Sunday, June 30, 2013

Enjoy spring in Japan

Executive summary by darmansjah

Visited Japan in the best and most beautiful! During the spring, Japan is covered with an abundance of pure white clouds and the pink color of cherry blossoms. This is the festival season of cherry blossoms!

Experience the full beauty of Tokyo at the start with a visit to the Asakusa Kannon Temple was completed in 645, making it the oldest temple in Tokyo. Sign in with Kaminarimon (Thunder gate) which is the symbol of the Akasuka and the entire city of Tokyo. Visiting shopping street, Nakamise which offers a variety of shops selling souvenirs like typical Japanese kimono, fan folding, and local snacks.

Following a tour in the imperial palace, surrounded by cherry trees are blooming so beautifully. Formerly the palace is known as Edo Castle, the imperial palace was the main residence of the emperor of Japan that there is a large garden and surrounded by water channels and large stone walls.

Get souvenir photo of Tokyo Sky Tree, the tallest tower in the world. In it there are two observation space offering spectacular views of Tokyo, a large shopping complex and the aquarium at the base of the building.

Then, come back to see more of the beauty of the blooming cherry blossoms in Ueno Park. Enjoy the beauty of the garden where the Japanese love to picnic under the cherry tree. Visiting Tokyo would not be complete without shopping in Ginza and Shinjuku, you will find branded stores worldwide, most electronic gadgets and computer updates for your camera, the brand famous and relatively low prices ranging from 100 ¥.

 from kawaguchi lake
Take a trip to Mount Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan, which has a symmetrical shape that is very beautiful with the snow-capped mountain peaks, you will be able to admire the beauty of the  fuji mountain to see the reflection at Kawaguchi Lake, a resort area with many hotels are located on the edge of a lake , windsurfing facilities, camp sites and picnic by boat. Later, enjoy an exciting experience ride bullet train, the shinkansen is known as punctuality, comfortable, safe and efficient.

Immerse yourself in the city of Tokyo through the Heian Shrine in green and red. Admiring 1001 Kannon statues and the Kiyomizu Temple where you can enjoy city views from the spacious terrace.

When in Osaka, a time to yourself to visit Osaka Castle, the most famous sights and a symbol of the city of Osaka. Osaka Castle also features an observation room upstairs and in which there is a museum where you can find so many historical items on display to the public. The cherry blossoms are blooming in the castle is an unforgettable sight! From this castle, it was time to shop again in the Market Place Tempozan and Kuromon Market, and if not satisfied, at night you can shop Shinsibashi and Dotonbori where there are plenty of shops to suit all your needs 

For more information about travel to Japan please visit:

Le Tour de France

Executive summary by darmansjah

Porto Vecchio – Bastia 213 km

Bastia – Ajacchio 156  km

Ajacchio – Calvi 145.5 km

Nice  25 km

Cagnes sur Mer – Marseille 228.5 km

Aix en Provence – Montpellier 176.5 km

Montpellier – Albi  205.5 km

Castres – Ax 3 Domaines 195 km

Saint Grions – Bagneres de Bigorre 168.5 km

St Gildas des Bois – Saint Malo 197 km

Avranches – Mont Saint Michel 33 km

Fougeres – Tours 218 km

Tours – Saint Amand Montrond 173 km

Saint Purcain sur Sioude – Lyon 191 km

Givors – Mont Ventoux  242.5 km

Vaison la Romaine – Gap 168 km

Embrun – Chorges  32 km

Gap – l’Ape d’Huez 172.5 km

Bourg d’Oisans – Le Grand Bornand 204.5 km

Annecy – Annecy Semmoz 125 km

Versailles – Paris champ Elysees 133.5 km

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Secret of Skull Island

Words by shawn parker, executive summary by darmansjah

Uncovering the mysteries of Malapascua, one tale at time.

the sun goes down on another day of diving in Malapascua, one of the world's most underrated scuba destinations

THE morning sun had yet to break over the horizon; the sky was a torrent of purple and orange, and the western beaches of Malapascua Island were bathed in soft light. Towering palm trees clung to the edge of volcanic outcrops, roots dangling in the waves below. Fish danced across the surface of the sea, chasing their breakfast from cove to cove. I walked along the beach and stopped to watch the slowly lapping waves reclaim the space between the sand and the sea where my feet had made a soft impression. As the sun pulled back the cover on the night to reveal a new day, I knew I had found a vision of paradise, here in the middle of Phillipines.

myth and legend sit at the core of Malapascua culture through some real than others

Everything changed when I found the skull.

