USA: Washington DC, 2018 | Part II

wonder what’s in my giant suitcases? it’s embarrassingly stuffed with Oreos and some 3-in-1 Milo. breakfast was made with the attempt of reducing them. c’mon, they’re serving their purpose!

I set out my journey by taking the free tram (never took one before in my life). I didn’t know I was at the last stop until everyone alighted. it’s supposed to stop at Union Station, no? confused, I broke away from the crowd and took a detour unexpectedly.

back when we had the trip to Washington, my friend posted a photo of a corridor that caught my attention. he couldn’t remember where it is (“one of those buildings”). turned out that it’s just outside of Union Station. I didn’t notice it the night before because I was busy weighing my choices + getting distracted by the lit dome, hoping for some action sequence, maybe a helicopter chop, chop, chopping above and Nicholas Cage descending from a rope stair.

anyway, while I was mesmerised with the beauty, I had my first stranger interaction. seeing that I was busy with my camera, a working class man offered to take a picture for me. I know, what are the chances of someone running away with your big, bulky DSLR? but there’s this funny ad that I once saw, (sadly, I can’t find it anymore), where a photographer offers to take photos for strangers and then run away with their camera to capture the strangers’ reaction. plus in my head, there’re ten thousand ways to rob a camera, (though most of them aren’t viable). anyway, spoiler ahead: the photos he took of me were okay.

first stop was, of course, Capitol Building. the last time we’re here, we didn’t make it down to the visitor center. this time I did. that is, after spending a good fifteen minutes or so under the sun, trying to get a good photo of the dome.

upon entrance, people were being rejected to enter from the security gate because of the water they carry. not wanting to embarrass myself, I dumped my water to the grass. usually I’d be worried, but in big cities, everywhere you go, there’re always water fountains and clean bathroom, and that’s what I love in America. I know Malaysia is still a developing country, but hopefully one day we’ll come to this point.

it was such a shame that I didn’t know that I could watch the congress in session. if I did, I would’ve planned it in advance. channeling my #NerdyRuo. otherwise, there’s the exhibition hall that you can visit.

anyway, after some time in the dark hall reading about the dome (pretty impressive), it’s time for the next stop—The Library of Congress. it’s another photo that’s posted by my friend which caught my eye. the details of the interior are just… *inserts Owen Wilson’s WOW* just look at it for yourself.

my favourite thing (so hard to choose!) in this library should be all the famous, remarkable quotes on the ceiling. the one that first caught my attention was this—"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings."

then, I made my way to the National Air and Space Museum. again, there’s a security check. I was puzzled with the tight security at first. then, I realized, “oh, this is DC, the capital. c’mon.” most places have bag scan, or at the least, a hand search. now looking back, you know what, America, forget about fences or teachers learning how to shoot, maybe you should just put these machines at school entrances. get some control on your gun control yo.

anyway, I knew this museum because of… *drumrolls* yes you got it, my friend’s Instagram post, again. XD jeez, do I have any of my own ideas? apparently Night At The Museum was filmed here?

but before I was at the museum, my stomach was already growling. a guest at the water park who’s from DC told me that there’s a restaurant offering good Malaysian food in DC. alas, I couldn’t find it, so in my indecisiveness, I resorted to eating at the museum in the end. pretty sure if I were travelling with pals there would be sounds of complaints but I really don’t mind much when it comes to food. I sat at a spot with sunlight and enjoyed my lunch.

you wouldn’t imagine how much time I had spent at the museum. almost three hours of reading stuffs and playing around with the interactive exhibits, which I love a lot. the How Things Fly part of the museum made me miss Physics class. and c’mon lah, there’s no broken stuff whatsoever unlike here.

it’s partly also because of my indecisiveness (again). I’d wanted to visit Newseum (journalism fans out there, anyone?) initially but my itinerary was running an hour late. so might as well just hang in this museum, right? so I bade goodbye to the museum. I mean… it’s been three hours, hello? at last I skipped Newseum to go straight to the National Gallery of Art.

I didn’t have any good photo of the National Gallery of Art, but some interesting things happen while I was there.

there was, of course, the bag check again (ugh). that’s not the interesting part. somehow, I made a swift turn into the visitor centre to grab a brochure because I thought I didn’t wanna waste my time finding my way in this big, art maze. the friendly elderly man at the desk asked me if I needed any help and realised that my huge backpack was somehow allowed in, so he advised me to sling it to a side so it wouldn’t be noticed. hey, thanks man!

the brochure that grabbed my attention was the one with Van Gogh’s face on it. surprise, surprise. I didn’t know they have Van Gogh’s work here…

finally at the gallery exhibiting his work, I plopped down on a sofa and just… look at the paintings. after so many Madonna and Child (I swear, they’re the art world equivalent of pop songs) and other works that do with religion, it’s pretty good to see something different.\\

there’s this guy taking photos really, really up close to the painting with his phone, as though he’s looking for some secret Van Gogh code in it. the Vincent Van Gogh code, Professor Langdon?

“Excuse me,” a voice next to me said, “may I know what picture you’re taking?”

“Oh, just… a picture of a picture.” I replied rather awkwardly.

the middle-aged man continued, “are you Van Gogh fan?”

now, here’s a man, sitting on this sofa long before me, just looking at the paintings, and at the people looking at the paintings. so I said, honestly, “not really.”

I’m not a die-hard Van Gogh fan, no, didn’t know much about him. only heard bits and pieces about him from my good friend Tumblr. I love Starry Starry Night for the fact that many of us see the night sky the same way (thanks to the ever growing timelapse video on the net) but this guy saw it so differently and beautifully.

he laughed. he said that’s fine. in fact that’s actually good, because I can really tell which painting I like. I told him, of all the paintings currently hanging on the wall, I like his self-portrait best. I like the blue in the background. it’s very moody.

“What about Roses?” he asked.

I thought that’s not quite like Van Gogh. to be frank, if it weren’t for the brochure / leaflet / whatever you call it, I wouldn’t’ve known that that’s his painting.

another lady joined in the conversation and said, “that’s because he was trying to make money!”

we chuckled. God, nothing beats people who share the same humour. it made me fell instantly in love with galleries.

I pointed to the painting next to Roses—Farmhouse in Provence and said I actually like that one more than Roses. it felt more Van Gogh to me. he then explained to me what he thought is so good about that painting. the man in the painting was Van Gogh’s best friend. the postman, I assume? (see, I told you I’m not a die-hard Van Gogh fan) he asked if I know how Van Gogh died.

unsure, I said, “uh… he… cut his ear?”

this got him. losing an ear led Van Gogh to his death, yeah, really, Ruo Ling, just what the hell were you thinking? I was ignorant so he proceeded to tell me that he shot himself on that very field in that painting. and that’s the story.

silence followed as we continued contemplating the art pieces. a moment later, he said, “you know the thing about Van Gogh? No one buys his painting, yet, he still draws, for fifteen years. Why do you think so?”

