the big 3

So this year (or rather last year, since it is passed New Year. I am indeed a true procrastinator…), I turned 30, and I can hardly believe that the year is coming to an end. For months, I have procrastinated writing a significant piece for my 30th birthday, but hey! Better late than never! 

Traveling has always been a huge part of my life. Exploring new places, wandering the streets, chatting with the locals, learning at least a few words in a new language, eating street food, getting lost… this is what I’ve been doing since I first started backpacking when I was 19. I thought coming up with a list of unforgettable experiences would be a good way to kick off my journey in the big 3-s! It was tough to choose the top experiences, but as I was reliving those wonderful experiences in my head, I realised that more often than not, the most unforgettable or prominent moments are when I interacted with the locals, feeling in awe with nature, or when there was a mishap (afterall, nothing is smooth-sailing)!

So this year (2017), I turn 31. It does sound dreadfully old but well, age is just a number, and if anything, 30s is the new 20s! So, here’s to more fun adventures, for life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all. 

30 most unforgettable experiences in my travels 

  1. The first time I hiked a real mountain (Gunung Datuk) ever and fell deeply in love with the mountains. – Malaysia, 2006

    It’s like what they say, “Your first love will always have a special place in your heart.”
  2. Volunteering and teaching in Lepabya, a dusty little village in Mandalay. – Myanmar, 2006

    We may have stocked up a library and taught these kids some art and craft, but they taught us a lot more about appreciating the simple pleasures in life.
  3. Having my ENTIRE backpack stolen during a recce hike to a new hiking place (Jerankang falls) and learning a very precious lesson. – Malaysia, 2007
  4. Climbing up snowy Yamadera to visit century-old Risshakuji temple at the very top, in deep winter. – Japan, 2008

    And so the path begins – 1,015 steps to Risshakuji Temple at the top of the mountain.
  5. Being grounded in an airport for 48hours, living off a trolley and watching The Terminal (how apt). – Japan, 2008

    Grounded and watching the frozen world outside.
  6. Watching an exciting Sunday Charreada (Mexican  rodeo) in Guadalajara (and being the only tourists in the audience, much to everyone else’s amusement. Cino? Si.). – Mexico, 2008

    The Cala de Caballo event where the horse is required to gallop at full speed then slam on the brakes without lifting his back feet for the duration of the sliding stop which is judged on distance and definition. (Explanation from
  7. My first American experience – Chili’s, Danny’s, Cold Stone (before it made its way to Singapore), the beautiful Highway One and the most amazing Manhattan Clam Chowder ever (and I have been unable to find another ever since). – the USA, 2008

    This is one of the reasons I’ve always wanted to return to California. This and In-and-Out’s animal fries. *nom*
  8. Climbing Mt Fuji with the BFF. –  Japan, 2008

    The view from Mt Fuji – clouds and the loose sandy path to slide all the way down. And this is why the saying goes “He who climbs Mount Fuji is a wise man, he who climbs twice is a fool.” Haha
  9. Feeling mystified by the Plain of Jars and learning about the landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Laos. – Laos, 2009

    Thousands of stone jars can be found around these fields. According to Wiki, these jars are dated back to 500 BC to AD 500 and are most likely used for prehistoric burial practices. O_O However, there is a large number of unexploded land mines and bombs in this area, hence visitors are advised to stay on cleared and marked paths.
  10. Watching a volcanic eruption on Mt Rinjani. – Indonesia, 2009

    The first time I heard an volcanic eruption. I thought it sounded a lot like thunder as I was nearing the crater top, only to realise it’s the eruption. We couldn’t summit Mt Rinjani, but it was like Nat Geo on live.
  11. Eating shellfish in an illegal streetside market in Dalat, which was suddenly raided by police, causing all the stores to disappear in the blink of an eye. – Vietnam, 2009
  12. Exploring the ruins of Hampi and being swarmed by a group of locals who insisted on taking a photo with me. – India, 2010

    Being asked to take pictures with the locals seems to be a common occurance throughout my entire trip in India.
  13. Reading Shantaram, visiting the slums of Mumbai and learning how the locals thrive in adversity of life. – India, 2010

    This isn’t the slum that we visited, but a Dhobi Ghat (a village of Dhobis / washers).
  14. This has got to be one of my favourites – From a miserable one-night stay on quiet Lanyu Island, Taiwan, to making friends with the locals, extending my stay, harvesting sweet potato, being treated to locally caught flying fish, and drinking beer with the Yami tribe granny in her mud house. – Taiwan, 2011

