Monday, August 18, 2014

Driving from Hobart to Lake St Claire in Tasmania

The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area was one of the places in my bucket-list for my visit to Tasmania, Australia. It's a vast property composed of several national parks. I had inquired with the Tasmanian Travel & Information Centre if there were day trips available from Hobart. Unfortunately, there were none.

The World Heritage property includes the Central Plateau Conservation and Protected Areas, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Devils Gullet State Reserve, Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, Hartz Mountains National Park, Mole Creek Karst National Park, South East Mutton Bird Islet, Southwest National Park and Walls of Jerusalem National Park.

There was a tour that went to Cradle Mountain from Launceston. But it required a two-night stay there due to limited public transport between Hobart and Launceston. The only option then was to rent a car to be able to get to one of the national parks.

I ended up renting a car in Tasmania, which is a challenge for anyone used to driving on the opposite side. The good thing though is that outside Hobart, there are less cars, making the drive much more manageable. As soon the car rental office opened, I picked up the car and I was off.

The drive took me through the fantastic scenery of Central Tasmania. As soon as you leave the Hobart area, it becomes a two lane highway making it difficult to stop to admire the view. The towns I passed by on the way, dots on the map, were really small rural communities, many of them villages. There was Hamilton and Ouse. The highway takes you through the center of town. Other villages like Tarraleah are off the highway.

In Tarraleah, there is a view point for the Tarraleah Hydro-Electric Development. Tasmania is the leader of renewable energy generation in Australia. More than ninety percent of Tasmania's power comes from hydro-electricity. The Tarraleah Hydro-Electric Development was commissioned in 1938, utilizing the waters of Lake St Claire & the Derwent River.

Before reaching Tarraleah, there was a road block at Wayatinah saying the road was closed (only four-wheel and cars with tire chains were allowed). The area still had snow and the road closure was a bummer since I had already driven two-thirds of the way. I tried to find some information in Wayatinah. But the coffee shop and facilities were closed since it was winter. The village seemed deserted!

I chanced upon the Wayatinah Lakeside Caravan Park and drove to it hoping to ask for information. Good thing the owner David was very helpful. He made calls to confirm that the road had already been cleared and that we were waiting for the police to remove the road sign. The caravan park is right beside Wayatinah Lagoon, a fishing lake.

The snow was starting to melt. Had I arrived a day earlier, I may not have been able to proceed. So it's best to ask the Tasmanian Travel & Information Centre to check during the winter months if there are road closures.

Along the way were so many lakes. I stopped by Bronte Lagoon which was just by the roadside. I finally reach Derwent Bridge, the gateway to the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park.

From there, it's another five kilometers to the Lake St Clair Visitors Centre. If you are driving, make sure to purchase your park pass, a scratch card which you need to place on your dashboard. They are sold at the Tasmanian Travel & Information Centre in Hobart. And it's best to purchase them there to be sure. You can also purchase them at the park visitors centre.

Lake St Clair is Australia's deepest freshwater lake. They have scenic cruises with spectacular views of southern mountain peaks.

If there was more time, I would have wanted to see Cradle Mountain. That's one of Tasmania's Big Three, the other two being Port Arthur and Wineglass Bay. You always have to leave something for a return trip!

Tasmanian Travel & Information Centre
20 Davey Street, Hobart, Tasmania 7001
Phone No. +61 (3) 6238 4222
Fax No. +61 (3) 6224 0289

Wayatinah Lakeside Caravan Park
David and Diane McMillan
Phone No. +61 (3) 62893317

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hobart Waterfront & the Mures Fish Centre in Hobart, Tasmania

The waterfront of Hobart, Tasmania is one of the most photographed attractions of the city. Exploring the area is quite straightforward. You will find colorful crayfish boats & cruisers at Victoria Dock, built in 1804. You'll see a row of centuries-old building right beside the dock.

