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Traveling

2015: A Year in Review Dec. 31, 2015

2015: A Year in Review

A life is not as meaningfully lived if it is not an examined life. You learn from your setbacks and be thankful for your accomplishments. Of course, along the way, the road is littered with wonderful encounters with magnificent lives, dazzling places, sumptuous food, emotional lows, euphoric highs, that leave you bewildered, overwhelmed, humbled and grateful. Here's a look at the last 365 days of 2015.

LANDSCAPE | PEOPLESCAPE | HIGHLIGHTS | ENDING THOUGHTS

LANDSCAPE
From Luang Prabang in Laos at the start of 2015, it's been a year and I'm back in the Philippines after spending time in Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Singapore. I didn't think I'd be back again, but it is good to be back.

places traveled in 2015

Luang Prabang, Laos
Expensive, but beautiful. This is the only place in Laos that impressed me (I'd been to Pakse and Vientiane). The quaint river town lined-up with trendy restos that evoke atmosphere and subtle elegance at night is quite a highlight, similar to that of Hoi An, ancient town of Vietnam.

Hanoi, Vietnam
It was an expensive and long trip from Luang Prabang to Hanoi, stretching over 24 hours in a sleeping bus. A wonderful Hanoi family, friends of Tuyen (my Vietnamese traveling partner), looked after us. Largely on a bicycle, we explored District One where most of the tourism offerings are available. Hanoi boasts of its sumptuous street food - it is the birthplace of the world-famous noodle soup, Pho. The big lakes within the city add charm and dimension to this historic place.

Halong Bay, Vietnam
The famous picture of Halong Bay's eccentric island outcroppings with a Chinese junk in the foreground is an enticing tourism come-on. The boat tour is pretty straight-forward and well organized for tourists. There are many packages offering a cave visit, to one of a multiple-day of island hopping and gourmet dishes. It was cold during our visit. The main town offers an array of seafood restaurants, but after the boat tour, there's not much to do in Halong Bay.

Hai Phong, Vietnam
Hai Phong is not a tourism destination, but Tuyen wanted to meet up with Linh, a good friend who offered us roof over our heads. With its industrial flavor, Hai Phong conjures imagery of tough guys, Vietnamese mafia and violence. I didn't really see any of that, but I know it's there. Linh took us to an empty beach (it was very cold) where we had a sumptuous seafood dinner.

The North (of Vietnam)
Hanoi, Halong Bay and Hai Phong are in the 'north'. In Vietnam, when you say the "north", it says a lot about the people. They won the war and unified Vietnam. It was their toughness, grit and strong resolve that made it happen. You can see a lot of that in their daily lives. People from the north are pushy, arrogant and tough - they are not widely liked in Vietnam. But that stems from their fierce history and the scarcity of their natural resources.

Da Nang, Vietnam
Da Nang enjoys the coast and the city. It's a working city where you can make a living. The beaches stretch for kilometers with wide sandy portions. It is not as developed as Saigon but it's one of the most progressive. You don't see beggars in the streets and there aren't too many people selling lottery tickets either. Until very recently, there was a strong man running Da Nang - their version of Duterte, who made sure everyone complied. He's no longer around. This is one place where one can relocate. I was offered to teach yoga in one of the prestigious hotels here. One day, I just might consider it.

At this point in our travel, Tuyen and I developed a unique routine to get us a free roof over our heads. Upon arrival in a new place, we would go to a cafe where Tuyen looks after all our luggage. I then knock on nearby hotels offering them my service in exchange for lodging plus breakfast. Sometimes, it would take me 2 hours to come back for Tuyen but usually, I would bear good news. For Da Nang, we stayed free at the luxurious Sanova Hotel.

Hue, Vietnam
Hue is known as the imperial city. Like China, they have a version of a walled Forbidden City where the Nguyen lords held court before the communists took over. Hue can be expensive - most tourism spots require separate payment. There are many imperial tombs and historical places, specially the walled city. Tuyen and I stayed free again at the Canary Hotel.

Hoi An Ancient Town, Vietnam
All of Vietnam is beautiful, but Hoi An simply is more beautiful than others. It is rich in its history as a trading port, magnanimous in its immigration policies even from ancient times, and it's well preserved where you see centuries-old buildings faithfully restored or preserved. Since the ancient town itself is small and cramped with narrow streets, most of the development is done within its fringes. I would rank Hoi An together with Saigon and Da Lat as a must-see destination in Vietnam.

