Today marks a milestone in my trip. I have officially been on the road for 6 months now and what a ride it has been!
I first got really excited when Gapyear.com posted an article about me regarding a redundancy gap year before I left and they kind of sent me on a mission wanting me to report back how things were going after six months. So here you have it!
A lot of things happened before I left including being made redundant and saying goodbye to people I had worked with for nearly 7 years as well saying farewell to my loving family and amazing friends but although there have been up days and down days there have certainly been more ups.
I left England on 31st August 2011 and embarked on my first solo backpacking adventure and dream of a lifetime with India as my first stop. In the past 6 months I have been to a total of 7 countries. These being (In order) : India, Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and now Malaysia.
When I first decided to embark on my trip, to say I wasn’t scared would be a lie. Lots of things worried me. Looking back now it seems so stupid to think what I used to be like. I have chilled out more and not worried about things so much. The whole apprehension about What to put in my backpack? How heavy it was going to be? What injections did I need? What visas are required? How was I going to get from one place to the next? and things like “Was I going to meet people?”
All this seems so ridiculous now and one thing I have learnt is that particularly in Asia you can pick up everything you need when you arrive and it most probably is a lot cheaper than at home.
“So what have you done in your first 6 months away?” I here you ask.
Well the list is quite extensive but here is an idea of the amazing things I have seen and done with a country by country breakdown:
- Booked a one way ticket to India without a transfer (Scary but proud of myself for doing it)
- Survived in India on my own (might seem strange but it’s a tough place to travel at first)
- Been on local bus on my own
- Seen so many amazing palaces (particularly in Mysore, Jaipur and Udaipur)
- Visited the infamous Taj Mahal and it was impressive
- Learnt how to barter both friendly and particularly sternly as some traders in India can get aggressive
- Travelled on more sleeper buses and trains than I can count
- Slept in bunks in sleeper class with cockroaches as my friends
- Been hassled more times than I care to remember (this is common in SE Asia).
- Experienced the Monsoon (nice and warm)
- Met two fantastic girls who started my trip off and the two guys I travelled India with for a month – Thank you Carina, Emma, Derek and Dan. Without you it wouldn’t have been the same.
- Spent the night on the Keralan backwaters in Alleppey on a private houseboat eating great food, drinking beer and watching the sunset with my two friends I travelled the majority of India with – Derek (D) and Dan
- Seen people crapping and pissing in the street – yep that’s right they do that in India
- Seen amazing historical forts (particularly Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Jaipur and Agra)
- Seen the ugliest cities (Jodhpur)
- Seen the most beautiful cities (Udaipur and Jaisalmer)
- Eating some tasty food. The curries in India are really good including eating at local places (Poori Bhaji in Varanasi was good – thanks Anu!)
- Seen amazing ruined temples and views in Hampi. Sitting on the riverside and on top of Mathanga hill drinking the best Ginger Chai!
- Went on a fantastic tour from India to Nepal with an amazing tour guide and group of people
- Met some amazing locals (Tippu in Hampi, Aditya in Udaipur and my tour guide Anu)
- Did a fair few cookery courses with the first being awful – got ripped off by this lady called Leelu in Kochi.
- Getting into an argument with a Tuk Tuk driver in Agra after he acted really nice and trying to be funny quoting “No Hurry, No Worry, No Chicken Curry!” and then preceded to rip us off after he took us to the wrong places and tried to charge us for them
- Rode a Camel and slept under the stars on the sand dunes of the Thar Desert at Jaisalmer (The best experience in India)
- Visited the birth place of Lord Siddhārtha (Buddha) and supposedly where Buddhism was founded.
- Fulfilled a lifelong dream of riding an elephant safari and playing and washing elephants in the river at Chitwan National Park (We were also able to see two Rhinoceros sleeping and waking up in their natural habitat – Amazing!)
- Met my best friend in Kathmandu and had a blast for two weeks
- Tried the Himalayan beer “Tongba” and I really liked it. Gets you drunk easily!
