Below are some of the questions I'm frequently asked about my trip. If you have any other questions (questions about what I did and saw, how to questions, etc.) feel free to email me, and I'll try to answer them as best I can.
Where did you go?
India, Nepal, Tibet, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, United States, Canada (said in one big breath).
What country did you like the best?
Laos. It's great, because the tourists haven't discovered it yet. The people are very friendly. Vang Vieng is beautiful, with great caves to explore. There's just a small trickle of tourists going through. I expect in two years it'll be overrun.
What did it cost?
$21000 Canadian. A large portion of that was Australia and New Zealand. If you stick to Asia, it's dirt cheap.
How did you manage it?
I worked at the same company for twelve and a half years, saved up my money, and went.
How did you get money while you were traveling?
Two methods. I had an American Express card. With that you can go to an American Express office anywhere in the world, and write a cheque on your home account, and get travelers cheques. And I had my ATM card. They're getting more and more common. The only countries without international ATM machines were India, Nepal, Tibet, China and Laos (and that could have changed since I was there). But it's usually just available in the big cities, so it's good to have those travelers cheques.
Did you work while you traveled?
No. I didn't have time.
How did you process film?
When I got to countries where I trusted the post office, I mailed it back home to my brother to process. I was shooting slides, so it would be too cumbersome to carry the processed slides around.
How was the food?
It was fine. It varied from country to country. Thai food is great. The food in Laos was very basic. I ate a lot of rice and noodles. Whenever travelers get together, they will inevitably start reminiscing about food. The cheesecake in Lhasa, Tibet. The fluffy pancakes in the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia, etc. I avoided eating dog, and squirrel, and bat, and cockroaches. I did eat buffalo, yak, kangaroo, emu, and eel. I would have eaten snake, but it was just too darn expensive.
Did you get sick?
I was lucky. I was only sick twice. Once when I ate at KFC in Malaysia, and once when I ate some mystery meat with some Vietnamese coeds. The biggest topic of conversation when travelers get together is what diseases they've had.
Did you have problems getting water?
No. You can get bottled water everywhere. The guide books warn you to check to make sure the seal hasn't been broken, but I never found this to be a problem.
Did you travel alone?
I started out for the first month and a half with my friend Sue. Then she headed towards France, and I headed towards Tibet. So after that I was alone, but you're never alone for long. You're always meeting up with other travelers, and hooking with them for a while. I met up with two friends from home in New Zealand, where we cycled for six weeks.
What did you do about visas?
I got my visas for India, Nepal and China in Toronto before I left. My Chinese visa was for sixty days. Everyone else was envious, because theirs all seemed to be for thirty days. After that, most of the countries granted visas on entry. The exception was Australia. They now have paperless visas, which the travel agent will punch into the computer when you book your flight. Assuming you're traveling on a big airline. I was flying Merpati from Timor to Darwin, so I had to get a physical visa, which I got at the Australian embassy in Kuala Lumpur. The other countries I need visas for were Laos and Vietnam, which I got at a travel agent in Bangkok, and which took five days to be processed.
Were you ever in danger?
I never felt like I was in danger. Except maybe for the Lao Aviation flight to Hanoi.
Would you do it again?
Yes, but not for a year. It does become tiring, being on the move all the time. And you get tired of packing and unpacking every day. On the other hand, if I stayed in the same place for a few days, I started getting itchy to move. But I could see, in the future, picking one country, and going there for a couple of months.
Do you miss traveling?
Yes and no. Certainly, I was tired of traveling by the time I got back. And it's nice to have roots again. But every now and then I think, wouldn't it be nice to hop on a plane to Nepal to do some more trekking, or down to Thailand to do some rock climbing. And there's still lots of the planet I haven't seen.
Did you ever get homesick?
The one time I was really homesick was after getting sick at KFC in Malaysia. I was recuperating in the Cameron Highlands, and reading a travelers tips book about Canada, where all these Canadians raved about what a great country we have.
Why did you decide to do it?
I'd been working at the same company for twelve and a half years, and I decided there had to be more to life than working. I wanted to see other lands and other cultures. And I wanted to go while I was still young enough to enjoy it.
Did you book your flights in advance?
No. I wanted the flexibility to be able to decide on the spur of the moment where to go next. For instance, we were in Tibet, when we decided we were so close to this historic event, that that it would be a shame to miss the handover in Hong Kong. Also, with a round the world ticket you always have to go in the same direction, and I wanted to be able to backtrack. So I started with a one way ticket to India. Once you're in Asia, plane tickets are cheap. Bangkok seems to be the cheapest place, so a lot of people use it as a base of operations, and do a series of return flights from there. I flew Bangkok to San Francisco for $250 US.
How did you communicate with the locals?
English. English is spoken every where. It's good to learn a few words of the local language, but because it's so easy to get by with English, most people get lazy. The one country where language would have been a problem was China, but there I was traveling with an Italian guy who spoke Mandarin. In places like the wilderness of Tibet, where they don't speak English, you could communicate with the universal language - sign language.
How were the roads in India?
They were fine. The surfaces were generally in pretty good shape. The main problem was that they were very narrow. There was barely enough room for two lanes of traffic, and they were all driving like maniacs, weaving in and out, passing, while constantly honking their horns. Still, the drivers are used to bikes on the road, and I never felt like I was close to being hit.
What did you do with your bike?
I shipped it home from Kathmandu. It was just too much of a pain to lug it around. In New Zealand I rented a bike. Lots of people go there for bicycle touring, so they're well set up for it. I rented a good touring bike from a bicycle touring company.
How hot was it in India?
I don't know; I didn't have a thermometer. It was too darn hot. But it was the pollution that made it unbearable.
How did you get your email?
Internet cafes. They're everywhere. And getting more common every day. There were dozens of Internet places in Kathmandu. I talked to an American woman who said that three months earlier there hadn't been any. When I was staying on Khao San Road in Bangkok, there was one Internet place on the street. When I went back two months later there were five or six. While I was in Kuala Lumpur, they were installing Internet kiosks throughout the city. In Vietnam it cost $5 US a minute to phone home. The Internet was 5 US cents a minute. The only places where I didn't find Internet access were Tibet and Laos. I'm sure they'll be there soon.
Copyright © 1998-2009 paul Stockton. All rights reserved.
Last updated: February 3, 2009