In a week’s time, the three little pigs will be reunited and relaxing on the beach in Thailand! We can hardly wait, and what better way to celebrate than contributing to Selective Asia‘s blogger competition – an Asian experience to remember.
South East Asia is a melting pot of culture, food, religion, and experiences – and that’s before you even consider the contrasts between bustling cities, breathtaking beaches, majestic mountains, and stunning landscapes above and below water. There’s no where in the world quite like it, and to get ourselves in the mood for Thailand, here are our most memorable Asian experiences.
Over the 6 months I’ve spent in Asia, there are so many amazing experiences I’ve had that I could share with you. But strangely, the one that stands out in my mind is being stuck aboard a sleeper train for 36 hours in Vietnam because flash flooding had destroyed the tracks ahead of us and they needed to be rebuilt in order for us to continue our journey. Yes, it was uncomfortable. And yes, we were stressed about running out of supplies. But stepping off that train, trekking to the nearest village with the sounds of the jungle around us, and meeting the locals made those worries fade away. The genuine interest we received from the villagers, who themselves were dealing with the damage done to their houses by the floods, the generosity we experienced from shopkeepers who opened up when they were long closed to provide us with whatever they could, and the huge smiles and laughs we shared with the kids who came out to play with us while we passed the time, were unforgettable. Teaching them to say “hello” and being taught to say “cảm ơn” (thank you) was such a simple exchange but filled with so much meaning. The amazing smell of hot chicken broth being offered to us when we hadn’t eaten for almost a day was indescribable. Nothing so basic has ever been so appreciated.
I must admit, the idea of a “beach holiday” never really interested me. It was only under extreme pressure from a friend that I actually agreed to try it for the first time. And so I arrived in Thailand’s Koh Samui with no pre-conceived expectations, just a healthy smattering of curiousity.
Even though the purpose of the visit was technically R & R, I’m just not that good at it. And as much as Koh Samui is a great place to just sit around on the beach, it’s also a great place to not just sit around on the beach. And so we got amongst the action…
From observing monks praying under the watchful gaze of an enormous golden Buddha, to coming face to face with a gigantic lizard whilst scootering along a crumbing, deserted road, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. From learning how to cook genuine Thai cuisine from scratch to being measured up for a suit by a talented local tailor. And from drooling over the perfectly rounded mounds of richly coloured curry pastes (not to mention puzzling over the bizarre meats!) in the markets, to soaking up pina coladas and massages on the beach… well, for such a small island Koh Samui really was a surprise packet!
The locals were extremely friendly (if somewhat shy at times) and I was amazed by the diversity of experiences that this little piece of South East Asia had to offer. Bring on the beach-side reunion of Three Little Pigs next week!
Jacques Cousteau rated Sipadan as one of the best dive sites in the world, and as a diving pioneer, his opinion was enough to lure me to this little island off the coast of Borneo.
The island has been disputed territory in the past, and in the year 2000, a group of 21 people including tourists were kidnapped by a terrorist group. As a result, the island has military fortifications, and your surface interval is spent lunching under the gaze of men armed with machine guns, sitting in huts under camouflage netting, which in turn are separated from us by barbed wire.
But the reason we are here is for the diving, and it is truly spectacular. There are sheer walls festooned with colorful coral and sponge growth, and they shelter a dizzying array of reef fish in a rainbow of colors. There are curious moray eels peeping out from cracks in the wall, colorful little crabs and mantis shrimps waving their claws at you, schools of large bumpheaded parrot fish cruising past, and more turtles than you can count. Usually a diver is happy to have seen one turtle on a dive, but there are so many here at Sipadan that eventually you stop gawking at them.
Most impressive for me were the enormous tornado-like schools of vicious looking barracuda. Their silver bodies shimmer as the tornado hovers above you, and when you swim toward them they shift and meld around you like a river flows around a rock. It’s a breathtaking sight, and an experience that will have you rate Sipadan as one of your favorite dive destinations.