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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
EU

A Filipina on Vlieland

Laying on my back at the bottom of the bunk bed, I watched the upper bed through my slightly opened eyelids. I was slowly returning from a dream, awakened by a soothing, serene sound. Tiny droplets fell with the thousands onto the canvas of the tent-house causing a choir of acoustic plops throughout the entire place. Most shivered at the thought of a rainy day on their one week away, however, the peace had been a party for the two of us. On these days, we’d slam open a book, sip some delightful herb-bitter and warm our feet with the little heater. With a smile, granted by the absence of work, I rolled to my side and leaned over the sleeping beauty. As I moved, the blanket descended off my shoulder into my lap and along with it, the warmth absconded and in lieu the cold transported over the island by the fierce wind had taken over. A wind all the while brushing and sporadically banging with increased force against the sides of the hut. Despite the accommodation’s main build being a thick tarpaulin, which made the hits of the wind echo at high amplitude, it seldom struck us with fright. In a way, it brought comfort. I used one hand to move away some of the hair fallen into my lover’s face and with a freed ear, I whispered her awake and into the start of our day.

Manoeuvring myself out of bed, I placed my feet on the wooden floor and bent forward to avoid bumping my head as I got up. In my near birthday suit, I shuffled out of the bedroom and into the parlor well-lit by the sun some hours into its day of work. The planks underneath my feet were coarse as it had a texture of sprinkles of sand. However, it fit well with the setting and as all did on this island, it brought out another piece in a world of nostalgia. In this tent-house, though it grows bigger with the years, many memories of mine rest as the family would take off from home and remain a fortnight here. In illness and joy I have wasted away hours on this island. Surfing down the dune of marram grass, gaining speed with each slide as the flattened grass blades would become smoother, before taking a dive head first into a bunch resulting in one of the blades stinging into one’s eyes. Then bawl for a split second before jumping on the board again to redo the whole stunt. Making friends solely for the durations of the stay without knowing when the last time will be. Munching pizza’s at the nearby restaurant, getting sand in every hole and pocket at the windy beach, poking the pink, slimy jelly-fish and simply doing what kid’s do. Standing in front of the door leading to the porch, I viewed the path of sand leading downhill and reminisced the time I had dug a hole with as only purpose to make a trap by covering it with a lid of green. The innocence of the child had not taken into account the chances of major injury and was simply out for laughs and giggles.

Soon, my love would join me and we’d sit for a breakfast to start the day. From the camping’s store, we had bought a carton set of mini toppings. This included minuscule portions of jams, sprinkles, peanut butter and chocolate paste. To compromise for the healthier, along with it came sliced cheese and bits of ham. But in honesty, our life on the island was far from the healthiest. Before noon had hit, a can of cold beer was popped open and so was a lazy chair in the warming heat of the sun. Long, sauntering walks on the cold, windy beach would be enlightened by the warmth of the liquor herb-bitter as we splashed our bare feet in the absolute freezing water. Peculiarly on a hosing day such as today, one finds a quick excuse to seek the better end of a bottle as the body wishes to flee from the biting cold. Besides, who plays Yahtzee sober? As I pondered when it would be acceptable to suggest a drink, she poured me a cup of tea and looked stunning as ever while doing so. The advantage of a make-up-less girlfriend is the akin beauty in the morning being indistinguishable from her last night’s glow. It felt special to take her away to a place of peace and comfort that for the kid of me had always been a getaway.

And befittingly, a day before we had walked the footsteps of young me as we got onto the massive jeep racing us over the beach towards the Sahara of the North, accompanied by a jolly man singing his ballads on an accordion. With a bit of luck, the day had been dry and all that poured was the sand carried like clouds by the wind forced up as the grand vehicle pushed with speed over the sand. The insides got soon filled with sand and that included the pockets of my jacket, out of which I could fish grains of it even weeks after. Parents covered their children securely as the sand was cutting and whirled around into the eyes of some. Which was a pity, as the sights were pleasant to admire. Passing by a military base for target practise of jets, we headed towards the refuge of shipwreck victims turned into a beachcomber museum. Now, it bears all found on the long strip of sand, including bits of sunken containers’s cargo that flowed ashore years ago and all else that came with shipwrecks. Inside stood dozens of jars filled with water and sea creatures resembling the serial killer’s cabin in a horror movie. After the jester’s tour of the shed was finished, as group we traversed to the far end of the island from where people admired the neighbouring island and equipped with binoculars viewed the bathing seals.

