Hong Kong Hangover

I knew that I’d get to like Hong Kong but I was absolutely clueless that I’d get to fall in love with the city in just a snap during our short stay there. As of this moment, it has been almost three weeks since we’ve traveled to Hong Kong. I must say, I’m having a bit of that “Hong Kong Hangover” that I’ve decided to write down some of my thoughts and lessons learned during our marvelous trip.

  1. Hong Kong has some of the most stunning and amazing architecture I’ve ever seen. As an architect by profession, I can say that the place has that sense of contrast and mixture of the old and the new. It is where the senescent structures complements with the modern and contemporary skyscrapers.
  2. Water is relatively pricey in Hong Kong! You don’t want to get dehydrated during the trip, so it’s never too wrong to set aside aside some amount from your budget for it. Always, always, always stay hydrated at all times!
  3. Hong Kong is immensely an alluring and captivating city! It would be unimaginable for someone to get to dullsville there because the city has seemingly has a ceaseless list of things to do there.
  4. The city is relatively easy to navigate. Oh! The Hong Kong MTR is a top notch mode of transportation going around the city. What I love about their MTR is that they are clean, fast, efficient and cheap! If you need to go anywhere in Hong Kong, the MTR will get you close to your destination.
  5. Pedestrian walkways makes it easier for the people to go around the city. They have air-conditioned, clean and well-lit subways and skybridges. You’ll never get lost, the signs says it all! The sense of safety in Hong Kong is remarkably high. One can roam around the city at any time of the day, either alone or in groups, without the fear of compromising their security.
  6. Hong Kong is a city of vitality, vigor, color and order! Indeed a city for everyone, it has a great mix of culture. It is where East meets West and became into a one great and crazy mixed-up city.
  7. Undoubtedly, the city is downright a shopper’s haven, an artist’s canvass and a foodie’s paradise!
  8. Because of the typhoon Nina back in the Philippines, our flight was delayed for almost 5 hours. However, we didn’t mind the long wait at the Hong Kong International Airport. Hello, airport lounging! There were hundreds of shops to go to and a lot of interesting cafes and restaurants to try! The airport lounge were cozy and spacious too. I really find it interesting that the HKIA were interconnected with their very efficient and user-friendly subway system, which is used to transfer from one Terminal to the other.
  9. This trip has taught me that when traveling, it is best to give your destination a window of opportunity to astonish and impress you first. Set off any of your expectations and just simply enjoy, savor the moment and merely find something new to learn.
  10. I really am thankful for the people who made this trip possible. You know who you all are. Thank you! Hong Kong is just 2 1/2 hours away from home, but this trip is indeed an eye-opener for me. This little city did somehow changed my view of the world. It may be safe to say that any trip has the capacity to change lives, it changed mine. Just let it. Let life take you by surprise. If not, let it change your day, your week, your month or your year. How? Go to Hong Kong! Enjoy! 🙂

 

 

Heartsome Hong Kong Day 3

Tired from the Disneyland Trip yesterday, but still, we were all enthused to wake up early becaaauuusseeee… It’s Christmas Day! The kids were still asleep as Anthony and I went out to buy breakfast for everyone at Mc Donald’s at Sun Kung Kai Center along Harbour Drive, just a few walk away from the hotel.

After bringing breakfast back at the hotel, we decided to go to Causeway Bay, one of the busiest Districts in Hong Kong Island as it caters large-scale activities such as shopping, dining, entertainment, parks and recreation. We had to walk about 5 to 6 looooong blocks to get there, specifically in Times Square. It is known to be as the biggest emporium in the district for its luxury brands- but lucky us, majority of the items were on SALE!

We went back at the hotel half an hour past 4. We were all dead tired, and then decided to have hot pot for dinner! Yum!!

That dinner was the perfect way to end the day, and of course, celebrate Christmas with the special people in your life and I couldn’t thank them enough for having me in theirs. How I wish I could also spend this special occasion with my family as well.

Heartsome Hong Kong Day 2

 

The Hong Kong Adventure Day 2 begins with this scenery at 7:00 in the morning:

With the 15° Celsius temperature, it’s really a good idea to just stay in bed and curl up around a warm blanket all day. But then, we were all jolted up by just hearing this coming from the other side of the door:

“Change of plans for Day 2. Let’s go to Disneyland!”

