2017, thank you! I cannot express how much gratitude and possibly blessed I feel. I cringe at using the word ‘blessed’. I can’t explain why but it feels forced. I’m going to stop here lest I begin to sound like an overzealous church preacher.
As I write this, my left knee is so swollen, I can’t walk. It hurts to even bend it. I’m not sure how it got so swollen. I’m guessing it’s from a series of idiotic decisions like walking around Singapore for hours without rest and then climbing hills with flats at a university.
I take it as just another one of life’s wicked sense of humour to appreciate walking. The same way it showed me to appreciate a healthy throat a month ago when I was down with tonsillitis.
Health woes of 2017 aside, there's always a wave of nostalgia at the end of every year. That feeling of making it unscathed to see the calendar bump up another year. That feeling of a new chance, of new beginnings.
At the beginning of every year I wonder if the year ahead would be as eventful as the previous. I was afraid of boredom. For 2017 though, I wished for a year of rest. I wished to take it easy on the travelling, safe up more money in my dying bank account, go easy on myself, remove self-made expectations and to appreciate each moment as they are.
2017 became a year chockful of self-development and discovery. I learned so much through mistakes made. I think I did okay despite the many tears. I had tonnes of happy moments; I’m almost giddy from it. My bank account is still lacking though, I blame my inability to budget and control my spending. I will improve.
I created many great memories; happy and sad, with people who mean so much to me. And I refuse to forget them. These are the experiences and journeys that meant the most to me throughout 2017.
Starting 2017 in Hanoi, Vietnam.
This trip meant a lot of firsts. The first time I went overseas with Stupid, the first time I’ve been to Vietnam and the first time celebrating New Year’s away from home.
Stupid and I wanted to do something different for 2017 because we were both moving into new phases in our lives. So, we decided why not start the new year differently? Being “originals”, we decided to spend our New Year’s overseas!
On 31st December 2016, Stupid and I headed over to Hoan Kiem Lake at 5pm. We wanted to “enjoy the atmosphere and see the sun set away into the new year”. Geddit? Because the next time we see the sun, it would be a new year, a new beginning, a new us. We’re philosophical like that.
I wasn’t very good at staying awake until the countdown, though.
We made it to 8pm and then the tiredness started setting in. We were pooped from waking up at 4am and the crowd was really beginning to pile up. The place was sardine-packed!
So, we decided to head back to our Airbnb and ended up watching The Martian. And then we napped. Stupid snored very loudly.
We went back out to the lake around 10pm to join in the festivities. But everything was in Vietnamese, so we were a little lost especially when everyone started counting down in Vietnamese!
It was definitely the best start to a new year. Plus, the cool breezy weather of Hanoi’s Winter spoiled me rotten. It was perfect. Part of me is feeling the blues now because this year I’ll be back in hot, humid Malaysia. I don’t know what will top a Hanoi New Year.
Left my job, like finally, and then left it again.
Yea, I left jobs twice in 2017. The first time was because it just felt like the right time to leave. I wasn’t appreciating my boss’ view on hierarchy and micromanagement, and he wasn’t appreciating my impulsive holidays. We were the dream team from hell.
Plus, I was getting tired of waking up at 5A.M every morning. I was servicing clients from Australia and New Zealand. Therefore, we needed to follow their working hours. After leaving, it took me awhile to get used to waking up later. Annoyingly, I would be wide awake at 5A.M.
I left the second time because I realised what I wanted in a job. The second job opened me to so many opportunities I never knew I could take. Admittedly, despite the gruelling hours and high expectations of the job, it was one where I had the steepest learning curve and focus. I had great team mates who made the traffic congestion and long work hours bearable. I was really reluctant to go. But crying in the company toilet from the lack of mental energy to carry on was the breaking point.
To put things into perspective, I’m in a much better place now in a job that even I can’t believe I managed to land.
I headed to Bangkok in March. Bangkok’s like the international holy grail for cheap shopping and eating. Anyone can find anything they love there. And I did find tonnes of it but there were also parts that I didn’t love.
Let me explain. I didn’t like the heat. Bangkok’s beautiful city is sprawling with tall skyscrapers but with not much greenery around. So, it becomes a massive heat bubble. Combined with the dust from the roads with congested traffic, my nose went haywire.
