Philippines


The Philippines is a land of contrasts. An archipelago of more than 7,100 islands with almost 100 million inhabitants, it is the most Hispanic nation in Asia but a place all its own. From shades of Spanish culture, Roman Catholicism and Islam, American-style malls and fast food, and its very name in honor of King Philip II of Spain, the country has long been shaped by foreign influences. Combined with its indigenous heritage, the Philippines has become a nation diverse and unique. From the millions of Filipinos who work hard around the world to provide for their families back home to the tragedy of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) that devastated the central part of the country in November 2013, the Philippines is a land filled with resilience and hope. Poverty and an increasing sense that life is getting better for most. Beauty and bad traffic. Gorgeous volcanoes that wipe out cities and villages. Delicious food cheap and fattening. Warm and friendly people who live life and make the best of what may come, for better or for worse. If you have the chance to visit the Philippines, take it. But don’t simply head to a beach resort for scuba diving and a tan. Hop in a Jeepney and go off the beaten path. You’ll never know what you’ll find in this incredible archipelago.

More About the Philippines

A View of Taal Lake and Volcano Island in Tagaytay

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Sunset over Manila Bay

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Entrance Gate of Fort Santiago in Intramuros, Manila

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Kilometer Marker 21 of the Bataan Death March and Mt. Samet on the Bataan Peninsula

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China


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How does one describe a country like China? Facts and figures do not adequately measure the immensity of the world’s most populous nation, its third largest by size, and one of its most ancient. Grandiose statistics do not do China justice. China is perhaps best described as “China.” The name itself conjures images of the Great Wall, megapolises, Zodiac calendars and complicated characters, sumptuous cuisine, exotic scenery, manufacturing might, exquisite artisanship, and many more. From the Middle Kingdom to a People’s Republic, China is a dragon both awe-inspiring and fire-breathing that has reawakened from its slumber and is now stretching its wings to reassert itself in the world. Like the 21,196-kilometer (13,171 mile) Great Wall stretching from the Yellow Sea in the east to the far western interior, the breadth of this land is difficult for anyone to fathom. An ever-growing number of foreign tourists flock to popular destinations like Shanghai, Beijing, Xi’an, or Guilin to immerse themselves in the Far East – or so they think – but they have only begun to discover what is truly China. Few ever will, for this dynamic land is always on the move, heading into the future and out of reach of full comprehension.

More About China

The Great Wall

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Pudong District, Shanghai

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Forbidden City, Beijing

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Terracotta Warrior, Xi’an

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Celebrating New Year of the Dragon in China!


My wife Jing, son, and I spent the 2012 Chinese New Year with Jing’s family in Shanghai, China. It was a special New Year’s for us, not only because it ushered in the auspicious Year of the Dragon but also because it marked a first for our family—the first time we had been together with Jing’s family in China for the holiday. My wife had not spent New Year’s with her family in almost two decades, and it would be the first time my son and I joined them. The happy hearts and big smiles of my in-laws when we arrived January 21 foretold a joyous reunion.

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Bataan Death March, Philippines (Video)


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During my 2014 trip to the Philippines, I retraced the route of the infamous Bataan Death March on the Bataan Peninsula on Luzon Island north of Manila. It was fortuitous that I followed the route on the 72nd anniversary of the March.

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After the surrender of the U.S.-Filipino Bataan Defense Force during World War II to the Japanese on April 9, 1942, thousands of American and Filipino prisoners were force marched 102 kilometers from Mariveles and Bagac on the Bataan Peninsula to San Fernando in Pampanga. An estimated 60,000-80,000 Filipino and American prisoners of war endured the seven-day Bataan Death March. Those who made it to San Fernando on April 17, 1942, were loaded onto train cars by the hundreds and transferred by rail to the concentration camp at Camp O’Donell. Approximately 2,500-10,000 Filipino and 100-650 American prisoners of war died  from execution, exhaustion, injury, thirst, malaria, and other causes along the way. Survivors were held prisoner until Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II in September 1945.

This video footage shows what the route of the Bataan Death March looks like today.

Route of the Bataan Death March, Philippines

No longer a dirt trail, much of it is now the Bataan Provincial Expressway. It begins at Zero Kilometer Death March Marker (Km 00) Memorial in Mariveles. A second route from Bagac, a district in the interior of Bataan Peninsula where thousands more prisoners were forced marched, merges with the Mariveles branch at Kilometer 23. The highway continues north to San Fernando with dozens of markers and memorials along the way.

Bataan Death March Route

The video begins at Zero Kilometer and follows the Bataan Death March route from kilometer 4 to 13. The shaky cam from an air-conditioned vehicle doesn’t convey what prisoners of war endured during the March, but it will give you a sense of the challenges they faced en route.

