Sunday, September 20, 2015

A Great Day :D

I had another really interesting day today about my identity haha.  This sort of thing really amuses me and makes me smile!

So I had an early day today, because I had an appointment with the hairdresser at 9AM (i know), because it's time to dye.  My white hairs were sticking out and since I am on my last day of recovery here in Turin, I've decided to finally do it.  So the hairdresser colored my dark brown hair back to black (to my surprise), I guess speaking in Spanish to an Italian doesn't really work.  Anyway, I don't look hideous, so I can live with it.

Today, I also bought a pair of new shoes! Nike Roche Run!  The almost-new ones that I brought with me here is totally tattered and worn out from all the walking I have been doing here in Europe.  So I thought after being sick a few days and not being able to see Cinque Terre (excuses,excuses hehe) that I deserved a beautiful treat! jajang!

my beautiful new Roche Runs!
So today was the first day that I actually strolled around the city by myself.  Walking it today was like looking at a familiar street with new pair of eyes.

The display outside of this store gave me the impression that they were selling wholesale salon stuff because they had hair dyes, shampoos, conditioners, and wigs; but today I was curious enough to take a closer look at the display and saw Ligo Sardines, and I was like wow, Ligo? Curious, I finally went in.

As I entered I realized that the owners were Chinese (as usual haha).  I saw some African people buying cart loads of stuff obviously from home which made me think, this could be like a specialty local store that cater to immigrants (smart!).  As I turn to the next isle, my eyes landed on something familiar, what the?! what grocery is this?  Am I back in the Philippines?  Boy Bawang, Nagaraya, V-Cut, Clover Chips, Oishi Prawn Cracker, Piattos, Chippy, Silverswan Soy Sauce, Datu Puti, it was ridiculous!  It has more stocks than the nearby sari-sari (mini convenience) store near our house! I walked further, Bihon, Toyomansi, Misua, Lucky Me Pansit Canton and my favorite pansit canton, Payless Xtra Big!  OMG! haha I was just thinking about eating this a few weeks ago because this is our regular merienda (afternoon snack) in our office.

I remembered that I do not have enough pasalubongs to give to the friends I'm meeting anymore and so I bought a bunch of Nagarayas and Boy Bawangs and then bought 2 Payless Xtra Big to eat.  As I was walking towards the cashier, I hear some Tagalog and ran into a Filipina who, of course, recognized me as a Filipino based on the products that I hoarded!  She smiled and me and I said, "ANG SAYA DITO!" haha She laughed.

me looking Filipino haha
I walked out of the store with my purchases and was still carrying my old pair of Roche Runs and I know I wouldn't want to be carrying a useless pair of shoes with me; I had the intention of donating it to a church or a homeless person.  Outside the store there were 3 stalls that looked like they were selling old clothes but instead there was a sign that says "TUTTO LIBERO".  I walked up to the woman and asked if all of it were free and she said yes, and I asked if I could donate a pair of shoes and she also happily said yes and accepted my worn out Nike!  How awesome.

Happily walking away, I noticed another store just a block away and entered it.  It was like an everything-you-might-need store.  Went around, grabbed a few things and went to the counter, the owners were Chinese (as usual haha) and calculated everything and said, "si kuai san shi" (4.30).  Haha which then I took out the exact change.  I didn't even bother asking them how they knew that I spoke Chinese haha.  It amused me again and reminded me of my experience in Madrid!

What a great day I had today! :D

Friday, September 18, 2015

My Home in Turin

One of the worst things that can happen to you when you travel is to get sick.  I have been on the road for almost 2 months now and I still have so much to see.

I ended my trip in Spain almost a week ago, after spending almost a month there.  During my trip in Barcelona, on one of the Sandeman free tours I attended, I met a wonderful couple Natalie and Pedro.  We actually didn't talk to each other the first time we met, we only spoke to each other when we attended a Gaudi tour 2 days later.

