Last Day. Last Post.

As most of my close friends know, I’m not a huge crier and I rarely get emotional. With everything being so busy lately (traveling and hanging out with people and wrapping up school), I didn’t really have a lot of time to think about the fact that these would be my last few days in Bangkok – sure, I had planned out tasty treats for myself, but it hadn’t really sunk in that I’d be closing this chapter of my life and returning back to the states so soon.

The past two days, I’ve experienced all kinds of emo-ness. I finished saying bye to all my friends, and then it was just only “me” time. One of the first things I did when I came to Bangkok in November was take a river cruise on the Chaophraya River myself. I felt like a total loner – I didn’t have anyone to do these things with and had pretty much zero numbers in my cell phone. (I even remember taking the wrong boat and ending up in some weird touristy area that I was super unhappy with.) I realized after saying bye to everyone that this journey was about having “me” time and that’s the way my Thailand adventure started out, and I wanted to end it that way too.

I calculated it, and I’ve been to a total of 7 countries, 21 cities, and 9 islands during my time in South East Asia, and I’ve seen some of the most incredible things ever (in my opinion!) After being here for six months, I feel like such a happier person and this experience has made me realize how unhappy and status quo my life was back in San Francisco. I have amazing friends/family and had an amazing job and lived in one of the best cities in the world (I really think San Francisco is super special) but I felt like nothing in my life was changing. I was soooo checked out of my job and had zero motivation and had a negative attitude about everything. Nothing excited me anymore, and I knew I needed to change that up. Sometimes, just a change in scenery helps. I think for me, I felt like my time was always someone else’s time back in the bay, and it’s been beyond liberating to have these 6 months all to myself. I could literally wake up and do whatever the f*ck I wanted and didn’t have to feel bad about missing someone’s birthday or some event. I consider my Bay Area friends pretty much my family – I didn’t grow up around my cousins or much extended family, so my friends are basically the most important people to me, but it’s also great to do your own thing once in awhile.

I’m so glad I could this time for myself to realize what’s important to me: the people in my life, healthy food, and music. I know that doesn’t sound all that groundbreaking, but it’s nice to know definitively what makes you happy. I also proved to myself that I can move to a random city without knowing a single person, and things will work themselves out. I came here not knowing a single person, and just after 6 months, I said goodbye to 4 different sets of people and have met some of the most amazing individuals from around the world. I know I can call any of them up 1, 3, 5, or 20 years from now and we’ll still be friends. The friendships you form abroad are special in a completely different way even though you haven’t known people for that long – probably because you’re all in the same boat!

I’m so bummed to be boarding my plane back to San Francisco tonight, but am also feeling the happiest I have in a long time. I’m leaving Bangkok on such a positive note, and this place is like another home to me now. I can’t wait to come back here in the future when my next trip to Asia happens – it’ll always be a place I will stop by for a weekend and go to my favorite places. I can’t wait to come back here with my friends and show them what my life was all about! Yes, it’ll be different, but I want them to see how amazing Bangkok is. If there is anything I could change about my experience, I would have wanted more of my best friends to come here only because I know they would have loved it and it would have been so great to share it with them. Lastly, I can’t wait to bring my kids here someday!! It’s such a special place to me and I want them to see where I had a formative and life changing experience during my 20s.

Oh so the question I’ve already been getting asked by people back home is, what’s your plan now? I will probably tattoo this on my forehead during Devang and Monica’s wedding next week, but the answer is I DON’T KNOW. I’ll go back to Fremont and apply to jobs and see what happens – that’s about it folks! No idea on what kind of company or location.

I had no idea what to expect at the beginning of this adventure and had lots of moments of loneliness, and I think what helped me get through this was having innerstrength – because I was so blah about life before, I know I needed to buck up and pull myself together, and innerstrength is what got me through this. A long time ago, another teacher at school told me about this word “rang jai” which means innerstrength in Thai, and it really stuck with me. After I right this post, I’m off to eat my last meal and switch out my SIM card before heading to the airport — but before this, I tattooed “rang jai” in Thai on my left wrist. I had been thinking about doing this for awhile, and finally took the plunge. It’s something I’ll remember forever and how significant this experience was to me.

I totally encourage all of my friends and everyone to take some time for themselves and do something that you’ve always wanted to do — you’ll always wonder if you don’t do it. I’ve been talking about living in Thailand and teaching abroad forever, and yes, it takes some work and time, but it’s so so so worth it. A lot of people say I’m lucky to have had this experience, and I obviously am, but I also made it happen and now have a hole in my wallet and need to make up for it moving forward! Anyone can make this experience happen if they really want it to.

