Of Winning A Trip — San Juan, Puerto Rico

Hola people! One day, I bought tickets online for a musical. After purchasing the tickets, I had to answer some survey questions (hate surveys!). Anyways, one of the questions was, “What would you like to hear more of?” There were a few options, I chose “Travel” :D

Then one fine day, I got a call from a lady, explaining where she was calling from and that I had answered the survey questions and travel was my choice. As such, I won a gift — a trip for two to the Caribbean (I could choose one of 3 options). All I had to do were to pay the taxes and additional charges ranging between USD140 — USD200 per person (depending on my option) and listen to a time-sharing presentation (Ok, she didn’t say it was time sharing, just a presentation).

In my head, I was jumping of joy! “Really?! Me?! Almost free trip?! This is too good to be true!”
It instantly hit me (some sort of spiritual awakening), this is the little negative voice in my head (in all our heads), telling us we are not worthy of great things — something as little as winning a holiday to deeper things, like true love and happiness. This little voice sabotages us all the time.

We are deserving of all the greatness and beauty the universe has to offer us and has offered us. We have to believe it, be open to it and wholeheartedly embrace it! :-)
I recognise this now and am slowly believing, opening myself and embracing it more and more: I am deserving and worthy of all the greatness and beauty the universe has to offer us.

I am extremely grateful for it and blessed by it.

So friends, whenever that little voice whispers in your heads, take a mental note of it and tell yourselves with conviction, full of belief and internalise it, “I am deserving and worthy of all the greatness and beauty the universe has to offer us!”

Ok, sorry went off tangent, back to the story now :S

I immediately googled the company and read reviews, mostly bad, but some were positive (only 2 out of 15 reviews were positive — the rest negative). I was like, I can be the 0.13% cluster… Lol

I went to the presentation, kept saying “No, No, No” to all the packages there were trying to sell to me. They finally relented, gave me my voucher and explained the steps how to claim my holiday. Without wasting time, I booked the holiday — chose Puerto Rico and selected a few dates. A few days later, I got a call to confirm the available dates (13 Nov — 16 Nov were given), obtain the travelers’ details and collect the payment — it came up to USD170 per person. Since it was for two, I took my aunt with me. Another aunt from Florida wanted to tag along — so the three of us flew away…

….and ta da……we were in the beautiful, sunny San Juan, Puerto Rico!

Beach at Ocean Park — if you prefer stronger waves (like me! lol)
San Juan is colourful!

The vibe is unique — everyone disconnected, in their own world, just doing what they are doing, focusing on improving themselves! Absolutamente asombroso (Absolutely amazing)!
There is also so much captivating art around San Juan, some in the most unlikely and random places. The colours and charm of San Juan inspire an abundance of art and poetry!

It’s rich with history — Puerto Rico was the gateway to the Caribbean for the European conquerors, way back then. The Spaniards fought for Puerto Rico for more than 200 years.

Built by Spain to protect against land based attacks on the city of San Juan
View from the top of Castillo San Cristóbal
The majestic Castillo San Felipe del Morro
A 16th-century citadel

Also referred to as el Morro, was designed to guard the entrance to the San Juan Bay, and defend the Spanish colonial port city of San Juan from seaborne enemies

View of Castillo San Felipe del Morro (far left) from Castillo San Cristóbal
Statue outside the Ballajá barracks — military barracks built from 1854 to 1864 for the Spanish troops. In front of the Castillo San Felipe del Morro

The 16th century San Juan Cathedral is one of the rarest medieval structures in the New World.

However, the charming little Cristo Chapel (picture below) tugged at my heartstrings.

The secluded and charming Capilla del Santo Cristo de la Salud, known as Cristo ChapelThis chapel, located on a cliff overlooking the ocean, is renowned for its healing powers, founded on the site of a supposed divine intervention.

