Patterns of Journey for travelers who likes the ‘sense-of-discovering’

Dear readers,

since the COVID-19 outbreak started off, most of the ordinary businesses for the tourist industry were forced to disrupt its activities, now after three months of such a pandemic outbreak, each Country of the globe is considering to re-open some activities by categorizing it into a number of phases, however so far nobody knows whether the corona virus will be defeated any time soon.

Let’s assume we will get soon over the ‘COVID-19‘ tunnel, for our future travelling challenges we may want to consider a new pattern of exploring journey which puts us out of the so-called ‘comfort-zone’ 🙂 For instance: during one of my past travels I met a Swedish guy “Tariq” who ventured to travel all the way from Sweden to Malaysia by a cross-trail bicycle, it took him approximately nine months to get through by taking several stops in many Countries in-between, even it may sound extreme this is a great example of an ECO-friendly and riveting globe trotting 😉 of course this choice does not fit everybody, it involves us to have a strong mind-set as well as a very-flexible attitude.

In this regard, we can identify three categories of travelers out of the comfort zone:

  1. Temporary traveller
  2. Medium-long term traveller
  3. Permanent traveler

Let’s pick up the first category which is likely the one concerning most of us:

First of all I would classify as a temporary traveller whoever travels for 30 days maximum, here since we perceive the time-pressure, we are supposed to know what we want get from our short ‘adventure’ by excluding any unnecessary thing as much as possible.

In order to achieve this, we need to set up a structure which helps us to decide what it is for and where we can do this and that, e.g. if we are in for the outdoor sports, then we would be focusing on where and when you could get the most of it, we would be neglecting unrelated activities such as nightlife. Short-term travel might look like over-planned because of the narrow time frame, however if we carefully focus our attention on few activities we can still have a room for some creativity, perhaps some of us may be asking, how can we?

In this regard, I am glad to share with you a draft plan that I prepared before travelling to Vietnam earlier on 2019, I used to make such an itinerary plan for 15 days, so it falls under category 1. (use the bottom horizontal scroll bar to display all the other days)

DAY/StagesFri 26th Apr.Saturday 27th AprSunday 28 AprMon 29 Apr.Tue 30 Apr.Wed 1 MayThu 2 MayFri 3 MaySat 4 MaySun 5 MayMon 6 MayTue 7 MayWed 8 MayThu 9 MayFri 10 MaySat 11 MaySun 12 May
1Regiojet bus Bratislava —-> Vienna airportFlight Bangkok —> Ha Noi 7:45am – 9:35am
by Thai Airways
Check-out at the hostel and morning photo-tour (free improvisation)If Sapa, then the challenge will hopefully be: http://sapaochau.org/sapa-trekking-and-homestay/sapa-trek-and-tour/trekking-tours/off-the-beaten-track-2-day/Off-beten trekking tour part 2Morning arrival at Ha Noi: Stay at Ha Noi or further bus to Cat Ba island?Fulld-day Jungle trekking tour in CatBaFull-day of kayaking around Lan Ha Bay by exploring the floating villagesBus back to Ha Noi, transfer to Hai Pong?
Or 1 more day by chilling in CatBa island?
Back in Ha Noi with a booked accommodationBooked plan to visit Hoi An:
VietJet Internal flight Ha Noi – Da Nang
Full-dive tour around Hoi An, and/or visit to the nearby islands?Ck-out from the Hoi An resort and transfer to the Da Nang airportHa Noi city lifeAs previous dayFinal good-bye dayArrival of inbound flight scheduled at 7:35am Vienna airport
2Flight Vienna – Bangkok 2:35pm – 5:35am (+1day)
by Thai Airways
ETA for Ha Noi: around 11:00am2pm: Bus to Sapa? Or to Cat Ba island? http://greensapabus.com
https://catbaexpress.com/bus-hanoi-to-cat-ba.html
1st full day of off-beaten trekking path tourEnding time: 5pmIf CatBa, then estimated arrival after 11am and check for a last-minute accommodation.Ref. https://www.asiaoutdoors.com.vn/kayak.htmlImprovised soft tours/chilling
time prior to the forthcoming planned flight transfer to middle-Vietnam
Ck-in at a booked resort with poolPhoto-walking, small shopping, chilling at the resort and more.Fly back to Ha Noi. Booked accommodation for the next 3 nihtsPhoto-walking, small shopping, wellness, chilling time, etc.As previous dayAs previous day
PS: need to by a suitcase to carry extra new gadgets bought over the last 3days?
3Ck-in at the booked hostelNo accommodation is bookedas aboveNight bus back to Ha NoiAfternoon time in CatBa:
check and book for jungle trekking tour and for a kayaking trip for the two upcoming days Ref. https://www.asiaoutdoors.com.vn
Trekking ends by 5pm.Kayaking ends by 5pmOverview approaching visit at the city centre of Hoi An UNESCO heritage, full of colorful lights, traditional shops and Cafes.Afternoon time: start of grand-finale with pure improvisation what-to-do and where to goIf so, there are still few hours till 5:30pm to do so 🙂
4Ha Noi overview sightseeing*For Sapa accommodation might be provided by the tour agent http://sapaochau.orgas aboveSleep on the busChlling/sleeping time to get back in a shapeEvening time: (Post-)Sunset photoshooting?One more sunset shooting session?Sunset shooting session in
Ha Noi?
Photoshooting session by the sunset as well as at night5:30pm: deadline to transfet to Ha Noi international airport.
5Get to Sapa O’Chau branch to know details about the off-beaten trek in SapaEvening stroll in Sapa to check the poor ppl villagesSleeping at the planned homestay by the tour agent at half-way of the tourIf stay in Ha Noi, then chilling time and decide what and where-to nextTrekking dayKayaking and evening chil-out around CatBa townChill-out/motorbike tour
(if CatBa)
Photo-walking/chill-outThai Airways flight to Bangkok scheduled at 8:45pm
6Evening chill-out
treno 4/g a sett)
Bratislava –> Vienna airportHa NoiHA Noi –> Sapa? Cat Ba island?Sapa O ChauSapa -> Ha NoiHa Noi? -> CatBa island?CatBa islandCatBa IslandCataba//HaI Pong/Ha NoiHa NoiHa Noi -> Hoi AnHoi An/Islands
nearby
Hoi An -> Ha NoiHa NoiHa NoiHa Noi (final day) – departure back to EU
Ha Noi -> Bangkok -> Vienna
Draft itinerary plan for northern and central Vietnam 2019

