Lost in Time

IMG_5592

Time has betrayed me once again, and I never got to round off my internship days in Kuala Lumpur with a blog post. Rather than giving a feeble account of my last weeks (let’s face it, I am getting old), I present to you a small batch of photos, giving you a quick glimpse into my last month of escapades in Malaysia.

Two amazing friends granted me the honor of their company as my days were numbered as an intern. Sharing memories with special people in your life is about as good as it gets:

Visit 1) You may remember my friend Mette, back from my trans-Mongolian-railway-days (take a peek here, if I tickled your curiosity), and it was fun to take her around KL whenever my working-hours permitted it. We also got to take a break from the CO2 of the city, and went to Penang by bus to hunt down some street art and that Penang food which the Malays talk so much about.

Visit 2) With a few vacation days left, Ine – who I met in New York (check out our Green-Wood Cemetery adventure here) – came to Malaysia for a short visit before embarking on a Southeast Asia trip. After some KL-highlights we quickly boarded a flight to Bali to get our yoga vibes on. It was nothing short of an amazing ending to a fantastic internship and no Volcanic ash or flight problems could disturb our zen.

Advertisements

A Bubbly Affair

With a few allowed vacation days during my internship, I planned for an extended weekend in Taipei! This was very much a solo-project and I had butterflies in my tummy from pure excitement as I flew across the waters. I studied my traveling guide meticulously on the plane, giving me wonderful flashbacks to my travels in China and my exchange in Hong Kong – if you are new to wildwonton you can read about those adventures here and here (and a heartily welcome to the rants). And though Taipei is nothing like my past experiences I was overjoyed to be back in Chinese-character-land. Boy, have I missed those perfectly timed transportation systems, those spring onion pancakes for breakfast and to genuinely feel the excitement of a different culture, wash over me as I explored those streets and lanes.

A small warning as we begin: My first impressions of Taipei, as relayed here, are void of any critical distance – I only just returned to KL as I am writing this, and the post is thus naturally filled with a insistent high from traveling and with leftover-excitement-butterflies in my tummy. But Taipei was definitely a city after my taste: it is no wonder foodies hail it as the ultimate food destination. It will therefore not surprise you either that I spent a majority of those 4 days hunting down food! If you don’t have long in Taipei I would definitely suggest that you hover around Yong Kang Street for a few hours as you will find many great samples in this area. I skipped the Din Tai Fung queue (if you have the time, get in that line!) and jumped around the corner for some dumplings at Kao Chi, serving all the Shanghainese classics. As I can’t compare, I will only say that my tummy had no objections. The crispy sides of their signature pan fried pork buns was a new experience to my taste buds and they genuinely enjoyed them (sorry, no documentation they went straight into my tummy). As they are fried in an iron cast pan they get a lovely crisp underside, while the top retain the soft delicacy, if you will, as you know it from your traditional dumplings. I also sampled spring onion pancake from a famous vendor further down from Kao Chi (on a corner) – just look for a long line! I of course also sampled the must above all musts: some beef noodle soup. As I was slurping away, I remember thinking to myself: I can’t believe how lucky I am to sit here in Taipei! Also, lets not forget about the bubble tea… I had at least 2 a day and particularly liked 50 Lan! After having perused Yong Kang to the fullest, I also ventured further out to Gongguan to try the infamous gua bao, a slow-braised pork hamburger, filled to the brim with crunchy coriander and some peanut butter-like goodness. My hunt also took me to a full-blown Hello Kitty experience and all the way out to Maokong (and up the mountain with the gondola) to sample some of that fine Taiwanese tea. If you want a more modern take on tea (and not in a traditional teahouse setting, though why would you not want to try that also?), I gave Smith&Hu a visit. Probably the best scones I ever had, and let’s not overlook that amazing tea selection. My visits to numerous night markets (I went to one every night, however I would never have found Raohe Market without Javis, a kind local who took me under his wing for the evening – Hi Javis, if you are reading this!) stuffed me up to the fullest. In general, rest assured – you are bound to have a great food experience in Taipei.

