Hello there! A few days ago, I came back from the (so far) longest trip of my life: six weeks of travelling aroung Asia. After a busy weekend with my graduation from university, I now have the time to finally write the first blog post in what feels like ages.
As I already indicated in a previous post, we decided on many of our destinations on the go. However, we ended up booking accommodation in China as well as a flight from Beijing to Hanoi before the start of our trip, and also arranged a Vietnamese visa. But apart from that, we booked ho(s)tels online only a few days in advance or just walked around town to see what we could get. All in all, we visited 7 (or 8, counting flight transfer) countries in six weeks, including Russia, Mongolia, China, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, Japan, plus a short stay in the United Arab Emirates.
I would really like to go into detail on my impressions and experiences regarding each country and that’s why I decided to split the whole thing into six separate blog posts:
1) Back from the Big Trip: This is the one you’re reading write now and I would like to use it to give you some general insights into travelling for a longer amount of time and on how my friend and I found our own approach to backpacking.
2) The Great Adventure: The Transsiberian Railway: Here I will share my experiences on the cities at the start and the end of the trip, Moscow and Beijing, as well as on the train ride itself. This includes what we saw on the way as well as a description of the amenities on the train.
3) Northern Vietnam in a Week: In this post I will cover what we did in Hanoi as well as on the trips we made to the areas around Halong Bay and Sapa.
4) Laos Demystified: For us, Laos was surprisingly unexciting when compared to all the positive (if not enthusiastic) reports we had heard and read before. I will go into detail why we got that impression and why I still think Laos might be an interesting country to travel to under different circumstances.
5) Back to Civilization: Malaysia: Malaysia, especially Kuala Lumpur, was great after two weeks more or less in the jungle. We loved the wild mix of different cultures and the fact that close to everyone speaks English.
6) Icing on the Cake: Back to Japan: For me, going to Japan always feels a little bit like coming home. Having lived there for a while, I speak the language fluently and know my way around Tokyo and surroundings quite well by now. This part of the trip was the true vacation for me.
I’m not yet sure when exactly I will find the time to write all this, especially because this is usually connected to a considerable amount of photo editing. But I’m sure I will find the time eventually and you can look forward to several posts within the following weeks.
This was my first time ever to travel for so long, but I really did enjoy it. Not everything was perfect, but I guess it never is on such a trip. I’m still working on processing all the things I saw – considering what we covered, the time frame actually seems rather short. In case I ever do such a thing again, I really need to take more brakes. What we saw was amazing, breathtaking and entirely new to us, but the pace we moved at didn’t really give me the possibility to think about what I had just experienced. This is one little thing I might change on possible future trips: taking things a little slower sometimes. I believe this would also allow experiencing the local culture and trying local food in an even better way.
But putting that aside, I really had a great time. Tanja and I settled pretty quickly for our own definition of backpacking. With regard to accommodation, we always tried to ensure at least a certain level of comfort and mostly went for double rooms instead of group dorms. Shared bathrooms, even beds we had to share between the two of us were acceptable – but bedbugs definitely weren’t. This choice of accommodation often resulted in the fact that we hardly ever met fellow backpackers – making new friends is somewhat more difficult in a hotel than it would be in a large hostel with a common room. But then, I don’t think we really made the effort of trying to find new people to talk to. For the first time, I also realized a certain shift in priorities when it comes to long-term travel. At some point, “has laundry service” became far more important when looking for a place to stay than “has free WiFi”. After all, WiFi is available in close to every little café in Asia – but getting clean clothes can be far more challenging. In general, I’m sure we spent more on accommodation than any “regular” backpacker would, as we mostly stayed in hotels or guesthouses rather than hostels and also preferred booking online in advance to searching for a place on site, which resulted in higher prices. But we made up for that by saving considerable amounts of money in other areas. Usually, two meals a day (breakfast and an early dinner) were sufficient and even those were mostly rather inexpensive. Sometimes, a smoothie could replace an entire breakfast. Also, we hardly ever went out in the evening, preferring going to bed early and then rising early to spending our nights at bars and waking up hung over. And even in those cases when we did go out at night, we didn’t need much to drink anyway because of our previous abstinence. And from what I saw, alcohol might have been the largest cost driver for some of our fellow travelers.
All in all, it was an amazing experience and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. This trip was the perfect way to bring the time of my Master studies to an appropriate end. Personally, I made so many new experiences and learned so much and honestly feel like doing similar trips again in the future. Let’s see what my work schedule will permit – my student life has now genuinely come to an end and my new job will start in October.
I hope I won’t have to let you wait for the remaining blog posts for too long. I’m currently working on sorting and editing my pictures. I’m also still waiting for the pictures from Tanja’s camera. But I’m positive that it won’t be too long until I can publish the next post. Thank you for the patience!