Contributed by Wanders of Eve
To the countries I travelled,
It’s been a while and I hope all is well with you.
Thailand, I consider you my first love. You were my first flight away from home, the first stamp on my passport, my first venture out of my comfort zone. I remember how nervous I was when the immigration officer asked about my business trip itinerary down to where I studied in high school. I wonder how many of his questions were actually relevant. My encounter with Chiang Mai sparked a newfound curiosity to explore other countries beyond. It was through her that I met my good friends, Emi, a lovely Japanese, and Yunita, the charming lady from Indonesia during our company team building. There were a lot of firsts for me in your land – flying my first sky lantern, first try at golfing and my first encounter with elephants while paddling on my first water raft experience. I would do it all over again if I have the chance.
It was really a pleasure to have met you twice, my dearest South Korea. Seoul is very beautiful both in spring and fall and Busan was lovely too. There were countless memories with you I will never forget. For how could I forget strolling down Gyeongbokgung in my humble hanbok, how delighted I was basking under the vibrant maple and ginkgo trees in Nami Island in fall, and how mesmerizing Garden of Morning Calm was in spring when the tulips sway gently as people pass them by. The smell of fish cake and other street foods along Myeongdong was so inviting I could not resist to indulge. In Busan, I have never seen such unique sea creatures as those that were in Jagalchi fish market. The colourful houses of Gamcheon Culture Village complemented the mountains and the sea. The ahjummas and the ahjussis were very helpful every time. There is just so much to recount. I wish I could keep coming back to you. I miss you already.
You were my favourite, my darling Japan. You were the fairest of them all. They say you are most beautiful in spring when the sakura blossoms burst forth. But when I saw you on the onset of fall, I thought you must be very beautiful any time of the year. I was impressed by the skyscrapers of Tokyo. The Skytree, overlooking from my hotel window three years ago, was a consolation after a tiring day from work. Kyoto left me overwhelmed; talk about Kinkaku-ji and Fushimi-inari taisha, the most beautiful temple and shrine I have ever seen. Funny how a Japanese man even mistook me for a Korean while I was walking under the bright lights of Dotonbori in Osaka late into the night. Back in Nara, a deer attempted to chew on my camera, thinking it was deer crackers. Kobe was very pleasant, too. Your people are the most disciplined and polite. And by the way, the food was glorious; probably one of the best in the world. I can’t wait to see you again.
Though far from the splendour of your neighbours to the north, it was really you who captured my heart, Cambodia. I am reminded of the smile on the faces of the children of Chea Sim Angkor Chay in Phnom Penh as the bikes we gave promised to bridge the 4-kilometre gap between their homes and their school. It was heartwarming yet at the same time heartbreaking because I witnessed how life can be so unfair. And I felt ashamed of the many times I complained about my life while these children on another side of the world struggle to go to school every day. And oh, Siem Reap, Angkor Wat has blown me away; it was an honour to have come face to face with the largest religious monument on earth, which took the Khmers thirty years to build. The sunset in Phnom Bakheng was worth it even if I got slightly sunburned after two hours of waiting. And yes, how can I forget my favourite one-dollar avocado-dragon fruit-pomegranate shake from Psar Chas old market? I promise to return to you soon.
Taiwan, you were wonderful. Forgive me for my prior judgement, for thinking that there was nothing you possess but factories spewing clouds of smoke just because some of my people have come to your shores to seek greener pastures. But a year ago, I revelled in your charm. Taipei was a revelation; it was the most relaxing trip I had so far. I enjoyed my baobab milk tea while on a train to Pingxi to light a sky lantern. It was also in Taipei where I met David, the generous stranger who fed us the best xiao long bao in town. Thank you very much for all the fun.
Indonesia, I admit I was a little scared as you were the farthest yet that I flew away from home. But it sure felt like home once I arrived in Surabaya. Though I was there only for a while, I caught a glimpse of how the city resembled that of my own country. The traffic jam in the morning reminded me of Manila. Everybody I bumped into gave a warm smile. And Spikoe, the traditional cake recipe is delicious. I hope to be back to explore more of you.
Also read: How Travel is Changing Me
I’ve learned valuable lessons from you all. Thailand, you taught me to have courage. South Korea and Japan, you taught me to wait patiently and you showed me that dreams really do come true when the time is right. And while I stood in awe of your progress, I was encouraged to sincerely pray for the Philippines. You, Cambodia, reminded me to love others unconditionally and to always be grateful even for the little things I have. Taiwan, you taught me to set aside haste, to slow down once in a while and bask in the fruit of my labours. And finally, Indonesia, you simply reminded me that there is really no place like home.
Let us see each other again soon. Much love from me to you.