Last month I received an email from Shanti Free Bird reader with few questions about Asia. Since I didn't post much about my Asia travels (I started this blog 2 years after this trip) I decided to share with you this information, in case you are going to travel in Asia soon or merely curiosity.
- Where have you been in Asia? What places were most beautiful and/or would you recommend?
I've been in India twice, Nepal, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia. I have a big passion for India, I guess because of the spirituality, also the food, rich culture, the 4 days wedding, ladies in colorful saris. The islands of Thailand are to die for, I've been in Koh Phanghan. Pretty cheap food and accomodation, completly Paradise with crystal water and white sand, great for scuba diving. Laos has the cutest old and young people, also stunning views. I only been in the North and Luang Prabang, although touristy is very worth it! Also the surroundings. You can get a slow boat and relax (it can take 7 hours). Vietnam was a very good surprise, the best food in Asia so far, a lot of historical facts. Some people still have the war scars so I felt that South vietnamese were more friendly. You can book a bus for about $35 to visit the whole country but if you can buy (and sell in the end) a motorbike is a better choice to visit hidden corners. Malaysia is the most expensive asian country I've been so far but very worth going, beautiful nature and beaches. Nepal is very special for me, Annapurna Circuit trekking is very very worth it but you need some gear for 10-20 days. The only cities are Phokara (chilled place) and Kathmandu (perfect for shopping, busy, polluted but many interesting spots to visit including Kathmandu valley). Nepalese people are friendly and helpful. They eat Dal Bhat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
As you may see I cannot choose one country, one place :)
- How was your experience travelling as a woman (did you travel alone or together)? Did you experience any situations you felt unsafe or uncomfortable in? Any advice in this area?
I traveled alone, I mean I left Portugal without friends or travel compain, but I was never alone. Seems that when you travel by yourself you tend to communicate more with people and people also talk more with you. Many times I met backpackers in the bus and we ended up sharing a room in the hostel. I also traveled in Vietnam 2 weeks with a mexican and a dutch girls. I say open your heart for opportunities and go with the flow. Also follow your intuition and feel the energy coming from people.
The only country I was more careful with clothing was India, I made sure to cover all my body all the time, especially shoulders and legs, it's ok to show feet and arms. During the night I never walked alone anywhere in the world actually :)
Still many indians star at you, especially if you are blond but you just have to play ignore. (Actually I dyed my hair dark Brown before leaving to Asia, my hair was Orange by that time)
- What places did you stay? Did you share hostel rooms with others? Do they generally provide sheets etc. or do you need to bring your own stuff? What facilities can I expect?
I mostly stayed in hostels or cheap hostels, alone or sharing with fellow travelers. I never paid more then 5€ per night and the less I paid was 0.50€ (when sharing). I didn't book in advance or checked in travel books, just arrive the place and ask locals about cheap accomodation, many locals come to you also and you can go check.
I think a small sleeping bag is pretty handy, sometimes they don't have enough covers in the hostel, or they are dirty (!!) or you are in the train or bus and need some covers. Mostly, don't pack heavy! 7 kilos is more then enough, you can buy everything you need along the way.
- What would be a typical daily budget? How much are rooms & food? What would be a reasonable travel budget?
My budget for Asia was 10€ a day but many times I spent half and sometimes double. I had a purse with 10€ for the day and another one with extra Money (20, 30€) just in case you wanna go to a museum or some tourist spot. Food is super cheap, with 1-3€ you have a meal and hotels are 3€ - 20€. Depends the quality of hotel or if it's in the centre. But you have to bargain hard! I used to bargain like "Hey I'm staying 5 days, can I pay 3€ per day?" Stuff like this. If they say no you can pretend you are leaving, mostly of the times they will say yes. Buying food in supermarkets is always a good choice, sometimes I ate sandwiches for lunch and fruit. Just to have an idea: I spent 4000€ in 7 months (including few flights, Australia)
- What was the most interesting experience you've had during your trip so far?
Hard to choose one. In Asia they were many but 2 on my mind right now: Attending the 4 days indian wedding and trekking Annapurna for 12 days. My memory is terrible, I'm glad I have many photos and personal blog haha.
- Did you bring any expensive digital devices? What is your advice in this area?
My lovely Nikon D40 is always with me (I'm in a process of let her go, after 7 years together), it's pretty heavy but takes amazing pictures and has an easy menu. I was lucky to find an Iphone 4 before leaving to Asia so I brought it too, I made nice vídeos, used wi-fi and played games. As soon as I arrived Portugal I sold it, I don't agree how apple works. Also I brought a mini laptop, I still have it, it's great to go on skype, read emails, search for things to do, watch movies, listen to music... now a days you have tablets but I belong to the oldschool generation of keyboard, touch is annoying!
- Any packing tips?
Like I said please pack light! Many times we pack things we don't even wear.. And oh boy, Asia has wonderful handmade products (esp. Nepal, India and Thailand) This is a post about important things to pack.
- Any other general advice or tips?
Always carry a smile with you and have a positive attitude because if you are happy, you will also attract happy things and nothing bad will happen to you. Be safe! Happy trips!