Looking back at my first ever trip abroad 5 years ago together with my colleagues in Singapore, I remember I begged to join them because I am super eager to use my passport already. And so I booked my own tickets on that same day I knew they were going, even if it was a bit expensive. In my excitement, I was able to write my very first international itinerary. It was so detailed, action-packed and super hectic like there’s no room to breathe, literally! Lol.
Fast forward to 2017 after years of working hard, even on holidays, I have officially visited and spend at least one night in all Southeast Asian countries. Actually, I almost didn’t make it because I had second thoughts whether I’m gonna visit East Timor or not. I’m pretty sure none of my friends would be willing to go with me because there’s really not much to see in the first place and it’s quite expensive despite it being a poor country. But I did anyway! Last December 1, I landed in Timor Leste safe and sound. It was my first ever solo trip abroad and I was really scared and anxious mainly because of what I’ve read online from some traveler’s bad experiences plus the fact that this country is almost off the grid. But somehow I managed and I’m proud of myself 🙂
So here are my craziest, most unforgettable experiences I’ve had on each country!
Philippines – Missing a flight for the first time! ✈ End up at Queensland Motel 🏩
December 8, 2012, I rode an airplane for the very first time in my life going to Manila. I was ecstatic! We flew again that day going to Laoag, then head on to Vigan after then to Baguio. On our way back to Manila, we got caught with heavy traffic in EDSA. 😭 We got few hours left before our flight so as soon as we disembarked from the bus, we immediately grabbed a taxi and ordered the driver to fly to the airport if possible. Just as we were about to speed off, an enforcer signaled us to stop! We really thought we would make it but life’s a bitch. The traffic enforcer said our driver stopped at the No Stopping area to fetch us. 😭 When we arrived at NAIA, our plane already left. We’re doomed. 😭
And there came the part where we didn’t know where to stay that night so we asked our driver to bring us to a cheap hostel. And he did, he dropped us off at Queensland, Pasay. I was surprised and curious at the same time. I am fully aware of its long-standing indecent reputation but it still feels different when you are in the actual situation. You know, going through a discreet entrance, security guards giving you a dirty I-know-what-you-are-up-to look. Yup, completely judged!
Our room was worn out, overused perhaps. Honestly, it felt so uncomfortable even just sitting on the bed, you can just imagine all the things happened here before we checked-in. I’m not being oa, I swear it’s filthy. 🙈 And I was really bothered by the huge mirror that occupied the entire wall beside our bed. And yup, there’s a couple of porn channels on the TV and they sell condoms too. 😏
Oh and I’m with my childhood best friend who is a girl, so yeah we just slept. 😜
Singapore – Spent Php 20000 for one night in Marina Bay Sands Hotel 🤑 🛏
Because why not? haha Just kidding. I’m just social climber sometimes. Hahaha. Besides, I can afford. But that doesn’t mean I’m rich, because if I am, we will surely stay there for 1 fucking week. I swear to God! 😊
I promised myself when I first went to Singapore last 2013 that one day I’ll check in at MBS. And so last 2016, I fulfilled my promise! We stayed one night at this iconic hotel in Singapore. I’m really thankful for my friend Beth, who was so game at spending thousands just for a night in a legit 5 star hotel! I sincerely admire those people who are willing to spend a fortune for travel/experience. I mean, you can earn money one way or another but the experience is something that doesn’t happen everyday.
Read my Marina Bay Sands review here.
Malaysia – Climbing Batu Caves together with monkeys and a snake
Yep! It was pretty wild. Literally. The place itself is situated in some kind of forest so animals are free to roam. It was during my descent in the steep staircase when a man below was waving his hands, warning us to don’t come near the left handrails because there’s a snake. I was shocked but when I came closer I was relieved that it wasn’t that big and it’s wasn’t moving. But it could still crawl towards us anytime. It’s a snake after all. I went downstairs as fast as I could.
Feeling #tourist 🇲🇾 #laagankaayo #traveladdict #travel #traveltheworld #lonelyplanet #beautifuldestinations #wonderful_places #bestintravel #tlpicks #earthpix #instatravel #travelgram #seetheworld #exploringtheglobe #explore #batu #cave #malaysia #kualalumpur #asia #globetrotter #neverstopexploring #finditliveit #mytinyatlas #blog #cebtravels #fotografiaunited #candid
Thailand – Crossing borders for the first time and learned my biggest travel lesson ever 💖
On our way back to Thailand, we crossed Mekong River again through the newly built Thailand-Laos friendship bridge between Huay Xai, Laos and Chiang Khong, Thailand. We met 3 men at the Chiang Khong border while waiting for our ride going to Chiang Mai. We had around 2 hours to kill so everyone started sharing their own experiences while on the road.
