Grocery Shopping the Silly Traveler Way

My country has the longest and strictest pandemic lock down in the world.  And because of prolonged quarantining, I realized that there has been somewhat a number of gains from this experience.  People now can enjoy a much cleaner air; folks has established closer relations with other family members; while some has realized how inept and incompetent their elected government officials were. 

On a lighter note, my being on a lock down made me a little nifty, thrifty and dreamy at the same time.  It has actually controlled my illogical retail therapy.  Case in point is my grocery shopping.  I no longer buy unnecessary stuff and I have gone basic, essential and primary.

The nearest grocery store from where I live is too short to have a ride and too distant to be considered a walking distance.  I chose the latter when I have to go there.  And since I have to limit my going out, the quantity of my grocery buying would basically be good for 2 weeks.

Since my buying is of enormous measure and I decided to walk so as to get some sun, a little cardio and pretty good amount of fresh air along the way, I cannot just carry it from the grocery store to my place of stay.  I then decided to be a little smarter.  I resolved this thru the use of my very well-travelled l.u.g.g.a.g.e!

my haul! fresh eggs & frozen meat products were placed in a separate eco-bag of course… never in my wildest dream would i place garlic & onions in my luggage! hahaha!

recently went to s&r membership shopping store (and brought along my luggage)

Yeah, since the pandemic has bunged me up from travelling, I decided my inactive and sedentary luggage to be of good use. My using it actually helped me a little in lessening my silly craving to go for an international travel.  I would just have to pretend that my walking to and from the grocery store were like the moments when I would do a flight transfer from one international airport terminal to another strolling along my heavy check-in luggage. Hahaha!

my empty well-traveled check-in luggage… waiting for the capsicum, green beans, oats, potatoes, cabbage, & a lot lot more! hahaha!

Stay safe everyone!

Ten Year Anniversary of My Morocco Adventure

Ten years ago I clearly remember we were all praying and wishing to own the coolest Blackberry phone.  It was the time when lifestyle magazine editors were the arbiters of taste telling readers what to see, shop and do.  Now our lives are ruled by the social media influencers!

me 10 long years ago inside our budget hotel in casablanca

Ten years ago, Alexa, Bixby and Siri may just be the names of your neighbor’s pets.  Now they are your reliable artificial intelligence who can help you with your missions and commissions.  It was also the time when watches were simply used to tell time and you have to manually count the number of steps you had for the day and need to go to the doctor to monitor your calorie intake.  Now these 3 aspects are just minor features of your smart watch!  

In fact this blog, ten years ago was still being powered under Friendster Blogging site prior to my switching to WordPress!  I switched/transferred Nengkoy blog to WordPress in 2011.

Ten years ago was my first long haul adventure out of the country.  Ten years ago was my Morocco adventure!  Though I spent my Morocco exploits with Australian friends, this was my first solo airplane long haul experience!  This I guess gave birth to my loving going solo on travels abroad.

me with joesel, the travel-savant

sahara dessert adventure!

inside a tannery in fes

And can you just imagine how backward technology was during that time?  So solo travel then was more difficult and more challenging.  Internet info then was a bit limited. I can still remember the countless times I personally called Qatar Airways to inquire and ensure that there is no transit visa needed during my lay over in Doha.

I have no idea about the existence of mobile wifi then!  Though internet was existing already, I clearly remember that me, Joesel and Charles had to go the nearest internet shop inside a medina so as to connect online and message love ones from other parts of the world. 

My cellphone was okay then but the camera I was using then was the compact digital camera type! Chinese has not invented selfie sticks and gorilla pods during that time so can you just imagine how we take turns in taking our photos and smiling on camera multiple times so as to get the best selfie angle?

a rest day at merzouga

casablanca mosque

Ten years ago, my Morocco experience was the start of the expansion of my viewpoints of the world.  My learnings of the world were no longer just sourced from the pages of the book I read.  It was the time when my comfort zone was ultimately tested.  It was the adventure that made me realize that I can actually do and accomplish things I never imagine I could do.  It was the start of my different way of growing. 

Wow! It was actually ten years ago and no way will I forget my Morocco adventure!