I am a great believer of destiny.  It does not only apply to lovers, but also to your favorite doctor, to the right dentist, to an inspiring professor, awesome employees or boss, but most especially to great friends.  To state the obvious, Natalie and Pedro and I hit it off once we started talking.  We regretted that we should've talked to each other the first time we met and we could've had more time to spend together.  I then of course promoted Philippine tourism, invited them to come to the Philippines and assured them that they will enjoy their time there.  In return, they invited me to the city they are living in, Turin!  Knowing that I was heading to Italy right after Spain.  We had to say goodbye but promised to keep in touch via Facebook.

As I was planning my trip to Italy, I seriously considered taking up Natalie's invitation to come see them in Turin.  Turin was not even part of my original itinerary but what better way to start a country with familiar faces?

I finally arrived Turin, I got a personal guide who introduced me to the city and the best lasagna and pizza OF MY LIFE (so far, this is my first Italian city afterall).  Got on a free City Sightseeing Bus Tour, spent hours walking and tasting different gelatos around the city, drank wine,  listened to choirs, tasted a traditional tiramisu while weather was cooperating well with me.

ice cream with Kimani their dog

City Sightseeing with Pedro

pigging out!
On my last night before I leave for Cinque Terre, we were supposed to go out and have some ice cream but I felt a little bit of a fever coming over me.  I said I will take a paracetamol and go to sleep and if I don't feel good in the morning, then I'll stay a day more in Turin.  Morning came, drugged, I felt ok, proceeded to head to La Spezia.  By the time I got there, I was wearing a jacket in a perfectly sunny day; and when I arrived my hostel, I couldn't move due to fatigue, drinking water was like swallowing needles, and I was shivering in my hostel dormitory bed.  It was not a good feeling.  I felt home sick and talked to my sister for 2 hours just to feel better along with a few more paracetamols.

My sister and I discussed that if I didn't feel better tomorrow morning, I should just go to a bigger city and go to a hospital and have my throat checked.  My choices were either to go to Florence or go back to Turin.  I sent Natalie a message about being sick and if it were ok that I came back to stay with her and Pedro and if she could accompany me to the doctor; with no hesitation, welcomed me back to their home.

Needless to say, I did not see Cinque Terre.  This is what I saw:

Ostello Tramonti, my hostel up the mountain

Ostello Tramonti Parking Lot
I am such a baby.  I am the youngest of 4 sisters, have always been babied by my family especially when I'm sick and that has made it difficult for me to be alone when sick.  So coming back to Natalie and Pedro's house was like coming back home.  I expected to just have a friend who could help me translate my visit to the doctor but I got family instead!

Natalie went to doctor with me, bought my medicine with me, cooked for me (pumkin soup yum!), fixed my bed, made me ginger lemon tea and just totally took care of me.  I am so grateful!  After being a zombie for the past 4 days, this is the first time that I am actually functioning without paracetamol.  Drinking water doesn't feel as bad as swallowing needles anymore, but more like swallowing fish bones now. haha.  Bottomline is, I am feeling better.

I am now glad that the only thing I have to think about now is where I should go next, Rome or Florence? :)

Saturday, August 29, 2015

La Tomatina Experience

La Tomatina is a world famous festival in Spain that has throwing tomatoes as its main event. It's not celebration of saint nor thanksgiving to anything, but it has a long history and became an official festival in 1957 according to the La Tomatina info sheet. However,

the first ever fight began in 1945 so this year 2015 marks the 70th Anniversary of this crazy festival. I'm ecstatic to be part of this huge event. I've known of it since I was little and have made sure that my first time in Europe includes the La Tomatina festival.


I attended the event with my equally crazy friend Anthony Z. We bought our VIP tickets (30euros) a month and half in advance to ensure our slots in the event which include bus transfers to and from Valencia and a La Tomatina shirt. If you want to DIY, you can take the train and the cost to get in La Tomatina is only 10euros. This is just to limit the number of participants as crowd can get uncontrollable resulting in people getting hurt.  

Dress for Success

We started the day wearing brand new white t-shirts, shorts and pair of shoes we were willing to throw out after. We did not bring any bag that could get lost so we only brought basic items such as camera, phone, and some money. Of course you would want to bring waterproof camera and phone or pouches that protect them. I thought an underwater with zipper would be perfect to keep money safe and close.

