SE Asia was a new part of the world for us and this meant encountering a lot for the first time. One constant was being hot and sweaty in every country we visited! We encountered some of the best and worst smells of our life, often within a few steps of each other. We saw amazing scenery and also watched people throw garbage on the ground without a thought. We met some of the friendliest people but also experienced being complete outsiders in a Muslim state. We learned more about religions, regimes, war, and tried to grasp all the languages we encountered. Our time here was exhilarating and exhausting. One thing we will not miss is the no-rules traffic and all the honking!
Countries visited: Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam
Where we missed but will return: Laos, Burma
# of pounds we carried: 42 pounds in a backpack and small duffel
# of motorbikes rented: 10 - and in the first 4 cities Eric was getting used to driving on the left side of the road! (Ubud, Yogyakarta, Batu Karas, Wonosobo, Sukhothai, Phucket, Kep, Dalat, Hoi An, Hue)
# of times Sarah drove the motorbike: 1
# of flights we took: 12 (Bali to Indonesia, Surybaya to Borneo, Borneo to Jakarta, Jakarta to Bangkok, Chiang Mai to Phuket, Ko Samui to Bangkok to Siem Reap, Dalat to DaNang, Hue to Hanoi, Hanoi to Saigon, Saigon to Sydney, Sydney to Auckland)
# of Night buses: 0!
# of places we stayed: 37
Average cost of hotel room: $20 a night, usually including breakfast of some sort.
Most expensive hotel: $67/night when Max and Kristin came and we all stayed at the same resort in Krabi.
# of family that came to visit: 4 (Cory, Margo, Max and Kristin)
# of countries we were millionaires: 2 (Indonesia and Vietnam)
Currencies: Singapore Dollar, Indonesia Rupiah, Thai Baht, Cambodia Riel, Vietnam Dong
Favorite currency jokes: Dongs (duh)
Average cost of an hour massage: $7
Average cost of a hair wash: $2
Haircut range for Sarah: $1.75 - $10
# of runs for Sarah: 2 - both in Dalat
# of food sicknesses: 0! We ate literally everything, and from everywhere without getting as much as a stomachache!
Best descriptor of climate, compliments of Melanie: Swamp Ass
Favorite cities: Ubud, Dalat, Chiang Mai
Least favorite cities: The entirety of Java
Best couple we met: We had far fewer friends met in SE Asia. I think that was due to staying in more hotels than hostels like South America and that we were traveling with families so much. That said, Richie and Claire were by far our favorite couple. We spent days by the pool with them as we all rested up in Kep, Cambodia. They gave us brilliant tips for all of Vietnam that we followed throughout our month there.
Most generous couple we met: Gan and Celin. We shared a miserable 10 hours with Gan on a sleeper bus during the day. It was hot and uncomfortable but made bearable because of our conversations with Gan that lasted throughout the trip. While in Dalat with him and his wife Celin, they treated us to two delicious dinners with plenty of beer to wash down our sorrows over our bus trip.
Favorite couple to meet in person: Melanie and Kevin. Fellow Seattleites, Melanie and I had been emailing since our friend-in-common, Kerry, set us up. Before Melanie and Kevin set off for their trip I tried to offer some advice and while on the road Melanie and I have commiserated over similar travel experiences. We got to meet them in Chiang Mai for dinner and had a blast laughing as we all commiserated how time together 24 hours a day means no chance for sneaking sweets like at home!
Favorite hotel: Kiman. Throughout SE Asia we stayed in really clean, nice spots. But when we got to the Kiman we literally high-fived. It was a gorgeous room with balcony, plenty of sunlight, a desk, robes, slippers, tons of room to unpack, a large Western bathroom, and the largest breakfast ever. The staff also was so friendly that we shared our Chupa Cups with them! We stayed a week and could have stayed forever...
Favorite spot we stayed: Our own viilla on Bali. We did it right on Bali with our own villa, complete with 2 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, outdoor kitchen and dining area and our own pool (with outdoor shower). We lived like kings in this villa and loved every day of our 2 weeks there!
Most frustrating day of travel: It's always crossing the border by land! Kep Cambodia to Can Tho Vietnam. It was so bad, there's already a detailed blog post about it! The travel day started in a filled to the brim minivan, backtracking over an hour to drop two girls off in Kampot, bringing us to the border an hour late. At the border we were asked to pay a $1 health fee but were prepared with our yellow vaccination packets (that we were told to have on us at all times but have never had to at all times), saving us $1! We were so late everyone in our van missed the last ferry to the islands for the day so they were all upset. We then got dropped off in a sketchy bus terminal with 20 quick minutes to try to find something edible. We had no tickets and no one spoke English. Our promised air-conditioned van with one seat for one person turned out to be a downright lie on all levels. Windows were down as some of the 30 people (in 16 person van) smoked their way along our 6 hour long journey. We arrived to Can Tho with my spine literally crooked for the next 2 days, the most painful reminder of the hellish trip we had to endure.
Coolest local custom/festival we got to experience: We were on Bali for Gulang Day, a Hindu tradition that welcomes ancestor spirits back to their homes with elaborate poles and offerings. It was one of the most amazing things I've witnessed in my life and we were so lucky to be there and to be included.