All in all the vacation was great. It had some really great times with amazing people – I met so many people in the hosteles from around the world that were exceptional. I went to The Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam. I could write 5 pages on each place telling all I did, but you don’t want to read that and I don’t want to write it. Instead, I’m going to do one or two paragraphs on each with a little photo or two.
Never go to Cebu city, it’s horrible. The island of Boracay is one cool place to be, granted you avoid the one Mexican on the island. Had some great laughs and met some cool people at Frendz Resort . It is also heavily touristed by Koreans. Most people quite dislike the city of Manila, but I met up with Miguel, who owned CrossFit MNL and I actually quite enjoyed this city.
The Philippines was cool because everyone spoke immaculate English. They speak Philippino there, but a lot of the time they use English in their sentences. It made it very easy to communicate and travel there. The part I disliked was the fact I felt like a big walking dollar sign, but I guess that can be expected.
It’s quite recommended, just be prepared for one very rough place.
I had no idea what to expect out of this country, but I was so pleasantly surprised. The country is made up of 50% Malay people, 21% Chinese, 11% indigenous, 7% Indian and 7% other (according to Wikipedia). The beautiful thing was, all these cultures were in complete harmony. Malay is the official language, but all these different people use English to communicate with one another, making a great traveling experience. It was also much wealthier than the Philippines, so people were actually happy to just sit and talk to you instead of always trying to sell you something.
I was on the island of Borneo (world’s 3rd largest) first. There they have one of the most diverse rainforest’s in the world, and it was absolutely spectacular. I had never seen this sort of thick, thick green foliage. That’s where I was with the three Irish (Andy, Luke and Karl) and we had a great time kayaking down rivers, checking out the jungle and riding the countryside on motorbikes. I’ve learned to deal with it, but I really dislike driving on the left side of the road. If you’re going, stay at Bed’s Guesthouse in Kuching – cheap, clean and an amazing staff taking care of you.
I then went back to Malaysia’s mainland, to capital Kuala Lumpur. I’m not much of a big city guy, but this might be my new favourite big city (next to Toronto). Very clean and very modern. I spent two days there with a girl I met at the hostel. Rebecca was a cop downtown London, England and was incredible to hang out with – I considered cancelling Vietnam and traveling with her for another week. KL also has world-class shopping – everything from the malls with Louis Vuitton and Gucci to those with the cheap knock off brands. Basically something for every budget. If you’re going to Kuala Lumpur, stay at the Paradiso Bed & Breakfast – free breakfast and always a great crowd of foreigners.
I didn’t know what to really expect from Malaysia, but it was my favourite – I really suggest not overlooking this country.
The last stop on this travel. While at the hostel in the Philippines, I met two lovely California girls – Mallory and Allison (sisters as well). It turned out we would be in Vietnam at the same time. I met up with them in Saigon and went almost halfway up the country with them. Two really amazing girls that were a load of fun. Then, in Nha Trang I met up with Samantha Le, who’s from Toronto but teaches here in South Korea. Samantha is 100% Vietnamese and can speak the language perfectly. Sam had aunt’s and uncle’s living here from both her mother and father’s side, so I got to meet many of them and spend the Vietnamese New Year with them – such a unique experience that many foreigners would never have the chance to do.
Vietnam had the best food of the three by far – Sam took me to some local places that were just incredible. Because of their rich French heritage, I don’t think I even saw regular sliced bread once. They all eat these amazing baguettes, and when you leave the bar at 3 or 4 the only thing to eat are baguettes from the ladys on the street. They will cook you up a steak and eggs baguette for a little over a dollar, and they’re amazing.
Vietnam is a communist country, and it really decreased Western influence there. I didn’t see a single McDonalds or Starbucks or any of those other international staples, which was very nice. I also took a tour of the Saigon’s Vietnam War memorial, and to say the least, it was a very powerful place.
Vietnam is a cool place to be, without a question worth seeing.
I met so many other people in all these places just like me – all they had was a backpack, a little bit of money and no particular aim, taking a few weeks to several months to see this part of the world. So many Europeans and Aussies still in college or just finished.
I met some Canadians, but most of them were either teaching in China or Korea, and there were definitely not as many North Americans as there were Europeans. It’s unfortunate that so many people back home take their holidays at the all inclusives in Mexico and the Dominican Republic and what not. That’s not traveling, that’s leaving home to go to another safe compound.
If you ever get the chance, pack up a backpack and get a ticket to South East Asia. Don’t have any particular destination in mind and meet people and go with things. Let life happen.