Wah. Just wah. I'll admit it. It's damn hard for me to write this post - picking up from where I left off last year. Shyyyat.  ...

Around SEA in 2 months overland! (Part 2)

Wah. Just wah. I'll admit it. It's damn hard for me to write this post - picking up from where I left off last year. Shyyyat. 

But hey yknow what, I GOT to finish what I started. It's just rude to leave you guys hangin'. To get you up to speed, this was my last post of the grand Southeast Asian tour (written in Dec last year when the trip was in 2015 lololol):

Around SEA in 2 months Part 1 : This link should take you to where Sianpei and I first started in Myanmar and then to Northern Thailand, Laos and Vietnam - no flights (just one), all else by bus and train.

Now we here - left with a bit more of Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and then home :-) Since it's been about a year and a half, I think I can now speak of my experiences with a clearer mind. Why certain things happened and what they mean. 

I've condensed what-could've-been a super lengthy post (ok la still quite long) so that I can share what's left of our grand tour!!

How annoying was I??
Wonder how Sianpei could stand me throughout the 2 months

Let me take you back to Vietnam and begin with Hoi An:

Classic Hoi An style lanterns and girls in their Aodais

Oh wait, siah lah, how could I forget to bring up my map to show you where we're at.

Hoi An was our second last stop in Vietnam.

Everyone who'd been to Vietnam, told us Hoi An was a must-visit.

I get the hype la. It's magical.
Pretty lake at night...

And I mean c'mon,

What's that she's holding???
What's that I'm staring at??

For bacon + chicken + egg + crispy crusty croissant, only SGD$1.20.
That's one of the reasons why I never eat it back here in Nam Nam.

SO YEAH, YOU GET THE HYPE. Best Banh Mi you can find, here in Hoi An. And we ate a ton when we were trippin. We don't hold back on the food at all. Esp Viet food.

What's special when we were at Hoi An was stumbling upon this quaint library tucked away at a corner in a foreigner's house. It's open to all and I found it intriguing. Don't remember the name of the dude's house but what a pleasant surprise to find this because of bad weather:

"4. to win over the people's hearts"
That was how Ho Chi Minh psychoed everyone to fight the war.
- it was here where i read up bout the ever elusive man

Came to this nice lil Japanese cafe along the river and just chilled and waited for the rain to end.

In countries with such vast lands, I often wonder about their potential to achieve economically...
And if SG has even just an eighth of what they have... 
Indulged yet again.

But okay lah, Sianpei and I always end up not understanding places where there's a lot of hype. We thought Hoi An was only all right. It was quaint and nice, but again, overcrowded and majorly touristy. It's gimmicky with all the stalls tryna get us to buy their stuff. "Tailored to fit you, collect in one day!" We'd say it was so-so with Hoi An. Only so-so.

Hard to please eh aren't we?

Soon enough we were out of Hoi An (not before getting another round of banh mi of course!!). And headed straight to the capital of Vietnam.

Always so excited bout our overnight buses hehe
We'd been lucky - no stinky feet and overcrowded shit to deal with,
Final stop in Vietnam!!!

Welcome to New York Ho Chi Minh!
 How did we get to the city centre...??

I rode the scooter, which our Airbnb host loaned us, while he pillioned Sianpei in this KICKASS BIKE OF HIS.
I freakin loved this la. So bloody brazen. God Bless Vietnam

Speakin of God...
Uncle Ho will not be impressed by Christmas and Capitalism. Double Cs. Major sins.
THIS was the traffic we were riding through ok??
WHAT an experience though, riding in this massive swath of bikes and humans.

I'll be honest - thought I might die riding in Vietnam. But hey, I survived. And I inspired Sianpei's colleagues to do the same lolol.

What I found intriguing while I was in Ho Chi Minh was that I found some places very uncanny:

Is this Singapore???
I bet they took a leaf out of our book.
I mean, right down to the weather haha. It wasn't cold like Hanoi.

Hehe cute aunties
Always ready with a smile
Say it with me: Ha-lle-lu-jah!
So simple but so delish
So happy!
Kinda miss that shagged travel look
 Later that day, we visited a bunch of historical landmarks.

