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2017

December 31, 2017

Ours is a generation of sleep-deprived over-caffeinated whiners. Our inability to find contentment (and other traits synonymous to being restless and entitled) has come to define this millennial generation.

My biggest takeaway this 2017? Learning to live a life of gratitude.

Be grateful to those who chose and continue to choose to be behind your back. Surround yourself with people who push you to your limits and at the same time those that keep you grounded. Be thankful for the gift of life.

Here’s to a meaningful 2018!

Also, someone once told me that the best stories are not found in novels but between the pages of a passport. Here is my #best12, one from each country I visited this year!

2017

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Faces and Phases of Chengdu

October 30, 2017

Chengdu’s gloomy skies and chilly temperate climate will welcome you once you’ve stepped out of the airport. The eastern edges of the Himalayas and Tibetan plateau give this Sichuanese capital its daily sweater weather.

The city hosts the highest concentration of giant white pandas in the world. A visit to the main breeding center of China’s cuddly national icon will surely warm your frozen fingers and toes (and probably even your ex’s cold heart).

If that’s not enough, try the fiery Chengdu hotpot, where you dip mushrooms and pork or chicken innards in boiling chili- and Sichuan pepper-infused broth.

Also not to be missed is Chengdu’s pride, the mesmerizing Sichuan opera. It’s Cirque de Soleil, traditional dance, and martial arts performances on steroids.

The city also serves as the gateway to Tibet. So it’s not surprising to see Tibetan pilgrims and traders roaming around.

A few hours south of the city is the Le Shan Giant Buddha. Chiseled right off the cliff overlooking three large rivers, this magnificent man-made wonder is considered as the world’s largest ancient Buddha structure.

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Le Shan Giant Buddha

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Giant pandas

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Wenshu Monastery

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Sichuan opera prep

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Chengdu delicacies: Spicy rabbit or duck head

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New Century Global Center, the world’s largest building

More photos here.

Faces and Phases of Kansai

June 13, 2017

Considered as Japan’s heritage hub, the Kansai region offers something quintessentially Japanese—the seamless fusion of traditions and modernity. Among the region’s major cities are the port town of Kobe and the ancient capital of Kyoto.

Lining the northern coastline of Osaka Bay, Kobe served as one of the archipelago’s first gateways to the world, playing a key role in the exchange of ideas and goods with nearby nations.

Kyoto, on the other hand, was once the seat of imperial Japan. Often tagged as the country’s cultural heartland, the city hosts some of the finest Shinto shrines and Buddhist temple complexes in the country.

2.jpgPort of Kobe

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Torii of Ikuta-jinja

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Nunobiki Falls

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Minatogawa-jinja

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Grandpas of Kyoto

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Kinkaku-ji

More photos here.

Faces and Phases of Ho Chi Minh and the Mekong Delta

June 8, 2017

No other city in Viet Nam can best depict the country’s post-war renaissance than in Ho Chi Minh. The city, more popularly known as Saigon, is also the gateway to the Mekong Delta, the country’s most agro-productive region.

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Early morning pho

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Notre Dame Cathedral

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Saigon Central Post Office

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Granite mountains of An Giang

More photos here.

Faces and Phases of Luang Prabang

May 31, 2017

At the heart of Lao PDR’s mountainous north is the sleepy town of Luang Prabang. The mighty Mekong and its small tributaries—the lifeblood of this landlocked nation—pass through this ancient city. Roughly an hour boat ride away from the city are the blue-green pools of Tat Kuang Si waterfalls and the Buddha-filled caves of Pak Ou.

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Wat Xieng Thong complex

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Mekong x Nam Khan sunset

20.jpgTat Kuang Si

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Cascading turquoise pools of Tat Kuang Si

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Tham Ting Cave

More photos here.

Faces and Phases of Bandar Seri Begawan

April 18, 2017

The coastal city of Bandar Seri Begawan is the capital of Brunei Darussalam. Heavily reliant on its oil and gas industries, this tiny sultanate on the northern part of Borneo is among the world’s richest. The country is also known for its generous welfare system. Education and healthcare, for instance, are subsidized. Residents are also not required to pay taxes while public transportation is almost non-existent since almost everyone owns a car.

Most Bruneians—if not all—are devout Muslims. In fact, travel guides usually include a footnote that strict sharia laws are implemented. Alcohol is absolutely banned and, to some extent, so is the consumption of non-halal food.

Brunei also has the most elegant mosques in the region. But the country’s most important landmark is the floating village of Kampong Ayer. This water city covers thousands of houses, markets, schools, and even mosques on concrete and wooden stilts—a stark contrast to the grandiose opulence expected of a petro-kingdom.

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Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque

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Jame’asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque.

6Kampong Ayer

16The gilded royal chariot of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah

19Pasar Malam Gadong

More photos here.

Faces and Phases of Singapore

April 18, 2017

One can easily be overwhelmed by the fast-paced cosmopolitan life in one of the world’s most affluent cities. But there’s more to Singapore than the urban sprawl.

This island city-state was once a key port in the region’s most important merchant route bringing in the best of both the East and West. A random stroll beyond the glitzy malls and high-rises, for example, will treat your senses to a variety of smells and tastes—be it the faint smell of durian or burning incense in Chinatown, pooja flowers in Little India, or sizzling satays and newly brewed teh tarik along Arab Street.

Singapore’s well-planned urbanization is evident in the city’s efficient transportation system and creative use of public spaces. Separated by a few subway stops are the green Singapore Botanic Gardens, manmade beaches of Sentosa, and massive biodomes of Gardens by the Bay.

1Chinatown

3Sri Mariamman

8Little India

12Marina Bay Sands x Merlion

33Gardens by the Bay’s Cloud Forest

39Supertree Grove

30Tanjong Beach

More photos here.