Tuesday, February 25, 2014

CH208: After The Fact

I tweeted just now - " A breath of fresh air comes in paying off your bills (credit card) and seeing a mail notification that your leaves have been approved." Following the entry CH207: Ostracized, I just realized that with all the complaints and rants I've put out and even expressed to my family with regards to the jobs I've been getting here in Singapore, in retrospect, there should have been more thanks and less bitching about.

I've been mostly complaining how I feel under utilized or how I am not growing at the rate I had imagined or had wanted to when I signed the contract for my employments. Thinking about it, had it been the other way around, then I wouldn't have been able to go on long leaves (to the US for ~1 month, to NZ for 2-3 weeks, to the UK for ~2 weeks and to all the other places I've been to since coming here in Singapore).

That is so "millenial" of me! I'm embarassed to admit it but that's the truth. For that, since I'm planning a visit to the La Sagrada Familia, might as well offer my prayer of thanks in my dream church destination. I hope that as I turn 28 and older, that I become more mature in being able to step outside of myself and be more clear headed with things that directly concern me like career, love life (lol), family, friends etc.

Well, the birthday is not till over a month a way, but after all that I bitched about and felt sad about not being where I had hoped to be, I can't help but feel I wasted so much emotion when there shouldn't have been any need to. I guess, I wouldn't be where I am now in terms of state of mind had I not forced myself to go through those emotional rides and sulking hahaha. But yes, I'm thankful after the fact that not having such a stressful and time demanding work has given me more time to see the world.

Saying that, I'm happy my parents are supportive of my decisions to travel. In fact, although they didn't say "Go see the world and travel!," they've never been you shouldn't do this or you shouldn't do that. They don't tell me, oh that trip will be expensive don't go and just save your money. (Although my mom does remind me frequently to save and not spend on what I don't need). They don't tell me to stop traveling and just send some money home to help out or invest it in property. They don't tell me things now that I think some of the people I know do get from their family/parents.

I'm thankful after the fact that I am more appreciative of my parents and family. I'm thankful after the fact that I'm closer to my family after moving and finding independence and "freedom" (of all sorts) in Singapore. I'm thankful after the fact that my family regard me as responsible and allow me the freedom to do the things I love or want to do (I never heard them pull me back to not doing my Bungee in NZ or Skydiving in San Diego). I'm thankful for a lot of things after they've happened.

If anything, for when I turn 28 (although I might as well say it now), I wish that I can be more thankful and appreciative of the graces that come my way before the fact and not after.

CH207: Ostracized

I've just come to think why is there such a social stigma when it comes for some people doing things by themselves? I've heard people's shock when I've told them before that I sometimes eat out by myself in a restaurant. Or more wide-eyes when I say I do watch a movie by myself. Even more shock and awe when I tell people I went to Krabi, Siem Reap and New York by myself.

What is it with doing things by one's self that has to garner such responses?

Is it out of the norm for people to do things by themselves?

When I've told some friends (I don't recall my mom's reaction when I told her this haha) that I will be going to Lisbon, Madrid and Barcelona for my birthday from April 10-19, the first things they ask is who will I be going with? Some have even assumed that I will most definitely be with "someone." I answered that I will be going by myself - and that I will just meet "someone" when I get to where I'm going.

So yes, just side stepping on the topic, I've decided to do Portugal and Spain for my birthday (CH206: Making My Own Problems). I've looked through Morocco but was scared shit of the prices I asked for a tour from Marrakesh to Fez which cost 550 EUR for 3 days, and 120 EUR for a day trip around Marrakesh. I inquired from the tour organizer which was rated #1 in Tripadvisor. So...I don't think I'll be going there anytime soon. My next destination I'm thinking dreaming of is Italy or France (Marseilles, Paris, Brussels, Bruges, Ghent then ending it at Amsterdam) to continue the west to east Europe trip. OR, quite possibly, do Gaza + Jerusalem going forward with my mom's dream destination (Jerusalem - to see the sights Catholics would go for).

Anyway, back to the topic. I wonder who propagated (and when) that it's unhealthy to do things by your own. It's almost unimaginable for some people I've spoken with to do things on their own, and I'm thinking like really? What's so bad with being able to do things by your own? It's not like I don't have friends, if anything, it's a reinforced choice - given that there's so much to consider and plan for when planning a trip for a group. Are people just generally afraid of being by their own?

When it comes down to it, everyone's bound to be alone when they're buried in a casket 6 feet under. Everyone's bound to be alone when they travel the realms after death. Then again, I may just be over thinking it, and people's general reaction to doing stuff on your own is just a manifestation of a lack of reinforcement in appreciating how empowering it is to be able to be in that level of independence.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

CH206: Making My Own Problems

As the clock ticks closer to 28, I'm making my own problems and ending up sleeping later than usual. I'm quite sure I don't want to be celebrating my birthday here in Singapore for April, so I have been researching and going about looking for flights.

