Why We Need to Stop Online Fake News

Rhetorics

Why is there a need to “take care before we share” in social media? Why is it crucial to spread only true information online? Why is it important to end “fake” news in the internet community?

It is because truth is one of the common ties of society, in physical or virtual setting, and absence of it will result to confusion and disintegration.

Social media sites have immensely facilitated the sharing of ideas among different communities worldwide. One of its greatest achievement is tearing down geographical barriers by building virtual networks for people to connect seamlessly. Unfortunately, it is also being misused as an avenue for, among others, hoax news, mis- and disinformation, and propaganda.

This exploitation of media platforms has become too distressing, more than ever, during this pandemic. The surge of myths and bogus remedies against COVID-19 posted in social media has been impeding risk communication, and for the record, scholars cited that false news stories are 70 percent more likely to be retweeted than true stories are. It spreads faster, hence, likely to cause extensive damage.

Some culprits use social media for scare-mongering, slandering, or disrupting social order. I call them culprits because they destroy one of the common ties of society, the truth. Hence, we should take this menace seriously.

Regrettably, some people are fast to believe whatever they see in social media, perhaps out of desperation or inexperience. That being said, comes my second point why we need to “take care before we share” in social media. Users come from a myriad of ages, background and experience. Some audiences are vulnerable to disinformation, some are unsuspecting to black propaganda, some are susceptible to fall for false news. Thus, I’m calling everyone to become heroes and protect them by taking down and preventing the spread of fake news.

Facebook, the largest social networking platform, has taken action against this problem by implementing stringent measures to detect fake accounts and employing the help of third-party fact checking organizations. However, loopholes are still present where fake news unfurl. They cannot immediately take down hoax news stories, it may have already been shared at scale and correcting the false information among the masses is more arduous than how it was spread. Hence, fake news should be nipped in the bud. The users should bear the accountability to create and spread only true information.

I’m not against these sites, in fact, I’m a patron. Yet, the use of it must be balanced with responsibility. Fake news have already harmed individuals and communities, especially the vulnerable. It obscures truth. It hampers progress. It disintegrates society.

So, it must be stopped.

Photo credit: Unsplash

The Golden Triangle of India in Just 4 Days

Travel Destinations

Namaste!

Most of us are probably planning where to go once emancipated from the COVID-19 pandemic. This has been an unexpected hiatus for everyone and travelers are eager to catch up with their wanderlust. Well then…

Here’s a guide to visit India’s Golden Triangle: New Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur in a matter of four days. Yes, you read it right. Three popular destinations in less than a week!

Day 1: New Delhi

If you arrive in the morning at the capital city of India, make a short tour in Qutub Minar or “Tower of Victory” which is approximately 11 kilometers away from the Indira Gandhi International Airport. A World Heritage Site built in 1193 to commemorate the triumph of Muslims over Delhi’s last Hindu Kingdom. At the foot of the tower is the first mosque to be constructed in India named Quwwat-ul-Islam. (Open Daily/Entrance fee is 600 Rupees)

At the start of our journey to Agra, I opted to take a nap but luckily I was woken up by the afternoon sun blazing through my window and I was able to catch a view of the rural landscapes. Supposedly, the travel time is 3 to 4 hours but we lasted for almost 6 hours due to the infamous traffic situation in India. Tip: Tell your driver to do a stopover in small eateries along the road where you can buy legit Indian Roti (flatbread) and Lassi (yogurt-based drink).

We arrived sundown and most tourists spots were already closed, hence, we decided to visit a garment shop instead to buy Shalwar Kameez. It is an Indian traditional costume which we wanted to wear in our most-awaited visit in Taj Mahal.

Day 2: Agra

We were all giddy to wear the costumes and catch the sunrise in one of the most romantic places on earth. Once you arrive at the entrance of the Taj Mahal, a number of locals will offer to guide you for a fee. It wasn’t expensive nor cheap, it’s really up to you if you want to know more of the history whilst viewing or just savor its splendor by yourselves. Tip: A lot of monkeys are scattered around the area so better take a grip of your personal belongings.

I suggest to schedule the visit during weekdays or non-holidays to avoid the surge of crowd. It is open to the public an hour before sunrise until a quarter before sunset. Take note, it is open everyday except Fridays. If you want to avoid the queue of tourists, you may buy the tickets ahead online. Tickets for foreigners include a water bottle, shoe cover, and guide map of Agra with free use of battery buses and golf carts.

Taj Mahal

Then, voila! There is no OVERSTATEMENT of Taj Mahal’s grandeur. It is really a work of aesthetic value with heartwarming history. I would never doubt why it’s included in the Seven Wonders of the World. Apart from the sunrise in Mt. Fuji, the sight of Taj Mahal will last with me for a lifetime. A glorious memento inspired by a husband’s eternal love for his wife, and it didn’t go in vain at all. The whole world remembers the story of Taj Mahal and will be acknowledged for ages.

