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Revisiting Cairo


I am on “review mode” and now appreciate the true value of digicams. Photographs from 1996 were sparse and scarce. Back then, you take your shots and wait till your film gets developed; these days, you take nearly unlimited shots and review to weed out the bad shots. How very neat! I am amused by my 1996 shots now that I can compare them against snaps from this 2nd visit of the capital of Egypt.

It was a challenge to find the exact same spot. The Sphinx — that mythical figure with a human head and the body of a lion — strikes a majestic image, almost like an apparition, in the middle of the Giza plateau. I had a favorite photo snapped there back in 1996 and I felt compelled to have another photo in the same spot. I saw the rock boulder I sat on but there is this big sign that says “No climbing” so I stood right by the edge where a rope or chain kept tourists off. Best I could do. And in one photo (below), I had another friend “replace” an old friend and travel companion. To be honest, I didn’t think I’d have this 2nd chance to visit this land of the pyramids. .

When we paid a visit to the Cairo Museum, I was reminded of a tragedy which struck one of the tour buses we convoyed with while crossing the border from Israel to Egypt. That bus had 16 or 18 casualties resulting from a terrorist bomb. Most tourists were Greek or German. This time, an alarm set off for a good 2 minutes or so while we were inside the Museum. My instinct made me search for the nearest exit while praying for safety. Turned out it was a false alarm. Phew!

Outside of the pyramid complex, Cairo boasts of a few more worthy sites to visit: the Saladin Citadel, the mosque of Muhammad Ali within it, the Bazaar, the Solar Boat Museum. I have not been to the Boat Museum in my earlier trip. But the Citadel and the Mosque, as well as the Bazaar, are exactly as I remember them. I wondered how nearly nothing has changed. Street photography can be quite a challenge but could be very rewarding, with perfectly-timed snaps. I wasn’t that quick with my fingers but am happy with these snaps in my memory keeper.

More snaps below from Saqqara and the busier streets of Cairo. WiFi has been spotty here and we’ve been moving, but will try to post as often to keep you updated.

Egyptian Cotton, anyone?

The Sphinx and Moí


It has been 24 years since I visited Egypt. At the time, I was on a 38-day holiday and the last leg involved a border-crossing from Israel into Egypt and a Nile Cruise aboard a luxurious M/S Oberoi Riverboat. Awesome land of the Pharaohs — that, despite the chaos, noise and dust! I swear my heart skipped a beat the first time I set my eyes on these ancient wonders, let alone when I entered one of the pyramids feeling like an explorer. The sheer size of these monuments and ancient wonders is beyond imagination and I wasn’t sure how I’d feel going through the same experience 24 years since 1996.

Fast forward 2020. Climate change and Covid-2019 looms in the horizon. But we remain unfazed. We arrived in the evening in Cairo, eager to rest our tired bods following a long flight. The next whole day gets a good start with the Great Pyramids of Giza. And let me warn you, they’re not called GREAT for nothing. Standing at the edges of the Western Desert a few miles west of the Nile, this necropolis is this country’s iconic landmarks along with the Sphinx which lies east of the entire complex. Imagine Egypt without the pyramids is like thinking of Macchu Picchu without the citadel atop the mountain. The Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt surely knew how best they can be remembered long after they’re dead. The largest (in Giza) and the oldest pyramid (in Saqqara) are the most visited ones but every visitor can’t resist being impressed even with smaller, satellite pyramids found in the sandy fields of Giza and Memphis. The “mastabas” for lesser royals add more charm to the entire necropolis.

Tourism absolutely thrives in Egypt. And every child must have gone through that phase wishing to be an archaeologist, or maybe even an Egyptologist studying and exploring these ancient wonders. Such an inheritance for this African country! And those camel touts must be doing brisk business too. Thank you Kings Khafre, Khufu and Menkaure. Your legacy lives on.

History comes alive in the evening’s Light and Sound Show. Some of my travel buddies braved the cold and sat, stared and listened in the open area as the sound and lighting system did its job. What a perfect way to cap the day!


