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Asia, Expat Life, Experiences, Guest Posts, Travel Blog

Can travel heal a broken heart?

February 6, 2014
China

He flashed that smile; his green eyes twinkled under the fairy lights on Orchard Road that Christmas evening. I traced the dent on his cheek and muttered, “Dimples. That’s what it’s called in English.” “Grübchen,” he replied in German, and we walked hand-in-hand under glittering lanterns and trees covered in artificial snow.

Fast forward to a few weeks later and I found myself on that stretch of road again. The fairy lights are gone. So is the guy with the grübchen. What’s left is a dent in my heart, and a strong desire to kick myself for what just happened. Had I followed the first item in my rulebook—thou shall not fall in love with a long-term backpacker—I would’ve saved myself from this heartbreak.

But it happened, and ended as quickly as it came. It didn’t start in ways that you would imagine. No, not after hours of conversations during bus rides in Cambodia or some cinematic love-at-first-sight encounters in southern Thailand. He was not the first backpacker who had shown interest in me either. There were a couple of guys before him but I was too quick to dismiss them, sticking to my belief that developing feelings for someone doing a round-the-world trip is as good as effortlessly digging my heart’s grave. People always leave anyway.

We met in my city, which made it all the more heart-wrenching when it ended. He was travelling around Asia then, I happily surviving in my world with occasional encounters with backpackers. He flew to my city twice after our first meeting—which is considered two trips too many to a small island-state. We had initially thought we could make it work despite being in two different continents but the map is not something we can bend and adjust in our favour.

Though it happened in a span of months, it still felt long enough to have me crushed by the end of it; heartbreaking enough to leave me contemplating packing my bags and fleeing this city tainted with memories of—and with—him. I can’t sit long enough in Starbucks without being reminded of our conversations on geography and the NBA; I can’t play a quiz app on my phone because I know I wouldn’t score perfectly without him by my side. Every corner of my city feels like it’s stamped with that grübchen-filled smile. I cannot simply look away; I wanted to run away.

I have to admit, I’m the type who turn to airports for sanctuary. My knee-jerk reaction to any looming source of stress is to book a flight some place new and unheard-of, hoping that the ‘foreignness’ of it would leave me in awe, and push the stress away. Travel keeps my sanity when everything feels overbearing, the very reason my overseas writing assignments and personal trips are scattered all over the calendar to give me enough breathing spaces. It’s relatively easy to do so: Stressed? Book a flight. Come back. Work. Stressed again? Repeat. My magazine job is a 9-to-5 with specific deadlines, and as long as I don’t check my emails during trips, I will be fine. I wanted to apply the same approach to mend my heart, to go some place where there will be no reminders of him. My job and career, however, is not something I can just pack in my bag and bring with me, and of course, a broken heart has no offline button, no airplane mode, no deadlines to beat. Emotions have no sense of place and time; the soul-crushing pain is within me, and I’m afraid movement of any kind may not necessarily equate to moving on. The grown-up thing to do is to face the memories, no matter how sad, and not to crumble with the pain. And that’s exactly what I plan to do.

Can travel heal a broken heart? I hope it does. And I’m going beyond hoping; I’m off to find out.

On Valentine’s Day—yeah, that commercial excuse of a special holiday that makes single people feel miserable for being alone!— I’m going to the place where the guy with the grübchen and I had planned (didn’t go beyond planning though) to meet up months ago when he was still on the road. I’m visiting some temples in Java, the place that signifies the time when both our hearts are still whole and full of eagerness, the place (other than my city) where my being alone would probably be at it’s hardest. I hope that the gods would somehow present their divine intervention to heal my heart. I’ll still be back in my city to work but I made sure that a trip (for a few days, at least) is a monthly endeavour: an overseas writing assignment in March, a company trip in April, a writing trip in May, a holiday in June. I’m not sure if it would be travel or time that would eventually help, but I could only hope that somewhere between getting lost and finding my stories, I also get my heart back to its painless state. And find my way back to love, in time.

Education, Europe, Experiences, Travel Blog

Kiev: A tale of two cities

January 29, 2014
Ukraine, Kiev - Independence Square

When I visited in Kiev last year, it was a different city than what is in the news today.