I’m soooo excited to see my friends and family and can’t wait to see everyone at some weddings and trips in the next few weeks. I feel like a recharged person – I sound super emo, but I feel like I’m glowing inside and couldn’t be happier right now.

And for the record, what will I miss the most? The food, hands down. I’m sorry USA, but you just don’t cut it. Not even you, SF. Bangkok wins any.f*cking.day.

#lifeisgood

#endofthisblog

My Last Weekend in Bangkok

This was my last weekend in Bangkok, and I had about a million to-do things on my post-it list on my computer. Did I ever mention I love lists? They’re my favorite thing in the world. I love crossing things out because it makes me feel accomplished. Anyhoo, back to my last weekend in Bangkok. My main priorities were spending time with the people I became friends with in my time here. That included the teachers I worked with, Jessica from Internations, Anchit/Shikha and their friends, and Casey/David. I also wanted to make sure I went to eat at some of my favorite go-to places. At first, I thought I wanted to go to a bunch of fancy restaurants in Bangkok, but I quickly got over that because I realized I just love my go-to spots. I’m not a big fan of the Thai food in some of the fancy restaurants here – I prefer street food any day.

Besides spending time with people, I had to do so many little things: pack up my apartment, get rid of stuff that I don’t have space for on the plane, close out my bank account here, make one last trip at Terminal 21, get some lights for my sister she wanted, etc etc etc. The apartment stuff was stressing me out the most because I’ve shopped a ton here in addition to all the stuff I bought in India, and I just didn’t have enough suitcases for all of it. AND I sent back a whole suitcase of stuff in February with Bamz. How did this happen?! I called United (ugh, dreading taking them on the way home – in my defense, I booked on miles), and they said it would be $120 for each extra bag I wanted to check in. Ridiculous! $120? That seemed a little high to me, but whatever – I guess I’d have to suck up the costs. I even got rid of a ton of clothes and put them in a couple bags to give to Shikha. Her dad donates clothes to a non-profit here, so I was happy to send them away and still annoyed at myself for the amount of shit I had.

I was pretty pleased with the way my weekend turned out. I spent Saturday lunch at my favorite Italian restaurant in town, Bacco, with Jessica and we had a chance to properly catch up and say bye. I am definitely going to visit her in Portugal where she’s from hopefully next summer or the summer after! Later that night, Shikha and Anchit organized dinner at G Hotel, a Pullman Hotel (had no idea what this was till we went, I don’t think they’re really popular in the US), and dinner ended up being the bomb.commmmm. Wow, that food was treats. It was Mediterranean / Spanish tapas, and the quality was just so ridic. After, we met Casey and David up at Maggie Choo’s, a new hotspot, and it ended up being pretty ill. I ended up staying longer with Casey and David, and it turned into a 7 am morning chillin by the pool and having convos. I love those guys. So fun.

I only had to see the teachers still, and I figured I’d be able to do that in the 3 days I had left. I was also happy because the next few days, I’d be able to do what I wanted to do – hit up all the tasty Thai street food and whatnot.

I was filled with all kinds of emoness inside me – Bangkok was like home to me now, after all these months, and I couldn’t believe my time was ending and I was saying bye to all the fantastic people I had just gotten to know. It was definitely weird saying bye to people on Saturday – I didn’t know when I’d see them again or even where. With Jessica, she moves to a new country every few years, so who knows where I’ll see her? Anchit and Shikha, maybe in California for a wedding? It was super sad to not know the next time I’d be seeing some of them, and that really left me feeling down. However, I knew I had formed some really great friendships and made awesome memories that I would have forever. But still – it’s just bumming to end such an awesome chapter of your life :(

Viet Nam

One place I forgot to blog about was Viet Nam (this is the correct way to spell it – or at least, it’s written this way in my passport). This was a country that Jenna and I also went to together, and because of time constraints, we only got to go to Hanoi and Hoi An. We heard that Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) blows so we didn’t even bother going there. I’m getting super lazy with my writing about each country (not that I have any excuse, my life isn’t really filled with tons of responsibilities at the moment) but I think less and less people are starting to read my blog anyway these days. Here are a few highlights of Vietnam:

