M

Travels

To record my adventures, explorations, self-discovery and to inspire anyone who wishes to make their own marks in the world. After all, there's so much to see.

More updates and stories coming soon...

Volunteer + Solo Travel in South Africa

December 17th 2016 - January 7th 2017

Over the Christmas and New Year's holidays of 2016-2017, I decided to do a two-weeks volunteer for a teaching/sports development program with IVHQ (International Volunteer Headquarter) at Muizenberg, South Africa. And another week of solo traveling. It was one of the most life-changing experience I had, and an amazing one at that. Little did I know that what started out as a journey to help educate others, I was the one being educated.

Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa.

Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa.

Greenmarket Square, Cape Town, South Africa.

Greenmarket Square, Cape Town, South Africa.

These are my mentors. Despite their rough backgrounds, limitation to resources, and saddening stories to the point that it is wrong to share them online, they are so full of life. The kids have inspired me to learn to be good even in hard times, to smile and be kind to others no matter what. From the very first day of the volunteer, they have no doubts towards us while we doubt ourselves that whether or not they will enjoy having us there. They ran toward us with full speed, arms and smiles wide open and threw themselves at us to welcome us into their lives. Our heart grew a little bigger when their face lit up on a new day when they saw us arriving at the nursery or at the beach. The munchkins ran toward us and screamed our name like they haven't seen us for years even though we just spent time together the day before. Whenever I think of my time there, I can hear them calling, or the weight of them clinging on to me when they asked me to give them a picky-back into the sea. It was heart-breaking to depart from them and the feeling still takes its toll on me today. 

These are my mentors. Despite their rough backgrounds, limitation to resources, and saddening stories to the point that it is wrong to share them online, they are so full of life. The kids have inspired me to learn to be good even in hard times, to smile and be kind to others no matter what. From the very first day of the volunteer, they have no doubts towards us while we doubt ourselves that whether or not they will enjoy having us there. They ran toward us with full speed, arms and smiles wide open and threw themselves at us to welcome us into their lives. Our heart grew a little bigger when their face lit up on a new day when they saw us arriving at the nursery or at the beach. The munchkins ran toward us and screamed our name like they haven't seen us for years even though we just spent time together the day before. Whenever I think of my time there, I can hear them calling, or the weight of them clinging on to me when they asked me to give them a picky-back into the sea. It was heart-breaking to depart from them and the feeling still takes its toll on me today. 

My fellow IVHQ volunteer friends.

My fellow IVHQ volunteer friends.

Cape Point Vineyards, Noordhoek, Cape Town, South Africa.   This photo I took in Noordhoek reminded me of  A Sunday Afternoon On The Island Of La Grande Jatte (1886)  painting by Georges Seurat. But in this case it is every Thursday afternoon from 4.30 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. at Cape Point Vineyards, where they host a community pop up market with best selections of the country's iconic food vendors featuring a breath-taking scenery.   It would have been a perfect location if I wasn't in the middle of volunteering. The transition was too great to go unnoticed, from a place where kids struggle to have food or water to fill their stomach to a well-to-do establishment where kids play with their food. I expected a very LOCAL vendors, not a fancy vineyard crowded with westerners and affluent market-goers that highlight the class discrimination of what defines "Local South Afrikaans". It is a beautiful place, yet whenever I look at this picture I can taste the bittersweetness to the point of revulsion.

Cape Point Vineyards, Noordhoek, Cape Town, South Africa.

This photo I took in Noordhoek reminded me of A Sunday Afternoon On The Island Of La Grande Jatte (1886) painting by Georges Seurat. But in this case it is every Thursday afternoon from 4.30 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. at Cape Point Vineyards, where they host a community pop up market with best selections of the country's iconic food vendors featuring a breath-taking scenery. 

It would have been a perfect location if I wasn't in the middle of volunteering. The transition was too great to go unnoticed, from a place where kids struggle to have food or water to fill their stomach to a well-to-do establishment where kids play with their food. I expected a very LOCAL vendors, not a fancy vineyard crowded with westerners and affluent market-goers that highlight the class discrimination of what defines "Local South Afrikaans". It is a beautiful place, yet whenever I look at this picture I can taste the bittersweetness to the point of revulsion.

This is the trip that I get to scratch two things off my bucket list: one, visit South Africa, and two, bungee jump.  Bloukrans Bridge Bungee Jump  is considered to be the world's highest commercial bridge bungee at 216 metres (709 ft) above the Bloukrans River, using the pendulum bungee technology to ensure the smoothest drop and swing. This arch bridge is located on the N2 highway at the border between Eastern Cape and Western Cape in the Tsitsikamma area of South Africa's Garden Route. It is approximately 6.5 hours by car from central Cape Town. The bungee-jumping experience was phenomenal! There was no feeling like it, exhilarating and addictive, heart-pounding yet I felt at peace. A few seconds during the drop cleared my mind of any troubles, and a few seconds later make me realize how much I appreciate the way I have lived my life. It was also frightening for a brief moment when I felt like my shoes were sliding off because of the pull of the rope around my ankles. After the slight jerk of a pull-back, the swings were smooth and relaxing, where I got to enjoy the bliss of nature and valley scene underneath. 

