Bangkok 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI had been looking forward to our Bangkok trip for months. First of all, it is our group’s first ever out of the country trip together! We had been on the planning to plan a trip stage for years now and it was an amazing moment when everyone decided book a flight when they found out that our friend Mar would be working there for a few months. Secondly, I hadn’t seen my friends since August 2012 and it would have been the perfect time to catch up with people’s lives! Finally, Bangkok was the first stop of my three-part, two-week vacation. 

Initially, this blog post was meant to be a chronological recap of the activities we did in Bangkok, which is usually what I do for my other travel posts, but as I was writing I felt that this trip was more about the companions than the destination. Bangkok is a wonderful place and I really appreciated the beauty and majesty of the temples of the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and Ayutthaya. I was amazed by the culture, by how nice the people were, by how patient the drivers on the road were. But if anyone would ask me what my favorite moments were in my Bangkok trip, the memories that pop in my head were memories that could easily be emulated in any other part of the world: playing with dry ice, doing the harlem shake in a moving vehicle, dancing on an overpass, etc.

With that being said, it was really so nice to see all my friends again. Most of them are based in the Philippines so I do tend to feel a tinge of jealousy whenever they’re hanging out together and I’m sitting in front of my computer and having virtual conversations with people with whom I used to physically interact. I do have friends here with me now but the feeling is entirely different when you are with friends who have known you and have been through all your craziness for more than five years.

There were twelve of us running around Bangkok doing crazy and embarrassing stuff which you can only do with people you are extremely comfortable with. There are videos of us dancing in the BTS, the Grand Palace, on an overpass, in a van, among other places. It was hilarious and we didn’t care if anyone saw us because no one really knew us. This Bangkok trip was a real eye opener for me and I’m really glad I decided to take the jump and join in the trip despite it being a bit more challenging for me to do so.

Friends ❤
Photo Credit: Kris Pura

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On dangerous travel destinations

There are so many beautiful places in the world hidden behind the ugly image that news media would like to paint of certain countries. Not to say that there aren’t any dangers in traveling to those countries, but most of the time the clash and conflict are between governments and not the people. A lot of citizens living in perceived danger zones are victims of generalization brought upon by the unfair portrayal of the entire nation based on decisions made and actions done by political actors and fundamentalists. I’ve lived in Saudi Arabia for most of my life.  When I returned to the Philippines to complete my studies, I was swamped by questions about my – and my family’s, safety. Surely, those questions are not unwarranted – one of the places my family used to frequent was bombed by apparent terrorists and I am not at all a stranger to bomb threats but those things can happen in any country.

One of the most frightening experiences I have ever gone through was when I returned to the Philippines several years back and as I was waiting for my uncles to pick me up from the NAIA Terminal 1, a piece of luggage that was suspected to be a bomb was left in the middle of the waiting area. Oh, how hard I prayed that it was a false alarm. Security guards and policemen surrounded the luggage and feared opening it. Thankfully my uncles arrived and picked me up. When I got home, it was already in the news! I never found out what happened to that piece of luggage, but let me tell you this: I’ve never felt that frightened for my life in Saudi Arabia.

Dangerous things can happen anywhere you are. We can never predict when something bad is going to happen. Many people fall victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but often times the perceived dangers are preventable. It’s all a matter of common sense and respect, which a lot of people also have trouble grasping. Common sense is going to a less developed country and not wearing any flashy jewelry. Common sense is not walking in the sketchy part of town by yourself, whether male or female. Respect is going to a Muslim country and not engaging in public displays of affection. Respect is following the rules that the government places for travelers (that you should have read before going to that country!).

A few nights ago, I watched a documentary about Iran. It was a documentary that focused on the people, the culture, and the beauty of Iran rather than the political strife and misunderstandings it has with the United States. I had always wanted to visit Persepolis but I never knew that there was actually more to Iran than that. It’s actually an overall beautiful place, and one day I hope that I can visit it. There are many other places I would love to go that my parents would never approve of because of their international reputations. Let me list my top 5:

1. Iran

(Persepolis, Shiraz)

2. North Korea

(Monument to the Party Founding, Pyongyang)

3. Libya

(Leptis Magna, Tripoli)

4. Syria

(Citadel of Aleppo)

5. Yemen

(Socotra Island)

One day.

