It has been more than a week that I have returned after a solo travel in Istanbul. I don’t know if I am to share my awesome experiences in this blog or keep it to myself and be selfish about how it is to be in magnificent Turkey.
While contemplating the thought on whether or not to share my breathtaking journey, I would like to thank Sam Smith’s music for keeping me sane during the lengthy travel time from Manila to Istanbul via Seoul, South Korea. It was a crazy 15 hour flight with 5 hours layover at Incheon Airport each way!
Here is my favorite track in Sam Smith’s recently released album:
I am more keen (of course) on writing about my Turkey journey. It’s just that my experiences were all so beautiful and colorful, I actually don’t know where to start. The title of this song is so like my travel to Turkey, “Baby, You Make Me Crazy”!!!
I want to travel to Japan (again) but my visa has expired. That is why I am so busy trying to collate all needed documents and requirements for me to re-visit the Land of the Rising Sun.
While trying to fill out the Japan visa application form, I realized that it is hard to be a citizen of a very weak passport. Humongous preparations are needed to be undertaken for earthlings like us so as to venture into having to experience the joys of travelling.
For other citizens with very strong passports, their first step when they want to travel out of the country is to scout for a good-priced airfare. For Filipino passport holders, scouting for a bargain airfare would be pretty much at the latter part of the multitude of complex steps that we need to hurdle, overcome and accomplish.
Photo of specific size and background, bank certifications, tax certification, employment certification, birth and baptismal certifications, approved vacation leave certifications and correctly filled up confusing application forms are some of the obstacles that we have to undertake.
Thank goodness, Japan embassy need not schedule me for a one-on-one interview with an embassy consul. Other embassies would even add up more requirements like a face-to-face interview, a digital photo, a biometric fingerprint record, a medical vaccination/s certificate and a good coverage of travel insurances to name a few.
Aside from being so confusing and time consuming, being a Filipino passport holder is more expensive. On top of all these time consuming collation of necessary and obligated documents, breathing Filipinos like me needs to pay for the expensive non-refundable visa fees!
The amount of visa fee application can already be a supposed additional budget to a sumptuous dinner in a posh restaurant or a night’s accommodation rate to a first class hotel or the total train and taxi fares of the Filipino traveler to the country of his destination. And the only assurance for Filipino passport holders applying for a visa is that they are guaranteed to pay for a visa fee, may their visa application is approved or denied!
It’s hard to be a Filipino passport holder. We are unlike other citizens of this planet, who would simply buy their plane ticket, pack their bags, bring their powerful passport and proceed to the airport so as to catch the flight to a country of their preferred destination.
According to Saint Augustine, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page”. With this in mind, let me share a short summary of my recent San Francisco solo travel. This short video is a proof that I indeed finished at least a chapter of what this saint was talking about.
For those who endured and finished watching the whole video… Thank you!!! Watch out for the next chapter…
I am a big fan of art that are commonly found in museums. The forms of art I often marvel about outdoors would be magnificent architectures and massive infrastructures. But while having a walk along the Embarcadero near the Bay Bridge in San Francisco, one massive piece of sculpture struck me. It’s the humongous bow and arrow monument in the middle of Rincon Park.
Upon google search, I learned that the title of this masterpiece is Cupid’s Span built in 2002. The artists who created this gigantic piece made reference to Eros, the Greek God also known to the Roman’s as Cupid who shoots arrows into its would-be-victims.
Unexpectedly discovering this cool piece of art was great! Perceiving and understanding the statement that Cupid’s Span makes – like any other piece of art – can be very subjective. It is open to the personal interpretation of the individual. You either like it or you don’t. I happen to love it! It blends well and stands out pretty impressive with the surrounding location. You can actually view Cupid’s Span from different angles, backgrounds and perspectives at different times. And this unique attribute of this masterpiece gives you different opinion and feeling every time.
It is one unique landmark in SF which I guess celebrates love and how an SF visitor’s heart can actually get stuck and held immovable by the beauty of the sights and culture of San Francisco. For me, it is an unflinching representation of the famous line, “I left my heart in San Francisco”.
