Dark Sanctuary

This November post comes earlier because I have some photos to share, but before we get there, let's talk about books first. Finished reading Less by Andrew Sean Greer. So we meet that 5 books a year goal, good job, pat own shoulder. As written before, Less won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize winner for Fiction. Compared to previous winner, it's very light. No one died :D I wonder if the judges were like tired with tragic stories that they changed direction this year. I enjoyed the book. The character, Less, though older that he is, has a lot of insecurity and awkwardness. To avoid the wedding of an ex-boyfriend and also to welcome being 50 and alone, he accepted different engagements and made plans that would make him travel all around the world. Towards the end of the book and his journey, it seems his restlessness and melancholy just grows and grows and since that's relatable, it's endearing. However as his "best friend" told him, he is very lucky and he has a happy ending though there were some sentences towards the end that made me think if he's gonna fall and die :D While I'm happy for him, somehow I think it's just a storybook ending. I wonder if people like me get lucky too.

So now book 6. I'm not sure if I'll finish it this year. I am currently reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. When I started, it's about this girl who's alone, but in her own words is completely fine. The loneliness and isolation is something that I get, but then the girl has a massive crush on a guy and I started to roll my eyes. Really?!?! This is where we're going with this. I have to say there's an enviable pragmatism about the girl because she started planning on how to get the guy. So far from what I've been reading, she's just been stalking him in the internet :D Anyways I'm still early in the book but I have read enough to find out that the girl's history is complex and seems quite tragic. So there's more to her story. I hope she has her happiness at the end of the book.

On movies, I haven't been watching much. I did watch Bohemian Rhapsody and I just admire and adore Rami Malek so much. I enjoyed Bohemian Rhapsody, but it made me wonder how truthful the portrayal of Freddie Mercury is. He seems so out of this world in the movie, like unreal and I don't know how one functions in the real world being that way. It's all okay when you're famous and have the money because you're like in a different plane of existence, but what it's like when he's just common people. I don't know, I guess I don't have a lot of insight on how the person really is outside the performer's facade by movie end. It's still a good watch though. I also managed to watch A Star Is Born. I was on the fence about it and put it off for some time. The gloomy theme wasn't appealing for me, but then the reviews are really good so I relented and watched it. The music was good. Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga were great. Lady Gaga is really talented. The movie is not bad, but it is rather gloomy.

This week, I also managed to go to the Future World Exhibition at ArtScience Museum. This exhibition has been around for awhile. It was first brought to my attention when my friend, Dewi, was coming to Singapore with her family, last year I think. I didn't think much of it then thinking it's not that interesting and she didn't end up visiting it either. Somehow it stayed with me and I grew to be interested and off I went. I can only describe the exhibition as a technology based installation art exhibition. Ticket price is S$ 19, but googling led me to Voyagin. Never heard of it before, but I managed to get the ticket for S$ 13 there, which is such a good deal especially because I think since the exhibition is not very big, S$ 19 is kinda steep. So here are pictures from the different sections of the exhibition. First is this wall that shows pretty flowers and such representing Nature.

After that, the room opens up to a bigger area where there's a small slide. As you slide down, if you hit the projected watermelon on the slide, the watermelon will explode so it's kinda fun to watch. Next to the slide section, there are tables which shows cute characters moving around. On the tables are small saucers and cups. After some time, a slice of cake or strawberry will be projected on the saucers and if you move them, the cake or strawberry would kinda explode and the cute characters get more active. There are also touch screens where you can draw lines and tap to make smiley faces rain down. Kids did seem to enjoy this area. There's also a section where you can colour some vehicles and animals and scan these and they will appear on the big screens. I coloured a flower, but I didn't see it appear when I scanned it. On the second big screen, I coloured a bear and it did appear. So there's a lot of these big screens all around and there's some sort of interactivity with them.


One of the big screen show these Japanese characters falling down or it could also be Chinese. My Japanese Kanji knowledge is so bad, I only recognized characters for things like rain, mountain, and earth. Anyways when you touch the character, then what it represents will appear. For example rain will appear when you hit rain, and mountains will appear when you hit mountain. The screen is big and with different people hitting the characters and the different combination, you kinda built your own art collaboratively. I really like how beautiful the imagery that appeared were. I googled it and this art work is called: What a Loving, and Beautiful World.

Before I move to the last section, I want to talk a bit about the Sanctuary section. It's called Sanctuary but when I stepped inside I didn't feel comforted. The imagery is not pretty. There's a lot of black and at one point in one of the walls, a black hole appeared and I started to think that this is like my head with all it's restlessness and anxiety. It's kinda ironic that if your head supposes to be your sanctuary, well you wouldn't want to be in my head too much. It's kinda too disturbing for my comfort but in a way I was appreciative I guess, because though it made me feel my dark corners, my dark corners are just me and what I have.


The last part is a small section called Crystal Universe and it's beautiful. It's basically strings and strings of LED lights and they change colours. It really is beautiful and calming. I can sit there for a long time and just watch them change colours. This or the big screen with Japanese characters would be my idea of sanctuary.


Alright, for pictures from the exhibition, please go here.

:) eKa @ 10:29:00 PM • 0 comments

Plane Talk

I went home last weekend. Spent a few days until Wednesday. It was good, sat myself silly in front of the tv, did things with mom. Mom cooked things. She even made the chicken soup I adore twice. Though short, it was a good break, much needed especially if you have been reading the posts in these past months. Mom been saying that I should just go home whenever there's small pocket of breaks or a long weekend, especially since I get stuck in my head so much and be all sad and depressed. The thing is I have class on a Saturday so that pretty much makes it hard for me to go, but last weekend there's a break and off I went. While being at home is good, since I was unproductive, there's nothing much to say really. It was insanely - I'm gonna faint - hot. I watched tv, I ate. Basically that's all.

What's more interesting was perhaps the plane right back to Singapore. The plane wasn't that full and in my row there's just me and a guy from the UK. Somehow we started talking and I thought it would just be small talk, but it turned out to be quite a lengthy conversation that took place most of the flight. I can't say I enjoyed it much because I just wanted to be quiet, but he kept on talking so I tried to be polite. I was thinking perhaps he has not been talking English much and having the opportunity to talk to someone who could understand him, well it's like a release. So this is his story.

He's going to Singapore because on a tourist visa you can only stay in Indonesia for 30 days and he's kinda permanently in Indonesia right now because he's engaged to an Indonesian lady. He showed me his engagement ring, don't ask me how come a guy has an engagement ring, I don't know, maybe it's some sort of weird uncommon Indonesian thing? At this point, if you're thinking TLC's 90 Day Fiancé, so was I. I was like, good God!!! Pretty much the reaction I got every time I caught parts of TLC's 90 Day Fiancé. Why do those people do that? They get paid to be on the show right, how much do you think they get to air their stupidity and insanity? Are there any successful couple from that show? Anyways this guy, he's been making the trip to Singapore twice now, in which he just stays the night and returns to Indonesia the next day and restart his entry from day 1 again. I was thinking who this lady is and in my head I just assumed she's a muslim and this guy would have to convert, all the while also thinking perhaps he's already a muslim. He told me that he just has a conviction in his heart hence he's willing to do all this, the kind of talk that religious people do. Unsurprisingly he met the girl from the Internet. I asked how long the process was, thinking maybe a year since they first met on the Internet. He said it's very fast. Shockingly fast for me. They like talked for a week or so, then the girl asked his intention and if he would be interested in marriage. He talked about it with God and then he flew to Indonesia and once arrived, it went so well that they're like okay let's do this. He's been in Indonesia for 2 months now. Are you rolling your eyes? I was though not visibly at that time.

