When I tried to narrow down where I wanted to travel I had a really difficult time. In reality I want to travel most places. My first thought – South America, but I wanted to branch out from a latin-based countries. I’ve visited Europe before. Africa – I have always wanted to visit Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa – I could go on a safari! But it’s a large continent to tackle and flights not the most affordable. Russia doesn’t really appeal and Australia is too much like Canada. I was left with Asia, I looked at the climate and the type of vacation I wanted. Not too urban, room for adventure and around nature but not remote and inexpensive for travellers. Well backpackers do well in Southeast Asia, so I made a list of countries I wanted to visit:
Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Burma, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines – yep all of them. I could spend a couple days in each and make it work yay! Oh how naive.
Thankfully booking so far in advance I had more then enough time to work out an itinerary. As I mapped out how I planned to visit 8 countries (and many more cities) in 6 weeks I slowly started to see that would mean spending nearly 20% of my trip in transit and not enjoying the places I visited getting only 3-4 days in each country (sometimes only a day in each city?!)
I had to cut it down through a process of elimination. I started cutting countries and as I did I noticed some I was ok with, others I was genuinely disappointed. That gave me a good barometer to gauge where my travel bug was leading me. Initially I paired it down to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Indonesia. Burma, Malaysia and the Philippines would just have to wait until next time. I rejigged my itinerary.
Still with 6 weeks and 5 countries (including travel days) it was less than a week in each country and many of the countries I had multiple cities I wanted to visit so it still felt cramped. Now was the time for some hard and fast decision making if I wanted to have the type of experience I was looking for.
I listed the cities I wanted to visit most and activities I wanted to do. Once it was all laid out it became clear. I couldn’t do what I wanted in 6 weeks. Best I could do was push it to 8 weeks and organize a flow to minimize distances travelled between cities. I narrowed it down to my top 5. Each place has something distinct to offer, a different vibe or challenge. If I cut anyone of these out of my itinerary I would be so upset and regretful and that’s what won out in the end.
I think as an intro trip this will give me a taste of what I’m looking for and will leave me with the flexibility to veer off this path and explore if I’m inclined.
My plan so far:
1.) Start in Kata Beach Phuket Thailand where I can sleep off my jet lag (which I get fiercely) wander around the beach town which is busy but not crowded, once I get over the hump I can do speedboats and snorkelling and visit Phang Nga Bay. Rent a scooter and visit old Phuket Town, Wat Chalong and the Big Buddha.
2.) Head from the hot beach to the tempered mountains of Chiang Mai Thailand. Visit with Elephants and Tigers before taking a motorcycle tour through the province visiting hill tribes, plantations and many many temples. Then visit a night market and take a cooking class before moving on.
3.) Bangkok Thailand is hustle and bustle. So much to see and do, with the current government instability I’m leaving Bangkok up to chance.
4.) Off to Siem Reap Cambodia where I’ll hopefully get to spend my birthday watching the sunrise over Angkor Wat and days exploring the whole complex by quad bike. Cambodia is ripe with a lot of community work and I’m hoping to get a feel for the country from it’s people. If the mood strikes I can always visit Phnom Penh not far away.
5.) Heading from Cambodia my last leg will be in Bali Indonesia. Cliche I know but it’s new to me and has so many things that appeal. Most likely setting up in Ubud checking out the local artists and weavers, doing motorcycle tours of the whole island from the rice patties to the temples. I’ll be avoiding the club scene in Kuta and instead observing the Balinese holiday of Nyepi the “Day of Silence” and soaking up local festivals and culture.
On my way home I also managed to book a flight with a day long layover in Tokyo. It’s going to be culture shock after two months but I don’t know the next time I’ll be able to travel like this and I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity even for a few hours to get a crash course in this amazing city.
So although I know many things about this will change on the fly, and planning a trip like this has been a totally new experience for me, I’m happy to finally feel like I have a realistic itinerary.
Have you travelled to any of these locations? I’ve love to hear any tips or recommendations you have!