I continued staring at the paintings because I thought the question was rhetorical at first. realizing that he was waiting for an answer, I said, gingerly, “he is… crazy?”

he laughed again this time. I like how my new friend laughed. taking his time to appreciate all this silliness and to only reply when he’s ready. I laughed too and to my defence, I said, “I mean… he cut his ear!”

he replied, “well, I was gonna say perseverance… but he is crazy too.” and we both laughed again.

ain’t it weird that one can share a similar sense of humour with another person who’s double her age? in fact, I find that I’m always more chatty with middle-aged people when working at the water park. maybe it’s seeing too much of life and accepting all the foolishness that it is, thus, sharing the same sick humour.

it was a few months later when I had the chance to watch Loving Vincent in the cinema that I knew what he’s trying to say about Van Gogh’s passion and determination.

we parted ways after some general topics, agreeing that I should stop taking picture of a picture, because they’re so… Googleable. you know, when Google Image Search is full of the similar photos… and that I should take it the Vincent-Van-Gogh-code way since it could be my one and only time to be this up close with these paintings. we also noted that life's pretty odd in that in a few days, he’ll be closer to my home (he’s based in Vietnam) while I’ll be closer to his home, and I’ll be travelling the path that he’s travelled in the past few weeks.

I’d thought of walking to Lincoln Memorial but then I saw a few people standing in line at a bus stop. so I took a $1 and got on the bus but the driver said, “nah, just get on.” I insisted on paying but then he said something like, “it’s passed the time” or something like that. shit, did I do something wrong again? T~T

I really, really didn’t want someone to run off with my camera or my phone, yeah? so I tagged along this kind-looking person who’s sitting in front of me in the bus so I could ask her to help me take a photo. but then the vibe wasn’t right. then, I noticed this family speaking Malaysian Bahasa Melayu. trying my best to you know, jadi kawan, I went ahead and asked, in BM (HAHAHA oh God now thinking back I really wanna laugh at my desperation) if the daughter could help me take a photo. gotta send it to my mom so she knows I’m safe.

since I took the bus, I’m now running early. so I just sat at the stairs facing the Monument, swiping my phone while getting used to being alone. it suddenly hit me that, OH MY GOD I FORGOT TO PRINT MY BUS TICKETS. distressed, I texted Aaron (as if he could magically bring me my tickets), figuring how to overcome yet another hurdle in this trip while overlooking the city, thinking, “where the hell do I look for a printer?!?!”

I couldn’t remember what made me felt assured that things would go smoothly. somehow, I just went on with my day without giving any damn about those tickets.

I walked the tree-lined path (not pictured) to Martin Luther King Jr.’s Memorial, all while appreciating the good weather, although I was sweating a lot, and the fact that I was at a very walkable city. throughout the day, I could see that some people had already reset themselves and gone back to their daily routine for the rest of the year, while some were still trying to catch the tail of summer with their kids. it was nice.

I figured that there would be many tourists at the Lincoln Memorial catching the sunset. so, I’d planned to do it at Lake Basin. it’s actually the highlight of my plan, haha, ‘cause I was excited to get a photo of the Washington Monument in the evening sun that’s different from the usual angle from Lincoln Memorial.

granted, there’s no one there except mosquitoes swarming around at dusk. growing up in Malaysia, I thought it wouldn’t be such a big deal. I was wrong. holy crap, the mozz fest was HORRIBLE.

I shot a timelapse while non-stop swatting the mosquitoes away till sundown and walked back to Lincoln Memorial to catch the monument at night. remember I said that I’m glad that drink fountains and bathrooms can be easily found? guess what, the water that came out from this fountain was yellowish. I was doomed. I can’t go without plain water for more than half an hour.

when I was finally back to Lincoln Memorial and prepared to take a photo, my camera died, like died DIED. not even the pull-battery-out-and-stick-it-in-again trick would work. I had the crazy idea of borrowing from some Nikon user, but then borrowing a battery just to shoot a photo? I fit perfectly well into the “Japanese tourist” stereotype. 😐

I was pretty upset. I mean, I came all the way to DC to catch the lit dome at night (cues action sequence fantasy again) and there wasn’t a point to see it without my camera (maybe I am truly a “Japanese tourist” at heart). you can tell it’s a hard decision. in the end, I reluctantly called an UberShare (one of the best inventions, seriously) and got back to my dorm.

my new friend had told me that DC serves great coffee. unfortunately, this girl doesn’t do coffee. I was hoping that maybe I could still visit a cafe for a quick breakfast, but it turned out that I woke up earlier than these businesses did. in the end, I cashed out and bought some okay-only-lah food from the grocery store. the ATM that’s built into a hole in the wall was fascinating to me. (channeling my #GeekRuo). I don’t think this type of thing exist in Malaysia, does it? we don’t have good sidewalks to begin with. they’re usually terribly made, ill-maintained, vandalised and badly designed. I mean, sometimes the sidewalk just narrows and then… disappears completely and you find yourself walking dangerously next to the open road. ah, also, there’re snatch thieves.

anyway, when I got my stuff in order, it’s time to leave. just when I made sure I had everything with me—my backpack, my big luggage, my small luggage, my money, my passport—and reached for the front door, I felt something wrong with my feet. MY SHOES! they’re still on the first floor. I bolted upstairs to get them and made an embarrassed smile to the cleaner. I should nickname myself “embarrassment”, really.

being the person who always have to make-make sure (you know, make sure again and again), upon arriving at Union Station, I asked the Uber driver, “is this where the bus station is?”

to my horror, he said he thought it’s somewhere else. this is the train station. what now, do I still wanna stop here?

I said, yeah. it’s not like I could make it to my bus on time if the bus station was really somewhere else, right? might as well take a look here and make sure this is the bus station. I might look calm on the outside but it’s really a panic-stricken moment, I tell you. I was worried that I was running late, what with my bus tickets and you tell me THIS IS NOT THE BUS STATION?!??!

rest assured, things didn’t get better after that. I frantically looked for an elevator. but that’s not the only thing that I couldn’t find, I couldn’t find THE WORD too.

in screenplay format, it went like this

INFORMATION COUNTER, TRAIN STATION - MORNING

 

RUO LING
(calm outlook but nervous on the inside)
Hi. May I know where’s the li-

(realises that the Americans don’t use the word “lift” and it means Lyft the e-hailing service not the big box that goes up and down)

um the

(a beat)

(another beat)

(another beat)

elevator.