One guy lost his cellphone in Laos and confessed that 60% of the weight on his backpack were whiskeys, taking advantage of the light security controls at the border. He also met an accident while riding a scooter and hit a local girl. The amazing part was the girl was still smiling even if she got bruises and didn’t press charges, like it’s no big deal! 😂 One hot Swiss guy, asked where to go in Cebu and emphasized that our suggestions should be far away from the night life because he is too old to party. (Yup! He really said “I’m too old to party.” Haha and I liked it!) The last guy shared that he asked the Thai lady on the corner about the details of our trip going to Chiang Mai but the lady asked for a picture with him instead. Hahaha I can’t blame the lady though. He’s handsome really. We had a short stop somewhere in Chiang Rai and had lunch together and continue sharing stories. But we never did exchanged our names. We parted ways when we arrive in Chiang Mai like nothing happened.
Lesson: Everyone is just passing by. It may sound so simple and almost meaningless but trust me, your awareness of it will lessen the pain of leaving or being left during your travels. Enjoy and make the most of your time with them but don’t be clingy please. Never again. 😉
Myanmar – A local restaurant is serving food using bare hands 😱
No doubt it’s my favorite country in all Southeast Asia in terms of tourist attraction because it offers the most genuine scenery. Well, it’s one of the youngest countries in Asia so maybe that’s why all their local traditions and culture are preserved which I admire the most.
Their way of life is so authentic and intact that at some point I can no longer handle it. 😆 On our way back to Mandalay from Bagan, we had a stop on this local restaurant along the road to have a quick break and get some lunch. After using the toilet, I roamed around and checked the food and I was shocked to see the lady using her bare hands to scoop the rice and put it in the plate and then gave it to the customer. Like it’s no big deal. It took some time for me to process. In my place, eating with your hands is totally fine but serving food to other people using just your hands is way beyond my imagination! While it was sort of overwhelming for me, I respect and accept its existence. I have nothing against it but I didn’t eat 😁
Read my Myanmar Travel Guide here.
Laos – Finding gold in the Mekong River!
So I went to Laos just to go kayaking in the mighty Mekong River! The whole experience was exhilarating! I admit I was really scared because it’s my first time to see a river as huge as Mekong. For those of you who do not know, it’s the 12th longest river in the world that passes through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. You can just imagine its size base on the facts I just gave you.
So I went to #Laos just to go #kayaking in Mekong River, the 12th longest river in the world that flows through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. NO BIG DEAL. ✌️ . . . . . . . #laagankaayo #southeastasia #digitalnomad #roamtheplanet #travelawesome #traveldiaries #beautifuldestinations #iamtb #lonelyplanet #mekong #natgeotravel #passionpassport #tlpicks #jetsetter #globetrotter #neverstopexploring #wearetravelgirls #welivetoexplore #travelblog #travelphotography #traveladdict #fotografiaunited #wanderlust #exploringtheglobe #worldtraveler #traveldeeper #river #darlingescapes
When we arrived at this secluded shore attached to the river 25 kilometers north, I was really thinking of backing out! I really thought it would be just a chill kayaking session like just paddling back and forth near the shore but it was the total opposite. On a second thought, I asked myself what else would I be doing in Huay Xuay if I’m not going to kayak in Mekong? So I did it like I had no choice haha.
But before our voyage began, I examined the water first and damn it was cold! And some glitters caught my attention! They were tiny bits of sparkling particles in the water. My guide confirmed that it was real gold! They may have been washed out from the gold mine in the upstream part of the riverbank. He said some locals do some panning in the shallow part of the river on their free time! It was amazing!
Read my full story here.
Cambodia – Our breakfast was stolen by monkeys
My sunrise version of Angkor Wat. I mean, this is probably the most overcrowded tourist attraction in all South East Asia. I SWEAR! People were flocking toward these lakes just to capture the "famous photo format" of the temple with reflection. I'm not saying it's bad, it's just crazyyyyyy haha you should see it for yourself✌️ . . . . . . . . #laagankaayo #southeastasia #digitalnomad #roamtheplanet #travelawesome #traveldiaries #beautifuldestinations #iamtb #lonelyplanet #bestintravel #natgeotravel #passionpassport #tlpicks #jetsetter #globetrotter #neverstopexploring #wearetravelgirls #welivetoexplore #travelblog #travelphotography #traveladdict #fotografiaunited #wanderlust #exploringtheglobe #worldtraveler #traveldeeper #cambodia #cebtravels #sunrise #angkorwat
Literally. Yup! I’m not kidding. Cambodia was part of our 2-week journey in INDOCHINA. Unfortunately, we got scammed in Myanmar. So by the time we arrive in Siem Reap, our cash was super limited. And since our budget was messed up, we had to save as much as we can, including the breakfast from our hostel. We asked the staff to pack our food because we will just eat them in the temple during our visit to the famous Angkor Wat. (I’m sorry but we had no idea that any of this would happen). My friend Beth was the one who was carrying our breakfast in a plastic while exploring around the temples. We didn’t know there were monkeys there, nobody advised or warned us about their existence!
