Categories
EU

Amsterdams allurement

The thought of a plane awaiting her at the runway loomed over her as our final month had commenced. Sudden combustions would ignite her mind and cause her eyes to bawl tears of sadness with the passing of days. Her eyes plead and begged for her, as they expressed melancholy and simultaneously anguish for the long and tiresome flight taking her away from the Promised Land to sit forlorn staring out of the small window and weep as paradise sadly, for the two of us, comes with closing hours. As I had once sung during her gloomy days of dysphoria: “I’ve got two tickets to paradise”; duo tickets turned out ridiculously optimistic. With regulations and visa’s keeping us captive from being with one another, we required an entire box of entree tickets. To tease and perhaps with genuine intent I suggested hopping the fence or digging a tunnel. But when one returns to reality, how does one hop a fence from the Philippines to the Netherlands and in such a way she can still return? Releasing herself from my grip, she snivelled once more before wiping away the wetness from her cheeks reddened by the Dutch cold.

I bemoaned the whole ordeal too, however the rainy days remained rather intern. Only days after the take-off of the plane I’d lose my sanity attempting a panicky depart like a rat in a lion’s cage that is on fire. However, the exit-strategy, nor the doleful distance that was an onset imminent is not today’s story. We had found solace in my abundance in free days which was the genesis of a trip to what every tourist considers to be the Netherlands; Amsterdam! To me it’s known as a city compulsory to pass by when bound for the airport, others viewed it crucial for a visit, though these are interchangeably drunkards partying in Amsterdam with only remembrance a hazy state and those that admired the awing parts of the capital whilst oblivious to there being anything within the dot of a country besides it. But besides passing by and waving, the city already had given me some memories before the arrival of our train.

One was a young boy staring into the daunting eyes of a police officer seated on his tall horse preparing for battle and a bloodthirsty hound with darting eyes held by his fellow soldier on foot. The kid in me got filled with excitement and I stepped forward as my father and stepbrother bounced back. I peeked passed the horsed men and saw a tank of water rolling by shifting its gun towards the congregated hooligans spewing words of fury and nastiness ready to destruct, cause havoc and if possible beat the man responsible for this uproar to a pulp. They were out for blood and the men in blue stood ready to fight the chaos brought on to the calm square. A square which ought to have been one of serenity for another hour as all the shouting and spilling of beers should have been inside the arena whilst men and women enjoyed a game. That remained until a man of low intellect had attempted to plant his flying foot into that of the goalkeeper’s neck, failed and received a pounding in return with a result of a red card for the goalie. What followed was a team protesting, a crowd howling and roaring and taking their anger forcibly outside in hopes of finding the arrested wrong-doer and showing their maliciousness to the town’s property. At last, my father’s words had reached me and I turned my eyes from the chaos to walk beside them as we retreated the battle ground.

A second had been waving my sister off on her brave endeavours to the great Canada. With my little brother, mother and stepfather we wandered into town in weak attempt to broaden our world. Though this story revolves around young me finding a longed for KFC to have my first ever indulgence in their chicken coming from small towns previously lacking such extravagant chains, it is one bearing value for me as it was one of the few I have of the man that charmed my mother’s heart before he tragically ended his life. Full of character and spirit he had often gone out of his way to please us. Mention an interest or liking, and the weekend to follow he is smoking up the kitchen with a spicy marinade to douse the spareribs during an hours-long recipe. And thus, we skipped through the busy streets to find me my chicken and then we munched them away on the steps of a fountain.

Those where all my memories and I was keen to extend the list, by meandering the streets and alleys with red ears tipped with lewd excitement, or face painful history within the tiny hide-out of a well-known girl carrying naught but a diary, but also take a walk in the park and imagine the life my father and grandmother and so on had in this bustling city. Though indeed, Netherlands has far more to offer than this capital of coffee-shops, red light district and drunkards, a trip to this world of imaginations is one to be unforgettable. Architecture, though far from the view visitors wish to gaze at, remains beautiful. Canals, though familiar throughout the country, remain picturesque. But there is also an ambience to a place no longer hiding behind pretty words and throwing away its prudeness as signs no longer leave a subtlety with “gentleman’s club”. No, buildings shout “SEX” as red lights paint the streets, shops endorsing and displaying toys large and larger and museums shamelessly depict a history of sex and rock & roll and drugs not minding the nudity coming with it. I find it fascinating when men push a young boy with loud cheers into a door where he will begin his journey to manhood whereas it usually is an activity meant to be hidden away.

