Vietnam in 2017

I woke at 3am and couldn’t get back to sleep so I randomly opened Facebook. What did I see but an advertisement for an Air Asia Mega Sale. Logging onto the Air Asia website I saw there was also a 0 points sale. 

A patient search found return seats from Kuala Lumpur to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) for MYR304 ($AU95) for two people (that is, seats were free and we just need to pay airport taxes). Then I found return sale fares from the Gold Coast to Kuala Lumpur for $AU575.44 for two people. So we just booked. 

The dates were critical because we are studying at university to be primary school teachers so are limited to university holidays (and to now selecting subjects with no exams because I couldn’t find fares after the exam period ended). 

We came to Cambodia due to a similar free seat sale and look how great this is turning out. So no doubt Vietnam will be similarly great. 

Cycle tour preparation

It’s only 17 days until I depart on what was a Brisbane – Bathurst bike ride but is now a Brisbane – Sydney via Bathurst cycle tour. I am excited to be setting off on another cycle tour. I haven’t done one since Hungary in July 2015. And, to be honest I have missed traveling by bicycle.

This trip will be different to my previous cycle tours because I am going to be largely self-sufficient. On previous tours I’ve bought food along the way and largely stayed in formal accommodation, whether camping grounds or hotels. But this time I am departing from my front door and traveling in a country where I am familiar with the landscape, laws and customs. So I have prepared a route based on the WikiCamps AU app, which shows the location of formal and informal camping areas in Australia. This means I have been able to find a good mix of bush and formal camping areas. I need formal ones sometimes for power recharge and shower. But I am excited to be doing some more remote bush camping too.

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I’ll be traveling light, carrying just:

  • bivy
  • sleeping bag
  • liner
  • sleeping mat
  • ground sheet
  • small lantern
  • hiking gas stove
  • gas canister (or two)
  • spoon
  • knife
  • cooking pot
  • food rehydration jar (plastic peanut butter jar)
  • laptop (for work)
  • mobile phone
  • charger cable for laptop and phone
  • charger blocks for phone
  • hand pump
  • tyre levers
  • tube patches
  • multitool
  • spare folding tyre
  • zip off pants x 2 (wear one, carry one)
  • long sleeved shirts x 2 (wear one, carry one)
  • lightweight thermal top
  • soft shell jacket
  • t-shirt (for at night)
  • underwear x 4 (wear one, carry three)
  • socks x 3 (wear one, carry two)
  • beanie
  • toothbrush
  • toothpaste
  • soap
  • microfiber towel
  • Scrubber washing bag
  • small bag washing powder
  • water
  • food.

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I’m also bringing most of my own food. This will allow me the flexibility to wild camp, save me from carrying heavy fresh foods that I find in shops along the way and ensure I stick to the healthy eating plan I’m on right now. I have a dehydrator so this makes it possible to carry plenty of good tasty and healthy foods without carrying weight. Here’s a rough list of foods I’ll be carrying:

Breakfasts

  • semolina with sultanas (semolina, powdered milk, sultanas)
  • dehydrated baked beans (red kidney beans, onion, home made tomato sauce, freeze dried shop-bought Parmesan cheese)
  • oats with sultanas & banana (oats, powdered milk, sultanas, dehydrated bananas)

Lunches

  • dehydrated pumpkin & sweet potato soup
  • pasta with tomato and mushroom (pasta, dehydrated tomato, capsicum and mushroom)
  • noodles with vegetables & eggs (rice noodles, dehydrated zucchini and carrot, powdered eggs)
  • some bought lunches

Dinners

  • dehydrated chili con carne with corn chips
  • Thai chicken with rice noodles & vegetables (rice noodles, dehydrated Thai chicken mince, dehydrated zucchini, beans & carrot)
  • sweet & sour beef with vegetables (rice noodles, dehydrated beef mince, pineapple, sweet potato & pumpkin)
  • spaghetti bolognaise (pasta, dehydrated beef mince, home made tomato sauce, mushrooms & freeze dried shop-bought Parmesan cheese)
  • chicken curry with noodles (rice noodles, coconut milk powder, curry powder, dehydrated chicken mince, sweet potato & pumpkin)
  • chicken & bacon pasta (pasta, dehydrated chicken & bacon, home made tomato sauce, zucchini and carrot)

Deserts

  • custard with fruit (custard powder, powdered milk, sugar & dehydrated strawberries)
  • chocolate pudding (cocoa, cornflour, sugar, powdered milk)
  • stewed fruits (fresh fruits from shops along the way)

While the food looks like a huge list, it’s amazing what dehydration does. For example, three sweet potatoes fill just 1/3 of a sandwich bag, 7 tomatoes & 10 mushrooms fill just 1/2 a sandwich bag, and 8 serves of home-made tomato sauce dehydrated as a bark fill just one sandwich bag.

I’ll be having a shakedown ride next Friday. It’ll be on the fat bike but will use the same bikepacking kit as I will use on my tour.

 

Preparing for Turkey

I only just got home from Indonesia a couple of days ago but already I am preparing to leave for a Turkey next week. Turkey has been a moving feast of plans. First Mum and I were going cycle touring together. Then I was going to walk the Lycian Way with Mum and Dad joining me along the way. But now the plans have become really cool.

I arrive in Istanbul on 17 September and that night will fly to Bodrum to meet my parents who are also traveling to Turkey to have a holiday with me. My parents are keen sailors so they have booked a bareboat for a week to sail along the coast from Bodum and I am joining them. So expect lots of photos of the ocean and sailing. Then we will pick up a camper van for ten days to drive along the Lycian Way route and take day walks for 5-7 days, cherry picking the sections that look most beautiful or interesting. We will then drive to Istanbul for a few days until my parents fly home. I have an extra week in Turkey so think I will rent a car and see where I end up. I’m sure some ideas will come to me once I’ve been in the country. So my month in Turkey is no longer a simple cycle tour or hike. It’s now a multistage adventure and I am so excited to be going there with my parents. 

