2016 In A Nutshell

Happy New Year 2017!!!

Time does fly in a blink of an eye, don't you think? It feels like just yesterday I was writing the entry 2015 In A Nutshell and now I'm doing another recap for the year of 2016. Phew! It's no surprise that one day I wake up as a 100 years old granny who walks slowly dragging her suitcase to board a plane for another adventure. LOL! Okay, that would be too much to imagine :p

2016 is definitely a better year as my phobias started to fade away. I also learnt to love and to appreciate my body more. I'm getting good in ignoring other people's nonsense about what is the perfect body image. I started to believe that I don't need to be as skinny as a stick to be beautiful. Though as an extreme introvert, it does take lots of effort to brave myself to come out from my comfy cocoon and to meet new people. A bit awkward in the beginning but I know I'll be just fine.

January - Bali

Jatiluwih rice terrace
Dad missed his hometown and all those sinfully delicious Balinese food. So we did the road trip from Malang to Bali just how we used to do when I was little. Though I lived in Bali for almost 10 years before, I'm ashamed to admit that I've never been to Jatiluwih rice terrace. So glad I finally did! Yep, I tend to be lazy to explore the city I lived in because I always think, "Oh well, it's not far from home. I'll visit it next time." Have you ever had the same thought?

February - Bali

maid of honor on duty
Flied again to Bali to be the maid of honor on my best friend's wedding. Me and Luzi has been besties since kindergarten and we grew up together sharing our ups and downs. I guess not everyone is lucky to have a best friend for more than 30 years, right? I can't express how happy I am to see her walk down the aisle with the love of her life. I got too emotional and was too busy shedding my tears that I forgot to take her hand bouquet before the vow, lol! Sorry, Luz :p

March - Semarang, Magelang, Yogyakarta

nasi ayam Bu Pini in Semarang

sunrise at Borobudur temple, Magelang

pre-wedding photo shoot at Taman Sari, Yogyakarta
Joined a 3 days food tour around Semarang with my sister. Then we decide to extend our trip to nearby city like Magelang to experience sunrise at Borobudur temple and also spent some days in Yogyakarta for further culinary adventure. And since my sister has never had a train ride in Indonesia, we chose a slower journey back to Malang by train.

May - Singapore, Hong Kong

I kissed a stingray. Marine Life Park Sentosa

Nan Lian Garden, Kowloon

BBQ galore!
It's time of the year again for my parent's annual health check up in Singapore. I caught the worst stomach infection so I couldn't really do anything in Singapore but managed to visit the Marine Life Park Sentosa on the last day. Flied to Hong Kong for a week because I have had some dreams about my second hometown's comfort food, almost every night in my sleep. Yeah, I am that shallow. I would travel all the way to some destinations just because I crave thelocal food :p

July - Makassar, Lombok, Banyuwangi, Bandung

sunset in Losari beach, Makassar

Sade traditional weaving village in Lombok

the Blue Fire in mount Ijen, Banyuwangi

my #TripOfWonders family at Kawah Putih, Bandung
Invited to join the #TripofWonders #WonderfulIndonesia trip by the Tourism Ministry of Indonesia with a group of social media influencers from Malaysia, Singapore, Philippine, Thailand and Brunei Darussalam. In a span of 11 days, we travel in a busy schedule through Jakarta, Makassar, Lombok, Banyuwangi and Bandung. Nevertheless it was super fun trip with 30 new awesome friends. I'm so grateful for the opportunity because finally I could catch a glimpse of the Blue Fire in mount Ijen and also visiting Makassar for the first time and the famous Losari beach.

August - Semarang, Magelang, Yogyakarta

Kenzo, my guardian angel

Blenduk church, Semarang

Umbul Sidomukti, Semarang

Borobudur Temple, Magelang

I was in my lowest point in the year because I lost Kenzo, one of my furry friends who I had the strongest connection with. I raised and took care of Kenzo since he was born thus he had been attached to me since puppy. He was very loyal to me and would followed me everywhere I go, including to the loo. Every night when I sleep, he would sleep under my bed and woke me up with his cheery face every morning. He lost his battle to some mysterious illness which lead to hypothermia. His sudden death shook my life. I was so devastated that I lost my guardian angel at a very young age. I was so depressed that I refused to do anything for weeks. I just wanted to curl in my bed and crying days and nights. So grateful to have you all as my friend who sent me some comforting words through my social media account. I really can't thank you enough.