Kau Ban Mosque beside Taj Mahal

We spent the whole morning touring around the complex and just simply devouring the charm of Taj Mahal. Honestly, it was the highlight of our trip. Then we went back to the hotel to get our things and started to head for Jaipur.

Tip: If you’re still game for it, tell your driver to take you to Chand Baori in the village of Abhaneri. It’s along the way and roughly 95 kilometers to Jaipur. Chand Baori is one of the deepest and largest stepwells in India consisting of 3,500 steps over 13 stories.

Day 3: The “Pink City” of Jaipur

You might be wondering why it’s called the Pink City? It’s because majority of the structures are painted with pink to welcome King Edward VII in 1876. The city was acknowledged as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2019. Jaipur is considered the commercial center in the state of Rajasthan, a number of small to large bazaars trading crafts, garments and jewelries intertwine in the city. Tip: You can spare a little bit of shopping here.

Amber Fort

Afterwards, you can visit Amer or Amber Fort which is only 11kms from the city proper. The structure is made of red sandstone and marble that emphasized its architectural elegance. Although, the elephant riding was a downside for me. A lot of tourists opted to try the ride rather than walking or hiring a Jeep to take you at the top of the complex. As visitors, we have the responsibility to condem animal abuse. Please! Do not support elephant riding! (Open Daily: 0800H to 1730H/Entrance fee is 550 Rupees)

Other tourist spots in Jaipur include the City Palace, Jal Mahal, and Hawa Mahal. Be creative in planning your day so you can visit all these places, it’s possible!

Day 4: Travel back to New Delhi

It is recommended to travel back to New Delhi early in the morning to avoid traffic congestion. Anyhow, Félicitations! You just traveled the Golden Triangle of India in just 4 days. Book your outbound flight in the evening so you can still roam around the capital city during the day. We decided to visit the Humayun’s Tomb which has a similar history with the Taj Mahal but the other way around. It was requested by Empress Bega Begum to house her husband’s (Humayun) grave. The complex was declared UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. (Open Daily/Entrance Fee is 600 Rupees)

Humayun’s Tomb

You can also visit the India Gate, Jama Masjid, and Red Fort. Tip: Prioritize the places you’re most interested, mine were the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

HELPFUL REMINDERS

  • If you’re travelling in a big group, it might be more convenient to rent a van. That way, your group will have a flexible itinerary and privacy. Otherwise, you can try their public transportation but brace yourselves for rowdy rides, it can be fun!
  • Take a colossal amount of patience when you visit India because traffic jams and noise are inevitable. I have seen a lot of vehicles with signages “BLOW YOUR HORN!” It means they’re encouraging it, so imagine a number of vehicles around you doing that at the same time. I woudn’t dare to say it’s a melody!
  • According to India’s Ministry of Affairs, 80% of the population are Hindus. They are vegetarians and consider cows as a sacred symbol of life, hence, should be protected. Don’t be surprised to see a number of undisturbed cows in the streets, in several cases they are the source of traffic. Just act normal, like a local!
  • Surprisingly, hotels in India are not that expensive! You will find great accommodations for an affordable price. Therefore, I recommend to pick the ones which are accessible and will offer you comfort after a day’s jampacked schedule.
  • From Gol Gappa streetfood to Chicken Masala served in restaurants, enjoy a gastro tour and seize the chance to taste authentic Indian food. Majority of their dishes are rich in spices which you can buy as souvenirs too.

And, that’s it! Don’t let the unfamiliarity hinder you to witness India’s colorful history and culture, it might even change your life. Namaste!

How to Explore the Best of Laos in 4 Days

Travel Destinations

Laos or formally known as Lao People’s Democratic Republic (LPDR), is the only landlocked nation in Southeast Asia. Probably, few people may not heard of it yet or see it as a “so-so” destination, brace yourselves, this article might dramatically change your perspective.

How did we get there?

It was the second leg of our 10-day Southeast Asia trip (Thailand-Laos-Vietnam). We hopped on an overnight sleeper train from Ayutthaya to Nong Khai, and from there we rode the next train heading to Thanaleng, the border crossing of Laos. Supposedly, Filipinos are visa-free in Laos for 30 days, but upon our arrival the border control officer asked us to pay a certain amount. Anyhow, our takeaways were worth more than what we paid. Let’s begin!

Explore Vientiane (Capital City of Laos) on Day 1

Buddha Park

It’s also called Xien Khuan, which means “Spirit City”, and was built in 1958 by Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat. It holds more than 200 religious and peculiar sculptures portraying the gods and spiritual characters of both Buddhism & Hinduism. It’s a public park maintained by the government, hence, you will see not only foreign tourists but also Laotians particularly pupils having a school trip.

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Looks like a giant pumpkin with three stories that represents Hell, Earth, & Heaven. Visitors can enter it by passing through the mouth of a demon then climb their way from Hell to Heaven. How I wish it’s as easy as that to enter heaven (if you know what I mean).

