All Is Swell

 

Scarf, Saizen | 'All Is Swell' Shirt, Coast Thru Life | Lace skirt, Jatujak | Leggings, Watsons | Sneakers, Converse
Glasses, SM Department Store | Scarf, Saizen | ‘All Is Swell’ Shirt, Coast Thru Life | Lace skirt, Jatujak | Leggings, Watsons | Sneakers, Converse

We rise up when we fall and when we do, we become better versions of ourselves. I believe that at some point in our lives, we hit rock bottom and when that happens, the temptation to just stay there and dwell in the negativity of the situation is hard to resist. To hate the world and blame everyone for living lives better than ours is always our go to option as humans compared to acknowledging the situation and eventually accepting it as a part of our life’s story. I used to take the easy route and just allow my emotions to get the best of  me. The younger version of me enjoyed having people care for me and look after me. It felt good for some time until I realized how weak and dependent I’ve become. I failed to live up to the meaning of my second name, ‘Aliya’.

 

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Ballers, Billabong San Juan Surf School (White) and Roxy (Pink) | Bracelets, Amihan sa Dahican | Bag, Thailand | Anklets, Amihan sa Dahican (red, green, yellow) and Jenny Tañedo

To acknowledge that you’ve hit rock bottom is one thing, and to make the decision to make your way out of the hell hole you’re in and rise up is another. I can’t remember how many times I hit a slump in my life, but I do remember receiving the biggest blow and making the decision to deal with the situation head on. People usually think that facing challenges is a piece of cake but I tell you, it’s hard work. The monster that whispers words that feed negative thoughts which eventually spiral into some twisted form of reality when you wake up at say, 3 in the morning does not help either. Most of the time, you find yourself playing a tennis match in your head where one side says all systems go, and the other makes you doubt every step you take towards picking yourself up and moving forward. It’s a feat, it’s exhausting, but trust me when I say that though the battle may be long, you’ll definitely come out strong.

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Every challenge comes with lessons that need to be learned. Yes they’re difficult, and we all have our fair share of trials that we wouldn’t wish on anyone but in retrospect, I believe these trials are life’s way of molding us into the people that we’re destined to be. You can’t go to chapter three without reading chapter one. Sure you can skip, but then the story won’t be complete. I’m not trying to sound like some hyper optimistic know-it-all. What I’m trying to say is maybe, just maybe, with a slight change of perspective it’ll be easier for us to prepare and deal with the roadblocks ahead.

***

Photography by: Wu Vila

Location: Botanic Garden, Melbourne, Australia

“All Is Swell” shirts

were designed by Carla Sebastian

as part of Coast Thru Life’s efforts to raise funds for

the survivors Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda). 

Thailand Diaries Part Two

As promised, here’s part two of our Thailand adventure.

 

River Cruise

Wanting to see more of the city, we went on a river cruise at the Chaophraya River. It gracefully snakes from the north to central region, ending in Bangkok where it enters the Gulf of Thailand. It’s good to go on a cruise if there’s still a lot of places that you want to see but you don’t have enough time.

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Hotels at the Chao Phraya River.
Beauty in the obscure.
Beauty in the obscure.
Temple of Dawn.
Temple of Dawn.
Thai eye.
Thai eye.

It’s interesting to see how the temples, hotels, and other tourist spots come to life at night. We were served with a sumptuous buffet but I couldn’t eat. I was busy taking pictures! I even ran out of memory space so I had to borrow my mom’s camera! After dinner, the host invited all of the guests to dance. It was nice to see how people from different cultures expressed themselves through dancing. Each had their own groove, their own beat. It was really fun to watch.

The trip cost us a good 1,400 Baht but I tell you, it was worth every penny.

 

Floating Market

Have you ever tried shopping while on a boat? If not, then the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Ratchaburi is perfect for you! Items are sold on boats and on river banks and the vendors take turns in approaching/pulling the boat to show their products. There are a lot of good finds here, some are costly, but you can always ask for a discount.

Noodles, lady?
Noodles, lady?
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Water traffic.
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I didn’t know that this was possible until I saw these.

My advice is, if you see something that you want, buy it. I was thinking of looking for the items that I liked in Chatuchak but I didn’t find them there. Also, the trip lasts for only an hour so you really have to be quick in choosing/buying items. Also, prepare $20 as ticket payment because for some reason, they don’t accept Baht.

