It’s been a year of life on the road, on the go, a homeless nomad. I leave Asia for Dubai, 2 weeks in Europe, and then a month long trip back to the states. I’ll arrive just a bit short of having spent one full year in Asia and now I’m going to try to answer the big question: “What’s your favorite place?”
As you may know from previous posts, I like it everywhere, so I’ll make this a round up of sorts, a list of the best, most interesting, and unique moments, and perhaps a few of the bad… Let’s briefly recap: China, Mongolia, Nepal, Bhutan, Thailand, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Malaysia (on Borneo), Brunei, Indonesia, United States, Thailand, Myanmar, Thailand. Well, I’ve definitely spent the most time in Thailand, that’s for sure. I didn’t plan on it, but that’s how the cookie crumbled. Actually, my meniscus crumbled but we can save that bit for later. So here goes, in list form, and in no particular order.
Most beautiful spots: many of the islands in Thailand.
Most breathtaking views: Himalayas of Nepal
Best Flight: Kathmandu to Bhutan and seeing Mt. Everest along the way.
Biggest accomplishment: Crossing the Thorung-La Pass along the Annapurna Circuit. 5,416 meters high! 200 km trekked and 17 days on the trail.
Most rewarding moments: Living and working with the Gautam family and Mountain Heart Nepal.
Best group of friends: All the people I met and worked with in Lake Khovsgal, Mongolia, and my sister, Yadam!
Best travel buddy (and person I miss the most): Elena Duerst. We met on Day One of the Annapurna Circuit and spent 24 days together. We never got tired of each other and had endless jokes and laughs.
Most unique gym experience: Kathmandu, Nepal
Nicest gym: Virgin Fitness in Bangkok, but only went twice, so Elite on Ko Samui is definitely the runner up. I went there for 7 weeks.
Worst gym: The one on Phi Phi, in Thailand. But, I managed to workout for 2 hours, so it wasn’t that bad!
Best hostel: Hom Hostel and Cooking Club, Bangkok, Thailand.
Worst hostel: Backpacker’s Freak Hostel, Melaka, Malaysia.
Best hotel: The Marriott in Putrajaya, Malaysia. Felt like a castle!
Most worthwhile paid trip: 5 day Gobi desert tour in Mongolia. I kept myself on such a tight budget so I didn’t want to splurge, but it was well worth it!
Most memorable border crossing: By long tail boat from Southern Thailand to Myanmar.
Most memorable meal: Gobi Desert. Bland Tsoiven, a noodle based Mongolian dish. When I finished, I had a pile of goat hair next to my plate.
Most unsavory dish: A bite of a scorpion in China. And stinky tofu. Still makes my skin crawl.
Favorite meal in general: Cashew Chicken and loved all the tempeh and peanut sauce in Indonesia.
Most Frequented Restaurant: Lebanese House in Bangkok for the Fattoush
Longest flight: Hong Kong to Dallas: 14.5 hours.
Shortest flight: Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan in Malaysian Borneo: 45 minutes.
Most dream fulfilling moment: diving with mantas at Manta Point, Nusa Penida, Indonesia.
Most memorable moment: Injuring my knee and learning I tore my ACL and meniscus.
Scariest moment: coming out of anesthesia after surgery and not knowing where I was while in lots of pain.
My list could go on but I’ll stop there! It has been a memorable year and I often reminisce about all I’ve done and the people I’ve met. I still sometimes cannot believe everything that has happened, from the good times, to getting injured and dealing with recovery, flying home for my grandfather’s funeral, to learning my godfather passed away shortly after.
When I ask myself what “the best” was, the image changes. There’s no one best place, moment, or experience. Every place and situation has provided me with such diverse memories and places are so different. The Himalayas of Bhutan and Nepal are so different from the beaches in Thailand. The people of Myanmar are so kind compared to the people in say, China. Interacting with locals is an enriching component of being in a country, but sharing accomplishments with fellow travelers is rewarding in a different way.
I really enjoyed visiting Bhutan and spending 24 hours in Brunei was not enough, but I enjoyed it there as well. Perhaps if I would have been able to stay longer (in both places), I could form a more solid opinion of those countries. When it comes down to it, however, if I had to pick my “favorite” place, I’d have to go with Myanmar, for so many reasons. Yeah, the oil laden food isn’t always that good, travel can be long and arduous, infrastructure is lacking, and sometimes it’s difficult to get local currency, but the country has its charm. The people are kind, it’s a fascinating place with a rich history, a convergence of cultures, and beautiful landscapes. And I find there’s something so alluring about taking the road less traveled. Myanmar is a diamond in the rough, it’s raw, largely unedited, and still unaffected by the negative aspects of tourism. All in all, it was such a positive and captivating experience.
If I were to write about all the awesome people I’ve met on this trip, I’d have to write a blog dedicated just to that! Suffice it to say there have been many and I don’t even think I could write about all of them! However, there have been some noteworthy individuals that have made my life in Thailand so much better than what could have been. Surgery alone in a foreign country is no fun, so I’m grateful to Dr. Panya for fixing me, and for my physical therapist, Dion, for helping me heal. I’m thankful to the staff at the Blocks Hostel for their support in the three weeks I spent there post op and to Toon Pavalin and staff at Hom Hostel for their kindness in the five weeks I spent there. I don’t think I would have survived my time in Bangkok had I not found them and in the meantime, I met others. My “bodyguard,” Tyson, helped me out so much, was able to get me into many gyms, and simply became a close friend to me, something that’s hard to find when you’re a nomad. And last but not least, all the travelers and travel buddies I’ve met along the way. It’s been a good trip and I appreciate it all and everyone who has been a part. Let’s see what the next year brings!