Though not all we did was pertaining my childhood and past activities. Bringing my present and future to the past and guiding her through an island of memories, it made more than sense to create new ones and on rented bicycles we did. Traversing for surprisingly long as my child’s eyes had only remembered the island for as far as my trembling legs carried me, we peddled a distance with a map as guide to both far ends of the island. A haven of nature with plants, shrubs and flowers beaming with colour, whistling birds and gallantly galloping wild deer in a bunch. Seeing a side I hadn’t seen or recalled, I was cordially shocked. As treat for our inputs, we entered a homey restaurant and indulged in a lovely pie along with cups of tea. And though the day ended in a soaking splash as the sky tore open with buckets and buckets pouring down, it was a day of peaceful bliss.

It was hard for the travellers to not wander about and with the beauties of the island it is understandable. However the days we didn’t, beginning the day calm and loitering around the tarpaulin-cabin or ambling to the shop for fresh croissants, we embraced the lack of sound. The camping was shared with only few others due to our perfect timing and with a job draining me with the passing of days, we welcomed rainy days and listened to the singing. We welcomed days of reading books and playing games. To be honest, for short-term, the opposite of hauling heavy backpacks through humid Asian heat before embarking on the nth vehicle for a duration in the double digits to do it all over again and an off-day including an hours-long hike in the jungle, it was great. With the only downside being a beach demanding layers and layers of clothing to be worn.

Where do you catch your breath? What is a safe haven, a place of comfort and serenity for you? For me, it’s not always a place with literal quietness.

Categories
South-East Asia (2017-2018)

Dubai Airport

The Pakistanis did not leave their habits at home as they took off from the Islamabad airport. I noticed this when upon landing in Dubai, the insides of the air-plane at seemed as if someone had run by with a torn garbage bag. Despite the effortless attempts of the stewards and stewardesses to collect everyone’s empty bottles, plastics and other junk, the passengers had hoarded it, to at final minutes litter the entire place. Baffled by the disrespect and lacking of courtesy, I stepped over the left-behind mess and made my way to the exit. Initially, I was supposed to have a few hours on hand, however a sudden change with my airline had left me with half a day in this capital of emirates. Unlike in Oman, I had no intention of heading for the city and attempted to make the airport my temporary home the way Tom Hanks did in the Terminal. For that reason, I took my time and calmly sauntered through the gateway leading me away from the plane.

The last bit of traveller’s spirit had dripped out during my stay in Pakistan and I had been yearning for my home. To make these long-some hours pass by more rapidly, I had entered the well-known Hard-Rock cafe to only be reminded by my second home. A young Filipina welcomed me into a stool and with a broad smile stood before me awaiting the order. As I asked for a beer from the tap, she raised her eyebrow and with an apologetic tone she asked for my passport. A melancholic-doused smile appeared on my face as I slid a hand into my backpack searching for the passport. The hint of her accent had made me beam, however it reminded me I was far from seeing my love again. As she confirmed my age, explaining that here the age is 21 and above, my eyes wandered around and I noticed many a Filipina and Filipino galloping around the bar either scribbling down orders on their notepads of people coming for a meal accompanied with music or carrying trays bearing tiny glasses with inside a translucent liquid most likely to numb the senses and crush the filter of words.

