Friday, September 9, 2011

The Big Six-Month Backpacking Itinerary

Note: I have gone through this backpacking trip and back. Hopefully, it has ushered me into the Filipino backpackers club (which I invented just now). But see, Filipino backpackers exist! We, Pinoys, can do long-term travel. To read some of the highlights of my ever-evolving backpacking trip (which at some point already transitioned more into a travel-filled, nomadic lifestyle), do head over to the Where I Have Been page. Thank you!

I have a confession to make. I am one of those type A planners when it comes to travel. For every trip that I do, everything has to be planned, down to the last detail. What transportation we are going to take, how much it will cost and how long will the ride last, yep, I got all all those covered. You can just imagine the stress I am feeling right now planning and arranging for a six-month trip around Asia with only five weeks til D-Day.

But there is hope for me! That may be hard to believe considering the amount of detail I've set on the map above, but yes, there is hope. I have resolved to stop sweating about the small details and just have a general idea of what places I want to visit. Thus, what you see above is a very rough itinerary. And it covers just the first three months. I may go to this or that place, I may not. With that said, let me talk about the destinations I am very much looking forward to setting foot on.


Clarke Quay, Singapore
Photo by williamcho | CC BY-SA

The original plan was to get ourselves from Manila to Clark International Airport onwards to Kuala Lumpur. But that plan was hatched almost a year ago. Obviously, that has changed. I am now flying direct Manila to Singapore because well, I want to give Singapore the benefit of the doubt. I have never been attracted by it. It's too Disneyland-ish for my taste. However, I am giving it a chance to surprise me. I didn't really care for Shanghai but after getting there, I fell in love with it. Singapore deserves no less. Besides, I have it on good authority that Singapore is probably the best place to start any pan-Asia trip. With its clean streets and glitzy malls, it eases you in to the whole Asian way of life. It helps that I am crashing a friend's place while there. Hostel costs saved!


Taj Mahal
Photo by rachel in wonderland | CC BY-SA

After I meet up with my travel partner Angelica of AnggeTurns26 in Singapore (yes, we are doing this together), we are both heading to the KL International Airport in Malaysia and fly direct to Delhi, the capital of India. From there, we will be visiting a number of places: from the dry deserts of Jaisalmer, to the Taj Mahal in Agra, to the spiritual waters of Varanasi and to the heights of the Indian Himalayas. Although, I think I may be heading north to the mountains by myself as Angelica plans to go south to Mumbai onwards to the Ellora and Ajanta Caves in Aurangabad. There is just too much to see in this huge country!

I'm still in the process of choosing which Himalayan destination to go to. I've always wanted to go to McLeod Ganj in Dharamsala ever since I saw the movie Kundun (1997). The plight of the Tibetan people in exile is something I have always wanted to see for myself. Then of course, taking the UNESCO World Heritage Railway up the mountains to Shimla, the summer capital of the old British Raj, is another experience altogether. The history geek inside of me is extremely excited about that. But I could just throw all that away and do yoga and bungee jumping in Rishikesh. Everything is definitely up the air. I'm not setting anything on to stone. Well, except for Jaisalmer, we've booked our tickets for that. But apart from that, we'll take it as we go.


Photo by akunamatata | CC BY-ND

First off, let me be clear by saying that I am not a mountaineer. I've trekked to the crater of Mount Pinatubo and summitted Mount Pulag, the highest peak of Luzon mainland in the Philippines, worse for wear. But I know that does not really make me a bona fide mountaineer. However, I feel this overwhelming desire to see the highest of the highs in the Himalayas. Something has to be done about that. Thus, we, Angelica and I, booked a flight from Delhi to Kathmandu in the Kingdom of Nepal. We will be doing the Everest Base Camp Trek with a sidetrip to the Gokyo Ri viewpoint. To be honest, I am a bit nervous about this. The EBC trek is hard enough. Adding the Gokyo Ri sidetrip makes it more demanding. But it's happening. I smoked my last cigarette stick last April and I have been training my lungs, running three to four times a week, to be able to endure high altitude conditions. I am not sure if I can accomplish this but I sure as hell will try.


Ha Long Bay
Photo by David McKelvey | CC BY

I have been to Vietnam before but the trip was too short. And we only saw Saigon. Obviously, there is a whole lot more of Vietnam to see! I am very much looking forward to seeing north and central Vietnam this time, especially, the very famous Ha Long Bay. I will make my way down from Ha Noi to the old imperial capital of Hue, to the quaint streets of Hoi An, back down to Saigon, just in time for my flight back to Manila for Christmas. A sort of a break, a vacation, from all these travels. Perfect, really. Saigon is probably the best place to go Christmas shopping!


After Christmas, I am getting back on the road. However, I have nothing planned yet. I just have an idea about the countries I want to cover. Thailand and Malaysia are definitely a go. Which cities in those countries to hit, I have yet to decide. Then, I'm still choosing between Laos-Cambodia and Yunnan province in China. My heart is telling me to go to Yunnan because I have read that it's probably the most beautiful and most diverse region in the whole of China. You have the tropical jungles of Xishuangbanna, to the old towns of Dali and Lijiang, up to the mountains of Shangri-la. Yes, it does exist! I am really hoping I still have the funds to afford to travel through China around that time. Otherwise, I will have to opt for the cheaper countries of Laos and Cambodia, which are not bad at all!

Have you been to any of the places I mentioned here? Sure, you have! I mentioned at least like a thousand destinations in this itinerary. Any travel tips you got there? Did I miss something? Are there other places worth visiting?

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