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Miyerkules, Hunyo 29, 2011

Puri Gianyar – Indonesia

Historically, the Balinese village of Ubud can trace its roots to as far back as the 8th century. It is documented on ancient palm leaf scripts that a revered holy man from India by the name of Rsi Markaneya embarked on a spiritual journey across Java and eventually came to the island of Bali to spread the teachings of Hinduism.
It was on his travels that he received a divine revelation that in Bali he was to bury five precious metals on a mountain slope where the mother temple of Besakih now stands today. Along with a group of followers, Rsi Markaneya was magnetically attracted to a destination located in the central foothills of the island that radiated light and energy. This place was Campuhan in Ubud at a junction in the Wos River and it was here that he felt compelled to build a temple by the name of Pura Gunung Lebah.
On subsequent expeditions around Bali, Rsi Markaneya built a number of other significant temples and created a shared irrigation system for the terraced landscape that is still practiced by farmers today. The formation of the banjar, which is a village council responsible for community and religious affairs, was also inspired by this holy man. In essence, it can be said that Rsi Markaneya is responsible for the foundation of Balinese Hinduism in it purest form referred to as Agama Tirta or the religion of holy water.
Since being discovered backing the 8th century, the area of Campuhan has always been highly regarded by the Balinese for its immense spiritual powers. Even the term Ubud is derived from the term ubad, meaning medicine in reference to the traditional healing properties of the array of plants that randomly grow here. Generations of Hindu worshippers have made special pilgrimages to the fork in the Wos River to mediate, bathe and collect holy water for temple ceremonies and cleansing rituals.
There had always been ties between Java and Bali, but it was the disintegration of the once mighty Majapahit kingdom in the 15th century that saw a mass exodus of nobles to Bali. A new kingdom on the island’s east coast called Gelgel was consequently established and gave sanctuary to many important ruling families. They brought with them an artistic legacy and the principles of the caste system.
By the 17th century Bali invariably experienced a rapid emergence of new kingdoms, including the founding of several royal houses in Ubud. However, this period also saw much conflict between the royal clans with supremacy as the ultimate goal. A prince from Klungkung was sent to create a palace in Sukawati as a centre of great power and aesthetic beauty. Artisans came from all over Bali to help in its construction and once completed many of them chose to stay. Sukawati today is a community that strongly supports all forms of artistry as well as dance and music.
With the successful establishment of a reigning authority in Sukawati, palace retainers were then sent in the late 1700′s to secure the area of Ubud. A pair of cousins formed rival communities in Padang Tegal and further north in the area of Taman. Following subsequent fighting between these neighbouring villages the king of Sukawati sent his brothers Tjokorde Ngurah Tabanan to Peliatan and Tjokorde Tangkeban to Sambahan to establish palaces with the notion to control these troubled areas.
Despite early feudalistic struggles between the kingdoms of Peliatan and Mengwi, the two overcame their differences following a battle that is said to have involved magical powers. Thereafter, the people of Mengwi moved to help populate Ubud and during the latter 1800′s the entire area began to flourish with plentiful rice supplies and a booming economy.
By the middle of the 19th century there was a certain anti-Dutch sentiment brewing within the kingdoms and conflict was still rife. Mengwi experienced a bitter defeat and all land was distributed between its aggressors. Several of the battles that took place were actually fuelled by the Dutch and it was an unusual time that saw opposing kingdoms suddenly form alliances.
The colonizing Dutch authorities chose to start interfering with the island’s politics at the beginning of the 20th century. Under the leadership of Tjokorde Gede Raka Sukawati, Ubud came to be known as a sub-regency and then much later in 1981 became a sub-district taking over the administration of 13 neighbourhoods and 7 traditional villages. The district of Ubud today encompasses all areas within the boundaries of Tegallalang, Peliatan, Mas and Kedewatan.
Bali saw a significant influx of overseas visitors during the 1930′s.This first wave of tourism was focused in and around Ubud due to the business confidence of Tjokorde Gede Agung Sukawati who was proficient in English and Dutch. He had established a small guest house and his older brother Tjokorde Raka Sukawati, who lived across the street, took the initiative to welcome the celebrated artist cum composer Walter Spiers to Ubud to live and work.
This set a trend for other foreign artists and soon the likes of Rudolf Bonnet and Willem Hofker arrived to set up easel and paint. As word of Ubud and its enchanting beauty spread, the village went on to host a circle of famous faces such as Noel Coward, Charlie Chaplain, H.G Wells and the recognized anthropologist Margaret Mead.
The vision to establish a painters association was born in 1936 and saw a collaboration to form the Pita Maha between Tjokorde Gede Agung, Spies, Bonnet and several local artists. With the help of the American composer Colin McPhee, who had built a home along the stunning Sayan Ridge, the group was responsible for bringing together some of Bali’s greatest artists to teach painting, dance and music to a younger generation. Ubud developed the reputation as being the cultural pulse of Bali and that image still stands today.
World War II brought hardship to the island and Ubud suffered considerably. The Japanese invaded and this was later followed by a violent struggle against the Dutch for independence. Indonesian gained its freedom and its first president in 1945, but some 20 years later a so called ‘communist coup’ saw thousands of murders across the archipelago. Many lives were stolen, especially in Ubud and it is local folk lore that the white egrets inhabiting the area of Petulu are actually the lost souls of those who were massacred.
After almost 20 years of uncertainly, tourism resumed in Ubud during the 1970′s when backpackers and hippies set out to seek new experiences. A steady flow of visitors have since found themselves captivated by the intense beauty of the landscape and gracious hospitality of its people. Ubud has managed to embrace the 21st century with dignity and still retain its timeless artistry, culture and religion. It is a unique destination blessed with a strong sense of community and rare spiritual energy.

