Year: 2014

Spooky Sojourns

Are those white-sand beaches looking all the same to you? Do city tours and museums make you want to stay in bed the whole day instead? Then it’s time to tweak your travel itinerary. Now you know what they say: change is scary. In this case, it is going to be, quite literally, SCARY. We’ve compiled five of the spookiest places in the United States that are worth a visit. Some are pretty, some are downright creepy but all have interesting stories behind the horror. Maybe they can give you a little perspective. So just open your eyes—who knows what you’ll see? Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, West Virginia Those who run this asylum, once called the Weston State Hospital, say it is a “dream destination” for ghosthunters. A sanctuary for the mentally ill from 1864 to 1994, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, West Virginia housed thousands of patients until it suffered from overcrowding and poor sanitation. Many died here. More suffered. Some say the uncontrollable residents were locked in cages. Today, their screams still echo in …

Bohol: Back on the Travel Map

The small island province of Bohol in Central Visayas is exactly how James Bond likes his martini—shaken, not stirred. Barely a year after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit the province, killing more than 200 people and rendering thousands homeless, Bohol is taking back its spot on the tourist map. Its attractions—beaches, churches, beautiful people—may have suffered significant damages in the shaking but they have maintained their character. While recovery efforts are still underway and may take years to complete, fresh waves of travelers are already abandoning their fear of another disaster and heading back to one of the Philippines’ premier destinations. “I’ve been to places that were devastated like Bali and Phuket. Tourism is not only the fastest-growing industry, it is also the most resilient,” Bohol Gov. Edgar Chatto told visiting media during the Sandugo Festival in July. The USAID, through its project COMPETE, is helping Bohol position itself in the tourism market to aid in its rebuilding and development. Because of its heritage sites and island setting, Bohol is a natural destination for eco-cultural …

Sleeping Beauty

For years, the sleepy town of Anda in Bohol, 100 km from the capital city of Tagbilaran, has been dubbed as “the NEXT BIG THING.” A well-known, well-travelled Filipino weatherman and scion of a political clan in Manila even declared Anda as one of the two most surprising gems he found in the Philippines—a country that does not lack for island jewels—and expressed his intention to someday retire there. Anda has all the ingredients for a premier travel destination: long stretches of fine, white-sand beaches, clear, turquoise waters, year-round diving weather, friendly locals, and comfortable, family-run resorts. Add to that a sprinkling of caves that tell a rich history and voila, you have a tourist favorite. So why isn’t it Boracay by now? My quest for an answer to that question was the only thing that roused me from the king-size bed in our tastefully designed 60-square-meter suite at the new wing of Amorita Resort—my new favorite place in Panglao—where life consisted of perfect little moments and beautiful mornings with hot chocolate. It was SO tempting to …

GKonomics: The Business of Restoring Dignity

With their lunch waiting on the table, a family in Baseco, Tondo, sat still and prayed: “Panginoon, ang bait-bait Niyo sa amin. Kulang ang aming mga kamay para tanggapin ang lahat ng biyaya na ibinigay Niyo sa amin (Lord, you are so good to us. Our hands are not enough to receive all the blessings from you).” Pinky Velez Poe, the special guest at that lunch, did her best to hold back tears. “You look around, and you think, ‘what biyaya (blessing)?’ There’s nothing by our normal standards—it’s a 20-square-meter house for eight people and they say ‘kulang ang mga kamay para sa biyaya,’” she said. “Where I come from, in the village where I live, families are fighting over money when there’s so much more where that money came from… It makes you realize that peace and joy really cannot be bought.” That day, Pinky ate from a basin (the family had no extra plates), and had feeding supplement for main course and burnt rice crust or tutong with evaporated milk for dessert. And she …

Shanghai-Spotting

What a difference zero makes Two little hours Brought the sun and the… No, there were no flowers, just buildings—an endless row of buildings that occupy block upon block of this industrial and eerily quiet part of Shanghai. It was our first day in what is supposedly a swanky, cosmopolitan world city, but I have yet to find traces of that—or of anything modern, or even English-speaking—at the moment. And it has been over an hour. My friend and I were walking along Guiqiao Road in Pudong in search of Shanghai United Cell Biotechnology Co. Ltd., where we were supposed to drop off a package before we toured the city. We passed the offices of international brands like Coca-Cola, Ricoh, Kodak (apparently, the legendary-but-now-bankrupt company still has its graphic communications group, with its Asia Pacific headquarters in Shanghai). But there was no biotechnology office in sight. After finally being able to connect to the Shanghai mobile number of my friend’s colleague, we realized what went wrong: the taxi driver had dropped us off at 115 Guiquiao …

14 Creative V-Day Dates

Not all couples celebrate Valentine’s Day. Some feel too old and too tired. Some think fine dining is too expensive, too fussy and too conventional–and they’re damn right. So why don’t you Valentine believers dump the boring dinners and try these things for a change? You have two weeks to prepare. Be kids again. Think of the things you loved to do when you were children, and do them. It can be as simple as going to the park, flying a kite, spending hours on a swing, visiting a museum/planetarium, or playing at an arcade. Learn to cook/bake your favorite dish. First, do the grocery, then clear the kitchen and drive everyone away. This is your date place. Now get to work. Play some music if it gets you in the mood to slice and dice. If you feel like flirting through a flour fight, go right ahead. Just remember you will eat what you cook. Take a walk or ride a bike. This is good for the heart, literally. Follow bike trails that will …

A Tale of Two Kingdoms

“I’M NOT SHOUTING AT YOU LADYYY!” the angry salesgirl at the MBK mall in Bangkok shouted as we left her stall. She screamed a lot more of what I could only surmise as invectives in the Thai language. Shoppers stopped, heads turned. I suddenly imagined her pulling me into a catfight, so I walked as fast as I could, practically dragging my shocked grandmother away from the raging vendor’s stall. The screaming salesgirl, who was furious that we thought her merchandise was expensive, was the piece de resistance in our stressful, tourist-trapped first day in what Travel+Leisure readers dubbed in 2013 as the World’s Best City—Bangkok. Our Bangkok was nothing like the Bangkok of Hollywood movies and glossy magazines. Ours was real, rough and rowdy. The Grand Palace would put Disneyland to shame with its queues and crowd, observed my husband, a first-timer in the city who immediately and irrevocably fell out of love with it (it didn’t help that the entrance fee to the palace was THB 550). The strict dress code—no shorts or …