Progress of my journey (Part 5 – The final)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Hue (bus, 9€) ⇒ Hoi An (with a stopover at Nha Trang, sleeper bus/another bus 15€) ⇒ Da Lat (a sleeper bus, 9€) ⇒ Saigon (Mekong Air, 25€ ) ⇒ Phu Quoc (speedboat, 9€) ⇒ Ha Tien (bus, 8€) ⇒ Kep, Cambodia (minivan, bus, 6€) -> Sihanoukville ⇒ Koh Rong (boat, 11€ for the roundtrip) ⇒ Sihanoukville (four buses/minivans and one boat, 20€)-> Koh Chang (boat, bus, 6€) ⇒ Bangkok (diesel train, 2nd class, 0.5€) ⇒ Ayuthaya (diesel train, 2nd class, 0.5€) ⇒ Bangkok (Air Berlin, via TGX, 346€) -> Helsinki

Total: 119€ + 346€ for the flight to Helsinki

One particular thing about traveling in Vietnam and Cambodia is that it is extremely slow. Distances that do not look that big on the map can easily take a whole day of traveling, as it for example happened on the route from Sihanoukville to Koh Chang. Phu Quoc to Kep transfer took a greater part of the day too. There is an option in Vietnam to buy a bus pass, which includes eight destinations. And the price is only 40 bucks. Extremely good value, if you do a bit of traveling around Vietnam. I learned about it only after spending some time in Vietnam, which made me very sad. But in the end I did not do enough traveling in Vietnam anyway. On the route from Saigon to Phu Quoc as it was almost the same price as the bus + boat combination and saved me a whole day of travelling. Boats are never cheap.

A quick recap of Epic Journey 2: The Orient Express

View Epic Journey 2: The Orient Express in a larger map

  • The total price of moving from one place to another is 1262€
  • 8/10/2010 – 02/06/2011. Almost eight months of travelling. I aimed for a 9 months travel to make the journey more symbolic, but had to come back when I had to come back.
  • 11 countries visited (Macau and Hong Kong included)
  • I flew only thrice. Hong Kong ⇒ Bangkok, Saigon ⇒ Phu Quoc and Bangkok ⇒ Helsinki
  • The longest stretch by land: Helsinki ⇒ Hong Kong.
  • The most comfortable way to travel is high-speed trains in China
  • The least comfortable is crappy buses everywhere. The bus from Ulan Ude to Ulan Bator probably takes the lead.
  • Summer began in December for me
  • I saw a little bit of snow in Siberia and Mongolia, though

Progress of my journey (Part 4)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Not really up-to-date. I am currently in Kep, Cambodia, but anyways.

Bangkok (bus, 13€) ⇒ Chiang Mai (hitch-hiking, three cars, 0€) ⇒ Pai (via Chiang Mai; hitchhiking, 4 cars, then a local bus; 1.5€) ⇒ Chiang Rai (a local bus, 1.5€) ⇒ Chiang Khong (a boat, 3€, taking into the account the passport adventure) ⇒ Huay Xai, Laos (a slow boat down Mekong with an overnight stopover at Pak Beng, 20€) ⇒ Luang Prabang (minivan, 11€) ⇒ Vang Vieng (bus, 4.5€) ⇒ Vien Tiane (VIP bus, 13€) ⇒ Thakhek (a bus, 6€) ⇒ Pakse (bus, longtail boat, 6€) ⇒ Don Det, 4000 Islands (6€, minivan) ⇒ Champasak (3€, tuk-tuk) ⇒ Pakse ⇒ A three day motorbike adventure around Bolaven Plateau (10€ for motorbike rent and gas) ⇒ Pakse (17€, bus; half a night spent sleeping on the floor in a dodgy place in Lao Bao) ⇒ Hue, Vietnam (4€, minivan)

Total: 118€

Travelling in Laos is very slow. Partly poor infrastructure and sorry state of roads, party the local mentality of doing things slow. The journey from Huay Xai to Vientiane felt like a very long one, but after looking at the map I realized that I did not make much progress at all geographically wise. Travelling in Laos is also more expensive than in Thailand, which is probably due to little competition between companies. Local buses are fascinating. Usually packed to the max with a stack of spare extra chairs placed in the aisle for latecomers. Roof of the bus serves as a storage space for motorcycles and even goats and chicken. How they get those on the roof is something I have never figured out. How goats cope with a journey at 60km/h tied to the roof of the bus is also a mystery to me.

