Uh, it’s January 30th? 2014?!?!?! It feels like it was just the New Year a couple days ago! Maybe that’s because it’s the Lunar New Year tomorrow. Or maybe it’s because I’ve completely lost all sense of time and reality.
It has been a crazy month. We entered Thailand on December 30th, Malaysia on January 6th, spent two days in Singapore (January 19th and 20th), and then spent one day in all three of those countries, reversing our route. We are now back in Thailand. For a large portion of that time, we were joined by Cara, a friend we’d made a few weeks before in Cat Ba island. But she eventually got tired of our snarkiness…
and went back home to the States, and we’re back down to two. Here’s a more in-depth summary of the last month.
Being away from home is always challenging because of the things you miss: your friends, your favorite foods, the familiarity and comfort of home, etc. And I miss all those things. But no one wants to hear about that.
A couple people have asked what things I miss that I didn’t expect to or that are unusual. Well, I don’t know what other people consider unusual. I’m coming to realize that my perceptions aren’t always in line with others’. But before we get into a debate of what the definition of ‘weird’ is and whether or not I fit in it (that would be a short discussion), here’s a list of the things I miss that may or may not be weird.
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.
As I’ve run out of deep thoughts (come on, two months was more than any of us could have expected from me), I’ve started asking around for ideas for blog posts from other people. This idea is courtesy of my brother, Henry.
Henry asks, “Do you have any tips on bargaining? Or how not to get ripped off?”
No. I am exceptionally bad at bargaining and haggling. And I’m pretty sure I am getting ripped off constantly. If being awful at negotiating was a sport, I’d be in the Olympics for it. So, I probably shouldn’t give out any advice on how to bargain. I have, however, learned a lot of lessons from all my mistakes thus far. Maybe you’ll find value in these.
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.
Matt and I have made it two months on the road! It feels both like an eternity and the blink of an eye since we were back in Denver. Our trip hasn’t turned out as I had anticipated, but all in positive ways. I didn’t have any specific expectations for this adventure, just some vague goals about self-growth. I thought we’d see some cool stuff, eat some good food, and meet a few people. In all those ways and more, these last 60 days have far exceeded what I had thought possible. We’ve had so many amazing and incredible experiences that it doesn’t seem possible that we have only been at this for two months.
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.
The Vietnam Hat Tournament took place on December 21-22, 2013 and was the second of three ultimate tournaments in Southeast Asia that I was determined to attend when we left the US. In November, we played in Manila Spirits in the Philippines, and in early February we will hit the Bangkok Hat. Other tournaments are possible along the way, depending on where our travels lead us.
Lisa and I were nearing the end of our 25-hour bus journey from Hoi An to Ho Chi Minh City when she got an email from the Vietnam Hat Ultimate Tournament organizers meant for captains and team managers. It said further information would be forthcoming, but thanks for taking on an added role for the upcoming weekend. This was perplexing, as she hadn’t signed up for any special managerial team role. When we got off the bus at 8:00pm on the Friday before the tournament, we checked into our hostel and headed over to the tournament party to figure out what teams we would be on and when we would need to be at the fields. When we arrived, the team listings showed Lisa had been designated team manager for the Orange team and somehow I was listed as team captain for Medium Spring Green!
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.