Coming From A Tough Journey
Only a few knew that one of the reasons why I traveled the Philippines is that because I loss my passport in Malaysia in 2009. You can read the very first blog post of mine about the tough experience- Good-bye Passport, Farewell Bangkok
That experience thought me that you can travel even with a limited budget. It was really hard because I have to learn it the hard way.
After almost 5 years, I got my new passport and was ready to continue my footprints in Southeast Asia. So I booked a ticket to Phuket, Thailand and started plotting my itinerary. Curiosity and fate made me go to Myanmar and was so happy to be traveling with a friend I met earlier this year in El Nido.
Itinerary / Plan
So the itinerary and plan looked like this:
Day 1: Manila – Phuket (direct flight via Cebu Pacific)
Day 2: Phuket (travel to Bangkok by bus and sleeper train), solo
Day 3: Bangkok, solo
Day 4-11: Myanmar (Mandalay – Bagan – Yangon), with travel partner
Day 12: Bangkok
Day 13: Bangkok to Phuket (travel to Phuket by night bus), solo
Day 14: Phuket, solo
Day 15: Phuket to Manila (direct flight via Cebu Pacific)
I was off and really worried of the trip. Excitement and lack of preparation made me anxious but I was thankful that all those anxieties were gone by the time I got into Myanmar.
This comeback Southeast Asian Backpacking trip taught me a lot of new things and reminded me of the principles of traveling I have learned through the years. I would be sharing it with you hoping that it would encourage you to travel too.I’m telling you, its so liberating to see the world out there.
So here’s the 10 Lessons I Learned On My Comeback Southeast Asian Trip:
1. Pack Lighter.
I’m already a light packer, like I can travel with a 7-kilo backpack (28L) for two weeks or more (and yes I do laundry while on the road).; but I learned time and time again that there were still stuff in my backpack that I never really use. During this Thailand-Myanmar trip I had a 6.8kg backpack (a quarter of the bag had space for some pasalubong to bring back home) and a small messenger bag where I put my camera, money and passport when I’m getting around town.
Packing lighter means no check-in baggage. I know girls would raise their eyebrows, but I want to tell the ladies that you actually have more advantage than us guys. Your shirts, shorts and shoes are lighter than ours. My boxer brief is equivalent to 3 bikinis right? My sister’s backpack is lighter than mine when we travel together. Packing lighter would mean that you can move faster and freely. You don’t have to get a taxi and opt for the local transport as smooth as possible. Saves you time, effort and money too.
2. Live in the present.
I was reminded of this while talking with a monk I met at U Bein Bridge in Mandalay. I was chatting up and asking him if there is only one thing he would teach me about Buddhism what is it and he said, “Live in the present.” And I agree. In Christianity, I was taught to live my life one step at a time. But society teaches us to do more things even if it would affect our enjoyment of the present. Living in the present takes away worry and when worry is absent you begin to enjoy life and travel more.
3. Share the experience, find yourself a travel partner.
I love traveling solo and I believe that everyone should try it at least once in their life. I traveled most of my life solo but sharing the experience with someone makes the experience deeper and lasting. If you are a solo traveler, find someone to go with you next time. It would not only save you a lot on expenses like accommodation and food; it would also assure you that you will not be sitting with a bad-smelling seatmate on an overnight bus ride. 😉
In this particular trip, I was very thankful that I was with Callie during the Myanmar trip. Your laughter and genuineness was so magnetic and powerful it helped me appreciate more everything we shared together.
4. Be open. Open up your mind and ♥.
Deep connections and relationships are much easier to achieve when you broaden your mind and open your heart. This doesn’t mean that you won’t filter the things that are in front of you. This actually means choosing something new and trying to learn as much as you can from the experience. You see a close palm won’t receive anything.
5. If you can’t speak local, imitate them.
I’m so lucky I’m Asian and I look like Thai when I’m in Thailand and Myanmar when I’m in Myanmar. When I was in Vietnam and Cambodia 5 years ago, they thought I was like them until I started speaking in English.
Becoming a local would save you a lot. I actually saved 600Baht by doing this. You can read it on my Twitter.
6. Smile first before you haggle.
This creates a good connection with you and with the seller. Very helpful for girls as a girl’s smile is so powerful it can make a boy’s heart melt. And when we smile it would make the other person smile too and brighten up the mood and you get a discount in the process. Enjoy shopping!
7. Don’t forget to compare prices.
If you do this, it will save you at least 10% in all your purchases. Sometimes I really want to get something and then laziness would come my way and I get to just buy what’s lying there on my front.
8. Genuinely befriend a local (or better yet get to be adopted by them).
Sometimes I get too busy with seeing this and that tourists spot and I forget that the place is beautiful because of the locals in there. One of the most amazing experience I had while traveling in Bagan, Myanmar was the little conversation I had with Ei Ei who became my sister. So when I opened my heart to her (#4) and genuinely cared of her experiences I got to be invited to have tea with her family. One thing led to another and the next day we found ourselves enjoying a boat trip to visit a further village where most of them haven’t seen yet. I gained new friends and had an instant Myanmar family I visit next time.
Callie recounted this succinctly in her blog- Myanmar Family.
9. Read and research more.
I’m so guilty of not doing this and I know a lot of travelers are not doing this because I always read comments on my blogs asking questions that are already there in the blog post.
To help you in your research it would be great to watch a movie about that particular country. I watched The Beach and Bangkok Dangerous before heading to Thailand. If you are not into movies, then pick up a book or at least try to familiarize yourself with the names of the road or spots you are visiting. Reading on how to get there, general expenses, language spoken, weather, exchange rates, culture and scams would help you not only enjoy the trip but also save a lot on expenses.
10. Laughter is also a universal language.
I learned this from Callie who was an instant
celebrity favorite among locals anywhere we go- kids, oldies, everyone loves her. In this Thailand-Myanmar trip, I learned that not only is music universal language but laughter too. Laugh with the locals even if you don’t understand. Laugh on those who are trying to scam you. Laugh when you are lost. Just laugh, people understand you when you laugh. It is therapeutic too.
Go ahead watch Just Kiddin or read Erap jokes.
“Find life experiences and swallow them whole. Travel. Meet many people. Go down some dead ends and explore dark alleys. Try everything. Exhaust yourself in the glorious pursuit of life.” -Lawrence K. Fish
Maybe you are interested to learn more, try the links below:
Did you know that:
Cebu Pacific flies directly to Phuket from Manila, thrice a week. For bookings and inquiries, go to www.cebupacificair.com or call (02)7020-888. The latest seat sales and promos can be found on Cebu Pacific Air’s official Twitter (@CebuPacificAir) and Facebook pages (/cebupacificair).