Menu Sidebar
Menu

A self-fulfilling prophecy

The taxi meter clearly flashed 50,000 Vietnamese Dong as we stopped in front of our hotel near the Tan Son Nhat International Airport. It was an hour or so after midnight and I still felt anxious about my previous cab experience in the same city three years ago. So when we exited the airport doors, I carefully picked a Vinnasun from the herd of taxis on queue because of its good reputation among travelers.

But my paranoia got the better of me after I assumed we were getting scammed. I handed the driver 500,000 VND instead and convinced myself that we got duped. After waking up, I looked out the window and saw how close the airport was to Erato Hotel.

Next time, I’ll go on foot.

The real Indochina experience

This would be my second time on the famous Banana Pancake Trail to see whether I’ve still got the competence for backpacking Southeast Asia despite having aged quite a bit. Over the next two weeks, I will be traversing Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand with some friends and it’s also my first time travelling with people using a different passport.

I’ve known Huifang since college, and while she carries a Chinese visa she’s been based in the Philippines for several years already. Her friend, Nova, is an Indonesian national who shares the same passion in apparel and they are both entrepreneurs in the retail industry.

Now I wonder if this makes my Indochina trip more authentic as I’m with an Indonesian and a Chinese.

Fifty shades of Pho

One by one I plucked the basil leaves off from its stem, spreading a pleasant aroma around our table, before sprinkling them on the bowl of noodles sitting before me. My hands trembled in excitement as I decorated the clear broth with slices of Thai chili peppers that would give the soup its subtle kick. And with the help of my fingers, the wedge of lime graciously offered its blood to the concoction. I waited such a long time for this.

Of all the reasons I had for coming back to Saigon, Vietnamese street food is my number one. And topping all those dishes is this bowl of chicken noodle soup.

Descendants of Busan

His face was all over South Korea. Probably on a 1:4 ratio with the ahjummas we saw in Busan and most on advertisements for Hite as pictured above.

Unlike most who come to this country from the Philippines, I was neither a fan of kpop (I know a couple of songs from Super Junior and DBSK back when they were q quintet) nor kdrama but I watched a lot of Running Man so I knew who Song Joong Ki was even before his Descendants of the Sun fame. But after spending a week in that country, I may have crossed over to the dark side.

Temporary homes: Star Hostel Taipei

Located just a few minutes away from Taipei Main Station, the one hostel I always recommend to friends visiting Taipei for a vacation is Star Hostel.

Reception is open for 24 hours a day and the accommodating staff were all knowledgeable about my questions on getting around the city. Right outside the building the street is generous with street food options. Free breakfast is included for all guests and the menu changes every day. But what really got me, aside from its minimalist and open interiors, was the free-flowing coffee and milk tea!

In my opinion, one of the best value for money places I’ve stayed at.

A rainbow connection

As much as I enjoy travelling solo, having friends around also has its perks.

These two goofballs have been my regular travel buddies for international trips. On the left is Toney, who works as a Multimedia Specialist for Hyundai Philippines. Next to him is Renz, an Air Traffic Controller based in Tacloban City. Together we make a complete racket wherever we go so it was only apt that we got stuck with each other as we took the 2-hour train ride to Taichung to check out the Rainbow Village. Our personalities may be from different sides of a color wheel but we share a common interest for travel.

Tokyo nights

On my last evening, I went up to the sky deck of Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills to see a 360 degree view of Tokyo. On one side, the Tokyo Tower stood as the city’s beacon of light. And on the other, I spotted the silhouette of the great Mt. Fuji peacefully resting while the sun sets behind him. I thought it was the most fitting sight to cap off my final night in Japan.

Once upon a time in Osaka

Choosing which East Asian country to cross off from my list first was a no-brainer. Ever since I saw an episode of ‘Oh Tokyo‘ on local television when I was a little boy, Japan has been my number one pick. So the plan was to go big and bold. It had to be 15 full days. And I had to do it alone.

I started my first day in Osaka, which is currently my favorite city in Japan because it’s not as crazy and confusing like Tokyo and not too traditional and touristy like Kyoto. It’s just right in the middle.

That night, I walked from my hostel near Nishi-Nagahori to Dotonbori. I was as happy as the Glico Man!

Sunrise over Borobudur

After a quick ten minute trek to the top of Setumbu Hill, Kai and I slowly marched towards the view deck where fellow spectators quietly awaited the first light of day. Huffing and puffing from exhaustion (I wasn’t quite prepared for an early morning hike), I planted my feet on a spot and looked out to the horizon for the curtain of clouds and dust to subside as the sun started to rise.

What we witnessed was a morning worth waking up to (even if it was at such an ungodly hour of 3:00 AM). As light peeked through the clouds it slowly bathed everything it touched with gold as the silhouette of trees and the famed stupas of Candi Borobudur can be seen in the distance. Even farther away, Mt. Merapi subtly made its presence felt.

Hold back the river

We learn so much from our losses. Things have been rough and I’ve lost several battles to the point of almost giving up in the war. But despite having low morale, it was important to keep watch for a silver lining.

It brought me back to the afternoon before our flight out of Cambodia. Alone, I walked the stretch of Pokambor Avenue by the side of Siem Reap River. Back then I was clueless on where my life was heading. But I decided to just keep treading the beaten path.

As this quarter ends with disappointments, at least I finally have a clear direction on where I need to go.

Older Posts

Stories

Every photograph tells a story