Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Backpacking Continues: Fall and Winter Plans

I actually remember what I was doing this time last year. I was on the tail end of my preparations for the six-month backpacking adventure: preparing my packing list, setting up my first-aid kit for travelers, and figuring out how to travel to Singapore on a backpacker budget. So much has happened since then. Though I may have gone home a few times the past year, as I have been for the last few weeks, my backpacking adventure continues. One year now this October! Can you believe that?

Also, the backpacking adventure continues through my favorite time of the year: fall and winter. I don't have everything figured out right now (which destinations I'm heading to, how long will I be there, etc.) And I kind of like it that way. But since I like making travel itineraries, let me tell you about my fall and winter plans. Maybe we'll cross paths. Maybe you'll come with. Look me up!


Vietnam: Hanoi

Halong Bay, Vietnam
Maybe this time Halong Bay wouldn't be so cold and gloomy

A reader from Hanoi once mentioned that the Vietnamese capital is prettiest in the fall. And with that, ladies and gentlemen, I am sold! I'm pretty easy when it comes to traveling to cities in temperate climate, one of the reasons why I love Chiang Mai so much, and Hanoi is probably the only capital city in Southeast Asia that experiences all four seasons. I am traveling there next week and will stay for so long as my visa-free stay allows me to.

At some point, a friend from back home (by that, I mean Manila) will be visiting and together we will be exploring Hanoi. The first time I was there, I had a bad case of the travel burn-out blues. I basically stayed in the hostel in Hanoi's Old Quarter the whole time, save for the trip to Halong Bay, which, though enjoyable because of the people I hung out with there and thereafter, I feel could have been more enjoyable had the weather not been so cold and gloomy. Plus, I want to check out if Hanoi will be a good base for a few months next year. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Thailand: Bangkok

Khao San, Bangkok, Thailand
Khao San Road debauchery anyone?

Yes, I will be back in Bangkok, the Thai capital everybody loves, but just for a few days. And in Bangkok, I only come for one thing: food. Maybe I will do a food tour of Bangkok Chinatown again. Food in that district is irresistibly delicious. Maybe I will visit some of Bangkok's lively markets. Maybe I will finally make it to the ancient ruins of the old Siam capital of Ayutthaya this time. Or maybe, just maybe, I will join the debauchery in Khao San Road. I don't know. We'll go wild! (Probably not.)

Thailand: Chiang Mai

Thai Lanterns
Lighting a khom loi in the Yee Peng Festival in Chiang Mai. Bucket List, bitch!
Photo by Mark Fischer | CC BY-SA

I am spending the rest of the fall and early winter in Chiang Mai, Thailand. My favorite time of the year in my favorite city in Southeast Asia! What could be better than that? All my favorite Thai foods are there. All the best markets of northern Thailand are there. I plan to do some proper exploring this time, too. Head to the highest mountain in Thailand, Doi Inthanon. See Mae Hong Son further than the laid back touristy town of Pai. Finally make it to the point at which Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet, the Golden Triangle. So many things to do! But really, I am heading back to Chiang Mai because of Yee Peng Festival, the famous lantern festival of the Lanna Thai people of northern Thailand. Lighting a khom loi, a floating lantern, during the festival in the city that is the center of it all is in the bucket list. And I'm very serious about my bucket list. Perhaps I'll see you there?


UP Lantern Parade 2009
Christmas is more fun in the Philippines. These non-Catholic Japanesey lanterns are proof!

I was traveling around Southeast Asia last December and I honestly did not feel it was already Christmas until I came back home to the Philippines. We are the only Catholic country in Southeast Asia and though that has sometimes implied ultraconservative values bordering on hypocritical and obsolete morals, we do Christmas big here. Hurrah for trivial things! Although I will not make it to the University of the Philippines Lantern Parade, I will still be here for all the other stuff. You know, family stuff. And hey, I may again trek to the summit of the second highest mountain in the Philippines, Mount Pulag, since weather was so crappy the last time I did it. And I will do it on my birthday! A birthday climb. It's a thing, right?


Malaysia: Sabah

Baby Orang-Utan
Cuteness-wise, Orang Utans are the Pandas of Southeast Asia.
Photo by Jim Bowen | CC BY

I have always been intrigued by this part of the world, precisely because it is my country's closest neighbor and if events in history had been a little bit different, Sabah would be Philippine territory in fact. It has mountains—Mount Kinabalu. It has marine sanctuaries—Semporna Islands Park. It has a rich indigenous culture—the Kadazan-Dusun. And it has the cutest of the cutest in Southeast Asia—Orang Utans! Also, January is probably the best time to visit. With so many reasons to go, I may just book my flights soon.


Temples of Bagan
Not that difficult to understand why Myanmar is the next big destination
Photo by Ed Brambley | CC BY-SA

Myanmar is becoming the next big travel destination in Southeast Asia and being the hipster that I am (I'm really not), I want to avoid it as much as possible. For reals though. There are still some ethical, not to mention security, issues involved in traveling to Myanmar, especially in the regions of the country I actually want to travel to (Rakhine and Kachin). However, since it is becoming more and more popular as a destination, it may be best to see it now rather than later. Plus, a friend is based in Mandalay and I always like visiting people living in exotic places. Decisions. Decisions.

China: Dali

Dali, Yunnan, China
Lovely Dali

Now this is sort of the big dream—live in Dali for a few months and learn Chinese. It is highly unlikely but precisely because it is highly unlikely, I want to make it happen. I have always wanted to learn another Asian language and what better language to learn than the language of the people that will enslave us all in 50 years 6 years time. And where better to learn but in perhaps the most beautiful city in China—Dali, Yunnan province. But again, big dream. I do get the butterflies though, the good kind, when I think about it. That's a good thing, no?

And that is all! Have you traveled to any of these places? Are you traveling through the same destinations this fall and winter? Meet up?

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