An individual built with way too many contradictions.
Historian by training, but I hate reading books.
Adrenaline junkie with a fear of heights.
Loves cooking, but hates washing.
National Park person, but hates camping.
Its been a really long time since I’ve had the opportunity to spend some time with myself, reflecting. Finally got some down time when I got to Laos.
The pace at which Laos goes by at is something which I took awhile to adapt to. It was only upon realising that I started being negative and antsy at the fact that I had nothing to do that I figured I was in a highly strung state of mind, even whilst on holiday. When I stopped looking to find something, anything to do, I realised how much of the surroundings I was missing out on. I was in fact, totally disconnected from the world around me.
The last few months have been really hectic, and the bulk of it was really justu keeping up with the demands of work and society. However, ever since I made the decision to take a break from work, things have been looking up. Realising that I was attached to work, and no longer being passionate about the scope of work I do was a turning point. It was time. Time for me to move. I was getting good at what I was doing, but I was also losing touch with myself.
Meanwhile, I am really enjoying Laos, and looking forward to the upcoming trips, which I’m sure will prime me to be even more introspective!
Stay tuned for a blogpost on how I explored Laos in the last one week!
P.S The following was taken at (as of today) my no.1 waterfall which I think everyone needs to visit! 🙂
2017, you’ve been… interesting, filled with numerous ups and downs, but the experiences and opportunities I’ve had made me grow exponentially both at a professional and personal level.
I’ve had to experience death on two occasions this year, and these serve to remind me of the inevitability aspects of life. You really never know what could or might happen, and the best thing you can do for yourself is to live life to the fullest. Got that city you haven’t visited? Go! Got that person you haven’t met in ages? Pick up the phone and reach out.
This year, I’ve traveled to new places, and had “adventures” which made me realise that there are just too many things that you cant control in life. Learning to let go and accept things for what it is would be the best thing you can do for yourself. That is also the only way that you can grow.
My favourite trip of 2017, was my trip to Eastern Europe. Really missing the me time and those introspective conversations I had with myself when I went hiking. Learning more about different people, and how they are made up by their history was definitely a very fascinating moment.
The world is too beautiful. Being obsessed with what you don’t like or hate about life would only hinder your full ability to appreciate the things around you. This is one thing I am definitely going to work on for 2018! Looking forward to 2018 and the surprises that will be coming!
Whilst in Dubrovnik, I decided to do a day trip to Mostar, which is about 2.5 hours away by car. I decided to join a tour group with Adriatic-Explore for this trip and I think the experience was absolutely great! I was in a mini bus with just 3 other people, and the guide was very knowledgeable, sharing very interesting bits of information throughout our trip. And, they do have quite a few pick-up points around the hilly city, which I thought was a great bonus! Besides Mostar, we also did short stopovers at little towns along the way, such as Pocitelj, Neum and Medugorje, which I thought was really cool.
Where is Mostar?
Mostar is a city in southern Bosnia and Herzegovina, straddling the Neretva River. To be exact, it is actually located in the Herzegovina region. To get there from Dubrovnik, the drive included driving out of Croatia to Neum, and then back into Croatia before reaching Bosnia, which means you have to clear customs for a total of 12 times to and fro! This is because Neum, a little resort town, which is Bosnia’s only access to the Adriatic Sea, cuts Croatia into 2.
What is in Mostar?
#1 : The Stari Most (Old Bridge)
Photos of this bridge (Instagram!) got me really intrigued to visit Mostar. Mostar got its name after this Bridge, or more precisely after the bridge keepers (Mostaris) who used to guard the bridge.
The best view of this bridge is from the Koski Mehmed-Pasha Mosque’s minaret. It costs 6 Euros to climb up the bridge and it gives you a panoramic view of the city. Definitely worth the money if you are looking into taking photos of the town and the bridge!
#2: Koski Mehmed-Pasha Mosque
This mosque was built at the beginning of the 17th century by Koski Mehmed-Pasha. From the Stari bridge, you will be able to see the reflection of the mosque in the river.
#3: Melting Pot of Cultures
Walking along Mostar feels a little like Turkey. The architecture and souvenirs they sell are mainly Turkish in nature. There are loads of Turkish influence in the area due to the fact that the Ottoman Turks ruled the area. You will even structures in typical turkish towns dotted all around Mostar. You will also see some remnants of the Bosnian war, with some buildings outside the old town covered with bullet holes.