Basically, to find out why they won the war lol

Some local ice cream while walking around nom nom

Sianpei and I are history buffs, so museums are our thang. Learning about a country's history provides a lot more depth, context and perspective to the place that we're in. And I think you'd be doing yourself a disservice if you didn't visit even ONE museum.

So if museums aren't up your alley, I'd still urge you to at least visit THIS museum:
War Remnants Museum

This exhibition impacted me quite a bit.
People were tearing up seeing all the photos of people and places ravaged by war - Agent Orange, nuclear bombs dropped - and then you wonder why lessons haven't been learnt
As a traveller, I think it's almost a duty and responsibility to educate yourself a bit lah.

Some food to lighten the mood:

Beef noodlesssss yum favourite
Don't remember what this is called

Brace yourself because we're heading to....
Cu chi tunnels!

In a nutshell..
We found out the Vietnamese then were both brutal and ingenious at the same time.
We found out they were thin asssss.
Doubt I'd ever fit into this hole - what more live inside these tunnels for years
And that they were good shooters. This Vietnamese girl especially.
Our local tour guide ended the tour with "Who do you think won the war then? Vietnam or America?" In my head I was thinking, you guys lah duh, want to show off just show off la. But he went "No one." He carried on saying how communism led to corruption and talked about the state his country is currently in and that the war was not worth fighting after more than a million people died compared to the deaths of about 50, 000 US troops.

Interesting eh, cuz you'd think they're all for their country after the war.

Toured around the city after... and I must say though, Ho Chi Minh has very beautiful structures and historical buildings. Gotta thank the French for their romanticism.

Gotta thank YOU sir - btw, I saw you in Hanoi too.
Thought this cathedral was ssosoooo beautiful, esp in that gorgeous light

I believe it was here where we witnessed a scuffle between a tourist and a Viet security guard who was tryna prevent foreigners from entering the cathedral.The angmoh went up to the guard saying, "This is the ONLY church in the WORLD that doesn't allow people in. This is nonsense." He was really big in size and the guard was puny lah. The dude was pointing at him and continued saying, "I will remember your face and I will report YOU on TripAdvisor." He was basically intimidating the guard. Of course I thought the tourist was rude. But this guard also one kind. He actually let the angmoh in, and several other angmohs cos he was pissin' on his pants?!? When I came forth to ask to go in, he couldn't care. Did it to several other Asians as well. I went to Sianpei and was like, wahlau.. like that lah. Ok lor. Do this to your fellow Asians thanks a lot ya?

Post office!
Stunning archs. Definitely French-influenced
and I loved how this place was still in service?!

More amazing Viet food before we ended our Viet journey

Vietnam, where to begin? Let's just say that before going to Vietnam, we had a ton of expectations. Despite the bloody weather, which cheated us in the north and right down in the middle at Hue and Danang, Vietnam was pretty magical - food, adventure, nature - Vietnam has it all.

I need to make a trip back...

Next up, Cambodia! Cambodia was short, just 5 days in total at Phnom Penh and Siem Reap

Full map of our trip:
Now we're heading from Ho Chi Minh border to Phnom Penh!

Ok, my memory has gotten hazy. I don't remember how we crossed the border from HCM to Phnom Penh. Think it was probably a sleeper bus too....

T'was exciting for me cos I'd never been to Cambodia.

Sooo interesting eh their food??
Think it's some curry with noodles. Reminds me of Myanmar - fusion of chinese and indian
Tuk tuk!

A little bit of Cambodia for you.

Phnom Penh was a place where we did a lot of Khmer Rouge history digging and I was so affected by what I saw and experienced that I wrote a post about it there and then. You can read it here: Intense day for us in Kampuchea.

In fact, I think that was one of the biggest highlights of our trip in Cambodia...

Chinese food - just can't escape our roots.

One of the days here in Phnom Penh, Sianpei and I got into a bit of a fight. We misunderstood what the other was thinking/doing/saying and we went along doing our separate things that day. I'd be surprised if we didn't argue for even a day - that's virtually impossible for any friendship I think.