 

I didn’t know where the lady pointed me to. anyway, I made it into a service elevator. and it was scary.

when I finally got to the upper floor, it turned out that bus station’s another floor upstairs. I knew I was definitely going to be late if I went to look for another elevator (the service elevator couldn’t take me to the rooftop) so I told myself fuck it, just use the escalator. guess what? IT FITTED. my damn luggage fitted on the step. just nice, just right. as if escalators were made so that a big luggage could fit, or the other way round. a matchmake on Earth.

alright so things were turning brighter right? NO. life always gets in the way. I went straight to the bus line, waved my phone to the conductor, asked him if I could board with just a confirmation e-mail. he said, “oh no, your bus is cancelled. please go into the office to sort it out.”

right… thanks, man. it was a good thing amidst the bad, really. ‘cause they’re gonna have to print the ticket for me. so ticket problem: solved. bus problem: uhhhh let’s see. spoiler alert: I arrived at New York City that day, safe and sound.

where the bus station is situated and the direction we’re heading, I couldn’t get a decent view of DC when I left. I remember back when my first time visiting DC, while searching for places to visit, I found this place uninteresting. yet, my heart was heavy when I left for the second time because I wasn’t able to take one last good look at this city that captured my heart so easily with its second chance.


USA: So Long, Williamsburg

every ending is a new beginning. so it only feels right to start off the story from when I left Williamsburg, VA—the main reason why I was even in the States.

for months it felt like I’m falling, falling, falling. when the day for me to leave finally arrived, I went crashing onto the ground.

but wait.

before I start my story, I feel that I should make some things clear.

Liz from the book Eat, Pray, Love pointed out that the countries she visited started with “I” and if you look through reviews of the book, someone noted that instead of self-searching, the “I” is more for narcissism. I love the first two arcs, but couldn’t get myself to finish the last two chapters of the book, because honestly, I’m getting tired of you and your narcissism too, Liz.

however, when planning to pen down my travels, I feel so much like Liz. *looks into mirror in disgust*

but then that’s the whole point of a blog, right? think old skool blog—without the ads and sponsorships, etc. who would run one if s/he doesn’t think that people care enough to read? and this is my blog. my blog. so of course this is the place that’s filled with my memories, my worldviews, my thoughts, my opinions and my twisted sense of humour. my, my. five my-s in a sentence, I’m doing this whole narcissism thing pretty well.

well, I don’t know how “stalkerish” y’all can be, but if you happen to come back and read old posts again and again, you’ll realize I edit them from time to time. my memories are good but they’re very scattered. if I were to wait till I remember everything to hit publish, these blogposts will forever be buried in my ever-growing drafts. so, here’s the way: if something happens to float into my mind in the future, I’m gonna come back and edit. this is, afterall, my blog. also, names are fictional for privacy’s sake.

so here it begins.

the whole while I was living here, I kept thinking, “so there’s this tiny spot on the map, so tiny that no one probably cares about it except those who live there, and I’ve actually spent three months of my life here on this tiny spot.”

I remember the first day we were settled in our village, we rode the bicycle to the bank. it has always remained one of my favourite things to do, although I’d only done it for like, what, four times during my whole stay? the first time, my shit stamina couldn’t get me riding past half the path, I had to push my bicycle. by my last time I biked to the bank, I could reach there in about five minutes without having to get off. and boy, did I ride fast, ‘cause my accommodation payment wouldn’t process and I might end up on the streets of New York City.

what the locals always told us, “Williamsburg is a very vibrant place.” vibrant how? the summer is very summer and the winter is very winter. right… okay, they did elaborate to us, but other than putting it this way, I don’t really know what else can I say. if someone were to ask me, if that someone is Asian, Hong Kong restaurant which is next to Food Lion has good sesame chicken, but the other food are meh. be careful of the cacti in front of the Mexican restaurant next to BB&T when you park your bike. I’ve never done it, but I think you can just get one movie ticket at Regal Cinemas and sneak into all of the halls to watch other movies. they even make it easy for you by stating the movies and their showtimes outside of each hall. oh, and do it on a Tuesday, because tickets are a lot cheaper then. there’s also a sushi buffet next to the cinema. if that’s not enough Japanese food, there’s another Japanese restaurant at the premium outlet.

there’s this old lady whom I always bumped into but never talked to on the Number 5 Red Monticello bus. the first time I noticed her, she was reading a thick book and used a library receipt as her bookmark. she’s one of those people who moved her fingers across the line as she read and she wore a pretty ring. that day, the sunlight was hitting perfectly on her ring, which was why I started noticing her. why am I telling you this? I don’t know. I’m kind of thinking of her right now and wondering if she’s on the bus with her new read.

you would think that I miss Williamsburg a lot. well, I thought so too, until recently my friend Sam asked if I missed Williamsburg and what’s my favourite spot there.

“my bathroom,” I answered, without even having to think.

“harsh.”

seriously.

I know it sounds horrible. sadly, Williamsburg is one of those towns that I would definitely wouldn’t return. what did I do during my free time there? mostly shopping at the premium outlet, catching a movie or staring at the Criterion Collection in Barnes and Nobles. is there a club? well, a “club” is an overstatement. it’s just a small, dark room with crappy lights and DJ spinning Turkish and Spanish tunes (what?) on Wednesday nights. people were either shit-faced or pretended to be shit-faced. the second which was also my last time I was there, I spent the night at the hotel lobby next door chatting to an old lady and stroking her black dog (“it’s hair, not fur, hair like our hair, go ahead and touch it”).

but then it’s precisely the reason why I was crying so hard when I left. because I know I’m never coming back.

the day before, on our way back from my last-minute shopping, Dee said, “aren’t you afraid that you start forgetting this place? like it’s not how it is right now in your memory.”

precisely.

there honestly was no reason for me to cry anymore. I was one of the few last ones who left. and the people sending me are Malaysians whom I can meet with just a phone call when we’re all home.

the lady at the reception—the lady who always took longer than normal to process our stuffs—took longer than normal as usual to realize that the two pieces of fully-packed luggage belonged to me and only me.

“you’re leaving alone?”

amidst the ugly faces and ugly embraces, someone replied, “yes.”

“oh, poor girl.”

