Just got back from a three week trip with my Canadian friend and here’s how we did it.
Fly from Beijing to Hanoi. Drink beer from kegs on the street. Bus to Halong Bay. Stay the night on the boat. Laugh hysterically as a Korean sings Gangnam Style on KTV. Bus back to Hanoi. Eat Pho and Banh Mi. Sleeper train to Hue. Hostel party. Bus to Hoi An. Get Bronchitis, but see the Old Town anyway. Sleeper train to Ho Chi Minh. Check out Walking Street and talk to a German Michelin Chef. Fly to Siem Reap (now in Cambodia). See Angkor Wat. Bus down to Phnom Penh. See Killing Fields. Bus to Sihanoukville. Wonder why everything is in Chinese. Boat to Koh Rong. Enjoy the beach. Boat back to Sihanoukville. Bus to Koh Kong (border city). There’s no seats so we sit on a step-stool in the aisle. Tuk Tuk to the border. Walk across the border (now in Thailand). Taxi to Pattaya. Enjoy the beach and fight off ladyboys. Taxi to Bangkok. Fly back to Beijing. Complain about the cold.
All three countries, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand are all unique, and I liked each one for a different reason - but all three had great food. It’s easy for a tourist to say they liked the country they visited because they’re there for a short amount of time and often, the people you interact with are in the tourism industry and are being polite so you’ll spend your money. With that being said, I really enjoyed traveling to all three countries.
This year, I traveled without my computer, which was a choice I’m glad I made. I could still handle e-mails and flight stuff on my phone and saw no real reason to bring my laptop with me. It was a liberating feeling, mainly since I use my computer daily when I’m in Beijing, and before my trip I thought, “how am I going to go three weeks without a keyboard?” Overall, I’m happy I didn’t bring it with me, and I think having a travel buddy made it easier since there was always someone to be with, taking away the need to ‘kill time’ by surfing around on a laptop.
The more I travel, the more I realize there’s so much to see in this world, and no matter how much I enjoy the stability of my routine and daily life, I like bouncing around, staying in different places, and experiencing new things. I also really liked that the weather in Southeast Asia was around 30 degrees while Beijing was still -4. There’s something about sweating in a tank top that’s preferable to being bundled up in a jacket and scarf.
It’s tough to spend such a long time traveling and eating good food and being in a place you want to be, and then returning to the cold and the mundane and settling back into a routine. That’s life though, and I imagine if I lived in Bangkok, I’d have similar thoughts about having to return to the noise and the heat. “The grass is always greener” is something I’m always dealing with by acknowledging that nowhere is perfect and that instead, perhaps the grass is green where you water it.
As with each passing year, it’s customary, at least in the US, to make goals/resolutions. So, as is tradition, here are mine for 2019:
$5,000 to retirement
Sign new contract at Xinhua
Visit 3 new countries
Write another short story (sub 15,000 words) - Current short story “Here Then Gone” is with editor
Benchpress 125kg 5 times - Currently around 115kg maybe 2-3 times
Read at least 12 books - I’ve started writing a 10-word ‘thing’ for each book I’ve read since last summer, which can be found under my About me section. So far this year, I’ve read “Fatherland” and “The Chrysalids”
Burger from Blue Frog in Beijing. Monday’s are buy one get one free - easy choice for Monday dinners
Crawfish in a spicy garlic sauce, sliced pig lungs over chopped cucumbers topped with peanuts, and clams in spicy garlic sauce
This was at a nice Italian place in Beijing called Mercante
The lanterns went up right around Christmas, so although they were in preparation for Chinese New Year in February, one couldn’t help but think they were there to combat the Western holiday just a bit. Chicken plate on top was from a Mexican restaurant in the hutongs called Pebbles, which isn’t too shabby considering how far from Mexico China is.
It’s odd to take a picture like this, and then look back at it and think “ya, Beijing is beautiful.” Too often we get caught up in the flow of things that we forget to stop, take a moment, and appreciate where we are and what’s around us.
Here are some words I liked from 2018:
Capricious - Determined by chance it whim rather than by necessity
Rube - A person who is not very intelligent or interested in culture
Copacetic - Completely satisfactory
Louche - Disreputable or sordid in a rakish or appealing way.
Cogent - Clear, logical, convincing (of an argument / case)
Remonstrate - To make a forcefully reproachful protest
Indefatigable - Persisting tirelessly
Persiflage - Light and slightly contemptuous mockery or banter
Inimical - Tending to obstruct or harm
Viviparous - Bringing forth live young that have developed inside the body of the parent
Pernicious - Having a harmful effect, especially in a gradual or subtle way
Bumptious - Self-assertive or proud to an irritating degree
Recalcitrant - Having an obstinately uncooperative attitude toward authority or discipline
Incipient - In an initial stage; beginning to happen or develop
Christmas in Beijing is really about what you make it. Luckily, I wasn’t the only foreigner who didn’t go home, so there were lots of laughs, good food, and of course, ugly sweaters.
This is my favorite spot in Beijing. It’s right in the middle of the city, offering a 360 degree view of how big Beijing actually is. It was cold, so I wasn’t here long, but sometimes it’s nice to be outside and just take a moment to appreciate the city in which you live
The streets among Beijing’s hutongs are pretty narrow, especially with cars parked on either side, but somehow, they still manage to deal with the throngs of tourists that roll through snapping pictures of the capital’s old neighborhoods.
I’m not sure the kind of look this Tuktuk driver was going for, but I’m guessing he’s pretty satisfied with his work
The bike-share wars of 2017 are behind us and now, only three companies are left standing: Mobike (orange), OFO (yellow), and Blue Go Go (pictured above)