This is late for a year end post. But, what the heck. I am always late here.
It was the year i live the dream, my dream. well, i don’t have the grandest dreams.
this year, i lived in my small bubble. shyed away from any negativities. no drama. i did work hard. and, damn it, did play real hard.
i shot more than 100 jobs in asia, europe and south america. yes, i do keep a job.
i accomplished my dream adventures. i took that Trans Siberian Rail. Mountain biked my way down that 40 mile Bolivia’s Death Road( El Camino de la Muerte). Revisited India. And, Patagonia! Ooooh Patagonia!
and all those adventures in between which are equally awesome- hiked rainbow mountain, great wall( jiankou), paraglided in medellin, got my proper scare in rio, and loads more. i have a crappy memory.
and to all the people i met from work and on the road, grateful, they made the year even more awesome.
life was euphoric in 2016.
everything that will happen from here on out, will be a bonus. =)
Bo said whenever he wears that cow costume, people he bump into, or anyone who sees him, never fail to smile. So on that day when we hit the streets to take photos in Santiniketan, he said he had to wear it.
And we did get a lot of happy portraits. Clever move.
sun was out. scorching. its rays were piercing.
on top of the jeepney, our only aid in surviving the sweltering heat was a bottle of emperador. fight fire with fire. we tanked up on alcohol with hopes that it will be enough to numb our senses from the punishing sun. somehow it did to a certain extent.
our jeepney hit the road around 8am. after 30 minutes, we started the ascent. the plains on the background drifted and gave way to hills and mountains. the ascend was gradual and so was the width of the road. from 2 lanes to, barely, 1. and, its up there in the mountains.
definitely, its not a cruise for the faint of heart. the dizzying heights can surely send chills. it is after all literally and figuratively a highway.
of course, the journey was not all that bad. though the sun and road conditions were not our side, the splendour of nature was.
it was ranges of mountains in all four horizons. the silhouettes of tree-cladded mountains, in all shades of green, was sheer sexy.
it was a 12-hour ride from Manila to Tabuk; roughly a 3-hour ride from Tabuk to Buscalan. the home of the Last Mambabatok and the place where our group TREK( TRails to Empower Kids) was set to give aid and smiles. barangay Buscalan/Loccong was the destination.
TREK is a non-profit organization, established by a group of mountaineering friends, that aims to give support to far-flung communities.
this is my feeble and long-overdue attempt as a Kalinga to learn more about Kalinga. i was born and raised in Tabuk which is the capital of the province but i failed to explore further than the capital’s borders. as a child who grew up around tribal wars and conflicts, it was unconsciously instilled in me about the vulnerability of the place.
the truth is traveling around my hometown had always been at the back of my head. but, somehow, something would always come and messed things up.
it was mid afternoon when we reached the end of the road for our truck. we started the 1-hour trek. the trail was fairly easy. some parts were almost too shallow even for one person passing. one side you hug the mountain; other side a ravine. and the awesome scenery was a dangerous distraction.
we stopped by Buscalan. distributed supplies. peeked at the legendary Whang-Od working and got scheduled.
we continued our hike to Loccong. it started to drizzle. it was an assault ascend to the top. we treaded through terraces which were then sleepery. the drizzle turned to a full-on rain.
with soak wet clothes, we crawled the final stretch- and so did darkness. it was nightfall when we arrived at the elementary school, our home for the night.
the temperature dropped. it was lightly cold. the water though was freezing. the supposedly relaxing shower turned to what felt like an ALS ice bucket challenge. the first pour of water almost sent me running out butt naked.
the night was spent on classic-Kalinga pinikpikan, warm beer and tribal dancing. the night was dark, sans electricity.
morning broke and the sleepy village came alive. the sky was lovely with orange streaks piercing through the clouds. the morning sun casted rays to golden rice terraces and the endless verdant greens. the air was chilly and fresh. it was a glorious august morning. Loccong is sweetly tucked in the middle of virgin cordilleran mountains.
the day went on with TREK activites and the tattoo session with Whang-od.
blood on my lower left tattoo-beaten arm gushed as the rain poured.
it was late afternoon when we bade goodbye to Buscalan. rain continued to rush, and so did we. i wore cotton shirt and running shoes, both then were soaked. it was a stupid idea really. sneakers almost whacked out. apparently i need to get new shoes at Zalora once i get home.
the alcohol did numb my senses when we toploaded our way to Buscalan that morning. to a certain extent. a few days after the trip, now in Manila, my skin was still sore. two weeks after and it was still peeling.
my first attempt in seeing more of Kalinga left me 5 shades darker, sense of heritage 5 degrees richer. it was a good trip. long overdue but great, nonetheless.
