Category Archives: Asia

Sensational Sri Lanka

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Sorry for the absence, folks! Been a little bit obsessed about an old video game (well, not old, but from 2009) that I got hooked on.. anyone ever play Dragon Age? ūüôā I need to catch up to the newest one!

photo 1 (1)Anyway, here’s the long-awaited post on our recent vacation to Sri Lanka! Colombo is a layover destination for my airline, but I’d never actually done it. Alan and I wanted to do an affordable beachy holiday, so we decided that Sri Lanka would be the best option. After a few recommendations from friends and colleagues, as well as searching up and down TripAdvisor for the perfect spot to stay, we settled on anphoto 2 (1) area on the southwestern tip of Sri Lanka 4 hours from Colombo called Hikkaduwa. We stayed at a very popular place called Hotel Drifters. I was a bit overwhelmed with the choice of guesthouses and hotels, that I ended up choosing this one based on its popularity. It was a little pricier than many of the others, but it was still cheap in comparison to hotels anywhere else in the world. The hotel itself was a bit drab (but I think this is standard for this area) and at one point we had a mini bug infestation (thanks to Alan’s carelessness pouring us drinks one night) but the staff were very helpful and quite efficient. The manager is knowledgeable and booked a tour for us, and helped us out with any questions we needed. The biggest plus? We got a seaview room with a balcony that we made good use of every morning, afternoon and evening.

sl01Our first full day we decided to knock out a day tour and get to seeing Hikkaduwa. We hired a driver for the day and set out in the morning. Our first stop was the blue lagoon just off the Indian Ocean which thrives with life. We took a boat into the lagoon and made a few stops along the way.sl48I would recommend the hotel even though it might have lacked in many things it should have at its price, the location, convenience, helpful staff and manager all add to its stay-worthiness.¬†We only booked 4 nights in the hotel, so it was quite a short trip. We had wanted to do a safari but it would have taken literally a whole day and we couldn’t fit it in our schedules. We did spend our first night exploring the beach a bit, and had dinner at one of sl02the best restaurants on the beach, Mambo’s, where we discovered our new favorite food, sambol – a concoction of coconut, chilies, fish, onions, etc. that goes amazing with everything. In fact, I think I had it at every single meal, even breakfast… I think I need to figure out how to make this!

The drive starting our journey is like a mini-tour of the remains of the tsunami that devastated most of southern Asia in 2004. Many buildings still stand in ruins; only a very small number of them have been reclaimed and repaired. Our guide tells us he was ¬†inland on a tour when the tsunami hit, but we don’t ask any details beyond that.

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These fences are used to farm shrimp

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The first island we stopped off at was inhabited by a single family who farmed cinnamon. Here, they would give live demonstrations on how they harvest cinnamon as well as make useful items from coconut (rope from the shell) and its leaves (wall and ceilings).

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Our next stop was to Temple Island, where all that is on the island are Buddhist temples and monks. I was surprised to find that the main religion of Sri Lanka was actually Buddhism, since it seems more commonly associated with India, which is mostly Hindu.

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This is Sri Lanka's national animal, the Grand Squirrel. It's about 3 times bigger than a normal squirrel.

This is Sri Lanka’s national animal, the Grand Squirrel. It’s about 3 times bigger than a normal squirrel.

Buddha, grand squirrel, and a very old tree.

Buddha, grand squirrel, and a very old tree.

An ancient book on Buddhism.

An ancient book on Buddhism.

After Alan and I explored the monks’ home (they were cooking when we visited and saw how they used minimal supplies and ingredients for their meals) we were blessed by one of the Buddhist monks and went on our way.

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The lagoon itself is home to many creatures, especially crocodiles, which makes the lagoon largely unswimmable. We saw various other animals such as birds, land and water monitors, and bats.

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... And me! With a handmade (temporary) necklace from one of our guides!

… And me! With a handmade (temporary) necklace from one of our guides!

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sl19Once back on dry land, we hopped back into our vehicle and headed over the one of the many turtle hatcheries in the area.¬†For those of you who don’t know anything about turtles, they come ashore to lay their eggs in the sand, and then leave them to hatch on their own. If you saw some of the deadly looking creatures I posted earlier (I’m looking at YOU, water monitor!) then you can imagine that only a tiny percentage of those eggs actually hatched before they are preyed upon, and even less of those hatchlings actually make it back into the water for safety. Fisherman find these egg nests and bring them to the hatchery, where they are cared and looked after, and when old enough, send the males back into the water, and females are kept for more breeding.

