Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Asus Unveils Zenfone 3 Family at Zenvolution Event

After weeks of excitement and anticipation, ASUS unveils today the complete line-up of the Zenfone 3 family, ZenBook 3 and Transformer 3 Series – which are considered the newest premium product innovations from ASUS. During the official Philippine launch at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza, which is one of the biggest tech events in the country this year. Led by ASUS Global CEO Jerry Shen, ASUS unveils the all-new ZenFone 3 Deluxe, Zenfone 3 Ultra, and Zenfone 3.

Shen led the unveiling of the ZenFone 3 Max and ZenFone 3 Laser in the Philippines while ASUS Philippines Systems Group Country Manager, George Su unveiled the all-new ASUS ZenBook 3 notebook and as well as the ASUS Transformer 3 and ASUS Transformer 3 Pro 2-in-1 PCs.

 “The highly anticipated ZenFone 3 series has become a global sensation after its debut at Computex this year,” said ASUS CEO Jerry Shen. “We deeply appreciate the loyalty and continued support from all our dealers, media partners and consumers in the Philippines.” added by Jerry Shen.

The top-of-the-range ZenFone 3 Deluxe is the ultimate expression of the ASUS smartphone technology, with an invisible antenna design that combines premium aesthetics with exceptional performance; the ZenFone 3 Ultra is a smartphone for multimedia lovers featuring TV-grade image processing to deliver an incredible viewing experience; the ZenFone 3 is beautifully-designed all-round smartphone with scratch-resistant Corning® Gorilla® Glass with 2.5D contoured edges; the ZenFone 3 Laser features a 13MP camera with a Sony IMX214 sensor and color correction with an ultra-fast 0.03-second laser auto-focus, and is ideal for photography enthusiasts; the ZenFone 3 Max features a large capacity 4100mAh battery that gives users up to 30 days of standby time, and can also be used as a power bank to charge other devices; the ZenBook 3 is a premium, prestigious laptop with unprecedented performance, featuring an ultra-thin 11.9mm profile and an Intel® Core™ i7 processor; the Transformer 3 Pro is the world’s most versatile PC that delivers extreme performance, whereas Transformer 3 redefines 2-in-1 PC computing with ultimate mobility. Both feature unrivaled expandability, with a range of accessories that includes the ASUS Universal Dock, ASUS Audio Pod, the VR/4K UHD-ready ROG XG Station 2 and ASUS Pen.

Zenfone 3 Deluxe

ASUS ZenFone 3 Deluxe — World’s First Full-Metal Smartphone with Invisible Antenna Design

ASUS ZenFone 3 Deluxe is the flagship model of the ZenFone 3 series and the ultimate expression of ASUS smartphone design. It is constructed with a strong and light aluminum alloy unibody with an ultra-thin 4.2mm edge, and has a rear surface free of unsightly antenna lines.
The ZenFone 3 Deluxe features a 5.7-inch Full HD (1920 by 1080), high-contrast Super AMOLED display with a wide color gamut of over 100% NTSC for rich, vibrant colors, even in harsh, outdoor lighting. An ultra-thin bezel gives ZenFone 3 Deluxe a 79% screen-to-body ratio for a maximized display in a compact package. Inside, ZenFone 3 Deluxe is the world’s first smartphone to use the Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 821 processor, Adreno™ 530 GPU, integrated X12 LTE modem, as well as up to 6GB RAM and 256GB ROM to deliver the best performance and capacity for demanding apps, games, and media.

The ZenFone 3 Deluxe raises the bar for mobile photography with its incredible 23MP camera featuring the latest Sony IMX318 image sensor, a large f/2.0-aperture lens, and four-axis optical image stabilization (OIS) for high-resolution, blur-free, and low-noise photos in almost any lighting condition. It also features three-axis electronic image stabilization (EIS) for steady 4K UHD videos. Coupled with the ASUS TriTech autofocus system that automatically selects second-generation laser, phase-detection or continuous autofocus to provide accurate and near-instant 0.03-second focusing and subject-tracking, as well as exclusive PixelMaster 3.0 technology, the ZenFone 3 Deluxe captures truly stunning photos and videos.