But please, for the sake of the Netherlands, when in this wonderful country, leave the capital in search for towns nearby. Take a tour to the Zaanse Schans, quickly visit the Hague or Rotterdam and buy all the cheese you can at Gouda before heading North. There are too many towns that have their own little allurement and are worthy of a visit from the ogling folks. But, so is Amsterdam.

Categories
Life outside of travel

Welcoming her home

At last, the tiny Filipina hidden behind her trolley rolled through the gate with tired eyes and a dreary face that screamed to have gone through hell. Short domestic flights with her hand tightly gripped into her lover’s had been an anxiety-riddled adventure. One must imagine the peaking of adrenaline and anxiousness when she stood alone on the Filipino airport, about to embark on a multiple flight journey of over 20 hours. Cheeks came doused with tears, dried over the hour-long flight and a heart was beating at an alarming rate throughout, but she bit down and fought through to finally arrive in Schiphol, Netherlands. A smile of exhaustion and weariness painted her face as she shyly moved closer to me and my father. A father I was glad to still be there and not hauled off by the Dutch military police after a near incident. After introducing the two to each other, we walked the same route I did a month before upon returning home.

I remember the drive home being foggy as ever, diminishing the views of the lowlands from our car, however with a dozing off girlfriend simply pleased to be back in the arms of her boyfriend it hadn’t been the greatest bother. For once, the restaurant on the way as usual stop was skipped and we headed straight for the house. Her to-be home. The pets and cuddles with the dogs were curt, since we quickly thereafter had taken on a horizontal position and caught up on some due sleep before introducing her to the initial Dutch unhealthy snacks.

From the day that I met her til the moment she stood bearing her encharming smile at the airport, I indubitably got to know more about her than anyone can claim. To this point, she seemed a perfect fit for me. For reasons unknown, she puts up with my weird, childlike behaviour and accepts as well as endorses and loves the wandering side of me, which means the acceptance of staying at our future home whilst I am off and to be open to migration more than once. However, the final tests remained within the Dutch culinary masterpieces and her opinion on such. So, the same day and weeks to follow I dragged her to local snackbars, the Wall of Febo and through stands of liquorice, stroopwafels and baked goods at supermarkets. With hopeful eyes I gazed at her as she put her teeth into a soft bread with a long croquette and atop of it a mush of mustard. My prayers and pleas had been answered when she shivered out of giddy excitement and exclaimed her love for the food, along with all other – admittedly unhealthy – that I had shoved down her throat.

After the Dutch delights, it remains without a doubt important how well she fares with my family. Bearing gifts from the marble capital Romblon, the two of us trotted up and down, hopping on the train for a weekend at my mom’s, followed by cycling through town to visit the grandmother, another deceased grandma’s sister and my aunt, meeting up with my sister and bonding with the younger brothers. One of them already excelling in English would understand every bit whereas the other would progressively gain more knowledge during her stay. And besides the grandma, everyone appeared to have a handle on the language and within family she clicked in perfectly, as she learned my trait of weirdness had been an overflowing mixture of that of both my mom’s and dad’s. And having met my sister and younger brothers, it is clear that there runs no exception. Nonetheless, she coped and chuckled along with the jesters.

Though, 18 months had been far too long. And you might take the globetrotter and put him back in his country, but you can’t remove the wanderlust nor stop the flowing of his traveller’s blood. At times, its flow is tranquil and hardly palpable, but with every beat it flows. So, the second the commotion of welcoming and uniqueness had died down and work, the same, unaltered, routinely tasks had reached boiling point of the pot that is monotonous, stale and bleak, my lust for being on the move came to a rise. The only distinction was, with an Asian’s arm locked into mine, I became tourist in own country!

