After leaving their jobs, this couple embarked on a backpacking adventure to explore Central Asia.
Gina Cheong and Daniel Ng are living examples of Singaporeans who took the path less travelled. Currently in their late twenties, the couple started Sunrise Odyssey in February 2014 to share stories and photos from their backpacking trips across Central Asia.
Sunrise Odyssey is a website that features various travelogues from the couple’s experiences together. After being mesmerised by a sunrise that Gina saw in Myanmar, the pair agreed on naming their blog Sunrise Odyssey as it is both unique and easily remembered.
After two years of working in the corporate world, 27-year-old Gina left the industry to follow her passion of backpacking across the world. Coincidentally, her partner Daniel, a 28-year-old freelance designer, also had plans to travel after university.
Before their 36-week Footprints Across Asia expedition, the couple went for short backpacking trips several times a year. Gina said: “We met other travellers who are doing this long journey, and when we heard their experiences, they inspired us to do it too.”
Aside from the usual preparations needed for their long trip, which started in Aug 20 last year, a lot of convincing had to be done. “My dad is quite protective and he is always concerned about me when I travel, especially in the rural areas,” said Gina, who took a year to successfully assure her dad.
Planning for their expedition, which brought them across Mongolia, China, and Istanbul, took them less than two months. “We started getting visas (first) because they are (the more) urgent ones,” said Daniel.
Throughout their expedition, they only travelled by air from Singapore to China, and from Turkey to home. For the rest of their journey, they took plenty of rides on public buses and jeeps to cross borders, which felt uncomfortable at times as they navigated bumpy terrains.
Travelling without a fixed schedule allowed them to be flexible with their budget. After setting aside sufficient money for miscellaneous activities and transportation, they just had to tweak their budget for other needs, such as accommodation and meals.
“Spontaneity has its problems as well, but it is more fun. We do not have a fixed schedule, so if you like it here, (you) can stay for a longer time,” said Gina.
Like any other expeditions, mishaps are bound to occur. However, that did not break their momentum to explore further, “The coldest (weather) we experienced was minus 38 degrees in Tajikistan. Initially, we were not used to the weather so we kept falling sick,” said Daniel, who struggled with a sprained ankle during the trip.
Despite these setbacks, the pair trudged on. Even the howling of wolves did not stop them from witnessing a breath-taking view at a canyon in Turkey.
Most people would probably assume that backpacking is an exciting travelling option, but the duo shared that it is often exhausting. “You have to live out of (a) backpack, and there are very limited things to bring. There are times where you need to walk long distances,” said Gina.
When asked about the most interesting place they have visited, both agreed their one-month stay in Iran was particularly memorable. Gina said: “The people were very genuine and we didn’t encounter any difficulties or danger.”
After months of travelling across Central Asia, the couple returned home on 13 May and are glad to be reunited with their loved ones at home. “I think after being so long on the road, a lot of ideas pop up,” said Daniel, who later revealed that they are planning to work on a new project soon.
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