So in 2015 alone, my tush has been in 10 different countries. Funny thing is, every year, I think I’m only going to be in one or maybe two. Life just keeps on surprising me indeed! There’s no point in planning in my case, I just need to go with the flow.
In this post, I’ll post about the first three countries I was in this year, and continue in other posts. Part 2 I’ll post on Monday, December 7, and Part 3 on Tuesday, December 8.
So, 2015 began for me at the border between Malaysia and Singapore, where my friends and I rang in the New Year as we were crossing over into Singapore, admiring the firework display from the bus. It was my second time in Singapore, so this time, I tried to do things I didn’t do the last time.
The first time I was here in 2010, my friend and I went to Sentosa Island, Universal Studios, the botanical garden – a must see by the way, and then the rest of the time, we hung out eating and shopping. We had high tea at Raffles Hotel, had dinner mostly at Clarke Quay, and window shopped at Orchard Road.
Sounds very not Asian, right? That’s because Singapore, while it’s in Asia, is one of the financial capitals of Asia so it has a booming economy, which is evident in the country. It’s actually considered an English speaking country – a fact I learned when I was there. Most people think Singapore is only a city of skyscrapers, but there’s more to Singapore than that. If you get out of the financial district area, you’ll start seeing more ‘authentic Asia’ so to speak (or what we foreigners would presume to be “Asian”.
My trip, this time around, was more of a cultural trip, which was great. We walked through Chinatown with it’s old Singaporean architecture houses, Little India with it’s aroma of exotic spices and burning incents, and checked out Haji Lane where the Central Mosque (I always like visiting the Central Mosque everywhere I travel) is… and then once we did that, we spent the rest of our days there shopping and stuffing our faces. Of course, we hung out at Marina Bay and had a bite at Clarke Quay and Riverside.
Ahh, Malaysia. So I lived and worked in Malaysia until mid March, when my contract ended. And while I was working there, I had the opportunity to visit 9 of the 13 states there. Malaysia is such a lovely country indeed. From the white sandy beaches, the jungles, the waterfalls, the animals, the people, the cultures, the food, and the colours – you can’t possibly get enough. I was happy to call it home the 9 months I lived there.
One of the most memorable experiences I had in Malaysia was when I was in Borneo, Sabah to be more exact, and my friend and I went on this sunset river cruise. We began our afternoon with high tea, followed by seeing proboscis monkeys in the jungle, and then dinner… and ended off the evening being mesmerized by millions of fireflies lighting up the night sky. Time just stood still. They were everywhere, and from time to time, we’d even catch them with our hands. I could stay there for hours on end.
And the monkeys in Malaysia, they’re everywhere – literally. Macaques, baboons, you name it. You’ll be jungle trekking and whoomp there it is. If you’re not careful, they’ll attack you. My friend Gloria and I were nearly jumped at Telaga Tujuh Waterfall in Langkawi by a pack of macaques. As cute as they are, when they want something, watch out! The Crips and the Bloods have noting on them.
What is there to do in Malaysia? Plenty. If you love adventure, nature, learning about different cultures, water activities – then this place is definitely for you. I urge you though, if you aren’t already, try to get PADI certified so that you can go scuba diving there. Worse case scenario, it’s also a snorkeling heaven!
Well, there’s much I can say about Malaysia, but I’ll stop it here and reserve that for a post on it’s own.
Now this was an interesting trip. For the first time ever, I decided to just buy a plane ticket and just go without making any prior plans. The only thing I did was book a place to stay for the first night. Another first is how light I traveled. For the first time, I traveled with my bag only weighing 5 KG. And this trip would last for a little over 2 weeks. And a third first – I’d be staying in hostels. My friends always make fun of me and call me the three star or more traveller as I would only stay in a hotel with a minimum of three stars when I travelled (Except if it’s like an ecolodge or cabin, etc). But living in Malaysia, I’ve learned to let my standards down a bit and realized that hostels aren’t that bad after all. In fact, some where even better than the hotels I’ve stayed at!!!
Alright, now back to Cambodia. So yes, one of the things I’ve learned was that there was Genocide in Cambodia in the 70s. I never heard about it until I landed in Phnom Penh and was looking at what there was to do in the city. My goodness, it was truly a heart wrenching experience when my newly found hostel friends and I went to the prison where many Cambodians were being tortured, and then later to the killing fields where many of them lost their lives to the brutal Khmer Rouge Party. Phnom Penh was a somber visit. Outside of that, they have a lovely riverside where we walked and stopped by a couple of places along the way, visiting the Buddhist Temple and the Royal Palace – admiring their architecture, and the Central Market.
After two days of being in Phnom Penh, I caught the night bus and made my way to Siem Reap to go visit the ruins of Angkor. A piece of advice to those planning to go there: If you want to only go for a day (they have 1 and 3 day passes), the best way to do it is to go just before sunset (around 5 pm) when the temples are about to close to buy a ticket for the following day. They let you enter to watch the sunset. So this way, you get both the sunrise view and sunset view of Angkor Wat. ☺
So of course, I spent two days visiting the Temples of Angkor with the same friends I met in Phnom Penh as well as another one we picked up at the hostel in Siem Reap. Walking around the different temples, you just can’t help but admire the craftsmanship. It’s truly remarkable how they were able to build that in the 12th century. The temples are quite impressive as are the carvings.
I also visited the Muslim village there in Siem Reap. While the majority of Cambodians are Buddhist, there are about 250 Muslim families living in Siem Reap, most in that area. It was nice to be able to find Halal food and be greeted with the familiar, “Assalaamu `alaikum”.
What else is there to do? They have amazing markets there that you cannot miss, including the night market. Great food, and perfect for buying all those touristy stuff you’re friends and family will love. And, they’re cheap!