I got asked this question a lot. before the program, during the program, after the program. the thing is, I was supposed to come with a friend (not gonna mention your name, but you know who you are), but then, long story short, he changed plans like he always did so this time I decided to ditch him.

sometimes on my journey, I couldn’t help thinking if things would be different if we came together. I could be working a completely different job in a different city in a different time zone and meet different people. perhaps I wouldn’t believe that I could actually handle a lot of things on my own, especially travelling solo for two weeks, which was a learning curve as steep as a 90° for me. one thing for sure, I wouldn’t be seeing what I saw and be so focused on my experience.

wherever I went and whatever I do, I often find myself learning lessons that has nothing to do with the place or the job itself. I was an optimist, then a pessimist, then a realist and Williamsburg somehow in its own way, changed me into an opportunist.

another of those weird lessons is realizing that my never-ending to do list can wait. up to four months. or even more. or even till the day I die it still won’t matter much. maybe the real lesson is to live life from moment to moment, instead of constantly worrying ticking things off.

also, thanks to all the overcooked and underdone pretzels, I now know that the importance of right timing when it comes to doing things. not too early, not too late.

as for serious life lessons, meeting all kinds of customers day to day is definitely eye-opening. let’s just say the word “stereotype” is in the Oxford English dictionary for a reason. nevertheless, I understood perfectly well that good people comes in all shapes and sizes, so does bad people.

the night before, Ash came over to watch me pack. my roommates had already caught the midnight bus to New York City. it turned out, unsurprisingly, no matter where we are, we youngsters never fail to do that one thing we do so well—procrastinate.

in between my trying to focus on packing and my complaining about having so many things to pack and getting full blown anxiety on what could go wrong with my plans (“Sean, I know I’m smart, but I’m not street smart you know, I’m more the book smart type.”), I tried to memorize Williamsburg.

I left quite hastily the next day, not knowing that I didn’t need to then, leaving some things un-completely-done, which caused me an anxiety attack in DC. more on that later.

realizing that time’s up, I called an Uber hesitantly. very hesitantly. when my friends were loading my stuffs onto the car, the driver asked the same thing, “oh dear, you’re leaving alone?”

I knew how short the journey is. even by Number 3 Orange Merrimac Trail bus, it only took about seven minutes to reach the train station. the driver tried to make conversation with me during the trip and I tried to answer as best without my voice cracking.

when we arrived, I reluctantly got down the car and removed my stuffs from the car. when she said goodbye and wished all the best to me, I kind of wished she would board the train with me. little did I know in the coming twenty-six days, whenever a driver dropped me at a station I always wished that they could come with me.

even thirty minutes after leaving my friends and my home-for-three-months, while waiting for the train alone, I still couldn’t stop myself from sobbing embarrassingly at the platform.

I remember myself saying, “the thing with me is, I always hate something when I’m in the midst of it. I hated secondary school when I was in secondary school. I hated university when I was in university. funnily enough, now I can’t even tell why I hated secondary school or university so much. you see, time filters the bad things out. I always say that I hate the park, but I also know that I will miss it once I leave.”

but OH MY GOD!!! I thought I couldn’t care less about the park anymore but after a couple weeks of staring at this draft, everything I hate about the park just comes back to me. but maybe someday, a month from now, a year from now, or twenty years from now, I will only see Williamsburg in all its goodness (but still not return :P)

with the paper that comes in my fortune cookie that says “fear is just excitement in need of an attitude adjustment” in one of the many purses that I carried around, I left Williamsburg for good and embarked on this journey that I’ve imagined times after times.

Colonial Williamsburg through the eyes of First. the Georgian buildings from childhood illustration books make sense to me now.

Colonial Williamsburg through the eyes of First.

Colonial Williamsburg through the eyes of First.

Colonial Williamsburg through the eyes of First.

Colonial Williamsburg through the eyes of First.

Colonial Williamsburg through the eyes of First.

Colonial Williamsburg through the eyes of First.

walking back to the village from Colonial Williamsburg surrounded by my everyday view. yours truly through the eyes of First.

walking back to the village from Colonial Williamsburg surrounded by my everyday view. yours truly through the eyes of First.

Hedwig is that you? animal show in Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

Hedwig is that you? animal show in Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

majestic beast. my first time seeing the wolves after many times walking past their crib and calling for them.

majestic beast. my first time seeing the wolves after many times walking past their crib and calling for them.

musical at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

musical at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

Griffon and Loch Ness!

Griffon and Loch Ness!

laser show at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. a lot more exciting than the so-called “club”.

laser show at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. a lot more exciting than the so-called “club”.

Yorktown.

Yorktown.

Yorktown.

Yorktown.

Virginia Beach.

Virginia Beach.

nightly routine.

nightly routine.

Water Country USA Team Member's Night 2018 | A Beautiful Distraction by Ruo Ling Lu
the long walk back home. most of the time thankful that my room was tucked in a corner at the very end of the property, away from the noise but not so when it comes to running for my bus each morning.

the long walk back home. most of the time thankful that my room was tucked in a corner at the very end of the property, away from the noise but not so when it comes to running for my bus each morning.

another walk back home. one would never know how much one could run at a lightning speed for such a long time until one needed to catch the bus home. otherwise it’s another one-hour wait.

power outage in Block B. walked through this dark hallway twice without having to turn on my flashlight at all and even turned to look back to see if I might find a surprise behind me. look, ma, your girl is not a scaredy-cat anymore! in her words, “humans are much scarier than ghosts.” I agree.

power outage in Block B. walked through this dark hallway twice without having to turn on my flashlight at all and even turned to look back to see if I might find a surprise behind me. look, ma, your girl is not a scaredy-cat anymore! in her words, “humans are much scarier than ghosts.” I agree.

memories.

I have no idea what’s happening.

not seeing each other till who-knows-when after months of seeing the same faces every single day.

leaving.

national day firework show at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. pretty much sums up my time in Williamsburg—short but brilliant. :)

national day firework show at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. pretty much sums up my time in Williamsburg—short but brilliant. :)


USA: 26 Days In The USA

a couple months back, I had the opportunity to travel around in the USA after the work part of my Work and Travel USA program ended. before I start… as much as I want to call this A Guide To USA, it’s more like How I Spent 26 Days in USA - a reference rather than a guide. I try to compact as much information while at the same time not make it too overwhelming, so it’ll have the essential information and helpful tips that you’ll need to know. marked with star are the things or food that I’d love to try but alas, didn’t have the time. also, to protect the hosts’ privacy, I’ll only disclose up to the street names of the AirBnbs that I stayed in. I’ll write more details on each individual posts, coming up soon. stay tuned!



Itinerary

finally, after much staring at Google Maps and tracing my options on it multiple times, I settled on something like this that actually make some sense instead of me breaking my bank flying all over America:

Day 1 - Day 3: Washington, D.C.
Day 3 - Day 7: New York City, New York
Day 7 - Day 9: Niagara Falls, New York
Day 9 - Day 12: Chicago, Illinois
Day 12 - Day 15: San Francisco, California
Day 15 - Day 16: Las Vegas, Nevada
Day 16 - Day 17: Arizona
Day 17 - Day 19: Utah
Day 19 - Day 20: Las Vegas, Nevada
Day 20 - Day 21: Death Valley, California
Day 21 - Day 23: San Diego, California
Day 23 - Day 26: Los Angeles, California

once, I took the midnight train and another night, I camped at the airport. so that’s two nights of accommodation missing. also, from Day 15 onwards till Day 23, I joined two friends and we road tripped for 9 days, from Las Vegas all the way to Los Angeles. the compact-car rental was $331 for the entire 9 days.