Jim Thompson’s House

I was really inspired when we visited Jim Thompson’s House. Jim Thompson is an entrepreneur who generated international demand for Thai silk. His creative mind and natural flair for design and color made a huge contribution to the growth of the silk industry. He is the founder of the Jim Thompson Thai Silk Company. Hearing about his story and seeing his collection gave me the affirmation that I needed.

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Jim Thompson has a charming Thai Style House. According to our guide, that house was not only the “talk of the town”, it was also the city’s most celebrated social center. Since Jim Thompson’s disappearance in 1967, minor changes were done to preserve the original design, and to open the house to the public.

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Adorable handle reminds me of hand signs used when surfing. :)
Adorable handle reminds me of hand signs used when surfing. 🙂

 

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Entrance to the house.

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Entrance to the house is 100 Baht. There’s a restaurant on the right side and a shop on the left side. There are tours available in different languages scheduled every 30 minutes. The tour guides are really friendly so feel free to ask your questions. Cameras are not allowed inside the house which is sad because there are plenty of photo-worthy scenes,  and items inside.

Siam Discovery Center

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These greeted us when we entered the mall. 🙂
Propaganda on display.
Propaganda on display.
The display changes when you step on them. Pretty cool, huh?
The display changes when you step on them. Pretty cool, huh?

What I liked about Siam Discovery Center is that it’s not your typical mall. There are art installations located at almost every part of the mall waiting to be discovered, like this 3D art courtesy of Smirnoff:

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After going crazy over the art installations, we made our way to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. I was excited because the last time that I’ve been in a wax museum is back in 2nd grade, where I freaked out because the wax figure of Emily Rose (The Exorcist) began to move. Anyway, we had a great time looking at all of the figures. Most of the time, we had to convince ourselves that they ARE wax figures because they looked so much like the original!

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Madame Tussaud

When the tour ended, we dropped by the stall that makes wax hands. The thought of dipping my hand in hot wax was scary and I admit, I freaked out, but once the process began, I was okay. 🙂 They first dipped my hand in ice cold water until it felt numb before dipping it in hot wax. After repeating the process two more times, removed the hardened wax from my hand and attached it to a base.

My shaka hand! :)
My shaka hand! 🙂

We rode the BTS on our way back. We didn’t want to pay 400 Baht to the Tuktuk driver who was taking advantage of us foreginers, and we didn’t want to ride the cab who was doing the same either. Besides, since our Thailand trip was nearing its end, we decided to experience riding a train in another country.

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Imagine how life would be if things were this organized in our trusty MRT.

We were impressed at how organized everything was from ticket purchase to waiting for the train. The Thai people know how to fall in line and wait for the passengers to get out of the train before entering. I hope that someday, things will be this organized in the Philippines.

I didn’t include my Chatuchak adventure because I didn’t take pictures there. I mean, do you really have time to take pictures when there are thousands of stalls filled with affordable goodies in front of you? I had to bring a map with me so I wouldn’t get lost. It was good that I was wearing comfortable shoes because we had to walk the whole day to shop. I felt like I was in heaven, seriously.

We stayed in Thailand for five days but there’s still places that we didn’t get to see! We left with a promise that we’ll be back, if not this year then next. This trip brought us closer as a family, we learned so much about each other. It was really a wonderful experience.

Expressway

I like SHINee. There, I said it.

I used to be one of those people who gag when hearing KPOP songs on the radio. Well, okay there were some exceptions but I’ve never been one to really follow a Korean idol group and listen to their music and watch their music videos. I have friends who live and breathe KPOP, study Hangul just to understand the songs, and even spend huge amounts of money on albums and concert tickets. Their passion for KPOP was a mystery to me… until I started watching To the Beautiful You last April.