Lodging-wise, we stayed free at An Hoi Hotel where they accepted my offer to increase their online bookings in exchange for a room plus breakfast.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
I left Tuyen in Vietnam to resume my travel alone. She would go to her hometown in time for the Tet New Year celebration. This was my first time in Malaysia and I was impressed by KL. It's first-world given its urban skyline, orderliness, cleanliness and world reach. The Petronas Twin Towers loom large and mighty, dominating other impressive buildings that would have made it in architectural magazines. Food is a celebration with many places serving good street type or bazaar food like Bukid Bintang. Surprisingly, despite all that progress, KL remains affordable. I can still survive on my $1 roti prata and another $1 te tarik combo for a filling meal. KL would have been perfect if not for rouge cops who tried to extort money from me. What they got was a scathing blog about their unacceptable behavior that made it to the complaints desk of those in real authority.

I was lucky in a sense that I got to stay in decent hotels in exchange for web advertising on my websites. In the entire 30 days I spent in KL, I spent 28 free days at 3 decent hotels, Alpha Genesis Hotel, Mandarin Pacific Hotel and Hotel China Town Inn. I only paid for 2 days in cash at a cheap guest house with dorm beds.

Singapore
I would have gone to Malacca City after KL, but my harrowing police ordeal and my scathing blog made it imperative for me to leave the country. I took the train ride to Singapore and ended up at the Geylang area very late at night. I didn't know where I was, didn't know anyone and everything around me looked unfamiliar. Normally, I would have freaked, but this wasn't the first time it happened to me. There was a little comfort even with the unpredictability.

Singapore is one of the most expensive cities in the world. With only $300 left, I had to make ends meet for the next 30 days - the duration of my visa. With such meager resources, I managed to get complimentary daily yoga sessions at $30 a pop, stayed at S$280/day boutique hotels and get a free personalized tour of Marina Bay Sands. I was surviving on my wits and technical skills, convincing everyone it makes better ROI to partner with me. It was a sink-or-swim for me. There is no better motivation to life hack a place if you're facing the spectre of sleeping on a side-walk in some strange land.

Given the very short time they leaped from 3rd world to 1st world, it's the one destination that impressed me the most. I hero-worshipped Lee Kuan Yew for being the leader to push his country forward. The Philippines was ahead of Singapore in the early 1950s. Now, we send our educated to be their domestic helpers. Comparatively, I saw how badly managed the Philippines has been by corrupt, inept and lazy politicians. If I have to settle down in a place, Singapore would be my first choice.

Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam
Having completely run out of money when my visa expired in Singapore, I defaulted to Saigon where Tuyen offered me roof and food. With her hand-holding, I became an English teacher to Vien, an accomplished Vietnamese film maker. I got a deal for us to watch the AO Show, attended a reggae concert, went to a Blues bar and hooked-up with a swimming club, all of whom became good friends with. Saigon was one of glorious eating as well as Tuyen took me from one famous eating place to another. Increasingly, Tuyen and Saigon have become intertwined and inseparable. By the time I left (when my 20-day visa expired), I earned enough loose change to continue my travels.

Kampot, Cambodia
After Saigon, I took the bus to Ha Tien, Vietnam where I stayed a few days before moving on to Kampot. This bus ride was the first of many free rides I took by partnering with a bus company - big help for a traveler on a budget. This was my 2nd time in Kampot. It's a special place that continues to resonate with me. The 20 days I stayed there was one of people, food and hotels. I was fortunate enough to land a hotel deal with Auberge du Soleil, a beautifully restored French colonial building. I also ended up staying at a picturesque riverside resort - Eden Eco Village. I hooked-up with Tracy, a Vipassana meditator, Sarah and Ginger - two Italian travelers I spent days with, even riding our motorbikes to Kep for crab and company. I met so many interesting people I had fleeting conversations with...only to see them leave for another destination...as others have seen me. This episode underscored a life of detachment and living for the moment.

Ha Tien, Vietnam
I found myself back in Ha Tien, Vietnam, when my Cambodian visa expired. I was later on joined by Tuyen who came all the way from Saigon. Before that, I was lucky to make hotel deals for my lodging. One was Long Chau, by the river with a roofdeck view. With a free bicycle (another free deal) to roam around, I cycled around Ha Tien, going to its outer fringes and discovering new spots for chill and eats. I met a pair of local travelers whom I hung out with. When Tuyen arrived, we met a businessman who arranged a trip for us to Chau Doc to explore his riverboat interest. Upon arrival, a deal was arranged for us to go to Choi Moi to tryout a homestay program. All of these were unplanned. Tuyen and I would simply say "yes" and the events unfold by themselves.