I went there in November, a couple of weeks before the current political turmoil started. I’ve been invited by my two former couchsurfer guests, Artem and Oleksandr, who had convinced me to visit them in Kiev.

Life in the city went on as normal. There were no barricades, no protesters, no riot police officers. Roads were full, not of protesters, but of cars and yellow marshrutkas hailing in passengers along the highway. People were preoccupied of their own daily lives and not of political discussions.

 

 

My first day in Kiev, I walked around Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti) with my friend Artem. The main avenue across Indepedence Square, Khreshchatyk, were closed on weekends for Kiev locals to enjoy a stroll on that autumn afternoon. There were segways, young Ukrainian girls selling sweets and people participating in local games of hanging on a tube for more than 90 seconds.

There were no riot police officers and protesters clashing on each other. Instead, I saw mascots of Puss in Boots, Despicable Me minions and giant pandas crowding  the square. The only tension I felt then was when a giant stuffed Tigger was bugging us to pay to have a photo with them.

The roads did not smell of teargas but of coffee coming from weird snail-shape pink coffee carts.

The city skyline had hardly any smoke on it but instead it’s the golden domes of the St.Andrew and St. Sophia churches that greeted my eyes as I looked upwards.

From the viewpoint overlooking the Dnipro river, the city was brown and red, not from smog and flames but from autumn leaves scattered on the roads.

I came to Kiev without much expectations yet left with a vow to visit again.

However my dream of coming back may not come anytime soon.

As I watch the news today and follow my friends’ Facebook posts, it’s obvious that it’s not the Kiev that I saw in November. I feel anxious and disheartened with the news I received. I feel helpless not having the power to act to curb the situation. It’s hard to see the once vibrant Maidan square is now tainted with blood from the ongoing violent protests fuelled by contrasting political ideologies. What I see is not the reflection of the vibrant and happy Kiev locals that I once met  but rather of people tired of oppression, corruption and political unrest.


 (Photo by Sasha Maksymenko)

 

It’s hard to imagine how fast the city transformed to what I currently see now. And the outlook looks like there will be no easy end out.

Unfortunately, the spotlight it continues to gain is not only the spotlight it deserves.  I hope that after this turmoil, whenever it will be, the Kiev of my memories will still be there.

And I hope that a lot of travelers will not be discourage to visit Kiev after this event. For sure I won’t be.

It’s a great city that flourishes with traditions, historical sights and of people that despite the language barrier are willing to help you. Not forgetting also that it’s a place that has one of the cheapest public transportation and bottles of vodka.

I hope that this underrated travel destination will rise back from the ashes and show the world it’s true side – the side that people deserve to see.


 (Photo by Sasha Maksymenko)

 

It’s a city that stood the test of time for thousand of years and I have high hopes that it will stand this test as well.

But now, from a mere spectator, all I can do is hope that the situation will be better.

Active sports

Paragliding in Lima

August 12, 2013
Paragliding Lima

“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”  – Leonardo Da Vinci

I’ve always dreamt of one day being able to soar above the skies. When I was young, I wanted to become an airline pilot, a parachute jumper or if not, Superman.

While career-wise it didn’t pan, my dream of being on the skies never dwindled out.

Paragliding in Lima - 2

That’s why when I heard that you can paraglide in Lima, I knew that it was an opportunity I could not missed out.

Along the cliffs of Lima, a  group of paragliders arrange daily paragliding trips. For 50 USD, they fly from Parapuerto in Parque de Amor for 15 minutes up the cliffs of Costa Verde overlooking the Pacific.

It was originally not part of the plan. As we went through our heavy schedule in Peru – doing the Inca trail, intercity travels, a wedding – me and my bank account weren’t really up for another activity.

I was there to accompany my friend to do her flight. But after being on the queue and seeing how it is, I’ve took on my #YOLO attitude and decided to go for it too.

Paragliding in Lima - 5

On our first try, we couldn’t fly at first. We were on the queue waiting for our turn to fly when the organisers decided to pull it off as the winds were quite strong. We came home disappointed.

We went the next day, our last day in Lima. The queue was already long and I was worried that we won’t get the chance to fly. We queued for hours and as we got nearer the winds started to slow down. I thought, this was it, we are going to be asked to go home.

