Untold Tall Tales of Wanderlust, Foreign Lands, and Misadventures – Part 1 – “Be careful with what you wish for… Because you just might get it!”

Dear my faithful (and patient, and kind😀 ) readers,

I’m back, still alive and function-able. Wow, time does have wings, doesn’t it? I cannot believe it has been a month and almost a half since my last post. How have you been? I hope all is well.

So for this one, no new recipe (“Aww, why?” or “Thank God!”?) nor restaurant review nor food tour nor anything related at all to that matter, today I want to write about something new, for a change – Travel. Or, Wanderlust, they casually call it. If you expect some detailed travel guide of what to do – where to go, walk away now, I mean it, there is none of the treasure you are looking for here but tall tales of my trips. Of course for my dear friends who know my wordy style well, there might be tips in between for the best photogenic spots in places I wandered. Bear with me, OK?

Having been very fond of new lands for as long as I can remember, I enjoyed my very first fly when I was 3 years old, then first trip abroad (to Thailand) was when I was 14. Since then travelling has grown into somewhat a healthy obsession. While studying in Finland, holding the precious Schengen visa, my friends and I roamed Europe on a budget whenever we had pleasantly long holidays: Paris, Venice, Pisa, Vienna, Rome, and etc. This streak of exciting journey toned down a bit too tremendously when I got back to Vietnam in late 2012. Well, no wonder, 2012-2013 and early 2014 was a stressful period of directing career path, adjusting myself back into Vietnam environment (academic term is reversed cultural shock), struggling to keep relationships barely floating above water line, and moving back in with family after such long time living my own lifestyle and routine. Long story short, it was a hard time (still give me some shivering thinking about…) and not all of them worked out, though I tried.

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Second half of 2014 was the breaking point, when all you ever strived for turned their back and walked away, guess there was no better choice than to let them go gracefully, and channel the energy you once reserved for those back to yourself and your own development. After everything, ain’t you all that you have left in this little world? It was a sheer luck of last-minute randomness that I chose to climb Fansipan (the highest mount in the Indochine area) for my first solo trip, and also to celebrate my 24th birthday. The initial plan was a coast-protecting volunteer trip during the turtle egg-laying season in Con Dao isle, but couldn’t beat the super long queue of earlier birds, I had to give up on the idea. Then I remembered this silly little vow I once made to myself when I was a juvenile teenager, “To climb the Fansipan in your 20s, and Everest in your 30s, Rose”. Well, what was the better time than then? So there I went, to the mountain, totally underprepared both mentally and physically, having nothing handy in hand but a gut feeling of “now or never” that made me step that first step on the trek to the summit. And did I make it?

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Oh yeah, covering in (a little) blood, (some) bruises, (definitely a lot of) sweat (and some tears, whatever), I made it. The second I touched that steel-cold pyramid was the most satisfying moment in my 23 years 364 days of existence. For the first time in forever, I did something just for myself, fully committed to that goal, and actually made it to the end. To sum up, the climb was dead exhausting (due to the embarrassing fact that I gave up all forms of workout for almost a year then), and mentally challenging (lost counting how many times I just wanted to turn around, crawl my way back to the base, pack my stuff, get on the plane, and get the hell out of this “nightmare”).

During my stay here, I was also taken to the beautiful Muong Hoa valley, got my foot stuck deep into cool mud (yuck!), chased by an army of very persistent ethnic children, and somehow in between, managed to take this – Man-made wonder, I like to call it.

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Top 5 music I listened to while roaming these places:

(Warning: broken-hearted, kinda-cuckoo music, listen with caution)

  • Try (Pink)
  • Me and My Broken Heart (Rixton)
  • Honestly OK (Dido)
  • Not Me, Not I (Delta Goodrem)
  • Shot Me Down (David Guetta)

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The experience cracked open something deep inside of me, something I just couldn’t pin down (even now) that keeps me craving for more. It felt like my inner child has finally awaken. So I let her roam free to her heart content and did a 3 more solo trips in the short 5 months left of 2014.

The second that I did was the longest one: 16 days to the UK. The whole town tour was done: London, Oxford, Cambridge, Bath, the Cotswolds, Brighton, together with getting lost nicely in several walking trails, and in a bunch of smaller towns in between.

