Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

My blog was quiet for the most part of 2013 – I used Facebook and Instagram more often, indulging myself to the easy way of taking photos, editing it and just writing a few sentences.

I miss writing though… the long kind of writing that doesn’t care if it garners likes or shares… the kind of writing that I just pour my thoughts on anything under the sun that I feel deserves a bit of internet space. So for this year, I hope I get to write more!

For the meantime, let me share snapshots of how my 2013 looked like:

JANUARY

I welcomed 2013 with my family in Philippines. We went to celebrate the countdown at Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo’s ancestral house in Kawit, Cavite. Gen. Aguinaldo, the 1st President of the First Republic of the Philippines, first proclaimed our Philippine Independence from Spain from the window of its grand hall. Yes, too many firsts on this one!

Infront of the Aguinaldo Shrine with my nephew Ezboy, my mom and my sister-in-law.

Infront of the Aguinaldo Shrine with my nephew Ezboy, my mom and my sister-in-law.

As my birthday month, I spent my 27th birthday with Peter at Universal Studios Singapore! My favorite ride was the Transformers! I chickened out from the Battlestar Gallactica though… booooo…

Optimus Prime showed up to greet me a HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Optimus Prime showed up to greet me a HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

FEBRUARY

Ah the love month! We skipped the expensive dinner in restuarants and instead had a poolside date at our place. What made this special was that we both surprised each other, not the common one way street – as guys do deserve this, too, thanks to my gender equality background hahaha.

Everything that is lovely and cheesy Valentine's day. <3

Everything that is lovely and cheesy for Valentine’s day.

This was also the Chinese New Year period and I thought it was nice to spend it here in Singapore… but it was raining most of the time and we got so freaking bored that I vowed never to spend it here again. 😛

Year of the Snake - 2013 Chinese New Year at Chinatown, Singapore.

Year of the Snake – 2013 Chinese New Year at Chinatown, Singapore.

March

We spent the month enjoying what Singapore has to offer starting with a cycling trip around Pulau Ubin. Pulau Ubin is the 2nd largest offshore island, after Sentosa. This island is the last “kampong” of Singapore that is preserved from urban development – but there are news saying this may not be the case soon because the government is eyeing on developing Pulau Ubin like Sentosa. I hope they will really reconsider as this place is perfect the way it is.

Cycling is the best way to go around the island. There are a lot of bike rental shops at the port with varied designs to choose from.

Cycling is the best way to go around the island. There are a lot of bike rental shops at the port with various designs to choose from.

It was our first time to take part in the Holi celebrations and we were glad we did! Holi is a spring festival and more popularly known as the Festival of Colors.

Colorfully fucked up during the Holi Festival at East Coast Park, Singapore.

Colorfully fucked up during the Holi Festival at East Coast Park, Singapore.

April

Peter and I officially welcomed summer in Bali, Indonesia. After a few days stay in Seminyak and Kuta – lazing in its sun, motorbiking to famous spots, indulging in a luxurious couple spa with milk bath; doing some adventure sports which the only one that I can recommend is the white water rafting at Agung River (we were pissed off with the snorkeling/turtle island packaged tour, thus, not recommending it) we headed to Ubud, the island’s center for culture and arts. We also did a motorcycling trip from Ubud to Mt Batur, a volcano with a deep crater lake.

A spot at Nusa Dua that we found. It's a place for surfers.

A spot at Nusa Dua that we found after trekking down following surfers.

Monkey Temple in Ubud. Look, the two monkeys!!! :))

Monkey Temple in Ubud. Look, the two monkeys!!! :))

May

A trip to Singapore was my pre-birthday gift to my Mom and also a pre-graduation gift to my eldest niece, EJ. It was a fun time for us touring the city, going to the safaris, USS and showing them the day-to-day life in Singapore.

My niece EJ, Mamocka, me and Peter having the obligatory tourist photo infront of Marina Bay.

My niece EJ, Mamocka, me and Peter having the obligatory tourist photo infront of Marina Bay.

IMG_2245

Enjoying an afternoon dip in the pool at home. Another way of burning those Singaporean food calories.

June

This was a ‘dark time’ in Singapore… dark due to the haze that enveloped the country for the most part of the month. The PSI hit a new high record of 371 which breached the hazardous zone. It was tough during these times because we lived in the 17th floor with huge windows and we would wake up with an ‘end-of-the-world’ view as darkness was all that we saw. I am glad that nothing serious happened though thanks to the Singapore government’s actions towards safety precautions, restricting outdoor activities and initiating talks with Indonesia.

