After finishing my contract in Korea, it was the best time to travel. Even my parents agreed, telling me that I am a lot closer to all of the Asian countries and should take advantage. I never thought I would have traveled alone ever. Thanks to my awesome friends and fellow Chungdahm teachers in Korea, I learned the beauty of traveling alone and I am thankful to them for teaching me how to make it through alone. I now want to share with you the journey that I will never forget, all because I made the step to move to Korea.
Many call me crazy for traveling alone; in fact I call others crazy when I find out that they, as females, travel alone as well. I have came to understand that traveling alone really does have its perks, but it can definitely get lonely at times. This two month journey started with a family trip to meeting strangers and catching up with old friends in their home countries. It was an overall amazing experience, being able to meet so many different people, create so many new memories. You'd be surprised at how much you can accomplish and learn about yourself, about others, and about the way the world works.
This two month travel has allowed me to experience new things and meet with some amazing people. A highlight of each place includes:
Taipei, Taiwan - This time around, I was able to catch up with a friend and see the amazing sunset at the Elephant Mountain. It was definitely special for the simple fact that the new MRT line for Elephant Mountain opened when I was in town, making it a special day for locals and tourists to see the sunset.
Although I was in Taiwan for Thanksgiving, I definitely didn't miss out on the special holiday, except this time was quite unique. Having a homemade Thanksgiving dinner with people from all around the world who were connected by some sort of connection was unexpected of course. Sharing travels of the world and tips of life, whether or not I should move to Taiwan as my next career option. Ada Liu, our host of the Air B n B apartment was one to thank for this!
Sai Kung, Hong Kong - Meeting a Couchsurfer who introduced me to her hilarious coworkers the very first day of landing and taught the local slang again. It's amazing how much changes within one year in a country in regards to lingo. It's always great to hang with the locals who are around your age because of the number of things they'll share with you, without the awkward feeling of having to keep a certain image.
Mongkok, Hong Kong - Catching up with college friends for a dinner that lead to me buying the Samsung Note 3 in Hong Kong. You can simply trade in your old cell phone (even with a cracked screen) for credit towards a new phone. It is a system that the locals as well as those who come from surrounding areas use in order to get the latest phones without the need of being linked to a contract. The perk of this is the advantage of all phones being factory unlocked already which allows for you to travel without any problems. They'll also throw in a few extra freebies for you which makes it that much more awesome! Then again, catching up with old friends and cracking jokes makes it memorable already.
Singapore - Feasting through the Hawker stalls with a local couple that my friend virtually introduced me to a few days before landing was definitely a stretch for my stomach. They were the cutest couple that took me around Singapore and ate a ton of food with me! The best part about food in Singapore is that you'll know its amazingly good when there is a line. Because Singapore is such a small country locals and tourists actually eat the same things so there's no such thing as overpriced tourist traps.
Being as friendly as I am, a few months back when I was on the way to Thailand, I met two guys who were from Singapore and Malaysia. After bothering him weeks in advance, he surprisingly spent an entire day with me showing me the ins and outs of Singapore's memorable places and the famous spicy chili crab at the No Name Restaurant which is an extremely popular chain to have this dish. Just be sure to book in advanced because there are long waits!
Sydney, Australia - Catching up with a friend I met my first month when I moved to Korea two years back and continuing our bond was more than I can ask. It was always a relationship over coffee every few months but after being chauffeured around by this guy who planned and took me to every spot he could think of in Sydney, the friendship definitely became stronger! I was definitely glad to have him around to show me the best views of Sydney.
As spontaneous as I am, I also managed to grab brunch with a waitress that I met at the famous Pancakes on the Rocks restaurant. It's amazing how one simple question can turn into a great friendship. This Cantonese bond is definitely sticking around, probably making me want to furthermore go to Australia for a working holiday. It's amazing where and how one can make friends.
As ironic as it may be, going to the beach alone one early afternoon when my dear friend was studying for his exam provided me with the opportunity to meet with two travelers out of chance. In fact, I simply asked them to watch over my bag as I went into the water and a friendship blossomed from there. It might have been fate that one of the girls were actually flying to Melbourne the same day I was, giving us the opportunity to travel together.
Melbourne, Australia - Melbourne has a crazy amount of culture. There is laneway art and all types of amazing food. There are people singing out in the streets and the convenient trams that makes traveling easy. Although it was convenient, getting in some good exercise and walking the whole city was exactly what I did. The longest walk was probably to the beach which took approximately two hours one way, definitely still worth it to balance out all of the amazing foods I got to eat!
Great Ocean Road, Australia - This is a must see for everyone and my recommendation is to take the helicopter tour. You are getting an amazing view from up high, an unforgettable one of the last apostles that are left standing. It is definitely worth spending the extra money to experience the ride in a place that you might not get to see ever again. The photos from up high is just breath taking. If you're going to pay for a helicopter ride, it might as well be in an extra significant place.
