Almost all blogs had a 2018 New Year post except me. Though 18 days late, let me then post my 2018 New Year post. Let me feature my 2018 New Year song entitled This Is Me from the movie The Greatest Showman.
This Is Me is so me. After listening to the song and watching the lyric video, I could not help myself from not tearing up. The message, the lyrics and the tune really cuts deep. With my eccentricities, my weirdness and my oddness, This Is Me fully represent my being me.
This post maybe late for 18 days yet I know I will face the year 2018 with much courage because I am brave, I am bruised, I am who I’m meant to be THIS IS ME! Life’s hurdles for 2018 may be inevitable and I may not be The Greatest Showman but I’m not scared to be seen, I make no apologies THIS IS ME!
One of the greatest gifts that a person can receive this Christmas (and for every Christmas for that matter) is the gift of laughter. And each year, this is one precious gift that I receive from my family.
Every year at Christmas Eve since their childhood days, my nieces and nephews would group up and do a presentation at Nengkoy’s house. Each group would got to compete for a prize money. I am always one of the judges along with Nengkoy and my elder sister. And since my nieces and nephews got their funny bones from their grandmother Nengkoy, all their presentations always turns out to be something so hilarious!
These year though majority of my nephews and nieces are now professionals and some has even gone married, each one of them still never failed to give the family some very good laugh. All these glee and hilarity really adds up to the joyful and happy spirit of Christmas every single year at Nengkoy’s house.
Only now that I realized that in the past 7 times that I have travelled to Japan, only few times did I went to a public art museum. Reason maybe is because Japan in itself is one whole country of a public museum. Everything you see, touch and feel seem worthy of being preserved, collected and exhibited.
When I go to a foreign country, I often set aside a day to visit either an art, cultural or historical museum. I call it my “cultural day”. A day when my soul is fed with art, history and culture. But being in Japan, everyday seem to be a “cultural day”.
Though it is my 8th journey to Japan, this visit is still something different. It is because I got to go and check on an actual museum. And what is so unique about it is that I myself seem to be part of the museum’s exhibit.
While my nieces and nephews settled to go to Osaka’s Universal Studios, accompanied by one of my nieces, I, my sisters and Nengkoy went to Osaka Museum of Housing & Living.
The whole museum is a replica of an old Japanese town, specifically during Japan’s Edo period. The cool thing about this museum is you got to rent and wear clothes of people during that era. Thus, visitors donned in kimonos and yukatas can interactively feel how it really was 200 years ago in Osaka.
Adding up the modern Japanese technology, the lighting and sound simulations of the whole museum would shift, in which visitors would get to witness how it is to be during early morning dawn, daytime and nighttime period of the Edo era. The awesome feeling was like stepping into the good olden days of Osaka!
The ultimate measure for the most favorite travel destination to a foreign country of a traveler is the number of times that traveler has returned. Intentions for such returns must be for leisure and never to count the reasons due to work, study, business or religion.
Me and Nengkoy’s most recent visit to Japan was our eight time. And Japan, Osaka in particular never ceases to amaze us. Both of us thought that we have basically done everything a tourist must do in Osaka and its nearby cities like Kyoto, Nara and Kobe.
We then decided to further plunged ourselves to the Japanese culture by attending and learning the Way of Tea, otherwise known as the Japanese tea ceremony. My niece booked us at Maikoya Osaka, a Japanese cultural experience center who fortunately holds some of their cultural classes in English.
We got to witness how the tranquil purification process was done along with the very elaborate and refined steps of the ceremony. The Way of Tea for me is like a transcendent ritual that truly demonstrate respect through grace, charm and poise along with the showmanship of how a high level of good etiquette should be carried out.
The Way of Tea ceremony is a total opposite from my being brusque, coarse and unmannered. The beautiful rite was so calm, serene and peaceful. It was so dreamlike, I wanted to lie down, sleep and snore right there at the tatami mat!
I thought my 8th visit in Osaka prefecture would be a bore but our first Way of Tea experience was such a refreshing encounter. It provided me reasons to come back and further explore beautiful Osaka and its nearby cities in the future.
Nengkoy (my mother) is used to check-in a 5-star hotel or resort every time she goes on a domestic vacation. Because of budget constraints and weak Philippine peso, it is the downgraded to 4 or 3-star hotels during international travels. However, in Nengkoy’s recent international trip her accommodation experience was further downgraded from a hotel to a hostel!
I am the culprit. It is because I am the one who booked and reserved a tiny room for three at A Dot Homestay via Booking.com.
Upon clearance from the immigration and retrieval of our luggage at Taoyuan International Airport, I Nengkoy and my sister proceeded to the nearest airport transport service. We booked a return exclusive luxury car service that will drive us to our hostel and pick us up to bring us back to the airport on our last day’s stay. The driver was quite surprised upon finding out that we have to be dropped not to a luxurious hotel but instead to an ordinary building where our hostel was located.
Actually, upon alighting the luxurious car, I never noticed where A Dot Homestay was located for there was no signage. Upon noticing that I seem to look confused, the driver was kind enough to point to us the building and entrance gate were the address of our hostel was. Shockingly, there was no reception desk where to transact our check-in. Instead, we proceeded to the 5th floor of the building, were asked to take off our shoes and was led to a dining table where we settled our payment and where the crew issued us our electronic keys to our room.
