And I thought I was the king of the worldSeptember 08, 2016

When gap year arrived, I didn't have second thoughts about travelling on my own. As a matter of fact, I've been planning it for months. Most students would think of lofty reasons behind their trips, but I rather not kid myself. I might not do it again. It had been more than a year since my worn backpack, and I parted ways, and I could say that I haven't been afflicted with wanderlust. I might have a change of heart, though. (I can meet someone down the road, and we can plan a holiday in the Mediterranean.) This would lead to travel trips, which I hardly used at all. I was told what a first-time backpacker must do. I was made to believe that wrongdoings could have serious consequences. It reminded me of what my parents told me back then.

Southeast Asia was a backpacker's dream for several reasons. It was relatively cheap compared to Europe. I found out that the locals would be glad to strike a conversation. And I don't have to force myself to learn the native dialect(s). Last but not the least, nothing could be better than a full-moon party. I may be young, but I could offer some tips. It would be quite different from what you read. Bring out your notepad:

There's no need to do it all. I was open to suggestions, which turned out to be a mistake on one occasion. During my week-long stay in Ao Nang Beach, the courteous lady at the reception counter insisted that it was possible to see the Tiger Cave Temple and visit the elephant farm afterwards. She didn't tell me that I must climb a long stairway. It would be almost 1,300 steps. And I should have done it during the early morning. I was an active lad, exercising thrice a week. But I ended up with sore legs. The sense of urgency gave me a delayed reaction, as I chose to stay in bed the following day.

Try the karaoke. I was hesitant until I thought about the experience. It couldn't get worse, but I was mistaken. The locals were obsessed with it, and the selection (of songs) didn't include my favorite tunes. I don't have a clue about Kenny Rogers, but I saw some locals hiding their giggles. I didn't hear the mirror cracked, so it wasn't bad as it seemed.

It's not culturally insensitive to have a few cans of beers. As long as your head doesn't start spinning, then no one is stopping you from getting boozy. And it must be cold beer. You'll figure it out when you begin to notice the humidity.

Join the crowd. I didn't understand why tourists would crowd the entrance to Angkor Wat and strained their arms (and heads) to take a picture of the famed temple at sunrise. I wouldn't like to find myself in an uncomfortable position, so I opted to see Bayon Temple. It was eerily quiet. There were five other tourists who have the same idea, and they didn't seem keen on an early morning conversation. And it turned out that this wasn't the right time to have a photo of the solemn faces. I have to wake up early for the second straight day.

Smiles would mean many things. It was such a welcoming sight until I found out that some places would give a smile a whole new dimension. You must find it out for yourself.

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