Friday, April 4, 2014

Bonjour, Brussels

Brussels is my first international travel, which is the reason I messed up so bad. I mean, I did travel from Indonesia to Netherland but that was funded and planned by dependable people who know what they are doing. I was like, ok let's try doing it this way or that way, and if it didn't work out, screw it. 

If you are travelling in Europe and you made your planning well, you can do it really cheaply actually. Now, by no means I am an expert in travelling whatsoever, but I did my fair share of searching and people can learn from my failure. There is this thing called Eurail pass, which let you travel by train through countries you are interested in for a selected time period, but it is mostly aimed at traveller residing outside of Europe. There are also Eurolines, which is travelling by bus and can get as cheap as 9, but you have to order it 15 days in advance. 

I did not use the two options I mentioned above, because 1) I decided to go only a week before, and 2) I was too lazy to read everything and man those passes do have a lot of requirements. It is not actual travelling anyway, there is this religious event I had to attend in Belgie. So I decided to use the regular train. You can order the ticket online, buy it at the counter or at the ticket machine. It is way cheaper to buy it at the machine than the counter though, especially if you have OV-chipkaart. Me, I don't have personal OV-chipkaart yet at the time so I decided to just buy it online. It cost me 23 for a one-way trip. Meh. 

I departed from Utrecht Centraal station and arrived at Brussels-South railway station in ... 3 hours? It was quite fast, and roomy. There are so few people on the train, unlike Indonesian trains. But Indonesian trains have electrical plugs you can use for free so I guess 1-1. 

Now, Brussels. Where do I start? The station I arrived at, Brussels-South, is the biggest railway station in Belgium and primarily handles international traffic. In Dutch, its called Brussel-Zuid, but in French its called Bruxelles-Midi. Why does everything in France sound prettier? Anyway, people only speak Dutch at the parts of Belgium neighboring Netherlands and by the time I arrived in Brussels everyone is already speaking French, not that it made any difference. I liked how exotic my surrounding sounded, but it was difficult because I suck at pronouncing French words and I ended up bringing notebook everywhere since I didn't want to get lost for pronouncing a place's name wrong.

I planned to rent a room in a youth hostel I searched on the internet, it was supposed to be much cheaper that way, but my boots were killing me and I was to tired to figure out how to get there, so I just rent a room in a hotel near the station instead. Don't ask me the price. But the room was nice and I need a good place to finish my assignments though so yay. 

That was the fish and chips I bought for dinner, and the portion was so big it lasted until breakfast. I got like a tray of it for €5. I flirted with the guy selling it (what even) and the owner of the hotel said next time I went to Belgium with a guy she will give me a nice room with private shower so I can 'have fun'. Ha ha. The chocolate there are really expensive, or maybe because I checked out the wrong place.  But the bakery was exceptionally excellent. Even croissants I bought at convenient store tasted like heaven. 

And yes, I brought my assignments. Mind you it was not holidays - I had loads of assignment and if it was not for this event I won't even consider going outside of my bedroom. 

The next day, I departed from Bruxelles-Midi to Cambron Casteau. I had to change train halfway and almost got on the wrong train, but fortunately I met a nice lady (who weirdly enough can speak English since I was at the middle-of-nowhere part of Belgium) who let me know about it. The train ride was probably the most beautiful I've ever experienced in my life - from Utrecht to Brussels it was mostly urban areas, but from Brussels to Cambron it was beautiful farm and meadow and hills and ... gosh, it was so pretty.

Cambron Casteau is a station in the province of Brugellete. I was going to Pairi Daiza, a big botanical garden located in Brugellete, for that event I was talking about. From Cambron Casteau I can just walk to the garden. I was wearing my traditional outfit for the day and people were looking at me like I was lost, but I was too happy to care.

Pairi Daiza itself is usually closed in winter, but they open just for us. There is a big Balinese Hindu temple located in the middle of it, where European Balinese Hindu usually gather and held their religious event. It was nice meeting people from my homeland, and I got free food.


Later that afernoon, I went back to Brussels. I spend the evening, the night and the next morning doing assignment (how lame can I be), but in the afternoon I gave up and decided to explore the city .. as far as my useless boots allowed me to. I found a castle and ate more croissant, but sadly didn;t get the chance to visit Maneken Piss or the Notre Dame. 

Maybe next time. 

Then I went back to Utrecht. I was addicted to Lily Allen's Somewhere Only We Know at the time, so I listened  to it repeatedly. Imagine sitting at the train by yourself, watching the scenery passing by, listening to that song - I felt like I'm supposed to cry but I don't know what to cry about. *sigh* First world problem, everyone. 

The second time I went to Brussels was not that exciting since I hitchhiked halfway through with a friend and I was only there for a day, but the experience in the city beat it all. 


Bet the people of Brussels never expect they will witness this ritual held at the very front of their houses. 


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