Monday, June 15, 2009

My Walk in the CLOUDS

While driving to work today, my eyes were drawn to a spectacular view of cloud formations over a stop light. They were moving majestically, it seemed almost magical. And after that brief spellbinding moment, the annoying horn of the car behind me shook me from my trance-like state and shifted my attention to the green light. 

And it suddenly hit me. The clouds weren't the only ones moving to create that captivating scene. The ground underneath me was, too. The earth spins. The world revolves. Life takes its course.

I was suffering from a post-holiday syndrome. My mind and perhaps my spirit was still wandering on that magical island we all know as Bali.

Another Bali sunset at Ganesa Beach, June 7, 2009.

Ready to hit the waves!

I knew it was going to be "a bitch getting back to work mode", as my fellow teacher would put it after five beautiful days of self-indulgence. But I was totally grateful to snap out of it and get off the magic carpet ride just in time.

My case does seem trivial compared to some people who find themselves stuck for more pressing reasons. The loss of a loved one. Shattered careers. Failed relationships. Passed up opportunities. Scarring childhood experiences. The list can go on...

We can choose to stay and marvel at the clouds or linger in those cold, dark corridors. But even the most mundane of gestures, like the blowing of a horn can bring us back to rest of the world.

Hope lifts us high!

Friday, March 6, 2009

5 Days, 4 Nights.

Geez! More than a month since my last post. Procrastination has been a constant, debilitating companion lately. Tonight, I sever this overdue companionship. Still basking in the memories of my last trip to the Land of the Rising Sun, I figure this would be a good jump-start.

A mere five days and four nights were all we had. As we expected, it sure wasn't enough. But we made the most of the time on our hands and got an awesome glimpse of the fascinating city that is Tokyo.

Admittedly, I was feeling jittery a few days before our trip. I had nightmares about getting lost in the city's complex subways (which actually happened numerous times) and getting "Lost in Translation" in a country known to possess a fraction of English-speaking citizens. But apart from that, my expectations were set really high, basing them on what little I know of this mega metropolis.

And the verdict? Well, reality far exceeded all expectations. I'll let my photos tell my story...

First Night...

We arrived at 6PM. Immediately after securing our luggage, we dashed to catch the JR Express train to Tokyo. And barely made it to the next available trip. 

Feelin' lucky...

Finally, in Japanese standards precision, we arrived at Tokyo Central station after an hour and twenty minutes, as printed on the brochures. We got off one station more, the Shinjuko Station.

Looking haggard outside the Shinjuko Station East exit

My friend Yeast struggling with our ginormous backpack and bravely fighting his way among the thick crowd to search for our hotel. 

Grabbing a cab in Tokyo at 710Y ($7) flag down and 90Y ($.90) every 288m was not only ridiculous (applies to simple travelers like us), it was simply out of the question (read:budget). After 20 minutes of walking around (almost aimlessly) the Shinjuko labyrinth and asking for directions for the 78th time (obviously induced by the scarcity of English in the locality), we finally found our hotel. We hurriedly checked in and dumped our bags in our adequately sized, nicely equipped and immaculately clean hotel room.

Famished, we headed out for our first meal and ironically picked a western-themed cafe (only because smoking was allowed inside!).
And so, our first ever meal in Japan was western food.

Day Two... 

As planned, we found our way to Tokyo Disneyland. Nothing spectacular really, if you've ever been to one, you get the same "magical(?)" experience. This park though is obviously more expensive than it's Hong Kong counterpart, and slightly bigger. 

"Are we there yet?" taking naps on the train bound for the amusement park

Outside the main entrance, behind me are just some of the pretty Japanese ladies garbed in their designer coats and toting their over-priced Vuitton's and Gucci's.

"And it took us 25 years to get here..."

Got taken for a ride...

Just me and my palace, and my dream, in dreamland.

We got back to the hotel at about 7 and rested a bit. The next day, we were going to move to another hotel, so we decided to locate the hotel that night. I can't remember how many miles we walked, but my calves now have more definition from all that walking.

One experience further boosted my admiration for the Japanese people. Of the countless times we asked for directions, we were only turned down once or twice, and we strongly suspected it was because of the absence of English. New York was a totally different story, but I'll go back to my story. We asked this one guy in a fancy suit who clearly was on his way home from working late at the office. He struggled with his English to try to give us the right directions. But he didn't stop at that, while we started walking, he caught up with us and asked us to follow him. It was already around 10PM and we were pretty sure he was in a hurry to catch his train home. The hotel route was surely out of his way, but he did more than just lead us the way. He used the GPRS on his phone to locate the hotel and when we were just two blocks away, he showed us where the hotel was and after thanking him profusely, headed on his way. That was really a WOW moment for us!

After finding our hotel, which was a good 1o minute walk from the hotel we were staying at, we were starving. We found a small, ordinary looking restaurant.  It was really the photos of the dishes posted on the glass windows that drew us in, and the chef inside who was garbed in a "traditional Japanese chef outfit" (I'm at a loss for the right term). And, it was our first time ever to order and pay for restaurant food at a vending machine. A small slip comes out from the machine after paying, and you hand this out to the chef and with utmost efficiency, your food is served in less than 10 minutes. Amazing!