Pretty in Pink

I don't know where his shirt went

The Road to La Tomatina

Our day started at 7am getting ourselves to the meeting place in Valencia where we were issued VIP wristbands and official event shirts. The bus ride to Buñol took 40 minutes.

When we first got to Buñol at 9am, nothing is happening but we were starving so we walked around to grab some eats.

Following the crowd, we found ourselves in the center of town.  Here we saw wooden panels and nets, apparent that they're related to what's going to happen soon. People began to fill up on the street and we can feel the excitement.

I think most of the people are first timers like us. While we know what the main event is going to be like, based on videos and photos on the internet, we really had no idea how it's going to commence.

The locals are having fun watching us from their roof top and balcony. They sprayed water and the crowd cheered. An then the first tomato was tossed and the people went wild. A firecracker popped marking the start and soon tomatoes begin to fly from all directions!

The Messier the Better

There were 5 "downloading" areas in town, and here comes along the first truck! The crowd gone ballistic! First tomato hits me on my shoulder, it was cold! The tomatoes must have been sitting in the truck overnight because it was cold last night.  Second one hits me straight on my forehead, bull's eye! It was a new tomato so it hurts!!!  I'm glad that it didn't leave a mark.

Second truck comes along with more tomatoes!!! It began to feel surreal! SO MUCH TOMATOES!!! I've literally never seen so many tomatoes in my life.

Then there's the third, fourth, and fifth truck! We were on the 4th downloading area, meaning the trucks will be 25% full when it comes to us. They'd tilt the truck bed and unload the content on to the people!!! It's like tidal wave of tomatoes falling on you. The street is flooded with ankle deep of tomato soup!

Food Fight!

It doesn't take long for proceedings to become hectic, and every reveller is covered from head to toe in mushed up tomatoes. There are no winners here in La Tomatina, though the consensus is the filthier you are, the more fun you had.

After all the tomatoes are dumped in the street and people are almost swimming in it. We began to pick tomatoes from the flood of tomatoes and throw at each other. The came from all sides and so you stopped ducking and just throw as much as you can at anyone that comes to your view!

Anthony found 2 cups for us and we'd scoop a cup of tomato sauce into their shorts and shirts!!! hahaha

Yummy to Yucky

The first tomato that hits you is delicious (albeit painful)!  I'd licked my lips because the tomatoes were so juicy and fresh. But then you see people swimming in these tomatoes and shoes floating and maybe people even peeing on it! So you remind yourself to stop licking. Yuck!

Ole! Ole! Ole!

There is a feeling of utmost liberation amidst this festival. You can do anything! Run into the tomato flood, smudge someone's face with tomato sauce, scream, shout, dance your heart out. Release all the negativity and inner demon!

We came with googles to protect our eyes, but I can tell you that you should junk this idea as it's a waste of money and effort. The tomatoes will sting, but it's impossible to hang on to your googles.

All it took is One Hour

The La Tomatina event lasted for one hour. I know you may think, that one hour is such a short time for a festival and that you've been waiting all your life and half your life savings to come to this festival for a measly hour?

But believe me when I say, an hour long of tomato fight is enough! Anthony and I have lasted for 40 minutes, which is actually longer than most people.

A firecracker is fired to mark the end of the event.

By this time you will see shoes and shirts everywhere, tomato sauce on walls and street signs, and needles to say, in every single crevices of our bodies.

The tomatoes sting your eye because they are acidic, but the locals prepared water hoses to shower us with water from their balcony. Senor! Senor! Agua por favor, then he pointed the hose to us to wash our faces. 

We walked to a nearby river to clean up more. How cool is it? Then we proudly put on our official La Tomatina tshirt.