After much talk, I found out that he's a Christian and the girl is too and it was a Christian dating site. Indonesia's bureaucracy is a nightmare, a real bureaucrazy so to speak. To get a permanent resident status, the paper work is just hard and to get married, they need to go through the Church counselling thing and both have to attend the church for 6 months at least. The guy apparently has been doing evangelizing works and feels strongly that this is from God. It feels perfect for him. They're both from the same denomination and I guess they value the same thing. Both have had histories of fail relationships; the lady had a 9-year relationship with another caucasian that didn't work out; he had fail relationship with a Philippina lady previously. I wonder if he sensed my apprehension and hence felt the need to fill in more blanks for me, somewhat to convince me or to perhaps evangelize as well in the process that God works in wondrous ways. I don't know, I really just wanted be quiet with my own thoughts. Many times I wanted to respond with, praise be, but I wonder if it would sound rude and I managed to keep my tongue. Well you would understand why it can sound rude if you watch The Handmaid's Tale in which the phrase is often said sarcastically or in mockery by the handmaids. It is sad though that such nice phrase now also has a bad connotation.

Being someone without love since like forever, I was surprised I wasn't a hopeless romantic and rooting for their magical or perhaps in his words, blessed relationship. By the end of the flight, I can't say that I'm like convinced that they are meant to be. I just don't know. However as a believer in God, if they are to have a chance to really work, then it must be because of God. That's the only possible reason. So if as he said he heard God, then perhaps this could actually work out. I don't know how one hears God. It works differently for different people I guess. I just wonder how you can be sure it's God and not just your irrational head telling you things. The guy said God answered him by posing another question. I guess if you have a close relationship with God, then you hear Him better. I'm not that close I guess. I obviously sin quite a lot. You know now that I am back in Singapore, it's so fast, perhaps within hours that I felt the despair, the restlessness, the wanting to leave. That guy is brave to uproot himself to a totally different country and as much as I pray to exit this life, I do wonder that I am perhaps not that brave to just leave and take the leap to the unknown. At the end of the flight I said good luck to the guy. He said it's better not say luck, because there's good and bad luck and it's like it's by chance. It's better to say, God bless. Yeah he's that kind of Christian. May God bless him and the lady. May God bless you and I hope God bless me with understanding and strength.

:) eKa @ 12:46:00 PM • 0 comments

September Books

I finished reading the 4th book of this year, The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan and by the look of it, it seems likely now that I'm gonna finish 5 books this year since the current book I'm reading is not very thick. The Narrow Road to the Deep North tells the story of Australian prisoners of war under Japanese occupation who were tasked to built railroad in Burma back in WWII. As an Indonesian who grew up in Indonesia, during history lessons back in school when I was a young'un, my curriculum back then (as I recall) only talked about Japanese occupation in Indonesia, in which we were taught of the Japanese word rōmusha which means forced labourers. It was only in my adulthood that I realized these forced labourers were also something that the Japanese did in other parts in South East Asia during WWII. One movie that deals with this event is Colin Firth's The Railway Man. That movie was based on a true story in which Colin Firth's character was forced to work on the railway in Burma too.

At the beginning I thought The Narrow Road to the Deep North would be about a love story, but it's actually not the main part of the story. The main story is really about the war and its aftermath. It gives detailed description of what it's like to be prisoners of war, the condition they're in. There is not just one word or enough words that can encapsulate how hard life was for the POWs. They didn't have decent or enough food, medicine, shelters. Most were naked because their clothes were worn out. They didn't have adequate tools to do the job of clearing the jungle and breaking rocks for the railroad. They had to work when they're sick and of course punishments were severe. It's really heartbreaking, there's so much suffering and honest to God, I don't know if I can survive that. It was such a traumatic experience and the book also tells the story of how it's like for the surviving POWs after the war. I was also pleasantly surprised that the book also tells the story of the Japanese officers and other staff after the war. One of the staff was actually just a young Korean boy recruited by the Japanese to guard the POWs. In my head, I often pictured the men as men, but many of them were just young boys. I wasn't having good days (still don't) when I was reading this book and reading how tough it was for the POWs, it's like God is trying to give me perspective and telling me to tone down my complaining because seriously I wasn't having it as hard as compared to these POWs. That being said, I still don't do well with my self-pity.

So right now I an reading Less by Andrew Sean Greer, it's the 2018 Pulitzer Prize winner for Fiction. This would make it perhaps the first time since I've started reading Pulitzer Prize winners for Fiction that I'm doing it in the year that it wins. Usually I started late in the year and it crossed to the next year. Less is quite light in topic, considering the story winners of years past have told. I've only started reading the winners from 2013 and there's always some tragedy in the story. I don't know yet if anyone is going to die in Less but so far I like it and I welcome the levity. It's about a guy who's avoiding the wedding of an ex-boyfriend that as an excuse he planned it in such a way that he would be travelling to several countries during the period the wedding was to take place. He's approaching 50, single, and there's a certain I don't know how to do life feel with him which I find endearing because of course it's something that I deal with constantly. There's these lines in the book that I can relate to.

What had Freddy meant, "the bravest person I know"? For Less, it is a mystery. Name a day, name an hour, in which Arthur Less was not afraid. Of ordering a cocktail, taking a taxi, teaching a class, writing a book. Afraid of these and almost everything else in the world. Strange, though; because he is afraid of everything, nothing is harder than anything else. Taking a trip around the world is no more terrifying than buying a stick of gum. The daily dose of courage.

As I googled that so that I can copy and paste rather than typing the words from the book, I saw several people are quoting that too in their blogs or what have you. You know, what you feel is never a unique experience in this world of many humans and yet why do many of us feel so alone? I'm not the only one who get that sentiment above. Freddy is right though, Less is brave because bravery is not the absence of fear. Bravery is marching on though you're afraid. That daily dose of courage is why he is so brave.

If The Narrow Road to the Deep North is like God trying to tell me that I am not suffering, Less feels like God telling me there are many others who are not figuring it out either like you do. I hope Less has a satisfying ending for me. Some people would argue, why don't you just go to church or something like that to hear what God really wants to tell you rather than searching for signs or being desperate for signs that you're like making out things in things that perhaps mean nothing at all? I don't know. Desperate people clings to everything I guess. There's this line from The Narrow Road to the Deep North that I find to be so true.

To have been part of a Pharaonic slave system that had at its apex a divine sun king led him to understand unreality as the greatest force in life.

If you think about it, it is so true. Hope for better days are the driving force of many people in this world. At the base of of hope is something that is not real yet, unreality.

:) eKa @ 9:30:00 PM • 0 comments

Snowballed Resentment

I have nothing to write actually. Really nothing. I mean if I have to, I would end up writing depressing stuff, about my life, about the state of Indonesia maybe. I mean Indonesia is not so bad if you're looking at Asian Games right now. The opening ceremony got me quite sentimental and nationalistic, but if you're looking at who our current president picked for his running mate for the next election or how recent happenings in Indonesia (case in point: another blasphemy case #meiliana) again show how intolerance is encroaching on the rights and freedom of us the non-muslims minority, making us feel like we don't matter; well I'm just heartbroken and losing hope.

