First Impressions: The Pulsating Beats of Rio de Janeiro

Brazil, South America

It is barely an hour before sunset, I am sitting on the beach of the world famous Ipanema beach, holding my glass of chilled caipirinha.

Ipanema is teeming with activity, with both cariocas and visitors alike taking in some last minutes dips in the warm Atlantic ocean.  Others are playing volleyball and football (Brazilians are obsessed with both sports).

All around you, you can hear loud samba music that makes your hand body sway, and your feet dance involuntarily.

Any minute now, everyone would be heading back to the the clubs in Ipanema or Copacabana districts or to the mountainside favelas for some night parties Brazil is famous the world over for.


Copacabana Beach

This is Rio de Janeiro, one of the most exciting cities in the world.It is only my second day of visit to this South American metropolis but I am already in love with it.

Everything here seems to move at a frenetic pace and the flurry of activity doesn’t seem to stop . Rio de Janeiro, moves along an intense and urgent pulsating beat, you wont find anywhere else.

There is so much beauty and history here that it attracts millions of visitors year-round.


A view of Rio de Janeiro from Corcovado Peak

Rio de Janeiro has gotten a negative rep in recent years due to series of petty theft and robberies, which is common among third world countries, but that hasn’t stopped people from visiting.

Travelers arrive in droves all year-round to visit the Cristo Redentor statue in Corcovado Peak. Others take the long trip to take a dip in the Ipanema and Copacobana, two of the most famous beaches in the world while others, visit to partake in the endless parties in the city.


A Selfie at Ipanema Beach

To be completely honest, I thought that stories about Rio de Janeiro are mostly exaggerated and I thought that it would just be like the other beach-cities I have visited before.

But sitting on Ipanema beach, surrounded by hundreds of people, I can tell you that Rio de Janeiro is something else. It’s a city that is completely alive. It makes any visitor feel alive.

Rio de Janeiro gives any visitor energy and excitement and it makes everyone forget their worries and be just lost in the moment.

In an hour so, I would head out to downtown Ipanema for a samba party, and I wish for exactly that: to be completely lost in the moment.





Intoxicating India: North And South Tips For A First-Time Trip

Asia, India

India is a world of mesmerizing temples, heady scents, tranquil backwaters and captivating wildlife. It is a medley of fast and furious and sedate and meditative. If you only have a couple of weeks, it would be impossible to see it all. So here are some tips for first-time visitors of what you can expect. And while we’re at it, here are some more travel ideas to add to your list for 2017.


Munnar Tea Plantation. Photo from Flickr

The South

If you don’t have much time on your first trip, it is often advisable to pick either the south or north and concentrate on all that one area has to offer. However, that said, if you are up for moving around a lot it is also possible to take internal flights across both. But let’s first concentrate on the south.

A holiday in southern India will be less frenetic that a holiday in the north. The South offers India’s best beaches in Goa and Kerala. And Kerala also offers captivating backwaters, where a few days cruising on a magnificent bamboo houseboat is a must.



If you are on your way to the heady beaches of Goa, Bangalore is a worthy stopover. Places to see in Bangalore include the shops and temples of Malleswaram, Cubbon Park, and Bangalore Palace. Looking for high adrenalin adventure? A bit further on at the hill station of Coorg you can try waterfall repelling and ultralight flying.

And the magical UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hampi will take you back in time with its grandiose beauty of haunting ruins and temples. Of course, no trip to southern India would be complete without visiting the verdant tea plantations of Munnar. And also the Jog Waterfalls in Karnataka. While in Karnataka also visit Nagarhole Wildlife Sanctuary. Here you’ll get the chance to see tiger, elephant, and leopard in their natural habitat. 


Taj Mahal. Photo from Pixabay

Northwest India

One of the most popular tours in India is the northwest Golden Triangle, and this is an ideal itinerary if you are visiting for the first time. This timeless tour takes in the beauty of Delhi, Jaipur, and Agra. The north of India features some of the most magnificent temples and architecture you will ever see.

If you are looking for grandeur and glory, then the Golden Triangle is for you. Delhi is a vibrant destination rich in history and culture. You’ll visit the stately old homes of Mughal emperors and see patriotic landmarks and breathtaking temples.

Delhi is abundant in art, architecture, and spiritualism. Some of the most breathtaking sites to see are the Red Fort, India Gate, Qutub Minar and the Akshardham Temple.  And of course, in Agra, top of your list will be the spellbinding Taj Mahal, one of the most famous and beautiful buildings in the world.

