An Unforgettable Experience

Semester in Singapore: Aug – Dec 2014

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These past 4 months were perhaps one of the greatest times of my life. I cannot believe my study abroad has come to an end already. It saddens me that I must now take leave of this place that I so much admire. Singapore maybe just a small island, but hell, it is one to be admired…especially for its people. I am blessed and forever grateful to the people that I have befriended here in Singapore.

Special Shout Outs:

Firstly, Beth, you may not say much every time we hang out, but trust me that did not discourage me from hanging out with you or make it feel weird. I get it, you’re more of a listener and that’s fine. I am just glad that you never got bored hanging out with me. I appreciate your help with coming up with ideas for what to do or eat (feels great to know someone who enjoyed food as much as I did in Singapore). Even though you only put forth ideas, and left me responsible with all the plans, I honestly did not mind. I am just glad to see that you wanted to hang out with me. Plus you helped me grow as a leader (which is something I have honestly always lacked). For that, I am very grateful for your friendship. Not only that, but every time you did give input, it never fails to make me laugh. Your jokes are unique, sometimes weird, clever, and most of all…FUNNY. Thank you for the laughs and teaching me the Singapore slang. Oh and also, thank you for speaking slowly and without the slang when you were around other Singaporeans. It made it easy for me to understand and it made me feel included in your conversation.I will never forget the laughs or your willingness to come hang out and have fun every time I made plans (despite having homework or the need to “mug”).  Seriously, you are SUPER DUPER AWESOME. Don’t forget it, or about me.

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“No. 1”

Rachael, I swear you make situations SUPER awkward for me. It seriously makes me speechless most of the time…I cannot emphasize how AWKWARD it gets with some of the stuff you say. Like seriously woman…However, it is probably one of the best qualities that you have. You taught me how to be comfortable with who I am, accept who I am and to just embrace the situation. I truly believe, after meeting, that “it IS only awkward if you make it awkward”. Rather it is just a moment to just laugh at and enjoy it. It is a memory you can just look back at and laugh at how silly we were. Like No. 1, thank you for always coming out to have fun on various adventures throughout Singapore every Thursday nights. Even though you were late 95% of the time, I appreciate that you still came out! Seriously dude, it was always a blast when the Dynamic Duo was with me. I honestly don’t know what I would’ve done without you guys. I would never trade the memories I have made with you two for anything. It was always a Jolly Good O’ Time. Thank you for that 🙂

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“No. 2”

First and foremost, 谢谢 慧敏 (Look at my chinese skills go!). I am very touched and grateful for your act of kindness. You have a big heart, for people and animals. I was able to learn a lot from you about stray animals, treatments and the need for the shelters. Just from accompanying you that one time, I could see your passion for volunteering and helping the cats and dogs (And just volunteering in general, so keep volunteering!). On top of that you are very welcoming (not to me, but my friends as well). It has been a blessing to have met you in the last few weeks of my time in Singapore! Thank you for the laughs, the nicknames (Counterfeit Asian, American Chai, and many more thanks to you clever, creative person), memories, company and dinner. I appreciate you treating me to the “Soup Restaurant”. It was very delicious, especially the chicken! The chicken was so tender and juicy. Plus the boiled peanuts were also a bonus 😛

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“The Soup Restaurant and Min”

Thank you Wei En, for inviting me to your church and sharing your faith with me. If it was not for you, I would not have met such amazing people. When I look at you guys, I see a big happy family who supports and looks after one another. Just like brothers and sisters. Despite meeting you guys only twice, I never once felt out of place or excluded out of the group. You guys have one of the biggest hearts that I have ever seen. I wish I had met you guys sooner and had more time to get to know you guys better. Lastly, thank you for the thoughtful card and your messages! Thank you for allowing me to become part of your family. Until the next time guys!

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The One Big Happy Family”

Whether you were mentioned above or not just know this: I am very lucky to have met and to be able to call you guys my friends. You guys have taught me how to enjoy life. To live, love, have faith and laugh. To be appreciative of the people (the old and the new) and the things I have in my life. You guys have helped me grow, to become more confident and accepting of myself. To not be afraid to meet new people and just go with the flow. I am grateful, truly grateful for you guys. Thank you everyone for making this chapter of my life in Singapore a very memorable and enjoyable time. You guys are the greatest. Until next time!

Other Good O’ Fun Times

Honestly, I had no clue what the F1 was, let alone ANYTHING about racecars other than that these vehicles were super fast and had such an amazing engine sound that literally went “VROOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM” as it went passed. It was numbing to the ears. Also it was incredible how fast they are able to accelerate/decelerate and successfully make turns at incredible speeds. In addition to the Grand Prix, I was able to attend a concert after the qualifying rounds. That night Robbie Williams, a British Pop Artist, was the star. Not only that but it was pouring in Singapore. Still he sang and pranced around on stage. No rain was going to stop him, and no audience retreated from the rain. Instead the concert went on!

