It's the 25th of February 2018, which means New Years, Valentine's Day and Chinese New Year has passed. What do all these events have in common? They're all flaunt-my-relationship-on-instagram events.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not a salty and bitter single lady cursing and hating on every couple on earth (I think...), but I realised how much importance is put on finding "the one" when you get older. When you meet your relatives during Chinese New Year, the never ending questions about your life seems unavoidable. And if you're ashamed of your utterly pathetic life, get ready to live through it every time you reconnect with an aunt you haven't seen in a year. Fortunately for me, I kinda figured out my priorities in life, well, kinda...
Anyways, I'm digressing a lot. The whole point of this blog post is supposed to highlight the fact that romantic love is kinda overrated, whereas friendship love and self love is quite underrated. Everyone talks about how hard it is to do a long distance romantic relationship, but no one talks about how hard it is to do a long distance friend relationship.
Everyone talks about loving your other half on Valentine's day, but no one really talks about loving yourself every other day.
At the age of 22, I feel like I've still got quite a long way to go, but the fact that everyone around me is attached, or getting engaged, it does kinda stress me out a bit. And with Hollywood romanticising this whole "the one" thing, I mean, I obviously am a disbeliever of that concept, but your environment somehow plays a part in how you should behave. So yea, while I'm slightly stressed, I think mostly, I contented with life. I don't know where I was going with this blogpost but yeah.... I guess I just wanna remind my readers that hey, there's more to life that the concept of "the one". And I guess if someone that makes u happy comes along, then good for you.
I know the message I'm sharing has been.... kinda overshared? But I think it's still good to be reminded once in a while about other types of love that are shadowed by the romanticised "romantic love"
Thats all for now!
Living in Singapore my entire life, I don't realise how weird Singaporean norms can be. It wasn't until I lived and breathed European air for 5 months before I was able to really step out and realise some of the stuff that is a bit different about Singapore! Here they are;
the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household
I've been away from Singapore for approximately 4 months. Singapore's been my home the past 21 years. 4 months ago, the thought of moving 6000 miles away, alone, seemed scary and exciting. There was something about dropping all my baggages anchoring me down, that made it seem... almost a relief. I didn't know what to expect. I was also afraid of being alone. (Somehow, that's always been my fear.)
I flew out of Singapore to Amsterdam alone. I guess that was my first challenge. I survived, well barely. I remember just feeling so alone and lousy during that flight. I don't think I was in a very good state then. But everything just went uphill from then on. I've made so many friends from all over the world during the past 4 months. I've laughed with them, cried with them, danced with them... fallen in love. I've forced myself not to think about what will happen when this ends. But the end is inevitable. Slowly, one by one, we'll leave this place. This place full of laughter and tears and our memories, will soon be just an empty shell, filled with new exchangers who will too create their memories here. As we approach the end, we'll cherish all the memories made.
It's not Tilburg that's been my home the past 4 months, but the people here. And I'm glad that after this, I'll have homes in every single continents on Earth (well, except Antarctica).
Thank you all. xx
"Cinque Terre is very expensive", explained Gabri, my Italian friend. He continues, "it's one of the most expensive place in Italy."
"But it's so beautiful!" I exclaimed.
A few days later, I bought tickets to Cinque Terre. It was supposed to be a solo trip, but a few days before the trip, Demi spontaneously decided to join me.
[Cinque Terre - Five Lands // Pronounced as "ching-kueh tehr-ray"// the 5 lands are - Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore]
The journey to Cinque Terre was surprisingly easy. We flew from Eindhoven Airport to Pisa Airport. From Pisa, take the skytrain (Pisa Mover) to Pisa Central (2.70 Euros for a single trip, or 5.40 Euros for a return trip). From Pisa Central, purchase a train ticket to one of the 5 lands of Cinque Terre. Just a note though, I personally think train transport is pretty expensive (a return train ticket cost around the price of my return plane ticket.... So around ~40 Euros)
We stayed in a hostel in Levanto called Ospitalia del Mare, which costs 24 Euros a night, and IT INCLUDES BREAKFAST! Levanto is a town right outside Cinque Terre (so things aren't as expensive because its not exactly touristy). I personally really like the hostel for its location. It's 2 minutes to the beach/food area. It's also a rather chill location. We went to the beach at night and basked in one of the most beautiful sunsets I've seen in my life.
