Thursday, 31 January 2013

Where Am I ?

Boat Ride to Bari Igoumenitsa

( The wind will guide your way …. Or force you to go places you don’t want to )

At this point I was still reluctant to book my accommodation or transport ticket in advance but I did started researching a bit more before setting off for Bari. I got a ride from the hostel to the boat ticket counter in the evening. It was going to be another overnight boat journey to Bari, Italy. That was the plan ….

Deck, Business Class or Cabin? Yes I had to choose again and after the boat ride from Patras to Bari I was seriously considering paying more money to upgrade.

DECK PLEASE !! … I was a cheapskate … it was just one night to rough out I thought

So I went into port and waited for the ferry, asked around some people if I was on the right track but all I got was a *I dunnu what you are talking about* body language. Not long later a guy came to the waiting area and spoke something in Greek which I had no idea. He looked at me and (not many Chinese asian looking people pass by I guess) tried to speak English. Bari ?? *I Nodded*. *Hand Signal to Follow*

So I followed everyone else en route to the boat and half way there I saw a crowd gathering and obviously arguing about something.

I can’t remember how it exactly went for half was in Italian, the other was in Greek and maybe less than 10 words were in English. The gist of the argument I was able to extract was this

  1. NO BOAT TO BARI TONIGHT.
  2. TAKE BOAT TO IGOUMENITSA
  3. CHANGE BOAT TO BARI
Hence in the blur-ness of everything I was on a boat to Igoumenitsa.

IT WAS THE BEGINNING OF A NIGHTMARE AND I WAS OBLIVIOUS TO IT


It was an hour boat ride from Corfu to Igoumenitsa and by the time the boat dock it was close to 11pm at night. I got down and I did not see anything. No town, no building, no ticket counter or street lights for that matter. Apparently almost all the passengers on the boat were driving. And zoom away they did. All that was left was me, a young British girl *Alice* and two burly Italian or Greek Guys.
(I shall refer them to Greek Guys as they seem to know what they were doing in Greece)

“Do you know what’s happening”, Alice asked.

Heck no but they seam to know where they are going so I am following them for now.

So it ended in me following the two burly Greek Guys and tagging along with her two humongous luggages. I was actually smaller in size compared to Alice well I guess Asian people are small built in nature but when I saw her struggling with the luggage’s I had to offer my help. She looked at me and gave me a sympathetic look as if I could not help her with me carrying my own backpack. She lasted maybe a few hundred meters before the bag slumped onto the ground and that’s when I became the porter.

Now why did I took so much effort in packing light again?? My luggage as I weight it before I left was a mere 8kg and here I was carrying Alice luggage which I could swore was about 12 kg ish. * Bangs Head on Her Bag That I was Carrying*

I could not tell how far it was but I guessed it was about 30minute walk along the dark road before we saw the sign for Igoumenitsa Port entrance. Went in and found the ticket counter and there it was another big crowd around the ticket office by the same group of people that got off the boat from Corfu all trying to get to Bari.

Did I mention Greece was going through a hard time with the EURO DEBT CRISIS and their government were trying to impose higher tax bla bla bla and so on ?

The ticket officers had to take our old ticket which said CORFU à BARI and change them to new tickets printing IGOUMENITSA à BARI else the boat captain wont let us on apparently. They sure took their time issuing those tickets and soon it was midnight. I was waiting there for nearly an hour and the crowd had started to lessen as more people had gotten their ticket and moved on

I met a nice family from Canada if I was not wrong which was on a big family vacation. The grandpa which was queuing next to me was grumbling on how there was no order or line and that things could have been faster if people just queue up properly and wait their turn instead of cramming up the ticket counter.

Small talk started between me, Grandpa and Alice as not many people spoke English there. Alice was on the way to meet her Italian boyfriend in Bari while the Canadians (Grandparents / Parents / 3 Kids and a Baby) were having a holiday in Greece and would eventually drive from Bari to Venice before flying back home. I of coz was the odd one and got plenty of questions on traveling the world.

We all felt comfort thinking the boat won’t leave without us …. right ?? I ask Grandpa that same question and got a laugh and reassurance and both Grandpa and Alice ask me back the same question and I laugh and reassured them and we all laugh together like the opening of a terrible horror story; but reality I guess we were all worried at one point. We finally got to the front of the ticket counter and the ticket lady shouted

NO MORE TICKET !! BOAT LEFT !! BOAT LEFT !!


Hey … I was panicking but looking at the Canadian family I totally snapped and started arguing with her to get tickets and hold the boat for the family at lease. They had a baby and kids traveling with them!! She couldn’t care less, it was late and there was nothing she could do. Come back morning was all she said, started packing up and closing the counter. The family I sympathized for them but at the same time I was stuck there too.

