By Jessica Lees, Third Year Politics and Sociology
The Croft Magazine // As I remember my time in Asia, only the greatest memories are at the forefront. Though the trip was not short of its challenges.
Quite often the trips we take across the world leave distinct memories and hopefully ones that are fond rather than foul. Having been privileged enough to travel the world from a young age, I have generally been left with memories of silky seas, forests of green and hot sun to accompany most places. That was until I travelled alone for the first time and discovered the challenges which make the joyful memories even sweeter.
Last summer I had the opportunity to travel to Asia. The countries I specifically went to were Vietnam, Thailand, and Bali (in that order). This opportunity resulted from GOTOCO, a University of Bristol-affiliated company that sends both under and post-graduates around the world to teach English. One of the best parts is that all accommodation, food, flights, and in-country travel are included due to Turing funding with countries to go to in Europe and Asia.
In Vietnam the first challenge was the heat, the intense humidity was quite overbearing being from the generally cold and mild climate of the UK. Next, having around 40-50 children each to look after for many hours in the day was tough and Bali proved difficult with many participants falling ill from ‘Bali Belly’, something I thankfully avoided.
After a fulfilling time of teaching the children in Vietnam life skills, sports, and theatre, I solo-travelled in the North. Firstly, I visited Ninh Binh about an hour and a half from Hanoi. The highlight of this trip was my travels through the nearby river, surrounded by green mountains like that which can be found in Ha Long Bay. I felt like I was Lara Croft in the game Tomb Raider.
I spent three nights in a homestay and my host was a lovely woman who though she couldn’t speak much English, showed me an immense amount of kindness and care. She gave me a map of the surroundings, lent me her old bicycle to explore, and sent me on my way with a drink, bananas, and a big hug when I left.
Next, I went to Sa Pa, a beautiful town in the mountains five hours from Hanoi and close to China. I stayed in an Eco-lodge with one of the most stunning views of mountains and rice fields. To this day it is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
Though my time in Thailand (Bangkok) was short, my favourite dream-like memory was made here when I spent the day with Elephants. It was nothing short of magical. Feeding, swimming with, and giving mud baths to these immense and magnificent creatures. We had so much fun spending a day with the sanctuary in the Thai countryside and enjoyed a full buffet afterwards. The moment was surreal and will stay with me forever.
I acknowledge that there is a strong element of rose-tinted glasses here. It was extremely hot in Vietnam and Thailand, I couldn’t speak Vietnamese, Thai or Balinese and I got viciously attacked by mosquitos. I am misremembering my trip but that’s good and okay because what stands out and is worthy of remembering is the brilliant time I had with people, immersed in culture, and teaching. As time moves on, I hope these memories stay strong with the help of my photographs of the time I had in Asia, a time I wouldn’t change for the world and which was certainly like a dream.
Featured image: Adam Liu
Do you see past trips through rose-coloured glasses?