It was “summer” of 1995 and my parents, brother and I were seated in a London cab en route to Changi Airport in Singapore. Almost a day later we were in another London cab, this time, actually in London. I was all of 8 years old and this was the farthest city I’d ever been to, and this would remain to be the case till some 13 years later, when I embarked on my University student exchange programme to Jönköping, Sweden. Suffice to say, I was, as the English would say, bloody excited (except at 8, I probably would not have said that) – after all, it was going to be 12 days in the beautiful UK.
To be honest I cannot remember much about this particular trip to London (I did go back in 2008), though I do remember…
that we stayed with my parents’ friend Monica and her balding English husband, Richard (edit: Just found out he has since passed on. RIP).
how my dad brought me around to look at shops that sold ballet accessories.
… and how my 10-year brother sat as still as a mannequin, minus the mouth-moving part as he was chewing on a single piece of gum, for 3 whole hours as my mother did some major retail therapy in a shop at Covent Garden. (It’s funny on retrospect in guessing why my mother didn’t bring me, and why my dad and brother didn’t go do some “guy stuff” together.)
how my brother and I apparently unknowingly tuned in to some R-rated channel, while my parents were out watching Evita at West End for the millionth time. Wait actually I don’t remember that, but the brother does.
how we watched Starlight Express and Sunset Boulevard at West End and thought that the former was oh-so-cool because the entire cast performed in rollar-skates. I don’t think I really understood the latter, but hey, I watched the brilliant Elaine Paige in the flesh belting out musical “classics” (now that is), such as “As If We Never Said Goodbye”.
The part of the trip that I still vividly remember and that remains deeply etched in my heart and mind, however, would be the road trip to and around Cymru, or otherwise known to most of mankind as Wales.
The strawberries we bought from a road side stall. How my brother and I lay in the makeshift beds (a.k.a the boot) of our rental SUV. The bread and jam we feasted on at quaint little cafes during the tea breaks we took along the way.
Our first stop in Wales was at a B&B on a farm owned by a elderly couple called Colin and Daphne. We were greeted by Colin, who was simply clad in a thin white cotton tee, and I recall how I thought he was so ridiculous to just be wearing so little, when I was under my 5 layers of clothes. We were the first Singaporean family to ever grace their premises, and they were just as excited to have us as their guests and we were to stay there. They treated us with such great hospitality and kindness and this made the stay especially memorable.
I remember the one-hour tour around their farm. I remember their 2 little black and white dogs, Hannah and Sam, who were ever so playful and loved to cuddle up to us. I remember the electric blankets that kept us warm those cold, erm, Summer nights. I remember the lovely dinners our host, Daphne, cooked for us to satiate our stomachs.
I just simply loved everything about the B&B and I honestly did not want to leave.
We moved on to another B&B. Well I can’t really call it a B&B as it was a huge-ass mansion. My parents got the humongous master bed room, with its walk-in wardrobes and what-not, while my brother and I were stuck with a tiny double room. There was not much to do in the mansion and I recall walking along it’s long hallways flanked by dozens of rooms. I recall walking around the back garden, which was more of a forest really. I recall being bored in our rooms and how we watched Power Rangers on TV. I recall the giant Great Dane and the tiny chihuahua that the owners had and how hilarious it looked when the two dogs sat side by side.
The mansion was quite forgettable. It did not feel as homely as the little farm B&B felt. But it did not matter. There was this particular charm about Wales and its rustic countryside that was so alluring.
I can’t quite explain how it happened but I fell in love with Wales and I promised myself that I was going to be back someday. I even dreamt of one day buying a piece of land and owning my own farm and B&B. But never did I think that I’d be returning to Wales so soon. It may have already been 15 years, so “soon” may not be the appropriate word to use. Still, Wales was in the “Someday I’ll be back” Plan, but not in the short-term plan, and definitely not in the “I’m Leaving for Wales Tonight” Plan.
So yes, I’m actually heading to Wales this very evening. And while I *secretly* wish that this trip is actually part of a grander Europe or UK trip, I’m going there for work, which really is the next best option, so what’s there to complain about?
I’ll be going there as part of a blogger challenge for Visit Britain with the following bloggers – TheTravelTart (Anthony, Australia), Aries (Hong Kong), Backpacking Ninja (Aparna, India), Yuko (Japan), Dong Gu (Korea) and Nellie (Singapore) . No, I’m not taking part in the challenge, but rather just the “escort”. While I probably won’t have much time to be blogging much over the course of the trip, these 6 bloggers will definitely be blogging, so you can follow their progress here (note: microsite to only go ‘live’ tonight at midnight) and here if you’re interested.
And while I’ve already stated a disclaimer that this trip is indeed work-related, and hence this post may look like pure publicity, it is not; this blog post is written for my love of the delightful Wales, the Wales I’ve loved and longed for for the past 15 years, the Wales I can’t wait to revisit in the week to come.
I went to Wales to accompany 6 travel bloggers from around Asia as part of The Great Welsh Showdown, a Visit Britain initiative to introduce the beauty of Wales to the blogosphere.