Main takeaway: Hoi An is a winner place and one of the top places I have been to in Asia in the past few months. It’s so relaxing and cute with its millions of cafes, and it was not too touristy when we went at all. Our hotel was so cheap and nice and personal. We loved it! Hanoi is ok – we mainly went there because we wanted to see Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Other than Halong Bay, Hanoi is kind of a waste of time. I checked out the women’s museum and ethnology museum which were cool, but not necessary. There’s a lot of hype around the water puppet show too, which was seriously overrated, in my opinion…

Halong Bay: Yes, this is super touristy, and yes, there are parts of it that are overrated. I think a day trip (which is what we did) is completely adequate and enough to soak in the beauty of Halong Bay. It’s about 3.5 hours from Hanoi and we found a great deal online that got a car to pick us up from a hotel and drive us there, and it also included kayaking all for $40/pp. And it included lunch too! I thought the limestone islands were a bit similar to what I’ve seen in Phuket/Phi Phi Island, but I was pretty amazed by the inside of the caves, as you can see in the pics below. They were beautiful, and I think this made the trip totally worth it!

Banh mi sandwiches: These things are the bomb.com. The ones in Hanoi kind of sucked (at least the ones we had), but in Hoi An, they’re unfreakingbelievable. Jenna and I travel well together because we’re both super into food and just relaxing and tend to get super over doing a million “activities” so we’ve been hardcore looking up the best food places in each place we’ve been in. We looked up banh mi sandwiches in Hoi An and found the place where “No Reservations” was filmed. It’s a little cart owned by a Vietnamese woman, and I was blown away by how tasty this thing was. It’s truly the best sandwich in the world, as Anthony Bourdain said here.

Getting clothes made: I got two great pairs of pants made in Hoi An at the famous tailor shop here, Yaly. It’s a little overwhelming how many tailor shops there are here (think sari stores in India), and the Vietnamese women will literally attack you and start getting upset right away if you decide to go with their next door neighbor. It took me awhile to decide on pants because you need to pick the style and material (and there are a million options), but it finally got done and I was pleased with mine. I think it was a great $52 spent on two pairs of great pants!

Food in general: I know this sounds repetitive from above, but the chicken pho and shakes and a dish called white rose and cao lau were all super tasty. I had no idea before that Vietnamese food was that good, but I am totally going to start eating it more in the future. It’s super delicious and fresh, and I love their excessive use of cilantro, mint, and tons of herbs. I’m a huge sucker for mint stuff in savory food, and they use so much of it.

Morning Glory cooking class: You need to go here in Hoi An. Everyone rants and raves about it, and it’s completely worth it. It’s not a ton of hands on cooking, which I was a little disappointed in, but for $27, you get a steal – you make four dishes, you go to the market and check out the ingredients, they give a utensil at the end, you get all the recipes, and you get to eat what you make! This was all for 4 hours – solid deal.

People in Vietnam were really really nice. I’ve heard they can be rude and a little cold, but we didn’t really experience this. Both the people in Hanoi and Hoi An were friendly and very accommodating. They can get a little aggressive at times when you’re shopping, and it’s a little annoying when it’s obvious that they’re trying to rip you off, but as long you know what you’re doing, all of that is fairly avoidable.

If I went back to Vietnam, I’d check out more of the countryside and untapped areas. I have no desire to go to Saigon because it seems like any other big Asian city, and I’ve heard horrible horrible things about the way you get taken advantage of as a tourist, so that’s officially knocked off my list. I recommend going to Vietnam if you wanna eat tasty treats and get clothes made. Hoi An is so relaxing and a top vacation spot, in my books!

Wrapping Up School

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted about school, and the main reason being that I’ve been a complete travel bug lately! I’ve still been teaching, but I basically took on a lighter load so I could travel and still teach. Before, I was being pretty intense with teaching everyday (even on weekends) and traveling only once in awhile, but for the last 4 weeks, I’ve decided to just chill out with that. My last day of teaching is this week, and I’m super sad to be leaving the school.

I’ve made amazing friends that I know I’ll keep in touch with for a long time, especially because a lot of them are American and will be heading back to the states to their hometowns soon/or in a few months. I also have made friends with a lot of the Thai students and I’m trying to convince some of them to visit me in America at some point too. Most importantly, I’m happy that I got to learn about a new culture and also gained a new set of skills teaching English – it was super hard at first and then got way easier, and hopefully it’ll help me in future jobs when I’m working with emerging markets in any industry I go into.

