Captured Scene: Rangitoto Island, Auckland, New Zealand

Overlooking Rangitoto Island from Mt Eden on a sunny windy day :)

Overlooking Rangitoto Island from Mt Eden on a sunny windy day :)

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.
Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.
The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves”. – J. Muir

US Embassy: I Was Disappointed But Thanks Anyway

US Embassy SingaporeDear US Embassy,

It took me a month before I was able to compose a letter. For this context, come up with a post. I couldn’t reconcile what title I would be making of: “I was rejected by the US Embassy“, “An Open Letter to the US Embassy“, “For the very first time, I got my visa application rejected“, “I Hate You US Embassy“… The latter seemed most fitting for the disappointment I was feeling that time. I knew I was not being rationale. What hate would do? It won’t change the situation. Moreover, it’s a plain waste of time and energy. It’s past. It belongs to the past. Move on.

Once I accepted it, I felt relieved. What’s left are learnings. Continue reading

Wrap Up: WWOOF at Château de Sacy

Sacy2Today I received an email from Hermine, the artist cum owner who runs the Chateau de Sacy in Picardie, France. There will be an art exhibit at the Chateau this September which will run until October. Coincidentally, I saw the photos sent by Chelsea, a friend whom I met while we were volunteering and traveling, and on an indefinite leave from work. I have written a post – WWOOF:

Chateau de Sacy (Week 1) http://maftravelgraphy.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/wwoof-chateau-de-sacy-week-1/ and nothing follows after.

WWOOF or World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, others adapted it to call – Willing Workers on Organic Farms while others choose an acronym which is – We’re Welcome on Organic Farms. WWOOFer is how you call a volunteer who participate in WWOOFing activities. A WWOOFer do a voluntary work helping the host in the farm. In return the host provide the WWOOFer a free accommodation and food.

Looking back, it was one of those meaningful activities I have done while traveling. Staying and living with a local, learning their language, helping in the domestic work at home and farm, participating in their day to day living different from yours is such an enriching experience. We learn best thru our active participation and actual application. What I remember most was what Hermine told me that what inspires her to re-invent the  Chateau was her fellow artist Filipino friend (hmnn, I can’t recall the name, he’s in the Wikipedia and I think we came from the same Alma mater). Hermine kept telling me that I was her first WWOOFer from Southeast Asia,and  the only one from the Philippines). Whatever she meant I did not bother to ask. I remember the day I arrived, Hana, a fellow WWOOFer excitedly open the gate for me and help me carried my luggage. I greeted her the French way, kissing on both cheeks. I attempted to do the same for my host but  I wonder why Hermine appeared to be distant and seemed to snob me. Days later, Hermine talked to me openly and said she she was dismayed seeing me arriving at her palace as she was expecting Mafey to be a boy! And physically built with muscles!! I was laughing out loud and asked her – does my name sounds like a boy? But she cited that since I was working in a construction and engineering industry – she was expecting some masculine boyish who will work at her farm. As there would be lots of heavy stuff to carry, like the pile of woods from felled trees, and other work that requires man power! :P Continue reading

Sleeper Train in Thailand, Sleeper Bus in Laos & Other Mode of Transportation

IMG_7113It is interesting to note how varied the mode of transport is in Southeast Asia. Coming from a Southeast Asia myself, I was surprised to learn about sleeper bus and train. We don’t have this kind of stuff in the Philippines. Out of curiosity, I took a “sleeper train” from Bangkok to Vientiane. The lower deck is a sofa convertible to bed with a window seat. If you happen to be in the upper deck it is just a small space without window, you can touch the ceiling and you can barely move. In a short description, it is very much like – a coffin. I ended up taking the second decker as I bought the ticket last minute without much option for the lower deck. I was like a dead-living person in a coffin-like sleeper train for 12 hours. But I survived! :)

Another interesting experience which I thoroughly enjoyed is the “sleeper bus” that I took from Luang Prabang to Vientiane. I was wondering if it is like a sleeper train, but NO. The sleeper bus is so much like a bunk bed but the catch is, you have to share it with another person. It wouldn’t be a problem if you are a couple. It could be a dilemma for someone traveling alone. Especially, if the ratio of male to female is odd number. Imagine, there is one bed and you practically have to share it with a total stranger!  And what if the other person is physically big in size and can occupy the whole space, how will you squeeze yourself in :P. Interestingly, I was given a space to share with a Laos lady and we ended up as friends. Though she does not speak a single word in English but we kept talking and I think, we managed to get by haha. It was an enjoyable  12-hour bumpy ride in a rough and rugged road. I hardly fall asleep.

