The assault of car horns on my ears is instant. I step off the curb by my hotel and plunge head first into the noise. Cars crowd. Rubbish at my feet. Tripping over stones and old plastic bags. A dog lies flat out in the sun. Vendors selling fruit, fried treats and motor cycle helmets. “Excuse me, Madam, you like go spice gardens?” Men spitting; side stepping. Smell of urine. Weaving between the cars. Vehicles surging forward. Honk! Beep beep! A man splashes water from a bottle over his hands, sprinkles it over his fruit. Pineapple slices on little silver dishes. Market stalls with clothes, bags, shoes, belts, wallets and watches. “Madam?” Sidle round a tuk tuk, walking in the road, cars careening forward. A man leans back in a chair while another lathers shaving foam on his face. The mirror hanging on the fence rails reflects their precarious position on the cracked side walk. Keep moving. Pushing on. Avoid the stares. A huge statue of Hanuman watches over us. A tail twirling above her head. Half monkey, half man. Metro rattling over head. Bodies everywhere, surging, like salmon upstream. A child shuffles between the traffic, peering up at windows, her little dish empty, her t-shirt as ragged as her cough. Scent of oil and sizzle of something frying. Rotis bubble and brown on hot plates. Narrow streets pulsating with people. Everyone busy. Everyone going. Dusty feet. Piles of plastic trays on the side of the road. Little square packets hang from stalls; biscuits, shampoo and washing powder. “Spice garden?” Cross the road, no waiting, just go. A man lying in the road, hands up, begging, the crutch at his side and his mangled stump lifted in the air. Glasses full of citrus fruit, men stopping to sip them squeezed in water with sugar. Women in saris. Women with glasses and short hair. Women in rags. Sweat dripping down the curve of my spine. BEEP! Temporarily deafened, then the cacophony rising again. Jostled together. Closer, closer. Hot. Dirty. Crowded. Vibrant.
Ever since my 7 week gap year trip around Australia and New Zealand I have been dying to go on a bigger, longer, even more awesome trip. Don’t get me wrong, I loved every second of my gap year trip but when I kept running into people who were travelling for three months minimum I started to feel like mine was a little more like an extended holiday. I shouldn’t have put myself down so much because I’ve come to realise it doesn’t matter the length of the trip but the experiences you have along the way. I crammed a lot into Australia and New Zealand and I don’t feel like I missed out on anything. That being said, I’ve still always wanted to go on a longer trip for the simple reason that I can fit in even more great experiences!
One day I drop into an STA travel shop and tell them my budget and my ideas, now a couple of months on I have an epic itinerary planned! STA have been so helpful with putting together something really cool and also kind of complicated; I’d definitely recommend using them. Asian culture is so different from anything I have ever experienced before so it’s been a long time dream to visit Thailand and we built the trip from there. In the end I booked a 5 month trip around South East Asia!
My big trip starts ten days after my last MA assignment and I can’t wait. Here it is:
10th Oct – I’ll fly to Dubai to catch up with my friend Taylor. I’ll be spending four days here with Taylor showing me the best local places, doing some shopping (well maybe window shopping – I have got to save some money for the rest of my trip) and visiting swanky bars.
14th Oct – After this short stop over I’ll be heading to Sri Lanka for a week. I don’t know what I’ll be getting up to in Sri Lanka yet but I’m excited to start planning!
21st Oct – Next up is India. I’ll be on the Uncover India tour which will take me from Dehli
to Goa. Along the way I’ll be checking out the Taj Mahal, learning henna painting, bathing in Pushkar lake and visiting many temples.
6th Nov – Once I’ve lazed around on the beach in Goa for a few days I’ll be flying to Singapore where I’ll make my own way to Kuala Lumpa. I’m looking forward to this bit; a little taste of freedom to travel where I want, when I want and some independance to figure out how I’m actually going to do that!
16th Nov – I’ll be flying to Manila to explore the Philippines next. This is another leg of the journey I’m doing solo and also where I’ll be celebrating my birthday! I’m hoping here I’ll be able to do some diving as I island hop around Philippines’ 7,000+ islands! Swimming with whale sharks, visiting the chocolate mountains and the hanging tombs are also on my list of things to do.
28th Nov – From there I head over to Borneo for almost three weeks. I’ll fly into Kota Kinabalu and have five days to explore there, perhaps hiking Mount Kinabalu and visiting Turtle Island. Then it’s on to Kuching and my first volunteering experience: Orangutang conservation. I’m sure it will involve some hard work at times but will also be a lot of fun and gives me a chance to explore the rainforest and even stay in a traditional longhouse.
16th Dec – Finally it will be time to head over to the long-awaited Thailand. For this section of the trip I’ll be meeting up with my travel buddy Joey. You’ll hear more about a previous trip we’ve been on together in the next post but in the meantime check out his blog https://themichaeljoseph.com. We’ll spend a day or two in Bangkok before heading up to Chaing Mai where we will do one week of elephant conservation. Elephants are my favourite animal and one I’m currently writing my novel about so I’m really looking forward to this part of the trip. Being up close and personal to an elephant will be a dream come true! We finish just in time for Christmas and hopefully for a couple of other friends to come and join us; Ed and his girlfriend Becky. From there the four of us will head South to explore Thailand’s islands and celebrate the New Year.
9 Jan – After I’ve said goodbye to my friends I’ll be joining the Stray Asia bus. This is a flexible hop-on hop-off service that will take me through Laos, Cambodia and end my trip in Vietnam. I chose to travel this way because I did a similar pass with the Oz Experience and New Zealand Experience, both of which were great. It’s a fun way to meet new people and do a wide range of activities with the ease of having a tour guide to help book them for you. They also offer unique experiences like remote homestays I might not otherwise be able to do if I were organising it on my own. This will be the most flexible part of my trip and I’ll be able move on when I like or stick around for a few extra days somewhere if I feel like it- as long as I’m back in Bangkok to catch my flight home on the 1st March that is!
So that’s it! This is my epic jam-packed trip and everything I’ll be doing along the way – or at least what I have planned so far. This will be the longest I’ve ever been away from home and the first time I’ll be travelling completely on my own. I am equal parts terrified and excited. Bring on October. Bring on South East Asia!