All posts filed under: Travel

Madrid, Spain: My Gateway to Europe

Madrid was never really on my list. It was a point of entry and exit. A doorway. An introduction to the story, where you meet the main character, establish interest, and gear up for things to happen. In many ways, it was all that – but it was more than that, too. I arrived in Madrid fresh from 30 hours of travel between four airports across roughly 14,000 kilometers. In my new pleather jacket, with backpack and shoulder bag in tow, I journeyed from airport to metro station to metro station to hostel, and quickly learned four things that would guide me through the rest of my travels: Be ready for all kinds of weather. Just because it was cold when you first stepped out on the street doesn’t mean it’ll still be so an hour later. And vice versa. No matter how light your backpack weighs on that scale, it’ll soon weigh double – or triple – as much on your shoulders. Never mind how heavy your bag is. You always have space for …

Four years, four days, four weeks

A friend of mine loves airports. He loves watching people come and go, waiting and meeting in those wide, brightly lit halls. He loves speculating about them—who they are, where they’re going, why they’re leaving. What their stories are. I’d say airports are among his muses. He’s so fascinated with them that he’s written a series featuring his friends and how they would be at an airport. I’ve read two of those shorts. Sadly, I’m not in any of them. No worries, though. Because in four—count ’em, four—days, I’ll be that person in the airport. Another face in the crowd of people waiting to take off. Another story waiting to unfold and be told. With this story being four years in the making, it ought to be a good one. From dreaming to doing It still hasn’t completely sunk in that I’m finally going on my Eurotrip. It isn’t the exact same trip I’d dreamt of back in 2012. I’m not going to Russia, since that received a firm no from my parents. And I’m a …

Up and Down the Temples of Prambanan

Just an hour or so away from Borobudur lies another temple compound that’s a must-visit while in the vicinity of Yogyakarta. Prambanan is considered the largest Hindu temple complex in Indonesia, and like Borobudur, it’s landed a coveted spot on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Having just been to Borobudur, it was impossible not to compare the two. While the former gave me that staggering, surreal feeling of “Oh, I’m finally here, and it’s even more amazing than I expected,” Prambanan snuck up on me slowly. Yes, there was that burst of whoa when I got my first full view of it from across that long stretch of grass and plants, but it was calmer. Quieter. Instead of stopping me in my tracks, it urged me to come closer and gained more of my admiration with every step I took. Despite its misleading name, Prambanan Temple, or Loro Jonggrang, is actually composed of 240 temples. If you look at its original model on Wikipedia, you’ll see that it follows a square plan with more than 200 small temples enclosing the main temples and …

Finding enlightenment at Borobudur

I can’t pinpoint when it was that I first realized I wanted to see Borobudur, but it’s been on my list for a while now. Sometimes, when you dream about something for so long, you build it up in your head and end up disappointed when it turns into reality. This wasn’t the case here. The hostel was dim and quiet when I walked down to the lobby five minutes before 3:40 AM. I’d gotten probably two hours of sleep, tops, but I wasn’t about to let that get in the way of my plans. The car arrived late enough that I’d worried they’d forgotten about me, but it all worked out. I sat beside the driver and watched the night pass me by as two men chatted in the backseat. Despite the early hour, life stirred on the streets of Yogyakarta, and as we drove closer to Magelang, the more I saw people going about their morning routines. The sunrise can be viewed from Borobudur itself via Manohara Hotel’s exclusive Sunrise Tour, which gets you inside the temple an hour and …

Touchdown, Yogyakarta!

When I boarded my plane to Yogyakarta, I’d expected to spend the entire two-hour flight asleep. I’d never thought that I’d end up talking to a stranger for majority of that time and learn so much about his life story in the process, all because he’d offered to translate the custom declaration form for me! That encounter set the tone for the entirety of my trip—it was filled with apprehensions and lucky interventions, peppered with new experiences and discoveries, and blessed with happy encounters. Thanks to my friendly seatmate, I arrived in Yogyakarta knowing a lot more about Indonesia than I previously had, such as how they had more than 300 languages and even more dialects, how gudeg was the must-try dish in town (it involves chicken, tofu, jackfruit, and rice), and how I looked like a local from one of the cities up north. That last bit threw me off, but I discovered how true that was when everyone kept talking to me in Javanese and giving me surprised looks when I couldn’t understand them. After sailing past …