I extended my stay at the current hostel for another 2 nights because I am too lazy to figure out my next stop.
My hostel is in the neighborhood of University of Central America so it has a lot of nice-looking coffee shops, printers and a few bookstores. Unfortunately, it’s still the holidays here in El Salvador so I’ve not been into any of the shops.
Fortunately, the fast food places are open. Bless the fast food chains!
I walked from the hostel to Zona Rosa where the posh area is. It’s also where the Consuma Fair is held so there was a terrible traffic jam.
The two museums that I wanted to visit were closed as well so I had to spend time wandering around the streets where shops (excluding fast food outlets) were closed.
From Consuma, I walked to the shopping malls near by hostel. It was 33 degrees Celsius so thank goodness I had my umbrella with me to block out the sun or else I would get sunstroke again.
At the mail, I drank two cups of coffee (in separate sittings) and ate half a bad Tiramisu cake. I walked to another mall (passing by another mall) and found it dreadfully boring.
On my way back, I stopped by the supermarket, hoping to find some souvenirs (Yes, they are for you!). But in the end, I bought toothpaste and a bottle of water.
Today was my first full day in El Salvador. The hostel doesn’t provide breakfast so I lazed in bed until well past 9:30am.
The hostel owner, Ana* (her real name), was around when I was heading out. She told me about the Consuma Fair happening nearby and that the museum is right across the fair.
In the first week of August, El Salvadorians have a week of holiday in celebration of El Salvador del Mundo, patron saint of San Salvador. Consuma is part of this celebration.
I walked to the convention center where Consuma is held from July 25 to August 6. I bought an entrance ticket at 25 cents extra from a lady selling tickets. The other way was to queue for a long while and pay only US$1.50 but it wasn’t worth it.
The hall was rather full with visitors and exhibition booths. From the second level, I looked down at the booths. It had a strange mix of appliances, clothes, toys, phone and many other things. It felt like a Sitex fair gone wrong.
I had a coffee at one of the booths before heading down into the hall. The place was so crowded that I had to move very slowly with the current of the crowd.
Based on the booths, I found El Salvadorians’ version of week-long fun strange. How fun it is when you are squeezing with 20 other people in a 5 square-meter space?
I thought I had seen enough when I saw the 10th clothes stall. I found the exit and went out into more exhibition halls and food booths.
I lost count of the number of exhibition halls. Some had a mix of food and clothes while others had cheap clothes that do not look attractive on any body. There was even fun fair games, one involving plates on waters and coin tossing.
I also passed by a large tent area which smelled of horses. They have horses at a fun fair!
By this time, I shouldn’t be surprised by anything else but I found a full-fledged amusement park with roller coasters and even a pirate ship. El Salvadorians really take their fun seriously.
Despite all the promised fun in the fair, I was feeling very uncomfortable due to the heat and the size of the crowd.
I checked my watch and was surprised to find that I was only there for 2 hours when it felt like I had spent the whole evening there. My head was pounding as I looked for the exit. Everyone else’s steps were too slow and they were between me and the exit to fresher air and the blinding sun. (I dislike the sun but I hate crowds more than the sun.)
Visiting San Salvador’s city center
After escaping the fair, I took a bus to the city center. The bus fare was cheap at 25 cents. I didn’t memorize the map so I wasn’t sure where I was supposed to get off the bus.
In the end, I followed the crowd and got off at the second bus stop after most of the people went off.
The streets of San Salvador’s center was different from where my hostel was. Here, things were dirtier. It didn’t look like a proper city center but more like an abandoned area populated with people.
I had lunch at a fried chicken place where there was thankfully Wi-Fi. I figured out the nearby landmark and saw the National Theater, the church of San Salvador, the National Library and other monuments.
I took a bus back and rested a while before walking to the shopping malls near the hostel. MegaPlaza mall was huge but under-visited. It looked very empty and some of the shops were not occupied.
I walked over to another mall which was even more depressing. I headed back to MegaPlaza where I had dinner until it became dark.
I debated if I should walk back to the hostel. It didn’t seem wise as it was also raining. In my head, I kept seeing passages in travel guides about the dangers of walking at night in Central and South America.
In the end, I took a cab and was given an over-fluctuated price. I bargained one dollar down. I reached my hostel after the taxi took many long turns.
The Wi-Fi on the second floor of the hostel has miraculously fixed itself. Thank San Salvador!
Happy Chinese New Year! Yes, CNY does not end until the 15th day.
This week’s FoodFriday features a special Chinese New Year edition of the Glutton Series.
For this banquet, we’ll have home cooked meals prepared for reunion dinners and a special “lou sang” dish that involved violent chopstick movements.
First course is the CNY eve reunion dinner at my aunt’s place. Every year on Chinese New Year eve, the extended family gathers for a meal.
This year, the table was overflowing with food (as usual) because many brought multiple dishes. I think my family brought the least as we only had my mom’s famous salted duck and a plate of salted vegetable.
Not included in the photo is two types of soups (one without chicken as my dad is allergic to chicken) and steamed fish.
