It's well above 100 degrees, with the sun shining down on me fiercely as I sit outside on my balcony writing my first blog post of the 2012 summer! Yes, it has been way over a month since summer started! How time flies. I still remember my heart thudding and leaping for joy when my last final of my sophomore year ended! It is nearly the end of June, and I’m back home in Singapore! If you ask me what I’ve been doing, I’ll be more than happy to tell you that I’ve been trying to follow one of favourite pastimes: travelling and photography!
Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, is a popular tourist destination in South East Asia. Along with Singapore and Jakarta, it is also a business hub for Southeast Asia. It is home to the Petronas Towers, one of the tallest towers in the world, housing offices and malls. It was a sight worth seeing by night when the city lights were glowing!
The gorgeous Petronas Towers!
Malls and hotels line the main shopping street, fulfilling every shopper’s dream. Every shop you can think of is here. The other end of the shopping street is worth walking down. Tiny little department stores and restaurants line the street, with massage places sprinkled in between. For food lovers like me, the entire back street dedicated to street food is a foodie paradise—Thai, Malaysian, and Chinese cuisine abounds. There are fruits of every kind (especially lychees!), yummy spicy noodles, and delicious freshly made lime juice with sourplum. But I couldn’t leave Malaysia yet without a refreshing foot reflexology. The spa was buzzing with customers pouring in and out, massage chairs lined up against the beautiful walls. I sat there with the foot reflexologist pointing out the lack of sleep I had been getting, or the cold I had because of the way I winced when pressure points hurt during an hour foot massage. That night, though, I slept like a baby. I guess it was the effect of the massage. Despite the fast pace that the city runs on, people have time to stop and chat and are extremely friendly. One of the most fascinating sites of the city was the temple in ancient caves, known as Batu Caves, just a little on the outskirts of the city. After a steep climb of 200-or-so steps up the hill, my view (which so far had consisted of dodging cute monkeys and making sure I had no food around that they'd want) opened up into gigantic caves, inside which there was a breathtakingly beautiful Hindu temple. Kuala Lumpur is a city where many cultures come together and was definitely worth a visit!
The beautiful cave temple and its dizzying steps—and monkeys!
My next stop in the month of June was Bandung, a city a few hours away from the Indonesian capital, Jakarta. The city is heavily involved with textile manufacturing. The clothes of many leading brands around the world are made here. The streets have plenty of outlet stores that sell these clothes. Every other store is a clothing store! But the beauty of Bandung lies in its hills and two volcanoes. A 20-minute drive away from the bustling marketplace and up hills in the evening, and we had discovered the most beautiful restaurant overlooking the city lights on a hilltop. It was magical, and quite chilly at night—a refreshing change from the sweltering Singapore summer. In the next two days, we visited an active volcano and a hot spring, tasted freshly plucked strawberries and blackberries, and stopped at a local vendor to try some heavenly sweet pineapple. The path to the volcano, overlooking a deep crater with shops lining the rim, was stunning, and I clicked away happily on my camera, trying out every photography trick I had learned. I was amazed by the beauty of Mother Nature and stood in awe, wondering about the fury it had unleashed earlier to make the huge crater that dropped right before my line of vision. And then of course, I didn’t leave until I had done some shopping….
Bandung's beautiful, lush, hilly greenery!
The volcanic crater!
In the past month, I’ve added two cities to my list of travelled places. In high school, I would go to neighbouring countries for mini holidays like this too—perhaps a weekend getaway to the beach in Thailand or drive into Malaysia to meet my best friend. But this time felt strangely different. Walking through the bustling streets, taking in all the sights around, it was as if I had come alive. And I could only keep thinking of how different Kuala Lumpur and Bandung were from college. I had come out into the real world, where there were no books to guide me; just my raw instincts. The excitement was unnerving! I wanted to explore and discover! I still find it hard to believe how time flies…. I’m already a junior come August, but two years of college have matured me and imparted me with valuable wisdom. It was as if a different me was walking through the bustling streets of the cities, with dreams in my eyes. I was more observant and understanding. Behind the people sitting in the shops, keenly calling out to visitors, and young tourists walking around admiring the streets, I could see a world of diversity, peace, and hardworking people going about their daily work to earn a comfortable life.
Being an international student, I travel halfway around the world and fly home to family. Along with that, a vacation often involves flying to another country for a holiday. I'm truly grateful, because it gives me a different perspective on life and culture. And I welcome it every single time. I absolutely love soaking in the culture, sights, and lifestyle of a different country and admiring its beauty. We can’t do everything; every individual is unique in his or her own way, and there is a lot to learn from others in this world. It can be done by getting out there and seeing the world. My advice to incoming students is to study abroad if you get the chance. It’ll change your perspective forever….