It’s been 9 weeks. And before then, around 4 weeks of clinic visits and lab procedures. I haven’t had 13 slow and easy weeks in the last few years. A quick check of my busy travel calendar the last few years confirm this. And you know what? If you’ve been under “house arrest” for a considerable time, the first day out heightens all your senses to appreciate the air you breathe, the noise you hear or perhaps the lack of it, the temps that make you sweat or the breeze that cools your skin. The Harbour Square within the CCP Complex is a favorite spot within the metropolis. Antipolo too but it’s too far out and the traffic going there is near-unbearable. So between the waters and the mountains, I longed to instead count the yachts bobbing up and down in the bay.

There are still a few days before the year is over but Bali was def the last trip in 2019. Thoroughly enjoyed with the family despite the intermittent chest pains, which I assumed must have been acid reflux. My guardian angels must have worked overtime to bring me home safely and guided a family doctor to remind me to see my cardiologist instead of a gastro-enterologist. I did, and then had medical attention in the nick of time. After more tests pre- and post-stenting, my cardiologist declared I’m good to travel again. Yey! Two trips lined up for next year, and now working on a possible 3rd and 4th. I am so happy. And thankful for the trips made in the year 2019 without mishap. I still cringe at the thought that any one of these trips could have turned really nasty. I am thankful as I remember.

Same group on 2 separate trips to Brunei and Malaysia

Ticked off a few squad goals including this Hokkaido in Winter!

A third of the fambam in London.

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2019/05/21/touchdown-london/

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2019/05/23/one-in-a-million-stonehenge/

Cardiff Castle in Wales

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2019/06/24/from-london-to-london-2019/

Amsterdam, Volendam, Marken, Giethorn , Zaans Schans, Delfth and The Hague

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2019/05/25/its-been-awhile-amsterdam/

Brussels, Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2019/06/01/touchdown-brussels/

The Cotswolds

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2019/06/16/the-cotswolds/

Off to Graz, Ljubljana, Trieste and Istrian Peninsula (Croatia

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2019/08/18/road-trip-through-austria-slovenia-italy-croatia/

A family trip to Bali, Indonesia

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2019/09/05/bali-highs-💕🏖😍🎶🧜🏻

So what’s in the drawing boards this coming 2020? Well, there’s a booked Nile cruise in Egypt, and the South American adventure should soon be firmed up, plus there’s that wedding later in the year in Barcelona. Same travel buddies…. unless of course we start growing tired of each other 🙄. We have yet to plan for that trip to Europe with my soon-to-graduate #aponimamu. And another adventure with my soon-to-retire dear friends. We’ll see. Meanwhile, let’s have a truly Merry Christmas in our hearts and a Prosperous, Harmonious New Year ahead.


There is much to celebrate and birthdays are perfect excuses. We celebrate the gift of life, and we remind ourselves that truly, gratitude resides in the heart. And so, we stop counting the candles on the cake and instead give thanks for the multitude of blessings. On my 60th birthday, I celebrated by gathering my family for a weeklong trip to South Korea. To this day, we tag it as our best-ever family trip. Everything went right on that trip. Everyone in good spirit. When we returned, I decided to throw an impromptu party with family and a few friends from college days. You bet we all felt like the teenagers we were when we first met and lived together in a dorm.

Seoul, South Korea. 2013.

Hotel Celeste. 60th Birthday

It has been a blur since. Having turned 60, I went full-ON with my travel adventures. I remember celebrating a birthday in India. Then another in Madrid after a nearly 2-week trip around Morocco which included spending a night in a bivouac in the Sahara. Back home, we didn’t miss getting together again for a birthday weekend in beautiful Balesin Island. At 64, I struck a dream destination off my bucket list. Macchu Picchu thrilled me no end, and no racing heartbeat could stop me from enjoying this heritage site.

India. 2014.

