5 reasons why you should quit your job to travel in your 20s. #5 was my biggest motivation.

Last week, I talked about why you shouldn’t quit your job to travel when you are in your twenties.

Most of the feedback I received applauded me for bringing out the ugly side of the truth. Thanks! But sorry I have to burst that bubble and bring out the nice side of the truth too.

Continue reading “5 reasons why you should quit your job to travel in your 20s. #5 was my biggest motivation.”

Lazing in Nasca/ Dealing with street harassment [YQrtw Day 113 Aug 1]

lazing in nasca

Location: Nasca, Peru

I was supposed to meet up with my schoolmate Tasha* (not her real name) in Nasca yesterday but she did not arrive. To tell you the truth, I was looking forward to some more solo travelling so I was slightly relieved that I could make my own travel plans.

Yesterday, I told the hostel owner about my travel plans to Lima. He suggested a bus that leaves Nasca at midnight, reaching Lima in the morning at around 7. I decided that I will take this bus instead of making a transfer at Ica because the buses from Ica to Lima will reach in the evening when the sun is down.

After breakfast, the hostel owner, Fernando* (his real name), was going to send off a parcel so he brought me to the bus terminal to get my ticket.

Here in Peru, people send off parcels not through the post office but through long-distance bus companies. I thought it was an interesting way of mailing.

I bought my midnight bus ticket and chose the seats on the lower floor since I did not want to have another episode of motion sickness. Tickets on the lower deck were 20 soles (~S$10) more expensive but that’s not much of a difference.

Nasca’s Thursday market

On the drive back to the hostel, Fernando pointed out the weekly market that was going on. I decided to visit the market after I slapped on a lot of sunscreen.

It’s quite comforting to find that weekly markets look the same around the world. During this trip, I visited the weekly markets in Florence and Buenos Aires. Wares are displayed haphazardly on raffia sheets under raffia sheet roofs and everything is messy.

Nasca Thursday market
Nasca Thursday market

Giant pumpkins at Nasca market

Walking around Nasca

Compared to Arica, Chile, where I also spent two days recuperating, Nasca is a more exciting town. By exciting, I mean that there are at least 5 streets with shops, compared to not many in Arica.

Puppies for sale

Gate inspired by Nasca lines

Mural in Nasca

Mural in Nasca

At lunch, I was surprised to find that my receipt had a familiar name.

Black Sirius?

Dealing with street harassment

Remember last time I wrote about how some men on the street would shout racial slurs when I was in Arequipa?

I didn’t anymore of that in Ollantaytambo nor Cusco so I thought all that was over. Unfortunately, I encountered some today but I found a way to fight back.

Today’s first episode happened when I was walking on the pavement. An older man was walking rather slowly so I overtook him. I heard him grumble really loudly and knew that he was talking about me (but not to me).

I thought of ignoring him and walking away faster but something came over me. I stopped in my tracks and turned back to look at him.

He was still mumbling. I stared back behind my sunglasses. He walked on, still mumbling but talking about something else. I followed him quite closely behind, glaring at his head while he snuck looks behind.

I stopped shadowing him when I found a fruit juice stall and went there for a drink.

The second episode happened while I was crossing Plaza de Armas, heading back to the hostel. I had my umbrella out to shade the sun and I heard words that sounded like, “China… China… Wang wang…”

I stopped, turned to my right and saw a gang of young people under the shade. They didn’t make any noise while I glared at them (still behind my glasses). I had the intention of walking to them and shouting back if they directed their speech at me.

I rolled my eyes and said loudly in Malay, “Bising-bising”, meaning “making noise”. As I continued my walk, I thought I heard a clap from behind me.

The third and last episode was when I was walking to Plaza De Armas to look for dinner. I thought I was safe under the covers of the night but I heard, “China. Ching chong. Ching chong” when I was about to cross the street.

I looked for the source and saw two young men with painted clown faces. They didn’t make any noise. One of them looked at his shoes while the other nudged him.

Again in Malay, I said, “Jangan bising-bising.” (Don’t make noise.) I walked off, thankful that they did not attack me.

I feel a lot better after standing up to these roadside bullies. I think I chose to use Malay as retorts because it didn’t sound Chinese so no one can make fake Chinese sounds back at me.

I don’t recommend doing this in places where men are known to attack women. But if you, like me, have an umbrella in hand and are not afraid to use it then consider fighting back. Maybe just these three times.

