It is that time again! Time for that, WTH did you do the last three months and what’s new on the blog post. These have been a pretty crazy last three months with ups and downs. Let me just get on with it.
1) Where Did I Go?
From July 2 – Sept 17, I took a trip through South East Asia. I always wanted to do this trip and was glad I finally just went out and did it. Here is where I went:
Thailand (5 weeks)
Ayutthaya (World Heritage Site)
Khao Yai National Park (World Heritage Site)
The highlights for me were Ayutthaya and Khao Yai (surprise, surprise). Ayutthaya was an ancient city which was once the financial center of the world. It was an amazing part of history I had no background information on, so a nice surprise. In Khao Yai, I was in search of wild elephants. I didn’t want to ride a domesticated elephant (for reasons I detailed here) so was on a 5 day quest to find one in its natural habitat. I failed, but I did come across a 4 meter long python! Scary stuff.
Cambodia (2 weeks)
Angkor (second visit) (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
Koh Ker / Beng Mealea
Preah Vihear (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
Sadly, Sidney got sick which delayed our progress into Laos as she rested up for about a week in Cambodia.
Angkor never ceases to amaze and it solidified its position as my favorite World Heritage Site. However, the highlight had to be Beng Mealea. This amazing jungle setting temple was truly raw with trees growing everywhere. The best part is that I had the whole thing for myself. It just goes to show that if you are flexible, you might come across some truly remarkable places.
On a personal note, my favorite thing was surprising my buddy Barang. I made up a story on how I was sending him another customer for his tuk tuk services and how I was sorry I wouldn’t be able to make it to Cambodia on this trip to SE Asia. I thought it sounded suspicious, but it totally worked. His was speechless for the first few hours.
Barang is an awesome person I met on my first visit to Cambodia over 4 years ago. At the time, he was in his early 20s and borrowing a buddy’s tuk tuk to try and bring in some cash by showing people the temples of Angkor. Four years later, he is a married man with a son, a whole new life, and his own tuk tuk. He again invited us to his village, in a rural section just outside of Siem Reap and it truly was one of those ‘local experiences’ people talk about.
Myanmar (3 weeks)
Pyay (Sri Ksetra) (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
I think you long time followers already figured this out, but Myanmar was easily my favorite country in this trip. The people have not been spoiled by extreme tourism in the same way the rest of the region. Bagan lived up to the hype and Mandalay was an amazing surprise as we made friends I still keep in touch with.
Inle Lake was okay, but to be honest, kind of disappointing. Of course, we saw some pretty interesting things, but not the natural wonderland people made it out to be. It felt like a Disneyland of sorts, but still enjoyable.
Kayah State was my most pleasant surprise. It is the home of the Kayan people. I promised Sidney not to take pictures out of respect to the Kayan, unless I was explicitly asked. Unfortunately, I don’t have many to share, but I am okay with that. The people have been exploited enough in Thailand and I was just glad to be there.
Malaysia (2 weeks)
Melaka (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
I was pleasantly surprised at how advanced and interesting I found the entire country. It pretty much has all of the conveniences and advantages of a first world country, without a first world price tag.
Melaka, to be honest, was a pretty disappointing for a World Heritage Site, but still enjoyable. It was not awful, but for what used to be one of the most important ports in the world, there isn’t much left that reminds you of that history. My expectations were too high.
Langkawi was pretty mind blowing. We spend one day borrowing a kayak and going from the mainland to nearby uninhabited islands. If that is not enough, one of the nights, we got lightning during sunset. Red lightning is one of the most amazing natural phenomena I have ever seen. In addition, on the main beach, the water recedes about 500 meters, exposing dozens of starfish on the beach. I did not expect to like it this much.
2) A Month of Sadness in New Zealand Sept 17 – Oct 17th
After three of the most amazing months of my life and a total of 7 months without worrying about work, it was time to get back to business. Getting to New Zealand initially wasn’t going to be thrilling and my mind wasn’t set on a ‘new experience.’ All I could think about was that I would soon have to search for menial work for about half of what I got paid in Korea. I passed up potential engineering jobs and a few offers to further my educational career for this? Needless to say, I did not come with the best attitude.
To make matters worse, I had the worst landlord experience to date, and that is saying a lot as I used to rent from Orly Taitz (that lady who was suing Obama for not being a ‘natural born citizen’). Constant bursting into our (supposed) private room, private bathroom that was not so private, and daily emails, texts, and voicemails were just the tip of the iceberg. Initially, I thought about making a full rant article on this alone, but why bother. Needless to say, that is over.
