Ahhh, yes I’m finally back in Hong Kong. I really can’t believe that over a month has already passed! But when you get into the swing of traveling, time zips by so quickly that you always seem to find yourself magically transported into the future. I move very quickly and although I do think I miss out on quite a bit when I do this, I think I have a very good reason.
Obviously, it would take months, if not years, to get to know certain regions and places. All I have is two years for the entire world and as such, my goal is to get a taste of many different places so that I can make a note of the places to which I would like to return in the future. I see many vacations in the future visiting a lot of special places that I didn’t get the time to fully experience. And China is no exception. I would especially like to go back and visit the Sichuan province (western China) in the future, maybe spending a few weeks wandering around the protected parks and little villages. That entire area was pretty incredible and I think it would be even moreso if I went back when the weather was better, ie., not so cloudy. When I return, I’ll have a much better camera too.
My time in China was pretty much what I expected it would be. A month spent in some beautiful areas, meeting some incredible people, having a few crazy adventures, eating great food and spending very little money. The only catch with the budget situation was that because I was taking a train nearly every other day, my budget ballooned from a typical $15 dollar a day allowance to nearly $26. Train tickets can be quite expensive in China and that tacked on quite a bit to my expenses, but if I would have spent more time, the average would have been much more reasonable. But that is the cost of tackling such a massive country with such an ambitious schedule. Take out a map and compare your country with China. I’m sure you will be impressed.
I really enjoyed southern China and it was really nice to be back in Beijing and meet up with my friends. Shanghai thoroughly impressed me since it didn’t even seem like I was in China and that is quite a feat in such a poor country. It was like being in a more scenic Hong Kong. I didn’t do too much while there except wander around the city and go out with people from the hostel at night. I did have a great time though. I got back to HK on a 28 hour sleeper train on which I met a few Singaporean guys and an American and we all played chess and chatted through the night. We arrived before I knew it, although I did have to sneak into another bed at 11pm because the guy next to me was snoring so loudly.
And so now I am back in Hong Kong and will leave for Bangkok tomorrow where I will buy my ticket (which is already reserved for me) to Egypt for the next day. I hear Egypt is almost as crazy as India and although I don’t think that that is possible, we will soon see. Hong Kong is pretty much the same, except it’s gotten a bit hotter and cloudier, but I’ve been having fun going out with Ron and his family (his parents took us out to breakfast again and treated us to some incredible dim sum). I’ve met a few on Ron’s friends and that has been cool too. Yesterday, I met up with Renee (an American girl I met in Nepal) who just happened to be in Hong Kong and we got dinner with Ron and Clara (Ron’s friend). It really blows me away that I run into friends in other countries like I used to run into people at the supermarket back home. It is really weird.
And there is something new which I am kind of excited about. I figured out my schedule and realized that I am way ahead of my original time table by about two months. I’ve also still got some money left and so I decided that I would do two months in Europe. I will arrive in Athens on the 2 nd of July and from there will end up in Dublin by September for my flight home.
How will I get around, you ask? I just picked up my Eurail pass which allows me to go to 17 European countries for a duration of 2 months as long as I travel for no more than 15 days on the train. I paid $600 US for this privilege, but I think it’s a much better deal than flying or getting the tickets individually (I’m sure you could easily pay 300 bucks for a single ticket in Germany, for example, whereas this way, I can get all over the place for two months with a single shot price). I can also take night trains and sleep on the train, which allows me to save on accommodation, which can be sometimes $40 a night for a dorm bed. I have a feeling though that I will be coasting into LAX on empty. Let’s hope I can make it. Like I said, I already bought my ticket home from Ireland for $440 bucks, so I am safe there, at least, and I won’t be playing a guitar on the streets of Paris to save up enough money to get home.
I’m not sure what my route will be, but I want to try to meet up with as many friends as possible. I think I’ll go from Greece to Italy, then up France to Switzerland, maybe take a train to Hungary, then Germany, hit up The Netherlands, Luxemborg (yes, it’s a country), Belgium, then back down to France. From there, I’ll head to the UK and take a ferry to Dublin where I will leave for home. I think I can do that in two months, the trick though is that I can travel for only 15 days, which basically means that if I get on a train one day, whether it be for only one or up to 23 hours, that counts as a day of travel. So I don’t want to waste days with 1 hour train rides, and I may buy those separately. But Switzerland to Hungary is quite a haul, so it will be worth it.