On a personal level, things suck and they've been getting suckier and suckier and I just get angrier, sadder, and more frustrated. I would describe it like the title of this post, snowballed resentment. I just couldn't lift myself up. I couldn't see the light. Told mom about yet another thing that is getting me really down and how I am losing any interest to live. Yeah that sounds bad. Mom was like don't say such things for God will be angry. Yes I know and knowing that, understanding that my life is blessed and there are millions who perhaps would want my life and yet I'm so sad and depressed, understanding how I'm ungrateful I am, well that just gets me more depressed.

I was thinking that if someone is really hating the life they live, they should try to end it by changing it. I want this life to end, but currently I have no idea or plan on what to change it with. Am I ready to walk out without a next destination to go towards to? If only I am braver. If only I'm not that traumatized. If only my faith is that strong to believe that leap and the net will appear. I don't know. I don't even know how to begin. Taking the plunge scares me but staying put may slowly kill me. There's always something wrong with my body and I know my soul is dying :(

So how about that, super depressing right. That's pretty much what I have right now. So what's the point of writing this? Well it's just to fill the required at least one post a month. Hope your days are more glorious.

:) eKa @ 10:00:00 PM • 0 comments

Not Copacetic

The last time I wrote about a book I finished reading, I wrote that I had been going rather slow and keeping in schedule would be rather hard. Now that it's July and we've officially passed the halfway mark of this year, I think it's quite possible we may not complete the 5 books a year goal. I'm trying, but I don't know. Since the last time I wrote about a book I finished reading, I have finished 2 other books, so that's book 2 and 3 this year.

Book 2 was Tinkers by Paul Harding. It's the 2010 Pulitzer Prize winner for Fiction. It's quite a thin book and yet I think I spent too much time on it. First page of the book straight away deals with death. A man was dying and the book progressed alternatively with his dying hours and the story of his father. Along the way, there were short articles about clocks, particularly antique clocks that the man had a big interest in and was good at repairing and also paragraphs on different kind of borealis. I know aurora borealis but all these other borealis in the book, I don't know any of them and I'm not even sure if they're real. Reading those felt to me like the dying man who couldn't be sure if what he's feeling was real. Overall it was quite an interesting book and I do like the sentences being written, the details in each scene, but I can't say I'm particularly fond of it. Maybe I'm not smart enough to fully capture all the symbolism and meanings? The ending left me wanting more but it just stopped there and I had so many questions so there was a bit of a disappointment it ended the way it ended but I guess in life sometime we don't get the answer we want and that's just the way it is.

Book 3 was The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz. This one is the 2008 Pulitzer Prize winner for Fiction. Okay before I talk about the book, let's just talk a bit on why I chose this book. I got the book before I heard of the sexual abuse allegations on the author. So far it seems he's been cleared of any wrongdoings, but I got to say if I had known beforehand, I may not have gotten this book. I got this book because someone I know who knows I read, asked me if I went to Singapore Writers Festival last year and saw Junot Díaz. I didn't actually know there's such a thing as a Singapore Writers Festival and didn't know who Junot Díaz was :D So of course I googled him and ended up getting his book. All this happened before I heard about the allegations, but I did start reading the book after hearing the news because what else was I supposed to do? Leave the book unread? You know after the many #MeToo news involving famous people started to come out, there's that discussion and question if you can still or should still watch or in this case read works by the people involved in these allegations. To each his own I guess, but I think what these people have done will colour your perception on their works no matter what. Like if I watch any of Bill Cosby's shows right now, I'd be like, man here you were playing a good father but in real life you're so awful. A shame really because I think I really enjoyed his shows when I was young. These men, really, God damn it. Why do they have to be such an ass? The stories that have come out of course differ in their severity between the men, but the really bad obnoxious ones, I really think they should just go away.

Okay back to the book. I actually quite enjoyed The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. With a title like that, of course you know Oscar would die and it's like a theme running from Tinker which is death. I didn't plan it that way. I didn't know what Tinker was about when I got the book. The cover of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao that I have features a young preteen boy so I felt rather sad and was hoping that the death wouldn't be literal. Oscar lived longer, but it still happened. Anyways, I think to truly enjoy The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, you need to know Spanish and have a good knowledge on comics and the fantasy genre of books. Both things I do not have. I really wished I had known Spanish when reading this book. I felt like I was missing out because I don't understand Spanish and some of the comic books or anime references. The title of this post uses a word that Oscar said (I think twice) in the book, copacetic. A word which I have come to really like. I didn't know the meaning of it when I read it for the first time and somehow I couldn't remember its meaning that I had to google it again when the word appeared the second time to really put it into memory. I don't know why it was hard for me to remember its meaning the first time even though I was already intrigued. I just remembered it as being not pathetic. Its actual meaning according to google is, in excellent order. That's what Oscar would say about himself. He's such a poor fellow. I don't know if I would call his brief life wondrous. He's what you would call a loser and I was hoping for so much more for him. I guess as a fellow someone who thinks she's stuck in life and gets depressed often, I do have a lot of sympathy for Oscar. I want more for him, but just like him I wouldn't know what to do either to remedy his situation. It got me thinking that successful people who always say things like you should get up and make things happen, I think they wouldn't have much patience with Oscar and they would just let him / people like us to just die in our wallowing self pity. I think sometime people who get their lives figured out can't relate to that stuck feeling we have and they can be so not sympathetic. When you're stuck in that deep dark hole without any clue on how to get out or even an understanding of the possibility of getting out, no matter how many times you hear U2's Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of, you just can't unstuck yourself :( Anyways, the book doesn't tell Oscar's story alone. In fact I think if you condense his story, it's quite short and as I said not very wondrous. The other story in the book is about the people in Oscar's life. Along the way, I got to learn a bit about the history of The Dominican Republic. I'm not sure how much of it would stick in memory, but it's good to get to learn something that I wouldn't seek on my own.

Now I am reading The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan. I've actually seen this book quite a few times, but always ended up deciding not to get it because its topic about POWs (Prisoner of Wars) seemed to be a bit heavy somehow to follow up whatever book I was reading at that time. Then one time, on the rare occasion that I took the train to go somewhere, I saw this kinda handsome guy standing next to me reading it. I was like, is it fate? Yeah it's a silly reason, but I eventually got the book. I actually got 3 books (simply to avoid delivery cost from Kinokuniya) to read next including this year's Pulitzer Prize winner for Fiction. I decided to read The Narrow Road to the Deep North first because though The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao has its own share of tortures and deaths, I thought it still has its light comical moments and I think I'm not that drained to tackle a war story. So far I can't say much about The Narrow Road to the Deep North. I'm still quite at the beginning.

Back to being not copacetic. Well truly I am not copacetic. The days have been rough. I've been in uncomfortable, annoying, frustrating situations. One time I was truly pissed, but I disappointed myself for not being able to come out with strong rebuttals on the spot. I went quiet. At that point I was thinking I was like a powder keg going to explode, but thankfully I didn't go on screaming and throwing stuff. That made me then wonder if I was going to cry. Thankfully I didn't do that either. I ask God to help me survive, but I don't know why I should be surviving. What's the point of it all? As I say, when you're down in that deep hole, it's dark in there. There's another bigger thing that gets me quite worried. This one is real and I am quite scared. I'm not ready to write about it here, so let me just end this post here. Hope you guys are having glorious days.