This is the trip that I get to scratch two things off my bucket list: one, visit South Africa, and two, bungee jump. Bloukrans Bridge Bungee Jump is considered to be the world's highest commercial bridge bungee at 216 metres (709 ft) above the Bloukrans River, using the pendulum bungee technology to ensure the smoothest drop and swing. This arch bridge is located on the N2 highway at the border between Eastern Cape and Western Cape in the Tsitsikamma area of South Africa's Garden Route. It is approximately 6.5 hours by car from central Cape Town. The bungee-jumping experience was phenomenal! There was no feeling like it, exhilarating and addictive, heart-pounding yet I felt at peace. A few seconds during the drop cleared my mind of any troubles, and a few seconds later make me realize how much I appreciate the way I have lived my life. It was also frightening for a brief moment when I felt like my shoes were sliding off because of the pull of the rope around my ankles. After the slight jerk of a pull-back, the swings were smooth and relaxing, where I got to enjoy the bliss of nature and valley scene underneath. 

Bungee Jump
One will live.
To live is the rarest thing in the world.
Most people just exist,
that is all.
- Oscar Wilde
En route with the excursion Cape to Addo multi-day package tour by CapeXtreme. Drove through the Klein Karoo along Route 62 headed towards Oudtshoorn where we visited Cango Endangered Wildlife ranch.

En route with the excursion Cape to Addo multi-day package tour by CapeXtreme. Drove through the Klein Karoo along Route 62 headed towards Oudtshoorn where we visited Cango Endangered Wildlife ranch.

Elephant Sanctuary in Tsitsikamma  where I learnt about South African elephants. It was interesting to see the differences between their local elephants and Thai elephants.

Elephant Sanctuary in Tsitsikamma where I learnt about South African elephants. It was interesting to see the differences between their local elephants and Thai elephants.

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Colorful Chalets, Muizenberg Beach, South Africa.

Colorful Chalets, Muizenberg Beach, South Africa.

Dalebrook Pool, St.James, South Africa.    Stumble upon this natural pool on the 45 minutes walk from Muizenberg to Kalk Bay. The cool water was soothing on the skin under the golden sun.

Dalebrook Pool, St.James, South Africa. 

Stumble upon this natural pool on the 45 minutes walk from Muizenberg to Kalk Bay. The cool water was soothing on the skin under the golden sun.

Serendipity and Google together can lead you to amazing finds. On a car ride through Kalk Bay earlier on the trip my eyes caught sight of this interesting rare books and art shop but did not remember the name or the exact locale. On a Thursday a week later, the volunteer work finished early so I tried to Google the shop that still leaves an impression on me. Fortunately, Kalk Bay where the shop is situated is only 45 mins walk from Muizenberg, and with the beautiful weather, I was there in no time. Got physically harassed by the locals on the way but this quaint little shop with massive collection very much lifted my mood. The smell of dust, old parchments and wood hit as soon as I took a step in, with a smiling young man greeted me from behind the shelves and a gray-haired, seasoned gentleman named George with sharp eyes looking kindly at me from behind the counter. It was a perfect store-visit experience, an endless amount of rare books, prints, illustrations, original vintage maps, ephemera surrounding every nooks and crannies of the shop, the service that is friendly yet gives you space to explore on your own, the interior that gave you the sense of going back through time in a foreign yet oddly familiar land. After numerous visits and purchases of one vintage map of South Africa dating back to 1756, 3 rare books on South Africa and its history, 3 vintage books on hotels and travel, George gave me a book about Michelangelo free-of-charge. Hands down,  Quagga  is the best bookstore I've been to.

Serendipity and Google together can lead you to amazing finds. On a car ride through Kalk Bay earlier on the trip my eyes caught sight of this interesting rare books and art shop but did not remember the name or the exact locale. On a Thursday a week later, the volunteer work finished early so I tried to Google the shop that still leaves an impression on me. Fortunately, Kalk Bay where the shop is situated is only 45 mins walk from Muizenberg, and with the beautiful weather, I was there in no time. Got physically harassed by the locals on the way but this quaint little shop with massive collection very much lifted my mood. The smell of dust, old parchments and wood hit as soon as I took a step in, with a smiling young man greeted me from behind the shelves and a gray-haired, seasoned gentleman named George with sharp eyes looking kindly at me from behind the counter. It was a perfect store-visit experience, an endless amount of rare books, prints, illustrations, original vintage maps, ephemera surrounding every nooks and crannies of the shop, the service that is friendly yet gives you space to explore on your own, the interior that gave you the sense of going back through time in a foreign yet oddly familiar land. After numerous visits and purchases of one vintage map of South Africa dating back to 1756, 3 rare books on South Africa and its history, 3 vintage books on hotels and travel, George gave me a book about Michelangelo free-of-charge. Hands down, Quagga is the best bookstore I've been to.