I’ll have to see when I’m in the mix and know where exactly it is that I’ll be going.
And with that my trip will be over. Well, almost. When I get back, my dad and I will immediately leave for Peru (haha, the never ending trip). He has always wanted to see Machu Pichu, but doesn’t want to tackle a Spanish speaking country alone, so I offered to show him around, provided that he pay for the tickets. Fair enough. Once I get a job, who knows when I will have time to take another vacation, and as he gets older, it will be more and more difficult to make the trip, so this will work out well at the end of my trip. So we will get there in September and be back two weeks later.
So it’s back to Bangkok again. It’s supposed to be really really hot there, so I hope I don’t melt. It will be nice to be able to buy freshly cut and iced fruit on the streets though. The pineapple there is to die for.
My time in Hong Kong seems to be coming to an end, seeing as I leave tomorrow for the mainland. I’ve now spent a week here and I’ve made a few observations. But first: what have I been doing since India?
Well, my flight got delayed in Delhi for a few hours. It was already leaving at 2:00AM but then got delayed until around 4:00, then it was delayed in Bangkok for a while and as such, I didn’t end up arriving in Hong Kong until around noon, having only 2 hours of sleep for nearly 2 days. It was okay in the airport though. I made a joke with some American in the customs line and in the duty free shop, he realized that there was nothing he could buy with the rupees he didn’t exchange at the counter, so he just gave me a wad of money amounting to maybe $12 US.
“Buy something better than I could have bought!” he said to me as he left to catch his plane. I looked around for a while and realized that there was nothing I wanted (who the hell buys stuff in these shops anyways? You can get a better deal at Costco.) so I just went and spent 2 hours on the net (at $5 bucks an hour at the ridiculous airport price). That killed some time and then it was time for my flight. I went and got the free food at Subway that the airline provided for us because our flight was delayed and the funny thing was that because I asked them for the vegetarian sandwich (I gave up on meat in India for reasons I already explained), they ended up serving me only vegetarian dishes on the plane (what attention to detail!) which wasn’t so bad seeing as I got my food before everyone else.
When I arrived, it was time to navigate Hong Kong. I withdrew some money from an ATM (which I should have waited to do later because there happens to be a Bank of America here and I wouldn’t have been charged the $5 bucks BofA charges me for every non-BofA withdrawl) and made a phone call from the complimentary airport phone to my buddy, Ron. Back home, I went to university with him and he ended up moving back to HK and offered to put me up when I arrived (an offer I never refuse) and so I was cashing in that chip, and we would meet after he got off work. Right away you see that HK is a very modern place. Very modern, indeed. The airport is incredible. Right after landing, you are whisked away on a train to the luggage pickup and after clearing immigration, you are dumped out into what seems like a shopping mall. I managed to eventually make it onto a bus going to Olympic Village, where Ron said he would meet me, and drank some coffee while I waited. Once he arrived, he took me back to his place to set up camp.
Man, ohhh man, did I hit the jackpot. Ron’s got a huge TV, Playstation 2 with tons of games, hundreds of DVD’s, a new computer with high speed internet and (best of all) even air conditioning! We went shopping and stocked up the fridge and went out to eat so I could check out a bit of Hong Kong. I consider myself very (veryveryvery) lucky. Every day we’ve gone out to a different restaurant so I could try all the different kinds of HK food and his parents even came down yesterday to take me out to lunch AND at a really nice sea food place that they have been going to for 20 years, and then out to the streets of HK so we could wander around and check out the markets. His parents are great and they taught me quite a bit about the culture. One HK custom that is kind of interesting is how they clean their silverware with the tea served to them in cheap restaurants rather than drinking it. It’s not uncommon to see a table full of people with all their forks in a cup of tea. At the restaurant I went to with Ron’s parents, they even brought a bowl of steaming water to us when we sat down. Hot tea was then poured from glass to glass while the glass was rotated quickly to get all the germs off. The silverware and the mouths of the glasses were then soaked in the steaming water and shaken clean. They do this because the restaurant might be too busy to do a thorough job cleaning (but they added that it probably cleaned them okay). I wondered if the restaurant slacked on the cleaning because the people were so willing to do the job for them, and if some hot water and tea without soap was really doing much in the way of cleaning, but thought it wise not to say anything. Besides, this way is much more entertaining! People certainly didn’t seem to mind. Over the past 20 years, the restaurant has grown from a single floor to 3 floors in two adjacent buildings. There was a huge line of people out front waiting to get in (but Ron’s family are VIPs so we didn’t have to wait). Seeing a country with a local friend is an incredible experience and I am deeply indebted to Ron and his family for showing me such a good time. Your experience in a country is completely different than what you would see as a backpacker staying in a hostel and I learned much more about the culture in the countries in which I stayed with friends. I wouldn’t trade these experiences for the world.
