Author Archives: itchyfeetcha

About itchyfeetcha

One lucky girl given the chance to travel the world :)

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A myriad of emotions every time with this scene. A realization that each sunset reminds us that we have one day less to live.

Are you making it worthwhile?

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2014 Take off

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My 2014 officially and literally took off.

January 1 is always a day of firsts. For most, the first hangover of the year (after last night’s merry making). Merely a few hours after the New Year, I don my sky girl hat and wore the mandatory bloody red lipstick. This is not a first. It has been routine for the past 6 years. The flight is not a first either (been there, done that 22 times)!

As I sat buckled and daydreaming on my jumpseat, I wonder what “firsts” 2014 has in store for me. Slowly from the corner of my eye, one of my firsts reveal itself to me. The takeoff view that has eluded me for years finally graced my eyes — The Palm.

The Palm Islands (Jumeirah and Jebel Ali) are two man made islands in the shape of a palm tree hence the name. The island is composed of a trunk, 16 fronds and a surrounding crescent island which serves as its breakwater.

The creation of this ambitious and expensive project started in 2001. The firstborn was the Palm Jumeirah and a year later Palm Jebel Ali. Both have the same structure but with the younger Palm being 50% bigger than its sibling. It is said that the Palm’s construction was conceived by Dubai’s Crown Prince as a means of generating revenue thru tourism as the gulf’s oil reserve is getting depleted.

Now, home to luxury hotels, restaurants, spas, villas, high end residential flats and a water themed park draw tourists and investors alike. Tourism has replaced oil as its lifeline.

The Palm Islands is built with a cost. Not just monetary but more so environmentally. The marine life took a direct hit because of the quarrying and reclamation project. Due to its artificiality, several factors may limit its existence such as natural destruction like erosion caused by winds, waves and even earthquake as the gulf area is prone to this.

Old folks from back home said that eventually the sea would take back what was taken from them. It might happen one day but in the meantime the Palm Islands is for us to admire and enjoy. Next time you fly in or out of Dubai, I wish you get the chance to see the aerial view. It is B E A U T I F U L 🙂

01.01.14

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Love and Venice

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The love month is here once more and how apt is it that I am currently in one of the most romantic cities in the world, VENICE!

Gondola rides with your sweetheart as your boatman belt out Italian love songs as you cruise along intersecting canals. Walk hand in hand in a labyrinth of alleys and walkways as you share a gelato with your honey. Share a passionate kiss or a tight hug anytime you feel like it. Yes, this is what Venice brings to mind. And yes, it is a common scene in Venezia.

They say love is always in the air in Venice and I don’t dare contradict it. I see it and feel it all around me. Ah.. Love.. Such an intoxicating feeling 🙂

The streets are teeming with lovers. First love, puppy love, true love and even forbidden love. Cupid’s arrow certainly hit them right on the spot and brought them right here in Venice.

With all the romance and love I’ve seen around me today, I wish the next time I’m here, my arms, hands and lips fit perfectly with someone else. Hahaha uh oh, the love bug bit me!

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Sky Girl

chat2Packed my bags.
Gathered my things.
Tears in my eyes.
Summoned courage as I delve into the unknown.
Left my heart for you to keep that I may always find my way home.
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Mediterranean magnificence

St George's Bay

St George’s Bay

Malta, an archipelago situated at the heart of the Mediterranean.

There is something about this quaint country that never fail to take my breath away.

Here’s a picture after my afternoon stroll. I grabbed a pizza and parked myself in one of the many benches by the shore and gazed in the horizon. I was lost in the beauty of the changing hues and colors of the sky and the sea. The heavens gave me a spectacular dramatic struggle between light and darkness. The sun gave its final bow and the moon took her place. As I stood and walked back to my hotel, I know one thing for sure, Malta is equally beautiful at night and day.

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Peak-a-boo

A snapshot taken from the cockpit en route Harare, Zimbabwe. As we were flying over Tanzania we saw Mt Kilimanjaro peeking through the clouds. Another awesome view at 36 thousand feet.

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GROUNDED

off the roster

off the roster

My wings are starting to get antsy. I miss the fast paced lifestyle that I am so accustomed to. Popping in and out of cities, countries and continents. I skip and hop over time zones. Days, nights, weeks and months flow smoothly by.