My friends joke of sleeping like a homeless person at the bus station or train station creep back into my mind. Well this is a port …. close enough. There was nothing I could do and while I saw Grandpa & Family took a taxi and drove off to the nearest hotel. I then started looking around for a place to sleep and not get mugged. Alice was still following me.

I settle for a bench to sleep the night and luckily the port allow people to stay inside instead of kicking them out into the cold. Alice decided to sleep on the bench behind me. An hour later I was woken up by the Alice.

“Can we move to another place to rest? There are this weird guys walking around me when I try to sleep”, she said

I figured well better to move before they got any strange ideas since I was not going to be helpful in a fight. We walked around the port till we came across a café still open and there was policeman in uniform drinking coffee while waiting for their schedule patrol around the port. There was a couch too so yep best place to rest without any worries. Sleep came and before long it was morning.

To be continued ……….

 

 

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Corfu Island Part 2

The Family Hostel



Sun Rock Corfu Hostel
 The Sun-Rock Hostel at Pelekas Beach was one of the most unique hostels I have been throughout my travels. It was a hostel that was run by a family. The family lived there eat there and had extended their house to make room for hostel dorms and kitchens and living room.

It was sureel just sitting down at the common room watching sponge-bob in Greek TV with the kids and just chilling. They even had an open bar concept. Walk to the kitchen … take whatever you wanted (beer for me thanks) and write down whatever you taken on the TAB Book. Pay for it when you check out, how cool is that!

The family had four kids but I only saw three of em as one was grown up and away working. The youngest was a little girl of four years old, cute little princess that will bully you to do whatever she wants. I guess many backpackers would have spoilt her from young tender age … imagine all the affection and attention she’ll get. Still I learn most of my Greek Vocab from her … Kun-Ja-Be-La = swing ….

They had a hammock which I lazed there for days and she would bully me out of it and sit in it and ask me to swing her …. Cute little thing …

Dinner Always With a Greek Salad


 This hostel was also amazing in a sense the price you pay ( 17 Euro ) comes with breakfast and dinner. I am not talking about cereal and bread and just simple stuff here. Wake up and there would be a menu waiting. Greek Pancake, Omelets, .... muahahaha ….
Then there was dinner which was sort of like a *surprise* whatever the mother felt like cooking. It was all delicious ….


The Hostel Overlooking Pelekas Beach

Pelekas beach was one of the more isolated beach around Corfu with only one 5 Star Hotel and a Hostel. The beach was mostly empty especially when I was there in October which was supposed to be between seasons going into winter. I took my first swim into the Mediterranean Sea and soak up as much R&R I could get. It was still the beginning of my journey and I was still figuring out the ropes of backpacking.



All Terrain Bike (ATV) around Corfu Island

(No License)


Sunset at Pelekas Beach

Now I have never ridden a bike legally. Still it was the best way to explore a remote island and who could resist and ATV really. Sign the papers took the keys and off I went

Did I tell you Corfu was beautiful? ?
Here is why …


Touring Corfu Island With an ATV


The ATV and a Small Christian Shrine Everywhere Across the Island

Insert Photos
Corfu Town & Castle

Remember my trip from Athens to Patras ?… well after seeing Corfu it was superbly worth it hence I extended my stay to 6 days on the island …

Day 1 – Sleep
Day 2 – R&R / Swim in the Mediterranean sea  
Day 3 – ATV Challenge
Day 4 – Town Visit
Day 5 – R&R
Day 6 – R&R Moving on to Bari

I was starting to sink into the long term travel by then …

Monday, 28 January 2013

Corfu Island Part 1


Boat ride from Patras if you read my previous post was …umm … ok. The boat reach the Harbor of Corfu Island at about 530 am in the morning and departing from the boat was me and me alone. Everything was dark and I was the only passenger getting off the boat.

This was Corfu right?? I was started to worry as the only answers I got from sailors was a nod on the head. I hope they understand English and was not nodding me goodbye.

I had not booked any hostel and this was going to be the second place of stay on my trip. Worst case … I had the lonely planet book recommendation of hostel.

