Monday, July 31, 2017

[RIGA] Budget and Itinerary

SUNDAY: 30 July 2017
Ecolines (Vilnius - Riga) - 17.00
Airbnb (2 Nights) - 21.00
McDonalds (3 pcs. Chicken Wings w/Fries & Coke) - 3.95
Rimi (Grocery) - 3.42

[RIGA] Old Town, New Art

It took two hours and forty minutes for the bus to reach the Latvian border. Devoid of traffic and border checks, this has been quite a long journey. It’s one of those lengthy road trips that give you random views of green and yellow fields along the way. The good thing about Ecolines is they have comfy seats, a toilet, and WiFi that actually works. At least you won’t die of boredom before you get to Riga. Tracking our location live, I kept Google Maps open as my phone charged. Yeah, they have power sockets too!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Game of Thrones (HBO): Season 7/Episode 3

7.3 The Queen's Justice
Jon Snow and Ser Davos lay their eyes on Daenerys’ dragons for the very first time. She orders him to bend a knee. He warns her of the descent of the dead army. Melisandre‘s desire to flee Westeros and sail off to Volantis is seconded by Varys, but she tells him that she’ll eventually be back for her death, as well as his. Euron delivers his prisoners to Cersei. She gives the last remaining sand snake a poisonous kiss and bounds Ellaria next to her so she can watch her daughter’s slow death. A representative of the bank of Braavos arrives at King’s Landing. Bran and Sansa are reunited in Winterfell. Sam makes headway and considerably reverses Ser Jorah’s Grayscale. As the Unsullied attack Casterly Rock, they discover that just a portion of the Lannister army is there, because the rest is at Highgarden. As Olena Tyrrell’s army is decimated, Jaime pours her a vial of poisoned wine. After drinking it, she reveals how she is the brains behind Joffrey’s untimely demise. She looks him in the eye one last time and asks him to tell Cersei.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

[VILNIUS] Budget and Itinerary

SATURDAY: 29 July 2017
Ecolines (Minsk - Vilnius) - 12.00
Airbnb (1 Night) - 22.00
Luggage Storage (1 Item/2 Days) - 2.00
McDonalds (McToast w/Fries & Coke) - 3.10
Vero Cafe (Vanilla Milk Shake & Taratele) - 4.25
Casa N4 (Sirloin Steak w/Grilled Potatoes & Coke) - 9.20

[VILNIUS] Old Town Funk You Up

The border crossing was not that complicated as I expected it to be. The journey from Minsk took exactly two hours. From there, Vilnius was a mere 35-minute drive. It was the hour that we spent at the two immigration checkpoints that took a while because there were 43 of us on the bus. If you go by car, I’d say you can arrive at the Lithuanian capital in less than two hours and a half. The Belarusian IO was flipping through the pages of my passport over and over again but she was smiling all the time so that was a good sign.

Friday, July 28, 2017

[MINSK] Budget and Itinerary

Belavia (Tbilisi - Minsk) - 280.00
Airbnb (19 Nights) - 442.50
Visa (Belarus Embassy Jakarta) - 270.00
City Lingva (3-Week Russian Course) - 650.00
Food Allowance (BYN20 x19) - 380.00
Uber Allowance (4 Days) - 30.00

Thursday, July 27, 2017

[MINSK] A Place Called Niamiha

Niamiha is three Metro stops away from school so I always told myself that I’d go there “one of these days” except that I have a master’s degree in Procrastination and I wasn’t really planning on going until my very last week in Minsk. However, the sudden arrival of a friend lured me out of my lair. In the end, he ended up showing me around the city I’ve been living in for the last fortnight. When the visitor becomes the guide! Anyway, I love Niamiha because of the chill vibes. It’s just so vibrant and full of life.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Game of Thrones (HBO): Season 7/Episode 2

7.2 Stormborn
Sam finds Ser Jorah in their dungeon and attempts an untested procedure on him to cure his Greyscale. Arya finds out from Hot Pie that her brother is now King of the North. Daenerys questions Varys’ loyalty but he convinces her as to where his true allegiances lie. Melisandre arrives at Dragonstone with a prophecy and a proposed alliance. Jon Snow accepts the invitation but faces stark opposition from everyone, including Sansa. He appeases her by leaving the north under her command. As Cersei initiates her smear campaign in the south, Olena, Yara, and Ellaria rendezvous with Daenerys in the north. Tyrion’s plan is for the armies of Dorne and Highgarden to take care of King’s Landing while the Unsullied lay siege to Casterly Rock. Yara’s fleet is ambushed by Euron’s at sea on their way back and a battle ensues. The sand snakes are slaughtered and their mother is captured. As Euron holds his niece hostage with a sword pointed at her throat, Theon abandons ship, taking Daenerys’ hope for a formidable navy along with him.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