Washington, D. C.

Getting In

From Williamsburg, VA, I took the Amtrak ($36) + Insurance ($9) with two pieces of free check-in baggage

Accommodation

City House Hostel Washingon D. C. ($77.57 for two nights in a 4-person mixed dorm)

it’s one of the cheaper hostels that’s close to Union Station compared to those that are close to the city center because it doesn’t make sense to for me to stay in the city center.

Getting Around

I personally didn’t take the Metro but walk instead and then took an Uber Share back to my hostel, which cost $4.65. that’s it. but if you want to, you can get a SmarTrip Metro card for $10 with $8 stored value or $30 with $28 stored value. fares range from $1.85 - $6 vary with peak and off-peak hours.

What To Do / Where To Go

  • White House

  • Lincoln Memorial

  • Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

  • National Air and Space Museum

  • National Gallery of Art

  • Library of Congress

  • United States Capitol

  • Newseum*

  • Washington Monument, which you can see from afar from Lincoln Memorial

  • National Museum of African American History and Culture*

  • Tidal Basin

  • International Spy Museum*


New York City, New York

Getting In

From Washington D.C. by Greyhound ($21) with one piece of free check-in baggage

Accommodation

The Local Hostels NYC ($292.34 for four nights in a 4-person mixed dorm)

it is located at the LIC of Queens, an industrial area - five minutes walk to the nearest subway station.

Getting Around

NYC Subway: $32 for a week + $1 for the card or $3 single trip

What To Do / Where To Go

  • take a stroll through Central Park

  • see the city from the Top of the Rock

  • Empire State Building

  • Manhattan Bridge / DUMBO

  • Brooklyn Bridge

  • Battery Park

  • One World Trade Center

  • see the Statue of Liberty at Ellis Island or take the free Staten Island Ferry

  • watch a Broadway show at Broadway

  • Times Square

  • spend an afternoon at The High Line*

  • eat at Little Italy*

  • Fifth Avenue

  • The MET

  • MoMA (free admission every Friday from 4PM - 8PM)

  • Guggenheim Museum

  • Museum of Natural History

What To Eat

  • Shake Shack

  • The Halal Guys

  • Piccola Cucina Osteria Siciliana

  • Raku NYC*

  • One-Dollar Pizzas*


Niagara Falls, New York

Getting In

From New York City to Buffalo by Greyhound ($52), with one piece of free check-in baggage

From Buffalo to Niagara Falls by Uber ($32.77)

Accommodation

Wanderfalls Hostels ($27.22 for a night in a 4-person female dorm)

it’s a house turned into a hostel so it’s small and cozy. the best thing about it? the pancakes for breakfast! best pancakes I’ve ever had.

Getting Around

depending on where you wanna go, but to me it’s not exactly a big town. I tried to walk the first evening, but it scared the shit out of me, so for safety purpose, I always took an Uber when it’s dark but if there’s day light, I walked. there’s no Uber Share in this area.

What To Do / Where To Go In Niagara Falls State Park

  • Observation Deck

  • Maid of the Mist - ferry tour

  • Cave of the Winds - touch the American Falls!

  • Luna Island

  • Terrapin Point


Chicago, Illinois

Getting In

From Niagara Falls to Buffalo by Uber ($39.11)

From Buffalo to Chicago by Amtrak ($60) + Insurance ($17) with two pieces of free check-in baggage

Accommodation

AirBnb @ South Aberdeen Street ($153.48 for two nights for two person)

Getting Around

Bus: $2.50 single trip
Bus and Rail: $3 single ride or $10 for one-day disposable Ventra ticket (24 hours)
Bus and Rail: $10 for 1-Day CTA Fun Pass or $20 for 3-Day CTA Fun Pass

I only took the Metro once before my friend came with his rental car. with it, the parking fees meant the death of our wallets. it didn’t make the travel time shorter in the city center. but seeing that we stayed somewhere quite far away from downtown, it helped a little. you can get more details on getting around the city here.

What To Do / Where To Go

  • see the city from high above of Willis Tower or 360 Chicago

  • Cloud Gate

  • Millennium Park

  • Crown Fountain*

  • Buckingham Fountain*

  • The Art Institute of Chicago

  • catch a game at Wrigley’s Field

  • watch a comedy show*

  • Field Museum of Natural History*

  • Lincoln Park zoo*

  • enjoy a cocktail and the night view from The Signature Lounge*

  • Adler Planeterium*

  • Navy Pier*

  • Michigan Avenue Bridge*

  • Lakefront Path

Where To Eat

  • Sun Wah BBQ for their Beijing Roast Duck


San Francisco, California

Getting In

From Des Moines to San Francisco by United Airlines ($278.16 including travel insurance and one piece of check-in baggage, one transfer at Denver)

Accommodation

HI San Francisco City Center Hostel ($183.80 for three nights in a 4-person female dorm)

I personally don’t recommend this hostel, especially for solo travellers. honestly, I don’t feel safe here.

Getting Around

BART: fare varies based on distance, click here to calculate yours
Muni bus: $2.50 single ride on MuniMobile or Clipper Card or cash or $5 Day Pass on MuniMobile
Cable Car: $7 single ride on MuniMobile or Clipper Card or cash
Golden Gate Transit: fare varies by distance and zone, click here for more info

you can get a Clipper Card from Muni Metro, Golden Gate ferry ticket machine or SMART fare machine at $3 with a minimum value. for more information about MUNI fares, you can click here.

I usually take the MUNI bus and although most say that it is a must-do, I never took the cable car. I never plan to take the Golden Gate Transit but somehow got onto one, thanks to Google Maps. it’s a lot faster to get to the Golden Gate Bridge (duh) but slightly pricier. and I only took the BART to and fro SFO airport.

