Photos: Travel SSBD, Sonia's Instagram
Picture this: you’re going about with your usual business when someone barges in and hands you an envelope. You read the contents of said envelope to find out that you are to be whisked away to five different locations.
Sounds like a dream come true for the wanderlust-stricken, doesn’t it? Well, there’s a plot twist: you have no idea what you’re going to do at each country, only that they will not be your typical touristy kind of things like shopping and eating.
All that is precisely what happened to Sonia Chew for Toggle Originals series Travel SSBD (Same Same but Different), which launches today. In the five-episode programme, which is far from your ordinary travel show, the 987FM DJ embarked on “the most adventurous thing” she’s ever done, as she explained to us in an interview last week.
“I go there but I don’t know what I’m going to do,” she said, adding that she was only told the five cities she’d be visiting and what to pack to wear there. In each place, she has to complete a series of missions, after which she’ll be given clues to her next one.
And, as we mentioned earlier, these unconventional activities will not be common tourist tasks. “The reason it’s called Same Same but Different is because we go to common locations for travelling, but we expand our horizons and try new things.”
Despite the unsettling nature of such a mysterious “blind” journey, Sonia told us that she enjoyed just going with the flow and not having to worry about what to say or doing research. “It’s all really on the fly, and what you see is seriously what you get,” she said. “Everything I say is the one and only take.”
The first place Sonia landed in was Tokyo, Japan. “I’ve already been there a number of times so at first I thought, ‘Aiyah, what else is new?’ but I really did things I had never done before.”
One such thing was visiting a dojo to learn how to be a real ninja, which included lessons in throwing shuriken, or ninja stars. “They were real, sharp weapons! The crew was so scared they were hiding everywhere,” she recalled with a chuckle. “Apparently I was super good at it but you’ll have to watch it for yourself.”
However, it wasn’t all fun and games on the trip for the 2012 987 Radio Star champ. During her expedition to Chiang Mai, Thailand, the self-proclaimed city girl and insectophobe found herself at the mercy of five enormous spiders in an outhouse in the middle of the jungle.
“The spiders were about the size of my hand and they were plastered all over the walls and the toilet was really dirty,” she recalled with a shudder. “It was so bad I kept backing out because I couldn’t go! But in the end I sucked it up and went in, did my thing, and made my quick escape. That was horrifying.” (We can only imagine.)
Unfortunately, that wasn’t her only encounter with creepy-crawlies in the region: while river rafting, she came face-to-face with water roaches (“My worst fear!”) and was so terrified that she nearly capsized the bamboo raft she was on; and another time, she found herself surrounded by gigantic cicadas, both dead and alive. “I think the crew has heard enough of my screams. (laughs)”
Another scary activity Sonia engaged in were jumping off a 10m-high cliff in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. “I don’t really have a fear of heights but free-falling is quite terrifying!” she admitted.
Despite her “ordeals”, Sonia managed to return to Singapore unscathed (save for a tiny scratch on her leg). In fact, it was when she had returned to the Little Red Dot that she lost her phone and fell sick – two things she tried to avoid during her month-long voyage.
“It’s so ironic! Maybe it’s because I became more relaxed about things after coming home – I should be sent away more often,” she laughed, before making a public plea to anyone who finds her lost phone: “It has a Travel SSBD logo sticker on it, so if anyone spots it, it’s mine!”
Sonia also went parasailing in Langkawi and hit up a shooting range in Krabi.
Catch Sonia on Travel SSBD every Wednesday on Toggle.