18 September 2014

My Love for Asian Countries

Looking back, 2012 was a huge turning point for me. Not only did I land my first job, I also went for my first backpack trip. Yes, backpack like literally. I decided that if I wanted to travel cheap, the first thing I needed to chuck out was my luggage. So what I did was carry a small haversack and headed to Vietnam, Ho Chih Minh City, alone, and in the hopes of meeting my Vietnamese ex-classmate from uni. It never happened. The said ex-classmate died on me a day before I was due to fly. She did not reply to both my text and Facebook messages. Even when I was already there, she ignored me, despite all the plans we made previously. To cut this story short, I befriended two other travellers at HCMC airport upon arrival, and thank god we instantly hit off. Think plenty of long-distance motorbike rides, endless halal phos at Basiron and teary goodbyes 5 days later. I also never bothered to contact my ex-classmate anymore. And I guess the feeling was mutual.

When I returned home, I had this insatiable thirst for travel. I knew I needed to get back out there and see what Asia has to offer me with. What I would do to backpack around Asia. Sadly, I couldn’t get out often because of my new job. I was stuck in a 9-5 thing and I hated every second of it. 
Before Vietnam, I have been to Hong Kong, Philippines, a bit of Indonesia, and many parts of Malaysia and Australia but nothing captured my heart like Vietnam did. In late 2012, I got another ticket but instead of Vietnam, I decided to visit her neighbour, Cambodia. I brought my family along. And I paid for them. I wanted them to experience what I knew I was about to.

There is something about third-world countries. It makes me feel a jumble of emotions I find really hard to explain. I’ll try.

This might come off as selfish but looking at the living conditions of people in these places makes me feel grateful to be born in a country where the standards of living are way, way better. In Singapore, I don’t have to worry about hygiene, catching a random disease, food, transportation, etc. 

Homeless children, underage pregnancy, beggars, strangers with untreated wounds, the list goes on. While people in that country are struggling to get through just a day, here I am putting on lame cartoon plasters on my (otherwise god damn painful) paper cut. I wish I could get all the homeless kid an ice cream each because no one feels sad when eating ice cream. I want them to feel happy, even if it will only last a couple of minutes.

Two kids got an ice cream cone each from me and dad. They thanked us profusely, and then went on their merry way to a group of five others and shared those two tiny cones with each other. 

Because tbh, there is no way in hell I am going to share my ice cream with people. They changed my selfish perspective.

Every day, I set aside about $5 (in their local currency) for charity. I try my best to give every beggar-kid I see on the streets some coins. It may not be much but they were very appreciative of every cent they got from foreigners – me. 

Human beings never fail to disappoint me. Cambodia tore my heart into pieces. To be exact, the Pol Pot Regime did. Also, why did Prince Sihanouk escape and leave his people behind? What is even more heart breaking is that this happened only recently, in the 1990s, when war weren’t supposed to happen anymore (says naïve me). 

Despite the everyday struggles, people there continue with their lives. The adults try their best to feed their children and these children try their best to care for their even younger siblings. Despite the harsh living conditions, they live, they laugh, and they love. Everyday. It gives me hope that one day, things will get better for them.

So I guess at the end of the day, when I travel, I seek more than just the excitement of being at a new, unknown place. I desire to feel things that I can’t otherwise feel when I am at home. While traveling in these said places don’t cost much, the experience is beyond rich.

Here’s hoping that I get to visit Laos next in 2015!

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