What To Do / Where To Go

  • Golden Gate Bridge

  • Fisherman’s Wharf

  • Pier 39

  • Alcatraz Prison*

  • SFMoMA

  • Chinatown

  • Ghirradelli Square

  • The Painted Ladies

Where To Eat

  • Saigon Sandwich - cheap Vietnamese banh mi

  • Brenda’s French Soul Food

  • The Bird

  • Kitchen Story*

  • Sweet Maple*

  • Sushirito*

  • House of Prime Rib*

  • State Bird Provisions*

  • El Farolita*

  • Limon Rotisserie*


Las Vegas, Nevada

Getting In

From San Francisco to Las Vegas by Southwest Airlines ($179.98 including travel insurance and one piece of check-in baggage)

Accommodation

Ellis Island Hotel Super 8 ($85 for a night for four person)

Getting Around

monorail: $5 single ride or $13 for 24-hour pass (for more different passes you can click here)
Deuce or SDX buses: $6 for 2-hour pass; $8 for 24-hour pass or $20 for three days

we didn’t take any of those and although we have a car, we actually preferred walking the Strip. for more details regarding Las Vegas’s public transport, you can click here.

What To Do / Where To Go Near The Strip

  • watch the Bellagio Fountain Show - and imagine you just pulled a heist on a casino

  • The Mirage Volcano*

  • Paris Las Vegas

  • MGM Grand

  • Luxor Hotel & Casino*

  • Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign

Where To Eat

  • Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen

  • In-n-Out - because the one in Hollywood is always crowded


Arizona

Accommodation

RV AirBnb @ North Smokerise Drive  ($55.60 for a night for three person, can fit up to five)

What To Do / Where To Go

  • Grand Canyon National Park

  • Upper / Lower Antelope Canyon - book your slots earlier!

  • Horseshoe Bend


Utah

Accommodation

Hotel Zion ($129 for two nights for three person)

What To Do / Where To Go

  • Zion National Park - challenge yourself to Angel’s Landing!

  • Northgate Peaks Viewpoint

  • Arches National Park*

  • Bryce Canyon National Park


Las Vegas, Nevada

Accommodation

Main Street Station Casino Street Brewery Hotel ($36.37 for a night per person) - this hotel charges resort fees

What To Do / Where To Go

  • North Premium Outlet

  • Fremont Street*


Death Valley, California

while a lot of friends told us that it’s boring and some people said it’s so empty that it’s eerie, three of us love Death Valley National Park a lot. it’s a desert so bring lots of water with you and always, always make sure your car is in a good condition. you don’t want to be stranded in nowhere with no sight of any other human.

Accommodation

AirBnb @ South Jorgensen Circle ($68.68 for a night for three person, can fit up to four)

What To Do / Where To Go

  • Badwater Basin

  • catch the sunset at Zabriskie Point

  • Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

  • catch the sunrise at Dantes View

  • Ubehebe Crater

  • Artist’s Drive and Palette


San Diego, California

Accommodation

AirBnb @ La Presa Avenue, Spring Valley ($114.43 for two nights for three person)

Getting Around

Old Town Trolley Tours: $35.95 1-Day Tour or $69.90 2-Day Tour

North County Transit District Bus: $1.75 single trip or $5 day pass

we didn’t take any of those because we had a car and we stayed quite far away from the main attractions. for more information on how to get around San Diego, you can click here.

What To Do / Where To Go

  • spend a day Balboa Park

  • Gaslight Quarter

  • watch the sunset at La Jolla Cove

  • Old Town

  • USS Midway Museum

  • San Diego Zoo

Where To Eat

  • Rockin Baja Lobster


Los Angeles, California

Accommodations

Getting Around

DASH Bus: $0.50 single trip or $0.35 single trip on TAP card or $5 7-Day Pass
Metro: $1.75 single trip; $10 1-Day Pass or $25 7-Day Pass (additional charges for Silver Line and Express Buses)

you can get a TAP card (stored value card) at $2 from TAP vending machines in metro stations or on board buses. click here for more information.

be prepared to spend an hour commuting from one attraction to another and expect the bus to be late.

What To Do / Where To Go

  • catch the sunset at Griffith Observatory

  • Walk of Fame

  • catch the sunset at Santa Monica Pier

  • Walt Disney Concert Hall

  • LACMA

  • The Broad

  • Hollywood sign

  • see the city from high above at L.A. City Hall for free*

  • Venice Beach*


Driving in USA

as far as I know, the Malaysian driving licence—the new, hard one, not the old laminated one, works just fine in most states there. so long as the vital infos are in English and Americans can understand, you should be okay. we went on the road-trip without any IDP. none of us.

if you want to be on the safe side by getting an International Driving Permit, you have to do it here in Malaysia before you depart. as a foreigner, you cannot get an IDP in the US. it is only valid if you also have your driving licence with you and the current fee in Malaysia is RM150.

as for car rental, you need a car insurance which usually already comes under the rental. if you’re 25 and under, you’re subject to a “Young Renter Fee” or “Underage Fee” to compensate the rental company for extra risks. however, there are ways that you could get away with it. I know a friend who rented a car from Kayak.com and managed to waive it.

remember to download an offline map and star places of interest, or learn how to actually read a paper map before you leave for your adventure. expect to have bad to no cellular service on the road. know the basics like how to change a tyre, etc. for emergency. be careful with your valuables and personal belongings.


Handy Apps

Travel-focused

  • Skyscanner Travel Deals - flight comparison

  • Hopper - flight prices forecast

  • Expedia - flight tickets purchase, car rental, accommodation search, tour bookings

  • Kayak - flight tickets purchase, car rental, accommodation search

Transportation

  • Enterprise - car rental

  • Turo - car rental

  • Lyft - ride-sharing

  • Uber - ride-sharing

  • Amtrak

  • Greyhound

  • SuperShuttle - airport shuttle

  • Frontier Airlines

  • Alaska Airlines

  • Fly Delta

  • United Airlines

  • Southwest Airlines

  • MuniMobile - San Francisco public transportation

  • New York Subway MTA Map - NYC subway

  • LA Mobile - LADOT Transit ticketing

Accommodation

Tickets / Passes

  • Ticketmaster - concerts / shows / games

  • TKTS - Broadway shows

  • Headout - shows / activities

  • Go City Card - discounted city pass

  • Ballpark - baseball game

Navigation / Tips / Etc.

  • Google Maps - navigation

  • Yelp - food recommendations

  • Companion: Personal Safety

  • Venmo - money transfer

  • Paypal - money transfer

  • The Outbound - activities / attractions recommendations

  • SunSurveyor - for light chasers *smirks*

  • Uber Eats: Food Delivery

  • 7-Eleven, Inc.


USA: A Guide To Work and Travel USA

Work and Travel USA Malaysia Application Guide | A Beautiful Distraction by Ruo Ling Lu

so… I’m back from the Work and Travel USA summer season program after spending three months working in a water park in Virginia and one month travelling to places like New York City and San Francisco.