I’m super sad to be leaving Thailand – can’t believe I’ll be getting on a plane back to California in exactly a week! For the next few days, I’ll be wrapping things up around here, and I have about a million things to do in terms of my apartment, hanging out with friends, checking things off my bucket list, etc. More to come in a few days!

Philippines (PI)

For all you beach people, you haven’t seen the beaches until you’ve seen the ones in the Philippines. I was telling Anjali the other day (happy bday Anj! :)) that I’m not even a big beach person, and I was blown away by the beauty of the water and sand in Bohol and Cebu (the islands I went to in the PI).

During my short three-day stay here, I wondered why the PI wasn’t very touristy, but by the end, I kinda got it more. Yes, the beauty is insane and things are dirt cheap here, so why isn’t it more popular? Why do people choose to go to Thailand and Bali when the beaches in the PI kick ass? I think it’s because the PI is still very developing and getting here isn’t exactly easy. The only reason I was even able to swing this trip was because Singapore Airport happens to have a cheap daily flight to Cebu City for a mere $100, so I decided that I’d check this and Bohol out (a neighboring island), and I’d head back to Bangkok after (and the flight back to Bangkok was definitely more expensive.)

I do have to say that I had a blast in the PI and it was also quite an adventure. First of all, I went from a gorgeous hotel in Penang to Jen’s amazing apartment in Singapore to a complete dump in Cebu. Not to mention that I was on very little sleep and was a little hungover when I reached there too. I landed in Cebu, and I felt like I was a little both in Mexico and India. Weird combination, right? India because the processes are so slow (immigration woes) and it also smelled like India. Lol. Mexico because everything has a Mexican flare to it – the names of the people, streets, and even the way people talk — and being from California, I’ve obviously been to Mexico a million times and there’s just something about the PI that had the exact same vibe. Even moreso once you hit the beach, sans the chips and salsa! The thing that really set me off was the fact that the currency there is Filipino Pesos! Anyway, back to my dump of a hotel. I got there late Sunday night and basically needed a cheap place to stay at because I needed to catch a 6am ferry to Bohol the next morning where I had 2 full day of tours ahead of me. The hotel room was so janky, I can’t even describe it. There were mosquitos in my room, the bathroom had a musty smell, the bed felt like it was going to break when I sat on it and had the thinnest sheets ever. The real clincher was the 8″ TV that looked like it was from 1975 that was on elevated on a shelf so high that I could barely see it. Oh well though, I kept telling myself I was just there for the next 8 hours and I’d peace out.

In the morning, I headed to the pier to catch a ferry to Bohol, and they told me the 6am was sold out. I even had arrived there at 5:30 am, and previous travel agents told me it would be NBD, that I’d surely get on a ferry, it would be no big deal, etc etc. It was Holy Week in the PI, and everybody was on vacay and was heading to Bohol. I don’t understand why noooo travel agent bothered to tell me this, but I pleaded and begged and tried to fake cry to the ticket agent, and finally, she put me on a waiting list. I was only stressed out because my tour started at 8, and there would be a guide to pick me up at the next pier, and I had no way of contacting them. Luckily, I got on the ferry, and 2 hours later I arrived in Bohol. Also, the ferry ride was exactly like something that would happen in India or Laos – super crowded, hot, people’s stuff everywhere, not enough room, so disorganized, just a complete mess. But whatever – I just needed to get to Bohol asap.

Things finally calmed down once I reached Bohol because my tour guide was waiting for me in an air-conditioned car and off we went. For $40 for the whole day, I had my own car and private tour guide to give me a full on tour of the island: to see the famous chocolate hills (naturally formed limestone hills), the world’s smallest primates, lunch on a floating restaurant (!), and a bit of the historical sites of Bohol – churches, the Blood Compact, etc. They even have a man-made forest here that you’ll see in the pics below – it’s not that impressive if you’re from CA, but it is pretty crazy that they made a forest here! I thought that all the sites I saw that day were pretty cool – the chocolate hills were the most amazing along with the smallest primates (tarsiers). I also loved the Loboc River where I ate at a floating restaurant (was so awk because I was alone, but whatever) and I got to see traditional Filipino dancing with the world’s cutest kids. I didn’t even know the primates existed until I started researching a few months ago about the places I wanted to go to. The hotel I stayed in was super awesome – for $30/night, it was a legit king sized bed and plasma TV only a 5 minute walk from the beach. I took pictures at sunset here on the beach, and I was in awe of how gorgeous it was. So so so beautiful, you’ll see below.