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“Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix”

There was no way I was going to forget to visit the Giant Pandas during my stay here in Singapore. These Giant Pandas, Jia Jia and Kai Kai, were definitely the main attractions to the River Safari. My friends and I had the opportunity to see the Pandas walk around and search for bamboos to eat. Such incredible animals, to be able to tear away at the hard shells of the bamboo. Aside from the Giant Pandas, we were able to see the cute little red pandas. These creatures were so adorable…too bad they were asleep when I arrived! It was quite cute to see it passed out on the tree branch.

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“Singapore’s Giant Pandas and the Adorable Red Panda (River Safari)”

A brief shout-out to my Biomedical Engineering group! You guys rock and I appreciate your guys’ hard work and sincere consideration of my travel plans. With everyone working together so well we were able to not only complete the project a week in advance, but also acquire our mentor’s approval quickly! Thanks to everyone’s hard work we were able to get our poster hung up in the Bio department! I enjoyed getting to know and working with you all. Best of luck to the rest of your studies! Continue to work hard and excel!

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“Intro to Biomedical Engineering Group and Final Presentation”

I will never forget the great times at the Swee Choon. It was the place that I kept going back to the most. Not only was their dim sum delicious (especially their Salted Egg Yolk Custard Bun!) and cheap, but it opens from 6PM – 6AM. How AWESOME is that? Perhaps the most memorable night with Swee Choon is being there at 3 in the morning for some late night delicious meal. My friends and I had gotten hungry after hanging out at the Clarke Quay bridge that we decided to adventure out to the Mustafa area for food. It was a 45 minute walk, but none of us cared…it just meant more BONDING time for us. Plus, it was worth the trip to be able to have Har Gao, Salted Egg Yolk Custard Buns, and much more. Afterwards, we waited in the restaurant till about 5 in the morning just so we can catch the MRT back home…Yes we waited all night just to save a few bucks on taxi. Looking back it may have been silly, but heck it was one of the best nights in Singapore!

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“Swee Choon and Friends”

Despite having upcoming finals, we made sure to celebrate one of my friend’s birthday. We grabbed Thai food, at the Ban Beer Thai (which had delicious Green Curry and Tom Yam Goong Soup) and then proceeded to celebrate her birthday at the Clarke Quay bridge. It was an incredible time to be having a festivity publicly! I especially will not forget the pictures we were able to take with a group of people who were dressed up as wrestlers. Clarke Quay bridge was certainly a place full of random surprises and excitements. After the bridge, we topped off the night by going clubbing. We danced the night away!

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“Beth’s Birthday Extravaganza and Fun People”

For the last couple nights in Singapore, I spent the time visiting other Singapore attractions: the Singapore Flyer and the Marina Bay Sands’ Infinity Pool. The Singapore Flyer was similar to a big Ferris Wheel, only it was very spacious inside each of the little pods. My friends and I went there at night to see the city lights. It was a very quiet and relaxing atmosphere in the pods. Plus the view of MBS from the back side aloud us to be able to see the Gardens by the Bay as it was lit up by purple, green and blue lights!

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“The Night in Singapore’s Flyer”

It felt nice to be able to spend the evening relaxing in the pool while enjoying the magnificent view of the city from above. Not only that but MBS also had several hot tubs as well! In the hot tubs you were able to enjoy the view of the Singapore Flyer and the Gardens by the Bay.

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“Infinity Pool and Gorgeous View from Marina Bay Sands”

For all the Food Lovers

The black peppered crab is smothered in a black peppered gravy like sauce. It was not just spicy, but it was also sweet. It is best to quickly eat it while it is hot. There is much joy in breaking apart the protective shell for the juicy crab meat! It is worth the work. 🙂

Yes the fish head is quiet odd, however, do not let the fish head frighten you. The fish meat is very tender (especially the meat at the cheeks of the fish) and juicy as it soaks in all the curry. The curry itself is very creamy, sweet, and has a kick of spice to it. I have never been a fan of eating fish head, however this particular dish changed all that. I had the joy of digging and slurping the meat from the fish bones. It is a must try in Singapore!

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“Singapore’s Specialty: Black Peppered Crab (Eng Seng Restaurant) and Curry Fish Head”

Bak Kut Teh is a dish that consists of pork ribs that are boiled in tea based broth with the addition of black pepper balls and garlic. Although it seems a bit odd to be cooking ribs in tea, but rest assured it is VERY delicious. The meat easily comes right off the bone and is SUPER tender. Plus it instantly clears up any sinuses that you may have!

The other dish is a hot plate tofu. You can still here the sizzling and the boiling of the sauce as the waitress brings the dish to the table. The dish is spicy and has very soft and tender fried tofu.