It might look cumbersome, however it isn’t 🙂

From this practical example, you might notice several activities which are related to the place you want to explore, i.e. Sapa area is mostly for hiking and trekking, alternatively the town of Sapa offers SPA and other chilling activities, in both cases you may want to include the photography as a hobby 🙂 Besides that, you can break each single single day into sateges, maximum 6 stages would be enough for not making it too cumbersome; some of those stage can be left as a ‘jolly’ so that you would be deciding on the spot about what to go for 🙂

When it comes to the ‘medium-long’ term journey the things are different, we do not need for such an accurate itinerary plan, however we still need to know where we want to go and what we want to do as basic, in this regard I would pick up as example the 37-days journey which I experienced in 2018; here, since my core focus was to enjoy the nature, I came to the decision to dedicate a full month travelling around Indonesia, after that I spent the last 7 days in Kuala Lumpur and then in Singapore, yes just seven days were worthy since the city life was the second concern of my journey 🙂

To be fair, this is a kind of journey which requires some time to make our own research and possibly get inspirations by some locals we meet by chance in our living country, it will help us a lot, for instance, before travelling to Indonesia, I had a chance to meet two indonesian women in my living town, I mentioned them about my travel plan and since I wanted to travel first to Java for 14 days and then move to Sumbawa for just 3 days and finally to Flores for 11 days, they nicely managed to persuade me to cut out 3 days for Sumbawa and I spent three more days in Flores instead.

As a result, I got more than enough time to enjoy a motorbike tour across Flores, if you wish to read more just refer to this article: https://pathsunbeaten.wordpress.com/2018/05/31/flores-the-conservative-face-of-indonesia-with-surprising-people-on-the-way/

One hint I want to give you is that if you are travelling in a not-so-developed country, you will benefit a lot from renting a motorbike because you will have more space for the improvisation and more chance to discover some unbeaten spots 🙂 For your convenience I have embedded a screenshot about what was the motorbike tour I did on the way to the east (I could just fit 10 stops on it, in fact I did more)

10 Key-stops in Flores

Finally, the permanent journey is something which we know when we start but we don’t know whether or if ever ends, honestly in this kind of journey I can’t be helpful because so far in my life I haven’t experienced one, however my guess is that all we need is just answer the following questions:

  1. What is your mission?
  2. How do you want to be globetrotting?
  3. How do you want to live?
  4. What are your expectations out of it?

If you are able to answer these questions above, it likely means that you are ready to take the challenge! Based on my personal experience with the temporary and medium-long term travel, I venture to say that such a journey should be experienced as a backpacker (at least as you start on it), secondly you shouldn’t plan anything in advance but you’d rather go on the spur of the moment which mean pure improvisation, it should be journey which often (if not always) put ourselves out of the ‘comfort-zone’.