I cycled on my own around the city, while she stayed back at our apartment to rest.

Central Market -
When it first opened in 1937, it was apparently the biggest market in Asia.. impressive. Not just SEA, but ASIA.

Stunning interior of the market!! I said wah, out loud.
Looked like char kway teow and I was craving for it
Stumbled upon this stadium and it was hugeeee - looks like SG back in the 80s or something
 and these folks you see in the picture... could have been any of our parents back in the day.
Went back to our apartment.
Never really settled our argument. And we got into another one while waiting for a bus to Siem Reap. It's never easy trying to sort out differences...

But even when we had our disagreements, most times, we'd find ways to agree to disagree and move on. And although our hearts were fuming, our actions still showed that we cared.  Like "you take the last piece (of food) lah", while our faces were pissed as *. We knew we still had to survive with one another and deep down... we knew that our emotions were simply running on a high.

Sun was just rising when we arrived in Siem Reap.
And that's Sianpei ignoring the 10, 000th tuktuk driver asking if we needed a ride.
We'd trudge on with our backpacks and move on - often not trusting overzealous sellers 

The main attraction -
Ang Kor Watt

Tourist shot
Gorgeous light and intricate carvings
Some even tell a story....

And I loved the endless beautiful architecture of the different temples.
Really showed how majestic the Khmer Kingdom once was...
Had sun tan lines looking like my sandals lol.
And yes ripped jeans from Myanmar bike fall heehee.
I was soooooo happy :-)

Siem Reap truly looked beautiful as the sun was setting....

Although the elephants were fascinating to watch, Sianpei and I NEVER took part in activities that involved some form of animal cruelty...
Gorgeous sun set....
Ever reliable tuk tuk driver who whizzed us around in his Batmobile hahahah

On our last night in Siem Reap...

We found.....

I'd been wanting to eat spiders - this one was a tarantula - for the longest time. I swear. 
I convinced her to eat this snake, as well as a tiny bit of the tarantula, which she was reluctant to even try in the first place.
I pushed her outta her comfort zone. 

Went so well with beer though?? The only stuff left for me to try are scorpions and earthworms.... yum.

The next day... we were off to Thailand by bus.

This border crossing was quite thrilling though. Your driver would let you alight at the Cambodian side

You can see the Thai flag not too far away
And we had to walk at least 1km on our own to get to the other side. We read online, people sometimes wandered off the track and weren't able to find their bus on the other side.

Lucky I had Sianpei? Cos she was the one with the better sense of direction and I was like here? yeah stop here? think this must be it. But she'd be like, no, it's farther down. She did her homework lah, while I merely followed hahaha.

Argh border crossings are so funnnn. 

Nearly there... Siem Reap to Bangkok

Thai food... very much comfort food for us tooooo
Tired, but Happy_gal_92
Met my pretty Burmese friends who happened to be in Bangkok at the same time too :)
They're the pair of sisters who took really good care of me while I was on my internship...
Been to so many places.. but sometimes the things I remember most are the people I met.

I enjoyed this A LOT.
ahhhh ice cream i karnot resist.
esp if it's as dark as my soul
Had a haircut
To be presentable to my parents and family before getting home hahah

I realise I haven't told you what date it was then, at Bangkok....

It was 31/12/15.

and soon to be... 

What remained of X'mas still holding up

We did the countdown with thousands of other people in Bangkok. But it sucked hahahah, was one of the most uneventful countdowns ever. Bad view, and squashed up, yay us!!

Human jam

But I had my favourite thing to eat right after that, so life went on.

On the first day of 2016, we started on our plan to head straight out of Bangkok to go to Malaysia....

But of course....

Food fix first!!!!!
At this quaint looking shop
Sometimes Singapore loses a bit of its essence cuz we're moving too fast..

And now... here's one of my most favourite train rides ever as we head from Bangkok to Penang...

Another crossing from the south of Thailand to Malaysia -
Getting very much closer to SG now...

I remember this family was nice...
Most times we were allocated seats next to each other, but this time we were s e p a r a t e d .
A lot of Muslim Thais headed to the South of Thailand / Malaysia in the New Year as well...