Lily poured me one of the finest crafts, as she answered the question on my mind; “The Filipinos basically run this airport.” I could find a trace of pride when she talked about all her fellow compatriots that went through the same effort to work alongside her on this side of the security. She sighed with a smile as she placed the beer on the coaster. As soon as she did, the tiny droplets on the outside of the tower of a glass descended down and wetted the coaster. With Pakistan’s beer coming in a can and tap beer being scarce in the Philippines, it had been some months since I had a beer so mouthwatering. Taking in my first delicious sip of the golden drink that came in perfect to speed up time, my thumb and index finger folded open the receipt which I studied intensely. Unexpectedly, I had a hefty amount of rupees left from my trip and that what I could, I had exchanged moments before entering the bar. With my wallet full of dirham, I was unaware of its worth. Possibly the distraction of the Filipina and her reminding accent or the bewitching keg of draught beer had me forget the number one rule of travelling; to always check the currency.

As I choked on my lavish beverage upon seeing its costs in my own currency, the bartender had returned and asked me if I had ever been to the Philippines, now that I knew her nationality. This question had been a gateway of topics that had us conversing for the majority of my beer. A beer I nurtured due to its price. Apparently, she and I had a lot in common as we both lived in the torment of a long-distance relationship and the same issues as well as thoughts on how to cope with those. As we talked the time away, a black man had watched us with his perfect, white as snow teeth shining from the dimmed booth he shared with Lily. He wore the same uniform and stood alongside her, though rising far above her, thus I assumed he worked there as well. However he was obviously not one of her compatriots, which rose my curiosity. Seeming eager to jump into the conversation, he grabbed his opportunity when she had to trot off to continue work. During this, I had shamelessly ordered a second posh beer, waving away my guilt by stating it is my last travel money anyhow. Picking up where she had left, the man engaged me with tons of questions before proudly, and warranted to do so, explaining how he, a man from Nigeria wound up serving drinks and meals at an airport in Dubai.

But nearing the end of his tale, he got interrupted by a cheerful blast resonating from a speaker somewhere near. He sighed and chuckled as his eyes averted to the ground. “It’s time”, he said in a voice of subtlety leaving me with a mind of questions. With long strides he marched towards the entrance where there stood a small podium. Taller than all his coworkers, he joined them by stepping onto the stage when a familiar sung began to play. Seconds later, I emitted a quiet cackle as I watched them all dance the YMCA. Where the Pakistanis took their habit of littering into the airplane, the Filipinos carried there culture of singing into this filipino-controlled hard-rock cafe and it was an astonishing phenomenon to witness. Upon the finishing of the song, I had a laugh with the two before parting to lounge on one of the comfy laid-back chairs I had spotted some hours before.

I began to feel light-headed, in the dreamy way, as the two tall beers had sufficed to take me on my empty stomach to a state of tipsiness and dreaminess which had made drowsing off relatively easy. Despite a half-day being immensely long and usually seeming to drag on when that time is spent waiting, my Pakistan-Netherlands journey had been one of ease and comfort if you take into mind that I had been gone for 18 months. 18 months and no member of the family, no animal nor human had fallen ill or gotten injured, no grave events had occurred and I was a day away from seeing them and holding the two Belgian Shepherds I cherish so deeply. Going on trips to see my close relatives before heading to the shop for my oh-so longed for unhealthy cravings. To actually ride my rinky-dink bike again that by now, as I write this belated post has been replaced for a superior one. Perhaps most importantly, to be sleeping in my own bed again. With that thought, I fell asleep with a smile on my face.

Categories
Pakistan South-East Asia (2017-2018)

A kid in a snowball fight

A minivan stood outside, parked in front of the house with the gate still closed. Loud chatters and cheering coming from a floor up filled the house alongside the stomping and fast steps of tiny feet. Cousins and nephews and nieces had come from afar to spend these merry weeks here and the result was serenity coming in scarce. Shy smiles hid behind parent’s their legs and some more brave had tried their English while others brought me tea. But today, on this early morning, everyone was up and at it, as the mentioned van would soon be filled to the brim with children, some mothers and, of course, me. Wrapped in layers, thick scarves and warm gloves on their hands, the bunch wobbled in enthusiasm to the gate like a family of penguins. Waqas, knowing the kid’s tendency to regurgitate during the excruciating long haul, had snug his blanket extra tight and faked his deep sleep while I was getting shoved into the dark corner of the van to avoid constant passport control. Though aware of the chundering children, with the promise of seeing the white we no longer get in the Netherlands, bless global warming, and that on this special day that is my birthday, I had mentally prepared myself for flying chunks and stepped inside.