The normal surgical mask was no match to the haze so my office gave away N95 masks.  This was a 'trendy' fashion accessory for a time.

The normal surgical mask was no match to the haze so my office gave away N95 masks. This was a ‘trendy’ fashion accessory for a time.

July

One of the things that I do is managing events for the School. It was fulfilling for me to handle the NUS Initiative to Improve Health in Asia (NIHA) – a forum that involved most of the Ministers / Director Generals of Health in the region as well as the academe and public health practitioners who came together to discuss policies and programmes related to Health Technology Assessment.

NIHA Forum at Traders Hotel, Singapore. This photo was the 'calm before the storm'.

NIHA Forum at Traders Hotel, Singapore. This photo was the ‘calm before the storm’.

After NIHA ended, I went to another overseas trip as my way of rewarding myself. I spent a week of relaxation, shopping, having my fill of Thai food and reuniting with my friends in my 2nd home, Thailand. Bangkok, the capital city, never failed to keep me entertained and bringing out the crazy me!

A trip to Thailand will not be complete without a beach bum moment. This was taken in Koh Larn, Pattaya.

A trip to Thailand will not be complete without a beach bum moment. This was taken in Koh Larn, Pattaya. I went for an overnight trip together with my Thai friend, P’Nong, and fellow AWCF-FK, Erika.

August

We moved in April to a spacious condo unit in Normanton Park with a great view of the city. The space and view would be a waste if not shared so I decided to start hosting house parties which unto this day is a joy to organise. It amazes me though that we often end up with more food than what we prepared because my fantastic friends would also bring something to share. So, til our next house party! 🙂

Potluck dinner with CouchSurfing friends.

Potluck dinner with CouchSurfing (CS) friends.

August saw me getting back to playing frisbee again, a sport – yes, it is considered as a sport and not just a thing that you do with your dogs 😛 – that I used to play a lot when I was in college. Our School joined the NUS Staff Games and we landed 4th place, not bad considering most of us only learned it in 2weeks time.

Frisbee with our colorful shoes! Can you guess which one is mine?

Frisbee with our colorful shoes! Can you guess which one is mine?

September

Peter and I visited China’s 2 Special Administrative Regions: Macau and Hong Kong, as part of our Anniversary celebration.

Macau is a former Portuguese colony that still has remnants of the past but also went full steam ahead in building huge casinos with amazing architectural designs that even non gamblers, like us, would visit.

A night walk at San Man Lo, Macau's Historic Centre that showcases Macanese culture - the mixture of Chinese and Portuguese traditions. This photo was taken infront of the Ruins of St Paul, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A night walk at San Man Lo, Macau’s Historic Centre that showcases Macanese culture – the mixture of Chinese and Portuguese traditions. This photo was taken infront of the Ruins of St Paul, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Together with my friends, we toured Hong Kong with its modern architecture, expansive skyline and harbors.

Before watching the Symphony of Lights at Victoria Harbour, we walked around the Avenue of Stars - giving Jackie Chan a "low-five". (hope you get the joke here hehe)

Before watching the Symphony of Lights at Victoria Harbour, we walked around the Avenue of Stars – giving Jackie Chan a “low-five”. (hope you get the joke here hehe)

Of course, a trip to Hong Kong wouldn’t be complete without being a kid again in Hong Kong Disneyland!

“Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.” ~ Walt Disney

“Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.” ~ Walt Disney

October

This was my most stressful month at work. The trying times gave me sleepless nights, buckets of tears and my most unhealthy self. Looking back, it was a test of character and the struggles did help me to be better in what I do and also a better perspective of what I want in life and who I want to be.

Despite all these,I was just glad that I still had time to spend my first business trip in Manila with remarkable people.

My first business trip and it was in Manila! Awesome time Sentro, Bonifacio Global City. With my 2 wonderful colleagues, Jananie and Joanne, together with my long-time friends, John and Karl.

My first business trip and it was in Manila! Awesome time at Sentro, Bonifacio Global City. With my 2 wonderful colleagues, Jananie and Joanne, together with my long-time friends, John and Karl.

