This is the 100th post. Eight months, 100 posts, a new post every three days on average. It is hard to believe that it has been so many posts with all the hectic traveling and endless fun. I feel I never have time for the blog. I am always behind. I am currently on Koh Chang, but yet to finish with Vietnam or cover any of the adventures in Cambodia. It is a constant battle against a never-ending torrent of new experiences. Sometimes writing feel like a chore, but on the other hand it is a good substitute for concrete work in the absence of other obligations. When I started this blog, I fully realized the most common pitfall to travel blogs. Starting a blog, maintaining for a month or two, succumbing to the wonders of traveling and abandoning the whole thing. Indeed, keeping the blog up-to-date has been a challenge and I’ve had to make a constant effort to write. I go to a wi-fi place to do an update, but end up flirting with women instead. In the battle of socializing vs writing, the former almost always wins. I go to a quiet lazy place that has nothing to do, but end up doing.. well.. nothing. The power of lazy places is truly overwhelming.
Another thing is that with so many exciting things happening on a daily basis, there is a problem of what to write about. I’ve hardly written about the most amazing experiences I’d had. Either they are tied to a specific context, are too personal or lose their relevance by the time I decide to write about them. Instead most of the posts are general overviews of the places I have been to. I write very little about people I meet, even though people are a major if not the most important part of the traveling experience. The reason is that I simply do not know what and how to write. One of the reasons for creating this blog is to learn how to write and get into the habit of writing. Writing still requires a lot of effort, but at least the habit and discipline are there.
I have statistics software installed, but I rarely check it. At times it feels that nobody ever reads that my rumblings, until I get a surprising comment about one of my posts. Ahh, almost like “Christmas comes early” scenario.
I want to thank everyone who have found time to read my thoughts and musings. Much appreciated. Thank you.
I go places and do things.
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)
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!
The most common question I was asked before starting my journey was about my plans. My answer was I have no idea, I choose not to choose. I was sure about Transsib-Mongolia-China, but the rest was up in the air. Frankly I did not have any longterm plans, but I had hazy ideas. However due their haziness, I preferred not to share them with anyone and seeing that most of them have not realized I am glad I did not. The initial idea was to go everywhere – Russia, Mongolia, China, South Korea, Japan, all over South East Asia, Tibet, Nepal, India, Middle East, Eastern Europe and so on. Eight-nine months is such a long time after all provided I wanted to go back before summer. Upon arrival to China in November, I realized that going to South Korea and Japan was not feasible due time and money constraints. After Hong Kong, I became glad I did not go to Japan, as Hong Kong’s high price level was painful enough after a month in China. I can only imagine what Japan would feel like.
After South Korea and Japan fell out of the picture, the idea was to do South East Asia, then go back to China and continue to Nepal and India via Tibet. And then to go back home somehow by land in the beginning of June just in time to attend a wedding and a birthday bonanza. The next few realizations were that a) Tibet is not a pleasant nor easy place to visit due all the government restrictions b) I got my dose of India in Malaysia c) I have not got simply enough time for India. India is way too massive to be crammed in such a short period of time. So India, Nepal and Tibet are out as well.
The next idea was born around January and involved to go from Singapore to Helsinki by land via China, Kazakhstan, other Stans and Russia. A beautiful idea in itself: Helsinki – Hong Kong by land on my way to East and Singapore – Helsinki by land on my way back. But the devil was in details. I still had a second entry Chinese visa still at that point, but I slowly came to realization that I would not make it to China before the deadline of the visa in March. What I did not take into account is that I had spent way too much time on Thailand’s beaches (no regrets whatsoever) and had little desire to go to Kazakhstan after the easy-going life of a beach-bum. You do countries like Kazakhstan before coming to Thailand not vice versa. Plus time constraints again, two and half months is just such a short period of time for all those countries. During my last visit in Bangkok, I made one more cut to my travel agenda: no China, no Stans, no going home by land. Just South-East Asia for the rest of the journey and flying back home just in time before summer festivities. That settled my return plans and I am flying home out of Bangkok via Berlin on 2nd of June. Ticket booked. Finnish summer here I come.
And one final touch, I met Noora and Ilmari today for the first time in six months and realized that we had booked the same flight to Helsinki. Life truly has its own bizarre way of making surprises.
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
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.