If you're a spontaneous traveller like me, or you plan to hike/take the train a lot, I suggest getting the Cinque Terre Pass. It's an all day unlimited pass to take the train, bus, and enter the hiking trails, all for 16 Euros. (Yes, you have to pay to hike!) Do remember to validate your tickets before using them! Or else they aren't valid! You can get these passes at the tourist information of train stations. If you intend to hike, I suggest going to the tourist information prior to hiking, because some trails might be closed due to landslides.
The weather in Cinque Terre is amazing. It was 20'C in early October in the day, but it felt like a 26'C, so you could actually swim in the beach and wear shorts. But it's pretty chilly at night.
Demi and I decided to hike from Levanto to Monterosso, which is apparently a free hike. I highly do not recommend this unless you are an experienced hiker. The trail seemed pretty dangerous (even though the view paid off!) as it was steep and not very well maintained (the result of the trails being free, I reckon!). There are also little hand rails, unlike those paid hikes. There is a 100m stretch that was extremely dangerous and I was honestly freaking out. But then again, Demi hiked in heeled boots and was way faster and braver than me. One of my roommate also hiked in his thongs and turned out fine! The hike is supposedly 2 hours, but we took 4 hours because we stopped a lot for photos.
Monterosso was not very beautiful compared to the other towns, but still quaint nonetheless. We then decided to train to Riomaggiore, because Chelsea told me that was beautiful and that there was a pebble beach there. (Thanks Chelsea! She has helped so much with our itinerary) At Riomaggiore, every turn was photogenic. There were also a lot of potentially dangerous rocks you could climb on to take photos for your instagram feed. Just be careful when you climb. The risk taken is extremely worth it though, it is AMAZING to be near the crashing waves. Check out Demi on one of the rocks!
We decided to hunt for this pebble beach. Took us quite a while but we finally found the Spiaggia di Riomaggiore. It was fucking beautiful. The most beautiful beach I've been in my life. There's something special about this beach. The clear blue waters, the pebbles, the hard crashing wave, and the sound of the crashing waves... oh the sound! It's a symphony of rocks rubbing against each other, almost like thunder, I've never heard anything like that before. It was almost majestic. I love this beach because the water was harsh, but being there made me feel so calm. It also helps that there weren't much people when we were there. I don't think the way I explain does that place any justice. You just have to BE there, and experience that place for yourself. We chilled there for a good hour.
After that, we headed back to Levanto for dinner. We found that dinner in Levanto was much cheaper than in Cinque Terre (but apparently, Beatriz, who went one day after us, found cheap food in Cinque Terre. I'm not sure!).
The next day, Demi left for the Netherlands, and I continued exploring Cinque Terre myself. I took the train to Vernazza. Vernazza is pretty quaint as well. Then, I hiked from Vernazza to Corniglia. Vernazza from afar looks extremely beautiful, and chill, like the kind of place you want to retire at. The hike to Corniglia took an hour and was drastically easier than the hike from Levanto to Monterosso. At the halfway point, there's a bar with this AMAZING view. Remember to stop by and bask in this awesomeness!
Corniglia was pretty small. I literally saw, and left. Similar to Vernazza, rather quaint, but feels very Italian, weirdly. This town is very different from the rest as the city centre is away from the water. Nonetheless, it was still beautiful.
Finally, I took the train to Manarola. Manarola was extremely beautiful, but also the most touristic. It is straight out of a postcard. I met a Dutch lady here and she was fan girling about how Manarola is her favourite town, and how it's beautiful. I was telling her that my favourite was Riomaggiore because of the beach. Apparently, there were some people who were swimming in Manarola. Unfortunately, I was carrying a lot of camera gears so I didn't think about swimming there.
I also visited a hiking shop in Manarola, called Cinque Terre Trekking. I bought Scarpa Hiking Boots there for 120 Euros, which I think is rather affordable for the quality I'm paying for. The staff there also knew their products very well, and spoke amazing English. So if you're looking for affordable hiking boots (or rather, cheaper hiking boots than those in the Netherlands), check them out!
Ended my trip with a nice dinner with Georgie, an Australian lady I met in the hostel. She's a pretty cool lady who has been on the road for 5 months, and it's cool because she's a graphic designer. We took the train to Pisa back together the next day and I left sunny and warm Italy to cold and rainy Netherlands.