I am temporarily grounded. Been so for ten days now. What cut my wings and forced me to the ground? COLDS.

Yes, the common cold was my downfall. Sniffles, runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion. Sometimes it comes with cough, headache and fever. As a frequent flyer, I should have known better. Never fly with a cold.

Flying with a cold increases the risk of suffering from barotrauma. It happens when the eardrums gets stretched and tensed due to the unequal pressure in either side of the eardrums which causes discomfort, pain and slight hearing impairment during descent. To ease the pain on descent, try chewing, swallowing and yawning.

I tried all the methods I know, unfortunately, my nasal passage is too congested that I cannot equalize and resulted to barotrauma. After an ear check, I found out that my eardrums slightly bled and were bruised. I was grounded up to 5 days depending on the recovery of my ears. Three days after my check up, I felt a throbbing pain on my right ear, my hearing is as if I am underwater and as I lay down to sleep there was a clear liquid coming out of my ear. Panic stricken. All I can think of is please don’t let me go deaf!

After another ear check, the doctor told me that there is a perforation in my right ear causing an ear infection stemming from barotrauma. I want to kick myself for risking it. I knew I should not fly with a cold and yet I did. I have been grounded and lost the chance to be in Glasgow, Dusseldorf and Milan.

I sit here now, writing this post in hopes that whoever chance upon this would think twice and not make the same mistake I did. I am still lucky that my barotrauma is still considered a minor case. Worst case scenario would be kissing my hearing goodbye along with my flying career.

NEVER FLY WITH A COLD. You have been lovingly warned. 😀

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NILO, the Travel Pillow

About a year ago, I have been approached by a school mate of mine from Southville International School with a small favor. I was asked to take pictures of Nilo in famous tourist spots and world famous landmarks as I globe trot.  I told him, “Sure, I’d do that but who is Nilo?”

Meet Nilo the Pillow; a brainchild of entrepreneur and fellow travel bug Jay Buen. His love and fascination for travel became a main force in putting up his own travel agency. He used to give travel pillows as giveaways to his clients and then came a light bulb moment.

On December 2011, Jay introduced Nilo Pillow to the public (derived from his real name Danilo). Nilo is a definite hit especially for those who love to travel. It is not unusual for travelers to carry pillows with them on their journey be it on land, air and sea. I see travel pillows as portable piece of comfort. Let’s face it; traveling can sometimes be a pain. THINK: Sitting inside a metal tube for hours and hours, transiting from one airport or terminal to another, not to mention the waiting time that goes with it. THINK: Long rides that passes thru bumpy roads with seats which offers little to no cushion at all. Travel pillows have now become one of the most common and important things travelers take with them to ensure a comfortable journey.

I later found out that there is more to Nilo than just being a travel pillow. Nilo is the embodiment of a grand ambition. In Jay’s own words, This pillow is not just an ordinary one. It is a character with a purpose and with a dream.”  

The purpose is for Nilo to inspire people to travel. He wanted people to share their journey thru photos, stories and videos. He wanted people to learn from each other by sharing travel tips and experiences. Jay created a Nilo Pillow page in Facebook and there you will see all the awesome destinations Nilo has been and also the different people he met on his voyages.

As for the dream, Jay envisioned Nilo to be a mascot or a character from the Philippines as there is none in the country yet. He dreamed of Nilo being a Filipino character like that of Hello Kitty of Japan.  The dream may still be just a dream as of yet but Jay is getting Nilo out there and people are starting to notice. Big eyes, tongue sticking out and cloud inspired shape, people cannot help but notice this adorable character.

I love the duality that Nilo has become. Nilo is a travel pillow but he is also a traveling pillow. Gets? No? Well, basically Nilo is a travel pillow but he has become such a character that he is getting known as a travelling pillow. He has been photographed in different parts of the globe, in postcard worthy views and exotic locations just like the famous gnome of Travelocity or Matt Harding, the guy who dances around the world.

Slowly but surely with Jay Buen’s tireless effort in launching Nilo the Pillow, I could say that his dream is highly attainable. He was able to tap travel bloggers, Filipino celebrities and travelers to take Nilo as a traveling companion. Recently, he was able to strike a deal with Papemelroti, a specialty shop in the Philippines to showcase Nilo and Olin (Nilo’s pink other half) in their store.