:) eKa @ 9:00:00 PM • 0 comments

Day 9 - Around Keukenhof

sometimes people will treat you like a worn out shoe
but they don't know that you can't lose
come and be a winner

Come And Be A Winner - Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings

Somehow I started writing about this trip with day 0, so this last post about the trip will be day 9 or day 10 if you're counting from 1. It was my last day, I was flying back to Singapore that day. Took the bus again to Seville airport, luckily I didn't have to wait too long and get all worried that I would be late. It wasn't a long trip to the airport. I was transiting in Amsterdam and I know last year I wrote about not gonna chase visiting Keukenhof again, but I went there again. I had something that I wanted to do. I wanted to cycle around and look at the tulip fields.

Flying to Schiphol was uneventful. Good lord I can't remember if I was sitting at the aisle or the window and whom I sat with. I remember there were 3 rich Indonesian ladies on the flight though. They wore expensive things and when checking in had big luggages. I didn't say "Hi" to them because I think I'm too lowly for the rich them. Anyways, when I exited Schiphol I saw this cafe / restaurant that sells Indonesian food but the Dutch version of it. I was so curious and wondered if I should eat because I did feel a bit hungry. I looked at the food and in the end I wasn't feeling it. It didn't look correct to me. Even from the rice, it seemed wrong that it's basmati rice. What, they cannot find any South East Asian rice? No Thai rice? If there's anything that I was really interested in, it was the pork sate / satay. In the end I was thinking no because wrong Indonesian food will just make me sad. Then I went to a convenient store to get water and they happened to sell pastry too. The first time I landed in Amsterdam years ago, I was so delighted that the Dutch just speaks English well and in that store being able to ask what's in the pastry and having the staff in the counter said "Have a good day", I was just reminded of that feeling of being happy that they all speak English :) The pastry I had just had cheese inside it. It was pretty good and I ate it while walking all the way to arrival 4 which was quite a walk. It was where the bus to Keukenhof is. Previously I always booked tickets online which include admission to the garden and a round trip on the bus. However, this time I hadn't booked any ticket. I have to say I had some apprehension if I should really cycle around because as usual I worry about my ability to not get hurt or hurt other people in the process. In the end I decided to toughen it up and really cycle around. So I just bought the bus tickets from the stall near the queue for the bus. There was quite a queue, but not to worry, bus to Keukenhof departs frequently.

Arriving in the park, I found the free lockers section and I stored all my valuable inside. Next to it, they have bigger space with staff and I saw some people used it to store luggages and other big things. Then I made my way to the bicycle rental. There wasn't much of a queue, but there's only 1 staff at the counter and she had to explained the route to each customer, so it was quite a wait. The bicycle rental cost 10 euro for the whole day. The OCD studious me had studied the route and I had expectation of making it up to the sea - too high of an expectation unmatched by my physical ability and navigation skill. Anyway after paying, I went to get the bicycle. First thing I said to the guy was that I'm short and needed something low. The handsome and I think very young guy gave me their standard orange bike thinking I'd be alright. I tried and nope, I couldn't pull myself up. I blame the wind but it could also be that it's indeed too high for me or it could also be that I plainly sucked. He got me another bike, a black one, and that worked for me though my feet still couldn't touch the ground when I sat. I thought okay let's just get out of here to avoid more embarrassment. I was already embarrassed with my unskillfulness. I wonder if he thought this girl was not going to make it. He taught me how to lock the bike and off I went.

The route was marked but sometimes the signs were kinda small that I had times where I wondered if I missed any signs. All the bicycle paths are dedicated. I cycled and cycled and before long I was thinking, man this is harder than I thought it would be. Seriously I thought, why is this harder, harder than when I went cycling with dad in Taiwan last year. At first there were people renting the same bicycles with me and I tried to follow them, but at some points I think we diverged and I found myself alone. Worried I was, but I thought I was in the right path. The disappointing thing was that there's no tulip field :( I saw ponies on what looked like just a normal house garden but no tulip field.

I was getting disappointed and started to wonder if I was in the wrong path. I think I was right though, but there's just nothing. Eventually I found a small field with tulips of the same colours and stopped awhile and took pictures of them. I had to admit that I was hesitant about just parking and walk around, I was afraid that the owner would get angry and chase me away. However there's no one there. That being said I did haste a bit in taking the pictures. The tulips here are in bright colours and the strong wind kinda made them all bend. I love how the colours come out in this picture. Didn't have to do any editing at all.

It was kinda sad not finding more tulip fields :( I was earlier on visiting Keukenhof than last year, but even on the 1st of May, many of the tulips were already gone from the fields. Eventually I saw a bigger field with tulips of many colours. I saw that there were some bikes from the bicycle rentals and there were quite a number of people walking on the fields, so I felt better about doing the same. There was a freaking drone though when I was there and the buzzing sound annoyed me. I wonder if the drone was just taking footages or it was really there to buzz and annoy people and stop them from walking too deep. In the end luckily it went away. Here's some pictures from the fields. There's a canal by this field and across the canal, there's a field of what I think is daffodils. As for the tulips, I particularly like the section where it seemed that they're still quite early in their bloom that their petals are still small and together. Against the many green of their stalk, it just looked pretty to me.






After that I cycled again. Couldn't find anymore field and before I knew it I was back at Keukenhof. Took a bit of a detour before returning the bicycle to take some pictures of a small tulip field nearby, but this was gated so I couldn't walk in.

After that I returned the bicycle. So in the end, I didn't make it to the sea. I wonder if it's really far. All in all, I think I spent around 3 hours cycling. Before I got on the bus to leave I took some pictures at the flower beds in front of Keukenhof's entrance. The tulips were in many different colours and they looked so pretty being different. For pictures from this trip, please go here. Dare I say that I will not chase Keukenhof again? I don't know, if the time is right and I have a substantial transit time in Schiphol, what you're gonna do, better spend it looking at beautiful flowers right?

The flight home was full so I was sad finding out I couldn't get a row for my own, but I made it back in one piece and for that I'm thankful. I had a really really really good trip and I am thankful to God. It never ceases to amaze me that I managed to do another trip unscathed. I do have very little confidence on myself and so I attribute God for everything and that all went well. Life back here straight away pulls me back down the black hole :( I had a health check quite immediate after I came back - that's the only appointment date I could get. Surprisingly I'm okay. No diabetes, something that I'm worried about. However my blood pressure at that time fell into pre-hypertension. My excuse for that was that I was getting anxious because it was taking too long, I was getting hungry, and I was getting late for class. I'm supposed to go to a doctor to really get it checked, but I haven't done so. I think I'm really just not good with stress, really don't. The thing is I have stress in life, too much than I would like to have and suffice to say these get me all moody and sad. I can't even be fully excited and happy about this long weekend *sigh* I do hope you guys are having better days.