Visa Application: The Expensive Way of Proving My Being a Human Being

My comment on a Facebook post by Business Insider “Hahaha! No need to read the article.  I know this so well… (Filipino here)” is gaining semi-popularity.  This article written by a Syrian was about how difficult it is to travel when you don’t have the power of a privileged passport.

And like Syrians, Filipinos like me has to face expensive challenges and time-consuming process of obtaining a travel visa.  Like Syrians, Filipino-world travelers has very weak passports.  We are not privileged to travel easily like the French, the Norwegians and the Singaporeans to name a few.

new zealand: visa fee usd 140

shanghai, china: visa fee usd 27.50

Belgians and South Koreans and other nationalities with powerful passport need not plan so much ahead of time.  They can easily go and hop on the next flight available to another country if they wish to.  But Syrians and Filipinos need months in advance of processing our visit visa.  We need to prepare a long list of proofs of our being human beings as well as present our capability to finance ourselves during our travel.

We have to pay the expensive visa fees which Australians, Americans and Canadians can already apportion to their room accommodations or meal expense during their travel.  We have to allot a separate budget for that. Hahaha!  And these pricy visa fees does not actually assure us of securing our needed visit visa.  We need to do loads of prayers to the heavens plus tons of luck!

mexico: visa-free entry if you have japanese or us visa

israel: visa free (yohooo!!!)

turkey: need to have US visa + usd 20 for evisa

As of this writing I have to pay 60 euros to secure a Schengen visa, 160 US dollars to obtain an American visa and 832 US dollars to acquire a 5-year UK visa.  And according to 2018 schengenvisainfo.com report, Schengen embassies and consulates in the Philippines processed 175,700 visa applications.  UK on the other hand processed 78,482 applications.  And these are just Schengen and UK, we Filipinos love USA so do the math on how much these embassies profited from travel-loving Filipinos.

Wealthy Malaysians, Japanese and Singaporeans has to pay nothing.  Zero.  Thus, Schengen, UK and US embassies and consulates don’t earn from them considering that they can effortlessly afford it. 

If for some people getting lost in a foreign country is the most tough, Syrians for and Filipinos on the other hand, the process of obtaining visa is the most difficult.  Hahaha!  It is actually the very element that hinders me from going to places I want to explore.  It is one sad truth that a travel lover like me has to endure and undertake.

St. Petersburg Metro Stations & the Budgetarian In Me

Visiting and journeying to an out-of-country place entails a lot of readings and research.  I would usually explore the internet on how to go the cheapest and most convenient way so as to reach my hotel from the airport – should I go by train, by taxi, by bus or by other modes of transportation. 

Because I turn “budgetarian” when I travel abroad, it is a must that I have to know the Philippine peso conversion rate to that of the currency of the country I am to visit.  It is also essential to know the weather so that I can plan what appropriate clothes to bring.

I don’t join expensive, tiring and time consuming tour groups unless it is for free.  I would simply research on various tour packages and do it myself.  My point of reference during my DIY expedition of tourist spots are the hordes of Chinese tourists.  As soon as I see them, I know that I am in the right place. 

I do my own touring and not join tour groups because aside from its being cheap, I can control the time being spent on these tourist spots. I can leisurely stay as long as I want or simply pass by if such a sightseeing spot is plain and mediocre.

One classic case of venturing into a DIY-tour as based and followed from an online tour package was my touring the interesting metro stations in St. Petersburg, Russia. Available in the internet are tour packages wherein you got to be see and experience various beautiful underground metro stations within St. Petersburg dubbed as masterpieces of underground architecture.  This 90-minute duration tour package is worth 33 US dollars per participant.

Pushkinskaya station

 I spent only 45 rubles or 75 US cents when I did it by myself!  45 Rubles is the entrance fee to get inside the metro train system! Hahaha! Here are some of the photos I took when I did my own touring of the most beautiful metro stations in the world!

Ploshchad Vosstaniya station

Kirovsky Zavod station

Avtovo station

Here’s a video slideshow to further entice you to go on a DIY journey!

