To know or not to know… yours truly, Confetti

To know or not to know… yours truly, Confetti

Tis the season to be jolly, fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!

’Tis the season to celebrate, (safely), mate! 

reaching delphi, confetti
Confetti blessings and celebrating life.


Confetti is just small pieces of coloured paper thrown to amplify any event's spirit. That's why you see them rain down during sporting victory ceremonies, entertainment finales and festive celebrations.


Ever wondered how this idea of paper throwing started?


Well, the tradition of throwing things (like mudballs and eggs) began in northern Italy long ago. According to records, it was in the late 19th century when paper confetti was introduced in Milan by an Italian businessman, Enrico Mangili. 


One of the things Doc and I enjoyed as much as watching colourful confetti was our visit to see Antoni Gaudí’s astonishing work at Park Güell in Barcelona. Just as expected, we were both absolutely mesmerised by this architect's style and structures. Everywhere we turned, we saw something refreshingly unexpected and welcomingly unusual. 


Note: this article is not about Park Güell, but I have included some pictures from this trip.

ReachingDelphi, Gaudi, Guell Park, Watch
Our everyday Gaudi  cookies . 


Wow! What was Gaudi thinking, we asked each other enthusiastically as we headed back to the metro station with the other mesmerised visitors. Along the way, we noticed many souvenir shops and cafés. It was a gorgeous sunny afternoon, so naturally, we were incredibly grateful for the shade these shops provided.  We stopped at a couple of them for a bargain or two.  Whilst here, I took the opportunity to put my limited Spanish vocabulary to use. Doc showed off his too, which by the way, was far more advanced than the ten words I knew.

reaching delphi. park guell, gaudi, coffee
A playground for everyone.


We decided to grab a bite at one of these local cafés.

 

Buenas tardes.

 

Dos cafés por favor.

 

Si.


The waitress (thankfully!) understood our order for we got the coffee we requested. 

Sagrada Família, reaching delphi, travel alert, watch
Can you spot Sagrada Família?


After some warm sandwiches and two cafés con leche (Spanish hot espresso and milk), Doc performed another round of the usual travel health-check. Money. Keys. Camera. Passport. Backpack. Nothing lost, Uma. So far, you are doing well. We continued our descent to the station. 


reaching delphi, park guell, Gaudi
Mesmerised at Park Guell.

"Hold on!" I heard Doc call out. He kept touching his head. 


"Something wrong?" 

"Something's on my head."

"Confetti?" I looked up.

"No! Pigeon dropping?" 


I realised that there were many apartments with balconies on the next level. Families and friends occupied the tiny outdoor space, basking in the Mediterranean heat—reading, chatting, sewing, sipping coffee and beer. I noticed happy heads bobbing from some balconies. And true enough, there were hordes of pigeons above.


Just then, I realised that my back and head too, were wet. Doc's new beige backpack (the one you see in the first picture was after it was cleaned up), where he had our passports and money, now looked like an amateur’s mosaic piece. Unlike Gaudi's art, this wasn't pretty—it also smelled rotten. The two girls behind us too stopped as we stepped aside. They looked just as puzzled, their jackets and scarf also stained. It looked like someone from one of the apartments above had dropped something on us.


reaching delphi, confetti, travel alert
People watching you watch people. It works both ways.


The nice girls offered us some tissues and said something more complicated than uno, dos, but we understood when they mentioned agua pipe about 30 meters away from the passing crowd. We followed them to a nearby park. Agua is water by the way.


At the park, these nice girls were very eager to clean up Doc’s backpack instead of their own belongings. We noted that the only water pipe did not have running water.


"Policia. Policia!" Doc shouted when he suspected something was amiss. 


The girls did not expect this. They immediately stopped offering their tissues, took their things and left. That's right, they just walked away! 


There were a couple of other people watching us around at the park, but they appeared unfazed.


reaching delphi. travel alert, watch, pigeon poo
Unfazed else where. This was not at the park.