I of course also covered some of those non-food musts while visiting the island. I took a half-day trip up to Tamsui – a historic town, best known for Fort San Domingo which was established by the Spanish. Walking around the narrow lanes was thrilling and the beautiful riverside and numerous bike paths makes it an ideal setting for outdoor activities too. In Taipei, I managed to cover a fair amount of ground. Chiang Kai-shek and the 2-28 Peace Memorial Park served as a window into the darker history of Taiwan. Other musts on my path included, Bao’an Temple, Dihua Street (known for its Chinese medicine shops) and the National Palace Museum (home to the world’s largest collection of Chinese art). Two locations stood out to me, however. One was Huashan 1914 Creative Park, a location I almost decided to skip (but boy, am I glad I didn’t!) The Creative Park is a 20th-century wine factory which has been restored into the ultimate retro venue, where like-minded creative people gather, whether it be for sketching, playing music, dancing or any other art form you can possible think of. The venue hosts numerous cute cafes and boutiques, and I quickly lost all track of time. The day I was there the park was filled to the brim and made for an excellent people-watching spot. Also, a cool exhibition on Miffy was clearly drawing in Taiwanese families as their event of choice for the weekend and I could definitely see myself coming here often if I ever got to live here. Another outing which stood out to me was my short trek up Elephant Mountain to catch that classic shot of Taipei 101. I don’t regret a single drop of sweat that was spilled to reach that vantage point in the summer heat.

As I am nearing the end of this post can we just take a minute to appreciate the brilliance of the Taiwanese? Any country that invents bubble tea and instant noodle is a favorite in my book.

My adventure in Taipei has definitely left me wanting more. I unfortunately did not get to visit Yangmingshan National Park – despite such beautiful nature being right at the doorstep of Taipei – and therefore feel like I need to come back! The island offers so many lovely spots, and could easily provide an excellent opportunity to take a tour around the entire island by train. I hope Gid is up for some mountain hiking and some train riding someday!?

/Krissy

Khmer Fascination

Exceeding Expectations

Having already traversed a big chunk of the Asian corner of the world – and having spent more than a month in Malaysia on my first backpacking trip – I came to Kuala Lumpur with absolutely no expectations of discovering new places (and let’s be honest, New York City made my bank account implode). Not that I am done exploring, or feel like I have saturated this side of the map for new adventures; no, I simply did not factor new exciting places into the equation that was my KL internship. Least of all, I did not think I would set foot in Cambodia. Having been to Thailand on numerous occasions (at one point in time, I almost moved here with my family), this country is definitely close to my heart. I find it distasteful what kind of reputation Thailand has gotten in recent years, with the massive influx of (often obnoxious) tourists with sad intentions. For that reason I have often defended and placed this location on a pedestal, not only because I find it so simple to be at ease here, but also because people have almost forced me to be apologetic about liking it. However, apologetic is the last thing I want to be – whether it be in my life or in this post. No, what I am getting to is how this defensiveness has somehow managed to blind me, or overshadow destinations like Laos and Cambodia, making me disregard these destinations as being lower down that list of must-visits (listomania, that is me). But as Gid and I agreed, it was time to experience a new setting, and when that choice came down to Cambodia, that was probably one of the best lessons of my stay here so far. It is so easy to be consumed by presumptive ideas or to fall under the trap of generalizations. Going to Cambodia was not only a wonderful vacation for Gideon and I to spend some time together away from KL, but it was also a reawakening for me; a newfound love for Asia and the uniqueness and variety that exists in all shapes and forms here. Just to give one example: had I known what Khmer cuisine tastes like, I probably would not have wasted all this flying OVER Cambodia…

Not having set foot on any East Asian countries apart from Philippines, I was pleasantly surprised that 2015 would bring me to both KL and Cambodia. For a long time, it had been a dream of mine to visit ruins and temples, and it so happened that I could do it with the best travel partner one could ever ask for: Krissy. I really did not know what to expect, though. I was mostly excited to melt in the sun while visiting the temples of Angkor heritag park. As we walked out of the arrival hall of SRIA, we were greeted by our hotel staff with a bouquet of flowers and the most humble of bows. We flew early morning and were quite tired, but after such a warming greeting, we knew then and there—and as Krissy and I looked at each other in excitement—that our stay would be nothing short of amazing. 

Forever Foodies

After the many belt-loosening meals we had in KL, it was a pleasant surprise for Krissy and I to sample Khmer cuisine. From street food vendors to gourmet eateries, this city provides the perfect setting for culinary adventures. With so much to try, where do you begin? Well, our research revealed that Fish Amok was an absolute must-try. This was great, since Krissy and I always welcome seafood in our bellies. Fish amok is a mixture of kroeung (a delectable curry paste made from a base of lemongrass, turmeric root and galangal) and sliced white fish, normally steamed in a banana leaf bowl to form a mousse. Upscale restaurants serves it as a mousse, while more local places offer it as a kind of stew. We definitely recommend trying this dish at The Sugar Palm, nown for serving one of the best fish amoks in town.