- Visited Pokhara and did many things from visited Devi Falls, World Peace Pagoda, Tibetan village and settlement including a Monastery, went inside a bat cave, rode a boat on Phewa Lake whilst watching sunset and of course seeing the Annapurna Himalayan mountain range
- Watched sunrise at Sarangkot valley to see Machhapuchhre and Annapurna peaks and also at the more panoramic Nagarkot seeing the Langtang Himalaya range – simply breath-taking!
- Got to spend time with locals at a friend’s new bar in Thamel aptly named “Tongba House”
- I was taken to quite a few restaurants to try Nepali food and it is damned good. I have a thing for Tibetan MoMos which are like Chinese dumplings with filling. Buffalo MoMos in soup and Chili sauce were particularly good – Yum!
- Visited all the world heritage sites around Kathmandu – All three Durbar squares (Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur), Swyambhunath (Monkey Temple) , Boudhanath (Biggest Buddhist Stupa in the world), Pashupatinath (Nepali version of Varanasi where the dead are cremated) and Changu Narayan (temple dedicated to the Hindu God “Shiva”
- Stayed at a Buddhist family homestay for over two weeks and became part of the family. Such kind people and my home from home. (The best experience in Nepal)
- Explored a big of Bangkok including the including the massive MBK and Siam shopping centres – I could walk round these for hours and not get bored!
- Sat in the swimming pool of the Intercontinental Bangkok sipping on Mojitos on the 38th floor overlooking the whole of Bangkok
- Went to Khao San Road and sat drinking cocktails\ buckets and smoking Shisha watching the whole street come alive until 4 in the morning
- Took sleeper train to Chiang Mai (Really nice compared to India)
- Explored Chiang Mai’s Chinatown and Night Bazaar
- Took the Mae Ping River Cruise
- Had my feet nibbled by fish (Dr. Fish foot massage)
- Did a Thai cooking course
- Visited Ranong near the Burmese border and saw Hot Springs
- Visited a small and tranquil island with my good friend Adam called Koh Phayam which was so chilled out and road automatic motorcycles around the island which was so much fun (The best experience in Thailand)
- Visited Koh Phi Phi and spent two nice days on the beach chilling out
- Got hassled by Ladyboys! (One had a fly swatter and kept trying to spank me and Adam on Koh Phi Phi shouting “I give you Masssaarrge with Happy Endiiiinnng!”
- Saw the craziness of Hanoi!
- Visited Ha Long Bay and the Sun Sot Caves, slept on a Junk and Monkey Island Resort. (The best experience in Vietnam)
- Seen tonnes of Pagoda’s, Tombs and Temples and more than I can remember
- Been on a dragon boat,
- Seen Hué Citadel,
- Spent first Christmas away from home in Hoi An where I had custom shorts made
- Eaten loads of tasty food (Phở Bò is really good. Vietnamese food is tasty!)
- Visited to My Sôn which was my favourite place (like Angkor Wat but smaller and much older set of temples),
- Went to Nha Trang and had cocktails in Sailing club with a friend I met in India
- Saw the massive Long Son Pagoda which is a huge white concrete Buddha
- Travelled on bumpy and uncomfortable sleeper buses
- Travelled on sleeper train
- Rode motorcycle again.
- Seen more motorbikes then you could imagine especially in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Just crossing the street is a life threatening experience!
- Watched a guy get smacked in the face by a prostitute
- Saw people exercising and washing their car at 4:30 in the morning in Ho Chi Minh City,
- Spent New Year on Phu Quoc Island which was different and witnessed my friend walk straight into a glass door – absolutely hilarious
- Went on a tour on the Mekong Delta watching people live on floating houses and seeing how coconut candy, rice paper and rice vodka/wine is made as well as trying the famous snake wine (can’t say it was the best drink I have tried even though they say it puts lead in your pencil!! Lol)
- Spent the night on Floating Hotel!
- Crossed the border to Cambodia on a slow boat!
- Visited Phnom Penh once called “The Pearl of Asia” due to its beautiful buildings. I fell in Love with Phnom Penh.
