One major way video games helped me travel better

Scary video games

When I was growing up, I loved video games. I was envious of boys whose parents bought them game consoles. My dad didn’t believe in letting girls play video games.

To work my way around this, I played video games on the PC. My dad still complained but at least I had something to play with.

While in high school, I enjoyed playing Taiwanese RPGs (role paying games). Later on, I was obsessed with MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) with cutesy characters.

After I started work, I played a lot more video games on the PC thanks to my colleagues introducing me to Steam.

Playing for the story

Most of the time, the games I play don’t require a lot of skills. I usually cheat by checkout play-throughs. For me, the best part about video games is the story.

I mindlessly leveled up as I immersed myself in the virtual environment. It is really great being the hero and accomplishing all those feats without leaving my chair.

I didn’t realize how video games helped with travelling until some years ago. I discovered that video games had given me an indispensible skill for travelling:

I became good at reading maps and visualizing directions.

How video games helped build my sense of direction

How video games help me build my sense of direction

For me, the video games I played usually need my character to explore different locations. Sometimes there are maps for reference, such as this map system in Bioshock Infinite which is a favorite game of mine because of the storyline Other times, there would be fan-made maps for n00bs like me to use.

What is great about video games is that only only do you get to explore a location in-game, you can sometimes zoom out to see where you are in the bigger picture.

Through these virtual environment, I’ve also started visualizing space better. For example, if you ask me for directions to my house, my brain brings up a mental map (like in video games) and I can retrace my steps in this map and give good directions.

Of course, this skill doesn’t really work when I’m plonked down into a new city. Since there is no compass hanging on the upper right hand side of my vision (like in video games), I often end up in exactly the opposite direction of where I should go.

These days, I haven’t been playing video games much since my PC isn’t really made for the more advanced games. But still, I miss the days when I helped my in-game character fulfill his/her/its destiny and finish the story.

Read more about video games (and travel):

  1. Eleven-year-old tells benefits of video games on penelopetrunk.com
  2. Istanbul – The Assassin’s Creed Trail on thriftytraveller.wordpress.com

5.5 reasons why you should not quit your job to travel in your 20s (Asian edition)

dont quit your job

Around this time last year, I told my boss of 3.5 years that I will be leaving the company.

A month and a half later, I was on the road for 4.5 months, fulfilling my dream of travelling around the world.

After my long trip and a few shorter ones, I returned to Singapore in search of a new career as I wasn’t brave enough to continue travelling forever, unlike some people.

Even though I have no regrets about quitting my job to travel, I must admit it is not for everyone. For those who are still thinking if you should take a career break to travel, I will have two posts on the pros and cons of leaving your career to travel.

First, the bad news.

Continue reading “5.5 reasons why you should not quit your job to travel in your 20s (Asian edition)”

Travel superstitions, do you have any?

travel superstitions

I’m a rather superstitious person. I’ve been known to change my travel dates just because my horoscope said it would be a bad period to travel.

Of course, I only changed it because there was a change of timing to my flight and I could get my tickets changed for no extra charge. I wouldn’t change it if I needed to pay extra.

Amulet for safety

Another time I was superstitious was when I was planning my round the world trip.

I made up my mind that I wanted to travel around the world during a trip to Japan with my mom. I decided that I need to buy one of the “Travel Safe” amulets (omamori) from Meiji Shrine.

However I was worried that the amulet’s powers have an expiry date and it would be less effective if I buy it too soon.
Continue reading “Travel superstitions, do you have any?”

Self defense for women travelling alone: Household items edition

spray bottle of self defense

Safety is a very important issue when travelling and even more so for women travelling alone. While you might think that you need to sign up for karate course, actually there are other ways of self-defense that doesn’t require you to be physical.

I do many things when I am abroad to be safe. Before my trip, I read up on dangerous places and avoid them. During my trip, I am aware of my environment and I get the hell out of a place when I feel unsafe.

