Categories
South-East Asia (2017-2018)

A MARBLE-OUS ISLAND

Romblon, known as the capital of marble, is home to a mesmerising marine life, picturesque beaches, a historic fort and over 38,000 people that are all but rude. It being one of the few islands with an actual tourist office, standing lonesome on the main square near the harbour, it is actually welcoming. Welcoming in the sense that a friendly – and chatty – woman awaits you with with advice on all surrounding islands, but also that wherever you venture off to, you are met with the smiles and waves of the friendly locals. Though the globetrotters come in scarce here, there are a plenty foreign, usually European entrepreneurs, having their business here. Therefore, even those that get overwhelmed by other cultures can find their peace here and enter a restaurant for a chewy German schnitzel or have a chat with the friendly Brit and Italian next door. If you wish to do a bit more than amble from diner to diner, worry not as this tiny island will surprise you with the beauties it beholds.

Now, aside from a presence in the cuisine, Europe has wiggled its roots in the history of many a island including Romblon, leaving various historical and heritage structures after Spain’s reign. The historic fort San Andres stands out the most as it looms over the city and sea, making it the absolute perfect spot for a sunset view. Since the climb there is on a set of tall, steep steps, the time the sun sheds its final lights is indeed best, as these steps paired with the Asian heat can be more than harsh. Expect to be met by the head of the organisation for reparation and maintenance, aka the guard and his friendly pup. This man, indubitably, will welcome you and if the place is not too hectic give you a free tour – but do tip. He will show and tell you all about the crumbling fortress that due to the massive and diligent restoration with the help of copious local as well as foreign volunteers remains to be a highlight of the petite island.

Of course, one does not go to these parts of the Philippines to solely admire the remainders of European influence. Though we did not get to experience the outer islands or any water-based activities due to harsh weather, we did get to tour around the island. On this ride-around, we came upon what in my opinion is, after Cresta de Gallo, the allurement of these waters; Bon-bon beach and Bang-ug island. Depending on which way you go around the island, this is either the final or immediate stop being close to the main city Poblacion. After stalling the scooter we rented for the day, we arrived on a long stretch of glistening, white sand. Sauntering along the water, the two of us headed for the island. Since the stretch is a fair walk, a ton of sunscreen is necessary to leave unscathed. Because the sun shone bright, at times feeling like a scourging whip of heat, but adding to the picturesque view that was sand, sea and sky. As if it was not enough, a rocky island of greenery fills the view with a breathtaking walkway of sand leading you through the sea at the right tidal. To our surprise it had been us, and us alone to admire the piece of art and without a queue or wait we took some of my favourite pictures before continuing.

Though this visit will leave the stops to follow in the dust, it is worthy to follow the not-so descriptive map and try to navigate yourself around the island in the search for the competing beaches, a lighthouse, a waterfall and to pass by the quarries before making your way back to the city or your accommodation. Romblon, of the Romblon province is a challenge alone to get to, but aside from dismaying the mass, has got an arsenal of sights. And upon departure, there is a world of souvenirs to take with, as the islet brings a strong game in the marble universe with competitive quality and for a reasonable price. Time to stuff your bag with gifts for the family!

How much effort would you put in to getting somewhere lovely but hard to get to? Or are you one that would put in effort not to have to go there and rather relax at the beach of your hotel?

Categories
Cycling and Hitchhiking (2016)

Ukrainian Hitchhiking, Reaching Kyiv!!