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Macau


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Macau is a place of contrasts. Macau, or Macao as it was better known when it was a Portuguese colony, is officially the Macau Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China. Like its many names, the SAR is filled with more people, culture, and history than its small size suggests. Sitting on just 29.5 square kilometers (11.39 sq. miles) of land, some of it reclaimed from the Pearl River Delta, Macau has a population of more than 600,000 with a density of more than 18,500 people per square kilometer (48,000 per square mile). Although crowded, its denseness does not seem so much from its small footprint as from its rich and colorful history. The former colony still retains much of its Portuguese and indigenous Cantonese character but has grown more Chinese since its return to China in 1999. As the country’s only destination for legalized gambling, a Portuguese legacy dating back to the 1850s, Macau has become a tourist draw with its growing array of gambling and Las Vegas-style entertainment and conference venues. Nestled amid the grand casinos are neighborhoods steeped in colonial and traditional Chinese heritage. Like its sister across the delta in Hong Kong, Macau is worth highlighting as a semi-autonomous region because of its unique character and heritage.

More About Macau

Ruin of St. Paul’s Cathedral

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Senado Square

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A Skyline View of Macau

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Taipu Village at Night

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Cambodia


Cambodia is a land of contrasts. From the majesty of the former Khmer Empire showcased by the legendary city of Angkor to the country’s recent history under the Khmer Rouge still echoing in the Killing Fields, Cambodia is a mixture of triumph and tragedy. The country has emerged from the dark shadows of the past and is rapidly developing into a modern, vibrant society that stands side by side with magnificent edifices and artifacts. Few visitors to Cambodia leave without being somehow touched by the warmth of the Cambodian people, its rich culture and history, and stories laced with sobering realities. Its diverse land stretches from pristine beaches and wetlands along the Gulf of Thailand to the rolling Cardamom and Annamite mountains. Nestled in between is one of Southeast Asia’s largest wildernesses. Those looking for a fun, fascinating and unforgettable journey should spend time in Cambodia.

More About Cambodia

Top Ten Things to Do on Holiday in Cambodia

Heading to the Coast (National Highway 4)

Driving the Coast (National Highway 48)

The Cambodian Wilderness

Koh Kong

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2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Horizon

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Happy Chinese New Year!


新年快乐!Xīn Nián Kuài Lè! Happy Chinese New Year! Happy Lunar New Year!

Welcome to the Year of the Wooden Horse or the Year of the Green Horse. Why a wooden or green horse? The Horse is one of twelve animals representing a twelve-year cycle in the Chinese lunar calendar. Combined with the five elements in the Chinese Zodiac, Metal, Water, Wood, Fire, and Earth, the calendar goes through a 60-year cycle where each animal is associated with a different element every 12 years. Visit HanBan for a great summary of the Year of the (Wooden) Horse. Click here for more information about the elements.

This year may bode well for those born in the Year of the Horse with some promising personality traits such as being outgoing, energetic, active, friendly, trustworthy, and popular with friends, family, and acquaintances. The same may hold true for all of us during the Year of the Horse if the Green Horse appears this year and proves auspicious. However, as Wood can burn Red with flame, 2014 may also bring turmoil and crises. Who’s to say which Horse will cross the chronological plain this year. 没关系 (méi guānxi). No problem. Party on! It’s time to celebrate Chinese New Year!

How do the Chinese celebrate the New Year? Well, it starts with days of shopping for and buying any and all things red, gold, and (this year) green to make the holiday more festive. Shoppers stock up on food, drink and treats for Chinese New Year dinners, fireworks to blow off at stroke of midnight, and hongbao (红包 or red envelopes) to fill with money for the children.

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Chinese New Year is a time for families to celebrate the holiday together. Families who stay home and host festoon their houses with New Year decorations and prepare huge meals for extended family who join them for an evening…or often longer. It’s a time to enjoy great food and holiday delicacies, to catch up with family you might not have seen for a while, and to give hongbao to the children. If you’re lucky, your child will bow before you and promise to be behave as they ask for their red envelope.

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Going home to visit family by train, plane, or bus is a holiday tradition not often mentioned. The week-long lunar celebration triggers the world’s largest annual mass migration with an estimated 3.6 billion trips made, including 225 million Chinese who traveled overseas for Chinese New Year.

After dinner, many Chinese families relax and watch the annual New Year Show on Chinese Central Television (CCTV). Part variety show, part music concert, the event is watched by an estimated 750 million people.

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Just before midnight, millions of Chinese take to the streets, rooftops, or any open window to blow off fireworks to usher in the New Year. The spectacle is unbelievably loud and beautiful. The fireworks during the 2012 Year of the Dragon celebration in Shanghai were incredible! Click on the video below to watch.

2012 Chinese New Year in Shanghai, China

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The next day, many Chinese families venture out to enjoy local public festivities. They may go shopping, watch New Year parades, or tour old, familiar places. The Lunar New Year is a time to remember family, friends, and ancestors, and many visit places that have been an important part of their families’ lives. These photos were taken in 2012, at the Temple of the Town Gods in Shanghai.

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新年快乐!Xīn Nián Kuài Lè! Happy New Year to you and yours!

Map of China

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mge-kili-cover-front-thumbM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, and a short story collection called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. He also wrote and illustrated Alexander the Salamander, Ellie the Elephant, and Zoe the Zebra, three books in the World Adventurers for Kids Series, and a 3-in-1 collection featuring all three. His books are available in e-book and print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. Edwards graduated from the University of Washington with a master’s degree in China Studies and a Master of Business Administration. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2014 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.