I also take precaution and arm myself when I go out on the streets. No, I don’t mean taking a gun but taking everyday things that can be used as a weapon. Fortunately, I never had the chance to test of my “weapons” would work in a real threat.

Here are some of the unconventional ways I used to protect myself.

Deodorant spray/ hair spray/ medicated oil as pepper spray

Spray bottle
Spray bottle

Did you know that pepper sprays are prohibited in Singapore? That’s why I don’t have any of it for self defense. Luckily, other daily items can be used as an alternative.

During my very first solo trip in China, I wanted to take a walk in Suzhou at night but I didn’t have company. I looked around my bag and saw that I had a small bottle of medicated oil.

I uncapped the bottle and held it in my palm during my walk. I practiced in my head how I would give the bottle a good flick of the wrist so that the oil would sting the assailant’s eyes.

Bottle of medicated oil
Bottle of medicated oil

You can also use small spray cans to double as pepper spray. Travel-sized deodorant work well too and can leave a scent mark in case you need to identify the baddie.

Pen as stabbing object

Sometimes I hold a pen with its pointy side out (kind of like Buffy) when I am walking alone. I would visualize how I could use the pen to stab any strangers that mean to harm me. Thank goodness I haven’t poked my eye out this way.

[Edit: Works with a key too as pointed out by Ana in the comments.]

Umbrella as a club or eye-poker

An umbrella is a very basic weapon that has many other functions. I carry an umbrella to protect myself against sun or rain but also for protection.

A closed umbrella can be used as a stick to beat off animals. The pointy ends of an open umbrella can be used to poke bad people in the eye but you will need a good aim for that.

Bag of fruits as weighted bag

On one of the nights in San Francisco, I was walking back to the hostel at an hour that I would usually be in. Heck, I’m usually back in the hostel before sundown in case of any bad incidents.

I didn’t have anything that I could use to fend off any possible attackers. The only thing heavy enough that I had was a mesh bag of oranges which I bought from San Jose. A bag of orange in hand is better than a club nowhere.

So I held on to the mesh bag and practiced swinging it like a lasso. The oranges felt heavy enough to cause damage to any assailant that might be stupid enough to come near me.

Of course, I didn’t consider what I would do if the bad guy had a gun.

Whistle as loud noise maker

Some time ago, Debbie pointed this tip from Legal Nomad’s Jodi about bringing a whistle when travelling. Since then, I try to remember to bring a whistle when I travel.

I have only used it once in Egypt when a vendor kept trying to block my way to show me his ware. I acted like a crazy lady and blew on my whistle. He got the message.

Still, my whistle is a sports whistle from the two-dollar shop so I’m not that sure if it would work sending sounds far.

Flashlight as surprise blinding light

I keep a flashlight on my day pack when I travel, this is useful to light up the interior of my bag as well as dark streets. But it’s also useful when you have a strong light that you can shine into an attacker’s eyes and hopefully blind the person momentarily.

Share how you stay safe when travelling:

Well, those are some of the strange things I have used as self-defense when travelling. Do you have other tips to share?

More information:

Around the world with The Overexposed Model

around the world with overexposed model

There’s a side of me on the internet that I’ve not shared on YQ Travelling, until today.

Back in December 2012 when I was in Singapore, I created a Tumblr called The Overexposed Model (OEM) to record ads which I’ve come across that feature an ambiguously raced young lady.

The tumblr was actually a follow up of a blog with a similar goal. The blog was called The Overexposed Big Mouth Model but it disappeared when I was trying to submit my sightings.

Since OEM was in so many ads as the generic smiling women, I thought it was fun to chronicle my discoveries. I shared the blog link with a few friends but I mostly kept it as a semi-private collection.

Then one day, a freelancer from the Phillipines asked if he could interview me about the blog as part of a feature on the model. I can now honestly say that I was in Esquire Philippines (or something like that), however not as a bikini model.

In March, the Singapore media ran out of story ideas and featured The Overexposed Model in various print and web outlets. Some readers started submitting their own sightings of OEM to the tumblr. I put those up too.