:) eKa @ 12:02:00 PM • 0 comments

Day 8 - Seville

no hesitation, what are we waiting for?
we talk too much

Talk Too Much - COIN

I'm actually reaching towards the end of writing about this trip. It's the penultimate post people. It's taken a lot work, so after this you may expect dull stories that come perhaps only once a month. Anyway, day 8 was spent exploring Seville, another kind of chilly day. The day started in the Royal Alcázars of Seville or in Spanish, Reales Alcázares de Sevilla, or in Game of Thrones world, Dorne palace. To be honest, I couldn't remember which part of the Alcázar was featured in Game of Thrones or even thought of it when I was there. I just googled it and saw the scene captures and I thought to myself, oh yeah I was there :D The Alcázar is opened at 09:30 AM and I had a booking for the upper apartment at 10:00 AM, its first session. When I got out of my hotel, I saw a C1 bus by the red light and so I kinda ran to the bus stop and I made it. The entrance to the Alcázar was by the Lion's Gate which I had difficulty finding in Google maps. Seriously it took me days to find it. This picture was taken after I had finished actually.

When I arrived, there was already quite a queue and from the Internet I learned that the queue for people who already have tickets are at the middle, but they all seemed to blend and chaotic for me. Found what I think is the middle. Asked a couple in front me if it's the correct queue. They thought so. Then behind me came 3 Chinese aunties from Xiamen. I think in languages I can understand better than I can speak. Somehow I had a bit of conversation with one of the auntie in my very broken pretty much non-existent Chinese. They also had bookings for the upper apartment, but theirs was at 11 if I'm not mistaken. I was in awe of the aunties. I think their English is like my very broken pretty much non-existent Chinese, but they made it travelling and doing this on their own. When the queue moved and all with booking breezed through, somehow they were gone from behind me. There was a bag check through the machine when you enter and after doing that, I saw that there were free maps by the entrance for people who buy ticket on the spots. Luckily I spotted that because I used that map to make sure I visited every corners.

The upper apartment can only be visited by booking and you have to arrive 15 minutes before scheduled time. Knowing that I tend to get lost, I made it a point to get there on time. When I arrived, there's already a lady and I think her daughter talking to the staff. The staff couldn't find their booking and he finally figured that their booking was actually for the next month, but he let them enter anyway. I wondered if the lady knew but pretended not to. The booking listed people by name, so he had to check one by one. You again had to run through your bag through the machine and then deposited it in the locker. We had difficulty figuring out the locker and I had to ask the staff, how to do this and only then he told us that you need to deposit 1 euro. Gosh, why didn't he tell us earlier. Anyways so again, the upper apartment can only be visited by booking and a time slot and in a small group. There were 7 people including me in my group. Each visit is like 20 minutes or so in which you cannot take picture and cannot wander on your own. You're given an audio guide and that audio guide will tell you when to move and where to enter. Along with that, you also have a security guard who walks with you and makes sure you go to the correct room. I wonder if it's boring for the security guard. He's definitely clocking his 10,000 steps walking with group after group every day. It must be tiring too because he cannot sit.

The upper apartment was the living quarters of the Spanish royals. What I remember from my visit was that there's a small beautiful chapel or praying room. There's a long dining room. There were some antique clocks which were kinda interesting. Of course there's antique furniture and all. Overall I guess it's kinda interesting. After that I went to a nearby exhibition of tiles or ceramic on the same floor. I didn't stay long because I was more interested in exploring the compound so I can't remember what it really was. Here's a look of the upper apartment from the courtyard.

Overall I think the Alcázar was so so, that is because after Alhambra, everything would fall short. It's definitely bigger and grander than the Alcázar in Córdoba, but the garden when I was there had less flowering plants so it's mostly green. Here are some of the things that you can see in the Alcázar of Seville. You can see the standard Moorish low fountain.

Then there are beautiful designs on the ceilings. The second picture below shows the famous one from the Hall of Ambassadors.


There are also beautiful ceramic tiles on the walls. Below is an example of one of them. They make you wonder how they're put together.

One interesting thing that I really like is the Doña María de Padilla's Bath. It's kinda hidden and luckily I had a map with me that told me it exists. It's not the same, but it reminded me of Istanbul's Basilica Cistern.

The outdoor garden is big and I stumbled into a musical fountain. I didn't know what it was, I just saw a group of elderly sitting and waiting and so I waited too. The fountain wasn't exceptionally beautiful and the sound / music coming out of it wasn't beautiful too (in my opinion), but it's a water organ. So I guess that's kinda cool. It started drizzling lightly, so I walked up the sheltered balcony behind it and waited for awhile. Luckily it stopped quite quickly. Then I explored the rest of the garden. Honestly maybe my timing was off, I saw mostly green and not many flowers. The garden is big, it has a maze (a group of German boys had so much fun playing in them), a pavilion, bigger fountains with pool, and also other smaller fountains like this one.

In a corner of Jardín Inglés (which I assumed is English garden), I saw this peacock. I think there were more than 1 peacock and they were quite loud.

For pictures from the Alcázar, please go here. I think I spent too much time in Alcázar so I quickly went to my next destination, Seville Cathedral. I actually contemplated that perhaps it's okay to not book this beforehand, but how glad I was that I did. The queue was long and it felt good to just breeze through. Booking included free audio guide, but the queue was quite substantial and it wasn't moving, so I was like forget it. The cathedral is big and there's quite a lot to see and I have to say, it's quite stunning.

It has a lot of precious thing. Like this one below is just a small part of a big golden altars that was gated. You couldn't really come close. Wikipedia's caption on the picture it has is that, Pierre Dancart's masterpiece, considered one of the finest altarpieces in the world.

Another one of really interesting thing in the Cathedral is the tomb of Christopher Columbus. It's so grand, it's like I think I've never seen a tomb fancier than this. My thought went to poor old Vasco da Gama whose tomb in Lisbon's Jerónimos Monastery was like so plain in comparison. Wikipedia told me that the 4 figures in Columbus' tomb are the kings of Castile, Leon, Aragon and Navarre. I tried to find more information, but I couldn't find if Columbus' remain is on the box the kings carried or on the one below that they stood on. You have kings at your tombs. Do you think Columbus is deserving of this? I have like mix feeling about this. On one point, it's like yep, it would be so cool if my tomb is like this too. On the other hand it's like it's kinda over the top. Too much. Mix feeling I say, mix feeling :D

Moving on, I saw that the queue for the Giralda / Bell Tower is quite long, but I wanted to do this, so I quickly joined in. Me, tower? Yes I did write many times that I don't like climbing enclosed stairs but I was promised ramps for this tower. It's actually quite spacious and airy inside the tower. The windows in the tower are sufficiently big. Wikipedia told me, The tower has a ramp with 35 segments wide and tall enough to allow a person to ride on horseback to the top of the Moorish tower. Fascinating right. By the way, part of the cathedral and this tower used to be a Moorish mosque. The ramps were built to make it easier to go up the tower and make the Muslim call of prayer. While it wasn't tiring to get up, it took quite long because it was basically a queue all the way to the top. I wonder if it would have been tiring if I had walked all the way without stopping every few seconds. I think that would be more enjoyable than my experience in the queue. I hate people you see. So being with so many people and noise and not being able to just get out, I had to like calm myself. Behind me were these 2 Italian dudes, one of them kept bumping into my backpack, adding to my annoyance. One of their conversation was about how Spanish words could be misleading for Italians, like the word salida.

When I finally reached the top, it was actually drizzling. Yes the top is covered, but you could feel the water splashing. The top was crowded, I wonder if the staff counted how many people are on the top or in the tower. My thought went to safety there. So being that it was very crowded, I just quickly went around and took pictures. In the picture below, the round stadium is the bullfighting ring, Plaza de toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla. For short I just call it La Maestranza.