Ron and I have also gone out to see some of Hong Kong’s night life, tourist spots (like some museums and the biggest hill in HK from which you can see all of Hong Kong) and I’ve met a lot of his friends.
And by now, I’ve also mastered the MRT (Mass Rapid Transport) system which is a marvel of efficiency to behold. As soon as I arrived, Ron got me an MRT card which you just have to hold over the entry gate device of the subway, bus or ferry for it to deduct the fare and let you in. And what’s even cooler is that you can use your MRT card to pay for stuff at lots of stores and places like McDonalds. It’s quite a clever and convenient system (you don’t even have to take the card out of your wallet) and you just refill it when it’s empty. They even have free internet in the subway terminals here! This has been the perfect place to recover from India and I’ve had a great time just wandering the streets and observing people and the pace of life here. I just got done meeting up with my friend Mikael (a French Canadian guy I traveled with for a bit in Vietnam) and it was fun catching up with him. He gets sworn in as a lawyer tomorrow and will move to Beijing in a week or so, so I’ll probably end up getting together with him again very soon. Randomly, while in the subway, I ended up running into an American girl I met in Singapore, too. What a crazy coincidence (but not so crazy, seeing as this kind of stuff seems to happen to me a lot for some reason). I’m having a great time in HK and it’s a place that I actually think I could live quite comfortably in. I’ve discovered that as much as I like hiking and stuff in the mountains, I really like big cities too. I liked Beijing and Sydney, as well as Buenos Aires a lot. The thing about really huge cities is that there is always so much going on everywhere you look. You can never get bored. It’s like a jungle, but with concrete and people, and in a way, walking around in the city isn’t all that much different from trekking, it’s just that you can do it with sandals and there is a McDonalds on every corner.
So what observations have I made while I’ve been here? Let’s see.
Ron and I were in the museum of HK history and we came across a display of a bunch of cavemen in “prehistoric Hong Kong.” Every museum has a display like this and I’ve seen in a million times, but then I realized something. We always look at these displays to show how much better we are now and how much we have progressed, but when you really sit down and think about it, what could you show a caveman that would be of any use to him if you were sent back to his time? You could show him how to check the email on your phone, I’m sure, but he could also show you how to make an arrowhead with his chisel. Sure, there are people who could show him how to implement some sort of new revolutionary technology from scratch at MIT or something like that, but what could you show him? How much smarter are you and I as individuals than a caveman? Quite the contrary, it would probably be him that showed us what you really needed to know, like how to get some food and keep from starving to death. That is kind of humbling, no? Although things have become more complicated and more knowledge has been contributed into the social “pot,” when it comes down to it, each one of us is no different than the caveman who taught the other caveman to make the arrowhead for the caveman that needed it to do the hunting for the cavemen that needed to eat. Only now it’s the guy who teaches another guy computer science so he can write a program for the guy who needs a program so he can make some money for his family members that need to eat.