Cairns, Australia - The Great Barrier Reef is a must visit for guests of all ages. I recommend checking the wind knots prior to your trip out and rescheduling if needed. You are pretty much on a boat and a rocking dock all day. The experience was treacherous for many who experienced motion sickness all day. For those who held up, going snorkeling is recommended for the amazing reef. If you have the money to, I suggest going scuba diving. You are actually able to get up close with the fish and actually touch the spaghetti corals, one thing I will never forget. The most common large fish you will get a photo with is the Humphead Wrasse which makes the experience that much more amazing.
Brisbane, Australia - Spending Christmas in one of the quieter cities of Australia was definitely difficult. The one good thing was there were a ton of houses that decorated for the Christmas theme. Thanks to two locals who were also on the hunt of Christmas decorations, we were able to visit some of the prettiest and more honored houses for their Christmas decorations. Hundreds of locals also flood the houses to take pictures and join in on the celebration of Christmas. It was definitely the closest to a white Christmas that I have gotten thus far.
Surfers Paradise, Australia - The name practically says it all. As my last destination in Australia, going out with a bang was definitely necessary. The hotel thought so as well; they upgraded me to a suite for one. The staff at Outriggers Surfers Paradise definitely made life easy and helped me book a ton of activities. My own favorite by far is the private surfing lessons. Thanks to an awesome instructor from Go Ride a Wave, I was actually able to catch a wave! It's definitely an awesome feeling to be able to actually surf on the first go and it is reassuring that all instructors are in fact, certified life guards. Being the oldest in town and probably the most trustworthy one, it is definitely worth it to take a lesson or two.
Penang, Malaysia - Penang was the place I experienced the airline losing my luggage, but even with that as a problem, I didn't let it get the best of me. In fact, I met some very supportive hostel owners at the Kimberley House that helped to make the situation better. Positive energy and reminders is definitely the way to go. It was quite a short trip in Penang, but I got lucky to have an awesome taxi driver who also served as a tour guide and gave me the history of Penang. It's always awesome to speak to taxi drivers who love to engage in conversation with others! I find them extremely welcoming to foreigners especially, no matter what country I'm in.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Although many people warned me not to go to KL and told me to be extremely careful of everything, it honestly was not as bad as everyone made it sound. KL has been amazing and one of the friendliest hostels that I have stayed at was the Sunshine Bedz hostel in the heart of Bukit Bitang. The owner is extremely friendly, helpful and hilarious. Patrick really cares about his guests at the hostel and will put in the extra effort to get to know the guests of his place. He even goes out with the guests and tries to arrange activities where guests can join in together. There's nothing better than someone who actually cares to help. This is one thing that many hostels lack with the change of staff through the day, but Patrick is one entertaining individual that I would totally hang with all day!
Maldives - I think this one stand for itself with the amazing views that the Maldives offer. My trip does not end there. I was blessed to have to opportunity to meet two amazing locals. Just by asking locals about boat rentals to the other islands as I walked from my hotel, I randomly stumbled upon one guy who knew another and gave this guy a call. Not too long after, Venger of Rasdhoo Inn, pulled up on a motor bike at the exact place I was standing. As he tried to plan the boat arrangements for my new few days in the Maldives, I stood there waiting.
Not too long after that, Venger asked me to a cup of coffee and as crazy as I am, I said yes and hopped on his bike. My hearts was racing with the possibility that I could be getting robbed of the thirty dollars in my pocket or even kidnapped. Nonetheless, I still hopped on and am glad I did because the rest makes history in my life. Venger and I bonded over coffee when not too long after, two guys joined us. It was quite a nerve wrecking experience for the simple fact that I was one girl surrounded by three guys. These three guys turned out to be the friendliest and extremely entertaining individuals.
Over the next few days, Venger and a friend Ali spoiled me to the max by taking me to experience the local foods for every meal possible, introducing me to their friends over coffee and even set up boat arrangements to the surrounding islands for me. It was a memorable experience for sure. This random meeting as grown to be a friendship that will eventually bring me back to the Maldives. For anyone traveling on a budget, Venger will definitely make the best of it in every way that he can. Be sure to email him at email@example.com, telling him that you are a friend of mine ^.^
Now if you plan wisely as suggested in my blog, traveling on a budget will definitely help with the explorations and in creating your own traveling highlights.
Graduating with a double major in Communications and Chinese from Rutgers University, it wasn’t long after working in the Big Apple that Cindy Ung decided to take a break from the cliché 9-5 lifestyle and move to Korea to teach English for CDI. Making the bold step to leave her comfortable, mapped out life in the States, she has fallen more in love with the Korean culture as each day passes. With weekly mountain hikes, weekend road trips, discovering great foods and beauty products, constantly meeting new people, her life in Korea has been everything but mapped out.
Check out Cindy’s blog to get a glimpse of what Korea has to offer.