I tried to pull myself together and organised a 'fix the broken heart' trip with my family who were also as sad as I was. I chose the road trip route Malang-Semarang-Magelang-Yogyakarta-Malang simply because I really enjoyed my previous journey.

September- Welcoming baby Zorro

Meet Zorro, my new adopted puppy.
I was actually not sure if I was ready for a new family member. Losing Kenzo definitely left a deep wound in my heart and still hurts so much. But this little fella needs a new loving home, so we took him in. Welcome to the Leksonos! 

October - Singapore, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania & Poland

make friend with a friendly seagull in Taallinn

Riga, Latvia

Trakai island castle, Lithuania

the Old Town of Krakow at night

I decided to have an early birthday trip in October though my birthday was still a month away. It was another 'last minute holiday' and I had only less than a month to organise everything. We were lucky to be able to apply the schengen visa through VIP service. It was granted within 5 days only. Otherwise we would missed our flight and ruined the whole itinerary, lol. My main reason of this journey was to visit the Hill of Crosses in Lithuania. Some places about which I had zero expectations and ended up loving were the Balkan countries. Each of them has its own charm and beauty that I left home with a heavy heart :'(

So that's basically the highlights of my 2016. It was also my second year spending my Christmas holiday at home. I kinda love it now spending some quality time with family, friends and my dogs instead of travelling abroad.

Farewell 2016, you made me cry and you made me laugh. It's time to move forward but I'll remember you. Aaaand hellow hellow 2017! Let's be friend & let's rock and roll together! Cheers to the new awesome year. May everyday of the new year glow with good cheer and happiness for you. xoxo


Lithuania: The Hill Of Crosses - Symbol Of Hope, Peace, Love And Sacrifice

October 2016

the Hill of Crosses in Siauliai (show-ley)

"So here, Hill Cross." Alex, our driver pointed the entrance gate with a thick Lithuanian accent as he turned off the car engine.

"How much time do I have here?" After travelled more than 150 km from Riga - Latvia to Siauliai - Lithuania via Rundale, we still have another 200 km to drive before reaching Vilnius. I was concerned about the time in order to arrived on time for a dining reservation.

"No worry! Take your time. I wait here." Alex gave me a big grin on his face.

"Ačiū (thanks), Alex! See you in a bit." Relieved that I would have an ample time to spend, I leaped out the mini coach before my Dad, Mom and sister. My heart was pounding with excitement. I wanted to visit the Hill of Crosses for a very long time after saw some pictures of it on internet.

the Hill of Crosses from afar

getting closer

finally, the Hill of Crosses and the cross from Pope John Paul II

As I walked closer and the detail of the crosses became clearer, I got goosebumps all over my body. Not because the temperature has dropped to only 2 degree Celsius but I was overwhelmed for being there at last. I reached the first cross which was given by Pope John Paul II and I looked around in awe. There's tons of crosses wherever I turn my head to. It was quiet because there's only a few people around. Thus the ambiance was rather eerie but not in a scary way. It just felt like stepping into a very foreign land with bizarre yet serene aura. I felt so moved that it brought a lump to my throat. I fixed some small crosses for my loved ones into the wet soil under the big statue of Jesus. As soon as I kneel down to pray, I was already sobbing uncontrollably. It felt like I could finally release all the burden that I've kept for myself. I was too exhausted carving a smile in front of people, pretending everything was alright when it was not.

