“You’ve eaten lunch?” she asks. She’s not actually wondering whether I’ve consumed my afternoon meal. Rather, she is greeting me in the traditional Malaysian manner. And this simple salutation speaks volumes about the culture here. The food culture. The food obsession.
It’s not every day that I wake up in time to see the sunrise. And it’s not every week that I wake up in time to see it twice. But after the spectacular pink sky I saw at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, I couldn’t turn down an opportunity to see the sunrise over the rainforest in Borneo. Standing atop a 60-meter platform in the middle of the jungle, I was awed by the beauty of the golden disc over the misty mountains in Brunei’s Ulu Temburong National Park.
Bangkok is bustling. Spending four days in the serenity of the great temples in Siem Reap and Luang Prabang before heading to Thailand threw the intense urbanity of the country’s main metropolis into stark relief. Bangkok is one of my favorite cities in Southeast Asia, and I was exited to let its energy sweep me up and send me off to explore.
Everybody loves Laos. I have read innumerable travel blogs extolling the country, its people, and its culture. So after visiting Siem Reap last week, I continued my Southeast Asia travels with a stop in Luang Prabang, Laos’ northern gem.
Siem Reap is magical. Full of centuries-old temples like the mighty Angkor Wat, the Cambodian city has intrigued me for years. The rich culture and deep history of the area beckoned for so long that this week I finally answered their siren call and traveled to Southeast Asia.
After almost three weeks of traveling in Asia, exhaustion started to overtake me. I had been to three countries—one of them three times—and had not spent more than three nights in any one place. But I still had another destination on my itinerary before my trip was over: Ho Chi Minh City.
After traveling through Sri Lanka for 10 days, it was time for me to head back to Singapore. I took a red-eye flight that arrived at Changi Airport at 8am, and had breakfast in the BA First Lounge before starting my day in the city-state.
Beijing’s 798 Art District just might be my new favorite place in the world. Tucked away in the northeastern corner of the city, the 798 zone is a former factory complex that is now packed with contemporary art galleries, chic cafes, boutiques, and exhibition spaces. Interspersed among the converted warehouses and modern buildings are massive sculptures and public art displays, making every street a surprise for the visitor.
If there is a best time of year to visit Mongolia, it is certainly July. The annual Naadam Festival is the highlight of the Mongolian summer. A trifecta of traditional Mongolian wrestling, archery, and long-distance horse racing, the Naadam Festival showcases some of the country’s most impressive traditions.
Driving out of Ulaanbaatar, the Mongolian countryside unfolds like a blanket of fields and mountains. The impossibly big sky with its cumulus clouds and cool, fresh air lend the area an unparalleled vastness.
The first noticeable image on the road from Chinggis Khaan Airport to Ulaanbaatar is the billboards. Large, shiny, and all in English. Far from the land of Genghis Khan, this is the land of minerals and mining. The land of Western investors. But then we drive a bit further and start to notice something else: sheep. And goats. And horses, cows, and yaks. We see large white gers, or nomadic tents, and we feel like we’ve been fooled by these billboards of westernness. Start looking up from the herds and we’ll notice giant green hills, and above them a vast blue sky that climbs to infinity above the horizon. The air is clean. The landscape is bucolic. It might be pastoral paradise.