#4: Bosnian Coffee
In my opinion, the taste of Bosnian Coffee is similar to Turkish Coffee. It is served with a Bosnian candy which is similar to the Turkish delight. Basically what you do is to place the sugar cube on your spoon and pour the coffee over it. The coffee melts the sugar and brings a tinge of sweetness to the very acidic and thick Bosnian coffee.
Oh, I had my lunch at Urban Grill ( I know, it sounds totally western), and the Ćevapi and Bosnian Coffee was pretty good! Of course, the view of the bridge from this restaurant was too amazing to miss!
#5: Jumping Off the Stari Most
For 25 euros, you can either choose to jump off the bridge or get the staff to jump. My choice was to stick to being an audience this time round, as jumping off the bridge was not something I was ready to do on this trip. At the top of the bridge, tourists chip in to make the 25 euros for the staff to jump off the bridge.
#6: Bosnian War
As a history major, I have to admit that we did not learn much about that in school. Considering how recent the event was, I am surprised that I actually have little knowledge about the war.
The Bosnian War was an international armed conflict that took place in Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995. The Bosnian war was fought because Serbs and Croats living in Bosnia wanted to annex Bosnian territory for Serbia and Croatia respectively. Up until today, I think the 2 groups still do not get along that well. I remember driving past this road which divided the 2 sides during the war, and this division actually still exists even though the war has ended. Our guide was a Bosnian Croat, and he spoke fondly of Tito’s time, because what followed after the dissolution of that was essentially the Bosnian war.
I spent about 3 hours in Mostar and managed to explore most of the city. However, I kinda wish I had at least 2 more hours to explore a few more museums. I really enjoyed my time in Mostar, and the trip made me very intrigued to read up more about the history of Bosnia. With its influence from the Ottoman empire, the Austria-Hungarians empire and its time under communist rule as Yugoslavia, this little town is really a melting pot of cultures and I would definitely recommend anyone who is in the area to make a trip to the city!
Climbing/Hiking is truly a humbling activity. You realise how helpless you are in face of nature and how you have no control Over the elements. Letting go of your ego and the competitiveness within you, that is the point where u reconnected with yourself. The intellectual banter that goes on in your mind just brings you so many insights as to how you can live your life as a better person.
There are things you should be grateful for, every single day you wake up. Even the most simple of gratifications makes you a better person. Learning not to take anything, anyone or any situation for granted, is a lesson that one should not forget.
Fear is there, always there. But you choose how you want to deal with it. Whether to give up, or keep pushing through it, it’s entirely up to you. You realise a lot of times, you are the greatest inhibitor. Fear comes from within, like happiness, is something that you have an option of viewing it from a different perspective.
You cannot control the environment, but you have absolute control over what you feel and what you want to do about it. Sometimes in life, you are better off on your own, and there are times where having people to help you does you so much good.
Learning to deal with and face the insecurities within yourself is the first step to finding that version of yourself where your heart, mind and soul are aligned. The answers are all within, and you just need to look inward for these answers. This is in fact, very challenging because we usually try to hide them as they represent weaknesses and vulnerabilities. The first step to dealing with them is awareness of the insecurities that are deep within. To start looking within, connecting with yourself is a really important step.
Random rambling on a Saturday morning before I head off to Bali to hike mount Agung in a couple more days.
A wise man whom I met on one of my travels once shared this with me this quote from Mark Twain, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”
I think I definitely have an answer for the former, and am very thankful to my parents for bringing me to this beautiful world. However, for the latter, I am still trying to figure that out, every single day. We tend to cruise through life without giving it much thought, and let the practicalities of life guide us through our decision making.
Humans have a tendency to take things for granted, and that can manifest itself in many ways. The fact that one lets the practicalities of life guide you is an indication of that. I am very guilty of that. I have been keeping myself really busy the last few months, but it still doesn’t amount to much. There isn’t much self-satisfaction. Ironically, there seems to be more satisfaction when I was unemployed. There is nothing wrong with my current life on the surface, but deep down, I feel that everything about it is wrong. By not chasing my dreams, there is a part of me that is always craving for the “what-ifs”. However, I am limited by the practicalities of life for now. I see my parents growing old, and their desire to see me tread the path that everyone is on no doubt holds me back. Is it their dream or is it my dream? Or is it just what society defines as the norm? Is there really something wrong when you don’t fall into the “norm”? Every individual is different, and I believe succumbing to social norms just isn’t the right thing to do.
