Traveling round South East Asia on a budget
12.11.2008 - 14.01.2009
I've never been a man to follow trends, go with the crowd or lie around in the sun but neither have I ever been a man to turn down an opportunity of adventure. So with Korea over with and money in my pocket I flew to Singapore to start what for me was more than just a backpacking trip.
Everyone and their aunt goes to SE Asia backpacking so it was never going to be 'into the wild' but despite my many travels to date I had never been backpacking as such. Upon leaving I set myself these rules:
Pack light: I had one 40 liter Ruck Sack and always had space
Embrace different methods of transport: I did including Planes, Trains, Automobiles, Buses, Tuk-Tuks, Bicycles, Elephants, Canoes, Bamboo Rafts, White Water Rafts, Long tail boats, Cable Cars, hitch-hiking etc.
Sleep in different ways: I enjoyed Hostels (of course), Tents, Cabins, Guest Houses, busses, trains, and most enjoyable of all Couch Surfing.
Give a little back: I brought along a Baby Acoustic Guitar, which I enjoyed playing in camps, with new friends, on the beach, while hitch hiking. Sadly I lost this on my last train arriving home as I was so knackered (so close yet so far).
Be prepared: I always carried toilet paper (essential) and water. I never felt like I was missing something. My silk bag liner was a great buy and I consistently swapped books.
So here's my trip:
I really enjoyed my time in Singapore mainly for two reasons. One was that I 'Couch Surfed' round a wonderful Singaporean woman's house who rocked.
Two was that after another year in Asia struggling to communicate, I could finally speak almost fluent English to everyone, everywhere and yet I was still in Asia.
Malaysia was pretty cool and my first real taste of South East Asia. All the different cultures and the great transition from beach to Jungle. The Camron Highlands were great. Lot's of trekking and Jungle and cooler weather. I travelled with a Kiwi/Brit I met in SIngapore all through Malaysia and it was great to have company to share the weird and wonderful with but after 2 weeks or so I realized I was not doing things quite how I would like so as we parted just before Thailand I was ready to try a new tack.
Thailand is one of those places that turn out to be just what you expected. And I expected sun, sea, sand and a billion other backpackers spoiling it. I really did enjoy it, especially Kanchanaburi, Chiang Mai and Ko Phi Phi. I met some lively Swedes on Ko Phi Phi, a cool German guy in Bangkok, an interesting Italian guy in Kanchanaburi and a fun Polish guy in Chiang Mai. Many new friends and many good times but Thailand will always be too Mainstream for me.
What made Laos such a wonderful time was the way I did it. I was traveling with the Polish guy I met in Thailand and travelled more on our own wits that just following the crowd. Learning the language, wild camping, bargaining, doing it cheap, walking, hitch-hiking etc.
I did some of this in Thailand and in Korea but never on a daily basis and I honestly found it more natural and genuine. It was still nothing new or 'into the wild' crazy but it felt better and much of it was to the credit of Michal (The Pole).
This was where it all went wrong. Originally after Laos I would go to Cambodia, then Vietnam and end in China. However after a long break my Chinese ex emailed and we ended up agreeing to travel together in the South of China. So I went straight to China and saw a few places while I waited. Things weren't going great for me in China as I love the landscape and some times the people but mostly it's a place I find myself immensely frustrated (like many other). Then things didn't work out so well with the ex and I fell onto my knee on a sharp rock and took myself out of action. Not feeling great and unable to do the action packed stuff I had planned I bailed on China and went to Hong Kong.
By the time I reached Hong Kong I knew it was the end. My knee was getting worse and worse and I was getting a bit fed up with all the naive and 'trendy' travelers surounding South East Asia. So I booked a flight and I went.
Before my flight I saw as much as my knee would allow and quite enjoyed Hong Kong regardless.
That's it! A great trip in which I learned an awful lot about how to travel and how I like to travel. Sadly it was cut short but I saw a lot before it was so I can't grumble too much.