To more solo trips?

Around last year, I created a tiny “Things to do before 30” (didn’t express it in this blog, poor neglected blog) list. The list only had 2 simple things.
1. To embark on a solo trip
2. To volunteer

For #2. I actually volunteered at a soup kitchen and distributed food to the needy/homeless. However, that was just one off and the soup kitchen seems to have enough helpers now. Just need to find another avenue to volunteer my help then. So, I suppose #2 can never be struck out and will forever be something that I’ve to do.

#1 however is easily achieved but will I be brave enough to travel alone? All my trips before this (even when I studied in Australia for a year) were accompanied by friends. Travel with friends if of course safer, you get to rely on each other, more fun, builds relationship, so on and so forth….

Traveling solo however is a whole different thing. I made the wise decision to embark on my first ever solo trip to Taiwan and had this ambitious task of circling the entire Taiwan in 12 days. My itinerary was as such

  • Day 1 & 2 – Sun Moon Lake 日月潭
  • Day 3 – Alishan 阿里山
  • Day 4 – Alishan 阿里山 (Stayover at Kaohshiung 高雄)
  • Day 5 & 6 – Hualien 花莲
  • Day 7 – Jiu Fen
  • Day 8 to 12 – Taipei

“What? So packed?” That’s what most of my friends said when they found out about my itinerary. There were also a lot of questions on “Why Taiwan?” Why not? It’s safe, it’s easy to travel, it’s relatively cheaper than my other choices of Japan and Korea, communication should be alright (I speak pretty basic mandarin), this should be a breeze!

All in Mandarin. I'll take forever to figure out which bus I need to take.

Stops have English names but the other information are all in Mandarin. I’ll take forever to figure out when the next busis coming.

Research was easier than expected. They have a lot of information in English available. However, I noticed that the Chinese version of some sites are more informative. I even saw a hotel having different prices in the Chinese and English version of their website (not very ethical there). Since reading the sites in mandarin will take forever for me, I just read the English ones. Should be substantive enough. Traveling around was also smooth sailing and in Taipei particularly, even the buses announce the stop location in Mandarin, Taiwanese (similar to Hokkien), Japanese and English. I could go on forever about how I planned my days but I shall skip you’ll the boring decisions.


So to get to my main point, here are my thoughts on solo traveling, which also sort of relates to life…

  • Choices are all yours to make = Freedom!

Basically, the World is your oyster! (Ok… maybe not the world but just Taiwan) Every decision you make is well, your choice. What you eat, where you want to go, what you want to do, where should you visit. Too much freedom can be a bad thing because if there are too many choices and you’re torn between 2, there is no one to add weigh to a particular choice.

Some of these decisions were a bit difficult to make but most were a breeze. I chose to make Sun Moon Lake 日月潭, Alishan 阿里山 and Taroko Gorge 太鲁阁 must visits. Which was kinda difficult because the first 2 are on the west side of Taiwan while Taroko Gorge is on the east side. There is no public transportation across the island. Hence, my need to circle the entire Taiwan and make a scheduled overnight stop at Kaohshiung 高雄. I don’t regret it though. I ended up having more time in Kaohshiung 高雄 than expected and it was good fun (also links to being open point). The experience was good and I’m very amazed by Taiwan’s railway connectivity.

One of the many

One of the many “male & female” art installations at Kaohshiung’s Pier 2 Art Centre, which was surprisingly nice.

  • You set your own pace in life

Kinda linked to the above point. At times I realised I was rushing (walking too fast, anxious if I could make it on time) and then I thought “Why am I in a rush? What am I rushing for? I paid to be here, I should enjoy every moment of it and take my time.”. Same goes with our usual lives, why are we always rushing? Time is of course valuable but we should take the opportunity to enjoy every bit of activity that we are doing. I.e, reading, watching the television, conversing with people…

The street market in Tamsui 淡水, which I didn't browse through cause I was rushing to catch a sunset and a train to Shihlin Market. Big mistake. I just tired myself out.