My stepdad is a chef, and I would like to think I grew up with a palate refined to diverse flavors; however, Khmer cuisine excited my palate like nothing I have tasted before.  Two other places that impressed our socks off are Chanrey Tree and Chamkar (vegetarian). Chanrey Tree has a very stylish atmosphere, great for evening dates. The meals we ordered were delicately plated, and careful attention was given to choosing ingredients that really bring together the dish as a whole. Our main course here was Prahok Ktish, a Cambodian delicacy of fermented fish, pork, thinly sliced river fish braised with coconut cream, baby eggplant, served with blanched vegetables crudites. It is difficult to find words to justly describe this dish; its flavors were a perfect blend of spicy, sweet and tangy. As for Chamkar, you are doing yourself a great disservice if you do not try their curries. When the world offers such mouth-watering cuisine, it is impossible to be anything other than forever foodies. 

Temple Day 1: Rubble Raiders

I felt like Lara Croft from Tomb Raider as we entered the Angkorian heritage site. We bought a 3-day pass, as our main purpose whilst being in Siem Reap was to explore all the temples. We definitely need to come back another time and travel through the rest of the country, North to South. But this time around, the main objective was to focus all of our attention on the magic of Siem Reap. I think it is no exaggeration when I say that both of our jaws dropped as we entered the first temple site, Preah Khan. It is very humbling to walk a historical site. Every brick used in the construction of these temples have over the years acquired different hues of colors, and put together it becomes a Monet masterpiece. The carvings are so miniscule and precise, that it is difficult to believe how they managed to construct such sites, and just how the carvings have lasted all this time. Preah Khan is one of largest complexes within Angkor, and has some of the finest carvings (+ fewer visitors here). It was our very first ruinous temple, and I will never forget that feeling of walking among the most beautiful stone rubbles in the middle of the jungle.  On our first day we also visited a lot of smaller temples like, Preah Neak Poan and Ta Som. Though everything looked like it was by chance – fallen stones and bricks scattered here and there, a temple placed randomly in the middle of the jungle – it somehow all made sense.  As we came to Siem Reap at the end of May – the threshold between dry season and wet season – the nature surrounding us was undeniably barren as most of the waterholes were dried up. However, you could still sense a tingling feeling lingering in the nature around us, an impatient yet hopeful anticipation of what kind of weather was to come. We ended our first afternoon early, due to the sweltering heat and the dry air, which slowly but surely took its toll on us as the sun crossed the sky. It is a scary thought how such a blistering sun can suck out all life of you. What pieced us together was our sweet Tuk-Tuk driver who happily reminded our tired bodies of what kind of magical place that we were exploring, as he was taking us back to the bustling civilization of Siem Reap.

Temple Day 2: Will you go to Ta Prohm with me?

I have always been a big fan of adventure. From Indy’s archaelogical escapades on film to Nathan Drake’s daring pursuit for treasure in video games. It was therefore only fitting for Day 2 to bring us to the temple of Ta Prohm. Neglected and embraced by the jungle, Ta Prohm transported Krissy and I to another world and another time. The atmosphere was raw, mysterious, eerie and picturesque all at the same time. Perhaps the temple’s most distinctive feature, and the reason for it being featured in the Tomb Raider movie, are the trees growing into the ruins. The massive trunks rise up to the skies, branching out into canopy of green leaves that provide shade in the sweltering sun. The trunks trail the stone walls and its roots form serpentine claws, coiling, slowly reclaiming the stone temple. Blurring the line between fiction and reality, this temple seduces you into feeling a part of a greater narrative, an old tale of adventure and exploration. 

My highlight of day two was definitely visiting the temple of Bayon. As you explore this site, beware of lurking eyes and staring glances – in fact, you should be prepared for 216 faces, to be exact – all glaring down upon you as you visit their humble abode. Bayon is the central temple of the ancient city of Angkor Thom, representing the intersection of heaven and earth, and certainly had a jaw-dropping effect on both of us (again). There is just something about those beaming faces, looking out in every direction of the world, which cannot fail to mesmerize you. It is no wonder that the smiles have captivated so many, and that Bayon is often referred to as the Mona Lisa of Asia. The serene smiles surely lured us into staying a bit longer at this site. As midday came and went and the sun was at its highest, I want to reiterate a recurring theme of this post: the scorching heat. I think for all those global-warming-skeptics out there, I want to place each and everyone of you on the long path leading across the moat and into the temple site of Angkor Wat, and make you all walk back and forth from midday until around 2pm. Then look me in the eyes, and tell me that Mother Earth isn’t overheating!