The ZenFone 3 Deluxe has a built-in fingerprint sensor that is perfectly positioned on the rear of the phone to sit underneath the user's finger, and which unlocks the phone in just a fraction of a second. Quick Charge 3.0 technology reduces battery recharge times, and a reversible, next-generation USB-C port.

The ZenFone 3 Deluxe also excels at audio with its powerful five-magnet speaker and NXP smart amplifier that provides loud, clear, defined sound and also protects the speakers from damage. When listening over certified headphones, users can enjoy Hi-Res Audio (HRA) that provides up four-times-better sound quality than CDs. The finely-tuned ZenEar S earphones are also bundled with ZenFone 3 Deluxe which has a value of PHP 2,995.

Zenfone 3

ASUS ZenFone 3: Agility. Beauty. Clarity.
Winner of the Computex 2016 d&i Award, the ASUS ZenFone 3 is a feature-packed smartphone that brings premium design and empowering performance to everyone. Built around a gorgeous 5.5-inch Full HD (1920 by 1080) Super IPS+ display with up to 500cd/m2 brightness, the ZenFone 3 delivers an incredible visual experience that makes apps, videos, and games look their best. With a narrow bezel, ZenFone 3 provides a 77.3% screen-to-body ratio for a maximized viewing area in a slim and compact body. The front and rear of the phone are encased with scratch-resistant, Corning Gorilla Glass 3 with 2.5D contoured edges that gently curve to make the sides of the phone completely smooth.
The ZenFone 3 is equipped with a 16MP camera with ASUS TriTech autofocus that automatically selects between second-generation laser, phase-detection and continuous auto focus to achieve precise focus in just 0.03 seconds, resulting in sharp images in any condition. The ZenFone 3 is the first smartphone worldwide to be powered by the new Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 625  octa-core processor — the first Snapdragon 600 Series processor with 14nm FinFET process technology, which has 35% better power consumption — and an integrated X9 LTE modem. Dual SIM 3G+4G Standby and 802.11ac MU-MIMO Wi-Fi connectivity. It also has PC-grade graphics and up to 4GB RAM that together deliver outstanding mobile performance with improved efficiency and battery life. The ZenFone 3 has a built-in fingerprint sensor that's perfectly positioned on the rear of the phone to sit underneath the user's finger, and which unlocks the phone in just a fraction of a second.

Zenfone 3 Ultra

ASUS ZenFone 3 Ultra: Unleashed. Unlimited. Unrivaled.
Winner of a Computex 2016 Best Choice Golden Award, ASUS ZenFone 3 Ultra is a smartphone designed for multimedia lovers, featuring a 6.8-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) display with a 95% NTSC color gamut for rich, vibrant images even outdoors in harsh lighting. It is the world’s first smartphone to have ASUS-exclusive Tru2Life+ video-enhancement technology, which harnesses a high-end 4K UHD TV-grade image processor to optimize every pixel in each frame before it is displayed, resulting in superior contrast and clarity. ZenFone 3 Ultra also excels at audio with its two new powerful five-magnet stereo speakers and a NXP smart amplifier that provides clear, defined sound and protects the speakers from damage. When listening over certified headphones, users can enjoy Hi-Res Audio (HRA) that provides up to four-times-better sound quality than CDs and the world’s first smartphone with virtual 7.1-channel surround-sound with DTS Headphone:X™. Like the Zenfone 3 Deluxe, the Zenfone 3 Ultra will also have a finely-tuned ZenEar S earphones are also bundled with the unit.

Like ZenFone 3 Deluxe, ZenFone 3 Ultra has an incredibly slim and elegant full-metal unibody chassis — the world’s first to have no antenna lines. An ultra-slim bezel gives ZenFone 3 Ultra a 79% screen-to-body ratio, maximizing the viewing area while minimizing its overall size and weight. ZenFone 3 Ultra is equipped with the same high-resolution 23MP camera with the same ASUS TriTech autofocus system as ZenFone 3 Deluxe. Powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 octa-core processor, Adreno 510 graphics, and up to 4GB of RAM, ZenFone 3 Ultra delivers outstanding mobile performance. A built-in fingerprint sensor is perfectly positioned on the front of the phone beneath the display for the user’s finger to unlock it in just a fraction of a second.
The ZenFone 3 Ultra also has a high-capacity 4600mAh battery for long-lasting performance and Quick Charge 3.0 technology for rapid recharge times, 2 minutes of Quick Charging can provide 1 hour of 3G talking time. ZenFone 3 Ultra even works as a power bank with 1.5A output for quickly charging other mobile devices.

