I can’t help but feel nostalgic. Six years is quite a long time to return to a place. Hanoi was such a favorite destination of mine back then. Yes I’ve treaded the streets of the Old Quarter before, went to an overnight cruise at Ha Long Bay and even enjoyed the misty coolness of Sapa Valley during my first visit in Northern Vietnam. But I don’t mind going back to see what has changed that’s why I didn’t think twice when an invite for a familiarization tour of Hanoi, organized by Cebu Pacific Air and Stratworks came in the email. There’s the certain comfort of stepping back into the familiar and also a certain anxiety to see how things have transitioned from now to then.
Walking has been the usual way for me to get oriented with a new place. It gives me a better perspective on a place and familiarize myself with the landmarks near the place where I am staying. It’s also a great way to take a glimpse of the local’s everyday life. Like for Solo (or Surakarta), this city unraveled its unique character by seeing it on foot along the paved pedestrian walk of Jl Slamet Riyadi. The low-rise buildings, the less touristy crowd, a sit-back and relax atmosphere, amiable people and great showing of Javanese culture. After setting down my baggage at Cakra Homestay, I went out for an afternoon walk along Solo’s main avenue.
Oh I was ready to rub shoulders alright! But it was more than shoulders as at times I had to squirm my whole body way out of the crowd, moving and flowing in different directions at Jalan Hang Jebat Street in Melaka popularly known as the Jonker Walk. Last I was here, we only ventured this famed street boasting of well preserved Peranakan Houses dating back to 1800s during daylight. This was I was looking forward to my re-visit in this vibrant city, to experience the Jonker Walk Night Market.
I received an invitation from a bunch of young professionals from Melaka, Malaysia to join their “A Date with Bloggers,” an event to showcasing their rich food and culture of Melaka. It’s been almost four years since my last day trip there and since I have a spare ticket to use at that time, I decided to go and possibly explore the area in a few days. From Manila, I flew to the LCCT airport, got on a Melaka bound bus. One and a half hour later, I was at Melaka Sentral. I was met by a young local organiser of the event and took me to my lodge, Sayang-Sayang Guest House which is found on the Melaka Riverside. I explored the back of the guest house and was immediately awed by the sight of the river and rows of houses filled with creative murals. I got a feeling I’m gonna like it here.
“Where are you from?” is the usual ice-breaker question people here would ask. “I’m from the Phillippines” I replied with a smile as I bite into my toasted slice of bread with a healthy layer of butter and strawberry jam while having breakfast. Young adults here like to engage in a conversation to practice their English. “Where are you going today?” I told him that I’d be leaving tonight for Bagan but this morning I’ll hit the streets of Downtown Yangon first to do some sightseeing.
We arrived at Grandpa’s Inn in the afternoon. We took our time to get acquainted with our rooms and also to ease up from that long drive. I let our driver who also happens to be a friend of mine and fellow mountain climber before take his much deserved rest. He just came from a climbing stint from Bicol and drove all the way to our house to continue up here in Vigan. In the mean time, the family rounded up to prepare for a late afternoon walk at the famed Calle Crisologo.
Culture Shock China
Before going any further about my trip in mainland China, I first have to tell you something about their culture. Unlike the coastal cities in China, almost NO ONE can speak in English there which can be quite a challenge. So unless you have a friend who can read and speak “passable” Chinese, a guide book with Chinese characters or hire a professional guide, it can be hard to survive there. Aside from that, they have behaviors that can be “Culturally Shocking” to us Filipinos or other Foreign nationals as well. If any people from the Mainland China is reading this, I meant no disrespect but only give my honest observation that can lessen the initial “shock” first timers may get. In fact other Chinese also detest some of their boorish behavior. It’s a reality we can’t change, since these may have rooted since ancient times. So what I advise is to keep an open mind. Once you get past these you’ll be able to adapt and enjoy your stay there.