It all starts in five days. 

Rough plans for Thailand

It’s only 11 days until my partner and I board our Air Asia flight to Bangkok. I’m starting to get excited to be on the move again exploring new places (and foods). This will be my first time in Thailand and my partner’s first time overseas.

We have 26 days in Thailand, which we will be allocating as:

  • 7-10 days in and around Bangkok, which will include hiring a scooter for some trips to Wat Rai Ban (elephant temple) and Wat PA Luang (tiger temple) and the Bridge over the River Kwai
  • 7-8 days around Phuket, which will include a boat trip to Ko Phi Phi and hiring a scooter to travel around exploring some beaches
  • 7-10 days around Chiang Mai, which will include some trekking and maybe hiring a scooter to explore the surrounding countryside before we fly home from Chiang Mai.

We’ll fly between Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai so that we aren’t rushed. This will make the logistics a bit easier with separate scooter hire in each city.

Home – Short break until Thailand

I will have a short blogging break while I am at home for Christmas. But rest assured the posts will continue again in January when I head to Thailand for a month.

I wish everyone a happy and safe holiday season.

2015 will be the Year of the Wandering Goat. The goat is my sign so I am looking forward to sharing many travel stories with you as I continue to Look for 42 in the New Year.

Lessons from the road

They say travel is about more than just seeing the sights and experiencing new things. It’s about growing as a person and discovering who you are. As I take a rest day here in Andong I am reflecting on my first three weeks in Korea and the first six months since ending the life I used to live.

Some things haven’t changed. I still can’t handle stress or pressure. I am still filled with self-doubt and when things go awry I tend to fret. That’s just a part of my make up. Anxiety is a problem I struggle with on an almost daily basis but I just have to work through it.

Other good things haven’t changed either. I love having adventures in the outdoors. I love cycling long distances to see what’s around the next corner. I enjoy hiking through the woods. I love pitching my tent in a beautiful location to listen to the night close in. And I love the smell of nature, even when the smell isn’t so great.

I have discovered that I like having a place to call home and that I miss the familiarity of the place I have lived my whole life. When I left I thought I was looking for a new place to settle but already I know that Brisbane is my home town and it’s the place I will return to. I may live elsewhere for months or even years at various points in the future but I am no expat. Expats seem to all have something I don’t. It’s not necessarily better or worse. It’s just different from me. It’s an ability to call somewhere new home and adapt.

I have also discovered that I don’t quite fit in with the long-term travelers I meet in hostels and campgrounds. I don’t know what it is. Perhaps time will make me one of them but I doubt it. Truth be told, I am not a big fan of the hostel scene. I like that it’s cheap accommodation and don’t mind sharing a room to save on costs. I enjoy a few nights out on the town with random strangers from time to time but only as something different, not the rule.

I want to see the world but on my own terms. I think that will be a month of travel followed by a month at home. Sometimes I will go overseas with my bicycle or to hike. Sometimes I will travel with my friend when we’ll explore new places together. And other times still I will use this flexible lifestyle I am creating to do some of the long walks and cycle tours in Australia and New Zealand that I have been eyeing off for years.

Oh and I have learned that clip in pedals are a nightmare. Much better to have a pair of hiking boots and flat pedals on my bike. That’s what I will save up for …

In transit from Melbourne to Korea

I wrangle my bike through Melbourne airport. It won’t fit anywhere so I have to lift it upright and hope I do no damage to the derailleur or forks. It’s packed tight in the box though and doesn’t move around so that gives me hope. After checking in my bags I leave the trolley and just carry the bike over my shoulder like it’s a heavy (23kg) carton of beer.

Gear dropped I buy breakfast and go to my gate. A quick eyeball shows that there is quite a bit of hand luggage laying around so when a few people start queuing I join them to ensure I don’t end up with my bag beneath my feet. Not my usual style but I’ll be sitting for the next eight hours so why not.

I’m flying Air Asia who operate a regular service to Kuala Lumpur then onward flights from there. By my estimation 70% of the people at the gate lounge are Asian and the remaining guests are almost all families with primary school aged children heading to Thailand and Bali for the school holidays (I couldn’t help overhear their conversations throughout the airport).

The first thing I notice about the plane and service of Air Asia is that it’s a higher standard than I have experienced on our domestic budget airline Jetstar.  There’s more leg room and the hospitality for which Malaysian-based airlines are famous. I adjust my watch to Malaysian time and settle in to do some work, read my Korea guide book to shortlist places I must see, watch The Grand Budapest Hotel (a strange movie if ever there was one) and have a short kip (I don’t want to sleep too log because it is day time). The food I pre-ordered was excellent and the quiet zone seat is restful. I’m glad it was a good experience because I will be flying Air Asia a lot over the next year or so.

Kuala Lumpur airport is modern and large. I find the movie lounge and settle in with a box of Pringles (my favorite chippies). Other than the security women wearing head covers I don’t have the same sense of being in a foreign land as I did in Abu Dhabi airport in February. I think it’s because the people here are mostly Asian and Australia really had become part of Asia the past five years with a high population of migrants and students from our neighbouring continent.  I think it’s also because I understand some words of Bahasa Malaysian thanks to my family’s Indonesian heritage so the language is comforting.

I have a long break here. I arrived at 4pm and depart for Seoul at 1am.  I watch a movie. Have some food. Do some more work. Surf the net. And Skype home. That should help pass the time nicely.  Then I’ll sleep on the plane and wake up in Korea.