The next part of the ordeal was getting the tomato chunks our of my hair.  No wonder other people had shower caps on, but then again, even if I knew that my hair would look like someone vomited on it, I still wouldn't have put on a cap because the more you're conscious the less fun you'll have!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Being a Filipino and a Chinese in Madrid

I have been in Madrid for exactly 2 hours and 4 minutes and yet I have been overwhelmed with so much thoughts and emotions.  My flight arrived at 11PM and baggage did not come out 30 minutes later, thankfully there is always free wifi in the airports,  so I google mapped how to get to my hostel, which is in the city center.

I go to the ticket booth, and as usual, even if the menu is in English, you can never understand it the first time you use it.  I eventually managed to get a ticket and tried to use my never-been-used Spanish on a man who was working at the train, asking whether or not the directions I got from the internet was correct.  After 4 unsuccessful sentences, he referred me to a woman who spoke English that eventually pointed me to the right way.

I understand train station maps and do not have a hard time navigating the subways.  As I reached my second train, knowing that I need to change to another train, a man who was trying to be "helpful" told me that the train ends at that station where it stopped.  He was assuming, that I was Chinese holding a metro map and fresh off the airport, that I did not speak any Spanish.  He said I have to get down at this station because it is the last stop and that I can walk to my destination.  I instantly felt and knew he was lying when I saw other passengers did not get off the train (not to mention I did not hear any advisory).  So I got back to the train and moved on with my journey.

It's so unbelievable I thought, is this how dangerous my travel around Spain is going to be?  That within an hour outside the airport, someone was already trying to scam me?  As I changed to the next train, I spot 2 Filipinos seated and speaking in Tagalog and I immediately felt safer, knowing that once I spoke in Tagalog, any Filipino will come and help me if I were in trouble. I was trying to make eye contact, hoping that they would talk to me but they will never recognize and see me as a Filipino.  I thought it was kinda sad when you feel this "connection" and the other party does not realize it.  I was half expecting a "Pinay?" or "kababayan?" but of course, my Chinese features get in the way haha.

So I get off the train, not 100% positive that the woman from the station sent me to the right place but I wasn't worried or scared because when I came out of the train station, there were even more Filipino people, and I could immediately spot them with the kind of clothes they wear, the type of shoes, etc. (and of course, overhearing conversations).  It could be a talent, because I can tell the difference between Koreans, Japanese and Chinese people too, just by looking at their clothes and shoes.  Anyway, I eneded up asking a train personnel who confirmed that I was where I wanted to be.

The walk from the station to my hostel is about 250m or 5-minute walk.  I came out and heard people cheering at a street performer, as I walked closer to check it out, I heard Oppa Gangnam Style!  I was so excited haha and I peeked and saw that the dancer asked 5 random Asian men they could pull from the crowd to dance Oppa Gangnam Style haha so funny.

As I walked further down, I saw Japanese restaurants and I felt some feeling of "home" to be seeing a little bit more familiar food to me.  Although I've enjoyed everything that I have eaten in Europe so far, you can't help but miss the food you eat back home; be it Filipino adobo, Chinese hakaw shrimp dumpling, Japanese Ramen or Korean bibimbap!  Yum.

Tired, I realized I haven't drank a single drop of water for almost 3 hours and so I headed into a 24 hour store. I saw a bunch of teenagers that were being ushered out by a Chinese woman (owner). I got a bottle of water and went to pay.  The woman spoke to me in her Chinese Spanish, telling me that she saw the kid was putting a can of beer into his pocket and so she just asked them to leave because they were trouble. I continued to reply to her in Spanish until I finally asked her "eres China?" (are you Chinese?) and she said, "si, soy China" (yes, I'm Chinese), and I said "yo tambien, China" (I am Chinese too) haha. and she said to me in Chinese, 你是中國人? (you're Chinese!) and I said, 我是菲律賓華僑 (I am Filipino-Chinese!) OHHH! and the conversation went on in Chinese and telling me again how kids were trying to steal beer and causing trouble and that someone took a plate of sushi and ate it then just left without paying. We did some small talk she asked me if I were traveling and I asked about safety in Madrid and she said it's not that bad. She then recommended me to try the sushi, she said it's really good. So I got a pack of California Maki (yum! with avocados instead of mangoes) for €6.50 and she told me, ok, I give discount for you Chinese, only €5 hahaha! So cool.  Side note, when I was in Tomar, Portugal, I went into a store and saw a sweater that I liked, it was €12.  When I was about to pay, I saw a Chinese woman sitting at the counter, watching a Chinese soap opera, and when she told me "doce euros," I said 可以 €10嗎? haha she agreed.