Getting used to spending hours on end inside these cages, as Pakistan is a vast land, had proven one of the hardest tasks. Swinging from the left to right on the unending meandering roads with as music the sounds of multiple throats spewing and spitting acidic saliva or parts of breakfast made me regretful. “Danny, how are you?” was the phrase echoing the inside for the dozenth time as the kid with his knowledge of English consisting of a total of three words had demanded once again for my attention. Yet, when I returned the question he’d come up blank to only repeat the question. Later on, he’d simply steal my answer, but for now he rotated only between this question and an unintelligible shout. An absolute adorable kid however. Exhausted before arrival, I sat with my stomach twisting praying for the fresh air and with it an escape of the sounds and smells.

Then, some hours in, snow had been spotted and with that, we were close. Halfway up a mountain we parked the car and went for a slippery walk, with a chain of children holding hands. We kept counting heads with every turn and step to keep an eye on all the kids as they had begun wandering left and right when the first snowball had been airborne. It flew high and landed straight on the back of the sister-in-law of Waqas. War had commenced. I leapt forward, sliding into one of the trenches next to a small stairway leading to a building as I got half of the children on my side and preparing me an artillery of snowballs and, cruel as they can be, a handful of ice-balls. The latter, I had sneakily chucked away before turning the sky into a blanket of white as I flung hundreds of balls towards the enemy. Unsure of where they were landing, I had launched my ammo on the hoodie of the youngest of the bunch, followed by a mouthful to one of the mothers and a maid with white trails covering her jacket. Soon, I had imitated Italy and switched sides as I attacked the ones providing me with snow. Soon, the platoon of minions flanked me and covered me in snow until I finally waved the white flag of surrender.

Exhausted at the end, we retreated down to a cafe for lunch to metaphorically smoke the Indian peace pipe. I was out of breath, but it had been an exciting feeling to relive the moment of grasping the cold snowball, gradually leaving tingling sensations in your fingers eventually leading to the numbing, before you douse your temporary enemy in the precious snow. Then you’d return inside, leaving the cutting, icy outside as you warm your frozen hands on a hot cup of tea with a fire blazing. Today had felt like such and along with the tea had come a surprise as a cake with lit candles came brought out. Together, me and the other celebrant blew out the candles and made our wish. Though, to have been able to play like a kid in the snow as the age grows taller, had been a wish come true.

This concludes my posts on Pakistan and with it, I wish to deeply thank all who have been involved in my trip. Waqas, who shared his room during my stay, drove his car hundreds of kilometres to show me place after place, endured the North with me to admire the massive mountains and faced the secret police when a suited man became nagging regarding the strange foreigner. And his family who welcomed me inside, made me feel at home with small to big efforts and with whom I have had many conversations. This includes close family and further relatives. Thank you all and you are welcome in the Netherlands.

Categories
Pakistan South-East Asia (2017-2018)

The bitter-sweet Pie of Pakistan

In attempt of transparency, I tend to write in honesty and it would be unjust to gloss over the issues that certain places face. Though I have far from written all negative that occurred during my travels over the world, leaving a country such as Pakistan, I cannot write a threesome of appraisal blogs without a pinch of cold-hard truth. More than once, I have been shown a paper that crowns Pakistan the number one destination for travellers. Puzzled, I wonder who wrote this, however I admit this massive country beholds many wonders for those of wandering nature. Incredible mountain ranges in the North, a stunning coastal line along the sea in the South and between the two are a whole bunch more to discover and with it tons of welcoming people. With lots to do and see, delicious foods and copious cups of chai tea to indulge in and getting seen as a fellow Pakistani due to its diversity in colour, there can be a lot of quality time spent travelling here.