After Bayon temple, we worked our way towards the three-tiered temple Baphuon. Conquering our fear of heights, we traversed the many steps up a steep staircase to get to the topmost tower and get an expansive view of the surroundings. Just as we thought it could not possibly get any hotter, an interesting shift in weather suddenly occurred. The skies grew dark, and we felt the wind getting stronger. We knew right away that it would rain, but we were not prepared for the heavy downpour that it turned out to be. It was a fantastic experience: we were soaked head to toe, our bags and their contents were soaked (Sorry again Mads and Sidsel for crumpling your book!) but we were mostly laughing because it was actually fun being there at that time. As the clouds retreated and the rain stopped pouring, our eyes were met with a different Angkor. The sharp sunlight was gone, and the overcast sky left the leaves and the ruins saturated with color. It felt as if everything suddenly bloomed into existence. It felt like Angkor had come to life, working its magic on the people lucky enough to witness it at that very moment.

Temple Day 3: A Setting Serenity

As we got up, at what felt like the middle of the night, and slid in on the plastic seating of our Tuk-Tuk, I could feel the excitement rush all over me. It was an hour before dawn and darkness embraced us like a cloak, as we drove through the jungle, only the sounds from the motor serving as a reminder to my imagination that it shouldn’t run off with me completely. Gideon of course joked about tigers and other lurking beasts, but we made it safely to the holy site of the temple to rule them all, Angkor Wat. Yes, we did the obligatory sun rise scene at this magnificent site. And yes, we shared the view with a horde of tourists as thick as pea soup. But there is a reason why this iconic Khmer complex is loved by so many during those golden and colourful minutes. As you stand there, staring out into the darkness, watching the silhouette of the temple become clearer and clearer as light is slowly but surely embracing the pinnacle structures, the speed of the changing colours against the backdrop of Angkor Wat makes no sense. Oh the tranquility! I remember wondering what it must have felt like as the first archaeological team stumbled upon the largest religious monument in the world. They must have had that same goofy smile that was on my lips at that moment, as the sun was done doing its rising-business. You might read all of this and think that the temples will at some point in time become boring to explore. And yes, temple fatigue is a common exhaustion which many of the online reviews mention out there in cyberspace. While this is true for most, and while I cannot reject the fact that we mostly decided to call it a day early in the afternoon, I can genuinely and honestly say that 3 days were perfect for us. Even though you might feel like you hit a temple-plateau after x amount of time, there always comes a corner, a temple-embracing tree, a detailed bas-relief, a colourful contrast or a view over the jungle which makes you astounded that you are actually lucky enough to visit this famed heritage park. As we drove through Angkor one last time in our Tuk-Tuk, with the course back towards Siem Reap city centre, Gid and I agreed that we would not have been without a single rubble on our trip.

 

Thank you Cambodia,

Spending 3 days on rubble raiding was just the right amount of time for Krissy and I. In addition, some planning allows you to see what else Siem Reap has to offer. For us, it was an educational experience to visit the National Museum where we learned more about the temples and for whom they were built. The Old Market and various side streets are definitely worth exploring. If you have time, we urge you to experience Phare, the Cambodia Circus. We bought tickets to a show, where we experienced the chilling narrative of Sokha, a child haunted by the visions of the atrocities and destruction by the Khmer Rouge. The performers executed a brilliant and raw performance, showcasing the best of contemporary Khmer acrobatics, music, choreography and drama,  and providing great insight into Cambodian lives and society. 

The time Krissy and I shared in the charming city of Siem Reap will long remain in our hearts. It is a city full of life, wonder and amazing adventures. Cambodia, we’ll see you again! We’ll be back to explore the capital, Phnom Penh. 

// Krissy & Gideon

Getting My Batik On!

Getting My Batik On

The first month in Kuala Lumpur flew by, confirming once again that time is my worst enemy!

I arrived mid-February, ready for a life as an intern in one of the fastest growing metropolitan regions in the country. My fellow interns – who also happen to be my roomies – took good care of me and showed me around through all the alleys and crooked streets that make up KL. Also, one of the interns managed to persuade his girlfriend to come along for 6 months, making up a great male-female ratio in our apartment, and I predict late night beer talks, and fun, weekend shenanigans the next 6 months.

