Sensing the end….

Wow! Last night lying in bed, I realized I’m down to two weeks left in Southeast Asia. I actually started to cry! I’ve had an incredible time and certainly, it’s not over yet. Luckily, my foot is feeling better and I’m ready to take on Bangkok with a vengence!

While I’m killing some time waiting for my night train to Bangkok from Chiang Mai, I thought I’d take a few minutes to reflect on my journey so far. I’ve learned a lot – like for instance, that I love pineapple shakes! Why can’t I make these at home – you can bet, I’m gonna try! There’s a million things I could list that I’ve learned about myself and you can bet in the future, I will blog about that! But for now, I really want to focus on what I’ve seen and felt here in SE Asia.

Mostly, it’s been a roller coaster ride for the senses! Let me explain!

The smells here are amazing and yet, not always pleasant! One minute it’s the smell of all the beautiful flowers and greenery that grows here. Then it’s the myriad of foods they cook here – curries and noodles and chicken and pork. The smell of cinammon is often found here. And then, there’s the smell of the street – garbage rotting and the always present smell of sewer water. And let’s not forget the dreaded durian fruit. You simply cannot describe the smell. The best I can say is that it’s a combination of sweaty socks, armpits, and possibly a hit of pineapple thrown in. It’s horrible! And yet, these people love this fruit…I can not bring myself to get it into my mouth! Sorry!

One of my favorite photos!

From the hot, sandy beaches to the crumbled, torn-up sidewalks, experiencing SE Asia is a challenge to even the healthiest feet! The concrete in Bangkok goes on forever. But in Malaysia, it’s a miracle to walk down any sidewalk without falling in a hole or tripping on an uneven sidewalk. Penang is simply the worst – I could never look up when walking in Penang – I always had to look at the sidewalk! The holes and loose bricks and uneven walkways were a constant threat! And the feel of icy cold water everywhere during Songkran in Chiang Mai – wow! The winner though, hands down, is the feeling of motion here. The ferries, trains, buses and minivans are not for the faint of heart! Dramamine is my friend!!

The sounds of SE Asia are amazing. The sleek Skytrain of Bangkok is barely audible. But outside the Skytrain, the sounds of touts is never-ending. Someone is always selling something and farangs (foreigners) are always the target! In Koh Samui, the sale is about MA-SSAGE?????? That’s how the girls say it…with a long delay in both syllables and as if asking a question. In Kuala Lumpur, the horns and constant traffic are only matched in volume by the Call to Prayer broadcast over the speakers strategically placed all around town. The greatest sound…the quiet Kob Kun Kaa (thank you) spoken by a Thai with the little bow of the head and the prayer-like position of their hands!

Padthai, banana pancakes, fried bananas, mango sticky rice, and of course, my favorite…pineapple shakes! The taste buds are always on overload in SE Asia. There are many things I didn’t try because I don’t like spicy food. But the things I have tried that I like, I just can’t seem to get enough of them! Pineapple shakes are my absolute favorite – I think it’s because they are so light and yet, so sweet! Last night, I tried fried bananas and they are awesome. The chicken and pork satay is always good when walking around….nothing like eating meat off a stick! Even western food is interesting…..nothing tastes quite the same! In Penang, I tried the Nonya style of food – way to spicy for me…but certainly an adventure!

By far, the eyes have the most to absorb here although the nose is certainly the runner-up! I could never be here without a camera because describing the beauty amid all the chaos that is SE Asia would be impossible!  The magnificent skyline of Singapore seen from the Singapore Flyer, the beauty of the southern Thailand lagoons and limestone formations and white beaches with crystal clear water, the serene and surprising National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur, the silent parade of monks walking through hectic and never-stopping traffic of Bangkok – none of these things can be described without photos!  And certainly, the people of Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand, working, smiling, living life just like we do in America.

All of these things will soon be a distant memory for me. I’m so glad I have the photos to help remind me of the smell and feel and sounds and tastes of SE Asia now that it’s getting near the end. I hope you’ve enjoyed it too through what I’ve written about, but hey, I still have two weeks in Bangkok!!! Get ready for more!!

Cheri 🙂

Thank you letter to Singapore!

Dear Singapore,

I just want to thank you for the wonderful hospitality you provided me during my short stay there. How you were able to provide that lovely man who assisted me with finding my hostel in Little India so quickly, I’ll never know!

Thanks for the wonderful hostel stay! The people here were so helpful and informative above the Little India area. As skeptical as I was when I first arrived there, the staff there explained much of what was happening and how fascinating this culture is – and I truly enjoyed every minute of my stay!

