He grew up in the tropical jungle in Borneo, speaks multiple Chinese dialects in addition to Malay Language and English and has an ever-growing collection of photos doing handstands in front of famous monuments on his travels. Siung Ghai C is our Tripper of the Week!
We want to hear about your background – share with us.
A little bit weird background I have here. Instead of telling others I am from Malaysia, I usually just answer them I am from Borneo. Yes, the tropical jungle that is in your mind now. I did almost everything that a jungle kid should have done, ranging from animal hunting and meeting elephants in the morning to playing with pet monkeys (but not tree jumping like what Tarzan did). I never had a boring day during my childhood.
A lot of foreigners have asked me if I had lived on coconut or banana trees before and what I want to clarify is that we don’t live on trees. Banana trees are not even strong enough to support heavy loads anyway! HAHA. I had been living in a jungle – or I should say a quite rural area (Keningau to be exact) for 12 years before moving to a bigger city – Kota Kinabalu, where I started having a more formal education. As a typical Sabahan, besides the three must-learn languages (English, Mandarin and also Malay Language), I am also proficient in the Chinese dialects like Cantonese, Hakka, Hokkien and also our native languages.
What do you most like to show first-time visitors to your hometown?
The beaches, the monkeys and the foods!!!! Sabah has one the most beautiful beaches in the world. Not to mention our amazing 101 diving sites! Since it is summer for us every day in Malaysia, I literally go island-hopping with my friends almost every month, and we never get bored of the natural treasures we have.
If someone said the word “monkey,” I bet there is only one image that comes to your mind right? For us, though, there are lots of images that come to mind. The species I love the most is the Proboscis Monkey and the Orangutan. And they have so many funny stories that can’t be told in a day (like Proboscis monkeys are the only species cannot eat bananas)!
I almost don’t feel like talking about foods as my mouth is drooling now!! Since Malaysia is composed of 3 big ethnic groups – Malay, Chinese and Indian as well as our local native languages. It’s almost unimaginable how our cultures are blended and merged so well. It makes the meals here fascinating beyond your wildest dreams!
Had you always thought you would study abroad or how did you end up studying in Sheffield, England?
To be honest, as a jungle kid who could barely speak English before the age of 12, I had never thought of furthering my studies after high school. What the locals always do is start working or just look for a job in town to cover their own expenses. However, being active in sports, I always represented my town and participated in inter-state competitions. And I believe this had changed my perspective towards the world drastically.
I realized there is so much for us to explore. By that time, I had made my decision. ……..I wanted to be a pilot so I could fly everywhere! As I promised myself, I left my hometown and moved to Kota Kinabalu for a proper education – alone! By the time I graduated, I had something different in my mind: “being a pilot is not enough to bring me as far as I want.” So I ended up at the University of Sheffield in England studying Aerospace Engineering and Private Pilot Instruction.
Of the places you’ve traveled, can you pick a favorite so far?
Of all the countries I had travelled before, I would name Taiwan as one of my favourites. Not because of the hidden treasure it offers, but because the people I travelled with made it more special.
If I need to name the most beautiful country I’ve been to, Spain would be the one. By only looking at the architectural design of the buildings in Barcelona, you can almost ‘smell’ Antoni Gaudí everywhere in town. The design itself can tell you a thousand stories. It is really worth visiting.
What’s your most memorable experience meeting local people on your travels?
I met a local Belgian in Brussels, Damien, who guided us to numerous places in Brussels, explaining everything ranging from history to details that we would never have found out had we been travelling alone.
For example, he showed us where to have the best chocolate and waffles in town (Arhh… Don’t remind me about the awesome chocolate again :D). I just felt like a local exploring the area the way I would never expect!
And most importantly, Damien did a handstand with me in front of Maison du Roi in Grand Place. I was so glad he was willing to do this with me! This would be my new collection of photos. And that was literally the most happening day in my trip. A BIG thanks to Damien!
How did the idea of taking photos doing handstands in famous places as you travel come about? And how many places have you taken a handstand photo?
Ahh, the handstand. Since I was young, I’ve been the kind of person who would take photos non-stop wherever and whomever I was with because I was scared I’d forget everything and everyone I’d seen one day. By the time I grew a little older, simply taking photos for me became an ordinary to remember an event. Hence the idea of doing handstand popped into my mind. I do have a dream of compiling all the photos together in an album and owning a book recording all the details of me travels and doing a handstand in every single part the world!! I know it is a very childish idea but I am so eager for my dream to be a reality! For now, I have about 50 plus handstand photos (places not countries) and I can assure you there are more to come!
Where do you want to travel next?
I just bought my ticket flying to Venice (Italy) on 12th June and will be visiting the Eastern European Countries in around one month. After that, I’ll be heading back to Malaysia and I’ll be going to Cambodia and Vietnam from 24th July till 2nd August. I’m really looking forward to having a cup of coffee with the locals! It would be Brilliant if we could take some awesome handstand photos together.
Happy travels, Siung!
Trippers, meet up with Siung on his travels via his Tripping profile. You can get some tips on the best spots to visit in Borneo, find out exactly where the best waffles in Brussels are – and he might even teach you to do a hand stand!