As introductory to Pakistan, we had commenced with a meal and drink in Lahore. With a chai tea still steaming in one hand, I admired the views around and began to vision what lays further. As I sat there, seeming to wait an eternity to gorge on one of Pakistan’s many extraordinarily delicious meals, a tingle of excitement of the beauties to come brewed in my lower abdominal. Though I hadn’t been completely dreamy, having crashed upon multiple burning heaps of garbage in South-Africa, the same country where naive me had begun getting his feet wet with trusting people which resulted into the “neighbourhood-watch” Expendables acquainting the head of my phone’s thief with the pavement. Over the years, I met copious ill-minded people and witnessed horrors of countries and cultures that had me frustrated with the lack of respect and decency. So no, my head wasn’t in the clouds. Though, despite the traffic in Lahore which was frightening to say the least, for a city of eleven million, I would say that as far as my nose had gone, Pakistan had given me a warm welcome.

During the drive to my friend’s house, I learned the way of fining as my friend had slightly sped over the limit. Apparently, your reckless driving gets waved off with a minor, and I mean minor ticket which you pay and then gets shred the following day rather than put into the system. With a fee insignificant and little consequences, many behold the limit signs as advisory and drive away. Though this incident and majority of them can be waved away by calling it that what makes this country wild and exciting, opposed to the boring ‘nanny-state’ Victoria in Australia, taking Islamabad as example is proof changes are required. When accidents leading to injuries and at times even death happen on the daily, there is a large problem. When touring the capital, passing by a vehicle torn apart by an oncoming vehicle or watching a young man get back up with jeans torn and his scratched up bike some meters away had been far from rare occurrences. A danger to people with the way they drive and to imagine these are the same people cruising over the mountainous roads or zigzagging left to right on a crowded six-lane road without glancing behind them.

However, what had really gotten me interchangeably bitter and somber was the dilemma of waste. A nation filled with people exclaiming their love for their fatherland and praising it heavens-high had been the same group to have taken littering to a complete new level. Turning this massive chunk of land into a wasteland of garbage, muck and junk, they have managed to leave me in shock and surprise. Having witnessed parades in South-East Asia leaving the streets full, passed by pigsties created by humans lacking decency and having admired garbage piles in the South of Africa, I had now stepped onto the ground of professional litterbugs.

I meandered the streets in dismal as along the paths I walked on was a haven of mishmash. A river of plastic, cups, decaying food, fast-food bags and boxes, complete bags of rubbish from the homes and the list goes on. Piles after piles. Every step I took, I passed by filth and trash. There was no escaping it. Not in the villages, where fields or small creeks were dedicated as bin, not in the mountains where it gets thrown into the ravine, not even in the inner city where alleys and streets are full. There was no break. With that, I for so far of the countries travelled to, wish to crown Pakistan the country of garbage.

To top of, as cherry on the pie of junk, Pakistan is faced with a fair amount of corruption, though I hadn’t sensed it in any extreme form. One could say there is still a present homophobia and a slight inequality between men and women, however, if so, I’d say it’s more of mind than tangible. People seem to be more open-minded, men and women share the work-floor and there are even towns where the fairer sex leads in entrepreneurship. Everyone has their right to an opinion, but the way I see it, Pakistan is far ahead of what they could have been and with that, a progressing country. There is a strictness with religion and its customs and it’s a land with past conflicts, but I have not experienced the daily bombings I was promised by outsiders to be met with. Instead, it was open arms, people wishing me to be in their pictures, friendly chats and a helluva lot of tea.

Although I wish more compatriots would take on to the streets and sweep and clean every once in a while, to show the patriotism they claim to have, before we all sit and judge these people’s manners there is also a lesson to take. The bond of the family is one unbreakable and strong, entire families living in a grand house in the city and over the holidays in their second in a village. Affordable due to all working members pouring their wallets into a single account managed by the accountant of the house. That person is then responsible of feeding the cousins and nieces, brothers and sisters, daughters and sons with whatever money they require whenever, which releases all tension involving the green paper. When not working, siblings are willing to step the foot onto the gas for hours on end simply to drop off or stop by, which is huge as the nearest rides alone are a consecutive driving of minimal three to four hours. The ones rich enough to hire a guard or maid welcome them into the family and wind up paying expenses made by them. Be it college or trips. They tend to live their lives well and often caring for family.