I later found out that this incident was not uncommon and that usually syndicates worked in split groups. We could have lost a lot of valuables that day. Luckily, we realised the foul play early and were able to avoid it. But this incident left us both in shock for a long time. Hard lesson learnt, not everything that falls is confetti! So do watch out!



reachingdelphi, travel alert, watch, coffee
Picking a yacht to Reaching Delphi


What I have learnt:

  • Laugh if you wish, but the sad fact is that pigeons do poo on our heads.  
  • Not every dropping on your head is party confetti . It is essential to distinguish what is and what isn't. 
  • Not all strangers who offer help are scammers but do be cautious when one takes you to a remote corner or tries to establish physical contact with you or your belongings. 
  • There are both good and bad apples in a basket. Most people in the world are generally sincere and nice. It’s sad that a few bad experiences can change our perception of the world altogether.
  • If being nice is your first nature, exercise it with caution.
  • This incident is what we classify as premeditated and organised crimes. They operated in split teams. Reread my experience—you’ll note several players. 
  • Keep within the public crowd and avoid being separated. Do not follow strangers asking for or offering help to a remote location, no matter how near or safe it may look.
  • Do not allow any stranger physical access to important belongings like your backpack or handbag.

reachingdelphi, travel alert, watch, coffee
Stay safe, stay focused, remember the landmarks.


  • Be aware of the nearest police/security personnel or station. Report such incidents. 
  • Know a few handy local words wherever you travel—in this case, verbalising aqua and policía at the right moment allowed us to stay safe. 
  • Pigeons are found everywhere and so are incidents such as this. So, watch out! 


Be jolly. Be safe. Fa-la-la-la-lala-la-la-la.  Watch out, be alert always! Wishing you safe and peaceful confetti travels, and remember - pigeons do poo on our heads. Do wear yours masks and practice social distancing when you are in public areas. Enjoy your coffee, and here is my very own latte art. 


reaching delphi, latte art, coffee
Yippee....my heart!



Footnote:
Regardless of whether you are a business traveller or vacationer, a one-time or frequent traveller – if you travel, you are exposed to risks. It’s important to understand that some of us are easier targets than others.

This series is dedicated to Doc, SV, who constantly reminded me to 'Watch Out!. Doc was a sensible traveller, while I, quite the opposite. Through Watch Out! Travel Mishaps from Reaching Delphi Travellers Alert series, I will share some of our travel misadventures with you. My aim is to create an awareness of such incidents and some useful suggestions to reduce the occurrence of unpleasant events. 

Follow Coffee Trail – Counting Stars, Reaching Delphi for travel updates and tips.



reachingdelphi, travel alert, watch, coffee
Stay safe, have peaceful travels.

What's Your Perfect Omelette?

Is there such a thing called a "Perfect" Omelette? 


reaching delphi  coffee
Hearty brunch and some good old fashioned coffee.


The place was in India. We were travelling on a night train between Hyderabad and Bangalore.

When the train arrived at a main junction, a man walked onto the platform with his portable kitchen. He was carrying just a handful of items – a small gas stove, a pan, eggs, oil, chopped onions, chilli, salt, pepper, bread and a couple of newspapers to wrap the cooked eggs on warmed bread. 


coffee, cricket
Cricket, coffee...perfect!


We watched his thin fingers light the stove, and crack an egg, then another. A line quickly formed, as the smell of freshly cooked eggs lingered in the sleepy platform. He was quick and skilful, but we were still not convinced. With five minutes left before the whistle, SV hurried off the train to place an order.


reachingdelphi
Scenic view along the way.


The man at the stall knew his customers weren't as quick as Shah Rukh Khan to run after a moving train. So, with an eye on the platform clock, his hands raced to beat the second's hand. Steadily and consistently, he added the same ingredients for each order. The line got shorter as some walked away with a hot wrapped paper in their hand. We got ours too, and SV was safe back on the train. The whistle sounded! Kaapi... kaapi... that familiar sound of coffee. 


coffee travel
Hop on, get your coffee on board.


Now, this omelette seller – that day. Well that's who I’d call a real pro in action. We had tried numerous times to make that same no fuss, no frills eggs - but they just never turned out as good as the one I had at that station. The skill he had – now, that's what you call perfection. 


Train Junction
Hurry up lad, we don't have all day.