How I do my hair for long-term travel

YQ on a bad hair day

While I was planning my round-the-world trip, I had thought seriously about shaving my head before going on the trip. I reasoned that it would cost me less shampoo (but more sun block) and would repulse any potential harasser (along with suitors, I suppose but that is alright).

I googled a few questions to figure out how women can take care of a shaved head. Nothing much appeared as most posts were dedicated to male head shaving and praising the bravery of women who shear their hair for charity.

Alas, I did not shave my head. My mother advised that a bald head will be terribly cold in winter. I also thought that it might attract bad sort of attention, seeing a female person with no hair.

I did not shave my head but went for a really short hair cut. This was for many reasons:

  1. Less drying time
  2. Less grooming time (I don’t even use a comb that much)
  3. Less shampoo
  4. According to a hoax that is repeatedly circulated on my Facebook wall by others, rapists rarely not target women with short hair. (Pretty bullshit but what the heck.)
One of the very few photogenic photos of me.
One of the very few photogenic photos of me.

Even though I thought the hair style would keep for 4 months, by the end of the second month, my hair was growing past acceptable lengths for short hair.

I looked like I was wearing a ball of iron wool with my tough black hair.

Fringe too long.
Fringe too long.

CIY: Cut-it-yourself

Instead of heading to a hairdresser’s, I decided to do it myself.

YQ trims her bangs while mom takes photos.
YQ trims her bangs while mom takes photos.

As you can see, I was using a regular ole scissors which did its job of sniping away the ends. My bangs are still thick now but at least they do not cover my eyes.

Trim it with a razor

One day, I realized that the hair at the back of my neck had crept out and turned into a mini mullet.

Mini mullet
Mini mullet

The hair was too short to tie up so I decided to snip it off. However, when I was in the hostel bathroom, I realized that I did not bring my scissors. The only sharp thing I had was a razor so I used that instead.

It’s rather difficult using a razor on the back of my head. Many times, I had to look back into the mirror to double check my hair length. But the best way to determine if my hair was cut in a straight line was to feel it.

After felling my neck, I chopped off more hair and now I have a bob again.

After razoring off my mullet.
After razoring off my mullet.

Color it yourself

If you want to change your hair color while travelling, here’s a step-by-step post on dying your hair in a hostel.

Further reading:

Go Girl’s Guide post on doing hair for long term travel.

What hairstyle is travel friendly? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Joining the ‘Green Tour’ of Cappadocia, Turkey [YQrtw Day 52 May 29]

Göreme panorama

Location: Goreme, Turkey

It’s a little funny how all the travel agents in Cappadocia have the same itinerary. (I didn’t do a scientific test but 5 out of 5 tour companies I’ve seen have the same route.)

Today was our turn to go on the “Green Tour” route which would take us to Göreme panorama, Derinkuyu underground city, Ihlara valley, Yaprakhisar, Selime monastery, Pigeon valley viewpoint.

The only thing I was expecting from this tour was the 3.5km walk in the valley. Remember, walking and I are not the best buddies so I wasn’t looking forward it to that much.

A bus full of Asians

Our minivan arrived at our hotel slightly past 9:30am. Mom and I got on the wrong bus before this so we were careful to check that this was the right bus.

The bus picked up several people from their hotels and from the travel company HQ. Interestingly, the bus was full of people with east Asian heritage (so PC!).

There were two men (who we later found out to be from Singapore), us Malaysian Chinese and 7 Korean people.

Statistically speaking, the chance of having a bus full of Asians here in Cappadocia is not that high so I wonder if someone pulled some strings, thinking we would be more comfortable with each other, or something.

So as the itinerary said, our first stop was the Göreme panorama. Panorama stops are a big thing here in Cappadocia because the landscape is pretty amazing.

Overlooking the Göreme panorama

Göreme panorama

These pointy mountains are the result of residues from volcanic eruptions. The walls of the mountains are soft, allowing the residents to cut through the stones to make cave houses for themselves.

While waiting for the bus, we spotted a pomegranate tree with baby fruits. It’s a shame that it’s not pomegranate season now because I could use some of those juicy seedy fruit.

Baby promegranate

Derinkuyu underground city

After a long journey during which I napped, we arrived at Derinkuyu underground city. We could only visit up to the 8th underground floor of this now-abandoned city but it was fun hiding inside the cool caves.

YQ in an underground city

Some of the more interesting points of the tour was the visit to the graveyard/morgue which did not have any dead things in currently.