Magnificence of Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

One of the many highlights of my St. Petersburg, Russia adventure was the visit to the magnificent Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood.  This icon had so much history in it as well as an overwhelming visual treat!

glorious!

One unique attribute of the amazing interiors is that the design on the walls were not paintings but intricate work of fastening and gluing together colorful tiny-tiny tiles so as to create massive and extravagant mosaics.  As I enter, there was a spine-tingling sensation because of the visual indulgence that this church offers.

Though I did not have the time and facility to measure, I found out in my readings that the interior’s breathtaking mosaic covers a total of 23,130 square feet, considered to be one of the largest in Europe. Can you just imagine the amount of time, passion and creativity it took to create this massively handsome building?

unbelievable!

i don’t know but this brings chills in me

sensory overload!

stunning!

selfie

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is not all appearances.  It was actually born out of an assassination that shook Russia.  This monumental structure was built on the very spot where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated by a group of revolutionaries who threw bomb at the Tsar’s royal carriage.  And in honor of his father, Tsar Alexander III built this insanely gorgeous-looking church.  Thus, making this beautiful building a marker of significant history.

Now, have a visual feast from the video I created.

The Wishing Toe of Atlas

I happen to bumped into one quirky superstition while reading articles and editorials online about Russia’s cultural capital, St. Petersburg.  One irrational belief by the locals is about the magical powers of the huge and hard-to-miss Atlas sculptures near the Hermitage, one of the striking and imposing symbols of this lovely city.

The Sculptures of Atlas has been around since 1848 and surprisingly stayed standing even during the bomb-filled events of the Great Patriotic War.  Because of obtaining only minor damage during the war, locals reaffirmed on the unorthodox mystical nature of these sculptures.

super massive sculptures of atlas! look at how small people has become at the lower left portion of this image.

proof! hahaha!

People now would troop to these sculptures to touch the toes of Atlas which is believed to bring protection to those who rub it.  Also, locals and tourists alike come to the area to hold the big toes of Atlas because it is believed that it will bring good luck as well as make their wishes come true.

I actually got the chance to pass by three times in the area.  And three times did I go up so as to touch the wishing toe of Atlas.  One actually already came true prior to touching the wishing toe.  It is the awesome blessing sent by the heavens of seeing, feeling and smelling the charming city of St. Petersburg, Russia!

Here’s a video slideshow of photos & clips I took during my exploit with the Sculptures of Atlas.

Free Entry at the Grand Winter Palace & the Hermitage

Craving, salivating and hankering.  These are the major emotions and sensations that builds up when I had to control myself from entering the Winter Palace and the Hermitage in St. Petersburg.

Though just a stone throw away from my hotel, I had to postpone my entry into the former winter residence of Catherine the Great as well as the world’s second largest art museum.  I had to wait and properly time myself so that my entry would basically be FREE and complimentary.  Thus, in the first few days of my stay in St. Petersburg, I was left to drool and gaze outside the magnificent palace.

I was lucky enough that my journey to St Petersburg, Russia fell on the 3rd week of the month.  And very few tourists know that on every 3rd Thursday of each month, entrance to the Winter Palace and the Hermitage is free.  Thus, I had to wait and postpone my visit for me to avail of the free entry.

i was one with the locals

grand!!!

majestic!!!

And when the 3rd Thursday of the month arrived, I was one with the multitudes of people who patiently lined up so as to get inside the famous palace.  And what is so amusing and amazing about my queuing and falling in line is that I was with the many locals who well-planned their visit.  I guess only the locals knew about the free entrance.

I was unlike the usual and clueless tourist who paid for their expensive ticket online so as to cut through the queue and enter right away.  Patient and unwearied locals lined-up were actually telling me (in broken English) to simply show my printed online ticket to the guard so that I can pass through and enter the palace right away.  I simply smiled and told them that just like them, I am without a ticket.

regal!!!

imperial!!!

opulent!!!

And upon entry, you would really feel the true sophisticated Russian vibe.  Its aristocracy, its grandness as well as the splendor of Russian elegance indeed resonates within the walls and exhibits of the Winter Palace and the Hermitage.