My first Fashion Week experience!  Being fab at the Philippine Fashion Week with Jananie, Ellen and Rae. Ah lovely ladies!

My first Fashion Week experience!
Being fab at the Philippine Fashion Week with Jananie, Ellen and Rae. Hey lovely ladies!

November

It was a crazy month with an uber packed schedule.

November 1 was my first time to participate in the Singapore Halloween Dancewalk. It was a lot of fun from thinking of our costumes, doing face painting and dancing crazily with my friends! A fellow CSer did a good job of videoing the whole thing so you can check it HERE.

Nov 15-17: I was able to organise an elementary reunion, well only a few came but what the heck, we still had fun! Attended a wedding and college reunion rolled into one and a day to do a bit of shopping, meeting friends and trying to squeeze in a Salon pampering – finally got a PERM!

SLS Batch'99, Elementary Reunion with my long-time friends: Rae, Wi, Karl, Jhoana, Kat and Cla-Cla.

SLS Batch’99, Elementary Reunion with my long-time friends: Rae, Wi, Karl, Jhoana, Kat and Cla-Cla. Photo collage by Rae.

Chuckie and Vida's Wedding.  Group shot with my Nav friends during my college years.

Chuckie and Vida’s Wedding.
Group shot with my Nav friends during my college years.

The fab team of Toni and Jackey's Salon who did a wonderful perm job. I highly recommend this salon as they also have excellent service and amenities.

The fab team of Toni and Jackey’s Salon who did a wonderful perm job. I highly recommend this salon as they also have excellent service and amenities.

November 29 – December 10: A few weeks after my last trip to Manila, I went back again this time with Peter. It was our pre-Christmas holiday as we opted to spend Christmas in Singapore. The decision to stay longer in Solano, my hometown, proved to be a good one because Peter had more time meeting most of my relatives and friends. We also had time to decorate mom’s new apartment, which we both are paying. My decision was to pay it myself but Peter said he wanted to be the best son-in-law and wanted to pay half of it… so now the rent is divided to 50-50. 🙂

Solano Public Market. Fresh produce, clean surroundings and nice sellers - things that I love in this 'palengke' (Tagalog for market).  My friends, Angela and Marco, were a huge helped in my reunion preparations! much love.

Solano Public Market.
Fresh produce, clean surroundings and nice sellers – things that I love in this ‘palengke’ (Tagalog for market). My friends, Angela and Marco, were a huge helped in my reunion preparations! much love.

Christmas feeling in our new apartment in Solano.  With mom and my sister's daughters: MikMik and Yza. Photo taken by my sister, Chatty - you might be able to see a glimpse of her in the mirror.

Christmas feeling in our new apartment in Solano.
With mom and my sister’s daughters: MikMik and Yza. Photo taken by my sister, Chatty – you might be able to see a glimpse of her in the mirror. And oh yeah, I won the sala set in a raffle draw! I do have the ‘lucky hands”.

December

Hands down, December will always be a month of celebrations, reunions, feasts and everything that is good and happy!

I was one of the bridesmaids at Kythe and Dan's wedding. This was also the first time Peter attended a Catholic wedding and met my college friends.

I was one of the bridesmaids at Kythe and Dan’s wedding. This was also the first time Peter attended a Catholic wedding and met my college friends.

Our office, External Relations, hosted a Christmas lunch with our ex-MD11 colleagues and friends.

Our office, External Relations, hosted a Christmas lunch with our ex-MD11 colleagues and friends. It was also the luncheon meeting of Santa’s reindeers.

The debut of my tiny monopoly during the Christmas Eve party that I hosted at home. It was so freaking cute that I had to buy it! It's also a good travel must have especially if i get stuck in the middle of nowhere - will just invite fellow travelers to play!

The debut of my tiny monopoly during the Christmas Eve party that I hosted at home. It was so freaking cute that I had to buy it! It’s also a good travel must have especially if I get stuck in the middle of nowhere – so I’ll just invite fellow travelers to play!

Shot nights!  Crazy FK Reunion with Deenu.

Shot nights!
Crazy FK Reunion with Deenu.

New Year's Eve Countdown at Marina Bay with Peter, Vichelle, Deenu, Ash and Shyam, Followed by Olga's rooftop party. Photo by Ash, post-processed by me.

