The countdown has begun. Four months from now, on February 19th, I’ll be embarking on the longest backpacking trip I’ve ever been on, exploring places I’ve been fascinated with for years, all with the person who has been my rock throughout my time in Korea.
Simon and I have been talking about taking a big trip after Korea for a while now. In the last 8 months, we have helped each other save as much as we could, and started brainstorming of what we both want to see. The time has finally come, and we have set down solid plans of what countries we will see, how we will do it, and everything involved in planning this 5 month expedition, all while blogging about our experiences!
To some, this may seem overly planned. But hey, I enjoy planning. Though things may go awry, I figure there is no reason not to research and plan, especially when it’s enjoyable. (Lucky Simon).
So here it is!
India (almost 6 weeks)
The journey will start in India, for what I’m sure will be one of the most intense places I’ve ever visited. Norbert from GloboTreks recently put it this way in his blog There’s no Place Like India, “India is like an LSD trip. You can have a good trip or a bad trip, but it will never make sense.”
I’ve wanted to visit India my whole life but there has never been a better time than now. I always felt that if I visited India too young I wouldn’t be able to really appreciate it or internalize what I’m seeing. I think 24 is the year. Also, I’m pretty thankful I’ll have Simon by my side, protecting me from the infamous unwanted stares, gropes and harassments I’ve heard so much about
Regions to visit: We will be spending our time visiting Goa, Rajasthan, Delhi/Agra and after time in the following country, we will be visiting Varanasi before flying out of Kolkata.
The highlights: From the beaches of Goa, to the desert of Rajasthan, to witnessing the beauty to the Taj Mahal, we plan to see a lot. I also hope to cross a bunch of things off my bucket list, including tiger and camel safaris, yoga, cooking classes and more.
The lowlights: We will be covering some long distances in order to see the areas and cities we want. Still, there will be a lot we will be missing. With a place as vast and culturally diverse as India, we have had to pick what is most important in order to plan realistically for what can be done in six weeks. The long distance night trains will be our only way to make these areas do-able, and it should also allow for some down time to catch up on our writing and websites.
Nepal (Two weeks)
Though there are other fascinating areas of India to be seen, we are also very interested in Nepal. With short flights from New Delhi, we have decided “why not?“
Regions to visit: Our time in India may be hectic and busy, so we plan to slow down for the 2 weeks we will be in Nepal. We might just split up the time between Kathmandu and Pokhara.
The highlights: There are two reasons for hopping over to Nepal before our time in India is completely up. One, is to be able to be there for Simon’s birthday, in which we hope to take a “mountain flight” to see Mount Everest. Though these flights are pricey, we figure it is a once in a lifetime experience, and since we don’t have time to hike to base camp, we might as well see the mammoth from the sky. It will also make for probably the best birthday someone can have. How spoiled! The second reason, is to celebrate the Hindu festival of Holi (the festival of colors). Though more well-known in India, I’ve heard celebrating Holi in Nepal can be safer and more enjoyable.
The lowlights: As with almost every country we plan on visiting, we know we won’t be able to see it all. Also, with our budget, flying into Nepal is probably all we can afford. Because of this, we will be traveling overland back into India after spending two weeks here. This overland trip to Varanasi is supposedly a rough one (physically and mentally) and will take about 2 days.
Myanmar (Burma) (11 days)
A military dictatorship from 1962-2011, Burma started encouraging tourists in the 90′s, but it has only been in the last few years that it has seemed like an accessible place to visit. Today, we feel Burma is on the breaking point in between “untouched” and the new tourist haven of SE Asia backpackers. If we don’t go now, the Burma of today may be lost forever.
Regions to visit: We will most likely be doing the normal route of Yangon, Bagan and Inle Lake.
Highlights: Being able to visit such a unique destination will be a highlight in itself. The long-neck tribes, Inle lake fishermen, and ruins of Bagan will all be particularly great to experience.
Lowlights: Burma is still extremely corrupt and has had many reported human rights violations including genocide, child labor and human trafficking in its past. Though easier to visit today, especially with the introduction on an online visa application, many people choose not to visit in opposition of supporting the corrupt government. To make sure our money does not negatively effect the country, we will be focusing on spending our money in local guesthouses, mom and pop restaurants, street food and local transportation. This should ensure our money gets to the people, and not the government.
