Asking Directions Series
Asking Directions’ is a new series where I interview fellow travelers. It is an effort to build up the travel community through collaboration, just as when we are lost or stuck, we “ask directions.”
My guest for this article is Jeremy from Jermpins. He is an engineer-turned-economist and hopes to inspire working professionals. You all too can live the dream, and travel the world whilst keeping your full time job.
This article focusses on parts of our chat involving Japan and Malaysia.
What’s a memorable food experience you had?
Jeremy – As to my most memorable food experience, it has to be Sushi Dai in Tokyo. It used to be just next to the famous Tsukiji fish market, but now relocated next to the new Toyosu fish market.
You really can’t get your sushi any fresher than this! The restaurant is small with a 10-seater sushi counter. We started queueing at 330am in the morning, and only got seated at 6am! But the whole experience was phenomenal, and I will do it again even if it means queueing up in the cold for 2.5 hours!
Any unexpected / funny / misunderstanding incident during your travels?
Jeremy – I do have a lot of funny stories from my travels. But I guess the one that tops all of them is when I had the worst hangover in my life, after drinking more than 20 shots of sake at this drink all you can sake bar in Tokyo! We discovered this bar the night before, went in, and realised we had less than an hour before closing. Obviously, we did not have enough time to sample the more than 60 types of sakes! We decided to return the next day, as early as we can. To maximise our drinking time, we even brought with us takeaway dinner. After more than 20 shots, we were both so hungover, we couldn’t even walk straight. The rest of the night was history, and looking back, we always have a good laugh. Until today, my partner still won’t take another sip of sake.
What’s a unique cultural activity you saw or participated in?
Jeremy – I don’t have one particular cultural activity, and am also not a fan of big festive celebrations. But, when I travel, I like to observe the local ways of living, and their customs. One country that fascinates me most is Japan. Travelling in Japan is all fun, and very eye opening. But, if you just pay a bit of attention to the locals, how they dress, the things they do, their manners, the things they eat etc.
I personally observed Japanese to be autonomous, law abiding, and they know their roles in society. They have lots of respect for one another. They bow when greeting, as a symbol of respect, reverence and gratitude. However, they are not to be mistaken as boring or even conservative. In fact, Japanese has some of the most quirky things you cannot find in the rest of the world, i.e. cosplay and the kawaii (cute things) culture, paying hefty premium for square watermelon, or a box of perfectly shaped strawberries, cuddle café (where customer pays for someone to sleep and cuddle only), and some really crazy TV game shows!
One of my favourite activities to do in Japan is definitely onsen, which is a communal bath house, where you must undress completely. Before entering the bath filled with natural hot spring water, you need to first shower and clean yourself in this communal shower room with stools where you can sit down. It is common for Japanese families to bathe together, even after their children get older. It is good family bonding, and some share that they have had some deep honest conversations over family bathe time.
I tried it with my close friends. It was awkward at first, but I must agree we did forge some sort of sacred bond after. If you are shy, you can always do it on your own. The hot bath is especially relaxing during winter, out in the open with snow falling on your head!Check out Hakone, this little onsen town near Mount Fuji. For more local experiences, you want to check in a Ryokan (homestay) and experience sleeping on futons.
Tell us about an underrated destination in your home-country.
Jeremy – Semporna is a small town of about 35k population, located in Southeast of Sabah. It is not very popular due to the lack of accessibility. The nearest airport to fly in is Tawau, and from there you need to drive another 1.5 to 2 hours drive to reach Semporna. However, if you are a diver, you have probably heard of Sipadan island, and Semporna jetty is where you take off from.
Semporna town is considered rural, and not very developed. However, being a seaside town, you will be sure to get only the freshest catch at a very reasonable price. From Semporna, you can take a boat to Mabul, Kapalai or Bohey Dulang island. And because it is not packed with tourists yet, the islands are well preserved and almost untouched. My favourite is Kapalai, this beautiful resort on top of a reef. Locals even crown it “Maldives in Malaysia”. Best thing to do here is diving, but snorkelling can be a lot of fun too, as it is almost guaranteed you can swim with turtles! If you prefer hiking, ascend the 300m peak on Bohey Dulang for this gorgeous view of the Emerald lagoon below!
The street-food game is good in South-East Asia, right?
Jeremy – Food is definitely a big part of my travels. And I really enjoy exploring all types of experiences, from street food, to checking out markets where locals get their fresh produce, and occasionally a nice fine treat for myself.
I personally find that Asia has better offerings when it comes to street food, e.g. Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong and almost every other Asian country have a version of night market/ street food.
Malaysia, my home country is no different, and if you ever visit Kuala Lumpur, you cannot miss out on Connaught night market, which is one of the longest night markets in Malaysia, with about 700 stalls stretching over 2 km!
We’ve had other conversations regarding beautiful places like Iceland, Malta, Germany and France outside Paris. I’m collecting them in the next article coming up. So stay tuned.
If you are interested in Asking Directions series, please get in touch me with me. I would love to know where you’ve travelled what stood out personally to you.
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