Where to start from? First of all, I don’t want to bore you with the itinerary of my 35 day journey throughout South East Asia since you can find that in lots of blogs and travel websites around the Internet. So, let’s keep it simple and I will try to do my best to make your time reading this entry worth it (or at least entertaining).
I won’t deny it has been one of the coolest things I’ve dared to do in my life and also accept I was missing my bed by day 10. Travelling has become one of my favorite things to do since I moved to Taiwan but it was the first time I left home for so long with not much planned and just 7.42 kilos (that ended up being almost 10) in a backpack. So yeah, I was everything but ready for all that happenned and more than a couple of times I thought to myself “Why am I even here doing this?” but now I can tell you this from the bottom of my heart: it was all worth it. As every experience this trip was full of lessons, so this is what I will share (today) about my trip.
Get your tickets, solve the rest later. Before leaving to this trip I had lots of issues, especially with my passport, that lead me to think I would end up staying home for the winterbreak. Thanks God (and my amazing
family) all this was solved on time… then I realized my savings were not going to make it, so again I found myself in an existencial crisis… but then again, I was saved (this time by art). The thing is, that once you have your tickets you’re already one step out of the country, if any of these problems would have happenned and I didn’t have my tickets I would’ve probably stayed at home thinking there was no possible solution.
Every place is good enough to sleep if you are tired (or creative) enough. When you have really early flights and all the accommodation or transport to the airport goes way out of the budget spending a night in the airport is not such a bad idea… okay, actually it’s the worst idea you can come up with but it happens from time to time. I have to say though that Phuket airport is way more comfortable than Hanoi’s. Oh, and also: any commutting time can be nap time. By the end of this trip Laura and I could sleep in anything that moved: cars, buses, airplanes, ferries… you name it.
Cheap might end up being not so cheap. With this I’m not meaning that by buying cheap food or cheap things it might end up being something of bad quality… all the contrary. In Vietnam I had so much cheap food (Bahn Mis I miss you) that I ended up eating 4 or 5 times a day just because IT WAS TOO CHEAP. A delicious sandwich for 1 dollar? GIVE ME FIVE. Oh, this pair of shorts are just 2 dollars? I want them all! By the end of Vietnam I spent almost a third more than what I expected… So I would recommend a bit of self control in these situations. (I would do it again, though)
You might want to save your adventurous crazy stories for when you’re safe back at home. While in South East Asia I reported myself daily with my family. Even though they sort of had no choice but to let me go on this trip, I am pretty sure if I had told them we walked with Laura through desolated streets at 2:00 am, they would have come all the way from Honduras to bring me home themselves. So, every day I showed them the pretty pictures, told them the nice stories, and insisted on Skypping once I was back in Taipei to give them full detail about the trip.
Food is risky but yummy. I’ve been preparing myself for this type of food my whole life. I am not sure if I had told you, but I’m a street food lover… Once I made my mom take me to some (dubious) delicious hot dogs that were sold from 10pm onwards in the corner in front of one of the apartments I lived in back in Honduras and since then I’ve always tried anything I feel like eating. Baleadas from the market, pupusas from street carts, french fries sold in downtown, plantain chips with every sauce and salad you can think of, dumplings, danbings and fried onion pancakes from any source, etc etc. Now in South East Asia I didn’t stop to consider the risk of food poisoning and tried all the food that my tummy asked for. I am proud to say I survived through it all and I am back with nothing but good memories of all my cravings. Though of course, I recognized I was lucky since I know lots of people who have suffered from food poisoning and others, so be careful.
Traveling spontaneously is not for everyone. Throughout the trip we met lots of people who travelled spontaneously, they woke up and decided they wanted to leave to the next city (or country) and so they did… free as the wind. We had Vietnam and Cambodia sort of well-planned so we didn’t have the chance to try this travelstyle until Thailand and… it didn’t work at all for us. We got stuck in Bangkok for more time than what we would have liked to, we couldn’t find the train we wanted to take, we ended up having one more airport night than planned, and so on… so yeah, it’s not a travelstyle everyone can have.
Pictures lie. Have you seen the pictures people (including me) post at these amazing places that look empty with no other tourists? Well, most of them are just taken in a PERFECT PRECISE moment… tourist are EVERYWHERE (including me).
Talk to strangers, befriend strangers. During all this trip I met many awesome people. I’ve learned so much from them, even when they were not trying to teach me anything at all… but just talking with them and seeing the world in a way I’ve never seen it before (through their eyes) was enough to move something inside me. I will go further on this in another entry since I believe they should have their own entry… but yeah, we were never alone and it was always fun. From our first night out in Hanoi, to drinking cheap beer and talking about friends of them we don’t know at all, to laughing about nothing in the darkness of the dorm room, to having “a big brother” on a club, and having a family breakfast in a morning on a small town. They just made everything better.