At the center is the famous Mures Fish Centre were you can purchase fresh seafood or enjoy it right there. People always talk about the Tasmanian Pacific Oysters which are best eaten raw.

Right beside Mures is Constitution Dock. You can't miss the floating food shops that serve fresh seafood straight from the sea and into the deep fryer!

One of them, Flippers, is a Hobart institution. Since I was just looking for a sampler, I chose Bag of Treats ($10) which is a small box with one scallop, crabstick, garlic prawn & prawn cutlet, and two calamari rings & fish cocktails. Add tartar sauce ($2).

It's a pity I won't be on Hobart this Saturday. That's the only day the Salamanca Market is open at Hobart's Salamanca Place. It's Australia's best outdoor market. I also missed the fantastic Museum of Old and New Art or MONA which everyone's been raving about.

Hopefully I could catch some more Hobart views before I fly out. I've driven around the city and I love the architecture! Just a block from Constitution Dock is the Hobart Council Centre, built in 1938 as the headquarters of the Hydro-Electric Commission. Designed by A&K Henderson of Melbourne, it is one of Australia's finest examples of commercial Art Deco architecture.

For live photos from my trip, follow @ivanhenares on Instagram.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

ASUS ZenFone 5 for vivid night photos

I just got my ASUS ZenFone 5 the other week. Timing was perfect and it's been really handy during my trip to Australia in winter weather. For one, it has GloveTouch, meaning you can use the phone while wearing gloves!

One of its most important features is the 8 megapixel PixelMaster rear camera which delivers crystal clear daytime photos and vivid night photos. Shots are steady with image stabilization, perfect selfies to document your perfect smile. The Corning Gorilla Glass 3 makes it literally damage and scratch resistant.

The phone is also dual sim, so I can use my Philippine sim in one slot, and the local sim in the other. But the best part of the phone is its Intel Atom Processor Z2560 which makes the phone very responsive. Yes, you can play games without lags. Visit your nearest phone dealer now, you'll be surprised the phone is very affordable too!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Philippine holidays and long-weekend schedule for 2015 (Proclamation No. 831, s. 2014)

Hunyo 12 by Claude Tayag (1989 Fiestas Serigraph Series)

If things go our way, we have ten long weekends to look forward to in 2015! Malacanang issued Proclamation No. 831, s. 2014 declaring the regular holidays, special non-working days, and a special school holiday for 2015. Instead of just giving you the same list of holidays of the Republic of the Philippines for 2015, this list will help you plan your trips with confirmed and expected long-weekends:

  • January 1 (Thu) - New Year's Day 
  • January 2 (Fri) - Special Non-Working Day (six-day long weekend from December 30 to January 4)
  • February 19 (Thu) - Chinese New Year
  • February 25 (Wed) - EDSA Revolution Anniversary (holiday for schools only)
  • April 2 (Thu) - Holy Thursday
  • April 3 (Fri) - Good Friday 
  • April 4 (Sat) - Black Saturday (four-day long weekend from April 2 to 4)
  • April 9 (Thu) - Araw ng Kagitingan
  • May 1 (Fri) - Labor Day (three-day long weekend from May 1 to 3)
  • June 12 (Fri) - Independence Day (three-day long weekend from June 12 to 14)
  • July 17 (Fri) - Eid'l Fitr (possible three-day long weekend from July 17 to 20 pending proclamation when date is confirmed)
  • August 21 (Fri) - Ninoy Aquino Day (three-day long weekend from August 21 to 23)
  • August 31 (Mon) - National Heroes Day (three-day long weekend from August 29 to 31)
  • September 24 (Thu) - Eid'l Adha (pending proclamation when date is confirmed)
  • November 1 (Sun) - All Saints Day
  • November 30 (Mon) - Bonifacio Day (three-day long weekend from November 28 to 30)
  • December 24 (Thu) - Special Non-Working Day
  • December 25 (Fri) - Christmas Day (four-day long weekend from December 24 to 27)
  • December 30 (Wed) - Rizal Day
  • December 31 (Thu) - Last Day of the Year (five-day long weekend from December 30 to January 3, 2016)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Top 50 Philippine cities to see in your lifetime [Part 2]

I've created a bucket list of fifty Philippine cities (and towns) with a rich history, an abundance of built heritage, delicious food, and a colorful local culture, which you must see during your lifetime. Make sure to check out Part 1. Below is Part 2 of the list.