I was exhausted from my crazy ferry ride so I just got a pizza and went to bed early. I also had to wake up at 5:00 am for dolphin watching the next day. One thing is – I wasn’t a big fan of Filipino food. It’s greasy and really meaty, and I just felt kinda gross after eating it. This led me to ordering the same pizza two nights in a row the days I was here — I know, I’m so boring.

Dolphin watching and snorkeling were amazing and I felt like I was on some fantasy island or something. Firstly, again, for $40 for the whole day, I had my own boat and personal boatmen that drove me an hour out of Bohol and made sure I saw dolphins and sea life. The dolphins were sooo cool and I even got to see a blue whale! That apparently only happens 2-3 times a year – getting a pic was way too hard, and the pics below kinda suck, but I was too engrossed in watching to take good ones. Snorkeling was rad – saw a bunch of gorgeous coral, giant clams, and huge sea turtles, and now I feel like snorkeling anywhere else would suck. I think all you diving people need to make a trip to the PI asap. It’s apparently diver’s paradise, and if I saw such gorgeous stuff just by snorkeling, I can only imagine how scuba diving is. The water is just so blue and green and clear and there’s a ton of shades of them… it’s like nothing I’d ever seen before.

Anyway, besides the beauty, I did find some things really annoying about the PI. I don’t think people try to take hardcore advantage of you in terms of your money, but I do think that there are a ton of fees that they don’t tell you about beforehand. I paid sooo many little fees for entrances to enter islands, to use this or that, and it all really added up. Granted it was super cheap by the end of it, but I just wish I had known beforehand so I could have been more prepared in terms of exchanging money and all that stuff. There’s even an airport fee when you’re leaving the PI! (550 Pesos – about $15. I had to go allll the way out of security and withdraw from an ATM and no one mentioned this before!) Also, things are just a huge process here. Luckily, I’m super used to things taking a long time in Asia and the culture of it all, but the PI just doesn’t have it yet the way Thailand and I’m assuming Bali do. (I haven’t been to Bali yet so can’t comment), but the ferry situation and other things are just not tourist friendly at all. You really need to do your research to figure it all out… I had read a ton of travel blogs before, so I knew all about how long things take, but if you don’t do this, you’ll assume things take 10 minutes when in reality, they can take 45 minutes to an hour.. and then there’s the food. The food is just not very tourist friendly. I ordered chicken with lemon sauce, and it came out completely different. They ended up bringing me chicken that was overdosed with calamansi, a very citrusy fruit. I didn’t send it back because I thought that would be rude, but it was just a struggle overall. It was super hard to find basic food, even a tuna sandwich was awful. The food I was not a fan of, and I can definitely say I was overjoyed to be back in Bangkok and chow down on chicken rice immediately!

But I did love the people in the PI. Everyone was so nice and just exuded a lot of care and genuineness that it made the entire experience very enjoyable. The hotel staff, the taxi drivers, my tour guide, and my boatmen were all so nice and made sure I was well taken-care of. The people in this country are so friendly and chatty and want to make sure you’re having a great time in their country, and I loved that. I think next time I come back, I really want to check out Boracay and Palawan. Jenna is Filipino and recently went to those places and said Boracay is very touristy and developed (but still gorgeous!) and she liked Palawan more. I think the PI is very untouched beauty, and if you don’t mind putting in some effort to get somewhere, this is the place to go. And especially if you’re into diving. If you’re looking for something “easy”, you should probably do Thailand or Bali, which are very experienced places with tourists.

I realized that I love going to non-touristy places. Somewhere like Bali will always be there, and it’s exciting to be adventurous and try out untapped places!

Singapore!

The last time I went to Singapore was exactly 10 years ago in 2003. My mom and I were on our way to India, and we decided to do a 2-day layover in Singapoe and stayed with Mira’s mom out there. I was barely 18 at the time, and the only things I was excited about were getting my hair highlighted and eating delicious mee goreng.

This time around, I had a completely different agenda going into it. In the past few yeas, I’ve been hearing mixed things about Singapore since it has a rapidly growing expat scene. Facebook even opened up an office there a couple years ago, and I always wondered in the back of my head if I should apply for a position out there. My friend from high school, Jen Woo, also moved there last July, and I was curious to see what her life as an expat was like out there. Not to mention the growing EDM scene – all big DJs always make stops in Singapore since all the AzNs are hardcore into house music apparently. And of course, the food – Singapore had insanely good food, from what I remembered, so I was pumped to go back for the noodles and roti pratha.