So I was so happy, walking, just a few steps away from the hostel, with Cali Maki in my bag as I checked in the hotel I smell the fresh sheets and towels, I was so excited to rest.  I am so happy that I didn't mind that the room was a bit hot and did not have an electric fan around.  I was so excited to write my emotions down into this blog that it didn't matter and I opened the window.  As I took out my laptop, and plugging it in, guess what I saw??!!  AN AIRCON REMOTE CONTROL!!! OMG!!!  I totally forgot that I booked an airconditioned room, and when I looked up, I HAVE A TV TOO!! hahaha I almost cried hahaha.

Just a few hours in and Madrid has already given me so much emotions, I can't wait for the next few days! :D

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

My Route Around Europe

It's true, 3 months is a lot of time, people assume that I'd be able to go to every country in Europe in 3 months.  I could, but I won't.  I choose to travel slow.  I don't want my trip to become a hop-on-hop-off tour.  I am not just after the photos, I wanna be there and pretend that I live there even just for a few days.

I like it that when I stay long in a place that I get to be familiar with the area, know my way around the streets without staring at my google maps, or know where a good reliable cheap restaurant is.

I remember when I was in Mexico DF and I was staying at this hostel right beside the Cathedral.  I wake up everyday for a week with this view outside my window.

This is why I love staying in hostels, the area is almost always in the dead center, it's cheap, and it has free wifi!  Hostel in the center is a big plus for me, especially if it is right beside an unmissable landmark, I have such bad sense of direction that I'm glad I started traveling after GPS became so common.

I digress, anyway, here is my planned itinerary as of yesterday July 17, 2015 5:02PM.  I change my plans so often, you will not believe.  It changes every time I talk to someone, or read and watched something.

I planned my trip using Excel, first plotting the number of days, then the cities I want to go to with the corresponding number of days, and move it around like a jigsaw puzzle until it makes sense.  

I've plotted my trip to have a visual, and here is what it looks like:

2 days to go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

My Realistic Packing List

What to pack? The eternal dilemma of what to pack? 

I wrote a post about what I packed during my US and Mexico trip and I have yet to update you about that list.  Well, I brought too much!  According to my list, I brought with me 5 pairs of shoes (rubber shoes, boots, ballet flats, black pumps, slippers); brought 3 too many jackets, forgot to bring a towel, a swimsuit, and I only had  1 short sleeved shirt for sleeping (expecting it would be Autumn everywhere).

Just a few days into my travel in New York, I realized that I wasn't using much of the other stuff that I bought.  So along with my shopping from the outlet, I sent a few pairs of shoes and my jackets back home in a balikbayan box. 

What was wrong with my packing list was, I was packing with only fashionable New York in mind.  I wanted to look good when I walked along Fifth Avenue, or feel like Carrie Bradshaw when I sip a cosmopolitan.  In reality, wind wasn't blowing my hair or skirt while I strut along scaffolding-filled Fifth Avenue.

This time, I have to be true to myself and set a realistic packing list. I won't bring what I won't wear in Manila. I'm a lazy person, the wash-and-wear type.  I wear jeans and tshirt everyday with occasional dresses every other weekends.  I don't put on necklaces because I get stiff necks, nor do I like thinking about what I'm going to wear.  I don't wear a lot of make up, wear high heels for more than 2 hours, nor drink cocktails! I prefer beer.

