Meet Noel from Ten Thousand Strangers. This travel loving blogger blogs his lessons learned along the road, about observing people do crazy things and you’ll learn all you need to know about carrying a Star Wars Stormtrooper Helmet everywhere you go.
From opening up about how travelling expands your prejudices to literally wearing a Stormtrooper Helmet everywhere he goes, today Noel joins me for Ten Thousand Strangers where we can learn more about his travelling experiences, tips and tricks.
1. Where was your last trip? What was the best part about it?
My last trip was at the city of Abha in the southwestern region of Saudi Arabia. It was a literal cool escape from the usual 40-degree C temperature in this country. Lush mountains, verdant foliage, and an all-year great weather, it’s almost like you’re in a totally different country except you’re still within the boundaries of Saudi Arabia. Abha is just a simple city but the contrast it creates to the usual dead rocks and endless stretch of sands is what makes this city unique throughout the Kingdom.
I had to Google this place as I almost didn’t believe you. My understanding of Saudi Arabia was exactly as you said; desert as far as the eye can see! This is why I love talking to other travellers about their experiences.
2. What is the best place you’ve been to and why?
My favourite place to date is the West Lake in Hangzhou, China. I often frequented the place during my expat days in the oriental country. The vast landscape and the numerous sites around the lake is such a relaxing escape from the urban jungle that I was mostly confined in during weekdays.
Now this looks absolutely beautiful! The pagodas structures I saw on my travels in China were breathtaking and there’s something so serene about this place. I can see why you loved it.
3. Would you describe yourself as a happy budget travelling, prefer luxury holidays or somewhere in the middle?
I’m mostly frugal. I could be happily sleeping on a tent pitched at the side of the road if I will be allowed to. But when there is no way but to pay the high entrance or to splurge on scrumptious food, I’ll be willing to break the bank if that’s the only way around.
It’s a hard life, but you have to do it sometimes. If with you on this, mostly frugal, but sometimes you have just got to do it!
4. What’s the most embarrassing or weirdest (if you’re not brave enough to tell me about your most embarrassing moment) thing happen to you while travelling?
I travel with my Stormtrooper helmet and pose on tourist spots wearing it and I would usually attract stares. I may have embarrassed myself doing that a lot, but who cares, right?
Check these fellow traveling Stormtroopers.
I LOVE this. This is brilliant and I bet you get a lot of staring people every time you get that out of your bag. I can also imagine that you make a lot of people smile.
5. What was the scariest moment you’ve encountered while travelling?
During my first flight to Saudi Arabia, I was crazy scared all for the wrong reason. That was almost seven years ago when my knowledge about Muslims was so limited to what the news articles; terrorism, false accusations, un-rightful beheadings. On my flight from Brunei to Saudi Arabia, the plane was packed with people in Muslim garbs and my once Islamophobic self would have imploded had anyone laid me a finger. I have written the experience in full here.
But please be known that I know better now. Having lived with Muslims throughout the six years of my stay in this country, I realised Muslims will never equate to terrorism, it is in fact a beautiful way of life.
I think this is very true to the sad state of affairs in Western politics and a very brave thing for you to share.
6. What’s the strangest or most amazing thing you’ve eaten and where did you eat it?
Without my knowing, my Japanese brother-in-law made me eat raw ground meat with raw egg. It was great, until I found out what was I eating. Truly, the mind plays tricks on us.
This is a lesson we should all take note of! When you travel you see lots of food and automatically turn your nose at because it is something unknown. We do not like the unknown, unless we do not know it is unknown.
7. What is your favourite social custom or tradition that you’ve encountered while travelling?
Weddings will always be my favorite social event as it showcases a lot of the local customs. When I was in China, I was able to attend several weddings where traditions, including the newly-wed wife would light every male guest’s cigarettes, are very interesting. The story behind the use of symbol “double happiness” in Chinese weddings is a very intriguing story on its own.
I love weddings for the same reason! You get to be immersed in a different culture completely.
8. Where is your least favourite place you’ve visited and why?
China is a wonderful city but the crowd, especially during major holidays, makes the place less appealing. The people can be rude, people crossing lines became a norm, and the endless pushing among the crowd is both physically and mentally draining. But then you would realize that is part of the fun should you decide to experience how the locals do.
China is my least favourite place I’ve visited. I was there during the 2008 Olympics and the city of Beijing was just crazy busy.
9. What is the most creative thing you did to save money while travelling?
Packing homemade granola and milk on tetra packs and eating them along the way during day trips. It saves me breakfast and lunch so I could splurge as much for dinner.
We do this a lot. Cheap breakfast and lunch in order to splurge on a really good meal!
10. What’s your top travel tip?
Always bring your toiletries and hand sanitisers. You’ll never know when you’ll need them or what will happen along the road. Also Google maps may be your best tour guide but don’t always follow what it says. Sometimes, it will ask you to walk a hundred meters when you could simply walk five steps to your right.
Very useful tips! Google maps once sent us down a dead end in Dubrovnik; it had convinced so many people that the local residents had put a sign up at the beginning of the road telling people it was a dead end.
You can hear more about Noel from Ten Thousand Strangers and his travels on his blog.
Like this? Make sure you check out my other interviews at Travellers 10 Questions!
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