Until finally, “Sir, how many kilos are you?”. “68 kilos” the guy on my left responded. The booker looked it at me, “63 kilos”, I said. The booker looked at me and ushered me out of the queue. Since I’m lighter, it’s much easier for me to be carried up.

They strapped me into the harness. I gave my payment to my tandem paraglider. Once all is set, we went to our position. “I count to 3 and then you run”. And we were off!

Paragliding in Lima - 3

Paragliding in Lima - 1

Paragliding in Lima - 4

As we soared onto the skies of Lima, I felt like a kid again. I felt like Peter Pan, off to Neverland. I felt like superman on a cape on soaring above the skies.

It was a fitting end for our trip, but a new beginning for a renewed wanderlust for the skies.

Have you been paragliding? How was your experience? Share your thoughts below!

Experiences, Travel Blog

What makes an adventure an adventure?

July 25, 2013
Adventure

What’s an adventure? Is it something that needs to involve an exotic place or a dangerous activity?

It came to mind when Nigel Clifford, a traveler and the founder of Adventure Underwear, asked me to test their product on my next adventure.

I went through my travel plans to see if I have something on those lines planned. With neither Inca trails to climb nor neither oceans to explore, I had little options.

Finaly, I decided to test it at Belgium’s Rock Werchter festival.  While it may not fit the classic definition of an adventure, being in a crowd of 85,000 all jamming, jumping and singing, it sure felt like one.

And so begs the question, what really counts as an adventure?

25Travels - Adventure 1

I believe that an adventure is something that shouldn’t be limited by a place or an event. Being in the Himalayas can be an adventure, but so is walking on a neighbourhood in your city that you haven’t been to. For me, it’s about finding excitement into being in different places or doing different things.

 

25Travels - Adventure 2

I believe that a great adventure is not only about the places or activities you do but the people you do it with. On my travels, there are places that in terms of sights have not a lot to offer. But because of the people I was with, these places were often the most memorable. I believe that when you are with the right people, you can easily create moments that last forever.

 

25Travels - Adventure 3

I think an adventure should be something that will make you appreciate spending your time doing it.  It’s an activity that should push your boundaries and challenge fears. It’s an activity that should bring you learning and valuable experiences.

 

25Travels - Adventure 4

Our life is one big adventure. Each day, regardless how exciting or mundane it went, should be treated as an adventure. Our everyday moments shape who we are – our perception, values and attitudes. I believe that each moment, no matter how simple it is, should always be treated and regarded as an adventure.

 

25Travels - Adventure 5

In the end, it’s about living the life that you want to live. It’s about striving for your dreams and making sure that it happens.  I believe that if you aim for reaching your dreams – may it be climbing Mount Everest or learning a language – the journey to get to your dream IS an adventure in itself.

So instead of asking what is an adventure, your question should be what WILL BE your next adventure?

I got inspired to write this post thanks to Nigel and his innovative product – Adventure Underwear. They are currently raising funds on their kickstarter project.

It’s a simple concept – your normal boxers with a couple of pockets big enough to hold money, credit cards and even your smart phones. It’s waterproof and made from one of the finest wool. It’s comfort and usefulness in a small package.

It’s definitely one of the innovations that us travelers will never take for granted again.  It has a potential to be a classic travel gear with its simplicity and ingenuity.

I’ve been given a sample and been asked to review the product.  All opinions in this post, however, are all my own. 

Asia, Challenges, Destinations, Experiences, Travel Blog

Bumps on the Road: Why It’s Important for a traveller to Be Flexible

November 3, 2011
Travel-flexible

Here I am – three days before my flight schedule to Bangkok, a trip that supposedly will tick off country #22 of my 25-country travel list.  However, the trip remains to be a big question mark.

I’ve booked my ticket to Thailand five months ago and next week will be my first holiday after six months. And now, most likely this trip will be cancelled unless the flooding situation dramatically improves.

As you may have seen,  most parts of Bangkok are still underwater and are showing no signs of returning to normal in the next couple of days. The flood water was from accumulated monsoon water coming from the north in the past 2 months and has so far claimed more than 400 lives and billions worth of damages.  I’m watching the news 24/7 and the situation more or less looks like it’s going to remain in the next coming weeks.

Splashing on the StreetMy original plan was to spend a few days in Bangkok and then work my way to Chiang Mai just in time for Loy Krathong before heading back again to Bangkok.  Another option is to fly to the south to Krabi or Phuket.