For breakfast I munched salty fish that was offered by the two bbq-ers I met along the road. This was a few hours before I entered the village Chotyn. Many stands with souvenirs left and right paraded the walk to the entrance of the hilled castle. The damage on my wallet had been acceptable. Friendly faces and chats. Short chats with little meaning. Making my way to the entrance, a new sweatdrop appeared with every step I took. One day, I will fall down to the ground, left panting like a dog long over his due age with this heat. Bottles of water had been going empty left and right. My feet marched on. Once inside the walls, on the left there were two towers separated with roughly 150 meters. Time and war had taken a heavy toll on these towers. On the right side stood a prettiful church built in 1832 with a wide river behind it. The river was a delighted sight on this summer day. In the centre stood the tiny castle. A moat dried to the size of a puddle surrounded it. Over the lowered wooden drawbridge my eyes spotted a group of ogling tourists on the courtyard. So many people. Too many people. A small building stood amidst the crowd. Two kids played with the well next to it. One jumping up and down as the other pulled the lever. For the rest, I had a mere collection of options; the torture room on my left, taking the spiral stairs down to the weaponry or gaze at the two other buildings that had no entry. About an hour ticked away as I read all there was to read on weaponry and torture before dismissing the medieval scene that had been filled with the most obnoxious and annoying species right after mosquitoes. However, this sunny day had provided a perfect ambiance for a visit. Plus, I gained a fairly cheap, homemade wine as I walked passed the houses heading out. Carrying the weight was a bunch better knowing my evening could turn to end well.

SUNP1068
Awkward picture, yaay!!

A small lift right after the purchase brought me to Kamjanets-Podilsky. Around evenfall, my attempt at lifting further seemed fruitless. A sweet, old lady and her friend had walked with me. Short conversations, little understanding. In her hands a book lay gripped. Opening the book, she turned it to me and pointed at the page. Politely she requested if I would read it. Turned out to be a Jehovah’s witness, carrying a page to show care and believe for a moment as such, where a language barrier comes in. After a call with the son, I was able to reside a night at their apartment. Feeling welcomed and at home, I slurped a soup and took bites from my ice cream. For a while we discussed the differences between Ukraine and the Netherlands. Valentin had also showed me a lot about stocks. With interest I listened. I would be lying though, if I said I still remember a thing…


Nearing Kiev with every gained ride, my mood increased. Getting to know this vast land to soon reside in its capital. Through CouchSurfing I had found a place, under Pavlo’s roof – or on it. So singing along with my playlist, I walk the road. Overgoing a hill, I spy a group of neatly dressed people. As I advanced, I gain their attention. Seeing a woman in a white gown, I realise it’s a wedding. Caught off guard, the photographer pulls me by my wrist and puts me in between the groom and bride. He flashes his camera in my face and then guides me away from the group, shoving some Hryvnia notes in my hand. I used it to sleep in the four euro motel a few yards further down the road. Before getting some shuteye, I poured myself a rich of taste redhead. I had a giggle at the fact that a married couple would have to go through their pictures and look at my poorly bearded, lobster-tan face. An actual laugh left my mouth. All alone, in a room with a scent of old, cackling like a hyena at nothing. The red water fell hard, after such a day. So after half, I put the bottle down. As the bottle touched the table, my energy left me. Wiry, I glanced out the window. Awful music was pouring in. For a while, I sat on the edge of my bed, holding a glass with a final sip left. I finished the glass, letting the wine slither down and slipped in bed. No sheep needed, as I was off before my head even hit the pillow.

Finally, after a week hitchhiking – auto stopping – Kyiv would be reached. Sharing the car with two men from the military we laid rubber on the Ukrainian asphalt. They told me about the ongoing war and the daily newly-filled body bags that are carried from the fighting zone. They had broad shoulders and seemed big. The one occupying the passenger seat spoke with a hoarse voice. Everyday more dead people… Both seemed tired. Tired of the war, of fighting. The hoarsely man had to take the metros to reach his home. An excellent chance for me to get to know the underground system of the capital. Reading names, stops, letters and numbers, my simple mind stopped working. Instead, I just listened to the large guy who set me to the right track. On the metro, I wore my poker face. A face neutral hid the mind that counted every stop, double, neh triple, neh quadruple checked the sticker aboard to be able to count the stops correctly and reading every sign to make sure I am not mistaken. Anxious to miss mine. That, all the while being squeezed among the crowd of people swinging with the movement of the underground transport. Body odor of dozens of people on an extremely hot day. A crazy man shouting all the while throwing his hands up in a provocative manner. I hate public transport…

Oekraine
Unfinished, this shows a part of my travel in Ukraine. Summer 2016.