I don't know why I look so happy to be holding dead turtle eggs..

I don’t know why I look so happy to be holding dead turtle eggs..

Several nests waiting to hatch

Several nests waiting to hatch

Once hatched, they are all placed together in feeding ponds…

Oh em gee how cuuuuute!

Oh em gee how cuuuuute!

Many of the turtles that stay at the hatchery (other than the females they keep) are those that suffered injury, illness (to be recovered and sent back into the ocean) or abnormalities.

Nope, this one's normal.

Nope, this one’s normal.

These poor green turtles were caught in a net and lost a few limbs. Their permanent home is now the hatchery.

These poor green turtles were caught in a net and lost a few limbs. Their permanent home is now the hatchery.

The most amazing inhabitant at the hatchery is an extremely rare albino green turtle, appropriately named.. Michael Jackson.

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He was apparently in the spotlight recently when a wealthy man from Mauritius came trying to purchase him for any price, at which the hatchery adamantly refused. But at another hatchery, it caused a scandal when their albino turtle “disappeared”. It was later returned and the people responsible were charged. The Mauritian man has yet to own an albino turtle.

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Our next stop was to one of the local moonstone mines. Moonstones are semi-precious gems that are mostly mined in Sri Lanka and exported worldwide for jewelry making.

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sl29sl30A rare variety of the moonstone is what they call a “blue moonstone”, as you can see a bit in the photo above. Instead of the normal milky glow a moonstone has, these blue moonstones has a blue sheen to them that can be seen when tilted at the right angle under the light.¬†Just a short walk from the mine is the jewelry factory, where the moonstones are cut and polished, and jewelry is hand-crafted in various metals.

Halfway to beautiful jewelry.

Halfway to beautiful jewelry.

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I did my share of helping the local economy and made Alan buy me a nice moonstone ring. ūüôā

We headed out to our last stop on the day tour, which was the spice garden. I actually don’t have many photos of it..

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We learned about all the local spices and herbs grown in Sri Lanka, and discovered that the cancer rate in Sri Lanka was very low due to their use of a certain curry leaf in their foods. I bought some natural products (hair remover and coconut oil are just to name a few!) and we set out back to the hotel for the day.

On the way back, we made a stop at one of the largest (maybe the largest?) statue of Buddha that stood just off the coast.

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That evening, we decided to get a taste of Hikkaduwa’s nightlife. Apparently one hotel/guesthouse along the beach is responsible for holding a party on a different night of the week, and our favorite new spot Mambo’s was it for the night! We met a British couple staying in our hotel (our driver had mistaken us for them, a British white guy with an Asian wife! Ha!) and shared a few drinks..

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We might have also ended up in the ocean at one point and something happened to one of Alan’s flip flops…

I might have carried them so he wouldn't "lose" them... oops.

I might have carried them so he wouldn’t “lose” them… oops.

But good thing there was a shop selling some right next to Starbeans Cafe!

sl37While still nursing our beach hangovers, we spent this gloomy day exploring the little town of Hikkaduwa, and looked for a place to get a massage.

sl41We passed this little homemade outdoor art gallery, where I picked up a cute piece of a pink elephant painted by this awesome man, who was hard at work at making another masterpiece. We then ventured out to a beach nearby, where we saw a couple in the water giggling at a moving rock. Well, actually, it wasn’t a moving rock, it was a giant sea turtle!

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These sea turtles frequent the area apparently looking for seaweed and lo and behold, I must have spotted about 4 of them hovering along the shoreline looking for snacks. We actually went back the next day with snorkel gear and swam around them, feeding them seaweed. Such an amazing sight! Sadly, I don’t have an underwater camera so no pictures came from snorkeling day (although this much change!).

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Not quite sun-ray catching day...

Not quite sun-ray catching day…

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The next morning I awoke to find some locals on the beach doing some very interesting things…

This man set up shop to sell beautiful silk blankets, however I left Sri Lanka without one!

This man set up shop to sell beautiful silk blankets, however I left Sri Lanka without one!

Looks like these guys caught dinner!

Looks like these guys caught dinner!

And then beach day ensued…

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Followed by drinks on the balcony at sunset!

Followed by drinks on the balcony at sunset!