I walk down the plank onto the road and into the port wondering …. Straight …. Just walk straight and you will bound to hit something I guess. I came to a fork in the road with the only sign in Greek. Just Great … well there were lights towards the left and darkness towards the right … left it is then. I walked nearly an hour as it was still wee early in the morning and finally came across the town of Corfu. * Phew *

Now the guidebook said of taking a bus to Pelepas Beach which was on the other side of the Island. Bus station wasn’t so hard to find but after waiting for 2 hours at the station I felt something was terribly out of place. I asked around with no luck but finally a taxi driver that was smoking nearby asked me in English where I wanted to go. I told him the place and asked the time the bus will depart and guess what …. NO BUS ON SUNDAY

Curse it. Taxi driver of course offered to fetch me there for a price …. A very expensive price I might add. I refused and walk back waiting for the town to wake up and shops to open.

One Greek Coffee please! It was the booster I need after the crazy journey I was doing from Athens. Plus the shop had free wifi which I needed to find a place to stay. In the end with no hope I had no choice but to use my phone and dial the hostel directly and ask for help. The owner was a nice family and told me to stay where I was and that they will come and pick me. They obviously knew Sunday was no bus day.

Checked into the hostel at Pelepas beach an hour later

Bath and Sleep …. It had been a long journey from Athens which I won't forget.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Boat Ride to Corfu Island

SLEEPING BAGS, HAMMOCKS, BED AND PILLOWS


I waited patiently at the ferry terminal for midnight to come keeping an eye at that boat. There were not many people at the terminal as I was four hours early. As the departure time creep closer the crowd came in and soon I was outside walking toward the boat with a big grin on my face.

Watching the people as I boarded the boat I couldn’t help but notice the peculiar choice of luggage they were carrying. There were sleeping bags, huge ones, pillows, foldable bed, and foldable beach chair. Oh Well …

So deck class … the cheapest of all … I was told they are basically on the deck with chairs for you to sit. Up and up I went following the signs … it was my first time on a boat this big and the longest trip I would have taken by boat so far.

 


Boat Ride To Corfu Island

 

On The Deck


Oh Shit …. I now understood what deck means. It was really on the deck out in the open with some plastic chairs which was for a café nearby. I looked around and saw people finding cozy spots all over the deck. On the floor, along the side rails, next to the lifeboats, a corner tucked away from the cold winds. They had sleeping bags, cushion with pillows and blankets, picnic chairs and everything you need to not freeze to death.
One even string up a hammock skillfully and was preparing to doze off to lala land.

F*ck ….

I changed maybe nearly 10 spots or more looking for someplace where I won’t freeze to death, a few times being chased off by the sailor telling me I can’t sleep on the main corridor which was warm and carpeted.

PON … PON POONNNNNNN …. The boat depart for Corfu

Nearly everywhere on the boat deck was cramped with people now half asleep. I creep into the inner Hull of the boat exploring. I found the Business Seating Class where they have seats like in the airplanes and it was empty. No one around … whoops … nope there were two people there sleeping on A COUCH … I settle down onto the corner of that room took off my shoes and slowly and eventually slept on the floor


Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Gettinig Lost Is Part of The Adventure

My Journey from Athens to Patras


Getting Lost

When I first started the journey I knew at some point I would get loss eventually. It does not matter how good you are at reading maps or having a good sense of direction.

Face it …. If you are going to be traveling the world you are bound to get lost. Fact is people get lost all the time back in their own city but somehow its different. Or is it?

I love getting lost just wandering about. Its like a mini adventure back at home, treasure hunting I would call it sometime trying to find the right path back or a new shortcut route.

Getting lost in another country alone with a language barrier however ……. 

Of Train Tickets and Language Barrier


I started my journey early in the morning and made my way to the train station in Athens. I had research a number of options on how to get to Patras the day before and had checked the train timetable online. It had said it was a nice long 5+ hours to Patras by train.

Head up the ticket counter and the man couldn’t speak a damn word of English. Took out my trusty Lonely Planet Western Europe Guide Book ... flipped the map of Greece pointed to Patras and drew a line from Athens and viola he understood. After getting the ticket and a brief instruction to the platform by international hand signals and baby talk I was at the platform waiting for the train. Just to be sure I asked a random stranger, showed him the same map and the train ticket and asked with the ‘ok’ and ‘thumbs up’ hand sign again. I got back the ‘nod+thumbs up’ sign. The train came and I boarded and en route I could see the stops and signs which was consistent with the direction I was headed.

I felt awesome at that point …

Changing Trains – HUH?? Wait What?


Suddenly the train speaker started announcing something in Greek and after a long while in English. “LAST TRAIN STOP ALL DOWN”

Where the f*ck am I. I was at a train station which did not have a ticket counter, no gates, no train personnel, in the middle of nowhere, and everything was in Greek. Not a single alphabet.