At 600Y (about $6), it wasn't bad at all! and the food was delish! The best miso soup I've ever had.

Day Three...

We moved to the other hotel. This was a lot bigger and had better location. Reasonably priced too.  It's amazing how much money you save by booking hotel rooms online weeks ahead.

The view from our room...

And I just couldn't resist taking the shot of our high-tech, temporary throne...

After settling in and getting some needed rest, we headed out to Ueno in the afternoon to do some shopping and sight-seeing.

The Ueno Park, a few meters away from the Ueno Station

A good view of the area.

Yet another... I meant the background.

After Ueno and at around 7PM, we decided it was the best time to experience Shibuya and witness for ourselves the world's busiest intersection at its peak. And what a sight it was! I would have to say, I have never seen droves of impeccably dressed people crammed in one area. Tokyo is undoubtedly home to Asia's most fashionable people, if not the world! Labels, labels and more labels strut before your very eyes, you feel like you're sitting front row in a fashion show! Even the men are fashionable!  

Yeast was brave enough to stand in the middle of the five-way intersection, amid the rushing crowd.

I on the other hand, settled at the side street.

Shibuya at night.

Of course, a Friday night in ultra hip Tokyo, hitting the local club scene was well-plotted on our itinerary. 

And we were more than ready to immerse...

Day Four...

Arriving at 4AM at our hotel, we spent half the day sleeping and waking up with gruesome hangovers. This day was supposed to be Yokohama day, but we knew it was too far and we were already pressed for time. So we ran through our guide book and decided on Akasaka instead.

"Hmmm... even the stairs light up here... way too cool."

We visited a Buddhist temple and bought a good luck gift for our friend. 

On the way home, we stopped by the shops at Shinjuku for some last minute shopping and immediately, we were put to a halt with this light installation at the subway station. 

(At least now we know what happened to the Eye of Sauron)

Day Five...

Our trip was coming to an end. Well, we still had a whole day and we certainly saved the best for last, Harajuko. And since our friend told us that the Harajuko girls usually come in full regalia on a Sunday, we got there before the scene began to unfold.

Colorful crowd at colorful Harajuko.

This shop gave me an idea what the Harajuko girls would be wearing today...

Yeast: "Do you think they have my size?" Roy: "Of course! we're in Japan, remember?"

It's such a shame though that I failed to take photos of the fabled ladies because I was too mesmerized by the sights to pull out my camera.

This was definitely one of the most lasting and lingering experience I've ever had. Tokyo leaves scenes in your mind that sticks for a loooong time. Definitely the reason I spent a lot of time planning and working on this post. I felt immensely compelled to share the beautiful experience. And I would go back in a heartbeat if I could afford another trip back. There's still so much to see and experience in this beautiful land and its warm, friendly people. I honestly couldn't think of any unpleasant experience I've had on this trip.  Well, except for the fact that our flights were consistently delayed (Thank you, United).

But even that couldn't dampen my mood on our flight back to Bangkok. I was heavily packed with beautiful memories and all set to go home. 

Arigato and Oyasuminasi for now!

Friday, February 6, 2009


When you’re at my age, it’s not unusual to go tracing back on your years. A particular point in my life that truly stands out is my time in college. Not for the wonderful memories it brings though, still memorable nonetheless. They weren’t exactly the best years of my life. I’d be very swift to supply an answer to an overused question, “If there’s one thing you could change in your life, what would it be?”

Although those four years signaled a lot of “firsts” (I’ll spare you the details now), it was during that time when I felt so completely lost. For years I fought real hard to flush it out of my memory and pretend the period never transpired. 

The manifestations of misery could not be easily dismissed. Only those who really knew me would have taken notice. The true indicator was graduating with less than average grades, as opposed to my commendable high school track record.

Invisible, that’s what I was in college and I guess, what I wanted to be. I can easily count with my fingers the people I considered college friends. It was expected. I made every attempt to spend the least possible time in the university, preferring to eat at home than eating alone in crowded cafeterias. Avoiding busy hallways and areas where the “cool” students hung out. Situating myself at the last row of seats in every class, nearest to the exit. 

For quite a time, these recollections haunted me. Why had I spent the supposedly golden years of a student’s life as a loser? And for years, this question I asked myself almost every night, remained unanswered. Eventually, it did dawn on me. 

I was going through that early stage of self-discovery and like most people, I got tangled up in the process. All of a sudden, I found myself thrown into this bigger and more complex arena I was so unfamiliar with and totally not ready for. The inner issues, compounded by the culture shock of the transition, sucked every ounce of confidence in me. I didn’t have a clue where to place myself in that microcosm. And so, I conceded to situating myself in the shadows where I felt safe. 

Devoid of self-confidence, I managed to convince myself that I wasn’t good enough for anything. I wasn’t cool or rich enough to hang out with the hip and fashionable crowd, didn’t possess enough IQ to hob-knob with the dean’s listers, wasn’t skilled or talented enough to take a slot among the revered varsity pool and arts groups. Yet, on my second year, I struck small success putting into use my writing flair and landing a coveted staff position in the school paper. Even then, my insecurities sank further and obliterated my chances of making it to the editors pool. 

