If it took me more than a week to blog about my recent trip, that’s because I’ve been busy meeting friends and telling them stories about it that I’ve run out of energy to sit down and blog about the same thing. But then every trip deserves to be documented, especially if it was made special by a certain someone (yiheee!!!). But I won’t get into that just yet.
Anyway, here are the highlights of my trip:
Agnes and Kat were my classmates in college, and though we regularly see each other, it’s still different when you travel together and bond just like the old times. And, I cannot emphasize this any further: It’s very important that you choose your travel mates because you’re stuck with them for more than 24 hours. Kat and Agnes were the best that I just had to tell them I’ll go with them wherever they want. Haha.
I also got to meet up with two dear friends Abby and Tricia who are both based in SG now. Seeing how God has blessed their decision to move out of the Philippines has also blessed me immensely. Too bad I wasn’t able to take our pictures, but I told them I’ll be back if only for that.
2. Trying a lot of good food despite the fact that I don’t normally eat a lot when I travel.
In SG, I particularly liked the chili crab, the seafood soup in Mandarin, the coffee in Fullerton, the chocolates in Jewel’s chocolate place which I read about in a travel magazine and which I vowed to visit as I consider myself a certified chocoholic. In Phnom Pen, I loved the Naitang with crispy rice, and the spicy noodles served in my hotel. In Malacca, I finished a serving of deep fried fish which actually says a lot because I don’t normally eat fish. I’d like to think I compensated for all the eating I did by walking for hours, and if that is still not a valid excuse, hey, that was MY vacation. 😉
3. Angkor Wat. So okay, we’ve heard a lot of people rave about this place but being there makes you realize how words have all fallen short in capturing the sheer beauty of it.
My gauge if a place is a beauty is if I don’t have to exert too much effort to make my pictures look nice. So let’s just say Angkor Wat more than satisfied the amateur photographer in me. Which brings me to the next highlight of my trip…
4. Taking nice pictures. I bought two cameras and used up three memory cards and I still feel bitin. In Angkor Wat, I was able to chat with a travel photographer who told me I should go to Borobudur to, in his words, “complete (my) album of south east asia.” Of course, I’m like, “What album?” Haha. Photography is really a good excuse to travel. You can view more of the pictures I took here
And of course, this blog won’t be complete if I don’t post these:
5. Bargaining with the vendors in Cambodia. Almost everything there, you can get for less than ten dollars if you know how to haggle. My friend was so good at this that she always got the price she wanted by pretending to walk away to prompt the vendors to say, “Okay lady, how much can you pay, I’ll give it at your price.” A hotel concierge told me that since designer brands are made in Cambodia, most of the materials they use for their clothes are of good quality. When I learned this, I stopped converting from dollar to peso in my head and simply shopped away.
6. Riding the much talked about train in SG
It wasn’t so much the ride but the people-watching in the SG trains and the conversations with the Tuktuk and taxi drivers that I enjoyed. I got a feel of the places I visited through them, especially in Malacca where my driver spoke good English and knew the history of every place I went to. Funny, but I found out through them that Ina and Angelo of the Pangako Sayo fame( This I Promise You as they call it, starring Kristine Hermosa and Jericho Rosales) is such a hit there, along with Marian Rivera’s version of Marimar. I swear, that was the first thing these drivers told me when they learned where I came from. I had the same experience in SG where a taxi driver asked if I watch Just the Two of Us, which, I learned later when he mentioned the name of Kim Chiu, was none other than Tayong Dalawa.
7. Interacting with total strangers. Aside from that travel photographer I mentioned earlier, I also enjoyed chatting with this American girl who sat beside me on the coach from Malacca to SG. It was all polite talk at first but then she started to open up about this guy she likes, and in the end we both concluded that men’s vagueness in their intentions is something that’s universal. Funny.
8. People watching. In a cafe in Phnom Penh, I sat near the table of this guy who sounded like he was a White House Senior aide who went on an important mission in Cambodia. Being the West Wing fan that I am, I was so tempted to approach him and ask if he was an important person (Haha. As if that was possible). I told my friend we could have been in the presence of a Josh Lyman and we didn’t even know!
9. Seeing poverty at its worst in Ton Le Sap and realizing that there’s so much that should be done. When you’re on vacation, you’re supposed to just have fun, but I appreciated it when our guide brought us to Ton Le Sap, Siem Reap’s fishing village, and we got to see their living conditions. I was so moved by what I saw that I wanted to write an email to Angelina Jolie right there and then to thank her for all her efforts in Cambodia. I wasn’t a fan of Jolie (I’m loyal to my friend Jen) but I became one when I realized that she’s at least making a difference in this place.
10. Setting foot on the Killing Fields and the Genocide Museum. I remember studying about Cambodia’s political situation in Pol Sci 170 but I never imagined actually setting foot on this place. Needless to state, it was a totally different experience. I was warned by a friend who went there that smiling is not allowed in the area, and people really call your attention if you smile. As it turned out, nobody had to reprimand me because smiling is really impossible when you’re there. A heavy feeling surrounds the place. My only consolation was seeing Cambodia trying to rebuild itself now and witnessing their people rise up from their tragic past.
11. Foot massage under the stars in Siem Reap. Imagine walking the whole day, exploring the temples, and then finding in the middle of the night market a relaxing foot massage under the stars which only costs two dollars. I think that was the exact moment I told myself ” This is vacation!”
12. Realizing that I was fit enough to walk and climb and run and skip and enjoy it all, my sun damaged skin notwithstanding.
13. Morning prayers in Cenacle at Jurung West on Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
Yes, I wasn’t remiss in my Holy Week obligations. In fact, I found it such a huge blessing that I was able to visit the Cenacle in Singapore and meet the people in their community. I think this is one of the things I like about being a Catholic. No matter where you go, you can always find a church and a group of people you can connect with who observe the same practices that you do.
14. Hearing Easter Sunday mass at the church of St. Francis Xavier in Malacca and climbing two hundred steps to see the ruins of St. Paul church where St. Francis Xavier’s remains where brought.
I may be from UP but I’m a believer of the Ignatian spirituality. Which is why when I learned that Malacca is just four hours away from Singapore, I just had to make it part of my itinerary. I think it was a blessing in disguise that my friend couldn’t come with me at the last minute, so it became a pilgrimage of sorts for me. I was undaunted by the long climb up the ruins! When I got to the top, I prayed for something, and guess what, I came back to Manila to find out that my prayers have been answered. 😉
15. Just being away for ten days and not caring about anything for a change. My favorite part when I travel is when, after all the commotion and the noise in the airport, you board the plane, find your seat, and everything quiets down and you’re suddenly alone with your thoughts. I love how I’m able to hear myself think without any distraction and how it enables me to gain a broader perspective about the world and about life, both literally and figuratively. Next time, maybe I’ll travel alone all the way.
My trip was not exactly perfect and there were several glitches along the way, like when I almost missed my flight to Siem Reap, or when I learned that there was a mix-up in my hotel booking in SG, and when my friend suddenly could not go with me to Malacca, and the sudden rain while I was at the Jurong bird park, and the fact that Merlion was under construction on the day I went there, and when I missed Marlyn Monroe by a second at Universal (yes, that meant a lot to me) and a whole lot of other small mishaps. But hey, no trip is perfect, and in the end, all these little disasters have made my trip exciting and memorable. I haven’t booked for other international trips yet for the rest of the year, but considering how much fun I had with this one, I think I can get by with that for a long long time.
Then again, maybe not. 😉