Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Big Six-Month Backpacking Itinerary (Part 02)


As it stands now, I have completed half of my originally planned six-month backpacking journey. And as expected, much of my plans for the first three months didn't really go as I imagined them to go. Few things:
  • India: Missed the train to Jaisalmer. So we went to Dharamsala and later to Amritsar instead.
  • Nepal: Flight to the jump-off point of the Everest Base Camp Trek was cancelled twice in two days due to bad weather. So we did the Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) Trek instead.
  • Southeast Asia: Opted to explore northern Thailand instead of hurrying to cover the length of Vietnam north to south in less than three weeks
Thus, in my first three months, I covered Singapore, India (Dharamsala, Amritsar, New Delhi, Agra and Varanasi), Nepal (Kathmandu, Pokhara and ABC Trek), Thailand (Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pai), and Vietnam (Saigon). (See full map in my Where I Have Been page. Also, please stay tuned for more posts on these places!)

With an extended trip like this, there are just some things that are beyond one's control. So you learn to roll with the punches. That is one of the most important things I have learned traveling this long. That said. Here's Part 02 of the Big Six-Month Itinerary, the places I intend to cover early 2012. Operative word, intend. I am most definitely open to changes.



CENTRAL AND NORTHERN VIETNAM

I have been to Ho Chi Minh City twice (thrice, if you consider my transiting there from Cambodia) and yet, I am heading there once more. I really don't mind. The city has got a distinct personality which people like to refer to as ordered chaos. I like it. And it's a good introduction to the rest of Vietnam, which I am covering this time. From HCM, I am going to laid-back beach town Da Nang, the country's "third" city. From there, I plan to do daytrips to charming, quaint, old-town Hoi An.

Marble Mountain, Da Nang
Photo by namho | CC BY

After that, I am seeing the capital of imperial Vietnam, in Hue, which I am quite excited about. I finish my Vietnam journey in the north, in Hanoi and Halong Bay. It sucks that Filipinos are only allowed 21 days in the country per entry. I would have loved to see the Central Highlands in Da Lat and the northern mountains near Sapa, too. But all's good. I am seeing the mountains in my next destination anyway. Which is:


SOUTHWEST CHINA

I would like to say that this is my first border crossing but it's not. I have done Singapore to KL by bus. It's still exciting though. I maybe becoming a borderholic, I must confess. From Hanoi, I take a sleeper train to Lao Cai in northern Vietnam and walk, yes walk, to China. I will be securing my visa here in Manila though. From Hekou (the border town on the Chinese side), I take a bus to Kunming, the capital of probably the most beautiful and diverse region of China: Yunnan province.

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain theatre
Photo by Travelwyse | CC BY-SA

I will be covering the basics: big city Kunming, to laid-back and hippie Dali, to old UNESCO World Heritage Lijiang, and finally, to the Tibetan town Zhongdian, which, by the way, was renamed Shangri-la to draw in tourists like me. The thought that excites me though is that through all these places, the Himalayas will be with me all the way. In fact, if I somehow find people to go with or an agency reliable enough, I may do a short trek to the Tiger Leaping Gorge. Just the names of these places conjure up mystical legends only depicted in stories older than I could ever imagine. I can't wait to see them all.

Gandan Sumtseling Monastery and village
Photo by avlxyz | CC BY-SA

From Zhongdian, I would have loved to do the five-day high-altitude overland journey to Chengdu in Sichuan province. But as we are only allowed 30 days per entry in China, I'm going the faster route, taking a bus back to Kunming, and then a train to Chengdu. Why go to Chengdu, you ask? That's the closest place I can get a cheap flight back to Southeast Asia proper. But that's good. I get to see pandas! That is, before I head to Malaysia.


MALAYSIA

To slow things down as my trip comes to a close, I am stopping by Kuala Lumpur for a few days before heading to another laid-back old town: Malacca. A friend has been there and loved the place. I am spending at least a week in Malacca before heading to Singapore for my flight back to Manila. It's cheaper to fly from there via Tiger Airways. Go figure.

Malacca
Photo by Marufish | CC BY-SA

From there, I don't know what happens next. Four months is too far for me to plan anything. I may continue being on the road, foregoing my flight from Singapore altogether. Or I may start looking for work someplace other than Manila. One thing's for sure though, I will continue traveling. It's something I don't think I am ready let go anytime soon.


Are these places also part of your travel bucket list? Any activity you suggest I do in these places?


 
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