Fairwell Southeast Asia

Well this is it.  After five amazing months backpacking 35 cities in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore, and Indonesia, it is time to part ways.  Farewell to tuk-tuks, temples, waterfalls, sunsets, beaches, fire shows, caves, long bus rides, elephants, motorcycles, stomach bugs, $5 massages, $10 hotel rooms, cheap drinks and food, amazing people, beautiful scenery, and many other things that make it so unique.  I had an amazing time here.  I am filled with a mix of emotions knowing that this will be the last time I sleep here for a while at least.  I mean I could be back sooner than later, but you never really know where life will take you.  It is quite bittersweet I must say.  This place feels like home.  Everything out here I am used to and comfortable with.  The people, the food, the amazing scenery, the smells, the weather.  I am truly grateful for my time here and it has changed me and my outlook on life immensely.  Each country I visited was true to the common phrase “Same same, but different.”  Every place, country, and city was different in so many ways, but down to the core they were so similar.  I’ve never been anywhere else like it.  Between all the new backpacking friends I’ve made, all the locals that opened their homes and lives to me, and everyone in between, it’s been one hell of a ride.

So for now that’s it.  While my journey here is done, a new one awaits.  Tomorrow I head to Australia, followed by Japan and then Europe.  I can’t wait to see what’s next, but there’s the little part of me that never wants to leave.

Bali – Indonesia – The final stop in Southeast Asia

Bali

I decided to visit Bali because I’ve heard many good things about it. My good friend Frank whom I met in Thailand also happened to be there on Vacation and it was cheaper to get to Australia from Bali than from Vietnam. Once I got there it was back to hot weather again. I checked into a great little hostel and met some new people. The one drawback was the weather.  It was not the best as it had been raining, and would continue to rain on and off the entire time I was there. Still, it worked out just fine. I stayed in Seminyak which is basically a more upper class touristy area. I don’t really like the touristy areas but it was still nice.

For nightlife I spent a few nights in Kuta, which to be honest is a little over the top. Lots of drunks and lots of locals trying to sell you everything under the sun. I did manage to find a bar that had a band that let me sing with them every night so I hung out around there.

While I spent many days at Franks hotel resort (due to the pool) we hired a driver to take up around the island to many of the sights. First stop was a small village where they produced many coffees and teas. After a short tour of the place we were able to sample many of them. They were delicious. A special treat was drinking some of the most expensive coffee in the world.  The beans are called Kopi luwak which have been eaten and excreted by the Asian Palm Civet.  Not bad I must say.

Our next stop was up north in the mountains where there is a lake with a floating temple. While I have seen enough temples over the last 5 months this one was pretty cool as it was in the water and had some nice mountain and lake views.

We then went to another famous temple on the beach which was outstanding for the views. Walking out to protruding rock formations to get to the temple was the highlight and offered great views of the oceans and surrounding beach.

Once Frank and his friend Marloes left I decided to stay in Ubud for a few more days before I had to go. A very peaceful village that I really enjoyed. Not as touristy and very relaxing. I stayed in a great homestay. It almost reminded me of Pai, in Thailand. While there I took a day trip to the Monkey Forest where I was greeted by hundreds of monkeys. They are cool little animals and it was a nice way to end my trip in Asia.

As much as I hate to leave, I thought my time in Southeast Asia had come to an end. Over the last 5 months I had the best time imaginable  It’s time now for a little change of scenery and life. Off to Australia for the next month. Until next time.

Pics to come later.

Singapore

So on my way to Bali I had a 20 hour layover in Singapore.  I arrived at the airport and took the subway to china town.  This is the first time I’ve really felt like I was back in normal civilization.  The one weird thing I noticed about the subway (besides how incredibly clean it was) was that there were no doors between cars.  Basically it was like one long caterpillar so whenever there was a turn you would see all the other passengers cars turn and such.  It was strange.  Once I got to Chinatown I had some great street food.  Duck, to be exact.  It was raining when I got there so I waited it out and finally walked to my hostel.  Besides this city being the cleanest city I’ve ever been to, I then realized it was incredibly expensive.  One night at my hostel for a dorm bunk bed was $38.  One beer at the bar was $18.  Compare this to the .25 cent beers I was getting the day before in Hanoi.  Comes out to about 72:1.  Looks like I’m skipping the bar tonight.

I didn’t have much time here so I Walked around the city down to where all the skyscrapers were.  It felt like home.  Like a tiny NYC with no litter anywhere.  It is illegal to chew gum because they don’t want it on the streets.  It you flick a cigarette you can be arrested.  The ground is spotless.  It’s pretty nice.

Since I only had about 15 hours here that’s all I really did.  Ate and explored.  I would have likes to stay longer but I’ve got another flight to catch.  Bali bound to end my trip in Southeast Asia.

Pics to come.

