The Trials and Tribulations of Planning

Two or three weeks ago I stuck my head out of my textbooks long enough to realise that recess week was fast approaching and I had yet to form a plan of which country I was going to intrepidly explore.  After a few minutes of trying to wrap my head around the fact that my recess week is before most of my cohorts return to studying and that in their first week back I would be taking two of my midterms, I actually started planning.  Like anyone nowadays, my first (and only) port of call was the internet.  The internet is an amazing resource for anyone who so much as dreams of travelling as it offers a near infinite number of locations each with a wealth of reviews and suitably idyllic photos.  It is also the bane of all holiday planners as it offers a near infinite number of locations each with a wealth of reviews and suitably idyllic photos.

You see, it’s all very well and good saying “I’ll go to such and such a place” but then you bring up BBC news and decide that perhaps that particular location can wait a while or you pick a country but are then bombarded with choices as to where in that country you should go.  In the end, I narrowed my list of seven countries down to two by touring TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet and Pinterest.  My methods of elimination also included a quick check of Gov.uk for any travel warnings; Travel Health Pro for vaccination advice; and a slew of websites to try and interpret what visas were need for where.

All in all, there was a moment where I was tempted to can the entire venture and just relax on a beach in some tourist trap for a week.  However, I persevered and chose a location in each of country to spend the week.  I’m not sure they are any less tourist trappy but I like to pretend they are.  After the hard part of making a decision.  I only had to work out how to get there; what I needed for visas; where I was going to stay; and what I was actually going to do.  Fortunately for the modern traveller this is made easy with the help of websites like Skyscanner, HostelWorld and the multitude of travel bloggers who have gone before.

So without further ado, the winners of this semester’s recess week holiday awards are…

…Siem Reap in Cambodia:

Siem Reap

I am particularly looking forward to the temples of Angkor Wat, though the Night Market and Landmine Museum have also caught my eye.

And…

…Hanoi in Vietnam:

Hanoi

As well as seeing the thriving Old Quarter here, I am hoping to cram in a day trip to the famous Halong Bay.

With only seven kilos of luggage, my laptop will be staying here in Singapore so posting may be varied but at the very least I hope to put a few photo heavy posts up.  Fingers crossed and happy travelling.

Introspection

Sometimes life’s experiences don’t feel all that significant.  At times like this, rather than writing off experiences and considering a week wasted, I try to change my mindset and view little events as just as worthy.  Take, for instance this weekend.  In Singapore it is a bank holiday weekend and when I found out, I had all these grandiose plans of sweeping out of my final lecture on Thursday, boarding a plane to some undefined, but undeniably fabulous location before returning Sunday evening, sun-kissed and somehow enlightened from three days abroad.

In reality, my weekend has been nothing like this.  Rather than spending the preceding week sighing over glamorous photos of sandy shores or rugged rainforest, I spent it holed up in my room trying to make a video that explained quantum mechanics in relatively simple terms for part of my coursework.  This task made harder by the fact that I am increasingly certain I have absolutely no clue when it comes to quantum mechanics.

By the time I had submitted the video, the weekend was upon me and I had no plans.  At this point it was all too easy for my brain to start down the paths of if only I’d… and everyone else is going somewhere, am I not making the most of this amazing opportunity that has been handed to me?

Upon some introspection, the answer to this last was… perhaps.  Not necessarily the answer I wanted to find, but the answer nonetheless.  Despite this, there were a few things I reminded myself before I began to feel all gloomy.  First, not everyone was going away even if the exchangers’ Facebook page made it seem like they were.  Secondly, a lot of people are only here for one semester so are trying to fit in as much as possible, and finally, I’m studying physics and while I may only need a pass, I care about doing well.  Armed with these three things in mind, I looked over the week at the things I had done, rather than at the things I hadn’t.

cold brew

For starters, I worked out how to cold brew coffee so I can keep a bottle in the fridge for my morning caffeine fix.  I’ve also discovered that I don’t particularly like cold coffee, but that if I microwave it, it becomes drinkable.  Sadly, this is more than can be said for a lot of the coffee I’ve tried in Singapore (shout out to Platypus Food Bar for being next to all my lectures and selling a marvelous black coffee).

I’ve been charity shop shopping and accidentally haggled over the price of a pair of shoes when I misheard the price.  Talking of good ol’ retail therapy, I went to Orchard Road and experienced the mild terror of going into a mall that contains hundreds of boutique sized shops in a labyrinthine layout.  Fortunately, I learnt how to say no to friendly sales assistants and not feel guilt tripped into buying clothes several years ago after spending a hefty portion of my pocket money on a lovely scarf and black roll neck in one of Guernsey’s many boutiques.  Two items I admittedly still love, but at the time wished I’d shown a little more restraint when purchasing.

20170804_220712.jpgSample the nightlife can be ticked off the list as well.  Clubbing is not something I go out of my way to do but sometimes it’s nice to feel a beat thrumming in your bones.  My experience of it in Singapore places it firmly on the same level in my mind as my experience of it back home.  I still don’t recognize half the songs and some people still need gentle persuasion when it comes to the look but don’t touch rule.  That or an education on no means (expletive of choice) off NOT I enjoy you, a total stranger, trying to grab and grind from behind.  However, I refuse to judge all people based on a select few’s behaviour and some people were genuinely kind, helping me with my gentle persuasion before I was too heavily tempted to use less gentle means, which is probably a good thing given the strict laws in Singapore.

On a more positive note, I signed up for Lindy Hop dance classes, which promises to be exciting, especially given my growing love of swing music.  Armed with a single class we headed down to the boardwalk at Marina Bay and joined a Lindy Hop social called Swing the Night Away that was open to anyone.  It was a huge amount of fun and I’m already looking forward to next time I can dance with a backdrop of fluorescent skyscrapers reflected in darkened waters.

So all in all, I have done a lot and still have plenty of time to travel beyond Singapore.  Therefore, I will continue to take the world day by day, without worrying about if I am doing “enough”.  Or at least I’ll try to, practice makes perfect after all.