Now that I’ve left Singapore, as horribly depressing as this is, I can take a step away from the jumble of words, emotions, flights, late nights that seamlessly blurred into early mornings, and of course, lots and lots of cheap, delicious food, that defined my summer. I don’t think I had the mental awareness to do this at 5:30 in the morning when I left our apartment at Tiong Bahru and climbed down those four flights of stairs for the last time on Wednesday, when all I could think about was whether I’d be late for my flight to Bangalore, India. On the actual flight, I was too sleepy (the product of averaging three hours of sleep per night for the past four nights) to be able to truly comprehend the fact that eight weeks of another life had just gone by. It was only later that night, in my grandmother’s house in Bangalore that it suddenly hit me. It was no longer a night with a spontaneous decision to watch a movie with my roommate. It was no longer a night when I heard four sleepy, yawning “good-nights” before closing the door, or even one where for no justifiable reason at all, I would find that all of us were still awake at 4:30am despite the fact that we had to be at work in another four hours (in case you were wondering, microwavable noodles taste pretty good at around that time).
It’s not that my summer is completely over yet. I still have a week in India with my family, much of which will be spent traveling in the north (stay tuned!). But it’s easier now to look back on everything that happened and see just how indescribably unique this summer has been. So, just for you, I’ve put together my “Top 11 of Southeast Asia list,” or as I like to call it, “SEASIA” (because 10 is too arbitrary of a number, and it was hard enough to restrict myself to 11)– except it’s too difficult to actually order them in some sort of a priority besides chronological order. Here goes:
1. Singapore Night Safari— So when I heard that Singapore had a night safari, I imagined creepy eyes glaring in the darkness. Now, the reality of it is not supposed to be that dramatic. Yes, you can see animals in the dark in creepily close proximity, but still there are definitely precautions against the whole thing being unreasonable. Unless of course you come with us. Unless you watch the Creatures of the Night show with us at the park, and believe that the alarm and guides screaming at the top of their lungs that an animal was on the loose is actually real, resulting in mass pandemonium (by “mass”, I mean only our row in the entire auditorium) in which all (four girls) decide to run for their lives, tripping on top of me and several others, causing one of them (oh, Teresa) to land two rows below your seats. Other than that, of course, it’s pretty chill. 🙂
2. Cable Car from Sentosa– After a long day at Sentosa Island, taking the very last Cable Car ride across the ocean was the perfect end. My camera-crazy hands kept on snapping pictures of the skyline, and when I finally had my fill, I just sat back and relaxed for the rest of the ride.
3. Banana Boating in Bintan, Indonesia— It was the first time I’ve ever stayed at a resort, and what’s not to love? Also I’m sure the guys driving our banana boat were only further encouraged by our screams and laughter as we held on for our dear lives.
4. East Coast Park/Beach, Singapore– First thing: don’t expect a typical beach scene. What’s really special about this place is its liveliness: restaurants, stalls full of street food, a boardwalk, large rocks where you can sit on a full moon night, as the wind gives you a temporary break from the inescapable humidity and listen to the waves crash against shore. And of course, long bike rides through the trails 🙂
5. Swimming at Phi Phi Islands, Thailand– Imagine clear blue-green waters and white sandy beaches– the kind you see in movies (if you have, it’s probably from these islands anyway because so many movies are shot here). After the bumpiest, scariest speedboat ride alive, our boat stopped in a little nook for about fifteen minutes and let us jump into the warm waters. Absolutely surreal.
6. Elephant Riding in Phuket, Thailand – I’ve only ridden an elephant once before in Jaipur, India, but it was for all of 10 minutes. After climbing onto Lucky, our elephant, who, for the most part, was pretty well-behaved in comparison to our friends’ elephants, we took a ride up the mountains right near the Big Buddha statue. With our feet resting on the soft carpet of elephant skin, we bounced through the forest for a relaxing hour.
7. Thai Massages – Speaking of relaxing… best $10 I spent that whole weekend in Phuket. After a tiring weekend, all of my soreness seemed to melt away. I could definitely get used to this…
8. Gardens by the Bay, Singapore– I’ve already talked about this before, in that the gardens themselves are a great work of architecture. The best part though was the fact that it began to rain when we went up on the Skybridge, and while everyone else ran down the stairs, I couldn’t help but stand there and get complete soaked.
9. Bargaining at Night Markets – Most of us who traveled refused to pass up a chance to get a good deal (I won’t deny that the racial composition of our group probably had something to do with this tendency). And let me just say, both in Thailand and Cambodia, the night market scene was a complete success!
10. Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia– This was one of those things that makes you feel like a horrible American who is absolutely unaware about other parts of the world. I vaguely remember hearing something about the Khmer Rouge in 9th grade history, but like all of the other Communist countries, it seemed too distant in time and space to wrap my mind around. However, to actually see the torture rooms, with blood spatters still on the wall, thousands of skulls in glass cases, paintings of torture methods, the tiny cells, and the stories of being taken away to the Killing Fields, was a whole different story. I almost never cry, but even this brought tears to my eyes.
11. Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia– Everything you hear about how colossally magnificent these temples are is absolutely true. It’s impossible to put the size, space, architecture, and sculptures into words. The hot Cambodian sun seems to strike the carved rock in every way to maximize beauty, and although we only had one day, we could have spent a week there and still not seen all of the temples Angkor Wat has to offer.
So there you have it: my SEASIAN summer in 11 bullet points. It’s impossible to write it all down, or even try to convey everything that I felt, experienced, and witnessed, and as I go through the rest of my life, a few things here and there will suddenly bring a memory of this summer to the forefront for me to experience all over again. To experience, to feel, to relive. Because not everything has a word.