New Year’s Eve Countdown at Marina Bay with Peter, Vichelle, Deenu, Ash and Shyam, Followed by Olga’s rooftop party til the wee hours of the morning.
Photo by Ash, post-processed by me.

With that, I greet you all – who had the patience to check this blog post all the way to the end, a BIG FAT HAPPY NEW YEAR! May 2014 be as awesome or if not more awesome than 2013!

So much can be said about beauty

But for the most part

We must realise that it’s all around us…

SILENT

THRIVING

WAITING

FLOURISHING

Going unnoticed until we decide to still ourselves from the chaos and let awe and wonder take over.

Then we will see…

The BEAUTY in the DETAILS.

Jeevan or Jivan means life in Nepali language. The Nepali way of life was what I sort of experienced while I was there. I say sort of because my 8 days stay in Nepal were not enough to actually experience everything that this country offers – a country that is in a middle of two powerful nations, China and India.

I encountered “Jeevan” on a cold Wednesday night. I decided to go to Thamel, a tourist centre in Kathmandu City which is composed of narrow streets that houses small shops, to book my bus ticket and buy warm clothes for my trip to Pokhara the next day. After booking my bus ticket, I went to grab some snack at Illy Cafe. My supposedly short snack stop turned out to be an interesting conversation with two Israelis who got excited when they learned I am from Philippines. We ended up discussing areas of interests that they can visit. Good thing I worked in Philippine tourism so my knowledge and experiences came in handy. It was already dark when our conversation ended. We said our goodbyes in the hopes that we may see each other again. After paying the bill, I went off to buy items on my list.


Souvenir Shop in Thamel. I went here thrice because I really liked their craftsmanship and I already became friends with the vendors. They even offered me some beer and a nice chit chat. I bought a fine KHUKURI, a carved Nepali knife similar to a machete. Khukuri is a symbolic weapon of the Nepali Army and of the Gurkha regiments. I chose a 1 foot-long khukuri engraved with the word Nepal and decorated by gold plated Nepali coins, inscriptions and army symbols.

After sometime, I decided to walk from Thamel to Durbar Square. Street lamps are not that popular in Nepal so you have to get accustomed to dark streets and alleyways. It is due to the fact that power outage is very common, an average of 10 hours a day (and might increase). Nepal mainly uses hydroelectricity and the blackouts are caused by the falling generation of the hydro power plants due to the  slow melting of ice and political and economic issues that I will not discuss here.

Back to Jeevan, I was walking in the dark streets trying to figure out the way to Durbar Square. I made a wrong turn and asked directions from the old man walking beside me. He smiled and said that he will take me there himself. I replied that I didn’t want to impose especially during festival time wherein they should spend it with their family. He insisted and lead me the way. Despite his happy disposition, I didn’t let my guard down when I realised we were not walking on the main road but on dark alleys. I gave some distance between the two of us and when we passed by a store, I discreetly asked the vendor if this way will also lead us to Durbar Square. The vendor replied “yes!” which gave me some assurance only to look up and see that the old man saw and realised what I just did. He came to me and asked me my name. I said, “My name is Cha”. He said “Cha is like a daughter. So, treat me like a father. Cha is a guest and during festival time, gods and guests are the same. So do not worry, you can trust me”. What he said totally changed the atmosphere and I let him lead the way through narrow dark alleys. Just to be clear, I am a believer that  most of the time, strangers turn out to be a good conversationalists and guides (so don’t believe in  the saying “Don’t talk to strangers”) BUT one must always be street smart and cautious especially for ladies travelling alone at night time.

The evening turned out to be a good one because I ended up having a local guide explain to me the significance of Durbar Square and the different buildings/temples that made up this area. Durbar Square holds the palaces of the Malla and Shah kings who ruled over the city. It is also surrounded with various temples that houses different gods. The old man painstakingly explained to me which god the statue is, what this god does, and the animals that protect each god and temple. He also explained the different palaces, structures and carvings. I wasn’t able to remember most of it as we went from various temples, buildings and palaces. I wanted to go back to Durbar Square early in the morning to have better photographs without the crowd and with proper lighting but sadly I wasn’t able to do so. In one of the temples, he told me to say a prayer and sound the big bell at the entrance. He later explained, “When you sound the bell, you are hoping for God to hear your prayers. The bell will help you with that. The sound is symbolical in bringing your prayers to heaven.”