This breathtaking monument was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jenan as a testament to the incredible love he felt for his wife, Queen Mumtaz Mahal. She died in 1631 giving birth to their 14th child, and for the next 14 years, the emperor built the white marble Taj Mahal in memory of his love. Over seven million people visit the Taj Mahal every year. Your last stop in the Golden Triangle is the Pink City of Jaipur.

Every building within the historical walled center is built in pink sandstone that looks simply bewitching. It’s abundant in vibrant color, majestic forts and palaces and bustling bazaars. Touristy it may be, but a ride on an elephant to the Amber Fort is a must for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

And talking about once-in-a-lifetime experiences? There will be plenty more of those to come as you travel through intoxicating India.



Bogota, Colombia: Graffiti City

COLOMBIA, South America

The city of Bogota in Colombia is definitely one of the coolest and one of the most colorful cities on the planet.

How come? While the rest of the world frown on graffiti, Bogota has instead legalized the practice, encouraging modern street artists to spend more time and attention to their ‘projects’ resulting in an explosion of elaborate pictures, scrawls and images, some  entertaining while some are thought-provoking, earning the city its reputation as one of the most colorful cities in the world.

Most graffiti highlight urgent societal issues such as environment, globalization, the disparate distribute of wealth among others.

The proliferation of government-sanctioned graffiti is even creating economic opportunities for the city as tourists, eager to marvel at these amazing graffiti, flock to the city year-round.

At present, there are about 10,000 graffiti in the Bogota and the best, most elaborate ones can be found in La Candelaria district, considered as the city’s more artistic and alternative side.

And because it is impossible to locate, let alone, identify all graffiti,  many graffiti tours have mushroomed all over Bogota, much to the benefit of local and foreign tourists alike.

Here are some of the graffiti you will find in Bogota


The Indigenous Woman















Discovering Havana, Cuba


It was 4pm in the afternoon and the mild breeze gives a momentary respite from the  warm Caribbean weather. All around me, locals blessed with bronze skin and athletic build walk leisurely pass 16th century colonial structures while 1950s vintage vehicles called ‘almendrons’ are pressing their horns in a bid to attract passengers.

This is is Havana, the capital city and the leading commercial center of the Cuban Republic. More than 2 million people call this city home and its sheer size of about 281 square miles, making it the third largest metropolitan area in the Caribbean region.


Ironically, its estranged relations with the United States, and the subsequent cancellation of commercial flights from the Central and North America to and from Havana has made it one of the least visited city in the region. Since its no-fly status, Havana has been shrouded in mystery, at least for the millions of Americans who had been barred from visiting it.

Recent developments however, are indicating friendlier relations between the US and Cuba, and soon more people would be able to explore Havana.

But what makes Havana, such a mesmerizing destination not only to Americans but to the rest of the world?



Well, for starters, Havana is lost in time. It has  maintained its old world charm making it an irresistible haunt for history and architecture junkies.

Havana was founded by the Spaniards in the 16th century and throughout history, it served as a strategic location for Spain’s galleon trade.

If you step into modern-day Havana, you can still see remnants of the Spanish’ colonial years. This is especially true in the Old Town Havana, or Havana Vieja.


Castillo de la Real Fuerza

The 16th century Castillo de la Real Fuerza or Castle of the Royal Force, located at the west bank of the harbour is one of the most prominent structures in the old town. It is considered to be the oldest stone fort in the Americans and in 1982, it was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Things You Can Buy at Plaza dela Armas Market

Near the fort is the Plaza de Armas, another throwback to the 16th century. It is Havana’s oldest square and was given its name when the colonial government who was residing at the nearby castle, used the site for military exercises. In the center of the square, a marble status of Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, who led Cuba’s independence campaign int he 19th century, stands proud. Nowadays, the plaza plays host to a second-hand book market.


Hotel Santa Isabel 

A few blocks away from the plaza is the 18th century Palacio de los Condes de Santovenia, which has been transformed into the opulent , 27-room, five-star Hotel Santa Isabel.


Plaza Vieja

Also of note in Havana is Plaza Vieja, the 16th century open area, which used to be the sight of executions, processions and bullfights among others. Now it is one of the major tourist areas lined with restaurants and pubs.

Any visit to the Havana would not be complete without a visit to Parque Central along Paseo del Prado, usually the starting point for any tour of the city. Here you will find locals dancing salsa and playing board games, or just simply hanging out, even at mid-day.