For those utterly confused regarding the timeline, this belated blog post is written about the events on begin 2019, shortly after returning home from my South-East Asia and Australia venture. However, with the rapid speed I am currently writing at, soon, hopefully not too soon, they’ll be completely up-to-date. For now, to the travellers reading this, have you been tourist in own country?

Categories
Pakistan Personal Favourites South-East Asia (2017-2018)

A caffeinated drive down

The ending of the story

Returning from the top, my slumber had passed and in a drowsy state I let my stubbornness fade and at last agreed to seek medical help. Waqas had swiftly deviated his mocking jesting into genuine concern and was on the fence whether to continue his banter. He had persuaded me to go to the doctor, despite part of me still believing it would pass. Since not even Ahmed, the fastest driver of Pakistan’s North was capable of getting to the capital within the coming and passing of the night, a small town in the mountains had to suffice. After some hours of adequate driving pass, we entered said town and through the noisy and crowded streets we zigzagged to our motel of the night. According to our driver, from here, it ought to be possible to return to the home of Waqas if driving from dawn til dusk, given that breaks are kept to a minimum and he drove his foot into the pedal. We unloaded the car before heading to the chilling and bare hospital. The moment I set foot into the grim building had been when I felt a slight terror overcome me.

Categories
Pakistan South-East Asia (2017-2018)

Pakistan at an altitude

Continuing the story

Though as aforementioned frightening, the road to the North was one of beauty. Over the course of two days, we ascended to a town named Karimabad, located in the Hunza valley. The car had become a nauseating and dull cage after these endless hours and it felt freeing to have time in abundance as we arrived mid-day. Cruising through the meandering streets of the peaceful town, I had long noticed the fort that loomed over all other houses. Another fort was situated on the opposite end and stood far less high. A strong guess had been that we would soon wander over the edges and be admiring its stunning views. Call me clairvoyant, because as soon as our backpacks had been unloaded and we had gorged on lunch, we set foot for these medieval buildings. Entering the forts Altit and Baltit, we leapt back into the past and barged into the heretofore home of the hereditary rulers of Hunza. Bringing us back to the era of Huns, our guide summarised the past 1100 years inclusive of heirs, war and religion. Originally spirit worshippers and followers of Hinduism and Buddhism, Islam introduced in the 15th century became the main for the town around 1830. The forts, though crumbling, still remained most of its past and make a fascinating addition to the town with astonishing viewpoints. Being that the tour was in clear English and with a guide of knowledge, I was pleased to have my hunger for a bit of history silenced.

Speaking of true hunger, with the passing of hours it had grown weaker. And in hindsight honesty, my body had felt off for the larger part of the day. I pushed through the rest of town with my head pounding as if it were an ancient clock and a tiny guy kept slamming his hammer on the bell. A constant shiver rested on my skin and my mind had become foggy. It had felt as if I was faded into the background and my body and brain went on auto-pilot. Luckily enough, I functioned well enough to attempt ignoring the oncoming symptoms and with a smile trotted up and down the streets with Waqas. I do not enjoy the being of sick, therefore I try not to accept it. If anything, as per usual during my travels, I had an inferno-raging crave for an alcoholic beverage. With my mind shifted to that, it had become a hunt to have a gulp of the local hard stuff. A task which proves significantly hard in a Muslim town, or for that matter country. Instead, we settled for the indulgence in a cup of Chai tea alongside of a set of boardgames. The tea does get extraordinarily delicious, though it is sweeter than my usual cup tends to be. Seated in the tiny yet cosy restaurant with a vanishing appetite I savoured the hot cup before we returned.

