On the Go – Traveling Every 3 Days

Chumphon

When we left for SE Asia, we really had no idea where we were going or for how long.  Days have now passed to months and we’re still figuring it out as we go.  Both being engineers, this is completely out of our comfort zone.  Before taking any trip we typically plan…and then plan some more.  But this time around we’re really flying by the seat of our pants.  It’s taken some getting used to, but we’re getting the hang of it. 

It’s now been 55 days since we left home; and since then we have slept in 17 different “beds.”  That’s a new place about every 3 days.  As such, about every 3 days we pack our bags and we travel.  To get to the next place, we’ve hopped on tuk-tuks, hailed cabs, rode buses, caught the metro, took in the “fresh air” on an open-air train, bobbed up and down on ferries, cruised through the skies on turboprops, and walked more miles than we expected.  The trip to SE Asia alone took 33 hours.  At this point we have spent days on the go traveling to our next destination. We’ve had some stressful, grey-hair-inducing moments, but we’ve also had experiences that make for great stories.

A rarity–a songthaew (a passenger vehicle made from two benches fastened to the back of a pick-up) to ourselves–didn’t last long though as we picked up 6 others along the way.
Songthaew journeys usually look more like this. A few minutes into a ride on the blue truck on the right, we had to get out and push it up a hill!
But we still get lucky sometimes.
A quick trip to the bus station via moped.
For a few dollars more, we attempted to buy first class seats for the train ride from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi, but this was a “THIRD CLASS TRAIN OWN-RY!” the annoyed lady at the ticket counter informed me. Pollution blasted through the open-air train car as we exited the city. Dust, ashes, and smoke from crop burning swirled through the train cars as we traveled through the countryside.
I should have kept my glasses on for protection.
The entrance to Elephant Jungle Sanctuary near Chiang Mai is a dirt path that descends from the ridge line to a valley below. Further down this slope the grade was so steep that we actually skid down the mountain in heart-stopping, “Oh sh*t!” exclaiming, one foot increments.
The up river boat ride from Nong Khiaw to Muang Ngoy went without incident…until the end, that is. As we approached the dock at our destination, the engine cut off. We figured this was done deliberately by the boat driver and that momentum would carry us softy to shore. But no. As it turns out, we actually ran out of gas about 20 yards shy and began to float uncontrollably backward. Thankfully there is small growth of bushes in the middle of the River Ou that held us. Out of sight of those near the dock, we were finally saved by another boat once they heard our boat driver’s yells for help. The other boat driver siphoned some gasoline into a 2 liter bottle and gave it to our driver. It was just enough to make it to shore. Phew.
This is the look of annoyance and concern. For the northbound journey from Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw, we were advised to take a small charter van instead of the public bus as the latter takes about an hour longer. We wish we took the public bus. Skidding around corners, you’d think the driver was attempting a new record for the fastest travel time. Christine’s head periodically slammed against the window as he swerved to avoid potholes. The driver screeched to a halt on numerous occasions to avoid head on collisions. If another vehicle attempted to pass us, he would accelerate. And scariest of all, he decided that the best time to pass others was around curves and hills with little to no visibility of oncoming traffic. We’ve grown somewhat accustomed to the aggressive driving in SE Asia, but this guy was next-level dangerous. Not fun.
So on the way back we took the much more comfortable (and cheaper) public bus. The only thing that kept us awake was the chicken/cat/child? in the plastic bag in the seat in-front of us that squirmed every time we hit a bump in the road.
The flight from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang was a lot of fun (and a little blurry). Our credit card grants us lounge access at certain airports and this one happened to have a fridge FULL of Heineken…so naturally we snuck a few extra onto the plane.
The flight from Singapore to Bangkok was in the wee hours of the morning. Following Dan and Christine logic, we opted to sleep in the airport lounge instead of shelling out the money for a partial night’s stay at a hotel. Needless to say, we’ve had better nights of sleep elsewhere.
The shores are so gradual in Thailand that to board a boat means to walk down 150 yard piers.
A Dramamine-induced catnap on the ferry from Chumphon to Koh Tao. The guy in the row across from us had his head in a plastic bag of his own barf half the trip.
Bags packed, it’s time to travel to the next place!

Seeing new places every few days means we’re constantly on the move. We liken it to taking 17 “long weekends” back-to-back-to-back over a 2 month period. Not a bad life to have, but exhausting.

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