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“Bak Kut Teh and Hot Plate Tofu”

The porridge below is not a typical porridge. It is cooked with frog legs. That’s right, FROG legs. It is very exotic and tastes like CHICKEN but the meat is much more tighter. Forget that it is frog legs and just try it!

This laksa was perhaps the best laksa I had in Singapore. It is noodles with seafood and curry like soup base. The noodles are soft and cut to short lengths so that customers can simply enjoy the meal struggle free. There is not a need to use chopsticks or be at risk from splashing yourself from noodles slipping back down into the soup!

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“Frog Leg Porridge in Geylang and Laksa 328”

From the West Coast to the East Coast

November 16, 2014

Journey Across Singapore

It seemed like a grand idea at the time to bike across the country and back. With Singapore being so small, it seemed like it would be an easy trip. However, that was a false assumption. I underestimated the size of Singapore. Just because it is such a “small” country does not mean biking across it would be swift. The journey itself was 114 km long, and took about 17 hours. My friend and I began our trip at 9:30 AM only to reach Changi Village by about 7:00 PM. From there we returned back to Jurong West by 2:00 AM. This was not a trip to be taken in a straight shot, but we took several stops along the way and enjoyed delicious seafood!

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“The Beginning”

We cruised along the west coast and through the city. Prior to arriving at Harbour Front we came across Har Paw Vill (a theme park). There we spent the time go through the theme park seeing and learning about the Chinese folklore: the 10 Courts of Hell. This place struck close to home as I was noticed that it reminded me of my favorite TV show that depicted the journey of a monk, Monkey God (Sai Ew), a River Demon and Pigsy. After the short visit we continued to Gardens by the Bay where we enjoyed some black and white carrot cake (Super delicious!!!).

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“Lunch at Gardens by the Bay and by MBS”

After lunch we continued our journey towards the East Coast Park. We cruised through Gardens by the Bay and around Marina Barrage. Once passed we took a quick detour to see the Singapore’s newly constructed National Stadium.

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“The Night View on the Journey Back and National Stadium”

Our last two stops was at the East Coast Park. There we enjoyed a quick dip in the ocean and a seafood meal. Afterwards we continued our way across towards Changi Village. Along the way we had to go along the run way of the Changi Airport. During that ride, it felt SO endless. The path never seemed to be ending. On top of that, it started to poor. I was instantly drenched. Even though I had brought a poncho, I was not fast enough to bring it out and shield me from the heavy rain. Regardless, no weather was going to stop me from reaching the village!

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“The East Coast Beach and BBQ Stingray!”

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“Final Destination”

 I literally had no idea how on earth I managed to back that long. I have never biked that much before, especially in one day. It seemed so unreal. Physically I was exhausted, and it seemed that I was mindlessly pedaling away, waiting to return back to my soft bed. Regardless of the long exhausting and rainy trip, this trip was well worth it. It was amazing to go through the different cities of Singapore. There is such a variety of class in each region of Singapore and each had its own different types of architecture (skyscrapers, colonial typed buildings, small HDBs, condos, houses, and etc.). Furthermore there is much distinction, in terms of beauty, between the West, South and East parts of Singapore. The East part of Singapore is by far the prettier side of Singapore. It had a nice green ocean and dozens of people were camping, biking, rollerblading and fishing all along the coast. It was such a chill environment!

A Weekend Trip to Langkawi, Malaysia

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“View from the Cable Car”

October 30, 2014

Before Langkawi

The weekend after returning from Thailand, my friends and I decided to take a weekend trip to Langkawi, Malaysia: the island of the reddish brown eagles. Instead of flying straight to Langkawi, my friends and I decided to take an alternative route: a bus ride to Kuala Lumpur followed by a flight to Langkawi. Due to our last minute planning, this was the cheapest means of travel. Although it was exhausting and time consuming, it was still worth it. We traveled to Kuala Lumpur during the night, enjoying the time to get to know each other more and sleep. Once we arrived in Kuala Lumpur, at the town senter, we were very fortunate to be guided by a local who helped and paid for our cab fare to KL Sentral. Shout out to that stranger! It is a blessing and an amazing feeling to know that there are still people out there who are willing to help out complete strangers. From KL Sentral we made way to KLIA 2 where we were to be flown out to Langkawi that morning!

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“The Adventurers”

October 31, 201

Let the Journey Begin

After arriving in Langkawi, we proceeded straight to renting a car and beginning our island exploration. Langkawi is best explored by renting a car or a motorbike. There is not much public transportation around the island. Anyways, it felt nice to drive again since it has been about 4 months since I have driven. However, I had a rough start to driving the manual since I was not used to being on the other side of the vehicle while driving. It felt different for me, but definitely manageable if taken slowly. For the first day we spent most of the afternoon enjoying the view from the cable car. From above we can see various islands around Langkawi as well as the clouds as it approached the bay. It was absolutely breathtaking. So GORGEOUS.

