Friday, December 21, 2012

Thank you, Twenty Twelve

Yesterday, Steve Carell posted this on his Twitter account:

And then I figured that because it's probably the end of the world tomorrow, the least I can do is to be grateful. That is probably the kindest thing a person can ever think of doing before dying. That or profess undying love, but you know me, I don't profess. The world *might* not end tomorrow, and I don't want to go through the next years of my life in hiding. So here are the things I am truly thankful for this year, in no particular order (this phrase is so Ms. Universe!), just because I may not be able to do so. 

1. Thank you 2012 for allowing me to go to Hanoi

I'm not sure how I will get over this, but the definite highlight of my year is travelling alone to Hanoi. I am thankful for the opportunity to get out on my own and leave my comfort zone without support from anyone. Truth is, it was kind of an ordeal to conceive my plan without busting it to my parents, because I know once they knew about it, they won't allow me to go and I will be very sad, because I have already paid for my tickets (hehe). I never really intended to travel alone and have never thought about Hanoi, until the last minute when I randomly selected a city. Glad I made the decision and pursued it because it has taught me a lot of things I don't think I'd discover had I decided not to go.

Going there gave me time to talk to people I never really thought I have the courage to talk to. My host, +Ryan told me that independence and rebelling are good things (I know he meant rebelling in a good way), that it's not bad to leave things behind, even if it gives you so much money, for something you actually love and gives you happiness and better sense of fulfillment in life. My experience with him has helped me open up to trusting people again, which is really hard for me with all my trust issues. There are so many people I've met during my short stay, but Ryan has definitely made me think about my life and my goals, which makes him the coolest person I met this year. 

2. Thank you 2012 for the awesome movies, books, and music this year

Movies, Books, and Movies are three of the things I truly enjoy, but never paid too much attention to. During the start of the year, I vowed to write all the movies I saw and books I read throughout 2012. It was tedious, but it gave me a push to discover and re-discover because the thought of not filling out the notebook is disappointing. True enough, it made me see more movies, even those I have already seen before. It made me appreciate (or not) the things I've seen or read. It helped stir up conversations among my friends, which made meet ups more engaging. It made me buy or download (sorry!) books of different genre (some of which I have yet to read, but at least I have things to do when the world continues to live beyond 21st). Aside from my growing book collection, I have also decided to collect DVDs which I am planning to make bigger if I survive the apocalypse. 

This year has led me to 8tracks, a site which features specially curated playlists, letting users become their own DJ and create a virtual mixtape. I don't know where have I been living all these years and I only discovered 8tracks this year. Shameful. This site has opened my ears to more artists, some of which I haven't really heard of. It gave my often neglected iPod Shuffle a new life with new tracks from singers and bands I got acquainted to by going to 8tracks. It can be a small feat for a self-proclaimed music fan, but a great musical victory nonetheless. 

3. Thank you 2012 for being cruel... to be kind

I have been warned: 2012, despite being under my Chinese zodiac sign Dragon, will not be so nice with me and that's true. There are things I regret and I want to forget doing. But you know what, come to think of it, they me made stand up and face realities I try to shun away, because then, I only want what's beautiful and easy. This year's cruelty (from instances to people) made me work harder, made me think of things that truly matter, and let go of whatever's stopping me to do what I want to do. This year, brought heartache (so many times), anger, injustice, and whatever heart wrenching thing you can think of. But defeats, no matter how awful they are and how nearly it tried to kill you, must mean to make us stronger, better, and wiser. 

4. Thank you 2012 for terrific friends anyone could have

This year may have been a roller coaster, but I must say that some of the best parts of 2012, if not all them were spent with these people. I am grateful for all the experiences I had with them, that nothing, even the worst natural disaster can ever erase. I'd like to think that my memory may not be top-notch, but I am glad I have photos to help me remember when, where, how, and why these things happened. I am grateful for brave friends who weren't afraid to be themselves and discover who they are. For wise friends who shared wisdom and experiences with utmost patience despite my short comings. For inspiring friends who has greatly influenced my decision to pursue my new goals. 

This year brought me to new people, rekindled old friendship, strengthened bonds, and reaffirmed relationships. These photos are just snapshots of those people I am truly happy to have met. For those in and not in it, but have made a huge impact in my 2012, a big thank you and I hope we survive tomorrow. 

