My VPN works again! Hurray!
Well, I’d like to say that I’ve have lots of unshared posts lying around from my recent VPNless months but that’s not true. To be honest, it’s been a busy time with few in the way of travel-blog-worthy events. Also my capacity to get excited about humorous shop signs has diminished.
PSYCHE! Don’t be ridiculous.
The salient provocation for writing now is that I am planning a trip and by planning I mean actually planning. There are spreadsheets involved. And extended periods of concentration!
This unnatural state of being is mostly caused by the length of free time I have from work. For this Chinese New Year my school has given the foreign teachers nearly a month of leave. Many of my previous trips have been in the 5-10 day range. These shorter breaks lend themselves massively to the sort of relatively unplanned excursions with minimal preparation that I specialise in/can get away with.
I’ve found, in mainland China, if you can’t read Chinese there’s only a bare minimum of preparation you can do anyway. I can speak enough to get by, so I don’t need to worry about that, and most of the online information is incomprehensible to me. There will be a few comments and hints and tips from foreigners but some may be years out of date. So you can’t spend hours wadding through opinions pieces and forums planning your trip. Suits me fine.
But three weeks? That’s a long time to wing it. My winging it game isn’t that strong. I’m not a backpacker at this moment in time nor do I intend to spend 3 weeks half-heartedly being one.
Now, at the best of times, I find it difficult to choose where to go on these trips. Usually certain factors will lead me in a particular direction. I.e, maybe I’m skint so I want to travel by train. Maybe I only have time to do a limited amount. Maybe there’s a typhoon.
Maybe there are two typhoons.
But here I am with a perfect storm of…absence of storm. Plus the first day off is payday. And I have plenty of time.
Damn, better plan.
This is all a bit #humblebrag. It’s great to have this time off and I’m relishing the prospect of heading out. I’m just trying to emphasise that this whole planning part doesn’t come naturally. SEA has an astonishing amount of places to visit, all at low cost from the PRC. I’m aware I won’t be here forever so I’m keen to make good use of this considerable opportunity.
So here’s the plan so far. We can compare this section to the debriefing in March when we can assess just much everything went awry!
I really want to go to Angkor Wat at some point during the trip. That I know. Plus, Japan is pricy, Korea is cold and Mongolia is colder. Using sites such as momondo, skyscanner and STA, everyone raves about (and, presumably, in) Cambodia. So, I know I’m looking at Indo-Chinese countrie travel I had a look at the relative price of various destinations. I can, reasonably, fly from 4-5 cities (Xiamen, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Macau and Fuzhou). Flights to Siem Reap aren’t too much, but more than I thought.
Now, monondo often put one-way offers on their front page. Once the cookie for the site knows where you’re flying from (i.e after you’ve searched once for ‘Hong Kong’ to ‘Blahblahistan’ it will start showing you various prices for flights from Hong Kong). So after my initial searches I noticed a flight on the frontpage. Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur -> £48.
Shit is CHEAP.
Next I check flights from KL to Siem Reap. Also dirt dirt cheap. It’s actually significantly cheaper than flying direct to Cambodia. I’m talking, pay for a hostel for 3 nights + food + drink and still saving money cheaper.
So that’s what I have so far. I will take the HST from Xiamen to Shenzhen and cross into Hong Kong. Dead easy. Stay the night and then fly out to Kuala Lumpur on the 9th of February. I’ll stay there for three nights. As usual, I’m using a combination of agoda.com, hostelworld.com, hostelbookers.com and booking.com for accommodation. If you have time, cross-referencing these is a great way to find both the best places and best prices.
Then on the 13th I will fly to Siem Reap, spending at least 3 nights there. After that I have a choice to make. Either:
1) Plan more! *audible sigh*
2) Take things as they come after Cambodia.
I haven’t decided which I will do yet, I will continue to research for a few days. I’m thinking that I will book my flight home from Hanoi, Vietnam. Then between my arrival in Cambodia and my flight home I will improvise / follow the guidance of those I meet and the hostels I stay at.
One thing I’ve learned from travelling in a more improvisational way is that the locals know best. More to the point, if you’re staying in a hostel you’re absolutely bound to hear about a place you’d never heard about during your research that appeals. Therefore it seems prudent to leave a certain amount of free time. However, how much time is OK to leave this free?
I will continue to look at flights in and around Cambodia / Vietnam and try to come up with a plan for the meantime.
In other news, I’m just over half-way through my current contract in Xiamen. I’m teaching more of a part-time schedule and mostly teaching adults. It’s a significant departure from the old waving-flashcards-at-toddlers job but I couldn’t say which I prefer. Both have their ups and downs. Adults don’t tend to evacuate their bowels during class, for which I’m thankful. However, adults can have prejudices, hang-ups and undesirable personality traits that kids don’t have so often. Like being a terrible person. Very few kids are terrible people; they haven’t had the time yet. Kids are certainly simpler. You tend to know what you’re getting. But, of course, you don’t have many meaningful exchanges outside of communicating colour preferences and throwing things at each other.
The grass is always greener. More news shortly.