The Transcendental Tourist

Travel A to Z

January 21, 2012

A tag for this chain post from fellow travel blogger, Edelito Sangco of Island Vacations (thanks sir!), came at an opportune time. I’ve been on a blogging break (read: blogger’s block) for more than a month now; here’s hoping this little exercise gets my blogging juices flowing.

A – Age you made your first international trip:

I was 11 when my mom took me on a cross-country trip through the US and Canada. We left in June at the start of the schoolyear, but she convinced my teachers to excuse my 3-month absence! She argued that traveling would be an infinitely more educational experience than sitting inside the four walls of a classroom. Mom was not only cool; she was also right.

Mom (Agnes Poliquit) and Me @ New York City, Summer of 1980

B – Beer, the best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where:

Teetotaler here, but the smooth and suave Hoegaarden (a Belgian beer) could tempt me to tipple. I had it in Bacolod though, not in Belgium.

Guzzling Hoegaarden @ The Cellar, Bacolod City, Philippines, 2011

C – Cuisine, your favorite:

“I’m turning Japanese,” as the song goes. Or at least my tummy is. The minimalist portions of Japanese cuisine fit me to a T – small but filling.  No overwhelming flavors but still rich and tasty. Onigiri anyone?

Eating and Wearing Onigiri in Himeji, Japan, 2009

D – Destination, favorite and least favorite:

Where my feet take me and my heart leads me is my favorite destination. Traveling is not about going to places; it’s seeing places with a fresh pair of eyes.

E – Experience that made you go, wow!

It’s a draw between a handiwork of nature and a monument of man.

Going under the Niagara Falls was nothing short of epic. The close encounter with the almost solid wall of white water crashing down with a thunderous roar was as visceral as it could get for a not-so-adventurous tourist like me. We were drenched despite our raincoats. My mom’s Asahi Pentax couldn’t take it; it conked out after that.

When I laid eyes on Angkor Wat for the first time was another wow moment. The silhouette of majestic spires against the lavender dawn was one of the most awe-inspiring sights my eyes…and heart…have ever seen. Read more about it here.

The Transcendental Tourist at Angkor Wat, Cambodia, 2008

F – Favorite F-word in traveling:

Fun, friends, freedom, freebies come to mind, but I’ll go for family. A family that travels together, bonds together.

Last Complete Family Trip: Leyte, Philippines in 2003

G – Greatest feeling while traveling:

What gives traveling its addictive rush for me is that heightened sensuous state. Familiarity desensitizes, but the foreign engages all the senses in ways that make you feel so alive. Your eyes pop out at vistas and squint at fine details. You cock your ears at auditory nuances, crinkle your nose at strange smells, and let your taste buds go into overdrive. Traveling is my upper!

H – Hottest place you’ve been to:

I live where it’s hot and humid all year so this is a duh question, but if it means the sexiest place I’ve been to…this is not the blog for it. This is a family blog, if you haven’t noticed yet.

The Transcendental Tourist and his Sister at Bohol Beach Club, 2011

I – Incredible service you’ve experienced and where:

Hard to believe but it involved a taxi. Living in Manila, I consider taxi drivers as necessary evil and the term “taxi service” an oxymoron. But this was in Shanghai. I took a cab to a student’s house on a street that spanned several districts. One end was actually near my apartment, but the cabbie took me to the farther end only to make our way back. It was clearly no one’s fault so I was ready to pay the metered fare when the cabbie volunteered a big fat discount. Bless him!

Vang with Shanghai Taxi, 2012

J – Journey, the longest one you’ve taken:

It’s a toss between the flight from Manila to San Francisco and the train ride from Shanghai to Beijing. Both took more hours than I could sleep, repeatedly.

K – Keepsake from your travels:

A cherished keepsake is my World Trade Center Observation Deck ticket. Post-9/11, it has become a collector’s item. It will never be issued ever again. It is not only a reminder of my visit to the WTC, but a token of a more innocent world and an invincible America.

My WTC Ticket from 1980

L – Let down sight, where and why:

I don’t sweat unmet expectations so this was not really a let-down, just a surprising discovery: that the heritage site of Vigan was actually just one street! How silly of me to expect an entire town of colonial houses and cobblestone streets.