Happiness comes from within, and this is something I am still striving for, every single day. Starting with being grateful and appreciating the little things in life, I think my goal for the rest of 2016 is to start being thankful for the little things that make me smile, however small they might be.
Perhaps, just maybe, it is time to get back on the road, and try to find those answers.
I think I am now officially addicted to solo traveling.
I really enjoyed the time I had alone. Seriously. I enjoyed the intellectual banter I had, with myself, inside my mind. Sounds crazy, but more often than not, for someone like me, I rarely get to talk to myself, and it actually feels nice. I really love these introspective moments, which I really rarely get back at home.
The interesting thing about traveling solo is that you are never really alone. People talk to you, people tell you stories, people feel less vulnerable and actually open up so much more when they meet a solo traveler. Its like, I feel so much more connected to the world, to other people.
People travel for all sorts of reasons, and everyone has a different goal they are trying to achieve. I’ve met American history professors in Florence who were there to study and teach Renaissance art, an elderly man who flew from Canada to Florence to visit his ailing mother in law, a Singaporean traveling solo for his grad trip, to name a few. Maybe many of us travel because you want to see the world, but what I have realized is that yeah, sure, you travel to a certain place to see what you want to see, but the journey there can be full of surprises as well!
Seriously, I cannot wait to do this again! And, among the few dreams I tried to do on this trip, I finally fulfilled the childhood dream of seeing tulip fields in Amsterdam! smile emoticon
Waiting for my next flight back to Singapore. I always feel like I have so much more I want to do whenever I am about to leave a city. Arghhhh
I visited China and Hong Kong the last few days. The time in China was mainly to visit my grandparents as they decided to move back there a couple of years ago when they decided that it made more sense for them to be back at where they truly belong when the time came for them to go.
Which got me thinking, what is home? Where do I truly belong?
Many of us are global citizens today, and connectivity has revolutionized the concept of home for everyone. We are definitely way more mobile today than our grandparents and parents used to be. Inter-racial and cross-cultural marriages are so common these days.
I was born in Hong Kong. In case you are curious, my life story goes like this:
My parents were both from China. My maternal grandfather and my dad met on a boat which supposedly took them to Hong Kong back in 1980s, when my dad was barely 18. At that point, my mum was already in Hong Kong. My grandfather basically thought my dad was pretty cool and introduced him to my mum, and then of course, love blossomed, and there you go, I was born a couple of years later.
I spent my first 3 years in Hong Kong, studied in a local kindergarden, and lived at one of the poorer areas in Hong Kong, where houses were made of wood. However, during those times, the sense of community was so strong, and that is something I’d never forget even until today.
Thereafter, my dad, being the head pastry chef of a global hotel chain, got relocated to Singapore. That’s where I moved to SG for 2 years, and went to pre-school there. When I was 6, we moved back to Hong Kong again. I was enrolled into the Singapore International School. Until today, I still have fond memories of some of my classmates back then, and some interesting bits about life back then. Here they are:
#1- We used to live in Chai Wan, and I was always the last to alight from the school bus. As the school used to built atop a hill, I used to puke my way through the entire journey.
#2- I was recruited into the drama club because my cheeks had a natural blush, and I remember starring in a play where I played the role of a doll in a toy shop. I vaguely recall that the dolls come alive at night and I was one of them.
#3- My other extra-ciricular activity was the band. I used to play the xylophone, but I totally cannot recall any bit of this now.
#4- My bestie in Primary one was a Japanese girl, whose name I cannot even recall now. Maybe that explains why the fascination with Japanese culture and language?
When I was 7, we moved to Singapore again, and since then, I have never left the country for any extended period apart from my short stint in Japan when I did summer school there.
Today, I have really good friends all over the world, and I know they are more than happy to host me whenever I visit. A lot of these places feel like home to me, and I am starting to question what the notion of home entails.
Hong Kong feels familiar, Singapore is where I was brought up. I cant decide which one of them is home. Due to my amazing friends in the US, certain states like Seattle and New Jersey makes me really at home too. Is it the people who make home for what it feels like? Or is it just by virtue where you are born and raised?
Home is where the heart belongs. But, what if your heart belongs everywhere?