Naively, I thought that the tumblr will hibernate while I go on my four-month journey. I still keep seeing OEM.

In the beginning, it was fun spotting OEM but now it feels kind of like a nightmare. Each time I see her, there’s less giddy surprise and more “NOT AGAIN!” Of course, I still obediently take out my camera and snap her photos.

Overexposed Model in Malaysia

OEM selling ulcer medication in Sabah, Malaysia.
OEM selling ulcer medication in Sabah, Malaysia.

My first overseas sighting of OEM was back home in Sabah in a clinic. She was in a ulcer medication ad.

Overexposed Model in Greece

Overexposed Model in an optician ad in Athens, Greece.
Overexposed Model in an optician ad in Athens, Greece.

In Greece, I found OEM hawking glasses in Athens.

Overexposed Model in Argentina

Overexposed Model in Buenos Aires airport
Overexposed Model in Buenos Aires airport

I thought I was safe from OEM but I found her at Buenos Aires airport, selling some sort of travel card.

Overexposed Model in Peru

Overexposed Model on Cruz del Sur website.
Overexposed Model on Cruz del Sur website.

I found her on a bus company’s website, ready to go for an unplanned weekend travel.

Overexposed Model in a clinic ad in Arequipa, Peru.
Overexposed Model in a clinic ad in Arequipa, Peru.

In Arequipa, in a lonely building, I found her in a life size printout. I thought I should stand next to her to prove that I spotted her.

Overexposed Model in the papers in Peru.
Overexposed Model in the papers in Peru.

Then I saw her again in the papers.

Overexposed Model in San Salvador

Overexposed Model in a pharmacy ad in San Salvador
Overexposed Model in a pharmacy ad in San Salvador

When I was out window shopping, I saw her outside a supermarket.

I don’t think I will ever get used to seeing OEM in an ad. It’s funny how she’s featured in so many different countries. Does her looks makes her the everyday person of the countries she’s been featured?

Have you seen the Overexposed Model? Share where you’ve seen her in the comments below.

11 travel blogs from Asia to follow

blogging

Header image credit: Thomas Hawk

My friend D inspired me to write a post about travel blogs to follow when she asked for blog recommendation.

I started working on the post about travel blogs I follow and I realized that the majority of the blogs I was going to recommend were not from Asia. So I decided to write a new post to feature some of the blogs from Asia.

How do I define “from Asia”? I don’t have a specific rule but if the blogger is now based in Asia or was from Asia, then I’ll pile them in.

I’m only listing people I follow on a regular basis so if your favorite blogger in Asia is not in, tell me in the comments below.

Fist with rings spelling out B-L-O-G. Image credit Thomas Hawk
Fist with rings spelling out B-L-O-G. Image credit Thomas Hawk

Probably already on your reading list

Solitary Wanderer

site: http://www.solitarywanderer.com/
twitter: @ALEAHphils

You might know Aleah from her famous post “Date A Girl who Travels“. Or if you don’t know her, you might have read the post in one way or another. She’s still being awesome travelling solo so follow her on her trips.

Runaway Juno

site: http://runawayjuno.com/
twitter: @RunawayJuno

Juno was from South Korea but now she’s travelling all over the world. I love how she’s very honest about how her family perceived her travelling lifestyle. She is organizing a conference in KL called Asian Women’s Empowerment conference in November.

The Shooting Star

site: http://the-shooting-star.com/
twitter: @shivya

Besides her travel stories, Shivya shares freelance travel writing tips and travel blogging tips. I love it when pros share their tips.

Should be on your reading list

Walk Fly Pinoy

site: http://www.walkflypinoy.com/
twitter: @walkflypinoy

Paul’s post on how he has money to travel long term is good for anyone who wants to travel more. He also takes very good photos.

