Chinese Lantern Festival

The Chinese Lantern Festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the first Chinese Lunar month. It is the end of the Chinese New year period.

The Lantern festival marks the return of spring and symbolizes a reunion of family but since there is no public holiday for the festival, most people don’t celebrate it with their family.

How did the lantern festival come to life?

Lantern festival originated 2000 years ago. During the Eastern Han Dynasty, Emperor Hanmingdi who was an advocate of Buddhism; ordered the lighting of lanterns on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month to show respect to Buddha. Since then, it gradually became a grand celebration among people.

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Activities during the lantern festival

People get together on the night of the Lantern Festival to enjoy different activities.

Lighting of lanterns is the main activity of the festival. Lanterns of various shapes, colors and sizes will be seen everywhere during the event – hanging, floating, held or fixed. Children may also hold small lanterns while walking the streets. The lantern symbolizes hope for a brighter and smoother future and best wishes for the families. Women who are praying for a child walk under a hanging lantern.

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Another popular activity during the festival is solving lantern riddles. This activity began in the Song Dynasty. Lantern owners put riddles written on a piece of paper inside the lanterns. People who guessed the correct answer win a small prize.

Lion Dance is the most entertaining activity for the celebration. People believed that the Lion as a sign of bravery and strength could drive away evil and could protect people and the land. Aside from jumping and rolling, the lion moves from place to place looking for the red envelopes which have money inside, this makes the activity more exciting and amusing.

Eating tangyuan is an important activity for the festival. Tangyuan is a ball-shaped dumplings made of glutinuous rice flour with different fillings. Families eat tangyuan altogether with the belief that it would bring togetherness and better bond in between the members.

Indulge in Romantic Places Around the World

There are some cities that just scream romance, hearts and flowers. Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to take it all in and revel in love.

Love should be a year round event but everyday life can have us yearning for more time together, special moments, and fond memories. If there’s one day where we can all take the time to show that special someone just how much we love them it’s Valentines Day.

From the usual dreamy spots to the truly magnificent, we present places to visit and indulge on romance.

New York City, New York

Central Park represents the majestic in a city of hustle and bustle. Smack dab in the middle of urban life is a place where one can go on a romantic paddle around the lake, have a picnic in Sheep Meadow, or Ice skate at Wollman Rink.

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The Conservatory Garden, a six-acre garden offers a deluge of flowers where you can stroll along and appreciate.

Make sure to also visit the famous LOVE sculpture by Robert Indiana on the corner of 6th Avenue and 55th Street in Manhattan.

Where to stay in New York City.

Verona, Italy

Can there be any place as romantic as that of Verona, Italy home to Juliet’s Balcony at Casa di Giulietta (Home of Juliet)? The tragic and devastating Shakespearean love story is one that strikes the heart of anyone who hears it.

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Witness a beautiful sunset on the skyline of Verona from Castel San Pietro.

During the Valentine weekend, 11-14 February the city of Verona dresses in red. The whole city goes all out to celebrate the day of hearts and love with a series of initiatives hosted by restaurants, bars, theaters and museums.

Romantic getaways in Verona.

Bali, Indonesia         

There are many places to choose in Asia to experience romance but Bali is among the top few and is often a wedding destination because of its gorgeous collection of beaches.

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The Balinese massage is one to be had and pampering that a couple can take joy together.

Have a cultural experience by visiting centuries-old temples such as the Tanah Lot, Goa Gajah, Uluwatu Temple, Besakih Temple and more.

Ocean view rooms in Bali.

Philippine Delicacies from North to South

Philippines is a very diverse nation. Diversity can be found in its culture, heritage, tradition and of course, food. Filipinos love to cook and to eat. Their love for food is the reason why there are a lot of delicacies to enjoy from the north to the southernmost part of the country.

Delicacies from Luzon

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Tupig

Intemtem or more commonly known by tourists as Tupig is a popular native delicacy from Pangasinan.  It is made from ground glutinous rice and young coconut strips wrapped in banana leaves then cooked over charcoal. Before, this delicacy is only available during Christmas, New Year and All Saint’s Day, but nowadays, it is being sold almost anywhere, especially in the fresh market, specialty shops and bus stations around Pangasinan, Tarlac and nearby provinces. Some local folks made variations to the usual tupig, some now have flavors like jackfruit, pandan, strawberry and purple yam.

Bibingkoy

Bibingkoy, a rice cake,  is a famous delicacy from Cavite. It is made up of glutinous rice stuffed with boiled mongo, then baked in an oven. It is made even special by a sauce made of gata (coconut milk) with scented langka (jackfruit) and sago (tapioca), which is poured over the bibingkoy.