I tried asking a few people and they shy away; maybe they didn’t speak English or just never seen a Malaysian idiot going into rural area of Greece. 1 hour passed …. I had to be more aggressive can’t be too timid anymore plus I’ll never see them again anyway. I disturb a few more people until one nice man who still couldn’t speak English tried to help me. I showed him my ticket (which was all in Greek) and he just walked over to see a piece of paper sticking to a board written totally in Greek and pointed to his watch. Hand sign for 2 hours, train come, hop on. I thanked him and cursed for I had to wait for two hours while I see the man and the rest of the people hop onto a train that came minutes later. I was all alone on that platform. I looked at the paper again, totally in Greek; I would have never guessed it to be a timetable for it looked like an advertisement for room to rent to me. Two hours with the company of cold winds. 

END OF THE LINE - HUH?? Wait What? Again??


Back on the train I guess small hiccups are normal along the way but an hour later I hear another announcement on the train speakers. No English translation this time. The train stopped and train personnel’s came and kick me off the train. Last Stop !! OK so maybe I need to transfer again. It was of course in the middle of nowhere again but this time there was a ticket counter and a small café. Ticket officer could speak little English ….

“No Train. No Train, Patras No Train”

I tried to explain to her that I bought a ticket to Patras from the train station. Showed her the train ticket and her reply were even more puzzling.

“No Train, Take BUS, Points to Bus out Front, BUS FULL, You No GO!!”

…… speechless ….. Walked around seeing what I have gotten myself into, took a smoke and saw that I was in the middle of nowhere again. No buildings only roads as far as the eye could see.

In The Middle of Nowhere - Kaito Greece (That's The bus and my bagpack on the chair)
I went back to the lady determined to do something, anything to avoid sleeping on the floor of a train station. I had flashback of friends back home jokingly saying I will end up sleeping at the bus station or train station like a homeless person the way I travel without a plan. “ I buy ticket to Patras, This is ticket to Patras” I explained to her not letting her away and just stood there till she finally gave up and took a closer look at the ticket.

“Bla Bla Bla (She was basically speaking in Greek to another guy while holding my ticket)…. OK” She fumbles some books and wrote some stuff and gave me a totally different ticket.

“BUS. Patras. 1 o’clock”, she said

HUH ?? I guess I was taking a bus from this point to Patras then, I hope. Two hours of waiting …. Great!! Good thing I had all the time in the world!! 

Into the bus and a never ending journey begin. I had no idea how long or how far it will take to reach Patras. The bus ride was beautiful. Something I did not expected to experience as it drove along the countryside zig-zagging everywhere and had multiple stops at train station dropping off and picking up new passenger. I finally understood what happen when I saw the train tracks which were discontinued. Apparently it had been under reconstruction for a long time now and no trains had used the tracks for a while henceforth the BUS. Bloody train ticket was now a bus ticket.

LAST STOP – PATRAS


I reach Patras close to 6 pm in the evening and the sky was turning dark. I had a few choices which were

  1. Find the one and only hostel in Patras
  2. Bunk a Hotel if I cant find the Hostel
  3. Jump onto a Boat to Corfu ( my actual target destination )

I decided to jump onto the boat eventually once I found out it was an overnight trip plus I wouldn’t have to pay for loggings while I sleep on the boat.

“What class ?? Deck, Cabin, Business ??”, the ticket counter lady asked.
“Cheapest”, I said
“Deck”, she answered

I had till midnight to board the boat and I was starving from the unexpected journey which left me with no food for 12 hours. Grocery store was nearby so I stocked up my bag with bread, ham, cheese and some chocolate bar. I was not about to take any risk with public transportation when I could see the boat. Five kilometers walk with backpack. Yep it’s doable, the boats right there. One advice … pack light … which I had and it was a blessing.

Onto the boat … CORFU HERE I COME !!

Monday, 21 January 2013

Athens – A City from a Drunken Fairy Tale

Beautiful City - Wonderful History - Unique in Every Way - BUT BLOODY BAD TIMING 

  
Exploring Athens was exciting but at the same time difficult. The time I was there was during the euro crisis and news after news of demonstration and strike’s and protest was published all over the world. Greece was first into the huge financial debt pulling the rest down with them.  I flew directly into that shit and witness it first hand and move on as quickly as possible.

As a blur idiot; I was very close to all the protest and demonstration, even ate my picnic lunch watching them at the bus stop for two hours until I realized the bus was not going to come with that crowd blocking the entire road and city. Long walk home.

There was history to this city with all the roman ruins and ancient buildings preserved and restored. There were also mythical stories which precede the histories, blending in with it and if you are not a scholar it was hard to tell which was which. Then there was the people’s which was all so differently GREEK or maybe I just so happen to pass by many old people with interesting face feature and weird slurrrs when speaking.