Cho Moi (An Giang, Vietnam)
Cho Moi is an unheard of place. It's located in one of the bigger islands formed by the fingers of the mighty Mekong Delta. The place thrives on mangoes and farming. We met Truc who had the homestay program. She took us around Cho Moi where what appeared 'boring' on the outside was full of substance and dimension after her tour narrative - much like pealing an onion. It was our immersion to the culture of the fabled West (of Vietnam) - the hospitality, the river food, the farming and cottage industries, etc. After an overnight, Tuyen and I went to the nearest city, Long Xuyen, where we stayed a day. This is where Tuyen and I parted ways. I had to go to Battambang, Cambodia for my Vipassana course while Tuyen headed back to Saigon.

Battambang, Cambodia
I spent another 10 days serving at a Vipassana center in Battambang afterwhich I spent a few days in the city where I hung out with Sokun and Ksenia, a Russian meditator I met at the center. Ksenia and I would explore the city on rented city bikes. I was lucky to arrange free hotel stays - the luxurious Classy Hotel and the decent Delux Villa. It simply made my life more unhurried. The few highlights of Battambang were my teaching a free yoga class at the Here Be Dragons guesthouse, sourcing lotus seeds as gift items to friends in the Philippines, seeing the Battambang Night Circus and getting my first Alibaba pants. From Battambang, I passed through Phnom Penh on my way to Saigon to meet Tuyen and take the flight to Manila. Tuyen would be going straight to Coron, Palawan, Philippines - her first time.

Tuyen and the Philippine Connection
I thought I would never see the Philippines again. When I left the country in August 2014, I resigned myself to let the wind take me where it takes me - even if that never brings me back to the Philippines. But in the course of my travels around Southeast Asia with Tuyen, I convinced her to visit the Philippines. I even made deals for her hotel and resort stay, yoga practice, island tours, scuba diving certification, people connection, etc. There was nothing I wouldn't do for her. She agreed to visit on condition I travel with her. Thus my coming back to the Philippines.

Manila, Philippines
Tuyen was still in Coron when I landed in Manila. It was an opportune time for me to spend time with my Dad whom I haven't seen since I left. Manila was also a place to renew old friendship and to listen to live Blues. When Tuyen arrived Manila from Coron, we took the flight to Dumaguete for some fun dives!

Dumaguete City
Once in Dumaguete, the reason why I lived there for 2 years came back to me. It's beautiful, small enough to be intimate but big enough to have diversity. Food is still cheap and people remain friendly. We helped ourselves to my all time favorites - budbud cabog at the Painitan Market, pizza at Neva's Pizza and coffee/Sans Rival at Sans Rival. The tour of the city and its surrounding areas took us on motorbike (courtesy of Ellen Florendo) to Valencia, the Japanese Shrine, Casaroro Falls and walks along the Boulevard.

Dauin, Dumaguete
In Dauin, Tuyen and I stayed at the manicured Liquid Dumaguete - a dive resort with cottages, swimming pool, bar and resto. I did 2 dives with Liquid while Tuyen took her scuba diving certification at Dumaguete Divers with the jolly owner, Simon Speight. Friday BBQ buffet at Dumaguete Divers at P295 is a must! It was all good. Things were happening our way between the resort stay, the dives and the meals. We even squeezed-in a visit to Malatapay Market, a house warming party and visits to the city. Liquid was kind enough to give Tuyen and me a lift to Apo Island - thank you Tim and Zoe!

Apo Island, Philippines
In Apo Island, I always default to Mario Pascobello in his homestay. We stayed there 3 days and went snorkeling at the Turtle Beach to see big turtles feed in their natural habitat. We did 2 dives, at The Wall and one in Coconut. The dives were fantastic with teeming marine life of rainbow hues. It was more memorable for Tuyen as she struggled with the strong current. It was still tough for a newbie who just got her certificate to manage a drift-dive.

Cebu
Tuyen and I took the bus from Dumaguete to Cebu. She stayed a good week indulging herself in yoga and meeting some from the community. We went to the Taoist Temple, saw the play Siddharta and visited the malls. I'm glad she met Jeanne. The two of them are important to me. From Cebu, Tuyen headed back to Saigon while I remained in Cebu at Jeanne's Dragonfly Shire for the next 7 months.

It was during this time I met Metz - smart, upwardly mobile, loving and feisty. I can't say enough good about her. We spent time together mostly in conversation, sometimes going places. It was initially promising but ultimately came to an abrupt halt. The way I think, the way I see life and the general way I do things from years of living a nomadic life, have become too distant from tradition, bordering on incomprehensible. It's uncanny to have the 3 most important women in my life in one place, but on shaky ground.

Tuyen, Metz and my coffee conversation with female friends, together with other events observed at the superficial level put me on the gossip radar and whetted the appetite of those who walk the spirituality walk but talk the gossip talk. Despite being a cosmopolitan city, gossip remains a favorite pastime in Cebu.

