I’ll be turning 40 in a few weeks, and all year long I have been anticipating going into a deep funk. So far it hasn’t quite happened yet and I think I have to thank my blogger friends on WordPress who have kept me going with their kindest of comments. I never knew how much I would look forward to new comments each day. To all who have commented – it really means the world to me. To anyone else out there born in 1970, I would love to hear how you feel about turning 40. Or if you’ve reached an age milestone – how did it feel?
Sometimes I feel embarrassed that I am so immature. How is a 40-year-old supposed to behave? Inside, I still don’t feel that different. I sound so superficial, but the worst bit – the white hairs which I refuse to colour, and increasingly deep wrinkles and crinkles. I must confess that I have lost my naivety and have become more wary. I learnt the hard way, through office politics which I refused to engage in (to my detriment) that not everyone is nice and decent and that ambition can override all that.
When I was younger I imagined a lot of things for myself that didn’t quite transpire, but my friend E who is a psychologist always encourages me to count my blessings. Amongst them travel features prominently. I feel so blessed that I have had the chance to visit 11 countries across 3 Continents. Besides writing and reading I must say that travelling revives my soul. To be a travel writer would be a dream come true for me. Since I haven’t been hired as a travel writer yet (still hoping that putting it out there will make it happen), the blog helps me to fulfill that role I long for. Travel and experiencing new environments and culture has added another dimension to my life. Travelling with a partner, with friends and with family – all different and wonderful in their own ways. I find that travel can be quite a bonding experience, because it’s a shared experience. We often look back and talk about how much fun we had or the unique situations we encountered.
Magical, Surreal and Life Altering Experiences that come to mind (not in any particular order):
1. Seeing Australia for the first time was seeing a postcard image come to life. I had never seen sky so blue and clear or shops and houses so pretty. It was my very first time out of Asia. It was my first solo trip without my parents. I was 17 and akward. Going with my childhood friend U was so much fun. I had never seen such beautiful and pristine beaches before. How delightful it was to feel the refreshing coolness of the air. Even the raindrops seem bigger but more sparse and I hardly got wet after a light rain. Being Asian, to me, that was the height of exotic.
2. Lying on the grass and watching the sky sparkle with a million stars in Melbourne with my friend E. We were 18 and wide-eyed.
3. Wonderful feeling of space in a sparsely populated Perth.
4. Quaint German town like feel in Adelaide Hills, beautiful rose gardens and B cooking the tastiest pasta I have ever had. It had been an especially hard year and I was just 32. It was the year I lost my father, my confidante, my heart. I had just completed my Masters degree and somehow I could not feel any joy without my father being proud of me.
5. Milking a brown spotted cow on a farm stay in Australia, unsuccessfully. I never imagined her udder would feel that warm. I was just glad not to be kicked.
6. Staying in the YWCA and dorms during a budget trip to Australia with my 3 good friends from school – E, M and S. We paid just S$1400 for a 3 week long trip of our lives on a guided coach ride all across Australia. At one point there were 12 girls packed into a room with bunk beds, but we were young and it was an exciting time. I had not yet developed any of my finicky needs when it came to hotel rooms.
7. Toughest experiences in Bali and surviving the trauma. Getting lost and falling very ill in the remotest part of Bali with no doctors and being alone on a mountain for hours. It was part of a rough field trip in my youth. I continued with the trip and when it was over I returned and headed straight to the hospital. Sometimes it’s no fault of the country, but just circumstances and fate. It was one of those hurdles I was supposed to go through I guess.
8. Wonderful work experience – handling a medical conference in Bali at the Sheraton with the best colleagues and kindest bosses a girl could ask for. The hospitality of the people was from the heart and the best I had ever encountered.
9. Crown Jewels in the spooky awe-inspiring Tower of London. I would love make a return visit one day having thoroughly researched the history of the tower this time.
10. 5 minutes of hailstones falling on us, outside Buckingham Palace. It was sudden and my first encounter with such a phenomenon. What a thrill!
11. Feeding kangaroos and feeling their teeth nibble my palms. I am not that comfortable with animals but E encouraged me and I felt comfortable with her as she’s truly an animal lover. Animals relax around her.
12. Feeling like a child during my first snow experience 2 years ago – unexpected snow in Boston in Spring (fresh and falling heavily too – almost a blizzard and it was heaven to me). So unexpected it was heavily reported on the news. I felt blessed by this little miracle.
13. Best ever fudge brownie in Boston. I still crave for it and Singapore brownies pale in comparison.
14. Yummiest pancakes in New York.
15. Times Square was so alive – I felt like I was in a movie. It was surreal.
16. Seeing Kevin Bacon from a couple of metres away at Central Park. I couldn’t imagine that he was close to 50. He looked so slim and perfect with his chiselled features. I think he was being filmed and was surrounded by some crew. When I was ten and as I gazed at the Footloose poster wistfully (I was not allowed to watch teen movies then), I never would have imagined I would see Kevin Bacon in the flesh – it was a couple of metres away but still!
