Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Romania Trip – Brasov

After those fun days in Sibiu, my sister and I headed to Brasov. It was a three hour journey, good thing there is a minivan terminal in Sibiu. We tried to book for a bus and train but the timings weren't perfect. The journey was a bit scary as we were trailing dark roads and it was very cold. It was like a chilling moment while watching a horror flick and I was scaring myself by thinking, 'this is the place of Dracula and vampires'. Fortunately, we arrived in Brasov safe and sound.  From the terminal, we took a cab and located our hotel. I booked a hotel apartment but the cab driver and I noticed that it is too far from the city. The driver was too kind to recommend us a hotel near the city in an affordable price and when I saw it, it was perfect. We were both settled at around nine in the evening but still, we tried to navigate the city. Most of the shops were closed but we still managed to roam for a short time. Since it was snowing and was very cold (it was -6 degrees Celsius), we decided to call it a night.

We woke up early the next day because I was so excited to visit Dracula Castle. It was snowing that day and I was concern that it might be closed but fortunately, it was open. From Bus Terminal 2, there are buses that leave every 30 minutes to Bran; I think the ticket was 5 RON and one and half hour of journey. I was immediately amazed when I saw the castle and yes you can see a full smile on my face, another dream came true! There were other tourists on that time but my sister told me that during summer, more tourists are coming so we were lucky that day because it wasn't that many and it was a good chance to roam the castle without any hindrances during picture taking haha. To see the entire castle, it might take you three to four hours to check each of the corners. It is very obvious that some parts of the castle were renovated but still, there are some interesting things like the cape of Dracula, his old room, the torture room and some items from the queen. It was indeed a very fulfilling day.

There were several souvenir shops outside the castle so we bought some items. Also, we had our lunch in a Chinese restaurant (yes, there is!) across the street and the foods were delicious and very affordable. We headed back to Brasov and we were able to see the city during daylight. We visited the Town Hall Square (Piata Sfatului) which features medieval buildings in different architecture styles. We also visited the Black Church (Biserica Neagra) but unfortunately, it was close that time so we just got contented in appreciating the outer part of the church.  It is the largest and one of the most important Lutheran places of worship in the region.

The snow didn't stop us in walking and touring the city. We don't have a definite destination that day (after the Dracula castle) but we were looking for that famous cable car. So we found ourselves walking for almost an hour just to reach that place in Tampa. It is actually a mountain part in Brasov on which from the top, you will see the entire beauty of Brasov. We were able to catch the last ride that day and on top of the mountain, the view was picturesque. We took some pictures there but we weren't able to walk further as the snow was so thick. It was actually a short visit in Brasov but it was an amazing experience. It was also a good thing that I was prepared for such kind of weather since I was not completely recovered from my illness last January. More Brasov pictures can be seen below:

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Romania Trip - Sibiu

My sister has been working in Sibiu for five years now and one of the main reasons why I traveled to Romania was to visit her. From the international airport in Otopeni, I took a bus from the basement that brought me to Gara de Nord, a train station in Bucharest. From there, I immediately looked for a store to buy a sim card and luckily, the man in the store was so helpful despite the fact that he can't understand and speak English. I used some signs and point on a sim card and because of that I was able to call my sister. He even helped me to purchase a ticket for my Sibiu trip; I was touched by his actions and the kindness that he showed me. At 10:30 AM, the train departed the station and it was a five-hour journey towards the Romanian province.

Upon arrival in Sibiu, I took a cab and went straight to my hotel (Hotel Rin). I unpacked some things, had my late lunch and rested for few hours. At around 11PM, my sister went into my hotel (she wasn't able to pick me up in the airport since she was working that day) then we headed into her house. She is living with 2 colleagues, Esmeralda and Lhala who were waiting for us so that we can go together in a bar. It was 1 degree Celsius that night and it was indeed so cold. Initially, we went to this Irish pub where I met some Romanian friends (Romina and her cousins) of my sister but we wanted to dance so we transferred to a bar named Oldie's (don't be fooled by the name). It was jam-packed that night but we still managed to get a place, drank and danced. We left the place before 2AM.

The next day, after a free breakfast from the hotel, my sister and I, together with her two friends, Esmerald and Gay, strolled the old town. There, I witnessed the beauty of this city where several great architectures can be seen. Several designs of churches were also on "display". Our plan was to climb up to the clock tower but it was under renovation so we weren't able to do it. Nevertheless, we walked for almost two hours to feel the breeze of the place and cold was embracing us tightly. The place and the surroundings are so clean and the old buildings were still impressive. After that tiring moment, we went back to my sister's place to eat and have some coffee.

