Two-month Southeast Asia trip comes to a close
Eagle County CO, Colorado
Editor’s note: This is the final in a series of travel stories from local resident Luc Pols, who spent two months traveling through Southeast Asia.
I’m back in the snow and after three months of temperatures in the 80’s and 90’s and it is a bit chilly, I must admit. In any case, allow me to briefly go through the highlights of the trip, in order of their occurrence.
1. The Thai-Cambodian border conflict with the Temple of Preah Vihear as the catalyst.
2. The city of Melaka in Malaysia, a pleasant and unexpected surprise.
3. Bukit Lawang on the island of Sumatra with the magnificent orang-utans. *
4. My very first live volcano, Gunung (Mt.) Sibayak at Berestagi, Sumatra. *
5. Danau (Lake) Toba and the Sipiso Piso waterfall on Sumatra.
6. The three colored lakes of the Kelimutu volcano on Flores.
7. The goal of my quest: the Komodo Dragons on the UNESCO site of Rinca Island.
8. The terraced rice paddies on every island, specifically the one at Tegallalang on Bali.
9. Ijen volcano with its magnificent turquoise lake and the human mule train of sulfur carriers on Java.
10. The out-of-this-world Bromo and Semeru volcanoes on Java.
11. Yokyakarta with Borobudur and Prambanan just outside the city limits.
12. Singapore, despite its cost.
* I don’t think that the article about the orangutans, Berestagi and my first live volcano, Mt. Sibayak, was ever printed in the paper. Must have been misplaced somehow.
I visited four countries, including two new-to-me countries, and seven islands of the huge Indonesian archipelago: Sumatra, Lombok, Sumbawa, Flores, Rinca, Bali and Java. I had a 60 day visa for Indonesia, the maximum they’ll give and if you want to see all or most of the places I described in my articles, you will need those 60 days. If you don’t have that time, you will have to make choices and cuts.
Indonesia is very cheap. As a matter of fact, for the time I was away, virtually three months, including the expensive Singapore, I averaged $23 per night for a hotel, most including breakfast. Eating is dirt cheap and even having a beer or two will not break the bank by any stretch of the imagination. I took trains, buses, rented taxis, scooters and boats, took planes, cars etc. and still I did not spend a lot of money. It is virtually impossible to spend a lot, except if you stay in Hyatts, Hiltons etc., that is IF they are there, which in most places they are not.
There is one thing you will have to be if you aspire to travel along the lines that I do: you have to be very flexible. Not only where your itinerary is concerned, but also about hotels and food. Sometimes, there just isn’t anything available or sometimes you just make a mistake and are either too lazy or dumb to do anything about it. It can be quite frustrating at times, but most of the time, it is just absolutely great. Not having a particular schedule and going where you want to, because someone told you over there that it was great, is very exciting and very liberating.
One of the interesting things that happens while here in Vail and also while traveling is that I get asked the same questions: “Why are you going there?” or, alternatively, “Why are you coming here?”
“Are you (going) alone?”
It seems that most people don’t understand that you can travel, see things and visit places you haven’t been to by yourself. I will be the first to admit that most of the time it is more fun to travel with someone … to share, but if, for whatever reason, there is no one who shares the same dream or has the same desire or time, then you can either sit at home and wait till someone shows up, or do it by yourself. Obviously I believe in the latter.
Lastly, what to bring? The most important thing is don’t bring too much. For my three- month trip, I took no jeans (too heavy), but two shorts, two pairs of shoes (one pair of sandals), seven shirts, seven pairs of underwear, two T-shirts, one pair of swimming trunks, two long pants (one suffices) and the all-important sweat shirt. Laundry is easy, cheap and quick, normally within 24 hours. From a medical perspective, bring sunscreen for sure, aspirin (helps with hangovers), a couple of band-aids, mosquito repellent, Tiger Balm or the equivalent thereof for when you got bitten, and Neosporin, great for when you fall off mopeds or get an infection and in general a good thing to have with you. Anti-diarrhea and malaria pills are optional, depending where you go.
For additional information, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It was a great trip, lonely at times, but I was exposed to a score of new and beautiful things, I did experience another culture and should you ask me “Would you do this again?” the answer is an unequivocal “YES!”
Have a travel essay you’d like to share with Vail Daily readers? E-mail High Life Editor Caramie Schnell at email@example.com.