Part 1 of My Round The World Trip — Summary and Best Of (Day 322)

Part 1 of my trip was more than I could ever have hoped for. It was awesome on so many levels. I have done so many great things I can’t ever remember them all. Off the top of my head:

I have spent weeks trekking through the Himalayas. I have seen the Taj Mahal with my own eyes. I have sunbathed on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, deep-water-solo climbed in Thailand, celebrated Diwali in India, spotted sharks while scuba-diving the Great Barrier Reef, backcountry skied the Southern Alps, ice-climbed the Franz Josef Glacier, snorkelled with whale-sharks, seen an Australian Rules Football game with 84,000 mad fans, trekked the jungles of Cambodia, caved in Borneo, ate pigs brain served in bile during Tet, rode an elephant through the forest in search of tigers, climbed Mount Kinabalu, fought leeches in the oldest jungle in the planet, watched a match at the 2008 Elephant Polo World Championships, been to the temples of Bagan, slept in a Buddhist monastery in Myanmar, hit the 2nd largest bungee jump in the planet, sailed the Whitsunday Islands, filled up every page of a passport with visas, surfed in Bali, watched Mount Rinjani smoulder, turned 30, partied all over the place, met some amazing people!, been stuck in little places in the middle-of-nowhere where nobody speaks a word of english. This list goes on…

In short, I have been living the dream (thanks to my friend Candis for phrasing it like this, so bluntly — I was thinking about it in this way but needed to hear somebody else say it for it sink in). I am lucky man. Being back in Canada for about a month, I have found it hard to talk about my travels so far. I haven’t figured out a good way to do it without sounding like I am bragging. I am just telling it like it is. I am having the time of my life.

For my numerical friends, I travelled for 286 days (about 10 months) and visited 16 countries India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Philippines, Indonesia, East Timor, Ausralia, New Zealand.

I get asked a lot which country or place was my favourite. As you might imagine, this is nearly impossible to answer (I imagine it would be like trying to pick a favourite child). But, in an attempt at an answer I present to you my “Best of Part 1” lists. I should note that when you travel, there are a billion factors that go into how much you enjoy a place/hike/party/etc, such as the weather, how you are feeling that day (were you puking with food poisong the night before? Are you hungover?), the people you’re with, the overall “feel” of the place, etc. With that in mind, here the places I enjoyed the most:

Treks

1. Annapurna Circuit, Himalayas, Nepal

2. Mount Rinjani, Indonesia
3. Mount Kinabalu, Malaysian Borneo
4. Taman Negara, Malaysia
5. Jungles of NE Cambodia
6. Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar

Adventure

1. Trekking The Himalayas
2. Backcountry skiing, Southern Alps, NZ

3. Deep Water Solo Climbing, Krabi, Thailand
4. Ice climbing, Franz Josef Glacier, NZ
5. Bungy Jumping the Nevis, NZ
6. Adventure Caving, Mulu National Park, Malaysian Borneo
7. Diving the Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Beaches

(This category was very tough to choose! All the beautiful beaches I have been fortunate enough to have seen would blow your mind)

1. Phra Nang, Thailand

2. Whitehaven, Australia
3. West Rai Leh, Thailand
4. Dream, Nusa Lembogyan, Indonesia.
5. Bamboo Island, Sihanoukville, Cambodia
6. Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

Jaw-dropping landscapes

1. View of The Himalayas from Poon Hill, Nepal
2. Southern Alps from Lake Matheson, NZ

3. Taj Mahal at sunrise, India
4. The view of the Rai Leh Peninsula from a viewpoint 200m above the sea, Thailand
5. Smouldering Mount Rinjani, Indonesia
6. Inside of the cave of Mulu, Malaysian Borneo
7. Halong Bay, Vietnam

Favourite Beers

1. Beer Lao, Laos

2. Montieth’s black, NZ
3. Toohey’s Old, Australia
4. Bintang, Indonesia
5. Kingfisher (“The King of Good Times”), India

Scariest moments

1. Riding a motorcycle-taxi in downtown Bangkok. My guidebook calls it an extreme sport.
2. My first auto-rickshaw ride in India. It was my first day travelling and I just wasn’t ready for this type of culture shock
3. Getting lost in the forests of nepal at night while mountain biking alone
4. Coming face-to-face with a rhino in the tall grasses of Chitwan National Park in Nepal
5. Looking at a spoonful of pig’s bile that I was about to swallow at Tet in Vietnam
6. Narrowly missing being decapitated by power lines while riding the roof of buses in Nepal
7. Finding myself 25 metres above the sea, up a limestone cliff, with no rope, while deep water solo climbing in Thailand
5. Standing at the top of the Nevis bungy Jump in NZ
6. Spotting blood stains on my underpants after trekking neck-deep in leeches in the Taman Negara jungle, Malaysia