On Blogging

I was having a discussion over Facebook Chat with my good friend and favorite food buddy Jared about how deep and thought provoking discussions with friends could play a big role in shaping what we decide to blog about. That’s when I realized the great impact that blogging has had in my life. Sure, I’m not a popular blogger with a hoard of followers who eagerly await my every update, it would be so cool if I were. I’m just a regular 23 year old girl with a lot of things going on in her head in need of a medium to verbalize it. I’m in a specific situation wherein I don’t get that opportunity often in my everyday interactions with people, so blogging has definitely been a life saving experience for me. It has saved my sanity more than once. I mean, even if nobody reads what I have to say, it’s just very therapeutic to have an avenue wherein I can express my thoughts. It’s also doubly rewarding when you find out there are actually people who read what you want to say and are actually inspired by it.

Of course nothing beats the long, passionate, or even random, conversations about life and the universe but I will take what I can get. Blogging has definitely kept my mind on a continuous cycle of thought and no matter how many days, weeks, or months life keeps me busy, I find myself always running back to a blog.

It’s kinda funny- in the same conversation, I had mentioned to Jared how I found it difficult to find an inspiration to write because I rarely get to talk to people about my deepest thoughts and therefore I’m unable to process them properly to form a coherent idea on what to write about. Apparently, talking to him about my lack of ideas on what to blog about has given me the idea to blog about what we blog about.

On getting older

A few days ago, I saw a Facebook post by a 15 year old girl complaining about how old she is now. I’m 23 and I’m turning 24 this July. At first, it really hit me. Here’s a girl almost a decade younger than I am complaining that she is old. How dare she? But after some thought, I realized: what is the big deal about getting older? Why do we keep letting an inevitable part of life bring us down?

Someone told me that she understood why Peter Pan wanted to be a kid forever. I used to agree with that sentiment as well but now I don’t. Sure, being an adult involves a lot of responsibilities but being an adult also opens us up to more experiences. I guess sometimes we’re just scared because we feel that time is running out. But hiding behind the denial of our inescapable increase in age would just result in a greater waste of the already limited time we have in this world. So, instead of complaining that we are getting older and wishing that we could be kids forever, we should embrace our aging selves.

I want to live every day with the full acceptance of the knowledge that I am indeed getting older. I want to constantly remind myself that right now, while I am getting older, I am not old. One day, I will be old; but when that day comes, I want to remember that I spent my days doing what I had dreamed to do instead of just dreaming of what I could have done.

Bucket Lists and Travel

In my last blog entry, I mentioned that I find bucket lists meaningless if we don’t start acting on it now. A few days after I wrote that blog, I was going through the old posts of one of my favorite bloggers, Adventurous Kate. Kate is definitely an inspiration to me. She is currently in her 20s and has established herself as a female solo traveler. I had found her blog while I was searching on solo female travel before going to the United Kingdom. I mainly did the search to prove to my parents that it is normal and safe for girls to travel by themselves. One day I would love to be as well-traveled as her!

Anyway, while I was going through her blog, I saw that she had written a post about bucket lists and I completely agree with it. Her main problem with bucket lists is that: “If your deadline is death – you’re not making it a priority.” And it’s true! A lot of people, myself included, express our desires to go to a certain place or do a certain thing “before we die”. But none of us really know when that is going to happen so rather than saying I want to do this before I die, I will now start saying I want to do this as soon as I can.

What she says is true, if we want to travel it should definitely be our priority. I have been lucky these past few years because I don’t pay any living expenses and I was able to pay for my own travel, but I know that once I start living on my own I would have to practice more self-discipline. Recently, my best friend Vida has been helping me in keeping my expenses (read: shopping) to a minimum because of all the trips I have planned out for this year. I was talking to one of my good friends yesterday and he mentioned I was rich because I spent a large amount of money on my plane ticket for my upcoming trip and I told him that I’m not rich, I just spend my money on travel. I want that to be a continuing trend in my life. I want to prioritize travel. At this age, I am old enough to set my own priorities and young enough to make it happen. I want to get married and have kids one day and although I know I never want to stop traveling, I know that my priorities will be shifting by then.