Some of the bells rang when I was there. Being at the top, it was obviously loud. The way down was faster and a better walk. I walked inside the Cathedral a bit more and then I exited. By this time the drizzle had stopped. I took some pictures of the Cathedral and tower from the courtyard. Just like in La Mezquita in Córdoba, the courtyard is filled with orange trees.

By this time I think it's around 3 pm. I needed to have lunch, however the restaurants all around were still busy and crowded. I waited at one, but like no waiter was willing to help me out, at least to greet. So I walked to another one and again it was busy, but luckily I managed to get an attention of a waitress and she was willing to hear me out and I got a table. This place serves mostly paella. Didn't plan to have paella in this trip, because it's a Valencia thing not Andalusia, but beggar cannot be chooser. Thankfully it's a single person serving. My paella had pork, chicken, prawn, and it's pretty good. After lunch, I made my way to Church of El Salvador. The ticket for the Cathedral includes this too. However when I was there, there's no one manning the entrance or checking ticket. It's Monday though and quite late in the afternoon, so maybe it's their free time. In Seville, many places are actually free Monday afternoon. I like places that give free entrance even though only for a particular time. I like it for obvious reason because it's free, but also because it gives a chance for people who cannot afford to pay to also have access to these wonderful places. Church of El Salvador is not very big, but the altars inside it are so out of this world. I don't think I've seen anything like it before. It's in baroque style. I'm first to admit to not have any knowledge of any artistic style or how to identify one. In Wikipedia it's written, The Baroque is a highly ornate and often extravagant style of architecture, art and music that flourished in Europe from the early 17th until the late 18th century. It properly explains how extravagant the altars are. So many angels and saints, so many things, so crowded, so mesmerizing :D

After the church, I made my way to La Maestranza. I was so looking forward to this especially because Monday afternoon it's free, but darn that was like my big disappointment in this trip. It seemed it is free, but I think they have like limited slots and by the time I was there it was way passed 3 pm and I think they weren't accepting any visitor anymore. It's not very clear, there were a lot of people trying to get in, but all of us were turned down, very sad, very very sad *sigh* so I only have picture of La Maestranza from the outside.

Then I made my way to the nearby bridge, Puente de Triana, and took picture of the Guadalquivir river and Seville. This picture below is from just before I reached the bridge.

From here, I walked all the way to the tower, Torre del Oro, where's there's a boat cruise along the river, but I decided not to do that. I walked a bit more in the old town and then decided to call it the day. So that was how I explored Seville. I don't think I explored much. For pictures, please go here.

:) eKa @ 8:48:00 PM • 0 comments

Day 7 - Pueblos Blancos and Ronda

so come over here and sit next to me
we can see where things go naturally
just say the word and I'll part the sea
just come over here and sit next to me
it's alright

Sit Next to Me - Foster The People

I was expecting hotter days when I was in Spain, but except for the day I arrived, the days seemed to be getting cooler. I kinda form a habit of checking the weather every day when I'm on a trip now and for day 7, I found out that it was going to be cooler, so I took out the thicker sweater coat. It was rather chilly that day. Day 7 didn't start so early. I was taking a day tour to Pueblos Blancos and Ronda. I had no knowledge whatsoever about these places. I just thought it might be interesting. I was supposed to be picked up at 09:15 AM and when I got down the guide was already there. He was early. It was not a very big group and we used like a shuttle van which felt a bit crammed. We picked some more people and then we're off. It's interesting for me that there's actual Spanish people taking this tour too.

First stop was to the Castle of Las Aguzaderas. It's not very big and it's free to enter. There was no staff. There was no one but us there. It felt like it's just being left on its own. It was built by the Moors. They built a few of this kinda castle or look out points with towers and walls. I have to say there's nothing much to look at, just bricks and all.

Then we continued on our way. It was drizzling a bit that the guide decided to take us to an olive oil factory first. When I said factory, it's not industrial, it's like old-school family factory. I was surprised myself upon realizing that from all my travels, it was my first time going to an olive oil factory. I've been to vineyards with olive trees, but this is my first time learning how olive oil is made. I also learnt that Spain produces the most olive oil for the world, even more than the Italians and in Andalusia, olive picking seems to be one of the jobs that are still really done by the Spanish while other fruits or vegetables picking may have some foreign workers helping. As mentioned this family is old school, been doing it since many generations back. The olives are picked by hand in September - October, if I'm not mistaken. Then they go into a machine that will make them into some sort of paste. Then like lasagna (as the guide put it), the paste is layered between filters, layered upon layered until it reaches like very high. I forget how high, maybe 2 m or so. The filter is round like a table mat and is made of nylon rope. Then this stack is pushed into the presser and it will squeeze out all the oils. I can't remember how high the stack be after the press, perhaps it's down to half. What I learn is that because this is old school, the factory is like only getting 20% oil (if I'm not mistaken) from the olive. Industrial factory may be able to get like 35%. In fact I think this factory can still sell their used paste to the industrial factories. I saw that the paste was like brown and it made sense when I saw that the oil they have there was like darker. I'm glad I got to learn something new.

Then it was to the first white village. Pueblos Blancos actually means white villages. White because the houses are mostly white, but it's been white everywhere in this trip right, like in Portugal too. Anyway first stop was Zahara de la Sierra. It's not very big nor very interesting for me. There's a church, Santa Maria de la Mesa. It's like the only building not in white. Since I had nothing to do, I went in. It was kinda nice. After that, since it was rather cold that I started to wonder if I was under dressed, I had hot chocolate in one of the cafe.

Then it was to the next village, Grazalema, which was also not very big nor interesting. So far the trip hadn't been going amazing. We were given time for lunch. When I was waiting for my change, this uncle / older guy just came and sit in my table and talked to me. I think he might be American. I thought it was kinda weird, but okay the place was crowded, there's witnesses if something bad was going to happen. He asked where I'm from. Upon knowing Indonesia, he mentioned Jogjakarta, which amused me because that's not the first thing people normally say about Indonesia. He said he'd been there during his hippie days :D Then it got weird when he said he's thinking of buying a hotel nearby. Mind you this uncle dressed so normally, like didn't look not rich at all. By that time my change came, so I just said okay, well nice talking to you, bye :D Then I walked around a bit, but really there's nothing much.

Then we're off on our way to Ronda by way of passing forest of cork trees. I'm not sure how corks are made. I just googled it. Turned out they take the bark to make corks. Good I guess, because I wondered if they have to cut down the entire tree. The trees I saw in the forests were not tall, so I wonder if those were really the cork trees. Anyway Ronda, it seemed it's quite famous though I have never heard of it before now. As we walked towards the town, there's a bullfighting ring with a bull statue. We didn't go in though and I didn't as well during my free time. Nearby there are statues of Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles. They liked it there in Ronda. The lookout point nearby provided a view of the mountains.

Then we're given map and a free time to explore. Up to this point, the day was just going so so for me. Even arriving in Ronda was just so so, I thought there's nothing much too. I saw the bridge, Puente Nuevo, but the view wasn't that great for me so I was rather disappointed.


