Back in 2008, I did a five month backpacking trip through South East Asia, Ireland and Central and South America, finishing up in Vancouver where I went on to live for a year and half.
Back then, this blog didn’t exist and my leather-bound journal was my constant travel companion. I’d spend hours making trip notes on planes, long bus rides or any other time I had a spare few hours to while away (happens frequently when you’re backpacking!). Even now, I still like travel with a notebook to jot down blog ideas or observations but the notes are fairly haphazard and may just be a word or dot-point to jog my memory.
When my sister came to visit me in Vancouver, I sent my travel journal home with her and promptly forgot about it…until this Christmas when out-of-the-blue she uncovered it in her old bedroom.
I was so excited at finding this time capsule of travel adventures, I devoured the whole thing in one reading. It was so fascinating being back in my 26-year-old head, trying to navigate my way through new places, cultures, languages and food!
Reading back through that journal, I came across all sorts of memories and experiences (good and bad!) that I’d forgotten all about. I thought I’d use this blog to share some of these extracts.
This entry is Part 1: South East Asia [2013 commentary in brackets].
“I’m feeling so much calmer about this trip than I have in the past. I think it comes with the realisation that people are just people wherever you go. There’s always someone who can help you, always someone new to meet!” [This was day one. Love the optimism and positivity that comes with starting a new trip!]
“I’m so glad I bought a travel neck pillow in Sydney. It’s been the best $18 I’ve ever spent.” [Five years on, this is still a travel essential]
“If I could describe Hanoi in one word it would be “Beeeeeeeep” because that’s all you hear all day and night as cars and motorbikes pass someone.”
“Shopping has not been good for the self-esteem. I even shopped in a store called “Big Size” and everything was too small!”
“Sitting out the front of a street vendor at 3.30pm, drinking 20c beer and watching the bustling Hanoi world go by.”
“Got my fortune told by a 90-year-old Vietnamese woman. Apparently I will meet my husband next year, he will have tanned skin. We will get married when I’m 29 and have three kids.” [None of this actually happened!]
“The most random music: Richard Marx to Pulp Fiction soundtrack to Khe Sanh to techno.” [Bar in Hue, Vietnam]
“Had snake wine (spirits with a preserved cobra in the bottle).”
“We just happened to be there for the Lantern Festival which is only once a month. So beautiful!!” [Hoi An, Vietnam]
“Cu chi tunnels were amazing. It’s hard to imagine that there are 250kms of them – all dug by hand. Climbed through 50m of tunnel. Although they had been widened for tourists (!) we could still barely fit.”
“There is some pretty extreme poverty here. Everyone seems much poorer than in Vietnam. Children selling wares on their own until 10pm.” [Phnom Penh, Cambodia]
“We went to the genocide museum where people were imprisoned under the Pol Pot regime. I can’t believe that such atrocities have happened. It wasn’t just the conditions but the methods of torture that the prisoners were subjected to. Many of the Khmer Rouge were only kids (14-25 years) who were targeted because they were at an impressionable age…I found the whole experience quite distressing.”
“Lost my keycard in Cambodia and then realised my credit card didn’t have a PIN. Had a few moments of panic thinking that I would be unable to get money out. Luckily I could get money out over the counter but it served as a good lesson: always keep ATM card and credit card separate and have a stash of emergency cash.” [Although I brushed it off in my journal as “a few moments of panic” in reality, there was much, MUCH panic (I think I even cried) at the thought of trying to travel cashless while I got a replacement card. Luckily it all worked out!]
Let me know if you’ve had similar experiences in South East Asia!
…Parts 2, 3, and 4 coming soon.