Whang-Od is dubbed as the Last Mambabatok. Hand Tap tattoo artist. She uses soot as ink and citrus thorn as needle. This practice has been done since the olden times. It was a scared tradition save for their tribal heroes. A mark for bravery.
This is one of the photos i took while waiting in line to be inked by the legendary Whang-Od.
Yes. It is painful. =) *Aug 2014, Tinglayan, Kalinga
I went back to the hostel 30mins before the scheduled bus pick-up time so i can take a shower and share one more round of beer with my swedish triad crew Peter, Jakob and Max. only to find out that the bus was ready to go, ahead of time. i asked if i can pull a 3minute quick shower( its a looong 12-hour bus ride i wanted to be fresh, clean and comfortable the least,ok don’t judge me if my idea of fresh and clean is a 3minute shower). but the driver said NO, we have to go.
so, with sweat from whole day of biking under the sun and some salt particles left on my hair/skin from swimming in the beach, i grabbed my backpack and hopped into the sleeper bus.
its time to leave the swedish triad in Hoi An and head to the Dustland Fairytale that is Mui Ne. at 6pm, we hit the road. *** High-Fiving with new buds
in the bus i met Maggie & Adrian and Manfred- the german franks and the spanish bread meet pinoy pandesal.
the scenery in the bus window was totally changed. it looked like a different country altogether. from the thick forest mountains of Dalat to the dry deserted dunes of Phan Tiet. from the nippy chill to humid, warm atmosphere.
i am in sheer amazement of how varied Vietnam’s topography. theres just no two place(at least to where I’ve been)similar landscape-wise. Sapa is mountainous and all but not a tad similar to Dalat.
sun was up. mid day. the thousands of pine trees that divides the highway and the beach were motionless. no wind from the sea. tall pine trees were as still as a lampost.
bus was at least faster than the ones i took in Northern Vietnam. but of course it was still slow when it comes to Negros’ Ceres bus lines standards.
*** High-Rolling in Mui Ne
How does Lacoste for Dinner sounds like? high-rolling, eh? i know its hard to picture that. me and high rolling just can not belong to one sentence. but this is a fairytale.
our accommodation was a PRIVATE room. on the topmost floor, make that a penthouse. and… and… we had Lacoste for late-dinner. posers wear that….us, it was our entree for dinner that night. juicy and tender. soft to the bite. almost-melt-in-your-mouth so unreptile-ish of it.
maybe, its the wagyu of the crocodile world. now thats high-rolling, right?
after dinner, we headed to this bar to taste its premium offering which happened to be a draft beer; San Miguel. the place was neat, a sports bar by the beach. it was a pleasant surprise to learn that they serve San Miguel. and it was the priciest among their beers. which my latino friend insisted that it is a spanish import. he was so damn sure about it that even me who grew up on this beer made me harbour second-thoughts(thanks to google, i, now, know it is a Philipine brand).
*** High-Balling in Mui Ne
we rented motorcycles to better explore this vast deserted plain.
a hearty serving of Pho was obligatory before we headed out. so a healthy, filling and cheap at 20k dongs was the best way that kickstarted our long day of dustland adventure.
the Fishing Village harbor is along Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street or Ham Dien; which is pretty much the highway where all the happenings in town..errr.. happens. Its a long stretch where the hostels & hotels and bars are located. It is on the northern part of Mui Ne bay. it was dotted with hundreds of traditional colourful wood vessels which were moored at the bay. it was a splendid view. it reminded me of old quaint european fishing villages( as per Game of Thrones)- very picturesque.
it was a hot-bike-ride(literally) going to the white dunes. its a little far from the town center. but the roads were well-paved and the view was scenic. the endless sand banks on the left and the infinite sea on the right.
we had so much fun running around and tripping down foolishly in the dunes. we were like hansels and gretel left in the house of sweets, fun. the sweltering heat was only noticed when our skins started to turn as red as the Vietnam flag. the view of the sea from afar was equally stunning.
we made several stops on our way back to Ham Dien. rock island. fairy stream, red dunes etc.
at night, we capped off the day’s oppressive heat with cool big slices of watermelon, the best watermelon. it was refreshing. nights were usually spent on the sports bar by the beach over beers and billiard games.
*** High-Flying in Mui Ne
Mui Ne is the watersports capital of Vietnam. para-sailing and windsurfing can be a wise alternative when the sun rays get really harsh for biking to the dunes.
there is nothing extra-ordinary about the beach but it does the trick. on a blue-skyed day when roaming around and playing watersports become too hot(literally) to handle; grabbing a good book and a cold beer on the beach can be a delightful option.
