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Water Collection in Jaipur, India

This article is part of a regional reporting project in partnership with GoUNESCO, a UNESCO New Delhi initiative.

India, unfortunately, has a bad reputation with the quality of its water supply. While this may be true when you compare it with Singapore (the country with the highest standard in the world, outperforming even the World Health Organization’s recommendation), it is not ‘that’ bad as you imagine it to be—in Jaipur, at least.

Rajasthan, with Jaipur as its capital, is located along the fringes of the Thar (Great Indian) Desert. With this challenging environment, generations after generations had to innovate methods to successfully collect, store, and distribute water all throughout the state. People had to consider methods that will keep up not only with the vulnerable geography but also with the increasing population. In Jaipur alone, population density is at 6,300/sq. km, the 10th in India.

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A rainwater collection tank at a haveli-turned-guesthouse where I’m staying now.

Walking along bazaars in Jaipur, it is not uncommon to see rainwater collection tanks secured on top of havelis and rental buildings. This centuries-old tank system is just one of the many indigenous water collection methods being employed in the city. Other methods include putting up of artificial lakes, baories (step-wells), kunds (stepped ponds), reservoirs, and wells. Most of these were constructed at the time of Jai Singh II, founder of Jaipur and the city’s master planner.

These indigenous facilities are continuously preserved and renovated, still enjoyed by Jaipur’s citizens even after almost three centuries since they were built. Badi Chaupar and Choti Chaupar, 19th-century public squares, still provide water to the public up until today. The only difference is that from an open reservoir, supply from these fountains is now delivered in pipes. It is not difficult to miss these fountains as you will often see people gather around the pipes bringing bottles and buckets.

Water storage was once a mark of social status, with those from princely and noble families having their own water collection system in their homes. Water distribution was also controlled by these affluent families. Palaces (which are now converted into hotels or museums) and havelis still have these storage systems in place and are still being used.

Today, thanks to everyone’s effort to preserve and improve on centuries-old water collection, storage, and distribution systems, the public now has free access to clean water all around Jaipur. The concept of ‘clean’ is always relative, but so far, I had no problems with bathing and washing with tap water, and enjoying my coffee and tea with boiled tap water.

  • Why you should not be so trusting of tap water here just yet: If you’re not used to drinking from the tap, it is best to stick to bottled water even for brushing your teeth. You don’t want to ruin your trip for trying out something ‘local.’ Before this trip, I exposed myself to drinking a fair bit from different taps and eating street food in the Philippines to get that ‘more resilient stomach’ for digestive issues that may arise. So far, the trick works.
  • As with any country in the world: do not quickly assume. Make sense of the why behind the what first and while you’re at it, get lost and find yourself. Happy travels! 🙂

P.S. The keys to sustainable travels are universal: take public transportation | stay in accommodations where cooking is allowed (private or shared, it doesn’t matter) | walk as much as you can | wake up early | stay away from guidebooks | immerse yourself in local language, culture and history | visit local cafés | know that the possibilities are endless | listen to your gut❤

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Havelis in Jaipur, India

This article is part of a regional reporting project in partnership with GoUNESCO, a UNESCO New Delhi initiative.

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Havelis: a constant sight in Jaipur

An interesting constant feature in bazaars around Jaipur, India, is the haveli.

Havelis of Jaipur refer to “medieval north Indian mansions belonging to nobles” (UNESCO, 2011) that feature square or rectangular-shaped courtyard houses. These structures are hard to miss for they form the very fabric of bazaar life in Jaipur.

Without the unique typology of havelis consisting of bungalows, stepped terraces, multiple courtyards, well-defined chowkri (sector), and intricate window panes, Jaipur’s noble past can be easily overridden by urbanization. Putting historical socio-economic issues aside, on architectural and cultural preservation points of view, we can give Rajasthan’s* Tourism and Urban Development Ministry due credit for all the preservation work being done.

Many havelis are passed down through generations and to sell these heirlooms are considered unthinkable. Today, many havelis are transformed into commercial rental spaces, restaurants, and guesthouses. Usually, the first floor is for rentals; and the subsequent floors serve as a guesthouse which is also managed by the haveli-owning family. The owning family lives in the haveli, as well.

It is best to think of a haveli structure as divided into two: the single-family cluster (1) and the servant cluster (2). Between these two clusters lies a thin zenana wing, a waiting area reserved for the house’s attending ladies (today, these cluster differentiations are redefined as you will read below). A family’s status is determined by the number of clusters in their haveli: more clusters mean a higher status.

  • Why it’s a good choice to stay in a haveli:  R and I are grateful for the opportunity to live in a haveli all throughout our stay here in Jaipur. Living in one is like stepping back in time with marble floorings, pillars, carvings, antique implements, and paintings found even in the tiniest of rooms.