The street market in Tamsui 淡水, which I didn’t browse through cause I was rushing to catch a sunset and a train to Shihlin Market. Big mistake. I just tired myself out.

  •  Be open

I suppose being on this trip. I wanted to try out what it would be like. I guess I was open to a lot of things, suggestions from other people, and multiple changes to what I was going to do, other than things that I thought would be dangerous, i.e., walking around alone after 10pm.

– I rented a bicycle from a breakfast place’s owners friend

– I drank beer at a kiosk and chit chatted with the barkeep

– Walked a path suggested by a guard (there were other people, so it was pretty safe)

–  Randomly took a bus to another part of Yang Ming Shan 阳明山, turns out there was a Calla Lily Festival there. 😀

– Sat a Taiwanese lady’s rented motorbike around Taroko Gorge 太鲁阁

– Met and spoke to quite a lot of random people. From the temple worker to other travelers. Quite a lot of them were surprised that Malaysians can speak mandarin. And the younger China travelers are actually quite adventurous (traveling alone, lots of them) and are much nicer than their tour bus counterparts.

One of the farms at Yang Ming Shan's Calla Lily Festival

One of the farms at Yang Ming Shan’s Calla Lily Festival

  • Stepping out of your comfort zone

I’m not saying that You need to be the exact opposite of who you are, but just change how you usually act a bit. I’m personally an introvert. Making the first move to talk to strangers can be a bit difficult for me. In previous travels, I wouldn’t be the one making friends with other travelers. I enjoy my own free time, but I know that if I travel without talking to anyone or engage in conversation with anyone for 12 days would be a waste of an opportunity to meet all sorts of people.

So at hostels, I tried to greet my fellow roommates (if I had any) and most of them were quite eager to meet other people too! We shared stories and where we have been in Taiwan. Very surface level sort of conversation but it was good. Changed my general perception of China tourists definitely. Funny thing though, the first thing that most of us ask first is not “what’s your name?” but “where are you from?”.

  • It’s nice to have some familiarity

Stepping out of comfort zones aside. Having a bit of familiarity is also good (yes, it’s quite contradicting to the above point). In the first 8 days of my travels, all I spoke was mandarin. Back in Malaysia, I barely speak any mandarin. Even if I do, it’s mixed a lot with Manglish and Canto. Once I checked in at the Taipei hostel, I finally gotta speak English with 3 Germans and a Singaporean. On my last night at the Taipei hostel, I finally got to use my lahs with fellow Malaysians too! How exciting!


The above are are of course my main thoughts on traveling solo. I’m sure there are a lot of other things that cropped up in my mind. The 12 days will forever be etched in my mind and although I just left Taiwan 2 weeks ago, I have been entertaining the thought of returning. There’s just too many things to see.

12 days was definitely a bit long for my first solo trip. A fellow Malaysian, whom I met at a dorm in Taipei, was surprised that I took 12 days to travel alone for the first time. I initially wanted 14 days, so I was only 2 days short. There were definitely downer days. I.e., when it rained the entire day when I reached Hualien 花莲, the occasional thoughts of “wouldn’t it be nice if I could share this (trip) with someone?” and the tiredness. Once I reached Taipei or rather Jiu Fen, I felt tired. Must have been all the moving about. In that 12 days, I stayed in 6 different accommodations. The longest was for 4 nights in Taipei. But once I started walking around the attractions, I felt rejuvenated. Especially at Yehliu 野柳, where you get to enjoy the cooling winds of the Pacific ocean.

Reaching the top of the filial piety hill in Yehliu Geopark. Such a nice breath of fresh air, although the wind was slightly dying down then. Bummer.

Reaching the top of the filial piety hill in Yehliu Geopark. Such a nice breath of fresh air, although the wind was slightly dying down then. Bummer.