And while taking photos of this massive masterpiece, I was gleefully unashamed singing Rachel Alejandro’s song, Mister Kupido! (click the LINK to that song) Hahaha!
Ba’t hindi panain, ang kanyang damdamin ng ako ay mapansin…
One downside of being a solo traveler, which I realized during my San Francisco CA solo expedition, is that I am to eat alone. Good thing I am living by myself in Manila, thus, the impact of eating solo in a foreign country is not disturbing if compared to those who are so used to sharing a thought and their food with someone else during a meal.
Because of this glitch, I avoided fancy restaurants and during meal periods I can be found in a communal table of a food court, an indie coffee shop or in a park munching a dish I bought from a food stall or food truck.
But when my college best friend Marie (now based in Los Angeles) recommended that I should try and dine at Stinking Rose, I never had a second thought. One late lunch period, I navigated the streets of SF and proceeded to Columbus Avenue where the Italian restaurant is located.
The receptionist upon knowing that I am dining “just myself”, she was smart and gentle enough to assign me to a good and strategic table (a corner by the window) which seem intended really for solo diners.
I ordered a 3-course Prix Fixe Dinner bundle. For the main course I settled with the one recommended by the waiter, the Forty Clove Garlic Chicken. And when the food was served, I totally forgot about the glitches and hurdles of dining solo in a fancy or busy restaurant.
On a bright side of this experience, since my mind would not be diverted or side-tracked from this gustatory encounter, I actually was able to indeed levy the quality and taste of the food that was served at Stinking Rose. I was more focus and conscious about the palatal attributes of the food I was devouring. And my verdict about Stinking Rose? Let me just say that my super friend Marie cares for my palatal satisfaction. She indeed gave me an excellent recommendation!
I may forget that I dined solo at Stinking Rose but the gustatory experience I had with this Italian restaurant shall be remembered for a very long time.
I am a solo traveler in my recent travel adventure to San Francisco, California. Prior to leaving Manila, I tried to read a couple of blogs and view a number of vlogs on tips of being a solo traveler, which I hope would help me in this first time solo expedition.
There are however two worthy items that all these blogs and vlogs seem to have missed. First, is never to arrive in your destination at night time. This is actually what happened to me when I arrived in SFO. My flight landed at 10:30 PM and was only able to go out of the airport after about 40 minutes.
Arriving in an unexplored location in the middle of the night somehow gave me chills and some dash of fear. Good thing with my childhood background, I grew up in a slum-like area of Pasay. Dealing with street weirdos is like something that I am used to. With this rich experience, I know I can handle goons and crooks out in the streets of San Francisco.
But goons and crooks of US are actually not my problem when I arrived super late at night in SFO. It was the rain!
While rolling my humongous luggage and drenched in a very cold rain, there was literally no one in the streets of San Francisco to ask for possible directions and location of my super budget hotel. Even the goons and crooks seem to have gone to some freakin’ dry and warm shelter.
Thus, may you fear lurkers in the night or dread the horrors of unforeseen weather condition, never land to your area of destination at nigh time when you are a solo traveler.
Second, when you have just arrived in your destination and it’s in the middle of the night, drenched with heavy rain and can’t seem to locate your hotel, the thing that you should do is to proceed to the nearest five star hotel. Not the police station, not a hospital neither a 24-hour convenience store. You should run to the concierge of the nearest 5 star hotel.
Concierge of 5 star hotels are more knowledgeable, more efficient and more helpful compared to bellhops and front desk beings of most non-5 star accommodations. They are always there to help, may you be a guest or a mere “tambay” (loiterer) of their establishment.
And this is exactly what I did. Drenched, tired and worried, I run to the nearest hotel concierge that I can find. The obliging concierge pointed that it’s only walking distance from their hotel but since it’s raining he volunteered on calling a cab for me. He summoned a bellman to blow his whistle and automatically a cab arrived. He even helped me with my luggage by putting it inside the trunk. I of course handed the guy some hefty tip for being such an angel towards a co-angel in distress.
Though these experiences adds up to the spice of my learnings of being a solo traveler, I hope these two tips would help a lot especially those who plan to go on solo. Good luck, have fun and stay safe!