This ‘chain post’ has been circulating the Internet lately, as a fun way to learn more about one’s favorite travel bloggers. As I prepare to get serious about blogging, I thought I’d use it as a “get-to-know-you” that beats a boring About page to describe my travel history and experiences.
A: Age you went on your first international trip:
7 months, if you consider the Canadian side of Niagara Falls as international.
For truly international, I was 8 months old when I took my first trip to Shanghai.
B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where:
I love blonde beers, so wherever I go, a Belgian beer is usually the order. As for foreign beer drank in the actual country of production? Guinness in Ireland (it really is better there), and Harbin beer when I’m in China – it tastes better than Tsingtao, and it’s cheaper too.
C: Cuisine (favorite):
Hard to say because I’ll eat almost anything. If I had to pick one though: Thai. I could eat nothing but Thai food every day, forever.
There was once a magical Thai lady in my local hawker center in Singapore, and when I found out she was going back to Thailand for good, I ate pad thai every day that month until she left. Often for both lunch and dinner. I probably funded her a new house in Thailand on that last month alone.
D: Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why:
Favorite: Shanghai. It’s my ‘other hometown.’ After 20+ trips, I still get excited every time I visit, and I never shut up about the place.
Least favorite is a toss-up: The tropical rainforest in Taman Negara, Malaysia (I’m not a big fan of the outdoors. The trip was my boyfriend’s idea.) or the southern beaches of Bali, like Kuta, that are crawling with drunk/teenage/bogan Australians. It gives Bali a bad name, and the island has so much more to offer.
E: Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”:
Almost all my “wow” moments are from sunrises, sunsets, and cityscapes. One of the most memorable would probably be seeing the sunrise on top of Mount Tai, China. Getting to the top requires a four-hour climb that begins at 1 AM, and as one of the Five Holy Mountains of China, there are Buddhist temples and countless old women making pilgrimages along the way. When you finally reach 1,540 meters above sea level, the sun rises above the clouds, and the way it changes color as it ascends Mount Tai makes it a sunrise experience unlike any other.
F: Favorite mode of transportation:
All methods, except crutches and not buses (see below: J). I love trains for catching glimpses of countryside and overnight trains for making long-distance travel easy (you just wake up and you’re there!). I enjoy walking to soak in the vibe of a place, and biking helps me find my bearings in a new city.
G: Greatest feeling while traveling:
That moment of awe when you step back and think, “HOLY CRAP. I’M IN [current location].”
It reminds me how lucky I am to be able to travel, and it never gets old.
H: Hottest place you’ve traveled to:
Singapore. It sits on the equator. 88F (31C) all year round, with an average of 90% humidity. Every. Day.
I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where:
When I was working in China during the Universiade Games, I had to live in the Shenzhen Shanghai Hotel for three weeks. The staff there were so genuinely kind. When they found out I was pescetarian they created an off-menu dish for me every day; and at the end of Games, one of the managers gave me a beautiful jade necklace to thank me for helping translate for our group of 60+ journalists.
J: Journey that took the longest:
What I refer to as the bus ride from hell. Long story short, what was supposed to be an 18-hour sleeper bus from Dalian to Taiyuan ended up a 22-hour fruit smuggling operation. (I’ve been on journeys with longer transit times, but none were as torturous as this, which is why this takes the cake.)
The situation was made all the better by smelly men, inability to sleep next to squeaky styrofoam, and zero bathroom breaks.
K: Keepsake from your travels:
I take photos of everything. Everything. If this were the 70s, I’d be that annoying friend who has an endless slideshow of travel photos.
I occasionally keep postcards to remind me of a destination — they often feature shots I can’t get (like a landmark without any people in front of it), are light to carry around, and can double as bookmarks.
L: Let-down sight, why and where:
Sunrise in Bali. I’m sure it’s beautiful, but Mike and I went twice this year, and both times we got rained out. (It’s not Bali, it’s us — we’ve noticed that we bring rain wherever we go.)