And then there’s the “cheap” shopping that I found overrated. The prices weren’t as cheap as I expected. In fact, it was close to the prices back in Malaysia. I blame the terrible exchange rate for Ringgit Malaysia at the time, though. This is subject to which currency is stronger, and at the time, the Thai Baht definitely was the winner.
But then, there’s the friendly people, food and massages that I loved. The masseuses I encountered during my daily massages had the most wicked sense of humour and the massages were so good! The street food was amazing, and the fruit juices were fresh! Plus, Siam Paragon was state of the art.
So yeah, I can’t decide.
First work trip to Koh Samui.
My first new landed me my first work trip to the amazingly beautiful Koh Samui. So huge score!
I was sent to follow my boss on a marketing shoot in Koh Samui.
I’ve always heard so much about Koh Samui but getting to the island, despite being close to Malaysia, was always a little out of budget. I was excited for this one because Thailand’s really popular for their beautiful beaches and Koh Samui’s way up the list of great beaches. Despite my love hate relationship with Bangkok, I instantly loved Koh Samui. The waters were turquoise blue, the airport almost resort-like, and nature everywhere.
We stayed in a huge villa on a very private side of the island. Besides the guests from the other villas and friendly stray dogs, we had the whole beach to ourselves.
Despite the long, hectic shooting schedule, I think I managed to get a few great photos of the place. It wasn’t even hard. Every part of the island is photo-worthy. It’s near impossible to miss a good shot even if you randomly point your camera.
Food on the island isn’t Bangkok-cheap, although there’s a Family Mart in almost every corner.
Travelled to Taiwan.
Spent this trip in November constantly on the move. Stupid and I planned this since Vietnam. We visited Taipei and Taichung, both really prominent cities in Taiwan and both very different. We went in November hoping it the weather would be cool but temperatures were still quite high. I was slightly disappointed but I’ve had worse.
Personally, I prefer Taipei because it’s much, much more colourful. But I can’t ignore that Taichung is charming and really tranquil.
With each trip, I will start with the parts I didn’t like. First, I found some of the promoted scenic spots a little underwhelming. Taiwan is a really, really beautiful country and the art scene is amazing but touristic areas are given too much hype. It doesn’t match up with the amount of effort and time needed to get to the place.
For example, getting to Shifen is an almost three-hour trip both ways. And in the later part of the trip, you’ll have to switch trains. The second train is extremely crammed up with passengers. It can get claustrophobic because the air ventilation isn’t that great either. And then when you get to Shifen, the main attraction is just releasing hot air lanterns into the air and taking photos on the train tracks. That’s it.
This was my fault though, I should have done more research but I chose to go there as a clueless tourist instead.
Whining aside, I found Taiwan’s street food to be as equally great as Bangkok’s. I think I’m addicted to Taichung’s Xiao Long Bao. Taking the first bite from these buns are the most exciting. The buns would burst and squirt out warm, delicious clear pork broth. And the fillings are rich with meat! Simple and delicious breakfast! Stupid and I had so much fun exploring Taichung’s streets because the traffic wasn’t as heavy and there was plenty of shaded walkways. I really enjoyed Taiwan and miss it now.
I’ll write in more detail another time.
Year-end trip to Singapore with family!
Went on a family trip to Singapore in December. The perfect way to end the year although I did miss Stupid and I busted my leg.
Finally, I’m picking up Mandarin.
My parents are sighing in relief right now. With my social life taking a huge hit this year, I decided I needed to do something different desperately. So in November, I signed up for Mandarin lessons at YMCA.
I’ve never been inclined to speak the language because I wasn’t ever in an environment that interested me enough to find the language useful. It’s a very long story.
But after meeting Stupid and wanting to understand his lame jokes, I decided, why not? The basic Mandarin classes at the YMCA are decently price, almost a steal even.
Admittedly, the language is really fun to learn and the classes are short enough that I don’t get bored.
So 2017, despite the headaches, heartaches, crying in despair in the toilet, sweaty palms in the airplane as we hit turbulence: you were perfect. Just perfect. You will be missed.