This online shoebox contains random pictures, notes, whatever. I've been a professional writer-photographer for so many years now. It's a damn good excuse to carry a camera around.

Posted By Lester V Ledesma

That's right now here in the Philippines. Gorgeous. Sunsets. Every. Day.

Laiya
Laiya2
Woohoooo! :)


 
Posted By Lester V Ledesma

And so, yet another year has passed and we're well into the next one. 2013 for me was a year of return trips. Some destinations, like Danang and Bhutan, were totally unexpected. Others, like Myanmar and Iloilo, were long planned and much anticipated. And I definitely did not expect to start and end the year in Vietnam's central highlands. But of course, all these places came with their own share of fulfillment - return trip or not, every journey was different. And every journey was a great learning experience.

 

So here's my best of 2013 :)

 

10) Good Morning Vietnam

 January 1, 2013: This was the best way to start the year: on the back of a motorbike, taking in the sunshine and the cool winds of the Vietnamese central highlands. Having tied the knot just a few weeks ago, my wife and I were on our first holiday as a married couple. You can call this our honeymoon - one that eschewed boring resorts with their stiff confines and stuffy people. Instead, we barreled down the highway on a pair of wheels, visiting waterfalls and coffee farms and slurping pho at little roadside stalls. Then we rode some more, through pine forests and rustic villages before ending the day at a cathedral in Dalat. Here we reflected on the exciting year that was, and said a short prayer for the next twelve months ahead.

10

 

But of course, many more things happened in Vietnam - read my article in Cebu Smile Magazine to find out the whole story!

 

9) Danang Revisited

 October 27, 2013: My first Vietnamese steps were in Danang, way back in 2005 when I was a struggling freelancer. On that trip, though, the city was just a quick beach stop on the way to other, more popular destinations.  This time it was different; on a 3-day layover between assignments, I was presented with a chance to roam this place I knew little about.

 

09

I’ve gotten familiar with Vietnam in the eight years that have passed, but I was pleasantly surprised with this new neighborhood. Danang was laid-back and friendly (they all thought I was Viet kieu – an overseas Vietnamese), with none of the typical Hanoian snarl, and just a little bit of the hectic Saigonese pace. The food was excellent, and the location - right amidst a cluster of awesome cultural sites - was perfect. Hue lay up north, while Hoi An, My Son and the Marble Mountains were down south. And there’s the fine yellow sands of China Beach, just across the road. The eight-year, three-day wait was worth it – I found my favorite Vietnamese city.


 
Posted By Lester V Ledesma

4) The Heartbeat of Iloilo

January 27, 2013: Fourteen years after I last covered the Dinagyang Festival, I got the chance to see it one more time. Taken from my article on Smile Magazine:

 “The warriors groove in unison to the mighty drumbeats. They shake and they bake - one step to the left, one step to the right, they raise their shields and brandish their spears. But all this is just a warm-up, for as the tom-toms pound out a more frenzied rhythm the atis stretch their hands outward to do their own version of.... bump n’ grind! The crowd roars out its approval. I howl out mine. “
 

04

“Thirteen tribes later my ears are numb from all the merry mayhem that had just occurred. As I think about this weekend I realize that Dinagyang is more than just a display of mindless revelry. To me it now represents the unique character of the Ilonggo people - artistic, fun loving, deeply religious and sometimes crazy. This was really a weekend to remember. When next year comes, you’ll see me back in Iloilo. “

“No, I won’t be watching the revelers. I’ll be one of them!”

 Read the rest of this story here.


3)The River Wild

August 5, 2013: On assignment for Smile Magazine:

“You've saved the best for your last day in Cagayan de Oro. Rise and shine early and get ready for an action-packed morning. You are again heading to the boonies to try out this region's signature attraction – white water rafting. “

 

03

“The course takes you through a 12-kilometer stretch dotted with over a dozen class II and III rapids (class I is easy, class 6 is suicidal). Each gurgling, foaming obstacle has its own challenges; Makabundol Rapids has a rock wall on one side that needs to be paddled against, while The Rodeo is so chaotic you'll have to hold on to stay aboard. And don't even think about chatting up your guide when you tackle the “I'm Busy” Rapids. There's also The Twister, so named because you all have to paddle through it standing up – making everyone look like dancers on a boat!”

“By the end of it all (that's a good 4 hours later), you'll be tired and wet – and yes, once again exhilarated by this adrenaline-pumping excursion. Not many weekends can compare to the one you just had. A weekend in Cagayan de Oro, you realize, is never enough.”

To find out what else a weekend in Cagayan de Oro can bring, take a look at my article on the CDO Gold Rush.


 
Posted By Lester V Ledesma

Nine-year-old Gerry is on top of the world today, flying his homemade kite high above Manila. That's his house below, to the left. He may live with his parents in a flimsy wooden hut, and that kite may be his only toy, but right at this moment he's happy as can be.

 

 

Jerry

Ten years ago this would have been impossible where Gerry lives - on Smokey Mountain.

 


 
Posted By Lester V Ledesma

... at Bhutan's Paro Valley:

 

Paro Valley

 

You can see the rain lashing the slopes on the other side :)


 


 
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