I thought it would be a good idea to list down my travel priorities just like what Kate did. So here goes:

  • See the sun rise behind Angkor Wat, Cambodia – I have already made plans to go here this year and I hope it pushes through!

http://www.warwickphotographer.com.au

  • Witness the Northern Lights – Also known as the Aurora Borealis. It looks so majestic in pictures and to witness it in person would just be so enchanting!

  • See the Cherry Blossoms of Japan – Who wouldn’t wanna see this? Nature is so beautiful.

  • Visit Russia – Just looking at the pictures, you could see that it’s full of culture. I just wanna walk those streets and just take in the beautiful architecture in the area

http://www.worldwidehomestay.com/

  • Tour the temples of Turkey – Greece is popular for their temples but there are also many beautiful temples in Turkey. The world’s oldest temple, Gobekli Tepe, is located in Turkey.

www.sithsonianmag.com

How about you? Where do you want to go? What are your travel priorities?

Retrospect and Prospects

PicCollageA bucket list is just a bunch of meaningless words if you don’t start acting on it while you still can. I think that is the biggest lesson that I learned this year. I would like to think of 2012 as the year I started trying to take control of my own life – as the year I decided to get out of my comfort zone and actually start acting towards my dreams. I’m not there yet, I haven’t accomplished a tenth of what I thought I would by the time I reached this age but I’m getting there. A few years ago I kept my life on hold because I thought that the world didn’t want me to succeed. Upon much introspection, I realized that the reason I’m lagging behind on my aspirations is that I’ve never given myself the chance to try getting away from my self-imposed misery. I would spend days and nights sulking at how much better my life would be somewhere else instead of working on ways on how I can get myself out. I think it’s because I’m actually really scared that I won’t actually be able to do it.

By keeping myself stagnant, I ensured that I won’t walk into any failures, I secured myself from any damning mistakes that I would eventually regret but I was also keeping myself from any possibilities of success. I wouldn’t try because I was too afraid to fail but I would never succeed because I never tried. Out of my own fear to make mistakes, I was making the biggest mistake I could ever make and it was hampering my own growth. There was no one else to blame for that but myself. Thank God I realized that now.

2012 was the year I finally threw caution to the wind – when I took my first risk – and it was deliciously rewarding. Early this year, I decided I wanted to tour the United Kingdom. This was something big for me because for one, I don’t have a stable enough savings account that would allow me to get through this without it taking a huge hit. Flash forward to a few months later, I sit here typing on my computer, proud of myself for being able to do it ALL BY MYSELF. From the first step to the last, I managed to hold my own and fulfill one of my biggest wishes in life. I had always wanted to go the the United Kingdom as it was the birth place of my favorites, Harry Potter and Doctor Who, and my fan girl fantasies finally came to a fruition.

The whole experience gave me a huge stepping stone towards accomplishing my future plans of continuing to check off things off my bucket list. This mainly consists of travel destinations. I promise myself that 2013 will be a year of travel, that I will be able to go to at least 3 new international destinations next year and many more local destinations. I promise that in 2013 I will take more risks. I won’t stay in my comfort zone. I promise in 2013 I will start living my dreams instead of dreaming of a life I’d want to live. This is it 2013, you’re full of potential and I’m ready for you! Thank you for the amazing year, 2012! You were a good teacher. Now it’s time for me to live up to my promises to the new year. Happy New Year, everyone!

 

Cliche as this may sound but one of the greatest things that has happened to me in the last three years was that I have been able to identify who my true friends are. Vida is definitely one of those people I consider to be one of my truest and bestest friends in the world, who has been there in almost every aspect of my life for three years now and I have nothing but appreciation and respect for her. Gah, I love you so much, Vida. The distance had only made our friendship stronger than ever ❤

Untying the Gordian Knot

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Because I have seen the prelude of your youth; as you grapple with life, navigating through halls. Corner to corner, you painted your world–as tiny as it may be– with a smile; an optimism I can only dream of having. Those who have threatened to inflict wounds on your already fragile ego, were deflected by your naturally good heart.

These, I saw. It was a privilege.