M: Moment where you fell in love with travel:
It was kind of a three-fold fall: A school cruise to Mexico at age 14 re-piqued my interest in travel. A road trip with two friends when I was 18 to experience NYC during Christmastime had me flirting with spontaneous travel and introduced me to hostels. But I didn’t fall head over heels for travel until I moved to Dalian a couple months later, and realized there was so much world to see.
N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in:
The Windsor Plaza Hotel in Saigon, and the Fenyang Garden Boutique Hotel in Shanghai. The Windsor was a 5-star birthday treat from my boyfriend, so he went all out on the executive suite. Fenyang is a new boutique hotel in Shanghai, and I can’t recommend it enough, especially for its perfect location: in the heart of the French Concession, just at the end of Huaihai Lu.
O: Obsession—what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?:
Everything. Even the ‘insignificant’ stuff like signs, tickets, food, drinks, animals, weather — I take photos of it all. I even have a waterproof/underwater camera, which means I am never unable to take a photo of something.
P: Passport stamps, how many and from where?
Current passport, 33: Singapore (9); Indonesia (4); Hong Kong, Malaysia, China, USA (3); Thailand, Vietnam (2); Australia, Canada, Macau, Ireland (1).
Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where:
Garlic World in Gilroy, California (it was a pit stop on a drive to San Francisco.)
R: Recommended sight, event or experience:
The Gili Islands off Lombok, Indonesia; about two hours by speedboat from Bali. Breathtakingly beautiful beaches, skies, and water — beats any beach in Thailand I’ve ever seen, and it’s still relatively unknown. Go now, before it gets too popular and goes the way of Koh Phi Phi — which is likely, especially after Lonely Planet named it a top region of 2011.
S: Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling:
Experiences I can’t replicate anywhere else. If I’m debating the cost of a Vespa food tour through Saigon at night, or haggling over an ostrich ride in Inner Mongolia, all I have to say to convince myself is, This is a unique experience, and once I leave, I may never have the chance at it again.
I can always earn more money later, but I can only ride the Vespa in Saigon/ostrich in Inner Mongolia now. Life is short, I don’t want regrets.
T: Touristy thing you’ve done:
In Galway, I took a bus tour to the Cliffs of Moher and Connemara. Although it was touristy, the Irish tour guide and a kooky German girl still managed to make the trip unique and memorable.
U: Unforgettable travel memory:
It’s impossible to pick just one. I’ll remember vividly any experience that involved awe-inspiring moments of nature: the sunrise on Mount Tai, the sunsets in Thailand, the mountains of Inner Mongolia, swimming in Halong Bay, cruising through the Three Gorges on the Yangtze River, crossing over the endless sand dunes of the Tengger Desert.
But more than one single standout moment, travel in 2011 has been unforgettable because of Mike. For years I’d said, “I don’t need anyone. I enjoy traveling solo and want to be completely independent.” But then I met Mike, and since then, each trip we take together reminds me that it’s not so terrible to allow yourself to share these experiences with someone amazing.
V: Visas, how many and for where?
Current passport, 11: One work visa for France; one journalist visa and three tourist visas for China; four for Indonesia, and two for Vietnam. (I also have four old passports filled with Chinese visas.)
W: Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where?
Champagne that we sneaked into the top of the Marina Bay Sands Infinity Pool, on my last night in Singapore (see below). Champagne and victory has never tasted so sweet.
X: eXcellent view and from where?:
The Infinity Pool at MBS – the best time to go is just before sunset, so within an hour you can see the city in three stages: daylight, sunset, and lit up at night.
Y: Years spent traveling?:
Technically, I really started getting into it when I was 18, so four years. But since my first road trips at seven months old and the subsequent yearly trips to China, travel’s been in my blood for the last 22 years.
Z: Zealous sports fans and where?:
I don’t really follow sports; I’ve never even been to a baseball game. But I’ve heard zealous stories: an Aussie recently told me the captain of the national cricket team got more respect than the prime minister; a Brit recalled how his father sat him down as a toddler and made him decide right then which football team he was going to support. And how about those Vancouver riots, eh?