To sum it all, I had a blast in Taiwan! Met quite a number of random strangers along the way. I kinda enjoyed the solitary moments, although there were definitely times of loneliness. Sharing food was difficult as was taking pictures. Moving around was a breeze because transportation was great and I didn’t bother with a huge luggage! Furthermore, the Taiwanese people are so helpful and friendly! (Everyone I met in Taiwan also said the same thing) 9 of 10 people there will be helpful and friendly. 9 of 10 people in Malaysia will be the exact opposite. I would most definitely return. “When?” would be the most appropriate question.

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Adieu 2014. Welcome 2015!

Hope everyone had a Jolly good Christmas! I know I did, or at least I think I did. Although I must admit the turkey we had was well… quite a disappointment. But of course, the company was exceptional!

After Christmas, everyone’s gonna look forward to the fireworks on New Year’s eve and around this time every year, I’ll end up doing a yearly recap. It’s like a ritual or maybe I chore. I can’t figure it out yet (ala my life).

For me, 2014 flew by with the speed of light. I still remember my first day at my current job, where someone said I looked like a teacher (ish), and in a blink of an eye New Year’s eve is around the corner!

Alas, lets cut the monologue and get straight to the point shall we? Based on what I blogged this year, doesn’t look like I have much to recap on. Hahaha but I’ll try nonetheless (warning: the post will be filled with rather mundane events, which sort of equates my life. Somewhat.).

January

A new job! Boy was I excited back then, I always dreamt of doing this and then I got thrown into the deep end albeit with a life preserver. Thankfully I didn’t drown and am still alive and kicking. Although I’m thinking “is this the career path for me?”

February

I scratched my poor car in a shopping mall’s parking lot! Part of the metal came off too! My worst “accident” to date. A few days before this happened, I hit my neighbours tiny tree too. Sigh…. This was the beginning of a string of bad luck that would befall my poor car and it’s nearly penniless owner 😮

March

  • My car was innocently involved in a hit and run at the car park near my office. 😦
  • Bright side of March was I got my Chartered Accountancy certificate! But I’ll lose it soon in the next “event” cause my house caught fire 😮 Smog engulfed the interior of my home! Waking up to thick black smoke in the middle of the night has got to be the most traumatic experience of all 27+ years of my life thus far. 😮

April

I obtained a basic wall course certificate from camp5! Now I can belay people! If I still can remember how.

May

Met someone but nothing happened. Doubt anything would have happened either. Hmmm…

June

  • Had a wonderful short “makan” trip to Ipoh and actually had a photo with Ernest Zacharevic! I like his murals.
  • Visited the “Great Singapore Garden” (Gardens by the Bay) over the weekend. I must say it’s rather impressive.
Marina Bay Sands from the Marina Barrage

Marina Bay Sands from the Marina Barrage

  • My car got hit in the rear at an almost stand still while I was happily heading to work. Sigh… The weirdest thing was the other driver had the same birthday as me (but a different year)! How odd is that?
  • June was also the only time I tossed a frisbee in 2014, which is plain sad.
I miss this. I wonder if I still can throw though. Hmm...

I miss this. I wonder if I still can throw though. Hmm…

July

  • The coffeeholic got married! Oh gosh! Now I feel so old!
  • Had my first beginner korean class. How exciting! Say “aye!” to lifelong learning!
  • Finally climbed Broga Hill. It was a relatively easily climb and had lots of people. U probably can’t get a nice spot to view the sun rise if you reached late. However, we didn’t get a good view of the sunrise anyway.
This was one of the later shots as we were heading down

This was one of the later shots of the sunrise as we were heading down. Looks like a sunset though.

  • Went to Langkawi to enjoy sunsets everyday. How romantic…. but I went with a female friend. 😮
Sunset view at Pantai Tengah

Sunset view at Pantai Tengah

August

C.N. Blue “Can’t Stop” tour! Had to sit on cement which was a pain in the butt. The band looked good 🙂 But they would have looked better if they combed their hair a bit more. :p But who cares? It’s Yonghwa and Jonghyun. 😀 Jungshin was the star of the night though.

