1 Year Roundup – Back from 11 Months in Asia

Hello!  Happy June.  Officially back in the USA after 11 and a half months of traveling; including a final 2.5 months of backpacking.  When you really put backpacking in perspective, it bears a lot of similarities with being homeless.  You have no home, you carry everything you need to live on yourself, you’re unshowered most of the time, borderline broke, and always looking for free handouts.  But it’s fun.

It always makes me laugh while backpacking when touts approach me for things like spas and expensive hotels/private cars.  Too expensive, yo.  Even though their version of expensive is the same as the US version of standard.

Sorry for the hiatus, between being in India with HORRIBLE wifi and assimilating back into normality here in the US, I’ve been bad about blogging.

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Spice Market, Chadni Chowk, Old Delhi.  Note the excessive trash & building decay.

I plan on sending out a bunch of posts about India, my final stop, soon.  But in the meantime, here’s a little round up of my final year abroad.

Countries/Cities Visited:

  • Indonesia – Bali(Kuta, Ubud, Canggu), Java
  • Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur, Taman Negara(Cameron Highlands), Georgetown(Penang)
  • Singapore
  • Cambodia – Siem Reap, Battambang
  • Myanmar – Yangon, Bagan, Kalaw, Inle Lake, Mandalay
  • Vietnam – Hanoi, Halong Bay, Sapa, Hoi An, Saigon, Anh Binh(Mekong Delta), Da Lat, Nha Trang
  • India – New Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Pushkar, Varanasi, Rishikesh
  • Thailand – Dan Chang(home!), Bangkok, Ayutthaya, Pattaya, Pai, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Khon Kaen, Khao Kho, Khao Sok National Park, Suphanburi, U-Thong, Phuket, Ko Chang, Ko Samet, Koh Phagnan, Koh Phi Phi, Ko Lanta, Ton Sai Bay, Krabi

The Southeast Asia Awards

Favorite county:

India.  Or Bali(Indonesia).

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Galta Ji Temple, Jaipur.  AKA “Monkey Temple” number 6928397 in Asia.  There’s always a Reggae bar ,there’s always an Irish pub, there’s always a monkey temple.
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Goa Gaja in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

I don’t know; you can never really pick a country because they’re all so different.  Maybe I’m just still glowing about India because it was the last country I visited, but India was way different than anywhere else.  The cool place to go backpacking now is Myanmar, because it’s “the most untouched and uninfluenced by Western culture” since it only reopened its doors to tourists in 2011.  But India has been influenced by western culture, and still just doesn’t give a f*ck.  They still listen to their own Hindi music, wear their own style of clothes, eat their own style of food, and haven’t changed too much to mimic western culture.

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Bali, Indonesia, somewhere close to Ubud.
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Chadni Chowk, Old Delhi, India.

Least favorite country:

Malaysia?  Or Singapore?

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I hate when people ask me this question because there isn’t anywhere that I regret going.  I only say Malaysia because it’s the one country that I never was really like “Wow, I can’t wait to come back here!”  Malaysia felt really bland to me for some reason.  Everything I liked about it was borrowed from another country, ex. their great selection of Indian and Muslim food.  Same with Singapore; except I think a reason that I didn’t love Singapore was because I was balling on a budget, and compared to rest of Southeast Asia, Singapore is pretty expensive.  I also was only there for about 12 hours for a layover.

Best food:

Thailand.  Or India.  Depending if you’re in the mood for light food or not; India is REALLY good but tends to be on the heavier side.  You can literally order a cube of butter to throw in your food, if that gives you any idea.  You also can order your naan bread or chapatti (Indian tortilla) that you eat with every meal slathered in butter.  And they don’t skimp.

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Palak Paneer Thali, Pushkar, India
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Pad Kra Pow Gai Kai Dow, Dan Chang, Suphan Buri, Thailand

Best surprisingly good food:

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It tastes bette than it looks I swear.  That huge square thing is tempeh.  Kuta, Bali, Indonesia

INDONESIA.  Indonesia is a mostly Muslim country, and Bali is the last remaining majorly Hindu island.  So they have DANK vegetarian food – they invented tempeh, a substance similar to tofu that uses whole beans instead of grinding them up.  If there are any food people reading this who have a more accurate description of what tempeh is please help me out.

Worst food:

Vietnam.  I still thought the food was good, it was just very bland compared to other countries.  It’s not super spicy on its own, so I had to bathe everything I ate in chilis.  Not to say anything bad about Pho/Banh Mi.

Weirdest food I ate:

Grilled rat on the side of the road in Cambodia.  I’m telling you, it’s the same as dark meat chicken.  It even came with a sauce, fancy.

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Nicest people:

Thailand!  Thai people are the kind of people who will give you everything, even though they don’t have much to give.  I’m also biased of course.  Myanmar actually may tie for the nicest people.