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“View from the Cable Car and Selfie”

Later that evening, we took the time to relax at the Cenang Beach. It was very convenient to get to as it was only a 5 minute walk from our hotel. The sea was calm and refreshing. It felt nice to simply sit in the ocean and enjoy the sun slowly descend behind the distant islands and the sky transform into various shades of orange before becoming dark. I love sunsets.

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“Our cute little car and the sunset at Cenang Beach (Courtesy of Tendy)”

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“Breakfast Group Pic”

November 1, 2014

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“View from the Bay”

The next morning the day with island hopping. Our first stop was at Dayang Bunting Marble Geoforest Park. There we took a quick stroll to the fresh water lake, Tasik Dayang Bunting (also known as the Lake of the Pregnant Made). Along the way we encountered several monkeys. Afterwards we journeyed out to another island where we were able to see eagles. These eagles flew swiftly and valiantly in the wild, occasionally swooping down to catch fish. It is crazy how swift eagles can change its direction mid flight. If you listen carefully you were able to hear the sound of the eagle diving down into the water before snatching away at the helpless fish. The island hopping ending with a trip to a beach…unlucky for us it started to poor, so we were forced to take shelter under a bridge as we waited for it to subside.

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“Dayang Bunting Marble and Eagle Watching”

After getting back to the hotel, we were informed by the manager that our trip to the mangroves was cancelled due to the harsh weather. However, that did not stop us and thanks to our talented and skilled driver, Tendy, we were able to make it to the mangroves on our own to see for ourselves. Upon arrival we discovered that it was still possible to do the mangroves tour (the 2 hour package). At first the price of the package seemed overpriced since it was a private tour for the 3 of us. However, thanks to Tendy’s quick thinking and persuasion, he was able to convince 5 other tourists to join us. This drove down the cost and allowed us to participate in the full 2 hour mangrove tour. Seriously Tendy, a shout out to you bro! You have shown and demonstrated to me that if one truly wants to do something, there is literally NOTHING that can stop you from getting it. You just have to be super motivated to it. Thank you for that.

The mangroves tour started off with our visit to the bat cave. It was pitch black, and bats covered the caves. Dozens hung quietly upside down and could be seen from the above. Sounds of water drops echoed throughout the stalagmite covered cave.

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“Peek-a-boo from the bat cave”

 At the next stop we went to see the “crocodile” cave. This did not mean that the waters were infested with crocs or let alone a cave full of crocs…It was a cave that looked like a crocodile’s head that pops out of the water. See if you can make sense of the picture below:

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“The crocodile cave”

Afterwards, we took a quick stop at the fish farm. At the farm we had the opportunity to see all the different fish. These consisted of snappers, groupers, stingrays, prawns and even a lion fish! The local there were very generous. He was feeding them to show how active and aggressive the fish can be. The snappers were swift and vicious as it attacked the pieces of fish with great speed. Also the fish farmer took the time to hand feed the stingrays and made sure that we got to see it’s venomous sharp tail. Anyways it’s interesting that the fish here on the farm were fed other fish…

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“Gill, Flo and friends. Groupers staring blankly at the camera”

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“Stingray, Lion Fish”

All along the boat ride through the Kilim Geoforest Park, we enjoyed a nice scenery of islands that surrounded us as well as the beautiful mangroves. These trees have roots that grow upwards instead of downwards. This enabled the trees to survive while being submerged by water. At the end of the trip we went out to the Andaman sea where we were out in the open. We were able to see a part of Thailand in the distant! I felt so close to home and at peace just being out in the middle ocean where all you could feel was the gentle rocking of the waves and the gentle breeze.

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“Out in the Andaman Sea and Mangroves in Kilim”

After the tour, we headed to Eagle Square where we were able to see the Langkawi’s monument of the giant reddish brown eagle. The 12 meter tall eagle stood at the bay, and looked as if it was getting ready to take off! The eagle is what resembles Langkawi. Next my friends attended the night market in Kuah. There we were able to have some delicious lamb bbq, fish balls and nasi goreng (fried rice). It was much food for a cheap price!

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“Got Our Vegetarian Friend to try Lamb and Tourist pictures”

It was a great pleasure to travel with such amazing people. Thank you for making this short trip very memorable one!

Thai Food and Family Time

October 22 – 26, 2014

Reunited

Having grown up so far away from you guys, only being able to see you once a year, and sometimes even lesser, I felt so distant from you guys. Yet, every time I do come to Thailand, you guys never cease to amaze me. Despite living so far, having large age gaps, and your busy lives, you still make time for me. It means a whole lot to me that you take the time to come see and spend time with me. Even if it is for a brief visit, over dinner or a movie, you still come all the way out. It means so much to me that you guys do that. It not only makes me feel important, but as part of a family (even though I have missed out on growing up with you guys). You guys are the best…REALLY.