Here is one of my very own preparation to celebrate that nice man at the platform, after all, ReachingDelphi is simply about celebrating every sunrise, sunset, journey and face we meet along the way. Counting stars.....Reaching Delphi.


Coffee, Reachingdelphi
Yum yum, the omelette that turned out to be a scramble.


I didn’t take any photos of the omelette expert that day, so have posted photos from other similar trips and occasions for this article instead.


Trick or Treat, Watch Out and Decide Wisely.

Trick or Treat, Watch Out and Decide Wisely. 

Trick or treat. It's Halloween, the time of year when varieties of sweet candies fill up our cabinet space. And if you are in the US, I bet you won’t be able to say no to seasonal specialities such as pumpkin spiced coffee, pumpkin cake or pumpkin pie. 


Trick or treat


Oh, yummy! But, if you are still not convinced, how about a pumpkin spiced chai latte, pumpkin beer or pumpkin ale? I must admit, before having tasted some of these, the only other form of pumpkin I really enjoyed was the sweet-and-spicy south Indian curried pumpkin.  

Pumpkin Spiced Latte


Frankly speaking, Halloween is not a huge influence in the Asian part of the world, where I am from, but the tricks and treats in all forms are.

You hear this all the time – Sale, sale, sale! Prices discounted by 70%! Buy one, get two for free! Get a second at 90% discount! Hotels at slashed prices! What a treat! How many times have you said that it must be your lucky day to bump into such a blast? 

But hang on – how many more times have you felt misled afterwards …  

pumpkin treat


I am a compulsive travel site surfer. That's a red flag. Before my café-hopping days, I'd spend much of my free time searching for good travel bargains. Statistically, I am a proud winner, but with a shamefully narrow margin. Payment transfer records to Uncle AA and Uncle Malindo's websites for unutilised bookings are evidence of my poor choices. My most recent purchase was a one-year unlimited travel pass on a local carrier. My friend BE would be chuckling when she reads this, because she hinted to me to be cautious back then. Today, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I haven’t even considered using it – not even once. So, watch out for the treats in disguise. 


Halloween Pumpkin


Early memories. It was always during the wee hours due to lack of sleep when my mind would get hyper and go on a high. During one of those nights, I stumbled upon a combined hotel and flight deal, which I was rather pleased with. Did I wait? No. I mean, come on, it was a chance of a lifetime, right? Did I discuss it with Doc? No, good deals get snapped up fast. So, ta-da – Hainan here we come! I was super excited. This would be my first-ever trip to see the Red Dragon. 

Like an auto-replay of a YouTube clip, the hasty bookings repeated and the list increased. In case you haven’t realised, I have a soft spot for promotional travel brochures and offers in print. I'd buy the local paper just for their advertisements. As Doc would bluntly put it, I was a dream come true for the marketeers. 😉 

"So, it's Hainan, you said, 5 days, 4 nights?" 

"Yes?" I was exhilarated, I had a deal of the century up my sleeve. 

"Where did you say we were staying?" 

"Sanya. Check this out. The hotel has not one but two heated Roman baths for their guests. According to guest reviews, the massage services offered here is of exceptional quality!" Uh-oh! Wrong selling points for Doc. He disliked both. 

Doc scratched his head. “Come here.”

We both looked at our huge wall map. We would be flying into Haikou late at night, and we’d paid for cheap but grand accommodation in Sanya, which is 300 km away. Our flight out was a darn early one, at 6 am. Keep in mind, we always followed the be-at the airport-3-hours-prior-to-check-in rule. 

Map

With punctuality in mind, I did the hour-math, which I should really have done before making this purchase. I realised it would take approximately four hours to get to the airport. That would be seven hours in total. This meant one thing. I had to forego two paid nights and two trips to the heated Roman baths. 

"Blimey Uma, how much coffee did you have when you made this reservation?" Again!

It turned out that clicking the buy button was a hasty decision. After adding the additional costs à travel visas, accommodation in Haikou and round-trip taxi charges, the wisest next option would be to say adios to this trip. Trick or treat – trick!