I’m just gonna cut through the chase and write what I know about the Work and Travel USA program. but before you read on, please know that this is based solely on my experience. you can still ask me about my opinions on simple things but for any important pieces of advice like things regarding money or safety, please consult an agent. also, if there’s anything that I got it wrong here, let me know! :)

Jump to any sections:

Introduction

What is Work and Travel USA

basically, if you’re eligible, you can get a J1 Visa allowing you to work for the summer or winter season in places like theme parks, restaurants, hotels or retails in USA and then another 30 days to explore.

Who can participate?

  • Full-time university student or recently graduated

  • Between the age of 18 and 30

  • Able to stay in the United States for the duration of your program

  • Able to work and live in an English-speaking environment

  • Have approximately 800 USD to support yourself in the first few weeks

  • Capable of performing the tasks in your job description

How long was the program?

including training, I worked for 13 weeks. usually the requirement by employers is to work at least 10 weeks. naturally, the longer period you work, the more money you’ll make.

after your working period, you’re allowed to stay in the United States for another 30 days. some of my peers continued on with their travels to other countries after that 30 days. so, you could be away from home for as long as 5 months. I mean… if you want to escape from your evil witch mother or something… you could consider that. XD

Process

How was the process?

you can sign up yourself without an agent but I reckon it’ll be troublesome. I signed up through Out Of The Box which my friend did too the previous year so I felt that they’re reliable.

as far as I know, there are three agencies in Malaysia, which are:

my experience with Out Of The Box was good. they’re helpful with my concerns, communication with them was clear, and Yeen never forgot to look out for us when we were in the US.

I had an initial interview with OOTB via Skype basically to see how prepared I am to leave home, financially as well as mentally and if my family is well aware of the details.

then, when I’ve signed up with, I’m provided with a list of employers and their details such as hourly wage, location, job description, etc. I was allowed to pick three, just in case I couldn’t make it for the first on my list.

after that, there’s another face-to-face interview with my employer Busch Gardens Williamsburg / Water Country USA.

after I got my job offer, there was the visa interview and an orientation session by OOTB before we headed off.

What documents did I prepare?

  • Proof of study / graduate

  • Passport

  • Bank statement

  • Visa application photo

  • Simple resume

the process was quite hassle-free to me. basically, OOTB would let me know what to prepare and my job was just to get it and then hand it to them. if you’ve passed the interview, you’ll get your DS-2019 form, which is one of the most important documents that will allow you to enter the United States.

What was I asked during the job interview?

it was a simple face-to-face group interview with 5 others. the questions were pretty basic like self-introduction, reason for participating in the program, previous work or co-curricular activity experience. the interview was mainly to see our attitude and English speaking level. all of us passed it.

What was I asked during the visa interview?

it was also a group interview. we were asked about our employer and our rights. I got asked who is funding me and if I was going to consider getting a job there as I’m already done with school.

other questions to expect are questions such as your wages, employer, where are you staying, etc. we weren’t asked to present any documents but it’s always wise to bring them along.

Money

How much did I spend?

I spent roughly a total of RM14,600 upfront. here’s the breakdown of the expenditures:

I paid a total of RM5,450 to OOTB, some of which are subjected to currency rate, which includes:

  • Initial fees: RM420

  • Programme fees: RM4,250

  • SEVIS Fees: RM140 (35 USD)

  • Visa Fee: RM640

I paid RM3,150 for my round-trip air tickets for KUL > NRT > NEW > RIC and then LAX > SIN > KUL.

it was RM2,700+ from United Airline’s promotion but because there were three of us who wanted to fly together, we paid a little extra and let a travel agency to handle that.

I couldn’t remember the currency rate and also I exchanged a number of times but it’s roughly RM6,000 (1,500 USD) for my pocket money. it is actually almost double of what is required (800 USD).

How much did I make from my work?

I earned a total of 4,200 USD after tax. my pay for the first couple of weeks was 9.30 USD and then I got a raise to 9.55 USD after I attended alcohol training, which was provided by my employer. the total hours I worked per week ranged from 30 to 50 hours, depending on the weather, because it’s a water park. I don’t get OT pay because it is a seasonal business.

Did I recover the upfront payment?

I’m just gonna be truthful and say: no.

before you feel disheartened by the news, here’s what you should note:

  • I wasn’t hardworking enough to look for a second job

  • there wasn’t OT pay

  • the rental for my entire period of stay was about 1,000 USD

  • I didn’t travel in a, uhm, budget friendly way

for the one month of travel, I spent about 3,500 USD, which explains why I couldn’t recover the upfront money. the rest of the money went to my living expenses and some shopping. the premium outlet near where I stayed wasn’t helping me much in saving money. :P

I could’ve spent the same amount of money to just travel and not work, so why did I work?

I thought of this too before I went. does Work and Travel USA make a difference? yes.

making money apart, the other thing that I made within those three months are friends and memories. I remember many people crying during my last few weeks there as we parted ways. that’s the kind of one of a lifetime experience you’re gonna have.

the other reason is exposure. I know myself pretty damn well enough to know that I wouldn’t work in a theme park in Malaysia or move out of my house without any strong reason. so it’s a time for me to learn to manage my own money and be independent. it’s also an opportunity for me to improve my interpersonal skills.

that three months were also for me to familiarize myself with the US. with the amount of American media we’re exposed to, there wouldn’t be any huge culture shock lah but there are still those little things like tips, pedestrian crossing, cashless payment, stuffs like that that I’m sure would pretty much make me info overload if I just bam, landed in America and started travelling. and oh, jetlag. it solves the problem.

besides, I wouldn’t make it for my one month of travel if I hadn’t spent the previous 3 months standing at least 8 hours a day and walking so much. the working beat my body up so hard that it can take walking 15,000 steps a day while carrying my camera gears like a breeze.

lastly, the bonus work perk is that I got to enter both the theme park and water park whenever I want, which was quite fun and pretty much what we usually did on our days off. kinda missing the rides now. ;___;

Work

Where did I work and what’s my job scope?

I worked under culinary operations at Water Country USA, a water park under the SeaWorld family in Williamsburg, Virginia. at the beginning we were everywhere in the park but after things settled down, I mainly worked as a cashier selling food. sometimes I sell Dippin’ Dots and sometimes I made food like pretzels, churros and corn dogs. pretty easy stuff - just let the oven handle it. some of my friends ended up serving burgers or frying funnel cakes. it really depends on where each one of us ended up. apart from that, other internationals also worked as lifeguards, area hosts or ride operators at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

Why did I choose Busch Gardens Williamsburg?

mainly because I signed up alone so it’s better to look for an employer that provides lodging. my first choice was actually to work in a hotel at Salt Lake City where no lodging is provided. so OOTB had to hook me up with other participants, if there were any to begin with and we had to do our own research and da da da there’s just too much trouble.

another reason would be me not being able to live three months in the nature like national parks. HAHA. Williamsburg is a historical town where there’re chain restaurants, banks and department stores that are easily accessible with public transport, Uber or Lyft. it’s usually about 1 USD - 2 USD each trip if four of us shared a car. we even have a club!

other than that, Busch Gardens Williamsburg hires more than a hundred internationals every year so it’s a great opportunity to make new friends.

generally, the thing I looked out for were things like lodging, location, transportation and weather. the biggest concern to me was being alone.