Thank you Little India for opening my eyes to a whole new adventure. I couldn’t believe I happened to be there during one of your huge festival days. The parades from 10am to midnight were fantastic. It was so cool to see everyone celebrating their religion and heritage in this special way. Seeing those fishhook like things in the skin of those men carrying the huge headdresses was awesome. The fact that there was no blood is a testament to their faith and belief. And the beautiful saris worn by the women were awsome! Thank you to the lovely lady who was gracious enough to pose for a picture for me. It’s out on Facebook! She (along with most of the women there) was absolutely beautiful in her traditional sari!

Ok, I really don’t want to say thank you for the hot, humid temperatures so instead I’ll thank you for the cool breezes in the evening when I spent time in Marina Sands and the area near the Singapore Flyer. And oh, thanks for providing that wonderful view of your skyline!

Thank you for the awesome Chinatown area! I loved it! To the lady who gave me the best massage ever – a HUGE THANK YOU!!! My back felt better and I felt revived! Your advice about doing some quick little stretching exercises has proven to be very helpful. To the little man who kept urging me to buy a dress I was looking at there, thanks for taking the price down to $6…I love it and have been wearing it to and from the shower here in Kuala Lumpur! You know, I would have paid $8!!! 🙂

Finally, thank you Singapore for the lovely send off at the Woodlands Train Station. The gentleman selling the tickets there was quite handsome and made me feel so much better about rushing in at what I thought was the last minute to get my ticket! He settled me down, assured me I had plenty of time, and smiled quite a bit at this silly American!!

Thank you Singapore for a lovely time. I will highly recommend you to all of my friends!

Sincerely,

Cheri 🙂

Ending…my stay in Singapore!

My last two days in Singapore have been fabulous beyond belief! Here are some reasons why:

1.) I got a massage!

2.) I watched the coolest Indian parade today…it went on for hours.

3.) Last night I went up on the Singapore Flyer and had the most beautiful views of this city EVER!

4.) Chinatown was AWESOME!

5.) Little India was AWESOME!

6.) I started the day yesterday by leaving my moneybelt in my hostel room….and returned to find it still where I left it, untouched!

So, here’s a little info about all the above wonderful things. For the last few days, I’ve had a horrible pain in my right side just below the bra line. I think it’s my obliques? Not sure if that’s right or not, but every time I start walking, within minutes I’m in pain. Today as I was walking through Chinatown sweaty and in a lot of pain, I saw a sign for a $25 massage for 30 minutes. I’ve never had a massage from anyone other than my sister (who gives great massages by the way), so I was a little nervous. IT WAS AWESOME!! I got cooled down, she worked a lot on the area I told her was giving me pain, and I walked out feeling like it should have cost me a million bucks for that deal! I’. m looking forward now to a Thai massage! 🙂

My hostel is actually located in Little India. At first I was kind of concerned because it seemed kind of shady or something in this area. But over the past few days, I’ve come to find it quite interesting and not the least bit scary. Today as I was walking to the MRT station, I was forced to stop and wait near the Indian temple because there was a parade. Little did I know that the parade would go on ALL day and well into this evening. I asked a police officer what was going on and he said it’s a holy day for the Indians. I was finally able to get through the parade line, but everytime I came back to the hostel I had to wait for a clearning to get through! And the women who were in the parade or came to watch, were dressed in the most beauitful saris. It was so exciting to see this culture. The smell of incense was in the air all day. Talk about an experience – this was mind-blowing. The guys are carrying these heavy headress like things and by the way, they are attached to their bodies with something that looks like fish hooks. The guy with the green things on him…those are all attached with those hooks!

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The Singapore Flyer was the best $29.50 I ever spent! It’s a huge wheel that resembles a ferris wheel except that the seats are totally enclosed, hold up to ten passengers at one time, and are completely glass except for the floor! The views of Singapore are outstanding. I decided to go up as it was getting dark and it was awesome. I finally got to see the Singapore skyline like it is in all the pictures I’ve seen. Please check out my Facebook page as I’ll be posting the photos there. This was truly a highlight for me….such a rush!! Not to mention it’s HUGE and you’re up very, very high! But well worth it even if it was a little scary! It’s weird to be up walking around in that “cage” so high in the air – but totally one of the must-do things here!

Years ago I went to Chinatown in San Francisco. Maybe because I was young (like 20 years old???) and hadn’t travelled much, I was kind of frightened by it. It seemed dirty and weird and smelly. Chinatown here is quite magical. T :)he area is fairly clean and is a thriving metropolis all unto itself. I thoroughly enjoyed walking through the area and LOVED getting a massage there. Again, another recommendation if you come to Singapore!

