Now that my semester abroad is over, and I’ve experienced all that I was meant to experience here and during this time, I have come up with a brief list of pointers when traveling/living in Asia.
1. Withdraw a lot of cash and don’t exchange all of it to the local currency of wherever you’re traveling. It’s a hassle to withdraw money at atms in foreign countries what with the fees and bank cards not working. If you have extra money to exchange, you won’t have as many problems and you’ll stay on a budget too.
2. Try to plan as little as possible. Things are way more fun, generally, if you don’t plan. And because of the variability of resources and transportation in developing countries, it’s better to just go with the flow. Save yourself from stressing out unnecessarily.
3. Get as many cheap massages as possible. I don’t know when and where I will be able to get a $10 full body oil massage for an hour in the states. They’re much better in Southeast Asia anyway in my opinion, haha.
4. Rice is rice wherever you go. Though you may not be accustomed to sticky rice, rice with vegetables, or fried rice, there is nothing special about rice. It’s cheap and filling but it’s not adventurous. Try lots of local cuisine and stay away from eating rice and chicken all the time (I am guilty of this).
5. Don’t be afraid to talk to people. Everyone you meet has a story and is pretty much willing to talk about themselves. You may be wondering why you care about other people’s experiences, but those are the exact experiences that could give you the necessary insight into where you might want to go, what you may want to do, how to do it, how to stay safe, and how to have fun. Plus, you will probably make a friend from a different part of the world who could change your life forever.
6. Allow yourself to change. Traveling in general will change a person. Whether you’re going cross-country or across the world, you’re bound to learn at least one thing that you retain for the long haul. When circumstances become difficult or even unbearable, just ride the waves until you hit the shore. Holding back and “sticking to your guns” or old habits will only hinder your personal growth.
7. People will stare. Get used to it. For you all who read my blog posts regularly, you know how I look. I am not the “standard” American most Asians think of when they picture “Yankees”. People of all kinds will stare at you, some will smile and some will frown. The most neutral thing to do, especially when you’re having a bad day, is to ignore them and carry on with your spectacular life. Chances are, no one will stop you and you’ll likely be hailed as a superstar for looking different.
8. Try not to have a routine. We easily create routines because, somehow, they make life more facile. When you create a routine it’s like you limit your willingness and potential to venture out of the box and see things that may positively alter your perspective. Save your routines for never 😉
9. Learn how to say “thank you” in the language of each country you visit. Nine times out of ten, people will feel better about themselves when they are thanked. Even if they did something as simple as step out of your way or give you directions, people love to feel appreciated. An added benefit is that you gain respect by speaking a bit of the language of a different culture.
10. Smile often. As “they” say, a smile is the universal symbol for happiness. No matter where you travel, or what you experience, smiling not only makes you feel and look better, it makes others happy as well. Smiling in itself has the potential to change the world. Think about the last time a stranger smiled at you; you probably smiled either outward or inwardly just thinking about it. That’s how powerful it is.
That’s just a pretty general list of hopefully helpful tips to employ while traveling, and I guess navigating this wild thing called life. All of the above tips have been curated from my experience here. Especially the rice thing and the staring thing. As a Nigerian, I love rice till the end, so it’s gonna be hard for me to beat that obstacle 100%, but I can get over people staring at me. I guess I can just smile at them, haha. 🙂
Say hello to the random pictures I found on my photobooth :’)
Gonna miss these folks.
Cambodia was the biggest adventure ever.
Young, Yasmin, Andie, Rody, and I traveled there from April 24th to May 1st, essentially. We had two long layovers in none other than Singapore, yay!
As soon as we arrived at Hong Kong International Airport, I knew the trip would be a blast. Though our flight was a bit delayed, and Tigerair has no space for my over-elongated legs, we were still excited and ready for an unknown experience.
