Contrary to popular belief, travel isn’t always amazing. Even though I’ve had the time of my life on this trip, I’ve had my fair share of low moments and regrets. Although I saw and did a lot, there’s still more I wish I had been able to do.
-Getting landed on by kitesurfers in Malaysia
This is pretty scary and not something I like to talk about much because it freaked me out so badly. About a week into my trip, I was on the beach in Penang, when some kitesurfers decided I looked like a really good place to land. No, I’m joking, it was a total accident, but they landed straight on top of me, toppling me over and giving me some nasty rope burns in the process. I was mostly fine, although the rope burns took a some time to heal, and I have a wicked scar in their place. It did freak me out a bit because I was extremely lucky I wasn’t seriously injured. It took the wind out of my sails (no pun intended) for the first few days of my trip and made me a bit homesick. Thankfully, everything healed in time and once I left Malaysia I was back in traveler mode.
-Getting sick in Bali
I guess you haven’t earned your stripes as a traveler until you’ve gotten seriously sick. Sure, I’ve had an upset stomach here or there, but I’ve never been sick while traveling quite like this. Apparently, I ate some bacteria that caused not only GI symptoms, but a high fever, muscle aches, chills, headaches, and fatigue. I was convinced I had the dreaded dengue fever at first, but a blood test revealed that it was just bacterial food poisoning. I think most travelers get really sick at some point during their travels, so I’m lucky that this is the first time it’s happened to me! It forced me to cancel some of my Bali plans, but with a round of heavy-duty antibiotics and a few trips to the local medical clinic I was on the road to complete health. On the plus side, now when I’m in conversations with travelers about who’s been the sickest, I have a story to tell.
-Facing a Category 5 Super Typhoon in the Philippines
Typhoons are a relatively common occurrence in the Philippines, but after Super Typhoon Yolanda last year, which killed over 6,000 people, everyone knows they’re nothing to be ignored. This year’s Super Typhoon, Ruby, wasn’t supposed to be as powerful as Yolanda but was close to it and still considered a Category 5. There were fears of widespread damages and losses of life. Thankfully, I was out of the typhoon’s projected path, so all I got were a day and a half of rain. The damages elsewhere, while serious, weren’t as severe as initially projected. But those days of waiting for the typhoon to hit were anxiety filled to say the least, especially because it was hard to actually figure out what was going on. Are we in the path? Will flights be canceled? Will we have storm surges? All I could do was share rumors with fellow travelers and search for news stories on google, which varied wildly by source.
-Crickets in my shower in Myanmar
I was so to finally have a hot shower in Myanmar. It had been weeks (seriously, maybe even more than a month) since I had one. I started the water and…noticed there were crickets jumping out of the drain. A lot of them! Totally terrifying. Showering hasn’t been this traumatic since “Psycho.”
-Fast boat to the Gilis
The fast boat to the Gili Islands promises to get you from Bali to Gili T in about two hours. What it neglects to mention is that the boat is tiny, the ocean is choppy and water will be splashing up on the deck. There will be screams as a boat hits a wave. There are no safety standards on the boat and the driver is CLEARLY texting instead of looking where he was going. Yeah, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it there (or back) but somehow I did.
-Flying, all of it, every time
If you know me, you know I hate flying. Hate probably isn’t a strong enough word. Loathe it. Am petrified of it. Regularly cry. Needless to say, my frequent flights were a lowlight.
-Dealing with partiers in Bali and Gili T
I love a good night out, I really do. It just has to be under the right circumstances. Both Bali and Gili T are famed around Southeast Asia (and Australia, as it quickly becomes apparent) for their booming nightlife, much like Koh Phi Phi in Thailand and Vang Vieng in Laos. Since I went to Gili T specifically to dive and snorkel, both of which necessitated early mornings and strong stomachs, I knew I was going to have to opt out of the crazier nights and limit myself to a few Bintang beers on the beach watching the sunset. Surely there would be other people there with a similar plan, right? Not so much. Almost everyone I met was there to paaaaaaaaaaaaarty. I went out to a club my last night there and it was a group of mostly-Australian tourists dancing to terrible music surrounded by a ring of locals selling drugs or just staring at the girls. The Gili Islands are home to a Muslim population, and in accordance with their religion, the locals there don’t party much (yes, I know there are exceptions, but I’m generalizing here). Instead, the nightlife is completely catered towards Western tourists. It didn’t seem respectful to the local population to have scantily clad, drunk foreigners running rampant in a relatively conservative Muslim community. I loved my time on Gili T, but the nightlife wasn’t why. Kuta in Bali had a similar vibe, but it was even more out-of-control. Many Australians head to Kuta for a quick beach-and-party holiday, much like how we North Americans go to Cancun or Jamaica. As a result, Kuta has little local culture and lots of drunk 18 year olds. If you want to experience the culture in Bali, head to Ubud. And if you want to experience fantastic nightlife alongside both westerners and locals, head to Boracay.
-Not going diving in Coron
Coron, an island off of Palawan in the Philippines, is supposed to have fantastic dive sites of all types, but it’s famed for its wreck diving. Sadly, I spent all of my diving budget in Indonesia. Diving in Indonesia was pretty great, with technicolor coral, endless swarms of fish, and even a few sea turtles. But I would have loved to float alongside coral reefs and sunken World War II battleships. Oh well. Next time.
-Missing out on Borneo
Peninsular Malaysia left me cold, but I hear great things about Borneo. There’s fantastic diving, great jungle lodges and wildlife safaris, and orangutans! Hopefully I’ll be back to Malaysia to focus specifically on this region someday, preferably when I have a bit larger budget.
-Not making it to several places I wanted to go in the Philippines
Because of my short visa in the Philippines (21 days!) I limited myself to a leisurely two islands plus Manila. It was a great introduction to the country but while I was there I heard about so many more places I’m now dying to visit. I want to swim with the whale sharks in Donsol. I want to explore the Chocolate Hills in Bohol and the rice terraces in North Luzon. And I want to head wayyyy down south to Caimugin, a volcanic island with beautiful, empty beaches. Of all of the places I went to on this trip, the Philippines are highest on my list of places to return to, just because there’s so much I still want to see.
-No Komodo Dragons in Indonesia
I was dying to do a cruise to Flores that stopped to find Komodo dragons on a safari. I could not imagine anything cooler. Unfortunately, my aforementioned sickness stopped further Indonesian exploration in its tracks. Still, I got to see some amazing parts of the country. Although, man. Komodo dragons are pretty cool.