A few months ago, Jen and I coordinated a weekend for me to come, and she was super cool about it when I asked if it’s ok if Jenna came along too. So off we went to Singy after our amazing food crawl in Penang! We met up Mira’s mom during the day at The American Club, which was so so so nice. I hadn’t seen her since Rekha’s wedding last year, and it was great to catch up with her for a couple hours. The American Club is like a Club Sport type of situation (has a fitness center, business lounge, etc) and Elizabeth Auntie is a member there so we ate lunch here. Jenna and I were beyond thrilled to eat salads – finally, the produce and salad dressing tasted normal! It is so goddamn hard to find a normal salad in Asia, and this is one of the things I miss the most about being away. Anyway, we lounged around, chatted, and drank beers and then finally headed over to Jen’s when she was off of work.

The entire weekend, Jen was an amazing hostess! (Feel like I’ve gotten super lucky with each place that I visit people in.) She asked me what I wanted to do beforehand, and i just told her I wanna see what the life of an expat in Singapore is like. I really didn’t care to go to fancy restaurants or do anything over the top. The only one touristy thing I wanted to see was the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, but that’s a must! Jen took us to her favorite hawker centers (which are all over Singapore), we did a river cruise though the city, went to Marina Bay Sands, and then there was the nightlife. To be honest, I was actually more excited about the nightlife more than anything because a) I’ve become so boring in Bangkok when it comes to drinking and b) the music scene is just so much better in Singapore from what I keep hearing, so I was down to actually go to an untz untz club at night. On top of that, Jen made sure and forced different groups of people to come out each night because she really wanted to show us a good time.

It’s Sunday night right now, and I’m currently feeling super dead because both of these nights were 5am-ers with excessive drinking and going out. The sad thing is, I didn’t even drink that much (3-4 drinks the first night), and my hangover was so terrible and I felt crappy. I remembered why I don’t like drinking that much anymore and how I enjoy my sober lifestyle nowadays. Anyway, besides that, here are my key takeaways from Singapore (in no specific order):

The food in Singy is the bomb.com. I had nasi goreng, mee goreng, roti pratha for days (yes, we got this both nights around 4am) – everything was to die for, and it’s interesting to see the different flavors/ways that these Asian countries make these dishes. The laksa dish I had in Singapore was way better than the one I had in Penang, and all they did was change part of the broth. When I went to Singy in 03, they had more traditional style hawker carts that you’ll still see if you visit Bangkok or Penang. With the growth of Singapore, they’ve ditched most of the actual carts and now have full on hawker centers that you’ll see in the pictures below. It’s freaking intense, but so delicious and still so cheap. I love love love the different juices they have – I tried a yummy one called ABC this time which is super healthy (apple-beetroot-carrot.) So spot hitting. I used to think that all Asian food tasted the same, but now, I’m super picky and see a huge difference in the dishes. God knows how I’m going to eat Asian food back in the states now- I’m legitimately nervous about it.

Next, I think Singapore is a lot of fun, but I think I was going through some reverse culture shock for sure this weekend. Even Jen and Jenna could tell I was a little weirded out, and I surprised myself by being like this! Singapore is just so westernized that you feel like you’re in America, and I was not expecting that at all. Everything is so efficient and organized and orderly, and this is not the way most parts of Asia are. I felt like I was right back in America when I was here – everything is super clean, people speak English, and prices are the same. In some cases, even higher than American prices. I wasn’t mentally prepared for this, so it definitely kinda caught me off guard… I guess it was a green light when the immigration process took literally no more than 45 seconds at the Singapore airport.

Then there are the malls. The malls are intense and I’m not sure if I’m a big fan of the Singaporean culture… or in some ways, lack thereof. Everything is based around malls, malls, and malls here. Just like I said earlier, Singy is very westernized and you don’t feel like you’re really in a foreign country. I feel like if I had to be an expat somewhere, I would want to embrace another county’s culture, and I’m not sure if Singy would completely do it for me. With that being said, over the course of the weekend, I spoke to Jen’s friends, and they all love it for different reasons: food is great, taxes are great, and traveling from Singapore is great. It’s a very very liveable place, and super easy to get comfortable here. I get why people stick around for sure.