Patuxai

The name literally means Victory Gate or Gate of Triumph since it was built in memory of the Laotian soldiers who fought for their independence from France. The monument has 5 towers that represent the Buddhist principles of thoughtfulness, amiability, flexibility, honesty, honor, and prosperity. It essentially resembles the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, hence, it’s also called as “Arc de Triomphe of Vientiane” or “Patuxai Arch.”

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Riverside Night Market

It’s a long strip of vendors on red-roofed stalls offering countless travel mementos, knickknacks, Laotian inspired clothing, etc. Make sure to try eating at the food carts near the market too!

Take a Breather in the Sleepy Town of Vang Vieng for 2 Days

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During the second day, we travelled in a minivan from Vientiane to Vang Vieng. The travel time was roughly 4 hours, so, we left early in the morning and arrived at the town after lunch. Tip: You can approach the hotel’s concierge for information and contact numbers of the travel agencies offering the trip.

Vang Vieng is my favorite place in Laos because it’s the home of the most affordable hot air balloon ride and I love the town’s quaint vibe and surrounding karst hills. We used the rest of the afternoon searching for an agency offering the best rates of outdoor activities we wanted to try the next day.

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Hot Air Balloon Ride

You may choose to do it before sunrise or sunset, we opt for the first because we have to leave for Luang Prabang in the afternoon. We chose a package that included transfers, hence, we were picked up from the hotel just before dawn and reached an empty field with three enormous balloons ready to be fired up.

We were quite full in the balloon, nonetheless, I enjoyed every second of the ride while in awe of the majestic sunrise and fascinating landscape.

Want to see the view from the top?

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Who on earth doesn’t love sunrise?

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The hills were enlivened by the early morning fog.

Rock Climbing

After the remarkable ride, we went back to our hotel and got ready for rock climbing. It was not my first, yet, I’d be a hypocrite if I’ll say the obstacles weren’t a challenge. I didn’t worry though, a professional guide and safety gears were all provided.

We were able to finish the activity just before lunch and in time for our trip to Luang Prabang. The journey was quite longer, so, we arrived in the city late and famished. Good thing our hotel was just at the heart of the city where restaurants are at reach.

Immerse Yourself in the Historic City of Luang Prabang on your Last Day

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Tat Kuang Si Waterfalls

Tat Kuang Si (UNESCO World Heritage Site) is the most picturesque waterfalls I saw in my entire life, having the perfect combination of green foliage and turquoise pools. It’s a three levelled waterfall, all but one are open for public swimming. Along the trail, there’s a rescue center operated by the Free the Bears organization protecting especially Asian Black Bears or Moon Bears.

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Wander Around the City

Luang Prabang is a wonder itself, full of French colonial buildings, remarkable wats and monasteries, rustic-themed shops & restaurants, and the home of the Royal Temple Museum. Do it during the golden hour for perfect snapshots!

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While strolling around, I was dumbfounded by how a Laotian man cut his nails using a machete (see picture below). I mean, doing so requires expertise and a peaceful environment with no chance of surprise… or else! Update: I left the place knowing the man was not harmed.

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Tourist Night Market

Located at the city proper, you can shop till you drop at the night market displaying assorted goods like herbal teas, souvenirs, handcrafted scarves and bags, street food, and more.

Tak Bat or Morning Alms Walk of Buddhist Monks

If you’re an early bird, you can witness the silent ritual between the almsgivers and Laotian monks. It is a sacred ceremony where the monks are given sustenance in their meditative life, while almsgivers take merit for spiritual salvation.

Be a Volunteer at Big Brother Mouse

It’s a school that initiates literacy activities, they welcome English-speaking tourists to engage in casual conversations with their Laotian students. I was surprised with the number of children and young adults eager to hone their speaking skills, and I dared not miss the chance. Actually, it’s a “win-win” exercise where the foreign visitors can ask more about the country and their culture.

The day after, we headed to Luang Prabang International Airport to catch our flight for the next stop… Hanoi, Vietnam.

(All photos were taken using my Fujifilm X30)

Laos is known for its support of communism, hence, struggled at first to open its territory to foreign visitors. Gradually, it has become a tourist-friendly and visit-worthy destination offering so much history, rich culture, and exceptional wonders of natureSo, will you include Laos on your next travel goals?

WhenInManila

Uncategorized

Early this year, I was able to bring my parents, siblings, and nieces in Hong Kong and Macau for vacation. I’ll be forever grateful to witness their smiles and excitement, it was priceless. Indeed, happiness is seeing your family happy.

So, I was motivated to compile my travel hacks and share it to penny pinchers, like me, who desire to experience the same.

My article was published by WhenInManila, you can read it here “4 Travel Tips for the Penny Pincher to Achieve that Family Vacation Abroad.”

I’ll be glad to answer questions or hear stories about your family trips!

Also, want to see what’s in Hong Kong & Macau?

Check it out here One-of-a-kind Places Found In The Clichè Destinations Of Macau & Hong Kong

Adieu!

Love,

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