Wow, time really really flies. I can’t believe we’re home now and our journey has come to an end. It really was an amazing experience and I think everyone should try to travel for an extended period of time in their lives if they can. Coming home, I took one look in my closet and felt both disgusted at how many clothes I own and at the same time amazed that I lived off of 4 t-shirts for 4 months. Ha! You really appreciate the simple things…like a comfortable bed and a hot water shower. It’s incredibly fascinating and eye-opening to see how other cultures live. So here’s the recap:
Easiest Transportation: Thailand, runner up: China
Most Difficult Transportation: Indonesia
Most Expensive: Indonesia (well, Tokyo too)
Best Access to Public Restrooms: China (seriously, every 100 feet)
Times Chris Got Sick: 6 (including food poisoning, sinus cold, photoallergy reaction, altitude sickness, etc.)
Most Beautiful Island: Gili Trawangan in Indonesia
How Much We Were Over Budget: $450 (at a budget of $100/day for the two of us combined)
Longest Travel Segment: 27 hours on a cigarette smoke-filled overnight ferry in Indonesia
Best Lodging: Bali Hyatt (Mike had hotel points)
Worst Lodging: Sairee Cottage on Ko Tao (only because we opted not to have A/C and paid $10/night)
Would have spent more time in China and cut down time on the beach in Thailand. When you’re traveling for a long time, beach time gets boring really fast but it’s nice for your 1-2 week annual vacation.
Would have brought a warmer jacket and better backpack for the Annapurna trek in Nepal.
If it’s really really hot, always spend the $10 more to get the A/C!
If you’re planning a trip to any of these spots, let us know and we’ll email you our tips. Hope you enjoyed following along. As far as this blog goes, I’ll still be keeping it up with our upcoming adventures. Mike’s currently looking for work in international development in Africa or Asia, so that will likely be our next place of residence. In the meantime, we’ll be in LA and Chicago during this transition period. Being the crazy person that I am, about 12 hours after we landed in LA, I left for a 5 day camping trip in Sequoia with my mom and sister (who was home from DC). Talk about exhausted! So, look out for the next posts on Sequoia. You can subscribe to my blog in the upper right hand corner of the page and it will send you an email any time there’s a new post. Hope you enjoyed reading!
Getting ripped off comes with being a tourist. It also comes with being American in China when there are almost no other foreigner tourists and you don’t know enough Chinese to fight back. It’s happened a couple of times already, in different ways. Mostly I get angry for a few minutes and then I remember it’s only a difference of a few dollars.
Hmmm…so let us count the follies, shall we? 🙂 These seem minor in hindsight but it’s the principle! Also, when you’re trying to keep at $100/day for the two of us (including lodging), everything helps.
Shanghai candy store: they charge me 56/unit instead of what I see on the sign is 28/unit. The total is still only 7 RMB and when I get mad, Mike reminds it was only a difference of 50 cents.
Hangzhou fruit stand: Mike selects two large Asian pears and when we get rung up, the total is 45 RMB, or almost $8!! The guy says it’s because they are premium Korean pears and we’re too embarrassed to put them back so we pay up. We made sure to savor every bite! Haha
Hangzhou lakeside tourist trap restaurant: we ask how large the soups are and the waitress shows us with her hands that it’s not that big. So we order two bowls plus a vegetable dish. Soup comes out and they are humongous. We barely make a dent and have way too much food. Annoying but cost us maybe an unnecessary $10.
Hangzhou dinner at Louwailou: famous restaurant. I asked for a recommended vegetable dish and got the fresh bamboo shoots. When the bill came, the bamboo shoots were 58 RMB when vegetable dishes are usually around 12 RMB. Foiled! Always ask how much before ordering!
I’m sure we’ll have many more along the way!
I guess we’re lucky that I speak some, I can’t imagine how difficult it is without knowing the language but I guess you just get by, right?
So, what does one pack for a 4 month trip? I’m making this a lengthy post, as I felt it was helpful when we were researching to see what other people packed to use as a reference list against ours.
The hardest part was packing for the cold weather in China and Nepal, which gets down to 30 F, and hot weather in Thailand and Indonesia, which can be up to 90 F. The other big limitation we had was we needed both of our packs to be carried in Nepal, where we are going on the 3 week Annapurna Circuit Trek. For 3 weeks, we will be hiking around 5 hours a day in a circuit loop from teahouse to teahouse. It would also be most convenient to be able to be pretty mobile and not weighed down by bags when we’re getting from city to city.
Both packs we had needed to be able to be carried like a backpack, so we were limited in that. Nepal is the only leg of our trip where the packs will be carried every day. So for bag 1, we opted to go for a wheeled backpack to make it easier to get around in all other cities. The trade off is that it’s heavier. We chose the Osprey Meridian which was one of the lighter ones and came with a daypack that you could zip on and off. For bag 2, we went with a duffel backpack which is super lightweight and the straps tuck in nicely if you wanted to use it as a carry-on bag. We chose the Osprey Porter 42 liter bag and I got an additional small daypack from REI to carry around my DSLR during the day.
The Gear: What We Packed
This was the hardest part! Narrowing down your items to fit in a carry-on size bag and keeping the weight down as well. Some of the items are shared between the two of us, but I just split them out here mostly by whose pack it’s in (Mike gets the heavier wheeled backpack hehe). Here’s what made the final cut:
3 pairs of pants: jeans, lululemon fast-dry pants, Columbia zip off pants
Iodine tablets for water purification: we got the 2 bottles, 1 for purification, 1 to make it taste better
Duct tape wrapped around a plastic card
Extra ziploc and garbage bags
Moleskin travel journal
Nokia SIM card compatible phone
Whew! That’s the list. It all averages out to around 30 lbs a person in the packs. The weight limit for porters in Nepal is actually around 40 lbs I believe, but lighter is always better!
What We’re Planning on Renting in Kathmandu for the Nepal Trek:
Heavy down jackets
Try to avoid 100% cotton shirts since they don’t try as fast. We brought a combination of synthetic and cotton.
We tried to layer as much as possible to keep things lightweight and useful for multiple destinations.
“Vacuum-pack” your clothes in Ziploc freezer bags to save space and this also makes everything nice and modular in your pack so you can move things around easily.
Batteries don’t last as long in cold weather, so we brought spare batteries for Nepal
Guidebooks: iPad/iPhone/Kindle takes the place of all guidebooks, we just downloaded all of them into the Kindle app. Downside: poor resolution maps, but you can pick up maps along the way at the hotels/info centers in each city
There are some things you only get to do once in a lifetime.
Such as…a four month long trip in Asia!
My husband Mike and I are incredibly fortunate to have the time to travel for several months before we relocate abroad. Most recently, we were living in NYC, working the grind for the last four years post-business school. We both have a serious case of wanderlust, and it’s been a dream of ours to travel for an extended period of time at some point in our lives. Later this year, Mike will look for non-profit development work in Africa/Asia. Before we do that, we are taking some time off to travel in Asia. You can read all about our itinerary and leave us tips/recos!
We’ll try and post updates and photos as often as we can or whenever we get to an Internet connection.