It was a safe choice but no less exciting of strange encounters for a novice wanderer like me. London is definitely worth exploring, but stay away from the touristy spots or try to do them all in one day, there is not much of the real London there. Spend rest of your London time well in museums, the trendy but less bothered by seasonal visitors parts of town like Shoreditch or Hackney, indulge yourself into a day as a local. As for me, I watched the oh-so-pretty stargazing show by the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, and bounced like a sugar-high little kid (with a group of other Londoner kids, to my defense) in the Granary Square Fountains in King’s Cross. Especially in the middle of August in the Northern hemisphere, I must say, this was an (awesomely) crazy act (which video, photos, and all other means of evidence should never be share to public eyes).

London

Town hopping was definitely fun. My only one advice would be to choose a wise transportation hub and root there to get to the rest of the area, for instance, mine was Oxford. Oh, wait, another one coming, if possible, visit Bath, it was worth the trip, and when you get there, spend the afternoon spoiling yourself with some cream tea and scone with strawberry jam and house-made clotted cheese in the Bridge Coffee Shop, cozily and conveniently located (right) on Pulteney Bridge, facing the iconic Pulteney Weir… well, yes, that’s where they hide the whole Bath.

Bath

As for the Cotwolds, I would recommend doing long treks across the web of ancient towns in the area.

Into the trails

Into the trails

…. Stow on the Wold…

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…Bourton on the Water (British little Venice)…

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… and Icomb, to name a few with gorgeous view.

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Lose direction in this wheat field near Icomb, I finally understand the meaing of this quote in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” – “ To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life”. The freedom to get lost and find yourself again (and again) was a pure bliss.

And Brighton, oh, Brighton.

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It is a special beach city with pebble coast instead of sand, where you can play the game “How high can you go?”  as below for hours (can last that long with a partner, trust me), just to have a taste of the sweetness of doing nothing, “La Dolce Far Niente”.

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If you still have some energy to burn, do another trail in the Seven Sister Country Park, a very nice and photogenic chalk cliff.

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…or buy a 1-day Brighton & Hove bus pass to go to Lewes, a very nice town nearby famous for its antique trading business, and treat yourself a piece of rock cake with hot latte, afternoon delight! (Now, I mean this innocently and literally, don’t take it the wrong way.)😉

On the bus to Lewes

On the bus to Lewes

I was back from my UK trip a different girl, some said I was stronger and more determined. I couldn’t agree more, Life does get much clearer once you know what you truly want out of it and actively work for them. My Tree of Faith was bursted in young green of possibilities and fertilized with abundance of courage.

Top 5 music I listened to while roaming these places:

  • Begin Again (Taylor Swift. Btw, The Piano Guys’ cover is pretty good too.)
  • Lost Star (Adam Levine, original soundtrack of “Begin Again” movie, it’s a gold mine for music lovers)
  • Closer (Dido)
  • Am I Wrong? (Nico ft. Vinz)
  • Born to Die (Lana Del Rey)

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But Life as we all know of is not a train that only goes up… Reality hit me hard during the first 2 months of my new career. Beside demanding workload, in order to perform best at my job, I had to compromise one of my core values, honesty. They were just white lies, I know, but letting it come out of my mouth intentionally just because work needed to get done… It made me doubt my own decisions, resonating with the simmering pain of rejection, lack of direction from some matters of heart, and the missing of guidance from ones that I deem important,  things just tipped me over the edge at the time. The inner Tree was withering so I did the best I know how, getting on my feet again, this time to “my city” (little inside joke). 12 hours of dreadful buses, I arrived at Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Now there are many ways to explore the treasure of Angkor, and I made my excellent choice. Paddling kilometers on your own little 2 dollar-a-day bicycle under sky full of hundred-year old trees and ground paved with colorfully historic temples, troubles seemed to melt away quickly (I admit, the 140km trip to Banteay Srei and back was a tad too much, I did it to test my own limit but wouldn’t recommend it for the faint-hearted).

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Doing the Grand and Small Circuits on bike instead tuk-tuk was very enjoyable indeed, and do visit Baray lake on the way to Neak Pean Spa. On a clear sky, sunny day, you would see this… perfect reflection.

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Guess I hit something right, again, as I was rewarded with a brilliant sunrise over Angkor Wat…(A must do, of course, but fair warning, you would have to share this “meditating” moment with another thousand tourists).

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Do you know why I love, love, love this picture? Notice this little cloud in the center of the sky… doesn’t it look like rings of angels flying down upon you?