Next… Manila, Dumaguete and Boracay – the Malaysia Airlines deal of the year. Tickets booked for Doc and me. But hey, Uma, did you tell your travel partner about the plan? Ops, no – and another trip gone south. Trick! Trick! Trick! Silly you, don't you ever learn? 

I did learn. Although I didn't stop searching for deals, I got a lot wiser at making decisions. Who would have thought a promotional offer to Bandung would turn out to be such a humbling encounter with a breathing volcano? Treat! I read once that everyone should see the grand Angkor at least once in their lifetime, thanks to pressing the buzzer, I had one more. Treat x 2!

trick or treat


So, watch out! If you are a budget traveller like me, there is a lot of pressure to ensure your plans turn out as treats, not tricks. Anyone can buy a cheap ticket, but not everyone can put it to use. Talk to me, I will tell you more.
😊 

trick or treat

There are so many contributing factors, such as the ones I mentioned earlier; time, distance, commitment, pet sitter, health, price, dietary options – these are just a few of the deciding factors. Consider the tricks and treats carefully before making those crucial decisions. Which would you find more pleasurable?

Trick or treat, you decide, but be cautious. While deciding, remember to continue wearing a protective face mask, sanitising your hands frequently, and practising safe social distancing wherever you go. 


What I have learnt:

  1. No one forces me to choose trick or treat. How I handle it is all within my control.
  2. When faced with a trick or treat, to get the best treats, make objective decisions instead of impulsive ones. If it still turns out to be a trick, then at least you tried. 
  3. Avoid impulsive decisions. Wait a day or two. If you still feel the urge to grab that deal, then go for it. If it’s still available, it's yours. Otherwise, know that there will soon be another one. Don't panic.  
  4. It’s handy to have a map close by to see where your destination is, and how much time it will take to get there. 
  5. A calendar with time zones is essential. 
  6. Be punctual; get to the airport early, or if you’re taking a bus, don’t be late. It's no treat to keep others waiting – in fact, it's inconsiderate.
  7. Enjoy the seasonal offerings, such as pumpkin-everything and Oktfest, because these are available only for a limited time. 
  8. Avoid stocking up the cabinets with chocolates if you are not going to consume or give them away. That's a form of hoarding disorder. Just get more next Halloween.
  9. Trick or treat – smile but watch out!  
pumpkin spiced  coffee



Footnote:
Regardless of whether you are a business traveller or vacationer, a one-time or frequent traveller – if you travel, you are exposed to risks. It’s important to understand that some of us are easier targets than others.

This series is dedicated to Doc, SV, who constantly reminded me to 'Watch Out!. Doc was a sensible traveller, while I, quite the opposite. Through Watch Out! Travel Mishaps from Reaching Delphi Travellers Alert series, I will share some of our travel misadventures with you. My aim is to create an awareness of such incidents and some useful suggestions to reduce the occurrence of unpleasant events. 

Follow Coffee Trail – Counting Stars, Reaching Delphi for travel updates and tips.



Also in WatchOut! series:



Tips for Trekking – Push Yourself to the Max!

Tips for Trekking – Push Yourself to the Max!

A short exchange with a friend about his backpacking trips along the Manistee River in Michigan and to Quandary Peak in Colorado prompted me to look for my long-lost hiking shoes. Hidden in a dark corner, I found my dusty pair still usable. Next was a seasonal call to my friend Fauziah, a regular trekker who by now was used to my I-want-to-join-but-will-ultimately-not-show-up calls. My bad, Fauziah. 
 


Here’s the catch. My last trekking trip happened a while ago. Fours years ago, to be precise. I explored what I termed the “deep, black forest".  Images of Little Red Riding Hood seeped into my thoughts as I looked out for wild beasts. Fortunately, there was no need to fear the Big Bad Wolf when you are accompanied by three friends in dark shades and hoodies. 👇👇👇
 
reaching dephi


Today, four years later, I explored a bit of the local neighbourhood greenery with Fauziah and her friend Anis. 
Since I had not stressed my quadriceps and knees for climbing hills in ages,  I begged Monday to have mercy on me. So, if you are new to trekking or a bit rusty like me, here are a few handy reminders for your inaugural trip. First, grab some coffee, and look - that's us here 👇👇👇.
 
reaching dephi


Tips for Trek and Trail.