M – Moment when you fell in love with travel:

Traveling is my childhood sweetheart. We met in my grandfather’s library, through a voluminous book called the World Atlas and an inflatable globe my mom bought me; it was love at first sight! Traveling and I honeymooned in the US and Canada for three months, my first trip overseas. My passion for traveling, though, waned when I couldn’t cope with its high-maintenance demands. Eventually we worked it out, “for richer or poorer” by compromising – the little money I have could afford budget airline fares. I’m hoping that we live happily ever after and ride off into the sunset – in every continent.

Pedro C. Cachopero (my grandfather), my Travel Icon

N – Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in:

Too bad, the nicest hotel I’ve stayed in now lies in ruins, haunted by spirits and its glorious past – the defunct Diplomat Hotel in Baguio. In the early 80s, my family would spend Christmas in the city of pines. The elegant high-ceiling hotel sat atop the foggy Dominican Hill. In retrospect, the hotel’s isolation and creepy rep are reminiscent of Overlook Hotel in the classic horror film, The Shining. Stately and spooky.

O – Obsession, in terms of photography: What do you take pictures of mostly?

I hadn’t realized it until I thought about this question. Flowers are mainstays in a lot of my travel photo albums. Perhaps their ephemeral beauty that’s here today and gone tomorrow compels me to capture and preserve it. But actually, I just like fiddling with my macro setting.

Roadside Flower in Rizal Province, Philippines, 2008

P – Passport stamps, how many and what countries:

As of January 2012: US, Canada, Hong Kong, Macau, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Japan, Indonesia, and Singapore. I haven’t counted the stamps because I’ve been to China several times.

Q – Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited:

Not an attraction, but a place. It was dusk when I got lost in a maze of narrow lanes in the traditional district of Kyoto. Darkness was falling and Japanese paper lamps hanging from the awnings of old wooden houses had already been lit. The neighborhood was quiet, seemingly deserted except for a woman dressed as a geisha walking away at a distance. Either I traveled in time to ancient Japan or I was in one of Kurosawa’s dreams. Vintage Kyoto! Read more about it here.

A Walk Down Old Japan in Kyoto, 2009

R – Recommended sight, event, or experience:

I don’t usually make across-the-board recommendations, but for this list’s sake, I’d sell Bohol! This gem of an island in central Philippines has a bit of everything: unique topographical features, white sand beaches and diving spots, iconic wildlife, centuries-old churches, historical sites, adventure parks, homegrown food…it’s all in Bohol. It may have gotten rather touristified lately, but it still has much of its irresistible charm. Read more about it herehere, and here.

Chocolate Hills in Sagbayan, Bohol with Ki (Richmond Butalid) in 2005

S – Splurge, something you have no problem forking over for while traveling:

I’m known to be a cheapskate and a freeloader so traveling is a big splurge in itself. I’d gladly rough it out by flying coach, staying in stale-smelling hotels, surviving on street food, eavesdropping on other people’s tourist guides, furtively hitchhiking on tourist trams – except not having a decent toilet and bath. I’d splurge for that. Give me indoor plumbing or give me death.

T – Transportation: What’s your favorite mode of transportation?

I live in an archipelago so we either take a plane or a boat to travel around the country. Cross-country trains are practically non-existent so they hold a novelty appeal. They are fast, convenient, comfy, and scenic. So far, I’ve been on that kind of train just twice in my life – Amtrack from NYC to Connecticut (a very short trip, actually) and a sleeper train from Shanghai to Beijing – but they were enough reasons for me to prefer them over turbulence-hounded, seasickness-inducing, and ass-numbing modes of transportation. And trains look more cinematic. I’d have Murder on the Orient Express any time over Airport and Titanic!

On Shanghai Maglev Train in 2012

U – Unforgettable travel memory:

Geez, where do I begin? Going MIA in Toronto and in Shanghai, almost getting swept out to sea in Puerto Galera, hitchhiking in the rain in Baguio, getting enveloped by a descending cloud in Tagaytay on a romantic date, being locked out of a hotel at midnight in Saigon, looking down at a crime scene from the window of a Queens apartment on my first morning in New York, losing my departure card in Jakarta…on and on the list goes. But if I had to pick one, it’d be the magical experience of my first snowfall at the top of the Great Wall of China. Read more about it here.

Group Hug on the Great Wall: Me, Mom, Bro-in-Law, and Sister in 2002

V – Visas, how many and what countries:

As of January 2012, just four: US, Canada, China, Japan.

