Abaya : Fashion or Function

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Veiled Woman in Black Abaya
What’s your perception when you see women dressed in Black Abaya?

In Kuwait, traditionally & culturally, the clothing for women is the Black Abaya, while men wore the Dishdasha or Kandoura. For men, the color of Dishdasha ranges from beige, gray, off- white, white and during winter, they wear the Black ones. Now,there is a simple explanation while Black is the choice for color or this type of clothing for Muslim women here. It’s not because Black is a fashionable color,although I personally agree on this, but rather simply that it is most concealing. The sun is the most brightest here in middle east. It shines so bright and the heat is real and struggle.You cannot wear thick clothes in the summer and so many layers is also a no-no, rather you need something to cover your skin from burning at the same time for your skin to breathe.The Abaya or also known as cloak covers your whole body from your arms up to your legs and thus giving you ultimate protection from harmful rays of the sun.

The color black relates to the hidden, the secretive and the unknown, and as a result it creates an air of mystery. It keeps things bottled up inside, hidden from the world.In color psychology this color gives protection from external emotional stress.Wearing this black cloak relieves you from unwanted attention from lustful eyes and gives you a sense of protection.This is the whole concept of Muslim modesty. Women wear the black Abaya that totally disclose everything underneath.

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Abaya : Fashion or Function
If you knew the controversial photo of the late Princess Diana before about the see-through skirt that evokes too much attention then this is the absolute reason why white is not appropriate color chosen for Abayas here in the Middle East.

Now on the daily life of Muslim women here in Kuwait, wearing Black Abaya is more of a functional way, It is more than a culture behind the cloth. It is easy to put on, you don’t even know what they wear underneath. Some even wear their pyjamas or casual clothes. If you are a busy mom, then Abaya comes handy like rushing to get the kids to school, going into the grocery shop or even just a quick run down to the Bakala across the street. This saves so much time in putting on decent clothes. I have tried wearing the Abaya on certain occasion  when we entered the Mosque and it was a great privilege at the same time experience. I have great respect for this culture.

The origin of Abaya can be traced immemorial. Since the ancient times, people who are nomads in the Desert are wearing cloak type garments that protects them from the arid climate, strong winds & freezing cold desert winter.Through times, the style & evolution of Abaya in Fashion becomes a worldwide statement for the Arabic nation. Nowadays, Abayas are available with stylish embroidery, some even with Swarovski crystals, and tailor-made for the owner. In Kuwait alone, there are hundreds of shops particularly only for fashionable Abayas and its accessories. With this country’s ever – changing lifestyle, wearing the Abaya has become a Fashion statement for women together with their Arabic Oud perfumes, stilletos and luxury handbags.

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Cultureshock : For the love of Covering-Up.
How about you? What particular cultural aspects in Islam do you appreciate?  Or have you ever tried trying out foreign and local customs from your country?

How was your experience?

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Sagada , A Backpacker’s Paradise

One of the best Backpacking adventure I’ve had was exploring Sagada in the region of Mountain Province . Only with a backpack and full adventurous spirit, we set  off to a steep journey up north. The narrow road going to Sagada is enough to make you feel sick. All through out the journey I was afraid to look outside the window because I can almost see the cliffs ! Upon reaching our destination, I came to see a different world up there in the mountains.

Let me tell you why Sagada is one of the trips in the north of Philippines that you should’nt miss and share with you reasons why Sagada is amazing, Truly a Backpacker’s paradise .

 Take a Postcard with you of the beautiful Mountain Cliffs

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A postcard from Echo Valley in Sagada ,Philippines

Do you like the idea of waking  up in the morning with a view like this ? Up there in the mountain is a charming cottage house . When I saw this, I said to myself  that its my dream house, right at home with these lush greens, with majestic views of the Cordillera mountains.

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The Green Forest with stiff limestone mountains 

Taking lazy morning treks in the Echo Valley

I showed this photo to my husband and asked him where is this place, He said to me with a smile that its in Europe. He said it looks like the mountains in Austria where He spent his childhood vacations or in the mountains in Germany .

I told him its in the Philippines and he was shocked!

Sagada is famous for its rugged mountain ranges. In earlier times, It was difficult for the Spaniards to conquer this area  because of the difficulty of terrains of the Cordillera. The province has many rivers, waterfalls, mountains, and caves. The central and western areas of the province are characterized by rugged mountains and steep cliffs, while the eastern portion has generally sloping terrain.