5. Lastly, thank you 2012 for my awesome family

Despite everyone getting busy all year long, I am thankful my family and I get to spend time together. I cannot remember any year before 2012 where we spent the most time together. I'm not sure if it's with age or that we just really wanted to hang out as a family, but I am happy that we have those lunch dates, dining out, out-of-towns, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, and other wonderful instances to get together. I've never been so excited to celebrate any occasion in my life before, but this year was totally different that it made me giddy every time I invite or get an invite from them. Not to mention our adorable pets who are all charming and affectionate. I cannot imagine having another family and I would gladly spend the next lifetime with all of them. 

And as I wait for December 21st, counting down minutes before a supposed demise of humankind, it's nice to look back and appreciate how beautiful life has turned out this year.

If by any chance I survive and end up in Planet Niburu, I hope I won't lose my memory and remember to still be grateful for the wonderful 2012 I had on Earth.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Hanoi, I Love You!

After several months of anticipation, I have finally done my first out of the country solo trip to Hanoi. Truth is, I was not really planning on going to Hanoi. I wanted to go somewhere else, but as fate would have it, after randomly choosing from a list of cities, I settled in the Vietnamese capital. I was supposed to meet my friends Cha and Monica in Saigon, but I decided to spend my short vacation in Hanoi instead. A pretty good choice I must say. 

It's a shame that I'm only writing about this now. I guess it would have been better if I had written them once I got back, but I was pre-occupied with work, actually still is now, but I don't want to forget about Hanoi. I've actually fell in love with the city - the kind of love that makes you want to come back and spend some more time, because its charm is alluring and the city's just captivating. I think I just left my heart in Hanoi. Long distance love affair?

Like Manila, Hanoi has its fair share of traffic with motorbikes coming in all directions. During my stay, I learned that if you must cross alone, remember not to slow down in the middle of the road because motorbikes will find their way to get pass you.

I also found Vietnamese people unpredictable, one minute they're all chatty and appreciative (I was approached several times in the streets by locals to tell me I am pretty, heeeh!) and snobbish and cold the next. You just have to smile and say thank you and it'll do the trick! Street food were awesome! I was afraid of ordering anything I cannot understand, in fear of eating dog meat; I hope I haven't eaten any canine specialty.  

Like so many tourists, I did a lot of tours. I went to museums and my favourites would be the Museum of Fine Arts, Women's Museum, and Ho Chi Minh Museum, only with the last one I hope the other visitors weren't so noisy! Going around museums in Hanoi don't cost much, so going to these places would be worth your time. On my second and third day, I went around the city and got lost despite having a pretty accurate map. But it was all good, because I was able to see the beautiful houses along the streets of French Quarters and hustled my way through the streets of Old Quarters. My last stop was the Hanoi Opera House which is now one of my favourite landmarks probably in the world. It's so beautiful, especially at night. I wonder how amazing its interiors are.

I also spent a day out of town in Ninh Binh and rode my first bicycle! My tourist guide taught me how to bike, but I don't think I did anything pretty decent though. 

I also met with fellow tourists and spent a night with my wonderful host, a Canadian based in Hanoi, Ryan. Although he was pretty busy the entire day (he works as an English tutor) he went out of his way and showed me around his recommended places. I especially liked that time when we went to this place somewhere in Tay Ho district where I taught him how to speak in Filipino. We also went around with his motorbike and he took me to this temple, where I took a pretty cool panoramic view of the Tay Ho Lake. Too bad we weren't able to sneak in in one of the temples, it would have made my trip more bad ass! My stay with him ended with him treating me to a foot spa after an entire day spent walking around the city with my other friend Austen from Alaska.

On my last day, I was having separation anxiety, as I watch locals and tourists in Hoan Kiem Lake. I knew I needed to comeback and I made a promise to myself (and to a friend) that I will be back soon. I cannot wait for that.

My friends and several forum had warned me about the tourism in Hanoi. How it's pretty scary with taxi scams, pickpockets, and other horrible things a solo traveller can think of. But I assure you, getting lost for two days hasn't led me to anything life threatening at all. I just had my map with me and guts t to ask around to people who hardly spoke English. I am glad I survived! My new found friends and local sim card were a great help and I couldn't thank them enough for treating me and helping me throughout my trip.

Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of photos. I like to immerse myself with experience rather than take time getting the right angle and best shots. But despite not having mementos of my wonderful trip, I wish my memory won't fail me and that all those fantastic Hanoi experiences would stay with me forever. I promise, I'm getting back for more sights, sounds, and Pho (the food, if you know what I mean!)