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Top and cap, Skechers x SHINee

When I’m going through something, especially when it concerns the heart, I lock myself up. I’m not keen on the idea of meeting every single person, repeating the story, and crying my heart out because 1) I don’t like that kind of attention and 2)it can be very exhausting. I was going through my daily routine of waking up – eating – lying down – listening to music while crying when I decided to turn on the television. Showing was To The Beautiful You where the leading man was SHINee’s Choi Minho, who didn’t really appeal to me at that time. I was more interested in the story of his love interest, Sulli, who pretended to be a man so she ca go to his school and… well you already know how the story ends. Anyway, I downloaded the episodes and eventually found myself watching it on a daily basis. I enjoyed the story, I  fell in love with Choi Minho’s character, and before I knew it, I began looking for his other dramas. My research brought me to his band, SHINee. I looked for their songs, listened to them, and found comfort in the beat and lyrics that didn’t make sense at all. I remember the first song I heard was “Why So Serious”, then after that, I heard “Helllo”, and then “Replay”. I liked the last two songs so I downloaded them and played them on loop. From then on, I became a SHAWOL (a SHINee fan). I’m still not into the whole KPOP idea. I just like SHINee plus two or three other groups and that’s it.  I now understand why my KPOP crazy friends behave the way they do. 🙂

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Top and cap, Skechers x SHINee | Dress, Kashieca | Shoes, Converse

In case you’re wondering, these photos were taken in an expressway in Thailand. Our taxi had a flat tire and we had to wait for hours for the repairs. To distract ourselves, my mom and I went outside the car and started to take pictures. Yes, it was annoying that that incident happened, but we didn’t want to let it ruin our day. Things happen no matter how hard you plan your trips abroad. What’s important is you open yourself to the possibilities and allow yourself to see the positive side when things don’t go as planned.

 

Thailand Diaries Part One

Since it is possible to travel by land to Thailand from Siem Reap, we decided to rent a taxi and cross the boarder.  You can also ride the bus or the train. We had to transfer to another taxi when we crossed the border since the one we rented does not have access. The people at the immigration aren’t big on smiling but despite this, you should still be nice since they have the power to deny access. There are a lot of porters and drivers who will insist that you go with them (especially since they know that you are not from their country and you do not understand their language) so stand your ground, put them in their place and keep calm. There’s a tourism office near the border and it’s best that you seek assistance from them.

Bangkok was a good two hours from the border. On the way, the driver pointed at the structures and shared  stories about them. The driver dropped us off at Bangkok Condotel since, according to him, it was near BTS and Jatujak (one of the reasons why I wanted to go to Thailand). After resting for a bit, we went to Khaosan Road aka Backpacker’s Road.

Khaosan Road

Blurred lines.
Blurred lines.

Khaosan Road is located in the Banglamphu Area of Phra Nakhom district. The road got its name from the word “khaosan” which means “milled rice” since the road used to be a rice market. Kho San Road is known as the backpacker ghetto since it offers almost everything a backpacker needs: good food, great music, funky finds, and cheap accommodations.

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Khao San Road at night
Listened to him play the guitar and the harmonica during dinner.
Listened to him play the guitar and the harmonica during dinner.
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I didn’t want to leave this store!

Khaosan has several pubs and bars. It’s shops sell local fruits, shirts, paintings, pirated CDs, second-hand books, plus many items a backpacker will definitely enjoy. The street vendors sell exotic food like barbecued insects and if you pay them 10 Baht, they’ll let you take a picture. At night, the road becomes a venue for a street party. People from all over the world gather to sing, dance, and enjoy the night. It’s like being in a dream and praying that no one will ever wake you up.

Ayutthaya

We went to Ayutthaya to visit the temples on our second day.  Ayutthaya is about an hour and a half from Bangkok, traffic permitting. A foreigner needs to pay 100 Baht for entrance to the temples. We didn’t have to deal with large tourist groups since we arrived early. We didn’t have to wait for a long time just to have our picture taken plus, we had the luxury of really enjoying the view and basking in the Ayutthaya ambience that had so much history.

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Black bird... fly.
Reminds me of a song from the Beatles

Ayutthaya, located in the valley of Chao Phraya River, was founded in 1350 by King U Thong who went there to escape the smallpox outbreak in Lop Buri. He proclaimed Ayutthaya as the capital of his kingdom, which later on became the second Siamese capital after Sukhothai.

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Woody Woodpecker
Woody Woodpecker

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According to history, the Burmese attacked the city and chopped the heads of the Buddha statues in 1767. The remains used to be gigantic reliquary towers and monasteries. The Buddha tree in Wat Mahatat, Ayutthaya is very famous because of the Buddha’s head that sits firmly in it’s tangled roots. To show respect, one must kneel or sit down when taking a picture with the Buddha.

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How the Buddha head got tangled in the tree is a mystery. Did the thief who stole it hide it there for safety? Did it fall from one of the statues? No one knows.
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Attempts to restore the Buddha statues.