To be honest, I am very disappointed about not pushing forward. I’ve been looking forward to going to Thailand for a while now – fuelled by excitement from reading various travel blogs and sorting out advice from fellow travel bloggers. And to add that this is the third time that my trip to Thailand will be cancelled. (once in 2007, second in 2009)

But who am I to complain? My rant and worry are nothing compared to the problems the floods have caused to the Thais.

It’s tough to accept but I have no other choice but to suck it up and face these changes.

As a traveller, we are bound to have our plans change.  Plans are mere guidelines.

Things will not always go our way.  It can come as an unexpected detour, a delayed flight, or a personal tragedy and we have to be prepared to face it.

For example, how many times have  have we hesitated on visiting a place but end up staying there longer than we expected.

Or planning an itinerary then ending up changing plans last minute because some of the people in the hostel wants you to join their road trip.

But what is an adventure without being ready for the unexpected. Changes and spontaneity make travelling exciting. Often it’s the spontaneity that brings the excitement and thrill of travel – the offbeat path, the hidden thrills and the spontanous night where you get drunk and hooked up with this hot Swedish chick 😛 . those are the experiences that, as travellers, we often best remember.

Changing plans test out our capability to adapt to a situation and seek alternatives if needed.

As for me,  I’m looking into a Plan B for my trip – the current list is between Hong Kong or travelling locally in the Philippines to the beaches of Siquijor, Boracay or Coron. I have yet to make the decision and may leave it to chance come this weekend.

And still, there’s a possibility of going to Bangkok on Sunday and braving the floods. Ground reports are saying that the situation in the center remains to be normal and other cities such as Chiang Mai, Phuket and Krabi are unaffected. So why not push forward with it?

Lille

Who knows what will happen? Even I can’t even make my mind and I’m going to decide maybe in a couple of days.

Life is not constant. Events will pop out that will and can change our lives. And travel has taught me to be flexible and accept these changes whole-heartedly. Change will come, sometimes when we least expect it but it’s up to us to face it and make the best out of it.

* Thailand flooding photo from Flickr norsez and is used under Creative Commons license.

Challenges

You don’t have to be rich to see the world

August 11, 2011
25travels - rich to travel

That man is rich whose pleasures are the cheapest. – Henry David Thoreau

Vietnamese Dong

Somehow, the phrase ‘luxury to travel’ have been used as if each word reciprocates the other. Our understanding of travel has been confined to the idea that you need to have lots of money to do it. Does this mean that travel is only reserved for the rich?

NOT AT ALL.

 

Travel is a lifestyle and a mindset. It’s not money that fuels that desire, but travelling comes from the desire to live life to the fullest, to go beyond the confines of our own space and get out and see the world. Travel is a state of mind – and you don’t need to have all the money in the world to do it.

And while having the ‘luxury to travel’ is true for some people who are lucky enough, the fact is that at this time, travel is not limited to those with deep pockets anymore.

The travel industry is continuously moving towards adapting business models that fit budget travelling – with flights, accommodation and transportation prices kept low – that normal people like you and me can now afford. We are living in a time where travel has been open to everyone – and that the idea of going out to see the world has been made easier and more importantly, cheaper.

I admit that my job allows me to earn more than a peer my age earns here in Manila and it is definitely an advantage that I’m lucky that I have. But I’m not living life like a millionaire. Like you, I pay bills and debts, I work 8 hours a day, and do public transport. And I save, too.

But I can say I live a life that I want and I’m sacrificing a bit of myself in order to make this a reality. AND YOU CAN DO IT TOO! And often, I have to get rid of material ‘wants’: instead of an iPhone, I booked a flight to Vietnam; instead of buying new shirts or shoes, I saved that money to pay for Angkor Wat entrance; and I’ve taken jeeps/buses instead of a cab, so that I can pay for a boat ride on the rivers of Loboc, Philippines.

That is how I travel – I work and save. And I feel happy because I know that this is a kind of long-term investment I want for myself. I’m sure I’m not going to remember when I’m 50 that I have had the newest Blackberry or the latest shoes or jeans during my youth, but rather, I’ll look back to the places I’ve seen, friends I met and experiences I had.

