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Posts Tagged ‘backpacker lifestyle’

Pleiku, an altogether nondescript Vietnamese town becomes a forced, one-night stopover on the way to Hanoi from northeastern Cambodia. No map, no Vietnamese Dong, and we don’t know where the center of town is or where to find a cheap hotel.

Ryan remains at the bus station with our luggage as I shuffle off to source some money. The asphalt is burning under my feet and I can feel my skin sizzle as I trot off along an empty highway, head hanging low. Nobody speaks English and I am at a loss as to where an ATM might be this far out of town.

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Great marketing job and I have to admit, the view was stunning indeed.

It’s all about predictability, regularity and consistency – with bowel movements that is. What might seem like a rather crude topic to those of you sitting behind your work PC, steaming morning coffee in hand, is a regular agenda item for backpackers. Especially when the predictability is affected, the stakes in the daily treasure hunt for the right toilet at the right time become immeasurably high.

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Psyched for the battle ahead, we march into the Mataram bus station. Our aim is clear, our strategy well rehearsed and the target, well…that’s generally us. It is a lesson I have learned the hard way: prices in the tourist areas of Southeast Asia are flexible – on good days; on bad days, they stretch like gum into infinity. Equally open for interpretation are the deliverables. You never quite know what you are going to get.

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It is 2 am and Michele, Caleb, Ryan and I, all in a state of delirium, stumble onto the street. We just spent 30 hours in a vehicle that remains a sorry excuse for a bus. Having passed through various cycles of pain and numbness, impatience and resignation, I find myself surprisingly composed and despite the late hour, capable of one last ‘rational’ thought.  It’s decided, this time for real:  I’m finished with buses! This resolution, like its predecessor, of course doesn’t stand a chance. In fact, adding it all up I have made and broken a version of it some 47 times – after every one of our travel days in the last four months.

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Our time on the island of Ko Pha Ngan off the southern gulf coast of Thailand was extremely educational. It taught us many, many things. Lessons learned were mostly on…ahem…what doesn’t move you. Laying on the white sandy beach, feeling the ocean breeze, listening to the waves come in, soaking in the sun; I was tempted to never move again…

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