Be flexible and open to discovery on vacation

At askST@NLB event, travel writer Lee Siew Hua talks about overcoming travel hitches

Learn about how to plan a spontaneous vacation and deal with travel setbacks.
About 250 people turned up at the Central Public Library yesterday to get tips from ST travel writer Lee Siew Hua.
About 250 people turned up at the Central Public Library yesterday to get tips from ST travel writer Lee Siew Hua.ST PHOTO: JASMINE CHOONG

When The Straits Times travel writer Lee Siew Hua was in Sao Paulo, Brazil, she found out only on the day of her visit to Iguazu Falls that a travel agent had accidentally booked her domestic flight for a day later.

Iguazu Falls was the highlight of her trip but the booking mix-up had essentially cut her time there by half.

Thankfully, Ms Lee managed to change her flight to an earlier one and her guide adapted the itinerary so she did not miss out on any of the key sights.

The incident made her enjoy Iguazu Falls even more.

"Travel plans can unspool in a flash, but my senses were heightened because of adrenaline and gratitude that my trip was still happening," said Ms Lee, who has visited all seven continents.

She was speaking to about 250 people on how to plan a "spontaneous" vacation and deal with travel setbacks at the Central Public Library yesterday.

The talk, part of the askST @ NLB sessions, was organised by ST and the National Library Board (NLB).

During the 90-minute session, Ms Lee shared anecdotes from her travels in Greece, Rwanda, Iran and the Philippines.

She also gave tips on how to incorporate the joy of discovery into a vacation. "Look for old neighbourhoods that have become hip again, like Singapore's Tiong Bahru or Joo Chiat," she said.

Revisiting a destination could offer a fresh perspective on a familiar place, she added.

Families with children can also involve the kids in the planning and make new discoveries in the process.

Ms Lee also invited ST contributor Mandy Tay to share some travel tips.

Ms Tay relies on her social network to introduce her to locals in a new city. It would be even better if they are "transported locals", such as an Argentinian living in China, who can offer perspectives on their home country and the host city, she said.

"Sometimes, locals don't really see what makes a place special."

Retired flight attendant Sharon Tay, 54, found the talk interesting.

Ms Sharon Tay, who enjoys going with the flow and sometimes travels without pre-booking her accommodation, said: "I wanted to pick up some tips on solo female travel as well as how to fine-tune my vacation planning."

The talk was streamed live on the Rings.TV application and it attracted about 1,250 views. The live streaming video can be replayed via the app, which can be downloaded from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

The next askST @ NLB session will be on Oct 26, when housing correspondent Rachel Au-Yong will talk about buying your first HDB flat. Registration is at

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2018, with the headline 'Be flexible and open to discovery on vacation'. Subscribe