Kalamay

Kalamay is a sticky Filipino rice cake, usually served during special occasions like holidays and town fiestas and is famous among the Tagalogs. This is made from glutinous rice flour, muscovado sugar, and coconut cream.  Kalamay is best enjoyed when sprinkled with Latik, a coconut residue.

Sinapot

Sinapot is a fried banana somewhat similar to turon.  This delicacy from Bicol is made from horizontally sliced Saba or Cardaba banana, mixed in a batter consisting of flour and eggs then deep fried.

Delicacies from Visayas

Simple Wikipedia
Simple Wikipedia

Binagol

Binagol is a sweet delicacy from Eastern Visayas, specifically Leyte. The name came from the word “bagol” the Visayan term for coconut shell. Binagol is a taro root mixture with glutinous rice and nuts. The taro mixture is contained in a polished coconut shell then a well is made at the center. A raw egg yolk is then dropped in the well then covered again with the mixture and steamed.

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This repetitive-feminine named native delicacy from Iloilo which is made from rice, is actually a combination of two native delicacies – muasi (palitaw) and bukayo. It is similar to palitaw but is more firm and gummy which makes it more like a white kutsinta.

Salvaro

The Salvaro of Cebu are very thin and crispy biscuits. These oval coconut crackers are made from enriched wheat flour, sugar, sodium bicarbonate, shredded coconut, and shortening.

Caycay

Caycay is a famous comfort food in Cebu. This crunchy layered biscuits rolled in toasted peanuts

is made from flour, calamansi, sugar and peanuts. Local bakers in Cebu made some twists to the recipe, some biscuits are now topped of filled with peanuts.

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Delicacies from Mindanao

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Daral

Daral is a Tausug delicacy similar to lumpia or crepe. This delicacy which originally came from Jolo Sulu, is actually bukayo  (sweetened grated coconut) wrapped in a thin dough.

Pasung

Pasung is a cone-shaped steamed rice cake covered with a banana leaf. This sweet delicacy which is most common in Zamboanga, is usually prepared on Ramadhan Ifthar and is best eaten with hot coffee, tea or chocolate drinks.

Pali Kambing / Tibobol

Pali Kambing or Tibobol is an original Tawi-tawi delicacy. This sweet cylinder-shaped delicacy which is also common in Zamboanga is similar to Chinese buchi. It is made from banana rolled in flour then fried.

Panyalam

Panyalam is an exotic delicacy with crispy crust and edges from the Mansaka tribe of Compostela Valley. This famous Muslim dessert in Mindanao mainly in Zamboanga Region, is cooked deep fried using ingredients such as powdered rice, sugar, and coconut milk.

Chinese New Year Customs and Traditions

Gong Xi Fa Cai is a common greeting you will hear during Chinese New Year. The Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is a major holiday and a festive occasion celebrated in places with significant Chinese populations. This year, Chinese New Year falls on January 28.

In the Philippines, the Chinese New Year is much anticipated by the Filipino-Chinese communities.  Many colorful customs and traditions are observed during this time, which are similar to those practiced in mainland China. Some of the more popular ones are the following:

CLEANING THE HOUSE

Before the Chinese New Year celebrations, people meticulously clean their homes. They scrub the walls, sweep the floor, change linens and dust the entire house. This is their way of showing respect to the family and their ancestors.

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PAYING OFF DEBTS

People also pay off all their financial obligations before the Chinese New Year. Carrying any burdens from the previous year is believed to bring bad luck, so people try to settle all their debts.

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GIVING RED ENVELOPES

Giving red envelopes or hongbao is also a custom observed during Chinese New Year. These red envelopes contain money and is commonly given to kids as Chinese New Year gifts. The color red is a symbol of happiness and blessings. Giving away red envelopes bestows good wishes and luck upon the receiver.

Photo credit: Brian Jeffery Beggerly -Flickr
Photo credit: Brian Jeffery Beggerly -Flickr

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HAVING NEW YEAR’S EVE DINNER WITH FAMILY

The Chinese New Year is also the time where families get together. People usually have New Year’s Eve dinner at home where fortune food like fish, dumplings, spring rolls and longevity noodles are served.

Alpha Flickr
Photo credit: Alpha- Flickr

EATING NIAN GAO OR TIKOY

Nian gao or Tikoy in the Philippines is a sweet delicacy prepared from glutinous rice that is traditionally eaten or given away during the Chinese New Year. Nian gao means “higher year.” When you give someone nian gao or tikoy, it means you are wishing that person prosperity in the coming year.

