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The Opportunity of a Lifetime

Spending the past 7 months in Asia has been the opportunity of a lifetime. The decision to go on university exchange has been one of the best choices I have ever made. I made some great friends, had various cultural interactions, learnt a lot about business in Asia (at NUS), learnt Chinese, travelled to many awesome places, and learnt a whole lot about myself. Thanks to everyone who helped me make it possible including Ivey, and my Mom and Dad! The chance to have this experience over the first seven months of 2011 is an opportunity I will never forget.

What initially started off as a university exchange for 5 months in Singapore extended to 7 months by continuing my travels across South East Asia and pursuing further Mandarin studies in Beijing.


Here’s a breakdown of some trip facts:

Total Number of Days: 212

Number of Countries Visited: 10

Number of Cities: 25

Total distance travelled: 30,638 km / 19,038 miles (not including to and from Singapore)

Air miles travelled: 25,231 km / 15,678 miles (not including to and from Singapore)

Number of posts on somewhereawesome: 32

Route Map: 

Route Map – Asia 2011


Highlights included:


  • Making friends with many exchange students and local Singaporeans
  • Learning Singaporean slang. It’s okay lah!
  • Trying many different types of food. Singapore has the best food in Asia.
  • Learning Mandarin in Singapore and further in Beijing
  • Reliving the exchange experience again in Beijing by making many more friends and travelling some more
  • Seeing many of the world’s wonders

Broken down by country:

Singapore: the numerous cuisines, the people, and the fact that this country looks like a paradise (so clean!)

Malaysia: visiting Taman Negara, the oldest Rainforest in the world

Hong Kong/Macau: looking at a beautiful skyline and getting the chance to visit twice to hang out with friends from exchange and home

Nepal: trekking in the Himalayan region and seeing Mount Everest for myself

India: visiting the Taj Mahal and experiencing what life is like in the slums of Mumbai

Philippines: relaxing on the beautiful beaches of Bohol

Cambodia: visiting and seeing the magnificent ancient ruins of Angkor Wat

Vietnam: travelling through the bustling liveliness of Ho Chi Minh City and driving a motorbike in Mui Ne

Thailand:  relaxing more on the beach and the chance to get up close with tigers

China: visiting the Great Wall of China, learning Chinese, and the chance to visit Shanghai and climb mountains in Xi’an and Huangshan


keepsakes from each country:

I decided to keep some currency from every country that I travelled to. Light and easy to carry, they were my favourite keepsakes as they came in different sizes and colours.

the place you’ve got to visit:

Since coming back to Canada, I’ve been asked a few times what my favourite country was among all my travels. Besides Singapore, my favourite place was Nepal (check out my blog post on Nepal here). Nepal was the poorest country I travelled to bringing more awareness to all the issues that many people in the developing world face today. The people there were so kind and polite and also happy with the basics that they had (compared to materialistic North Americans).

Trekking in the Himalayan regions during part of my trip in Nepal brought about a stunning view. I had never felt so insignificant in size given that these mountains were several thousand meters in height. I definitely want to go trekking in Nepal again in the future to pursue a higher ascent.

Elephant riding

a new appetite:

I had always been a picky eater up until first year of university when my friends introduced me to a variety new dishes (and kind of forced it upon me, but thanks!). Since coming to Singapore, I made a conscious effort to try all the different authentic Asian delicacies. Almost every blog post included on somewhereawesome included a food section. Dishes/New food I tried included:

  • Stingray
  • Durian – a smelly fruit well loved in Singapore
  • Oh luah (Oyster Egg)
  • Prawns
  • Lamb
  • Scorpion
  • Beijing Kaoya (Duck)
  • Laksa! (my favourite dish)
  • Several asian desserts – Longan with Jelly, White Fungus with Red Bean, Bubur Chacha
For the full breakdown on dishes, check out my past blog posts. I never thought I would eat new dishes such as Prawns, Stingray or even Scorpion. But hey, you only live once!

til’ next time…

There is so much more to see in Asia. For those who havent been, there are many beautiful places to visit. I’m signing off for the last time on the exchange section of my somewhereawesome blog. It’s been a blast sharing my experiences with friends and family.

I’ll definitely be back some day. Til’ next time,

– Ranji / 元安迪

Categories: Exchange
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