    The best part about travelling is the little surprises and the people you meet in the least expected places. I went to Lanyu Island, thinking that I’d be spending some alone time reflecting on my life. Who knows I’d be drinking beer with some funky gran and pops!
  15. Witnessing an old lady speeding down a steep slope in Ubud, crashing, falling over and losing four of her teeth (and picking up those teeth for her). OUCH. (Lesson learnt: Never speed down a slope on a bike. NEVER.) – Bali, 2011
  16. Surviving my longest night ever camping in a summer tent at zero degrees celcius on Daisetzusan (大雪山, literally big snow mountain) mountain range, and being rewarded by amazing views the next day. – Japan, 2011

    View from the ridges of Daisetsuzan National Park, Hokkaido. One of the most amazing hikes I’ve done in Japan. The view from the ridge is simply breath-taking.
  17. Seeing my crazy ol’ dad PLANK at the ruins of the old city of Ayutthaya, Thailand (much to my amusement). – Thailand, 2011

    The old man never fails to amuse me…
  18. Being scammed by a bus company in Cambodia who tried to make us believe that the bus really broke down and that we have to pay an additional USD24 to get a van, and ending up reaching our destination at midnight, delayed by several hours. Really, it should be called SCAMbodia. – Cambodia, 2012
  19. That silence that blankets you while snowboarding through the powder snow of Hokkaido during a white-out. – Japan, 2012

    Obviously this is not a photo during a white-out, but one of Mt Yotei (aka Ezo-Fuji, for it’s similar shape to Mt Fuji).
  20. Screaming my way through one of the scariest haunted in the world at Fuji-Q Highland. – Japan, 2012

    So scary that they actually have a “Giving Up” option. Not for the faint-hearted.
  21. Hiking the Abel Tasman National Park and having to time our hike so that we cross the estuary before it gets flooded over by the incoming tide. – New Zealand, 2012

    Crossing the estuary.. hurry hurry!
  22. Squeezing on the 5-6hr train ride from Colombo to Hatton in Sri Lanka and making friends with some local uni students who were squeezed in the gangway with us. – Sri Lanka, 2013

    When you’re stuck with each other in close proximity for hours, you strike up a conversation.
  23. Walking around the villages of Ella and bumping into a small boy who invited us to his home, where we spent the entire afternoon with his mom and three brothers, enjoying the beautiful view of the Demodara Nine Arch Bridge. – Sri Lanka, 2013

    The most random thing that happened during our Sri Lanka trip, but also one of the best things that happened.
  24. Doing a 10-day road trip around Hokkaido, visiting some really beautiful but inaccessible areas with 4 other total strangers and surprisingly hitting off well. – Japan, 2014

    Fooling around at Aikoku Station (愛国駅) on the very first day we met!
  25. Diving my first wall dive ever at Pulau Weh and being so much in awe with the beauty that I lost my divemaster (ok, he pranked me but that was still somewhat scary). – Indonesia, 2014

    I soon realised that hikers and divers are some of the most fun people in the world! Here’s one of me at Monster Divers, Pulau Weh. It has become one of my favourite diving destinations.
  26. Driving through Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son, including reversing our rental car into a signboard and later realising the bumper was dragging on the floor while we sped down the highway. – Thailand, 2014

    Beautiful River Pai, taken from Pai Memorial Bridge.
  27. Living my MayDay dream, riding on a motorbike around Kending, chasing the coastline, and chilling at the Spring Scream Fest. – Taiwan, 2015

    My Mayday dream – riding a scooter, speeding down some road in Kending, feeling the wind in our hair and enjoying the scenery in front of us.
  28. (Truly unforgettable and life-threatening) Dancing for at least 1 hour under the blazing mid-day heat (45 degrees) in Bhubaneswar, as part of S & PG’s wedding entourage. – India, 2015

    Street-dancing at 45C, probably the most life-threatening thing I’ve ever done in all my travels across India.
  29. “Breaking into” somebody’s hut and sleeping in the guestroom, and waking up to pouring rain and leaky roof, in the middle of Markha Valley, Ladakh, in the Indian Himalaya. – India, 2015

    It’s common practice for the villagers to leave the guestroom unlocked for any hikers or travellers. We concluded the owner did not come home because of the pouring rain.
  30. Trekking through the misty Himalayan in the rainy season, waiting in the freezing cold and watching the sun rise over the third highest peak in the world. – India, 2016

    Waited in the freezing cold for this sunrise with a futile attempt to start a fire. It was definitely worth the wait.

2 thoughts on “the big 3

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