- Visited the Killing Fields (Choeung Ek) and S-21 Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. This was probably the saddest day of my travels and I would liken it to Auschwitz in Cambodia. It was so sad to hear the devastating history that the poor people of Cambodia suffered through. However I have to say Cambodian people are the friendliest peoples I have met on my travels
- Visited the home of the best pepper in the world – Kampot. We stayed a really nice guesthouse called “The Magic Sponge” run by a great American guy called William. I felt so at home there.
- Hired motorcycles in Kampot and visited Kep for the day and took a boat to Koh Thonsáy (Rabbit Island)
- Travelled to the party place in Cambodia – Sihanoukville. Only intending to stay two or three days it turned into 9 days on Otres Beach staying at such a cool place called Moonlight Rock where we were treated like family.
- Took a boat to an island 2 hours off of the coast of Sihanoukville called Koh Rong (Monkey Island). This was pure paradise with white sand beaches and turquoise clear waters and hardly touched. A must if in Cambodia.
- A few nights out in the famous Pub Street and Angkor What? Bar.
- Visited the famous Angkor Wat & Angkor Thom temple complexes (Really impressive)
- Went to Battambang and rode on the Bamboo Train Railway
- Took a Khmer cooking course in Battambang learning how to cook Amok and Loc Lak
- Worked at CDO Orphanage in Siem Reap teaching children English. This was the most amazing experience of my trip so far. The children were so polite and friendly and I was in tears when I had to say goodbye. I never thought something would have such a big effect on me as this (The best experience in Cambodia and the trip so far)
- Visited Si Phan Don (4000 Islands) and stayed on Don Det. One of the most beautiful sunsets of my trip. I took a boat ride around the islands; saw the Irrawaddy dolphins from a distance and the Li Phi waterfall as well as getting lost on bicycles and getting burnt badly!
- Visited Khone Phapheng waterfall which is the biggest waterfall by volume in SE Asia and swam in the rocking pool area.
- Visited Vientiane and had my first proper full body herbal massage (I know crazy not had one before) and sauna. It was so cheap and I felt so relaxed after and I ending up going back as it was so good!
- Travelled to Vang Vieng and went Tubing along the river. Really good fun and such beautiful scenery surrounding it
- Visited Luang Prabang in the north of Lao and saw sunset from Wat Phu Si in the middle of the town and also visited the amazing Kuang Si waterfalls with a small bear sanctuary
- I travelled from Vientiane in Laos to Kuala Lumpur and then a flight straight out to the beautiful island of Langkawi to meet my friend Derek who I travelled with in India for a month and another friend Laura who I also met there.
- Visited Kuah town and the Eagle of Kedah statue
- Went on the Panorama Langkawi Sky Cab Cable Car to the top of Mount Machincang to see the stunning view!
- Finally to celebrate 6 months of being on the road, I had some drinks watching the sunset and then went skinnydipping at 1′o clock in the morning! As you do!
Well there you have it! That is what I have done so far in the last 6 months. I am currently sitting outside my bungalow on Pantai Cenang beach on Langkawi as I write this watching the stunning sunset!
The six months has flown by and to think a year ago I was still planning my adventure!
“So what is next?” I hear you ask. Well from Langkawi I will be traveling with my friend for a month and a half starting in Kuala Lumpur, heading to the Perhentian Islands and Singapore before going on to Bali, Gili islands and maybe Lombok. I will then probably head back to Thailand for Songkran (Thai New Year) and then to my favourite country to do either work in a guesthouse or help out in the orphanage again. After that who knows? The worlds my oyster!!
If I was to give people a single piece of advice when you are unhappy or not sure what to do with your life especially if you have been made redundant it is just go! Go away and do a gap year! It has done me the world of good and I have found out more about myself as well other people!
Thanks to everyone who I have met, talked to and who have made my trip. Without you these past six months wouldn’t have been anywhere near as good! Thanks for changing my life and having an impression on me! You know who you are!
Backpacking is the best thing I have ever done and with 7 countries down, I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon!
So I would like to raise a glass and say cheers! Here’s to the first 6 months and to the next chapter of my journey!
I love travelling! Life’s good and it just keeps getting better!!