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For our last day in Sri Lanka, we opted to visit the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage on our way to the airport. Elephants are one of my favorite animals, and this wasn’t the first time I’d get to interact with one, as I rode one in Thailand and visited an orphanage in Kenya, but it was a first for Alan. I was honestly a bit disappointed in the facility as it seemed to showcase the orphans more for entertainment than for education, like the on in Kenya did, but it was nice to share a first experience like this one for Alan.

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Baby waiting for its meal.

Baby waiting for its meal.

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This one liked Alan.

This one liked Alan.

We headed down to the river, where the elephants receive their baths.

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And we went down and gave them a scrub ourselves!

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I think if I can handle bathing an elephant, a human baby shouldn’t be so bad, right? Alan? Too soon? Okay…

On our way to Colombo, we stopped off at a tea factory to discover how tea is made.

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And that's Alan with a monstrosity of a lemon. Lemonhead!

And that’s Alan with a monstrosity of a lemon. Lemonhead!

Before the airport, we grabbed a bite ( I LOVE LOVE LOE Sri Lankan curry! But sadly they had no sambol!) and boarded our flight home. ¬†The people of Sri Lanka must be some of my favorite; they are kind, happy, easy-going and very welcoming. Our stay was made even more memorable by those locals we met and who shared their knowledge and friendship.¬†Although it was a short stay, we had an unforgettable time and hope to make it back to Sri Lanka’s beautiful southern coast and explore even more of its gorgeous beaches!

Sunny Singapore

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Singapore is a great Asian country – clean, cultural, and great people. I would say that the only downside to Singapore is that it is very, very expensive, and I seem to forget that every time I visit because I always venture out to go shopping only to be reminded that everything is overpriced.

Nonetheless, there is loads to do in Singapore – on my first visit, which was a multi-sector trip to Singapore, then Melbourne, and back, I was fairly new, so I went out with a few of the crew to check out some local architecture and then Sentosa Island, an island just off the main city filled with tons of activities, beaches, and even a Universal Studios theme park. We thought about going to Universal, but decided to check out what other things Sentosa Island had to offer.

Views from the famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel:

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Infinity pool

Infinity pool

We first hit the small beach for a stroll when we entered Sentosa.

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Peek a boo!

Peek a boo!

 

The island itself was filled with cute oddities and decorations.

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The famous Singapore Merlion

The famous Singapore Merlion

Inside the Merlion.. raaawwrr..

Inside the Merlion.. raaawwrr..

View of the park from the Merlion

View of the park from the Merlion

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And of course, every Asian tourist spot isn’t complete without a snake:

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We paid a visit to the butterfly house..

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And some other animals as well..

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There were gardens around the island, filled with beautiful, vibrant flowers and vegetation.

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When we were finally exhausted on our day long excursion, we took a short train ride back to the hotel.

Trendy train station

Trendy train station

 

My Favorites Photos of 2013

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It’s that time of the year! The time of reflection and celebration of the good times over the past 12 months. Here are my favorite snaps from 2013.

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Mauritius Рwe encountered these guys when we had hired a boat to take us out and about. They ate up the bread we gave them and they politely posed for my photo!

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Santa Monica Pier, California, USA¬†– There’s not much I really like about California, actually.. ok, that’s a lie, but because I used to live to close to it its appeal has lost on me. Alan had to remind me that he’d never set foot in California so we took him to all the typical tourist spots. But one thing I do love is street art and public works. This one is beautiful. For more pictures from this trip, click here.

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Castellorizo, Greece –¬†This tiny little island boasted delicious fresh fish at the many restaurants that lined the marina. For more photos from this trip, click here.

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Warsaw, Poland –¬†Loved this shot I caught at just the right moment of a peacock chasing off some pigeons stealing its spotlight. More photos from this trip coming soon.

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Absinthe, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA –¬†Our first Las Vegas show was amazing – Alan wanted David Copperfield but I wanted Absinthe at Caesar’s Palace. The sexy show was like a mix of burlesque under the big top with amazing acts like these Russian acrobats. Loved it!

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Casablanca, Morocco –¬†The famous Hassan II Grande Mosque. More photos from this trip coming soon.

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Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA –¬†I hadn’t visited this wonder of the world that sat in my backyard for almost my whole life since I was about 5 years old, so I figured it was a good time to revisit when I showed Alan around my home. It is truly a breathtaking and unbelievable sight. See more photos from this trip here!