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“My lovely cousins, mother, aunties, and uncles”

You have taught me what it means to be a family and shown that it does not matter how often we see each other. What matters is the time you take to cherish every moment with the ones you love. I am grateful and glad to be able to call you guys my family. I love you all and I’ll see you all again shortly!

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“The BEST Twins and the new additional to the family! So adorable. Oh and my awesome grandma”

    Some More Food Pictures

Aside from the family that I so much love in Thailand, I love Thailand for the food. It is all I do when I visit Bangkok. I just eat, eat, eat and…SLEEP. When I am in Thailand, from the moment I wake up I do not stop eating until I come home to the comfortable bed. There’s nothing more I enjoy here in Thailand than Food and Family. I am a “Gastronome” – (Courtesy of Logan Yamamoto)

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“Ga Praww Pla, Fresh Water Prawns and Taro Bowl”

Hello Indonesia

Blessed and Grateful…

First and foremost, I would like to thank Eli and her family for taking the time to help make my trip to Indonesia very memorable. Because of you guys I learned how to count in Indonesian, fully experienced a variety of Indonesian culture and delicious foods. Most of all, you guys reminded me of the family oriented relationship that I have forgotten. Despite not having talked in years, you, Eli, did not forget nor stop trying to contact me. On top of that, you and your family provided incredible hospitality to me, a stranger. The sincere kindness and compassion felt from your hospitality will never be forgotten. You guys have my uttermost gratitude.

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“A Big Thank You to You All!”

This was one of the greatest times of my life. You guys are the kinds of people that make this world a better and enjoyable place. I am truly grateful and appreciative of the opportunity to travel and to get to know the you amazing people. Thank you for being a part of my life.

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“The Amazing People”

September 24 – 30, 2014

Adventures in Bali

Day 1

After arriving in Bali, my friend and I went to Tulamben where we began our first adventure: visiting the USS Liberty. To see the shipwreck, we dove into the big blue and at approximately 7 meters deep, we saw the coral covered shipwreck. It appears that fishes have made this place their home. As we approached, some fish would come out as if trying to intimidate us while others retreated into the ship, waiting for us to pass.

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“Scuba Diving, Relaxation and the USS Liberty Shipwreck”

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After scuba diving, we walked down the beach, enjoying the gentle breeze and the sound of tumbling waves. It was truly remarkable and soothing to be back at the beaches and away from the big city.

Day 2

The next day my friends and I ventured out to Bakas for an elephant ride, and later went to Ubud for the Monkey Forest. At the forest, the wild monkeys roamed freely. These monkeys were incredibly intelligent and…thrifty. Not long after I had entered the forest, I was robbed from behind by the monkey… It had stolen my water bottle, and on top of that, it twisted off the cap and drank it like a normal human being. My friend attempted to get it back…only to be hissed at. On top of that, as my friends and I brought out the banana chips from our backpacks, we became targets for the monkeys. With eyes locked upon us, the monkeys rushed and stalked us as we walk down the trail. Some…particular the big monkeys halted us. It literally would grab our legs and stand high and mighty as if telling us “Thou shall not pass”. The monkey would not let us pass until we gave them food. When I opened my hands to reveal the banana chips, the monkey would quickly pick the food out of my hands and immediately use the other to pick up the rest. These wild monkeys definitely knew how to handle tourists, and are not afraid at all.

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“Elephants at Bakas and Ape Pact”

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“Monkey Business”

To top it all off, we ended the day by going to the night market and enjoy amazing dinner at the “Dirty Duck Diner”. Don’t let the name mislead you, but it had one of the best roasted duck I have ever tasted as well as amazing seafood.

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“Day Well Spent With These People”

Day 3

At 2:00 AM my friend and I woke up to begin our next adventure: Trekking Mt. Batur. After arriving at 4:00 AM at the base of the active volcano, our journey began. We trekked up the scoria covered path to catch the sunrise from the summit of the volcano. Seeing the sunrise from that high was nothing I had done before. Just seeing the sun slowly ascend, lighting up the dark lit sky was phenomenal. I was witnessing the skies colorful transformation. At dawn, the sky was covered in different shades of orange and a hint of pink, as it lit up the dark sky. It was absolutely breathtaking.

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“The Sunrise from Mt. Batur”

After watching the sunrise, our tour guide took us to the volcano’s second crater. There we cooked eggs by burying it into a hole and learned about the history of the volcano. From the crater we were able to see the lake as well as the old lava flows from the 2000 eruption.

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“Enjoying Some Hard Boiled Eggs and the View from the Top”

We ended the evening with coffee and tea tasting. Bali had a variety of flavors to offer, all of which are SUPER delicious. I normally do not like coffee, but after trying the different flavors…the tables of turned. Bali is well known for its famous Lewak Coffee. It is absolutely delicious and if you go to Bali you have to try it. We ended our exhausting journey by visiting the beach by the villa that evening. On top of that we were able catch the sunset by the beach 🙂

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“Coffee, Tea, and Beach”

Day 4

On the 4th day in Bali, my friends and I spent the day exploring the culture. This consisted of visiting a wood crafting, paintings and the Tellegang Rice Terraces. It is absolutely amazing to see such details and craftsman ship in the wood crafting. Whether it is a carving of a Buddha, statues, animals and etc., the wood carvers did not leave out any details. Everything is spot on…down to the smallest of details. Some work can take up to years doing it!

