Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Afterthought after a travel

Travel is a love and hate affair for me. Love the freedom, escape and experience of new things; and hate the planning, booking, waking up early, race against time, return to “reality” at the end and the time consuming task of “documenting” the diary and photographs.

When I am on a travel, suddenly there is no more email to check every morning, no more phone request to do this and that, and lesser of daily routines and responsibilities, which is superb. It’s like I am reborn, and no one knows me, thus there is no baggage of life, only new things to explore. There is a tendency to be more observant and adventurous while traveling, where we like to observe people and their culture, and go to places where the local don’t even bother to visit, and find fun in every little stupid thing. The most amazing thing about travelling is the afterthought, how it changes our mind and priorities in mind. I suddenly realize what is important and what’s not, what could be live without, and what could be potentially a better way of life, or perhaps what I really desire as my way of life. Travel memory (and photograph) is great, but the effect of the experience and afterthoughts are amazing.

With the abundance of tool like TripAdvisor, Google Maps and some guide books, it’s still not an easy task to find and explore the places which interest us. Florence or the hill town of Siena? Is there something closer to nature with hiking options? Seems like an easy question which is awfully hard to get the answer without hours or days of Googling and reading. If I enjoy museums and churches, then it would be much easier in Europe. Then there are the logistic stuff, like in what sequence should I visit this places, how to get there (train, bus or fly? Which departures with less transits?), which are not too hard to find out (especially for Europe), but still take some time to do research and book the right tickets. Booking of accommodations is quite a pleasant affair in Europe, thanks to Booking.com and HostelWorld.com (sadly Airbnb didn't work that well for us). Moving around is great with Google Offline Maps, sadly Search and Directions didn’t work offline.

There is an uneasy feeling when nearing the end of the trip, where I have to leave the wonderland and return to reality. I do get tired and could enjoy a good rest back at home, but it’s the uneasy feeling like I have back in the schooldays on Sunday, where Monday is so close. When I am working, Sunday and Monday seems like a normal day (though Friday and Saturday is still great), which probably means I love what I am working on. Life could not be perfect in the sense of doing only the things we love (or it could be?), so there shall be customer supports, some freelance requests which I turn down mostly but still accept some (there is money, but not that much satisfaction), and some stupid things we just get involves without gaining any satisfaction out of it. When holiday is over, there is no more time to blog about the travel or organize those photographs, and working is piling up, which is not a good feeling.

The feeling I dislike most is the distinction of wonderland and reality, and why reality is such a drag and why can’t we turn reality into wonderland? Travel is a temporary escape and disconnection from the stressful life, so it’s not a solution to a happier life. I would like to figure out a way which brings life into travelling, where there isn't quite a need to go on holiday, as life itself is a travelling experience. The idea of hacking on an Island seems to be intriguing in a certain sense, but not as an escape, but a new way of life, where work, life and travel come together in happily ever after. That’s why I love programming, it’s one of the best jobs in the sense I can do it from anyway around the world (besides the ability to build and create).

Next plan: turn travel into life, or the other way around.

Day 5: Cycling out of Den Bosch again (Engelen, Bokhoven, Heusden, Well, Hedel)

Cycling using Google Maps (Offline) is pretty much an enjoyable experience, especially in Netherlands. From my last experience, the route is usually more scenic if we follow the river or canal, which is very true; but at times, it is also very windy.

I was planning to cycle Northeast out of Den Bosch towards Maren, but somehow I ended up Northwest at Engelen after passing through some light industrial area. Engelen is a very scenic town: quiet, rows of trees along the road, with water canal, vast green grassland, a gold course, and some scenic small road with wild flowers and ducks (they are everywhere as long as there are water). I cycle to the nearby Engelermeer lake, which is extremely windy. I someone enter through the wrong entrance and ended up in the woods with deadend, and move on towards Bokhoven.

Bokhoven has plenty of nice grassland, and soon I saw my first herd of white sheep up close. There are big and little sheeps, and the little one have strong little legs. An old lady came by to feed the sheeps with bread, and I get to photograph them up close. It's very windy around this area, and I found a park protected from the wind to have my lunch: sandwich (self-made), strawberry and grapes, perfected with nice weather and good environment.