The kids shrieked and jumped with joy and joining them, we couldn’t contain the giddiness and excitement that we all felt that we skipped breakfast for this activity. Ready for this long post? Well then, read on!

Going from Hong Kong Island to Lantau Island (Disneyland) went like this: From the hotel, we rode the airport shuttle to the MTR Hong Kong Station (Tsuen Wan Line) going to Lai King Station. From there, we alit at Sunny Bay station going to the Disneyland Resort Sounds about complicated but it’s actually not but it could take a while to get used to the MTR System in Hong Kong though. It took us almost about an hour for this trip including all the walking and transfers itself.

The park is divided into seven attractions: Toy Story Land, Mystic Point, Grizzly Gulch, Adventureland, Mainstreet, USA, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. An overview of the Theme Park using the Disneyland Mobile App:

Toy Story Land– Of course, who else would you want to see in this area? Buzz Lightyear, Woody, Jessie, Rex, Mr. Potato Head, the Aliens, Hamm, Toy Soldiers, Zurg! Name it, they’re all there!

✱ Mystic Point-We weren’t able to explore this part of the park but according to the provided map, it is where Lord Henry Mystic manor is located along with his collection of arts and antiquities acquired from around the globe.

✱ Grizzly Gulch- Just like the Mystic Point, we were not able to explore this part as well. But I think that’s just fine, nothing to miss out on this though.

Adventureland- This area has so manny attractions to see such as the Festival of the Lion King, Rafts to Tarzan’s Tree House, Tarzan’s Treehouse, Jungle River Cruise and Liki Tikis.

Main Street, U.S.A– Travel back in time as it takes you to experience and enjoy the colorful architecture of the 20th Century set in a small town in the USA.

Fantasyland- Oh boy! Where do I even start?  Fantasyland is the heart of the Disney World after all. There is so much to see in this section and I have to say, the Disney Imagineers really did a great job on this one. It’s the perfect go-to for kids and kids-at-heart.

Tomorrowland- This area is for the techie ones housing the Hyperspace Mountain, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, The Orbitron, THE Star Wars Command Post, Jedi Temple and soon to open- The Iron Man Experience.


So there you go, a glimpse of the huge Disneyland Theme Park!

But before anything else, we needed something to fuel us up for the day: Lunch at Tomorrowland at the Starliner Diner:

Now that we’ve been prepped up by that sumptuous meal, we immediately lined up to the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blaster! It was such a treat because I have Lia with me, my travel buddy for the whole trip, to tour me around the area. So before going inside the room, she already gave me some pointers on how to beat the evil Emperor Zurg and how to save the Universe!

I must say, I got a bit emotional during the show as all of the songs that were played reminds me so much of my childhood. I knew all the songs WORD. PER. WORD. We were welcomed by Beauty and the Beast’s Lumiere as he sang “Be Our Guest”, Snippets from The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Ariel from Little Mermaid (I find myself waving my hands in the air whispering “Bubbles, Flounder, Bubbles!” as Ariel sang Part of Your World and oh yes, I want more!), Peter Pan, the Lion King and Aladdin and Jasmine! I’d love to watch it again! I also felt so happy to see Lia enjoy the show as well!

After the show, Anthony and I decided to go aboard  the Jungle River Cruise as the kids went to their kiddie realm. So here’s what we got to see but only took a few shots cause we really took time to enjoy each and every moment of the cruise!

After the River Cruise, we immediately went in queue at the Starwars Command Post where we got to meet and greet R2D2! Was kinda hoping we could meet Chewbacca as well but he was scheduled at a later time.

At 3:30 came one of the highlights of the trip: The Flights of Fantasy Parade where we saw our favorite Disney Characters come to life and our dreams take flight!

After the show, everyone lined up for the 28-minute Mickey and the Wondrous Book show that featured Mickey as he travels through the pages of a Wondrous Book where Disney stories and characters come to life in a spectacular musical. There was Ariel from The Little Mermaid, Tiana from Princess and the Frog, King Louie from the Jungle Book, Genie from Aladdin, Rapunzel from Tangled, and Anna from from Frozen!.. and yes, I, once again, sang along with them! It’s like watching a Broadway show, only, Disney character are on it!