These couple months had been really tough for me. Families and friends who are connected on Facebook or Path may have noticed that recently I posted some super sentimental status. I lost my bestest friend - Kenzo, one of my dogs who I had the strongest bond with in August. His sudden death and the thought that he was suffering during his last days really kills me. I was deeply saddened and fell into depression because I keep blaming myself. It was so bad that I could literally feel my heart shattered inside which hurts like hell. Never felt this way even when I broke up with my boyfriend(s). I thought I was going to lose my mind for crying too much and began self-destruct. Gosh! I can't even control my tears while typing it now. Perhaps it's better not talk about it any further, ya. I don't want to turn this post into a sentimental post and might ruin your mood today :)

an artsy and colourful cross

a beautiful rosary

It's hard to describe the feeling of being surrounded by thousands crosses and rosaries in any size, model, colour and variety I've ever imagined. It was mind blowing indeed! I was told that there's even a cross made from Lego bricks but I couldn't find it when I was there. I think it's quite impossible to find out the exact number of those crosses. Some says around hundred thousands and some says it up to millions. Apart from the information I read on internet, I also enjoyed to hear the story from some locals about this place. There's two versions of how it started in the first place.

According to the history, the first cross founded on the hill was back in 1800's. It was a symbol of Lithuanian defiances of foreign invaders. Apparently religion was forbidden back then, when Russians occupied Lithuania during the soviet period. As families couldn't locate bodies of perished rebels, they started putting up symbolic crosses on the hill. The number of crosses had been increased and by the World War II there were more than 400 crosses on the hill. Sadly the Hill of Crossed had gone through some destruction by the Russian in 1961, 1973 and 1975. To stop people expressing their religion and nationalism, the hill was levelled and the crosses were burned. But it doesn't stop people to come and put their crosses here. Specially after the visit of Pope John Paul II in September 1993. The Hill of Crosses become very well known and every year it is visited by thousands of people all over the world. Pope John Paul II declared the hill as a place for hope, peace, love and sacrifice.

a walk through a forest of crosses

one of the prayers from Poland

Another version is, once upon a time there was a farmer who has a very ill daughter. He tried any methods and medicines to cure his daughter but her condition was getting worse each day. He was deeply saddened and felt hopeless. One night in his dream, he met a woman dressed in white. She told him to build a big wooden cross and place it on a hill across the country. The cross would be a sign of faith and love to God; and her daughter would be healed. With a slight of hope, he started building the cross and brought it all the way to Siaulai. He erect the cross on the hill and prayed for her daughter. Long story short he returned home and found her daughter was awake and had completely cured from her illness. The miracle story then spread throughout the country and people started to come to the hill and to put their crosses, praying for the cure of their loved ones.

memorial list of Lithuanians who died in Stutthoff concentration camp

...whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours...

statue of Virgin Mary carrying baby Jesus

some crosses and a rosary for my loved ones

Lithuania is the most Catholic of all the Baltic states and nowadays around 85% of the population are Roman Catholic. Thus this hill is considered a sacred place for the locals. To them a cross is a symbol of love. They believe that in our Saviour's sacrifice, love finds response in one's heart and hopes become stronger.

Before visiting the Hill of Crosses, visitors can purchase a simple wooden cross in one of the souvenir stalls next to the information office. Crosses are available in various size with the price started from 1 Euro.

Though I'm a catholic, I can easily say that I'm not really religious. Only God knows when was the last time I attended a Sunday mass at church. But it doesn't mean that I never pray, specially for my loved ones. I did brought a rosary from Indonesia but I also bought more crosses for praying
for my family, my friends and my dogs. Call me weird but I'm a kind of person who always pray for my furry friends. After all, my pets are my family too :)

some locals prayed together

the Hill of Crosses from the other end

Apart from the religion thingy, it's interesting to learn about the story behind the place. Also my mind was overwhelmed with the thought that each crosses symbolise a hope for someone out there, for many different reasons of what their wishes or prayers for. And there are millions of them in many languages from all over the world. It was almost dark when I walked slowly towards the parking lot. Half way through, I turned around and gave the last glance to the crosses from afar and whispered "May all their wishes come true."

The Hill of Crosses can be visited at anytime of a day, all year round. However, visitors are forbidden to light candles or to smoke in order to avoid a fire hazard. 


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