At first, I thought it will be nice to do Amsterdam+Paris. Then I said to myself, maybe I want to go somewhere warm and maybe near a beach, so I thought, maybe I can go to Hawaii+LA+San Francisco. Then when I saw how expensive flights will be hopping on and off as well as considering how tedious transferring would be I thought, maybe just LA+Vegas (for Britney Spears' show in Planet Hollywood)+San Francisco. But then I remembering telling myself, I want some place warm so I researched maybe Mexico+Brazil, but flights were quite expensive and I had thoughts that my luggage might get lost during transfers.

So now, I've removed some options and still deciding which of the following to pursue for (most likely) April 10-19.
1. Amsterdam+Berlin+Prague+Vienna
2. Lisbon+Madrid+Barcelona
3. Athens+Mykonos+Santorini (or maybe go on a tour as theyre on separate islands)
4.  Casablanca+Marrakech
5. Gaza+Jerusalem
6. LA+Vegas+San Francisco

Of course, there are budget constraints. But I hear Portugal and Greece are quite cheap now relative to other EU cities. Aside from budget, there is also the concern for the need of a Schengen visa to go to Europe. And the main issue why I haven't been able to decide (which only makes the going back and forth on the destinations even farther from receiving any conclusion) is the fact that I'm waiting for results to something where I have to put out more (maybe 2-3x as much) than what budget I'll need for my travel plans. So, if any of the long haul destinations don't push through, I might just go to Bali hahaha and thengo to LA+Vegas+SF by August using my frequent flyer miles earned so I can visit my sister who is due to give birth around July. In this scenario of course, I hear my mom might be going so that will definitely help in the budgeting ;)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

CH205: Taipei Adventures Final

Apparently, I didn't realize that I had the CH### wrong in previous links. Haha, blame it on having to type the entries at work!

CH204: Taipei Adventures 3
CH203: Taipei Adventures 2
CH202: Taipei Adventures 1
CH201: Taipei Prologue

So, we're now at the last leg of the Taipei trip (finally!). So for my mom's last day, I had planned for us to go up the Maokong Mountain and get to experience the cable car ride up. It was unfortunately a weekend and CNY, so there were a lot of people already queuing to go up when we arrived. Thankfully, it wasn't as bad as the queue we had to endure for Taipei 101. There are two options you can choose, one is to ride on the "Crystal" cable car which simply meant riding on one that has a clear bottom, and the other which is just your regular old cable car.

After the visit up, we didn't linger as much and just walked around a bit. My mom was pretty tired still from previous days itinerary so we just went easy. We didn't stay long and decided to head back after seeing one temple.

We went to the Sun Yat Sen Memorial after our trip and walked a bit before finally succumbing to just getting a cab to the Fine Arts Museum which was apparently closed. Thankfully, they had colorful lanterns in the museum park which would have been amazing I think had we seen the lanterns lit up.

For dinner, I brought my mom to Ximending again as she hasnt seen it really at night. I chose for us to ate at Modern Toilet. The food was just 'k'. Nothing overly delicious and mostly bland. My mom's flight was 1am Feb 2 so I brought her to the airport soon after we finished dinner a bit of shopping at Eslite.

The next day, I woke up around 11 and just had time to go to Chiate to get Ange's favor (pineapple cakes). Hahaha. I took a cab going there as I was pressed for time and didn't want to get lost or waste time finding it. As soon as I got them, I headed back to my hotel and off to the airport.

Taipei was an amazing trip! I think this would be the first trip where it was just my mom and myself. Hopefully, she's game for Bangkok when I go on the first of May. Otherwise, ill just shop myself out or just laze by the hotel's pool haha.

long queues again despite coming in early!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

CH204: Taiwan Adventures 3

Following the series: CH201: Taipei Prologue, CH202: Taipei Adventures 1 and CH203: Taipei Adventures 2, my mom and I found ourselves on our last arranged tour - the city tour.

The itinerary of the tour was as follows: a temple in the city, CKS Memorial, Martyr's Shrine + Changing of the guards and the National Palace Museum. After those tour, we had the afternoon to ourselves where I planned for us to visit The Confucius Temple, which was apparently beside another temple that was super crowded! So much so, that I had to look down most of the time we were inside because of all the incense wafting in the air and from those being carried by the people who were there to actually pay respect (not like us tourists lol). After a visit to those temples, my mom and I made our way to Taipei 101 to hopefully see the sunset and the view of Taipei in the day and subsequently at night. Unfortunately, it was super crowded there as well and I ended up queuing for 40-45 minutes to get tickets, 40-50 minutes to get on the elevator up and consequently 30-35 minutes lining up to get down! Crazy!!!

Anyway, I've said too much and extended this entry already with so much pictures! So, let the pictures do the talking this time.

More pictures!

