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HOME — where the water flows freely and the birds sing heavenly, where the soul rests in tranquility and the heart beats soundly, where the air smells fresh and the wind blows coldly, where the sun plays hide & seek and the moon rises calmly, where the clouds embrace the mountains high, the rain splits splats and the rainbow display is sometimes more than just one at a time. (Ba-ag, Tam-an, Banaue, Ifugao, Philippines)

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From the Roof

 

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I sat on the roof of the house with my Niko in hand as the sun starts to set, painting the horizon with shades of orange, red, yellow and gray. Back in the days, whenever my parents bring my siblings and I to Baguio City (Philippines) for our summer vacation, even up until I was in university, we get to enjoy the sunset here just from the garden.  Not only is the sunset amazing each time, we enjoyed looking at the river below (which until now I am unsure which river that is) glistening with the fading rays of the setting sun and the glow of fishermen’s torches as they prepare to sail out to the South China Sea. With neighbors now aplenty, so are the number of structures around us. We then have to climb up the roof for that perfect view, unfortunately, no more fishermen’s torches in view.

 

Colosseum of Ancient Rome

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Behind the walls of this amphitheater once stood the strongest and mightiest in ancient Rome, deafening cries of spectators echo through as gladiators and wild animals battle it out under the heat of the sun. 

Once Upon A Time In Rome

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Getting here was a dream come true, experiencing it was life enriching!

Blessed!

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God really has His amazing way of turning your dreams into reality, your life into that very something you’ve always wished for or even better. And often, He does it in a manner that makes you realize how each and every single event in your life leads to another.

Three weeks ago, while enjoying the serenity of the Alps, it brought back memories of those days having to clean a stranger’s house, tutoring, selling phone cards, the moment I lost my job after only 7 months into employment, those months of trying to figure out how to pay my rent, my bills, how to get to work for salary comes in only after 3 months. Thank God for friends and relatives for I at least didn’t worry about what to eat during those difficult months. I thought of last year’s ordeal of looking for a job, frustratingly sucking up every flicker of hope I had, money’s running low and so was my visa. And then that month-long stay in Buraimi, Oman where you are only confined to your “hotel” room and its premises, the grocery and once in a while trip to the market.  Thank God for fellow Filipinos who became instant friends– we did household chores together, we go to the market together, we shared data to connect with our loved ones and the world…checking our mails once in a while hoping for an answer to our countless job applications, — they made each of my 30-day stay a learning experience.

Nine days ago, I completed my 1st year in this company that God blessed me with, a week after my one month stint in Oman. Some say I am lucky, maybe, but I more look at all these as a blessing, a BIG one. I don’t say it doesn’t get tiring at times, it sure does, but you know what, nothing is as tiring when you know how it feels to have nothing, when you’ve gone through difficult times, you learn to appreciate every tiny bit of your blessings.

From the wadi of Buraimi, to the majestic landscape of Cappadocia, the warmth of Pamukkale’s hotspring water flowing through the white travertines, the interesting walks with my fiancé on the streets of Istanbul, the warmth and comfort of HOME, the heart-warming and mesmerizing visit to the Vatican, the enticing sweetness of Chianti’s wine, the short yet lovely gondola ride in picturesque Venice and the picture-perfect Swiss landscape you experience on foot, on a cable car or on a train.

Behind all these travels is a supportive family, fiancé and friends, an interesting job and company and an AWESOME GOD!

I say God is good all the time and He does amazing things that make me speechless and feel like I am undeserving of His graces but grateful and joyful nevertheless.

I definitely am one happy, WAL-LANG child! Grateful, I am!

May your lives be blessed abundantly too and your hearts be filled with joy! Remember, no matter what gets on the way, Follow your Heart, Keep the Faith and Travel Light!

Sight to Behold!

I wonder how awesome the view of the travertines and the ruins of Hierapolis is on a hot air balloon? I did enjoy the sight though from the top of the theatre with a balloon adding color to an already awe-inspiring view! #happychild

I wonder how awesome the view of the travertines and the ruins of Hierapolis is on a hot air balloon? I did enjoy the sight though from the top of the theatre with a balloon adding color to an already awe-inspiring view! #happychild

Standing Strong!

Inside the walls of Selcuk's Fortress atop Ayasoluk Hill.

Inside the walls of Selcuk’s Fortress atop Ayasoluk Hill.

Hot Air Balloon In Kapadokya

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Blessings in Turkey!

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One of the nicest things about travelling is that you get to meet people that will bring you to a higher level of consciousness about the place you are currently in, become more appreciative of life and its many complexities, opens a window of other amazing places out there, leaving you in awe and your list twice or even thrice longer even before you head back for home.

While my last trip across Indo-China in September 2013 got me and my friend Dave exchange conversations with mostly students, sharing train, plane and bus rides amongst them, our trip to Turkey was with mostly good hearted fellas from probably the 40ish to the 60ish, enjoying their most deserved time after years of working and raising families and managing careers.