Zenfone 3 Laser

ASUS ZenFone 3 Laser: The smartphone for photography enthusiasts
The ASUS ZenFone 3 Laser has an ultra-fast 0.03-second laser auto focus and advanced backlight (HDR) modes to give users stunning photos. It has a 13MP camera with a Sony IMX214 sensor and color correction for superb natural-looking images even in low-light or indoor environments. Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS) detects movement across three axes (yaw, pitch, and roll) and compensates for movement accordingly to provide smooth video recording.

The ZenFone 3 Laser has a stunning metallic design that’s just 7.9mm thin. A hyperfine sandblasting technique provides a gorgeous finish available in Glacier Silver and Sand Gold. It has a Corning Gorilla Glass-covered display with 2.5D contoured edges that fuse perfectly with its matching curved rear panel to give users a natural grip. It has a 5.5-inch Full HD display with wide viewing angles and a high 77% screen-to-body ratio. Super-quick fingerprint security with ZenMotion integration means ZenFone 3 Laser unlocks in just 0.2 seconds, and gives users access to various functions or apps with just a swipe or a tap of a finger. 

Zenfone 3 Max

ASUS ZenFone 3 Max: A premium smartphone with maximum battery life
The ASUS ZenFone 3 Max is designed to help users get through the day, and features a 4100mAh battery with an incredible standby time of up to 30 days. It also allows users to do more, giving them up to 20 hours of 3G talk time, 18 hours of web browsing with Wi-Fi turned on, 87 hours of music playback, and up to 15 hours of video playback. The ZenFone 3 Max can also double up as a power bank to charge other mobile devices.

The 5.2-inch ZenFone 3 Max has an IPS display, and a glass cover with 2.5D contoured edges that fuse perfectly into its premium metal body to give a comfortable grip. It even features a rear fingerprint scanner and 360-degree recognition for up to five sets of fingerprints. It unlocks in just 0.2 seconds to give users quick access to its various functions.


ASUS ZenBook 3: The World’s Most Prestigious Laptop with Unprecedented Performance
The ASUS ZenBook 3 is the next-generation ZenBook. It has been completely redesigned with a gorgeous, ultra-sleek 11.9mm chassis that weighs a mere 910g. To achieve its amazing lightness without compromising strength, ZenBook 3 is crafted from aerospace-grade aluminum alloy, a premium material that is 50% stronger than the standard alloy used in laptops. As well as being strong and light, this material is also supremely elegant and features the signature ZenBook spun-metal finish. The ZenBook 3 is available in three exclusive colors — Royal Blue, Rose Gold and Quartz Grey — and a special two-phase anodizing process is used to create stunning golden highlights on its diamond-cut edges.
The ZenBook 3 delivers unprecedented performance with up to an Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of high speed 2133MHz RAM, up to a 1TB PCIe® 3.0 x4 ultra-fast SSD, a next-gen USB Type-C (USB-C) port, and powerful quad-speaker audio system by Harman Kardon. Its high-resolution 12.5-inch display has a wide 72% NTSC color gamut and an edge-to-edge covering of tough, scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass 4. A slim bezel design provides an 82% screen-to-body ratio for the maximum display size with the minimum footprint. The ZenBook 3 has an innovative cooling system featuring the world’s thinnest fan design at just 3mm. This efficient cooling enables ZenBook 3 to achieve incredible performance in an ultra-thin from factor.

The ZenBook 3 features a full-size backlit keyboard with 19.8mm key pitch — the same as most desktop keyboards — and 0.8mm key travel to deliver a comfortable typing experience. A glass-covered precision touchpad provides smooth and accurate input and incorporates palm-rejection technology, Smart Gestures, and handwriting support for enhanced usability. A built-in fingerprint reader with Windows Hello support grants users an instant one-touch access—allowing them to sign in and unlock the ZenBook 3 quickly and securely without having to type their password or PIN.

The ZenBook 3 provides up to nine hours of battery life for all-day computing. When it’s time to recharge, fast-charge technology brings ZenBook 3's battery up to 60% capacity in just 49 minutes.