Not knowing what to do, I just followed the suggested walkabout in the map. First stop was Plaza de María Auxiliadora and at the end of this look out point, there's like many steps down and I saw some Korean tourists coming up. An uncle in particular who's like breathing through his mouth. I figured the hike down will give you a good view of the bridge. Seeing the uncle, I wondered if it's really hard or if it's because he's older. Since I had nothing to do, I went down. Obviously going down was easy, though with my luck I was afraid I was going to trip and roll over and fall. I have this kinda illogical fear sometime and one of them is like I'm not good in this kinda thing, which is basically just walking. I'm not good at walking, that's how silly I am. I like don't have confidence in myself and I'm always thinking I'm bound to fall. Anyway, reached (in one piece) a place where it provides a really good look of the bridge and what I didn't know looking at pictures before this was that there's a waterfall under the bridge and it was pretty. The water pooling under it has a nice colour.


From this point, you can go further down, but the path was looking narrow and steep and again I had no confidence so I decided to go back, but instead of going all the way back up, I followed up another path which I think would lead to a better view of the Guadalevín river. However the path again was getting treacherous and so then I decided to really go back. Going back up wasn't easy, heart rate was up, was almost breathing through my mouth, but I made it all the way without stopping. I sat down at the bench in Plaza de María Auxiliadora first waiting for my heart rate to go down. Then I followed the rest of the suggested walking path in my map. Nothing interesting to report. At one point, I took a wrong turn and ended up at the center again and so I decided to just go find a toilet and then go around the shops. On the walk back to the shuttle van, a Spanish girl in the group chatted me up. She asked if I was from the States. That was interesting because that's the first time anyone thought I'm from America :D She was travelling alone too and she's currently living near Madrid (I forget which city). In my head I was like, girl, why are you only talking to me now, you could have helped me with my boredom in the morning. Why didn't I start talking to her in the first place, you ask? Well she's always in the Spanish group. Then I was being the anti social shy me. I'm glad she talked to me even though for only a short while. That's pretty much day 7. The best part was the hike down to see the bridge in all its glory with its waterfall. For pictures, please go here

:) eKa @ 11:36:00 AM • 0 comments

Day 6 - Córdoba

we've built a city where nobody sleep
this thing is forever, it's twenty four seven
I love you so never let me, never let go

No Esperes Más - Alex Cuba feat. Anya Marina

That song above is so good, I do recommend you to YouTube it. However I don't think it's like super famous or gets traction that I couldn't find the correct lyrics for it. The one above is how I heard it. The song is in Spanish and English and it's perhaps my favorite in this trip playlist. So anyway day 6 was spent exploring Córdoba on my own. It went so much better than I expected and it was one of the best day of the trip and I took so many pictures, so this post will be filled with them.

Córdoba is not as far as Granada from Seville and the more I googled about this, the more I was convinced that I can do a day trip there on my own. So I took the train to Córdoba and the train was early at 07:00 AM. Well it's not super early, but as mentioned in the last post, when you got out and it's still dark, it felt early. The reason why I took the early train was because the main reason of visiting Córdoba was to visit The Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba. I googled around and confirmed from its official website that entry to the Mosque-Cathedral is free from Monday to Saturday from 8:30 to 9:30. I was there on a Saturday and hence I chose the early train so that I could make it there for the free period. The train station was near the hotel, but I did make sure to leave earlier because reading the train board can be not a straightforward thing for me. Luckily it was easy enough. My train was going to Madrid with a stop in Córdoba. With that settled, I thought I should get snack. There's McDonald's, but I didn't want anything heavy so I choose this filled doughnut from another cafe. It's a doughnut still with hole in it, but it's ring had filling inside. I was shocked when I found out the price. If I'm not mistaken it's 2 euro something. I straight away thought of Lisbon where things were cheaper and that nice patisserie near my hotel. Then I went to my platform in which there's staff checking the ticket there and bags must go through the machine. That was something new for me. I booked a window seat. I was hoping the train would be empty and quiet, but then a girl came to sit next to me. It was okay though.

That morning train was an express train with no stop in between. It only took 45 minutes. So I arrived at 07:45 AM. Studied the map and all before this trip and it should be like a 20-minute walk to the Mosque-Cathedral, which I'm just going to call La Mezquita now. However, the dumb me just went off walking before getting oriented first and as such I was epic-ally lost. Seriously, instead of stopping when I realized I was not in the correct street and trying to figure out where that street is, I just walked off further and further. In retrospect, I could have used the train tracks as my orientation, but I was too dumb :[ I walked through this area which I assumed suppose to be the park that I had to be in, but I was wrong. Finally I decided to ask people. It was perhaps still early on a Saturday that actually there weren't many people around. In my desperation, I asked a random lady walking her dog. She didn't speak English. Luckily I think I pronounced La Mezquita okay enough for her to understand me. She sincerely wanted me to understand her instruction, but with only Spanish, I could only get the big picture. I was thinking damn how my Italian knowledge didn't do any good there. I was hoping that my Italian knowledge can somehow help me with the Spanish, but sometime the words are so different especially when spoken. I fare better when I read Spanish I think. Anyway, I followed her general direction, but it led me to more of a city area which I thought to be wrong because La Mezquita should be in the old town. So I asked a waiter preparing to open a restaurant, thinking he surely speaks English. He did not :[ The good point is generally I was in the correct direction. The not so good point is again I could only get general direction from the waiter. So I walked, then after sometime, I asked a random lady. She somewhat spoke English, but then she wasn't sure about the direction and she said, I think it's that way *sigh*. At a certain point there's this couple walking in front of me. I thought they might be going the same way, but they could also be not. So I stopped following them after awhile and went off on my own and I got lost in like a maze of alleys. Sometime I can be so stubborn and go deeper into a mistake, but I was getting tired so I decided to track back to where I last split from the couple and then continued on to the path they took. Then, somehow, I made it. I was half convinced that I reached the place, but a part of me also said maybe not, but I made it. I made it and I was so happy!!! I made it by 08:45 AM. So that was like around 1 hour of being lost and walking? Gosh, I was so stupid but at the same time I was so happy to made it, thank GOD!!!

There's bag check before going in and there were already quite a number of people inside. La Mezquita as its English name, Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba, suggests was a mosque that is now used as a church. From the entrance I walked towards the end of one wall and hit what I think is the mihrab, but reading Wikipedia I found out that this mihrab is not the kiblat (Indonesian word for qibla), the direction which Muslims pray. So I don't know in which direction the Muslims prayed when this was a mosque. Anyway in this wall, there's a few designs such as this.

Now that it's a cathedral, there are many chapels for prayers all around. What's amazing and really beautiful for me is the many pillars, all in perfect alignment with each other. It has this block of red and white marbles, some looked older than others. Truly it's another thing that I'm truly blessed to have been able to visit.



I was planning to spend time there until the free time is up. About 10-15 minutes before 09:30 AM, the staff started to usher and shepherd all of us out. The official opening hour starts at 10 AM and in the courtyard filled with orange trees, I saw a queue started to form. There's also a bell tower, but climbing up enclosed stairs is really not my thing. After a few more pictures also from the outside, I made my way to the Alcázar. By the way, there were many entrances to the compounds, but not all of these gates are open. They also come in different design and are quite beautiful.