Linggo, Hunyo 26, 2011

Boracay Island Philippines

Years Ago, what is now known as the finest beach in Asia and one of the best in the world, Boracay Island was a well-guarded secret, almost possessively so that only a few knew of its existence, its pleasures whispered from one privileged ear. Back then, it was virtually deserted, a true hideaway indeed 
Until the 70's when, it is said, a foreign movie crew accidentally "discovered" this island paradise. Although others maintain that the one that really let the secret out was German traveler Jens Peters' book, which included raving reviews of Boracay. Whichever story is true, it was around this time that Boracay Island slowly ceased to be a private travelers hangout and eventually became a favorite tourist destination in the Philippines. In a span of a mere 10 years, the whole world, it seems, has discovered Boracay, and the once - nearly - deserted stretch of the most spectacular beach in Asia with lantern-lit bungalows is now a teeming vacation and leisure spot for upscale tourists from all parts of the world.
While its powder-soft white sand beaches and clear cool waters provide the main attraction, tourists and guests will be relieved to know that Boracay's allure does not end there. Modern-day facilities now line the 3.5-kilometer White Beach along the west coast, the island's longest stretch of white sand; comforts such as fancy, air-conditioned bungalows, nightly buffets of fresh seafood, guitar music, and massage. There are also restaurants, shops, even disco's and bars for a bustling night life. Year after year, vacationers trip to Boracay for sun, sea, and life along the beachfront, and hundreds of local and foreign tourists a day on the beach is a pretty common sight, especially during the peak months. 
While its powder-soft white sand beaches and clear cool waters provide the main attraction, tourists and guests will be relieved to know that Boracay's allure does not end there. Modern-day facilities now line the 3.5-kilometer White Beach along the west coast, the island's longest stretch of white sand; comforts such as fancy, air-conditioned bungalows, nightly buffets of fresh seafood, guitar music, and massage. There are also restaurants, shops, even disco's and bars for a bustling night life. Year after year, vacationers trip to Boracay for sun, sea, and life along the beachfront, and hundreds of local and foreign tourists a day on the beach is a pretty common sight, especially during the peak months. 
Boracay is literally teeming with life. Some of its privacy may have been lost with the deluge of visitors it attracts every year, but it doesn't seem to matter. People from as far as Europe continue to flock to its brilliant shores and aquamarine waters. Its popularity seems to serve as an added attraction for both old-timers and newcomers, enhancing rather than diminishing its allure. Perhaps this is because even with the increased number of visitors in the island, the serene ambiance of the place commands  respect, making each and every guest behave accordingly, and this allows for true relaxation and some semblance of privacy, too, since there are no loud commotions and aside from lapping of the waves and the distant drone of the occasional motorboat, virtual quite is still prevalent.
The island paradise was born in prehistory when a reef platform attached to northwestern Panay Island rose and revealed two islets. Sand accumulated between the twain, wedding them into a Philippines contribution to the worlds natural treasures
Located as it is  as the northwestern tip of Panay, in the west Visayas region, off the Sibuyan Sea, Boracay Island is naturally sheltered from the fierce easterly typhoons. It is seven kilometers long and only one kilometer across its narrowest point. Its thousand-hectare entirely is distributed among three villages, namely; Yapak in the North, Balabag in the middle, and Manoc-Manoc in the south, and numerous small sitios, all linked together by a maze of paths. Rolling terrain, with hilly elevations of up to 100 meters above sea level, characterizes Yapak and Manoc-Manoc. The intertwining trails, while connecting the villages together, may sometimes also lead to lush tropical jungles, a rich and crucial attribute of Boracays ecology

