and Prakash, D. (1987). Cooperatives for development of the rural poor. Dhaka: Centre on Integrated Rural Development for Asia and the Pacific.

National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA). (2011). Philippine Development Plan 2011–2016. Pasig City, Philippines: NEDA. Accessed 11 March 2015, from http://bit.ly/2dH2kbo.

Philippine Cooperative Code of 2008, Republic Act No. 9520, 14th Congress of the Republic of the Philippines. (2008). Accessed 11 March 2015, from http://bit.ly/2dPvyoT.

Ricablanca, P. M. (1985). A study on the pilot Samahang Nayon covered by the Regional Cooperatives Development Program for Cagayan Valley in Region 2, Philippines (Unpublished master’s thesis). Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok, Thailand.

Romulo-Puyat, B. (2012). Country statement on Philippine cooperatives. Paper presented at the 9th Asia-Pacific Co-operative Ministers’ Conference, Bangkok, Thailand. Accessed 11 March 2015, from http://bit.ly/2cQ2RL6.

Sibal, J. V. (2001). A century of the Philippine cooperative movement. Wisconsin, USA: University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives. Accessed 11 March 2015, from http://bit.ly/2dH2tvv.

Terosa, C. L. (2014). The contribution of cooperatives to the national economy: The case of MASS-SPECC Member-Cooperatives. Paper presented at the 2014 MASS-SPECC Cooperative General Assembly, Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines. Accessed 11 March 2015, from http://bit.ly/2dqj0Fq.

Thapa, G. B. (2014). The role of cooperatives and farmers’ groups in agricultural development [Powerpoint presentation]. Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok, Thailand.

Faces and Phases of Chiang Mai

June 7, 2016

A laid-back town rich with history and nestled below the dense valleys of northern Thailand. What’s not to love about Chiang Mai? Once the center of the powerful Lanna kingdom, Chiang Mai boasts a number of temples seemingly untouched for centuries and rival other major archaeological sites in Southeast Asia. The surrounding rainforests also adds to the city’s charm.

01Wat Ton Kwen

08Novices of Doi Suthep

16.jpg
Wat Suandok

22.jpgWat Phra Singh

25.jpg
Wat Chedi Luang

29.jpg
Wat Chedi Liam

More photos here.

Faces and Phases of Siem Reap

May 27, 2016

The silhouette of the Angkor Wat outlined by the picturesque sunrise—there’s no other reason why millions visit the city of Siem Reap and the majestic temples of Angkor.

These thousand-year-old structures, which seamlessly blend with the surrounding forests, are popular for a reason. Hundreds of visitors, with their necks craned and cameras in hand, will fight for the best spots. As charming as these temples may be, the scorching sun and the hordes of tourists—half of them awestruck and the rest just plain rowdy—may easily overwhelm even the most experienced travelers.

Once you’ve got your fill of Angkorian temples, rent a bike, try the local Khmer delicacies in the Old Market, or visit small yet equally appealing temples in downtown Siem Reap.

Part of the Thought Catalog entry on “Five Cardinal Rules for the Solo Traveler“.

01
Aside from our innate fear of the dark, the prime reason why we love watching the sun rise is because we all yearn for that familiar warmth—that reassuring embrace—reminding us that we’ve still got the time to make things right.

08
Vesak in Angkor Wat

11
Faces of Bayon

20.jpg
Towering trees of Ta Prohm.

23
Preah Khan Temple.

More photos here.

Faces and Phases of Chiang Rai

January 29, 2016

With the temperature dipping as low as 7°C, going to Chiang Rai during the country’s coldest days in decades was probably not the brightest idea. But the famed Thai winter is often the number one reason why most people visit Thailand’s northernmost province.

The province is among the most ethnically-diverse regions in the country with hill tribes inhabiting the lush Indochina mountains. The mighty Mekong river basin also passes through these fertile valleys marking the shared borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar. This area—also called the Golden Triangle—is notoriously known as the center of opium trade in the region over the past decades.

Another must-visit in the city is the obscure yet visually stunning Wat Rong Khun, popularly known as the White Temple, just a few kilometers south of the city center.

IMG_2683
Wat Rong Khun

12605406_10153863127194450_6998706077267019391_o
Wat Khua Khrae Muang

IMG_2757
Baan Dam

IMG_2793.JPG
Wat Phra Singh

IMG_2868.JPG
Golden Triangle, the shared borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar.

More pictures here.