One such memorable shenanigan already unfolded in the cooler regions of Cameron Highlands, a 4hrs bus ride outside of KL. While getting there was quite the challenge (as the gear lever proved uncooperative), the gentle hills served as an open farmland, with rows-upon-rows of tea shrubs. The perfect and cooler weather conditions provide the perfect home for hundreds of floral species, and traversing around the mountains makes for a breathtaking excursion. We stayed at a cute cottage-like bed and breakfast in Tanah Rata, which served as our base for exploration. We spent most of the weekend hiking through the forests with mud up to our ankles – the best way to spend a weekend! The views were stunning and it felt great to walk the distances on foot, rather than hiring a touristy-bus tour. Leisure time was spent at a strawberry farm – after all that hiking the red, shinny berries never tasted better.

The view
And now, lets turn to the tea… The second day we walked to Boh Tea Plantation, to get a colonial-inspired scone and sandwich. Now I don’t want to waste any more space on the food, but instead turn to the best peach ice tea I ever had in my life – the Boh peach tea! If you are ever able to get your hands on this stuff (it is available also in most supermarkets in KL to our great delight upon return), please fill up your suitcase – every single drop of ice tea is worth it!

IMG_4241

The first few weeks of the internship also coincided with this years Chinese New Year, the year of the goat. This naturally served as a window of opportunity to visit Thean Hou Temple as it was decorated with the most beautiful, Chinese red lanterns during the festivities. Thean Hou is probably THE Chinese temple to visit while in KL as it offers some great views over the city. With all the big malls and streets being decked out in Chinese decorations, the sea of red proved a beautiful, welcoming gesture.

IMG_4140

Other, first month highlights include eating my own body weight in food within all the different Asian cuisines: Malay, Chinese, Vietnamese and the list goes on. Goreng and fresh, whole fish are a must, and with Jalan Alor and other street-food options right around the corner from our apartment it is most likely that I will put on some weight – no regrets though!

Another must - nasi lemak <3
Another must – nasi lemak <3

Apart from all that goodness, Malaysia has also tested and tried me this past month. The greatest test was undoubtedly no bigger than 0.3 to 2 cm – a bloodsucking, stupid little mosquito carrying the infamous tropical disease also known as dengue fever. I wish this upon no one, and after spending three days in the hospital, with a water drop in my wrist and under constant observation; I left the hospital scarred for life with a collection of blue marks from the many blood tests. Let the mosquito-spray frenzy begin!

A taste of Ilocos

A taste of Ilocos

Finally getting some free time, I was able to finish up this post. In the spirit of the previous post, I’ll continue the story starting from December 31st. Enjoy!

While Krissy was getting ready to celebrate the oncoming new year, I was actually onboard a plane from Denmark to Philippines. The plane landed in the afternoon, and baggage claim was its usual time-consuming ordeal. However, it felt good to be back. It is that sense of nostalgia that rushes through your veins. It was a concoction of sensory awakening; feeling that heat on your skin as you set foot off the plane, getting a whiff of that familiar airport smell, seeing the hustle and bustle of balikbayans – it all comes together, giving me a deeply-rooted sense of belonging.

Balikbayan refers to a person of Filipino origin who lives outside of the Philippines.

It was a special night, not only because 2014 was right around the corner, but mainly because I could celebrate New Year’s Eve with my sisters—something we (sadly) haven’t done in many, many years. Needless to say, it was a memorable night; one that I will always cherish.

During my stay in the Philippines, I was also very fortunate to visit the beautiful province of Ilocos, located on the Northwest coast of the country. Although I was born in the Philippines, I have unfortunately not seen much of the country (there is just so much to see!) So I felt very excited that I would get to experience a new place, and of course try their cuisine. This post is dedicated to all that I saw and all that I ate.

Ilocos, Philippines
Ilocos collectively refers to Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur.

Ilocos actually consists of four provinces: Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur. I saw most of what both provinces has to offer in the form of tourist sites. In hindsight, it probably would not have been as effortless (nor as informative) without the help of our kind tour guide. After arriving in the city of Laoag  at night and having rested, the first stop early in the morning was the sand dunes of Paoay, Ilocos Norte. There, it is possible to explore the sand dunes on a 4×4 or even have a go at sand boarding. Being a man of extremely adventurous spirit </sarcasm> … I did not try either activities. So I cannot offer silly pictures of me with sand all over my face. Instead, I give you another photo (other than the cover photo) taken near the sand dunes.