What I like so much about train rides -
time to ponder and contemplate while beautiful landscapes pass you by...

One of the most beautiful train rides ever
I'm not gonna lie... seeing these pictures made me tear... cos I remember. And I can't even describe to you what it felt looking out that window and seeing this sky whilst the train chugged along. It was just me, the sounds of the train and the hues of the sky. I've had a lot of these moments, which I'd thank in my heart and head, and feel like the luckiest person in the world.

That's what it feels to be alive.

And the whole train quietens because everyone else in that same train is looking out the window. Collectively, we were immersed in something so natural and in a way, there's a connection.

Soon it was night time.. and we had to head up to sleep in those bunks upstairs. So coooool tho
Cheeky boy selling drinks and handing out towels heheh
Upper deck
Happy gal again
Someone's already making herself feel at home
And me with the blankets they provided.
Not sure if they were clean, they smelled clean though! We were dirty anyways so who were we to judge hahah

Reached Malaysia pretty late in the night and checked ourselves into a shophouse hotel.

And the second day of the new year was spent in Penang...


Totally and utterly.... pigging out.

Ok lah, food I'll give it to the Malaysians lah. They've got it better than we do. The price in RM was a little steep though? Orh luak was RM10?? Us Singaporeans have the luxury of reducing it to a third, but I think it costs a BOMB for locals?! 

Cendol q.
Happy Gal again
Actually am not a fan of cendol, but i mean it's Penang yaw.

Soon it was dark...
.... and makan time yet again bahahhah!!

This time, shared with a lot more people than just two of course!

While I was in New Zealand on exchange in 2013, I made a couple of Malaysian friends who were studying there full-time. T'was good to see them again :-)

Couple making big decisions
Always good to reconnect with friends from around the world. We reminisce the good times, and part ways knowing it'll be years before seeing one another again. Always bitter sweet.

And guess who we met over at a cafe...?

Tan Kheng Hua and Lim Yu Beng

Ya lah, I was fangirling lah. Took a lot of guts to go up to them for this picture ok. And I don't usually do this - perhaps it's the thrill of seeing fellow countrymen that's why. (and theatre actors!!)


And on the 3rd of January, it was D-Day.

To make our way back home~
Sianpei had to be back at her office for work, otherwise, the trip might've lasted forever hahaha. Cambodia and Malaysia still have so much to offer!

But then again, travelling is tiring as well.

Let me put this into perspective... I was away for months, suffering from a bout of homesickness while in Myanmar. After travelling for so long, I was finally going home to see my family again :') It was this time away in particular that made me treasure what I'd taken for granted for so long.

We packed our bags....

All three of them for me
Last hostel we stayed in
Noooo :( 

And we were up in the weeee hours of the morning at 5am.
I remembered we were waiting for some form of transport to the ferry that'd take us to the jetty. A young taxi driver in his late 20s perhaps, saw us anxiously waiting at a stand. We told him about our budget for the ride then chatted for a bit while heading there. He knew we were Singaporeans and told us about his life as a taxi driver. When we arrived at our destination... up till this day, I cannot forget his kindness. He waived the fee, and said to contact him in the future when we come back so we could see more of Penang. He had a lot of Penang pride and genuinely wanted us to see more of the town. Often I wonder, if my own people have that same sense of pride. It was very heartening.... and I'll always remember him as that nice fella.

Over at the jetty, on our boat...

Took in the beautiful sunrise along the way...

Penang feels disparate from the rest of Malaysia. Perhaps because there's a Chinese majority. I remember a local telling me that they were pissed so many Singaporeans were there, consequently jacking up housing prices haha oops.

Finally our last stop to get to.... SINGAPORE!!!!!
Just look how far we've come from start to end :')

Took a 12 hour long train ride to get from Penang all the way to Johor Bahru.

The most spacious, modern and comfortable train ride of all~
With a price of course. Think it was about RM120.

Somebody looks very happy
Had a train conductor too.