26. Boac, Marinduque
We all know Marinduque because of the Moriones Festival every Good Friday. But its capital town Boac is a heritage town too! Aside from the Boac Cathedral, the town still has a lot of heritage houses. Nearby Santa Cruz Church is the best-preserved colonial church in the province. Read more on Boac.

Aguinaldo Shrine, Kawit, Cavite27. Kawit, Cavite
The birthplace of the Republic of the Philippines, Kawit has three major heritage sites — Emilio Aguinaldo Shrine (where the declaration of Philippine independence was made on June 12, 1898), Baldomero Aguinaldo Shrine and the Kawit Church. Aside from those three important sites, there's nothing much to see in Kawit. But most people stop by Kawit as part of any Cavite historical tour or day-trip which goes all the way to Maragondon.

28. Paoay, Ilocos Norte (plus Batac City)
Of the many colonial churches in the Philippines, the Paoay Church stands out. It is a World Heritage Site, and rightfully so. The town also has interesting ancestral homes. There are interesting local restaurants around. And neighboring Batac City serves the best empanada and miki in Ilocos Norte! Read more on Paoay.

29. Roxas City, Capiz (plus Pan-ay)
The Roxas City Plaza is pretty with the Capiz Provincial CapitolMetropolitan Cathedral of Capiz, and a beautiful fountain in the center. The Manuel Acuña Roxas House, the birthplace of President Roxas, is a National Historical Landmark. The city also calls itself the Seafood Capital of the Philippines. So head on over to Baybay Beach for some of the cheapest seafood in the Philippines! Pan-ay Church in the neighboring town is a National Cultural Treasure.

30. Daraga, Albay (plus Legazpi City and Camalig)
Iconic images of Mayon Volcano are usually taken from Daraga. There are the Cagsawa Ruins, which has adorned Philippine postcards for decades. But another favorite view is that of the volcano with the Daraga Church, a National Cultural Treasure. Bicolano cuisine is abundant in Daraga, Legazpi and Camalig. I'm craving for coconut milk dishes right now! Pinangat anyone? Read more on Daraga.

31. Baclayon, Bohol (plus Tagbilaran City, Dauis and Panglao)
Of all the towns of Bohol, Baclayon has preserved much of its character. Aside from the Baclayaon Church, which is both a National Cultural Treasure and National Historical Landmark, the town has many old houses that were saved from a demolition spree due to a proposed DPWH road-widening project. Good thing the project fizzled out after protests. Even its Spanish colonial period market is still standing! Lucky for us, the interior of Baclayon Church is still intact. Read more on Baclayon.

32. Angono, Rizal (plus Tanay, Morong, Baras and Antipolo)
Angono is known as the Art Capital of the Philippines. The town is a one large art gallery and hosts quite a number of them too such as the Blanco Family Museum and Nemiranda Art House. Nearby are the Angono Petroglyphs (which are actually in Binangonan), the oldest known works of art in the Philippines, dating back to 3000BC. Want to try local and exotic fare? Look for Balaw-Balaw Restaurant. In the neighboring town of Tanay is the Tanay Church, a National Cultural Treasure. The churches in Morong and Baras are interesting too! Read more on Angono.

33. Majayjay, Laguna (plus Nagcarlan, Liliw, Magdalena, Pagsanjan, Paete and Pakil)
The main landmark of Majayjay is the towering Majayjay Church, a National Cultural Treasure. Many people also visit Majayjay to swim in its cold rivers and springs. But Majayjay is not the only town in this side of Laguna you should be visiting. Make sure you visit the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery Historical LandmarkNagcarlan ChurchLiliw Church (and buy slippers and sandals while you are in the town), Magdalena ChurchPagsanjan Town GatePakil ChurchPaete Church, and buy piña and jusi cloth in Lumban.