Barbed wire, Paoay Sand Dunes

Following the sand dunes was a stopover at Malacañang of the North, the official residence of late President Ferdinand E. Marcos, and his wife, former First Lady Imelda Marcos (yes the Imelda Marcos, the Rose of Tacloban, the Steel Butterfly, the Lady of 3000 pairs of shoes). Casting aside whatever opinions people may have of these two individuals, their home was an undeniable display of grandeur: from the arching staircase carved in Narra hardwood, to the hanging pieces of art, the scenic view over Paoay Lake, and to all the other intricately carved furniture, their home is certainly fit for people with power. The Spanish colonial architecture definitely brought a sense of time travel. As I walked through the corridors of their home, paying close attention to all their interesting memorabilia, I listened to the tour guide talk about the former President with so much vigor and Ilocanian pride.

Next stop was the Church of Saint Augustine, or Paoay Church. I clearly remember its distinct architure, borrowing from Gothic and Baroque designs. According to UNESCO, its architecural style is a reinterpretation of European Baroque by Chinese and Philippine craftsmen. There is a certain beauty with the way light falls on its facade, accentuating its lines and curves. The spirals featured on the buttresses breaks all the linearity and adds a more organic, and nature-centric touch to the design.

Paoay Church Paoay Church

After seeing a number of museums dedicated to Marcos, the tour headed south, toward Ilocos Sur; specifically, the destination was the city of Vigan. Having spent many hours touring, we arrived in Vigan quite hungry. I was quite excited to finally try Ilocanian cuisine. Oh yes, the joy of food! The guide took us to a place where we could get Vigan-style empanada. Basically it is a crispy shell filled with vegetable and meat. The shell is made of rice flour with added atchuete (achiote) to obtain that bright orange colouring.

The filling is normally grated green papaya, mung been sprouts, egg and longganisa (a type of sausage). So how do I explain its taste? I can’t. You will simply have to try it for yourself. The finishing touch is the vinegar sauce that comes along with the empanada, which really brings the whole thing together. It does dirty (oily!) wrestling with the empanada in your hands, so make sure you have extra napkins. As such, it will receive (as this blog’s first) the wildwonton seal of approval (SoA)!

wildwonton Seal of Approval

The wildwonton seal of approval (SoA) is given to specific food or eateries that we feel perfectly captures the spirit of ww, in form of taste and presentation. Look out for the seal in future posts! Fun fact: The SoA was designed to look like Chinese art stamps! If you look carefully, you can spot all the letters that form ‘wildwonton’. 

For 35 pesos a piece, those little orange bundles of joy are quite filling. I…had three.  #satisfiedtummy #sealofapproval

Seal-of-approval

The next stop on the itinerary was pottery making. The people of Vigan are known for their pottery skills. They value and commit to preserving the tradition of making burnay (unglazed earthen jars), a skill passed down from immigrated Chinese artisans during pre-colonial times.

The tour continued to the Vigan Heritage Village, a residential complex of Spanish colonial houses. In the heart of the Heritage Village lies Calle Crisologo. As I look back at the memory, I close my eyes and I hear the the clippity-clop-clattering of hooves on the cobblestone street, as people experience the town through horse-drawn kalesas.

Calle Crisologo

Following Vigan was a trip back up north, across Ilocos Norte, driving along the northwestern coast that is bounded by the South China Sea, all the way up to the town Pagudpud. On the way there, we also passed by Burgos and Bangui. In Burgos, there is the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse , another cultural heritage from Spanish colonial times. It was first lit in 1892 and it marks the northwestern-most point in Luzon.

There are stories told of ghosts watching over the tower. The distressed look of its exterior definitely adds to the image of a lighthouse that is often shrouded with mystery. To me, the structure stands magnificent and resolute; like a lonely sentinel of the sea, withstanding the tests of time to keep watch over the expansive waters.

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse

The word is derived from puraw, which means pure or white.

Only a few minutes further away,  the Kapurpurawan Rock Formations are located in the rocky coast of Burgos. The beauty found here is in stark contrast to man’s architectural prowess exhibited in the cities; these limestone rock formations shows the beauty of nature’s canvas. A thousand years in the making, these creamy white and streamlined formations were sculpted by the forces of nature.

The wind turbines are from a Danish manufacturer called Vestas Wind Systems. Go Denmark!

Still en route to Pagudpud, we took a quick stop at the Bangui Windmills. Facing the South China Sea, these towering windmills arc along the shore and provide 40% of the energy for Ilocos Norte. It was quite exhilarating standing right underneath one of these 70-metre wind giants. It was, shall I say, FANtastic…………………………………. (   ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

Bangui Windmill

It was a long drive from Laoag to Pagudpud, and so upon arrival, we made a pit stop at Evangeline’s beach resort for some refueling. The menu was surprisingly varied, but my eyes were set on thing and one thing only: pancit (noodles)!