And now on to our last performance for the day before the Disney Paint the Night Parade start: The Festival of the Lion King! Such an amazing, amazing, amazing show!

And for the Finale for the Day? The Disney Paint the Night Parade!

Like a fairy tale, the night must come to an end. This was such a memorable day for me for my childhood dream has come to reality. The kids and the young at heart who were with me today did surely had a blast and made their dreams come true too- on Christmas Eve! Thank you for making this day a reality! Until next time!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

 …to be continued

Heartsome Hong Kong 2016 Day 1

Hello, folks!

2016 is indeed a year I really have to be thankful for. Ending the year with a wonderful trip to Hong Kong is the way to do it. What can I say? I fell in love with this cosmopolitan city in an instant!

Where to, 2016?

Where to, 2016?

We took the first flight off that day via Air Asia. However, our flight got delayed for an hour due to air traffic both in NAIA and Hong Kong International Airport. The plane took off at 9:05 in the morning and landed safely around 11:00 a.m.

Oh the architect in me just shoot up when I saw how massive and architecturally pleasing the Hong Kong International was! Such a bummer I wasn’t able to take an aerial shot of the airport before landing.

HKIA Interior and the Christmas-y feels.

HKIA Interior and the Christmas-y feels.

Everything was smooth then we reached the lengthy queue at the HK immigration area, which took us not more than 30 minutes, so we didn’t mind falling in line at all. Before leaving the airport, we bought our airport express tickets that will serve us a round trip from the Airport to Hong Kong Island and vice versa for HKD 180 per person. We grabbed a quick bite at Mc Donalds before rolling out of the terminal.

The Airpport Express surely did awed me as it took us exactly 24 minutes from the Airport to Hong Kong Island where we rode the connecting bus that took us to the hotel for about less than 30 minutes. Talk about efficient transportation system!

We alighted at the Hong Kong Station that connected us to a shuttle that took us to our Hotel in Wan Chai for a good 20-minute ride around the city. Upon reaching the hotel, we just rested for a while then bought lunch just across the the street.

Not quite sure what the restaurants were called but the exterior looked like this along Stuart Road in Wan Chai:

That was indeed a good meal! Around 4 in the afternoon, we had a lengthy walk to the Ferry Station going ti Tsim Sha Tsui. We took a 10-minute ferry ride to Victoria Harbor that costs HK$ 2.50 each. Victoria Harbor, as far as I know is one of the top-tourist attraction where you can view the magnificent Hong Kong Skyline that you can view the panoramic scenery of these architectural gems: HongKong and Shanghai Bank designed by none other the the I.M. Pei, the obelisk-type International Finance Tower designed by Cesar Pelli and the Convention and Exhibition Center designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP. What an eye feast!

There were plenty of sight-seeing attractions in the district and to name a few:

The Clock Tower is one of the reminders of the Colonial Times built out of red blocks and granite and is declared as an official monument in Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong Space Museum:

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The Hong Kong Space Museum stands in the Tsim Sha Tsui District in the Middle of a fountain and is complemented by different colors.

We decided to wait for the Symphony of Lights Show but it was still way too early so we strolled along Nathan Road that is lined with retail shops and restaurants, hence, the name Golden Mile.

We walked and walked until we couldn’t walk no more! So we had to go back to the Victoria Harbor  to get a good spot for the Symphony of Lights show that is said to be awarded by the Guinness Book of Records as the Worlds’s “Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show”. Different buildings and skyscrapers lights were synchronized with the lights and music. Our verdict? “Mmmkaaayyy…”

 

 

To cap off the night, we went back to the hotel via Star Ferry again and devoured ourselves with, you guessed it right! Roasted pork and noodles! It has been a long day and so far? I’m loving Day 1 of our Hong Kong 2016 trip.

… To be continued

 

Banaue + Sagada Adventure

One thing I should be thankful this year is that I was able to travel to another place I’ve been wanting to visit all my life— Banaue and Sagada! I felt really blessed that after all these years, I finally made it up there! As a kid, I only used to see this in the posters shown to us in class. I couldn’t contain the happiness I felt all through out the trip, so I blogged about it, and so, yeah, read on!