Parque Central is sandwiched by important structures in Havana including the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso which was built as a tribute to Galicia immigrants to Cuba. It was built around the older Teatro Tacon and was made even more elegant and magnificent by adding stone and marble statues and sculptures by Giuseppi Moretti. The Grand Theatre now serves as the home of the Cuban ballet troupe.


Grand Theatre and El Capitolio

Adjacent to the Grand Theatre is the 1920’s Capitol Building or El Capitolio. Measuring 691 by 300 ft, it served as the primary seat of government until after the Cuban Revolution in 1959 and was fashioned after the United States’ own Capitol Building. It is one of the relatively newer structures in Havana. Today, it is home to the Cuban Academy of sciences.


If you are after a more natural and realistic feel of Havana, you can stroll along El Malecon, a broad esplanade, roadway and seawall stretching for 8 kilometers from the mouth of the Havana harbor until the Vedado neighborhood. It is not the prettiest and safest place in Havana, but here, you will be able to see and converse with local Cubans in their natural habitat.



As with other historical cities, the best way to explore and discover Havana is by walking around its neighborhoods but if get tired, since Havana is a big city, you can just go around using the old American vintage cars called almendrons. They charge by CUC or cooks, the local currency, and you can either hire the car for yourself or wait for other passengers going the same direction as yours. It is pretty safe and it is the most convenient mode of transport around Havana.


For shorter distances, you can also take rickshaws driven by locals.

Without a doubt, Havana is one of the interesting and enigmatic places in the Caribbean. For so long, it has been a relatively unknown travel destination for many but with the reopening of commercial flights to and from Havana, the city could become the next major site everyone shouldn’t miss.

Trust me, it’s worth it.


Captivating Cartagena, Colombia

COLOMBIA, South America

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.


northern lights

Some of The Most Beautiful Things You’ll Ever See In The World


The world is an amazing place. Sure, it’s full of dark, nasty places that you probably don’t want to see or even know about. The amazing, stunning views certainly make up for all of that! There are so many wonders in the world that people haven’t even begun to explore yet. If you’re looking for things to add to your bucket list, or simply want to feel better about the world we live in, read on.

The Great Barrier Reef

The great barrier reef in Australia is a must see if you’re ever in the area. You can snorkel and dive here, making note of the completely different world under the sea. There are colourful fish, beautiful plants, and so much more to see. You’ll be amazed if you’ve never done anything like this before!

The Northern Lights

The Northern Lights are one of the most beautiful phenomenons in the world. The reason they are there and can be seen is very scientific. You can see it from multiple locations, including Iceland and even Scotland. You can start understanding the Northern Lights here.



The Pyramids

The Pyramids are one of the seven wonders of the world, and how they came to be has always been in question. There are many things to see in Egypt, but have you really visited if you haven’t seen the pyramids? There’s no need to see them all, as many of them do look the same. But it’s worth a trip so you can cross it off your list!



Another mystery. How did Stonehenge come to be? Nobody really knows. You will usually get an eery feeling here, along with your sense of wonderment.


The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon, made by nature is an amazing site to see. Although you don’t have to visit in a helicopter, going over it will likely be one of the most breathtaking experiences of your life. You can even go down there and enjoy a drink if you book a tour with a good company.


Easter Island

Easter Island is a lot like stonehenge, in the way that nobody truly knows how the stone heads came to be there. Another mystery that will have you wondering what happened.

great wall

The Great Wall Of China

The great wall of China has some breathtaking views – it’s one of the only things you can still see from space! Of course, it’s also a huge part of history.


taj mahal

The Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal is an UNESCO world heritage site. It’s created mostly from white marble, and it isn’t difficult to see why it’s one of the world’s most admired masterpieces.

machu pichu

Machu Picchu

This is one of the most important sites in the world, and is surrounded by stunning views. You could hike the Inca trail to make it up here and really appreciate what it’s all about!

The world has many more beautiful things to see; you’re definitely not limited to this list! The key to seeing the beauty in the world is to find it in the smallest things, even if it’s in your own back garden. Will you visit anywhere on the list?


Food To Pack When You’re Going On Vacation


Are you going on vacation this summer or later this year? What you pack will have crossed your mind, but the chances are you’ve been focusing on things like clothes and shoes! Give some thought to the food you should take for a minute or two instead…


When you’re going camping….