Morocco - Circle of friends

For me, it all boils down to motivation and passion. I am passionate about travel – and I work hard to keep the passion going.

When I do get on the road, I travel not with my wallet but with my eyes, ears and nose. I stay in hostels or ask for free hosting. I take public transport even if I’m scared of getting lost sometimes. I eat street food as if my mom cooked it. I’ve slept in airports, train stations, places of strangers, fast food chains and coffee shops. I’m a sucker for low-costs flights, too. I’ll take a flight that is 1000-2000 pesos cheaper even if I have to wake and leave at 2am or travel to the ends of the earth to catch it. This is the life I chose to live and I aim on getting the best out of the experience.

And there more people who are doing more with less – hitchhiking, volunteering for free accommodation, couch-surfing, walking thousands of kilometres just to see the world and live their life.  I admire them, and want to join their ranks soon.

That’s actually my aim for this blog: to let people know that there’s nothing that limits you from seeing the world, be it money, your job, your family, your phobias or your allergy to insects. There are more ways to travel, and all you need is to keep your desire and dedication to see the world.

Live your life now. Go and see the world.

Thank you to my travel heroes too for the inspiration behind this post

 

Education

23 Best Travel Moments at 23 years old

July 2, 2011
Riding atop of a bus in Bohol

I’ve recently turned 24 this week. And with this upcoming new year, I’ve decided to take a look back at the past year and relive the 23 best travel moments I had last year. Looking back, I’m really thankful for the great year I had and travel memories I’ve spent with old and new friends alike. In a year, I felt that I’ve experienced a lot of new things – and this post is a testament to it. Lots of things happened this year, including moving back from Belgium back to the Philippines, that significantly affected my travel and personal life.

On any case, I’m looking forward to start this new chapter of my life. I will definitely aim on continuing and finishing my travel goal. I hope for more moments like this, and definitely I’ll make sure that I’ll have the same or even a better year ahead!

  • World Cup Finals in Amsterdam

Celebrating the World Cup Finals in Amsterdam

  • Shopping at the Sunday Market in Lille, France

Shopping at the Sunday Market in Lille, France

  • Volunteering for Serve the City Brussels

Volunteering for Serve the City Brussels

  • Paying for the cheapest (0,20 EUR) and most expensive (22 EUR) for a bottle of beer

Belgian Beers

  • Seeing the Grand Place Lights in Brussels for the Belgian National Day

Grand Place Lights for Belgian National Day

  • Going home to the Philippines

Going home to the Philippines

  • Taking a Canoe Trip to Pagsanjan Falls

Taking a Canoe Trip to Pagsanjan Falls

  • Swimming on El Nido bay lagoons

Swimming on El Nido bay lagoons

  • Visiting the Puerto Princesa Underground River

Visiting the Puerto Princesa Underground River

  • Surfing for the first time in San Juan, La Union

Surfing in La Union

  • Accepting Edge Coaster & Skywalk challenge in Cebu City

Accepting the Edge Coaster & Skywalk challenge in Cebu City

  • Riding on top of the bus in Bohol

Riding on top of the bus in Bohol

  • Seeing the Chocolate Hills

Seeing the Chocolate Hills

  • ZipLine in Loboc, Bohol

  • Christmas in Manila

Christmas in Manila with my fami

  • Starting 25travels.com 🙂

Starting 25travels.com

  • Watching a friend take on the Burger Challenge in Singapore

Watching a friend take on the Burger Challenge in Singapore

  • Day drinking in Tanjong Beach in Singapore

Day drinking in Tanjong Beach in Singapore

  • Reaching the 86th floor of the Petronas Towers in Malaysia

Reaching the 86th floor of the Petronas Towers in Malaysia

  • Seeing & climbing the temples of Angkor

Seeing & climbing the temples of Angkor

  • Drinking buckets of redbull vodka and partying in Siem Reap

Drinking buckets of redbull vodka and partying in Siem Reap

  • Shooting a rifle in Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam

Shooting a rifle in Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam

  • Meeting old & new friends alike during my travels

23.Meeting old & new friends alike during my travels

Education

Learning about the Vietnam War

June 15, 2011
War Remnants Museum - HCMC

I grew up knowing only a silhouette of the Vietnam War.

Despite the close proximity of the Philippines, there was hardly any mention of the war on our history school books. It ended a decade before I was born but it seemed like a forgotten episode at least when I was in school.

Growing older, I started learning about the war from its “Hollywood” representation – Apocalypse Now, Miss Saigon and various TV documentaries.

I”ve read up a bit a few weeks before I left for Vietnam. It’s always good to know the history of a country and understand where the place you are visiting today had come from.

The war was between the Communist DRV (North Vietnam) and the US-backed anti-communist South-Vietnam government. Eventually after a few decades of fighting, the Communist north defeated the south reuniting the whole of Vietnam under communist rule.

In Ho Chi Minh, the main tourist sites have a connection with the events surrounding the two-decade struggle. Amidst the bustling streets and crowded markets, it’s hard to think that a few decades ago, so much history had happened on where we were standing. There are two main sites in HCMC that I found interesting.

The Reunification Palace (then Independence Palace), where a tank crashed its gate signalling the surrender of South Vietnam. It”s now a museum with the interior remaining similar from how it looked 30 years ago.

Another place is the War Remnants Museum – a few blocks away from the Reunification Palace.

War Remnants Museum, Ho Chi Minh City

It displayed old helicopters, planes, tanks and Chinook choppers used at the war. While inside, the museum showcased photographs and various artefacts all aimed on showing the aftermath of a war that forever changed the lives of the people affected.

There were foetuses of Agent Orange victims, shrapnel from downed B52 planes, different ammunitions and a collection of hundreds of photos usually of victims and the areas devastated.

It’s interesting to note that the Vietnam War was the first war placed under constant viewing (and scrutiny) from the global media. Amidst the hundreds of photos, I particularly like this one – a precise photo of a falling B52 bomber plane taken when the plane was crashing mid-air. Kudos to the photographer!

Down B52 museum

The War Remnants museum may not be the best venue to get your facts straight as information had been skewed towards their communist government and an anti-American sentiment. But we can’t deny that these events happened – towns got bombed, families lost love ones, and futures forever shaped.

The outcome of a war is often written by the victorious side, but the aftermath, nevertheless, had disastrous consequences on both sides. The horrors of war existed on both sides and this is what was missing at the museum. Indeed, the US and its allies (including the Philippines) have brought destruction to Vietnam, but there have been attacks by the DRV particularly to their fellow Vietnamese, that were not shown. I understand that this is a government-run museum aiming to position themselves better in the society. But what I felt was that there is a reactive often aggressive response rather than a peaceful intention to move forward.

But if you ask any common Vietnamese, there’s no sense of retaliation against Americans or to anyone else, but rather the spirit and attitude that it’s time to move forward and look forward into the future.

What I enjoy about travelling is that it gives you an opportunity to learn outside a book, classroom or the press. There are far much lessons and experiences to gain from seeing the old structures from time past, looking on how a community thrives with their present lives and how people you meet are continuing to shape up their futures.

Truly, travel is part of the university of life.

PS: I’ve found out that even the Philippines sent 10,000 troops to support the war in Vietnam of course backing up the Americans – and this struck me the most. We grew learning barely nothing about the war even though 10,000 of our own troops went.

Have you trave

Active sports

Surfing in La Union

May 6, 2011
Jerick with a surfboard

For someone who panics on deep water,  going surfing is the last thing I would do. But despite my slight agoraphobia, I really wanted to do it.  The fact that you are default “cool” if you surf (at least I think), I just couldn’t pass out an opportunity of increasing my cool points.

So, I and my friends went to the surfing town of San Juan, La Union – a six-hour bus ride from Manila.

San Juan’s part of the major surfing circuit area in the Philippines and to is next  to Siargao as a well-known surfing destination. April’s a surfing low season and the small & gentle waves were perfect for beginner surfers.  The water’s also  only six feet deep,  and that helped me eased up.

We took our lessons with Sebay Surf Central, one of the well- known surf resorts and school in San Juan.

The lessons started  on the ground with the parts of the surfboard, techniques falling properly (so the board doesn’t hit you), finding your balance and paddling out.

Surfing in La Union

But the fun starts when we went on water.  The instructor finds a good wave, shouts “READY!”, and I’m expects me to stand-up.

I remained unsuccessful on the first waves while my friends already managed to stand up.  In between my failures, my instructor would drag me back and correct my mistakes.