We left Manila at 9:30 pm last April 26, 2016. Around 7:30 am the next day, the group reached Banaue, Mountain Province. The temperature was about 17°C when we arrived there. Everyone was prepared for the nippy weather and were properly dressed for the tour. We took some group pictures and proceeded to the Halfway Lodge to have breakfast. Everyone was impressed on the view they are seeing because they are having breakfast with the view of the Banaue Rice Terraces. As individuals who are in the architectural profession, we were discussing over breakfast how impressive the view is and how the method of construction could have possibly took place.

© Deanne Pacis 2016

The group at the Banaue Arc!

After having breakfast, the group proceeded to the Dyannara View Point to see the Banaue Rice Terraces up close. The magnificent Banaue Rice Terraces or “Payyό” as it is locally called, remains an architectural wonder and a true testament of creativity and hard work among our indigenous Ifugao people. Its wonder includes the mode of construction and irrigation systems used for it was built for almost 2,000 years ago to which advanced building systems of construction were non-existent. The Rice Terraces is also a part of the World Heritage List of the UNESCO. A local Igorot greeted us by the name of “Pannagan” a.k.a. Charlie who is a resident in the area came out of his small hut and conversed with the group. He told stories about the way of life of the Igorots. He taught the students the art of how the Igorot people dress up and expressed its symbolism to their culture.

Around 8:30 am, we left Banaue and took another 4-hour drive to Sagada. We proceeded to the Rusty Nail Inn where we had our lunch as we were advised by the tour guide that food in Sagada is prepared and served very slow. Around 1:00 pm, we reached the Hidden Hill for our accommodation. The group rested for an hour before going back on the road for the Sagada local tour.

At 2:00 pm, we had the Sagada local tour wherein our first stop was at the Sagada Weaving. We were told that the Sagada Weaving has been producing several quality products such as slippers, bags, and other souvenir items since 1968. The intricacy of the weaving process made it much more interesting to the students as the workers began to create colorful fabrics at the work hall. The process was difficult to understand at first but we were able to get the hang of it after seeing how the ladies worked on each fabric. We were able to relate the process of weaving to architecture through the patterns and shapes that were created during the weaving session.

A few meters away from the Sagada Weaving is the St. Mary the Virgin Episcopal Church, a known landmark at the center of the town. Sagada is known to be the only town in the Philippines who’s majority of its religion is Protestant because it was not colonized by the Spaniards during the Spanish Colonization Era.  Before the foundation of the Church, the Sagadan people were believed to be animists, to which they believe that all plants, animals and objects have spirits. When the church was founded, almost 95% of the people in the area were baptized. It was built by the American Missionaries in 1904 and is located at the Anglican Mission Compound. According to research, it was founded by the Reverend John Staunton who went to Sagada to spread the Christian faith in the area. The church is built with thick masonry walls with massive rose windows that allow the sunlight to enter the structure. Even with thick walls, air can still flow freely inside the church which allows cool breeze to come in. The location of the church is placed in a verdant garden setting that absolutely harmonizes with nature.

Moving on with the tour, we were brought by the tour guide to the Calvary Hill and Cemetery, the burial ground for the people of Sagada. The tour guide mentioned that people who reached old age and went through “good death” , for instance, they did not die due to murders, accidents or any form of diseases are the ones that are given the honor of having their tombs hanged at the cliffs. Sagadans who are not given such special honors are laid to rest however, at the Calvary Hill. It was also discussed to us that the burial process in Sagada is not determined by the status symbol but by the cause of death of the person. We were set to go to the Echo Valley where the Hanging Coffins were located. There, students shouted to their heart’s desire and experimented the acoustical properties of nature. It was believed that the Sagadan people would shout their prayers and wishes at the Echo Valley hoping that the spirits would grant them and answer back their requests. Unfortunately, we were not able to go down to see the famous hanging coffins because the rain started to pour so we hurriedly went back to the vehicle to which they took us to the Ganduyan Museum, a small museum in the area that showcases the artifacts and utensils of the Sagadan people.

