Hands down, one of the best things about studying abroad is getting to travel. I mean, going on exchange is all about experiencing a new school and a new culture to start, so what better way to spend your time than by experiencing even more cultures while they’re close by?
People call Singapore a gateway to South-East Asia—a curiously accurate description. Many exchange students here take every extended break from school as a chance to hop on a plane and check out a new country. They eat some exotic foods, get up close and personal with a few landmarks, and learn a handful of words in a new language before flying back to the reality that is school. Not bad for a long weekend, eh?
While yours truly has been guilty of not taking advantage of the travel opportunities that surround Singapore (although one of my resolutions for 2013 is to travel more, so here’s hoping that one sticks), I did manage to take a trip at the end of first semester. I went to Nepal!
For those of you who don’t know what or where Nepal is, it’s the home of Mount Everest, and it’s literally sandwiched right between India and China.
Now, the first thing I noticed about Nepal: the weather couldn’t make up its mind.
Ok, that’s a lie. But it was inconsistent…or consistently inconsistent if that makes sense. It would be a nice 20°C in the daytime, and as soon as the Sun set, it was cold! And no, not anything like it is in London right now, but after living in perpetual 30-degree weather for 4 months, 5°C was freezing!!
The second thing to note: the food was really cool.
Remember how Nepal is bordered by China and India? Well, Nepali food is what I imagine you would get if you fused Chinese and Indian cuisine. Literally. Oh, and the staple meat was buffalo. How cool is that?
Thirdly: there are glimpses of a simpler life in Nepal.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been living in Singapore, the epitome of technologically developed countries, but the stark contrast in lifestyles really hit me. There were dirt roads lined with houses made of stone walls and tin roofs. People were walking down the street to fill buckets with water from a community well, women were washing their clothes down by the river and leaving them to dry on the rocky river bed, and children were playing in front of their homes with hacky sacks (seriously, when’s the last time you saw that?). Even in the city, women were selling fruits and vegetables on the sidewalk. And everyone was more than willing to smile, wave, and offer a “Namaste” to the obvious tourists that we were. Simplicity and happiness.
Fourth: the Himalayas are gorgeous.
We were fortunate enough to be there when it wasn’t super cloudy every day, and the view of the mountains was spectacular. I almost didn’t believe I was actually standing there looking at them, it seemed so surreal.
Lastly: trekking is physically exhausting, but totally worth it.
Most people who travel to Nepal do so to trek. Even my university has a club solely dedicated to traveling to Nepal to climb Mount Everest. So flying all the way there and not trekking wasn’t much of an option (especially traveling with three appallingly athletic guys). Unfortunately (or fortunately for me, since I am in no way, shape, or form a physically fit person), said three guys all got sick during our trip, so we ended up doing an easier trek than we had originally planned. It still got our blood pumping, but the views were breath-taking, and the communities that live in the mountain villages were something special.
And that was Nepal in a nutshell! Hopefully, you’ll hear about more of my travels in the weeks to come.
Until next time!