It has been a great and unforgettable year for me. As I am writing this now, I still can’t believe all the things that happened this 2010. This year has been one of the most remarkable years on my 22 years existence on Earth. I traveled to six countries all in one year. Until now, I still can’t believe I was able to do that. My journey started last February. Right after college, I flew to Taiwan to learn Mandarin Chinese. It was my first time to go abroad and I could still remember how nervous I was when I was in the airport. I could still recall how easily I got amazed with almost everything that I saw such as the big metropolitan city of Taipei and the fashionable Taiwanese girls. In Taiwan, I enjoyed the delicious Taiwanese foods and tried my best to learn how to use chopsticks. Moreover, I tried to survive in a country where English is barely spoken.
In September, I endured the long land travel from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap to visit the legendary Angkor Wat Temples in Cambodia. There my mind was awakened when I learned about Polpot and how the Cambodian people suffered from his regime. Millions of lives vanished during Polpot’s reign in Cambodia. At that time, I realized how little I know of our World’s History. There are just so many things to learn about our world and every country you visit will broaden your horizons. Every new place we explore gives us priceless knowledge about each country’s culture and history.
After Siem Reap, I went back to Vietnam to explore this historically famous country with the song “The Heat is On in Saigon” playing on my mind. Honestly speaking, apart from Lea Salonga’s Miss Saigon, I knew nothing about Vietnam before I came there. I’m an avid fan of Lea Salonga and I think that was one of the reasons why I became interested to visit Vietnam. However, upon arrival in Vietnam, I discovered that there is more to this country than the musical Miss Saigon. Traveling in Vietnam gave me a glimpse of its rich historical past. The architecture of some of the old buildings in Saigon still reflects the city’s French colonization. A visit to the War Remnants Museum showed me how the Vietnamese people suffered from the US soldiers during the war. Moreover, visiting the Reunification Palace made me really understood the so-called Vietnam War. It was really mind-awakening for me. I ended up wanting to come back to Vietnam for more. Next time, I would like to visit the sand dunes of Mui Ne and the historical towns of Hue and Hanoi. There are just so much things to discover in Vietnam. And of course, I will never forget the motorbikes in Vietnam. Who could ever forget the feeling of crossing the streets in Vietnam? It’s like choosing between life or death. hehe
From the historical countries of Vietnam and Cambodia, I flew into the highly modernized city of Singapore last November. This time my sole purpose was to join an asian cruise that would depart from Harbourfront in Singapore. But I arrived earlier before the cruise ship’s departure so that I could have the time to explore this beautiful city. Undoubtedly, this country is very popular among tourists because of its developed and clean surroundings. But compared with other countries in Southeast Asia, traveling in Singapore is remarkably more expensive.
I have traveled by land and by air but this year my long time dream of traveling by ship came true. My mom and I boarded the ship in Singapore and from Singapore the ship brought us to Malaysia. The ship stayed for one day in Malaysia and we visited the colonial city of Penang also known as the food capital of Malaysia.
From the laid back town of Penang, the ship headed to the touristy beach of Phuket, Thailand. We spent a day in the island and I had a taste of my first authentic Thai food. Thailand was the last country I visited in 2010 but I hope to explore more of Thailand in the coming years.
And of course, I will never forget the good Samaritans that I met throughout my travels. I realized that angels don’t exist only in the Philippines but there are also a lot of them in other countries despite the language and cultural barriers. I can still remember the bus driver in Taiwan who helped me find my way after I took off the wrong bus to my school. He couldn’t speak any English at all but he didn’t hesitate to help me. I also won’t forget my classmates in Wenzao who helped me when I couldn’t catch up with our Chinese lessons. I’ll always be thankful to my Vietnamese friend whom I met in Vietnam. She gave me a dragon fruit, treated me out for dinner, and gave me a motorbike tour around Saigon all for free. I’ll always remember the friendly Cambodian guy who is the receptionist in our hotel in Siem Reap. He was really kind and he shared a lot of stories about their lives in Siem Reap. Moreover, I’ll always remember our nice Turkish waiter whom we met in the cruise ship. And finally but not the least, I would always be grateful to the nice Singaporeans who helped us find our way in the city. I must say that one of the benefits of traveling is meeting good souls all around the globe.
I have fallen in love with traveling ever since I was young. I lived in Baguio for one year and I have been to some places in the Northern and Southern part of the Philippines. But due to my frequent travels in 2010, I now officially admit that I have been bitten by the travel bug. And once the travel bug has bitten you, you’ll never be the same again. At the ending of every trip, you can’t help but plan and save up for your next trip. People around me often wonder what I do to finance my travels. And contrary to what other people think, I am not rich. Most people, especially here in the Philippines, would think that a person is already rich if s/he has the capacity to travel abroad. Well, let me debunk this common assumption. First of all, let me reveal the secret of traveling overseas in a tight budget. It’s the low-cost airlines such as Cebu Pacific, Air Asia, Tiger Airways etc. If you want to avail their promos, then you should always check their websites and book in advance. I usually have sleepless night during these airline promos because it’s a tough competition . On these ticket sales, you could buy tickets for 50% off even as low as 90% off if you could avail the grand promos such as the Cebu Pacific piso fare. If you are good in booking these ticket sales, then you could purchase plane tickets for an unbelievably low price.
Furthermore, if you are really on a tight budget, then you could stay at hostels and dormitories instead of hotels. Dormitories are much cheaper although it means sharing a room with other travelers. In case of foods, you can opt to buy your meals from hawkers or other cheap restaurants. Research is also very important thing in traveling. There are many travelers who share their travel tips and experiences through their blogs. Reading them is a great help. Before traveling, I usually read blogs and forums about the place that I’m going to visit. You could find many useful advice and information on the net such as recommendations on hostels, budget, and how to reach your destination.And of course, traveling is a matter of saving up money. It means spending less on other things such as clothes, cell phones, gimmicks etc. Above all, keeping a job is important to finance your travels. I owe all my travels in 2010 to my job. Without it, I couldn’t finance my travels.
At the end of the day, you’ll realize that traveling is worth investing for. Experience and knowledge gained from traveling are priceless. It would give you memories and learnings that would last for a lifetime. I remember some people asking me when they heard that I was going to Vietnam and Cambodia, “What are you going to do in Vietnam?” “Is it safe to go there?” “Is there anything interesting to see there?” I believe that each country features an interesting culture, places, food and people. It all just depends on the traveler whether how s/he can see it. Sometimes it’s not how grand and beautiful the place is but it’s how the traveler sees the place. The beauty of each country lies on the eyes of the traveler. There are still lots of places that I dream of visiting. I wanna go to Sri Lanka, India, China, Bangladesh, Japan, Brunei, Myanmar etc. But I’m still not sure when I will be capable to visit these countries.
I hope this post would inspire other people who want to travel. All my travels this year only started with a dream. And if it’s possible for me, then I know it’s possible for you as well! It’s all a matter of dreaming, praying and investing. Let me conclude this post, by thanking God, our creator, for everything. My travels helped me realized how beautiful God has made our world. He has been the primary source of everything that I have in my life. And I have proven many times that His blessings have no limits. Indeed, He is the giver and we are the thanks giver. Happy New Year everyone! Cheers!
Let me share again my favorite quote from Mark Twain:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”