So we basically booked these flights at the end of November with a departure set for February 6th, leaving us just over two months to prepare for this trip. No problem right?
Now I want something NEW. I want a culture shock. I want new architecture. New food (maybe without so much Delhi Belly...but I've already packed 4 packs of diarrhea tablets and an additional prescribed antibiotic in case it gets really bad so bring it on India!). New music and entertainment. New cultures. New modes of transportation (woohoo camels!). Just things that will make me go WOW (in both good and bad ways).
That being said, we are foolishly traveling to 10 countries in 2 months and 3 weeks. One of my friends traveled Southeast Asia in 6 months...our Southeast Asia portion is 6 weeks...and covering the same countries he did in 6 months! So it will not necessarily be a relaxing trip but we will be too excited to care that we are not getting much sleep!
I have had a lot of friends ask me why I am planning so meticulously and being so organized in regards to this trip. Besides the obvious of wanting to be sure we pack the right things and get the right vaccinations, the necessary visas, and so on, there are quite a few other reasons. We spent two years meticulously planning our big fat Greenglish wedding, so I think I am suffering from some sort of planning withdrawal and I don't know any better :-)
Here are some of my other reasons: Because we have such a limited time and want to see so much, I feel that it is very important to plan it. I don't want us to spend half a day in a city with our noses in a guide book or tourist information office planning what to do and where to go when we only have 2 days there. I want to research the sights before we go and note down the ones we want to see and cross off the ones we don't care to see.
Some sights we want to see fill up in advance or cost more if we don't book them in advance. For example, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai (the world's tallest building) costs 100 AED (about £17) to take an elevator ride up to the observation deck. Now that is only if we book it in advance. If we turn up on the day of and want to go up...BAM! 400 AED (about £68)..so if I didn't research this, there would be no way that we would be paying £68 to get to the observation deck of the world's tallest building.
Another reason I like to plan: those damn trains in India sure do fill up fast! I wouldn't have known this had I not researched. You'd think it would be like Europe. Get to the station, pick a train, get on? Not quite. We went onto India's train booking system yesterday to look at the trains and some of the trains we wanted (at the end of February and early March - nearly 2 months away) are already full and have waitlists of 12-15 people! So we had to re-arrange our itinerary slightly in order to be certain we had confirmed tickets otherwise we could be waiting days for a seat or two to open up while we are there. I read a comment on a couchsurfing group that a girl was stuck in Gorakhpur for 3 days because she couldn't get a train to Delhi....from our research, Gorakhpur doesn't sound like a place we would like to spend more than 2 hours in so we'd rather be sure we can be in the places we want to be in and not waste time in places like Gorakhpur. We also can't afford to be waiting around for days for trains as we only have just over 2 weeks in India and want to take in as much as we can and visit some specific sights and cities so planning this was crucial. BUT...if something happens (knock on wood it doesn't) and it means we miss our camel safari in Jaisalmer or our zip-line in Jodhpur, or our stroll along the ghats of Varanasi, so be it..that is all part of the travel experience and as much as I have planned, I have come to accept that things may happen and plans may change. As long as we make our flight to Thailand from Kolkata then I will be a happy camper.
Another thing I have learned from all the planning is that when we get to Southeast Asia, there is more room for flexibility and it will (should) be more relaxing as there is so much competition and we do not need to book things in advance as we will have people flying at us to try and get us to book things (which will also happen in India but we will be prepared!). So this leg of the trip, we will leave quite open. We have planned a specific itinerary (where we are on which days, which train we take and at what time to get to the next city/town, what activities we would like to do etc) but if we stay a day extra in one city and a day less in another, that is alright...just as long as we make our flight back to London from Singapore on April 27th, then all is good (although if our flight is delayed by many days, that is also fine with us as well :) )
If you have been to any of the countries we are visiting and want to share any of your experiences, please contact us. We would love any recommendations on sights to see, sights to avoid, places to stay, places to not stay, foods to try, foods to avoid, places to capture a good heel click etc. Here is a list of places we are going to (although the Southeast Asia bit, we can add or remove cities but the first four countries are pretty set):
-United Arab Emirates (Dubai and maybe Abu Dhabi if time allows)
-Nepal (Kathmandu, Pokhara and surroundings, Lumbini)
-India (Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Allahabad, Varanasi, Kolkata/Calcutta)
-Thailand (Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Krabi, Ko Samui, Ko Phi Phi)
- Laos (Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng)
- Vietnam (Hanoi, Halong Bay, Vinh, Hue, Danang/Hoi An, Nha Trang, Saigon/Hoi Chi Minh City)
- Cambodia (Siem Ream, maybe Phnom Penh)
- Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur, maybe Penang, maybe somewhere else..suggestions??)
28 more sleeps :-)