Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Adventurous May - Overview

I had been flying around SEA in the month of May and thought this made the most adventurous month of traveling in my 25 years of life.

PS: I'll break out the trips into individual posts for more photo and experience sharing;D Including Mt KK, though it happened in April

Firstly, I travelled to Sipadan - East Coast of Sabah, East Malaysia (Borneo) just a month after the kidnapping case that happened to a Chinese and a resort worker. What make the heart fainter was the kidnapping case which happened just 2 days before we fly. My diving troop and I were more than a little scared while making our way to Sipadan, but decided to go ahead and convinced ourselves that "their quota for the year should have been met" and "our assets only cater a fraction of what they asked for in the press". On a more concrete basis, we did our research and got consoled by the distinct distance between Mabul (where we stayed) and the islands where the cases took place; as well as the step-up navy securities around Sipadan waters. In fact, we saw the navy vessels and an army of armed soldiers on sea patrol while we were traveling in to Mabul;)

As insane as it may sound, we did make our way to Sipadan and enjoyed the splendid dive trip with sightings to our hearts content (amidst the tense alert mode throughout the trip). It's easier for me to brag "Lucky we didn't cancel our trip!" now.

One of the rewarding photograph from Sipadan:

Sipadan - Uncle Chang (snapped while my boat passed by)

Just as I thought I have survived an ordeal and heading to another safer location for a work trip (took place the next day I touched down in Singapore), there comes news on the Anti-Chinese riots in where I was heading next, Da Nang - Vietnam. Spotted the city name from the list that show where the riots took place, the red alert for safety beamed, again. However, when I arrived in Vietnam, everything in Da Nang was peaceful. Not a sign of unrest was spotted. I was being further comforted when the local guides explained that Da Nang is one of the safest city in Vietnam. True enough, the trip was nothing less than beautiful and peaceful, though it was insanely hot (like 39-41 deg C). Well, the weather contributed to some awesome picture like the one coming up next:

Ba Na Hills at Da Nang, Vietnam

Yes, you read it right. We were out of our minds to proceed with Thailand right after I came back from Vietnam. But hey, when we booked our tours earlier this year, we didn't think things would escalate to Martial Law and eventually, Thai Coup on our arrival day.

The first day was more drastic than any other days, as we were still trying to familiarize ourselves with the changes that were bound to take place. A curfew was set from 10pm-5am, and we thought meeting up with a friend at Thong Lo for dinner would be fine. We ended dinner at 8pm++ and wanted to grab a drink before heading back to respective hotels (mine at Ratchadewi, 7 stations away from Thong Lo, and friend putting up at Grand Sheraton, @ Asok station, 2 stops down Thong Lo - green line).

Image grabbed from: http://thailand.cluvo.com/bangkok-bts-mrt-map.aspx 
To our surprise, all pubs were preparing to close shop by then, and 7-Elevens were supposed to cease operation by 10pm too. No cabs nor Tuk Tuk wanted to stop for us (a super rare sight in Bangkok!) and we decided to walk back to the station which was 10 mins walk away. We arrived at BTR at 9.05pm, and were being shut out. BTR closed at 9pm that day. Pretty much stranded, we walked towards Asok while holding to a glimpse of hope that some brave taxi drivers would send us home. Finally, a Tuk Tuk agreed to send us back to Asok after having to walk one station distance, but the remaining 1 station cost us 200bht. The ever most expensive Tuk Tuk in my life but well spent when there was no alternatives left. So, Thai Coup had me put up at Grand Sheraton for a night! Not too bad after all (self comforting).

Apart from that, everything was pretty normal when we were there. Everyone lives per normal after some times, the street stalls hung out later, massage parlour and eateries functioned closer to 10pm instead and everyone seem unbothered by the coup. I can't say it was super safe in Thailand, but it wasn't as bad as I thought. The only thing was that shopping malls need to shut by 8pm, meaning movies last screening would be 5-6pm ish and last orders for restaurants were set at 7pm. Oh yes we see armed soldiers wherever we go, they were supposed to be on duty.

Just having a brief walk outside Singapore for a month, I deeply appreciate what Singapore provides me - Safety. I've not seen the world enough to judge for our methodologies in ruling a nation, but I do see order, low crime rates, and well maintained hygiene that contributed to the base tiers of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. We've walked a long way to the city we are today, I hope we don't squander our peace away. Anyway, I'm glad to be home again, home sweet home:)

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