Having just written up a blog about an unexpected detour in Melaka, Malaysia, for work (“Not According to Plan”) got me to thinking, though … about all of the people I’ve met through each of my trips. I might not always remember their names, but I’ve certainly remembered their faces and the experiences I’ve shared with them.
If you happen to be one of my Facebook friends, your news feed has probably been inundated lately with photo albums of all the food that I ate while recently in Singapore and Malaysia. And not just once, but twice. And while I certainly savored all of the many—emphasis on many—amazing meals that I had, I think that what I really loved most were all of the experiences that I shared with friends, both new and old, and family, many of them over a good meal, too. Just take a look …
When you travel on a press trip, it's crucial that you have a good group of fellow journalists. Otherwise, it could easily wind up being a press trip from hell—or at least one with a lot of funny stories to tell afterward, I suppose. Lucky for me, our group was great, and we bonded easily over pints of Tiger Beer.
Another group bonding experience took place when we traveled to Singapore's Geylang district to try the ultra-pungent durian. Much props to Nick (below) and Kim who braved the smell to give it a taste, even if they didn't become fans of the "King of Fruits" afterward, like I did.
Taking care of us throughout our trip was our guide, Toon Hee, who also happens to be a busker on Orchard Road in Singapore. His speciality? Juggling.
Sometimes, just the smallest encounter can leave a big impression, too. Like when this little boy ran up to me as soon as I sat down to eat lunch one day in Kampong Glam, in Singapore. I think he might've been enamored with my food or my camera but, either way, my unexpected dining companion didn't leave my side until his parents dragged him home.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: dancing kids are adorable. These kids in Melaka, Malaysia, were performing for the Deepavali holiday at a local mall. So cute, aren't they?
What's even better than dancing kids? It might be senior citizens who like to rock out, like this man who literally stole the show at the Chinatown Night Market in Melaka. True rock star status, I tell you.
No matter where you go, nothing compares to reconnecting with family and friends that you haven't seen in quite some time. Seeing my cousin Christina again, following her whirlwind travels around the globe for English First's Marco Polo Project, was so much fun. I'd forgotten how much I missed traveling with her ...
... and with her boyfriend, Coco. Together, the three of us basically ate a lot—and often.
We even got to meet the chef who prepared an elaborate, five-course dinner for us at Suntec Singapore's Pearl River Palace restaurant.
While in Melaka, we literally stumbled onto Villa Sentosa during a long walk. Abdul Rahim Haji Hashim (below left), the owner of the house, was nice enough to give us a tour, and to analyze my handwriting (and personality) in the process.
I've also realized that, whether or not you travel with family, you eventually learn to make your own along the way. At least that's how I felt with Christina and Coco's dear friends, Li Sun and Christophe and their daughter, Sahra, at their Old Town Guesthouse in Melaka. They were so kind, and so welcoming, that I truly felt at home. And isn't that exactly the kind of hospitality you hope to find when you're so far from home?