Lately I have been publishing mostly bookworm related stuff so today I am going to break the monotony by looking back at the year that was in terms of travelling, exploration and adventures. Although it is already midway through the month but I believe it is never too late to write a new piece about 2018 (just another one in a growing pile I surmise). Unlike the previous years, 2018 went a little too slow; adventures and travels were very few and far in between. Nevertheless, here is a throwback to my 2018 travels.
This is the last part of a three-part series. I hope you enjoy reading! For the first and second part, click on the links given below:
First Solo International Travel, and a Healing Trip
In 2017, one of my biggest dreams came true – being able to travel out of the country. And it wasn’t just any ordinary country, my first international travel is to South Korea, the dream destination of many Filipinos. Just like when I first rode a plane, I simply couldn’t believe it. Landing on Incheon felt more surreal than euphoric. To reiterate what I have mentioned in the second part of my 2018 travel recap, everything is possible, if only you learn to believe in yourself; the sky, they say, is the limit.
It is in this spirit that I have expanded my dreams. If I was able to accomplish one, then perhaps I have what it takes to go one step beyond that. Travelling solo internationally is one of these dreams; this was also part of my 2017 travel resolutions. Unfortunately, I was not able to accomplish it. I thought that I wouldn’t be able to accomplish it in 2018 as well but opportunity did present itself. And what do we do when opportunity knocks on the door…
Same situation – Cebu Pacific held a seat sale for GetGo members. My friends were quick in booking tickets, which they were able to do so. The destination – Bangkok. The plan – Indochina Tri-City travel. Without further ado, I approved the plan. Luckily, the travel dates fall on my birth month, so it could be kind of like a post-birthday present for myself, making this travel more memorable. The plan is to start our adventures in Thailand, then Joy and I will travel to Siem Reap, Cambodia before flying to Hanoi, Vietnam to join Ziv.
The best laid plans, they say, are always the ones that don’t fall through. Due to unforeseen circumstances, Ziv and Joy had to back out on the Cambodia and Vietnam leg of our adventure, leaving me in a quandary. Should I push ahead with the original plan? After deep rumination, I decided to push through with the rest of our adventures, not only because it was part of my bucket list. There was a more important reason for it that I only realized while I was traveling alone.
July 11, 2018. Ziv, Joy and I were on our way to the airport for our flight to Bangkok. Prior to the flight, I was again seized by anxiety; it has belatedly become a norm. The only saving grace is that I am flying with my friends, so yeah, there’s a comfort that. After nearly four hours on the air, we safely landed in Thailand, my second international destination. Sawasdee krap Bangkok!
In stark contrast to my recent Northern Mindanao trip, our Bangkok immersion immediately set off after our arrival. Our first destination was the Thai Royal Palace, the shimmery beacon of Thai grandeur, followed by Wat Pho, which is within walking distance of the palace. The temple is as equally breathtaking as the palace. Our eyes were very full of what little we have seen so far of Bangkok, making us giddy in anticipation for what lies ahead of us.
The next day, we traveled to the Thai countryside, joining a tour group to Kanchanaburi province. It was a mix of history and nature; we saw the titular Bridge over the River Kwai (a movie was made in its honor and its bloody history) and got to bathe with the elephants in a sanctuary. More adventure followed the next day as we found ourselves transported in time. Ayutthaya, the old capital of Thailand, is the site of numerous temple ruins. Temple, in local parlance, is called wat. If it rings a bell (hint: Angkor), then ding dong deng, you are correct!
Our fourth day in Bangkok involved a lot of shopping, starting with the famed train market in Maeklong, followed by the traditional floating market. It was a busy day as sellers grapple every prospective buyer. However, the highlight of the day the famed Chatuchak Market. My friends and I split up to do our personal shopping. The sprawling market has so much to offer and will delight those who are looking for bargains. We capped our day by feasting on Korean unlimited samgyeopsal in a restaurant near our accommodation; we meant no disrespect to local cuisine but the offer was just too tempting. It was also my last hurrah in Bangkok as I will be on my way to Siem Reap the following day.
And so, it’s now time to take that leap of faith. I was the first one to get up as my bus departs at 8 AM; my friends were still asleep, so I tiptoed my way out. I was again seized by my anxiety. I took in deep breaths to calm my flailing nerves. In spite of my doubts, I was on my way to Siem Reap. What I didn’t expect, however, was the surge of emotions that took over me during our trip. Hang Dong Geun’s rendition of Lee Hi’s Breathe kept playing. The song resonated to the depths of my soul and, suddenly, I found myself on the verge of tears as I got transported back to May, when I was struggling to swim to the surface to catch a breath. I survived the ordeal, and, without design, this solo trip has become more important than I originally intended it to be.
Upon alighting at Siem Reap, I was met by tuktuk drivers who offered me a tour of the floating village near Tonle Sap. Since I had spare time, and the driver assured me that it was a quick trip, I relented. I feel like I was ripped off, but I was still thankful for the experience because it gave me insights on the different side of Cambodia, one that is beyond its temple ruins. The fact that Cambodia resembled the Philippine countryside didn’t escape my notice although the Philippine countryside is a tad more progressive than the Cambodian countryside.
For three days, I hopped from one temple to another, guided by my tuktuk driver Chanthol. My tour around Siem Reap is very surreal, especially when I found myself facing Angkor Wat, the most famous of all the temple ruins in the area. This was what dreams are made of. When I was younger, my breath was caught by captivating pictures and documentaries of the temple complex and the ancient city it was once part of. It was raining for most of my stay but still, I was able to enjoy this alone trip. Aside from Angkor Wat, I also got to see the other less popular, although equally fascinating, temples, including the temple where Lara Croft (movie) was filmed.
It was in a sound irony that I left Cambodia. On the day I traveled to Hanoi, the sun finally made its presence after days of raining! Haha. And guess what? When I landed in Hanoi, it was raining! Rotten luck I have. Tsk. The Hanoi leg of my trip is another one that I looked forward to because it is another historical city (I did look forward to all of the places I have been to though). I spent my first day in Hanoi simply walking all over the city in spite of the rain. The Old Quarter, where I was staying, gave me so much Binondo vibe, hence, it felt very familiar although it was in a foreign country.
In my second day in Vietnam, I booked a tour to the Vietnamese countryside, to Ninh Binh province in particular. The highlights of the tour were Bai Dinh Pagoda and Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex. In spite of the rain, the tour pushed through. It was a dampener, but heck, I am used traveling in the most uncomfortable of circumstances so. I really enjoyed the Trang An complex tour. It was simply amazing and the color of the water was amazing. I just wished that it wasn’t raining. It is in this regard that I promised myself that I will come back to this place, some time in the future.
Following our tour, I packed my things in preparation for my trip later in the day. I simply couldn’t believe it that my trip has ended. Finding one’s self alone in a city not his own can be intimidating, as I was at the start. But as soon as I got the hung of it, it was a breeze. But it wasn’t the sights that made this trip magnificent. It lies in what the eyes simply cannot see. My solo trip ended becoming a healing trip; I am grateful for the alone time that allowed me to ruminate and reflect.
Guess what? When I landed in Manila, I couldn’t help but laugh again because it was raining! And thus concludes my 2018 travel recap. It wasn’t as packed as the previous years were, but it was fulfilling nonetheless. I hope that I get the chance to travel again in 2019. May everyone have a wonderful and safe travels in 2019!
I will give a more detailed recount of my Indochina trip in the coming days (or months, perhaps). Do watch out for it!