We got to Changi Airport around 2:00 am on the 25th and decided to watch a movie until some of us got hungry and tired. We then ended up falling asleep in the “Snooze Lounge,” which had very cool-looking but uncomfortable chairs to sleep in. The next morning, we gathered our belongings to check out of the airport to then check back in in order to catch our flight to Cambodiaaaaa!!!
The flight to Cambodia was less than two hours, and let me tell you, the heat in that country in unlike any heat I have ever felt. It is not that hot in Nigeria, and it was not that hot in Phuket, Thailand… well maybe it was, but I couldn’t recall at the moment. So, when we touched down in Phnom Penh, we were over heated, over dressed, and as hungry as beasts. We found a tuk tuk that drove us into town and we bought bus tickets to head to Siem Reap the same evening. Unfortunately, the bus wouldn’t be leaving until two hours after the time we bought the tickets. If there is one thing I have learned from traveling, it’s that things don’t typically go as planned, so it’s better not to plan them. Go with the flow.
We got onto a bus that promised AC but only blew warm air out of the vents. We managed to survive the 10-hour smelly, sleepless, bumpy, overcrowded bus ride that was supposed to take only six hours, haha. That was the first part of the adventure. Though we planned on getting to The Siem Reap Hostel at around 8:00 pm the previous night, we ended up arriving at around 3:40 am on the 26th. We very much wanted to see the Angkor Wat temples at sunrise, so our tuk tuk driver gave us until 4:30 am to shower and be ready so we could head to the temples; mind you, the five of us got to our hostel at 4:00 am. Somehow we did it with no sleep and adrenaline rushing through our veins. It was so worth it, though, and the temples were breathtaking.
It’s amazing how the sun rises. One second it is dark and the only thing gleaming in one point in the sky is the moon, moments later, a few blinks later, the sun is vastly illuminating that portion of the earth.
Not only did the sun illuminate the earth, but it was melting our skin, haha. The heat became even more and more real, and water became even more and more necessary. After viewing the Angkor Wat temples, we had traditional Cambodian meals of Amok and Lok Lak for breakfast, which were deliciously delicious! We made our way back to the Bayon Temples and surrounding ones before we decided it was a good idea to head back to the hostel to get some rest. At this point it was only 11:30 am but we had already gone through half of our day, haha.
During the evening we enjoyed happy hour at the hostel’s restaurant; they are not stingy with the alcohol they put in cocktails in Cambodia. We met cool people, played infamous drinking games, and made our way to Pub Street and the Night Market to check it all out. Of course I had my eyes and hands in the few shops that were still open that night, and I did purchase some things. It was so easy to spend being that Cambodia uses US Dollars as their main currency, with every value under $1 USD being Cambodian Riel.
Alright, even though we were adventurous 20-something college kids in a different world, we were still pretty exhausted from our traveling the past couple days. When we saw one of the million spas offering $3 foot massages for 30 minutes, we all gave in, and boyyyyy did we enjoy that. We then roamed the street for a bit, relished chocolate and banana pancakes, and watched an impromptu dance performance in the street. Then we all decided we were pretty beat and went back to the hostel to catch some zzzzzzs.
The next morning, we met with our tuk tuk driver and he took us to the killing fields and the war museum. Now I am not the hugest fan of history, but I was really interested in learning about the Khmer Rouge and the war and genocide that took place not even 40 years ago. The museum tour guide was so sweet and a victim of a mine explosion that took place after the war had ended: there are about 2 million land mines still left in fields in Cambodia that are taking lives and limbs very frequently. So unbelievable.
After the war museum we were dropped off at Pub Street and had an amazing lunch at a tex-mex spot! Haha, when in Cambodia, eat fajitas, right? After lunch we found a beautiful spa and enjoyed oil massages that felt like pure happiness. They were able to fit the five of us into one room, which made the experience more special, for me at least. I mean if you have to get almost naked in front of anyone, at least let it be in front of the friends you traveled with, right?