W – Wine, the best one and from where:

I’m a philistine who could barely tell good wine even if I swirled, sniffed, and sipped it. But I’m known to enjoy, probably more than I should, a particular kind of rice wine – nigori sake – in an isakaya in Osaka, Japan. Read more about it here.

My First Taste of Sake in Kobe, 2009

X – ‘Xcellent view and from where:

The up-close-and-personal view of the perfect cone of Mayon Volcano from the plane after it had taken off from Legaspi Airport. I could’ve reached out to touch the craggy crater. A surreal sight!

Y – Years spent travelling:

I’ve been traveling on and off throughout my life, but mostly off. I don’t feel compelled to be on the road every two weeks. There is a sense of stillness and stability in gathering some moss. That cushion of moss makes the rolling a tad less chafing.

Z – Zzzzzz while traveling: How and where?

I can do it contorted on a non-ergonomic airport lounge chair, while sweating a non-air con bus through dusty roads, and with my ass flipping about unsecured on a bumpy tuk-tuk ride – all these while clutching my bag or luggage possessively.

Like a Yogi: The Transcendental Tourist in Borobodur, Indonesia, 2010

I’m passing this (ball and) chain to Kura of Tara! Usap Tau and Sheril Benedict of Travel N Life who I’m certain to have interesting, insightful, and entertaining anecdotes to tell.

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28 thoughts on “Travel A to Z

    1. Take it away, Doc Wends! You’ve been around (literally) more than I have so I’m looking forward to reading your answers.

    1. You can explore YOUR world, Nehha. Traveling is not about going places; it’s seeing places with a fresh pair of eyes. 🙂

    1. Once you go hoe, you’ll never go. 🙂 You should also try that Shanghai-Beijing train. I heard it’s very modern now, like a hotel on the rail. Mine was like the Orient Express.

  1. I totally understand your point about indoor plumbing or death. I can handle the musty smelling rooms so long as they have a working heater and toilet 🙂

    Nice post you got here. Must’ve been a relief when you finished the meme. 🙂

  2. I’m a sucker for Pop Quizzes like this. Makes me wanna make my own A-Z too. Maybe in few years when I already have my own travel experiences. For now, I will just enjoy reading yours and other travel bloggers’ blog.

  3. An interesting alphabetic account of your travelogue and experiences. At least you delineated what you’ve experienced as you travel around the world. This is the way not to forget what you’ve visited, what you’ve encountered, what you’ve experienced be it good or bad.

    I’m grateful for your indulgence of coming out with this wonderful, enjoyable account of your travel experience from A to Z. Before I park my comment, I may suggest why not take into account “Money” for letter “M”.

    1. @Julie: I do recommend traveling. It doesn’t always mean going abroad or taking a flight. There are so many interesting places just around where you live. I’ve blogged about La Mesa Ecopark which is just 15 minutes from my house! 🙂

      @Blair: Amen to the coolness of mom! 🙂

      @Tumandok: M for money, good point. I’m a budget traveler so I’m not usually loaded when I travel. I’ve not spent anything more than P25k in my travels. A trip to Indonesia (which included 4 flights, mind you) set me back only P17k (less than $400). A week in Japan, I spent not more than P25k (less than $600). I went on a road trip through 3 countries on P20k (less than $500) and still had some money left when I came home. 🙂

    1. You know how it’s been preserved after all these decades? I put it in my magnetic photo album. The downside is that it’s stuck there forever cuz it will tear if you try to peel it off.

  4. Wow, you are really well travelled and I envy you for that. I’ve only been out of the country once, and it’s just within Southeast Asia. I hope I get to travel and see more diverse cultures in the near future. For now though, I think I’ll have to save up first.. 😀

    PS: I can’t believe how cool your mom is! 🙂

  5. Ah what a delight for the senses. Introspectively speaking of course,

    I miss dropping by your site an witnessing your effortless gymnastics with words.

    What a fun and delightful read! i am in love, and in awe of you AJ! Kwoffy soon!!! ♥

    1. @Sumi: You can start going on regional trips, like within the ASEAN. That shouldn’t cost a lot, and the experiences are diverse. You can’t imagine how different the culture is in a country just 2 hours away by plane.

      @Epic Potahtoh: Hahaha “gymnastics with words” talaga! Lauren, is this a proposal? Are you asking for my hand in marriage? 😀 Yup, kwoffy is in order!!! I'm off blogging for the time being, while I'm overhauling the layout and photos in this site. I'll be unveiling the new and improved TTT soon! 🙂

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