All 4 of them with a weird zoomed up angle of Yonghwa.

All 4 of them, with a weird zoomed up angle of Yonghwa.

and of course… Color Run (the most syok sendiri run ever)!

Can just see the color of our hands to imagine what we looked like after the run.

Can just see the color of our hands to imagine what we looked like after the run. Mine is the one with the “tattoo”.

Lets just say removing the color was kind of difficult.

September

De Quarvain is officially back. 😦

October

Ran 10km in my first night run in Putrajaya. For me, running in Putrajaya is rather dull; highways all the way. I shall swap back to Standard Chartered in 2015. My time became worst but it’s a miracle I even finished considering I kept thinking “this is gonna be my last 10km ever”. Lots of willpower involved here. Funny thing in this run, there was actually a lion (from lion dances) decked out in neon lights encouraging the runners. Rather peculiar sight.

10km Finishers Medal for BSN Putrajaya Night Run 2014

10km Finisher’s Medal for BSN Putrajaya Night Run 2014

Another thing in October, I actually went for coffee with someone from tinder 😮 Upon hindsight it was kinda dangerous. Yipes.

November

  • Re-visited Penang and Cameron Highlands with my family. Camerons was surprisingly cold. Must have been all that rain.
  • Re-visited Bangkok purely for shopping this time but we did take half a day to visit Chocolate Ville, which surprisingly does not sell chocolates. Spent 3 days mostly on shopping. Shopping day 1, Terminal 21. Shopping day 2, Platinum Mall. Shopping day 3, Chatuchak Market. Still, there wasn’t enough time in Platinum and Chatuchak. Didn’t quite fit some of my purchases either. May return to BKK sooner than I think.

December

Got a new laptop which I’m using to type this up now. So far, I need to get used to Windows 8.1. It definitely would work better with a touch screen device, alas I’m too poor to afford that.

And… that’s the end of my recap! Looks like the year didn’t start very well and it became better and more hectic towards the middle and ended with a nice wind down. Ahhh…. Toast to a fairly good year. *cling**cling*

Differences in 2014 vs 2013

  • Read more books this year (think I read 10 books this year compared to 2/3 in the year before that)
  • I actually accomplished one of my targets to learn a new language (I guess being able to read is considered learning a new language)
  • Had more free time on my hands but it doesn’t look like I know what to do with it
  • Almost went to the gym every week which I suppose is pretty good but it doesn’t look like I’m improving. ooops
  • Volunteered at a soup kitchen! But I forgot which month that was.

Time to create some resolutions for 2015. I realised I didn’t make any in 2014, it’s alright I normally don’t keep track anyway.

2015 resolutions

  • Continue going to the gym. Maybe do more cardio?
  • Volunteer more
  • Less procrastination and lazing around
  • Live in the moment
  • Let what happened in 2014 stay in 2014, 2015 is a brand new year!

My resolutions don’t quite work though cause it’s so vague. How am I supposed to measure “live in the moment”? I’ve a slightly more long term target of things that I want to do before I turn 30 though, which actually makes more sense. It’s a short list.

1. Travel alone

2. Volunteer (frequently)

3. Figure out what I want to do in life

#1 & #2 seem rather straight forward but #3 mmm….

Hopefully I get to meet my targets and hope all of you would be able to meet your resolutions too! 🙂

Thank you very much 2014, you have been good but I’m going to look forward to 2015 now and hopefully it’ll be a much better year. 🙂

Quick changing updates

Wanted to write about my Bangkok shoppping trip but ended up doing some housekeeping of the blog tags and categories. Don’t think it was even necessary.

I’ll write about Bangkok some other time. If I ever get to it that is. In the mean time, I’ll just give some random updates.