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Barasti Beach, Dubai, UAE –¬†One of my usual spots in Dubai is Barasti Beach, a little beach bar that provides a chill layout during the day and dance party and DJs at night.

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Nuri’s Beach, Turkey –¬†Nuri’s Beach was my favorite little spot on our Turkish sailing holiday with Alan’s parents. It was laidback, and not very crowded like a typical beach bar. I love this shot of Alan against the little bay of Nuri’s beach, with our boat in the background of the small marina.

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Legoland, California, USA/Tatooine –¬†Say whaaaaat? Mixing two great universal loves into one – Lego and Star Wars. Check out this awesome lego model of the Mos Eisley Cantina.

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Venice, Italy –¬†My first time in Venice this year. I was completely amazed at how water taxis and use of the canals basically keeps the city alive.

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Mauritius – I hadn’t planned on going parasailing (which I’d never done before) when we hired a boat for a tour, but everyone was so hyped to try it. Here’s a picture of some of my colleagues while they parasailed against the beautiful surroundings of Mauritius.

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Mekong River, Vietnam –¬†The communities all along the Mekong River rely on it for their daily lives. These boats were used for the tour, but they resemble the boats locals use in everyday life. See more photos from beautiful Vietnam here.

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Kalekoy, Turkey –¬†Kalekoy is a tiny town only accessible by boat.

Thanks for taking a look at some of my favorite shots from the past year! For me it’s not always the best shot, but sometimes it evokes an emotion or a memory. I live my life through photos and love sharing and seeing other peoples’ photos!

Harmonious Ho Chi Minh

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Mid-tour coconut drink, anyone?

Mid-tour coconut drink, anyone?

Since I’ve been posting backdated trips, I thought it was time to throw in a more recent one. With Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, being a new destination for my airline, I was excited to be rostered a trip this past August. I tend to be fairly knowledgeable in general about most of the big Asian cultures, but Vietnam was something a bit more foreign to me (no pun intended).

Most of the crew had never been before, so we all signed up for a tour package down the Mekong River. The tour included transportation to and from the hotel, as well as a visit to a few of the islands in the river ending with a locally prepared lunch. It was forecast for rain on our tour day, but we set out regardless on an hour’s drive out to the Mekong River.

Our tour operator had its own boat, so it was just for us crew!

Our tour operator had its own boat, so it was just for us crew!

They say the ships have eyes to scare off predators in the river.

They say the ships have eyes to scare off predators in the river.

The Mekong River is surprisingly very brown, with what looks like zero visibility. I’m assuming it’s because the soil is very soft. What seemed like about 50 tour boats all docked next to each other, with multiples buddied up, so to get to yours on the end you had to hop on each one (I think I hopped over 5?). From the dock, we traveled to one of the small islands located in the river, called Unicorn Island. It has a small community of locals who live off the tourism. The island is so small it only has space for a small school for younger children. Older children ride a ferry daily to the mainland to attend their school.


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We sat down for some fresh fruit appetizers while the locals sang a few fold songs in their traditional Vietnamese. The beautiful outfits they wear are typical of a local, it’s call an ao dai.

I actually wasn't fond of most of them...

I actually wasn’t fond of most of them…

We also had a short meeting with a big scaly local:

We also learned about how the local bees make deliciously fresh honey. We sat for a cup of tea (sweet and yummy!) with some dried fruit treats.

Look at this cutie resident of Unicorn Island!

Look at this cutie resident of Unicorn Island!

After we finished our late morning tea and snacks, we took a short walk to one of the tributaries in the Mekong Delta to hop on a small boat that would take us back to our tour boat. Although it seemed the boat we took was for tourists, these are similar to the ones commonly used by residents and workers to navigate the delta.

 

Sadly, I can’t remember the name of the next island, but here we got to sample the very popular confection – coconut candy. It’s extremely delicious warm and just made – with a hint of ginger; it resembles taffy. I had to take some home, but unfortunately it gets quite hard, so I usually stick it in my armpit to warm it up (yes, seriously!). Other flavors can be added to the coconut candy, such as chocolate or fruit. I just stuck to the classic original!¬†¬†These locals are quite resourceful when making coconut candy; the coconut shells are used to fuel the fire of the oven.

Oh yea, and these little guys were there too.

Oh yea, and these little guys were there.

Also on the island, they were actively making coconut and banana paper – it was so lightweight and tasted great, too.