ASUS Transformer 3 Pro: The World’s Most Versatile PC
The ASUS Transformer 3 Pro is a 2-in-1 PC that combines unrivaled performance with incredible portability to create the ultimate mobile device for work and play. Precision-crafted from aluminum, Transformer 3 Pro is only 8.35mm thin, yet has incredible structural strength and rigidity. The Transformer 3 Pro has diamond-cut detailing that accentuates its elegant design, and it is available in gorgeous Icicle Gold and Glacier Gray color options.
The Transformer 3 Pro has an integrated metal kickstand with a stepless hinge that lets users set the device at almost any viewing angle up to 170°. The included ASUS Transformer Cover Keyboard is a backlit keyboard that provides laptop-grade 1.4mm key travel for a comfortable typing experience, and is available in four attractive colors — Stone, Charcoal, Taupe, and Amber — that perfectly complement the device. The Transformer 3 Pro has a beautiful 12.6-inch display with a 3K resolution of 2880 by 1920 and a 275ppi pixel density for pin-sharp, detailed images as well and a color gamut of 121% sRGB for rich, vibrant colors. Powerful front-mounted stereo speakers with audio by Harman Kardon provide spacious, defined sound for an incredible listening experience.

The Transformer 3 Pro is powered by an Intel Core i7 processor and has up to a 1TB PCIe x4 ultra-fast SSD and 16GB of high-speed 2133MHz RAM for the ultimate performance. Its versatile, reversible USB-C connector supports USB 3.1 Gen 2 devices at speeds up to 10Gbps, and also incorporates Thunderbolt™ 3 for unbelievably fast 40Gbps data transfers and support for dual external 4K UHD displays. The Transformer 3 Pro also comes with USB 3.0 and HDMI ports for convenient connectivity. A 13MP rear camera lets users capture high-resolution photos and videos, and a front-facing camera with Windows Hello facial recognition enables users to log in conveniently with just a quick glance.

The Transformer 3 Pro is the world’s most versatile PC, with superlative expansion capabilities provided by a range of accessories that extend its functionality and performance to give users a new level of flexibility and convenience from a mobile device.

l   ASUS Pen is a beautifully crafted writing and drawing stylus that detects 1024 levels of pressure for completely natural note-taking and sketching experiences with a high degree of control. Users can also capture photos with Transformer 3 Pro’s high-resolution camera and annotate them directly with ASUS Pen.
l   ASUS Universal Dock is a hub that provides a full range connectivity ports, including USB-C 3.1, USB 3.0, HDMI, VGA, RJ45 LAN, and a 3-in-1 SD Card reader. It adds desktop-grade functionality to Transformer 3 Pro.
l   ASUS Audio Pod is an entertainment accessory, with four powerful speakers that deliver amazing 360° virtual 5.1-channel surround-sound with rich, defined bass.
l   ROG XG Station 2 is an external graphics card dock that gives Transformer 3 Pro desktop-grade graphics performance, turning it into a VR-ready gaming powerhouse or workstation.

ASUS Transformer 3: The Mobile PC, Redefined
The ASUS Transformer 3 is a stylish, ultra-slim and compact 2-in-1 PC that provides users with the ultimate mobility, total convenience, and amazing expandability. Precision-crafted from aluminum, Transformer 3 weighs just 695g, is only 6.9mm thin, and has smaller dimensions than a sheet of A4 paper. Its compact and elegant design is accentuated by diamond-cut edges and an exquisite spun-metal finish. Equipped with the detachable ASUS Transformer Sleeve Keyboard that has 1.4mm key travel, an integrated two-position display stand, and a glass-covered precision touchpad, the Transformer 3 provides comfortable typing and smooth, accurate input for the best productivity and creativity experiences. The Transformer 3 is available in gorgeous Icicle Gold and Glacier Gray color options. The ASUS Transformer Sleeve Keyboard is available in four attractive colors — Stone, Charcoal, Taupe, and Amber — that perfectly complement Transformer 3.

