bkk 2014

 

Bangkok, Land of Smiles –
Sailing along the gritty, grimy streets I couldn’t help but compare it to Vietnam. The hordes of motorcycles I had witnessed just the day before were replaced by trails of cars – pretty new ones too; the roads also seemed newer (cleaner) in comparison to the roads I had strolled across. Words, etched across the giant boards, were similarly foreign like before.

 

 

all the electrical jolts

 

 

 

 

 

so greedy one

prize presentation ceremony

 

 

I suppose life truly works in mysterious ways. Sometimes as I sit in the restaurant, in the bar, along the bridge I look at the 2 boys and it still hits me as almost bizarre that I was here, in bangkok, with them. Not that I expected never to cross paths with them again – but in these ways, the sets of circumstances that led to where we were today… Just not what I could have pictured. Yet it feels almost like the gap of those years didn’t pass that much – though they did, of course. Years of histories and chunks of life had flashed us by, but somehow it still felt a little like 15-16 year olds saying the same jokes and giving the same bullshit again, unchanged. I asked, will you still talk to me like that when I’m 50? I suspect so, and nope, that’s not really bad at all.
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Leaving Vietnam – Danang, again

My affection for cities compound whenever I wander around its streets alone. Soaking in the little details of interactions and decor, all the little quirks that occur spin paragraphs of thoughts in my mind. Thank you Hue! :’)

Caught the sleeper bus back to Danang for my flight due the next day – it was beyond comfortable.
Upon getting off the bus with my backpack I had less than $7 sgd for 2d1n. Poor as I was, I wanted to walk the 3.3km to my hostel. Motorbike uncle asked me where I was going – I said I had no money. Somehow he offered to take me to my hostel for free; the other uncles looked surprised and roared into some kind of dialogue in Vietnamese. The coffeeshop auntie smiled as well. I decided to get on. 
Was mentally prepared to jump if he had brought me to some ulu place but I’M HERE ALIVE KINDNESS & FREE RIDES EXIST!!!! I was ecstatic when I arrived in front of my hostel (Funtastic Danang Hostel) – really, truly, this kind man gave me a free ride and spared me from a 3km walk under the sun!! So so touched :’)
#selfie with motorbike uncle, plus my beaming face of joy

Here, I was driven to a cafe along some kind of cafe street of the city. It was small and cosy, and the owner of the cafe was lovely. We had a short chat and he reminded me of how happiness can be simple. He gave up his masters degree halfway, his art work and deskbound job and decided to come back from the States back here, he just needed a simple life.

Would also like to comment that the Funtastic Danang Hostel is one of the best hostels I’ve been to. Clean and incredibly new (only afew months old for now) I paid less than $5.85 usd per night (~8sgd) and it had good facilities, free breakfast, lockers and slippers!

I guess my desire to Escape has been quelled. Until the next time 😉 



On my way back, what I’m feeling is a bundle of gratitude for my current stage in life. I think I’m an incredibly blessed 22 year old with the chance to travel, good education, a roof over my head and home-cooked food to eat. 

Hue – royal tombs

At this point, my camera had died from the bicycle fall the day before. Such a pity, but these pictures turned out really pretty anyway.

Riding along the countryside with the mountains and rivers by my side I couldn’t help but feel like Geography is such a wonderful discipline. Navigating within the village, looking at the children play, I thought about my days in Baan Rak Thai again. What I’ve learnt in urban jungle Singapore is so hard to be applied in itself but within the world, I see it everywhere – the things I’ve learnt from the texts come alive. And I love it. With every fibre of my being, I do.

The world is truly my classroom.

I was starting to understand why they said to travel when you’re young. Previously I thought I’d get the chance anyway, when I’m older. But my positionality as a student, a young girl, armed with naïveté about the world, it shapes and enriches my experiences in many ways. In my 30s I might be tied down with various commitments, with a lack of an extended time frame to travel. I might not be able to haggle as much or attempt to sneak into places without coming off as an unruly immoral adult upon getting caught. A student holds many perks and somehow people are kinder to me, I feel. Being younger than the shopkeepers, the motorbike taxi uncle, the stall owners, have them asking questions and watching after me, somehow. Plus, there’s just too many places in the world to go – I want to move from cities to cities for extended periods of time but my holidays will be limited. No time beats right now.

I visited the three tombs, disappointingly almost, by a motorbike taxi. Khai Dinh, Minh Mang and Tu Duc tomb. I say disappointingly because I kind of wish I had braved the journey and cycled the kilometres there, as many travellers did. Still, I was to meet Thao in the afternoon for lunch so there was time constraints, and the journey there was a breeze; i count myself fortunate.


of all, i liked Khai Dinh tomb best. After seeing some pictures of it, seeing it right before me made me excited indeed.