Boulders Beach, Cape Town, South Africa , is the habitat for the free-roaming colony of African penguins. 

Boulders Beach, Cape Town, South Africa, is the habitat for the free-roaming colony of African penguins. 

The Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, Cape Town, South Africa.    The Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway is a new curved steel and timber bridge that winds and dips its way through and over the trees of the Arboretum. Inspired by a snake skeleton, and informally called 'The Boomslang' (meaning tree snake), it is a raised walkway from the forest floor that weaves its way around the tree canopies, giving a spectacular panoramic vistas of the surrounding mountains.

The Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, Cape Town, South Africa. 

The Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway is a new curved steel and timber bridge that winds and dips its way through and over the trees of the Arboretum. Inspired by a snake skeleton, and informally called 'The Boomslang' (meaning tree snake), it is a raised walkway from the forest floor that weaves its way around the tree canopies, giving a spectacular panoramic vistas of the surrounding mountains.

South Africa is also known as a wine country, and this trip won't be complete without a little bit of wine (or a lot if you bought 3 bottles of wine to drink by yourself at your Airbnb). Rent a car and give yourself a drive to nearby towns like Stellenbosch (via M12), Parrl (via R310), and Franschhoek (via R45). The roads are well-developed and scenic, recommended for anyone who likes to be behind the wheels. There is also an option to commute by train in the case of drinking and driving. However, after talking to the locals, they do not recommend this option with a sharp 'No!', especially if you are a solo traveler (let alone being a female).  

South Africa is also known as a wine country, and this trip won't be complete without a little bit of wine (or a lot if you bought 3 bottles of wine to drink by yourself at your Airbnb). Rent a car and give yourself a drive to nearby towns like Stellenbosch (via M12), Parrl (via R310), and Franschhoek (via R45). The roads are well-developed and scenic, recommended for anyone who likes to be behind the wheels. There is also an option to commute by train in the case of drinking and driving. However, after talking to the locals, they do not recommend this option with a sharp 'No!', especially if you are a solo traveler (let alone being a female).  

La Motte Winery, Franschhoek, South Africa.   Made a decision to follow Lonely Planet guidebook suggestion to this beautiful and historic winery because the fat kid inside me cries for their mouth-watering menu with wine pairing, and fell in love with their wine after randomly bought it during my stay in Cape Town. The premise includes winery, Pierneef à La Motte restaurant which serves amazing braised springbok paired with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, hiking trail, museum and farm shop. La Motte boasts four provincial monuments dating back to 1752, surrounded by picturesque landscape making this charming winery worthy to visit. 

La Motte Winery, Franschhoek, South Africa.

Made a decision to follow Lonely Planet guidebook suggestion to this beautiful and historic winery because the fat kid inside me cries for their mouth-watering menu with wine pairing, and fell in love with their wine after randomly bought it during my stay in Cape Town. The premise includes winery, Pierneef à La Motte restaurant which serves amazing braised springbok paired with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, hiking trail, museum and farm shop. La Motte boasts four provincial monuments dating back to 1752, surrounded by picturesque landscape making this charming winery worthy to visit. 

The Africa Cafe, Cape Town City Center, South Africa.   Amazing African cuisine that highlights the African continent serving communal feast with unique traditional entertainment such as singing, dancing, drumming and face-painting. 

The Africa Cafe, Cape Town City Center, South Africa.

Amazing African cuisine that highlights the African continent serving communal feast with unique traditional entertainment such as singing, dancing, drumming and face-painting. 

No More Worlds To Conquer,  Liza Grobler, South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa.

No More Worlds To Conquer, Liza Grobler, South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa.

Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa.

Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa.

With every layers of darker skin, I've got more stories to tell (hopefully not of skin cancer). South Africa was amazing, from golden grasslands to magnificent mountains. From picturesque vineyards to breezy beach. Endless things to see and explore, abundant with history and sweet & kind people (not all, unfortunately). Made great friends along the way and I can say I am living it. Until next time, South Africa... 

With every layers of darker skin, I've got more stories to tell (hopefully not of skin cancer). South Africa was amazing, from golden grasslands to magnificent mountains. From picturesque vineyards to breezy beach. Endless things to see and explore, abundant with history and sweet & kind people (not all, unfortunately). Made great friends along the way and I can say I am living it. Until next time, South Africa... 

Last day of 2016 sunset at Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa.

Last day of 2016 sunset at Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa.

M Aroonrut