AS I SIT IN FRONT OF MY COMPUTER, preparing to leave Hualien once and for all, I tried to remember how this small touristy town at the Eastern coast of Taiwan meant to me over the past 7 years. Having completed my medical school, hospital internship and today, my medical licensure examination, all in Hualien; reminded me that I had a lot going on here, and to leave, means to bid goodbye to a place where most of my recent memories take place.
What makes a place special? What makes a place memorable? I will forever cherish Hualien for her natural beauty, her laid back charm, and most importantly, her friendly people. This is one place that visitors fall in love with, even before having her trying to impress. Hualien will be most remembered for her unique charisma, one that is not found elsewhere in Taiwan.
EVEN AFTER MY LIMITED TRAVELS, I started to notice how some places (cities), manage to put a significant mark in your heart more than others. Cities like Seoul and New York caress your sights with busy streets, glamorous buildings and endless neon signboards. Penang and Tainan are cultural cities that bring you back to the history of their people, letting us respect their heritage even more. Boston and Taichung are occupied by honest yet knowledgeable people, not your typical hosts, but it is always good to know people who has so much self-confidence. Medan has the beautiful Lake Toba while Guizhou tribesmen always invite guests to their homes. These are the places that you will remember always.
I have been listening to all these rumors about India being a backpacker haven, a trip of a lifetime, a wonderful challenge for all your senses. With more than a month to spare and a limited budget to spend, India seems like the perfect destination for me. The Indian world however, is not totally alien, since Malaysia has her fair share of Indian communities. My mum’s best friend, Aunt Mary cooks curry for us every Deepavali. Ms. Kalamathy is my Indian history teacher during high school who doubles as the advising board in our Red Crescent Society. Our neighbour and my sister’s best friend is an Indian. So, I do know a thing or two about their culture and religion, and I know one Tamil word that if said, will make me sound vulgar.
Being so unpredictable and yet affordable, India easily tops my list of places that I would definitely want to visit (at least twice or more). India is a vast country. So huge that every state differs so much from each other they could be neighboring countries. My destinations include the Tibetan colony of Leh in Ladakh, serene Lake Srinagar in the Kashmiri valleys, Sikh Amritsar in Punjab and of course tourist hotspots such as Delhi and Agra.
HAVING NO DEFINITE ITINERARY, I will try to plan while I move, having travelers’ tales and common sense as my ultimate guides. Several days to go before I start my journey, and here at home I struggle in trying to pack light and concise. Good luck to me, and also to the Indians, because here I come!