  • Get real and know your limits
If you feel faint, or experience lack of oxygen or feel a cramp while climbing, pause for a bit.  Don’t be shy to seek help from other trekkers close by. 

If you are a first-timer, you may want to explore several warm-up trails before you aim for one as high as the Everest. 
 
At the same time, push yourself one step at the time to the max. Only you have the power to do anything you set your mind to. Remember, the views are often breath-taking!
 
reaching dephi

  • Rest when you need it

Your body knows the best. Rest when you need to, and drink plenty of water. Listen to your body, no one else can hear it. 
 
A cup of coffee at this point would certainly be fitting, wouldn't you agree?

 reaching dephi

 

  • Be on time. 

Time spent waiting is time wasted. There is so much life to explore in nature, so don’t hold your fellow trekkers up from experiencing it.

We hiked up this mini hill  👇 a bit too early. Lets just say we were lucky that morning (we didn't get locked-up). 


  • Have a light but good meal (and some coffee). 

Roti goyang, or eggs on toast, is a perfect start to a trekking day.  And some coffee, naturally.
 
reaching dephi


  • Not everything is edible

Even if you find something that looks tasty on the trail, don’t put it into your pasta dish.
 
reaching dephi


  • Wear a pair of good, comfortable shoes

Good climbing shoes need not be expensive, but they should have anti-slip/anti-skid threads. I also found having short toenails makes a mountainous descent less painful.
 
reaching dephi

  • Bring a cap

It usually gets hot (sometimes cold) as you climb, so it’s always handy to have a sun hat or cap  (or a jacket) with you. Here is a handy packing checklist.
 
reaching dephi


  • Stop the spread of coronavirus

Wear your face mask and practice social distancing while you have fun!
 

  • Respect nature

We only have one Earth. Respect and protect her for us and future generations. Here are other ways you can be a conscientious traveller.


reaching dephi, trek, trail

  • Protect the streams and rivers

Avoid being a litterbug and protect the streams. 

Do take note that you may not be able to take a dip in all the rivers/streams. 
 
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  • Watch your step

You never know when a crocodile is around the corner. Did I tell you that I fell into the river during one of my trips? Well, I did and so did my camera. Clumsy me. After that incident, I took up swimming classes. Well, this was probably one of the last few shots from that camera. (Bonus Tip: Hold on tight to your camera and phone [and selfie sticks] when you take photos.)  
 

 

  • Knock to see who is at home

It looks like Red Riding Hood left a few years earlier, don’t you agree? You cannot stay here either.
 
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  • Not all open doors welcome visitors

The tenant occupying this space may not be pleased. Think twice about putting your hands or face into something like this.
 
reaching dephi


  • Use a map. 

Stairways to nowhere … 

Now, now, don’t panic. Your map can tell you where the path leads. If you don’t have a physical map, snap a photo of the trail path at the trailhead. If that's not available either then the next best option would be to hire an experienced guide. 

reaching dephi, trek, trail
  

I am rewinding a couple of years to the past to this picture below. Over here, we were in the good hands of a professional guide at the Mount Kinabalu National Park. We made it through the dark rainforest, to the peak and back safely. Hola!
 
reaching dephi , Trail, Trek


Every time I push myself on one of these trips, I am reminded of my dear friend Malcolm, who encouraged my friends and me to keep climbing. “The peak is just around the corner,” he’d say, and told us so for hours! Here’s one from Snowdonia National Park, Wales with him. Definitely a keeper.



You'd notice that the reminders here are not all from the regular trekker's guide. You can get those from many other websites and blogs. What are your favourite reminders?
 
I survived Monday and every other day. I am here today. And so are you. Have faith in your abilities, push yourself to the max, and reach for the highest star as we embark great life journeys. Remember that struggles are temporary, but the sweet smell of achievement lasts forever. Counting Stars, Reaching Delphi.
 
reaching dephi , Trail, Trek


* The pictures posted in this article were from six different trips, spanning across many few years. 
** Inspiration quotes on Earth have been imprinted onto my original images.