Hanoi – Vietnam – The final stop and Ha Long Bay

I made it! Finally! 2400 miles and I am in Hanoi!  Back to a big crazy too much traffic city.  I am really excited to be here.  The last two months have been an insane journey.  Once again my Dutch tour guide Judith finds me the best hotel/hostel to stay at and of course I get lost trying to find it.  Since I just finished this journey in one piece I decided to ditch the dorms and get myself the nicest room at the hotel.  $25 goes a long way for a room in Vietnam.  First things first, I need a beer.

I have a good seven days here so I need to relax for a few.  Right outside the hotel are 25 cent beers.  Perfect.  I can’t tell you how nice it is to see loads of backpackers after being in the middle of nowhere for the last 10 days.  Tet is finally over and I can eat a decent meal again.  Had a fun night out and had the best bed to sleep in since I’ve been home.  Life is good.

Before I can fully relax I need to sell this beautiful motorcycle of mine.  I was truly sad to see her go, but luckily on the second day I found her a new owner that would ride her back to Saigon.  I even got all the money I spent on it back.  I will miss you my sweet Tristessa, you were a wonderful companion on this journey.

The next few nights I just spent having fun.  Meeting new friends and exploring the city.  Going out and celebrating the end of my Vietnam trip.    I like it here a lot, but it doesn’t beat Saigon nightlife.

After some R&R it was time to see Ha Long Bay.  Though the weather wasn’t at it’s finest this time of year, it wasn’t raining so that was nice.  I booked a tour and left early.  After a two hour bus ride we got to the pier and got on our ferry boat.  I loved it out here.  Full of huge limestone islets sticking out of the water everywhere.  It was beautiful.  After an hour on the boat we stopped at a point where we could get on small boats and explore the area.  I joined a group of Thais on vacation and we rowed all around.  It was an incredible place.  Going under caves and just taking in all the scenery.  Then we were dropped off at a separate cave to explore which was lit up with different colored lights.  Cool place, cool day.

I spent the last few days in Hanoi just hanging out, eating good food, the usual.  Booked my ticket for Bali with a 20 hour layover in Singapore.  Till next time.

Pics to come.  Bad internet.

Finishing up the motorcycly journey of a lifetime. The untold details (Sorry mom).

The final few stops before Hanoi were nice rides but mostly stops in small cities that were completely dead due to Tet.  The final 5 hour drive to Hanoi was exciting.  It was only fitting that it would be pouring rain the entire ride.  Fortunately I made it to my final destination and I am still alive, so I thought I would write specifically about the journey as a whole since I am still here to talk about it.

I decided to leave out most of the crazy details of this trip up until now due to the fact that I did not want my parents to be freaking out more than I’m sure they already were for the last two months.  Riding a motorcycle 2400 miles from south to north Vietnam is crazy.  Riding a motorcycle 2400 miles alone is borderline insane.  A lot of people told me I was crazy for doing this. Some even said stupid.  The locals told me I would be dead before I got to Hanoi.  For some reason I was never that worried.  Maybe it’s because I’m a control freak and this forces you to be in control at all times.  Who knows.  All I know is that along this trip I’ve seen some crazy, terrible things, and had a few bumps along the way.  Sorry mom.

Traffic in Vietnam is crazy, but to be honest you are probably most safe in any city.  There is so much traffic that you can’t really go that fast.  Once you get on the highways and mountain roads however, all the rules get tossed out the window.  There are ZERO traffic laws here.  Your biggest killers are buses, trucks, and potholes.  They speed, cut you off, come right at you directly in your lane passing everything, and generally don’t care what happens as long as they make it to their destination on time.  I’ve been run off the road countless times due to buses and trucks.  It became normal after the first week.  When I say I was happy to make it to Hanoi alive, I was not joking.  It’s pretty close to a miracle I made it this far with few injuries.  I got side hit by an SUV that was dodging a bus that was in our lane which sent me onto the grass.  Luckily I didn’t fall.  I’ve seen four Vietnamese people have terrible accidents.  One of which died in front of me and the others which I can only assume are not with us anymore from going head on with buses.  Bikes and bodies mangled.  The first accident I saw I literally had to drive through the blood of a guy laying lifeless on the ground while the truck driver told me what I assume was “get the hell out of here!” in Vietnamese.  They don’t want witnesses, let alone an American one.  The problem is the Vietnamese will just pass a bus around a blind curve and not even think twice about what might be coming towards them.  I never do this because you will most likely get hit and it is just stupid.  I did however, have one pretty bad accident that couldn’t have turned out better all things considered.  It literally could have been a scene from a movie.  Riding up in the mountains where there aren’t a whole lot of buses or traffic I was just having fun and driving somewhat fast around these beautiful perfect bends enjoying every minute of it.  I came around a blind curve and of course there is a Vietnamese guy pulling a U-turn on a motorbike in my lane.  I had about a second to either smash right into him or swerve to avoid him.  I chose to avoid him because the last thing I want is to be responsible for someone else, not to mention I don’t have a motorcycle license so I would be somewhat screwed.  So I swerved hit the rear brake and skidded slightly which flipped my bike and tossed me at which point I flew like a bird for a second and landed on my hands and knees.  I swear while in the air I heard R. Kelly’s “I believe I can fly” playing in my head.  I slid on them for about a second and then just lifted up my arms and legs which let me slide about 10 feet on my chest.  Thank god for my $20 fake leather jacket because I would literally have no chest left if not for that. My glorious chest hair can only handle so much abuse.  At this point my body comes to a stop and my bike comes sliding right into me wedging my foot into the straps that hold my backpacks (which were now thrown all over the road).  The guy who I avoided took off immediately, while a few others stopped.  I look up only to see a bus coming towards me, and look back to see my bike emptying out all it’s fuel.  Wonderful…  Luckily the bus stopped and the bike didn’t blow up somehow.  I got up, collected my things, and went off to the side of the road to toss some iodine in my cuts and burns and collect myself for a few minutes.  I couldn’t believe I made it through all that with just some bad scrapes and cuts.  The best part was I now had to drive the next four hours using only my fingertips, as my hands were not in the best shape for grip.  Anyways I made it 2 hours later to a pharmacy and they bandaged me up.  Moral of the story is that Vietnam is insane and trust me, you do not want to visit a hospital here.  Again, sorry mom.  I’m sure I told you guys it was another great ride.  Ha.

