I’ve only traveled to a few countries, but I knew that I love traveling even before I traveled overseas for the first time. The first time I traveled to a foreign country, I was in Bangkok, Thailand and as we landed, I remember thinking about how it feels so surreal to be on another part of the world map for once.
What appeals to me most about traveling is the fact that everything is different (with varying degrees) from what I have experienced and/or encountered before. Different places, faces, air, food, language and etc.
They say that Capricorns crave stability, but I desire for change. Being at one place for too long, literally and metaphorically (the latter most of the time), makes me feel like I’m not progressing in life. However, in the literal sense, me constantly needing change means that traveling to a foreign country after my first time there does not hold the same amount of appeal anymore, even though I enjoyed myself thoroughly while I was there. This is probably one of the reasons why I decided to visit China last December.
I never wanted to travel to China – I preferred Western countries or countries where English was the main spoken language. Call me Westernized, whitewashed or whatever is more suitable, but I never saw the appeal in visiting China.
I went anyway, possibly also because we were going to go to Disneyland (it was my first time) and I’m glad I did, although this holiday was the first one that made me wish that it would end earlier than planned.
Shanghai was, to say the least, a let-down. There were some redeeming factors, like Disneyland and Shanghai Old Street, but the rudeness of everyone there just turned me off.
Disneyland was magical; it’s that one thing you don’t think you need until you have it.
I prefer Hangzhou over Shanghai because firstly, the people were much nicer and polite. Secondly, it’s because I found the city more beautiful. Although, I’m only saying this based on the places I visited.
Overall, our accommodations were alright. We stayed at 3 different places.
Joyful Star Hotel Pudong Airport, which provided free authentic Chinese breakfast that I really liked. The room and heating were really nice too.
Shanghai City Central International Hostel, which had very quirky and unique decorations. It also had a mini club/bar/restaurant where a lot of backpackers and younger travelers hang out. This is my least favorite accommodation because the room was quite dirty and old, and the heating was terrible. So, it was really cold because temperatures outside dropped as low as 3 degree Celsius.
Westlake 7 Service Apartments in Hangzhou. This is my favorite out of all 3 accommodations because it had a loft, it was really clean and cozy and the heating was the best. There is nothing bad I can say about this place.
The food in both Shanghai and Hangzhou were actually quite bad. They weren’t how I expected them to be (I expected food like in Din Tai Fung?? tho I’ve never been), didn’t have a lot of variety and just had a very different taste palette than what Chinese food in Malaysia has.
The best thing that I didn’t expect was the shopping. The Chinese are really fashion forward! There were a lot of trendy clothes, shoes, and accessories that weren’t exactly cheap, but the prices were reasonable enough for me to buy them because the designs that I saw there, I never saw in Malaysia. So, I bought quite a few things, which if you know me, made me really happy.
After coming home, I thought that I would never return, only because I felt that some of the people were quite rude. But now that I’m less bothered about it, I’d totally go back. That, and also you know what. 😉
Day 2; Shanghai Disneyland Resort
Sleeping Beauty’s castle
Giant Christmas tree
Day 3; A very Chinese breakfast ft. Pa @ Joyful Star Hotel
Being back for the first time since that school trip in Form 3, every aspect of this trip was tinged with excitement. Little everyday things like scrutinizing the MRT maps to find our way from Changi Airport back to our hostel (5 Foot Way Inn!) and having simple breakfasts at the quaint balcony of our hostel overlooking the Singapore River, they all became part and parcel of this short and eye-opening getaway.
Perhaps it was the thrill of being on our own, with no reins to hold us back. Perhaps it was the allure of a foreign city laid out before us. Perhaps it was both and everything all at once.
Oh what a blissful and relaxed yet somewhat rushed cycle of a holiday this was.
Relaxing swims in the infinity pool, getting out to snap Instagram-worthy photos poolside when the water was no longer in the shade, moments of no holds barred wrestling with the swan float that unfortunately resulted in its tragic demise, uncountable splashes as flips and shots were persistently attempted and fleeting water gun wars. All of that knocking most of us out just in time for afternoon naps in that one and only bed with a sad air-conditioner that barely made a difference in the temperature.As the evening breeze rolled in and the sun began to set, the sleepyheads awoke and we were off to the pool once again.
Time in between was spent with conversations over the portable stoves set on the dining table as we cooked our meals with guidance from the very much experienced Chai, old-fashioned games like the Memory Game using cards, Jenga with a spin and Heads Up, and trying to get our daily dose of the outside world through social media platforms using precious 3G (wifi-free huh) and with what little signal we have, being seemingly in the middle of nowhere.