*** Dustland Fairytale
these famed dunes and harbor are dreamy and stunning. they make striking subjects for photographs. I’m sure even non-photography enthusiasts would admire the lovely landscapes and seascapes.
in this fairytale, there is also a witch. the witch was the girl in Hoi An who sold us bus tickets for HoiAn-NhaTrang & MuiNe-Saigon(HoChiMinh). we paid for sleeper bus rates but she tricked us by issuing ordinary bus tickets as per advised by the booking office in Mui Ne. information on the tickets were in Vietnamese. we were subjected for extra dongs to upgrade for sleeper. witch bitch.
and just like any fairytale, theres a prince -charming and thats me( lol).
sharing the adventure with these nomads made the this trip more fun. as the maxim goes: we all start as strangers. later on the trip, me and the spanish bread travelled south to Saigon then east to ChauDoc etc etc then Bangkok. til he eventually visited Manila. the german franks still keep in touch. this dustland story and just like all the other fairytales, it ended up with a happily-ever-after.
*dustland fairytale is a song from The Killers. fave band.
yes, i am a big fan of Ethan Hawke’s “Before” series. and, i guess, i experienced my own version of it. the night i bumped into the sexiest Thai girl i ever met in this City of Angels.
the day before…
the mid-day buzz of this urban jungle that is Bangkok woke me up. and with the sweltering heat of the summer sun, i woke up with sweat-soaked shirt.
clock ticked a few minutes after 12. high noon. my head was still buzzed from the alcohol binge at PostBar the night before, my go-to place in Bangkok for hang out. it was quite a fun night. food was flowing and it was free. it sure is true that best things in life are free. lol. it was the birthday of one of the bar’s patrons and he brought in some serious thai dishes. it was free for all. nothing beats spicy food and cold beer. to sum it all up, it was an awesOOOme night.
afternoon was spent contemplating on whether i should go out and see as much of Bangkok as i can since it was my last day in the city or should i just keep it down-low. i opted for the latter and did some writing, just chilled-out and relaxed in the apartment.
all the afternoon heat was gone by night time. i knew i can not pass on the chance of dropping-by PostBar on my last night so i pulled my ass off and headed out. i intended to just dropby and finish 1 beer as i have an early trip, and its a long 13-hour ride. i took the 505 bus to Samsen rd.
the night before…
i approached the bar and ordered a big bottle of Chang. a girl across the bar caught my eyes. she wore casual clothes and a megawatt smile… and with that thai-sun-kissed skin… she glowed.
she had her hair down and was clearly enjoying the lazy sunday evening with her friends which occasionally broke to burst of laughters every so often.
the bar was scarcely filled. i chatted with two of the owners and other regulars. i frequented this watering hole in the last one and a half months so i knew and became friends with a couple of hippies here. *separate post for PostBar.
the sun-kissed girl would occasionally go and sit outside for a smoke.
i was sitted outside with Pul when she went out again. i striked a conversation with her- a quick one- then we headed back inside to our respective tables.
i knew there was something in that first dialogue. so i waited, spotted and joined her next time she went out for a smoke. we talked, and talked. she did not bother going back inside immediately to her peers this time around, to my delight. that was a feat for someone who is torpe.
the night went on spontaneously. i drank with my guards on since i have an early trip to take. i was leaving the city and Thailand in general early the next day.
conversation spun around travelling, and islands, and other things. other beautiful things.
it was past midnight when the sexiest thai girl and i decided to leave the people and her friends in Post Bar-coolest bar in Bangkok( i should get Changs for this next time i go there.)
we walked to Khao San rd. strolled in this street of battered backpacks, hippie wanderers, perpetual youth and padthais.
she is a nature lover. she spent two weekends in an island in Andaman coast a couple of months back. a remote retreat that is Similan island. the beach is divine, delicate and bewitching. just like her.
it was getting late. 1:30am. morning was nearing and so was my departure.
we walked to Burger King in Khao San rd intersection. she said i can crash her place for my remaining hours in Bangkok if i want to. she hailed a cab and off we went to her place, her apartment in Silom.
i was drawned to her. the way she spoke with her thai accent was endearing. the way she moved, way she flipped her hair, way she smiled, her gaze, her supple sunkissed skin. charming.
moments would go slo-mo but not time. it raced. like my heartbeat.
it was already 4am when i took notice of time. i was still at the sexiest thai girl’s place and we have not slept yet.
i can not bring myself to say my goodbyes for we only have started. it was bittersweet. i was glad to have met her. but sad that i met her on my last night in this city. this city of angels which was my home for 40 days.
it was 5am.
finally, i got up, bade goodbye, and sped off.
took a taxi to bigboy’s apartment in Pratunam, my home in Bangkok. i only have 1 hour to rest, gathered my stuff and got ready to hit the road again, onwards to Malaysia.
that night, i stayed out longer than i intended to. no, i am not complaining. it was beautiful.
aaahh the romance of being on the road. the hellos and goodbyes and those fleeting blissful moments in between. life’s surprises. i live for those =)