It wasn’t very fun crouching and climbing the stairs to get to one floor or another so those with back problems should be aware of this before signing up for the tour.

Ihlara valley

Ilhara Valley

After the underground city, it was a 50-minute bus ride to the Ihlara Valley where we had to walk a lot before we could lunch.

Even though the valley was pretty, the exercise I got getting down the stairs into the valley made me a little grouchy.

Ihlara valley

At the end of the staircase was a little cave where cartoon Christian frescos remained. The paintings reminded me of this news when compared with Renaissance period Christian works.

Christian fresco in Ihlara valley

Our 3.5 km walk didn’t seem too long since there was a little river with clear water and the trees shaded us from the sun.

In between the start and the end, there was a small rest area where enterprising locals made 3 lira orange juices and boys chased ducks.

3 lira orange juice

Boy chases duck

Mom and I survived the 3.5 km walk. Everyone was treated to lunch by the river. Drinks of course require extra payment.

YQ in Iharla Valley

Yaprakhisar caves

Following our itinerary, we arrived at the Yaprakhisar caves which included the Selime Monastery. There is more than enough climbing for a lifetime at this place.

Yaprakhisar caves

One of the cave chapels still have signs of frescos but everything was covered in what looked like black soot.

Far from this location was the set for the filming of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. From where we stood, we saw pointy mountains with holes as windows and doors, but not anything more.

Surprise location

Well well well, one of our last stops turned out to be a souvenir shop that sold onyx and other jewellery.

I managed to win a low-grade onyx paperweight by remembering that Cappadocia meant “beautiful horses”. (My answer was actually, “Many horses? Beautiful horses? Strong horses?” I need to cover every possible answer.)

Onyx paperweight

Right next to the shop was our last stop: the Pigeon Valley Panorama.

Pigeon valley panorama

There were a few pigeons around but I was more curious about the stall selling “Turkish Cappadocia Naturel Viagra”. I never found out what the place sold.

Naturel Viagra, anyone?

Back to the bus we goGoreme bus station

That night, we still had to take the bus from Goreme to Pamukkale. The bus ride was about 11 hours and I was stuck in front of a lady who seemed to be leaning forward alot, bumping into my seat from time to time.

I couldn’t recline so I ended up with a stiff neck when I woke up.

More on the blog:

Last week, I was in Greece and I visited Delos, the birthplace of Apollo.

Welcoming mom and her jetlag to Istanbul [YQrtw Day 48 May 25]

Haghia Sophia

Location: Istanbul, Turkey

As I mentioned in my old post talking about Turkey, my mom has joined in on my round-the-world trip during the Turkey leg (lol) of my trip.

This is the first time that she’s travelling to Europe so I promised to pick her up when she arrives. The hostel I was staying at had a 5:15am shuttle for 5 euro and I gladly paid it so I do not need to figure out the public transport.

Since there was not much traffic at 5:15 am, the bus reached the airport in 15 minutes time. That was majorly fast.

When the shuttle bus dropped off passengers at the international departure hall, I asked the driver if he was going to the international arrivals, thinking that he would pick up the other passengers.

Mom didn’t come out into the arrival halls until an hour after the plane landed. We took the tram from the airport back to my hostel.

We got off our tram one stop too late because I didn’t remember the stop correctly. However, we were in luck as the famous pastry shop, HafIz Mustafa 1864, was just in front.

We breakfasted on three buns, Turkish tea and a cafe latte. The food in the display window looked more attractive than our brown buns but no one was buying the Turkish delights that early in the morning.

Sweets at Hafiz Mustafa 1864
Sweets at Hafiz Mustafa 1864

We got back to my hostel. I quickly packed my things and we shifted to another hotel down the road. The new room was huge and has three beds. How awesome is that.

The next thing I had on my to-do was less awesome. Remember how I bought a new SIM yesterday? Turns out, even though I paid 25 lira for 1GB internet, the data package was never linked to my phone. (I found out from the guy working at Turkcell in the airport.)

Despite being confrontation-phobic, I had to go back and plead for my 25 lira package.

When I got back, the lady who served me wasn’t in. None of her Turkish colleagues spoke enough English but one of them have the bright idea to bring up Google Translate where we “chat” with translations.

After they found out about my problem, they had a heated discussion and even called someone up. However, they did give me my 1GB data back so I am very thankful.