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“Wood Carving and Delicious Balinese Food”

Aside from the skilled wood carvers, Bali is also well known for its paintings. With creativity and a brush, the painters are able to visualize, capture, and depict Bali life in their paintings.  Unfortunately, no photos were allowed to be taken, but I did manage to pick up 2 paintings from a market out by the Tellegang Rice Terraces. These Rice Terraces were more than just what it sounds. The environment was calm, peaceful, and had a gentle breeze that blew over the terraces.

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“A Stroll in the Tellegang Rice Terrace”

The Last Day in Bali

We spent our morning exploring a temple at the sea: Tanah Lot. Here we were able to see the waves crashing into the cliff side where the temple rests upon. Although we were not allowed to going into the temple, we were able to get to the base of it where I received blessings and drank Holy Spring Water. It is interesting how the Holy Spring Water was not salty at all. Rather it tasted clean and fresh despite it being at the base of the temple and surrounded by ocean water.

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“Temple by the Sea and the Holy Spring Water”

After spending our entire morning at Tanah Lot, we made our way towards the beach. There I boogie boarded. Surprisingly I was able to catch some decent size waves and ride it to the shore where I had to maneuver past other swimmers. I had many close calls! Later in the evening we journeyed to another temple: Uluwatu. There we bought tickets to the Kecak Dance (a Balinese dance and music drama). The dance consisted of 4 Acts and a constant chanting of “Kecak” throughout the dance. It is an amazing performance which portrays the rescue of Sita from Rahwana by Hanoman, the white monkey.

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“Kecak Dance and Sunset at Uluwatu”

Even though I was in Bali for almost a week, there was simply NOT enough time. There’s so much to do with so little time. Even though Bali may look like a small island, rest assured there is PLENTY to do. I look forward to visiting Bali again someday.

September 30 – October 1, 2014

Yogyakarta

The people in Yogyakarta were much different compared to Bali and Jakarta (at least from my experience). It was as though the people in this part of Indonesia were much friendlier and not as harsh. Yogyakarta, Bali and Jakarta all had its differences, especially in the culture and the people. Even though I do not know Indonesian, I had no trouble traveling around Yogyakarta. People were willing to converse and understand me. It didn’t matter whether they knew English or I knew Indonesian, we both made an effort in trying to communicate one another. Furthermore people here were smiling and welcoming all the time (and not in a business sense as well). It was a very enjoyable and cultural time to be in Yogyakarta.

After landing in Yogyakarta, we made way straight to the largest buddhist temple: Borobudur. It was hand made…HAND MADE!!! It consisted of 9 levels of terraces and a main stupa at the top of the temple. In addition to that, the main stupa is rounded by dozens of other stupas which contains a meditating buddha within it. The first 6 terraces took on a square shape with the remaining 3 taking on round shapes. The walls of each level is covered in ancient inscriptions that describes human behaviors that are attached to earthly desires, partial attachment to desires and then transcendence (at the very top). Countless hours were spent touring this architectural site.

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“Borobudur the Buddhist Temple”

That night we stayed in Malioboro. There I spent the night walking up and down the night market (only window shopping and people watching). It was much different than how it was in Bali. No one bothered or tried to pressure you into buying stuff. For dinner I had Gudeg (which Yogya is well known for). It consisted of delicious chicken, hard boiled eggs, tofu, rice and some sambal (hot chili paste). So DELICIOUS. On top of that some local musicians, who helped me order gudeg” played music as I had dinner. Furthermore they took song requests and started playing various songs by Bob Marley (“Three Little Birds”, “Buffalo Soldier” and more)  What a happy and energetic bunch of people.

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“Gudeg and the Local Musicians”

The last day in Yogyakarta we went to a black sand beach: Parangtritis. My friends and I walked along the shoreline (since the waves and current were super strong) and enjoyed a couple hours listening to the sound of the crashing waves and enjoying the gentle breeze. After the quick stay at the beach my friend and I went out to another temple:  Prambanan. This giant Hindu temple consists of several towers, some towering up to 47 m high into the sky (the Shiva Temple). Within each of the temples stood statues that depicted or represented the Hindu Gods (such as Shiva, Brahma, Vishnu, and etc.). We spent the entire evening there and were able to even catch the sunset from the temple! The sky had a blend of yellow, orange, and magenta as the sun descended below the horizon.

