Thursday, January 14, 2016

Gap Year Q2 Summary

Blogs about Taiwan and Japan are still to come, but I’m going to jump into the Q2 recap straight away!  Just like the Q1 recap, if you aren’t into statistics and lists, then maybe you should go do something different like ponder existence or something useful like inventing teleportation technology that can be used to teleport burritos to me.

Total time spent:  94 days and 94 nights
Start:  Night of Saturday, October 10 at Kuala Lumpur Airport
End:  Night of Tuesday, January 12 at Tokyo Narita Airport

Continents visited:  1 (down from 2 in Q1)
1.  Asia: 100%

Regions visited:  2 (down from 5 in Q1)
1.  Southeast Asia:  59%
2.  East Asia:  40%
In transit between regions:  less than 1%

Countries visited:  7 (down from 12 in Q1)
1.  Japan:  27.5 days / 27 nights  (29%)
2.  Vietnam:  15.5 days / 16 nights  (17%)
3.  Thailand:  12 days / 12 nights  (13%)
4.  Laos:  11.5 days / 11 nights  (12%)
5.  Taiwan:  10.5 days / 11 nights  (11%)
6.  Malaysia:  8.5 days / 9 nights  (9%)
7.  Cambodia:  8 days / 8 nights  (9%)
In transit between countries:  0.5 days / 0 nights  (less than 1%)

And just for fun – time spent in countries that drive on the:
1.  Left side of the road:  51%  (Japan, Thailand, Malaysia)
2.  Right side of the road:  49%  (Vietnam, Laos, Taiwan, Cambodia)

Border crossings:  7 (down from 16 in Q1)
-  6 border crossings by air
-  1 land border crossing (by vehicle)

Airports visited:  13 (up from 10 in Q1)
Kuala Lumpur, Chiang Mai, Vientiane, Hanoi, Danang, Saigon, Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi), Koh Samui, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Kaohsiung, Taipei (Taoyuan), Tokyo (Narita)

Airlines flown:  6 (up from 5 in Q1)
AirAsia, Vietnam Airlines, VietJet, Bangkok Airways, Cambodia Angkor Air, Vanilla Air

1.  Guesthouses:  38 nights  (40% - all over Southeast Asia and one place in Taiwan)
2.  Airbnb:  17 nights  (18% - in Hoi An, Phnom Penh, and across Japan)
2.  Friends:  17 nights  (18% - in Kaohsiung and Tokyo)
4.  Hostels:  9 nights (10% - in KL, Vietnam, and Taiwan)

Other types of accommodation:  hotels (various locations), a shitty “resort” (Koh Phangan), and one night each on a boat and a bus (both in Vietnam).

Bathroom situation:
1.  Private bathroom:  84 nights  (89%)
2.  Shared bathroom:  9 nights  (10%)
3.  No bathroom:  1 nights  (1%)

And now, for some less statistical lists…

Top 6 Experiences (in chronological order):
Because I couldn’t choose just 5 last quarter, I’m going to choose 6 here too for consistency.

1.  Meeting random travellers – I’ve met plenty of other travellers throughout the years, but it was just so enjoyable to meet and then travel with strangers outside of an organized tour.
2.  Motorbiking in Vietnam – This was totally outside of my comfort zone and I had a blast.  I was pretty good on the scooter and it was definitely more pleasant than a shitty bus.
3.  Learning Cambodia’s history – Even though it was terribly sad, I really appreciated the superb educational experiences at the Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre and the Tuol Sleng Museum.
4.  Being in Taiwan – after being on guard in South Asia and Southeast Asia for so long, it was such a great feeling to be in a safe country with no touts or hawkers (and cooler temperatures!)
5.  Sapporo winter wonderland – The heat was dreadful in Southeast Asia, so a little dose of snow was much appreciated.  Sapporo was a gorgeous city in the winter.
6.  Mazda Museum – Hiroshima is obviously better known for something else, but touring the main Mazda factory and seeing cars being built before my eyes was so fucking cool.  Seriously.

Bottom 5 Experiences (in chronological order):
1.  Getting sick – I spent my first four days in Malaysia with all the classic symptoms of food poisoning (I must have picked it up in Nepal.)  I had to cancel trips to Penang and Langkawi.
2.  Sweating every day in Southeast Asia – 8 weeks.  8 long weeks.  And every day was so hot.  And then hotter.  And it wasn’t even the hot season!  Constantly sweating, I was a literally a hot mess.
3.  Vietnam’s propaganda – The blatant propaganda in every Vietnamese museum really ruined the learning experience.  Some of the outright lies made me question all of the information presented.
4.  Mekong Delta – This day trip from Saigon was long, full of sales pitches, and didn’t show me anything worthwhile.  Visiting Saigon?  Skip this day tour.  Your time is better spent in the city.
5.  Koh Phangan – The Full Moon Party was a must-do, but it was pretty shit.  Aside from that, the attitude on the whole island seemed to need a major adjustment.  The Thai mainland is way better.

There were a few more mishaps than in Q1, but none of this is totally terrible.

Top 3 Places I Could Live (in preferential order):
1.  Taipei – I think Japan would be a better country to live in, but the cities there seem too big or too small.  Taipei is the Goldilocks of cities – it’s not too big or too little.  It’s just right.
2.  Tokyo – I think the massive size would wear on me after a while, but it sure would be fun to live in Tokyo.  There is so much going on.
3.  Fukuoka – Fukuoka was the closest to the right size of all the Japanese cities I visited.  It sort of reminded me of a Japanese version of Portland – not too much for tourists, but cool to live in.

All of the cities in Japan were great and very liveable, and Taiwan’s cities were right up there too.  I need to devote more time to Osaka next trip, and I’d like to check out Nagoya too.  Of all of the Southeast Asian cities I visited on this leg of the trip, the only contender is Bangkok, but it’s just so big, and so crowded, and so hot, and there’s so much traffic.

Top 3 Places to Visit Again (in preferential order):
1.  Taiwan – I’d like to devote more time to Taipei and to do more hiking and exploring on Taiwan’s gorgeous east coast.
2.  Japan – All of it.  Like, seriously all of it.  There is still more to do in Tokyo and I need to explore more of Osaka, check out Nagasaki, Nagoya, and Shikoku, and more thoroughly explore Hokkaido.
3.  Bangkok – I just really want to go shopping here when I have a job and a place to store clothes.

Aside from these, I’d like to do what I set out to do and visit Penang and Langkawi in Malaysia.  But I think I’d like to go back to the other three places first.

Top 3 Accommodations (in preferential order):
1.  Elcid’s apartment (Tokyo) – One of my besties lives in Tokyo and he let me stay with him.  It was so nice to be in an actual real home for a while.
2.  Ai’s Airbnb (Sapporo) – This little studio apartment was well-appointed and in such a cute neighbourhood.  The hostess (Ai) even left Kit Kats and other sweets for my arrival!
3.  Terao’s Airbnb (Fukuoka) – This little studio was warm and comfortable and in walking distance of most of the sights that I wanted to see.

A few other shout-outs:  The Mini Voyage Hostel in Hualien (Taiwan) was quite possibly the nicest hostel I’ve ever stayed in, though the bed was a bit too typically hard.  I loved the Park Side Hotel in Hiroshima because it was next to all of the main attractions and it was the first time I had been in a real proper hotel in such a long time.

And now I’m all done with Asia.  Q3 will feature a surprise cameo in Europe, a tour of the old country, and a jaunt into Latin America.  But first, let me take a selfie.

Elcid and I eating red velvet cupcakes in Tokyo.  He’s a good enabler.

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