And the fruits of this age old process are all around you in Hong Kong. It has more skyscrapers than anywhere else in the world. It’s very developed and everything is in both English and Chinese. You can get anywhere you need on the incredible public transportation system (which consists of countless boats, subways, trains, buses, trolleys and taxis). I’ve seen maybe 4 people begging on the street since I’ve arrived and everyone is in a big hurry. Everything is pretty expensive by Chinese standards (costs are pretty much what they would be back home for everything, and sometimes even more expensive) and it’s quite an odd experience having come from Beijing, which I thought was “developed.” For example, although Beijing has a subway, it’s 3 yuan for anywhere in the city. You can ride it all day as long as you don’t leave. It’s simple but cheap, but how much money are they losing by not charging more for longer distances? It’s developed, but still primitive. But unlike Beijing, the “in progress” development of HK isn’t quite as obvious (although you can see places under development) but that’s probably because they have run out of space and have put the energy into developing behind the scenes infrastructure (subways and the like) more than stuff like buildings. There are a million shopping malls (some even open 24 hours!) in every part of the city, nearly everyone is dressed in the latest fashion, and you’ve never seen so many Mercedes and BMWs per square mile in your life. The glittering lights and pace are reminiscent of Las Vegas and at the same time very different. I guess you have to see it to understand.
Ron has told me that one of the reasons there isn’t much to see as far as tourism is concerned is because everything has been torn down in the name of progress, and nothing cultural is left. And although that is a very interesting point, there is of course a flip side:
A popular activity among tourists is to complain about how “the real (insert country name here)” is being destroyed by development and how sad it is that they aren’t preserving their culture. They explain the sense of loss they feel with such passion and never think about what it really is that they are saying.
I always want to say this: “So let me get this straight. You come to this country and see the poverty in the streets. You realize that thousands of people die from starvation every year and the infant mortality rate is several times what it is in your own country, in addition to the lifespan being several years shorter. You recognize that people don’t have access to quality education because in many places it doesn’t exist or is too expensive and that a cycle of poverty is being perpetuated due to the lack of any sort of economic infrastructure. People are dying on a daily basis and as much as you like to philosophize from the comfort of your air conditioned SUV about how “technology” isn’t really necessary and that these people have really figured out “the way,” a mother down the street is struggling to just get by with enough food for their sick infant so it doesn’t die like her other three. And once development starts taking hold and a few dilapidated buildings (which you would have liked to snap a photo of) start falling so they can build a new school, or a new hospital or a new skyscraper for a corporation that will generate billions of dollars in tax revenue and infrastructure for this country, you start complaining about what a shame it is. Do you realize how selfish, sick and twisted that sounds?”
Hong Kong may lack a few temples for me to visit while I’m here, but c’mon, I’ve seen ONLY FOUR beggars in a whole week! Of course it is important that it is that a people don’t forget who they are (which people in poorer countries are generally much better at than Westerners, in the first place), but there are plenty of ways to document that nowadays which doesn’t stifle progress. Why can’t we as tourists just go to a country, see what they are doing for themselves and just observe and take note. The choices they make are indicative of their culture and you can learn quite a bit about a country by learning about its developmental genealogy. If you want to see the “old” Beijing, go buy a picture book. But for humanity’s sake, let the people have their comfort. And for those that argue that the “the rich just get richer and the poor just get poorer,” it’s simply not true. I want to tell them to stop reading inflammatory populist propaganda and simply look at the facts and statistics (The standard of living in China and India, along with plenty of other developing countries, is a perfect example).
It’s always funny to listen to people say how “all this” isn’t “really” necessary. While in Vietnam, I heard a local say how “everyone wants something better and how everyone wants to see more” and then I listened to a Swedish guy lecture him about how that wasn’t true: he was perfectly happy where he was in his life and didn’t need more. In dismay, I brought up the fact that he was actually spending several times this guy’s yearly salary traveling in a country far, far away from his own. If he was so happy with his own life and didn’t want to see more, why was he on vacation in Vietnam? Only then did he realize how silly his statement was. We all have little hypocritical opinions like this and in my opinion, it’s important that we figure out what they are so we can adjust our perspectives and so get a better and truer understanding of the world in which we live, which allows us to contribute to our full potential. When you are running in a fog, it’s much more difficult to keep from smacking into something and, as such, it takes a lot longer to get where you’re going.
Hong Kong was only given back to China by the British less than 10 years ago and seeing as it was a completely different country before (that is to say, not just a part of another like it is now), you constantly find yourself saying “when I get to China.” It feels like a completely different place, but I imagine that Shanghai and even Beijing will soon look very similar. Boo hoo for the Western tourists that “miss out” on seeing it now. But I can assure them, that it will still be China whenever they come. It is physically and philosophically impossible for any part of China not to be the “real” China.