After a quick rest, we went to Muzeul Astra. It is actually a museum but in different approach. Normally, when we say museum, it is a showcase of paintings, art crafts, culture, etc in a room or big building. But this one, it is a big field and open area that requires hours of walking to navigate the surroundings. The museum exhibits the old life of Romanian people including the old houses, tools for farming and food preparation. At first, it was like I was just in a province but once you see the representation of Romanian culture, then you will embrace their nature and realize that there is something more in that place. We were lucky enough to meet a "museum guide" and I was amazed how these Filipino ladies were able to communicate in the Romanian language.

On my third day in Sibiu it was Palm Sunday so I accompanied my sister to church and the entire mass was in Romanian language but there were papers with English translation for foreigners. After that, I met Sofia and we headed to their home where a special lunch was waiting for me. I was so touched that they took time to prepare meals for me. Sofia's husband, Sorin, a Romanian baked a cake for that occasion; I was astonished by their hospitality. I also met Sorin's mom who also prepared a dish that day. The foods were all delicious and I really loved the chili mixture that they prepared. But before that sumptuous meal, we have drunk a special wine first as a tradition. They gave me a bottle of chili and wine and I brought them here in Dubai.

Afterwards, together with Sofia and Sorin, we went to a Romanian Art Gallery (Palatul Brukenthal) where taking pictures inside the vicinity is prohibited. The place actually showcases amazing paintings from the locals that exhibits the old and modern life of Romanian people. There are also some portraits of known personalities. On the other part of the gallery is a display about vampires and old artifacts of the country. Later that day, we walked around the city for almost two hours then we decided to take a rest in a bar where I met their other colleague, Girish; we had beer and snacks. The next thing we did is to look for the perfect way of going to Brasov for our next day's trip. My sister and I were planning to visit the Dracula house in Bran, a province near Brasov. The next day, I visited my sister's workplace in Mercuria and the area is so big. I can't believe that my sister can operate such huge machine for weaving. We didn't take much time to tour the entire place as we were leaving for Brasov that time. More Sibiu pictures below:

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

One Year in Dubai

Exactly one year ago, I entered Dubai for the first time and I bid farewell to Singapore. It was actually an emotional day for me. Singapore has been my second home and a lot of memories, good and bad, made me who I am now. My one year experience here in Dubai is very challenging. The first few months were the time of adjustment. I was alone most of the time because I stayed alone in a hotel apartment for a month. The job was a bit stressful at first as I had to complete the training with a passing grade. I only have few friends here unlike in Singapore where I have a lot.

My life here in Dubai is a bit slow and everything seems to be relaxed. I found a church, met new friends via small group and continued my path towards Him. My job became demanding but most of the time, it was boring. I joined Fitness First and started to lose weight with the help of my trainer who eventually became a good friend. I also had the chance to travel again (my favorite thing to do) and in a span of one year, I was able to tour three countries: Nepal, Turkey and recently Romania where I spent quality time with my sister. I also got the chance to take a vacation in Manila and Singapore after staying here for only four months. My boss was kind enough to approve my leave. My father visited me here and I really enjoyed those times. It was one of the highlights of my stay here and every minute of it was priceless. A college friend also came here for a business trip but still, we got the chance to see each other and spent quality time and reminisced the past that we had during the college years including some gossips and updates.

The challenges started when I struggled in my job and I felt I was left alone and the work wasn't that fulfilling. Also, I got sick this year and it was really bad. I had Bell's palsy and I almost gave up that time as it was very painful. There were no family members who took care of me but I was able to recover with the prayers from them and also from close friends. I think that was the lowest point of my life here in Dubai. But it was not always sadness; I was able to buy a house and lot for my parents and that brought me a great joy. Also, I am now an uncle since my sister gave birth to a baby boy. Life is indeed full of obstacles that we must overcome. My experience here in the Middle East taught me how to be more independent, how to handle sadness, enjoy happiness and how to embrace the gladness and pain of love related matters. It will be a long journey to fulfill my dreams but I am not really sure if Dubai will answer all of it. Well, I survived Dubai for one year, let's see how it goes. Some things might happen and I'm not sure where opportunities will bring me.

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