Miyerkules, Hunyo 22, 2011

Tubbataha Reef

Tubbataha Reef is an eclectic formation of coral reefs into atolls. Lying in the middle of Sulu Sea the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is at an approximate distance of 150 km south east of Puerto Princesca City in Palawan Province of Philippines. The waters of these atolls and seas are divers' delight particularly from April to June when the sea is calm and the sky is clear. Excellent visibility of over 40 meters under water gives an excellent opportunity to explore around 400 fish species and dazzling corals to all divers either experienced or inexperienced. 

Tubbataha coral atoll together with Jessie Beazley started formation millennia ago as reefs of volcanic islands along Cagayan Ridge. After the volcanoes became extinct their islands sank while the corals continued growing upwards giving rise to atolls. Till the late 1970s, Tubbataha in Philippines was a fishermen's paradise for its somewhat obscurity and limited accessibility due to its severe weather conditions. With the advent of motorized boats, reaching Philippine Tubbataha reefs became easier and marine life endangered. Consequently, in 1988 Tubbataha was declared as a National Marine Park by President Corazon Aquino. 

Tubbataha National Marine Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. Comprising two atolls of 4 to 5 km width and 1 to 2 km width, the reef surrounded shallow lagoons offer excellent under sea exploration excitement. Nearly 575 fish species, 380 species of coral, 12 species of whales and dolphins, and 11 shark species exists in the waters of Tubbataha National Marine Park. In addition Hawksbill and Green sea turtles, and more than 100 bird species are there to be discovered, not to mention the 10,000 hectares of coral reef. 

Things to do 

Dive in the safe waters of the lagoons or in the deeper waters of Sulu Sea to spend a memorable vacation exploring the amazing and varied underwater plant and animal life. Contact the dive companies for proper guidance and transit. Fishing is allowed in the deeper waters subject to adherence of certain regulations. 

Biyernes, Hunyo 3, 2011

Bay of Fundy

Bay of Fundy History

Early Settlers
It was the tribes of the Mi’kmaq and the Malecite who first regularly traveled the waterways of the Bay of Fundy, fishing along coastal areas during the summer months, moving inland towards the Saint John River during the cold winter season to trap.
The Acadians were the next to arrive in 1698, lured by the ease of farming these wide salt marshes.  They dyked the marshes to prevent the salt water from flooding the lowlands every high tide.  Built into these dykes were a one-way door, called “aboiteau”, that allowed drainage of the marshes during low tide, but prevented the salt water from entering at high tide.
Next came German settlers from Pennsylvania and the Irish and Scottish settlers. The United Empire Loyalists arrived after the American Revolution. Each contributed cultural traditions and religious differences to the new land. Like mismatched pieces of quilt these differences were distinct and separate, sometimes clashing, but once knitted and stitched together over time, they blended into our uniquely Maritime pattern of life.

Black Forest Germany

The Black Forest where all the beautiful cuckoo clocks come from is a German mountain range in the south west of Germany. It is situated on the boarder triangle between Germany, France and Switzerland. The Black Forest extends along the river Rhine on a length of about 100 miles and a width of 25-40 miles. The highest mountain is the Feldberg at 4900 ft. above sea level.

Already the Romans knew about the Black Forest, but never settled significantly. They built a road through the Black Forest, because it was border area that needed regular military activities. Major settlements were started by the Alemanni.