Sometimes the must see’s can be skipped, SOMETIMES. It happenned a couple of times we quitted the must see’s to try something different and every time it was worth it. Of course, the must see’s are must see for a reason but sometimes, just sometimes… it is good to take a rest. After having a crowded sunrise in the dunes of Mui Ne we decided to go to a different place rather than Angkor Wat for the sunrise and it was perfect, quiet and peaceful. We also stopped the temple tourism after a couple in Thailand and changed them for good conversations in the hostel’s lobby. And have you heard about the beauty of Hoi An in the night? Well, it is even more beautiful at 7am when just a couple of locals are up and around and the streets are peaceful and with enough space to dance around without bumping anyone.
Music is necessary. I try to quit Spotify for this vacation break… what was I thinking with bus rides of 7+ hours?!
Sunrises and sunsets are a thing. Normally sunsets make me feel nostalgic, I don’t really know why but I just end up feeling a bit blue inside. Anyways, they’re also great for inspiration and to make a close up of chapters. The sunrises I got to watch where in really espectacular places (in the Sand Dunes and the temples), but still I think my favorite sun-moment of the trip was in a bus entering to Cambodia. I was trying to fall asleep when I noticed all these crazy colors in the sky and the orange sun setting behind the mountains. I had no other option than to wake up the Argentinan sitting next to me since it was not possible he would lose such an amazing sky show.
The small things, it’s all about the small things. Have you ever felt the softness of your towel against your body while it dries you up? Probably not… but after using a microfiber towel for more than 2 weeks that was a real experience. Lowe bunk bed?! Wow, I must be the luckiest today. Hot shower after a long day? The nirvana. A fruit smoothie under the killer sun, sitting down under a tree after walking for kilometers, having free water at a hostel, Thai food with the right amount of spicyness, having WiFi with decent speed to load a video or making a call…. oh, the difference these things make.
HAHA, STYLE, WHAT IS THAT?! I confess I lost my hair comb before the third week of this trip, didn’t take any make up or accessories, and by the end of this trip as long as I had showered I was already good to go. Looks, hairstyle, matching clothes… there’s no space in my backpack for all that.
Everyone has a story or something interesting to say. At some point I was tired of all the “Where do you come from? Where have you been? Where are you going to next?”, but what comes after that is so worth it. I had deeper conversations with people I cannot even recall their names (or that didn’t even tell me their names) than with people I’ve known for years. I talked with someone about our dreams and goals, one man told us his story of superation all the way from jail to being a master graduate, other told me about his family and way of seeing life, one girl gave us fashion classes, and with other I spent at least half an hour talking about food. Talks about death, fears, life, love, meaning, the past, the future, estability, society, politics, history, literature… and all these with perfect strangers.
History class is nothing. Okay, I did learn a lot in history class and I had good teachers but… how come I didn’t learn almost nothing about the war in Vietnam? Why did I learn NOTHING about the genocide in Cambodia? This are really important events in history, so many lives lost, countries totally destroyed. Of course, this is also one of the amazing things about travelling you get to learn the history, step on the same places, feel it… but still I’m still surprised and disappointed of the small coverage that is given to those countries that are not in the mainstream spotlight (even today it’s still the same).
There is no age limit. Travelling I saw and met people I can say they could be my grandmas or grandpas, and there they were exploring, discovering and amazing themselves just as I was (probably with a better hotel and a bigger budget but it is still tiring). For example, in the boat we stayed one night around Halong Bay, the last one standing dancing all night long was a grandpa who had just ONE dance move and there he went all night long dancing through disco, to rock, to pop and techno.
Invest in moments, experiences, memories, all the rest is secondary. Even though I regret (a bit) not buying a GoPro and a Kindle before this trip… It also proved to me how the money invested in experiences like this one is so much worth it than the other I’ve used for material acquisitions. After travelling around with one single backpack and being able to survive from it all this time I come back home and look at my closet and all the stuff in my room and it really makes me think how much of all this I really need. I accept I wouldn’t be able to live as a backpacker forever, but at least this trip openned my eyes a bit more to the person I am being during my routine. All this buying, consuming, trying to fill spaces with things that I don’t even need…
Finally, this trip helped to the biggest lesson I’m learning throughout these years: LIVE THE MOMENT. I know it sounds like a cliché and it might be, but it’s also one of the best things we can learn to do. Hakuna Matata life a bit, forget about what might happen or
could have happenned, leave the worries behind and breathe the
present. It will take me a while or maybe a whole lifetime to stop being an overthinker tiny human being but meanwhile that change takes over me I will keep on enjoying and exploring this amazing place called Earth and also this universe I was given upon birth: myself.
So, yeah! South East Asia trip was AWESOME! I will keep on posting about it for a while (hope you can keep up with me and I won’tannoy you… too much) Have a nice day and leave your comments or thoughts in the comments! Meanwhile I will go to the laundry to dry my covers and read Pedro Páramo. Oh routine, sweet routine…