Pancit bihon
Pancit bihon & kalamansi!

After enjoying three days of resort-life at Hannah’s Beach Resort in Pagudpud, the trip came to and end in Laoag with dinner at the Saramsam Ylocano restaurant. The place was very cosy and the dishes were not only delicious, but also creative, accentuating traditional Ilocanian cuisine with modern-day twists. Absolutely worthy of the wildwonton SoA!

From man-made structures to nature-sculpted landscapes; from Chinese ceramic artistry to Spanish architectural mastery, and from century-old kalesas to modern-day wind turbines, Ilocos definitely has much to offer. I only hope that I was able to give you a taste of its splendor.

-Gideon

A Merry Hua Hin Christmas

DSC09171

I have been fortunate enough to end my amazing exchange experience by celebrating Christmas with my family in Sam Roi Yod, Hua Hin – Thailand: and what a Christmas! It might not entail snow and your usual runny noses, but Hua Hin did offer 30 degrees Celsius, pool and shade under the palm trees. It was great to see my family again, especially my clown of a brother <3 Danish tradition is to celebrate Christmas on the 24th of December, with a massive dinner table carrying roasted duck, pork, white and brown potatoes, red cabbage, gravy and ris a la mande. A tradition is a tradition. Thus, my tummy contained all such wonders on the 24th, mixed with a good deal of red wine. Our Christmas tree was somewhat untraditional this year, yet the Christmas spirit was as high as ever.

It is not my first time in Thailand, and it is great to be back once again. If you know what touristy places to avoid, this country is simply wonderful. The Thai people are the most smiling and warm-hearted I’ve ever met, with a good dose of humor, always making fun of you, themselves or whatever comes to their mind. Thailand to me means laughter. Obviously Thai food contribute to the wonder of this country, and this Christmas season has offered many plates of pad thai, king prawns and spicy curry.

The 25th of December was spent on a scooter cruising through Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, scouting for monkeys (for your information: not difficult to spot). There is nothing like experiencing the country-side from the back of a scooter, feeling the wind and the sun on your face, whilst the landscape opens up to you. The park contains dozens of mountainous limestone hills, which stand before you wherever you turn. As you cruise along you will find freshwater marshes and shrimp farms, with beautiful temples scattered around the park. My brother and I also worked off the duck-calories by climbing up to the Phraya Nakhon Cave. A sweaty journey, yet worth while every out-of-shape-breath that you will take. But beware of snakes! My brother nearly stepped on one and had a near-death-experience (read: not at all, but two Danish youngsters definitely got spooked, trying to remember what we have learned on Animal Planet).

On a less-serious note, most of the time has been spend by the poolside, or on our rooftop soaking up some dangerous sunrays. A fair amount of Leo beers have also been consumed in the Jacuzzi overlooking the mountaintops as the sun was setting. It is peculiar how fast the days go by when you do absolutely nothing.

The most memorable moments, this time around, have undoubtedly been the many scooter cruising’s, with my brother as the driver, covering much of Thailand’s countryside. As must by now be known world-wide the Moeller-family is somewhat out of the ordinary, and my brother and I undoubtedly scared a Thai family or two, having covered all possible Christmas songs, “singing” at the top of our lungs in the heat as we drove around. Also late-night cruising at the coast of Sam Roi Yod beach, with only the moon as light will not be forgotten.

Our housing is located in the true Thai country-side, approximately 30 min. outside of Hua Hin, surrounded by beach + cows. Thus, there is always some excitement about “going to the city”. In Hua Hin, the necessary shopping is always done, finding some great bargains, and the city spree is always concluded at the night-market, eating burritos and sipping frozen margaritas at an excellent Mexican joint. Most importantly, the mandatory mango-and-sticky-rice dessert is brought with us home.

Our concluding days here will undoubtedly resemble the others, and I simply do not want them to end.

With the best wishes of a Merry Christmas and a fun and safe New Years Eve, I complete the ranting’s from Hua Hin.

/Krissy

Unfinished Business.