And soon enough.... we were at JB, heading towards Woodlands Checkpoint!!! I swear my heart was pumping like crazy and it felt surreal being surrounded by my fellow countrymen again. I was finally home!!!!!!!

We became friends with a Swiss girl at the checkpoint and decided to help her with finding her hostel...

Brought her to Macritchie + walked around the city two days later.
We still keep in contact via postcards!!! and she recently sent me one last week... even after all these years :')
First meal upon returning home!!!
Happy Gal FOREVER!!!!!!

Upon our return, I couldn't stop telling Sianpei how much I'd forgotten how narrow roads were in Singapore. And what??? Why are there so many people riding on e-scooters and funky automobiles?!?! On pavements?!?! Amazing what 6 months away from Singapore can do... This country never stops evolving!!

It was about 10pm by the time we were on the mrt heading towards the East to our respective homes.

I told Sianpei, we've taken so many pictures in trains, we needa take one in our own country as well!!!

We got a lot of stares for doing this ok. Bloody hell. Before this, I was the only clown doing it.

Judge away my friends.

When Sianpei had to alight, we took one last picture to mark the end of our 2-months trip together

Thank you Sianpei for our epic adventure.

To all those reading, let me say that to be able to travel with someone, be it a friend or partner, is an absolute privilege. You see and experience things with no one else but the both of you. And the memories are yours to keep - for life.

As much as you've seen all the bright smiles in my posts, traveling with someone is also never easy. There are boring moments and moments when you've absolutely nothing to say to the other. Think about 24 hours together for 2 months - it's tough to be on your best side all the time. We experienced extreme highs as well as extreme lows. Tears were shed on this trip - quarrels and disagreements that took a toll on our emotions. And those weren't the only times when tears were present.... we cried whilst sharing painful moments in life. Something we normally wouldn't do in Singapore, cos life passes way too fast here at home, and we hardly have time for people.

That was what this getaway did for me - as cliche as it may sound, it was learning what it means to be human.

I'll be honest. What I see at the different places - nature, temples and what not - yes, they're beautiful. But they're often overpopulated with tourists and no matter how much you try to "get off the grid" and slum it out like the locals, there's never going to truly be that authentic experience you're looking for. Whatever you imagined in that head of yours - and for many people, the kind of pictures you're going to post on social media - the reality of the place sometimes isn't what you wish for. And I hope as hell that travellers not wish their experience overseas be like another person's because it's never going to be the same.

What you experience in your travels is uniquely yours. You don't have to visit as many places as you can to tell people where you've been, you only need to make yours the most special and unique experience it can be. For you. Impress yourself, not anyone else about where you've been to. It's a very personal journey that you'll take because there's so much to see and learn for yourself.

Before the trip, I thought it was important to cover as many places as possible. And often, upon reaching the destination, it wouldn't be as amazing as I'd imagined it to be. Travel isn't a buffet spread at a buffet table, where you gorge yourself to death to get your money's worth.

For myself, I realised it was the people I'd met along my travels - the friendships I'd made and the conversations I had had. We met soooo many people. And spoke to soooo many of them - across different borders and languages. And in every single conversation, there was always something to take away. And even in the briefest of encounters with people - a shopkeeper or a taxi driver - all of them had something to teach. I learn from people the most.

Honestly, every piece of art is just that: a conversation. - Lim Yu Beng, on Pearl of the Eastern and Oriental

Countless of times, we've also had to rely on the kindness of strangers. Cliche but once again stands true: No man is an island.

Now speaking of island... why did I leave Singapore in the first place? It was because I thought it was important that I set some time to grow out of my home before plunging full steam ahead into my career. I knew then, that that part of my life - working - would be a big chapter and that I'd get sucked right in without even stopping to breathe. I was sure of what kind of job I wanted to do and could have plunged right in after graduation. I wasn't afraid, I was full of passion, zest and idealism. But instead, I pulled back and did something that I thought was important for me as an individual.

Granted, I was lucky to have had enough savings, a family that was stable, and parents who were supportive of my decision. Not everyone is as lucky as I was. I needn't settle bank loans for my education. I was safe. And perhaps that was exactly why I wanted to step out of that zone and go somewhere, do something where I had absolutely no net and no one that I knew.