Least friendly people:

Vietnam.  I was shooed away from a couple food stalls for being foreign.  My friends & I also got robbed in Hoi An, which probably makes me a little biased.  In defense of the Vietnamese people I thought people outside of touristy areas were very friendly(ex. in the Mekong Delta), almost as friendly as Thai people.

Cheapest country:

India!  Everything is priced about the same as Thailand, except it’s in rupees which is worth almost half of a Thai baht.  So I was spending about $4-$6 a night on decent hostels and $1-$2 on restaurant food.

Most expensive country:

Singapore.  I spent $100 on about 12 hours of being there, and I was being cheap.  That would last me at least 3 days in Thailand if I wasn’t being cheap, but also not splurging.

Best shopping:

Thailand!  For trendy western things, and other Thai products like essential oils and anything that can be made from a coconut shell.  India for authentic leather goods and other stuff specific to India.  I bought my mom this dope vintage dress, hand-embroidered and imported from Pakistan.

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Vintage dress from Pakistan.

Most backpacker-friendly:

Vietnam.  Maybe it’s the 5,000 dong beer you can get on beer street in Hanoi(less than a quarter), but the vibe in Vietnam is super backpackery.  I met the most people in Vietnam, hailing from everywhere from the Netherlands to Syria.  It’s also cheap and easy to get transportation.  Also, due to the fact that everyone does a similar route, either north to south or south to north, you tend to run into the same people along the way.

Least backpacker-friendly:

Bali, surprisingly.  It felt more like a vacation destination than a backpacker destination.  It was still cheap compared to the west, but a little more expensive than Thailand.  The kicker for me was transportation costs.  Whereas in most countries I would take busses and other public transportation to get around, in Bali my friends & I always had to hire private cars.  It was fine as we were traveling with 10 people, but if I was solo it definitely would’ve hit my bank a little hard.

Most authentic country:

By authentic I meant felt the least touristy.  Tie – India and Myanmar.  India is definitely tourist-friendly, but more geared towards Indian tourists than foreigners.  Which is understandable, the country is so overpopulated and crowded that even when I was in popular backpacking areas foreigners were an anomaly.  I think I had more people take selfies with me in India in a week than my entire time in Thailand combined, which is saying something.

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Best English:

India – it’s their second language!  However there’s still a problem communicating sometimes.

Worst English:

Myanmar.  But the people are super nice so it makes up for it.

Cleanest country:

Singapore.

Dirtiest country:

India – there’s animal poop EVERYWHERE.  Cows are holy so they serve no purpose, therefore there’s cows wandering around the streets.  Leading to a lot of cow poop.  There’s also trash EVERYWHERE.

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Welcome to Varanasi, where people swim less than 100 yards downriver from where dead bodies have been getting dumped in the water for thousands of years.

Highs

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Kawa Ijen crater, Banjawungyi, East Java, Indonesia
  • Doing a 1AM volcano hike at a volcano in Java, Indonesia next to an acid lake and seeing blue flames coming off the sulfur deposits
  • Seeing my first world wonder! The Taj Mahal in Agra, India looks even better in person.
  • Trekking through rice paddies and villages from Kalaw to Inle Lake in Myanmar
  • Canyoning through waterfalls in Da Lat, Vietnam
  • Teaching – corny but I had to add it.
  • Celebrating Songkran(Buddhist, New Year) in Bangkok in April

Lows

  • Getting robbed in Vietnam
  • Getting into a motorbike accident in Dan Chang. Everyone was fine; no worries.
  • Losing my phone and 2 cards all on separate occasions. All in the same week as getting robbed.  Disclaimer:  All were my fault.

What I missed most about the USA:

  • COFFEE that a) Isn’t NesCafé instant coffee and b) Comes in a cup the size of my face
  • Being able to buy groceries without stares
  • Actually knowing what’s going on, not having to deal with the language barrier
  • Customer service; I was so thrown off my second day back when the cashier at Panera Bread verbally applauded my choice of salad
  • Being able to get ANYTHING at all times; cheese from France, tea from India, and produce from Mexico all in the SAME STORE
  • How freaking CLEAN IT IS

What I’ll miss most about Thailand:

  • Dank STREET FOOD
  • Spicy food
  • THAI FOOD IN GENERAL
  • My motorbike (love/hate relationship)
  • The people; including Thai people, my friends, my boss/Thai mom, my students
  • Cheap wonderful shopping, especially Chatuchak market in Bangkok
  • Being able to club hop around Bangkok without spending more than $20 in an evening

There ya go, a year in Asia(or 11.5 months) in about 1500 words.

Also, any ideas for a new name for this blog?  I need to do some re-branding now that I’m not living in Thailand anymore.

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