And this little guy was there, too!

And this little guy was there, too!

Our final journey onward to lunch was operated by a friendly donkey and his little carriage.

Where we had some yummy crunchy fish and hand rolled fresh eggrolls and shrimp with rice.

YUM!

YUM!

We headed back to our tour boat and onward to the dock and just as we disembarked, the rain poured down in bucketfulls. Unfortunately, there were loads of people just climbing onto their boats when the storm hit, so we were pretty lucky. It poured almost the whole hour car ride back to the hotel. But I’m not bothered, we had a beautiful day for our tour!

Braving Bangkok

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Bangkok, Thailand, is one of my favorite layovers – I absolutely LOVE the food, shopping, massage, and Thai people are the nicest groups I have ever encountered in the world. My first ever trip to the land of smiles was on a long multi-sector trip from Dubai-Bangkok-Sydney-Christchurch and back. (Check out my post on Sydney here.) It was back over Christmas in 2010, as I was still a fairly new crew online. Ever since, I have always bid for Bangkok and am always happy to swap almost anything i have for it.

On my first trip to Bangkok, we hit the ground running – one of the seniors on the crew was a BKK expert, and many of the crew were also fairly new, so almost all of us headed out when we landed in the first night.

Delicious Pad Thai just a short walk from the hotel.

Delicious Pad Thai just a short walk from the hotel.

The Patporn night market. That sign says what you think it says.

The Patporn night market. That sign says what you think it says.

We ventured to a local “night market” to visit the world-famous ping pong shows… and I’m hoping that at this point you know what a ping pong show is. If you don’t, well… there’s no ping pong table, but there are a lot of half naked girls putting strange things in places they don’t belong. That’s about the most PG way I can describe it. Not that I think ping pong shows are a good thing, but this is an adventure, and I do believe in trying/seeing everything (within reason) once!

The famous tuk tuk!

We couldn’t take any pictures inside the bar, but as a large group, the host made sue to keep our glasses filled and shots delivered in a timely fashion. And not to mention all the attention she brought to our table from the performers. I have a story I love to tell about this destination: one performer had a, ahem, cucumber. Said cucumber was placed where it shouldn’t have been placed, was LAUNCHED (I kid you not) across the room, hit the wall behind our table, bounced off and hit a girl on our crew’s head, and landed on the table. Priceless.

The next day was much tamer, consisting of more eating of amazing Thai food and exploring the malls for great shopping, and any general sight seeing. After completing our trips to Sydney and a turnaround in Christchurch, we returned to Bangkok for another 24 hours. A few of the crew and I opted to take a tour of the nearby elephant and crocodile sanctuary. Elephants are one of my favorite animals, and other than seeing them in a zoo, this would my first interaction with them and I was definitely excited!

Squee!!! How cute are you?!

Squee!!! How cute are you?!

Whoops...

Whoops…

Also at the sanctuary, were very scary (but sadly, probably sedated) tigers:

I touched them and could feel them "purring".. yikes

I touched them and could feel them “purring”.. yikes

And then some crocodiles:

And then I got to ride the elephant!!

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I came back on another trip with a fellow cabin crew and American, Dustyn (who has since gone back to the States.. miss you Dusty!!) in July of 2011. We kept it a bit chilled and visited the Wat Pho (reclining Buddha) temple:

Barefoot in the temple only!

Barefoot in the temple only!

I always remembered this temple because it was the background stage for Sagat (the Thai kick boxing boss) in Street Fighter 2:

Whoa, wait, the real Buddha statue is inside a temple?!

Whoa, wait, the real Buddha statue is inside a temple?!

The feet of Buddha is made out of beautiful Mother of Pearl.

The feet of Buddha is made out of beautiful Mother of Pearl.

I actually prefer traveling in tuktuks than taxis!

I actually prefer traveling in tuktuks than taxis!

Sandbags seen everywhere to protect the indoors

Sandbags seen everywhere to protect the indoors

On a third trip in November 2011, I visited Bangkok on a layover just after it has suffered from some major flooding. A friend and I still ventured out to find that the Thai people very easily still continued with their daily lives despite (sometimes) being knee-deep in flood water. But it was inspiring to see that they didn’t let a little bit of water stop them from doing their thang.

