India. The word evokes many images. A land of more than one billion people reaching from the vast Indian Ocean to the stunning Himalayas, India is awash in unparalleled color and beauty. Few locales in the world match its stimulating effect on the five senses — the exotic sights, a cacophony of sound, and exotic smells, tastes, and sensations of a vibrant place. The essence of “India” goes far beyond its exotic, and at times mystical, reputation. Its reality is far more complex that its ecologically diverse geography with dry deserts, towering peaks, and subtropical lowlands; ancient history spanning centuries of kingdoms and modern incarnation; and cultural and spiritual enclaves offer the casual eye at first glance. India is a country in the midst of change that honors its rich heritage as it establishes itself as one of the most dynamic and fastest-growing economies in the world. Millions of tourists journey to India each year to see it for themselves, drawn by the lure of Taj Mahal in Agra, the Golden Triangle, the Land of Kings, Rajasthan, Kerala, and elsewhere. Most soon discover that India is so much more than that. It is a home to countless languages, religions, and traditions — even gods. It’s impossible to absorb it all in just one visit. One must take a pilgrimage or a life-changing experience to begin to understand what India personally means.
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.
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A View of Taal Lake and Volcano Island in Tagaytay
Sunset over Manila Bay
Entrance Gate of Fort Santiago in Intramuros, Manila
Kilometer Marker 21 of the Bataan Death March and Mt. Samet on the Bataan Peninsula
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
- Happy Chinese New Year
- Celebrating New Year of the Dragon in China!
- Zhujiajiao, the Venice of China
- Temple of the Town God in Shanghai, China
- Fireworks in Shanghai, China – Happy Year of the Dragon!
- Happy Year of the Golden Fire on Water Pig
- Another Fish Head on the Table?
- Greetings from Shanghai
- Xin Nian Kuai Le!
- Change of Scenery
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The Great Wall
Pudong District, Shanghai
Forbidden City, Beijing
Terracotta Warrior, Xi’an
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- Top Ten Things to Savor in Macau
- A Skyline View of Macau (Video)
- The Historic Center of Macau
- “The House of Dancing Water” Show in Macau
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Ruin of St. Paul’s Cathedral
A Skyline View of Macau
Taipu Village at Night
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.
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