The Transformer 3 has a beautiful 12.6-inch display with a 3K resolution of 2880 by 1920 and a 275ppi pixel density for pin-sharp, detailed images, as well as 450cd/m2 brightness and a color gamut of 121% sRGB for rich, vibrant colors. An ultra-thin bezel provides an 80% screen-to-body ratio, maximizing the display area while keeping the device compact and highly portable. Transformer 3 delivers superb video performance with ASUS Tru2Life video-enhancement technology, which optimizes every pixel in each frame before it is displayed, resulting in superior contrast and clarity for the best, most realistic video quality.

The Transformer 3 has an incredible quad-speaker audio system developed in co-operation with audio experts Harmon Kardon, an amazing feature for such a thin device. Each speaker is powered by a smart amplifier to deliver rich, detailed, and immersive sound, even at loud volumes. The Transformer 3 automatically adjusts the routing of low and high audio frequencies to the correct speakers depending on the orientation of the device, ensuring users will always enjoy optimum audio quality.

The Transformer 3 is powered by 7th-generation Intel Core processors, with up to a 512GB SSD and up to 8GB RAM to deliver fast performance for work and play. Its versatile, reversible USB-C connector supports USB 3.1 Gen 2 devices at speeds up to 10Gbps, and Thunderbolt 3 provides unbelievably fast 40Gbps data transfers and support for dual external 4K UHD displays. A built-in fingerprint reader and Windows Hello support lets users sign in and unlock Transformer 3 quickly and securely without having to type their password or PIN. The Transformer 3 also includes a 13MP camera for capturing high-resolution photos and videos.

Like the Transformer 3 Pro, the Transformer 3 is also expandable with a range of accessories — including  ASUS Pen, ASUS Universal Dock, ASUS Audio Pod, and ROG XG Station 2 — that extend its functionality and performance, giving users a new level of flexibility and convenience from a mobile device.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Glimpse of Amaliensborg Slotspladt in Copenhagen

When asked to name some of the most beautiful palaces in Europe, most people mention the ones that they are most familiar with. The Buckingham Palace in London, the Royal Palace in Madrid, The Schronbrunn Schloss in Vienna and Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany are some of the most famous castles people give at the top of their minds.
In a region as vast and diverse as Europe however, it is almost inevitable to miss and/or overlook some of the gems that can be found in its far reaches.
Take for example, the Amalienborg Slotsplads in Copenhagen.
Built in the early 18th century, Amalienborg is the winter home of the Danish Royal Family, situated at the heart of Copenhagen Denmark.

The complex boasts of four identical classical palace façades with rococo interiors around an octagonal courtyard.
The four buildings are
1.Christian VII’s Palace (also known as Moltke’s Palace, used as guest residence),
2. Christian VIII’s Palace (also known as Levetzau’ Palace, used as guest palace for Prince Joachim and Princess Benedikte),
3. Frederik VIII’s Palace (also known as Brockdorff’s Palace, home of the Crown Prince family), and
Christian IX’s Palace (also known as Schack’s Palace, home of the Queen and Prince Consort).
Actually, the four palaces were intended to be used by four noble families of Copenhagen but the fire at the Christiansborg Palace convinced the royal family to use Amaliensborg as their winter Palace in 1794. In return, the four great families were offered 40 years of tax immunity for their services to the Danish crown.
All palace facades sport a late Baroque, 18th century design and all facades are washed white, immaculate and stunning, catching any visitor off-guard.
The centerpiece of the complex is a grand statue of King Frederick V, attributed as the founde of Amalienborg. The statue depicts the Danish king in an equestrian pose.
According to historians and observers, Amalienborg boasts of the most spectacular example of Rococo (Late Baroque) architecture in all of Europe.
Inside the palaces are the Amalienborg museum which will give you an idea of the lavish lifestyle lived by members of Denmark’s royal family. The current Queen Margrethe’s photos and memorabilia can also be found inside the palace halls.
But Amalienborg is frequented by visitors to Copenhagen because of its famous changing of the guard ceremony.
Changing of the Guard Ceremony
Every day at noon, visitors can catch a glimpse of the changing of the guard.
According to the copenhagen.com, the ceremony is called “The King’s Watch” or “Kongevagt” when Her Majesty the Queen of Denmark is in residence. During this time, the guards are are accompanied by the Royal Guards music band.
The route, that starts at 11:31 at the barracks, goes: Rosenborggade, Købmagergade, Østergade, Kongens Nytorv, Bredgade, Sct. Annæ Plads, Amaliegade, and Amalienborg.
Meanwhile, it is called “The Lieutenant’s Watch” or “Lojtnantsvagt” if one of the Royal Princes is residing at the palace in the capacity of regents, and drums and flutes will be heard.
When the Crown Prince or Prince Joachim are in residence but not n the capacity of regents or when the palace has no residing member of the royal family, the guards march Copenhagen without musical accompaniment and this is called “Palaevagt” or Manor Watch.
I had the wonderful chance of experiencing the Lieutenant’s Watch during my visit to Copenhagen and I was thoroughly mesmerized by the richness of tradition still observed in this northern European country.

