I Went To Singapore And Thailand!
And I am back! (I know you all missed me).
I just arrived back to Sydney from my 9 day adventure to Asia. After basically 20 hours of travel, two taxis, a ferry, three planes, and a train ride, I dragged my exhausted self into my apartment…grumpy. Traveling takes a lot of me. Then add a respiratory virus….and you get extra miserable Emma. (So you are telling me, you don’t wanna hang out??)
I traveled to Asia for the FIRST time ever! I started my trip in Singapore, spent the majority of my mid semester break in Thailand, and had a quick 5 hour layover in Vietnam before coming back to home sweet Sydney. Considering how long this blog would take to write if I included every detail…I am going to attempt to remain short and sweet for y’all. Besides, pictures can say 1,000 words ;)
Shamelessly, I admit that my desire to visit Singapore did indeed stem from reading Crazy Rich Asians. Though the book was quite ridiculous, I had to see for myself whether the country was as extravagant as described…(disclaimer: I felt like I was walking around an amusement park the entire time).
My friends and I arranged our journey to Thailand to have a 24 hour layover in Singapore. We arrived in Singapore Friday night, hangry and (SWEATING). And to make matters worse, the receptionist at the hotel forced us to buy another room with two beds because the website failed to mention the beds were singles…and not doubles :). You can say we weren’t the most delightful customers. Once we were able to drop everything in our rooms, we scurried out to find food. Too impatient to spend a little bit of time walking to find (good) food, we ended up eating cold chicken and drinking hot water. Not the best way to try the signature Chicken Rice but desperate times calls for desperate measures.
**click through the gallery above to see photos!!
Saturday we spent the day as tourist, starting our day at The Gardens by the Bay aka ~Pandora~. The whole place felt like the Avatar movie! We started with Cloud Forest and finished with the Flower dome. The whole time walking around, smelling the beautiful orchids and breathing in all the fresh plants, I couldn’t help but think how much my mother would love to see it all. For my PA peeps, picture Longwood gardens on steroids and you got the Gardens by the Bay ;)
The picture to the right is of Supertree Grove where we were able to walk the “skywalk”. I don’t know who designs these sculptures but they were PHENOMENAL to see in person. Singapore - you really know how to out do everyone.
The overview photo in the gallery above is a shot my friend took from the top of Marina Bay Sands. We walked around the bay later to get to the Merlion statue - a recommendation from our Uber driver the night before. Apparently, a creature of half lion/half fish is an iconic landmark for the country? I think I need to read more up on Singaporean history (I tried asking our Uber driver about it but frankly, I could not understand a single word she said). Our flight to Bangkok wasn’t until 7PM from the Changi Airport, so we had some time to kill where we walked around the malls and tried more Singaporean dishes :) (pictured above)
My first reaction to Bangkok? HOLY HECK IS IT HOT AND HUMID. We arrived in the airport around 9PM, where one of our leaders of the trip met us and picked us up. I walked outside and immediately regretted having pants on. Our adventure to Thailand was booked with an Intro Travel - a traveling company that organised trips for different Asian countries. Considering none of us knew anything about Asia, and it was our first time, it was nice for once not having to worry about the itinerary of a new foreign place.
Driving into Bangkok at 11PM was insane. It was exhilarating to pass through the road where people were breathing up against our van. There were numerous food stands and vendors trying to get your attention (even in the car!). We spotted the stand with fried tarantula and scorpions (which I will expand upon later ;) and saw people trying to sell laughing gas?? Let’s just say the first introduction to Bangkok was a bit overwhelming.
Our first day in Bangkok included touring the temples and taking a river boat cruise. And to kick off my first full day in Asia, I was both blessed by a monk AND pooped on by a bird :-) this means I am going to be lucky for the rest of the year right??
My favorite temple was the Wat Pho Temple, where we were suggested to drop coins in the buckets around the large buddha to “make a wish for love”. Frankly, I have no desire to find the love of my life at age 20, but I wanted to immerse myself in the experience. It was breathtaking to observe all of the architecture of the temples and buddha statues. Can you believe these temples are so shiny considering their age?? I didn’t enjoy having to take my shoes off every time I entered a temple (because if you know me, you know I am a germaphobe) but it was absolutely worth it.