Because the main dining table had limited space, I was assigned to the children’s table. The “youngest” person at the children’s table will be 19 years old this year.
Auntie’s place for lunch
The next day, we were invited to a friend of mom’s place for a lunch gathering. The auntie (a title we use to call an elder woman) is a great cook and she made an amazing lunch.
We had dumplings (a traditional Chinese New Year food). There was roast duck and roast pork which can be found in many Malaysian Chinese outlets.
The fish eggs dish is interesting. The auntie mixed fish eggs with chicken eggs and pan fried it in a rectangular skillet. The tiny fish eggs are snugly wrapped in a coat of eggs. Yummy.
Soup was winter melon soup with meatballs.
We ate all this accompanied with rice. My stomach was stretched almost to the maximum.
Last course: Yusheng
It’s quite alright for adults to have food war during Chinese New Year. The photo below shows Yusheng.
It’s a medley of food, put into a large plate while the server reads incantations (not really, just “auspicious wishes” ). The eaters then violently toss the ingredients with chopsticks.
I’ve never had this dish when I was in Sabah. It was until I began work that I am invited to Chinese New Year luncheons and I participate in the violent act.
After mixing, the dish is sourish with shred of turnip being the main taste.
What’s your favorite Chinese New Year dish? Share it in the comment section below.
A cursory flip of the local newspapers during the month of January reveal that some Singaporeans do start planning for their Chinese New Year trips shortly after the New Year, and local travel agencies are milking it as much as they can. These travel agencies and their counterparts in other countries will come up with 4-day trips to China/Hong Kong/Taiwan for ‘the authentic Lunar New Year feel’ and even a 4-day getaway to 8 different cities in Europe. 4 days in 8 cities – I saw this advertisement on the 2nd floor of the People’s Park Complex in Chinatown. I wonder if it is humanely possible to see anything but greenery while travelling to so many places.
A study by Mercer in 2011 shows that Singaporeans have one of the lowest number of annual holidays in the world – we beat some countries in Asia when it comes to annual holidays, but we have half the number of holidays compared to the Europeans. So it is no surprise that Singaporeans tend to combine the use of their precious annual leave and state holidays so they are able to spend more time in the host country. Chinese New Year is a prime travelling period as everyone gets two days off work regardless of their ethnicity group. One aunt told me, “If I am to spend money either by travelling or by giving red packets to kids, I would choose to travel. I would prefer to spend money on something I like to do better.”
Of course, there are many Singaporeans who do enjoy spending time with members of their extended family during this festive period, but this is becoming a rare situation as parents might prefer to spend as much of their leisure time with their family instead of the former group of people.
I always love Chinese New Year because I don’t have to go to work and school. I’m not a big fan of visiting relatives as I am an innately shy person, so finding topics to make small talk can be quite a challenge. Nonetheless, I have some relatives who like to debate on government policies. They fall under a different class in society compared to my family, and it is always nice to listen to their point of view of things.
The relatives on my mother side are not as well-off, but they have always welcomed us to their four room/ three room homes with open arms. It may be a little congested and uncomfortable sitting on tiny, foldable chairs squeezing in front of the TV, while trying to balance a plastic plate filled with food on one hand, and a can of soft drink on a coffee table which is almost filled with pineapple tarts and jars of tiny crispy prawn rolls.
What I like best about Chinese New Year is to watch these afternoon matinée at my relative’s house comprising dated Chinese love/ CNY movies. Stuff like Stephen Chow movies or Infernal Affairs allow me to pass time and relax, without worrying that I should be spending my holiday on more useful things. I also like to indulge in bak kwa [Note from YQ: dried barbequed meat. yum yum.]and beer at the same time, which is not the most healthy option. A friend attests to swapping beer for wine. It’s more healthy and goes well together too : )
I have been away during Chinese New Year on a solo trip to India last year, and it’s not the most joyous of all occasions. I remember feeling very lonely, not because there was no festive atmosphere at all in India, but because I was without the company of my friends and family. Scooting off to discover far lands may seem ideal during the CNY holidays, but I rather stay in Singapore to receive the warmth and blessings from friends, family and even from relatives that I meet only once a year.
Do you travel overseas or stay at home during CNY?
Chinese New Year is not an official bank holiday in Myanmar but Chinese people normally take leave from school or work to celebrate the 2-day cerebration – the New Year Eve and the New Year Day.
There are a few different types of Chinese in Myanmar – mainly Hokkien and Cantonese. But we also have some Hakka and Yunnan Chinese. We all celebrate Chinese New Year in slightly different ways – for example, the ritual of worship, the temple that we visit, etc. Since majority of the people in Myanmar is Buddhist, the ritual includes mostly worshiping different god and visiting different temples.
I will share with you how my parents celebrate Chinese New Year in Hakka way.
On the New Year Eve morning, we worship to the heavenly god (拜天神). For this ritual, we have to prepare 1 cup of wine, 3 cups of tea, 3 types of meat
It’s the last day of 2012. For today, I am recapping the journeys I made in 2012, along with a few related entries.