No place keeps me longer than Cebu does. I was deepening my yoga practice, but there were other offerings on the table that would have allowed me to stay indefinitely. There were painful episodes too despite all the abundance it rained down on me. My love life has been the most colorful and volatile here - peaks and valleys, white-knuckle roller coaster ride, leaving frayed nerves, broken hearts and lingering goodbyes. My social life has been one of coffee-conversation after another - each life cascading with animation and color. Cebu has been very kind to me. I didn't have to worry about a roof over my head, and even if I went beyond my normal spendings, yoga money, no matter how minimal, kept me afloat even for what I would call Starbucks-money. I met many interesting people, some of whom added color to my experience.

Moalboal
This one has sardine run, freediving and drift-diving written all over it. With Ronet, Metz and myself, I felt privileged traveling with 2 smart and capable ladies. Freediving through a ball of sardines as they open up like the parting of the Red Sea is an awesome experience. The 3km drift-dive along the drop-off was equally exhilarating. Cebu is blessed to have so many dive spots within stone's throw - Moalboal in the southwest and Malapascua in the north.

Bohol
Bohol has always been elusive until Metz invited me to come along with her officemates for a weekend of road-touring around Bohol - ziplining Danao Adventure Park, Alona Beach, Balicasag Island, Chocolate Hills, Tarsier and Anda de Boracay. Bohol is teeming with tourism offerings although it is difficult to make all the rounds without a private van as transportation around the island is not as convenient or accessible, and the attractions too far apart. I was the only outsider, but Metz made me feel at home with her crew. Thank you Metz!

Manila
I only go to Manila if I have to. With the yuletide season, I wanted to spend Christmas with my Dad - thus Manila appeared in my immediate radar. Enough has been said about it's dysfunctionality, but Manila has now become a Blues haven for me. Only in Manila do I get the chance to immerse in Blues, thanks to Elwyn, Ian and the rest of the Blues community.

Manila also allowed me connect to other groups with similar pursuits. I've attended the Plum Village sit in the tradition of Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hahn, another sit by the Terravada Fellowship. I've met new people who now loom within my immediate horizon. Nothing is static. The social revolving door continues its slow but steady turn.

PEOPLESCAPE
(in order of chronological appearance)
As a traveler, I meet many people along the way. Some encounters are more memorable than others.

peoplescape

TuyenTuyen
Tuyen has been my trusted and reliable traveling partner in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and here in the Philippines. But she wasn't just my Vietnamese traveling buddy. She was my best friend, my confidant and my partner. As a fellow Vipassana meditator, we didn't have to explain much to the other - it was already understood. I would trust her with anything and there is nothing I wouldn't do for her. Unfortunately, a twist of fate revealed assumptions that were misunderstood. It would be a very sad day if I should lose that friendship.

Chong SokunSokun
Sokun is good energy. As administrator in the Vipassana center in Cambodia, he meets most of the people who come to meditate. With my 2 visits, we've become friends. He would show me around Battambang after the course, and we'd down a coldie or two and talk more about Vipassana.

Ksenia NikolaevaKsenia
Ksenia is my first foray into having a Russian friend. I met her at the Vipassana center while we both volunteered to serve. We'd have a few moments to chat while in the course (we were the only 2 English-speaking servers then). After the course, we chilled in Battambang as we explored more of the city on a bike. Ksenia is no nonsense, street smart, beautiful, and devoted to her practice. She said my lifestyle choice would be well-suited in Moscow. Hmmm...I'm curious.

Chansaveth ChhunChansaveth
Chansaveth, or Girllie, is another Vipassana meditator I met at the center in Cambodia. Her English is good which paved the way for more conversation. We later met up in Phnom Penh for coffee and shared ideas. She offered to take me around the city next time I visit, and I offered to teach her yoga. Sure, I would like to explore Phnom Penh with a local and experience this city from a whole new perspective.

Lee Kwan YewLee Kuan Yew
No, I did not meet him despite my effort to seek his audience. They said Lee was very sick. In fact, the day after I left Singapore, he passed on. I cried. I experienced first hand what he did for Singapore. I have long admired him, but after witnessing the wonders of Singapore - from a backwater third world to a world class city state with the third highest GDP in the world, I hero-worshipped him. I cannot help but think that if only we had him instead of Marcos, there won't be any squatter, no Filipino would be poor and every child will be in school instead of begging on the streets.