Meet JEEVAN. Jeevan is the name of the old man who lead me through dark alleyways, explained the religious and historical significance of the temples and buildings, lent me his mobile phone so I can call my friend to pick me up and waited with me until he arrived. 🙂 I hope we can meet more Jeevans along the way.

Jeevan is not just the name of the old man but also a word that stayed with me. Jeevan is life and the fullness of life in its different forms is what I encountered in this country and what I look forward to experience in the next countries that I will set foot on.

More stories to follow. Below are some snapshots of Kathmandu.

View of Kathmandu from the plane. Kathmandu VALLEY is actually composed of 3 districts: Kathmandu City (the capital), Lalitpur and Bakthapur. Kathmandu is named after “Kasthamandap”, a three-storey temple in Durbar Square that is made entirely of wood without nails/irons from ONE SINGLE TREE. Just imagine how massive the tree that was used to build this temple.

Rooftop View. Nepali homes are usually just 2 to 4 storeys high and have a rooftop. Those higher buildings that you see here are usually office spaces. An American, who married a Nepali, that I met during my bungy trip said that because of the power outage, people would usually use the rooftop during winter time to get enough sunlight, hang out for a chat, enjoy a meal, drink or play cards.

Potato fields at Nagarkot Village. Nagarkot is part of Kathmandu Valley and is famous to tourists because of the Club Himalaya Resort that gives a good view of the Himalaya Mountain Range. We rented a car so it was easier for us to ask the driver to stop if we see places/views of interest and this was one of them. The farmers were very accommodating and they even let us try hacking the soil in preparation for planting. They only asked us for some chocolates in return. 🙂

This is a long overdue post but might as well share to you how I participated in Songkran- a festival celebrating Buddhist New Year every April 13 to 15 of each year. Songkran is famous because of its water fights. Tourists all over the world would come to Thailand to experience it. As for Thais, Songkran is more than just the water fights as I had observed when I went with P’Tao, one of my colleagues at work and who was also a former FK participant, to her hometown in Pha Yao, Northern Thailand.

1. Going home and Reunions: Most of them would book as early as December for their tickets. Since Songkran is almost a week long activity, they grab that opportunity to go home to their respective provinces. Fully booked is a word that is commonly used during these days so better book early if one plans to go outside Bangkok and it is good to note though that Bangkok will be free from traffic on these dates since most of the people are out of town. Of course, going home means they get to be with their family and friends. So the holiday was spent with reunions as they catch up with everyone and visit their relatives.

Posing for a photo with P'Tao's home and her family.

P’Tao’s home is situated in a peaceful town near a mountain. Her niece owns a bike which I borrowed to go around the town. Since it was a small town, people know each other so when they saw a newbie like me, they asked whose wife I was (LOL!) .

2. Drinking and Party Galore: My friend said that one of the things reported during Songkran were the accidents that happened and if injuries/death toll rates increased or decreased as compared to the previous year. Accidents were usually made by drunk drivers partying away, mostly in their motorbikes. Sadly, the phrase “Don’t drink and drive” is not taken seriously especially during festivities. No worries though because our group took it seriously.

CHOK DEE! A Thai word that means cheers! But I also like saying CHAI YO which could mean a lot of things like pleasure, gladness, success, unity and happiness.

3. Honoring the Dead: Thais would make an altar displaying the photos of their dead loved ones. Beside it is a basin/cup filled with water. They would then get a flower, dip it in the water then use it to brush the photos of their dead relatives after saying their prayers and doing 3 wais (WAI is the act done when they put their hands together and bow their head – this is also done when you greet and saySawasdee).

The photo of P'Tao's parents.

4. Paying Respect for the Elders and Monks. Thais would also visit their elders to pay their respect. In one afternoon, we gathered in the front porch with a gold plate in the center. An elder man (their uncle) chanted a Buddhist prayer as everyone  did a Wai. People gathered around then placed their money on the gold plate – this is to help their elder relatives who can not work anymore. P’Tao’s family also prepared meals and woke up early to go to the temple and offer them to the monks.

5. Fundraising for Temple / Community Programs: They also held different types of activities in order to raise money. Some provinces would have pageants, muay thai competitions, eating contests etc. As for P’Tao’s hometown, they held a disco night beside the temple. A high platform was set-up with disco lights and decorated with colorful papers hanging from the ceiling. The locals will then have to purchase a 100baht dance ticket as an entrance fee for the dance floor. Others can also sponsor a round of dance by paying more and her family and friends can all go up and dance. Of course, I danced with them in the tune of local songs. The elders would make these ethnic dance moves which are somehow similar to the ethnic dances of Northern Philippines so I didn’t have a hard time following the steps.