It was indeed one of the coolest things I have seen and experienced in Europe and if you have the chance to come visit Denmark, this item should be high on your bucket list

Captivating Cartagena

Standing in the middle of the road, looking up, I couldn’t help but smile at the marvelous vista right in front of me. Colorful houses in vivid hues, designed in architectural styles dominant in the Spanish colonial era. In almost every patio and portico, beautiful bougainvillea flowers bloom, and locals wearing friendly smiles spend the lazy afternoon resting in their rocking chairs, and they would wave at you as if you’re a long lost friend.
It’s supposed to be winter in the southern hemisphere but here, the sun shines brightly making you long for ice-cold smoothies, while lying cozily along the the Caribbean coast.
This is Cartagena de Indias, or simply Cartagena, a port city north of Colombia. It is one of the most popular destinations in South America and its offerings are limitless, attracting visitors from different parts of the world, from different economic classes.
Located at the coast of the Caribbean, Cartagena, with its colorful colonial houses has long been a playground for the rich and powerful elite. For art and history aficionados, the 400-year old houses and buildings, are a major attraction, not to mention, that jaw-dropping murals and paintings painted by the locals.
Those who are into architecture love the city for its massive churches, and colorful colonial-period houses and mansions. and for casual world travelers like me, it’s the mixture of all these makes Cartagena such an irresistible destination that you just have to visit at least once in your life.
I arrived in Cartagena, still feeling jetlagged from traveling all the way from the Philippines and then to Istanbul, Rio de Janeiro and then Bogota, Colombia. But all the exhaustion vanished at the sight of Cartagena’s impressive beauty.