A haveli guesthouse is run much like how it was in Jaipur’s noble past, with the owning family in its own cluster, the guests in another, and the attending men and women in another. These days, thankfully, things have changed: the clustering now only refers to sleeping arrangements, and it is not uncommon to see the owning family, guests, and attendants sharing a meal and working together.

Staying in a haveli is one of the rare opportunities to live in a breathing museum. It is okay to get too comfortable, too!

  • As with any country in the world: do not quickly assume. Make sense of the why behind the what first and while you’re at it, get lost and find yourself. Happy travels! 🙂

P.S. The keys to sustainable travels are universal: take public transportation | stay in accommodations where cooking is allowed (private or shared, it doesn’t matter) | walk as much as you can | wake up early | stay away from guidebooks | immerse yourself in local language, culture and history | visit local cafés | know that the possibilities are endless | listen to your gut❤

*Rajasthan refers to the northern state of India.

Source: Jain, S. (2011). Walking into the Microcosm of Jaipur. UNESCO New Delhi.

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Salomon Xtrail Run 2017 Review

After five years since my last race… Finally! And now, with a new addition to my weekend run trips from this day forth:

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On our first trail run together

R and I haven’t been to Subic for x years now, and signing up for this race has not only been a good motivation for us to pick up running again but also as a willing excuse to take a weekend trip to celebrate our anniversary!

For the event details:

Name of event: Salomon Xtrail Run 2017

Date: July 23, 2017

Main organizers: Salomon and eXtribe

Venue: El Kabayo Stables (start and finish line), Subic Bay, Olongapo City

Trail run categories: 32K, 24K, 12K, and 6K

Average elevation: 48.33%- 46.67% (downhill- uphill ratio)

Run route (6K): from El Kabayo Stables, you run along the concrete path towards Mt. Maritan, then back towards the stables.

Registration fee: PHP 950 per person (additional 5% if paying via PayPal) inclusive of technical jersey, post-race meal, and giveaways

Impressions:

  • The race was well-organized with strategically stationed race marshalls along the route.
  • Unlimited refills of sports drinks before and after the race, and water during the race, provided that you bring your own water container. I personally prefer bringing my water bottle even during races as I can afford to do so because I do not run competitively 😛 Plus, I feel bad about wasting heaps of water.
  • Lots of goodies for worn-out runners after the race, something that is quite uncommon in the Philippine scene.
  • The only thing that could be better next time would be their race kit pick-up arrangement. All participants were required to pick up their race kits at extremely slim date windows (July 14-15 for registrants before July 10, and July 20-21 for registrants after July 10), and only at Salomon stores in Manila which happen to be in SM Aura, SM North Edsa, SM Megamall, and Glorietta 3. The inconvenience of picking the race kits for participants coming from areas in and around Subic might have contributed to the lack of local support. It felt like an event catered for those from Manila.
  • Why I’m joining again: Despite the race kit hassle, I will definitely join again because I felt so safe despite the event being a trail race! I actually felt so much safer here than in other road races, thanks to the many professional and supportive marshalls present all through the race. The event being in Subic, it is also a destination in itself. Check out Subic Bay’s official tourism website for local travel advice.
  • And at par with my usual travel advice: do not quickly assume. Make sense of the why behind the what first and while you’re at it, get lost and find yourself. Happy travels! 🙂

P.S. The keys to sustainable travels are universal: take public transportation | stay in accommodations where cooking is allowed (private or shared, it doesn’t matter) | walk as much as you can | wake up early | stay away from guidebooks | immerse yourself in local language, culture and history | visit local cafés | know that the possibilities are endless | listen to your gut ❤

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Indonesia

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Representing 99% of my travel photos for this trip 😛

It is such a shame that I only got to visit Jakarta when I went to this beautiful country. The travel was for my brother’s tournament and I accompanied him throughout his game. I’ve never been a big fan of golf, but it was a great chance to meet golfers from all around the world. I would never have thought being part of the gallery for five days could actually be fun!

I will only give travel tips for Jakarta since I only got to visit this city. I hope to get the chance to update the list in time.

Some Tips on Visiting Indonesia (with a focus on Jakarta):

