So obviously, until I actually go on the trip, there's not a whole lot to say. I mean, I have never been at a loss for words so I'm sure there's plenty I could say, but this blog is for my trip so for once, I'll try to stay focused.
I thought I might take a few minutes just to quickly answer the random questions that anyone who doesn't stalk my facebook wall might ask. So here goes...
Q. Where do you plan to go?
A. Originally I planned to start in Bali and work my way up. Now that I'm leaning more towards starting in Thailand, Bali (being very far to the south) is still up in the air. But besides Thailand, I plan to go to Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia. If I make it to Bali (Indonesia) than I will most likely also go to Malaysia. At some point, I will go by plane to India, but I haven't yet routed my itinerary for there yet. I am trying to be as flexible with dates and destinations as possible. I am planning on at least 6 months so I will totally be free to go at whatever pace I want.
Q. Where will you stay?
A. From what I have been reading, hostels are mostly in Europe, guesthouses are more common in South East Asia. Pretty much the same thing-- very cheap living and you get what you pay for (less than desirable shared bathrooms, bedbug possibilitie, etc.) but I think the rooms are a little more private than the dorm style hostels. And whenever I'm near a beach there are little bungalows you can rent for like $4 a night. I'd like the chance to stay with a family and really experience the culture, but I worry about the food thing. It's considered very rude to waste food, especially rice, and I am a very picky eater and not a big fan of rice. If my friend goes with me for the first few weeks, she has an American friend who lives in Thailand, and we should be able to stay with him for at least a few days.
Q. How much money will this cost?
A. Gosh, you're nosey. Seriously though, it's sooo cheap. Staying in guesthouses for under $10 a day, finding meals for under $4, there are some places in India where you can get by on $12 a day. I am budgeting for roughly $1000 a month, and it should cost much, much less. Airfare from here and back should put me back about $1500 and I am not sure yet about the price of the flight to India, because I think it will be cheaper to buy over there.
Q. What kinds of things do you want to do?
A. Like I said, I want to be flexible. I know once I get on the road, the possibilities will be endless and I'm sure to find things to do that I had never dreamed of. But there are a few things on my list of very-much-hope-to-do's...
*Thai Elephant Home- while many places in Thailand are known to exploit their elephants, beating them into learning how do play soccer and do other lame tricks, the Thai Elephant Home is known for it's "happy elephants." Each elephant has it's own mahout, a keeper who cares for him, cleans him, feeds him, trains him, loves him, even sleeps beside him! These men truly love their animals and the love is returned. And for your stay there, which can be as little as a few hours to as long as a month, everyone gets their very own elephant that you learn to train, and bathe, and feed! It is definitely on my list.
*Suan Mokkh 10day Silent Meditation Retreat in Thailand- a program designed to educate beginners, they guide you (in English) through ten days of silence and meditation. You sleep on concrete beds with mats, though I suppose you could use your own wadded clothes as a padding; you get only two very scarce vegetarian meals a day (no sneaking food in); no phones, laptops, etc...Just complete concentration on yourself, your peaceful surroundings, and whatever it is you are trying to find. I love that you can't even make reservations by phone or email. The retreat starts on the first of every month, and you have to just show up in person on that day so they can see with their own eyes that you're not some crazy crackhead looking for cheap rehab...because to me, the craziest part of it all is that the whole ten days costs a total of only $67.
*Vang Vieng, Laos- apparently you can rent innertubes and float down the river, stopping along the way at makeshift bars that specialize in what is known as a "Happy Shake." Exactly what it sounds like, a milk shake with marijuana and/or mushrooms, and sorry Grandma, but I just might have to try one out. They also have a very high zip line course I am considering. I would never bunjee jump, but I've always thought zip line could be cool. Don't worry, I won't try the zip line on the same day I try the Happy Shake.
Of course, there are lots of other ideas, but I don't want to spoil too many surprises.
Ok, I suppose that's enough for today, now I'm off to work to make some more money for those Happy Shakes.
Thai Elephant home http://www.thaielephanthome.com/index.php
Suan Mokkh 10day Silent Meditation Retreat in Thailand http://www.suanmokkh-idh.org/
Vang Vieng, Laos http://wikitravel.org/en/Vang_Vieng