I tend to remember as the year gets close to being done the places I wandered both good and bad this last year. It’s been an amazing vagabonding year for me all in all. Looking back, I was in:
- Cambodia a few times. I called Cambodia home and visited Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. My favorite city in Cambodia is not Phnom Penh although I enjoy the food and beer there a lot and my friend AV lives there. I really enjoy Kampot the most but have not been back since 2018. Siem Reap is touristy but still offers so much if not going to Angkor. The city itself is kinda sleepy at times but it has this international flavor of restaurants which I really enjoyed.
- Malaysia here and there. I went to Malaysia for almost three months because they give 90 days. I wandered around Melaka, Port Dickson, Kuantan, Kuala Lumpur and my favorite George Town. If you like to eat and enjoy a fusion of foods, want to feel pretty safe, Malaysia is wonderful. I simply loved it there. Kuala Lumpur has spirit and soul. George Town has the history. Melaka has it all with beautiful little bridges and wonderful food.
- Thailand for three weeks. I was not impressed. Bangkok is steel but no soul. Perhaps it used to be the “land of smiles” but now its the land of cold, hard cash and the street food scene is dirty and I have doubts about the hygiene. Most of all there is nothing to the city. Thousands of backpackers and digital nomads but no conscience or feeling. So I left for Siem Reap and cut my visit way short.
- Vietnam from south to north. I visited Vietnam actually twice this year. One time for two months and I traveled from Saigon south to Can Tho and Phu Quoc Island and then north to my real favorite place Da Nang. I never visit Hoi An because its a overrated tourist zoo there. Da Nang has much more of the things I enjoy. Then it was north to Hanoi. I really enjoy Hanoi a lot. I have friends there to visit and eat with. This time I took my Vietnamese friends out for Mexican food which was something they had never had. That was fun! Then back again for a week split between Saigon and Can Tho. The visit to Saigon was to see my wonderful L, go for dinners with her, spoil her a bit, go on a dinner cruise and just enjoy her company. Then Can Tho to see another L and enjoy a slower pace, small coffee shops where there are no backpackers and my friends that run a homestay there.
- I also went to Laos for three weeks which was really good. I enjoyed Vientiane a lot but for me the greatest fun to be had for what I like to do was Luang Prabang. It’s a party, food, and tourist destination far beyond Vientiane. I did a day tour there which was very cool although again it brought home to me how the day tour operators really want to “do it all” and don’t have the time.
- Now its Taiwan. This has to be one of my favorite destinations of all. The country is civilized, fun, easy to do things from a seat in 7/11 basically. You can get money, buy train tickets, get a SIM card renewed. I love the unlimited data 30 day plans for SIM cards here! Taipei is busy but once I rode the high speed rail circuit down south, each city had a thing or two which appealed. Tainan has been the best to visit for me so far.
- Finally it will be the Philippines for the last part of the year. I’ll visit Manila, Cebu City and Davao. That will take me into next year and then a trip back to the US for three weeks. No real expectations with that visit. We shall see.
The year slowly wandering Southeast Asia and beyond has shown me the value of going slow, re-investing in the approach I enjoy the most which is wandering without the element of time or the 3 days in a place treatment. Pretty much I think you get the worst treatment of each place when you have 3 days of tours for a place like Taipei or Saigon. You only see the places everyone else may see. The cities cannot show you other sides that may be fitting, fun, disappointing, interesting. Give it some thought when you go. Ignore the travel bloggers that proclaim their 7 days here. Go! Get lost on your own or with a fitting companion. Make some Sunday memories of your own and not just a count of countries and continents. No one grades you on whether you did 30 or 3 countries besides you.
Those are my Sunday memories. It’s time for breakfast in Tainan. The start of a last day here to board a tourist shuttle bus and get an hour’s ride in to the Anping district and forts and historic city locations. Tomorrow off to Kaoshiung for more moments.
Moments turn to memories and experiences. Not a count of days.