So, Pakistan can seem cold, harsh and wild when viewed from afar, but once you’re in, you’re part of one big family. I am immensely grateful to have been part of it and I wish to one day experience it again and possibly tread to the North in the summer.

What has shocked you in countries you travelled to?

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.

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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.

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Other

The importance of the proper booking site

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. It is not all about the flight however. The airport you depart from or have a stopover at can also hugely affect the overall experience. Whether you’re lounging in a laid-back chair at Dubai or you’re at the brink of a verbal fight with yet another idiot at a South-African airport, it matters. When your flight has delay on top of delay, it would be lovely to spend these crawling hours of waiting somewhere pleasant. For such, Singapore will be a joy to depart from. Since you fly through check-in, there will be guaranteed copious time to wander the premises of this wonderful airport. But with the opposite, having little wiggle room, airports like Frankfurt, where it takes buses, slow queues and poorly-timed defect check-ins to get to your connecting flight are far from entertaining. Manila where the chain of people begins a block away from the airport and the inside is a chaotic mingle of heads does not fare much better.

Furthermore, whether you have the urge to update the entire social media of your riveting life or crave for another episode of your favourite show to kill time, the desperate need of internet is at an all-time high at the airport. For that reason, with most having weak spots in abundance and along with it annoying conditions such as “30 minutes max”, Hong Kong scores well due to its consistent and strong internet throughout. Lastly, worthy of a mention is Lahore, where upon landing a minor miracle had occurred. From the bleak, grim booth of passport control appeared a smile. What used to be the home of morose men and women where grunts and growls tend to make the conversation and eye contact is rarely made, was now a man bearing a broad smile. Question after question, he had long forgotten the rule of being dour that applies to the ones in that seat. Then he went on to share stories of a travelling friend before he sent me into Pakistan with a smile.

In addition to airports and flying, there is a process that comes months (for the spontaneous ones among us days or weeks) before the actual drive to the airport. I am of course talking about the booking of the ticket. There are heaps of sites and airlines to book and buy through, each with offers and deals differing from the others. Therefore, you should take serious consideration and time before making the final decision. My first flight, I hadn’t. WTC had been my great pal. A return from Netherlands to South-Africa and a stopover in London. Insurance had been purchased. Roused with excitement I stood in the line seconds away from bumping into the initial issue. Given a generous two hours to transfer in London, I soon learned that it would be a race against the clock. Though indeed landing in London, my flight of departure would be from a different airport in the same city. My obliviousness had been to blame, but I was told and I knew, that WTC was at fault too due to a lack of red-flagging the issue. Though I had nailed the 2-hour sprint, it was not the last drama I had with WTC.

I see it as a learning curve however. Nowadays I gravitate towards using Skyscanner and through that make a pick. A safe bet tends to be kiwi.com and a recent experience with them also incentivised me into writing all these. Aside from the quick and easy process of the booking – and the price tending to be inclusive – they offer an exceptional customer service. When they had messed up grandly and I was stranded in Kuala Lumpur, they had swiftly fixed their mistake. While they spoke with my friend and significant other, as I sat with a dying phone, I headed to the arranged hotel room where I awaited confirmation of my new booking. That night, I drank with a Malay buddy of mine and his friends which had been on my expense as days after I received a substantial compensation from the company. Kiwi had given me the chance to a night out with an old friend and stayed in contact to reassure my well-being along the way. So, next time you book a flight and you have the time, look into the airline you’re flying with, where you book it through and finally, if possible, have the stopover be in a country with an airport of ease to make the overall journey one of comfort and assurance.

That about sums up part of the extremes I experienced. Travelling by plane can be horrendous and mind-numbing, but if you make something out of it, it can also be exciting and fun. What are your experiences with flying?

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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?

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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.