List of places we visited:

Basillica cistern
Basillica cistern
Haghia Sophia
Haghia Sophia
Exterior of Blue Mosque
Exterior of Blue Mosque
Asian part of Istanbul
Asian part of Istanbul

When was the last time you travelled with your mom? How was the experience?

Greece day 3: New Acropolis Museum and Rick Steve’s walking tour [YQrtw Day 40 May 17]

I was planning to laze around and visit the New Acropolis Museum later in the afternoon. But when I checked my notes, I found out that the museum closes at 15:00.

I guess that means lazing around will have to come later. [I just looked at my notes again and realized that I confused National Archaeological Museum with Acropolis Museum’s time.]

I first knew of the New Acropolis Museum when D e-mailed me on June 15, 2009, an article about the museum’s opening. I was in my 9th month at work and my reply to the e-mail was:

I’ve actually forgotten that I want to go to Greece one day.

Then D reminded me that we shouldn’t become work drones. So I put the Acropolis Museum into my mental list of Places To-Go and thought about Greece again.

The Acropolis Museum

When I got to the museum, I thought to myself: I AM FINALLY HERE! (Oh wait, I think I did that at the Parthenon yesterday.)

The museum’s entrance had a surprise waiting. Parts of the floor was clear (with white polka dots), allowing visitors to see the excavation site underneath. There was also an excavated site that was open air and silly people tossed coins into it.

Before the Acropolis Museum's entrance
Before the Acropolis Museum’s entrance

The entrance to the museum was only 6 euro. It was so much cheaper than the other places I’ve been in Italy. I love Greece very much just for this.

Photo taking wasn’t allowed in the museum. I didn’t do any sketches like I did with David but I did sneak photos of the non-exhibits.

Athena guides children in the museum.
Athena guides children in the museum.

There were several of these signs saying “A Day at the Acropolis Museum with the Goddess Athena”. It was the cutest thing I’ve seen in a museum.

The description was in kid-language and was more fun to read than the adult-language sign.

Clear floor of the Acropolis Museum
Clear floor of the Acropolis Museum

The nightshift staff at my hotel, Hellen, warned me about the museum’s see-through floors so I wore pants to the place.

At one section, you can see the museum people cleaning up some of the statues. On the same level, the laser cleaning is covered up with a curtain.

View of Parthenon from the Acropolis Museum
View of Parthenon from the Acropolis Museum

On the third floor of the Acropolis Museum is a segment dedicated to the Parthenon. That floor is specially designed to face the same direction as the Parthenon is facing. It also has steel columns in between the carvings to show how the items look like in the temple.

I felt that the museum was a little small since it didn’t take me much time to finish all the items on display.

Still, it was a good museum because of all the Parthenon carvings and Athena statues.

Lunch at Smile Cafe Restaurant

I didn't eat the dog. Honestly.
I didn’t eat the dog. Honestly.

I had lunch at a tourist restaurant. Why is it touristy? Because it prints out maps of the Acropolis area and invites tourists to eat there.

The food was good for a tourist restaurant. I ordered from the Crisis Menu, a set lunch for only 7.50 euro.

I finally had tasty bread (which I never had in Italy). The cheese in the Greek salad was nice. I ate the tomatos and some cucumbers of the salad, thankful that it wasn’t the regular raw vegetable.

The gyros with pork was lovely, although I thought that I should stop eating Middle Eastern cuisine and be more adventurous.

It began raining while I was eating. Thank goodness I have my umbrella with me. I dropped by a coffee place for a 1 euro cafe latte before setting off to find the travel agency that sells bus tickets to Istanbul.

Silver Star Travel was easy to find, thanks to Google Maps. The 14-hour bus ride from Athens to Istanbul cost 60 euro (or 56 euro after -ahem- student discount). The price is half of flying to Istanbul and the time spent is half of taking connecting ferries.

Since my missions for the day was accomplished, I had to find something to do.

As usual, I hopped on a random bus that took me to a random place. And I took a not-so-random bus back to the city center.

Rick Steve’s audio tour

Rick Steve has an audio tour for Athens city so I decided to spend the afternoon walking around with my headphones in my ear.

His audio tours are really awesome. I went into different nooks and crannies of Athens. Climbed steep hills. Passed pretty Mediterranean houses. And learned more about the city than I would wandering aimlessly.

Overexposed Model in Greece
Overexposed Model in Greece

When the tour ended, so did my day. I bought 1kg each of cherries and strawberries (what was I thinking!) before heading back to the hotel to rest and write.