Beyond paragraphs and paragraphs, accompanied by thousands of revisions. Those endless nights of dreaming for a bigger life, meaning and purpose. The melodies and words. The reinterpretations and regrets. We have yearned to rewind and wished to fast forward.

I stood and applauded as they called your name. I was proud.

At the precipice of something great, you never forget to whisper it to me. Like some sort of secret-keeper. Miles, connected by wires, challenging the oceans, betraying the longitudinal differences. None, no…

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Three Years

It’s been three years since I’ve started this blog which means it’s been almost three years, two and a half years to be exact, since I graduated from college and moved back with my family.

I know I complain a lot about how my life is here but I realized that I would’ve missed out on so much if I hadn’t decided to come back. So many blessings were thrown towards me in the past three years and I will be forever thankful for them. Who knew that I would have a penchant for teaching children? Three years ago I would never have imagined myself considering a career in teaching. Who would’ve thought I’d be able to pay for my own trip to the United Kingdom? Three years ago, I wouldn’t have believed it myself!

So much has changed and has happened in these three years and although I do feel that I have missed out on a lot of things because I’m not in the Philippines, I do believe that what I have gained while I was here definitely outweighs what I missed out on.

United Kingdom Days 4 and 5 – Westminster and Notting Hill

Westminster City is one of the most tourist-packed areas in London and it’s very understandable why! A lot of the usual tourists spots were just 5 minutes away from each other. The moment you step out of the Westminster Station, you’re already greeted by Big Ben, the Parliament Square, and Westminster Abbey. I didn’t know where to start! I decided to head to the Westminster Abbey first because it is incredibly beautiful from outside. There was service inside so they didn’t allow tourists to enter so I decided to go in and sit through an Anglican Catholic service. I couldn’t concentrate when I was inside! The walls were covered in gold. It was a really magnificent sight and I wish I was able to take photos but photos weren’t allowed during service so I guess I should just feel happy that I was able to take a look around. Inside the Cathedral, there were the graves of some prominent people such as Isaac Newton and David Livingstone. I’m sure there were more important people in there but those were the only two that I was able to take a look at from where I was seated. Most of the floor was covered in people’s graves and I was a bit paranoid about that, trying not to step on anyone’s grave while walking because that just felt a bit creepy. Other than that I was completely mesmerized by how the Westminster Abbey looked inside.

After the service, I decided to walk around the area because there was really a lot to see just by walking. I passed by the Parliament Square and the Big Ben. When I passed the Big Ben, that is when I truly felt that I was actually in London! I couldn’t help myself, I kept taking pictures of the Big Ben from every angle I could. It was hard to ignore it because most buildings in London are not very high (one thing I loved about London, you can actually see the sky everywhere you go! I love the sky!) so you can actually see the clock tower towering above everything else and can easily take shots from many different angles.

I also got to go inside the Jewel Tower, which is one of the two remaining structures from the old Palace of Westminster! It was smaller than I expected it to be but it was still full of history. Going inside was like a real history lesson for me especially since they included a lot of information not only about the tower but about the government structure.

I did a lot of walking that day but I did not get tired at all because my eyes were too busy just observing the beautiful architecture not just of the historical sites but also of the regular shops that chose to maintain the old buildings that were first built where the shops now stand.

Something weird happened to me that day. I was walking down a street and two guys approached me asking to take a picture, as I went to take the camera from them they said, no we want a picture with you. What was that? Is that some sort of scam that they do like take something from you without you noticing? It was a bit creepy so I went away and walked really fast in case they came after me.

Anyway, after that, I decided to sit down and have lunch at 3pm. I was too busy sightseeing that I actually forgot to eat! I had my first ever Fish and Chips from a really nice tavern near Big Ben. It was actually pretty good. It was funny seeing tables of tourists all ordering the same thing I did!

After lunch, I just kept on walking from Westminster all the way to Trafalgar Square at the end of the road where they were celebrating the Hindu Diwali Festival. I didn’t stay long because there were so many people so I decided to walk all the way to Oxford Circus where I did a little shopping. I needed to shop because it was too cold and I didn’t bring enough covers for myself!
The next day, I went to Notting Hill, which is made famous by the movie of the same name starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. The houses were very pretty and colorful! It took me around 4 hours to walk to and from the end of Portobello Road which is filled with all kinds of shops. I managed to buy several things from there and it made me happy. I passed by the famous Blue Door from the movie as well! It was a really nice day to be a fan girl. Haha. I noticed that a lot of the sites I went to have relations to being a fan girl of something.