Monday, February 10, 2014

CH203: Taipei Adventures 2

CH201: Taipei Prologue
CH202: Taipei Adventures 1

On my third day, we were picked up by our tour guide exactly on time. I had arranged for two tours. In the morning, we were supposed to go up to Keelung City and Harbor (North of Taiwan) and do a temple tour and a visit to a Yehliu GeoPark.

The tour group was bigger this time. We had to ride in a bus as opposed to a van the day before. There were 8 of us in the tour. 1 family of 3, a group of 3 Filipinas and us. The weather was again perfect for a tour. Clear skies, ample sun and a cool weather overall!

Our first stop was the buddhist temple overlooking the Keelung Harbor

There was of course Buddha

It wasn't very crowded when we went. This is the 30th of January and it was a holiday I think in Taiwan for the start of CNY. The lack of people was probably due to us getting there early.

The big Goddess (or maybe it's buddha I can't tell and forgot to ask) is also a place where you can go up for a view of the harbor from a higher perspective.

This shot was taken from inside the Goddess statue from the previous picture. My mom opted out to go up with me. There wasn't really much to see aside from different views one can get from small circular windows on the Goddess.

We were told that by ringing the bell, you can have your wish and prayers granted. It takes a bit of pulling forward and backward to get the momentum to make the bell gong.

I was surprised that I didn't even realize I might see the huge rubber duck touring the world. I remember reading the news that it burst on its tour in Taiwan but didn't think I'd see it when I was arranging the tour. Nevertheless, we only drove by the harbor and didn't really get off to walk around and have our picture taken.

Driving by the coast side to the next destination which is the Yehliu Geopark.

More pictures!

Friday, February 7, 2014

CH202: Taipei Adventures 1

Following the previous entry, CH201: Taipei Prologue, I woke up very early my second day to fetch my mom from the airport. To get to and fro the airport, the only means of transportation available is by public bus which cost 125 NTD one way from the Taipei Main Bus Station (via Guo Kang Bus). It takes about 40 mins to 1 hour to get to the airport and it was relatively quiet on the roads. Despite not having a train to connect the airport to the main city of Taipei, I have to commend Taiwan though because they had an impressive expressway network - most of which were elevated like the Skyway!

In Summary, for Day 2 and Night 2 of my trip (Day 1 and Night 1 for mom), we did the following:
1. Airport Pickup
2. Stroll and lunch at Ximending area
3. Tour to Wulai to see the Wulai waterfalls and see a show by Taiwan's aborigine youth
4. Go to Taipei 101 Mall to buy my mom's birthday gift c/o dad at Tiffany's
5. Go to Shilin Night Market
How to subway generally looks in the morning - not as much people yet

Still very quiet. As you can see, the signs are primarily in Mandarin so it can be quite daunting and confusing

Taipei Main Station - almost reminds me of New York's Grand Central Station ... ALMOST but not really :)

Mom was able to get out early. It took me 30 minutes waiting for my baggage to come out!

At the start of Ximending

Lunch at a place that had sushi and other Japanese delights served on a moving toy train around the restaurant

And then we were picked up by a small van for the tour. The tour group consisted of 7 tourists including us.
More pictures!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

CH201: Taipei Prologue

I've been considering whether I should christen Taipei for myself as the Manhattan of South East Asia, but I haven't been back to Hong Kong recently to say for sure. And Tokyo isn't really part of South East Asia, so I don't think it counts (It's not like I've been to Tokyo yet haha!).

There are a lot of parallels between Taipei and Manhattan. They're both green cities. Manhattan, of course, has Central Park. Taipei on the other hand has a lot of lustrous parks, roads lined with trees and it's almost like Davao seemingly surrounded by 2 mountains (ref: They're both modern cities with an extensive railway system - although Manhattan has a more comprehensive one. They both felt organic and both seemed to have followed a clear blueprint of urban planning.

I went to Taipei over the Chinese New Year (January 28 - February 2 2014). It was, I believe, almost at the end of their winter. I thought that the clothes I packed and the thin cardigan I bought from Uniqlo paired with a scarf would suffice as evening wear. Unfortunately, I was wrong, and I found myself having to go for 3 layers of clothing and ending up buying another jumper (in the British context of the word).

The trip was planned as I posted before, as a last minute change in itinerary because of the turmoil that was happening in Bangkok. I wouldn't have been able to book or plan for anything with news of grenade explosions, protest rallies, gun shots and other sort of violence happening. Of course, it was also supposed to be a celebration of my mom's 60th birthday, so I had to make sure to whatever extent I can make possible that it was smooth and memorable.

Anyway, I'll be posting more about the trip and the itinerary we had planned and share more pictures in succeeding posts. I took over 670+ photos (of myself, mom, sights and food) on my IPhone so there's a lot to sort through. For now, let me share some.
The video above I shot during the arrival in Taipei. I know that supposedly all electronic devices should be turned off, but I just couldn't resist not taking a video with the background music you'll hear playing.

Some pictures: