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How I ended up making Motanka dolls in Ukraine

February 11, 2014
Ukrainian Dolls

Yes, you read it right, dolls. I never thought that I’ll be making dolls and especially in a country like Ukraine.

After walking around Kiev, I, Claudia, a fellow traveller, and Natalya our Active Ukraine tour guide travelled 20 minutes to the outskirts of the city for lunch and our handicrafts session. The last time I did serious handicrafts was in high school, and I remember that I was pretty bad at it.

Yulia, our host, greeted us as we entered her home. Yulia, her boyfriend and their dog welcomed us to their humble apartment.  We were hungry and fortunately to my relief, she ushered us immediately to the dining table for lunch.

Yulia prepared varenyky (potato dumplings), borscht (beet soup) and salo (cured pork fat) . And yes, you guess it, the food was delicious. I particularly can’t get enough of salo especially when eaten with salt and raw garlic cloves.

Over lunch, we chatted about Kiev, the city and their culture. Yulia does arts and crafts as her profession. She paints and sculpts eggs and makes dolls for a living. She even crafted dolls for display on one of Kiev’s biggest Church. And she does this travel session together with her sister as part of their sidelinebusiness. So I’m happy to see that we have experts to teach an amateur like me.

After the hearty meal, we proceeded to the living room to start the doll making action.

We were brought to create a Motanka doll – a traditional handmade doll that was once use as a symbol for fertility and procreation. In Ukrainian tradition, the doll acts as a talisman that symbolises wisdom and protection for home.

We were handed the materials – cloth, thread, cotton balls, rice and flowers to stuff our doll. We had to first make the head and stuff it with rice. Once it pretty much look like a head, we went on tying knots for the hands and the body.

After, we had to tie in two strings around the head, alternating to make a square in the centre of the face. Ukrainian dolls are not your typical doll, it has no eyes nor a face, just a square that made it look like a cyclop. Yulia told us that there was no face as they don’t want dolls to reflect much of the human form, as they are afraid of it being use for black magic (=Voodoo dolls in some culture). Instead,of a face it has cross that is symbolises the sun.

It was an arduous task to do that required some patience and magic slight of hands. I finally made the face of my doll and we put in some clothes and a head band.

My verdict? I don’t think I’m seeing myself doing dolls for a living. But definitely, it was an activity that is out of the ordinary and I enjoyed doing on a Sunday afternoon.

But one thing is for sure, I’ll stick back to communications as a day job.

I had an amazing time with Active Ukraine who arranged this doll making activity as part of the Kiev’s Off The Beaten Path tour. Many thanks to Oksana and Natalya for the amazing experience. All views however are my own.

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.

Destinations, Europe, Travel Blog

A walking tour of Kiev in photos

February 4, 2014
Saint Andrew's Church

After my post last week on the Euromaidan issue, you may be wondering why I am passionate on talking about Kiev in the first place. Kiev is an underrated destination when it comes to travel but the places, people and experiences you get from the city is amazing. In an unusual feeling, I felt somewhat at home there – where I embraced the chaos, lack of structure, food and the abundance of alcohol (like a full aisle in the supermarket dedicated to vodka).  In my weekend trip there last November, I realized that the city has a lot to offer and and here are some of my favorite ones.

Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square)

Kiev’s Independence Square is the place to be for locals and visitors alike. The main boulevard traversing Maidan Nezalezhnosti is closed on the weekends converting the busy highway into an urban concrete park. And funnily enough, the streets got crowded with the most random set of characters. From mascots of giant pandas and minions, girls in traditional Ukrainian costume and segways – they had it all there. Today, this is where the current tensions at Euromaidan is taking place and though I hope that the giant pandas will be back once these tensions are over.

Kiev Funicular

The Kiev funicular connects the historic uppertown to Podil, the city’s commercial area. It’s been transporting people up the Volodymyrska hill for over 100 years. The best part of this funicular is the view of Kiev and the Dnieper river that you get to see as you go up.

Volodymyrska Hill

At the end of the funicular, you’ll get treated to a panoramic view of the Kiev and the winding Dnieper river. It was autumn when I travelled so the colours were grey, brown and red. Still beautiful though!

Saint Sophia Cathedral

A few blocks from the viewpoint at Volodymyrska Hill, you get to walk towards the St. Sophia Cathedral. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was first constructed in 1037 and is believed to be named after the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. It’s green and golden domes acts as its crown and one of the towers transforms into a viewdeck. 

St. Michael’s Golden Domed Monastery

Opposite to St.Sophia’s Cathedral is the blue St. Michael’s Golden Domed Monastery. Next to the St. Michael’s Golden Monastery is a small monument honoring those who suffered from the famine in 1941 brought by Stalin during the Soviet times.

Saint Andrew’s Church

Kiev knows how to rock it when it comes to churches. Saint Andrew’s Church sits atop of a hill and accordingly to stories, the apostle Andrew came to this hill and declared that the present day Kiev would become a great city. I think Saint Andrew was right on that.

Andriyivskyy Descent

Probably the most colorful part of the city and known as the Montmartre of Kiev (though I think it’s best to recognize is by its real name). The street starts from a top of the Saint Andrew’s Church and goes down to Podil.  I went there with the Active Ukraine team for the first part of our day tour. I’ve enjoyed going through the shops finding strange knick-knacks from teddy bears, toys, souvenirs, and army clothes. You can even see a monument to a couple that when you touch the lady’s nose, it’s supposed to bring you good luck. I’ve touched her nose as well as her ass for extra luck. 😉

City Life

Out of the usual touristic activities, I particularly enjoy going around and just seeing the city. Here are my favorite off the beaten sights at Kiev.

Flowers Galore

As much as there’s a McDonalds in every corner in most capital cities, in Kiev, they are all about the flowers. There’s a flower shop in almost every corner and most of them are open 24 hours. I don’t really get why they are open all day, but when you have fights with your girlfriend at 2 in the morning, you know where to buy a last-minute apology.

Kiev Metro

At 2 UAH (0,17€) a ride, Kiev is home to the cheapest metro system in the world. It’s even cheaper than a ride in the Philippine Metro (0,24€). It’s clean, efficient and spacious.

The city also has one of the world’s deepest metro station. Arsenalna is 105 meters below ground and it takes about 10 minutes just to get out of the station. It’s a perfect for speed dating too. (according to this couple below).

Vodka

Combining with cheap metro stations, Kiev also has  cheap vodka. There are aisles in the supermarket dedicated to vodka alone. And yes, this is secretly my favourite highlight of the trip. 🙂

Coffee

While I am not a regular coffee drinker, having “Startrucks” or café in trucks that sells coffee on every corner of the street. It’s convenient especially after a chilly walking tour. And yes, the coffee was better than I expected. Beat that, Starbucks!

I travelled there with my local friends and I was also supported by the wonderful team at Active Ukraine who had given me a complimentary Off the Beaten Tour at Kiev. All thoughts in this post are my own.

Have you been to Kiev, Ukraine? What are your favourite places in the city. Share it on the comments below!

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.

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. 

Travel Blog

The 2012 Olympics in Manchester?!

August 30, 2012
Jerick at the Olympics

Yes, you heard it right.. Manchester!

While everyone was or wanted to be in London for the Olympics last month, I decided to go the “off the beaten path” and go instead to Manchester for the games. 🙂

There weren’t many options anyway – I’m one of the few lucky ones to score a pair of tickets to a game at all. Manchester or London –  I just couldn’t turn down an opportunity to be in the Olympics.

Manchester - Olympics 2012

Aside from London, the Olympics actually happen in places outside the capital city. There was sailing in Dorset for example and football practically anywhere with huge arenas like Newcastle, Cardiff and Manchester.

While we didn’t have tickets to see the Olympic superstars like Usain Bolt & Michael Phelps nor the sexy ladies playing beach volleyball, the fact that I got tickets, I couldn’t care less.

The tickets I got was to see the football quarter finals. It was an expected set for a Spain and “another team” but La Roja didn’t get in. In the end, it was a game between Japan and Egypt.

Manchester - Olympics 2012

It was an adventure I can’t miss – so together with Roy of the Riding Dutchman – we went on an epic weekend to the UK!

Manchester’s Old Trafford was 70,000+ people full – and probably only 10% were Japanese or Egyptians. There were mostly English, Spanish and some who, like me and Roy, are just there for the games. 🙂 This meant that all cheers were neutral, and everyone was just waiting for a goal.

There were times were almost no one paid attention to the game and just waiting for their turn to do the mexican wave.

P8046659

And with that crowd, I can say that the waves WERE the highlight of the game. 🙂

The game didn’t disappoint though. The first ten minutes of the game, there was already a goal. Then a red card was given before the end of the first half. The game finished with 3-0 for Japan.

It was a win-win for all – for the players for putting a good game and for the audience who were given a shot to shout GOAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! several times.

But because of our limited time, we didn’t get to see Manchester. But hands down, Manchester played a good host and we felt everyone was really welcoming. Public transport to and from Old Trafford to the centre was free. There were free maps, ponchos in case it rained, and smiling volunteers everywhere.

P8046618

The game only lasted two hours but it’s a memory that I’ll keep for a while. Happy to finally tick-off the Olympics in my non-existent bucket list.

Oh and yes, I bought myself a gold medal. I’ll proudly show this to my grandkids someday. 🙂

(A special thanks to Roy btw for letting me use his photos on the blog)

Have you been to the Olympics? How was your experience – share them below!

 

Travel Blog

My Top Three Travel Experiences

August 26, 2012
morocco

Posting on a Sunday you say?! Well, well – I’ve exchanged my usual chill out, sleeping til the afternoon Sunday for a blog writing + tea sipping afternoon. I have good travel blogger friends Neil of Backpacks and Bunkbeds  and Brendan of Wanders of the World to thank for that.

After grabbing beers with these guys a couple of weeks ago, I (drunkenly) join the awesome group of Team Purple for Lowcostholiday’s Blogger Relay.

The rule of the game is simple – rank your top three travel memories then pass on the baton to another travel blogger. So far, I’ve read a lot of interesting experiences from my team mates, and now it’s my turn to share my stories. 

Bronze : Football – London 2012 Olympics

 

The bronze medal goes to watching the 2012 Olympic games live.

Being at the Olympics has been a dream since I was a kid. And since moving back to Brussels early this year, I knew that I won’t let this one pass knowing that the games are only 3 hours away.

Manchester - Olympics 2012

I eventually ended up watching the football quarter finals in Manchester’s Old Trafford and seeing the women’s marathon in London the day after. The atmosphere was great – Old Trafford was full with 70,000 screaming fans and the game winner, Japan, eventually was fourth overall. The games were highly organized and the streets were full of smiling English people – which I guess came from how proud they were of the games.

Manchester - Olympics 2012

While I’ve only seen two games it’s already a worthwhile visit. It’s these moments of seeing history unfold in front of you is one of the rewarding notes of travel. The Olympics happen only every four years and seeing it is a story that I will tell my kids and grandkids about.

Silver : “100 meter freestyle” swimming with Whale Sharks

 

One of my most memorable travel experiences to date was swimming with the whale sharks in Donsol. This experience was turning point in my own appreciation of travel.

Donsol

First, it was because it opened my eyes to the opportunities of travel within my own country. The Philippines is known for its untouched beaches, diverse wildlife, eclectic sceneries and culture. I’m lucky to call this country my home and in the past years, I’ve been working on also discovering my backyard.

Every January to June of the year, groups of whale shark visit the waters of the once sleepy town of Donsol. The encounter tours are arranged through the town’s tourism office, and after getting briefed on the dive, you are brought to the open seas. It’s a cat-and-mouse race as it all relies on your luck to spot whale sharks. We only had two encounters during our trip, but it was all worth it.

Second, I clearly remember that on that same boat, I met Nathan, an English backpacker, who at 25 years old has already travelled to 70 countries. I remember being inspired from what he had accomplished yet equally hopeless knowing that this may never happen to me. But still, I made a promise then – that I too will travel the world someday.

Little did I know that now that I’m 25 – I’m actually living the life that I only hopelessly dreamt four years back. It was a dream turned to a reality – and through this blog – I hoped that I too, like Nathan, will inspire others to do the same.

Gold : “Modern Travel Icositepentathlon*” – 25 by 25

 

Finishing my 25-country challenge definitely brings home the gold.

The race was long but I finally got to the finish line last June. The journey spanned to more than four continents, hundreds of cities and millions of miles. I’ve seen beautiful places, met awesome people and learned a lot more about the countries I stayed in and the rest of the world that is waiting to be discovered.

Sahara Desert - Morocco

I’ve seen the sunrise in Angkor Wat and sunset in the Sahara desert. I’ve sense the movement of time from the ancient cities of Rome to the modern skylines of Hong Kong. It was a whirlwind of a journey, something that I can’t really narrate in a short post but the entire journey definitely counts as one very long travel memory.

Hong Kong at night

Finishing this goal affirmed my belief that you don’t need to be rich to see the world nor devote your time solely for travel. I’ve done it with a full-time job and with often shallow pockets – but I made it, and other people like you can do it too! What you need is dedication, careful planning and strong drive to see the world.

At the end of the goal, I realized that it was not a sprint but a marathon – It’s not how fast you finished but it’s about the journey.

That’s it for this set – and now I’m passing the #teampurple baton, halfway across the world, to Josh and Caroline of Travelling 9 to 5. Keep the Team Purple baton going!

What are your top three travel moments? Share your thoughts in the comment box below!

Travel Blog

Filipino Friday : Bababa ba? Bababa

August 17, 2012
Pinoy sign

Welcome back to Filipino Fridays, a weekly session on my blog where I talk something about my home country, the Philippines.

This week, it’s all about making conversations in the Philippines. Look at the image below showing a common conversation:

Photo credits from Jay Cabrera

(*photo credits from Jay Cabrera on Facebook. )

Person 1: Bababa ba?
Person 2: Bababa.

Do you notice anything interesting about the phrase?

First of all, this is an actual conversation. Despite only using one syllable, it actually means a complete thought.

Well just to give you a bit of background, the conversation is in Filipino, the national language of the Philippines. The country’s official language is Filipino and English, with regional languages  such as Cebuano, Ilokano, Bicolano, Hiligaynon and Waray-waray as auxiliary languages. In total, the Philippines has more than 170 regional languages.

And together with 400 years of Spanish, Arabic, Chinese and American influence, our language had evolved into a melting pot of words. As an example of this influence, to say “How are you?”  is “Kamusta ka?” a derivation of the Spanish “Como esta?” and to say thank you is “Salamat” which is similar to Bahasa’s use of “Selamat”.

The Filipino language evolved into something unique – albeit weird in some cases. But don’t worry, we don’t babble monosyllabic phrases all the time. 🙂

The etymology of the words in this conversation is unknown. But to translate:

Person 1: Bababa ba? = is it (elevator) going down? 
Person 2: Bababa = it’s going down

Baba actually means down.

Here are some other “strange”  words:

  • Lalala (to worsen as like to being sick)
  • Bobobo (to become more stupid)
  • Nganganga (open someone’s mouth)
  • Kakasa (to nudge a gun)

For some real phrases:

  • You are pretty! –  Ang ganda mo!
  • I love you – Mahal kita
  • How much? – Magkano?
  •  Goodbye – Paalam

Well, the next time you meet a Filipino in an elevator – be sure to mention bababa ba

What other quirky words / phrases in your own language. Share them below!

 

About Filipino Friday: Every Friday, I’m going to showcase something unique about my home country , the Philippines. It can be a place, food, experience, custom or tradition that highlights what we our 7,107 islands can offer. I hope that through these posts – I can help bring awareness about the Philippines,  it’s beauty, hidden sites, quirkiness and diversity.

Are you a travel blogger? I’m inviting you to take part of Filipino Friday with me. All you need to do is post something about the Philippines every Friday. Contact me if you’re interested.

Travel Blog

The Blogger Rises Again

August 16, 2012
beach

Inspired by Batman/ Bruce Wayne climbing up the prison pit in the Dark Knight Rises (geek!), I decided that it’s time to rise from the ashes and keep the blog alive again – and with a self-made promise to keep it going.

The prequel, or the reason why I stopped blogging in the first place, will be in a blog post soon – so as not to have a ranting post as my first entry in weeks.

But while my blog had remained quiet for the past weeks, I actually kept on travelling and boy did I travel a lot.

And so as not to spoil everyone, here’s a short summary on what I’m doing in the past few months and the posts I expect to write in the next coming weeks.

Finished my 25-country goal

Stockholm, Sweden

Lisbon, Portugal

Yes, you heard it right, I finished my goal last June!

While the blog didn’t have any post (yet) to celebrate the culmination of the goal, I had my Facebook and Twitter updates with photos and status updates. I conquered a surprisingly snowy spring weekend in Sweden for my 24th and finally capping it off with weeklong tour of Portugal and a big celebration at Festas de Lisboa.

Thailand and my brief return to Asia

Bangkok, Thailand

And three weeks after I finished my 25travels goal in Portugal, I headed into backpacker’s mecca – Thailand. It was my first trip back to Asia after leaving the Philippines at the end of 2011.

We travelled for two weeks long across Thailand hitting the rowdy streets of Bangkok, then partying it “half-moon style” in the island of Koh Pha Ngan then to putting our adventure gear on in the northern hippie city of Chiang Mai. Lots of great stories for sure!

In London 2012

London 2012

 

And finally, just a couple of weeks ago, I witnessed history as I became part of the thousands who had made it to London 2012. With the Olympics happening only every four years and the games happening a mere three hours from here, I knew that I have to make this one. From getting tickets, to being at an actual game and to making London as one of my favourite cities to be in (and live in too) – it was short yet very memorable experience.

And of course, I will be writing about what will be the next journey for me after my 25-country goal while still continuing to write about finding the balance between travel and working full time. So be sure you refresh your RSS feed, follow me on twitter and facebook, cause the man on a mission is back on the road!

Travel Blog

Hungry? Food treats to love in Hungary

May 2, 2012
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As the saying goes, “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”

The same thoughts go for my travels as well. Sampling the local food is a surefire way to immerse into a new destination.

I’ve done a big share of that here in Brussels, sampling the Belgian culinary offers with dangerous consequences. 😉  But hey, it’s food, so who I am to say no?

My recent trip to Hungary had us going through the Budapest nightlife, getting the best out of the amazing ruin bars experience. But after every party, there is the usual appetite for some food.

Hungary is not really known for its culinary prowess but it’s not an excuse for a chow. Here are some of my favourites and in my opinion, the must-tries!

Langos

Lángos

This is the food to die for … and literally death looks imminent after finishing one langos. Why? Langos is made with deep-fried dough smothered with your choice of toppings. It’s like pizza but deep fried and gleaming with oil. Like our favourite Italian dish, it comes with various toppings like ham, cheese, garlic, yoghurt and cream but you can also order it without any toppings. The sour cream and cheese combination is the most popular.

Langos is best experienced after a long night out as it’s good for draining all the alcohol out of your body.

Pogacsa

Pagachel / Pogácsa

Moving on to healthier pastries, we have pogacsa. It’s a round pastry baked with cheese often mixed with the dough. The cheese makes it taste salty and sweet at the same time. It can also be baked with pork skin, cabbage and onions. It’s great for breakfast but can be consumed as a snack too.

Pogacsa is a popular and staple food in the country. They are so well-regarded that they even have festivals for it. And they have reasons for celebrating this sumptuous bread. Travellers in Hungarian stories are usually depicted carrying pogacsa when they go on their trip!

Retes

Hungarian sour cherry strudel

Retes is Hungarian’s answer to the German strudel (more like equivalent). It’s a pasty pie cooked with plums, strawberries, apples, cheese or chocolate as filling. It’s then topped with confectionery sugar.

One fun fact: Did you know that the round version of rétes was also known as “lie-in” rétes, because it was given to women who just had come from child birth. 😉

Kolbasz

Mangalica-Kolbasz

Kolbasz are better known the English-speaking world as “Hungarian smoked sausages”. They are often prepared with paprika, and eaten dried and in small pieces. Kolbasz is prepared depending on the region where it came from. Gyulai and Csabai are the two most famous ones. It’s my favourite food from the bunch – and has this special ingredient that makes you want to eat more (maybe it’s just me though).

Turo Rudi

Desire

Hungarians are so crazy for Turo Rudi’s that they even ran out of stock when we attempted to buy from one of their supermarkets (and it wasn’t even zombie apocalypse).

And what is there to go crazy for? Honestly, I don’t know.

Well, Turo Rudi is a chocolate candy filled with curd and can come in a variety of flavours. It literally translates to English “curd bar”. Doesn’t sound very appetizing though. But believe me this polka-dot packaged delight is a treat. 🙂

That’s it – I don’t think you’ll be rushing to Hungary anytime soon with this post. But with a good ruin bar nightlife, amazing sceneries and now good food, I don’t see any reason not to go! Bon appetit!

Images from helmsjan, 1yen, JuditK, robot-girl and Backpack foodie – under creative commons at the time of posting.

Have you sampled any of these Hungarian culinary treats? What are the other must try delicacies of Hungary? Share them below.

 

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