There are also a few things that will make travel around Burma more difficult that other countries we will be visiting. We must bring new, crisp U.S. dollars into the country, since the introduction of ATM’s is still very new. We will also need to take a few overnight bus journeys and I’ve heard they are less than comfortable.
Thailand (almost 2 weeks)
It will not be possible for us to travel overland into and out of Burma. Luckily, the best place to fly from and to, is Thailand. With an excuse to spend some time here we will be visiting Bangkok before Burma, and Chiang Mai and Pai after. Though we have both been to Bangkok, and I’ve also been to Chiang Mai, I’m not complaining. I loved Thailand, and it will be a great time to eat my favorite foods and relax.
Laos ( 3.5 weeks)
It has only been in the last year or two that I’ve been exposed to all Laos has to offer. From Northern Thailand we plan on traveling overland in northern Laos.
Regions to visit: Laos is a long country, but we plan on staying in Northern Laos, most likely including Luang Prabang, Vientiane and Vang Vieng.
Highlights: I’ve heard only good things about Laos, especially the picturesque town, Luang Prabang. We both have intentions to slow down in Laos, staying in one place for a long chunk of time, enjoying the local culture and working on our websites. Traveling for so long (again the longest trip I’ve ever done at one time) I’m sure I will be ready for a break before heading to the following country.
Lowlights: Slowing down will mean again, missing out on other things the country has to offer, but it may be worth it anyways. We also initially wanted to partake in the Gibbon Experience, staying in tree houses in the Laos jungle. Upon more research, it seems to be extremely expensive and the recent reviews haven’t been too positive. Overall, we will decide how to spend our time once arriving.
Vietnam (almost one month)
One of the countries I am most excited to visit is Vietnam. From the food, to the landscapes and the history, I can’t wait to see all it has to offer.
Regions to visit: We will most likely travel the length of the country, north to south taking the train most of the way.
Highlights: We have heard the best way to see Northern Vietnam is by motorcycle We plan to spend a week or so riding between Sapa and Hanoi, taking in the countryside and mountains. Majestic Ha Long Bay is also high on our to-do list, and a cruise for a few days will hopefully be on the itinerary. From there some well needed beach time will be taken, and we will end up in Ho Chi Minh City.
Lowlights: Vietnam is a large and long country. In order to see it from top to bottom, we will be doing some long motorcycle rides and taking some long distance trains while moving pretty quickly. We hope it isn’t too much to cover, and that we can see a lot of what we have planned with the time we have given ourselves.
Cambodia (at least 2 1/2 weeks)
Before leaving South East Asia, I must make sure to do one thing: roam the ruins of Angkor Wat. The crumbling ruins being overtaken by tree roots is a site I’ve always wanted to see. I also know Cambodia has so much more to offer than Angkor Wat, and we hope to see more as well.
The highlights: Besides traveling around what I’ve heard is an amazing country, Jenna, one of my best friends may be living there! I hope to be able to meet up with her, and spend as much time as possible.
The lowlights: Because of everything else on our plate, Cambodia kind of got the short stick. Being last on our “proposed route” means we may not have as much time there as needed.
I’ve never thought of myself as a Round-the-World trip type. Simon and I both agree we enjoy taking places slower, and not rushing around. Hopefully this will make us good travel partners! I also think long-term traveling can get exhausting, and you need to take breaks to truly appreciate what you are seeing. That said, 5 months of travel is still a very long time and we will be seeing a lot. There will still be more to see in South East Asia, but as of now, I think this trip will be long enough. Another reason we plan on stopping is because I have interest in making it home for my birthday in mid-July. Who knows how plans will change, things could be cut shorter, things could be extended a bit. Either way, I’m a planner and I enjoy being prepared for all options. Then after the trip, who knows where I’ll move next.
How in the world will you afford this? Well, stay tuned! This week I will be revealing the budget for the trip, and how we aren’t special; almost anyone with a bit of savings and some spare time between jobs can do it.
So, what do you think?