Insurance and Bank

Was I covered by any insurance?

yes. the type of insurance you’ll get varies from sponsor to sponsor and I didn’t need to pay any extra for mine. I was sponsored by GeoVisions and was covered from when I left Malaysia, including my travel period. as far as I know, the same batch of participants with me who were sponsored by CIEE was covered only during their work period. however, you can always obtain extra insurance on your own or seek advice from your agent.

Which bank did I use?

I opened a BB&T account which is available at my area, but not nationwide. it’s a student checking account that I did not have to close so hopefully there wouldn’t be any problem for my tax refunds. fingers crossed.

before I left Williamsburg, I wanted to have another bank account where the ATMs are pretty much anywhere because ATM charges for withdrawing from a different bank is 3 USD. pretty expensive compared to our RM1 huh. so, I opened a Wells Fargo account, for when I travel but I actually didn’t really need it. it’s more of a just-in-case thing. I had to close the account before leaving the United States because they would start charging me after 90 days upon opening the account.

I don’t know much about other bank services - like if you have to close them or not before leaving, or if there’s any monthly charges, etc. but if you’re looking for one that’s available almost anywhere there’s Bank of America and Chase Bank. I saw Chase everywhere I go but it was until my very last days in the US that I realized they’re not a car company, but a bank. LOL.

another thing I was warned to watch out for is bank overdraft. my friend got into trouble with overdrafts and the bank almost charged him. I almost got into trouble too even though I’ve made sure that my checking account doesn’t allow me to do so. but problem solved, whew.

Travel

Where did I go after the work part ended?

if you want a more detailed guide, you can teleport to my guide to USA. here’s a quick list of places I’ve visited during my 26 days travel:

  • Washington, DC

  • New York City, New York

  • Niagara Falls, New York

  • Chicago, Illinois

  • San Francisco, California

  • Las Vegas, Nevada

  • Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

  • Antelope Canyon, Arizona

  • Horseshoe Bend, Arizonaa

  • Zion National Park, Utah

  • Death Valley National Park, California

  • San Diego, California

  • Los Angeles, California

Suggestions:

  • Orlando, Florida

  • Miami, Florida

  • Seattle, Washington

  • Portland, Oregon

  • Boston, Massachusetts

  • Yosemite National Park

  • Glacier National Park

  • Yellowstone National Park

  • Arches National Park

some of my international friends even went to Canada and Mexico during their work period. I’m not sure how our Malaysian passport can allow us to do so but it’s a great opportunity. start saving places of interest to your Google Maps or Pinterest! it helps when you’re planning for your travels.

Miscellaneous

What did I regret bringing? What did I regret not bringing?

I regretted bringing too many contact lens solution. haha! I ended up carrying two extra travelling bottles back. apart from all that Malaysian food, whatever that you can get in Tesco / Jusco here, you can get from Walmart / Target there. we also get some things for dirt cheap price at secondhand store like Goodwill and Dollar Tree.

as for anything I regretted not bringing… I think I’m pretty well-packed. XD but if you’re a shutterbug like me, don’t forget your lens hood like I did. :(

What useful apps did I use when I was there?

  • U by BB&T - banking

  • Wells Fargo - banking

  • Venmo - money transfer

  • Splitwise - splitting money with friends

  • Yelp - food recommendations

  • 7- Eleven - convenient store

  • Target - department store

  • Walmart - department store

  • Food Lion - department store

  • Amazon - online shopping

  • Uber - e-hailing

  • Lyft - e-hailing

I’ll put together another list for apps I used for travel purpose in the coming post.

How did I survive there?

well… “survive” would be too strong a word. but the number one tip is: don’t be stupid. if you know there’s a risk in doing something, do some calculations beforehand. if you feel like something is wrong, always follow your intuition. there are also all the general travelling safety tips like keep a copy of all of your documents, let your friends and family know your current status, keep in mind who to go to if you’re in trouble, etc.

also, make friends! there’s a Chinese saying that goes “rely on your family when you’re at home and rely on your friends when you’re out.” look out for each other and let your family know who they are and their contacts and you should be fine.

What is my takeaway from this program?

it would be silly to say that I changed. I mean, even if you sit at home and do nothing for four months you’re definitely bound to change too.

jokingly, it would be learning that everyone cusses and calculates in their mother tongue. I know the melting pot culture in Malaysia makes us cuss mostly in English but try doing Maths, your true colours will appear. XD

jokes apart, I always believe that if you want to learn to swim, then you have to jump into the ocean. reading about people’s journeys and experiences will never beat going out and doing it yourself because you’ll never know what you can do until you meet all sorts of challenges, just like I never knew I am a lot more independent than I let myself to be back at home.

so, good luck in applying, fellow adventurers! I hope this post helps you. :)


MALAYSIA: Pulau Redang, 2017

 

my second time to an East Coast island, I hope you're okay with the photo spam! 

three days of sun, sand and sea. no, wait, the sun went into hiding on the day we left, but at least it's kind enough to wait. twenty-four-seven of the sound of the waves crashing in, the sea breeze in our faces, I'm already missing the beach life! monsoon was approaching when I went, the waves were getting fierce and the boat ride was bumpy but thrilling. it's been more than a year since I went to the open sea, and it's so good to be back! whoever says that turtles are slow, man, you guys should see them swim. it's incredible to think that these giant creatures that we're swimming with are actually older than us. this was my first time getting bitten by sea lice after so many times in the sea, the rashes look scary, but so far my butt and boobs are still intact!

that's all for now, ciao!

 

MALAYSIA: Penang, 2017

 

after a few months, I'm once again back to the Pearl of the Orient - Penang with my family. touristy spots, touristy food. the highlight was that coincidentally, there's a celebration for Myanmar's New Year and Songkran in the temples so we got to experienced it. also, we went to Batu Ferringhi which I didn't the previous time, and was surprised to find the place looking like Krabi minus the alcohol!

some info I would like to add to my previous post:

Eat

New Lane is the new black! haha probably not, but we decided to go back to our favourite and the food there is still so good!

See

Malaysians! bring your IC and you can go all the way up to Bukit Bendera for the night views after 7PM, daily. for more tickets information, click here

also, it seems like the Kuanyin statue is forever under construction (*cues eye roll) so there's really no point going there anymore.

 

SEE MORE ABOUT PENANG...