The Black Forest (in German language "Schwarzwald") is one of the most popular tourist areas in Germany and has much more to offer besides cuckoo clocks. Many famous lakes (Titsee, Schluchsee, Feldsee) and other interesting sites draw millions of tourist from around the world every year. The southern part of the Black Forest is the warmest Region in Europe between the Alps and the North Sea. The climate is also ideal for wine growing. In summer the Black Forest is a paradise for hiking, Nordic walking and biking and in winter the region offers alpine skiing and cross country skiing.

The Black Forest (located near the german city of Freiburg - is a very traditional German region and is not densely populated with only a few larger cities. Besides the Black Forest Clock and the famous Cuckoo Clocks there are other products from the Black Forest that have made it to world wide reputation. The Black Forest Gateau, Black Forest Ham and the Kirsch Schnaps are probably the most famous ones.

A very interesting site is the "German Clock Road" ( that goes through many lovely cities of the Black Forest. Along the road you can visit clock museums and clock companies that deliver a good insight into the Black Forest Clock production and tradition. The clock industry is an important industrial branch in the region. It has been for several hundred years and hopefully will be in the future. It looks like the workshops do not suffer from globalisation and plagiarism from Asia. Mainly because customers of cuckoo clock have faith in the original quality and are not 

Miyerkules, Hunyo 1, 2011

Great Barrier Reef

The history of the Great Barrier Reef is a long and diverse one, where many generations of coral have built a habitat that eventually was discovered and then later settled by humans.
The Great Barrier Reef is an extremely ancient, enormous host of living things, composed of living coral growing on dead coral dating back perhaps as much as twenty million years. Many generations of dead coral have built themselves into great walls of stone covered in a diverse range of living organisms such as coral, algae, anemones, sponges, fish, worms, starfish, turtles, molluscs, snakes, crustaceans, and an extraordinary array of thousands of species of plants and animals.
Although there is no direct physical evidence, first human contact with the reef must've occurred for some time. We know that Aboriginal people occupied great parts of the Australian continent for around 40,000 years. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have fished and hunted its waters and navigated between the islands of the reef region.
For large parts of that time, during periods of glacial activity, the area of the Great Barrier Reef was dry with large flat coastal plains. This area is at a depth of less than one hundred metres below sea level today.

Early History.

More information is available about the activities of early Europeans who came into contact with the eastern coast of Australia. Almost from the first, there are written descriptions of the Great Barrier Reef by those who saw it. North Queensland was probably the first part of the continent seen by Europeans, but one of the last to be settled.
It is now widely believed that the east coast of Australia was first sighted around 1522 by a Portuguese expedition, probably led by Cristovao de Mendonca. Willem Jansz in the Duyfken in about March 1606 charted the west coast of Cape York Peninsula, starting forty years of maritime exploration in Australian waters by the Dutch. Later Luis de Torres sighted the islands of Torres Strait while sailing from east to west along the southern coast of Papua.
The earliest documentary evidence of Europeans sighting the Great Barrier Reef was French. Commanding the ships La Boudeuse and L'Etoile On 6 June 1768, Louis de Bougainville approached Australia from the east, encountering Bougainville Reef near Cooktown. Confronted by rough surf in the open ocean, and short of food, Bougainville turned north toward Asia along the north coast of New Guinea, missing Australia.

These early fleeting glimpses of the Great Barrier Reef were only minor compared to what occurred from May to August 1770, when the Endeavour under James Cook sailed the length of the Great Barrier Reef. Most of the voyage was made well inshore, probably seeing little of the Reef. However on 11 June, Cook's party became intimately acquainted with it when they struck Endeavour Reef, north of Cape Tribulation, and were forced to spend six weeks repairing the ship on shore at the site of modern Cooktown.
Due to this unexpected predicament, Cook and his scientists, the botanists Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander and a staff of four illustrators, were able to carry out very little direct scientific observation of the Reef but as a result of Cook's voyage, the international scientific community knew that the Reef existed, and that it was of very great extent.
After all repairs were done, Cook decided to try for the open sea, but could not find a way through the natural barrier. He sailed north to Lizard Island. Landing on the island, he and his botanist, Joseph Banks, climbed to its highest point and were able to see a break in the reef large enough to permit the passage of the Endeavour. This is known as Cook's Passage.
Beyond Cook.
William Bligh was the next navigator to chart the Reef in the Providence. In the course of this voyage from Tahiti to the West Indies he spent two weeks of September 1792 charting passages through Torres Strait. After the establishment of the penal colony of Sydney in 1788, finding a reliable route west through the straits to the Arafura Sea and establishing communication with Asia depended on the inner passage west of the Reef.
In 1793 further surveys of the Torres Strait section of the Reef were undertaken by captains Bampton and Alt in the ships Hormuzeer and Chesterfield. The next few decades ushered in a period of surveying in northern Australian waters, usually by small naval vessels. The aim of these surveys was to improve navigational charts for Admiralty use, investigate natural resources for future economic exploitation, and to answer questions of scientific curiosity.