On our second and last night there, we had BBQ for dinner at the pavilion, which gave the best view of the sunset in the whole retreat. Although we had to move almost all of the kitchen equipment and utensils from the chalet to the pavilion, which was on the opposite side of the retreat, every trip to and fro was well worth the meal anticipating us. Thanks to the professional BBQ pit provided by the retreat and our excellent cooks. It was honestly the best BBQ meal I’ve had, not including the ones I’ve had at my uncle’s place over CNY because this was us, a bunch of (almost) 18 year olds cooking for themselves. And boy was it satisfying, although I didn’t do much of the cooking.
Being the adventure seekers and nature lovers that we were, not going for the jungle trek when the opportunity was right there in front of us seemed foolish and wasteful, now that we have come this far to a retreat with a forest reserve within walking distance. So, at 6 in the morning on the day we were to leave for home at 11a.m., Luqman, Anne and I woke up and readied ourselves for the jungle trek.
Understand this, I’m not an animal person. Dogs and their tongues disgust as much as scare me and my nightmares include having to pet a cat. Why I’m telling you this is because much to my sheer terror and utter panic, about 10 minutes into our walk heading towards the gate that opens to the main road, barks and low growls of increasing volume reached our ears. We could not see the dogs until they were close enough to be too late to run as it was still dark, although I know running is the last thing you should do in a situation like this. In the time that it took for the pack of dogs to come into view and as the memory of them relentlessly chasing our car the day we arrived popped into my head,we debated (but mostly with myself) whether or not to turn back before the dogs came closer or to continue, whatever way, I didn’t know yet. As we stood still and I tried to calm myself, frantically asking if dogs can sense fear, one of my friends stepped forward and extended a hand to the dogs which gradually ended in them making friends. Their growls diminished and before I knew it, there were five snouts sniffing me as high as they could reach. With new found bravery and fondness for these canines, I followed my friends’ lead and petted the dogs. Soon, they were all competing with each other for our affection.
Although I was not instantly converted into a dog lover, my views on them have changed as well as my fear of them lessen ever so slightly. It was a moment that I was very proud of myself for going through with. And as one of the dogs followed us into and out of the woods, I can’t help but feel another swell of pride as I realized that we’ve found a friend in it (although it was a rather dangerous distraction that caused both of my friends’ fall during the trek, literally). I’m still quite afraid of them, but hopefully in time and more encounters, I’ll get over the fear and come to like them.
Besides the encounter with the dogs, I now believe in miracles because while we were trudging in the water with our bare feet, trying to balance ourselves on the slippery rocks by keeping our centre of gravity low, we were bound to try to stop an inevitable fall by placing our hands under us. And that was when my phone took a dip in the cool water, wholly immersed before my reflexes kicked in and jerked it out of the water. I shook it as hard as I could, as if that would rid it of the water that might’ve gotten in and even placed it in a bag of uncooked rice as soon as I got home, hoping it would work its magic like those little packets of silica gel you find in shoe boxes. Something must have worked because thank the heavens! My phone is still fully functioning just like before and fingers crossed, nothing changes.
We made it out of the woods from our destination , the waterfall, in half the time that we took to reach it. The trekking was no easy feat. I didn’t know what to expect as it was my first time. But one thing’s for sure, I’d jump at the chance to do it again, but only if it’s in a different jungle. We were at the gate that barred trespassers at 9.45a.m and how happy we were that we’d have more than an hour to clean up and have breakfast before the taxi arrived. What started out as a trio became a duo as Anne and I were left behind because Luqman was soon out of sight as he sailed past us all the way up to the retreat.
We huffed and puffed as we fought the lactic acid buildup in our calves. It felt like we were doing lunges uphill and that the end would never come. But, inevitably, it did and in not as long as we thought we took, only 20 minutes! We crashed onto the floor of our chalet as soon as the door opened, all sweaty and cursing as the ones who stayed behind half-smirked, having just woke up.
As soon as we finished cleaning up and gobbled up a hearty breakfast of nasi lemak and rendang chicken poolside, we wasted no time in taking some final group photos.
Such dependent of us humans are on technology, always counting on photos to immortalise our memories. In the meantime, those photos will serve just perfect for me to reminisce on until the next getaway.
Ok so this is super late but I’m still gonna publish this because I want my first blog post to be about something that happened on the first day of the new year 🙂 It’s gonna be really lengthy too,so…here we go.
First, some background story. I sat for my very last SPM paper, EST (English for Science and Technology) on the 8th of December. Only 8 people from the entire Form 5 took this additional subject, just a FYI. Anyway, after this paper, which was so smartly scheduled to be one week after the Biology paper, which saw most students from the Science stream taunting people like me with their squeals of joy upon completion, I spent a few days doing nothing and time seemed to fly past me.