Since we were scheduled to leave Siem Reap at 6pm to make our way to Sihanoukville, an 11-hour journey, we headed back to the hostel, which we had already checked out of, and snuck into our old rooms to have quick showers. We got on the “sleeper bus,” which is a bus with seats that are almost fully reclined, and managed to sleep somewhat comfortably for the following 11 hours, even though my legs were in the aisle or compartment next to mine most of the time, haha.
As soon as we got to Sihanoukville, we went to Ocheteaul Beach and just stayed at the hotel our tuk tuk driver took us to. Less than an hour after checking in, we spontaneously hopped on a boat going to Koh Rong and various islands for a mini-boat tour (nothing like the boat tours in the Philippines or Thailand). Koh Rong was such a pretty island with a zillion cute hostel-bars lined up along the beach. Definitely a hidden gem and worth visiting again in the future.
That night, we had dinner and drinks on the beach, played truth-or-dare, and went to a nearby club to partyyyy, before some of us got sick, haha. Maybe it was the seafood, or the alcohol, or the mixture, ewww.
Either way, we went back up to Phnom Penh the next day by bus (our bus rides got increasingly better after the catastrophe that was Phnom Penh to Siem Reap), and stayed in a hostel super close to the airport for our flight the next afternoon.
Somehow I came down with some serious sinus congestion, so when we arrived in Singapore the following evening, I stayed in our hostel while the others went to Chinatown to eat and explore Singapore for a bit. However, the next morning, we went on a walk to view the Marina Bay Sands. Singapore is cool and it reminds me of NYC, Cali, and Atlanta all in one. They speak both English and Mandarin too, which is great, and the living standard is comparable to various places in the US. I could see myself living there.
Now I’m back in Hong Kong for the next week and a half, battling final exams and trying to enjoy the last bit of this alternate reality before I head back to the states.
I’m sure these don’t look comfy.
I feel like I’ve done so much that I haven’t really been sharing on my blog… well that would make sense, because I haven’t shared anything on my blog since I traveled to Thailand.
A couple weeks after I spontaneously booked my ticket to go to Phuket, I booked a ticket to go to Bali, Indonesia. I am not really sure what propelled me to make such an impulsive decision, or what even brought Bali into my head. I guess it was the fact that Tyra Banks traveled there for two months and said it changed her life for the better. Who would miss a chance to change his or her life for the better? Not this girl!
I would have been fine traveling by myself, but really wanted some company to share what I anticipated would be an amazing experience. Unfortunately, the plane ticket was $350 USD and most of my friends thought that was too expensive. Luckily for me, I lured Casey into going! We ended up traveling separately and meeting in Bali. When I stepped on that Singapore Airlines flight, I immediately understood why my ticket was so expensive. Plush seating that extended past business and first class, personal televisions, blankets, pillows, MEALS, and alcoholic libations? For a 3 hour flight to Singapore? Amazing; such serendipity. It was also my first experience in Changi International Airport in Singapore, which is supposed to be one of the most fantastic in the world, I’ve heard. What kind of place comprises gardens, shopping destinations, food courts and restaurants, gyms and lounges, movie theaters and the like? I was just pleasantly overwhelmed with the whole experience and I hadn’t even gotten to Bali yet!
I arrived in Indonesia in the evening and, after paying the $25 USD fee for a Visa on Arrival, waited in a very long line full of Aussies, Americans and Brits to actually receive my Indonesian visa. I have to admit, I was a bit worried that all the foreigners there would have similar attitudes to the ones in Southern Thailand. Instinctual judgment on my part. Anyway, after obtaining my travel documents, I decided to wait for Casey so we could find our hostel together. When he arrived, just about 2 hours later, we stepped out into the baking night oven and found a taxi.
Surprisingly to us, our taxi driver spoke English very well, and that’s when we learned that Balinese people learn English at a very young age. During this trip I also learned that tourism is the primary industry in Bali, and before that it was agriculture. Never had I ever known that a province’s main industry could be tourism. That thoroughly explained the maturity of the sellers and their conviction when selling products. They knew just what to say to pique my interest: “Look at this beautiful scarf for you. These colors look so good on you. You can have it for $80,000 Rupiah.” I mean, I’m a natural negotiator and I also believe I should get what I like while the other party benefits as well. In the above scenario, I ended up purchasing the scarf and a beautiful beaded purse for $120,000 Rupiah, which is just under $12 USD.