Frustration after frustration, I was reduced to this faceless entity who stealthily navigated less-chartered corridors, whose existence was known only by a few. I never imagined how severe it was until I bumped into a batch mate months after graduation at a job interview. He was in utter disbelief when I told him we were in the same batch. And this was a guy who sat a few seats away from me in most of our major subjects.  

There’s a lot of truth behind the saying that “you are what you make”. This experience clearly shows that. I consciously decided to make myself invisible, so that’s what I’d become. I settled at being a loser, so that’s how I got treated. The good thing about life is, it doesn’t always have to stay that way. The reigns are still left in your hands. There’s no fairy tale ending coming here, but yes, I succeeded in pulling myself out of that black hole. And I’m totally proud to say it was without the aid of shrinks, SSRI’s, Oprah’s book picks and anonymous support groups. But I wasn’t alone on this one. Most often than not, it takes another set of eyes to help you see who you really are. I was fortunate enough to have met the bearer of such eyes. 

I can’t change my past. I can’t bring back those lost years and re-live them. But it’s taught me well. It has painted me a good picture of my real worth. I can now look back at this point in my life without cringing and just move forward.  

I’m definitely attending my college batch reunion whenever that is.  And I have no intention of bringing the invisibility cloak with me.

Monday, February 2, 2009

My Favorite THINGIES

We all have our favorite possessions. I bet they have stories to tell too. Well, let me share some of mine. Today, I was pleased with what my amateur photography skills produced.

Definitely my favorite nook in the house. This is where all the work takes place (blog-hopping, Facebook, Friendster and blogging). The chair supports comfortably and I get a good view of outside by drawing the curtains.

    Where all the magic happens...

This bed holds the record for comfort and sleep-inducing powers.

Tina, my co-worker from school led me into this hobby of collecting fridge magnets from places we've visited. This is all we have by far since we only started last year. "I love NY" definitely tops the bunch. 

I will never grow tired of this shirt. The moment I laid my eyes on it, I knew we just had to get it. I've worn it countless times and it's managed to retain its form after a battery of washings. Feels like second skin, it's that comfortable. From my favorite shirt brand, TOPMAN.

My favorite pair of jeans. A self-confessed 501 fanatic, the tides took a turn when G-Star Raw appeared on our radar. Impossibly light, impeccable details. This pair goes with anything we have, there's simply no way of going wrong.

My favorite specs. Again, comfort truly plays a major role for such selection. It's an ordeal finding the right frame that complements the shape of your face, I'm glad I found mine.

The mirrors on this shoe cabinet are simply wonderful. It brings out the best reflection (illusion) of you. And I just love the simple design and symmetry.

The only good thing I can say about going to Hanoi was finding awesome bargains just about anywhere. These photo albums were just some of them. Got all four for 10USD, how do you top that?
These decks and mixer will somehow bring me closer to my dream of becoming a DJ. I practice as much as I can. And they've definitely turned cold, lonely nights into 
electrifying ones!

I confess, I'm one of those people who feel naked leaving the crib without a few sprays. Acquired the habit from my mom. 
These are my all time favorite scents (for now) in the right order: 
1.) Issey Miyake for men (made to be a classic) 
2.) CK In2U for men 
3.) Be delicious green for women 
4.) CK Summer

Bought these colorful boxes at a Tesco Lotus store. I just love these eye-candies. They store anything from credit card bills to credit card receipts, just what you need. 
Pink: Unpaid. 
Green: Paid. 
Orange: "Now what do we do with these?"

My ever-dependable diver's Swatch. Has served its master for more than five years and shows no signs of retreating. Keep it strong dear comrade. 

My newest ally against grime. Compact and powerful, just what I needed when I took the reigns of looking after the cleanliness of a two-storey house. Bless you mighty partner, don't you dare chicken out on me.

We bought this bag in Taipei, Christmas 2007, from a Taiwanese brand called Paper. The material isn't leather, but I swear it's the next best thing. For it's price it's way worth it. I just like the look of it and it packs a whole lot. Been using it for all our travels. Now, can't imagine traveling without it.

Ahh! The color-popping Christmas tumblers from Swensen's. They're perfect for any iced drinks with straws. They have a total of 8 colors, but I'm not really a collector. Three's already a crowd in our cupboard.
And finally, my long-standing and torrid affair with underwear. 
So far, I don't detect any signs of it wavering. It's forged in stone!  Like I said, I'm no collector, but if one does catch my eyes or my crotch... it goes through a series of tests before acquisition: 
Material (comfort is everything)
Cut (should complement the goods)
 Fit (supports, lifts, enhances! 
Note: some shops now allow fittings--- What do you think? 
A welcoming thought or an eyebrow raising one?)
Design/Print (don't mind prints at all, my favorite pair has a gun print on the side,
 it's definitely bangin!)
 Waist band (if it peeps above your pants, it should be pleasant to look at)
Brand too, I suppose (I'm not a brand hog mind you). 
A perfect combination of all and then I'm had.