Heading to Asia

Bagan, Myanmar

I am so excited to announce officially that I am taking a leave of absence from my job in Chicago and going on a long-term solo trip. Although my official date of departure isn’t until September 27, preparations are underway and I couldn’t be more excited (and more than a little bit nervous). I will, of course, be blogging here while I’m gone as well as hopefully publishing a few pieces elsewhere. Where can you expect me to post about over the next three months? I’m not entirely sure, but this is my current itinerary.

Part 1: Hong Kong

I’m going to be spending 3 days in Hong Kong on my way to Southeast Asia. On my agenda? Eating dim sum like it’s going out of style, taking pictures of the skyline, and wandering around a city that has fascinated me for years. I’ve been to other major Chinese cities like Shanghai and Beijing but this is an entirely different type of city, with a legacy encompassing both East and West, due to its extended history as a British colony.

Part 2: Malaysia

I decided I was going to Malaysia someday after watching a particularly vivid episode of Anthony Bourdain’s show back when he was on the Travel Channel. I’ve never seen anywhere with such eye-popping food. It’s fitting then that I start my travels in Penang, which is considered by foodies to be Asia’s best street food city, surpassing Bangkok and Tokyo in many rankings. I’m not entirely sure what else I’ll be doing in Malaysia. I know I’ll have to swing through the capital of Kuala Lumpur to get my Myanmar visa, but other than that, I’m having a hard time making up my mind. Options include lazing on the beach in Langkawi, exploring the historic city of Malacca, or traipsing the untouched rainforest in Taman Negara National Park.

Part 3: Indonesia

I’m going to begin my Indonesia travels in Yogyakarta on the island of Java, which is near the famous temples of Borobudur and Prambanan as well as the volcanoes of Mount Bromo and the Ijen Crater. After exploring the history in and around Yogyakarta, I’m hoping to head to the volcanoes, time and money permitting. After that, I’m headed over to Bali. I have two weeks in Bali to explore, but I’m definitely going to spend time on the beach as well as in Ubud, the cultural center of the island. Another must-do: I’m taking a ferry to the Gili Islands, which are off the coast of Bali near Lombok. Apparently these pristine islands are what Bali was like 20 years ago and have top-notch snorkeling and diving.

 

Part 4: Singapore

Singapore is expensive, so I only have a few days to appreciate the city-state. I’ll be hitting the hawker stalls to indulge in street food as well as wander through the city to appreciate the cultural mix of the city.

 

Part 5: Myanmar

Two weeks in Myanmar! Myanmar is probably the most remote place I’ve visited, as it’s still opening up to tourists. I’m going to travel slowly through Myanmar as I’ve heard the infrastructure can be a challenge, but I plan on flying into Yangon and heading up to Bagan, a plain filled with hundred of ancient Buddhist temples that apparently dwarfs the splendor of Angkor Wat. I’ll swing through Mandalay on my way back to Yangon to check out the pagodas there. Unlike the other places on my itinerary, I’ve been warned against going crazy on street food in Myanmar, but I still plan on exploring the country through its varied cuisine. Fermented tea leaf salad, anyone?

 

Part 6: The Philippines

After a few weeks of rough travel through Myanmar, I plan on heading to Boracay in the Philippines. I hear the white sand beaches there are among the best in Southeast Asia. After a week of R&R, I’m off to Palawan to explore the islands and hidden coves off of the coast of El Nido by boat. I think of all of the places on my itinerary, I am the most excited for El Nido, so it’s fitting that it comes near the end of my trip.

 

Part 7: Vietnam

I fly to Saigon on December 17. I have five days there to become reacquainted with a country I consider among the best places I’ve been. I plan on taking a trip to the floating markets of the Mekong Delta while I’m here, as well as writing and eating some delicious pho. I’ll be meeting some of my family in Saigon after a few days which brings my solo trip to a close. For the next 10 days, we’ll be exploring places I’ve already been and loved like Hoi An, Ha Long Bay, and Hanoi. On December 31st, we fly to Hong Kong, where we will ring in 2015 in style. On January 1st, I’m heading back to Chicago.

Just writing that summary made me so excited! Obviously, I’m nervous about a lot of things, like crime or health problems or transportation issues, but I’m not letting it stand in the way of what I hope will be an incredible adventure. Expect regular updates and pictures of my journey.

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