Learn from the past while visiting the Hanging Coffins

We were touring Sagada and exploring the Echo Valley when we saw this spot in the cliff of the mountain with the Hanging Coffins .When i first saw it, It  really looks creepy, at the same time I was curious . I have heard about it before  but I never really had an idea why people are doing this thing . We asked locals and find out something really interesting .

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One of the most common beliefs behind this practice is that moving the bodies of the dead higher up brings them closer to their ancestral spirits. The elderly feared being buried in the ground. When they died, they did not want to be buried because they knew water would eventually seep into the soil and they would quickly rot. They wanted a place where their corpse would be safe.There are two fears of being buried. The first is that dogs will eat the corpse, so the coffins are placed high up on a cliff, out of their reach. Secondly, years ago, during the headhunting days, savages from different parts of Kalinga and eastern Bontoc province  would hunt for their heads, and take them home as a trophy. That’s another reason why the dead were buried high up – so nobody could reach them.

The coffins are either tied or nailed to the sides of cliffs, and most measure only about one metre in length, as the corpse is buried in the foetal position. The Igorots believe that a person should depart the same way he entered the world.

The deceased is then placed on a wooden sangadil, or death chair, and the corpse is tied with rattan and vines, and then covered with a blanket. It is thereafter positioned facing the main door of the house for relatives to pay their respects. The cadaver is smoked to prevent fast decomposition and as a means to conceal its rotting smell. The vigil for the dead is held for a number of days, after which the corpse is removed from the death chair to be carried to the coffin. Before being taken for burial, it is secured in the foetal position, with the legs pushed up towards the chin. It is then wrapped again in a blanket and tied with rattan leaves while a small group of men chip holes into the side of the cliff to hammer in the support for the coffin.This practice is slowly fading away .Nowadays ,the natives opt to bury their dead underground.

When i visit a new place, i try to learn something about the local life of its people. This tradition is one of the distinct culture that struck me up until now.

Spelunking , Survival &  Getting lost in the dark caves of Sumaguing

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My feet in the glistening cold ice water inside the limestone cave of Sumaguing

Have you ever tried Cave Spelunking? Is the sight of waist-level water and darkness sound appealing to you? I tell you, this is one of the highlights of my travel in Sagada. Its dangerous, exhilarating, nerve-wrecking ,and at the same time exciting . Frankly speaking, this  is not for the faint- hearted .  If you have Achluophobia or Nyctophobia    or { fear of the dark } then you should think twice before you go inside this cave.

You need to get a licensed Guide to go with you to avoid any injuries or worst an accident that could leave you trapped inside. It’s no joke being trapped inside ! The rocks are rugged and sharp edges could really be dangerous. For the first timers, It is advisable to go inside with a guide to go with you through the dark trails inside.

We had our guide for this aprrox . 3 hours of spelunking. We had a short jeepney ride going to the site & quick tour of the grounds on the mouth of the cave. We wear shorts & slippers and luckily my phone survived inside the slippery, grimy, dark cave. Inside we were astonished to see various rock formations , stalactites & stalagmites , all glistening in the dark. Like golden sculptures . Being inside is like a labyrinth , you don’t know where is the end of the dark path. You need to hold on tightly on the rope & squeeze yourself to get through a small opening and using ropes to glide you down the cliffs without slipping yourself to the deep iced-cold waters inside the pools. It was so thrilling especially on the descent, and on the hard paths. Take note : You will slip, you will get wet, you might bump into the rocks. But in the end , you can say to yourself “I have survived spelunking in Sagada !”

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Inside Sumaguing Cave
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Our kerosene lamp inside the cave

As the process gets more challenging, the more the cave reveals impressive rock formations, such as the King’s Curtain, Rice Terraces,The Queen, and the huge hall called the Dancing Hall. The glassy limpid pools are also a sight to behold. Indeed ,spelunking in Sumaguing is a wonderful adventure . The good news is, the dark path has an end and finally we see the ray of light from our way outside.

Having a Feel of the cozy air of a village life

The serene view of  rice terraces fields and ardous green landscape that  surrounds the  villages in Sagada is breathtaking. The smell of pine trees is all over the place that gives you such delight. We spent the afternoon taking a lazy stroll to explore the market, the rice terraces fields and the cottage houses nearby, taking a dip in the Bomod-ok falls, the weaving factory, the pottery sites and just admire the beautifulDanum lake.