My wanderings were concentrated in the Old Town, a Unesco World Heritage Site and my three days in the city weren’t enough for me to get a glimpse of of at least half of what this South American jewel has to offer.
Cartagena is a place that makes you drop all of your sightseeing routines and set ways. With virtually every corner and street boasting of a colorful sight, it is best to simply walk you way around the city and the Old Town, and go where your feet and eyes will take you.
But almost everyone will agree that in Cartagena, the first place you visit is the Centro Amurallado or the Old Walled City.
A Port City, Cartagena is surrounded by a 13-kilometer wall that both protects the city from the elements and from the raiding pirates during the 16th-18th century. You will spend roughly 90 minutes if you walk around the stone walls. Inside the walled city, almost all of the city’s highlights can be reached within minutes by walking.
At the Walled City, the first historical sight that will welcome you is the Clock Tower  or the Torre del Reloj. The most original elements of the tower were built in the 17th century but over the years, its has seen several updates and repairs, and the clock it now sports is Swiss made, added in the early 1900’s.
Torre de Reloj 
Once inside the Centro Amurallado, be sure to check out the stunning 16th century church Iglesia de San Pedro Claver, named after the saint. The church has an imposing facade that lords over the plaza. In front of the church, are several fine dining restaurants where locals and travelers alike, stay drinking wines and dining expensive Colombian delights while waiting for the sunset.
Iglesia de San Pedro Claver
Nightlife in front of Iglesia de San Pedro de Claver
Around the wall city are several colorful plazas, houses and buildings that compete with each other in terms of beauty and elegance. One plaza that I really like is the Plaza Santo Domingo where you can find the Spanish consulate.
Plaza Santo Domingo
Another highlight destination inside the Walled City is the beautiful Cartagena cathedral dedicated to Saint Catherine of Alexandria.The building was designed after basilicas found in Andalusia and the Canary Islands. Outside the cathedral, you can find Colombian artists selling portraits and water color-painted slices if rustic Colombian life.
Cartagena Cathedral
Walking around the old town’s cobbled alleys, and admiring beautiful porticoes and verandas can take some time, since every houses makes an effort to stun admirers. You won’t have any difficulty finding a hotel, restaurant or souvenir shop inside the walled city, but they are a bit pricey. The up and coming bars and clubs are also located inside the walled city, just right after passing the Torre de Reloj.
If you want more value for your buck, a  few blocks away from the wall city, travelers gravitate towards the hip, artistic, laid back, realistic, if a bit noisy, community of Getsemani.
A graffito/mural in Getsemani
Over the years, travelers have raised their eyebrows on Getsemani no thanks to its reputation as a sketchy community, where the poorer people of Cartagena live. It also had a reputation for prostitution and drugs but that reputation is slowly washing away as more and more restaurants and hotels open within this enclave, and police increase visibility in the area.
A Graffito/mural in Getsemani
The result? An up-and-coming destination, that now attracts a serious load of travelers and tourists. Around Plaza Santissima de Trinidad, travelers, even those staying inside the walled city, hand around and mingle with locals for some authentic feel of Cartagena.
Plaza Santissima de Trinidad
One of the most popular destinations in Cartagena, you simply cannot miss is the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, one of the most impressive and solidly build fortresses in the Americas. Built in the 17th century, this fort was never taken, despite attempts by enemies.
Inside the fort is a complicated network of tunnels used by the soldiers of Cartagea to transport food and ammunition. Today, the fort remains intact and a trip to the castle’s highest tip, will reward you with a breathtaking view of Cartagena.
Castillo San Felipe de Barajas
If you have some extra dough, you can also head south of Cartagena to Bocagrande, long considered as Catargena’s own version of Miami beach. The young, hip and moneyed Cartagenos flock to Bocagrande to dine in glitzy restaurants and stay in upscale hotels and condominiums.

Truly, Cartagena is a world class city that opens its arms to the everyone. It is a charming and colorful city that’s full of excitement and romance. It’s a city that makes you feel relaxed and complete at the same time.
If you ever get the chance to visit Cartagena, take it. You won’t ever regret it.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Maya Beach and The Search for a Parallel Universe

Saying that my teenage years were troubled may perhaps be the understatement of the decade.
I was missing classes, running with different cliques not necessarily good for me, giving in to vices just to fit in. I tried to join the drama club, because my life was full of well, drama. I dated people way older than me, so I could get that feeling of being loved and being secured.
And throughout those moments, I was in a constant search for a place where I belong and for people who would  accept me for who I am. I wanted to get out and live in a parallel universe, so to speak.
It was bad enough that I needed some kind of intervention from well-meaning friends, who saw the potential in me.
And then, during my darkest hour, I found a new path that would inspire me to improve the way I was living, and go through life in a happy, positive way.
A Travel Inspiration
It was year 2000 and “The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio was showing in cinemas. I had to skip a class just to see it.
Everyone I knew, thrashed the movie, criticizing the bad acting, the environmental hazard it posed to Maya beach, in Koh Phi Phi, Thailand, when the movie production set bulldozed the beach’s sand and planted several coconuts to make it more paradise looking.
Of course, I was also against tampering the natural beauty of the island but I saw past that and appreciated the message the movie was trying to convey. Lots of people dismiss it as a cheap escapist movie, but hey, it’s true.
We are all searching for ourselves and for a better life, and we have the means to make it come true.
The end credit showed a jump shot of the islanders with a caption “Parallel Universe”. And yes, they almost had it.
The movie, based on a book by Alex Garland, hit me like a tsunami. It became my most favorite movie of all time, not because it is the best, but because I can relate to it perfectly.
Years would pass, but it would remain to be one of the few movies that actually influenced me to hit the road and travel. It became my lifelong goal to go to places I’ve never been and meet the people that make those places unique and interesting.
I was able to travel to various countries, but my dream of stepping onto the shores of “the beach’ never wavered. It was like, every new place that I visit and conquer, was just a preparation for the feelings that would have overwhelmed me, once I finally get there.
Reaching “The Beach”
It took me 13 years, but I when I finally reached “The Beach”, I was just speechless. The feelings and memories I felt when I first saw the movie on a lonely night more than a decade ago, and during all those long years hit me like an avalanche, I had no choice but to cry.
If you ask me how I felt exactly at that moment, I won’t be able to give you an accurate description. It was surreal.
I just sat there on the shore, admiring the magnificent limestone formations that envelope the beach, oblivious to the noise of the common tourists that like me, were fascinated by Maya beach and by the movie.
It’s different now from the one I saw in the movie. There are no palm trees now, and there’s a convenience store at a hidden cove, 100 meters away from the shore. There are tsunami warnings, reminding everyone that this beach, also suffered devastation during the 2004 Asian tsunami.
But in many ways, it still is “the beach” that I dreamed of. I traveled hundreds of miles just to reach the island of Koh Phi Phi.and from there, I hired a longboat to get to the actual Maya beach
The search for a Parallel Universe
I looked around me and wondered, are all these people also searching for a place to call their own? Perhaps not, but with the multitude of backpackers I can see, I am sure that yes, some are also doing some soul-searching and wondering how to proceed with their respective lives from here.
I was almost the same age as Richard, the main character in the movie, when I first dream of reaching the shores of Maya beach. And back then, both of us are troubled by the expectations of our family, colleagues, and lovers.
13 years ago, I was tempted once again to check out, jump ship and just hit the road, leaving all problems behind me.
But at 30, life has taught me valuable lessons.
You don’t run away from your problems, no matter how big they maybe. You must face them with courage and determination, and be prepared to accept the consequences of the things you do or do not do.
A better life or a parallel universe is always tempting but you don’t always have to go far for you to reach it.
That life, that place you’ve always wanted to belong to, may be right there in front of you all along. You just have to open your eyes to see it.