And of course, I can’t finish my post on Hong Kong without talking about the girls. They are on average wayyyyyyyy prettier than the girls in Beijing. I don’t know if it’s because they are dressed more modern, because there are less girls with mustaches (nothing makes me want to cry as much as a beautiful girl with a mustache), or because girls in the south are generally more attractive to me (I noticed this when I flew to southern China to cross over to Vietnam, too, so maybe it’s a Southeast Asian influence thing), but it’s something you notice as soon as you arrive in the airport. I was never really attracted to Asian girls until I spent so much time here, but man, I’m sure that that’s one of the reasons I commented to myself that I wouldn’t mind living here. It’s funny too: after seeing so many incredibly slim and fit Asian girls, you see a westerner and they just look fat, even if they aren’t. It certainly is interesting to see how your perceptions warp due to perspective.
Tomorrow I leave for the mainland. I’m actually quite excited. Good food, interesting people, beautiful countrysides, contrasts between wealth and poverty, old and new, the traditional and the modern mingling. China is changing at an incredible pace, arguably faster than any country ever has and I would also venture to say that no country may ever change with quite the same intensity ever again. I’ve got a visa for a month and I’m hoping I can cram all that I want to see into that limited time. We’ll see how I fare, although I’m sure I’ll be back in the future.
I just got done talking with my friend Chris and he pointed out some very interesting things and made some very astute points. And he speculated as to their causes, which really got me thinking.
He’s been following the posts since I left and has seen them transform as my trip has progressed. Basically, it’s that my posts have gone from me being really amazed about the stuff I’ve been going to and seeing and me having experiences with locals and what not, to me talking about the people I’ve been traveling with more, to me just kind of talking in an isolated and sarcastic manner about everything I see, with some experiences thrown in, which I think is entirely right. So I’ll talk a little bit about why.
First, I would divide this trip into five segments, so far:
#1: South America:
The beginning of my trip and a completely new experience for me in every sense of the word new. It was my first time in third world countries, my first time on my own, my first time in a place where they didn’t speak English and I even stayed with a rich family which allowed me to see the destitute poverty and the converse wealth in very real senses. I also speak a bit of Spanish which allowed me to get incredibly closer to everything. It was great. That newness certainly showed itself in my travelogues. In addition, I wasn’t a professional traveler yet. I hadn’t gotten sick of cheesy traveler chat (actually, I loved it) and I felt a genuine connection with my fellow backpackers. As you have noticed, that certainly has changed. I also wasn’t sick of going to see museums and stuff like that yet, as well.
#2: New Zealand and Australia:
This travel was very interesting. They are developed countries, so I didn’t feel that things in my culture were any better than things in theirs (with regard to little things like washing your hands before you prepare people’s food or after using the toilet, we are all on the same page). Also, I did most of this travel on my own. I did travel in NZ with people, but for the next half, I discovered that I loved trekking and I spent a lot of time in isolation. I focused my logs more on the stuff I did alone, although I did still mention a lot of people in my logs. In Australia, I had my own car, and that was a complete adventure and I loved it. I went where I wanted and I did it mostly alone and I loved every second of it. I also tried to see (in the limited time I had), that which really embodied Australia in my opinion: the outback. I started getting sick of the dumb backpackers that just go to the beaches, hook up with chicks and guys and waste their money on beer, seeing none of the actual culture. These guys and girls were in New Zealand too, and I actually started to feel a bit of hostility towards them. I realized that there are two main types of backpackers: those to travel for a break and those who travel to learn. I obviously think I’m the latter, and I soon started trying to avoid contact with the former. The people who were different were the ones that were mentioned in my posts unless it was me putting them in to point out how I was different. Fair enough, no? That was the beginning of my getting jaded. It was also verging on nearly a year of me having traveled. I was also seeing a lot of stuff and many things were starting to lose their novelty. I was starting to see things how they really are and not how my excitement for doing something different was distorting it. It’s not as fun, but more realistic.
