*Just sharing something I wrote for my on-the-spot exam prior to getting my dream internship with Team ABC by Abbey Sy (click to see her blog here!) which I’m really excited for. The challenge was to make a one page blog post about my favorite adventure, and the catch: never mentioning the actual place. This is dedicated to Grace and Jeorge, plus Cam Chua who made the entire trip unlike any other and of course, Clarissa, Selina, Gabby, and Kimmy.
As our red-eye flight plunged into an indigo blue dawn, four of my sleepyhead girlfriends surrounded a wide-awake and excited me. After the tease of lengthy immigration and baggage claim lines, and the blur of last minute transportation inquiries, we were finally greeted by the cool breeze of a foreign country.
3 days, 2 king-sized beds, 8 girls, no parents, and it almost felt like one of the world’s hippest cities was all ours to bask in.
Day 01: Hungry eyes
In the rush to check-in our budget hotel, drop our bags, change for the weather, and explore the neighboring establishments, we must’ve worked up quite an appetite. Fortunately for us, a friend who decided to take a study exchange program here, as well as one of the reasons we’ve visited, dragged us on a twenty-minute stroll along hillsides of parks and markets for the first and biggest lunch of the trip. Thanks to the glory that is unlimited strips of beef, pork, warm sticky rice, and fresh cabbage that we barbecued ourselves, this humble hole in the wall restaurant dug holes in our now happy tummies. This meal didn’t disappoint and we were hungry for more—food and everything this city had to offer. In an effort to burn the calories we gained, we took a hike to a Jesuit-ran dormitory and met the colorful faces of other foreign exchange students. And on our way back to the hotel, we took mental notes of our ‘trip bucket lists’ as we got glimpses of every store and street market that called out to each of us. Our night ended in a convenient store raid and one of the first of three slumber parties.
Day 02: Of youngsters and the metropolis
I was happy to be able to cross something off my personal goal of trying every McDonald’s in every foreign country I visit. And in an attempt not to be culturally aloof, after a couple of sausage egg mcmuffins and cups of orange juice, we were off to an early start at the imperial gardens. Though we tried our best to stay with the tour, what can anyone expect from eight girls in the midst of acres of star-shaped-leaf-bearing trees that could be rivaled to Japan’s cherry blossoms among what mirrored the palaces of a cheerier Forbidden City in Beijing? After two hours rolling around in crisp red and orange autumn leaves, looking for lighting, and arguing who holds the selfie stick, we took the metro to the arts college district, also known as a Mecca for youngsters like ourselves who share an appreciation for endless bargains, music, art, and all kinds of food. From international brands to homegrown street stalls, kimchi cheese pasta to churros in ice cream, parades of performing students, and museums for the peculiar and quirkiest illusions. We were all beautifully lost in a city I never knew could be so vibrant and alive. By five in the morning, we were amongst hung-over partygoers and a few senior citizens that lined the seats of the metro waiting for the first train out and back to a still sleeping city.
Day 03: November winds
Taking refuge from yesterday’s spur of events; we took a nice little picnic by the city’s most iconic river, a celebrated escape from the city’s buzz. After street food and 7/11 take outs, we rented bikes to race the length of the riverbank. I’ll never seem to forget the nostalgia of feeling at home in a place I just came to know but felt like I was a part of already, as the cold November winds embraced me and we came and gone on two wheels, while the others wobbled and learned along the way.
Day 04: In between goodbyes and hellos
In half a day, a sprint to all the nearest shops, and a late food expo discovery, I’m half ashamed yet half proud to say I was flying home with a luggage that was about to pop as it was impossible to zip, and little to no pocket money left on me. As we hesitated to say goodbye to the city we’ve yet to discover inch by inch of, we were eager to be welcomed by our families back home with our hands balancing piles of gifts and souvenirs. Especially since it was my first time away from home, I made sure to return with the best pasalubong I could find for each and every person I missed and thought of.
Wherever my next travels take me to, this late November adventure has carved its place in the colorful diaries of my mind and I hope in our short stay, we’ve in turn, carved out our young souls in the bustling city of _ _ _ _ _ (guess the city I went to! *half pun intended ☺)