[Okay, I know this post sounds a bit sponsored but no, everything here is sincere and unpaid for haha]
For those interested, this is my budget breakdown:
Return Flight from Eindhoven to Pisa via Ryanair = 55 Euro / 87SGD
Accommodations for 3 Nights = 72 Euro / 114 SGD
Return Pisa Mover = 5.40 Euro / 8.60 SGD
Return Train to Levanto = 40.50 Euro / 64.8 SGD
Food = 64.10 Euro / 102.57 SGD
Cinque Terre Passes = 32 Euro / 51 SGD
Total = 269 Euro / 428 SGD
As an exchange student from Singapore, there are certain expectations of you to be continually travelling. Unfortunately, I'm one to conform to various expectations. Scrolling through Skyscanner during Services Marketing, an 8.45AM class (why do these exist?), I was anxious to fill up the weekend of 29 September. Having travelled to Europe 4 times prior to this exchange, I've toured many main cities and would prefer not to return to those cities. So.... Where to go?
Skyscanner has this beautiful feature, called "EVERYWHERE", which allows you to search for the cheapest flights from wherever in the world you're located at. I typed in the dates, clicked everywhere, and voila! Cheapest flights to..... LONDON?! I'm not going back there, was just there barely a month ago! Scrolling down, I saw that there was a cheap flight to Marseille, France. There and then, I asked Venise and Denise (who were both in class with me), if they wanted to go with me. They were keen. So we booked the ticket. I was going to a place I had no idea about. It was exciting, but also, I was nonchalant. I've travelled quite a fair bit, so I was thinking nothing can get me excited eh? I was wrong.
I got in contact with Justine, a French girl doing an exchange in Tilburg who studies in Marseille. I was telling her about how I'm worried there's no public transport to get to my airbnb since I was reaching at 11PM on Friday. She told me that I should probably avoid the main train station, Marseille Saint Charles station late at night, because it's dodgy. She advised that I take a bus to the train station, and uber to the airbnb. So I did just that. I managed to explore a bit of Saint Charles station whilst looking for said uber, and boy it was dodgy. There was the smell of urine, I saw rats, and homeless people, but there was a police car there. Honestly, my impression of Marseille then was terrible. I was thinking that I might just regret this trip.
When we found our uber, this Frenchman (who unfortunately, speaks little English), was showing us around Marseille. We couldn't find our airbnb, but he was so kind to help us with directions. I was pleasantly surprised at his hospitality because I expected French people to be rather impatient and racist but they aren't (at least most of them aren't). We got to our airbnb and chilled for the night.
The next day, we walked to the city. We were too lazy to understand and purchase the Metro, so we just walked everywhere. It's honestly pretty do-able.
First, we hiked up to the Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde. I reckon it's the highest point in Marseille. If you come to Marseille, you have to come here. You can see all of Marseille from here, I'm not even kidding. Plus, it's free.
Notre Dame de la Garde and the view
Next, we walked to Vieux Port. It's really beautiful. We had lunch nearby, and had Moules Frites (mussels and fries) for only 10.90 Euros. (OMG?? Great deal IMO.)
Moules Frites by Vieux Port
(Photo courtesy of Venise, the travel companion)
We then went to the Le Major church, and saw someone getting married outside the church. This church is less magnificent than the Notre Dame de la Garde, but still beautiful nonetheless.
Le Major Cathedral
Afterwards, we walked past the MuCEM, which is scarily identical to the Crowne Hotel near Changi Airport in Singapore.
We also saw Le Panier, which is the old town of Marseille.
Le Panier, Old Town
Nearby, we went over to the Musée d'Archéologie Méditerranéenne, wanting to see some mummies there. Unfortunately, it was close for renovation, but here are some pictures of the exterior of the museum.
Musée d'Archéologie Méditerranéenne
That concluded Day 1 of Marseille. We went back to our airbnb to cook after. Total damage-- 10.90 Euros for lunch! (Everything else is FREE. This place is amazing)
For the second day, we decided to visit the French Calanques. There are 2 ways you can do this-- take a cruise ship from Vieux Port for 29 Euros (note: you can't get off the ship), or hike for free. We chose the latter. So this is where it gets slightly complicated, but with the help of Google maps, everything is so convenient. Also, special thanks to Justine for the directions, couldn't have done our Calanque trip without her. Basically, you want to get a public transport card, which you can purchase at Metros. We got 10 multipasses for ~13.40 Euros (you can share these passes between friends, and each pass entitles you to take public transport and transfers for 1 hour). You want to get to Luminy Bus Station. We were living in Le Pharo, that meant we had to take 2 buses. The first bus took us to the Corniche Road, which is a long stretch of road by the beach, with a beautiful view. We transferred and took the bus towards Luminy. You want to get off on the last stop. The last stop is a university. From there, Google maps is your best friend. You want to hike to the Calanques de Sugiton. Remember to wear good hiking shoes and grab a bikini, because you will be swimming in the Mediterranean seas. And bring food to enjoy picnic with the most beautiful and amazing Calanques.