Aside from that there were other minor things that happened on the road.  Being lost countless times in the middle of nowhere on dirt roads asking rice farmers for directions that have never seen a white person in their life.  Having Google maps lead me to a road that turned into a lake.  Having my engine completely destroyed by a bolt that came loose from said dirt roads and having to sleep in a mechanics shop that gladly let me sleep there and fed me.  Being pulled over for “speeding” on highway one, only trying to bargain with the cop that asked for $10 when I told him “how about $5?” Bad idea.  After being taken to a small police station he literally said to me “I say 10, You say 5. Now… 15 dolla!”  Ok I give in.

So that’s basically it.  With everything that happened I regret none of it.  I did it, I made it, and I’m still here.  My wounds have healed up and I’m good to go.  I would do it again in a heartbeat.  One thing I know for sure, it sure beats taking the bus.

Hue – Vietnam and the epic Hai Van Pass

The ride from Hoi An to Hue was something I had been looking forward to since the day I bought my motorcycle.  I’ve heard about the Hai Van Pass from watching Top Gear where Jeremy Clarkson describes it as the greatest coastal highway in the world.  It did not disappoint.  It was, in fact, the greatest road I’ve ever driven on.  One side was the mountains and the other the coast.  Beautiful hairpin turns, curvy roads, perfect pavement, and not much traffic due to the new tunnel made for the buses to bypass this glorious road.  I was smiling the entire ride.  It was epic.  If I could I would drive on it all day, everyday, for the rest of my life.  Unfortunately its only about twenty miles long.  Not long enough but unbeatable.

Eventually I made it to Hue to meet my Dutch friend Judith from Hoi An and settled down at my hotel.  I loved it here.  A small city with lots of backpackers.  Per usual it had great cheap food, and a decent nightlife.  The next day we decided to visit the famous Citadel and Imperial City.  It was previously a walled in forbidden city where only the emperors lived but was destroyed during the war.  It has since been reconstructed and used as a tourist destination.  A pretty cool place to check out with some interesting history. After a long day of walking it was time to head back into town and chill out for another day or two.  After that its time to continue the journey to Hanoi.

I will put up pics of the Hai Van Pass as soon as I get better internet.

Hoi An – Vietnam

Hoi An is a beautiful little city.  Rich with wonderful architecture, food, weather, beaches, and fabrics.  I was also going to be here for Tet, the Vietnamese New Year. I spent the first few days exploring and trying different restaurants.  I also spent two days at the beach.  It was a good time with great seafood.  Once I switched to a different hotel I met some new friends.  We decided to go to the My Son temple which is about an hour ride on our motorcycles.  To be honest at this point I do not get very excited by temples.  I’ve seen way too many by now.  Still, it was a nice drive and still interesting.  On the way back it was dark and we decided to stop for some food.  We stopped at a locals only outdoor restaurant which turned out to be great.  Everyone was getting ready for the New Year so there was lots of celebrations and drinking.

New Years in Vietnam is huge.  We walked down to the river and the streets were packed with people from all over and everything was lit up and decorated.  We found a nice spot on the river to watch the firework show they had planned.  Of course during the countdown to the new year, the second it hit midnight and the first firework was shot off it started pouring rain.  It was fitting if you ask me.  Then the second the fireworks stopped, so did the rain.  The rest of the night we spent at a bar celebrating with the travelers and the locals.  I pretty much DJ’ed the night since the music was provided with a computer and youtube.  It was a great night.

Unfortunately the New Year means that all the locals don’t work and go home to their families for 10 days.  This means nothing will be open for the next ten days.  This means I won’t be able to eat at a restaurant for ten days.  This will be interesting.  On that note, off to Hue.