Travel can be everything from crazy to ridiculous, and among the members of the CLEO Team we have some pretty crazy stories to share. But thankfully, they can’t all be duds right? This time, when the team shared their best travel experiences, the range of places and stories was pretty interesting. They ranged from luxury villas to quiet empty pagodas to time spent alone in a forest. And that just goes to prove that great travel experiences can happen anywhere, even when you least expect it.
Eight CLEO Team members share their stories here. We hope it’ll give you some travel inspo for your next trip!
Images: Pexels.com and 123.RF
“Unless invited to visit by a local or an Indian, Balgladeshi or Maldivian citizen, you have to travel to Bhutan with a tour operator. In 2014, I did just that, and because I went alone, spent all my time with my guide and driver. The three of us were about the same age, so aside from taking me to many awe-inspiring sites (the Tiger’s Nest Monastery is as majestic as it looks in pictures), they invited me after hours to places I’d otherwise probably not get to go to. These included clubs (yup, there are clubs in Bhutan) and people’s homes (even strangers let us in — the Bhutanese are super warm and friendly).
“When I went on a solo trip to Bagan, Myanmar last year, and zipped between temple sites on a moped! This particular moment made the trip for me:
So then he set his broom down and motioned for me to follow him. He led me to this small little pagoda. It was dark, dusty, and there was no one else there besides me and this elderly man. It suddenly occurred to me that literally no one would hear me scream there.He disappeared into the darkness. I turned on my iPhone’s flashlight and followed him, all the while reassuring myself that nothing bad could happen to me in a place of worship. He dusted some cobwebs aside and told me to climb up this flight of stairs that magically appeared. Long story short, it led up to the roof of this little pagoda, and I managed to catch the sunrise AND the hot air balloons that soon followed. I had the place all to myself and didn’t have to jostle with other tourists. I can’t review this old man and his humble pagoda on Tripadvisor, but 10/10 would recommend.” — Sophie, Senior Features Writer
“The great thing about being the youngest sister is that your sisters sometimes decide to reward you for being the best sister ever (LOL) and pay for your holidays. My eldest sister paid for my ‘grad trip’ to South Korea after I graduated from junior college – but I went on the trip with her.
Then I was in university, my middle sister asked me if I wanted to go to Hawaii and I literally told her ‘no money’. She then told me that she would pay for my trip (we got pretty cheap tickets because our eldest sister works for an airline). She told me to just bring my own money for shopping, so I went to Hawaii with just S$150. My eldest sister ended up coming along for the trip and they shared the cost of my meals and transport between themselves.
I should be raving about Hawaii and the amazing beaches (Hanauma Bay was REALLY pretty), but half the time, I was trying to hide from the sun. What made the trip the best one: I didn’t have to pay for anything. Except for an EcoTools brush set that I bought. So I guess my best travel experiences boils down to having the best sisters ever?” — Hidayah, Senior Digital Writer
“When I was still working in advertising, I got made redundant at my job and was also slightly traumatized from a flirtation gone wrong. I think I was still in shock when I booked a trip to Japan with a friend who was also between jobs. It was a pretty long trip — three weeks — but you can only really do that when you’re unemployed.
We went by train from Osaka down to Beppu, a hotsprings town down south. There we stayed in a traditional ryokan and visited hot springs all over the city. There were sand hotsprings and mud springs but my favourite was when we took a bus up into the mountains and got into an onsen that overlooked the town. It was 13 degrees in March and freezing but the water was warm and when you looked around, the mountains were steaming from the hotsprings that were peppered around it. I remember thinking to myself that, with everything that had happened, it really wasn’t so bad if I could have the opportunity to sit in an onsen and look out over the mountains. And then as if to prove that things could only get better, it started to gently snow.” — Karen, Associate Editor
“One of my best trips was to Cempedak private island. Technically in Indonesia, it’s easily reachable by boat from Singapore’s Tanah Merah ferry terminal and overall takes 2 ½ hours, which makes it perfect for a weekend getaway. As soon as we arrived we were in bliss. The lovely staff handed us a drink and we made our way to our lunch table which overlooked the sea — but was really basically floating above it.
The sea was crystal clear and not rough at all making it perfect for snorkeling, paddle boarding or just soaking. The pool also overlooked the sea, and with a no kids policy on the island it was the perfect place to chill, that’s if you’re not sitting by your own private pool in your villa. Food was also great, for $90 a day you get three-course meals, three times a day and all were delicious.
Finally, the staff are amazing. So attentive, they address you by your name which automatically makes you feel at home. After three days there I didn’t want to leave and even tried staying another night but they were sold out! It was expensive but for a special occasion I would recommend it hands down and would put it up there with the Maldives.” — Gen, Fashion Editor
“I was in Amsterdam a couple of years ago for a music festival called Dekmantel. Since it’s one of the most famous cycling capitals in the world (it has more bikes than people, believe it or not), I decided to bike from my AirBnb just north of the city centre to the festival grounds, which was located deep inside the sprawling Amsterdam Forest.
It was an exhilarating, scenic three-hour cycle that took me across city streets, parks and meadows. Highly recommended if you’re ever there, especially during summer (late June to late September). And if you’re into dance music, Dekmantel is definitely worth checking out too.” — Syafii, Sub-Editor