After making a quick stop to the mall, we hopped on a tuk tuk to the Wat Traimit (Golden Buddha) temple. The mall area wasn’t very flooded, but we noticed that had we gone any farther than the temple that a tuk tuk would have been a bad idea, since the area around the temple was quite flooded itself. But as mentioned above, everything was operating and open as it should be, so after climbing the temple’s sandbag wall, we managed to enter the Wat Traimit.

Look I can do the lotus too!!

Look I can do the lotus too!!

After the temple, we decided to just randomly venture into the city and see where it took us.

Shoulda worn my floods...

Shoulda worn my floods…

And that took us to a food market.. and when I say food, I mean it in the loosest terms…

No, he's not food! But look, how cute...

No, he’s not food! But look, how cute…

Sadly, I haven’t been anywhere else in Thailand other than Bangkok, but I still love it every visit. I vow to one day make a holiday to Thailand and visit more of its beautiful beaches and islands.

And I leave you with these very important taxi rules!

And I leave you with these very important taxi rules!

Checking Out China: Shanghai

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I visited Shanghai in October 2010. Unfortunately, I haven’t had any other trips to Shanghai (or China for that matter) since. China is everything you think it is when you see it on TV – the streets are overcrowded and littered, but it’s also covered in beautiful pagodas and architecture. We paid a visit to one of the popular tourist gardens and spent the rest of the day shopping. Shanghai is known among the crew as a top shopping destination, mostly for imitations, but other than that you can find other products on the cheap (just don’t always count on the quality). Some crew like to decorate their homes with goodies from Shanghai layovers.

Getting around wasn’t too difficult – although many people in Shanghai don’t speak English. And it seems the more crowded a city is, the worse the drivers are. I could have bet that that would have been my last trip in a car, ever.

Unfortunately, I can’t remember for the life of me the name of the garden we visited. (edit: Thanks to my friend Kenken, it is the Yuyuan Garden). It was peaceful and beautiful, with lots of koi (I love koi!) and typical Chinese statues and buildings.

Boba break!

Going back to my roots

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I was born in the Philippines to two Filipinos, but a month later we shipped off to the USA¬†and I lived there for a straight 26 years of my life. Filipinos will say I’m not fully Filipino but then Americans would say I’m not fully American. I had the pleasure of being raised by two cultures – my parents taught me their Filipino ways and customs, and television and friends taught me how to be American. Of course I identify more as an American, but I know in my heart I will always be Filipino.

I’ve gone back a few times – the first time, I was 7 years old and my lolo (grandfather) passed away. We spent a little over a week there; it would have been longer if it wasn’t for Mt. Pinatubo scheduling to erupt. The next trip was in 2004 for 2 weeks, one of which was spent in a hospital battling a horrible food poisoning stint. Both times we stayed primarily with friends or family, spending little time in a hotel just for the sake of not inconveniencing our hosts (both homes were very small). Since working for my current airline, I’d been on a few layovers but spent them all in the hotels since family were a bit far away or had scheduling conflicts.

This January, I spent a week on holiday visiting family from the US and family in Manila I hadn’t seen in years or hadn’t even met. Since traveling for a living for the last 1.5 years, my adventurous side has taken control of my life, to which I have no protest. Along with my fellow Filipino-American cousin (born to Filipino parents in the USA) we let ourselves go and become as true a Filipino as we possibly could. We bathed with tabo and room tempurature water, ate homecooked diniguan (pork in blood sauce), bangus (milkfish), langonisa (sausage for breakfast), Red Ribbon pastries, and did so about 6 times a day. We purchased taho (sweet soy dessert) from the street vendors and burnt candles for our loved ones at church on Sunday, walked on black sand beaches, sat in traffic for hours, and of course, we video-karaoked.

I practiced my poor Tagalog with my little cousin, which actually¬†wasn’t very productive because he was set on only speaking English in our presence. My cousins proposed a snacktime with balut (Filipino delicacy, a fertilized duck egg) to which I objected; that’s too close to my roots than I’m comfortable with. We paid respects to my lolo from my dad’s side, the World War 2 hero who is responsible for my privilage of having a US passport. But sharing these experiences with both my US cousins and Filipino cousins only furthered my appreciation of my home country. Oh, did I mentioned I awoke one morning to a live chicken in my face? Just an example of my family’s keen sense of humor. But what I would give to able to spend much more time there; to be able to really soak it all in and not have to say goodbye when I am just getting comfortable. Anyone who wants to say I’m not a real Filipino, well, I’m working on it!