Bobbing softly in the surf, nestled between two blackened boulders, the unmistakable visage of a bleached skull stared at me and I stared back, I thought it must have belonged to a monkey, or a mystical island. As I waded out into the water for a closer look, the identity became unmistakable-this was a human skull, perfect  in proportion and obvious in distinction. While I pondered what I should do next-this was first time I had found a human skull, after all-an old woman carrying a heavy load of banana leaves came out the jungle and asked me what I had found. I explained to her the circumstances of my discovery; she told me that by finding the skull and returning it to its proper resting place, I was sure to be blessed with food luck for the duration of my stay on the island.

 At times, this island can feel like your own perfect, private idyllic paradise
The skull had come from an open tomb in the small seaside cemetery. The old lady, whose name was Edita, speculated that a wave had crashed ashore the night before and taken the skull and other old bones on a voyage out to the sea. She told me of the bantay tubig, mischievous merfolk who steal old bones from the graveyard and refuse to give them back until the poor souls dedicate their eternities to the sea. “Sometimes the souls escape, “Edita said, “and the bones was ashore. All they want is peace and quiet.” Together, Edita and I returned the skull to a small open grave between two whitewashed tombs. She lit a candle in honour of the old bones, and then, with a wink and a smile she wished me well, welcoming me to the island she has called home for more than 90 years.


Apprehension overtook me. I had found a human skull floating in the surf; that’s not the sort of discovery I thought I might make when I decided to embark upon this tropical getaway. Friends had been telling me for years that I must visit the Philippines that on the merits of beauty alone the islands are unmatched, with restive and restorative powers unparalleled. I had intended to spend an inordinate amount of time lazing on the beach, reading a book, writing stories and chasing Red Horse Beer with shots of rum, perhaps interjecting my down time with brief forays into the water to soak and snorkel. I thought I might have to deal with sunburn or a sand crab in my swim trunks, but certainly not the spirit of a headless fisherman. What Edita may or may not have foretold held little consequence for me, a I felt as though I had awakened some dread island spirit and the ancient eyes of the siyokoy were upon me. “Siyokoy are the male bantay tubig, the naughty ones, and they used to sink pirate ships,” Edita told me. “They did it for the gold and for the swords because they like shiny things, if a siyokoy ever offers to show you his pirate sword, you had better say no.”

A weighty presence fell upon my shoulders like a dark cloak as I ventured deeper into the island’s interior towards the village of Logon, Malapascua’s only settlement of substantial size, a place where coconut palms and thick bramble block out the sun and a long forgotten rural world is reality. The notorious reputation of this nation weighed heavily on my mind as I followed a dirt path past thatched bamboo huts, tin-roofed workshops and open-air slaughterhouses. It seemed as though everyone carried a sharp knife or a weapon built to bludgeon. Even the children were armed; one pantless boy ran past me with a sharper knife. This is a country where heavily armoured men guard toy stores and candy shops and where the automatic rifle could be the symbol of the national bank, so I’m not ashamed to say I was frightened.

A young man minding a fruit cart called out to me, waving an exceptionally large knife in my direction. As I approached the cart, the young man sized me up, one eye squinting, the dull blade dangling in the air between us. He asked me if I liked mangoes; I considered my options and swore that I did. The young man wiped his hands on a white shirt streaked with a kaleidoscope of bright colors then hacked at a o me. He asked me where I was from, what I thought of the Phipippines and whether or not I’d like to stay and help him run his business. “The pay is very bad,” he said, juice running down the side ot his mouth, “but the fruit is very good.”

I explored the rest of Logon with my faith in the Filipino condition reinvigorated as an uninviting, hostile place; state departments expound on the dangers of visiting and spend little time on the virtues. My own personal experience couldn’t represent a more disparate attitude of place. The same clichés people use to describe the people of Thailand, Cambodia and Laos hold true here as well; Filipinos are gentle, spirited, charming, and open. One Logon family asked me to join them for a meal, another to rub the belly of their lucky black pig, while one man asked me if I would do him the honour of beheading his prized chicken in preparation for a mighty feast. I respectfully declined this last invitation, having seen one too many severed heads for a single day. Instead I bought a bottle of rum from a sideways-leaning bamboo shop stocked with American products and shared it with a few village elders, men who remember the island before it was touched by tourism. The philipines exists on a plane somewhere between east and west, an Asian tropical paradise with a Latin verve and vigour, a placxe where mystery and myth hang in the air – and shift on currents beneath the waves.

