Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Tuyok: A Solo Around-the-World Journey

by Regin Reyno 

On December 16, 2019, at around 6:30 am, my plane landed at Manila International Airport. I’ve experienced many landings before, but this one felt special. This landing told me I’ve completely circumnavigated the globe. 

My ultimate travel dream come true.

Manila, Philippines
I departed Manila International Airport on November 8, 2019 via Cebu Pacific’s Airbus A330; my biggest Cebu Pacific airlines, ever. I was starting Tuyok: My solo around-the-world journey.

My request for an aisle seat at the emergency exit row has been granted, so I had a very comfortable Cebu Pacific flight going to my first destination; Hong Kong. 

Hong Kong, as an international city, was chosen for the first leg of my journey. I’ve been here many times, so I just opted to relax in this city and do some last minute shopping for my journey. 

I visited Victoria Harbour, on a Sunday morning, just before the sun rose. It was just me, a couple of joggers passing by, and a fisherman. It was peaceful. Then the sun rose and the place became magical.

The next stop was Beijing, China. After a 4-hour flight via Hong Kong Airlines, I’ve landed on my second home. I always feel at home in this country after working here for 5 years. Thanks to its 72-hour free transit visa, I was able to go out of the airport, relaxed at a 4-star hotel, enjoyed a Northern Chinese breakfast, then arranged my finances for the trip, as my ATM bank card is from China. (I only use ATM cards for my travels. I don’t have, and don’t want to have a credit card).

At Beijing Capital Airport, while waiting for my flight, I was stretching, ingesting lots of water, and doing some breathing exercises as It will be a 17-hour journey in total, to reach my next destination, Mexico City. Just the thought of it made me tired, already, but at the same time, excited.

The 11-hour flight to Tijuana, Mexico-our first layover-was tiring. It was long, my seat was not very spacious, and we were crossing multiple time zones. Good thing, Hainan Airlines provided us with in-flight entertainment and meals. That kind of soften the blow, but then, it also robbed me of my sleep time. The movies were so tempting, that I had just a few hours of sleep.

Arriving at Tijuana, a lot of questions were asked by the immigration officer. I was put on hold a bit, then was asked to go to their office for more questions; kind of like interrogation. I was asked to show some documents, too. This was my first difficulty with bureaucrats on this journey. 

A quick pit stop at Tijuana airport, then I was off again, bound for my final destination for this leg; Mexico City. 

The view from the plane was beautiful. The sun was setting, and the mountains, desert, and coastline of Mexico looked stunning.

From Mexico City’s Benito Juarez International Airport, I took the official airport taxi to my hotel; Hotel Lepanto. The receptionist was so kind, and the bell boy assisted me to my room and gave instructions, all in Spanish. I just understood, comida. Maybe I was too hungry. I was dead tired this time. I was traveling for 17 hours plus transfers. After soaking in the bathtub and taking a melatonin supplement, I just collapsed on the bed.

One of my favorite travel quotes says, 

“To awaken alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.”-Freya Stark

I find this to be very true. Waking up that morning in my hotel room in Mexico City was one of the best and most memorable feelings I had on this journey. The excitement of exploring a new city and country, the fulfillment of making it this far, all contributed to my euphoria that morning.

The famous and historical Plaza del Zocalo was visited. A grand-almost intimidating-square in the city’s Downtown zone. This place was featured in the Bond movie, Spectre.

From Mexico City, I flew to Cancun then took a bus ride to Piste where my hotel was: Hotel Chichen Itza; A very nice, charming, hotel owned by Mayaland located near Chichen Itza archaeological site. 

The focus of this journey is to visit the New 7 Wonders of the World that I haven’t visited yet. I’ve been to the Great Wall of China, Taj Mahal, and The Colosseum in Rome. So, that leaves me with Chichen Itza, Machu Picchu, Christ the Redeemer, and Petra. (also Pyramids of Giza. The Pyramids of Giza is the only surviving original 7 Wonders of the World, now called 7 Wonders of the Ancient World, and is an honorary member of the New 7 Wonders of the World).

This hotel is my best, on this journey. It is surrounded by nature and with a nice pool to relax after a day’s travel. 

Chichen Itza archeological site opens at 8:00 am, but I got to explore it starting at 5:00 am. It was a private sunrise tour. It felt awesome as Chichen Itza is one of the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico. But in my case, it was just a total of 20 people during my visit.

Chichen Itza
It was a dream come true to be able to see and walk around the once mighty empire in the Americas. I remember, in 2013, I was always watching documentaries about the New 7 Wonders of the World; and Chichen Itza was one the wonders that fascinated me the most. 

From Piste I took a taxi to Cancun International Airport. That’s a distance of 200 kilometers; a 3-hour drive, crossing a time zone. My driver, Miguel was so nice and kind. Seriously, the locals here in Yucatan peninsula of Mexico are very nice and friendly.