Thao unquestioningly brought me to her place, despite having known me only from the day before. I was somewhat amazed. All the same I carried in me a tinge of wariness that was rapidly dismissed when I stepped in seeing how she had led me, a stranger, to her place, without any fear that I would disrupt the family and children she was staying with. I ate some vegetables, potato soup, tau kua and rice.

Before we parted for the final time that evening she handed me a beautifully wrapped porcelain gift. For someone she’s only met for 2 days, I am beyond touched :’)
What I learnt today –
Lotus as the national flower of Vietnam, hence the lotus symbol on Vietnam Airlines
The Vietnamese put on a cardigan or jacket of sorts despite the sweltering heat. A student mentioned that it was because retaining the temperature of the body was cooler than being exposed to the sun. I remember my surprise when I first saw Vietnamese putting on more layers despite myself sweating profusely; now I understood better. As one wearing a tank top and a cap (without a face mask) under this heat, my status as a foreigner was readily revealed.
Face masks on due to air pollution, and to protect their faces from the sun
Anti natal policy – to stop at 4 (!!!) children. In the villages they have more, possibly because they want to try until they get a boy. (As she told me this, I nodded and in my head I was like GEOG TEXTS COME TO LIFE)
I must have walked at least 5km over the days under this heat. Turning shades darker in these 3 days than the 2 weeks I spent in Da Nang.

Days in Huế – the Imperial City

 


Hue, the Imperial City

 
Truong Tien Bridge, which i learnt to walk towards each morning from the hostel. Here, different motorbike taxi uncles approached me everyday. With so many motorbike taxis around I wonder about the competition, really.

 

I love cycling / motorbiking through these gates! It’s a wonderful feeling, as through I’m soaring through history back into some sort of a past. It also strongly reminded me of Krakow, riding past these city gates.

 

 

 

Days are passing me by so quickly. Today I cycled to the citadel under the blazing sun, ever so merciless, and it was beautiful. I gulped down 2 sugarcanes and a coconut though, after emptying my water bottle in the first half hour. I find that I’m no longer scared to cycle on the roads, and crossing the busy streets isn’t really that scary anymore. The motorbikes kind of weave around you, you just have to be careful not to make abrupt movements- because that’s what I do when cycling as well, navigate around other bikes and people. In the chaos of the streets I find a certain structure, a rhythmic pattern. 





Here, I foolishly tried to drink my sugarcane while cycling, and was fiercely greeted by 3 scabs-to-be. That said, it was a quiet road though, near the citadel so that err on my part is pardonable. My bag dropped and my camera’s spoilt now. Makes me sad but I guess at least it’s happened near the end of my journey. Still, Hue is a beautiful city 🙂
Met Thao and Bai in the evening, where they brought me to this beautiful mountain top to catch the sunset. So, so beautiful! After that we went to some dimly-lit street to eat dinner. As she rode the motorbike in the dark along the train tracks. I briefly considered if she was going to bring me to some deserted area. Nothing of that sort happened of course. But I feel like as I grow older I’m going to be more suspicious of people and strangers, but students in themselves hold a certain naïveté that I trust.
They treated me to the meal, and I treated them to ice cream. Such sweet company! 






 

Danang – Hue


 central bus station, da nang
you have to buy your tickets on the morning of departure itself – approach the counters, wait for the timing and go to the bus terminal to look for your bus to board.
the prices listed on the glass panes are not necessarily the one you pay – when we approached some counters, they quoted a ‘foreigner price’, afew hundred thousand dongs more expensive than the Vietnamese price.


spotted: my bus!

As the bus departed the Da Nang bus station, I felt calm, at peace. The past 2 weeks have been lovely, the company I was with; all the same it was nice to have some me-time again. I thought about Ashley and silently wished him well. I know it’ll be an amazing 2 months for him and I’m so envious, I hope that one day I’d get the chance to do the same.

bus journey from da nang to hue was gorgeous; despite the very humid weather (very sleep-able) i loved it.

The guy next to me asked a question in Viet; I think it was something along the line of why I was going to Hue. I shook my head and smiled, and tried to ask how long the journey would take. He shook his head and smiled. We shook our heads and smiled. I wonder what he was thinking, and I thought it was interesting that his thoughts would be in Vietnamese, while mine in English, and perhaps in his thoughts would lie words and descriptions that my language does not have.

Later he asked me where I was from and I managed to get that he was traveling to Hue, too, on holiday. We showed each other some pictures (of Hoi An from the day before) and I silently upgraded him from Guy to Nice Guy. 

Lady next to us tapped me and said something I managed to interpret with the help of Nice Guy as to open the window. Nice Guy muttered something to Lady while gesturing to me; perhaps it has to do with where I’m from. 