DSC08894

The inevitable has happened. My exchange semester is officially coming to an end. I know my life back in Denmark is waiting patiently for me, and I am looking forward to see all my loved ones. Nonetheless, I am left with a bittersweet feeling. Leaving Hong Kong is not something I want to do. This city has spoiled me. The haze, the daily CO2 doses, the overrun MTR stations, taxi drivers refusing to go to New Territories, stinky tofu on the street, expensive milk, slow-walking pedestrians with a severe phone obsession. I will, from the bottom of my heart, and with the utmost, genuine sincerity miss every ‘not-so-perfect’ experience here in Hong Kong. This city has just proven amazing, and I am so grateful for having had the opportunity to enmesh myself in HKs urbanity. It is one of the most vibrant cities I’ve been too, with amazing treats on every corner. I am going to miss my 14hkdollar noodle soup, the pulsating streets on a Sunday/Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday [insert any day], and my Sheung Wan dumplings. Heck, I am even going to miss all the signs, which I cannot read. Before this post turns into a sentimental memoir, I will relay some of my concluding adventures.

I have been fortunate enough to have two friends come visit me. Firstly, my old, fellow high-schooler came to visit me, as she was going to South of China anyways. Thus, there was no excuse for not coming to HK. I got to stay with her for a few days in Sheung Wan, one of my favorite areas in the city. We of course overtook The Peak, and this time I got to the amazing view via the old tram, which was a vertical experience to say the least. We also paid a visit to the famous Ocean Park, where the inner child was freed. Ocean Park has it all: big aquarium with mysterious sea creatures, cutest pandas doing absolutely nothing apart from sleeping, and fun roller coasters. We topped it all off with a dolphin show, where we also saw some amazing head accessorizing. Other fun shenanigans of course included shopping, some LKFing and eating dim sum at the cheapest Michelin Star restaurant in the world (Tim Ho Wan). I went to Macau for the second time, and enjoyed a fancy evening inside of the largest casino in the world – The Venetian, Macao. A friend back from primary school also popped by on her way to the Philippines, and we of course also stuffed ourselves at Tim Ho Wan concluding the evening with buying funky iphone cover.

I also found my inner hostel patriotism during my last weeks in HK. The past few months I have lived in an all-girls dormitory, better known as Wen Chi Tang. We are three exchange students living in this bloc, so together we have explored hostel life, with the help from some sweet-hearted local Wen Chi Tang’ers. Hong Kong dormitory life is nothing like my previous experiences of gloomy dormitory existence. In HK there are so many activities going on within your own home that you do not even need to join the activities offered at the University level. It has also been very difficult to say goodbye to my home-girls-exchange-crew :(( Lately we have been spending most of our time together, whether it be in the library or at an amazing Vietnamese restaurant or in a basement for an underground party.  My roommate also had to leave me prematurely on her own adventures, and a tearful parting was unavoidable. It is always so hard to say goodbye!

Exam period was stressful as I had five of them, with various hand-ins as a side-activity. But I don’t even want to dwell on it or waste blog-space on such a boring subject. Pretend the last two lines never happened.

If there is one thing you got to know about me, it is the fact that I am a sucker for Christmas. The whole charade. Glitter, decorations, lights, snowmen, Santa, Christmas bakeries, movies, carols, jingle bells – I eat the whole season up. Though Christmas may not be on the top of the list in seasonal celebrations in China, I was still surprised at the many decorations to be found around the city. It really warmed my Christmas heart. I also have two considerate friends back home, who as a surprise send me a humongous package, containing all what a Christmas heart can desire. From the content of such mentioned package, along with a loving mommy who also contributed to the festivities, some friends and I were able to put together a JULE-HYGGE DAY (I apologize, but in this SINGULAR, one-off case, the English language is void of words with same inherent meaning as HYGGE). My Finish sister had outdone herself on this occasion making ginger bread and glög. Christmas therefore came early to Hong Kong.

Shenzhen was also visited which essentially makes a good campfire story. My friend and I effectively got deported from China. Yes. Deported. You would think having travelled around Asia for so many months would have made me into a pro, but sadly not. Turns out I forgot to check my double-entry visa expiration date, and voila: Chinese border-control-man asks me to step aside in a not so friendly tone. However, after being escorted back across the border, several sweaty moments on the Hong Kong side with no passport, and a big fat stamp saying CANCELED on a fresh passport page, I finally got to purchase a one-day visa and commence my shopping spree.

Conclusively, I’d like to think that the 17th of December is a magical day, as this is the day I was born. Despite exam stress and empty wallets as the exchange experience is coming to an abrupt end, I was celebrated by some beautiful people who made my day very special. Especially because a special lady plastered up posters all over 2nd floor in my hostel, making sure everybody knew this was my day.

On such a happy note, I will end my blogging from Hong Kong. However, Hong Kong and I have unfinished business, and I will without a doubt be back, so who knows – maybe a new Hong Kong post awaits in the near future.