The day that followed was the day we were headed for the Chinese border at a peak altitude. On this day, it had become harder to deny my ill-being as symptoms worsened. Cursed with the family’s trait of stubbornness, I remained in denial and had convinced myself to be fit and healthy as we drove onward. Half delirious, I sat in the car attempting to keep sight with tired eyes and sight fading. Half of the ride has vanished from my memories as I kept dozing of. Not long in, we got to exit the suffocating cage for exhilarating fresh air at our first stop; the hanging bridge. Facing the long-stretching bridge, I had noticed there was a fierce and icy wind, however it hadn’t bothered me. Even the absence of my comfort and clear-thinking had not been a burden. It was a relief to be walking and have a scary bridge as distraction. With now watery eyes, I shuffled from plank to plank. The bridge had gaps wide enough for an obese midget to fall in – and thus this skinny Pete. Others had been frightened by it and our guide, despite trotting ahead, was not a big fan either. Though surely intimidating, after the disappointment of a bridge in the Philippines, it was an exciting experience to have an attraction live up to its expectations. Heck, exceed it even.

Would I have called myself sick and quit the journey ahead, I would have damned myself for missing this. Though the altitude had far from helped, I see no fault in pushing to the top and letting the illness run its course after all is finished. Then again, I am no doctor. But the snowy border was close and to-be magnificent. Few turns away, I had in bewildered state signalled the driver and rushed out of the vehicle to regurgitate my insides. Admiring my barf, chunks and pieces spattered all over the once bright snow, I wondered how many got to say they chundered their breakfast here. Then I realised, with the altitude, most likely many stood in the same scenario of kicking snow over there half digested food. Moments after the spew, we arrived. My mind had been in such a haze, however I clearly remember the breathtaking fields of snow surrounded by peaks continuing to break through the sky. Wanting to not waste this moment, I had glanced in every direction with eyes wide as they could, considering the icy wind. I’d pet myself on the shoulder for remembering to shoot a dozen pictures, however upon viewing them all I could see was my fat thumb in a thick, winter’s glove. After this miserable attempt, I took in one final view before rushing back to the car where I fell into a deep sleep.

I do not recommend anyone to push through when these symptoms appear, especially not at these altitudes. It can be highly dangerous if it is altitude sickness, especially at its extreme. Stubborn me got lucky, but it could have ended a whole lot worse. Don’t be like me and get treated instantly when suspecting to have altitude sickness and when losing a lot of liquids.

Categories
Pakistan Personal Favourites South-East Asia (2017-2018)

Admiring the daunting, yet breathtaking mountains of Pakistan

The start of the story

Three quick consecutive honks and our driver nearly slung us all over the cliff before dashing passed the car in front. In Pakistan, traffic resembles that of a Nascar race and this does not change when in the eerie mountains. High up, the three of us drove parallel to the Old Silk road and a tumble off the edge would surely end our story. Despite the immediate danger, our insane transporter had many times, in effort of darting ahead of cars, shown us the depth of the valley by flying along the edge. Seated in the passenger-seat, it gave me some dragging seconds to gaze down into the abyss. It oft followed by being blinded by the bright lights of an oncoming truck or speedy bus. A deafening honk resonated from the nearing death-machine. As the sound culminated, our chauffeur bolted through the two vehicles and with it avoided an imminent crash. I was baffled by this man’s driving. The sheer balls he had to speed through traffic at an altitude so high and on such a terrifying and peril road mere moments upon showing us what could happen.

Categories
Other

The in-flight experience

Ever since the wanderlust had risen from within me, the airports have gradually become my second home. Though it perhaps isn’t the most environment-friendly way of travelling, biking the distance can’t always be the answer either. Thus, many hours have been wasted away through booking, checking in and flying. Those who have flown anywhere before most likely know that it can be a stressful, everlasting and embittering experience. The horror when the sounds of a crying baby encroaches and at its peak the woman holding the little Mandrake pauses her shuffle and looks at the seat directly behind you. Mere minutes later, a heavy man seemingly having finished a marathon launches himself in the window-seat next to you before relieving his sweat-soaked feet from his old, scruffy shoes. Happens to be too, that his bladder is the size of a pebble. The seat on your other side soon gets filled by a man feeling talkative during your drowsy moments.