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“Soto for Lunch and the Prambanan Temple”

Later that night we walked down the street from our Hotel. Unlike Malioboro, this neighborhood was not as crowded and touristy. It had a shopping mall and lots of other luxurious hotels. Definitely a “local” area. My friend and I spent the time sitting at a street stall sipping on some ginger tea. During our time there, a local student had dropped by. We conversed with him and before parting he asked to take a picture with us tourists. It was interesting, and kind of cool to be thought of, I hope, “exotic” or valuable to have our pictures taken with the local.

October 2 – 5, 2014

 The Nostalgia (Jakarta)

The last few days was  spent in Jakarta. The feeling reminded me of life in Bangkok, Thailand. I could not help but feel a bit at home where most days were spent visiting relatives, enjoying massages, shopping, eating, sleeping and…in traffic. It was a familiar feeling.

On the first day there, I went to the art museum where it had a collection of modern, traditional, and Balinese art and ceramics. It was interesting to see how different artists depicted life and the influences that the Dutch, Chinese and others had on some of the artwork. Later that evening our personal tour guide, Eli, took us to  Jakarta’s National Monument: Monas. Unfortunately that day we were unable to take the lift up to the top of the tower. Instead we spent our time there scooter-ing around the monument. Round and round again we went. In the evening one of my friends and I were able to receive traditional massages at the apartment. It was two hours of relaxation! Afterwards we went out to have some late night local foods: noodles and minced pork!

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“The Biker Gang and Photobombed by Hello Kitty”

The next day my friend and I ventured out into the city for some shiatsu. Unlike the traditional massage, the masseuse would step and walk up and down my back. At some point during the 2 hour massage I felt like my body was going to snap in half like a twig. I remembered at some point the masseuse went on her tippy toes. At this point I was confused and had no idea what was about to happen until suddenly I felt all of her weight down on my back. Instantly I felt my back crack (in a good way) from the top of my shoulder blades down to the mid portion of my back. It was quick, painless and I felt my back loosen instantly. Later that night we went out for some delicious porridge with century egg, pork and much more. It reminded me of my childhood years…but better! The porridge was so amazing that I did not even consider taking a picture of it before devouring it. I just got right to eating…

On the second to last day, I spent the entire afternoon shopping. Originally I planned on only window shopping…but Eli insisted that I try on some clothes just to see. Boy was that a mistake. After trying on so many clothes, I could not help but WANT WANT WANT. I ended up purchasing a lot of the clothes that I would try on. Never in my life have I spent so much on clothes and a pair of WAKAIS (which I love so much) in one day. My wallet was deflated and depressed by the end of the day. On the bright side I now have more a fashionable and colorful wardrobe (which I really did need).

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“Some Silly Faces to End the Adventure”

Jakarta was the perfect ending to my trip to Indonesia.

The Conclusion

My trip to Indonesia was not just a vacation, but a very educational one as well. Aside from the exposure to Indonesia’s culture, it has shown me just how much of the world I have been overlooking. It is not always about the studies, but about the people around you. Being so caught up in school I realized I have missed out in making and developing stronger relationships with people. It takes little to no time at all to take a moment and just say ‘Hello’ and see how your friends and family. These people are truly what will make your life worth it. They bring happiness, love and meaning to your life. Take the time to make the best memories with them. Let’s face it, it should not be about money all the time or having the best job (even though the world makes it out that way). Instead, for me, it is about taking the time to do the little things and do everything I can for those I care most about. Be happy for what you have, and take the time to pay it forward. There is nothing better than sharing your happiness and opportunities with others. Just knowing that you have been a part of their life and one of those people who make their life better is one of the greatest feelings you will ever feel. It has been a blessing for me to have some time off from school and to be able to see / relive life in a different side of the world. Thank you for the reminder.

A Kid Again…

September 14, 2014

A day at the Singapore Zoo

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The White Faced Saki and Zoo Adventurers

Singapore’s zoo is by far the best one I have been to. Not only does it have dozens of exotic animals, but it also has a “rainforest” feel to it as well. Much vegetation surrounded the trails, making my adventure seem like I was going through the jungle. Also monkeys could be seen from above swinging from one branch to the other while holding onto its offspring, while colorful peacocks roamed the zoo freely. In some areas marsupials, such as the kangaroos and wallabies, hopped across the trail as it scavenged for food.

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Adorable                                                                     Swinging Apes

The zoo is divided into various “regions” such as the Australian Outback, Wild Africa, Elephants of Asia, Primate Kingdom, and many more! Animals were placed in their respective homeland or amongst other species.

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             Mandrill Not Amused                                  Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia: Baboons

Perhaps the greatest experience at the zoo was the elephant show. Elephants are such marvelous and intelligent animals. These mammals put on an incredible show where they would walk across a log, pretend to sleep, sweep the floor, and even steal food from its trainers (which I do not think is actually part of the show, but kudos to the elephants). The fact that the elephants are able to comprehend, bring about humor by teasing the trainers and remember the routine is mind-blowing. They are such AMAZING and TALENTED animals.