Next is the nightlife. Obviously as most of you know, I feel super comfortable around Asians, and SGP is predominantly Azns. It’s hilarious to observe them… firstly, they’re superrrrr into EDM, and I had a blast making random friends on the dance floor during Paul Oakenfold‘s set at Zouk on Saturday night. (BTW – love that I got to see him in SGP!!! SO SICK.) Zouk is one of Singapore’s oldest clubs and is also the main EDM club there, and let me just say – it shits all over Ruby Skye and probably most clubs in California in general. It’s an intense Vegas style club, and again – so efficient. This place is always packed brim to brim, but these Singaporeans have the method down to get people in and out of this club ASAP. We showed up at 2 am and the people that were working were like robots and we were in probably 2 minutes. But the thing that I found most entertaining was how Asians love to pop champagne bottles. That’s all they do. They just get champagne ordered to their table, drink that get drunk off of it, take hella selfies, and then order another bottle of champagne to pop.

On top of that, to get into any nice club, you pretty much have to get a table. On Saturday because it was a big DJ in town, that was different (you just buy normal tickets), but on Friday, we went to a couple different clubs and we only got in and didn’t completely burn holes in our wallets because Jen had friends who had tables/got us in. And yeah, we popped a bunch of champagne bottles. I felt douchey but it’s also pretty funny and you just go along with it because it’s all really harmless. They make it all fancy with firecrackers and shit too. Seriously hilarious and hella azn.

What else do I think about Singapore? Oh, at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, they have a casino. MBS felt like Vegas, literally. Actually, a lot of Singapore did. It’s so nice with malls and hotels, but the MBS area was very very Vegas. I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s a gorgeous hotel with a casino. The interesting this is, it’s free to enter the casino if you’re a foreigner (the casino is not an open style one like in Vegas, there’s an entrance for it. I got to take a quick peak in, and it looks exactly like Vegas casinos! So trippy) — you just need to show your passport. However, if you’re a Sing resident, you need to pay 100 SGP dollars to enter. Why? Because apparently Asians have a gambling addiction, and this is their way of regulating. Has it been effective? Apparently not. MBS is insane though – this is by far one of the sickesttttt hotels I have ever seen with a crazy rooftop infinity pool. I’m sure a lot of you saw my Instagram. It’s insane. Definitely a must-see if you ever go to SGP.

Lastly, it was great to meet Jen’s friends and have conversations with them. This is what I’ve loved most about all my trips when I’ve stayed with people – Malaysia, India, and now Singapore (and of course, meeting people in Thailand!) Jen’s friend group is very diverse and they’re from all over the world. Some she’s met through friends of friends, others are ex-coworkers, etc etc. As I’ve said before, people abroad are just super nice and open-minded and are just willing to try new things. With SGP in specific, most of them moved for their job or to experience South East Asia, and SGP was their ticket to doing this. Between Sing and Hong Kong, most companies are based out of those two places, so you’ll likely find the most amount of expats here. Whenever I’ve talked to people abroad, I start wondering about where I’ll end up next and if finding something abroad is what I’d potentially be interested in. I love meeting new people so much, and the past 6 months have been so refreshing to have new convos and get to know new sets of people. Jen’s friends were saying that SGP has changed in just 2 years that they’ve been here, and the government is really starting to embrace the young expat scene. So many restaurants and bars are opening up, and I think they wanna keep this going to keep boosting their already-amazing economy.

Singapore was super super super fun, and I’m so glad I went. Now I’m starting to clearly see the differences between all the cities and am realizing each one is awesome in its own way and offers something of its own. KL, Bangkok, and Singapore are all amazing but so different but what I think is cool is that SE Asia has a lot to offer and I feel really lucky to be experiencing all these places. I’m also realizing how much more there is to see here. God. I keep learning about new cities and new places and want to go to all of them!!! The next time I go to SGP, I def wanna go with Mira – I’d love to see what she thinks of it now and how different it is from when she lived there years ago.

Here are SGP pics – you’ll see the flow of the weekend from clubbing to day time food to drunk food. Truly a weekend of fun and food, mostly! I think I love food-based vacations the most… the beach, not so much. I can do without it. Enjoy and drool over the pics of some amazing food…again!

Penang: Food Heaven

People around South East Asia talk about how the food in Penang, Malaysia is incredible, so I decided that before I leave this part of the world I had to come here. I managed to squeeze in 2.5 days of it before I head to Singapore. My plane ticket over here was only $60, and the ticket from here to Singapore was only $30, so why the hell not??!

George Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s main area that tourists stay in when visiting Penang. Its known for its French-influenced architecture along with its street food. The street food is so popular that they even have food maps in every hotel/hostel telling you where to go for each one along with the hours that each stall is open. You don’t really need to do a lot of planning before coming to Penang because people come here to chill out for a few days and just eat. There aren’t a ton of sites to see, and it’s a pretty quiet, low-key place – there isn’t a ton of night life, and things start closing down by about 10/11ish pm. The only thing I did beforehand was research the shit out of Penang food and read a bunch of food blogs. I came here solely to eat and I brought my laptop along with me so I could do work (start researching jobs!) at night… I didn’t really end up being too successful with that, but oh well. Jenna came with me too when she found out I was going to Penang, and I was pumped to have a foodie experience with her. We ended up booking a cheap hotel online, and when we got here, we felt like we were in a 5-star resort or something. The place we ended up getting was prime location, next to a popular section of hawker street stalls, and the actual hotel is renovated and is super nice!

Anyway, the food ended up being extremely tasty, and here‘s a wikipedia of Penang cuisine. My favorites ended up being curry mee, murtabak, and roti canai. And they have so many fresh drinks, it’s amazing! I think in 2.5 days, I probably had 6-8 different types of juice – lychee, orange, lime, plum, etc. I had roti canai everyday, murtabak only once because it’s heavy, and curry mee a few times. Penang was on the spice route decades ago, so I think the flavors they have here are just super different and however they make it fuse really well together.

Just as what I experienced in KL (Kuala Lumpur) a few months ago, I think I’m a huge fan of Malaysia because it’s a true fusion of all cultures. If I ever go to a “fusion” restaurant again in the Bay Area, I’ll laugh because “chinese indian” food is BS there. Malaysia actually knows how to combine the different flavors of the Indian-Muslim, Thai, Malay, and Chinese cuisine and it truly tastes amazing. Other than that, the actual town of Penang is so multi-cultural. There’s a street here that has a mosque, Indian temple, Chinese temple, and a few churches all on one, and everyone respects each other’s religions/cultures. When you go down the street to the different hawker stalls, you may meet a Chinese person making Indian food, or vice versa. You’ll also meet Chinese people who are Muslim, which is rare in most other places.

George Town is a super cute city with tons of nice French-style buildings, along with tons of yummy cafes, bakeries, and hawker stalls ever 50 feet. Every dish costs about $1USD. One part of George Town that Jenna and I went to was Little India – it really felt like I was back in Delhi for the time we were there! There are tons of sari shops, people making fantastic Indian food, and Indian music blaring out of stores. It even smells like India (lol!) I managed to snag three pairs of earrings (they were actually super cute) from a store who had them imported from Bombay – winnnn. Anyway, Little India is actually one of George Town’s main attractions that people go to because it takes up a good chunk of streets and is known to have some of the best food.

We died in the heat when over the past few days, but the food more than made up for it. We didn’t even realize it until the very end, but we didn’t have a single beer or alcoholic beverage in Penang at all. We were so engrossed in the food that we completely forgot to drink at all. In our time here, we got approached maybe 9-10 times with people asking us where we were from. I think they don’t get a ton of young tourists, and we are one Indian and one Filipino girl and they didn’t really believe us when we said we were from the US. One of the most endearing parts of the trip was at the very last hawker stall we went to on our last night – we really wanted roti canai with gravy, and we went to a 24 hour place called Line Clear… made us super yummy food and lime juice and then insisted on taking a picture with us. You’ll see it at the end of the album here.

Anyway, I absolutely loved Penang! If I ever come back to Malaysia, coming here is going to be a must. The food is to die for, and in 3 days, I only spent $60 on transportation, jewelry, and food combined. Amazing and affordable yummy fun and I highly recommend this place for all foodies – however, don’t come here if you’re going to whine about getting veg food. This place is made for people who eat seafood and chicken, at the least. In fact, I felt like the annoying one because a lot of stuff is made with pork, beef, etc. If you ever go here, don’t even bother going to the expensive restaurants. Just grab a food map, look up where the harkwer stalls are, and go there for every meal. Jenna and I would get 4-5 dishes at once and try a little bit of everything – the best part is, if you don’t like something or don’t want to finish it, it’s really no big deal because everything costs $1-2USD.

I <3 Malaysia – thank you for an amazing time, again! I’m dreading going back to the food in the US more and more everyday… not sure how I’m going to deal!