The Tipping Point

Hoi An is probably on every classic Vietnam itinerary. The old merchant city is a gem in the region and it is easy to see why. The old buildings have a Venetian charm (and the city gets regular floodings each rainy season). The lanters create a romantic feel and the river is lined up with pretty boats. The food is legendary. But then there are the tourist masses. And the souvenir shops and tour agents. The everyday tourist madness is a bit annoying and sometimes hard to stand – especially for us, since we have tried to stay somewhat clear …

Thien Buddhism for Beginners

It took me about 30 minutes to work up the courage to call. “Hello. Do you accept guests to learn about Zen meditation in your monastery?”. There was a giggle at the other end of the line and the woman hung up. Great, that didn’t quite work out. I had read online in a travel forum for Dalat that you can visit Truc Lam monastery to learn about Zen Buddhism (or actually, Thien Buddhism, as the Vietnamese form is called). Ten minutes later I got called back. “Simply come in the morning and you can stay with us.”, instructed one …

Good Morning Vietnam

From the mountains to the jungle, Vietnam is a place of beautiful mystery, though we haven’t quite gotten to the bottom of most things. But we still have a few weeks before our visa runs out. Overwhelmingly, people have been incredibly friendly and welcoming in Vietnam, the landscape is stunning, and the food is a delight. Of the countries we have travelled in so far, Vietnam might just offer the best value for money. The hotels are inexpensive but very plush, and almost all include an incredible breakfast spread. In Dalat, located in Vietnam’s southern highlands, Manuela and I rented a …

Trip Report: La Mesa Eco Park, Quezon City, Manila, Philippines

January 9-10, 2014 Birding in Quezon City at La Mesa Eco Park (Total Species Seen 23) Collared Kingfisher Common Kingfisher Spotted Wood-Kingfisher Philippine Hanging Parrot Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker Olive-Backed Sunbird Yellow-Vented Bulbul Large-Billed Crow Red-Bellied Pitta Oriental Magpie-Robin Eurasian Sparrow Cuckoo Dove Black-Naped Oriole Brown Shrike Zebra Dove Emerald Dove White-Eared Brown Dove Tawny Grassbird Striated Grassbird White-Breasted Waterhen Chestnut Munia Ashy Ground-Thrush Scaly Ground-Thrush

A Disaster Struck

“Where were you, when the earthquake happened?” I asked Ryan, our birding guide. “Outside. We heard it before we felt it. There was this rumbling coming in like a wave. And then the ground shook”. For about 30 seconds, the quake went on at a magnitude of 7.2 and damaged houses, roads, forests Ryan explained. Ryan’s house was damaged but still standing. He, his wife and their two small girls slept in a tent for weeks, fearing the aftershocks. A few weeks later, the next disaster struck – super-typhoon Yolanda. This time, the neighboring island of Leyte was struck much …

Trip Report: Raja Sikatuna Protected Landscape, Bohol, Philippines

December 31st, 2013 to January 4th, 2014 (42 bird species seen) Birding in Raja Sikatuna Protected Landscape was tough going. Not only because of the weather during our visit, but because of our many near misses and long period’s of quiet in the dense rainforest. The species list for Raja Sikatuna is a stunner, with the potential to see many endemics including the Philippine Frogmouth, Philippine Scops-Owl, Steere’s Pitta, Wattled Broadbill, and of course the Rufous-Lored and Silvery Kingfishers (pictured). Though the will (ours) and skill (our guide) were present, we came up short on almost all of our targets, …

The New Year

Things have slowed down immensely for us on the sleepy little island of Bohol. It is so quiet here. Not that there are no other tourists around, but the vast majority of them come on day trips from Cebu City (the Philippines 2nd largest city) or stay in the resorts on Panglao Island. Everyone wants to see those famous Chocolate Hills, the most photographed landscape in the Philippines. Others come to catch a glimpse of the tarsiers. But by 5pm every evening, it seemed we had the whole town of Bilar to ourselves, well, plus the friendly locals of course! …