JeanneJeanne
I'm one lucky guy to have Jeanne as a friend. I take her counsel seriously as she is wise and sees my blind spots. Without being presumptuous, I would call her my best friend and I consider her an important person in my life. She has been extremely supportive of me. Without her, I don't think I could have stayed in Cebu as long as I have. It was sweet of her to say, "You're the brother I never had...you are my house guest for life". We often start our morning coffee with talks of yoga, theosophy, life and friendship. We end the day usually still talking about the same things. As she would say, "It's too early in the morning and we're already at it." During this visit, I seem to find my optimum restrain when we find ourselves into a loaded discourse (unlike in previous years) - and it keeps the conversation on even keel. We both talk about taking refuge in Palawan together with other members of the yoga community when the time comes we can't do our Mayurasanas anymore. I could just imagine it...we would start our mornings with Theosophical talks followed by Downward Dogs.

anonymousMr. X
I've considered this person a friend - one of a rare few. I've actually written something flattering about him. But I just learned that while my back is turned, he was sneakily asking my lady for a date. Given the friendship and the trust, the duplicity was vile, disgusting and distasteful. Lots of lessons learned here. Next page.

SabrinaMary Deen
Despite having heard of her in the past years and even communicating through FB, I only met her in August. I thought it would be just another yoga deal but we found common ground and became good friends. I was a guest teacher at her Love Yoga World Studio, attended a few classes, was invited to the studio Xmas party and somehow made it to the short list of invitees to her birthday lunch. She's a dutiful wife and mother, intelligent and street smart underneath the porcelain beauty.

ChaiChai
Chai was a pleasant surprise. Last time I saw her was in Manila during our UP Mountaineers (UPM) days in 2006 where I openly told her I had a crush on her. I notice that it's more manageable to be upfront with a lady (about having a school-boy crush on her) to get issues out of the way at the outset - so the rest is just moving forward without any kind of sexual tension. Or in my parlance, "Chai, I continue to have a crush on you but only from a distance. I enjoy our friendship." This isn't so abstract. Think about it - you spend coffee-time with someone you like, you enjoy the moment, you get an innocent school-boy rush and you deepen a friendship. In the process, you get a drug-free high without the crash landing. In this time and age when sex seems to be available on demand, it's a refreshing take to have two friends remain friends without the sexual tension despite the acknowledged crush.

Still pretty as a picture, we would hang-out a few times and talk about more 'mature' things - career, love life (yes, she has one), the future, etc. We've become better friends independent of UPM or UP.

anonymousKathy
I haven't met her and I haven't seen her. But the few instances her name is casually bounced around in some circles, are always along superlative lines. I was intrigued. She's not only beautiful, they say she is stunningly beautiful. She's not only smart, they say she's brilliant. She's not only rich, they say she's filthy rich. She's not only independent but ultra obsessive compulsive. And like a bonafide LoneRider, she's perfectly comfortable being by herself, independent of anyone to generate excitement for her. All this bundled-up in one package? Naturally, I wanted to meet her. I somehow got her email and asked for a coffee get-together, assuring her it wasn't a come-on (that I was already seeing someone - at that time), that I simply want to meet interesting people as a lifestyle choice. I didn't get a response. It's not surprising. This is never practiced in the local culture.

SabrinaSabrina
After a coffee chat with Sabrina together with Jeanne and friends, where she talked about her trading activities, I was spellbound. Trading is something from a previous life, but with Sabrina, it's like Lazarus coming back to life. I made repeated requests for another coffee meet-up with her - she's so busy with her trading, there was no time for anything else. She's knowledgeable, smart, and plays to win. I like that. I respect that. And that excites me. Sabrina whetted my appetite to go back into trading. But trade on what? I didn't want to go back into equities and Forex didn't excite me. But having learned about Bitcoin, I'm now a guy with a mission. Too bad I didn't get to spend more time to learn more about tricks of the trade from her.

AJAJ
5 minutes after meeting AJ in a yoga class, I was already comfortable with her. It's like wearing an old comfortable shoe where you don't have to put an effect, and it's all good. Coffee-time with her extends the entire day as we move on with our topic spanning everything under the sun. I don't feel the passage of time. She's smart, sensible and strong. I felt comfortable telling her in all candor, "I am drawn to you."

RonetRonet
Outside the Vipassana world in Cebu, Ronet is one I resonate with. She's what I would call a 'cloaked LoneRider', but a true-blue LoneRider nonetheless - one who enjoys the company of people but not co-dependent on them for validation. She's completely comfortable under her own skin as she pursues her bliss. I don't get to meet LoneRiders too often. We didn't get to hang out much, but the little passing talks bond our common tenets of self-empowerment.