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We were greeted by Mr. Lester Aben, the son of Mrs. Christina Aben- the owner and curator of the museum who just recently passed away a year ago. Mr. Aben said that the museum was named after the original name of Sagada which was “Ganduyan”. He was able to explain to the group all the display materials that are inside the museum piece by piece and was able to tell which piece was of value and importance especially to the Igorots. It was observed that Mr. Aben was very passionate in telling stories and one can be able to tell that he is a natural raconteur about the Igorot art and culture. He also told us that all materials that are inside the museum were passed on from generation to generation. He mentioned that not so far outside the town proper, an Ifugao Village is being constructed to showcase the lifestyle and culture of the Sagadan people which will be available for public viewing hopefully by 2017 and hoping that the College may once again come back to Sagada. Unluckily, taking photos inside the museum is strictly prohibited.

The Sagadan Rain made this trip extra special. We were all soaking wet and added more fun to it. We were able to drink the famous Sagada Coffee and pair it with fishballs! We had so much fun walking in the chilly rain, no cellphones or any form of gadgets, just us, laughter, food, and jumping in the puddle like kids!

At 5:00 pm, everyone went back to the lodge to freshen up and at 6:00 pm, we headed to the popular Yoghurt House to have our dinner and then got back again to the lodge at around 8:00 pm. The faculty ensured that lights should be out by 10:00 pm as the call time for the next day is at 5:00 am.

The next day, April 28, 2016, the group was set to witness the sunrise at the Kiltepan Peak. It took us around 10 minutes to drive from the lodge to the ridge of the Kiltepan Tower. The area is bounded by three barangays- Kilong, Tetep-an and Antadao, hence, the name Kiltepan. Around 6:15 am, the sun began to rise and unbridled it first rays of the day which illuminated the clouds below it and began to unveil the beauty of the Kilong Rice Terraces which looked like broken glasses that formed an artwork. Everyone was astonished by the surrealistic view of the landscape and genuinely appreciated the wonder of nature. It was explained to the students about the importance of a spirit of a place, otherwise known as “genius loci”, that creates a distinctive atmosphere that transcends the built environment.

Everyone took their place to capture the impressive moment and then after 30 minutes, we headed back to the town proper to have our breakfast at the Happy House Restaurant. The tour guide reminded us to eat heavy breakfast for the next activity would require us to exert ample amount of energy.

After breakfast, we were set to go to the Lumiang and Sumaguing Cave Connection. Around 8:30 am, we reached the entrance of the Lumiang Cave. Names and information of the people who will enter the cave were submitted to the SAGGAS (Sagada Guides Association) for security and records purposes. Before anything else, we started the activity with a prayer for the safety of everyone. We were given a briefing and orientation by the tour guide along with his four (4) trained and authorized guides in order for the group to be able to navigate properly and safely through the caves.

The Igorots consider the Lumiang Cave (also known as the “Small Cave”) as a sacred place for them for it is where they bury their dead and these burial rites form a very important role in forming their culture. Pine stacked coffins were cut out like a canoe were present at the Lumiang Cave entrance itself. It is a tradition that has been practiced for about 500 years already. The tour guide said that the coffins were positioned at the mouth of the cave because they believed that light coming in will protect the soul of the deceased from bad spirits. We have noticed that the size of the coffins were smaller than the regular ones. The explanation was that the corpses were placed in a fetal position like in the womb for they believed that they should leave the world in the same formation as they have entered it. The symbol of gecko was also present on some coffins to which the guide explained that the person died at a very old age, hence signifying long life. During this day and age, they rarely adapt this way of burying the dead because of the presence of the Episcopalian Church in town.

The objective of the spelunking is basically form-finding wherein it is considered the basic foundation for creativity in coming up with concepts in producing good designs. Nature is considered as the best source for inspiration for the design of human environment, consequently results to the term biomimetics or biomimicry. It is an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies. Such a challenging task spelunking was! It really required such physical effort to wander through the caves, however, gives you the satisfaction that you enter the caves as a sissy and then come out of it as a total bad ass! The struggle was real, but was worth all the body pain!

