What’s my favourite trip? It’s a question I’ve thought about recently. Two weeks spent rekindling friendships and seeking out new experiences in Singapore and Cambodia…
My Favourite Trip
“What’s the best holiday you’ve ever been on?”
It’s an interesting question and one which I’ve been asked and have asked myself numerous times. I originally wrote this article for a competition which, annoyingly I didn’t win (I think not have 50k+ followers on Instagram didn’t help my cause!). I figure there’s no point wasting the time spent actually writing this article. I’ve merely removed the free advertising for the competition organisers and left the heart of the article. I hope that you enjoy…
After much deliberation, there is one trip particular trip which my thoughts keep returning to. Back in 2015, I took a trip to South East Asia. This was my favourite trip. It was a manic, two week whirlwind tour of Singapore and Cambodia. Whilst I have since visited countries that I probably prefer as destinations, this trip, like any first love, will always occupy a special place.
“Why this trip?” I hear you ask. Well, there are three main reasons. Firstly, it allowed me to rekindle a university friendship. Secondly, I stepped outside my comfort zone. Thirdly, this was this trip that ignited my love for travelling.
~ Rekindling Friendships ~
Whilst navigating the joys of postgrad study, I volunteered as a student advisor (big up to any UoB alumni who read this). Aside from being a very rewarding experience, I was lucky to make two life long friends in the process. A few years later, Lucy and Phoebe were both living in Singapore. Even with the convenience of social media and WhatsApp, we drifted somewhat. 6,795 miles and a 7/8 hour time difference became a case of out of sight, out of mind. You know how it is. Despite an open invitation to visit, I hadn’t acted upon it; never one to impose.
To cut a long story short, in early 2015 we spoke about a trip for the umpteenth time. However, this time I acted and booked plane tickets. I was actually going to visit! Come April of 2015 I was standing in Heathrow, grinning with excitement as I waited to board my flight.
16 hours later, via a pitstop in Dubai, the plane touched down at Changi Airport. Jet lagged, I gathered my luggage and sleepily made my way through immigration. I’d been given given instructions – head to the taxi rank, go to this address – but it turned out to be a clever ploy. Unbeknownst to me, Lucy and Phoebe were waiting in the arrivals hall, complete with a home made and quite embarrassing welcome sign…
Jet lagged and haggard. For the record, I’ve never professed to be a baller. We went straight out for food – no chance to drop my bags off. I had to carry the sign around with me all evening.
~ Welcome to Singapore ~
After a quick embrace, we hopped into a taxi and headed downtown. I stared through the glass, out into the night. All the while my eyes greedily devoured the developing scene in front of me, trying to take it all in. A glimpse of the Gardens by the Bay; towering skyscrapers above; the Marina Bay Sands, sparkling and spectacular. Its fair to say that Singapore and I hit it off from the start (so much so that I returned again in 2016 and 2017).
Whilst the girls had their jobs to contend with, I had the days in Singapore to myself. This allowed me to get to know the city better – from its show stopping main attractions to its lesser known, hidden gems. Despite being a sprawling metropolis, I was surprised at just how green Singapore is. Green spaces and futuristic buildings existing in harmony. For the amateur photographer, it offers so many interesting vantage points and compositions.
The evenings were spent together: catching up, drinking cocktails and sampling Singapore’s wonderful culinary scene.
~ Leaving my Comfort Zone ~
Before this trip, I had only journeyed to western-Europe and the US. By travelling to Singapore and Cambodia, I felt that I had stepped outside of my comfort zone. Unlike Singapore, which I found to be an easy introduction to South East Asia, Cambodia was unlike anything which I had previously experienced.
There are two memories from Cambodia which are indelibly etched in my mind.
The first of these took place in Phnom Penh, where we learned about the brutal Khmer Rouge regime. We began the day with a tour of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. This was followed by a visit to the Cheung Ek Killing Field. Whilst I knew the name Pol Pot, and that fact that he was not a good person, my knowledge of Southeast Asian history was severely lackijng. The statistics are frightening – under the Khmer Rouge’s rule around 25% of Cambodia’s population was killed. Visiting the killing field and hearing the accounts of surviving prisoners was haunting and harrowing.
Cambodia has a dark history – one which has seen bloodshed and poverty – and yet the country is beautiful, not least because of the warm locals. I’ve read a lot of people say that Cambodian people were welcoming and friendly. This was certainly my experience and its quite special considering the country’s history.
A harrowing reminder of man’s inhumanity to fellow his fellow man.
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that the second memory features Cambodia’s most famous attraction: Angkor Wat. The Angkor temple site is staggering in size, housing a multitude of unique, intricate temples. The star of the show is the breathtaking beauty and scale of Angkor Wat. To stand before one of the world’s ancient marvels, the sun rising behind it, was an awe-inspiring experience.
~ A love of travel ~
Whilst Singapore was like rediscovering the comfortable familiarity of an old friend, Cambodia cast a spell on me. The trip was full of unforgettable moments. Seeing Angkor Wat at sunrise, admiring Singapore’s futuristic skyline, learning about Pol Pot’s oppressive Khmer Rouge. These are memories that will stick with me for the rest of my life. At the risk of hyperbole, this trip was eye opening and life changing. It shifted my outlook – I returned home with a renewed curiosity about the world and promised myself that I would step out of my comfort zone more often and try to see as much of the world as I can.
Friends reunited: heading into Angkor Wat
So, that’s my favourite trip. I’d be interested to hear about yours…