My plane landed at Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima, Peru marking my 4th visited continent. 

Peruvian breakfast was enjoyed the next day. Their sandwiches are really good. It was also in this city where I experienced my first scam. It was a taxi scam by someone who pretended to be a hotel staff. And I think it’s part of the journey. Sometimes this not-so-desirable things happen, but we can learn from it and make us a better traveler.

The flight from Lima to Cusco was enjoyable. It was short and the plane didn’t experience much turbulence. From the plane, I saw the city of Cusco: the once center of the mighty Inca empire. Beautiful traditional houses dotted the charming mountainous city. As our plane was about to land, I thought its wings almost touched a mountain. We were that close. Cusco is situated 3,399 meters above sea level. I give a shoutout to LATAM airlines for an enjoyable and efficient flight to Cusco. 

I was blown by the beauty of Cusco; especially the downtown area with Plaza de Armas as its centerpiece. This is definitely, one of the most beautiful cities I’ve visited. The elevation made it a bit difficult to breathe after some physical exertion, but I didn’t experience altitude sickness, at all. I guess the coca tea, freely offered by most hotels in Cusco, helped. Worth mentioning is my hotel in Cusco. Hotel and Mirador Los Apus; a very clean and comfortable, Swiss-owned hotel that is one of the reasons I enjoyed my stay in Cusco.

The train to Machu Picchu town from Ollantaytambo, part of the sacred valley, is definitely part of the attraction of Machu Picchu. Its scenery along the way is spectacular; beautiful mountains, water falls, valleys, and local life. And the train itself-though no match for the speed and efficiency of trains in China and Europe-is the most charming I’ve experienced. 

train ride to Aguas Callientes (Machu Picchu town)
My 5th Wonder of the World; Machu Picchu is surely, the highlight of this journey. I felt really fulfilled and awed when I reached the once considered lost city of the Inca empire. 

It is the most magical place I’ve visited in my travels, and one of the most beautiful. It is so fascinating. 

Machu Picchu
From Cusco, Peru, I took LATAM airlines headed for Rio de Janeiro in Brazil; targeting what is supposed to be my 6th Wonder of the World. We headed first to Santiago, Chile. We flew above the Andes Mountains during daytime, and I chose a window seat. I just experienced my most scenic plane ride. The Andes was showcasing its beauty. With clear skies, I can even see far mountain peaks covered in snow. 

Rio de Janeiro was the first disaster of this journey. With China’s Union Pay as my ATM debit card,  it didn’t work in Brazil for some reason-despite the internet saying it will work there. The cash I had was just enough for my airport transfer and meals. A booking mistake in the past allowed me only 1 night and 1 day in Brazil, so wiring money from friends and family wasn’t even possible. I felt devastated. I’m dying to visit Christ the Redeemer, and here I was, already in Rio de Janeiro, but can’t go far from my hotel. Disastrous as it was, I didn’t cry over spilled milk, but took as a travel lesson. A lesson learned the hard way, nevertheless. 

I just spent my day going to the gym-catching up with my fitness routine-and doing some laps in my hotel, Linx Galeao’s infinity pool; surrounded by Brazilian vegetation. 

When I was going for lunch at the hotel’s restaurant, the Brazilian National Football team, Selecao under 15 was there to have lunch, as welll. I was able to meet them and even talk to one of their coaches. 

Upon boarding my plane-bound for Lisbon, Portugal en route to Casablanca, Morocco-at Rio de Janeiro-Galeao International Airport, I was stopped by the airline ground staff at the boarding gate and asked me some questions. He checked a lot of things on his computer while I waited. Everyone was already on the plane except for me, and it was almost departure time. Then after "10 years", I was allowed to enter the plane. That was quite a scare. 

The flight to Lisbon, Portugal was my best flight. TAP Portugal did a great job in making sure we had a comfortable and enjoyable 9.5-hour flight. 

From Lisbon to Casablanca, the plane was so small, that my viewing of Portugal’s coastal view from my window seat was frequently rocked by turbulence. So much so that the tray almost flew from the pretty Portuguese flight attendant’s hands. 

My plane landed on Casablanca, Morocco, making my first step on African soil. A 30-minute taxi ride to my hotel was followed a long hibernation due to lack of sleep on my plane rides from Rio de Janeiro; blame it to the plane’s in-flight entertainment.  

I took a train from Casablanca to a more interesting city, Marrakech. The train snaked through the Moroccan desert. A first class compartment is where I was, together with 3 French-speaking travelers. It was a wonderful, comfortable ride with awesome views. Making me feel like 007 on his train ride to Tangier, Morocco in the movie, Spectre.