As we descended through the mouth of the Lumiang Cave, incredible rock formations began to reveal its forms. Rock forms of plants and animals were shown to us. Some rocks appeared as chocolate pudding, curtains, image of Jesus Christ and Mother and Child. As we reached the Sumaguing Cave, often referred to as the “Big Cave” or the “Cave Princess”, limestone, stalactites and stalagmites were seen inside that is formed from water drips from the ceiling of the cave. The water contains calcite that is a major component in the formation of the stalactite and stalagmite. The activity took us almost 3-4 hours before reaching the end of the cave. At exactly 12:00 noon, we reached the exit point of the cave and headed back at the lodge to freshen up and then we ate our lunch again at the Happy House Restaurant. At 2:30 pm, we got back at the lodge to rest for a while.

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At 4:00 pm, we headed to the Sagada Pottery House. Several finished product were presented to us and then Seigrid, the in-house pottery-maker, conducted a demonstration on how to mold a pottery piece. After the demo, the student and faculty volunteers also did a hands-on workshop and created their own “masterpiece”, of course, with the guidance and supervision of the potter. We were given ample time to roam around the Pottery House to check out the different finished product and appreciate the artwork of the potters.

Come 5:00, we left the area and headed to the Lake Danum to witness the sunset after participating in a major activity in the morning. Sunset watching was the perfect activity in the afternoon that does not require much effort. Lake Danum was derived from the Kankanay and Ilocano word “danum” which mean “water”. Locals say that it is the best place to see the sunset. Landscape appreciation was also conducted at that time because of the presence of various types of plant and tree species.

At 6:00 pm, we went back to the town proper to have our dinner at Salt and Pepper. While waiting for the food to be served, some of us scouted for pasalubong to be brought back home. The souvenir shop was located at the ground floor where the restaurant is situated. At 8:00 pm, everybody was already back at the lodge. The inn-keeper prepared a bonfire for the group to gather around and considered it as a bonding session for the students and faculty. Everyone shared random stories and we believed that this activity brought everyone closer and somehow helped in enriching the camaraderie of the college. The bonfire was put off at 10:00 pm.

On April 28, 2016, we left Sagada at 5:30 in the morning going back to Manila. We stopped over at the Strawberry Farm at La Trinidad, Benguet at around 10:30 am to buy more pasalubong. We reached Baguio City proper to eat lunch at ‘50s Diner. At 2:00pm, we left Baguio and reached Manila at 7:30 pm.

Of course, I wouldn’t dare to miss to eat the ever famous strawberry ice cream and strawberry taho! While walking down the strawberry fields, I was singing inside my head “Strawberry Fields” by the Beatles. Lai (my best friend) and I would always sing it very time we go strawberry picking! Oh how I miss our crazy antics!

All in all, the Tour in Banaue and Sagada has been an educational and memorable experience for us. Everyone was thankful that we arrived home safely without incurring any form of mishap or injury. The tour definitely opened up everyone’s consciousness about the importance of designing with nature and appreciate the culture of the people from the Mountain Province. Different ideas and concepts were developed in recognizing and adapting the natural environment into human settings. Activities were done with consideration to the perceptual, cognitive, affective, behavioral, cultural and social processes that are incorporated on how we understand and experience the natural environment. Stewardship was also developed. Its importance was explained to the students that responsible use and protection of the natural environment must be practiced through restoration, recycling, conservation and other form of sustainable practices. Most importantly, I came to realize that I really love this place because somehow, I felt I was home. The Sagada ambiance reminded me so much of the town where I grew up in- Vintar, a humble town in Ilocos Norte. Some say, travel so that you will be able to find yourself. I say otherwise. Travel not to find yourself but to remember who you’ve been all along. I am, after all, will always be by heart, the girl from the valley.

© Deanne Pacis 2016

Home away from home. <3

Palawanderlust

One list off my bucket this year because we were able to go to Puerto Princesa, Palawan this year. Pictures does not do any justice at all to the marvel and beauty of the place.

Entrance to the Subterranean River National Park

Entrance to the Subterranean River National Park

Waiting for our boat at Sabang Beach

Waiting for our boat at Sabang Beach

Our view at the hotel

Our view at the hotel

Luli Island-Lulubog Lilitw

Luli Island-Lulubog Lilitaw

Prepping up for the Honda Bay Tour

Prepping up for the Honda Bay Tour

Beautiful view at Cowrie Island

Beautiful view at Cowrie Island

Paradise!

Paradise!