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Published: September 3rd 2013
Today marks 1 year since I left my family and friends and left for the other side of the world. A year ago I was excited to leave and see the world and in the past year I’ve seen a fair bit.
I’ve been to 13 countries (if you include HK and Singapore) of which 12 being in Asia and the other being Australia where I currently am, working in a little town in the desert in the middle of nowhere, 7 hours from any major well known city.
I spent the first 10 months in Asia, pretty much enjoying everywhere I went except India which I didn’t like at all and will never return too. All the other countries I’ve visited, being HK, China, South Korea, Philippines, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia I really enjoyed although all of them for pretty much different reasons. Laos was my least favourite but I spent my time with a group of people that made it good, otherwise I’d have probably looked back on it thinking I didn’t enjoy it.
In terms of what I’d say was my favourite country, I think I look back on China the most. There wasn’t a day there where I didn’t have anything to do bar maybe a day or so in Shanghai. There is always plenty to do, brilliant city and country wide transport and even the lack of English didn’t bother me there at all. I ate more different foods there than anywhere else and the type of traveller you meet there is definitely different and more adventurous I think that those you meet in the more popular areas such as Thailand. China is the one place I want to return to more than anywhere as I think there is so much more to see and do, I just wish I knew some Mandarin to help me along a bit. Floating down the river Li on a bamboo raft in only my 9th
day away still ranks above the best days I’ve had, Shanghai is amazing yet a little boring, Xian has plenty to offer and Beijing I still think is my favourite place I’ve seen. Spent a week there and could have stayed far longer.
Korea for me was a lovely place. At first I thought I maybe didn’t enjoy it so much but looking back bar the food it was a good time, the countryside and national parks are great days out exploring and the fact the country is so small there are no long journeys which is always nice. The food I didn’t understand at all. I’d order beef noodles and be given 8 side dishes of horrible things such as kimchi which is rank. The Korean BBQ is a good meal out but unless you know some Korean or are with someone that does it’s hard to work out. My trip to the DMZ was amazing and a highlight or my trip.
The Philippines have the best beaches I’ve seen and the best waters and diving I’ve done. There aren’t many tourists there so you don’t meet many people but the peace and tranquillity of places such as El Nido are excellent. The rice terraces or Northern Luzon and Banaue and Batad in particular are unreal sights and ones everyone should see. The large cities of Manila and Cebu are horrible concrete jungles however and are full of homelessness, begging, disgusting sidewalks, holes everywhere, litter and people hassling you in the street. The Philippines also has my favourite beer, being Red Horse, a nice crisp 6.9%!l(MISSING)ager by San Miguel. I would go back just to drink some of that.
The main hub of South East Asia being Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia are far more touristy, some places I’d say ruined by tourism, but others you can find amazing cities where you are the only white person. I loved Thailand and I still have more of it to see as I’ve only done Bangkok and the north. I felt the islands were pointless so close after being to the Philippines. Laos was a little boring but I was with some great people so went well. Vietnam i had mixed feelings about. I really liked and miss Hanoi, thought Saigon was also very good but wasn’t massively keen on the cities in between, I think I’d fly over it and spend more time in other places, the long overnight bus journeys weren’t much fun either. The beaches of Nha Trang and Phu Quoc island were good however.
Cambodia I explored a large amount, way more than the 3 places most people seem to go. I think I went to 10 different towns/cities in my month there. The killing fields and Angkor Wat being the main highlights everyone sees. The less known Preah Vihear temple was way up there though. Still an ongoing war site tourists are advised not to go but it seemed safe enough to me. The temple/ruins and the views are excellent and the lack of tourists is amazing. The river dolphins in Kratie are cool if you can find them and the night life in Siem Reap is a nice way to end any temple day. Koh Rong is a beautiful island 2 hours from the main land and yet to be totally over run by foreigners although I fear it will in the coming years. I also met my girlfriend Vichet and her family here so rounded off a very good month.
I didn’t see too much of mainland Malaysia, just KL and Melaka, both of which I liked, generally cleaner than most of SEA, but there isn’t too much to do once you’ve done the main sights etc. I do want to go back to get to Penang, Langkawi and the Perhentian islands, but they are for another day.