If any of that sounds familiar, I truly feel for you. I have entered a plane where half the passengers had doused themselves in bottles of perfumes turning it into a flight of fragrance fury. Once, the insides had looked like a war-zone upon landing with everyone’s garbage scattered everywhere. Smells, noises and indecent behaviours are a large part of the in-flight experience. It isn’t just the humans that can make it a hellish journey though! There have been budget airlines that only gave out two minuscule cups of water over eight hours and the stewardesses had disregarded my pleas and cries as I sat without a nickle or dime. AirAsia is not the only airline that can play Scrooge, as Lufthansa charged a hefty nine euros for anyone wanting a larger selection than the three movies offered. Had it been anything shorter than the twelve hours it was, I might have accepted that act of cheapskatery. During flights, restlessness is my biggest buddy, thus any type of mind-numbing entertainment is an absolute must. I remember having read the magazines and brochures over a million times during announcement.

Luckily, it isn’t all bitter and sour. At times, your economy flight turns into a near first class one as realisation sinks in that you won’t be needing to share the set of chairs. Travelling like a king with all the space you could wish for without any unwanted smells or conversing. Then there are the airlines that surprise you with complimentary snacks surprisingly appetising or alcoholic beverages to literally numb. Qantas Air had done so on flights as short as sixty minutes. Though my words on them may not be completely unbiased, as their flight had come straight after a compensation for a cancelled flight that had come in the shape of a hotel room far more lavish than I am used to. With a credit on their name, more than once room-service had come knocking on my door for the delivery of overpriced meals. It’s definitely true that the airline you choose to fly with is more than important as it can be the ruler of the journey there being a feast or a debacle.

Stay tuned for the second part! In the meantime, do you have any pet peeves during flights?

Categories
Personal Favourites South-East Asia (2017-2018)

All must come to an end

Coming back from Cresta, we had been bedazzled by its beauty, but we knew with it, our trip was to come to an end. Our last day had arrived and dazed by the heat, we thought the Cantingas river to be best for letting the final hours pass before a needed night’s rest. The river was so clear, that it was hard to believe to be exactly that. Its water had enough cool to wash away weeks of unabated sun’s fury and with a lovely view all we needed. Many Filipinos had gathered here, as usual eating and drinking the local whiskey, and my pale skin seemed to stick out. Their eyes had lingered and glared at us resulting in a few initiating small-talks. Others would simply stare and wave. For a slight bit of privacy, we had gone downstream to bathe and savour our final moments while we could as the sun sank down out of sight.

Categories
Personal Favourites South-East Asia (2017-2018)

Chasing Waterfalls in the Philippines

A truly young girl, barely in her teens had shyly approached us. Lorraine was the name. She was to bring us there. Last time we had a guide take us, I had objections. This time was different though, as, despite the misleading age of the girl, it was quite a hike away. It wasn’t the fact that it was far, but that where we were headed, Cataja Falls, was hidden away. So well hidden, that with clear descriptions we’d not be able to find it. On my shabby slippers I followed the young lady trotting away over the rocks. It wasn’t really a path, but it was obvious this wasn’t the first time someone tread over here. We had to pass through a few bushy trees whereafter we entered into the open. From here, we could already see the waterfall crashing down, though it was far in the distance. Truly massive. Water at large quantity ceaseless chugged down the mountain. It left a perpetual trail of cascading water trickling to the river we walked along. We had been told that we could reach way up, though it would require adding some hours on top of the initial agreed hike. My love and I agreed that a total of three hours – back and forth – would suffice.

Categories
South-East Asia (2017-2018)

A Roaring Ride on Romblon

As the boat docked, vendors as well as human mules awaited from shore, readily prepared to sell their goods or services. The air was thick and humid, and both of us longed for a long shower. We had just arrived at our third island of the journey. Waving away the thought of another plane, we had taken about every mode of transport there was in the Philippines commencing from Imus, Cavite to get via Mindoro into the Romblon waters. Today, we had embarked the ferry from Tablas to Romblon, the marble capital of the Philippines. Tablas had quadruple the size, yet none the appeal the tiny brother had. But since the sun had already gone down by the time we set foot on land, our fatigued heads had no means for exploration aside from tonight’s and tomorrow’s accommodation. Dashing the initial trike-drivers, avoiding the peak in charges, we wandered a bit before boarding a metal carriage that would take us around on this search. Neither of us being on the picky side, we had soon settled for a place and had taken that coveted wash.