Nengkoy and my sister then told me after we have settled inside our room that both of them were already contemplating of pushing me to transfer to a legit hotel. It was obviously their first time to be in such a type of a lodging. They were not used to a guesthouse without a front desk, a concierge and an elegant chandelier in a lobby.
I have no intention of under estimating this hostel. It is because I, my sister and Nengkoy were quite impressed by the facilities, cleanliness and offerings of A Dot Homestay. After our first night, we easily adjusted and came to appreciate this cozy and comfortable establishment.
A Dot Homestay basically grew in us. Maybe it is because it offers remarkable facilities (comfy bed with fresh and spotless linens, clean and big common/shared toilet & shower rooms, a free-to-use washer and dryer, very fast internet connection, hot, warm and cold drinking water, a fridge that all guests can use and even a kitchenette if guests wish to cook their food). They even offer us to eat and try the free snacks placed and made available at the main table.
But aside from all these pleasant and amazing features, there are two things that I like most about A Dot Homestay. First is the warm, gracious and well-mannered staffs. All their staffs whom I encountered can speak English (Sarah, one of the staffs, according to her actually studied English here in the Philippines for 3 months) and everybody were so genial and are so willing to assist so as to make sure that we enjoy our visit to Taipei. They can even give you tips on where to dine and where to go to.
Second is the location. A Dot Homestay is literally just a couple of steps away from Exit 3 of Daan Station. The nearness of the train station is one of my main considerations why I chose and booked A Dot Homestay. I know that Taipei weather is like Manila weather. It is hot, boiling and very humid. Thus, it would be too difficult to walk on the streets so as to reach the station if the hotel would be too far a distance. I was also glad to have chosen this lodging establishment because I am with Nengkoy and my often-complaining sister who hates to walk under a blistering climate. Thus, the location of A Dot Homestay is just perfection!
Thanks to A Dot Homestay! It is because this establishment made Nengkoy’s first hostel experience a very pleasant and remarkable one.
Oh and by the way, on our last day, it was a different driver who picked us up and drove us to the airport for us to catch our flight back to Manila. He was driving a Mercedes Benz. It was so noticeable that the driver was puzzled and bamboozled why we were not picked from a luxurious hotel but instead by the bustling Xinyi Road in front of an ordinary-looking building.
Taipei, Taiwan based on travel blogs seem not in the top list of places to go to on the planet. But I along with Nengkoy and elder sister Ester nevertheless adventured into seeing what Taipei has to offer. Actually, yesterday we were back to Manila and actually just arrived from Taipei. And before the lazy bug bit me, let me showcase an awesome experience while we were there.
Night markets in Taipei are quite popular. Shilin Night Market located near Jiantan train station is considered the largest is actually the most popular among tourists. This is the night market that Nengkoy, I and my sister chose to chill at and visit during a very short stay in Taipei.
Shilin Night Market is known to offer various food and nonfood items. Aside from a couple of cool t-shirts I purchased, I got to try two amazing stuffs at this lively, brazen and well-admired night market.
The Ampaet Drink
First, I got to try the white bitter gourd juice. Bitter gourd is known as Ampalaya in the Philippines. Here in my country, Ampalaya is green in color and never used as a juice drink flavor. Because of its bitter taste, it is one of my most hated vegetables.
But in Taiwan, they got a white/albino variety and they use it for a refreshing juice drink. Upon learning that such is mixed in a cold drink, it got me curious. I even thought that the albino variety would be a redeeming version of the green-colored variety. I was expected that it would be sweet to the taste. So as to end my pondering, I ordered a tall glass.
As for the taste, it was a disappointing bitter taste same as the green version. And same as the green variety, I hated the white kind. It was not my type! Ampaet! (Translation: so bitter!) But as a consolation, I nevertheless will no longer have to brood over on what the taste was of such a rare drink when I get back to Manila. To get rid of the bitter after taste, I, Nengkoy and my sister decided to gulp on a very cold bottle of pure and freshly squeezed sugarcane juice, which is also a popular street drink in Taipei!
The Uncut Cutlet
Second, Shilin Night Market shall be for the record the place where I actually had the largest piece of chicken cutlet. It was so big I thought it was an ostrich!
There was a long queue at store called Hot Star. I actually don’t know what people were queuing up for. And since the line is very long, I assume the food stuff that store was selling must be amazing. I just decided to fall in line and only got to realize that it was a humongous filleted chicken cutlet that was being sold when I was already paying for it.
Hot Star chicken cutlet was surprisingly very good and very tasty! The chicken meat is evenly coated with a crunchy deep fried golden brown batter. Before the ginormous cutlet was handed over to me upon payment, it was sprinkled with flavoring powder which I believe (based on the whispers of my taste buds) is composed of white pepper, sea salt and special spices. This chicken cutlet was surprisingly tender and juicy. It was so ginormous I shared it with Nengkoy!
These are just two of the million or more possible stuffs that people can try when they visit the vibrant Shilin Night Market. There is a cornucopia of stuffs that visitors can taste when they chill at this amazing night market. Try visit sometime and prove to yourself that Taipei is actually worth a visit!