The Thrifty Traveller

site: http://thriftytraveller.wordpress.com/

I came across David’s blog when I was doing research for my YQ Conquers Malaysia trips. He’s very detailed about his visits to different towns in Malaysia. If you would like to know more about small town Malaysia, check out his blog. One of his latest post about following the trail of Assassin’s Creed in Istanbul is fascinating because I loved Assassin’s Creed I.

Bloggers I know in real life and are awesome online

The Nomad Damsel

site: http://nomaddamsel.wordpress.com/
twitter: @_thermar

I was there to witness Therese’s first travel blog post. *wipes tear from eyes* She touches on subject that I never thought about writing but should have. For example, squat toilets.

The Traveling Squid

site: http://thetravellingsquid.com
fb: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Travelling-Squid

Phebe travelled in India alone before. I think that should be enough reason to follow her blog. One of her latest post about whether travelling too much is a sign of discontent resonated with me.

If you read Chinese, follow them!

943 (就是省)

site: http://blog.xuite.net/iq943
fb: https://www.facebook.com/943fans

If I have to name a person who pushed me to really do this RTW, it’s 943, a Taiwanese traveller/author/money saver who wrote the book “Round the world with NT$100,000“. I didn’t know that travelling around the world doesn’t require millions of dollars and can be achieved cheaply.

Silvia the traveler

site: http://tw.myblog.yahoo.com/silvia-huang/

Another Taiwanese blogger, I loved her recent post about how we should wander around responsibly and not impulsively. She also posted a multi-part love story of her and a German boy nicknamed F. I love love stories!

If you read Indonesian,you probably already know her

Trinity, The Naked Traveler

site: http://naked-traveler.com/
twitter: @TrinityTraveler

I learned of Trinity when I bought one of her books. Trinity is now doing a RTW and I love her tweets because they are in digestible chunks of Indonesian. If you are good in Malay and Indonesia, check out her blog.

Do you have favorite travel blogs? Share them in the comment below.

Singapore’s most WTF: Haw Par Villa

haw par dance class

[This blog post contains some photos not suitable for children as they include violent torture scenes. However, nipples of merpeople have been censored. You are welcomed]

I visited Haw Par Villa some Sundays ago with D and M. It was my third visit to the “historical theme park”.  I left with the same feeling I had the two other times I went: “What on earth did I just see?”

What is Haw Par Villa? Travel site Your Singapore has a nice description:

Haw Par Villa is like no other place in the world, with over 1,000 statues and 150 dioramas that dramatise Chinese legends and folklore. Founded on Chinese legends and values, this historical theme park has large, imposing statues from famous legends of old – featuring characters like Fu Lu Shou, Confucius and the Laughing Buddha.

If you have been to Singapore multiple times and have seen almost all of the tourist attractions, you should visit Haw Par Villa.

Haw Par Villa gate

Previously, Haw Par Villa was in the middle of nowhere. Now has its own MRT stop, aptly named Haw Par Villa Station, so it’s very easy to get there.

You will definitely know if you’ve arrived at Haw Par Villa if you see concrete statues around. Yes, get yourself in there. Entrance is free!

After passing the gates, you will be guided by a bearded old man who points with two fingers. Further inside, a dancing Thai/Burmese person teaches a stance of Taichi.

Welcome to Haw Par Villa

Ten Courts of Hell

If you only have 10 minutes at Haw Par Villa, you must check out the Ten Courts of Hell so you know which court your worst enemy will go. (I now know which courts are reserved for me.)

It’s kind of funny how the crimes get repetitive but the torture scenes are always…fresh and creative.

Ten Courts of Hell

Ten Courts of Hell

Myths and legend

Besides the courts of hell, there are a lot of the statues in the villa is about Chinese folklore.

There is the usual Journey to the West (lower right) statues and also Legend of the White Snake (not in photo).

Haw Par Villa

The place has a few signs around explaining the scenes so don’t worry about not understanding them. Heck, even I don’t understand much of it.

For example, I have no idea where these topless mermaids, clammaids and crabmaids come from.