The Balinese are different… they are so special. Overall, they seem to maintain an equal ratio of realism, idealism and optimism throughout their everyday lives. The morning after we arrived, Casey, 3 other guys, Ibrahim, Tommy, and Kristian, and I decided to head to Seminyak to go surfing, woooooooh!
Among the many surf stands and shops set up along the beach, we were lead to one owned by a man named Bang Bang. The five of us changed into those long sleeved surfing shirts and got a very quick lesson before hopping into the water. I am a pretty athletic chick, but surfing is no freaking joke. I don’t know how many tanks of salt water I swallowed, or how many times my contact lenses nearly popped off my eyeballs. At least I can happily say I was able to stand on the board more than twice for at least seven seconds hahaha. However, this was incomparable to my male counterparts who seemed like near-surf gurus by the time our session had ended.
That night, after the fun-but-strenuous activity, we decided to head out to Kuta, which has become the party town of Bali, after having been “invaded” by Australian tourists and surfers. No longer than two minutes after we stepped out of our van were we offered drugs. I guess I should have expected that. Naturally, we denied and went off to search for the most “poppin’” club amongst the dozens on the street. I forgot the name of the club in which I had a blast, but they had girls flirtily dancing in cages, a group on stage dancing to choreography, and a different club just one floor above! Of course I went on stage to dance with the group because the choreo was simple, and the music was great. The whole experience was a huge vibe session. Upstairs, they played techno music, which is much harder for me to vibe to, but after some persuasion, I was pretty much dancing the electric slide all night with whoever would join me!
The next morning, the five of us had an 8:30am date with a Bali tour. We started the tour watching a beautiful Balinese dance performance telling a story that amounted to: both good and evil are needed to have a balanced life. We then went on to see a waterfall, polluted by the rain, a still-active volcano, a coffee plantation at which Luwak coffee is made, Ubud rice terraces, Monkey Jungle, a wood carving shop, and another Balinese dance at the end of the night. It was a 12 hour tour and I’m sure I’m missing something there, but I was happy to have seen as much as I saw having only been in the wonderful country for a weekend.
Though the entire trip was amazing, I think I loved the white water rafting I participated in on the next day the most. I had never been, and I was as excited as a baby with a rubber band. We had a large crew of about seven people with us from the hostel; after we all changed into our rafting gear, we headed down 500 steep steep steps to the water. Omg, that must have been the most fun, scary, challenging, enlightening and experience of my trip to Bali and even here in Asia. I could go on for hours attempting to explain the beauty of the perfectly contrasted blue and white sky against the saturated pigment of the green trees, and the ongoing meticulous yet artistic carving of Balinese tradition on the stone walls of the forests… but that would take hours, haha.
It was a bit of a struggle for me to return to my alternate reality that has been my actual reality for the past four months that is also known as living and studying in Hong Kong. I did it, however.
Like a day after being back in HK, I booked a flight to Cambodia with my pal, Young. Hey, you gotta make the most of what you have while you have it, right? Just as a further side note, Bali was by far my cheapest adventure. The hostel was only $9 a night and the entire tour was about $12, and the rafting $35. The most I paid for an authentic Indonesian meal was probably $4.00 USD and it was mmm mmm mmm so scrumptious!
Our first meal in Bali
The crew at the Balinese dance performance
Far view of the waterfall
Gorgeous stone carvings
Gorgeous wood carvings
Temples for days
My beloved scarf ❤
Batur volcano- still active
The Luwak cat’s poop is what makes the most famous coffee in Bali.
All the organic tea and coffee we got to try
Beautiful Ubud rice terraces
Casey with a monkey at Monkey Jungle
More Balinese dancers
Cheap go-to food