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Our trek going to the Kapay-Aw Rice Terraces
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Green landscape as seen from the rows of Pines trees
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A fine day at Lake Danum
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Tall Pine Trees on our trek to Kiltepan

During the night, Sagada changes its mood & leaves you feeling relaxed. Its  very laid back town and  quiet at night since there is a curfew around 9pm. We enjoyed a hearty meal in one of the restaurant nearby and later on we visited the Lemon house pie . The homemade lemon  pie was to die for ! I like the quaint design and genuine hospitality of this place .We had coffee with one of the locals and told us stories about the place.

Wonderful Chase of sunrise in Kiltepan Peak

We wake up around 4:30 to get ready to catch the sunrise in Kiltepan Peak. If you visit Sagada, watching the sunrise in Kiltepan peak is a must.There is a langous trek to reach the cliff where you can have a glimpse of the mountains ,villages and the rice terraces . Its worth to be waking up early because the views were amazing! My photos didn’t even do justice on this place.

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Fluffy clouds covered the mountains while the sun is rising

We left  with our backpack and our glad hearts full of our wonderful memories from our adventures in Sagada . There’s so much things that we’ve seen but i did not write about it, you need to see it & experience it  for yourself.

If you want to visit Sagada and looking for a place to stay ,then i highly recommend checking out George Guest House . It’s conveniently located near to the top attractions in Sagada and they are reasonably priced. They are a great host and we had a wonderful stay with them.

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How about you ? What was the recent adventure you’ve done?

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Thank you for stopping by !

 

 

5 Free Things to do in Amsterdam

You want to explore Amsterdam but don’t want to smash your budget ?

I know touring Amsterdam can really be expensive . There is so much fun things to do and so much to see . But I wanna share with you how we survived it .  Here’s my Top 7  Free Things to do in Amsterdam that would definitely let you have a taste of its culture , and learn why this charming Dutch metropolis is one of top Europe’s travel hub. I highly recommend these things even if you have young kids travelling with you . It’s all about location . You don’t need to stress out yourself , Amsterdam is  beautiful  &  diversity is all over the city & deserves to be part of your Budget-friendly destinations  in Europe .

1. Go to the Bloemenmarkt

Holland is famous for its Tulips and other beautiful blooms , so why not indulge yourself into amazing array of flowers displayed in Bloemenmarkt. There’s no charge to wander past the stalls of the city’s wonderful floating flower market , the Bloemenmarkt (daily opens at  9am–5pm, some stalls close on Sunday), which extends along the southern bank of the Singel. Popular with locals and tourists alike , the market is one of the main suppliers of flowers to central Amsterdam, but its blooms and bulbs now share stall space with souvenir clogs, garden gnomes, Delftware and similar souvenir keepsakes .

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Tulips blooms in Bloemenmarkt

 

2. Discover Begijnhof

Ah,This one is my favorite . If you’ve been into the busy streets of Amsterdam that is packed with tourists then why not have a Breather, right within the city . Go to Begijnhof . Its  little gateway on the north side of the Spui leads into this hidden gem, where a huddle of immaculately maintained old houses looks onto a central green. This is one of the city centre’s most beguiling sights, and totally free. It was founded in the fourteenth century as a home for the beguines – members of a Catholic sisterhood living as nuns, but without vows and with the right of return to the secular world.

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One fine afternoon in Begijnhof

3. Listen to lunchtime concerts at the Concertgebouw

There are regular free lunchtime concerts at this impressive Arts venue, home of the famed – and much recorded – Koninklijk (Royal) Concertgebouw Orchestra. It has become renowned among musicians and concertgoers 
for its marvelous acoustics, and after a facelift and the replacement of its crumbling foundations in the early 1990s it is looking and sounding better than ever.

4. Walk or take a Nap in Vondelpark

This is a famous park in Amsterdam and if you want some peace & quiet ,then find yourself a space near the lagoon in Vondelpark then just admire this beautiful place.You can feed the ducks ,people watch , or just ride your bike along its bike paths.There are many artwork and sculpture displayed in here that might catch your attention .Amsterdam is short of green spaces, which makes the leafy expanses of the Vondelpark, the city centre’s main park, one of its best attractions. The park possesses a wide variety of local and imported plants, an excellent rose garden, and a network of ponds and narrow waterways that are home to many sorts of wildfowl. There are other animals too: cows, sheep, hundreds of squirrels, plus a large colony of bright-green (and very noisy) parakeets. We had a lunch picnic here and my daughter enjoyed it .

