I leave Singapore this weekend. Hell of a semester. I look back and try to understand everything I’ve been through, but I realize that the best thing is not understanding my experiences at the fullest. I’ll have to further analyze my experiences in years to come. Try to draw back and learn from moments that have past, but have yet a lot to teach me.
My last 2017 Southeast Asian exploration before heading back to the West.
Borneo has a sense of its own. Although I’ve tried to avoid touristy places in my Asian travels, you always come across tourists, backpackers and other western friends that you meet along the way. Borneo was nothing like that. We might have run into a couple of tourists as well, but not the tourist culture.
We were in Borneo for four days and we constantly ran into situations where we were living the local experience. All of the restaurants, the bars, and the activities were filled with people from the Sabah province – and if there were tourists, most were Malaysian. It was basically my friend and I travelling together through the real deal.
Singapore’s peculiarities never cease to amaze. It is a world of its own. After almost 3 months here, I am still amazed by the cultural, economic and social experiences.
Perhaps the most amazing socio-economic experience I’ve had here, is the consumer polarization. The difference between the high socio-economic class and the low socio-economic class is infinite.
In Singapore you can choose between two lifestyles. The cost of living is barely a spectrum that is constantly approaching to a binomial reality. Like in America, the middle class is shrinking.
So why am I amazed if Singapore is just following a global trend?
It’s amazing to me how fast a place can start to feel like home. I have lived in Singapore for less than 2 months, and yet by the end of a 10-day trip to Laos and Thailand, I started to get antsy and was ready to come “home” to Singapore. I was excited to sleep in my uncomfortable bed in my tiny, non-air conditioned room. I couldn’t wait to go to Flavours at UTown (one of the two food courts where I live) and get a #5 from the Japanese food station. I had missed looking out at the skyline and seeing Marina Bay Sands off in the distance. I looked forward to riding on the pristine, orderly MRT. While my sentimental feelings toward Singapore partially resulted from my having slept on night busses and in crappy $6/night hostel beds for the past 10 days, some of the feelings also resulted from me actually having started to develop a connection to the country. In a city, in a country, on a continent I’ve never been to with cultural norms different than my own, I’ve started to feel at home.
- Traffic Regulation – If you hate authority, drive in Vietnam. Rumor has it that Vin Diesel has scouted the country to film the next Fast and Furious. *Cough* horrible joke *cough*. Your attitude, talent, and attention span are far better indicator of how fast you’ll get to your destination than light stops, street signs or pedestrian walkways.
- Sleeper buses – Greyhound, Peter Pan, and Vamoose all have to take note and learn from the Vietnam bus system. If you’re on a tight schedule –like we were-, and need to travel at night, sleeper buses are the solution. These buses provide nearly horizontal seats that help travelers take advantage of nights to travel and rest. By using this cheap and accessible travelling method you manage to save money, time, and days. Pragmatism at its finest.
Before purchasing my tickets for Langkawi I was thinking about how much I would rest, and chill with the few people I was travelling with. Fake News.
The Langkawi airport slimly reminded me of my hometown’s – Quito’s- old airport: basic, deteriorated, and full of backpackers. Outside locals screamed mispronounced versions of taxi, car, gum and Marlboro.
The stale smell of sweat and old clothing blended with the sweet welcoming air of our hostel’s people. The perfect mixture of European, Asian, Latin American and North American ethnicities gave a perfect glimpse of what the weekend held.
I write this post from a night bus traveling from Luang Prabang, Laos to Chiang Rai, Thailand. It has been a little over a month since I started school at NUS and in that time I have been able to travel around South East Asia a decent amount (Bintan, Indonesia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam). This week in particular is our recess week (also referred to as spring break back in the U.S.) meaning we have an entire week off from school. Two friends and I decided to take advantage of the time off and explore Laos and Northern Thailand.
I’ve been abroad for just about 3 weeks now and everything is off to a great start. I have had the chance to explore Singapore a bit, from Little India to Chinatown to the downtown area. One of my favorite experiences thus far was when a few friends and I went down to Chinatown about a week ago and walked around the night market. Since it was just about a week before the Chinese New Year when we were there, the market was absolutely bustling with people buying food, goods and treats to ring in the Year of the Rooster. We had the opportunity to buy nitrogen ice cream, which was pretty cool and made you look like a dragon while you ate it. The whole market was quite a sight.
I have been in Singapore for 20 days. You would think I would stop seeing new things, start noticing patterns, and even have a clear routine by now. Well, I don’t, and I rather it stay that way. My time at Singapore has proven to reinvent itself everyday. I am happy to say that I have had a “first” every day since I got here, and I don’t intend to stop that. New experiences are what excite me. New experiences are the reason I travelled 45 hours to try and find another home as far away from my Ecuador or UVA home.
Although I still long for fresh Vietnamese spring rolls and sometimes wake up at 3 in the morning ready to start my day, I feel that I have almost adjusted to life back in the United States. Reflecting back on my semester abroad, the overwhelming thoughts that keep popping into my head are: did that really happen? Every time I run into a friend at home and I briefly describe my travels, I am still amazed at all that I experienced and all the incredible places I saw.