The next part of the journey is the most difficult one, from Bokhaven to Hesuden, with extremely strong wind blowing towards me, making cycling forward almost impossible. I have to push my bicycle half of the way, and realize no bicycle cycle the same direction as I am (am I the only idiot here?). It had a vast grassland here, with plenty of wild flowers and sheeps, along a water canal. Sadly the strong wind make the view less enjoyable. There are some "professional" cyclists with full gear just zoom past me without much problem, thus I try to cycle slowly again with lower gear.

Finally I reach a ferry point which could ferry me across the canal, which is very frequent (every 10 minutes) and seems free. I saw an inland island surrounded by water canal on the map not far from here, so I decided to check it out before I board the ferry. Soon I reach Heusden, which seems like a  pretty small touristy town, with a few windmill of its own (you don't have to go all the way to Kinderdijk to see windmill). The tourist office have a nice replica model of the town, and it's a pleasant walk around. I bump into a group of old tourists on wheelchair on a day visit of the town (unlike Asians, old people in European still like to travel around). After grabbing a bite at the local bakery, it's time to find my way home.

I went back to the ferry point, cross it while having a chat with another local man on bicycle (he loves his great cycling country). Now I am going at the same direction as the wind, which means wind-powered bicycle along the way, wheeee! Soon I came across what seems to be an inland beach called Strandbad Well, which looks like lake connected to a river, with a sandy beach. Interesting place.

I continue my journey into well, which is a really small town by the farm, and connected to the Hedel town. It's getting late, so I continue to push through towards Den Bosch. It's still pretty windy at certain sections, making cycling difficult at times; most local cyclist doesn't seems to have a problem with this.

At night, I wait for Mei Ru to came back from work and ferry her to the nearby park and the "no man land" at the south of the city. It's still quite challenging to ferry someone in the city while trying to figure out the direction, but we make it alright.

I would say cycling is perhaps one of the most enjoyable activity in Netherlands, especially adventuring into a town which you know nothing about, and hopeful of a more scenic route along the way. Every tourist to Netherland should cycle out of the city (it's safe and easy, with a map), else you never quite experience the country before.

Day 4: Den Bosch Market Day

Wednesday is one of the more interesting day in Den Bosch, where it's the market day from 8am to 5pm (Saturday's Market Day is slightly bigger with more stalls) at Markt. Some stalls bring in metal or wood frames to setup their stalls, while others just stroll in their moveable stall (like a container at the back of a trailer) without much hassle. Half of the stalls sell clothing related items, while others sell cheese, fruit and vegetable, flower, etc. My personal favorite is a stall selling Turkish Pizza, and pick up some fruits (Strawberry for EURO 2-6 per small box, and some decent grapes goes for EURO 2.50 per kilo). I pickup a small pot of flower for EURO 1, which I think is a good bargain.

Den Bosch is a small town, very walkable, nice buildings, and enough restaurants to go around; but nothing much to explore after one day, except to cycle out of town. I walk a little further to a nearby park (???), where there is a big lake with plenty of ducks and some goose. Surprising there is a fenced up little zoo with sheep and some animal in it. It's a nice park, where I spent some time doing some writings on the bench. Another interesting place in Den Bosch is the "No Man Land" (a big piece of land with "nothing"), at the South of the town.

The cheapest food in Den Bosch is probably McDonald and Doner Kebab (EURO 4), and some other fast food stall which are closed at night (except those Kiosks at the train station). Ice-cream seems to be a local favorite even though it's cold, and Bagels and Beans have a decent breakfast set for EURO 5.75 (Bagel with sour cream, Coffee and Orange Juice). There is an Michelin restaurant (???) as well. The cheapest dinner at restaurants start from EURO 12.50, and a 3-course meals start from EURO 21.50. Personally, I don't find the dinner at restaurants satisfying (I mean most restaurant in Europe), perhaps most of the cost went into wages rather than the food; though I haven't try any more expensive food yet (above EURO 30 for main course). Doner, Turkish Pizza, Sausage with Bread seems to be a better value for money.

As a traveler or tourist, Den Bosch is not very interesting. But I like the size of the town (walkable without the need to rely on bus, trem or subway) where it's walkable without hurting my legs, and the environment is pleasant and the buildings are nice. It's probably a decent place to escape the business of big city, or perhaps a good place for retirement. The quality of life is very good here, only if there are some mountains and forest around for hiking, but biking around is pretty good as well.