MetzMetz
This is for all intents and purposes, a conventional boyfriend-girlfriend romantic relationship that I have committed to with heart and soul even without the label - something I haven't done in many years. Metz has shown me nothing but kindness, generosity and nurture. I cannot say enough about her. If I had met her before my nomadic life on the open road, before the concept of family, love and relationship was fundamentally and forever altered, then perhaps our partnership would have had a better chance to endure and flourish. But I have already changed too much from what is traditional. To some people who are unfamiliar to my lifestyle choice and radical thinking, I have become almost incomprehensible.

Anmari Bonotan-LocsinAnne
This is a promising friendship in the making but cut short with my departure for Manila. With the little coffee time we had, we shared glimpses of ourselves that begged continuity. In my Flow-paradigm, everything happens for a reason, and everything that didn't happen, also didn't happen for a reason. I somehow find solace in that discontinuity. Perhaps it was meant for another time. In the meantime, I'm glad there's Facebook.

DadFerd
Ferd has been a recurring constant since our high school days. I love this guy. We used to lose ourselves in the coral reefs to snorkel and just chill, sometimes for days with no money. Now as adults, we hang out for beer or coffee and just be, still with no money! In Manila, I tag him along my Bluescapades.

DadDad
My main reason for Manila nowadays is to see my Dad who isn't too young anymore. With his health issues, the rare time spent with him becomes more meaningful, sometimes hinting a sense of urgency. Now, we're like 2 friends talking, usually looking back at a full life when the world was more innocent and people a little more connected. There is much to learn from that life and time, but much to leave behind too to keep up with changing mindsets and norms. I have learned a lot from his achievements, his shortcomings, his struggles, triumphs and strength of character. The only retrospective wish I have for him is to have enjoyed the same opportunities he himself gave me - the very ones denied him but selflessly passed on to me.

HIGHLIGHTS

Bitcoin
Sure, technology jumps leaps and bounds but every once in a while, something truly groundbreaking comes out of nowhere. During the market collapse of 2007, when the financial institutions were suspect in rigging the game, a paper proposing a radial online currency appeared in a cryptology forum where currency creation and distribution bypass banks and governments, giving power and control to the people who make up the network of Bitcoin users. This is so powerful that with widespread use and acceptance, Bitcoin can re-architecture the global financial landscape.

After my coffee talk with Forex trader Sabrina, my trading appetite has been whetted to go back into trading but this time, with Bitcoin. My immediate goal is to know enough of it to create my own Bitcoin account, earn money to buy more Bitcoins, and finally, start trading on it. To do that though, I have to seriously consider earning big money so I have something to trade with. I don't know how I can still do this while being a nomad. I may have to settle down and get a real job. Although the potential to make serious money is there, the goal is NOT the money, but simply live the excitement of trading a currency that excites me. At the end of the day, it's all about perfecting the game.

Love Life
Oftentimes, the line between friendship and romance is blurred. It happens that even when everyone tries to make the most of a difficult situation, the bonds of friendship and love unravel leaving frayed nerves, broken hearts and damaged friendship in its wake. It cannot be helped, even with the best of intentions. In a span of 2 weeks, I lost 2 important women in my life. Losing them is not as painful as the spectre of causing pain to those whose only crime was to be giving of their affection. Everything, including relationships, serve a purpose, no matter how concealed or abstract. When that purpose is served, the relationship reaches its natural shelf life, and it's time to gracefully move on to make way for other desires to manifest. I console myself with that perspective.

Southeast Asian Travel
This year was my first time to travel indefinitely outside the Philippines with very little money and no plan of even returning. It took me 9 months covering 6 countries before the wind took me back to my motherland.

What I have seen and experienced underscored how utterly left behind we are. It's heartbreaking. Vietnam already surpassed us and they came from a 40-year war against the French and the US. Cambodia is more promising notwithstanding they lost 20% of their best and brightest during the genocidal regime of the Khmer Rouge. Singapore was also mired in social unrest, high unemployment, housing crisis and decaying infrastructure during the 50s, just like the Philippines. They are now a global power and we send our educated there to be domestic helpers.

This is painful and I put the blame squarely on our inept, lazy and corrupt politicians who have done nothing but rob the county blind. I embrace the rule of law, but I will vote for Duterte, a self-admitted vigilante judge, jury and executioner. That is my level of desperation at the current plight of the country.

Vipassana (Silent 10-day Meditation Course)
This was my 7th Vipassana where I came to serve (not sit). Once again, I lived the life of a monk, living on the charity of others to dissolve my ego. Even though the course is exactly the same as in the last 6 courses, the legacy of Vipassana remains different on every course. As always, my regular participation has deepened my practice even more. Reality does not change - but how you accept and deal with reality is significantly altered. You come from a position of strength well-assured that everything needed for self-realization already resides within. The cobwebs of reality are cleared away to reveal the true picture. With my intention of doing Vipassana every 6 months, I will attend the Satipatthana next time. The discourse will take on from the basic course. It was Tuyen's one strong message to me - take up Satipatthana.