I was notably more excited for Christmas and New Year’s, probably due to the fact that I was freshly liberated from any sort of work and ready to spend my days not worrying about wasting time. Not to mention that we actually had a chance of executing plans independent of transport by reluctant parents as I had a few friends who already got their drivers’ license AND are regularly driving around town (so that makes it pretty safe, right?) So we, as in the 11 of us (next time I mention the 11 of us, just know that they include Li-Anne, Eve, Tai,Lak, Foong, Michelle, Kayveena, Shannon, Resh and Rebekah) somewhat planned to have a dinner some place (see what I mean, we didn’t even set on a place) and then either exchange presents or do Secret Santa. But that didn’t work out. And then, we roughly discussed going somewhere for a New Year’s countdown, but that didn’t work out either. So you can guess that I was pretty down, from getting all hyped up about both celebrations to ending up at home during both.
The knowledge of a trip the next day to Rebekah’s second home at Bukit Senggeh did little to cheer me up. I was excited, but not quite as excited as I thought I would be when we first confirmed the plan with Rebekah about a week before because only 7 out of the 11 of us were going. Sometimes, plans simply lose their appeal when the people you wanna share the experience with won’t be there with you.
But boy was I wrong!
At 9 am, approximately an hour later from the time we all agreed on, the whole squad left Kayveena’s home for Bukit Senggeh. Ker Rou and I traveled with Rebekah’s mum, Aunty Ivy, her brother, Ezekiel and her sister, Rachel while the remaining of us went with Rebekah’s dad, Uncle Chow. The subtle tension of being with Rebekah’s family without her at the beginning of the car ride began to ease as music poured from the speakers and conversations between Aunty Ivy and Ker Rou with an occasional word or two from me began to take shape.
After about an hour on the road, we finally pulled up in the driveway. It seemed like we were the only family there. The house sat on one side of a single straight road lined with trees and there were only about 4 other houses along the road. At the end of the road was a small piece of land with wet soil that would soon attach itself to the tread of the tyres of the bicycles we would ride.
The house we stayed in was a humble one-storey bungalow, with just enough rooms to occupy all of us comfortably. There was also a basketball court and a small fish pond in the backyard, which we took interest in only for a brief moment as we fed the fishes.
After we all picked our rooms and explored the area for a bit, we decided 0n a game of Monopoly. The game ended fairly quickly because there were 7 players and most of them weren’t very successful so they started complaining. One thing led to another and before long, I was putting back the pieces of the game into its box. Lunch was KFC (YASSSSS) that Rebekah’s folks bought back home from a nearby town and we made jokes and small talk as we ate at the dining table. I sat in between Uncle Chow and Michelle and for some reason, this seating arrangement remained the same during dinner. I must admit, I was rather uncomfortable as I barely know the man and I’m not what you would call a social butterfly either, unlike my much adored dear friend, Ker Rou, who hit it off with Aunty Ivy ever since the car ride earlier in the day. Luckily for me, I didn’t get stuck in any awkward situations where I’d have to fumble for words and have Uncle Chow’s impression of me tainted.(I like to be in people’s good books)
As we cleaned up after lunch, the rain started to stop and we decided that it was time to head outdoors. “What a time to be alive!”, I thought to myself as I tied my shoelaces. The sky was starting to clear and the sun filtered through the clouds signaling the end of the rain. I didn’t even have to worry about the sunlight and putting on sunscreen because it was the type of lovely weather that didnt have the Sun’s scorching rays beat down on Earth and yet it was bright and cool. I couldn’t have been more excited and thankful for the weather. God knows what I would’ve been stuck doing indoors if the Sun shone like it usually does any other day of the year here in Equatorial Malaysia.
We took out the bicycles from the storeroom-Michelle got the fancy mountain bike, I chose the medium-sized one and Lak rode the ‘kiddy’ one. With the wind blowing in my hair and fallen leaves crunching under the weight of the bicycle tyres, I felt like a kid again. It had truly been so long since I rode a bike and I was full of the joys and spring. We raced each other up and down the road, rode down slopes and then struggled to push the bikes back up. As I rode my bike back up the driveway, I realised how much I was sweating and I remember thinking how such a relaxing activity such as cycling could cause so much perspiration to be excreted.