View from behind the chapelIt was built on top of the ancient stone walls that protected the capital of Puerto Rico in 1753 to celebrate a miracle. The story:

During the San Juan Bautista celebrations of 1753, a rider in the traditional horse race, Baltazar Montanez lost control of his horse, plunging to the cliffs below. Watching the drama unfold from a nearby balcony was the Spanish Secretary of Government, Don Mateo Pratts. He cried out, “Christ of Good Health, save him!” The horse didn’t survive the fall, but the young rider was miraculously saved.
That same year Montanez built the small chapel on the exact spot where he fell over the cliff face. The altar was built in shining silver and gold leaf, surrounded by beautiful oil paintings by the famous Puerto Rican artist Jose Campeche.
This beautiful lady has dedicated her life to restoring and refurbishing this elegant chapel. Her grandmother-in-law previously led the mission. When the grandmother-in-law passed away, she took charge of this mission and is now passionately leading it. She claims to have ‘inherited’ this from her grandmother-in-law
Playa Escambron (Escambron beach)
Scuba Dogs — a lagoon at Playa Escambron — if you want calmer waters. Also a great place to snorkel and scuba dive
View of old San Juan from Playa Escambron
El Capitolio — home to the bicameral Legislative Assembly
In front of the El Capitolio
Statue of Christopher Columbus at Plaza de Colon
View from outside the city walls, near the San Juan Gate
Raíces Fountain
Lush rain forest

Puerto Rico is also home to luscious coffee! There are local coffee plantations and many other rich agriculture. Unfortunately the government has not invested much in agriculture. Hence, their own produce is very scarce and most of the produce sold is imported (where foreign is cheaper than local — similar to the Madeira bananas). It is rather upsetting as the local produce is delicious!

Due to the tropical climate, the fruits and vegetables are almost similar to that in South East Asia: bananas, mangoes, papayas, guayaba (guava), coco (coconut), guaynabana (soursop), piña (pineapple), aguacate (avocado), tamarindo (tamarind), mangosteen, rambutans (Yessss!! Rambutans! They call it ‘rambutans’ too. It was introduced to Puerto Rico from the East :D), and many more.

Tamarindo (Tamarind) drink
Empanadillas aka Puerto Rico (Vegetarian version, usually with beef)
Mofongo — mashed cassava, green plantain and yellow plantain. Usually mixed with meat. This was without any meat. So good! Love cassava!
Tostones (fried green plantain)
Traditional rice and beans
Pasteles de queso — local cheese wrapped in pastry Not too sweet with a slight salty kick — scrumptious!

As you can see from the pictures above, the dishes eaten were vegetarian — that’s because I was with two vegetarians. There are a lot of local meat and seafood dishes you must savour in Puerto Rico.

How is it possible that Mienal Hussein, lover of fish, did not have a single bite of fish, on an island surrounded by fish?! Explique por favor (Please explain)!?! heheh…

Puerto Rico is home to Bacardi Rum… and guess what? The very famous Piña Colada was first made in San Juan, Puerto Rico at Barrachina — a must go!

*You can visit the Bacardi distillery — a short ferry ride away from old San Juan*

Piña Colada — made with rum, fresh pineapple and fresh coconut cream — extremely delish and refreshing in the heat!

Puerto Rico is more than San Juan and the lovely beaches. It also boasts dense tropical rain forest and just across the central mountainous region, you will find the secluded town of Guánica — known for Puerto Rico’s dry forest, rich with exotic flora and fauna. The landscape of Puerto Rico is diverse — although a small island. A place to explore further for sure!

Buenas noches!

One final note, I must say I have the ‘bestest’ aunts ever!! Every single one of them! Uncles too!!! I am incredibly blessed and am tremendously agradecido* (thankful/ grateful)! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

*I don’t know why, but I feel the Portuguese word for ‘grateful/ thankful’ has more impact than the English words. So peeps, whenever I use the Portuguese word, you will know it’s because I have this overwhelming sense of gratitude that words can’t describe — except this one… hehehe*