Top five… in South-East Asia

23 04 2010

There are now two weeks since we were in South East Asia and we have had a little time to digest all the things we did and all the memories that we created.  Therefore I decided to create a few “top five” lists.

Top five places we visited in South East Asia

  1. Angkor Wat (Cambodia) and the surrounding temples – just stunning
  2. Ko Phangan (Thailand) – the beaches and the sunshine and the food – what more do you want?
  3. Halong Bay (Vietnam) with its 2,000 limestone islands and relaxing cruises
  4. The Cham towers in Nha Trang (Vietnam) had a deep impact on me
  5. Dalat (Vietnam) and surroundings – great relive from the heat

Top five activities we did in South East Asia

  1. Mahout elephant training close to Luang Prabang in Laos
  2. Snorkeling in Ko Phangan in Thailand and Nha Trang in Vietnam
  3. Thai cooking class in Chang Mai, Thailand
  4. Zip wire ride with Jungle flight in Chang Mai, Thailand
  5. Tubing in Vang Vieng, Laos

Top five foods that we ate in South East Asia

  1. Thai red curry with rice – hot and yummy
  2. Fried coconut pudding (Thai sweetmeat coconut) – so delicious
  3. Tom Yum soup with shrimps – will be a regular back home
  4. Cambodian amok – a more subtle curry than the Thai curry
  5. Vietnamese shrimp spring rolls – they melt in your mouth

Top five disappointments/annoyances of South East Asia

  1. Theft on Thai busses (Bangkok to Surat Thani)
  2. Plastic garbage laying around almost everywhere
  3. Loud traffic in Vietnam and drivers unnecessarily honking their horns at us
  4. Annoying and pushy tuktuk drivers everywhere except in Laos where they are too laid back to be bothered
  5. Expensive and ultra touristy Andaman coast

We have done some much in the past three months that I’m sure that I’m forgetting something.

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The trip’s income statement so far (losses and gains)

4 04 2010

Now that we are about to leave South East Asia for China I started thinking about what we have gained – and lost – during the trip.  It is difficult to pinpoint exactly since most of the gains are memories and experience and other internal stuff but I gave it my best shot.

Gained:

  • Like any tourist we have bought a few souvenirs, not too many since we have had to carry them, but a few – and a few presents as well.
  • So far we have gained over 1,300 photos and videos that we didn’t have before.  I’m especially excited about the videos that I plan to edit and post here when back home.
  • We have gained a few items of tailor made clothes.  Suits and shirts and dresses that we hope that will still fit us when we get back.
  • Surely the biggest item that we have gained is experience and the peta bites of memories that we are storing from the trip.  Traveling on our own for three months has been a great experience and hopefully we have matured a bit – wishful thinking but one can always hope :)
  • It is invaluable that we now have more appreciation for the things that we have back home.  Both seeing so many that are not as privileged as us and also just being away from everything that we have have taken for granted has definitely given more appreciation of everything we have back home in Iceland.

Lost

  • We have lost combine 11 kg of body weight.  Without really trying the weight seems to fall off.  I credit this mostly to proper portion sizes since we are eating all food – fried, baked, roasted, candy, ice-cream and everything else.
  • Surely we have lost (or rather invested) a few thousand dollars.  I would say though that the trip hasn’t really been expensive and definitely well worth it.  Maybe we’ll calculate the real cost when we get back home and post it here on the blog.
  • In the annoying bus incident I lost a wallet, gaffer tape, a flash light and one thousand krónur so that must be accounted for.
  • After the bed bugs attack Elínborg threw away her sleeping bag so that one is definitely lost.  She also washed her purse and then left it outside in the sun to dry and someone took it by mistake so the purse can be written on the bed bugs as well.
  • We were quite happy to loose the white/gray skin color that we brought with us.  It has, at least momentarily, been replaced by darker/browner color.  I hope that we can bring some of that color back home but we’ll have to see what China has to say about that.

So if we balance the books I think that we have gained a lot more than the few items that were lost and most of them we were quite happy to get rid of (grayish skin and fat).

Tomorrow we’ll be flying to Hong Kong for a couple of days and then it’s China baby!

Happy Easter everyone!





Blogging on the road

27 03 2010

I have received a few questions on bringing a computer with me on a backpacking trip like ours and I’ll try to answer as many of them in this post as I can.

Why a Netbook?

I really wanted to blog throughout our journey, both to let people know where we are and what we were doing but also to keep a journal for our selves that we can look at in a few years to remind us of how great the trip was.  We also needed some sort of a device to store our photos, we have so far taken over 1,300 photos and videos in ten weeks but our camera only stores about 600 photos if I remember it correctly.  Being able to watch movies and listen to music would be an added bonus.  With that in mind I did some research back in December to see what we could do.

I have a 13 inch MacBook at home that I love dearly and even though it is quite small I didn’t like the idea of taking an expensive device like that with me so if I wanted to take something with me I would have to acquire it.  I looked into several smart devices like the iPhone and netbooks and laptops as well.  At first I really liked the idea of a 9 inch netbook but they were hard to get and in the end I settled on a 10 inch Asus netbook from Amazon. 