Congratulations Jay! I wish you success and fulfillment of your dreams. Thank you for my own Nilo who keeps me company in my airport squatting as I am the ever standby passenger.

Here’s Nilo in our recent trip.

For more of Nilo visit http://www.nilopillow.com or like him on Facebook 😉

Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen, Denmark

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Happy wooden Anniversary!

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5 years.
6 continents
37 countries
59 cities
… And counting

Time flies as I also fly. Here’s to sleepless nights and comatose days all because I WORK TO TRAVEL! ♥

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Beautiful Mausoleum

The sight of this mansion creates sorrowing sighs; And the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes. In this world this edifice has been made; To display thereby the creator’s glory.

Shah Jahan

The Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal

When someone we love and the center of our universe has been taken from us, the grief and pain can be so debilitating. We cope in different ways. More often than not, we wish to create something that would immortalize the presence or maybe the entire being of the one we lost. This is exactly what the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan did. He loved; lost, and created a world renowned icon of love.

History books often painted us an imagery of grandeur and an encompassing love of a husband for his wife. He commissioned a majestic final resting place painstakingly built for 22 years, adorned with priceless jewels, stones and unimaginable amount of gold, silver and precious metals. The Taj Mahal has been synonymous to love for the simple reason that it has been made for love and out of love.  

The Love Story

Scribes and historians recounted that when Shah Jahan was 14, a young Muslim Persian princess hawking glass and silk beads at the Meena Bazaar caught his eye and he fell in love. He went home and told his father that he wanted to marry her and he did; five years later. The girl was Arjumand Banu Begnum better known as Mumtaz Mahal.

Although Shah Jahan had two other wives before Mumtaz Mahal, she was the clear favorite. Her name alone says it all. Mumtaz Mahal means Jewel of the Palace. She was described as this because her beauty and character is above anyone else at that time. Our guide Nunu, added that Shah Jahan’s marriage to his two other wives was strictly official and incomparable to his relationship with Mumtaz Mahal. Their relationship is that of a true married couple. She is fiercely devoted, a loyal confidante and ever present companion. She would accompany him even in military campaigns even in her pregnancy. Sadly, Mumtaz Mahal passed away as she was giving birth to their 14th child. As she lay on her deathbed, her husband vowed that he would never remarry and in her honor would erect the richest and grandest mausoleum. He was true to his word. His promise translated in the building of a world wonder.

Ain’t it shweet? 🙂

The Beautiful Mausoleum

After five hours on the road, The Taj Mahal is now in sight. There it stood in white; like a spectacular gigantic pearl in the midst of a rundown city. As we prepare to enter its gates we were advised to leave any books, magazines, newspapers, toys, electronic devices except for mobile phones, cameras and video cameras and absolutely no food items allowed except for water. Though, the Taj Mahal is a tourist destination, one must not forget that it is a final resting place that must be respected.

Entering the gates you have the option to walk, to ride a camel or a rickshaw (motorized or human pulled). We opted to walk. Besides it’s only about 5-10 minutes and we need to stretch our legs after being stuck in the car for five hours. It was a pleasant to surprise that a lot of the visitors are Indians. I was expecting there were more tourists. But then again, Nunu informed me that most tourists come during the cooler months and we were there during Indian summer where it can get boiling hot! Temperature can soar up to 48 Celsius! It is a good idea to wear a hat or visor during the summer months which never entered my mind therefore I got my forehead burned! We reached the ticket booth and paid 750 INR (Indian Rupees) which includes VIP Pass, a bottle of water and socks. Indians only pay 20 rupees but without the freebies and VIP lanes. As we stood by the south entrance of the Taj Mahal, Nunu regaled us with a brief history and its construction. The Taj Mahal is an architectural feat back in the day. The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan gathered bright minds from India, Persia and Turkey to build an elaborate structure.

Entrance Gate

Entrance Gate

The Taj Mahal’s design is that of extreme intricacies.

Wall Carvings

Wall Carvings

The wall decorations are a testament of hard work and manmade ingenuity. The plant motifs on the marble walls were laboriously sculpted, the spandrel detail adorning the Taj were made of precious stones such as jade, garnet, bloodstone, orange carnelian, blue lapis lazuli and multi colored agates and chalcedonies. These were meticulously pounded and bonded together to make the design whole. The calligraphy on the walls is actually Qu’ran passages made out of a precious stone called star of India; a kind sapphire that is said to be found only in India. The star of India is a very fascinating gemstone. When the light touches the stone, an effect called asterismcauses a star to appear.