Casa Botin. Madrid. 2015.

Balesin Island. Quezon.

Macchu Picchu. 2017.

Turning 65, it would have been a good idea to hold a party but my Sydney-based sister and brother-in-law were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary so off I went Down Under for a birthday and golden wedding anniversary celebration. My friends based in California lost no time to join me and we had a blast. I’m not really into big parties anyway, and celebrating with family and friends “on a trip” is really my idea of a birthday celebration.

Sydney. 2018.

There are many ways to celebrate birthdays. You can plan all you want but sometimes the best plans come unhinged. Not because they were necessary spoilers, but more so because they couldn’t be postponed any longer. The last 5 years or so breezed by, packing many unique adventures. As I kept still the last so many weeks, I found time to pull apart many such recent memories threatening to get blurred with the passing of time. Some weight attaches to each — some light, others heavy with meaning. By no design, the ones that stick out are those that one cannot explain. Forever grateful for such unexplained, intuitive wisdom. Guided. And guarded. One tries not to overthink while slowing down to appreciate life and becoming more aware of one’s mortality. Not much else to say but “Thank You”. I need not understand every single thing. Thank You.

In The Nick Of Time


Only You can time it so perfectly
One-week off schedule with my doc sickly
Then there’s the Lab needing repair
And a switch of hospitals without delay.

Through all that I depended on Your mercy
I wanted to cry, with the growing anxiety
Helplessness setting in, my head spinning
With each setback, with every mishap.

I was afraid, and You know it
I wasn’t used to feeling helpless and weak
With that last fainting spell, I knew
As morbid thoughts crossed my mind.

But at a certain point, You took over
Mishaps behind me, it flowed so easily
Happy with my doctor and the medical crew
Each so kindly, not one was grumpy.

In the nick of time, I heard quite clearly
The sedation didn’t cloud that perception
I shed tears when I heard my doctor murmur
We got it, just as that artery shut with a purr.

I still cringe over what could have been
Could have been nasty, yet You allowed me
Those solitary walks on the Camino
Traveling solo with much gusto.

You know what lies in the recesses of my heart
Waiting for You to restore me back, my Lord
Not just the body, but more in mind and spirit
As I tread a path in this Camino called Life.

BEYOND STEPS with EJ


Life after 60. Have you planned for it?

When I was way younger, I planned on an early retirement. Like age 45. I was off by just a couple of years. I still don’t feel old but in the next so many years, I plan to embrace senior living with a determined zest for living. And BEYOND STEPS makes me hopeful and excited over this prospect. How? First off, there’s this awesome mentor we simply call EJ. She’d put to shame any younger fitness instructor with her energy. She sings, she dances, she mentors, she encourages, she makes us all feel as awesome!

Our journey from 2 left-feet, awkward, fumbling seniors to last night’s performance was loaded with many fun sessions. Check the video link above. The recital is made more memorable by newly-fostered friendships and a shared enthusiasm and excitement over what we, as a group, can muster and master. All thanks to EJ whose energy and talent radiate and compel us all to give our own uninhibited best!

Beyond Steps is not like any other fitness class. While it is essential to improve physical stamina, BS is really more into cognitive somatic fitness. From EJ herself:

As we mature we suffer a downturn physically and mentally.

Participants, especially Seniors who routinely partake in Physical & Cognitive combined exercises CAN REVERSE the signs of declining years in both brain and body.

Some may refer to it as “cerebral dancing” or simply, “brain gymnastics“. Whatever it’s called, we like how our brain faculties and body movements are stimulated to act in sync. With both body and mind engaged, we responded as our sensei constantly challenged us.

Here’s more from EJ:

“Body and mental stimuli sets the balance for the individual to function daily with ease, comfort and gratification.

 

Beyond Steps change arm-patterns, footwork formations, speed and rhythms to keep participants to encompass a constant learning process by recalling the routines under the pressure of time without cues from EJ the instructor.”

