As Lisa departed for home, I was both looking forward to, and anxious about, my new solo travel adventure that lay ahead. It was a fun and exciting prospect to be completely on my own, but would I miss having my good friend with me to keep me laughing through it all?
Well, I’m now over a month into Europe and I still haven’t managed to experience any solo travel. Not even a single day spent without people I had known before hitting Europe!
There is an endless variety of travelers wandering about the world. There’s those backpackers who buy hideous elephant pants and wear them everywhere, perhaps not noticing that the only other people wearing them are other tourists. There’s the oblivious, obnoxious, loud-mouthed over-tanned American who considers herself a gift to the world. There’s holiday travelers on the road for just a week or two and splurging in five-star resorts we only dream of. There’s gap year kids whose primary concern is getting drunk. There’s the massive Chinese tour groups that every other traveler hates because of how loud and inconsiderate they are. There’s the retirees who spend half their year on the road and the other half (or less!) at home. There’s those who make a distinction between a tourist and a traveler and pick a side (guess which). If I had to describe Matt and I, we are part of the band of ultimate players roaming around — low profile until we congregate at tournaments and go nuts.
Sure, I invented this food eating contest, but that’s pretty much the only way I’m going to become the winner of one.
Mg peeks out of the train as we cross the Gokteik Viaduct. She has no idea that in less than a week she will be co-champion of the Mr. Shake Challenge.
Lisa and I arrived in Hsipaw, Myanmar on a train from Pyin Oo Lwin. The signature moment of the ride was crossing the Gokteik Viaduct, a railway bridge built in 1901 that was, at the time, the second tallest (318 ft) in the world. Almost the entire ride, however, was scenic and we would link up with Zoe and Mg who, together with Laura
, Jazzer and Alesha
, would accompany us on our two-day overnight trek to Pankam Village. After the six of us signed up for the trek (Laura would add on later), we grabbed dinner at Mr. Food and headed our separate ways. I had seen some positive online reviews about a place called Mr. Shake
, and if you read the post about my favorite drinks of Southeast Asia
, you can imagine how anxious I was to try it.
A huge part of why our journey thus far has been so amazing is the kindness and hospitality that we’ve been shown by others. Whether it be by chance, old friendships, ultimate, or couchsurfing, our trip has been blessed by other people who have been our travel angels.
Perhaps the greatest traveling lesson I’ve learned thus far is how helpful it is to explore a new place with a local. They can help you avoid getting ripped off, find all the best food spots, and give recommendations on all sorts of things from how to get around, sights to see or avoid, and what the craziest local dish to try is. They’re also useful for learning about a place’s culture and understanding what life is like for them. And, greatest of all, having a friend in a new place makes traveling so much better.
X-Cross Ultimate in Kampar, Malaysia moments before a downpour
As we travel through Southeast Asia, I’m always keeping my eyes open for opportunities to play ultimate frisbee. Most of these occur at hat tournaments in the region, as the scene is largely comprised of ex-pats living here. The notable exceptions in the region are the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore where the sport is growing rapidly among locals, while Vietnam also has some players based in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. It can be hard to get to pickup games when traveling, as sometimes you just aren’t visiting on the right days. So imagine my surprise when UltiAsia
listed a pickup game in Kampar, Malaysia (population 67,000) that supposedly took place every day!
My first hitch. Cara from Vermont, a friend we met in Vietnam last month, has been traveling with us for a couple weeks.
Having arrived in Cameron Highlands only an hour earlier, and not sure what to expect, less than ten vehicles passed us up before a pickup truck pulled over and offered me my first hitchhiking experience. We had tried and failed in Vietnam
, so it was nice to no longer feel rejected. Troji, the owner of a not-yet-opened hostel named Westwood Highland, had told us it would be easy, but I had no idea it was going to be this quick and painless! Over the next few days, I would rack up ten hitches in a very diverse set of vehicles.
After the Vietnam Hat Tournament, Lisa, Amy and I headed to the island of Phu Quoc for some relaxation. The idea of being on a beach for Christmas was enticing. We took an overnight sleeper bus from Ho Chi Minh City that arrived at 4:30am where we waited until 8:00am for the first ferry, meeting a few other travelers along the way.
We arrived in Phu Quoc with some reservations at a hostel called Mush Rooms. This was fortunate, as most of the cheaper accommodation on the island was already booked up. Most of the island is nicer resorts and bungalows and there are a large number of couples that visit the area, but we managed to find the nice little pocket of backpackers to spend the next few days with.
My favorite part of this trip so far is all the awesome people we have met. The locals who have shown us around have been incredibly hospitable and helpful, and the other travelers have been fascinating and adventurous people who quickly become friends.
Sometimes, though, we run into people we aren’t so excited about. Enter: snarky Lisa.