Qu'ran Passage

Qu’ran Passage

Spandrel Details

Spandrel Details

The Taj Mahal stands in grandeur and speaks of great wealth. Apart from the precious stones inlaid in the walls and ceiling of the Taj Mahal, the original finial or the metal part atop the dome is made out of solid gold. I have been told that when the Brits colonized India, much of the jewels, stones and the gold including that of the Taj has been ransacked and brought to Britain. The current finial is now made out of bronze. The building cost of the Taj Mahal is so costly considering that several materials used were brought to Agra from different parts of India (translucent marble from Rajasthan, jasper from Punan, crystal from China, turquoise from Tibet, lapis lazuli from Afganistan, sapphire from Sri Lanka and carnelian from Arabia). Our guide informed that there are about 28 different kind of stones inlaid in the pure white marble of the Taj Mahal. If one would estimate the cost of the Taj Mahal at this present day, it would be at a staggering one billion US dollar. Wow! Imagine how much a billion dollars cost back in the day!
Every bit of the Taj Mahal is a sight to behold but what captivates the visitors is actually the tomb itself; that familiar white dome of marble housing the bodies of the beloved queen and her king. In the midst of the dome is the “coffin” of Mumtaz Mahal and right beside her is Shah Jahan. “Coffin” because it is not where their bodies are. As a matter of fact, it is underneath. There is an underground to the Taj Mahal and this is where the bodies of the deceased royals lay in peace. The underground is closed for public viewing but once a year it is opened for public celebration. It is also good to note that photography in this area is not allowed.
I would not even bother attempting to describe how the tomb was designed or made. All I know is that it is a complex structure that speaks masterpiece and designed with careful symmetrical detail. Symmetry is an important element of the Taj Mahal. It has been said that everything about the Taj is in perfect symmetry. To name a few, in the main gate, there are 11 domes in the front and 11 at the back. The four minarets or towers around the Taj are in proportion towards each other. The minarets stand at angle. It was built as such so that in the case of an earthquake, the towers are meant to fall away from the Taj Mahal. There are two identical buildings on each side of the Taj Mahal. The first one was a mosque; built for Shah Jahan’s workers and the other building was built just for the sake of symmetry.
However, there is only one flaw found at the interior; the coffins themselves. As in local custom, the male coffin must be bigger in size than that of the lady. The Taj Mahal indeed is a beauty. It is the crown jewel of Agra and had attracted numerous visitors who traveled far and wide to behold this famed wonder. It has been said that the Taj Mahal seems to change color depending on the time of day or night. I have heard that the Taj Mahal is most beautiful during the full moon. The pale moonshine enhances the Taj’s natural beauty making it appear like a glistening pearl. I wish I could have witnessed that sight but there is always a next time. I think of it as a reason to come back.
 
This exquisite megalithic memorial took 22 years to finish with a 22 thousand strong work force. Legend has it that after the completion of the Taj Mahal, the mughal king ordered the hands of his laborers be cut off so that no one could recreate the Taj. Goosebumps! Nunu says that it is nothing more than a myth. I surely hope that there is no truth in it. I just find it despicable that after devoting so much time and effort to erect an incredible building, the thanks that you will get is to have your hands cut off!
It is a norm for most travelers to take a little memento in each place they visit  In my visit to the Taj Mahal, I did not want postcards, magnets, snow globes, key chains, shot glass or miniature replicas of it. I want something different, more memorable. I want something that discreetly screams TAJ MAHAL every time I look at it. Well, I got myself a star of India. Actually a necklace with a star of India as a pendant. Few believe that there stones and jewels have a power attraction on certain things in life. It is believed that the star of India (so I have been told by the jeweler) attracts wealth and prosperity. I am not a believer of this but it wouldn’t hurt to try to attract these good vibes right?

Star of India

Star of India

As I leave India with wealth and prosperity worn around my neck, I do hope that it brings exactly that. Because this itchyfeet still has lots of places to go, people to meet, food to devour and amazing experiences because the world is just awesome!
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