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Lush greens in Vondelpark

5. Take a stroll along the Red Light District 

With a kid tagging along with us , I feel squemish of bringing along my toddler  in here . I mean this place is known for scantily- clad women displayed in red framed windows! Most parents will raise their eyebrows for exposing your child to sights like that. But when I observed how quiet and safe the place is , i didn’t see any reason to miss this area . If you go here in the morning , you can see packs of men, young and old , couples holding hands and pointing in shock of it all, giggling groups of women ,teenagers , and busloads of Japanese tourists toting cameras and making selfies. This is proof enough that De Wallen deserves a visit, if not a little look in.  But photography of the women are strictly prohibited ,so be careful .

It’s your choice ,you need to experience passing by the RLD and  then probably you will understand what i felt when i see this place.

6. See Amsterdam’s finest church

If you are an Architecture buff and interested in religious building such as old churches, then you wouldn’t wanna miss the finest churches in Amsterdam, all can be reached by foot .

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Zuiderkerk as seen from Prinsengracht

The Westerkerk, is the biggest church in Amsterdam  just along Prinsengracht,  The church still dominates the district, its 85-metre tower – without question Amsterdam’s finest – soaring graciously above its surroundings. This church became the symbol of this city . The church was designed by Hendrick de Keyser and completed in 1631 as part of the general enlargement of the city, but whereas the exterior is all studied elegance, the interior is bare and plain.Zuiderkerk is the first Protestant church in the city . During  summer season, its tower may be climbed offering the nice view on canals and old houses of the area.

7 .  Watch people climb the I Amsterdam Letters in Museumplein 

Finally , You are in Amsterdam so what’s the best way to make memories of it than to take a selfie & watch people clambered on top of the letters . Discover why people of all ages climb on top of it , or why  Tourists flocked in here each one of them  striking their signature poses . Museumplein is an amazing place  and totally crazy in Summer.

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People watching at Museumplein

Have you’ve been to Amsterdam ? How was your experience ? I would love to hear your comments from your trip .

Thank you for stopping by and reading !

 

Typically Dutch : Clogs

Last Christmas , my husband & I with our daughter are watching a Walt Disney ‘s animated cartoon movie. I forgot the title but it was all about children from all over the world trying to help Santa Claus in his chores . The children are dressed in their traditional costumes.One of them is Dutch . We recognized him eventually because He is wearing Clogs! He makes so much noise while walking . The other children tried to put anything under his clogs to lessen the noise  so Santa Claus will not be waken up. We were laughing out loud of how funny it is .

Clogs or locally known as Klompen are important part of Dutch cultural Heritage . This traditional footwear becomes a national identity of Dutch people . Clogs has been a popular protective  footwear for people who work the land , mostly farmers. Because of its durability and ability to withstand sharp & heavy objects and harsh concentrated chemicals. It was even certified by the European Union as Safety shoes with CE mark. The oldest wooden clogs were found in The Netherlands  in Nieuwendijk . It was believed to be dated since 1230 and is made of Alder wood . In the old days , it takes a skilled worker to carve &  make an identical pair of clogs . Nowadays , clogs which become a popular tourist souvenir and are machine made.

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While in Holland , we were lucky to visit a community workshop in Enter in Twente in Eastern Netherlands , about making wooden clogs . It has a charming Museum , named Klompenmuseum Sköpke  and a shop gallery of the Artisan Workers who made these beautifully hand-made Clogs. Most of the clogs were made out of Willow and Poplar trees.

It is quite an experience to see a local Artisan demonstrates how to make clogs out of willow clumps. In so many shops in Amsterdam you can see hundreds of displayed Clogs but seeing the  manual way of carving it makes you appreciate it even more. One pair of clogs is worth  hours of hardwork & genuine skill. We ordered for a size of my daughter who was 1 year old that time . Its amazing how they carefully carved it with perfection to suit her tiny feet.

 

They can make personalized designs as you wanted just like the way they did to my daughter’s clogs. She loves to walk with it , play with it , even eat it.

Travel Tip !

If you visit The Netherlands ,make it as part of your trip to visit Traditional clog making villages and Tours  such as the one in Zaanse Schans .You can bring home a souvenir clogs with design of your choice or even buy a custom-made for yourself. Knowledge about your travels are the best souvenir.

Thank you for reading!