… And another breathtakingly pretty sunset over Srah Srang. If I could do this trip again I would still go to this special “swimming pool” for sunset over any other famous spots like Bakheng Hill. OK, if you know me well enough by now, you might already know that I have quite a knack for the less-wandered. But the choice is still yours to make.

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Sometimes, you just need a break, in beautiful places. Alone. To figure everything out… Me and my leg, napping in a paddy field near the Banteay Srei Temple.

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I managed to get realigned with my long-term goal and realized that small sacrifices along the way are necessary for a better good. The way to do that without guilt, resentment, and confusion later on is to set hard and soft limits for things that you can and cannot compromise based on your core values, then communicate it clearly with related parties.

Top 5 music I listened to while roaming these places:

  • Warrior (Imagine Dragon)
  • Young Again (Hardwell ft. Chris Jones)
  • Life for Rent (Dido)
  • Rather Be (Clean Bandit ft. Jess Glynne)
  • Gone, Gone, Gone (Phillip Phillips)

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As my inner child keeps growing up, then she reached her adolescence. Turbulences started to stir up unwelcoming old insecurities and unresolved problems that were thought to have sunk into the depth of memories… Failing to grab that thin line of emotional assurance, November 2014 came to me with a heart-wrecking goodbye, and December with haunting ghosts of familiar faces from the past. It was almost unbearable, when your own dark selves stared right at you like inside a circus mirror house, there was no place to hide, even your brain blissful sanctuary got evaded with sorrow and hopelessness. Giving in to temptations and the available were the easiest things to do, but I fought back, hard. Another attempt to gain back my equilibrium, I shortly agreed to an suggestion to do a diving course together in Koh Lipe, Thailand with a friendly colleague.

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It was a small, very nice island tucked away in the less-known diving sites of the country, so my course went quite well and I managed to get to know many interesting people of my age by living together in a mixed dorm provided by the diving center. It takes about half a day exploring the whole island (a.k.a. one walking round). (Yes, it is THAT small.)

A diving instructor whose name I totally forgot...

A diving instructor whose name I totally forgot…

It has 3 beaches in total, and the names suggest what to do with them quite clearly: Sunset…

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…Sunrise…

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Me and my legs, again. Sorry if you are not a leg fetish.

…and Pattaya (aka Fun) Beach. You know what to do, right?

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Now, about the diving experience, its utter serenity is divine. You could actually hear (and see) your breathing and that was all in my head, inhaling deeply and exhaling slowly. What underneath the sea is a secret world ever a secret to bare human, and for the first time ever, I feel that our Earth is still packed with mysteries that one will die trying to figure it all out. So, the best things to do? Enjoy it while it lasts. And guess who is now a certified Open-Water diver? (aka. best selfie ever.)

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Finished the course right on the 31st of December 2014, I left Koh Lipe for Langkawi, Malaysia to celebrate New Year’s Eve. My colleague already planned her New Year Celebration with some friends who flew over from Bangkok, so I was alone and decided to join the Year-end Dinner of the Guesthouse, and after that a party in nearby beach with amazingly close firework and lantern release for New Year luck.

I was living the dream of many, travelling to exotic places, doing thrilling things, enjoying absolute freedom. Why within was it so… empty? I cried myself to sleep that night and the whole first day of the year. There were things that I wished for so much but didn’t happen. Being on that beach all by myself in such an important transition timing, while everyone was with everyone else… And I recalled that whenever seeing something so magnificent along the way, I turned to my sides too eager to share, just to sigh lightly and give myself a pat on shoulder like the 100th of times before that: “This time, it is just us, Rose…”

I felt ridiculously incomplete, and that void inside my heart was aching like hell. The hurtful broken rhythm of “Why God? Why me? Haven’t I tried hard enough? Why does it hurt this much? How much longer?” repeat itself inside my mind too many times I lost counting. And teardrops just felt uncontrollably on my cheeks as the feeling was like a marine ship drifting in the sea of uncertainties, no sign, no sound,no captain, no crew, no nothing. “What the *eff* am I doing? What’s the point of all this? Why am I feeling like sh*t? I should be happy, no, elated,ain’t I?”

It made me think, was my freedom worth that much, trading everything and everyone for absolute solitude to the point of loneliness? But then I didn’t really have other choice, did I? I don’t fit in where I should belong, and I am not needed where I want to belong.

