Has it been three months already? WOW! I could have sworn it was only yesterday when I was sitting with a nervous/real sweat in the Manila International Airport waiting to board my first flight on this journey to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Look at me now! It's been about 3 months since that day, approximately a quarter of the way through my year long trip around the world. In celebration, and more importantly relection, of the past 3 months on the road, I AMAed myself on travel life, my favorite meal and everything in between.
Click on the arrow on the right of the question to reveal the answer!
Countries Visited So Far?
Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Thailand
Countries Visited This Quarter?
Same as above
Favorite/Least Favorite Moment?
This is going to sound really corny, but my favorite moment so far had to be sitting and waiting to board my first flight from Manila to Ho Chi Minh City. The flight was delayed by about 45 minute, which was extremely irritating, but I took the time to reflect on the past 12 months prior to that moment and everything I had given up in order to take the first step on this wild adventure and make my dreams come true. As I go on with this trip, I doubt that I will have a moment that tops that one, but I promise to provide a different answer to this question on future progress reports in the interest of not repeating myself.
Fortunately for me, there is only one moment that I want to erase from the last three months. That moment had to be showing up to Koh Rong Samloem, a very small island off the coast of Cambodia, without any hostel or hotel reservations or plan in general. I ended up having to stay in overpriced accommodation, scoffed at the even more overpriced food and hated every minute of it. I even counted down every hour till I got off the wretched island. On the plus side, at the least the beach was nice.
RELATED: Chapter 5 - I'm Not A Go-With-The-Flow Guy (Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia) [VLOG/Youtube]
Saracen Bay, Koh Rong Samloem
Most Surprising Thing?
With long term travel, you're always making sure that you have enough money to keep going. I gave myself 50 USD as my daily budget and I've been pleasantly surprised to be keeping under that. I will point out that the main caveats being that I've only been in South East Asia so far, which one can argue, is a relatively cheap place to travel, and also that number doesn't include any splurges that cost over $20 or any airfare expenses.
Would you believe me if I said this meal in Vietnam costs 2 USD?
Thing That Blew My Mind?
I was in Siem Reap, Cambodia when a young lady from Wales, I believe, and I were having a discussion about brushing teeth. Yes, riveting stuff. As we got to talking, she told me how she was taught not to rinse her mouth with water after brushing her teeth. The residual toothpaste will ensure that the flouride will continue to kick ass and take names long after brushing. MIND BLOWN! So much so that I even changed my long time brand of toothpaste from Colgate to Sensodyne in addition to not rinsing after brushing!
Thing That Was Easier/Harder Than I Thought It Would Be?
By far, finding people to travel with was a lot easier than I had thought. When I was in Vietnam, I was traveling with a group for almost a week and then with another group the week after that. I've basically repeated this process in Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand. Traveling solo is not as lonely as you would think. The funny part is that finding time for yourself will be a lot fewer and far between.
Keeping a routine has been by far the hardest thing to do whilst traveling. I will concede to the fact that I have been awful at producing content for the site (I'm trying my best) whilst juggling the yearning for adventure in a new place with new friends from all over the world. How can you say 'no' to someone asking you come along to see a beautiful waterfall or to explore the city? Another thing that has been difficult as part of a good routine is staying in shape. Before I set off, I was in decent shape and three months later, I'm starting to see the ill effects of the lack of physical activity. Nevertheless, I'm well aware of these things and am working towards overcoming it as I go along.
As a person who loves to eat (explains why I'm so out of shape these days), visiting different countries opens up the culinary possibilities exponentially. I can't even count the number of times I've had the 'fat kid in the candy store’ look on my face because it had happened so often. In Siem Reap, Cambodia, I was in search of some food and I wandered down a non-descript road and stumbled across Bugs Cafe (Tripadvisor), an insect tapas bar that hooked me instantly. My experience eating bugs was non-existent prior to that moment and I couldn't resist the opportunity to give it a try.
I ended trying the Mediterranean Feuilletés with Ants and Wok Crickets/Silk Worms with Mediterranean Seasoning and loved it. This restaurant did a fantastic job with introducing bugs in a palatable way which really helps first time bug eaters.
Mediterranean Feuilletés with Ants (4 USD)
Wok Crickets/Silk Worms with Mediterranean Seasoning (5 USD)
I had the privilege of spending several nights when I was in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia in a wonderful 6-bed hostel named Jero Di Bisma (Booking.com). The proprietor, Ayu, is one of the kindest people I've ever met in my life who made my stay as cosy as possible. Since there were only 5 other guests in addition to myself, I grew quite close with the other guests on the two different occasions I stayed there. It has an astonishing high rating on Booking.com for good reason!
Exploring the Holy Water Temple with fellow guests
This is yet another hard one to answer, but if I had to pick one, it has to be Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I didn't have a great time in that country as a whole, but visiting the ruins (along with thousands of others everyday) was the highlight of my stay there. Walking around the ruins really transported me back to a more ancient time of gods and kings. If it wasn't so darn hot I would have loved to stay and explored more of the complex, but, in the end, seeing Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom was more than enough for me.
RELATED: Chapter 4 - Angkor F'n Wat (Siem Reap, Cambodia) [VLOG/Youtube]
Sunrise at Angkor Wat Temple
Huge shout out to biggest little town of Da Lat, Vietnam! This hill country city boasts some impressive waterfalls, friendliest hostels, the craziest bar I've ever been to (100 Roofs Bar\Tripadvisor) and so much more. If you are a little more on the adventurous side then spending the day canyoning is well worth it! I only spent 4 nights there but I could have easily spent about 2 weeks! If you are in Vietnam, YOU HAVE TO pay a visit to Da Lat.
Favorite Splurge Purchase?
Chiang Mai, Thailand is best known for its abundance of Thai Cooking Schools and Elephant Sanctuaries. I got up really early one morning and paid a visit to Elephant Jungle Sanctuary for a half day tour and marveled at the family of elephants that called the camp I went to home. I interacted, played with and even helped bathe this family of elephants, all of which was well worth the 1,700 Thai Baht (~49 USD) I paid for the tour. The cherry on top of this sundae was when I found that Elephants only spent about 4 hours sleeping, and the rest of the time eating and pooping. My spirit animal!
Playful elephants at Elephant Jungle Sanctuary
If I Could Do Something Over Again...
In hindsight, I've been ripped off far too many times caving in to the whims and soppy stories from vendors. I am fortunate to be traveling with a powerful currency (the US dollar) but that doesn't mean I am willing to part with it as easily. For example, in Hoi An, Vietnam, I was more than happy to let someone repair my sandals for 100,000 Vietnamese Dong at a shoe store when I should have walked away and got it repaired for the actual price of 20,000 Vietnamese Dong at a cobbler. As a tourist in a new place, it seems that locals (in South East Asia at least) won't hesitate to exploit your lack of awareness of local pricing and drive up prices 2 or 3 times more than what it should be. I'm starting to become more aware of this and walk away to inquire at competing vendors. When I'm haggling with a vendor and the ceiling they set is way too high, there are times when I want to reply with ”I’m poor too, bro!”.
About The Author
Nico Atienza is a Philippines born, Sri Lankan raised traveler who sold everything, quit his job and escaped the rat race to travel the world in 2016. Apart from his love of travel, he is an award winning volunteer, miles + points aficionado and perpetually epicurious story teller. You can peer into his life by following him on Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram or send him an Email.