After a ten-day introduction to Buddhism and meditation at a monastery in Kathmandu, about 40 of us made plans to meet at a restaurant in Thamel (the tourist district) the night our course, and two days of silence, ended. We arrived a little late to the party and soon Daniel came up to me. He was a fellow ultimate player that I had met at the monastery, recognizable because he was wearing a jersey from a Wisconsin summer league.
Daniel: I’ve got a proposition for you. What are you doing tomorrow?
Me: No plans, so probably whatever you are proposing.
Daniel: Bungee jumping.
We had a lot of GoPro footage from Thingyan, Myanmar’s new-year water festival that Lisa wrote about previously. I finally found some time to edit it and spliced in some clips from our other travels throughout Myanmar — sunrise in Bagan, cruising around Bagan on electric bikes, the train to Hsipaw, and our Inle Lake trek.
After playing the Big Phat Phnom Penh Hat ultimate tournament, I had three days before I needed to be in Bangkok to catch a flight to Boracay for yet another tournament. Two days would be filled with bus rides, which always take longer than expected in Cambodia, and the middle day would be spent in and around Siem Reap, seeing the many ruins of Angkor Wat, Baphuon, Bayon, and Ta Prohm. Lisa had rented a tuk-tuk for the day and managed to hit both sunrise and sunset at Angkor Wat, filling the rest of the day with additional ruins along the big and small loops. I knew that I would probably burn out faster on temple sight-seeing and instead opted to rent a bicycle in town and go at my own pace.
Water buffalo, rivers, buddha statues, and dusty roads… all in one shot; not staged.
We arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand with about five days to spare before the ultimate frisbee hat tournament. So we headed further Northwest to Pai, a small town along the Mae Hong Son loop that is known for it’s hippy atmosphere. I had read about a two-day rafting trip, and after many helpful emails back and forth with with Guy, the French man who has been running Thai Adventure Rafting for over 20 years, I decided to sign up. It’s currently the dry season in Thailand and there was only about one week left in the rafting season. The water levels would be low, but it sounded like a fun way to get to Mae Hong Son where Lisa was going to be hanging out for a couple days.
This rafting trip seems much more exciting when set to an absurd soundtrack!
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.
Thao, our couchsurfing host in Ha Giang, went out of her way to make our experience enjoyable and comfortable! Such an adventurous spirit, and despite what she may tell you, an excellent cook!
After a week of exploring Northern Vietnam, Lisa and I headed to Cat Ba Island. Our journey started in Ha Giang on our first overnight sleeper bus followed by an immediate connection to a five hour bus/bus/boat/bus trip from Hanoi to Cat Ba Island. As I’m writing this a few days later, that trip doesn’t seem bad when compared to our 25-hour bus journey from Cat Ba to Hoi An (budget travel!). We chose to skip the usual tourist route of spending a night or two on a Vietnamese “junk ship” in Ha Long Bay, to instead craft our own adventure in the area.
As we stepped off the bus with only a vague idea of a hotel to check out, we quickly found that it was low season in town so every hotel was begging for our business. We checked out a few places and for $6 a night we got a room with two beds, wifi, and a hot shower — some of our cheapest accommodation in Vietnam outside of couchsurfing, but pretty typical in terms of quality. The bathrooms here are always all-in-one shower, toilet and sink areas which means everything including the toilet paper gets soaked when you shower.
View from our hotel in Cat Ba, Vietnam
On Sunday we motorbiked from Đồng Văn to Mèo Vạc, over the Mã Pí Lèng Pass at 4,921 feet, on a road that was first built by minority ethnic groups living near the Vietnam border with China. Every bend in the road brought with it new peaks and amazing views, even if it was extremely hazy as had been the case all week in the North.
We were actually driving pretty slowly, so all of this footage is sped up. Now it won’t take as long to watch (but really, it just makes us look cooler).
For a long time now, my dream has been to have my own private island. I love beaches and it is hard to beat the feeling of relaxing on a pristine beach with a few friends. So when I was browsing for things to do in the Philippines and came across a TripAdvisor comment from a traveler who had found a camping trip tour to a small island near El Nido, I decided I needed to figure out how to make that happen.