Blogging on the road hasn’t been as easy as had I hoped, but then, long-term traveling without a plan isn’t as easy as one would think. So here’s an update on my seven month backpacking trip through Asia & Southeast Asia.
Due to the fact I bought my India visa in Korea and not the U.S., the standard 6 month stay in India was cut down to 3 months. Sorry, that’s the rules for getting your India visa abroad. I decided to get my yoga teacher’s certification in McLeodganj, the home of the Dalai Lama and red robed monks. Practicing yoga is very different from yoga in the west… very. I flew into Mumbai and went down south, through Goa, Karnataka (got into a motorbike accident), to Kerala, hitting beaches, backwaters, fishing cities and yoga ashrams. Jumping up to Madurai and then to Dharamsala for a month of yoga, where I also got sick. I visited many places I haven’t been: Amritsar to Ladakh.
My 7 month Backpacking trip through Asia & Southeast Asia
here’s a summary of highlights and places I’ve been to…
Bangkok is quickly becoming my favorite city stopover city destination! She pampers me, loves me a long time and damnit, Bangkok is easy to get around for solo travelers (Read Transportation: Getting around Bangkok). Unfortunately she always gets the short end of my blog stick! Before I can get in a few snaps of her twinkly sights, she’s whisked me into a distracted frenzy with her delectable food hawker stalls, wooed the shopper I never knew I could be and tempted me with healthy doses of cheap massages.
Bangkok is also my travel nurse for medical tourism in dentistry and medical check-ups. Yes, just after getting sick in India, I went to Bangkok Christian Hospital (off Silom station) to make sure I was amoebic-free.
I met up with my fellow yoga gal Autum and hopped the eastern train down the Malay coast: Butterworth, Kuala Lumpur and Melacca. What did we vegetarians, spend most of our time sight-seeking? Food we could eat. The 411 from travel friends is that the Malaysia’s Muslim and Chinese influences give birth to memorable food. But I think you need to be a meat-eater to enjoy this country.
I hate making comparisons to the point of missing out on the cultural beauty of Malaysia, but after the hard-hitting impact of India and visual fireworks of floating markets and the food hawkers stalls in Thailand, Malaysia came up… well, meaty and bland. Just my opinion. Go discover it for yourself!
One place I loved however, were the jungles of Taman Negara. Touted as the oldest rainforest in the world, it offered hiking, canopy tours, river rafting and bugs I’ve never seen before in my life!
Some whirlwind romances you wish could last longer. Indonesia was one of them. Bali was a cultural gem! I was awestruck by the beauty of Balinese culture, where prayer offerings are reverently placed outside of homes and shops each day and sons and daughters are named Wayan, Made, Kurtu or Koman.
Temples, festivals, tiered rice paddy fields, a volcanic mountain…Bali’s got a lot to keep you busy in sightseeing . It made me fall in love with motorbikes again! As a soloist, you can get around much of the island on one. However, for a more intensive sightseeing itinerary, I’d recommend hiring a taxi or take a couple of their budget day tours (which I did). I went snorkeling and played with turtles, took a splash from the fountains of youth, saw the grand poobah of temples Besakih, tiered rice paddy fields of Tampak Siring and the Kintamani volcano on Mount Batur. I explored local roadside markets, saw a rodent that poops expensive coffee and more…
Ubud‘s Yoga Barn is often touted as one of the destinations for a yogic retreat, but in my opinion, it failed in offering inspiring yoga classes ( perhaps it was off-season). Still, the Balinese-hippie presence of this town offered much chill time, great vegetarian restaurants, shopping and unique Balinese guesthouses. My advice– skip the resort beaches of Seminyak and Kuta and get out to the other islands to explore more of the cultural mix Indonesia has to offer.
Bangkok & Ko Tao, Thailand
Back to Bangkok, where I watched ladies knitting, writing letters and blowing various things out of their privates and narrowly averted a ping-pong show scam. Well, I’m alive to write this post, aren’t I? So I’ll save that tale for a later date… I explored Bangkok by bus, visited the floating markets and I discovered an obscure and morbid Siriraj hospital museum with displays of real life medical anomalies such as a cyclops baby, skeletons of brutally murdered victims, charred corpses of serial killers, and unusually large testicles!
Ko Tao: As a Hawaii native, visiting beaches don’t thrill me . They don’t.
But under the last-minute crunch of an impending birthday, I gave in. Faced with the possibility of being alone on my birthday, I needed to find a way to make it memorable, monumental, kick-ass adventure.
I searched for a late deals and I found myself open water diving for my PADI license on the island of Ko Tao! Had I dived before that? …I’m not like most Hawaiians– I can barely even swim!
“Oh laaady, buy from me! Lady, buy from me” you’ll hear those Cambodian touts pitch like an overplayed Pop tune on the radio. They do it so much you’ll think they’re doing it just to annoy you. But Khmer lady, you still rock my heart! For me, Cambodia was love at first sight!
Looking for a country which is still pure, gorgeous, simple and relatively safe to get around as a solo traveler? It’s said to be one of the poorest countries, but for me, it’s one of the richest of heart. Excellent as a budget vacation, the land offers 5-star beauty!
I used to think it’d just be Angkor Wat ruins, landmine museums, religious artifacts hidden in the waters of Bantay Srei, solemn blows of history at S21 and the Killing Fields and yeah, one should definitely see that, but it’s really so much more. Here, heart-wrenching Khmer karaoke music video play like tv dramas and its the home of fishing villages, evergreen rice paddy fields, houses raised on stilts, people playing volleyball and the national favorite– the hammock! Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Kamphong Cham
Back to South Korea. After a year of living and working in Korea, it feels like home. If there’s one thing I definitely love about Korea, is teaching Korean students. This summer I got to volunteer at a English musical summer camp. Ali Baba, Peter Pan, Wizard of Oz… Directing Korean kids to sing, dance and act in musicals was the highlight of my Korean life.