There’s a huge world of difference travelling being a full-time employee, vs travelling as a self-employed. As a full-time employee, although taking leave as a staff is always a right and entitlement, it was all too often that I felt bad leaving my team-mates to take on extra workloads for me while I take a vacation. I could hardly truly let go and enjoy a trip, instead, constantly checking emails and volunteering support! In addition, I would always fall sick overseas, which was likely due to having added in extra long hours to cram in more work before I fly off. It felt as if I must punish myself for taking a holiday. However, the good of being a full-time employee is that you know there will be a team that will provide support for your work while you’re physically away.
I will always choose travelling as a self-employed, instead of as an employee.
Travelling as a self-employed was totally different. I lost the burden of feeling bad towards colleagues. On the other hand, being answerable directly to clients, I had to manage expectations, workloads and timelines independently. I would also have to put in extra hours on the flight (Hong Kong trip), on the coach (Korea trip) or hotel room (Macau, Hong Kong, Korea) to provide support. It is a different kind of challenge. My laptop has visited every city with me.
In 2015, I got on the plane 9 times, the bullet train twice, and visited a few cities I’ve never been before. Trips this year were especially enriching with plenty of new experiences, and I also got to know better about the kind of trips and places I prefer.
Here’s a look back at trips I took in the year, my past impressions of places, as well as new perspectives.
Hong Kong January
It had been more than 12 years since I last visited Hong Kong. The Hong Kong I knew was cluttered, people walk very fast, the ladies dress really well, and salespeople deduce whether you’re a worthy customer via your outfits before they decide their service standards. It was good to revisit the hustle and bustle of this country and see how it’s changed over the years. The people definitely seem more hospitable now. Dimsum at popular cha chaan teng-s (tea restaurants) was full of taste, both in the ambience as well as the food.
There are now many tourists in Hong Kong, evident from crowds and queues at tourist spots. The night view up at Victoria Peak was breathtaking! The view from the cable-car to Lantau Islands was beautiful too! The cable-car took about 45 minutes and was a peaceful ride, way up high above mountains. Amazing.
Shenzhen, China January
It was my first time visiting Shenzhen. Pardon the ignorance of mine – I had expected soil grounds, under-developed roads and places and people cycling everywhere. It is nowhere like my impression at all. The main roads are huge. Train stations and trains look new and well-maintained. It took me by surprise at how developed Shenzhen is, actually.
In Shenzhen, expect to pay very low prices for handphone accessories (1/4 the price of Singapore), expect to see lots of imitation products being sold, expect to smell cigarette smoke everywhere including inside the malls, expect to be made to tip therapists even if they gave you bad service and horrible attitudes at the health spa. This, is my new impression of Shenzhen.
Macau, China March
Also my first time in Macau, I went not knowing what to expect. Hotels are hugeeeee. Casinos are hugeeeee too. It was an eye-opener walking through the casinos.
Best thing about Macau has definitely got to be its Portuguese egg-tarts!
I couldn’t appreciate Macau enough though. Prices can come as a surprise when it comes to food, even at outskirts such as Taiping Village (almost like Singapore), or perhaps I stepped into the wrong coffee-shops. They cost like our prices in Singapore. Prices at Shoppes at Venetian are atrocious. Streets are old and air pollution is bad. On my first night in Macau, I thought the hotel had fogged up the windows to block out the light from the hotels nearby, then realized it wasn’t the case, because the windows were clear on the second night!
This was the first morning. You can only make out the first 10+ storeys of Hard Rock Hotel on the left side.
Hong Kong March
Yes, Hong Kong again! Dropping by this country for a bit as I’ll be flying out from Hong Kong.
Dinner at Urban Commune with its popular roasted chicken. It’s delicious!
Korea to me was about plenty of masks at Myeongdong, as well as tourist spots where they shot popular Korean dramas which I was never a fan of.
My first time in Korea, it was a trip full of activities! Visited a beautiful hanok village (read the entry here); tried different facilities at a Korean bath-house (jjimjilbang), ate lots of Korean dishes and chicken wings, picked strawberries, saw endless tulips at Everland during its tulip festival, made Korean kimchi, visited the night shopping malls of Seoul and got ripped off by an unethical late-night cab-driver.
Malacca, Malaysia November
Malacca, a slow town with its distinct red Christ Church, the fortress, chicken rice balls, was not unfamiliar to me. This time round, I took TripAdvisor’s advice and visited The Baba House, a house full of history and lived in by several generations of a wealthy Peranakan family. We also went for a workshop to make a childhood snack – Mamee noodles (blogpost on the workshop here) from scratch!
Tokyo, Japan December
The Japanese culture is an interesting culture to learn about. Having been to Tokyo several times before, I thought I’ll be done visiting it once again. In terms of development, Tokyo has not been very different the last few years. However, this time, I made trips to Yokohama (where Nissin museum is at) as well as Kamakura, and found both to be delightful experiences.
I realized, you can revisit old places with new eyes and an open heart, and the place will always reveal a different side to you magically. I love Tokyo and the way it embraces differences. The people may appear aloof, but they are actually being respectful towards the surroundings. Shopping and having meals are actually very enjoyable, even if you may be a solo traveller.
Kyoto, Japan December
Kyoto was definitely the highlight of my Japan trip! A place I had always wanted to visit after having read Memoirs of A Geisha several times. Iwas expecting to see plenty of traditional Japanese houses that look like the okiya as described in the novel. Kyoto, however, was much more developed and way bigger than I had thought. Kyoto has a incredible number of zen temples and shrines. The onsen experience I had at an a charming ryokan onsen absolutely blew me away. I also chose to stay at an AirBNB, a first time.
It so happened too that my first evening in Kyoto city was the first day of Hanatouro, a light festival that takes place at Arashiyama once a year. How lucky! The lights and illuminated pathways were simply enchanting.
Towards the end of my trip, I had a day trip to Nara, and back to Kyoto to visit Gion and was so lucky to see a few maikos and even a geisha! It has been my wish to see them in person and my wish finally came true.
So that’s the end of my trips this year, which had all taken place in Asia. I thoroughly enjoyed the different experiences and cannot wait to share with you on this blog. Come 2016, I hope to visit other continents and gain even more travel experiences!
What about you? Did you enjoy your trips in 2015? Feel free to share in the Comment section below!