Yep, this is my hazy photo as I was doing a crazy dance move.

5. Cooking local cuisine: People in Northern Thailand is used in eating sticky rice accompanied by Namprik – mostly spicy and salty dishes made from meat. Namprik somehow works like a dip of the sticky rice. The family would gather on a mat with the food on the center. A container of sticky rice would be on the side and each one will just have to get it using their hands. The sticky rice would then be rolled and dipped on the Namprik. A platter of vegetables was also present as it soothes the mouth from the spiciness/saltiness of the Namprik.

6. Colorful clothes: Since Songkran is a festivity, one must celebrate it wearing festive colors. Most thais would buy colorful and flowery clothes to wear during this time. I also want t wear one so P’Tao and I went to shop for some clothes at the nearest shopping area (which was 45 minutes away btw).

Lots of colorful choices!

7. Finally, Water Fights: Khao San road in Bangkok is the most famous place to celebrate Songkran for foreigners. Since it was just a small and narrow road, people would just have to walk, get wet and make others wet. As for the other parts of Thailand, locals would use their pick-up trucks, the back is then loaded with a big basin filled with water and people would stay on it armed with their dippers. At first, I wanted to have a water gun, too, but I realized water guns were no match to the dippers. The kids and I prepared a mixture of talcum powder (one in white and the other in pink) and water. We then splattered it on the Pick-up truck before heading to Kwan Pha Yao.

Preparing for the water fights. The pink palm prints were mine. 🙂

Kwan Pha Yao is one of the largest lake in Thailand thus it was a good place to celebrate Songkran since people can refill their basins with water from the lake for a fee of 10baht. We were not spared from water fights though on the way to Kwam Pha Yao. In front of the houses, large basins were also filled with water and people would wait for passers by who were a willing bunch of wet victims. Others would even put ice on the water, so you will just experience a chilled shock as you are splashed with cool water that all you can do is scream. That was the reason why our throat hurts after the Songkran Festivities.

WET and HAPPY! (no chance to actually take good photos with the constant splashing of water)

Originally, splashing water during Songkran was meant to wash oneself from bad things and misfortunes- as a Christian, this is also a reminder of how we baptize ourselves with water to symbolize our purification and more so to be cleansed by Jesus, the living water. I am reminded that despite the different beliefs, people have this underlying need to be cleansed, to start a new (remember how New Year is always a way for us to make those resolutions?). Well as most festivals in any religion, the spiritual aspect is mostly overseen and festivals morphed into mere pageantries.

The most decent photo I was able to take.

For additional information, I got this from this site:  April 13, the beginning of the festival, is called Wan Sang Khan Long. Northern Thais believe that on this day they should clean their houses, wear only new clothes, and pray that bad luck and karma resulting from bad deeds during the previous year will not follow them in to the New Year. On the next day of the celebrations, April 14, people should only speak positively and pleasantly; if they become angry or unpleasant, bad luck will follow them throughout the New Year. April 15, the last day of the festival, is called Wan Paya Wan, “The Great Day”, during which all people should pray, make merit to their ancestors, and visit their elder relatives in order to ask for forgiveness and blessings for the New Year.

Sunset at Kwan Pha Yao. I like the hazy effect created by my damp lens.

Januaryb 6 -9, 2011

Our Chiang Mai Branch Office held their annual Donation Drive to the different hill tribes of Northern Thailand. I actually thought that we will go to the long-necked tribe (Karen Paduang) but instead we went to the Red and White Karen tribe of Banpabong and Banapupom villages in Mae Hong Son. Mae Hong Son is the most mountainous province in Thailand and is usually covered with mist throughout the year.

The Donation Drive also coincided with Thailand’s celebration of Children’s Day. Thais celebrate it every 2nd Saturday of January and special events for children are held throughout Thailand. I like a Thai saying that says “Children are the future of the nation, if the children are intelligent, the country will be prosperous.”

Dr. Jose Rizal, our National Hero in the Philippines, also said something similar: “Ang kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan.” (The youth is the hope of our future).