“You need to bend your knees”

“You need to step into the middle of the board”

“ Do not kneel  down when you stand”

“ Smile and look cool”

He said  it was all about following the right position, striking the perfect balance on the board and  knowing which wave to catch. And now, you ask, WAS I ABLE  TO STAND-UP?

I’m not the most athletic person and definitely  far from the stereotype surfer but I didn’t need any of that as by the middle of the lesson, I  STOOD UP!

And after a few more attempts, I stood-up longer!  And finally, I got to surf until the beach!

There are no words really to describe the feeling of standing up and actually surfing the waves!

The unfortunate part though was there were no photos of me surfing.  No one took photos as we all went for the lessons. For now,  you just have to take my word for it.

I must say that this experience made me want to go and surf again – maybe in Siargao or even go to Bali or Hawaii. And definitely, I would recommend the Sebay instructors as they made someone as awkward as me to actually surf.

Surfing in San Juan, La Union

I was impressed with my instructor, who patiently taught and got me to surf on the better waves for a better experience.   He’s very passionate about surfing and you can never go wrong with a person who loves what he is teaching.

Surfing for beginners is not as tough as it looks. THINK that if penguins or mutant turtles can do it, then seriously what’s stopping us from doing it, right?  Okay, they ARE cartoons  but I must say that I find learning how to surf easier than I expected.

Challenges

The Burger Prince in Singapore

April 3, 2011
giantburger

Chicken rice, kaya toast and prawn mee are shoo-ins in any must-try Singapore food list. But let me add one more: a giant burger.

Fresh from our food trip in Malaysia, Jerick and I rode a Delima bus from Melaka Sentral Station and headed for Singapore. We went straight to Chinatown, had chicken rice and prawn mee at Maxwell Food Centre and decided to say hello to the Merlion the next day. We met two backpackers: Dennis, a German traveller roaming Southeast Asia; and Apple, a fellow Filipino traveller. Yes, we saw the Merlion, but we had a detour:  a Giant Burger Challenge. No biggie, you would say? See for yourself:

From the outdoor theatre of the Esplanade (the best spot for stunning views of the Merlion and Marina Bay Sands, the hotel with a surfboard-like rooftop resting on three towers), we walked for about five minutes to reach New York New York restaurant located at City Link Mall, adjacent to the City Hall MRT station. And that’s where Dennis, egged on by Jerick, Apple and I, summoned all the hunger in him to take down the Giant Burger.

The challenge is to wolf down an 8-inch-wide, 4-inch-thick burger with tonnes of fries. Sounds easy? The restaurant’s Honour Board shows that 10 extraordinarily hungry individuals have done it before, but here’s a caveat: you have to do it in an hour. Eat it within 60 minutes and it’s on the house; if your intestines couldn’t handle it, the restaurant will charge you S$40! With a ticking clock beside the huge plate (it’s distractingly pink, by the way) and fries the size of our fingers, this challenge is really for the hungry souls.

Our dear friend Dennis started off good. Too good, really. He quickly finished a quarter of the burger, then half of it. He took gulps of water in between bites and he felt full really fast. But the fries became his Waterloo: he couldn’t eat ’em all.

He tried all the ways to make the fries more appetizing: added salt, put lots of pepper and even showered them with catsup. But starch was not easy to take in. We requested for cotton candy to provide a contrast to the salty combo, and the cotton candy even became our makeshift pom-poms as we cheered him on. Sixteen minutes left in the clock and a quarter of the giant remaining, Dennis decided to give up. (Oh, and it  didn’t help that a song called Impossible was played during the challenge!)

The timer hit zero seconds and with Dennis’s wallet weeping, he handed over the S$40 dollars to the manager, who by the way, offered some insider info on how to successfully overcome the challenge  (holler in the comment box you want to know his tips!). Dennis considered it an an epic failure on his part and he refused to be called the burger king yet (hence, we’ll use prince for now). But he promised to do it again, when he returns to the Lion City in the future.

Sure, Singapore may be the land of chicken rice, chilli crab and kaya toast and it’s not famous for its burgers. But travelling is all about finding surprising tidbits of places you go to, right? Ditch your desires to take a burger challenge in other parts of the globe. This Singapore Giant Burger Challenge is really one for the books.

 

 

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