The trip from Don Det to Champasak was particularly memorable. Me and Ben arrived late only to find that there are no seats left. Ben got the crappiest seat and was without a seat at all. People around made jokes that I could see on the floor. My response: “Why not, but I will go make inquiries first”. I went outside and there was this guy who told me that we were in the wrong bus. I go back to get Ben and to much surprise of other travelers we are guided to an A/C minivan with only two of us. What was surprising other travelers to Champasak stayed in a cramped bus. We made it to Champasak river crossing way before other travelers and “wasted” the advantage by sitting by a river before crossing drinking refreshments. Much to annoyance of the travelers from the first bus, who finally showed up later. Go slow travelling!

Progress of my journey (Part 3)

See Part 1 and Part 2

Bangkok (bus, ferry, 18€) ⇒ Ko Phangan (ferry, bus, train, 38€) ⇒ Penang, Malaysia (minivan, 12€) ⇒ Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands (minivan, boat, 21€) ⇒ Taman Negara National Park (local bus, 2€) ⇒ Jeruntut (train, 8€) -> Singapore (bus, 16€) ⇒ Penang (minivan, tuk-tuk, 17€) ⇒ Krabi (bus, 3.5€) ⇒ Surat Thani (bus, ferry, 6€) ⇒ Ko Phangan (ferry, 10€) ⇒ Koh Tao (via Chumphon, ferry, bus 24€) ⇒ Bangkok

Total: 175.5€

Krabi – Koh Phangan route was particularly interesting. I decided to save some money and do each step of the route on my own, instead of booking a package. The main motivation was to see if I can save some money, to gain some experiences (doing it a hard way) and to avoid tourist agencies. The result was saved 60 baht (one meal) and only minor additional hassle. Not really sure if it was worth it, but this is one way to do it.

I left out local transportation out of the equation, which can be expensive in places in Ko Phangan. Some examples. A boat ride from Had Rin to Had Yuan (2-3kms) is usually 200 baht and 300 baht if the boat driver is in a greedy mood. That’s 10-15€ there and back just to buy some groceries or book a ticket. Now that is a lot even by Finnish standards. There is no way to beat the system, apart from walking an overgrown jungle path, provided that you do not carry any bags with you. With bags the only way is to bite the bullet and pay whatever the boat drivers asks. Cartels are bad, mmmkay. Another example is that it cost me 300 baht (7.5€) to go by taxi from Had Rin to Thongsala, when I was leaving to Koh Tao. There were no other people to share the taxi in sight (damn party fiends sleeping till late) and I sort of had to catch a ferry. In comparison the ferry to Koh Tao was only 100 baht more expensive. Sometime local prices do not make any sense whatsoever.

Progress of my journey so far

With rough price estimates. Helsinki (a bus, 39€) ⇒ St.Petersburg (a train, 260€) ⇒ Irkutsk (a local train, 2€) ⇒ Slyudanka (a minivan, 2€) ⇒ Kultuk (hitchhiking, 0€) ⇒ Arshan (a bus, 12€) ⇒ Ulan Ude (a bus, 22€) ⇒ Ulan Bator (all expenses paid minivan tour, 190€) ⇒ Gobi/Dalanzagarad ⇒ Ulan Bator (a train, 15€) ⇒ Zamyn Uud (a bus, 6€) ⇒ Ereen (a sleeper bus, 20€) ⇒ Beijing.

Total for Helsinki-Beijing excluding the Gobi tour: 378€. It could be done a lot cheaper, but I was not prepared to make some comfort sacrifices just yet.

Some words should be said about sleeper bus to Beijing. It is like a giant dorm room on wheels: no seats, just a bunch of two level horizontal beds in three rows. Must be the most comfortable way to travel by bus I’ve experienced so far. I managed to get a decent sleep, which allowed me to explore Tiananmen Square before the sunset upon arrival and witness the daily Flag Raising Ceremony. It is one of those things you have to see only once, but I guess it had to be done.