I thought about how nationality, the place you’re born in – circumstances not within your control – can determine the way people respond to you, and the way you may live your life. As someone mentioned before, people born in particular countries may not get the opportunities to work for the life they may want to lead, simply because they were born there. I am lucky that way. Also, with the recent anti-Chinese riots and with the traveling in Europe, I’ve come to realize that I’m happy to be known as a Singaporean, and I’m so thankful for being able to speak English.

Last week some of us went to a Chinese stall/ restaurant and the owner (a Chinese) spoke to us in mandarin. He asked us how long we’ve been here, and we said 2 weeks. He said “你们不怕吗?” “Are you not afraid?” and went on to raise his finger, sliding it slowly across his neck. We broke into nervous laughter.

I haven’t gotten the chance to ask any locals about their sentiments regarding the riots. Perhaps it’s a sensitive issue, but I guess students my age may be willing to share. I hope to find out in Hue. 🙂 






Upon arrival at the bus station of Hue, instead of taking a taxi to my hostel, I took a local bus – bus number 3. It wasn’t the easiest, but I managed to and I’m actually really happy about that. 6000vnd local bus(!!!) Met helpful locals. Happy 🙂 


Hội An

Less than an hour away from Danang, Hoi An is a quaint little place that boasts of its heritage. Known for its lantern lights, you could see the streets lined with yellow walls (i likey) and thatched roofs. Tourists were also more apparent here than in Da Nang. Transformation takes place sometime in the evening; the previously empty streets in the afternoon are crowded with people when the sky turns dark, bustling with activities and lantern lights. It is a pretty place to visit with a calm vibe away from the busy roads, and makes for a lovely day trip around the area.

#endofproject



Today marks the last of my teaching days and I must say it’s been a really good day in many ways


We gave out the prizes – most hardworking, most creative, most attentive… everyone gets an award, everyone deserves one. It’s important to recognize their virtues from young, so they internalize these attributes and grow up believing more in themselves. (during reflection, i felt like this was one of the most important parts of everything) I think back to my younger self and I think these recognitions and titles stay with you, they do. They make you believe them. Sigh, these pesky kids are so adorable in their own ways. I also have a wonderful team of dedicated members and I feel so thankful for them ❤ Days like these I just feel like I'm living, because everyday I'm doing so much more than I would in Singapore, back in my routined little bubble.

I received hand-made, decorated notes. She tucked the note in my hand. In these moments I am reminded once again of how the precious things in life aren’t always purchaseable. How communication transcends language. How people make you feel, and how feeling makes me feel human and alive. 



my lovely dedicated teaching team – the brainstorming, reinventing, adaptations, customizations etc.



wah fierce sia


love how they sit by me and braid my hair



Having done both tourism modules – level 2000 and level 4000 – and critiquing voluntourism for all of my papers, I still went ahead with my decision to join the project. Ah, that final question of GE4218.

I think back to what Teacher said in brt, and I think about our operations. I believe that these modules have shaped my decisions and operations in many positive ways, my mentality, our gestures – i would like to think that i have thought carefully about how we can operate in ways to minimize emotional / other damages. I think in some ways we have. Is it not better to have these projects than to have none at all?

We talked about this, caught uneasily in a web of ethical complexities. Will I join another ocip? I don’t know… I keep thinking and thinking and I really don’t. I would love to have this discussion sometime again (with no judgements, no imposition of opinions) because truly, I feel, there are no easy answers, and each case is contextualised. 

After that we went to the mall, bought an f21 top for 3sgd. I don’t really want to buy things anymore though, buying clothes and random stuff doesn’t excite me. The material goods flooding sis’s room is getting increasingly nauseating, all these seemingly interesting and useful things piling up and just… Being nothing. We really need to get rid of these things. I feel like I am almost drowning. It’s a strange feeling but we just sit there as the pile continues to grow. 


In the evening half of our team met the translators for local food. I got the privilege to hop on Ahn’s motorbike and we rode off in the cool night. Wind in hair, we weaved in and out along the traffic of Vietnam – I’ve always wanted to do that in the SEA traffic. She beeped, and placed my hand to the honk. I beeped twice. We laughed. 





I wonder if my self in the previous 2 years would have been otherwise. Because I like the way I am now, I like the way I am today, talking to them and asking about them because I do want to, and I feel like I did something right today. 

The trip’s coming to an end for the team, and for me it’s about to briefly begin. Ashley won’t be going to Hue, he’s heading to Laos and I am both nervous and happy- I can’t wait to feel again, and to learn, and to think, and to be on my own. After 2 weeks I do need some me-time, really. Although my thesis bugs me at times, I know I wouldn’t choose otherwise. I love these experiences and these are what will be important and what will stay with me in the years to come. This year I challenge myself to care less about That, to let go for a bit and to Be. I am afraid that it is an excuse, but I also think it is essential that I do not compromise other experiences for my growth. I guess what’s most important is that I do my best – and do my best I will.