Considering how conservative we are, it’s surprising how these sea creatures have nipples. I mean, male manga characters do not have nipples but these merfolks do? That is just crazy weird. Oh, I’ve censored the nipples in case anyone gets offended by bare-breasted women sculptures with weird grins.

Modern family

Besides folklore, there are also strange statues of good-and-evil. Here are a few photos of sins and what happens to bad people (or something like that).

Haw Par Villa Modern family

(Click to enlarge)

The park/villa is quite big so be sure to have at least 45 minutes to look at everything. It’s also best to bring a few friends who can help you take photos.

Haw Par Villa

PS You are not supposed to do what I did. Hat tip to J for the giraffe pose.

To end the post, I should like to teach you the dance of my people and a bonus video!

Haw Par Villa dance class

Photo credit: Mel

[Video music credit: Also Sprach Zarathustra by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0]

Things to know about Haw Par Villa

Nitty gritty: Haw Par Villa
How to get there: Haw Par Villa MRT station
Opening time: 9 am to 7 pm (Ten courts of hell officially closes at 6 pm but caretaker wanted to be off at 5.40 pm)
Who to go with: Friends, family.
Free entrance!!!

Don’t date a girl who travels

I know kungfu

To celebrate the upcoming Valentine’s Day, I bring you this post about why you should not date a girl who travels.

This post was inspired by Date A Girl Who Travels but is an antithesis of the original post.

This is a girl who travels, waving goodbye to her love life
This is a girl who travels, waving goodbye to her love life

Don’t date a girl who travels. Travel is her current love. Perhaps you will share the number 1 position with travel but most likely you will be her second.

Don’t date a girl who travels. Weekends and holidays are best spent on the road for her. If you want to stay at home with the Xbox, then this girl is not for you.

Don’t date a girl who travels. Long distance relationships are not easy. Not even with Skype and Whatsapp.

Don’t date a girl who travels. Her money will be spent on trips but hopefully she has some savings for her emergency fund.

Don’t date a girl who travels. Makeup might not be among her prized possessions so don’t expect her to come out looking like an airbrushed model. Oh, you like women without makeup?

Don’t date a girl who travels. She will be fiercely independent. She might want to settle down eventually but for now she wants to freedom to roam the earth.

Don’t date a girl who travels. The pseudo-motivational quote “Experience is the only thing worth paying for” was made up by people who don’t own a lot of things. (Read point 5 of this article.)

Don’t date a girl who travels. When you both are lost, she will either ask for directions herself or set off on her own to find the right path.

I know kungfu!
I know kungfu!

Don’t date a girl who travels. You’ll think her sense of adventure can get her into trouble overseas and doubt that her wits and common sense will keep herself safe.

Don’t date a girl who travels. Authentic food served in the town’s “ethnic” restaurant might not taste as good as the food she ate by the road side.

Don’t date a girl who travels. She will leave town the next day with one of you left with a broken heart.

Don’t date a girl who travels. Falling in love on the road is too easy. Jealousy will drive you mad.

Don’t date a girl who travels. You never know when her next stop will be. If you need to track her every single step, you will not be dating her any longer.

Don’t date a girl who travels. You might not win her heart by impressing her with geographical knowledge. There is no point in reciting to her the population or GDP of a country if she already had mingled with the locals.

Don’t date a girl who travels. Settle for a girl who wants stability in her life: a house, two cars and 2.5 children. It’s much easier to satisfy those needs.

When you do find a girl who travels, ask yourself if you are ready to let her spread her wings. Will you be able to wait for her to come back? Or are you willing to travel with her (if she agrees to)?

Epilogue

This post will brand me as Miss Forever Alone. Yeah, I don’t get a lot of dates.

I don’t remember when I read the original Date A Girl Who Travels by Aleah Phils. It might have been on Facebook or shared by a friend. I think I commented that I need to find a guy who appreciates a girl who travels.

I’m sure there’s one out there who’s not already taken by other lady travelers. Until we meet.

Would you date a girl who travels?