Here’s a glimpse of the free yet super grand Winter Palace & the Hermitage.

First Post & Last Day at St. Petersburg

If everybody thought that Nengkoy Blog is done, dead and finish, I also thought it was.  But lo and behold! I am still here to plunk excesses in the blogosphere and exploit lots and lots of waste of internet space!

I may have suspended my blogging activity but my world travel continues.  Let me then post a Youtube slideshow video of my last day in amazing St. Petersburg, Russia!

Trip to St. Petersburg was one unforgettable journey.  Expect posts in the coming days about this adventure.

still breathing…

I am back peeps!

Perfect Strangers at 72nd Street Subway Station

Every subway station in New York City seem to depict and tell their distinct story.  Each station appears to have their own unique and notable personality.  One striking subway station that I stumbled upon which I was truly impressed with was the Second Avenue subway station at 72nd Street.

And out of curiosity, I tried reading articles about the remarkable design and artwork of the station.  I then found out that the numerous glass mosaic images on the walls of the station were done my artist and photographer Vic Muniz and he appropriately named these works of art as Perfect Strangers.

Perfect Strangers being a public art display can easily be perceived as a celebration of diversity of the people who live and work in any NYC neighborhood.  It is also a powerful message to all commuters about the normalcy of life in New York.  These mosaics can simply be distinguished as the microcosm of the city which reminds everyone of us that life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.

working hard

young at heart

super friends

father figure

love wins

And it looks like this station has been earning some popularity and a amiaable reputation from people who loves taking photos.  It is because I noticed that it was not only me who was there taking photos of those Perfect Strangers on the walls! I’m pretty sure the live breathing strangers would post their photos in their respective Instagram account.  My photos however don’t seem to do justice!

Enough with the rumination! Let me just announce that I am so loving this station!  The price of the subway fare would be so worth it even if your purpose is to see and check-out the Perfect Strangers!

perfect strangers

the world has so much to offer

Galing!

Took 2 Days to Cross the Brooklyn Bridge

I wonder if all people who crossed the iconic Brooklyn Bridge timed on how long it took them to do it.  Did they took them only a couple of minutes because they were riding a bicycle or was too anxious and scared about the old bridge’s integrity and wooden floor planks  above the roaring traffic below that they walked and crossed it too fast? Or did it took them an hour or more because they want to relish and savor the moment and took so much photos of the star structure that connects Brooklyn and Manhattan?

My crossing the bridge actually took me two days!  It is so weird because I was never lost and went adrift when I was in more complicated routes around the world like the El-fna medina in Marrakesh, the Old City of Jerusalem and even going around the Uchisar settlements in Cappadocia.  But identifying where the entrance and starting point of the Brooklyn Bridge promenade strangely became a frustrating challenge and struggle. 

It is so exasperating because I basically went around the whole Brooklyn downtown area the whole morning from Brooklyn Heights Promenade in the south to walking the whole stretch of Furman Street in the east to reaching Dumbo area in the north and walking again the whole stretch of Jay Street in the west.  Yet, still the starting point of the promenade seem to conceal itself or veiled its appearance for me not to uncover.  It felt like I walked all throughout the whole Brooklyn yet the promenade entrance was no where to be found.  I actually started wondering if the entrance has already transferred to faraway Queens! And by late lunch time, feeling so hungry, so tired and frustrated, I saw York Street Subway station and decided to go down it and head back to my hotel located at the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  It was in other words a failed attempt.

But on the second day of my bid, I carried with me an enough amount of fortitude and determination and left behind in my hotel tons of stupidity which I seem to have brought so much during my first and initial attempt.  And to quote the great Margaret Thatcher, “You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it”, I spotted with so much ease the entry point of the Brooklyn Bridge promenade on my second venture!

And since it took me more than the usual to step into and walk across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, I spent the whole morning there doing nothing but taking photos of the bridge, the people and the nearby sites while savoring the little success and victory that I just had!  And because of such an experience, Brooklyn Bridge for me is more beautiful as compared to how others would see and perceive it.

Iniiwan talaga dapat ang ka-shungahan sa bahay!