Perhaps before taking such a challenge, it could be advisable to experience a one or two-months journey, however each of us in the world have a different life attitude, so even the one who never traveled in his/her life and is going for the first time might succeed his/her mission and have something meaningful to teach or share with other humans 🙂

Having said that that, I look forward to hearing your thoughts and comments on such three patterns of journey as well as feel free to suggest your ideas 🙂

Giuseppe

Cat Ba: natural park, limestone rocks archipelago and caves.

Dear explorers, after some inland exploration now it is time to switch into a different landscape of Vietnam, so I moved from the inland to the island of Cat Ba by travelling over night from Sapa town.

I want to start by saying that May is not the ‘ideal’ month for the weather conditions, as I arrived on the island an early-morning rain greeted me, however it didn’t bother me much, no matter what the weather, it will always be a riveting challenge! Here below you can look at a picture from my accommodation in the centre and an overview map of the island itself.

View from the main street in Cat Ba

My main desire was to go for a two-days trip which covered off the visit to the national park by ending up at the Viet farm village and then get transferred to a boat to reach a floating home-stay to sleep overnight, and then continue on the second day with a boat trip including kayaking and few secluded spots such as caves and lagoon, the tour agent is Cat Ba Green trail, here below I share the link to the trip schedule in detail: https://www.catbagreentrail.com/plan-your-trip/2-day-tour/17-cat-ba-national-park-lan-ha-bay-ha-long-bay-2-days-1-night-trekking-cycling-kyaking-swimming-tour.html

However, because of the rainy weather and that the previous day was 1st of May bank holiday their office was closed and nobody signed up in advance for such a trip. As a result, I got to flexibly adjust my action plan: I rented a motorbike for the first day to explore the natural park on my own and later on the second day I joined their one-day tour which I link it below: https://www.catbagreentrail.com/plan-your-trip/1-day-tour/14-lan-ha-bay-ha-long-bay-monkey-island-boat-tour.html

In spite of the grey clouds and the light rain, the passing scenery was generous. Look at below:

Once arrived at he national park the terrains were rather wet, however the visit was still worthy 101% and to cap it all the top view point is simply spectacular no matter what the weather is, it just requires some great willingness to trek up to there 🙂

After enjoying such a panorama, since the entrance ticket included also a visit to the Trung Trang caves, I headed straight there and I really was surprised how long the cave was all the way through. Few pictures will be available later on Flickr.

The next day started early, at 7:00am I gathered at the Cat Ba Green trail office with other participants, we were fourteen of us, the right number to be all in-pair when kayaking! Since the very beginning the tour guide was very professional as well as humorous and well-mannered: he explained all us few basic things about the tour such as the importance of starting at 7:30am which was on the purpose to avoid the rushing (usually all the other tours start at 8:00am). We got on the boat from the Beo pier, and the first hour of shipping was just spent chilling and take some photos.

After that, our tour guide approached us and started telling about his life story, how he ran the business and then told us some historical background of La Han Bay as well as Ha Long Bay, as he was mentioning us such detail, the boat was approaching the first floating houses and so he also told us more about people living in such places. Here below I have linked the video about the passing landscape bay:

Surrounding scenery from the boat

The more the boat was sailing, more floating houses were all around, out tour guide mentioned that those houses are usually set up close to the big rocks in order to be safely repaired from the storms of high waves coming through, moreover for those people in order to be settled there they had to get a permission from the state; finally the ones who have children, they send them to a school close to the harbour by a private boat each day and on the way back to the floating house they also have to wait for the scheduled private boat. See below few pictures about the floating village(s).

After getting over the floating village, we approached the area of the caves (dark, bat and bright cave), here we started the kayaking session by first getting off the boat at a small jetty to get into the kayak, that was my third time kayaking in my life, even I struggled a bit at the beginning in keeping the kayak straight I managed not to flip it over 😀

After kayaking, the boat shortly stop at a dive snorkeling point where there were also some harmless jellyfishes, however because of the weather the view of seabed was rather disappointing, all lasted very few minutes. Finally, we had lunch with served food on the boat was really delicious, congrats to the sailors! And just pity that I did not take any picture of the buffet!

The next destination for the afternoon was Monkeys’ island, by the time we arrived there were some flashes of sunshine which made the landscapes looking with more vivid colours as well as brighty. It was time for some rock-climbing by using the hands (not with the ropes). All of us climbed up to the top viewpoint to enjoy the sunshiny part of the trip.

Finally, the name itself monkeys’ island, Yes, monkey were there at the bottom among the trees jumping around, we did not miss chance to record some of them who indeed played some naughty games, see the pictures below:

In conclusion, the one-day trip was fairly enough with a professional and friendly tour guide, I just cannot remember his name, however you can check their website for any other available tour (the ink is at the bottom). Just be aware that favorable weather conditions in the island are on October-November and March-April, after that rains are frequent, but if you are not that paranoid then you’ll enjoy the Cat Ba experience regardless the weather 😉

For further details about their tours just refer to their web page: https://www.catbagreentrail.com/about-us/contact-us.html

Any remark and comments are warmly welcomed!