7 Fun Facts About Bali You Probably Never Knew

Without a shadow of a doubt, Bali is the most famous of all Indonesian islands. It’s a place that boasts tropical beaches, breathtaking mountains, and friendly people. Those are just three of many reasons why tourists flock to the island each year!
You will have no doubt seen some pictures online of what Bali is like. But, how much do you really know about the island paradise? You should check out these seven fun facts to learn more:
  1. Bali is home to the world’s most expensive coffee
In Bali, you can buy a type of coffee called Kopi Luwak. One intriguing fact about it is you won’t be drinking a typical coffee. That’s because Kopi Luwak gets derived from undigested coffee cherry beans! They get refined from the waste material left by civet cats. Why is that type of coffee popular? Apparently, civet cats only eat the ripest coffee beans!
  1. It’s a popular destination for honeymooners
It doesn’t matter where people come from in the world. The island paradise is the top destination for newlyweds from all corners of the globe!
As a honeymooner, your journey may start in aluxury hotel in Bali. You could then explore the magic of the island with your new spouse. And let’s not forget the array of cuisines on offer for those romantic evening dinners! Of course, the only downside is you would need to leave and return home at some point!
  1. Not all beaches in Bali have beautiful white sand
You might not think it, but some of the sandybeaches on Bali is actually black! The reason for that is simple. The sand got formed from the cooled lava of the Mount Agung volcano.
  1. Seafood lovers will enjoy a veritable feast on Bali
Do you enjoy eating seafood? If so, Bali is the holiday destination for you! An astonishing fact about the island is that its waters are home to over 3,000 species of fish!
5. Bali relies heavily on tourism
As you can imagine, the scenic island of Bali attracts a plethora of visitors each year. And it’s just as well because tourism makes up 80% of the island’s GDP! Islanders have nothing to worry about for their economy. There’s no danger of people not visiting the island any time soon!
Bali Countryside
  1. Bali islanders are fluent in many languages
As you explore the island, one thing will become apparent. The locals will talk in an array of different languages and dialects. Most islanders speak Balinese, Indonesian, and English. Many will also speak other languages too.
  1. Bali’s new year starts in silence
The first day of Bali’s new calendar is Nyepi. Translating as the “day of silence”, it gets celebrated every Isakawarsa (Bali new year). For 24 hours from 6 am, light and sound must get kept to a minimum. The Hindu celebration also states that no-one is allowed out onto the streets or beaches. In fact, even Bali’s main airport closes during Nyepi!
Bali rice fields