15 11 2011

A twenty minute twelve dollar ride from Panama City lay Isla Taboga, a destination for locals to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and a quick way to get back to nature, get a tan on the beach or even enjoy a quiet walk in the small town of San Pedro. In the middle of this quaint town, like any Spanish colonized town, was the Iglesia de San Pedro dubbed as the second oldest church in the Western Hemisphere.

The exterior of the church itself was less impressive. For a church that is apparently the second oldest in the Americas it was a little boring on the outside. No frescos, no intricate carvings nor gargoyles that stick out. It was just white. Plain. Dull. However, serving as its purpose the church has served as the house of god to the people of Taboga. I quietly walked inside to a couple of women having a discreet conversation and a few children running amock only to be sent outside by the women. Another woman knelt nearby the altar and another lady walked towards a stairwell at the corner.

I asked her “Que es?

Por la campana” she said, for the church bell.

Ah. Up she walked the stairwell and I asked her if I could come up and see, I felt privileged that she even said yes. Halfway upon walking up the claustrophobic winding stairwell a booming of sound surrounded me almost knocking me to the ground. I grabbed ahold of the handles and waited until the booming ceased.

I scrambled up the stairwell, I didn’t want to wait for a second booming of the bells I needed to get out of this trap. As I reached the top my eyes were blinded by the sun and waited for them to adjust. Seconds later the silhouette of the bell ringer came into formation, and then the bell, and then the window, but what stunned me the most was the view that was presented in front of me. The small houses, the boats, and the ocean all in a breathtaking view. The church of San Pedro may not be the prettiest church anyone would ever see, but the iglesia itself is lucky to have a view that it has admired for centuries.


Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?

25 03 2009

Thomas Konstamm is an ex-Lonely Planet author who dishes out the dirt on how lavish really a life of a travel journalist is. And as far as I can tell, he is right…it is far from lavish. Interviews gone wrong, going bankrupt, losing one’s sanity, bending moral ethics, endless research…it is anything but glamorous. Although to a lot of people, being a travel journalist is a dream job, Konstamm only shares his personal experience that a lot of travel journalist can agree, and hopes his readers understand the ups and downs of travel writing.

Travel writing really is a dream job, but at the end of the day, it is also just a job.

“Travel writing works in a cynical manner. We write about a place, people go there, and then we must continue to write about the place because it has become a tourist destination. Unfortunately, with succes and developement comes change, and the tourist-friendly places just get busier, pricier, and more touristy. They ofen become places where I would not want to spend my vacation time, but we have to acknowledge their popularity neverthless. Sometimes up-and-coming spots are because a writer, such as myself, finds them unique and squeezes them in, or because they have become hot spots as the result of overflow from other destinations in the book. Most cities and towns, clubs and restaurants beyond those are passed over or given a short mention in the guidebook. As such, although guidebooks give the illusion of open-ended adventure and posibility, and claim that they seek to serve the independent traveler, they are often little more than a paper arrow pointing you down an overhyped tourist route, or gringo trail, so to speak.”

Do Travel Writers Go to Hell? c. 2008 Thomas Konstamm

Notes: This book introduces you to a few places in Brazil (where the novel takes place) like Recife, Olinda and Fortaleza. This book also sparked contreversy on how accurate guide books are? What followers of guidebooks don’t realize that they really are…just guide books! The how-to’s of your destination, they’re not ‘guarantees’.

I give this book a 4 out of 5 stars.