34. Quezon City
It's common knowledge that Quezon City also has landmarks worth visiting. We just take them for granted because we see them everyday but may not have taken time to appreciate them. The Quezon Memorial ShrineUniversity of the Philippines – Diliman (with the many works of National Artists and renowned architects all over the campus), Balara Filtration PlantsTandang Sora Shrine, and Himlayang Pilipino are just a few of the landmarks you can visit.

35. Naga City, Camarines Sur
When you hear Naga, the Peñafrancia image always comes to mind. The Naga CathedralPeñafrancia Basilica and Old Peñafrancia Church are landmarks connected to the venerated image.

Maragondon, Cavite36. Maragondon, Cavite
Another town on the Cavite historical trail, Maragondon has three important sites — Maragondon ChurchBonifacio Trial House and the Execution Site of Andres Bonifacio. The Maragondon Church is a National Cultural Treasure. While the Bonifacio Trial House is a National Historical Landmark. Read more on Maragondon.

37. Lingayen, Pangasinan (plus Alaminos City)
Lingayen has the Pangasinan Provincial Capitol, historic Lingayen Beach, and several ancestral houses. Read more on Lingayen.

I'd have to add Alaminos City to the list since it also has many heritage homes!

38. San Miguel, Bulacan (plus Bustos, Plaridel, Angat and Baliuag)
San Miguel is a charming old town with beautiful ancestral mansions. But the charm is fast disappearing because the not much has been done to ensure the protection of the local heritage. Part of the Biak na Bato National Park is also in San Miguel. If you are in the area, you should visit the towns of Bustos, Plaridel, Angat, and Baliuag which have interesting churches and old houses too. The Old Baliuag Municipal Hall is now a museum.

39. Los Baños, Laguna (plus Calamba City)
There are two major historical attractions in Los Baños – the University of the Philippines, Los Baños and the Gen. Paciano Rizal Shrine. And since there is a large student population, you are correct to expect a lot of great and affordable restaurants too! Buko pie, espasol anyone?

Neighboring Calamba has the Rizal Shrine and the Calamba Church Historical Landmark.

40. Corregidor Island, Cavite City
Cavite City is in this list because of Corregidor Island. Visit the various war memorials and the surviving gun batteries which formed part of the Harbor Defenses of Manila and Subic Bays. You can also opt to stay for the night and explore the Malinta Tunnel in the evening and do a morning trek among the less-visited batteries the next day. Read more on Corregidor.

41. San Juan, Batangas
San Juan is a town with many Art Deco mansions. Few people pass through the town's historic center on the way to Laiya Beach not realizing its hidden treasure. None of the houses in San Juan have been declared. Hopefully the local government has the vision to create a heritage tourism program that will complement Laiya Beach.

Binan Heritage Street, Laguna42. Biñan City, Laguna (plus Santa Rosa City and Cabuyao City)
For those who love heritage houses, Biñan is a welcome surprise. If you want to see more, continue on to neighboring Sta. Rosa City and Cabuyao City. I was pleasantly surprised to see grand old houses still standing along this route.

43. Jimenez, Misamis Occidental (plus Ozamiz City and Oroquieta City)
The major attraction of the town is the Jimenez Church, a National Cultural Treasure. The town also has interesting ancestral houses and remnants of a coral stone road built during the Spanish colonial period. Just a few kilometers north, in Oroquieta City, is the Misamis Occidental Provincial Capitol by Architect Juan Arellano. While to the south is Ozamiz City with the Fuerte de la Concepcion y del Triunfo Historical Landmark.