Singapore is awesome; I loved it there bar the prices. It really isn’t too bad though if you eat in the hawker centres and travel via the underground. There are plenty of attractions and in a way it’s similar to HK, although definitely less humid here when I went. The night safari and zoo are a brilliant day out, Universal studios isn’t bad but nothing on Florida. I did just enjoy walking around the place with the high rise buildings and the classy river side bars and restaurants, not that I ate or drank in them.
I then did a detour back to Cambodia whilst awaiting my Indian visa and then headed to India itself. This is my least favourite place and I won’t go again. I went primarily to watch the cricket and eat the food and those are the only 2 bits of it I enjoyed bar Agra. I didn’t enjoy the people, the cities, the poverty, the dirt, the cows, pretty much anything really. It probably was the best food I’ve eaten on this trip as I love a good curry but I wouldn’t go back for it, I’ve had equally as good Indian food all over Asia. Agra with the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort was my standout day there, absolutely loved it and that left me with a better view on the country as I did it the day before I left, than I had the previous 4 weeks I’d been there. Maybe I should have gone to Goa and Kerala for a bit, I think they are nicer spots.
My next new country was Indonesia, which I look back really fondly on. Climbing mountains, viewing and going into Volcano’s, riding my scooter through the mental roads of Java, the islands of Gili Trawangan and Nusa Lembongan and the people are all good things about it. Jakarta is the only real eyesore of Indonesia for me. Not a pretty place and very crowded and dirty. I would love to explore more of the Indonesian islands in the future as I only went to 5 of the 7107. Bali is also a lovely place with beautiful scenery, nice for a scooter ride with plenty of culture inland, away from all the beaches. I didn’t bother with the beaches there as most are full of surfers and I had seen many a beach on this trip. Ubud and the surrounds are spot on. Peaceful and just nice. There were also some nice dive spots which I enjoyed, snorkelling a couple feet from turtles also was very good.
I then did a quick trip to Malaysian Borneo with Vichet before I left Asia and we explored around there for 9 days. Not quite what I was hoping for as none of the cities there have a beach between them. You can in some of the places get boats to islands nearby which we did but in others they were hours away and not worth the hassle. I did love the orang-utan sanctuary as they are amazing animals, that would probably be my standout. I would only return to dive Sipadan which I never got to do due to having to book in advance which I didn’t know then didn’t have time for when I got there.
I am now in Australia, in a little town called Red Cliffs, populated by only a few thousand, if that. I am working in a box making factory and hopefully will be for the next 5-6 months. They job is dreadfully boring but the pay very good so my bank account likes it. The hostel I am in has around 30 people here and it’s a spot on place. I was actually told about it by a Dutch girl (Daisy) in Indonesia and it just so happens the lad I get on with best here is her boyfriend. Small World really!!
I thought I would wrap it up with some facts and figures from this year.
Country Days Spent Ave Spend (£) Highest Spend
Hong Kong 7 30.48 Accommodation (11.06)
China 25 32.08 Transport (11.88)
South Korea 23 26.93 Accommodation (10.34)
Philippines 43 30.46 Accommodation (8.99)
Thailand 40 24.01 Food (4.46)
Laos 13 23.05 Food (5.79)
Vietnam 31 22.62 Food (5.29)
Cambodia 49 23.26 Food (5.55)
Malaysia 23 39.14 Accommodation (11.30)
Singapore 6 39.09 Attractions (13.28)
India 29 22.20 IPL Cricket tickets (6.96)
Indonesia 26 27.07 Accommodation (7.38)
*India figures a little skewed due to my dad paying for a week of it. Would be nearer 29 a day
Hottest Temperature been in:- 42.3 Degrees Celsius, 108.1 Degrees Fahrenheit. Delhi, India
Coldest Temperature been in:- 2 Degrees Celsius, 35 Degrees Fahrenheit. Melbourne, Australia
New Foods – Snake, Frog, Scorpion, Grasshoppers, Other Bugs, Water Buffalo, Ostrich.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites – 29 and counting
Hostels/Guesthouses Used – 96 (I think 103 beds in total)
Nights Slept on Transport/in Transit – 14 (Heathrow Airport. Flight to HK. Xian to Shanghai train. Shanghai to Beijing train. Manila to Banaue bus. Laoag to Manila bus. Vientiane to Hanoi bus. Hanoi to Hue bus. Hoi An to Nha Trang bus, Chennai to Mumbai train, Mumbai to Delhi train. Bail Denpasar Airport, Melbourne to Red Cliffs night bus x 2)
Trips over 10 hours – 21 (Longest 28 hours, Vientiane to Hanoi)
Trips over 5 hours – 44
Total Hours moving between Destinations – 593 Hours (24.7 days) Only includes place to place, not in city travel or day trips and excursions.