Food

1. Buttered Chicken, Hyderabad, India
2. Steak at The Everest Steak House, Pokhara, Nepal
3. Grilled fish on a stick, Luang Prabang, Laos

4. Ahoka, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
5. Cambodian spring rolls, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
6. TomYam soup, Muang Ngoi, Laos
7. Steak & cheese meat pies, Aus & NZ

Cultural Experiences

1. Spending Tet in small Dao village near Sapa (Vietnam), drinking rice wine and eating pig blood/brain/bile/intestines/stomach/spinal-cord

2. Diwali (Festival of Lights) in India
3. Genocide museum in Phnom Penh
4. Visiting Bangladesh
5. Crashing a Cambodian funeral for New Years Eve
6. Attending a festival in Kalwa, Myanmar, where three young men became monks

Best Places to Drink Cheap beer

1. The streets of Hanoi (Vietnam) where you can have a glass of beer for 3,000 dong (22 cents CDN). Rental of a tiny plastic chair: free

2. The streets Saigon (Vietnam) where a jug of mystery beer is $1.20
3. Muang Ngoi (Loas) – order tall bottles of Beer Lao for $1 and hang out with cool travellers down by the river
4. Sihanoukville (Cambodia) – beers on the beach for 50 cents
5. Gili Trawangan (Indonesia) — a very chill place to have “satu Bingtang, dua galass”
6. Goa (India) — Pull up a lounge chair at one of the many beach-side bars, order a Kingfisher, and watch the waves of the Arabian Sea roll in
7. Kao San Road (Thailand) — Ok, the beers aren’t that cheap, but this is the place where it all happens in Bangkok
8. Sairee Beach (Thailand) — let the fire dancers entertain you while sipping a Chang Beer at one of the great patio bars here on Ko Tao

I need to say something about all the fine people I have met on the first leg of my travels. I have met more than I could ever keep track of. Some I hung around with for just a day, some for a week or more. Travel friendships are interesting because they are typically very short and temporary, but extremely strong, loyal and trustworty. A 3-day friendship on the road is like a 1-year friendship in real life. I made a photo album of just a few of the good people I’ve met. But, there are dozens more I did not get any pictures of (I need to work on this.) Honestly, these people have shaped the last year of my life. As I always say, it’s not where you go, it’s who you meet. And, although I hope I will get to bump into some of these characters someday, most I will never see again.

I will leave you with a video from Part 1 of my journey. It’s a throwback to the Philippines. I didn’t think this video was that good, so I never posted it. But, my parents love it. As the story goes, I was sleeping in a guesthouse when I was awoken by something crawling up my leg…

I’m not even certain this was a cockroach, but we’ll say it was. Who does it think he is?!? I don’t care how big it is, if it wants to crawl into bed with me, it at least has to buy me dinner first. You know what’s weird? Some mornings I can barely get out of bed with an alarm, and even then, I am groggy for at least 10 minutes. But, when I feel a giant insect crawling up my leg, I jump up, immediately wide awake, scrambling for my camera.

Blog Readers, I also wanted to thank you very much for the comments, emails, facebook messages, etc, and simply reading this blog. It’s makes a guy on the road feel not so far from home.

That’s it for now. I wanted to make a movie or slideshow about Part 1 of my trip, but ran out of time. I also wanted to tell you about my last couple weeks in Canada, but it will have to wait, too, as it’s almost 3am and I need pack to start packing. Tomorrow I fly to Colombia. Part #2 of the great adventure of my life begins…

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6 Responses to Part 1 of My Round The World Trip — Summary and Best Of (Day 322)

  1. Bartek says:

    great post shawn…will need to dig this up some time in the future :) Enjoy colombia buddy and watch out for the beautiful Paisas and Caleñas…may put a big U-turn in your travel plans :)

  2. Pingback: Summary and Best Of: Europe, the Middle East, and Africa | Shawn Was Here

  3. Lange Lee says:

    Bartek – damn….. Medellin placed a U turn, then another and finally a Full Stop in my travel plans… damn those Paisas!!

    Shawn – Awesome Blogging!!! i can’t believe you did 61 odd countries in 3 years!! WTF!!!

    • smartelo says:

      Haha, those paisas will do that to you :) Thanks, Lange! In truth, my bank account only lasted 2 and a half years, but it was a great ride!

  4. Lange Lee says:

    Awesome man!! Are you still travelling????

    Sent from my iPhone

  5. smartelo says:

    Hey Lange! Not anymore, I’m working in the US these days.

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