[MINSK] Minsk 15:15 Tour

The good thing about my course is that there are activities, like a city excursion for instance. You already know well how I tend to be on full student mode instead of default tourist mode whenever I move to a new city to study a language. I live just right across the main train station here in Minsk and that’s the only area I really need everyday access to. Suffice it to say that I haven’t really gone sightseeing yet until my second week, when teacher and I joined this tour they call 15:15 Minsk.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

[MINSK] Why Oh Why, White Russia

To be honest, I’ve only ever heard of Belarus twice in this lifetime. First was in that South Park episode where Jesus was being interviewed on TV and there were people being shot and run over by a tank behind him. He was supposedly in Belarus, which he kept pronouncing as BeLArus. That was hilarious, but obviously inaccurate and made for laughs like Borat in Kazakhstan. The second one was when a Filipina won some minor beauty pageant held in Minsk. Aside from that, I was totally clueless about this country.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Game of Thrones (HBO): Season 7/Episode 1

7.1 Dragonstone
Disguised as Walder Frey, Arya strikes the definitive blow to his house by poisoning all his remaining descendants at a banquet in the very hall where Catelyn, Robb, and Talisa were murdered. Meera and Bran seek refuge at the nearest wall outpost. Jon Snow and Sansa butt heads on how to handle the affairs of the north, a bone of contention that Petyr persistently attempts to exploit. Cersei sends them a raven ordering them to come to King’s Landing and bend a knee or suffer the consequences. Jaime outlines their bleak survival prospects in the absence of allies. The queen covets Euron’s Iron Fleet but finds it hard to trust him. He promises to gain that trust. Sam’s training is not as exciting as he expected it to be. He sneaks into the restricted area of the library and finds vital information they can use against the enemy. Daenerys along with her dragons and her crew dock at Dragonstone, the first Targaryen stronghold which sits on a mountain of dragonglass lethal to white walkers.

Monday, July 10, 2017

[VISA] Belarus (Single Entry)

Belarus has no consular representation in the Philippines. Their embassy that has jurisdiction over Filipino citizens is the one in Jakarta. The good thing about this embassy is that they have a VERY detailed website regarding visa application. They even have separate pages explaining how to send your documents, how much you are going to pay and how, as well as the requirements necessary for almost every type of visit you can imagine. As such, it’s not really that hard to get that visa!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

[TBILISI] Budget and Itinerary

SATURDAY: 9 July 2017
Georgian Airways (Yerevan - Tbilisi) - 225.00
Airbnb (1 Night) - 23.00
Cappadocia (Cheese Sandwich w/Water) - 15.50
Bus 37 (Airport - Liberty Square) - 0.50
Metrocard (Deposit) - 2.00
Metro (Rustaveli - Marjashinvili) - 0.50
Subway (Spicy Italian w/Cookie & Coke) - 14.30
Taxi (Marjashinvili - Airport) - 15.00

[TBILISI] One Day in Tbilisi

Tell anyone that you’re in Tbilisi for just a day and they’ll think you’re nuts, and not without reason! There is so much to see in this city. There is so much to see in Georgia, actually. We’re talking about the country, not the US state. But you can actually connect the two if you are a Philippine passport holder because a multiple entry visa from the latter can act as a substitute for the former. In short, fly in anytime until your visa for ‘MURICA expires. This is also the reason why Georgia got the short end of the stick.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

[YEREVAN] Budget and Itinerary

WEDNESDAY: 5 July 2017
Aeroflot (St. Petersburg - Moscow - Yerevan) - 68,675.00
Airbnb (3 Nights) - 22,650.00
eVisa (21 Days/Single Entry) - 2,990.00

[YEREVAN] Something Happened in Yerevan

Depression hit me hard last night. REALLY hard. It’s no longer a cause of alarm for me because I know that for every itinerary, it just looms, waiting for the opportune time to strike. For this trip, it chose yesterday evening. The good thing about knowing yourself well is you already know what measures for damage control to apply. In this case I knew that I won’t be getting any sleep and consequently I would have to cancel Kotayk tomorrow. Sorry, Garni and Geghard. I guess I’ll just see you both next time.

Friday, July 7, 2017

[ARMAVIR] Budget and Itinerary

FRIDAY: 7 July 2017
Taxi (Yerevan - Zvartnots Cathedral) - 4,000.00
Entrance Fee (Zvartnots Cathedral) - 1,000.00
Store (Mineral Water) - 200.00
Mini Van 203 (Zvartnots - Etchmiadzin) - 150.00
Man Food (Hotdog x2 w/Crisps & Coke) - 650.00
Mini Van 203 (Etchmiadzin - Yerevan) - 250.00

Estimate of AMD1 = PhP0.10
TOTAL – PhP625.00

[ARMAVIR] The Oldest Churches in the World

The original plan for Yerevan was simple: Chill for three days. Go out in the morning and the evening for a stroll. Simple! And then I did some research and found out that there are many day trips you can do from Yerevan, and the destinations are not even that far. The Etchmiadzin/Zvartnots combo is an hour west in the province of Armavir. The Garni/Geghard combo is an hour east in the province of Kotayk. Suddenly I had a jam packed itinerary far from the vicinity of the word CHILL.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