44. Tuguegarao City, Cagayan
It's major landmarks are the Tuguegarao Metropolitan Cathedral and the Cagayan Provincial Capitol. When is the city, try out pancit batil-patung and the local longganisa. Neighboring Peñablanca has the famous Callao Caves. Read more on Tuguegarao.

45. Malabon City, Metro Manila
Malabon used to be an island. Then they reclaimed all the areas around it. Then it started to flood! But the grand old houses remind us of the beauty of Malabon. And while you are there, try the Pancit Malabon, puto bumbong, puto sulot, broas, sapin-sapin, kikiam, sumpia and camatchile cookies. Did I miss anything?

46. Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental (plus Jasaan and Balingasag)
CDO is most popular for whitewater rafting. But it does have a few landmarks including Cagayan de Oro City Hall, the Misamis Oriental Provincial Capitol, the Cagayan de Oro Metropolitan Cathedral, and Plaza Divisoria that remind us we are in the city. The local food scene is also worth exploring. Here are some food suggestionsJasaan Church, a few kilometers away, is a National Cultural Treasure. While Balingasag has several ancestral houses worth seeing. I hope they preserve the heritage houses in CDO. Read more on CDO.

47. Butuan City, Agusan del Norte (plus Cabadbaran City)
Butuan City has its balangays. The Balangays in the Vicinity of Butuan, are National Cultural Treasures. While Cabadbaran City has elegant ancestral homes. If Butuan plays its cards right, it should position itself as an archeological city and invest in digging up its rich history. The Butuan Archeological Sites are in the Tentative List for World Heritage inscription.

Also, the city should promote itself as a gateway to the Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary. Even if the marsh is in Agusan del Sur, Butuan will benefit immensely if it supports the bid for the Agusan Marsh to be a World Heritage Site. So imagine if the local community puts its act together, there will be two World Heritage Sites in the Agusan provinces.

48. Sagada, Mountain Province
Mountain town meets Bohemian culture, Sagada is supposed to be your laid-back picturesque Cordillera community. Tourism caught up with it though and crowds continue to change its unique character. I hope the local government realizes that it needs to preserve the mountain town architecture before it's too late. But for now, let's enjoy Sagada as it should be, a quiet retreat with delicious food for the stomach and soul.

49. Victorias City, Negros Occidental
This sugar milling city is also a cultural attraction. Check out the Chapel of the Angry Christ inside the compound of the Victorias Milling Corporation. Did you know that the UP Chapel was originally designed for the Ossorio family? But I guess it doesn't matter now since the current chapel is itself a work of art. Read more on Victorias.

50. Iligan City, Lanao del Norte (plus Marawi City, Lanao del Sur)
Rounding up this list are Iligan, together with Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. Iligan has the Macaraeg Heritage House and Maria Cristina Falls. The downtown are has some interesting architecture which I hope the city restores. The city is known for its lechon manok and baboy, and roasted peanuts. Marawi City has the Mindanao State University and its Aga Khan Museum, and Lake Lanao. Try to look for torogans if you have time.

You might be asking what criteria landed cities and towns on this list? First would be character of the city, that includes large concentrations of built heritage (old architecture, especially those that are declared), cultural icons, museums and galleries, or the existence of cultural landscapes. Second is the variety of local cuisine which should be readily available to visitors, or existence of markets with local products and handicrafts. Finally, nearby towns and cities with interesting cultural attractions also count.

We selected fifty interesting places. But other towns and cities that should be in this list are: Baler, Aurora; Capul, Northern Samar; Davao City (if it had preserved more of its built heritage, but do visit Aldevinco Market); Glan, Sarangani; San Juan City, Metro Manila; Daet, Camarines Norte; Tabaco City, AlbayBatangas City; Cuyo, Taytay and Culion in Palawan; San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte; Lazi, Siquijor; Santa Cruz, Zambales; and Bantayan, Cebu. Maybe I should bring the list up to 100?

Part 1: Top 50 Philippine cities to see in your lifetime [No. 1 to 25]

Thank you to Bernie Arellano for this map!
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