Think I’m on a slight streak of not so great luck. I was in Ipoh recently and I was blessed with the droppings of a pigeon, my slipper strap dislodged from its bottom in Bangkok and my laptop was plagued with the black screen of death when I returned from Bangkok. On the brightside, I didn’t get sick in Bangkok but 2 of my friends had food poisoning. Hopefully the remaining days of November will go smoothly and then its December and its the season to be Jolly!

On a very separate note, I’m liking Clazziquai Project a lot these days.

On an extremely separate note, I’ll be catching Shear Madness this Wednesday! Should be fun!

Reappearance of the Wall

There’s been a lot of matters on my mind of late, mostly about where my life’s headed. I think all these came about due to too much time on my hands and not knowing how to utilise it efficiently.

I shall let it all out now! (Ok, maybe not all but most of it)

*Haven’t let out a lot of my thoughts here for a number of years now. Seems like I just stopped…. writing. :o*

Career

My boss has been trying to push me to obtain the CFE. I feel a really reluctant cause I don’t see a future at where I am. The department does definitely have growth but do I want to be part of that growth? Sure work is pretty exciting at times but excitement maybe 30%, dull stuff 50%, report writing 10%, another 10% downtime?

Think I’ve reached a wall in my career or I may have just delayed my quarter life crisis by 4 years. 4 years and more ago, I was thinking the same thing. What do I wanna do? What do I want to be?

I’ve thought of a lot of possible career paths, stay where I am take the CFE and see how it goes (grow with the team!), finance (what sorta finance? That’s so vague on so many levels), internal audit, migration to NZ or Aus and be an external auditor again, I even thought of freelancing as a book keeper (don’t know if that’s possible) to earn some side income.

Frankly speaking, I really do not have an idea what sort of career I want!

  • Do you have to be passionate about what you’re doing? Well, but of course!
  • Do you want to be well paid? Who doesn’t?
  • Money or passion, which would you pick? Before July last year, I would have answered passion any time. But unfortunately, life catches up and it’s time to take some financial responsibilities.

Does this mean I have my answer of what I want to do? A high paying job which I may hate?

I read this article that asked you to ask a few questions about yourself to help figure your career out,  one of it was “who do you admire the most?”.

The first thing that came to mind was women that are at the top of their organisations and are also able to have their own families. I really respect them for that. How do they balance? But I also admire people that follow their passion and start their own business at well… my age or even younger!

Hmmm… Maybe I should start my own business. “But, I’m not the entrepreneurial type.”. I need ideas. What can I do? How can I contribute to the greater good of people?

Investments

I seriously need to give some thought to how I want to invest whatever money I have. Savings alone won’t work and eventually you’ll realise that whatever you saved can only last you 5 years, or maybe less, of your remaining life.

Stocks? Unit trust? Private Retirement Scheme? Forex?

Hobby

I’ve wrote this countless times before. I NEED A HOBBY! With my current injured thumb, frisbee (we don’t play no more anyway), is pretty much off limits, so would rock climbing, I presume. Not sure if playing the guitar is possible. On a separate note, I actually attended 10 classes of beginner’s Korean! So I can sorta read korean characters but I have no idea what I’m reading. LOL Some words like numbers are fading though, I better revise if I want to remember.

Actually, I realise what’s my main problem to what ever problems I’m facing. PROCRASTINATION! The root to all my time wasting! I’m indulging in escapism! I need to get to grips with my life!

Hmmm… don’t think I’ve written with so many exclamations before. And I can imagine how this will be such a dull read. Anyway returning to BKK in 2 weeks time. How exciting!

A Wedding Invitation (分手合約)

A friend had recommended me to watch “A Wedding Invitation” after the rather disappointing “The Stolen Years” (被偷走的那五年) and I finally got round to it.

A Wedding Invitation promotional poster

There’s leng chai Eddie Peng in this one and the same lead actress from “The Stolen Years”, Bai Baihe.