  • Philippine tourists are allowed, visa-free, for up to 30 days in Indonesia. You are required to apply for a visa if you are visiting relatives and social organizations, doing exchange visits, and if you work as a seafarer transiting to another country.
  • It is generally affordable to stay in Jakarta, with hostel and hotel rates almost comparable to Manila. My brother and I stayed at Damai Indah Golf and Country Club where the tournament was held. Lucky that my brother’s trip was sponsored, and I got to tag along to his free accommodation 😛
  • I’ve always loved Indonesian food because it is much like Filipino food but a bit spicier, less oily, and more generous on vegetables. My favorites are lontong, gado-gado, soto, nasi campur, nasi goreng, pecel, pempek, soto ayam, bubur kacang hijau (the best dessert!)… Okay, I love Indonesian food! The best I’ve tried are those sold in local food joints. Probably I just didn’t fancy the fusion kind of stuff that they did in restaurants.
  • I didn’t get to travel around much during my stay so I tried as many cafés and street foods while I was in Jakarta. And it was the best decision I made! I did not only get to sample local treats; I also had the chance to meet locals and to practice my (very!) basic Indonesian.
  • Why I want to go back: five days for Jakarta– let alone Indonesia– is definitely not enough.
  • As with any country in the world: do not quickly assume. Make sense of the why behind the what first and while you’re at it, get lost and find yourself. Happy travels! 🙂

P.S. The keys to sustainable travels are universal: take public transportation | stay in accommodations where cooking is allowed (private or shared, it doesn’t matter) | walk as much as you can | wake up early | stay away from guidebooks | immerse yourself in local language, culture and history | visit local cafés | know that the possibilities are endless | listen to your gut ❤

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Malaysia

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What I miss most about Malaysia… Kopi (Malaysian coffee)!

One of the Philippines’ richest neighbors, Malaysia is a typical Southeast Asian nation with cities, beaches, rivers, forests, mountains, and caves all in one place. If you like the convenience of the city, you can choose to live in one of its high-rise apartments that give you easy access to malls and public transportation. And if you feel like you want to de-stress for the weekend, you can always take a short drive to Port Dickson, just 1.15 hours away from the heart of Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia is one of my favorite countries for food because I love the perfect balance of sweet, sour, salty, bitter, spicy, and tangy of its local meals. And as a rice lover, there is no better way to enjoy Malaysian food with this rich carbohydrate source.

Some Tips on Visiting Malaysia:

  • Philippine tourists are allowed, visa-free, up to 30 days in Malaysia. Long-term visa is only given to those with employment passes and for those traveling for medical reasons.
  • It is generally affordable to stay in Malaysia. It is way more affordable compared to its direct neighbors, Brunei and Singapore. For example, a private hostel room for two can go from 20-25 USD a night; while a shared one can go as low as 5 USD a night.
  • What I love most about Malaysia is its food and coffee, best enjoyed at local food joints usually situated in markets. Got 5 USD? You’ve got a long way to go, and will probably cover your breakfast, lunch, and dinner!
  • It is best to enjoy the country through its well-connected public transportation. However, if you need to take a cab, take an Uber or GrabTaxi instead because taxis are not usually metered and you have to negotiate the price with the driver.
  • Why I’m going back: I have yet to visit other areas outside Kuala Lumpur. And the food (*drools*)!
  • As with any country in the world: do not quickly assume. Make sense of the why behind the what first and while you’re at it, get lost and find yourself. Happy travels! 🙂

P.S. The keys to sustainable travels are universal: take public transportation | stay in accommodations where cooking is allowed (private or shared, it doesn’t matter) | walk as much as you can | wake up early | stay away from guidebooks | immerse yourself in local language, culture and history | visit local cafés | know that the possibilities are endless | listen to your gut ❤

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How I Travel with a Full-Time Job

*As featured on Rappler on July 12, 2017 🙂

From January 2015- January 2017, R and I have travelled to 35 countries across four continents. We had the chance to walk around the Acropolis, marvel at the wonders of Cordoba, do long drives around the UK, and do our weekly groceries at souqs in Casablanca. The travel bug struck R and I big time and since then, we’ve visited four more countries and have already booked our trip to two more countries for later this year.

You might wonder– and this made us wonder as well– how can we travel so much while working full time, able to save for our future life together (more on that on a later post), while earning just enough?

We receive a lot of questions from family and friends on how we get to travel the way we do. Here are some of our “secrets” that help us live a traveler’s life that we’ve always dreamed of:

1. We work remotely

Working remotely is the biggest gift that we’ve received in achieving this dream, and is the main reason as to why we can sustain our travels.

Let me give an overview of how we work:

As for me:

I work remotely 8 hours a day, 5 times a week. I am lucky because my schedule is quite flexible that I can spread out my 8 hours as long as I cover at least three hours of New York business time.

Aside from my day job, I also work as the auditor of two co-owned small enterprises, both based in the Philippines. I do daily and weekly audits, and dedicate at least one hour a day to communicate with the manager on-site. I’m just thankful for all the technology available today that I’m able to do this task even when out of the country.

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How we usually work, with a standing desk in tow so we can take a break from sitting for too long (Kirkby Malzeard, Northern Yorkshire)

For R, his work schedule is more demanding. Since he works as a Support Engineer for an irrigation company, he has to work long hours and should be available for calls any time. He works 10- 12 hours a day for 5 days a week, then 5 hours for Saturdays. Sometimes, he also has to work for at least 2 hours on Sundays. The hours are really long. What’s great with his job, though, is he can work from his phone for some tasks so what he does is he purchases a local sim card and signs up for data. He does this for every country that we go to.