I started seeing things that both disgusted me and made me shake my head in amazement. In poor countries, lots of people are ignorant and it is because they are in a poor country. Many don’t have access to quality education like we do in developed countries (at the same time though, anyone who has watched the bit where Jay Leno asks normal people simple questions knows that rich people can be ignorant too. But that is beside the point.) They have a different culture too, and some of the habits you can’t help but see as backwards. For example, in China, people spit everywhere. Lots don’t see it as anything bad, but we used to spit too in the West. We stopped the practice because it is unsanitary. Do I think it’s disgusting? Yes. Yet I had to live with it for 6 months. And how does one cope with that? Well, me? I get sarcastic. I make use of satire at others’ expense. When you see people doing things that you think are dumb over and over and over and realize that it’s not your place to say anything (that is to say, if it truly is detrimental to their society, this habit will change on its own as the country develops) you just kind of band up with other people and create a cohesion amongst each other while you talk about how stupid these things are with the group. I tell you, to this day, one of the most shocking things I’ve seen and see over and over again is someone getting done with some trash and then just tossing it out into the street. It makes me soooo mad, but who am I to say anything? It’s not my country. I don’t have to live in the filth as I can just go home if I want. I’ve seen some pretty shocking things, but for some reason, something as simple as that gets me every time.
My time in China was also with a purpose. I wanted to learn Chinese and about Chinese culture and I wanted to improve my speaking ability and how I work with large groups. I talked a lot about myself and how I felt I was achieving those goals. This was a very self centered time, but then again, a travelogue is about both me and my experience and, as such, it is actually quite impossible that it wouldn’t be self centered. It was also a condescending time. Do I think we do some things a lot better in the West than they do in the East? Ha! You can bet your life. That was reinforced every time I had to squat over a toilet and then go hunting for the one sink (without soap) in the building, perhaps two floors up. My posts reflected this feeling. Perhaps it was self righteous, but it’s how I felt and still feel. I didn’t meet so many vacationing backpackers during this time, so you were unlikely to pick up on any animosity towards them. Since this time was purposely more about me though, I didn’t mention all that many people in detail either, although I did room with a Chinese guy (Brad, you’re the best!) and learned a tremendous amount about the culture through my students. This was a very unique experience and I’m glad my logs reflect that.
#4: Southeast Asia:
This place is trendy and has incredible tourist infrastructure present (with the exception of maybe Laos) and it’s not really all that strange. There are some really different things there, but it’s not all that crazy like I imagined. There is no isolation, either, and so you don’t really learn all that much about yourself unless you really try. I managed to escape the tourist trail in Malaysia and Laos and get in touch with some backpackers that I really liked and had a great time in isolation at the same time, but for the most part, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand are filled with a bunch of kids who think they are conquistadores because they bought a plane ticket to Thailand and got drunk out on the beach for two weeks. Do I think I am on a different level as a traveler than these guys? Yes. Does my travelogue reflect that? There is no denying it. It was hard to focus on the details of the places I visited though because these people were everywhere I went, and to be honest, a lot of the “must see” sites were a bit disappointing, in part because they had been built up by these very people and also because I had seen quite a bit already and it was getting hard to impress me with a temple I had seen a hundred times before. This was a very difficult time for me because a lot of the stuff was really disappointing and I wasn’t enjoying the company, but the places I did like were surely talked about enough in this travelogue.
Although I talked about how cool I was and how uncool the people I was meeting weren’t, believe it or not, I’ve gotten a lot more humble as I’ve continue traveling. When people ask me how long I’ve been traveling, I usually just say how long I’ve been in that region, not on the whole trip (which, if they do keep on me about it and I tell them, blows their minds) and I make it a point to never tell people what they HAVE to do, I just casually recommend some places if they ask. Although I talk about the fact that I speak Spanish on this travelogue a lot (damnit, there I go again!), I don’t flaunt it on my trip. People travel with me for weeks sometimes and only realize I speak it when I strike up a conversation with someone from Mexico who I happen to meet. I don’t think I’m better than all the other travelers I meet, either. With the exception of that jackass insurance fraud Canadian (who I didn’t lecture, I just casually questioned whether what he was doing was moral or not), the people I mention in my posts are genuinely special people and I’m sure that there was never even a bit of condescension toward these people in any of my posts.
