We recently announced that we are off to Southeast Asia, where aside from flying in to Bangkok we have few plans as to what we are going to do, where we will go or even how long we are going to stick around in the region.
Mission creep set in quickly on our early plans. We had thought to find somewhere in Thailand to live for three months and spend our last month travelling around Myanmar before returning to Turkey to enjoy the summer. Though this remains the foundation underpinning everything else we will do, the flexibility and uncertainty of a one way ticket mean we could easily spend more time in the region.
The likelihood that we will settle in somewhere straight away looks increasingly remote and it is almost certain we will want to move about a bit, explore our new environment, and assess our options.
Usually once our ticket has been booked I would be flipping through the relevant Lonely Planet marking out a rough route and sketching out a few ideas for what to do in each place. Mostly though I would be flicking pages to build up the excitement of the things we will soon be doing.
Living in Turkey this is not so easy. My South-East Asia on a Shoestring is ten years old and even in a 100 mile search zone a hunt for new English language reading material is unlikely to unearth anything besides a second hand copy of The Da Vinci Code and some Danielle Steele.
So, instead, we are turning to online travel guides such as TravelFish, Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree and other travel bloggers for ideas.
Below is our list of things that are either exciting us or inducing bouts of contemplative chin stroking. Certainly there are some glaring omissions – we have been to the region before and while we may return to some old favourites generally we are looking to visit new places.
I had been looking most forward to Thai food until I read On Our Own Path’s An Introduction to Food in Myanmar. This magnificent piece of food porn went straight onto our Pocket read it later list so we will have no excuse finding the correct words to order dried, fried goat meat, yellow rice salad or steamed dumplings.
After three months of declining weather in Turkey we expect the first thing we will want to do is hit the beach. Just like Torre DeRoche we will be searching for the perfect island accommodation. She found a basic $5 a night bungalow in Koh Tao and gave it a dramatic makeover.
Unfortunately we don’t have an ounce of the interior design skills of Torre and her boyfriend and are tempted to ask when they are, you know, like, leaving? I doubt we are alone in this and pretty far to the back of the queue so I guess we will have to continue with our own search. This list of islands in Thailand should prove useful.
Stroke a tiger
“Why the hell didn’t we do this when we were in Thailand,” I thought on first seeing a photo of a traveller in a cage with a tiger. Deirdre quite reasonably suggested we didn’t do this because it involves getting in a cage with an animal occasionally pre-fixed with the words ‘man eating’.
There is some concern over where is the more ethical place to indulge in this activity as can be read in hugs not drugs at Chiang Mai’s Tiger Kingdom. I’m only half-joking when I say I would prefer any tigers into whose enclosure I walk to be halfway through their second box of jaffa cakes and humming a happy tune.
Myanmar is the country that stoked our excitement enough to lure us back to a part of the world we have engaged with already. While wondering where to go this winter I casually mentioned that Burma is opening up, Deirdre sounded keen, and that was that: we were heading east.
In our original plan Myanmar was to be the moving around bit to complement the staying very still somewhere in Thailand bit. Like everything else on this trip we don’t know yet where we will be going in Myanmar but Inle Lake looks a certainty.
At the very end of our RTW trip we only had time for a quick look see around Phnom Penh and a visit to must-see Angkor before we had to fly home. Exactly ten years later we should have another chance to explore Sihanoukville and southern Cambodia.
We have been to Angkor before but the site is so spectacular I’m tempted to visit again. Deirdre is a little less keen so I doubt we will go too far out of our way to go there. Nevertheless, should we be in the area, I would like to atone for some of my crimes against photography committed previously at Angkor Wat.
Do some work
Okay, boring, but the idea of experiencing the daily rhythm of a foreign city has its appeal. Workshy in the extreme we won’t be looking for teaching jobs but we always have enough to be getting on with our websites.
By this part of our journey it is very likely I’ve ignored every single email sent to us in the past couple of months and have massive amounts of things to catch up with. Chiang Mai is our most likely venue for this. I know: cliché, but the numerous cost of living guides compiled by travel bloggers give the answer why so many settle here awhile.
Visit NGOs and maybe volunteer
Here’s the thing. I’ve never actually volunteered. Deirdre has, but on past trips I’ve always had plenty of things to occupy my time keeping our sites in order, and am not good for much else anyway. This will probably be the case on this trip too but as we hope to visit some local NGOs to add to our free volunteer work abroad site maybe something that I’m actually useful at will present itself. Stanger things have happened.
Come home via Iran
With only a one way ticket booked we are going to have to find our way home again. After searching via Kayak, we got a great deal flying from Istanbul to Bangkok but may not be so lucky on the way back. One idea we are exploring is coming home via Tehran on a cheap AirAsia ticket. I’ve always wanted to visit Iran anyway and this may be the chance. From Tehran we would hop on a train for the long ride home to Turkey.
…or the Trans Siberian
Turkey is a large country and crossing west to east by rail will take a bit of time. A train trip through Anatolia will be like popping down to the local shops compared to catching a train in Beijing and alighting in Moscow. This is another classic journey that would be on our bucket list were we to compile one.
If you have been to Southeast Asia, or if you are planning your own trip, we would welcome any new suggestions and ideas in the comments below.