(Some of the cities do not have related blog posts because I am working on a really limited internet connection back home in Sabah. I’ll follow up with the posts once I reach the land of high speed internet–Singapore.)
In case you find this entry a little TL;DR, I want to wish you a happy 2013. May the new year be filled with (productive) travels.
Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia
In a nutshell: The Seremban which D and I visited was sleepy. There wasn’t much going around as it seems like most of the people prefer to look for a living in Kuala Lumpur.
In a nutshell: The reason I dragged D along to PD was to wash my feet in the ocean. My family has a ritual of stepping into the ocean when the new year comes to “wash away the bad luck”. PD wasn’t as fantastic as what my primary school sample compositions tell me. I much prefer the beaches in Sabah.
In a nutshell: On a business trip to cover an event in San Jose. I had the chance to visit Cupertino and see the Winchester Mystery House. I didn’t get to see much of the city because I was stuck in the convention centers getting my bills paid.
In a nutshell: Side trip from San Jose after the business trip. I had planned to visit Napa Valley for a night but decided to stay in SF for the whole week. I saw two great shows, visited many fine museums and cycled a little.
In a nutshell: A short weekend trip to the capital of Indonesia. We weren’t caught in traffic jams as we took the TransJakarta public bus. I didn’t do a lot of research so we ended up walking aimlessly.
In a nutshell: State 9 of my Visit Malaysia project. A small town where our fourth prime minister, Dr Tun Mahathir, was born. Visited the Alor Setar tower, the second tallest TV tower in Malaysia, and saw a bird’s eye view of the town.
In a nutshell: State 10 of my Visit Malaysia project. Went to the market bordering Thailand. I was a little disappointed that the market didn’t straddle the border with stall owners on one side accepting ringgit while the other baht.
No major travelling for the month. It wasn’t as bad as I expected because I had other things to busy myself with during the weekend. For example, reading Web comics, watching Youtube, eating, reading things online etc.
Kudat, Sabah, Malaysia
In a nutshell: Back home for the Christmas holiday because of forced leave implemented by the company. Went on a roadtrip with Mom to the north of Sabah. We read a lot, ate a lot of fruits while at the hotel. Also visited the “Tip of Borneo”.
When AirAsia was having a promotion for Japan in February last year, I chose to travel in mid-October, thinking I might catch the red leaves season.
Unfortunately, I was too early for the red leaves.
Fortunately, I was in time for the Jidai Matsuri, a Japanese festival I have been hoping to catch for a long long time.
Jidai Matsuti, or the Festival of the Ages, is a long parade where people dress up in period costume (sometimes representing historical characters) [inset Japanese history fan girl cheer here] stroll through a fixed path from the Old Imperial Palace to the Hei’an Shrine.
It’s one of the three major festivals in Kyoto and falls on October 22 yearly. The parade is to celebrate the move of Japan’s capital from Kyoto to Tokyo way way back. (You know what Wikipedia is for.)
I arranged our Kansai trip so that we will be able to watch the parade. Our hostel receptionist advised us to take the subway since some roads are blocked.
When we reached the subway station nearest to the starting point of the festival, there were a lot of people. Following not very clear road signs, we found ourselves next to the stoney path of the Old Imperial Palace.
There are paid seats but we didn’t get those so we sat on the stones along with the old uncles and aunties.
Mom waited at our “seats” while I went off to take pictures of the performers.
Some people also brought their dogs along.
It took a while of waiting before the event started. The two obasan (aunties) in front passed us coffee candy while we waited. That was sweet of them.
The announcement of the start of the parade came and I waited excitedly.
Some ladies had a banner congratulation Kyoto’s 1300th birthday as a capital.
And a man carried a flag announcing JIDAI MATSURI.
The parade started with the Meiji period when the country was westernized. Then the more fun costumes followed.
The women of Jidai Matsuri
I’ve always been fascinated by famous women in history because fewer women than men are recorded in history. I want to know how they overcome gender inequality to have a place in history books.
I want to know what sort of power they have over the men and their children. How can this power translate to our modern world?
It seems to me that Japanese history has many wonderfully romanticized female figures–some arepoets, writers, great beauties or wives of famous men.
Reflections of Jidai Matsuri
The procession was oddly solemn. No one cheered, not even when the popular historical characters like Sakamoto Ryoma stroll by.
I wanted to stand up, clap and holler “BRAVO!” but didn’t because everyone else was quiet. The only time when the audience was lively was when a band comes along playing music.
Also, I regret not having internet to google every character that I do not recognize because of my very shallow knowledge of Japan history. It would be more exciting to know who that man in blue pants is.
Tips for viewing Jidai Matsuri
Take the subway to the location: Some roads are closed for the procession so your best bet is the underground.
Bring a stool or something to put your butt on: If you are in the rocky grounds at start of the parade, a stool would help your butt from being too painful.
Bring food and drinks and an umbrella
Have you been to any celebrations with period costumes? How was it?
Week 27 of the Indie Travel Challenge is all about celebrating: There are many reasons to travel and many moments make traveling special. Have you ever traveled to another country during a new [to you] holiday? If so, what was special about it?