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There are outfit restrictions. Some temples do not give access to people who are wearing caps, sleeveless tops and skirts that drop above the knee. It is also important to apply sunblock and bring an umbrella to keep the skin from the harmful rays of the sun, especially when doing the tour in broad daylight.

After touring the temples, we went to Wat Lokayasutharam to see the reclining Buddha. It is 37 meters long and 8 meters high. It is one of the largest in Thailand.

The reclining position portrays that the Buddha passed away peacefully.
The reclining position portrays that the Buddha passed away peacefully.

We then made our way to Wat Phanan Choeng to visit the Golden Buddha. This Buddha is 19 meters high and is called Luang Pho Tho. To the Thai people. the statue is a guardian for the mariners since “tears flowed from the sacred eyes to the sacred navel” prior to the destruction of Ayutthaya. This statue has undergone restoration several times.

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Grand Palace

If you’re on a budget and you have to choose between Ayutthaya and the Grand Palace, I say go for the latter. Yes, Ayutthaya is overflowing with history and it is indeed a wonderful experience, but the Grand Palace has so much more to offer.

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The Grand Palace is one of the popular tourist attractions in Thailand. It is located at the heart of Bangkok, and it is a complex of buildings. It was the official residence of the Kings of Siam until 1925. It is used for several royal ceremonies and state functions which happens every year.

There are also outfit restrictions at the Grand Palace. No shorts, skirts should drop just above the ankle, no sleeveless or see-through tops allowed. There are clothes that you can borrow in case you still want to enter (that is, if you’re willing to wear something that’s been worn by people from different parts of the world already). The entrance is 600 Baht (we cringed and backed out) and if you’re willing to pay extra, you will be given a tour guide who speaks your language.

We may not have entered the Palace, but overall, I still had fun. It’s not everyday that you get exposed to another country’s history and culture. There’s so much to see and do in Thailand. The structures are all so beautiful I couldn’t stop shooting! If I keep writing, I might bore you so I’m ending part one here. More of our Thailand adventures in Part Two! 🙂

Visiting Temples

Anyone who has been to Siem Reap and Thailand will recommend that you visit two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Angkor Wat and Ayutthaya. Angkor Wat in Siem Reap is a sight to see especially when you go there at dawn and wait for the sunrise. It’s breathtaking to see the sky change its color from black to different shades of blue with hints of yellow, orange, pink, and purple. I cried the first time I saw Angkor Wat because I was so amazed at how it was constructed (think manual labor) and how something so beautiful was preserved through the years. The Ayutthaya temples in Thailand are just as beautiful. Legend has it that it was in 1767 when the Burmese attacked the city and chopped the  heads of the Buddha statues. The Buddha tree in Wat Mahatat, Ayutthaya is very famous because of the Buddha’s head that sits firmly in it’s tangled roots. To show respect, one must kneel or sit down when taking a picture with the Buddha.

Since the temples are sacred, there are outfit restrictions. People who wear caps, sleeveless tops and skirts that drop above the knee are not given access in some of temples. I was aware of this since I did some research before going so I had time to plan my outfit.

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Shades, Ray Ban | Top, Bettina | Skirt, Thailand | Bangle, Vietnam | Baller, Roxy | Flip flops, Billabong

I went with a white blouse with butterfly sleeves since I knew that it will be very hot. The butterfly sleeves and the blouse’s cotton fabric allowed air to pass through so I wasn’t sweating that much. The wrap-around skirt dropped down to my ankles so I didn’t have to worry about not being able to enter some of the temples. The Roxy baller never left my left arm since a surfer friend gave it to me last Christmas – it makes me feel that the ocean is with me wherever I go. I bought the bangle during my trip to Vietnam last year. I decided to use it since it matches the color accents on my blouse.

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It’s important to bring a bag with you when you’re visiting temples. You will need to drink lots of water to avoid dehydration, a face towel, and extra clothes. For this visit, I used the bag my mom gave me since it can hold a lot of items and it has a secret pocket. I managed to fit the essentials plus my DSLR without it being too bulky.

What I enjoyed the most about my visit to the temples was mentally revisiting all my history notes dates since elementary. The stories and articles that I only saw in text books, articles, and journals were finally standing before me- I didn’t have to imagine what they looked like anymore. It is true that travelling is the best form of education because you don’t just read about it; you experience it, real time.