 

EJ was quick to point out that:

These extra challenges account for the noticeable difference in balance & self-esteem displayed by participants in the group.

 

1.  Beyond Steps primarily developed new Mind and Body fitness and wellness  program maximising anti-aging effects on the brain and body.

2.  Beyond Steps combine the aspects of physical activities and mental activities through music and mindfulness.

3.  Beyond Steps syllabus takes into account that- 

ageing memory reacts strongly to physical activities when listening to music, sounds, melodies, rhythms and movement.

4.  Beyond Steps continually sets new, interesting, stimulating challenges for the mind & for the body. 

 

The KEY to a more independent healthy life means going through this regimen with commitment & regularity.”

Done with our recital (ahem), we are now prepping for EJ’s classes to resume. Don’t miss this chance to join us in Sunshine Place at 56 Jupiter Street, Makati City. And go ahead and bring your friends too. Beyond Steps is one “party” you wouldn’t want to miss!

Care to know more about EJ and our “happy place”? Read on. 🤓

https://philippinesgraphic.net/beyond-steps-with-ej-villacorta-sunshine-place/

Lastly, don’t forget to like me on Facebook.

https://www.facebook.com/Lifeisacelebration/


The last week-long family trip (to Korea) was when I turned 6-Oh. Bali was next choice and should have been scheduled last year when I turned 65 but I was out of the country then ticking off a dream trip. So here we are — the entire caboodle minus 1 😔 — finally having our highs in BALI.

We touched down on an early morning flight to Denpasar and was promptly whisked away to Seminyak to spend the rest of the day there. Potato Head Beach Club was planned as an entire day’s destination and activity and on hindsight, that worked out really well. A friend has just been here and we thought the young members of the family would enjoy the vibe here. And so we started our holiday in a beach (Seminyak) and ended the holiday week in another beach (Nusa Dua). In between, we managed to develop temple fatigue 😂🙄🤣

First Day in Seminyak

Taman Ayun and Ulun Danu

Selfie and Swing Shots in Bali

More Temples in Ubud

Kopi Luwak, anyone?

Marriott Vacation Club


In Bali, we stayed in Marriott’s Bali Nusa Dua Gardens. Nusa Dua is at the southern tip of Bali and its gated hotel and beach resorts form an enclave providing a more quiet, even more reserved resort vibe than its Legian and Seminyak cousins. Marriott Vacation Club opened this Nusa Dua Gardens only 3 years ago, and built it right alongside Courtyard by Marriott.

Our hotel room is on the ground floor and opens up to the lagoon pool and Lazy River area. Just a short walk from it is the Courtyard by Marriott where they have another poolside bar, a fitness Center and 5 dining venues. A hotel shuttle brings guests to the Nusa Dua Beach where Marriott has an exclusive space and to the shopping arcade for some retail therapy. The arcade has plenty of dining options too. But I like the beach vibe best. Lounge chairs, umbrella tents and white sands. My idea of a Bali holiday.

If you choose to linger in the beach, Marriott has set up a bar to make sunset watch truly fun for its guests. It’s so relaxing here. We felt pampered as the lounge chairs were comfortable and the staff so accommodating. But we headed back to the hotel after a couple of hours here. The landscaped lagoon pool and the Lazy River were just as inviting and we liked the idea of the poolside bar to enjoy our happy hours.

Marriott Vacation Club’s newest holiday resort in the Asia-Pacific is tops. May I just say that the morning we prepped to head for the beach, I had a minor mishap. I missed a step but held my balance, albeit awkwardly, and at the expense of putting my weight on my big toe to break the fall. The very gracious staff attended to me without delay — asking if I wanted to be brought to the clinic, giving me water, a pack of ice on my toe, and never leaving my side. Thank you May and Chandra, and a couple more whose names I can’t recall. Thank you, Marriott, for giving us another wonderful holiday.