The Malapascua Titan

Filipinos like to wax lyrically on the subject of the siyokoy and the sirenas (their female counterparts), and I found myself treated to numerous tales of deep sea tomfoolery during my stay. In spite of a fear of all things oceanic, I decided I would to do some snorkeling, a so many others come to the island to do. I fastened a pair cheap goggles to my face and packed my ears full of gauze as a defense against the amourous eyes and spellbinding song of the sirenas and slipped into the deep blue sea not far from the island in a place boatmen consider ideal for snorkeling. This particular spot has long been a graveyard of sorts, and down in the deep I discovered more old bones. Scattered on the sea floor are the steel skeletons of Japanese WWII fighter planes, harbingers of death that now play host to immense coral gardens and a vast array of sea life.

I spent an hour swimming through the wreck, chasing baby barracudas and dodging tiny dorsal fins when suddenly the sun above disappeared. The light was extinguished by a black apparition; naturally I thought the siyokoy had come in search of pirate booty, and I’m glad I was underwater at the time because I screamed like a little girl. As my eyws adjusted to the dark I realized that this was no spectral beast, but rather a flesh and bone Mlapascua  Titan, a creature otherwise known as the thresher shar. I screamed again and swallowed half the sea.

By virtue of its shark-ness the thresher is a terrifying fish, yet it is mostly harmless to humans, thought it does manage to cut an intimidating silhouette on the sea with its disproportionately cnormous blade-like tailfin and striking resemblance to its evil cousin, the Great White. Ruperto, my boatman, assured me that I was lucky for spotting one so far from the Monad Shoal, a rocky stump where threshers, rays and other sharks’ congregate in the  predawn hours. Malapascua has become one of Asia’s premiere scuba destinations on the strength of pristine coral gardens, high visibility and the opportunity for divers to swim with a wide variety of primeval beasts, and here was my opportunity to experience thebest of the ocean. I make a decent meal and swam off into the sea. Ruperto hauled me aboard his boat and we returned to shore with the sun setting over our shoulders. “You are always safe around the thresher,” Ruperto said, “But you need to watch your toes when you see the hammerhead.”


Legends soar on currents in the rarefied air above Malapascua. On the island’s eastern shore, on a sandy plateau where the waves breaks and the water turns smooth, there exist ancient totems of wood, some bamboo and some banyan, slender poles erected in the sand built to hold coconut bird’s nests aloft over the water. The nests captured my attention by representing a sublime beauty that I had never encountered before. Exploring the island’s atmospheric interior, swimming with sharks and lounging on the beach are all great reasons to visit Malapacua, but as I stood in waist-deep water watching the birds fly I fell in love with travel all over again.

In a testament to the island’s narrative legacy, I was treated to three different stories related to the existence of the nests. A squid fisherman told me that the birds had grown tired of living in the dark island interior, and had move their nests out into the sea so they could watch the sun set. A group of gregarious children told me that their fathers had trained the birds to fish for them so that the men could focus on more important work, and the birds did such a good job that no one on the island would every go hungry. One old man told me that birds patrol the seas at night, ready to ward off the siyokoy should they come ashore looking for bones and souls to drag into the ocean.

I never did meet Edita again, and I never had the chance to ask her about the birds. Time has a habit of slipping away before it’s gone, and before I realized it, my time on the island had come to an end. A tropical utopia that sits a few kilometers off Cebu’s northern tip in the municipality of Daanbantayan -one of the Philippines’ most densely populated and frequently visited islands – Malapascua is worlds away from any other place on earth. Malapascua embodies the best of the Philippines with sand, surf, sun, scuba and snorkeling in abundance, but is above all else an ephemeral paradise, a place where myth and magic have mixed to create experiences that are as enchanting as they are enlivening.

At the northern tip of one of the most developed provinces of Philippines, the tiny and idyllic island of Malapascua appears to inhabit a world apart, with laid-back villages, simple beaches and unparallel diving.

Getting There

From Singapore, fly to Cebu city’s Mactan-Cebu International airport with Cebu Pacific (, Silkair ( or Tiger Airways ( From Cebu’s North Bus terminal, take a four-hour bus ride to Maya (US$4), where boats to Malapascua leave regularly from 6am to 6pm daily (US$1).

Getting Around

Malapascua is not big; a good three-hour walk will take you all around the coast of the island.