Giuseppe

South of India: the unbeaten circuit of Andaman islands.

Dear explorers,

I finally have the chance to post something new about a brand-new destination focused on the archipelago of Andaman islands.

Andamans islands belong to India although are much closer to Thailand, it might sound a joke but it is so 🙂 When I planned it out, my general criteria was to try a more off-beaten area than any other island or group of island situated in the SE of Asia, by this I am not saying that all the islands I visited earlier were all beaten. However, after performing an accurate research, appeared that on Andaman’s the tourism is mostly made by Indians and very few foreigners are willing to travel there.

In addition to that, it has to be taken into account that Andaman&Nicobar archipelago is considered to be a RESTRICTED AREA, therefore only some of the Andaman side islands are open for tourism, these are: 

  1. Main land of Andaman (in which Port-Blair is situated)
  2. Havelock island
  3. Neil island    

Apart from those three, all the other islands are either private, tribal communities live there or are military bases.

Overview map of Andman’s

Having said that, you are good to plan your exploration within the restricted circuit which offers more than enough for exploring then especially on the main land.

Being biased with SE Asia, my first impact with India&Andaman’s was by no means the best one,

the reason of that?

Unlike in the SE Asia, in India is normal to find spread-ed garbage and rubbish aside the roads, wasted plastic material by the seaside  and so on. Sadly and disappointing as it may sound, that is a real fact of Indian environment, moreover, get used to the fact that will always encounter wild-free loitering goats, cows and dogs! They are really everywhere.

Apart from that, in here, more specifically on Havelock and Neil island there lots of mangroves beaches which on a way look nice but on the other hand it is annoying then especially when you want to enjoy a swim and to cap it all at certain time of the day the mangroves are completely dried, in other words they get emptied of water!

I personally tried to enjoy a walk around the mangroves when they were filled by water, however be aware that wear the water shoes is a MUST and last but not least carefully watch your steps since you might suddenly either end up approaching a not-so-visible sharp rocks or walking through some broken corals, either way they can trigger you to fall down! Moreover, I personally saw a yellow-black striped coral snakes which was sliding away, as a first impact it was not such a great feeling overall, however at least now I am aware of a real danger in walking through shallow mangroves sea surface, this is just to give a warning alert that nothing in here is really safe by the sea!

However, on Andaman’s you can find the hugest amount of colorful shells
by the sandy beaches , you can actually end up collecting hundreds by yourself without buying them at the markets, just give a try for believing.

When it comes to the sunset, fortunately both the two islands offer a gorgeous spot to enjoy a great sunset shooting/recording, the achieved scenery with the rocks watered by the sea is breathtaking, for your reference you can refer to this screenshot from Google maps:

Link to Google maps: https://www.google.co.in/maps/place/Sunset+Point,+Lakshmanpur+Beach/@11.8334078,93.0211909,14z/data=!4m12!1m6!3m5!1s0x3088d911c345f42f:0x7c35865380f4221f!2sSunset+Beach!8m2!3d11.8151731!4d93.0441074!3m4!1s0x3088da221d4f089f:0xefb8840f4c25e5c8!8m2!3d11.8496796!4d93.0125177

Just to impress you with an idea here below I have uploaded two scenic picture over the sunset at Neil island:

In conclusion, if it were not for the tons of spread-ed garbage everywhere, wasted plastic and glass, it could really be defined as a ‘Paradise’ like Indians proudly advertise it. Unfortunately the so-called ‘Paradise’ is shadowed by quite some environmental issues and this is something which Indian state should really take every effort to cut off any ecologic issues, someone might dispute on this point by affirming that it is easy to say than actual implementing a serious ecologic plan for the environment.

What could the main issue be in making it happen? Lack of funds perhaps?

Well, if that is the case, I could advance a hint: India as a state could introduce the payment of a tax at the arrival on each island, like they do in some islands in Thailand, Malaysia and in Indonesia; in addition to that, the state could instruct the owners of the resorts on how-to gather the wasted plastic and glass materials, perhaps this all might help in creating an awareness campaign among the entrepreneur on the island(s) as well as the visitors in order to be respectful with the surrounding environment. Naturally, that is not the only one issue there are many others, but at least I hope that one day this could be one of the solution to improve the quality of the environment on such an unofficial paradise 🙂

Last but not the least, it is about the time zone GMT+5:30 which is equals like anywhere in India as land, just Andman’s are far in the east, as a result this time zone is a huge imbalance for the sunrise and sunset time, do you imagine that it is already dark at 5:30pm? I personally think that Indian government should grant a different time-zone for Andaman’s.

Any comments and remarks is warmly welcomed!

Giuseppe