Hello new friends, old friends, very old friends, family and acquaintances,
You’re receiving this because I thought you would be interested in an update on my long adventure. This email marks the 1 year point of my journey around Asia, which is about 3/5ths through my entire trip. Actually that’s lying as I was supposed to send this email a little more than 1 month ago, but it’s difficult to find the time to sit down and organize a mass email. As before at the 6 month point (http://travels.bagelsound.com/6-months), I’m letting everyone know that I am well, saying hi, and giving a small taste of what adventures I’ve been up to. Of course, as before, there are too many things to list so instead I’ll just sum up!
The previous email left me in Beijing celebrating New Years. From there I went into the coldest weather of my life in Mongolia, and I had a most fantastic time there. I spent two weeks in a van with 6 men rolling around roadless terrain in -30 degrees Celsius. We even had to dig the van out of a snow bank for 5 hours! After Mongolia I traveled very far West and South to the famous region of Tibet. Of course it cost me a lot of money since the Chinese government has various obstacles to prevent many tourists from adventuring, and so I didn’t see very much of the place. Unfortunately, the culture in Tibet is slowly disintegrating into the Chinese development. On I went into the Yunnan province of China, and my first taste of Spring. It was very beautiful and relaxing, despite being extremely touristy.
Then down into Laos, a country with very friendly and relaxed people. I enjoyed floating down rivers, eating with locals, trekking through the jungle, and even making friends with a great hostel owner in Luang Prabang. Vang Vieng was… sad, so lets not talk about that, except that I injured my foot slightly.
Then off to Vietnam, a country that proved to be extremely difficult, but rewarding. I bought a motorcycle, and used it to drive from Hanoi down to Ho Chi Minh, though in the process had two accidents: one in which the bike slid, scraped up my arms, but the bike was fine, and the other in which the bikes front wheel was ripped off, but I was fine (along with my passenger). I now have these awesome scars that I can claim I got in ‘nam. Met some great people, and also met a lot of people who wanted my money. For the trip I was joined by my good friend Sissi, a girl I had met in China earlier. We had a great time together and continued into Cambodia.
Cambodia was a bit boring in retrospect. I can say that Angkor Wat was marvelous, though the surrounding temples were even more so. The other thing I enjoyed out of the many activities we did was going to the gem mines and digging through piles of dirt looking for shiny rocks.
After there I found myself in culture shock as I experienced the ultra developed Singapore. Cars suddenly were stopping and waiting for me to cross the road, among many other extreme differences. I did not spend long there before heading to the Philippines to meet with my family. It was a relaxing reunion among resorts and high class living. This is because they were gracious enough to pay for that whole chunk of the trip. Very beautiful islands.
I then returned to backpacker life in Indonesia. Learned a bit of surfing in Bali, and swallowed a bunch of saltwater. I saw a whale skeleton, and shadow puppet theater, and found myself amongst some of the friendliest people in any nation I’ve been to. Despite that, Jakarta turned out to be the filthiest and saddest city I have ever been to. I went up through Sumatra, drinking the best coffee in the entire trip, and spending many days on buses. I had my second birthday in Lake Toba with an amazing meal and amazing singers in a small party. That evening I shaved off almost all my hair, so now I’ve had both the longest and shortest hair in my life on this trip.
Going into Malaysia tomorrow, and embarking on the last few months of the trip. I’ll go North into Thailand, then Malaysia, India, Bangladesh, (maybe) Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Then I’ll fly to New York and hitch-hike back across while visiting many of the people receiving this email!
Once again, I hope everyone is doing well. Please let me know what is going on in all of your lives so that I can keep tabs on who’s married, who has kids, who has connections to jobs available on returning :D
I’ll write again in another 6 months, let’s hope I have just as many adventures to write about!
– Ben Douglas
PS: Again, here are links and stuff:
Travel Site (with more detailed information on the trip) – http://travels.bagelsound.com/
Travel Blog (defunct for the moment) – http://plastic-fork.livejournal.com/
Facebook Profile (you can see my new haircut!) – http://www.facebook.com/misterz
Travel Photos (Indonesia will be uploaded soon) – http://pics.livejournal.com/plastic_fork/?sort=recent