My next stop after visiting Notting Hill was Upton Park where the West Ham United Football Club is based but that was not the reason I went there! I went there to visit the Who Shop which I heard was the best Doctor Who Merchandise shop in London! I had to go there and glad I did because there were some things there that could not be found in the Gift Shop at the Doctor Who experience in Cardiff! I wish I could have taken home a Tardis Trashcan or a Doctor Who Monopoly board game but alas my baggage could only carry so much.

I had to get back home by dinner because I would have to pick up Ian from the Walthamstow Central Station! It was so nice seeing him again after two years! Wow! It’s been that long but despite the amount of time we have not physically seen each other I really do still see him as one of my closest friends.

UK Day 3 – Cardiff and the Doctor Who Experience


Since I’m already in the United Kingdom I decided I might as well go to Cardiff and see the Doctor Who Experience! I love Doctor Who but I encountered so many problems before actually getting to the experience! First, I realized that I booked my ticket for 12:00 – 13:00 which was a bad idea because it takes around 3 – 4 hours just to get to Cardiff from the Victoria Coach Station. I decided to take the train which ended up costing more than 3 times more! Also, on my way to London Paddington, some lines in the Underground were being maintained so I had to reroute which added to my worries of being late for my too early time slot for my entry.

But there really was not much to worry about! I got to Cardiff at 10:30 am! Just  in time to get to Cardiff Bay and be there a few minutes before my time slot started. Makes me think I should have just taken the coach to save money. Then again, the scenic route that the train passed by was really beautiful and I did not feel the 3 hours I was on the train. Time seemed to pass by so quickly even if  was alone.

It was so cold even animals needed extra layers

It was a sunny day when I got to Cardiff which was a beautiful sight to see as I have not seen the sun since I got to London and I’m incredibly used to the sun. The Doctor Who Experience was AMAZING! Fans of the show will really enjoy the first part which was really a pleasant surprise. I won’t spoil it anymore but we weren’t allowed to take pictures during that event because they didn’t want to spoil it for those who will  attend in the future. It really was an experience.

The exhibit part of the experience was really cool. It showcased the different Doctors, Companions, and Aliens that were featured on the show since 1963! It was amazing that even the most recent companion, Oswin, who has not even appeared as companion (only as a guest character at that time) had her own display amongst the companions!

It was smaller than the Harry Potter Studio Tour but there was still a  lot to see that would make any fan explode with excitement.

After I was done with the Doctor Who Experience, which took my approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes, I went off to Cardiff Bay. It was the perfect opportunity to visit the Wales Millennium Center, which is the front of TORCHWOOD 3, and the Ianto Jones Shrine which seems to still be receiving a healthy number of visitors since there are still flowers there that look fairly recent.

After going around the Doctor Who and Torchwood related sites, I jumped on a bus to the city. Funny story. I rode the bus to the city and had no idea where to go down so I ended up riding the bus all the way to is next route which was in Sports  City. It’s pretty cool though since I was still able to tour around Cardiff with the fare of a simple bus rather than paying a hefty amount to ride one of those tour buses.

Finally, I got down at Cardiff Castle, which is a beautiful castle that is well maintained inside and outside! The interior of the Castle remains to be beautiful. Sadly, I wasn’t able to take pictures because my camera battery died and I was preserving my phone battery for my 3 hour trip going back to London.

I was considering staying back in Cardiff for a night and returning the next day but I accidentally left my iPhone charger in my accommodations and so had no way to charge my phone when it died. It’s funny now that I think about it that  was more concerned about the battery of my iPhone than with the fact that I had no change of clothes with me that would allow me to stay in Cardiff for a night.

Left Cardiff Central Station at about 5:30 pm and got home by 9:00pm. It was an incredibly tiring (and expensive!!) day trip! I enjoyed every second of it and i don’t regret spending so much money on the tour. Not may people are able to say that they have ridden a TARDIS!