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PERFORMING DRAGON DANCES

Dragon dances are likewise performed on the streets by people wearing colorful dragon costumes. A team of dancers carry the Chinese dragon on poles and mimics the movements of the dragon to the accompaniment of cymbals, drums and gongs. To the Chinese people, the dragon symbolizes power and prestige and is believed to bring good luck.

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SETTING OFF FIREWORKS

Photo credit: SebastienPoncet (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo credit: SebastienPoncet (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Chinese New Year celebration is not complete without fireworks. The Chinese believe that setting off fireworks when the clock strikes 12:00 on New Year’s Eve will drive away evil spirits and bring good fortune in the coming year.

Chase the Winter Season in China

Winter in China is a cold one but it can also be enjoyable. In China, the average temperature is between -6 to 4 oC, and you need to brace yourself in this freezing climate. Take your winter clothes and see take in the majestic view of cities in China.

One of the best things you can do when you’re planning to take a vacation with your family is to take on these activities.

Love skiing? Beijing has a lot of ski resorts around the city. Nanshan Ski Resort, Wanlong Ski Resort, Shijinglong Ski Resort and Jundushan Ski Resort are some of the best place to go ski activities. Hop in to hot springs at Badaling and amaze with the frozen lake in Xiadu Park.

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Going northernmost part of China, you may check out the annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival runs throughout January. Take a glimpse of world famous landmarks, such as the Great Wall and Disney Castle, made out of ice and snow and lit up with colorful lights.

Photo by Brian Jeffery Beggerly (Flickr)
Photo by Brian Jeffery Beggerly (Flickr)

If you’re looking for enchanting mountain snow scenery, check out the Yellow Mountain located at the Huangshan Prefecture, Anhui Province, Eastern China, about 300 km west of Hangzhou and 500 km southwest of Shanghai. It was listed by the UNESCO as one of the World Heritage Site in 1990.

Photo by Carl Mueller (Flickr)
Photo by Carl Mueller (Flickr)

You may enjoy seas of cloud at Yuanyang Rice Terraces located at the Kunming prefecture, southwest part of China. It is also known as China’s five most beautiful rice terraces. If you love taking pictures, this place is recommend for magnificent scenery.

Photo by François Philipp (Flickr)
Photo by François Philipp (Flickr)

Cameron Highlands in Malaysia

The beautiful landscape of Cameron Highlands in Malaysia is indeed breathtaking. Famous for its winding trails and tranquil surroundings, the extensive hill station was first developed by the British in the 1920’s.

Not only do they have these lush hills but they also have a strawberry farm, butterfly farm and rose garden to explore. Cameron Highlands is a popular tourist destination and is well preserved.

Photo credit: Fabian Greiler- Flickr
Photo credit: Fabian Greiler- Flickr

Tea Plantation

Tourists often book the guided “tea” tours to see the vast tea plantations. The tea industry is a thriving one in Malaysia particularly in Cameron Highlands.

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Strawberry Farm

Photo credit: amrufm- Flickr
Photo credit: amrufm- Flickr

Butterfly Park

Photo credit: Will Ellis- Flickr
Photo credit: Will Ellis- Flickr

Rose Garden

Photo credit: I'm "[Yi.En.Shawn]- Flickr
Photo credit: I’m “[Yi.En.Shawn]- Flickr

Do’s and Don’ts When Visiting Thailand Temples

Thai temples also known as “wats” are the beautiful representations of historical and cultural significance. Buddhism is a central element of Thailand culture. Monks have a certain identity and are surprisingly friendly and many speak English and have kept up with the times.

Thai temples are usually located in a courtyard with housing and small worship areas. The sheltered areas with Buddha statues are known as Bots. These areas are considered more sacred and as such rules of etiquette should be followed.

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  • Step over the threshold not on it when walking into a temple
  • Dress modestly covering your knees and shoulders
  • Remove your hats, sunglasses, shoes before entering

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  • Never turn your back away from the Buddha statue but rather back away facing the statue
  • Don’t touch sacred objects in the worship area
  • Do not raise yourself higher than the image of the Buddha
  • Sit with your legs underneath you when worshiping in the Bots area. Avoid pointing your feet at the image of the Buddha

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  • If you are sitting, stand up when monks or nuns enter the Bot
  • Use your right hand when giving or receiving something from a monk
  • Women are not allowed to touch a monk or his robes or cross their legs in the presence of a monk
  • Treat monks with the highest respect
  • Don’t point at a monk or Buddha statue, either with your fingers or feet.

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  • Don’t touch a Buddha
  • Smoking, spitting, chewing gum, or eating are not allowed
  • Don’t photograph or disturb monks or others who are worshiping
  • Learn a few basic phrases in Thai, like ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’
  • Turn off your mobile phone
  • Keep your voice low at all times

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