It’s been a while since I’ve participated in a good blogging meme, plus I haven’t posted a non-Taiwan related article in ages. Thankfully, Leisl Beckenstein Ray, a fellow Taipei expat and blogger at Pretty Random Things, nominated me to participate in the ABCs of Travel.
Travel, my friends, is what My Several Worlds is all about! Here are my ABCs of travel:
Age you went on your first international trip
I’ve been abroad with family, but I was 18 when I went on my first solo trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The story of my time in Argentina is just as interesting is how I met Melina, my penpal, whose address I received as part of a pen pal program in Mrs. McCormick’s Grade One class at Carembeck Public School in Carleton Place, Ontario. My geography skills at age six were just as bad as you’d expect. Mrs. McCormick asked us where in the world we’d like to have a pen pal, and I mistakenly chose Argentina after getting it confused with Australia. It turns out that it was one of the best mistakes I ever made! We wrote faithfully to each others for years before Melina’s family sent her to Canada to meet me and my family when she was 14. I started my first job at age 12, and I saved my hard-earned dollars for a senior graduation trip to Argentina when I turned 18! It was the best money I ever spent. I didn’t want to come home!
Best foreign beer you’ve had, and where?
I had a pint of Lefebvre Belgian Krief at a pub in Amsterdam. It was so good! It’s made with sour Morello cherries. Yum.
Pretty much anything Asian. I’m not a huge fan of Cambodian fare, but I eat most other Asian cuisines with relish.
Destinations (favorite, least favorite, and why?)
My favorite destinations are: Barcelona, Japan, and Laos
Barcelona: I fell in love with Barcelona last fall and I would just love to go back with John. There wasn’t a single thing I didn’t love about that city. It’s beautiful, it has history, it has a gorgeous beach, fantastic food, and amazing architecture. I think it’s a city of inspiration and I would love to go there and stay for a few months to get a better feel for it.
Japan: If you’re looking for a trippy Asian experience combined with great food and fantastic cities and architecture, look no further than Japan.
Laos: When I think about our time in Laos, I can’t think of one negative experience that we had. It was an amazing trip from start to finish.
Least favorite destination: Sihanoukville, Cambodia
I didn’t enjoy Sihanoukville, Cambodia at all. I think it had more to do with the time of year we were there though. It was Khmer New Year, so the beaches were packed and filthy. There was trash in the water everywhere, and the number of coral stands really bothered me.
The local hawkers in Sihanoukville were extremely rude and pushy. I normally don’t mind hawkers, but the two boys that we bought something from on the first day that came back to pester us several times a day for more money. On the third day, my mother-in-law was really firm with them, and they started cutting their fingers across their necks and saying they were going to send their older brothers after us.
Event you’ve experienced abroad that made you say, “Wow!”
- A traditional wedding in Northeast China. One tradition, called the Door Game, dictates that the groom must buy his way into the family by presenting Li Shi, token money that is wrapped in red envelopes and that is presented to the bride’s family. This is a friendly and good-natured tradition that everyone can enjoy as the groom must find a way to get around the bride’s family
- I’ve been to Taroko Gorge in Taiwan almost a dozen times and I am still blown away by it.
- Swimming at Kouang Si Waterfalls near Luang Prabang, Laos
- John’s wedding proposal in Bali
Favorite mode of transportation
I love going on road trips and train rides with John, but for solo travel, I prefer the train.
Greatest feeling while traveling
I love that feeling you get when you’re out on your own in a totally foreign culture where you don’t know anyone. I love the feeling of sinking into anonymity for a while and just experiencing the raw beauty of a place.
Hottest place you’ve ever traveled to
Angkor Wat in Cambodia. I don’t ever remember being so hot so early in the morning. We got up at 4am every day to avoid the heat and get to the temples before everyone else arrived. I’m sure I’ve been to hotter places, but that journey sticks out in my mind as being just plain miserable because of the heat and humidity.
Incredible service you’ve experienced, and where.
The private villa with butler service that John organized for his wedding proposal in Bali was out of this world. They completely spoiled us. We have never felt more valued as guests.
Journey that took the longest.
The slow train from Changchun to Guangzhou, China.
Keepsake from your travels
John bought me a beautiful white fox fur Russian hat from a local man just outside of the Terracotta Warriors in 2003.
Let-down sight; where and why?
James Bond Island, Phang Nga Bay, Thailand. That was the first and last organized boat trip we ever went on in Thailand. It was super touristy and a complete waste of time and money.
Moment when you fell in love with traveling
I don’t think there has ever been a day that I haven’t loved traveling. Every trip my family made together when I was a child taught me that.
Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in
The Fullerton Hotel in Singapore
Obsession; what are you obsessed with photographing while traveling
Pretty much everything!
Passport stamps; how many, and from where?
I’ve been to 26 countries and I’ve gone through four passports in just over a decade.
Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited, and where?
A jungle pagoda in rural Cambodia that was dedicated to Hell and to the dangers of living your life promisculously. We’re still not sure what it was. It was completely deserted. The owner of a guest house that we were staying at took us to a little village near Ton le Sap and we encountered it as we were hiking in to the village.
Really frightening; a place you’ve traveled where you felt unsafe or uneasy.
Jakarta, Indonesia – We stayed in Jakarta for three days and went through countless bomb checks. The concierge at our hotel warned us that it wasn’t safe to go out at night and to take great care if we did. This was shortly after the 2003 Marriott Hotel bombing in South Jakarta, when a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb outside the hotel lobby. Twelve people died and 150 others were injured. We decided not to tell our parents we were staying in the same area.
Splurge; something you have no problem spending money on while traveling.
Accommodations. I don’t have to worry about traveling on a budget anymore, and I definitely don’t mind spending extra money on a comfortable room and bed. This mainly has to do with the fact that I have a type of autoimmune arthritis that requires constant attention.
Touristy thing you’ve done.
Phuket, Thailand. Hasn’t everyone?
Unforgettable travel memory.
I have many unforgettable travel memories, but the one that always sticks out in my mind happened during my first year living abroad in China, and that’s because it was easily the scariest ride I’ve ever been in. That year, I visited an alpine lake called Changbaishan, which is located along the Chinese-North Korean border in Northeast China.
Wine; best glass while traveling.
Shock! I don’t drink wine. 🙂
Excellent view, and from where?
Taipei 101, Taiwan or Jinmao Tower in Shanghai
Years spent traveling
I’ve been traveling since I was 18. I’m turning 40 in early 2015.
Zealous sports fans and where
My friends took me to watch a Liverpool football game at Anfield Stadium in Liverpool, England in 2011. I’ve never been in a stadium that large before, and I was shocked at how many people were there and how tight security was.
When the game started, people began singing loudly and this continued on throughout the duration of the game. I didn’t realize until we were partway through that many people there were singing for the 96 people who lost their lives in the Hillsborough disaster of 1989.