With this thought in mind, let me present to you my updated *realistic* packing list for Europe:

2 pants (black and blue denim skinny jeans)

2 pairs of shorts (denim, sleeping shorts)
2 pairs of shoes (Roche run, skull slip ons)
1 pair of slippers
2 jackets (UNIQLO Down feather jacket, 1 rain jacket)
1 L/S shirts
2 L/S tshirts

3 S/S tshirts
2 S/L button down blouse
3 dresses (a L/S, S/S, lounging)
2 scarves

1 bandana
1 swimwear
5 pairs of socks
12 miscellaneous underwears
1 Sea to Summit towel

1 iPhone 6 (for roaming and Camera)

1 waterproof case
1 HTC M8 (open line)
1 11000 mAh Power Pack
1 Sony Smartwatch 3
1 numeral padlock for hostels
1 cord lock for lugguage

1 Rayban shades


Nu Skin Enchancer

Benzoyle Peroxide
Ping On (my ever reliable ointment)

Make Up
CC Cream
Face powder
Eyebrow Cream
Blush on
Lip Balm

Toiletries + Make Up
bar of soap
face wash, fem wash
nail cutter & nipper
sun screen for face

Air tickets (printed and e-copies)
Driver’s License
Bank Card
Credit Cards

9 days to go!!!!!!!! OMG... *vomit*

Monday, July 6, 2015

Freedom in Traveling Solo

After I tell people that I am going on my grand European trip, the next question almost always is, "who are you going with?"

People always seem to relate traveling alone to being sad.  Truth to be told, you are actually never alone when you are traveling solo. Being alone makes you more open to talk to people and to new adventures that it’ll take you. Like that time I was in Uxmal, at the top of the pyramid and minding my own business;  I met someone who turned out to be a soldier in the Mexican army. Long story short, I ended up riding the Mexcian army bus back to the city with them! Met their lieutenant, shown around the army camp, and got to see a bomb-sniffing dog show.

Sure, traveling solo sometimes make me think of my family, it makes me wish that they were there with me! I remember feeling like this when I was in New York hoping so bad to call out my sister Girlie’s name or nudge her to show her something. I would have to admit, in moments like those, it sucked a little bit. 

Nonetheless, I guess one of the best things about traveling alone is the freedom. Nobody tells me what to do, where to go, or when to do it! I don’t have to wake up to get to a bus for a tour, I don’t need to go to the Statue of Liberty if I don’t feel like seeing it, I don’t need to wait for anyone else when I’m ready to go, and I can: wait in line for 3 hours for the best pork of my life, drink mojitos at 11 in the morning or eat tacos for 5 consecutive days, if i wanted to.

So much things to do!!!  omg 16 days to go!

Monday, June 29, 2015

When I go to Europe

Europe has always been on top of my bucket list, how could it not be?  I've seen thousands of pictures from my sister Lilliane’s travels and photos on my news feed, everyone else seem to have already been to Europe but me. This map of Europe has served as my desktop since the end of 2013.  Stars have aligned for me and after 2 years of planning, Europe, here I come.
I have already gotten my visa from the French Embassy and have already purchased my ticket for my grand Euro trip.  The reality of my travel pushing thru did not sink in because for the past two months, I have been spending all of my time with my sister Pincky and my niblings who were visiting from Japan. 

I have done a skeletal plan of my 12 week long trip that is going to cover a good amount of countries in Europe.  Ideally, IMO, the best way to travel is to have a loose plan and then just book the tickets as I go along. It is good to plan ahead for sure, but you’ll never know what’s going to happen in between. The dilemma of wanting to stay longer in one place or needing to catch the plane you booked earlier is one of the most dreadful feeling a traveler could ever experience.

I got so many ideas of things to do other than the usual tourist route and see the amazing architectures.  I cannot wait to dine in cafes in Paris, partake in the biggest tomato fight in Buñol, eat gelato and pizza in Italy everyday, speak Spanish in Spain, drink wine in France, beer in Germany, eat chocolates in Belgium, and do some stuff in Amsterdam.

photo credit
Here I am now, a week since my sister left and I CANNOT contain my excitement!!! Everytime I think of my trip my heart pounds half a beat faster and I get extreme butterflies in my stomach. I am less than a month away until I leave for my grand trip and… pardon me as I puke my excitement out.