So, when we travel, we manage our day based around our work. Our work is top priority since without it, we cannot live this kind of life that we want. Usually, we only travel around on weekends; and we only go out on weekdays for dinner after all work is done.

2. Through research projects

As an anthropology practitioner (for I can’t really call myself an “anthropologist” just yet), I get to receive research contracts in and out of the Philippines. But these do not come to me as manna from heaven. I need to work for and apply for them. I’ve received more turned-down applications than accepted ones, so when I get them I make sure I give my best so I get referred to other projects, or I get to continue with the project when it gets extended.

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Who would have thought we will find ourselves staying in a container van in the middle of a moor for three months? (Kirkby Malzeard, Northern Yorkshire)

I would say the biggest factor as to why I got into research contracting is because of this UNDP research project that I luckily got accepted to back in 2013. More projects came pouring in after that, and I’m really thankful for the opportunity. There is a lot of room for improvement though since I only have a bachelor’s degree, and some projects are reserved for those with masters and PhD degrees.

It is through this job that R and I get to travel to off-the-beaten tracks including Itogon (Benguet), Kirkby Malzeard (Great Britain), Casablanca (Morocco), and Jaipur (India).

3. Through business trips

This opportunity is thanks to R’s company who is kind and generous enough to shoulder both of our travel expenses when R has a workshop, seminar, meeting, or conference to attend. He travels once a year in the US, once around Southeast Asia, and once in Europe. So in a year, we both get three trips cared of by R’s company!

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Staying in a country club: one of the many perks of R’s business trips! (Singapore)

And since R and I both travel smart aka within our means, it’s a great chance for us to travel beyond what we can afford. We get to travel on business class, stay at 5-star hotels, and eat in nice restaurants. Oh, why oh why do these kinds of trips have to end!

4. Through company trips

Once a year, in summer, our family receives a free trip thanks to a Philippine-based company that my parents are co-owners of. All the co-owners’ families receive this free trip, and so we all make sure we are available for this trip. It is definitely one of the rare opportunities for all our families to bond.

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Traveling inter-country by private bus. Again, something I can’t afford without this annual travel opportunity 😛 (Cologne, Germany)

Again, for this one, I make sure I get to join because I am able to enjoy a kind of travel that I cannot afford. Traveling around in a private hired bus, staying in 4 to 5-star hotels, and having private guides– It is the kind of travel that I wouldn’t want to miss!

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These are the many ways by which R and I can travel so much for the past few years. When we set our sights three years ago into exploring the world together until we grow old, we did our best to achieve location independence with our work. It took us some years to get to where we are today, but it is not impossible to achieve.

We may not be able to afford many of the physical luxuries in life, but we definitely appreciate and are always thankful of the life we have today. We are now where we want to be, and we are forever grateful 🙂

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Market of Senlis in Senlis, France (Marché de Senlis)

This article is part of a regional reporting project in partnership with GoUNESCO, a UNESCO New Delhi initiative.

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The Senlis street market within the medieval walls

Name of market: Marché de Senlis/ Market of Senlis

Address: Downtown of Senlis, L’Oise, Hauts-de-France, France.

Operating days and times: Tuesday and Friday, 8:00 AM – 12 NN

How to get there: via train from Paris Gare du Nord or Paris Gare de Lyon. The trip takes around 1.5 hours. If via car from Paris Gare du Nord, it takes around 45 minutes.

Website: www.en.senlis-tourisme.fr

Fast Facts:

  • Senlis is a medieval town built in the 12th century and stands as a testament to changes in the socio-economic and political climate of France. It is said that nothing much has changed since it was left in ruins right after the end of the French Revolution in 1799.
  • Aside from the local street market, other town attractions include the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Senlis castle, and the now-abandoned (thankfully) Roman ampitheatre which staged gladiator fights.

Visitor Tips: 

  • Arrive early especially if you’re looking to shop for fresh produce and homemade cooked foods. They sell out pretty fast.
  • It can help if you know how to speak a bit of French. Since this is a local market with trades dominated by the older generation, many stall owners will appreciate it if you at least know how to ask for prices and to count in French.
  • Why you should consider visiting: want to step back in time?
  • As with any country in the world: do not quickly assume. Make sense of the why behind the what first and while you’re at it, get lost and find yourself. Happy travels! 🙂

P.S. The keys to sustainable travels are universal: take public transportation | stay in accommodations where cooking is allowed (private or shared, it doesn’t matter) | walk as much as you can | wake up early | stay away from guidebooks | immerse yourself in local language, culture and history | visit local cafés | know that the possibilities are endless | listen to your gut❤