Tales From Foreign Lands

Foreign Service officer Sim Siong Chye writes about his backpacking days in his first book.
Tales From Foreign Lands
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He went, he saw and he wrote it all down.

That may be the critical difference between Foreign Service officer Sim Siong Chye and the many of us who love to travel the world.

Bitten by the travel bug at 22, Mr Sim joined the Foreign Service 18 years ago to satisfy his wanderlust. Since then, the diplomat, now in his 40s, has travelled to 41 countries on work and personal backpacking trips.

In Once Bitten, Never Shy: Confessions of a Backpacking Diplomat, Mr Sim – now First Secretary in the Singapore High Commission in Canberra, Australia – writes of his travels in China, Russia, Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Scandinavia and South America from 1995 to 2004. Drawing from his detailed travel notes, he researched and wrote his book in 2005 and 2006 while on his second official posting in Yangon, Myanmar.

“There wasn’t much to do at night (in Yangon),” he quips. Luckily for him, the writing was done before the civil unrest (2007) and Cyclone Nargis (2008) made him a much busier man. Returning home in 2009, he was finally able to get his book to the publisher’s. He now hopes to write a second one of his travels in Myanmar.
Tales From Foreign Lands
The most interesting chapter would have to be the one of his first posting to Beijing, China. He does not (and cannot) write about his work, but he spills the beans on futile matchmaking efforts by a local Chinese woman intent on marrying off her daughter to the diplomat.

In Jerusalem, Mr Sim had his backpack chucked out of a guesthouse when he insisted on leaving it there for the day after having checked out. In a fit, he made a police report and the owner got a verbal warning. On hindsight, the diplomat admits to Challenge that he “failed to appreciate the owner’s concerns about bombs left in bags”.

After having been pick-pocketed and stranded without luggage, and fought off persistent touts, Mr Sim says he has learnt to plan ahead, and always stays tuned to local conditions and social practices of the places he visits.

The 120-page book is a breezy, well-written read you could finish in a day. While there are no juicy confessions of a diplomat as the title suggests (think espionage and seduction), it is an inspiration to those who have volumes of travel journals waiting to be transformed into books.
Once Bitten, Never Shy

Once Bitten, Never Shy: Confessions of a Backpacking Diplomat (RRP S$16 excl GST) is available at Prologue, Kinokuniya and Popular bookstores. Also available at www.armourpublishing.com and www.amazon.com

    Jul 18, 2011
    Bridgette See
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