Further Riding

Lonely Planet’s Philipines (US$27.99) guide features Malapascua in it’s The Visayas (US$4.95) chapter, which can be download from For more on the Philippines and the island, visit

Three Ways To Do It….Malapascua

Budget: sleep; located on the southwest of the island, TEPANE BEACH RESORT features rustic cottages built with local materials like bamboo, stones and straw, all looking out over the ocean. Staff who go above and beyond the call of duty to make your stay a pleasurable one (from US$33;

Budget: eat; GING-GING’S GARDEN RESTAURANT offers the very best economy dining on the island and remains popular even in the low season. The Italian café espresso might not be authentic but their pasta dishes are. They also have chocolate pancakes that are worth true love (meals from US$1.50-US$2.50).

Budget: do; Take a hike from BOUNTY BEACH, which runs the entire length of the south coast, trek up to the lighthouse on the island’s northern tip. Round it off by heading down to the basketball court in the main town of Logon, to take part in one of the frequent, informal tournaments that blend local and foreign talent.

Mid Range: sleep; Its name inspired by the Latin word for seahorse, HIPPOCAMPUS BEACH RESORT has some large and very well-designed terraces set back from the beach. It is fronted by a restaurant that serves breakfast on the balcony and dinner on the beach (with fan/air-con from US$33/US$82;

More Island Adventures Around The Philippines

 snorkel with gentle giants in Donsol


UNTIL the ‘discovery’ of whale sharks off the cost here in 1998, Donsol was an obscure, sleepy fishing village. Now it has become one of Philippines’ most popular tourist locations. During the peak months of March and April, the question isn’t whether you will see a shark, but how many you will see. You can also dive at manta Bowl to catch the manta rays and take an evening river cruise to see fireflies.

STAY Vitton Beach Resort is next door to the visitors center. Its spacious grounds mean that even when the beach is busy with boats and whale watchers, the comfortable cottages in their garden setting are quiet (from US$40; 63 0927 912 6313)

GETTING THERE The nearest airport serving Donsol is the Legazpi Airport to get there, fly into either Manila or Cebu and catch one of the many daily flights to Legazpi serviced by AirphilExpress ( or cebu Pacific. Donsol is a one and a half hour drive from Legazpi (US$35).


WITH over 20 cinder cone 100m-plus high, Camiguin has more volcanoes per square kilometer than any other island on earth. Besides the usual diving, snorkeling, sandy beaches, waterfalls and hot and cold springs, Camiguin offers the chance for jungle trekking, volcano climbing, rappelling and anything else can dream up.

STAY Camiguin Action Geckos Resort offers perfectly constructed, spacious, hard-word cottages with verandahs combined with touches of class and taste. To top it off, it sits on one of the widest stretches of beach around (from US$42;

GETTING THERE Mid-Sea Express ( flies thrice weekly between Cebu and Camiguin. Aviator ( offers affordable charter flights throughout Philippines. By sea, there is a daily morning ferry that leaves from Jagna on Bohol to Camiguin at 9.30am. The boat from Cebu for Camiguin leaves every Friday at 8pm.


catch sight of the smallest monkey on earth in bohol

THE LUSH island provides of Bohol offers independent travelers a wealth of options both on and off the beaten track. The island’s short-lived independence at the turn of the 19th century resulted in today’s successors of the republic becoming fierce protectors of Bohol’s distinctive cultural attractions of the Chocolate Hills and tarsier monkeys, it’s jungle interior, rice terraces and offshore islands that captivate travelers.

STAY The Peakcock Garden is nestled on a hilltop with a great view of the sea. The European-styled resort lies on an expensive property featuring manicured gardens and an Olypmpicsize infinity pool (from US$195;

GETTING THERE Bohol’s main airport is the Tagbilaran airport. From Manila, fly with Airphil Express of Cebu Pacific. Mid-Sea Express flies twice weekly between Cebu and Bohol.


It’s no exaggeration to say that this is the reason to visit the Palawan region. From any vantage point under water, from the air, lying prone on a beach – it’s a fantasy escape of mesmerizing jagged limestone island resting in the crystalline water of Bacuit Bay. The islands hide many white-sand beaches, hard-to-access lagoons and peaceful coves. The best way to explore the Bacuit Archipelago is to rent a boat for a day (between US$30-US$40) from El Nido.

STAY Miniloc Island Resort is a premier resort in the Bacuit Bay itself, located in a sheltered cove. Cottages are perched over crystal clear waters. Prices include meals and use of kayaks, and other sports gear (from US$165-US$200;

GETTING THERE from Cebu or Manila, fly into Puerto Princesa International airport with either Airphil Express or Cebu Pacific. From Puerto Princesa, a shuttle van take you to El Nido in about five hours (US$15).