Often, I had my doubts. Was I doing the right thing? Why be so crazy? Did you know, I almost cried on my first night in Myanmar upon seeing the conditions that I was living in - it was filthy and so damn foreign, I even had to learn the right time to switch the pipe on to fill the water tank to bathe and then switch off to make sure the water didn't overflow. Sometimes there wouldn't even be any water. Nobody was there to teach me what to do and I had to figure things out. That's when I told myself to get my act together, and it required a lot of mental strength.

And every kind of gungho-ness comes from overcoming fear. We all start somewhere.


If I had to name a favourite place out of the entire trip, call me bias but I'll say, it still is Myanmar.


U Bein Bridge, Mandalay
While I was flying solo before Sianpei joined, it was

Zwegabin mountain, Hpa-An

Subsequently, Hanoi in Vietnam, Luang Prabang in Laos and hmmm this is a tough one... I think, Hue in Vietnam, tied possibly with Siem Reap in Cambodia.

I came up with this by asking myself if I'd be willing to go back to that same place.

From here on, you must be wondering... So... when and where is going to be your next adventure??

Where? I've a grand plan to visit the different cities in China, as well as its neighbouring countries like Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet, Mongolia. I think it'll take me another long trip to have time to visit these places.

Why China? I've had a growing interest in China since... I'm not too sure when but I think it was the start of my Uni days. It's evident that China is growing big and fast economically, and I think it's the place to be. I mean just look at the recent One Belt, One Road plan - it's huge! And Chinese influence can be felt not just in big businesses but even the kind of food and merchandise sold in SEA countries. I can confidently tell you that the expansionism (ok i try to be sensitive about the word, but man, i can't think of any better one to use) mentality has also seeped into the mindsets of its people. And it was evident during our trip. Tons of Chinese tourists. But it's not just their presence. It's their way of thinking that scared me.

While we were in SEA, many of them talked about "大中国", which literally translates to Big China. In almost every signature book at landmarks and museums at our different stops in Vietnam and Laos, we saw those three big fat characters - scribbled, sometimes even occupying one full page (that says a lot in itself).

There was a particular time in Laos, when Chinese tourists befriended us upon knowing we were Singaporeans and said Singapore was great (I'm not sure if they can say the same for now). We found out they were from, if I remember correctly, Suzhou (a big and rich city). During our conversation, one of them pointed at the menu of a fruit juice stall and said that someday, all of them will be written in Chinese. "Give us 3 years. Then give us another 5, and everyone here will be speaking in Mandarin." He really said that, no shitting you.

I'll translate that for you. He said "give me just one day, and I'll give you tomorrow's sun."

HOLY F* When we heard that, we turned and gave each other bewildered looks. They're gonna conquer the world! We're not taking his words out of context because he said it while we were talking about how China's getting affluent and strong. So that, my friend, is the mentality of a handful of Chinese people. (let's not forget that we met amazing and awesome Chinese people too) Still though, China is a brilliant place to visit.

When? I don't have concrete plans just like I never had plans for this SEA one in the first place. Things just happen when they're meant to happen. For sure, it's gonna happen - just not now. Travel is important to me, so a lot of things.. like marriage and children... I want them but I want to do things while I still can before taking on those major roles in my life, which by the way require a lot of sacrifice and selflessness. And sometimes, people don't get it. They think I'm non-committal. But it is because personal growth is really important to me... and believe it or not, I will be the most committed friend/daughter/wife you'll ever have. I just need time and space for my own dreams and ambitions too~

At this point of time in my life though, all I want is some peace and stability. My friends often ask why I'm not travelling to places now, after I came back. I tell them, I just don't need to. I'm happy here in Singapore and I feel settled and fulfilled. Right now, I'm enjoying work and I like doing what I do :-) So like I said, when I'm in, I'm all in. And you'll have me all to yourself~


I left
to learn.

And came back feeling...

That's it! That was my trip. Sometimes I can't believe I did it. But then again, it really only is the beginning.

And it'd only be my pleasure to take you along my next adventure ;-)

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