Marrakech; This Northern African city is full of wonders and culture. An islamic country surrounded by deserts, Morocco is so different from where I come from which made my travel here fascinating, educational, and mind-boggling. My day starts with a relaxation and chill at coffee shops, sipping either nous nous or some delicious Moroccan mint tea.

I noticed that in coffee shops in Morocco, customers are mostly men. I did some research, and found out its because of their culture and some influence of religion. 

I was able to visit the gateway to the Sahara desert, Ouarzazate, where most of its inhabitants are Berbers, an ethnic group in Northern Africa. 

A visit to Ait Ben Haddou: a fortified village made of clay, felt really fulfiling and educational. Our intelligent guide, Mohammad, informed us so well about this historical village built in the 12th century. His stories and explanations sparked my imagination on how people lived their lives in the desert long time ago, and was amazed by their adaptation to their enviroment. This kasabah (sandy castle) is the filming location of many movies, such as James Bond: Living Daylights and Brad Pitt's, Babel, among others. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Ait Ben Haddou 
Marrakech’s medina is bustling. With its smells and sounds, overwhelming the senses; the highlight being Djemaa el Fna Square. In the evening, it is flocked with merchants, traders, snake charmers, and scammers. I imagine how it was back in the day when people all over Northern Africa would come to this place bringing their goods for trade. 

From Marrakech, I took Greece’s flag carrier, Aegean Airlines, and crossed the Sahara dessert all the way to the Mediterranean Sea (I’ve never seen the waters so blue) for a pit stop in Athens, Greece. Then, finally landed where Jesus walked 2,000 years ago.

It was a childhood dream come true: to be where Jesus, my Lord and Saviour, did His earthly ministry. The wall of the temple of Herod, the road where He trod, the people that He dealt with, and the tomb where He was laid (The Garden Tomb)-having seen and experienced these things, I was overwhelmed with gratefulness and joy. 

When I was meditating, contemplating, and reflecting at His tomb; somewhere in the garden, a group of Protestant Christians started worshipping and singing, Because He Lives by Bill Gaither. That triggered some tears to flow down my cheeks. The realization of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for us and His victory over death, which gave us this blessed hope-was felt my every part of my system. It was a wonderful experience. 

The Garden Tomb
From Jerusalem, I took a public transportation to Ramallah, Palestine then onwards to the city of Nablus; the biggest city in Palestine. 

My friend, who is a local of that place let me stayed in their beautiful house, showed me around, and we tried different Palestinian cuisines. I experienced the kindness, hospitality, warmth of the Palestinian people. In all my travels,  I can say that the Palestines are one of the kindest, nicest people I’ve met. I’m glad I visited this wonderful place despite the fear that is being injected to people by the media regarding Palestine. 

After some time in The Americas, Northern Africa, and the Middle East, I landed in Southeast Asia. I felt at home. 

Bangkok, Thailand welcomed me with her smiles, inexpensive but wonderful accommodations, comfortable December climate, massages, and spicy goodness. I loved it. I felt I was having a vacation from my vacation. 

I road trip to Chonburi province with my cousins enabled me to relax on the white-sand beach along the Gulf of Thailand, surrounded by lush vegetations and monkeys. I’d like to thank my cousins in Thailand for taking me on a weekend getaway. 

Singapore was a big surprise. It was my first time there. Before coming to Singapore, I didn’t expect much, to be honest. Having been to many Asian mega cities, I thought it’s going to be another Hong Kong, Beijing, or Bangkok. But, I was wrong. Singapore gave me a wonderful first impression. Singapore is beautiful, organized, and very clean. And what impressed me the most, is how green it is. It is surrounded by trees and vegetations everywhere.

I was very impressed by Singapore’s Botanic Garden; a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I think it’s the most impressive garden I’ve been to. Its tropical rainforest and orchid section were my favorite spots. 

As I was nearing my finished point, I was overwhelmed by the fact that I was about to completely circumnavigate the globe; a task first accomplished by Ferdinand Magellan, or more correctly, Enrique or Juan Sebastian Elcano in 1522.

After a few days in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia; a thriving city surrounded by rainforest in Borneo, I was on my way to the airport via Grab after a Shiatsu massage at the city center. It would be my final of the total 18 flights on this journey. 

Nasi Lemak at Sutera Harbour Resort
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
When my plane landed, I clenched my fist doing a Rafa Nadal-esque vamos and whispered a prayer of thanks. Tuyok is done. 

My Tuyok
In 1 month and 9 days, I have flown 52,187 kilometers (32,819 miles) and was able to circumnavigate the globe. A feat I thought can only happen in my dreams. 

Praise the God for this travel opportunity.

Merry Christmas!


  1. Replies
    1. Grazie ragazzi! Grande tutti! Bella strategia! Forza!

  2. This was wonderful, Regin! I am so happy that you finally did what you have been wanting to do for so long and couldn't wait for you tell us yourself about the other stories in between.