Here are some of the photos and other mode of transportation in Laos and Thailand: Continue reading

Captured Scene: Happy 49th Birthday Singapore!

A Singapore flag from air carried by helicopter

A Singapore flag from air carried by helicopter with a backdrop of Gardens By The Bay

First time in six years, I am not anywhere but in Singapore on its National Day. It’s like a miracle ;). Through this unassuming little blog, I wish to express my gratitude to the pioneers of Singapore. It wouldn’t be where it is right now if not for the Aunties & Uncles who founded Singapore.

Aunties crossing to Parkway Parade

Aunties “jalan jalan” :)) to Parkway Parade

Uncle playing violin at Marine Parade

Uncle playing violin at Marine Parade sidewalk

Do you know that Singapore is among the 3 nations in the world that is both considered a city and a state? Along with 2 others are Monaco and Vatican city.

Although Singapore has a land area of only about 710 square kilometers, it has 63 islands! Yes, Singapore has 63 islands. Among those popular are Pulau Ubin, St John Island and (of course) Sentosa :). (You’ll notice that the land area keeps changing, perhaps those reclaimed ones are being added).

Maybe some of you know the fact that Singapore was previously part of Malaysia. How it became an independent country was not because it was self-sought. Back then, Singapore was already a very busy trading centre and has attracted migrants coming from different places. During that time, Malaysia had face difficulties over control of Singapore. To cut it short, Malaysia, let go Singapore. So on 09 August 1965, Singapore separated from Malaysia and had become a new country.

The  name Singapore was derived from a Sanskrit word – “Singapura”, which means  “lion”. It was discovered by Prince Utama from Sri Vijaya Empire on 11ith century AD. Since, this little island used to be a fishing port, the icon of Singapore which is “Merlion” is half lion and half fish. But time changes so fast – most of us young folks can identify Singapore’s icon today as The Marina Bay Sands and/ or Gardens By The Bay ;).

Interestingly while browsing TODAY’s newspaper, the (contentious) project where I am currently involved is featured in TODAY National Day Special. I would like to think that while development takes place, preservation of the nation’s heritage can go together, not necessarily against each other. But then this premise can be contested. Somehow, it would depend on which lens one is looking at.

National Day Special. TODAY's edition. 09 August 2014

National Day Special. TODAY’s edition. 09 August 2014

In the same article, are those blogs featured which are part of the Singapore Memory Project (SMP). This little blog is part of SMP too. As I pledge it. I got an email from the officer of the National Library Board (NLB) who sent me  a badge to put into my blog. (Apologies Sir, until now I haven’t put the badge, I will work on it. This little blog really needs some make over).

Meanwhile, Happy 49th Birthday Singapore! Cheers! :D

My favorite place to cycle :)

My favorite place for cycling :)

East Coast :)

East Coast! :)

NOTE:  To My dear readers, apologies I have just noticed lots of typo error and some lines/ paragraphs were missed out. I was almost half-asleep while working on this post. I wanted it to be published on the exact birthday of Singapore but it got 1 day later. I adjusted the date anyway :P. Errors has been corrected while those missed out lines were added. By the way, source of those bits and pieces of information I shared, I learned from chit chat with some old folks at the hawker center. Or when I got the chance to pretend like a tourist and join some local tours ;). And yes, I read a bit Singapore’s history – Lonely Planet books collection :).

Thanks for your kind understanding! Mafey XX

Tourist Visa to Austria and Other EU Visas

Mafey Visa to Austria_

Ahhh… I smell Europe :D

Austria is part of Schengen countries, thus the requirements for tourist visa are basically the same as with any European country member of the Schengen state. And guess what, it’s the French Embassy again :). Prior to my preparation for tourist visa application, I learned that in Singapore, countries like Austria, Greece, Monaco and France (of course) – the application for tourist visa is being processed by the French Embassy. And yes, it’s my third time at the French Embassy. “Suki” in my language as you may call.

I’ve mentioned the requirements are essentially the same, as with my post – Schengen Visa in 5 Days: Tourist Visa to Greece. (http://maftravelgraphy.wordpress.com/2012/07/30/schengen-visa-in-5-days-tourist-visa-to-greece/).

The only additional requirements, I’ve noticed added was a copy (original and photocopy) of all Schengen Visas you have had previously. That’s  all :).

Allow me to share the visas I have had since 2008: Continue reading