The first month in NZ was very depressing. Everything was incredibly expensive and we went from being able to afford anything and everything, to second guessing even the cheapest take out food. Sid and I struggled to land interviews and quickly found out that the “Working Holiday Scheme” is not designed for young professionals with skills, but for straight out of high school kids willing to do any sort of job regardless of whether or not they were being exploited and oblivious to the fact that many were essentially working for far less than minimum wage. This was Auckland, this was paradise. If anyone was wondering why I took a good month off of blogging, now you know.
3) A Month of Hope Oct 17th- NOW
We had a choice to either run with our tails between out legs or double down on this experience. As luck would have it, both Sid and I got jobs within days from each other and even across from one another too! Our schedules match very well and our new place is just wonderful. I bought a car which was an incredible bargain and we are starting to learn how to budget like we should have in the first place. I also took to Reddit to ask for travel suggestions in the North Island and the response has been amazing. Auckland nor New Zealand as a whole sucked. It was a combination of shitty cards and a bad attitude that sucked. It is always hard when you come down from your travel high, and more so in a foreign country.
Right now, we are saving for trips within the North Island, and hopefully Fiji or Bora Bora is in the cards soon. I still have about 80k travel miles which expire in April, so I definitely should use those.
Anyways, I am rambling. In conclusion, I hated NZ initially because I was unemployed, running out of money, and had a terrible housing experience, but I am much much happier now! 🙂
4) Gear List
I have been asked for a list of reviews on the gear I use and I dragged my feet for months. To be honest, I really need to spend a really long time with a device before I feel comfortable recommending it, but I am now ready. Expect that soon in the “About Me” Section.
5) Where I’ve Been
This section of the blog will also get a makeover soon. This actually takes a lot of time, so I apologize for taking so long in between updates.
6) WHS Re-evaluation (and the purpose in the first place)
Upon my evaluation of Namhansanseong, I got some backlash for not truly understanding the meaning of the site and under-rating it. To be honest, I knew that a re-evaluation was eminent, but as always, I truly appreciate your input (Kyle).
When I evaluate a site, I think about where it lands on the rankings. Then I think to myself, is this place really more enjoyable than the site below it but less enjoyable than the one above it. With 39 sites now, as you can imagine, this is proving a difficult task. Rest assured, re-evaluation was always part of the plan.
Most blogs don’t bother to change past posts and there is a very obvious reason why. There is no profit or incentive. If you change a past post, very few people will notice and for a for-profit blog, it is not worth it. Furthermore, re-evaluating 50 different posts is a monumental task taking about 100 hours. Thankfully, it is my blog and what I do with my time is my business. I simply don’t care that it is not profitable or ‘worth my time.’
I am honored to have had some friends consider me a ‘travel expert’ which in all honesty, while I know more than most, that is way too much praise. Ideally, one day, if someone asks me “I have never traveled before, give me some suggestions,” I would like to point out to the Rankings List and have them pick from the top to the bottom as my top recommendations. That is the point, and that is why re-evaluation is not only necessary now, but will continue to be an ongoing process as I rethink my formula. I plan to re-evaluate when I hit 50 sites (give or take).
7) Logo and Banner
Shamefully, I can’t code. I learned C a long time ago, but nothing useful. I’ll spare you the blabbing, I am looking for someone to make me a logo and a banner for this site. Of course, I am willing to pay, but to be honest, since this blog is not making any money, the cheaper the better. Pitch me some quotes and we can work for there. I don’t plan on underpaying anyone, I simply don’t know how much this work costs.
8) South Korea Project
South Korea will always have a special place in my heart. I am looking to undertake a project of splicing together pictures and short vids of all over Korea as a sort of advertisement to encourage people to come. If anyone is interested on being a part of that and is willing to donate some pictures, I would love to add them. I obviously have not been everywhere in the country, but continuously notice how underrated it is. I just want to see if there is any interest and take it from there. For the South Korea Travel Guide, I had some help and evaluators, so I just thought I’d ask.
Anyways, that is all for me. It has been 21 months blogging and are close to getting 100 search engine hits per day, which is pretty cool. The blog has grown a lot slower than I hoped, but I am still happy with what it has become. Thanks everyone!