[VISA] Armenia (eVisa)

I wasn’t really planning on applying for an eVisa for Armenia. I mean, Philippine passport holders can go there and get a visa on arrival at the airport. But I’ve had my fair share of these visa-on-arrival nightmares before. Remember India and Cuba? The good thing about Armenia is they give you the option to apply for an eVisa instead. They also allow you to choose between a 120-day visa which costs USD30 (~PHP1,500) and a shorter one valid for 21 days which is way cheaper at just USD6 (~PHP300). Second option for me!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

[ST. PETERSBURG] Budget and Itinerary

TUESDAY: 4 July 2017
Rossiya (Kaliningrad - St. Petersburg) - 5,340.00
Airbnb (1 Night) - 1,245.00
Bus 39 (Pulkovo Airport - Moskovskaya) - 40.00
Metro 2 (Moskovskaya - Nevskiy Prospekt) - 45.00
Mama Roma (Carbonara w/Potato Wedges & Coke) - 575.00

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

[ST. PETERSBURG] The River Ain't the Best Place to Find a Sinner

So the church is where I go. Three today, in fact. I’m as surprised as you are that I didn't burn to death. If there was a ceasefire between the forces of good and evil, I wasn’t informed. But let’s give me a break now? I’m so in tourist mode today and St. Petersburg is really kind to camwhores. I feel like if I woke up here Hangover style without any recollection of how I got here, I would’ve thought that I were somewhere in Central Europe, like Budapest or Vienna.

Monday, July 3, 2017

[KALININGRAD] Budget and Itinerary

MONDAY: 3 July 2017
Aeroflot (Moscow Sheremetyevo - Kaliningrad) - 5,715.00
Airbnb (1 Night) - 815.00
Bus 244e (Khrabrovo Airport - Victory Square) - 100.00
McDonalds (6 pcs. Chicken Nuggets w/Fries & Coke + Sundae) - 293.00
Tram 2 (Moskovskiy Prospekt - Victory Square) - 20.00
McDonalds (Double Cheese + Nuggets w/Fries & Coke + Sundae) - 456.00

[KALININGRAD] Russia with a P

If you’ve ever looked at a map of the Schengen area, you’d probably find it a bit odd that there’s a small country in the Baltic region that was snubbed. Like, what did that small country do for the European Union to go Mean Girls and give it the YOU CAN’T SIT WITH US treatment, right? Well, it’s not even a nation-state to begin with. It’s called Kaliningrad, a Russian oblast which was once the capital of an empire called Prussia. Prussia? Russia? Königsberg? A lot of names to digest in one sitting. Let’s clear that up.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

[MOSCOW] Budget and Itinerary

SATURDAY: 1 July 2017
Invitation Letter/Tourist Voucher (iVisa Online) - 3,000.00
Visa (Russian Embassy) - 8,500.00
Air Manas (Bishkek - Moscow Domodedovo) - 7,800.00
Airbnb (2 Nights) - 2,500.00
Burger King (Baconizer w/Fries & Coke) - 699.00
Marshrutka 308 (Domodedovo - Domodedovskaya) - 120.00
Metro Green (Domodedovskaya - Teatralnaya) - 55.00
Registration (within 24 Hours) - 600.00
Convenience Store (Mineral Water x2) - 100.00

[MOSCOW] The Other Kremlin

I had several options for the second day and the most popular one was returning to St. Basil’s and sitting on one of the benches behind it. People watching. All day. Not a bad thing to do because it somehow gives me a semblance of tranquility. Don’t ask me how. But that didn’t happen in the end. In fact, I never went back to the Red Square anymore. I looked for alternatives on Wikitravel and one itinerary seemed interesting. Apparently, there’s another Kremlin no one talks about that much. It’s called Izmailovo.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

[MOSCOW] Touchdown Russia

Russia almost never happened. If you read my blog entry about the visa application snafu at the Russian Embassy then you would know why. But you know, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get it your way. If it doesn’t happen, then maybe it’s just not meant to happen. But the circumstances leading to the visa grant seemed to defy all odds and now that I’m finally here in Moscow, I’m glad that it did. That doesn’t mean that it’s the end of your Russian bureaucratic nightmare, though.

[VISA] Russia (Single Entry)

There are two venues for Russian visa applications in Manila. The first one is at the embassy itself inside Dasmariñas Village. Rumor has it that you can apply there ONLY by invitation, and there are a lot of anecdotes on how strict that village is granting entry to outsiders. For us ordinary mortals, we have to go to their office at Rada near Greenbelt. Applications can be lodged MWF from 10 AM to 12 PM. You don’t need to schedule an appointment. Just walk in with your requirements.

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