Won’t be talking bout the synopsis cause google or the trailer will help you with it.

For me, it was an…. emotional movie. I cried loads. More than “The Stolen Years” although this one wasn’t as depressing.

I do wanna share the song from the movie which I would say pretty much sums up the mood of movie.

LRT pros and cons?

Well hello there readers! I see you managed to have some time to wander here although the last entry was a good 2 months ago. Since you’ve already arrived, I shall bore you with useless knowledge which you probably would have known by now because I’m gonna talk about the pros and cons of the LRT!

“OH! JOY! What a wonderful topic!” *Now, now, don’t have to be sarcastic*

I’m gonna write ’bout it cause yours truly am considering ditching a drive to work for a fuss free LRT ride to work.

The LRTs chasing each other?

So let’s get to the good old pros and cons shall we?

Pros
1. 2014 for me, hasn’t been a good year for driving
– Mid January , I hit a branch and dented the back of my car
– A week later, I scratched the side of the car with a shopping mall parking lot pillar *le sigh…..*
– 2 weeks ago, my car overheated
– Today, my car got hit at the parking lot by a lousy driver, who probably was trying to reverse park but failed miserably and hit my car and left it there like that without leaving a number. Just wonderful.

As you would have guessed, my car seems to be in a pretty bad shape with an average of slightly more than 1 incident a month. Odds aren’t very good.

2. The accountant in me says I’ll save money.
Cost of taking the car to work:
– Parking = RM120/month (RM6/day x 20 working days)
– Petrol = RM210/month (RM70/refuel x 3 avg refuels/month)
– Total = RM320/month

Cost of taking LRT to work:
– RM84/month and a lot of parents good faith (RM4.20/day x 20 working days)

Savings = RM236/month = RM2,832/year!

My oh my, I could buy a telescope with that money (which I said I wanted since I was in High School)! AND I haven’t taken into account car maintenance cost!

A telescope like Do Min Joon (from You Who Came From the Stars)?

3. I get regular exercise by walking from the station to my office

4. I can avoid those dreaded jams! Especially the horrid Friday ones

Of course I’m not going through that crazy traffic jam on the right. But it’s extremely similar.

5. It reduces my carbon foot print!

Cons
1. A major lack of freedom to move about

2. The reliance on my lovely parents to drop & pick me up from the station. At my age, it’s kinda sad. 😮

3. I may get pick pocketed on the LRT if I was caught off guard (stoning or napping)

4. Carrying a heavy laptop in the LRT isn’t the coolest thing ever. It’s heavy!

5. I’ll constantly be facing a moral dilemma of whether to sit at that empty row of priority seating dedicated to the needy when there are no needy people around. “No one’s around, should I sit? Should I not? What if someone needy comes in then barrages me for sitting there? Why is that uncle/auntie standing right in front of it instead of sitting? He/she looks needy, he/she should sit. Gah!! Look away, look away.” Think you get my drift.

And…. that’s a round up!

Conclusion: There seems to be some serious pros to it and well the cons are easily solved apart from #1 & #2. My own conclusion? I’ll just take the LRT if I’m working from office and don’t have heavy stuff to carry. For other days, I’ll just drive. I already knew the answer before I did this pros and cons thingy. I just wanted to rant about the lousy driver who can’t reverse park. Tsk.

1 month in a foreign land

Always wanted to join a Contiki tour to Europe before I turned 30. Although I’m still a few years away, I think my perception has changed somewhat. Oh! I still would want to travel around Europe, but I was curious what it would be like to spend a month in a country like Japan or Korea where there’s just so much to see, do & absorb. Maybe I should do that before I turn 30, but financially, doubt it would work.

I also thought it would be interesting to travel alone. But perhaps, I do not have the courage to move around alone in a foreign land where the language used I cannot comprehend. Or rather, I may be overwhelmed by the loneliness.