Little India is quite fabulous. It seemed dirty to me at first as I said previously, but really, it just is what it is. The people are quite nice and there is this huge department store here called Mustafa Center. You can buy just about anything at this store. Quite honestly, I have never see so much LUGGAGE in my life in one store – every brand you’ve ever heard of (or not)!! All kinds of cameras from the most modern to some real antiquated models. It’s so fascinating. I quite like this area, but no, I’m not going to India!!!!

Yesterday I was pysched and ready to hit the town. In my haste to get going, I put my moneybelt under my pillow while I was showering (the other two girls who are quite nice had already started their day). When I came out, I guess I just totalled forgot about it until I was across town. I high-tailed it back and there it was….untouched. I was so thankful for that and it taught me to be a little more careful!

I’m having the time of my life here in Singapore and can’t wait to see my next big city – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. My journey starts tomorrow!!!

Again, it’s not always easy for me to upload photos here on WordPress but I’m posting them to Facebook whenever I can. I do hope you’ll go enjoy them there. In the meantime, I’ll try and figure out what the problem is on here. Sometimes they load but they seem to take forever!

Good night Singapore!! You’ve treated me well! Thanks!

Aside

Never-ending shopping!

My second full day in Singapore didn’t go quite like I planned. My original intention was to head over to the Marina Bay area and check out the Singapore Flyer. This is the world’s largest giant observation wheel. I thought this would be a perfect place to take pictures of Singapore at night (and still do)! However, I never made it there. Instead, I got on the MRT (subway) and decided I better check out the travel time to the train station since I leave on Wednesday for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Wow, it’s a good thing I did – in many ways. First of all, it gave me an opportunity to do what I’m finding is just about my favorite activity when travelling. I ended up going across much of Singapore and lucky for me, most of the ride was actually above ground. I was amazed at how beautiful this country is. But the funny thing is that because it’s so small, everything is built upwards. It’s weird to see laundry hanging from ten stories up and even more! And yet, there it was! Which leads me to….

Shopping malls. Singapore shopping malls are built the same way…UP!  I was amazed to walk out of the MRT station and into the basement level of a shopping mall only to find it continued up and up and up. Level after level of every store you can think of. At one point, I got to a level of all household goods….now remember, these are all different stores with household goods and by that I mean one store sold bathroom fixtures like towel racks. Another sold ovens and countertop ranges. This was above other floors that were selling clothes and shoes and perfume and jewelry…you name it…they are selling it. From designer fashion stores to 7-11’s to McDonald’s to Cold Stone Creamery….these malls have it all. Not to mention the little food stands that are selling all kinds of Southeast Asian food.

So,  my journey to find out about the Singapore Flyer didn’t happen today. But what did happen is that I learned how this city grows – basically – UP! And by the way, it’s not just one mall that has multiple levels…it’s every mall and I went in at least five of them today walking down the famous Orchard Road! It’s all just amazing…..so glad Singapore is my first stop on this journey!

Ending….to the waiting…I’m BOOKED!!!

Wow! December 13th and I am finally booked on my round the world trip!

So here’s the deal – I opted to keep the flying to a minimum. I’m heading out February 1st for Singapore. I have stops along the way of course, in San Francisco and Hong Kong! On February 3rd, I’ll be in Singapore. After that, I can decided when I want to move on to Malaysia and Thailand.

Now, about Thailand. Many of you know I have this ridiculous fear of snakes. I’m going to try and be a big girl and just relax and not expect snakes to come out of nowhere in Thailand just to scare me! But I will be cautious I’m sure. I haven’t figured out why I think they will be EVERYWHERE! But, the ticket is booked. I’m sure if I get too freaked out in Thailand, I’ll turn around and head back south or maybe further north to China! No matter what, it’s a done deal now!

After SE Asia, I’ll be heading to Europe for a few months. I’d like to see some of eastern Europe. I’m flying into Paris, but I’ll be doing lots of overland travel on the trains. Eventually, I’ll be heading to southern France to start my Camino de Santiago walk! I have a friend in Europe who will be holding my things for me for this journey!

After Europe, I’m heading back. I really have no STRONG desire to see Australia and South America right now. But, I am considering these parts of the world for my next trip. Oh God, already I’m thinking beyond this one. I’m obsessed.

So, I’m done waiting to purchase the ticket, done hesitating because of my fears about snakes, do I have enough money, where should I go; done thinking maybe I should just kill the travel bug altogether and settle in to another cubicle job. I’m done wondering when I should go, what’s the best time in regards to weather. I’m done worrying about travelling solo. Oh the list could go on and on! The truth is…..I’m ready!!!! 🙂

Oh and for those of you who think world travel is expensive, my ticket was less than $3000! 🙂 Thanks to Justin at airtreks.com for all his hard work in putting this together!