 

The painful trip was worth it when I saw this pretty girl. I literally became her stalker and took numerous photos of her 🙂
Their classroom. This is not the classroom that I was used to. The same state also happens to villages all over the world even in my home country. 😦
My heart went out for them. Despite the tattered books and charts, they are still fascinated to learn.

 

Adults and children formed their lines to receive blankets, clothes, food, school supplies, toys and sports equipments for the school.

The kids enjoying the fun games and activities.
No doors, no electricity… just sheets and mosquito nets. I stayed here with my other 3 colleagues. The bathroom is beside a pig sty so I always here the pigs whenever I use it. It was also made from bamboo and the open slits made me uncomfortable since I can be seen from outside which resulted to my quickest showers ever! :p

 

The village has no electricity. It was engulfed in total darkness when all the gas lamps and flashlights were out. I tried to sleep it off when I felt I need to pee but I decided to just use the backlight of my camera and braved the darkness when I walked towards the toilet.

My foster mom. We do look a like 🙂
The villagers use glasses made from bamboo and that was what we used. It’s amazing though how Coca-Cola can still penetrate even the most remote locations.
I like this stolen shot of my homestay parents smiling to each other.
Some of the kids in Mae Hong Son. I do hope they get to live out their dreams.

The trip to Mae Hong Son made my body ached, thanks to a total of 28 hours round trip travel time by van. I also felt dizzy along the way because of the numerous curves. Good thing I always had a strong stomach so I had no problems with the food in the villages. It was actually yummy too with a “distinct” local taste. The homestay at Banapupom village made me relive the stories that my grandparents used to tell me when they were younger. Stories that depicted a life without the comforts of what I am used to today.

When I looked at the faces of the white and red Karen tribe, I felt that in a way they are contented and happy with what they have. When I looked at how a child finds joy over a blowing bubble or a tiny toy truck that he can play in the dirt, I felt their joy over the simplest of things. This experience humbled me. The White and Red Karen tribe actually gave me more in return.

I am glad that my thoughts when I was 23 years old (click here to see the list) still hold true for me. After 2 years, here are the other things I learned / realized:

* To LEARN and to SHARE will always be in my  to-do list.

* My hunger for learning is INSATIABLE.

* Setting BOUNDARIES is necessary.

* In order to help making CHANGES, we must start with ourselves. Cliche but true.

* Our life should reflect our advocacies. Stop complaining, sitting and wishing things will be better. Lets get our butts off the chair and ACT! Times are changing, we should change our attitudes, too.

* HATE is a disease. Do not let yourself be inflicted with this. Forgive and be thankful for the lessons you gained.

* Cherish the people who sees through you but still CHOOSES to love you.

* God knows me more that I know myself. Why? Because He gives me what I need and not what I want. He gives it to me at the exact time that He wants me to have it. It’s not because He wants me to suffer but because He wants me to realize that His ways are perfect than mine. I hope I will remember it – ALWAYS.

* People may ridicule your FAITH on a God that is non-existent to them, but don’t let them stop you from proclaiming your faith in Him.

* A dose of PATIENCE everyday will work wonders in you – it did for me. 😛

* AGE tells us that we have an expiration date – so enjoy life while it last.

* The HEART can be very deceitful. Sometimes it lets you see what you want to see even if those are just lies. The term “Follow your heart” is not always true.

* TIME is the greatest gift we can give to each other.

* Being AWAY opens your eyes to things you want to change, things you love and things that you took for granted.

* Death is certain but it’s not an excuse for us to disregard our HEALTH.

* It’s ironic how the world seems so big and so small at the same time. A BEAUTIFUL CONTRADICTION.

* You can always find JOY and GOODNESS if you choose to seek for it.

Some snapshots:

Hua Hin is a good place to retreat from the bustling city of Bangkok. Playing with its waves made me feel like I'm a kid again, walking in its streets made us discover some cool shops and of course there was the Night Market that sells yummy thai food. We then took the 7pm ride back to Bangkok so I can still meet my FK friends by midnight.