Until tomorrow!

6th day at sea: Not winning Bingo [YQrtw Day 17 Apr 24]


Location: Legend of the Sea [Day 6]

Watched Apollo 13 in the morning.

I spent US$21 on Bingo cards and “tikam”.

I’ve never played “real” Bingo before. The type of Bingo I play in primary school was hand drawn Bingo in which you win if you have a row of 5 number.


That was why I didn’t really know how to play real Bingo. The announcer said something like “O 70. O 70.” I didn’t know I can look directly under row O for that number.

Happy Sri Lankan New Year! [YQrtw Day 7 Apr 14]

sri lanka new year dishes

This morning at around 4 a.m., I was startled by what seemed like gun shots. I was too lazy to get out of bed to check out what it was but my extremely myopic eyes saw bursts of color at the window.


Later in the morning, as I was packing for check out, one of the caretakers of the hostel told me to go down for New Year celebration.

A glorious spread of sweet things were on the table when I got down. I’m most glad that I didn’t have to worry about where to find food for the morning.

Sri Lanka New Year treats

Everyone got a chance to light the oil lamps.

My photo was taken by an older French man who didnt know Instagram.

The sweets were really really sweet. I had a hard time biting off some of the pastries but it was a great sugar rush.

Look! The president even sent me (and probably millions of others) a message for the new year. Haha!

[Today’s summary: New Year feast. 3rd class train to Colombo, during which some passengers confronted a monk who might have harassed me. It’s complicated! Stayed in new hotel room after late-lunch/early dinner. Off to Dubai tomorrow night!]

Sri Lanka: Anuradhapura Sacred City [YQrtw Day 3 Apr 10]

You would think that after I have 3G on my phone, I would stop getting lost? Nope, I got plenty lost today too.

Good news is that I’ve probably cycled an extra 5km everyday so I will return home fit and lean.

anuradhapura day 2

Back to today’s programing. I decided to visit the real Sacred City of Anuradhapura. This means buying an entrance ticket, instead of cycling into the sites that do not require a ticket.

Unfortunately, the ticket was 3,125 rupees. That’s US$25, according to their exchange rate. I only prepared 2,500 rupees (based on SGD conversions) for the ticket and didn’t bring much extra.

I managed to pay for my pricey ticket which was only checked 3 times at rather boring sites. If I had followed the advice of a travel blogger and cycled in without a ticket, I would be 3k rupees richer and can have 19 sets of curry and rice plus papaya juice.

The sun was unbearably hot. I rode the bicycle with an improvised riding hood made out of my purple pashmina and a safety pin. I look like purple Casper, floating on the village roads of Anuradhapura.

It’s rather a miracle that I have not passed out from the sun.

I brought along a 1.5-liter bottle of drinking water (60 rupees) and a tumbler of coffee from the morning.

I also brought along three bananas, two of which were conjoined. I snacked on the banana for a temporary sugar rush while sightseeing in the heat.

The best part about today’s visit was my cycling. Even though I got lost many times, it’s fun to be able to set my own visit times. I saw a lot of tourists on tours who got off to take photos and zoomed to the next site. Or maybe I’m having a case of sour grapes.

YQrtw: Why Hong Kong

Hong Kong. Panorama of the harbour, Old timey Hong Kong

Today is the end of my stream of posts of countries I am visiting while on my round-the-world (RTW) trip.

The last stop of RTW is Hong Kong!

Hong Kong. Panorama of the harbour, Old timey Hong Kong
Old timey Hong Kong

Credit: The National Archives UK

Confession: I’ve not been to Hong Kong. [Insert surprised gasp from the audience here.]

In Singapore, Hong Kong, along with Bangkok, seems to be taken for granted as a place everyone has been to. Not sure why these two locations are so popular among Singaporeans.

While I’ve not been to Hong Kong, I have been to Macao. Many people tell me that having been to Macao does not make up for not having been to Hong Kong.

My plan for Hong Kong is simple: Rest, shop and eat.

Since Hong Kong will be my first East Asian stop after many months, I will probably gorge myself with loads of Chinese food. YUMMY!

I was thinking of visiting Tim Ho Wan, dubbed the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world, but after reading The Telegraph article about how horrendous the queue is, I think I’ll pass.

I’ll settle for a regular ole dim sum place and Hong Kong cafe where they serve cheese baked rice and milk tea.

Any Hong Kong eating tips for me?