Well, such as Life sometimes…. I almost lost it, I was very near. But then, something in me was angry, very angry. “OK wait, this was not how my holiday should be, it should be filled with awesomeness and I wouldn’t let anything or anyone (including my weaker self) ruin it!”

Mind asked Heart  – “Will the situation change if you sob yourself to puddle of salty liquid now?”

“No” Heart, she murmured.

“Very well! Now do you want to spend the rest of this costly holiday locking yourself in these 4 walls?” – Mind, he continued.

“No” She replied again, now with life in her voice.

“Good. Then focus, soldier! Get the *eff up, go refresh yourself, do your things, and enjoy every minutes left of this darn holiday, for us, NOW!” – He, in military uniform, shouted out loud.

“Yes Sir!” – determination poured onto her like rain in the drought.

“Let go of what was, accept what is, and have Faith for what will be, Rose!” Both Mind and Heart were looking at each other and nodding understandably.

Wiping up the leftover tears, I finished writing my 2015 New Year Resolution, got myself to rest for few hours, then woke up to see the sunrise on that lonely beach I once ran away… In daylight, it seemed less intimidating, indeed.

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Rented the best-conditioned bike in the area, paddling myself another 50 km away from sorrow, along the sunny blue coast, up the shadily green hill, to do the exciting Sky Trek, a small tour around town choosing a pretty postcard for myself, then long walk on the beach to see the sunset (yes, I confess that I am obsessed with the sun), treat myself nicely with a quite decent Fish Curry for dinner, a Pina Colada for late drink, some strawberry shisha and good girl talk with my lovely colleague.

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“We did it, again, Rose. Our trip is amazing, isn’t it?”

“Yes” – Yawned Miss Sleepy Head.

“I will never put you through this loneliness again. I promise… Let’s stop flying solo for a while, huh?”

“Hmm, please…” And there she drifted into her sacred dreamland, half smiling.

I didn’t know where that weird monologue, or the burst of energy came from, but my Tree was revived. When everything else refused to go your way, you still can change one thing, yourself. Attitude is all that matter. “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the Judgement that something is more important than that.” And that something is me. My thoughts matter, my feelings matter, I matter. The only love you deserve is the love you are willing to give to yourself.

So, before you go to sleep tonight, answer this question:

“Are you in love with yourself right now?”

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That ends this (once again, super) lengthy post. My initial intention was to include the trip to Philippines as well, but as I was composing the tall tales, I realized that the newest one is of totally different nature than the first 4 solos, and was much significant to Rose’s maturity development as well, so I am quite sure it deserves a post of it own. So yes, you’re thinking correctly, there will be a Part-2 (“Aww, really?” in enthusiastic tone, I hope). I will try to make days more than 24 hours some time next week for it. And by the way, that Courage quote above is only a half of the full one, will reserve the rest for the next post.🙂

A little sneak peak for those patient and kind ones who are still reading this (Thank you!).

Sunset at Manila Bay

Sunset at Manila Bay

Oh wait, one more token, Top 5 music I listened to while roaming these places:

  • Stay with Me (Sam Smith, in the live version ft. Mary J. Blige)
  • High Hopes (Kodaline, its video clip is wonderful… And their “All I want”‘s too, amazing with capital A)
  • Let Us Move On (Dido)
  • Another Love (Tom Odell. The Zwette Edit remix is intriguing.)
  • Dead and Gone (T.I ft. Justin Timberlake)

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Wait wait (Common Rose!), hehe, it’s funny thinking this way but bear with me a little more. Maybe I should change this blog name into “Simply a Blog”, shouldn’t I? Now that it starts to includes misc. of total non-food related things. What’s your 2-cent?

Until next time,

Rose.

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P/S1: Do you know, 14th of March (the day when I started writing this post) was White Day (to know exactly what this means, ask father Google😀 Hint: they originally called it Marshmallow Day)? On this special day, I hope that you have received endearing responses for your little insane braveness. As for me, well, I guess, maybe something are better left unsaid.

(Little Miss Diva Ariana Grande has a song with the same title as well. I enjoy her wide vocal range and sweet yet edgy voice in both pop ballads like Tattooed Heart and upbeat EDMs like Love Me Harder. Some compare her as young Mariah Carey. Let see how that goes.)

P/S2: It was also Pi (π) day, and Pie day (same pronunciation). Mathematics and Baking, hmm, sexy!😉

OK, smart mouth zipped and off the net now…

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