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International Exchange

No thinking, no boundaries, all heart.

29 February 2016
Sara Rahmen standing on a cliff near the ocean.

In the the last year I travelled to 11 countries, and 8 of those were in Asia. I visited Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. Asia, it’s a crazy place I tell you. Each country I visited in Asia brought something new to the table, every culture was so different and diverse.

In this blog I will be discussing a couple things about my experience in Asia:

  1. A little about the city I lived in- Hong Kong
  2. The place which surprised me the most
  3. The place I loved the most
  4. The place I liked the least
  5. A little something from the heart

Hong Kong for me was its own world on its own, this is because the country offered everything you could ever want. One minute you could be in the centre of buzzing lights and thousands of people, and the next you could be by a beach. Or hiking up the peak to watch the sunset disappear behind the skyline.

Hong Kong Victoria PeakShek O Beach










I remember it like it was yesterday first arriving in Hong Kong for my exchange, starring at Chinese characters and frantically trying to remember back to my Mandarin classes, “That one line on top of that other line means… her? Or him?”. Then within a couple of weeks I was walking into coffee shops saying “Hello, can I have my regular?”. I became accustom to the stylish, fast-paced and glamourous lifestyle.

So when I decided to go to South East Asia you could imagine my (delightful) surprise. Everything seemed slower, less stylish and well, less glamorous. But the beauty within South East Asia was a different kind of beauty offered by Hong Kong, the vibrant colours, no need for objects and barely (if any) sense of hygiene was a change. A breath of fair air if you will.

Out of all the places I visited Laos was probably the one which surprised me the most. The country was so beautiful and seemed so tranquil whilst I was there, even the capital Vientiane. The natural beauty in Laos absolutely stunned me, especially in Vang Veing. I remember floating down a river for two hours around these enormous mountains which were completely made up of limestone, it was like nothing I had ever seen before.

Laos - Vang Veing












Not to mention the pearly blue waters I witnessed whilst I was there.
Laos - Luang Prabang

Laos - Vang Veing










I always get asked “what was your favourite place when you were travelling Asia?” and I hate answering that question because I feel it’s an unfair question. I loved something about everywhere I visited because each country brought something different to the table. But you know… Some people won’t stop asking until they get an answer, so I guess I will choose Japan! I choose Japan because I adored everything about each place I visited there. I went to Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Itsukushimaand and Osaka. Everywhere I turned in Japan I was stunned by the architecture, the vibrancy of the coral coloured leaves, the detail in the temple boarders and the kindness of the people.

KyotoKyoto - Autumn Leaves







Oh and how could I forget to mention the FOOD?

KyotoHiroshima  Miyajima








One of the best things I had ever tasted was the curry oyster bun on Miyajami Island, so if you ever find yourself there, run up to the elderly man with a cart along the side of the sea. You can’t miss him!

One of the places I have to say I didn’t enjoy as much as everywhere else I travelled to was Phnom Pehn in Cambodia.

Cambodia - Phnom Pehn










Whilst being there I just felt significantly less safe than I did in other parts of Asia I travelled. It didn’t help that all the tuk-tuk drivers told me to put my purse under my skirt to prevent motorbike thieves from stealing my bag. I know this came with the territory when coming to a country which had such a sad history (which was also so recent), but this is just me speaking from my heart. I still think that Phnom Pehn had beauty scattered around the city though I didn’t enjoy the city as much.

Cambodia - Phnom Pehn   Cambodia - Phnom Pehn






Now, even though Phnom Pehn wasn’t my favorite place, I absolutely ADORED Siem Reap. Incredibly stunning, full of natural beauty and buzzing all day long!

Cambodia - Siem Reap













Every cockroach flying into my hair and grasshopper jumping onto my clothes was completely worth every second I spent in Siem Reap.

All in all, my Asia experience was more than anything I ever anticipated. I’ve come home with so many more memories, friends, recipes and survival trips. Throw me in a jungle. I swear I’ll be able to survive now.

Japan - Miyajima











Pack and suitcase and just go. No thinking, no boundaries, all heart. I left a piece of mine in Asia and i’ll return for it someday.

Until next time,