On the next day, with no tours outgoing, afflicted by weather, the plan was to find our way around the island. As usual, the cheapest option being to rent a scooter. Due to the problem of our hotel requiring proof of license, -which both coincidentally forget to bring each and every trip -we had to rummage through the town on the hunt for the perfect, in tip-top condition bikes. At last, we had stumbled upon a hotel storing exactly what we sought for. My eyes widened in excitement, watching a powerful beast, but before I managed to make my pick, the lady on my side had shook her head. She questioned my driving capabilities and was reluctant to get on the back had I gone for flashy and swift. Agreeing in fairness, we had gone for safe. The only, minor kink being that none of the indicators worked. But, all those pointers distract too much anyways, who truly needs to know how much gas is inside or the current speed you are going at. So, with manual signals, we spurted off into the traffic

Tightly I gripped the handles, speeding off to our first stop. Once out of the town, we broke free from traffic and had, for part of the ride, a smooth ride for us alone. Roads that are steady and undisturbed in these parts was a rare sight. Most of the work on these islands, without a joke, goes to maintenance. Broken roads and torn houses due to poor infrastructure, mudslides and floodings is one of the main issues in these areas. At times, entire families leave us in the dead of the night as a mudslide crashes entire homes and everything that had belonged to them. Every island carries dozens of warnings and multiple safety centres for victims of the cruel acts of nature. Everyday, workers build along the roads in attempt to fight the nature and protect the people. Therefore it was rare to us to see a road hardly being worked on and relatively experiencing a tranquil ride, even if for a short period.

At least, it was an uneventful drive until few hours in, when steering became increasingly challenging. Already nearing the end of our day with most sights visited – which is a subject I will return to – the bike began acting up. It seemed that the defectiveness of the motorbike did not only lie in the indicators as the bike pushed us to a side for which I had to overcompensate. This had began to happen on the rougher, rockier roads and I, with my scooting experience had managed to safely manoeuvre our way until we rejoiced with the even road. There, with the help of a couple of intellectuals pointing out the source, we unravelled the mystery and discovered a flat, back tire. In quite the quandary, we understood that continuing further than we already had would not be wise. Let luck be on our side, when meters away was a mechanic that would fix this situation. Him and his assistant were in quite the laugh and shock when they pulled out a worn out and on numerous spots punctured tube. This tube had been mended a many times that I lost count after the 14th patched up hole. The silver-lining, as they replaced it with a new one, was that my reckless riding most definitely had not been the reason – and could thus continue as we finished up our tour.

I choose to write about Romblon, because it is a place I love and felt welcomed. Mindoro, Tablas, they both are a must if you have time and are near! They too are absolutely wonderful islands with lots to do. If you happen to wander there as well, feel free to ask advice. Do’s and don’ts, the few details you won’t find online or simply for a more opinion-based advice.

Categories
Personal Favourites South-East Asia (2017-2018)

A brick of the wall of fear

Back in my lover’s arms, it was not long before I dragged her with me from island to island in the beautiful archipelago. A short flight had taken us to the well-known Cebu where both of us would, without truly realising it yet, face our fears. Though it would be under mild conditions, nonetheless it required a big swallow and hopefully it is a brick in the build-up of the real deal. For my lovely Filipina, it is the water she fears. No, she is not scared of the kiddie-pool or anything to that liking. It is the depth of the endless oceans and seas as well as the big creatures within that intimidate her. Nonetheless, time after time she had proven herself to be bigger and stronger through the swimming and snorkelling we had done up to that point. But, today would be different, today would be a terrifying day for her.