Between 1801 and 1803, Matthew Flinders undertook the monumental task of surveying the entire Australian coastline and at one point actually walked on what he named the 'Extensive Barrier Reefs'. It was Flinders who charted a safe passage through by sending small boats ahead to sound the depths. This passage is still known as Flinder's Passage.
Hydrographer Philip Parker King, commanding the Mermaid in 1819 and the Bathurst in 1820, carried on the methodical task of accurately charting much of the northern Reef in detail for the first time.
Today studies are carried out at a much closer level, examining the make up of the reef, what species there are, how they live and interact, whether they are resilient or vulnerable to change. However, there is still evidence of an earlier period of discovery evident on the Great Barrier Reef, with around 30 shipwreck sites of historic importance known to exist.

Halong Bay

Halong bay legend

Ha Long” is literally translated as "Bay of Descending Dragons." Prior to the 19th century, this name was not recorded in any document or archive. When mentioning the present-day Quang Ninh Sea or Ha Long Bay, old historical books often referred to them by the names of An Bang, Luc Thuy or Van Don.  Not until the late 19th century did the name of Halong Bay appear on a French Marine Map. “The Hai Phong News”, a French newspaper of the time, had an article, “Dragon appears on Ha Long Bay”, reporting the following story:
In 1898 a sub-lieutenant named Lagredin, captaining the ‘Avalanse’ reported seeing a huge sea snake on Ha Long Bay. This was also witnessed by many of the crews. Thus emerged the European image of the Asian dragon. Whether this appearance of a strange animal looking like a dragon resulted the name of Ha Long Bay is not known (Reference “Quang Ninh: Art and Culture” published in 2002).
There is also a local legend, which has been handed down, relating to the name Ha Long Bay, which tells the following tale:
“Long ago, in the first founding days, the Viet people were attacked by foreign aggressors. The Jade Emperor sent the Mother Dragon and her band of Child Dragons to help the Viet people fight the invaders. While the enemy vessels were launching massive attacks against the mainland, the dragons descended in flocks from the sky. They spat out innumerable pearls which changed into  jade stone islands the moment they touched the water. These islands linked together to form firm citadels that checked the enemy’s advance and smashed their vessels to pieces.
After the invaders were driven out, Mother Dragon and her Child Dragons did not return to Heaven but stayed on earth, right at the place where the battle occurred. The spot where the Mother Dragon landed was Ha Long, and where the Child Dragons came down was Bai Tu Long. The place where their tails violently wagged was called Long Vi, the present-day Tra Co Peninsula with its soft sandy beach stretching many kilometers.”

For hundreds of years, Halong Bay has been an important part of the culture and history of Vietnam. Though it only contains a coastline of 120 kilometers, the area has been a big part of life in northern Vietnam. Halong Bay, also known as Vinh Ha Long, means "Bay of the Descending Dragon". There are approximately 1,969 small islands in the bay, all comprised of different size and form. These islands have intrigued and amazed locals for hundreds of years. There are over 200 species of fish and over 450 species of mollusks in the waters around the bay. These waters now help sustain a community of fisherman, many of them living on floating junks in the water. These communities are close knit and extremely important to the success of the area. This area has also sustained naval wars for hundreds of years. At least three times in history this bay has helped stop the Chinese navy from invading northern Vietnam. This bay was also mined by the United States Navy during the Vietnam war. Many of the mines are still unexploded in the bay, which poses a threat to local fishermen. The area first became popular for tourists in the 19th Century, when French visitors explored the area. It now serves as the most popular tourist attraction and resort community in Vietnam.