Cooking
My 7 months at Dragonfly (my term of endearment to Jeanne's expansive shire in Beverly Hills where I have been a long-time houseguest) rekindled my passion for cooking. As a nomad, I haven't had a kitchen in years. But here, I let go my creative impulses to prepare peanut butter using Anchor Butter, pizza with salmon belly, homemade granola crumble, sardine pasta, etc. It felt good to be back in the kitchen and prepare good food to Jeanne and Metz...and some occasional guests.

Coffee Conversation and Gossip
This is perhaps the most misunderstood by many and became food for the gossip mongers. It's rare in the local culture to be inviting a woman for coffee without any romantic intention - that's just how the culture is. I live life alone and I travel alone. As such, social interaction is my staple and currency. I'd like to think that the next magnificent life I'll meet is just around the bend - to exchange ideas with and to explore possibilities with. My metaphor and literal course for such interaction is 'coffee conversation'. I often find myself across the table from someone I'm sharing ideas with...not just coffee. It's never with the intention of a romantic prelude, as most of the gossip mongers would like to think. If and when I do have that intention, I make it clear at the outset. However, it also happens, quite rarely, fireworks fly off and like water, it needs to find its own level. I'm just as human as the next guy. But to the extent I've heard gossip about me, it only validates my notion that what people accuse me of, is a projection of their own behavior and thinking. That's their business. How I react to it, or non-react to it, is entirely my business. This very blog attests to my transparency.

TED Talks
TED Talks (tedtalks.com) has been around for years, but only this year did I check out what it's all about. It's probably the most educational site (up there together with Stumbleupon.com) that has come along in a long time. The speakers usually have a refreshing insight on something already old and familiar, or talk about something groundbreaking. I try to get a dose a day (listen to one talk a day, but nothing more since it can be saturating) just like a daily dose of Vitamin C. It's good for the mind to come across new ideas that excite and inspire.

ENDING THOUGHTS
2015 has been one very special year. Still living life as a nomad with practically no money and no address, abundance continued to rain down on me. I've toured 7 countries living mostly in hotels for free, or in people's homes as an extended house guest, met new people who added dimension to my journey, reinforced old friendships and explored new and exciting concepts. I've also been emotionally torn by difficult situations where good intentions alone are not enough. I've come out of this year, enriched, bloodied and hopefully, wiser.

Without the nurturing, interesting and magnificent lives I've crossed paths with, all this experience is reduced to glass, concrete and visual eye-candy. The human factor continues to shape my paradigm and pave the way for what's to come. I cannot thank all these wonderful people enough.

As a renunciate by choice, I make money to the extent it serves my meager needs...and nothing more. Thus, I find no need to have a house, properties and the bling-blings. If I should desire for something non-essential, I don't lose sleep over not having it. I don't spend any unnecessary mental or emotional energy into acquisition. This dramatically streamlines everything because the clutter is filtered out. This applies to everything. I also believe that there a is karmic process for everyone. In my case, I don't plan anymore - what's the point? I let go and let life take me where it takes me, and I have never found it to be wrong. I am taken where I need to be, or I meet someone I needed to meet, or put simply, the karmic process flows smoothly for me to realize what I need to experience. I travel light - with the things I need, with the people I keep, with the emotions I take to heart. With not much money, no address, no properties but with the freedom to do what I want to do, go where I want to go, and be what I want to be, I am optimized.