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         Hat for you Sir                                                     Spraying the Audience

             September 17, 2014

The Night Safari

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The Explorers

This Night Safari was unlike anything I have ever experienced before. Who would’ve thought going to the zoo at night would actually be fun. Often times you would think going to the zoo at night would be boring, however that was not the case…

Upon entering the night safari, my friends and I had the opportunity to see the “Thumbuakar Performance”. These pyromaniacs danced and blew flames as well as put out the torches in their mouths. It was quiet an experience to see professionals play with fire and remain at such close proximity to the heat for a long time.

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Thumbuakar Performance

After the performance my friends and I went to the “Creatures of the Night Show” where various nocturnal creatures were brought upon the stage. The alpha male grey wolf and the spotted hyena took the spotlight at the plateau as the trainers introduced them. In addition to that Asian otters jumped out of the pond to pick up cans and recycle it into its appropriate bins!

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Peek – a – Boo                                                             And She Scores

Rather than just walking throughout the safari, the Night Safari offers tram services. The tram took us throughout the safari, stopping at certain parts for the passengers to view the animals, and at other times waiting for Tapirs, deers and buffaloes to cross the trail. I could not help but comparing this experience to the scene from Jurassic Park when Dr. Alan and the others went on the expedition…minus the T-Rex and the goat offering.

Later on that night my friends an I ventured out onto various trails to see other nocturnal animals that the tram had missed. We had the opportunity to see Leopards, Tigers, and Spotted Hyenas run up and around its territory. While we were watching the Spotted Hyenas chasing one another. one stopped and stared at us dead in the eyes through the glass as its tongue was hanging out. Other Hyenas soon joined, pacing back and forth, as if looking for a way around the glass to come and eat us. Kind of a scary thought actually…don’t actually know what I would do if it did escape…  Aside from these nocturnal predators, my friends and I also journeyed into the Bat Cage. Huge bats flew through the air, some barely missing my head. Luckily these monstrous bats were Fruit Bats and did not have the intention (at least I think) of sucking out blood!

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I’m a Bat, Chilling Upside Down

Off to Tioman Island, Malaysia

September 5 – 7, 2014

I remember clearly being asked to go to an island on September 1st, and four days later I was there. There was no hesitation whatsoever in my decision. Just an abrupt “YES”. It was perhaps the most spontaneous adventure I had ever done and most of all…I enjoyed every single moment of it.

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My friends and I made the journey to the end Thursday night. We had taken a bus to get to get to Mersing, Malaysia where we embarked on the ferry towards ABC beach on Tioman Island.

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Enjoying the moment

After our arrival to the island, my friends and I spent our early afternoon relaxing on the beach. Some sunbathed and slept, while others played beach volleyball and swam. The wind blew gently as the waves calmly splashed the shore. Everything was at rest: calm, relaxing and peaceful. It has been quiet sometime since I have felt this sensational feeling. 

Later that afternoon we journeyed to another beach on the eastern side of the island: Jurua Beach. Along the way we saw monitor lizards chilling in a pond, monkeys rummaging through the trash, and stopped at a Juara Turtle Project site where we learned about its objectives, protection and restoration of the sea turtles’ habitat and offspring. It is truly to sad to hear that these gentle creatures are slowly disappearing as a result of humanities’ carelessness and greed. The breeding grounds for these sea turtles have been reduced to only a couple areas along the coast. 

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The Crew

Once we arrived at Jurua Beach, my friends and I went swimming once more. It was nothing I have seen in awhile. The ocean was blue, and the ground was visible. Many fish and plantation could be seen below as we swam further out into the ocean. After seeing other tourists on a kayak, my friend and I did as well. We paddled aimlessly along the coast, splashing other people along the way. At some point we had people on our kayaks as we paddled away towards a floating platform!

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         Kayaking                                                                Jurua Beach

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Into the Big Blue

The next day my friends and I spent the day snorkeling at Coral Island and Salang. The moment you submerge yourself in the water, the world goes silent. Nothing except the sound of air filling your lungs and the voice in your head can be heard. It was like being in a whole different world. Corals covered the ocean floor while dozens of fish swam freely and swiftly around me. Some even nibbled on my hands as I remained still. For once in my life, I did not mind being out in the open water. There was no more “JAWS” theme song that had usually accompanied my thoughts as I entered the water. Rather I was stunned by ocean’s beauty. It was something worth seeing, and fear was no longer going to stop me. I dove below, admiring the corrals, anemones, sea cucumbers and other sea life up close. The scenery, for some odd childish reason, had reminded me of Shark Tales. I could not help but find myself compare the cartoon depiction of the ocean to reality. Regardless of the fantasies, the ocean’s beauty far exceeds my expectations. It is one of Earth’s greatest feature.

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Snorkeling Team

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Finding Nemo … and Friends                         The Big Blue