Among them whom we are so grateful to have met in Cappadocia were Joe, a former commercial pilot from Canada and his lovely wife Sue (originally from Australia).  They’re exploring Turkey on a cruise. It’s heart-warming seeing two souls remain sweet and caring with each other after years of being together.

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Then comes Birol, the Turkish guide whom we became friends with while munching Filipino crackers under the tall plants at the top of the travertines. He persuaded us to try paragliding, which would become an experience I am truly proud of doing! And that balloon ride over the majestic landscape of Cappadocia, I/we thank him too for that! And you know what I appreciated most about him, his being concerned about the welfare of every tourist that visits Turkey. He felt really bad about the incident we shared of this Turkish guy in Selcuk who splattered water on us as we passed by…intentionally…only because we declined his invitation to dance when we passed by the first time. Oh God bless his heart!

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That guy issuing tickets at the Selcuk train station is also someone I would like to acknowledge here.  My hats off for his quality service and for helping us find our hotel.

Of course, Tayfun and Ocan are also people we would like to thank for their kindness, making our short stay in Selcuk pleasant. They’re from Urkmez Hotel.

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The souvenir shop owner at Pamukkale shouldn’t also be missed here. We reached Pamukkale late at night and had no clue where our hotel is located.  Thanks to him for offering to call the hotel owner (who happens to be his neighbor) to come and pick us up from his shop.

Sinter Terrase where we stayed for 2 nights was like home away from home.  Thanks to Senay, Sami, Batuhan and the rest of the family.

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And who would forget Chef Ozi of Pumpkin Restaurant. Not only did he offer a sumptuous 4-course dinner he himself prepared in his charming stone-cave restaurant which he shared, ”…was a 150-year old house for the horse and he worked for a month trying to get that 5cm-thick black grime off the surface”, but his hospitality was much appreciated.  Not only that, he made sure that the camera we left at the restaurant would be returned to us. That “who could forget it?” sign behind the glass door with the camera placed on top of a chair is something we will forever be grateful for.  I highly recommend this place to friends and whoever is reading my story and will be visiting Goreme anytime soon. Pumpkin restaurant is open from 6:00 to 12 midnight, sometimes extends up to 1:00 in the morning depending on how busy the month is.  The time we were here wasn’t peak season and hence did not require any reservation. In fact dining here wasn’t planned. That evening we were looking for a place to have dinner and these quaint colorful pumpkin lamps (his hobby) led us to here. And who would have thought, we were the FIRST FILIPINOS to have dined here since it opened a year ago.20140916_213730

And of course, my paragliding pilot, Artoosh, for ensuring I experience one of the best flights of my life!

See, so our trip wasn’t just about the beautiful places. The locals and fellow tourists we met made our trip extra memorable.

Until next time. Remember, no matter what gets on the way, always keep the faith, follow your heart, stay safe and travel light! (“,)

Off to Bac Ha Sunday Market

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At home, market day is a Saturday. And having grown up at the trade center and used to sell ice candies on market days made by my mom, the market scenario is very interesting, especially at the start of the day when farmers from far flung barrios and vendors from nearby towns bring in their goods. My favorite part is before the clock strikes 8 in the morning when consumers arrive in throngs. The market place is teeming with fresh, organic produces from the barrios, poultries, woven products, wood carvings and of course the group of vendors selling ready-to-eat food, groceries, clothes, footwear, house and farming implements, toys and others. 

Why I made a long detail about it is because I was like transported to the 80’s market scenario of home when we got to Bac Ha for the Sunday market.  Local products on display were aplenty– cooked sticky rice in various colors and flavors; sacks of corn flour; wide range of spices, vegetables and livestock, gallons of local wine; and many stalls selling colorful traditional textiles and souvenir items. 

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But what made this market stand out from the rest of the markets I’ve been to is how the locals participating in this fair dress up. Market day here is a colorful parade of culture and tradition.  Everyone is dressed up in the local garb of the ethnic tribe they are affiliated with. Most of the locals I saw were from the Black H’mong and Flower H’mong tribes. Other tribes who participate here are Black Zao, Tay and Phu La.   It is an interesting trade fair and a happy family-bonding time for the locals, an experience worthy of an 8-hour journey on a sleeper train or bus from Hanoi and a 2-hour bus ride from Lao Cai.

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Oh did I mention that there were drinking sprees as well? Even how they cook meat is the same as home…big chunks, boiled. Had it not been for the chopsticks, the attires and the language, I would have thought it was in Ifugao or somewhere in the Cordillera Region in the Philippines.

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On a side trip to a village about 2 kilometers from the market, there were little boys playing wooden top. It’s cone-shaped, about 6 inches in length and 4 inches in diameter. To rotate it, a string tied to a stick is twirled around the top’s neck and whirled on the ground by throwing it straight and pulling the stick upwards.

Reminds me of our version, we call bow-wot. It is shorter and shaped like a badminton shuttlecock. To spin it, we tie one end of the string on our index or middle finger, twirl the string around the top’s neck, curl up the hand holding the top as we pull it behind, and hurl the top to the ground, pulling the string in the process. Just be careful, getting hit by this is really painful.

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