17. Feeling of intense spiritual peace and tranquility at an Ashram in India, especially when I entered the free children’s hospital that was sponsored by the Ashram, where specialists like heart surgeons volunteered their services.
18. The kindest people I have ever met were during my first encounters in rural Australia – especially the hosts at the farm.
19. The best apple I ever tasted, picked right off the tree during a farmstay in Australia. The family even baked us an apple pie to take on the road with us.
20. Train Ride to Basel (most elegant train ride I have ever had since then)
21. The palm reader in Goa who told me I would be in the fashion industry (I seriously doubted that and it didn’t happen – maybe in my old age? there’s still time)
22. People watching in Paris – I loved that the chairs in cafes were turned outwards, facing the road, resembling the seats in a theatre – the theatre of life!
23. Mesmerized by the care taken with packaging in Tokyo. It was pure art.
24. The warm and friendly people of Taiwan who communicated with me through sign language as I could not speak Hokkien.
25. The super fit and cute elderly ladies who helped me up a section at the Great Wall of China as they saw me struggling to walk up the 45 degree incline (how embarrassing for me, but I was touched by their sweetness)
26. Horrified at being served live prawns in Beijing. They were practically jumping off the bowl as we removed the lid and I could not bear to eat any of them.
27. Watching South Park with B for the first time in a acquaintance’s apartment in Melbourne. It was so nice of him to invite us.
28. Watching Ali G for the first time at a friends’ apartment in London. Loved it!
29. Seeing B fall asleep from jetlag in London while the TV showed a documentary on harpsichords with a droning commentary. I think it was more than he could bear.
30. Wanting to lie down on the road in Zurich, curl up and go to sleep – the jetlag hit me late and was so bad.
31. The amazing array of warm breads and crossaints at the Zurich hotel. Wistfully longing to return to Switzerland, because a one day trip there from London left me wanting more.
32. I was 15 and in awe of the beautiful Thai lady boys of Pattaya who looked more elegant and sophisticated than a lot of women. I did not even realize they were male till I was told.
33. Lasting impression of toddlers begging in India. A beautiful dust covered little girl with hair turned light brown from malnutrition, who could not have been more than 2 years old. It was heart breaking, and I wished I could have carried her home and adopted her then and there.
34. The thrill of bold seagulls stealing chips off our plates in Sydney
35. My first museum experience in London – sitting on comfy cushioned benches, mesmerized by the intricate oil paintings. I could have lingered in that museum for hours.
36. My toes sinking into the black volcanic sand in Langkawi. Eating chips in luxury shalet with my infectiously happy and exceedingly generous friend S.
37. Wax, but so lifelike, especially the one of Johnny Depp. Rubbing shoulders with ‘celebrities’ at New York’s Madame Tussaunds.
38. All that glittering gold and opulence at Versailles, almost made the queuing for 2 hours in the dry scorching sun worth it.
39. The spookiness, and pity combined with fear you feel for Marie Antoinette locked in her tiny spartan cell, aware of the brutal fate that awaited her at the guillotine after a life of pure luxury and indulgence.
40. Car rides all over Malaysia with my dad, mum and sis in his orange Fiat with the windows rolled down (no air-conditioning then). I miss him beyond words, and nothing can beat those cheap holidays at S$6 motels, for pure joy. Once a rat ate through our canvas bag at Port Dickson leaving a gaping hole. We stopped by roadside fruit stalls to buy durians and freshly grilled corn. We picked up hitchhiking students on the way to Penang. We loved the coolness of Cameron Highlands were we watched ‘smoke’ come out of our mouths as we spoke. We saw the biggest roses there. We watched the rubber tappers as they collected sap from the rows and rows of rubber trees. Somehow when you’re a child, everything is new and exciting. Oh the patience of my parents who had to listen to our ABBA cassette tape over and over as my sis and I sang at the top of our 4 and 5 year old lungs. When the tape got stuck, my mum, like a hero, rescued it and wound it carefully back as we watched with bated breath. There were so many jokes and so much laughter on those trips. It’s sad that it is not as safe as it was then, to travel by car and take long road trips to Malaysia. Wish I had a time machine and could return to those carefree days with my Papa.
1. Japan (Tokyo & Osaka)
3. China (Beijing)
4. Hong Kong
5. India (South: Madras, Kerala, Bombay, Goa)
7. Indonesia (Medan – Lake Toba, Bali)
8. Thailand (Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya, Chiangmai)
1. Australia (Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Gold Coast)
1. France (Paris)
2. England (London)
3. Switzerland (Zurich, Basel)
1. New York
I hope one day I can fulfill my heart’s desire and visit Scandinavia before I turn 60. I don’t know why in particular, Finland appeals to my heart. Must be the Santa Claus lure and the promise of snow. I also long to visit Sweden (land of ABBA and Ikea). There are 195 countries in the world and I hope I get a chance to explore more of this wonderful earth. Just the thought of it boosts my flagging spirit and keeps me going.
The best momentos for me are the photos I take. They help capture and preserve in time, what I saw and how I felt on that day.