The netbook was “only” about $340 and had everything that I wanted: Windows 7 (I didn’t have the time to install MacOS), fantastic battery life (10.5 hours), adequate hard disk space (250 GB) and memory (1 GB) and a bright screen with a good resolution (1024×600) and most importantly light (just over a kilo) and compact.

What about Internet Access in the Orient?

Before coming over here I thought that we would have internet access once a week or so at best but we have been pleasantly surprised that you can get on the internet almost anywhere.  I would say that about 70% of the guesthouses that we have stayed in have had their own computers that they rent out (often at inflated prices) and free wifi access in the lobby area for those that have their own computers and about 15% even have access in the rooms.  This has been the same for all four countries we’ve been in so far.

Internet cafes are quite frequent but they are not really cozy places to hang around in – just rows of computers – so when we have not had internet at the guesthouse we have dropped into one of many restaurants offering free wifi to entice customers.  There have been plenty of restaurants with free wifi, at least where the guesthouses seem not to have wifi on their menu.

The internet connections have been quite fast over here, maybe not as fast as back in Europe but fast enough to upload these blog posts, movies to YouTube and photos to flickr.

How to keep safe?

I haven’t been too concerned with digital security – someone sniffing the network and trying to steal my passwords – I think that is more of a concern if you are using a shared computer.  Physical security however has been more of a concern.

When we have been one the road i have always had the computer in my small bag so it is with me at all times, I would never have it in the big pack as it gets thrown around and, as we have seen on one occasion, been searched through for some valuables.

After we have picked a guesthouse I sometimes leave it there during the day but if I get suspicious I take it with me.  Sometimes the lock on the door isn’t too trustworthy or that strangers could go to the rooms unseen, then I just take it out with me – it is just one kilo so it isn’t a big deal, just like taking an extra water bottle.  If I leave it in the room I always lock it in my big bag and sometimes I lock the bag to the bed.  I know that is false security as a thieve could easily open the bag with a knife but it makes me feel better.

Some guesthouses offer security boxes in the lobby area but we haven’t used that service at all.

Quite many tourists over here carry expensive cameras that are 4-10 times more expensive than my computer so I’m not overly concerned about theft but just in case we always back up our photos to a memory stick ca. every three weeks.

How to make time to blog?

Most of my posts are written off-line with Windows Live Writer, a blog editor from Microsoft that works nicely with WordPress – my blog service.  In Writer I can format the posts and insert the photos so that when I come online I can publish the posts by pressing one button.  Same goes for photos where I use Flickr Uploader to upload the photos to Flickr with a push of a button.

Since I’m able to do everything offline I can just use whatever dead time that is available.  My favorite times for blogging are at night just before going to sleep or while taking one of the many bus rides that we’ve been on – it passes time pretty quickly :)

How has it all turned out?

Apart from the blogging and photo storing it has been nice to be able to watch movies at night or go through our photos together, edit and refine them, when we have the time.  It has also been fantastic to be able to update the iPods once in a while, refreshing the music library or adding new audio books instead of the ones we finish.

All in all it has been a fantastic decision to take the netbook with us and definitely worth the little hassle it has cost us.  I won’t think twice about taking a computer with me on our next trip!





Two months on the road

6 03 2010

On Monday there are eight weeks since we left Iceland.  Well actually there will at be 563 days or 1 year, 6 months and 14 days since we moved from Iceland to Switzerland but we have been for two months on this particular trip :)

So what is the difference between traveling and staying at home? What have we been missing on during those two months?  Here are ten things that come to mind:

  • I haven’t cleaned anything – neither dishes nor my room nor done laundry (except my underwear)
  • I haven’t stayed in one bed for longer than five nights
  • I haven’t watched TV for longer than a minute
  • I haven’t worn any shoes except flip-flops
  • I haven’t spoken on the phone
  • I haven’t listened to the radio
  • I haven’t cooked …anything
  • I haven’t opened any bills
  • I haven’t used hair gel
  • I haven’t driven a car

So what have we been doing if not the above things?  What things couldn’t we do at home?

  • We have eaten a frog
  • We have slept on the beach
  • We have ridden an elephant
  • We have travelled on a motorcycle
  • We have gotten tailor made clothes
  • We have swum with a flock of squids (and in three different oceans)
  • We have seen silkworms turned into cloth
  • We have encountered Black Cobras in the forest
  • We have visited some of the most impressive temples in the world
  • We have seen some of the saddest manifestations of human cruelty




Photos

21 02 2010

I just inserted some random photos on Flickr.  They can be accessed from the right hand side of the blog.  Just click on one of the photos and you’ll be brought to my Flickr page.





New “What to pack?” page

8 02 2010

Hi all

I just added a new page for people that want to go on a trip like our’s and are wondering what to pack for the trip.  The link can be found on the right hand side of the blog or here below.

What to pack?