As Michelle and I attempted to rid the bicycle tyres of mud using a hose, the others shot some hoops at the basketball court. Noting how evening-like the weather was and how both of us were already wet, Michelle and I devised a simple plan to get everyone else wet too. The basketball would roll over and we wouldn’t help throw it back but wait for one of them to come get it so we could spray them. But not wanting to get wet, nasty Kayveena threatened to use my phone, which i asked her to hold on to, to shield herself from the jet of water. Being the fearless girl that I am, I didn’t back down. Just then, it started drizzling again and i thought, “Why not just get wet and play in the rain?? Wouldn’t THAT be SO MUCH FUN??” Apparently not as everyone rushed back into the house. “We could just get wet and then shower right after since it’s already like 6”, I thought. (Seems like I’m always thinking things but never saying them,hmm)
Turns out I was wrong. It was only 3 in the afternoon and we all sat at the dining table trying to think of something to do. No one checked their phones because guess what? We didn’t have wifi. I repeat,we did NOT have internet access for those 2 days, well except for those of us who had data. And the thing about not having wifi, I realised, is that you have so much more time you didn’t think you have to do whatever it is you want to do. Time moved sluggishly and at the end of those two days, it almost felt like we were there for a week. I think it’d be hard to recall all the things that we did if it weren’t for photos.
After finishing up some snacks, we decided to start preparing for the barbeque. Disinclined to just wait and not help out, everyone soon landed a job and the bamboo skewers holding 3-4 pieces of food each were stacked in containers in no time. Being the scout that he is, Ezekiel got the BBQ started and then we were sizzling and BBQ-ing away. I think it is safe to say that there was never a dull moment as we warmed up to Rebekah’s family and them to us. We even gave each other names based on what we were doing at the moment such as Butter Girl (Foong and Tai coated the hot plate with Planta), Chicken Ladies (Michelle and Kayveena grilled the chicken-the wings weren’t cooked through but all is forgiven) and pro tester (Lak checked if the food was cooked or not)
After dinner, Uncle Chow took out some fancy snow-cone-shaped torchlights and announced that we could all go for a night walk if we wanted to. Of course everyone said yes because how spontaneous and hipster would that be?! Uncle Chow handed Ezekiel a baseball bat for fear of us encountering wild boars or snakes but nonetheless advised us to run first if given a choice.
The walk was short, not much to see, but in the dark, all seemed scary and we clinged on to each other as Ezekiel walked ahead.
After everyone took their baths, all of us (including Ezekiel and Rachel) gathered in Rebekah’s room. The only light in the room coming from an iPhone torchlight, we intended to squeeze a few tears out of dear Rebekah by taking turns to tell stories of our friendship, but to no avail. Storytelling turned to gossiping and at 15 minutes shy of 3 am, we moved to Lak’s room to let Rebekah and Kayveena drift off to dreamland.
Rachel left us to go to sleep at 3 am, and Michelle and Foong stirred in their sleep every now and then as the remaining of us, Lak, Ker Rou, Ezekiel and I were left to our own devices. We talked about anything and everything from school drama to body hair. Ezekiel even talked Ker Rou into restarting an Instagram account! I think it’s safe to say that the conversation we had was pretty enjoyable if it kept us up all night.
We initially also planned on staying up so that we could wake everybody up in time for the sunrise (to take tons of photos bc why not) But stupid clouds just had to get in the way that morning and the poor Sun looked as if it was too afraid to come out. While waiting for everyone else to get ready for us to leave to a nearby town to have breakfast, the 4 of us who stayed up and needed less getting ready went out to the basketball court to get some fresh air. Ker Rou, Lak and I made feeble attempts at throwing a frisbee disc and gliding on a penny board with some guidance from Ezekiel but we gave up before we could bring further embarrassment upon ourselves.
As we took our seats at a table in a coffee shop, looking like a bigger version of The Brady Bunch, except with more girls and only one boy, a regular (I assume) of the place seated at the table right next to ours, jokingly asked Uncle Chow if we were all his children. Not wanting to be rude and finding the question quite funny too, we joined the man in his laughter. Uncle Chow nodded and smiled briefly then proceeded to jot down our orders on his phone.
Back at the house, Ker Rou and I took a nap while the others minded their own business. When i awoke and checked the time to realise that it was only just past 10 in the morning, I was once again baffled by how time seemed to slow down there, without the luxury/distraction of the Internet. I found the others in Rebekah’s room playing a game of Monopoly and I joined in on the next game.
When the game was over, we found ourselves once again at a loss for things to do. So, we just talked and took photos of random things as Ezekiel napped (he adamantly said that he wouldn’t the night before but look how that’s turned out) Sometime during late noon, we were summoned to help clean up the place and to pack our stuff as we were leaving at 5. When we were done, we headed out to take some final group photos before we had to leave when Rebekah’s parents came back from taking out the trash. We took longer than we should’ve, but it was all worth it to have memories of that day immortalised in blurry polaroid films and jpeg images.
I honestly didn’t think that I’d have as much fun as I did over the span of those two days, and I do wish that we could’ve stayed longer, but all good things must come to an end. Hopefully, the end will come later rather than sooner next time around 🙂
I’ll miss you Rebeks/Chow!
Ps. Sorry the photos are so blurry. They were taken with phones.