Amanpulo

A brief 70-minute flight (or 360 kilometres south) from a hangar at Manila airport takes me to the Cuyo Archipelago of northern Palawan in the Philippines. My island escape is Pamlican Island, where Amanpulo is located. A private “peaceful island” with white powdery sands, crystal clear waters, and pristine reefs – this island is extremely tranquil and serene. There are three food outlets in the island. The Beach Club offers Mediterranean cuisine. The Lagoon Club offers Japanese food for dinner and outdoor oven-baked pizzas during lunch. The Clubhouse serves Filipino and Asian dishes. I found the Lagoon Club and Clubhouse…

Giardino

Instead of being huddled with the crowds, I decided to go visit gardens to get some fresh Tuscan sun and air. First stop is Giardino di Boboli, originally designed for the Medici and located behind Pitti Palace. The Giardino Bardini is an Italian Renaissance Garden located in the hilly part of Oltarno. Opened only recently to the public, it is one of Florence‘s well kept secrets.

Firenze

Three time lucky, as they say – and all my three visits to Florence have been a charm. I will never tire of this city. With most of the main sights lying within walking distance of one another, Firenze, is the cradle of the Renaissance and one of Europe’s great art cities. There is so much exquisite art and architecture within its ancient walls that it is easy to become overwhelmed. The plan is to visit sites I have not seen before. On exhibit at Palazzo Strozzi is Donatello, the Renaissance. A historic exhibition which sets out to reconstruct the…

Chianti Region

Spread between Florence and Siena in the heart of Tuscany, the Chianti wine region is the romanticized Italy of daydreams. Traversing the gentle hillsides, a twisting, picturesque route known as the Chiantigiana, landscapes are filled with terra-cotta-roofed towns, vineyards, olive groves and peppered with case coloniche (farmhouse). I based myself in Barberino Tavarnelle, located in a great position between the Val d’Elsa and Val di Pesa in the heart of Chianti, and only 25 kms from Florence. This is a part of Tuscany that is not too crowded and filled with charming, hidden corners. 

Siena

Siena is a city where the architecture soars. Effectively a giant, open-air museum celebrating the Gothic, Siena has religious and secular monuments that have retained both their medieval forms and their extraordinary art collections. Often referred to as Florence’s longtime rival, this city of rose-coloured brick seems to have come out on top in terms of a more unified preservation and grace. With steep, twisting stone alleys and churches, palaces, and crenellated public buildings draped across its gentle hillsides, Siena is for many admirers one of the most beautiful towns in Italy. It’s a feast for the senses and an…

Mahalo

“Thank you” (in Hawaiian) for the warm welcome to Hawaii! I had a truly unforgettable stay. In Honolulu, I stayed for two nights at Halepuna Waikiki by Halekulani. The hotel opened only in 2019 and is the sister hotel of Halekulani, which is located right across the street. The boutique style hotel has 288 rooms, which I did not find too overwhelming with lots of guests, as the other hotels in Waikiki. The hotel is a block from Waikiki Beach and also a block away from the main shopping street. I flew to the island of Lana’i to spend the…

Lana’i

The smallest publicly-accessible inhabited island in Hawaii, Lana’i is known as Pineapple Island because of its past as an island-wide pineapple plantation for Dole. Lana’i is only 14.5 kilometres away from Maui and as of 2012, the island is 98% owned by the chairman of Oracle Corporation. Aside from the three hotels in the island and the small town of Lana’i City, the island has no traffic lights, shopping malls, and only 48 kilometres of paved road. This is the perfect island for someone seeking tranquility and escape from everyday urban life. The Kolo’iki Ridge Hike is a 7.9 km…

O’ahu

It is my first visit to Hawaii and first stop for 36 hours is the island of Oahu or “The Gathering Place“. Oahu is the third largest Hawaiian island and home to two-third of Hawaii’s population. Hawaii‘s state capitol, Honolulu, is located in this island. I came across an art exhibit which was part of the Hawai’i Triennial 2022 and I was taken by Sun Xun’s art works, drawn on newsprint gathered in Hawaii in 2020 during the pandemic.

Lisbon 2.0

Almost to the date four years later, I am back in Lisbon. The beauty of not getting to see all sights on the first visit is that there are more new things to see upon one’s return. Convento do Cormo (or the Convent of Our Lady of Mount Carmel) was built between 1389 and 1423 in the Gothic style. Considered by many to be Lisbon’s loveliest church, this convent has not had a roof since it fell in during the 1755 earthquake. A lawn now covers what was once the main nave.  Mannerist and baroque architecture dominate the São Roque Church,…

Douro Valley

Located in North Portugal, Douro Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site approximately 100 kms east of Porto. The Douro Wine Region Valley is the oldest demarcated wine region in the world known for producing its cultural treasure – the strong and sweet Port wine. The region has been attracting international wine aficionados since the 18th century and the terraced fields on either side of the Douro River is a wonder to look at. The Douro River is the highest-flow river of the Iberian Peninsula. It rises in Soria Province, central Spain, meanders south briefly then flows generally west through the…