I never imagined that I will welcome my 25th birthday being stood up. I met Ivey and Sunny (2 of my FK friends from Bangladesh) at Thongta Hotel near the Airport since Hung (our Vietnamese friend) said he'll be arriving. We were shocked when the receptionist told us that he rescheduled his booking - the 3 of us were appalled by what happened but we managed to have some few good laughs while conspiring on the things that we would do to Hung during the debriefing. We found out the next day that he never made his flight out of the Philippines bec. he forgot to bring his ID card. The heineken beer is also a memorable one for Sunny 😛 - this is the Vietnamese twist of my birthday. Thanks Sunny and Ivey for the laughters and surprise gifts. 🙂

You can never leave Bangkok without shopping. It was Inad and Kannika's last day so we went to Chatuchak Weekend Market. Walking through the alleys, getting confused with the stores and layout of the market was tiring but it was worth it since we bought some good finds. A well-deserved foot spa was necessary after that. Inad and Kannika then hurriedly packed their bags and said their goodbyes as they headed to the airport to catch their flight back to the Philippines. Thank you Inad and Kannika for the instax, yanyan and surprise heart-shaped shades. 🙂 Your stay in my condo was a breather and our Hua Hin trip was really fun. 🙂

The problem with getting too excited and hasty decisions is that you sometimes overlook important details which will result to disappointments and disasters.

My trip to Krabi taught me that and it was an expensive lesson for me 😛

I forgot to click the flight + hotel option in the Airasia website so I ended up booking a hotel only for our 3 nights stay. I contacted Airasia but there were no flights available already since it was a peak season. So P’Nong, my thai friend, and I had no choice but to take the 12-hour bus ride to Krabi Town which also means that we have to lose a one night stay.

I didn’t research well about the hotel, too, because I was just soooo excited to spend the New Year at the beach. We were surprised to know how far it was from Ao Nang, the main beach area where numerous restaurants and stores are lcoated. If we want to go to Ao Nang from our hotel, Check Inn Resort Krabi , we have to take a taxi that cost between 300 to 400 baht per way. OUCH!

Our BIG room with complete amenities at Check Inn Resort Krabi. It was very clean, the beds were comfortable and we even have our own terrace. The problem was just really the location.

Since we can not refund our booking with Check Inn, I told P’Nong that I will just cover the whole cost of the accommodation (it was my fault anyway). Good thing we found a cheap guesthouse in Ao Nang that cost only 700baht (the equivalent of a round-trip way from the Check Inn Hotel to Ao Nang). We decided to just stay for one night in Check Inn before transferring to Popeye Guesthouse.

I didn’t want my first boo-boo of the year to be a total disaster so the happy and positive ME won 🙂

Goofing underwater. Maximizing our stay by swimming in Check Inn’s Pool before we check out (nice ryhme).

Underwater shots using my Lumix DMC-FT2

Invading privacy. Opposite of Check Inn Resort was the very posh and private Sheraton Hotel, who was offering a New Year Mascarade dinner for 9,900baht!!! (ouch). Good thing the security guard allowed us inside so we were able to access its very exclusive beach.

Klong Muang beach in front of Sheraton Hotel has soft and fine sand that you can't help but take off your sandals.

Our futile attempts to do a jump shot using a camera's timer hahaha

Wedding crashers! It was a very simple wedding along Ao Nang beach. But the couple had lots of uninvited photographers and wedding crashers.

What a sight! A romantic wedding on the beach, a couple jogging, and kids trying to fish on the shore (?) haha 🙂

Nature’s beauty. We hired a long tail boat that brought us to Thale Waek which means Separated Sea. It’s one of Thailand’s Best-kept secret since only few foreigners know about this place. Thale Waek is very beautiful. When the water recedes during lowtide, a white sand bar appears and serves as a bridge between the two Islands.

Walking on a white sand beach with two shores on both sides and two Islands on both ends:) Photo by: P'Nong

Flying prayers. Couples, friends, and families bought paper lanterns and said their wishes, hopes and prayers before releasing the lanterns to the night sky.

I was very grateful for a blessed 2010 and looked forward for an exciting 2011. I also prayed that I will always remember God's faithfulness to me 🙂 Photo by P'Nong.

Bursting fireworks.

We greeted the New Year in Ao Nang beach. It was a simple one compared to all the celebrations that happened in major cities but it was meaningful for me 🙂

My trip to Krabi laid the foundation on how I want my next travels for this year to be… just relax and enjoy the place at a slower pace (and of course not to be overly excited :P).

Bonggang Bonus:

 

I bought these 2 books for 100baht each! If you're a foreigner staying in Thailand, you'll know it's very hard to find bookstores that sells good English books.