The food that you will eat on a camping trip will be very different to what you would eat at home. This is because you will not have access to the wide range of tools and electronic equipment that you do at home. That’s right; there will likely be no toaster, microwave, slow cooker or over. So instead you need to think up foods that you can heat with hot water, or warm on a fire. For the former, instant porridge in cup packs for camping are fantastic. So are noodles that can be warmed with hot water When it comes to things you can warm up over a fire, tins are usually a good starting point. So, think soups, like chicken and tomato!


When you’re going on a boat…

Perhaps you’ve got a short ferry crossing or a four-week cruise! Even if you are not usually sea-sick or travel sick, sea sickness can strike unexpectedly. Whether you predict it hitting you or not, it is wise to be prepared just in case. Pack some fluids that have stomach-settling properties. Whether you feel very nauseous or just a tad, these will help. Ginger tea is great for settling an unhappy stomach.


When you’re going on a flight…

Let’s be honest. When you go on a flight, you are at the mercy of what the air hostess serves you. Sometimes this is bearable, other times not so much! Yes, you can take food items on with you. But if you are on a long-haul flight, these won’t last. So, many airplane foods tastes nicer with this very simple trick…

The main complaint that so many of us have about airplane food is that is bland. Well, spices, seasonings, and condiments can really help this. In your carry-on luggage, take some little pots of salt and pepper. If you like your food spicy, take a little bit of tabasco sauce also!


When you’re going to a hotel…

It used to be that case that hotels provided a kettle, tea, coffee, sugar and milk all the time. However, hotels are getting savvy to just how important many people find these. They are now being a little cheeky and sometimes charge extra for hiring these items! Avoid this unfair charge by preparing for it and taking your own things. Pack a travel kettle, and fill some clear plastic bags with the items you’ll need. Make one bag for tea bags, and another for coffee granules. Alternatively, you could buy some coffee bags (they exist!). Don’t forget some sachets of sugar and some small pots of long-life milk. Also, be sure to pack a mug! You don’t want to be drinking your morning coffee out of a tiny glass from the bathroom!



3 Things To Know Before Visiting Canada

Canada, North America

I hate to sound like a tourist board ad, but Canada really is a beautiful country. You’re never too far away from a massive expanse of forest, or an intriguing store or restaurant drawn from its diverse population. Aside from that, the people are among the friendliest you’ll ever meet! My first piece of advice on visiting Canada is to definitely, definitely do it! Here are a few more practical tips I can offer.

We’ll get some of the technicalities out of the way first. Unless you’re using Google Translate to read this article, you shouldn’t have any problems with the language. The large majority of the country speaks English, albeit with “eh” used to end every sentence. However, if you’re visiting French Canada (mainly Quebec) you may find things a little harder. English is still widely spoken in these areas, but you’ll probably run into the odd shop assistant or bar staff who only speaks French. Aside from that, they use the metric system, the currency is Canadian dollars, and tipping is nearly as compulsory as it is in the States. You’ll also need a passport with Electronic Travel Authorization. You can apply for one here: www.official-canada-eta.com .

The next big thing is the weather. If you’ve planned your trip in the winter, looking for lower flight and accommodation prices, you may want to reconsider. Canada is famous for its snow, and this reputation didn’t just appear out of the blue. It gets cold, I mean seriously cold. Go walking around in the peak of winter without all the right thermals, and you’ll quickly discover just how intense the cold weather is. If you’re going for the skiing, then no problem! However, if you really want to get a taste for the country, I highly recommend going in the summer. Despite the cold in the winter, the summers in Canada are usually gorgeous. You’ll enjoy the outdoors a lot more, and be able to see more generally.

Finally, the sheer diversity of the country. Like the rest of north America, the whole of Canada was populated by immigrants. This has continued to bloom throughout the country’s history, and it shows in the day-to-day way of life. Walk down any strip in a Canadian city, and you’ll see stores and restaurants which stem from countless different nationalities and cultures. Some 41 members of the Canadian parliament were born in other countries, just to give you an idea.

You might leave your accommodation looking to immerse yourself in the Canadian culture. The truth is, it doesn’t really have one! Instead, I recommend trying to visit a different country every night! You’ll be able to find countless cultural restaurants, venues and exhibitions. You’ll probably be near enough some kind of indigenous museum or cultural spot too, so check that out! The whole country’s a melting pot; make the most of it!

Take these tips on board, and I’m sure you’ll have a fantastic time in Canada. Even if you came there totally unprepared, their world-famous hospitality would probably see you through!