However, my experiences in Laos, how much I enjoyed the Mekong River Delta in Vietnam although I didn’t like the rest of the country so much, Angkor Wat, Taman Negara (the subject of probably one of my best posts so far), and the Cameron Highlands were all among places I really enjoyed and you can bet that the people mentioned in these logs were indeed very special people as they actually caused me to take note of them (I really want to remember these people). Since I was seeing the same old stuff over and over and because it was remarkably hard to get a feel for the culture because there had been such a barrier put up between “Tourist” and “Local” life, I didn’t get all that much out of this section in my trip in a personal sense, except for the special experiences with locals in Cambodia and Vietnam I had. I did at least make lots of friends and got lots of cool pictures, but I don’t regret it at all. It is a part of my trip, just like the others, and I would repeat it again. I was also missing my Beijing life a bit and after a year and a half of being away, it made me start missing home. I thought about home more than any other portion of my trip and it was difficult.
#5: Nepal and India:
A bit worn from my SE Asia experience, I started on Nepal, where I had an incredible time. I met lots of cool people, I challenged myself physically, (need I remind you how I beat everyone on the trek! Wooooo!!!! Seeing as how when I started this trip, I was the last one to camp every day on the Machu Pichu hike and was constantly embarrassed my physical state, I think that was quite an accomplishment), and saw some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. I saw a lot of the culture first hand (a lot of the experiences I had didn’t make it into the posts) and I enjoyed my time considerably. I also got really sick. After recovering, I headed to India at the last moment and was assaulted by “Extreme.” I tried to convey the extreme I experienced in my post, but it didn’t work because it’s impossible. There is no way you can ever understand that kind of extreme until you have seen it first hand. India is unlike anything you have ever seen in your life and I was handling it quite well until I got sick again and felt like I wanted to die. And India showed no mercy, it smashed me to the ground. The heat was merciless and I was really unprepared for it and I just had to escape. If I had stayed, it would have eaten me alive. I would have kept getting sick and it would have just kept getting hotter and I wouldn’t have been able to continue. I saw things that blew my mind, though. My one post from there was not what it could have been, but then again, neither was the time I spent there, I got so little from it.
And so, I want to clear up some things about the nature of these posts. First, they are remarkably incomplete. There are millions of details that they say nothing about and that you, the reader, miss out on entirely. Second, although I enjoy the little bit of fame I get from these posts (awww, shuuuckks), they are primarily for me. They serve to document a rough outline of what I’ve done so I can go back and reread them and remember places, things and experiences. Every post is a flashback to a novel of experience and sadly, you guys won’t ever know about it unless you buy a ticket and go there. Although I keep a personal diary, I write in it once every few weeks or months about anything I feel and I keep it in Spanish. It’s more just Spanish homework than anything. What I put online is pretty much it. I hate keeping journals because it is so frustrating and time consuming to have to write so many things (it’s an incredibly overwhelming experience every time I try to even do a post for this travelogue).
Third, although the way I am surely shines through in this travelogue, I do keep quite a bit private. It’s important that you keep a bit for yourself and it makes that bit all the more special. Because I am that way, even in my life, I am sure that my parents (who read this travelogue religiously) have learned quite a bit about their son that they didn’t know before. But at the same time, it’s important that people don’t think that the one hour a week (and I don’t reread this stuff before I post it, so it’s bound to have lots of mistakes) I sit down to write a bit about what I’ve been doing is a complete reflection of me. It’s really not. Again, you guys don’t get the whole story, and I don’t really even want you to 🙂 But for those who do read this travelogue, it’s important to keep in mind that travel is about both you and the place. You can’t separate the two and any experience I have, because I’m me, would be completely different for you, because you are you. Experience and personality change perception.
Wow, those are some things that I’ve been wanting to put into words for a long time. I’m glad I finally got the time to sit down and type it all! What’s the future of my trip? Well, I’m back in China as I write this. I’ll be in Hong Kong for a few days and then I will go to the mainland, a place from where I’m sure you will see the nature of my logs change yet again. I imagine that they will get more thoughtful, seeing as I have a bit of insight into the culture, and seeing as there isn’t much that can shock me now, will be less extreme. I’m going to some supposedly beautiful places and we’ll see if they measure up to what I’ve been told. But, if anything, this next month is going to give me a chance to confirm my experience obtained when I lived in Beijing. How is the rest of China different? I don’t know. But I’m sure that I’m going to find out.