--- TheLoneRider

Next stop: 2016

early morning procession of the monks in Luang Prabang, Laos biking around Luang Prabang with Tuyen biking along a city lake in Hanoi street side shoe shine in Hanoi
with Tuyen on Halong Bay, Vietnam boat cruise on Halong Bay on the beach with Tuyen and Linh in Hai Phong hot tea on a cold side street in Hai Phong
crossing a dragon-themed bridge in Da Nang outdoor cafe with Tuyen in Da Nang, Vietnam in front of the Walled City, the Citadel in Hue, Vietnam enjoying Che, a Vietnamese type of dessert
Tuyen and I by the wall of a preserved building in Hoi An, Vietnam the famous Japanese Bridge in Hoi An street noodles in Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur at Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur
Petronas Twin Towers at night at the Marina Bay Sands, Singapore conducting a Power Yoga class at Yoga Inc, Singapore admiring a Botero sculpture in Sentosa, Singapore
watching the AO Show in Saigon with Tuyen teaching English to a celebrity film director in his plush cafe in Saigon Saigon's motorcycles created a culture all its own going for the Blues with Tuyen at Saigon Ranger
meeting up with Cebu yogini, Bernadette, at a District 1 cafe crab dinner by Vien world famous Kampot pepper at the Kep Market, Cambodia biking on the salt field of Kampot with Tracy
my address in Kampot - a beautifully restored French colonial house staying at the quaint riverside Eden Eco Village a bike tour by Truc in Cho Moi, Vietnam reunited with Tuyen in Vietnam
serving for 10 days at a Vipassana course in Battambang, Cambodia kitchen helper hanging out with Ksenia in Battambang, Cambodia conducting a free yoga class at Here Be Dragons in Battambang
stopover in Phnom Penh for my bus to Saigon reunited with Tuyen and resuming our travel to Dumaguete, Philippines at the fruit market in Dumaguete motorbiking to Casaroro Falls in Valencia, Negros Oriental, Philippines
at the Twin Lakes of Balinsasayao scuba diving Dauin's coral reef with Tuyen and Neil of Dumaguete Divers with Simon and the awesome crew of Dumaguete Divers Liquid Dumaguete was our little slice of paradise on God's green earth
off to Apo Island enjoying the wonders of Apo Island with Tuyen with Mario Pascobello at his homestay in Apo Island introducing Tuyen to yoga at Surya Nanda, Cebu
conducting a one-on-one yoga at Studio 108, Cebu poster for a handstand clinic beach bumming in Moalboal, Cebu with Metz and Ronet the sardine ball in Moalboal, Cebu
with Metz at Yogathering in Liloan, Cebu group picture at Yogathering spending time in the kitchen - homemade peanut butter, granola crumble, salmon rosti, etc. at Malatapay Market in Zamboanguita, Negros Oriental with Metz
off for more dives in Apo Island with Metz with Liquid Dumaguete's dive packages freediving in Apo Island with Metz at Simon's mouth-watering Friday bbq buffet at Dumaguete Divers giving Metz a hot spring shower
with Metz at Chef Sharon's veggie cooking demo conducting a meditation class at Pascale Wettstein's Teacher Training course ziplining with Metz in Bohol visiting Chocolate Hills in Bohol with Metz
venturing into jiu-jitsu with Firoze, Keeno and the rest of the Deftac crew this picture is special - 2 of the most important women in my life are here, Tuyen and Jeanne the beginning of a beautiful friendship with Anne being cash-poor, I find creative ways for a birthday gift. This one was done with big hugs to Mary Deen
seamless friendship with  AJ was a Cebu highlight (white shirt) a continuing friendship with Chai from our UP days always pleasant, bubbly and engaging, that's Bobette for you 3 people with best intentions, making the most of a difficult predicament
good times at Gusto with Metz, Jeanne and Regina now in Manila, I resume my rope skipping at Quezon Circle staying at my Dad's house with his wife at Roadhouse (MOA) for some Blues
sitting in different meditation groups hanging out with Ferd while listening to the Blues of  the Ian Lofamia Band catching up with my dentist and friend, Raddy Mabasa watching a circus ballet at Star City with Lizie

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Reader Comments:

Anmari Bonotan LocsinAnmari Bonotan Locsin
(Jan 2, 2016) I wish we had more time together. I loved our conversations. I feel marami ako'ng matututunan from you, even just by observing you. Keep in touch.

Sabrina TevesSabrina Teves
(Jan 6, 2016) Happy New Year 2016! May this be your best year yet. I am so sorry we didnt get a chance to have coffee before you left for Manila. I didn't know sharing my forex experience to you was one of your highlights for 2015. It was nice meeting you. I hope you'll get back into trading if it's what your heart is telling you. I met a lot of traders who loss it all before they were actually really good at it, stories from losing more than $100M and they all got it back after a year. It's amazing to hear all the stories from trading. Good luck in your forth coming endeavors. Please update me if how all goes for you.

Mary DeenMary Deen
(Dec 19, 2015) You reminded me of this quote by Mother Teresa, "Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile." Come back soonest, okay?? Take care. Thank you and Big Hug!

Jeanne TorrefrancaJeanne Torrefranca
(Jan 9, 2016) hope you stay there for a while and figure out the next best move..... Cebu is always open for you...stay strong always and be open to more "not so ordinary" love life..... ha ha ha
i guess it is just gossip from jealous guys or girls?... let it go...you are way ahead of the game of life

Jason RoblesJason Robles
(Jan 2, 2016) Happy New Year Git! alak pa! hehe.

Rachel ConsingRachel Consing
(Jan 1, 2016) Happy new year, Git!

Dec. 31, 2015

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