So when Beth arrived on this spot in the temple, she was shocked to see the monkeys. At first she thought they were harmless but they slowly gathered around her and snatched the plastic she was carrying. She tried to resist but they were too many. Unfortunately, I was at the other side of the temple when this happened. We told our driver about what happened and he was so kind to offer 5 dollars to buy food. What the monkeys did was so humiliating! I felt so pathetic, I need my mom! Hahaha I mean I have credit cards, we can swipe all we want but no one accepts credit card in the temple area T_T
Vietnam – Craziest traffic scene in Southeast Asia!
I’m not sure if this is a regular thing in the entire Vietnam, but in Ho Chi Minh city, the roads, even the pavements and streets gutters, are dominated with motorbikes. Not just dominated but congested! The traffic scene is an attraction itself because while all of them race towards their destination as soon as the light turns green, there was no incident that occurred when I was anxiously observing. Just watch my video below and see for yourself.
Brunei – Breaking the rules in “Abode of Peace”
Brunei is well-known for its recent implementation of “Sharia Law” which includes executions like stoning for offenses such as adultery, abortion, homosexuality/sodomy, and even blasphemy. So yeah, breaking the law is the last thing that you will dare commit in this small but wealthy country.
In love with #BRUNEI so far!!!! ♥️ So peaceful and quiet and chill. ♥️ Thaaanks @hajiyasdi for showing us around 😎👌 . . . . . . . . . #laagankaayo #southeastasia #roamtheplanet #travelawesome #traveldiaries #beautifuldestinations #iamtb #lonelyplanet #bestintravel #natgeotravel #passionpassport #tlpicks #jetsetter #globetrotter #neverstopexploring #wearetravelgirls #welivetoexplore #travelblog #travelphotography #traveladdict #fotografiaunited #wanderlust #exploringtheglobe #worldtraveler #traveldeeper #cebtravels #bandarseribegawan #mosque #landscapephotography
However, our tour guide Yasdi, a native muslim of this country, was the coolest Bruneian we have ever met! Before meeting him, I always thought (sorry for my poor imagination) Muslim people are behave and formal but Yasdi was the total opposite! He was so modern, funny and outgoing! And risk-taker too! We went to this stunning newly built highway bridge near Bandar Seri Begawan and it’s prohibited to stop in the middle because it’s a goddamn highway! But Yasdi was like, “Don’t worry! It’s gonna be fine!”. I told him it’s really okay if we will just pass by but…
He pulled over and got us out of the car and took some pictures! I must admit, the view of Kampong Ayer was pretty nice up there! Nobody approached us so far. I was scared but it really was fun! Yasdi was a badass! (in a good way :D)
Indonesia – Discovering a grasshopper in your food
There’s so much going on in Bali that will surprise you in no time. And that includes finding a poor insect in your food. Mine was a grasshopper. It looks like it was accidentally fried but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t supposed to be part of my food. I lost my appetite after seeing the poor creäture. I don’t recommend eating at local restos on the streets of Kuta unless you don’t give a fuck about sanitary measures. And by “local”, I meant those local eatery that caters local people usually.
East Timor – Finding comfort in Catholic Religion from a completely different nationality
On my way to East Timor, I was a bit consumed by my fear of the unknown that I lost consciousness of the people around me. It was my first time traveling solo and on this country where there’s not much information you can get online so you are left with just prayers, hoping your journey will be safe.
Until that moment where we experienced extreme turbulence and this terrified timorese girl beside me made an intense sign of the cross while holding tight the arm rest. I was shocked for a moment. For the very first time since I started traveling abroad last 2013 I encountered a completely different nationality that practices the same religion and customs as mine. I felt relieved and ridiculously amazed. I thought, “Naaa! I’m gonna be fine!” My worries fade away as we landed in Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport.
Did you know that in all 11 Southeast Asian nations, only Philippines and East Timor are major Catholic countries? It feels good to interact with something or someone relatable! We will always find comfort in the familiar!
So those are my craziest most unforgettable Southeast Asian experience! Thanks for reading til the end! 😎