The Alcázar, its full name is Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos and its ticket price is 4.50 euro, which I thought was quite cheap, so I decided to go in. There was not much of a queue when I got to the ticket counter. An Alcázar as Wikipedia explains it, is a type of Moorish castle or palace in Spain and Portugal built during Muslim rule. This one is not very big and I guess that's why the ticket price is not very high. It has towers which luckily wasn't that hard for me to climb. Inside the building, there's some art works and some mosaic tiles. The garden features long fountain with flowers all around. The flowers were blooming, including my favorite red poppies. At the far end of the compound, it also has a section of walls covered in roses. I thought the blooming flowers are what made this visit so interesting even though the whole compound is not really mind blowing for me. It's just nice and relaxing walking around looking at beautiful flowers.




Here is a picture of the Alcázar which I took from one end of the long fountain and also a view of one of its long fountain.


As I was about to leave, I met the Indian couple from the day before. We did talk about our plan of going to Córdoba the day before. They were in a tour. We just said hi hi and went on our way. Next to the Alcázar, there's this horse riding school, similar to the one I saw in Vienna. I had no interest though even back when in Vienna, so I didn't go in. Ticket is rather expensive too if I'm not mistaken. Honestly I didn't have much plan about what to do in Córdoba and I did become concerned if my trip there would get boring. What I knew I wanted to do after the Alcázar was finding this courtyard statue. When I found it, it was the start of something exceptionally wonderful.

Near this statue, there's a house and I saw people going in and out and I know they were going for the patio. I know that there's Córdoba patio festival. It hasn't started when I was there, but signs were everywhere. This year it started on May 1 for about 2 weeks. That happened to be the day I flew back to Singapore. So anyway I saw people going in and I followed them and I had a peek at the patio before and old uncle asked me for the ticket. He didn't speak English but I understood that ticket is required and he pointed me at the direction to get the ticket which I actually knew where exactly. Actually there were already people selling the tickets outside of the Alcázar, but I didn't even bother to find out more because I thought they would be speaking only in Spanish and I thought it was something to be done in group. So the house that the uncle indicated was a house that I already passed on my way to see the statue and I did see the sign. So I went in. There's a guy and I was concerned that he wouldn't be able to explain well in English when I asked, how does it work? Luckily the guy speaks English :) It worked like this, the ticket is 5 euro and you get access to 5 houses. There's a map with the ticket and all the houses are quite nearby to each other in the San Basilio area. There's like an uncle / older man in each house which will mark your ticket once you have entered. The first house was actually the house where the ticket was sold, so that was like perfect. The guy also promised to point me to the next house after I was done with the first house. So here's the start of the many pictures I took in Córdoba and why this trip became so memorable. It made up for the fact that I was super lost that morning. The patios were just breathtaking for me. I may have said this is insane or this is crazy audibly because they were just so beautiful, too beautiful. Like I so want to have this in my own house someday. It doesn't take a lot of space, but definitely a lot of effort. Pictures here are from the different houses, I forget which is which.





When I finished in house 1, there were actually many people so I thought the guy wouldn't remember me. He did though and when he saw me going out, he pointed me to the next house, but I already knew where it is. House 2 was the best I think and it has also won many prizes dating more than 2 decades. There's a lady selling some stuff there too. There are people living in these houses, I think she may have lived in one them. I think I would go crazy having many strangers entering my living space, but the patio is too beautiful and I think you do have to share beauty? I hope if I have something beautiful, I wouldn't be too selfish to not share it with others. House 3 was crowded when I passed by, so I went to house 4 first in which somehow there was a time when I found myself there all alone and it was like bliss. I wanted to stay longer but I realized there's a group outside the door. The uncle there was like talking to them, I think letting me have my time. When I went out, as the uncle took my ticket to mark it, he started talking to me in Spanish. I think he's asking me if I have had a good look and I said si, molto bella (Italian for yes, very beautiful). I don't know if he understood this. He called me mija which I always love when the father in Ugly Betty called Betty with because I thought that is so endearing. Somehow I understood him when he's telling me that house 3 was crowded and I responded yes hence that's why I went here first (in English), then he told me to go to house 5 first. His direction was different from the map, but we confirmed both paths worked. I was just amazed we kinda understood each other. I love the personal familial touch of this. Anyway, as I passed by house 3, I saw it's not very crowded anymore so I went there. After that I went to house 5, along the way finding myself alone on the street and I was so happy because I had been seeing beautiful things. House 5 was okay. Honestly all the houses after house 2 just kinda fell short. It may not be as beautiful as house 2, but if you happen to find yourself alone in the pretty patio you can't help having your heart smile. Another thing I noticed in these patios is that they have wells in them. I can't recall if all the houses have wells, but at least 2 of them do have. There were also 2 free patios that I entered too, but they're not as pretty. You can give a donation if you want to, which the stingy me didn't do. If you think about it, 5 euro for 5 houses is like 1 euro each. If you go to the free patio and give like 1 euro, it's more or less the same. Also my earlier plan was to visit Palacio de Viana's patios if I had free time and didn't know what else to do. The ticket price was also 5 euro and that was like further from the old town center or train station, so that's quite a walk. With my luck that day, very likely I would have gotten lost again.

During the Córdoba patio festival, it seems all the patios are free and there are more patios located all over. So that would be like super interesting. I wonder if it's going to be very crowded though. Honestly as I was walking between houses and the streets with not many people in them, I wondered where's the throng of Asian tourists. Asian tourists would love this, but I guess big tour groups don't really go to these patios. If I have the chance to be in Córdoba during the patio festival, I would be so lucky. After the patio, I went to cross the Roman bridge with the Calahorra Tower at its end. I didn't enter the tower, didn't feel like it. By the way, that day I've been seeing boys and girls with their parents dressed up to the nine taking pictures all over, like in Alcázar and by this bridge. I wonder if it's because they just had their catholic confirmation. It was a good day that day, the sky was blue, the weather was pleasant, not very hot. Anyway, this is the Calahorra Tower with the Roman bridge.

The day was getting more crowded with tourists especially around La Mezquita. I took more pictures of its different gates and then had lunch in one of the restaurant nearby. Then I walked around to places like Calle de las Flores, which means flower street, but there were too many people and the alley was narrow and though there's potted flower pots on the walls, it just fell short in comparison compared to the pretty patios. I also made my way to see the old city wall that enclosed this old town.

After that I thought let's call it the day. I had walked a lot. I reached 20,000 steps that day. I was also quite concerned about getting back to the station. Going back I did have my moment of confusion, but when I found out I was in the correct direction, I was quite relieved, but still I ended up checking the map like every 5 minutes to make sure I was on track :D Arrived in the station quite early, but it's good I guess. When I got on the train, there's a lady sitting in my window seat. I was quite annoyed because I purposely booked a window seat, but I thought it's not worth the effort to tell her that, so I let her be and I sat on the empty seat next to her. This train back was not direct, we stopped along the way and in one of the stops a guy came and said I was sitting in his seat. In English, which I don't know if he understood, I guess he did, I explained that the lady was sitting in my seat so I sat at that seat. He talked a bit with the lady, but I guess the lady just told him to sit anywhere :( He did, but this is the reason why you do need to sit at your assigned seat. I'm just glad there's no drama. I'm also so glad, so happy, that I had such a successful day trip on my own. I know for some people this may be not much, but I feel happy that I achieved something, so happy. I had a really really really good day and I thank God for that. Okay, I have so many pictures, here's the links:

:) eKa @ 2:04:00 PM • 0 comments

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