Directions to the Calanques
The breathtaking French Calanques, with really turquoise clean water
Like I mentioned, I've travelled quite a fair bit, but I've never seen anything like the Calanques. It's absolutely breathtaking. It really does make you feel minute in this huge world.
Couldn't have done this trip without my fellow travellers
So, Marseille, apparently, the French people and the French media don't like this place. Based on what I've heard from people, it's dangerous, scary, and just not worth going. How wrong are these people (except Saint Charles Station). I highly recommend this beautiful city. It's extremely underrated, and hence affordable, and the Calanques are such a marvellous sight. I recommend 2 full days here, 1 for the city and 1 just for the Calanques!
For those interested, this is my budget breakdown:
Flight Ryanair Eindhoven-Marseille = 71 Eur/113SGD
Accommodations Airbnb = 67 Eur/108SGD
Return bus ticket from Saint Charles to Airport = 5.80 Eur/9.30SGD
Cab from Saint Charles to Airbnb = 5.30Eur/8.50SGD
Multipass bus ride per person = 4.50 Eur/7.20SGD
Total Food = 53 Eur/85SGD (note: We splurged on the last day, spent 30 Eur on that lunch meal which was totally avoidable)
Cab from Airbnb to Airport = 19 Eur/30SGD (note: There was a knife attack at Saint Charles Station on Sunday, hence we decided to take a cab to the airport instead of bus. Similarly, this is totally avoidable as well)
Total damage: 225 Eur/359SGD for 4D3N
Total damage if you didn't splurge like we did: 176 Eur/281SGD for 4D3N
I've been in Tilburg for exactly 3 days so far, and I'm lovin' every single second of it. I know it's extremely cliché to hear every exchange student saying this-- it's so chill here. But here's the thing, even the European exchangers are saying that, so.... I suppose Tilburg is especially chill?
I've spent the past 6 days in the most delightful city- the energetic London city that never sleeps. Rather ironic that I'm typing this in my bunk bed, with a fellow snorer directly below me. But, I digress. So, where to begin?
I've always wanted to travel to London for the most magnificent Gothic architecture. I was intrigued about this city the first time I saw the Elizabeth Clock Tower (Fun fact: Many refer to the clock tower as the "Big Ben", but "Big Ben" in fact refers to only the bell in the clock tower.) I was also amazed by the red telephone booth that contrasted against the Gothic styled buildings.
Having finally come to London after so many years, what blew me away was not the architecture at all, but the people. Now don't get me wrong, the architecture is marvellous. But having come to Europe many times prior, my marvel towards architecture has decreased. Rather, it is the people of London that has wowed me.
I've been to many cities (from Asian ones like Singapore, European ones like Rome, Stockholm, Frankfurt, to American ones like Los Angeles and San Francisco), but none of them are as diversed as the city of London. London is not only diversed, but it seems like its the one of the few cities with so much diversity but is able to live in peace and harmony together. I have seen so many interracial couples here, having mixed babies. I have seen so many people of different races being harmonious, it boggles my mind how everyone loves each other. While the 6 days here is obviously not completely representative of the culture here, I'm merely jotting down my thoughts and opinions on what I've observed.
I've not felt like a victim of racism here, nor have I felt unsafe in this city. It's really nothing short of amazing.
While there are certain similarities between Singapore, my home country, and London, I think there is much room for improvement for Singapore. For instance, Singapore claims to be a harmonious multicultural society. However, I still feel there is not much representation in Singapore, especially for non-Asians, such as the Hispanics and the Africans. While I do understand the constraints for the lack of representations in Singapore, I do hope Singaporeans become more receptive to such foreigners. Many a times, while taking the taxi in Singapore, the taxi-uncles would complain about the problem of foreigners. While it is almost instinctive to divide "us" vs "them/foreigners", I think everyone needs to take a step back and look at the big picture. Talking about the specifics would take all day but in general, there is much foreigners can offer us and vice versa, and migration is the way forward.
Something I learnt on this trip, while talking to people of different colours (I've talked to my first Nigerian, Saudi Arabian and Brazilian. It's crazy how my circle of friends all belong to the same social class and ethnicity that I'm kind of just living in my own bubble) -- Everyone is more or less the same. Everyone wants to be healthy, happy and wants to feel loved. The reason why we have a certain perception towards various types of groups is probably a result of their government/societies, and we shouldn't judge individuals based on that potentially erroneous insight. In other words, don't put a label on people.
That's all for now. Time to sleep.