For those interested in buying membership in Marriott Vacation Club (Asia-Pacific), let me know. And no, I’m NOT doing this advert because I’m on Marriott’s payroll. Just a satisfied member of Marriott Vacation Club here. Ta Ta!


Pardon the French, but why is luwak coffee so pricey?

Tried different coffee and tea varieties before ordering the famous kopi luwak which literally translates to palm civet coffee. Civet cats feast on the coffee berries. Having digested them, they’re pooped out and then “harvested” to make kopi luwak. So this is really coffee from shit. Excuse the French again.

A live civet was found in the plantation’s store, where it is kept as a pet. It looked sleepy and didn’t mind people who wanted to pet it, even carry it. There were others inside a cage, and the signage warned us not to get too close as these cats can be aggressive.

Bali Cat Pooh Chino. Bali Cappuccino. I appreciate the sense of humour. An old lady was roasting some beans there and even invited us to help roast. I just hope they treat the palm civets well as these cats provide them with the revenues. The time we visited, the store was doing brisk business. So, would you order a cuppa? Quite frankly, I enjoyed the other coffee and tea varieties more. In particular, I liked the hot mangosteen tea and the vanilla coffee more. ☕️


Temple Watch. Food Trip. Shopping. Beach. Cocktails. Repeat. Not necessarily in that sequence. With trips between tourist sites taking far longer because of the traffic, and with temples teeming with too many tourists, temple fatigue’s a natural consequence.

Offerings at Holy Spring Water Temple

Holy Water Spring Temple In Tampaksiring

The first 2 temple visits were welcomed with much enthusiasm and awe. I was actually smarting from how my “elves” seem to appreciate Balinese architecture, art and culture. Those temples may have sucked all energy though after the 4th one. Yup, I may have pushed them too far. 😂. Not even the healing waters of Tampaksiring proved enough to reenergise my family. Unlike the visit to the first 2 temples, it was much warmer in the Ubud area when we visited Sawasrati Temple and the Ubud Royal Palace — which is really more temples than a real palace. It’s hard to appreciate art and culture in this heat. Besides, we were having very late lunches because of the traffic situation. But no tempers flared. Just waning energies and interest. Oh, well.

Bathers praying for healing.

Pura Taman Sawasrati

The last time I went to Bali, Ubud was my trip’s highlight. I liked the rice paddies, the art galleries and yes, the temples too. But there were just too many people here now. There is an area here where you can visit the Ubud Royal Palace, Sawasrati Temple and the Ubud Art Market in one straight and short path. You bet all corners had tourist buses and hired vans offloading tourists round the clock. The Ubud Art Market still has the few art shops but there are more bag and clothing vendors here now. And I suspect there’s only a few suppliers of these bags and clothing. They’re all the same all over the island!

Puri Saren Agung (Ubud Royal Palace)

Tanah Lot Lunch Place

Tanah Lot

I saved the Tanah Lot and Uluwatu Temple visits for last. Preferably at sunset. But traffic jams can ruin the best plans 😔 Tanah Lot was a “take 2”. We missed sunset the first time we tried to visit. Then on our second visit, the area was cordoned off because of high tide. We opted to simply have a meal in one of the tiny dining areas with a cliff view of the temple being beaten by waves as high as 3 meters. Apo thinks she had her best Nasi Goreng here, even better than the duck lunch and more we had a day earlier in Tebasari Resto in Ubud. As for me, I savoured the scenic view of the temple while enjoying my Sate Babi and banana split for dessert.

Entrance to Tanah Lot

Lunch at Tebasari Resto and Bar

We said goodbye to our last Temple — Uluwatu — earlier than scheduled. We meant to stay till sunset but once more, the crowds compelled us to head back to our hotel to bathe and scrub the dust away. Tomorrow we’ve decided to just stay in. No more temples. We’d just enjoy the hotel, maybe attend the Pilates session, some water fun activities, wait for happy hours 😍 No more sunset watch. Bintang and Bali beers for company and we’re fine.

Uluwatu Temple

Uluwatu Temple