We also got to ride in a river boat where we encountered some floating markets. The older women selling their goodies were so smiley and happy to interact with us. There was a large population of catfish in the water and they gave us bread to feed them…I tried but after one jumped out of the water to snag my bread…I gave up. No new fish friends for me! (sadly cannot attach this video to the blog page :( )
We were given some free time before our big night out, and Anna and I took advantage of the cheap currency rate. Foot massages were $5 and manicures were barely $10! Jack pot! It was also fun bargain with shop keepers to get a lower price. We bought some lightweight clothing like skirts and dresses considering we were drenched in sweat 24/7 for basically $5 each. (Yes, I showered 3 times in one day.)
Our night out in Bangkok started at a delicious Indian restaurant where we had to take our shoes off to enter (what is it with bare-feet here??). I tried karaoke for the first time and had a fun time dancing around in a new foreign country. We ended the night on Khao San Road - a very popular, very BUSY road in Bangkok. For me, nothing beats dancing with friends and that is just what we did. However, I was very happy around 1 AM to crumble into my bed from heat/travel exhaustion.
Fruit is a huge part of the food culture in Thailand and my first tase of it all was mango slices on a stick…MORE PLEASE. I also had the BEST yellow curry ever (Sarah, I thought of you). All in all, the noms in Thailand were amazing. Yes, my stomach didn’t agree with me AT ALL (seriously, thank goodness for indoor plumbing), but I told myself before the trip that I could survive letting go of my dietary restrictions and enjoy the local cuisine for the trip. I know I wasn’t going to die from eating gluten/dairy for a period of time and this mentality helped me stay in the moment of the travel experience - rather than sitting in a pool of anxiety for not eating the “right foods”. I also found a new found love for pad thai after making our OWN in a cooking class. Who would have thought? (pictured below).
Here are some noms from my trip :)
We had to take an overnight train to get to our next destination: Kao Sok National Park. And when I say overnight, I mean 12 hours. It wasn’t as terrible as I thought it would be… besides the bag of eaten chicken wings hanging in the bathroom. I always tell myself that travel is good for my germaphobe(ness) - forcing me to relax a bit - but this stepped over the line FOR SURE.
In the Khao Sok National Park, we had one night in floating bungalows. We had to take a 25 minute boat ride out in the middle of a “lake” where our accommodation were literal floating houses. On our way to the bungalows, we got to take a quick break and swim where we did some cliff jumping. Once we arrived, we took advantage of kayaking around the park and swimming in the bright blue water since we only had one night there. This part of the trip was very “chill” and relaxing so other than peeing my pants laughing from my friends flipping their kayak 10+ times (RIP Anna’s coverup now at the bottom of the Khao Sok Lagoon), I don’t have many exciting stories to share from this part of the trip. But I would like to add, the stars at night were absolutely breathtaking :)
The rest of the trip was based in Koh Phangan - one of the southern islands. It took a while to get there, and the sweat I accumlated from the 2 hour ferry ride was definitely not healthy. However, we arrived safely (and smelly) Wednesday night to kick back and relax beach side for the rest of the trip.
In Koh Phangan, we were given traditional Thai massages, had a chance to explore all the beaches, hiked a steep trail in flip flops and ate some juicy fruit. Our accommodation were right on the beach, with hammocks outside of our bungalows. It really felt like paradise. One night, we were able to experience an authentic night market with all sorts of food to choose from. Our second to last night, after exploring the beaches all day, our leaders took us to a beautiful bar that overlooked the island. And yes, during the sunset! It was absolutely magical, especially with the dragonflies buzzing above us.
I do have to admit though, by the last day I was starting to miss everything that I was comfortable with. Traveling can be tiring, and no matter how nice of a place you may stay at, nothing beats the comfort and familiarity of your own bed (even if your bed in Sydney isn’t the softest). For me, 9 days is a loooonnngggg time to travel and my body doesn’t always adapt the best. So I was sad to say goodbye to Thailand, but also super happy to say hello to Sydney.
My favorite part of staying in Kao Phangan was when we learned Muay Thai (Thai boxing)! We were taught by champions and I even had the chance to fight a bit in the ring. Talk about feeling empowered. Thoughts on me picking this up when I get back to the States? Let me know below ;) You may not want to pick a fight with me…
My friends and I started our way back to Australia 6 AM Sunday, and arrived back in Sydney Monday at noon. We had a longish lay over in Vietnam where we spent the five hours exploring what the airport could offer (this meant chocolate tasting). I wish I could share more about my opinion of Vietnam, but sadly an airport visit does not do it justice. (But I did feel offical in my “rice farming” hat)
All in all, I am thankful for the opportunity to explore Asia! Thanks for sticking with me in this long, (probably boring??) blog update. Once I am not sick and feeling better, I will make sure to provide some more insightful posts ;)