Miles travelled – 37,600
Kilometres travelled – 60,600
Favourite type of transport – Soft sleeper trains in China/Limousine Buses in Korea/Massage chair buses in Malaysia
Least Favourite – Any night bus/Any Indian train
Airlines used – 12 – Jet Airways, South China Air, Hainan Airlines, Cebu Pacific, Zest Air, Air Phil Express, South East Airlines (SEAIR), Vietnam Airlines. Air Asia, Tiger Airways, Indigo Air, Air Asia X.
Beers – Tsingtao, Yanjing, Hite, Cass, Red Horse, San Miguel Pale Pilsen, San Miguel light, Chang, Tiger, Beer Lao, Namkhong, Bia Hoi, Hanoi Beer, Bia Hanoi, Saigon Green, Saigon Red, Angkor, Anchor smooth, Cambodia, Kingfisher Premium, Kingfisher Strong, Bintang, Anker, Hai Bali, Carlton
Favourite City – Beijing
Least Favourite City – Manila
Best food – China/Thailand/India
Worst food – Korean. Did not understand it at all.
Nicest People – Cambodian then Filipino’s/Indonesians
Best Airports – Hong Kong, Incheon, Bangkok BKK.
Worst Airports – Most in the Philippines, most notably Busuanga (Coron), Puerto Princesa and Angeles.
Best National parks – South Korea/Indonesia
Cleanest Country – South Korea
Dirtiest Country – India, rubbish everywhere, cows everywhere, homelessness everywhere, get the jist?
Places I’d go back to tomorrow – Beijing, Hanoi, Hong Kong, Bangkok , Siem Reap, Singapore, Java
Places I’d happily never see again – Manila, Cebu, Battambang, India as a whole pretty much
Places I’m not going to but would now like too – Myanmar, Nepal, Palau, Brunei, Japan
Thoughts (In no order) (Not hugely updated since the 6 month review, got lazy!)
Never expect anything to be on time.
Estimated guide times for journeys are always understated.
Children can work from pretty much any age and are incredibly resilient in Asia. They are also incredibly cute and friendly (not yet been poisoned in some cases against the west)
Taxis are generally overpriced.
You can never take a picture of anything in China without having others in the shot, simply impossible.
Chinese women age in only 3 steps, child, adult, old. No middle ground. They also have the most attractive women, but due to the above ageing process it will go wrong at some point. Cambodian’s are hot on their tail however. Very beautiful women
Even in 38 degrees you will see locals wearing jeans and jumpers/coats/gloves/hats.
Cambodian blokes are quite stylish and have a good choice in shirts and wear them always.
English football is more readily available than at home. (time difference permitting)
Cambodian police like a good bribe although are terrible at applying it
Roads in Asia are not in good order. Some absolute shockers.
Sitting on the street drinking 9-15 pence beers on kiddie’s tables and chairs is THE best way to enjoy a beer EVER
Vietnamese Water Puppets are mint.
Every city is improved with a good river/lake bar Battambang !!
Sunsets look the same worldwide but I still feel the urge to take photos when I see one
Towels are the easiest travel item to lose. Currently at 3
Top Bunks are a pain in the arse.
A laptop is a necessary travel item for a solo traveller
Some tuk tuks play horrendous music and very loud especially in Philippines and Bangkok
Every Filipino middle aged man will try and pimp out his daughter, niece or friend to you.
A horn on a scooter is the most important function.
Air con is brilliant except on Filipino coaches.
Asian’s can’t sing but always will. Filipino Karaoke is the funniest.
Asian’s can and will sleep anywhere at any time of the day.
Middle aged Korean woman love a good hike
Pyjama’s seem to be an acceptable form of attire at any time of the day
Even though everyone wears them socks and sandals/flip flop’s are NOT acceptable
Hearing a ‘hello’ whoever it may be from is always appreciated.
A McDonalds is near every tourist site, hence you can’t get lost. If in doubt follow the M (Does not apply in Indochina)
Indonesians love taking photo’s of tourists, more so than the sight they are visiting.
India is horrible on nearly every front.
Humidity is a bitch
Westerners play Angry Birds, Asian’s wear it.
Anyone in a random place that can speak English is normally after something, like scamming you.
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