Graffiti of Child Praying
I was glad in a way taking that extra subject in university. Philosophy 101 it made more sense now. Suddenly I was trying to recall all the painful Socrates reading I did back then. I envy the students here. It was interesting to see batch after batch of students with their teachers heading up to the Acropolis and conducting their class in the grass patch right next to the very place where philosophy and who knows what else once flourish. The teachers got the attention of their students as far as I could tell, way more than mine back in the lecture hall dozing off in a land far far away.

The only downside during my visit at Athens was that the people were not happy. It was difficult times for them and seeing a tourist visiting for a holiday regardless even if they spend money was still not good enough to smile. Still despite the bad air vibe that surrounded Greece at that time I still met many willing helpers which tried their best giving directions. English was a privilege I think over there, and it was difficult to communicate. Best they could do was read your map and point you to the direction you are headed. Still, they were willing.


Things I did in Athens


Acropolis / Museums / Ruins Visits …. The normal touristy stuff and I was going in a pace of a tourist too. First stop was learning the ropes of slow travel .... 

Roman Agora, Acient Agora & Arcropolis



Athens .... White City

Roman Pillars & Acropolis at the Hilltop
Students Visiting the Acropolis Sites Having Lessons

Stroll around town and anywhere my legs brought me.

Visit the Changing of the Guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. That was one lucky soldier I guess.


Changing of the Guards

Tomb Of the Unknown Soldier

Visit the demonstration and protest. What could I say …. I had to be a part of that European strike and protest culture …

Demonstration To the Back With Banners & The Riot Police on Standby

Day trip to Piraeus.

Research …. Yep I had to find out how to get to the next place Patras.
Even did a daytrip to Piraeus port by train to check out if there was a boat to Corfu from there. That was my actual target. Patras was just a port where the boats were.

NEXT UP PATRAS


Saturday, 19 January 2013

The Adventure Begins

(First flight – Greece Athens)

Start of RTW
What the f*ck am I doing

As I check into the airport waiting patiently for the airplane to board, my mind was not glee on how excited I was to visit all the new places and experience superb adventures and bagging stories under my empty belt, it was however panicking.

I have never ever done this before let alone do it alone. It was moments of dreadful bliss while my mind dream away of the greatness and horror and greatness and horror …
Horror won that short battle ! *glup* 

 “What the f*uck am I doing” …. On the flight … no turning back now

Welcome to Bangkok, announced the pilot and there I was the first transit of the journey on the way to Athens Greece. I have only ever been to Bangkok once, which was a long time back and that was before they built the all new big airport so I had to learn, read and figure out how to get to my transit. It was easy enough and before I knew it I was back in the plane flying for Athens this time.

Touchdown - Athens

Customs was surprisingly easy to cross with no questions asked. I always have this fear when crossing boarders throughout my journey for i was alone and was always worried if they suspected i might jump ship and never returned to my home country, illegally overstaying and working and picking their fruits. The thought never crossed my mind ... (^^)

Baggage was another thing that i was semi-paranoid about since almost everything i now own was basically in my bag. I had one Backpack 40L which could expend to 50L and one side sling bag. The moment i saw my bag came out of the trolley belt it was a relieve for me or i thought. For some reason i decided to check my bag to make sure everything was in place and nothing was missing. ( I don't usually do this, it was just the first big travel paranoid setting in) First thing i felt was the bag was a little light or not as stuff as i thought i had packed it.

My baggage was pilfered .....

I immediately went through all the stuff i had and checked what was missing :

1. Spare Glasses
2. Shades
3. GBP 100 Cash ( My Hidden Emergency Stash )
4. Multi-Travel Adapter
5. One broken Zipper ( Cut Through by the looks of it a bolt cutter ) 

I guess partially i was my fault .... hiding money in there must have been like sweet calling for people scanning bags at the back of the runway. Worst thing was i couldn't blame anyone since i had to transit in Bangkok and it was two different airline Lufthansa to Bangkok and Thai airline to Athens it means almost anyone from KL to Athens could have done it from different companies.

I then realized what was considered important items in a long travel such as this. I could had care less about the money although it did hurt a little but the most painful of all was the Glasses. My spare glasses was gone i now only had the pair i wore and if anything happen to it during the trip i would be ..... it was not a good feeling at that point.
The Duplicate Shades


The shades were special too as they were custom made. I did not make those for this trip personally for they were made for work. Prescription glasses inner-lining fitted insides from the shades, used for construction works for one purpose only. Safety Eye-ware ! GONE !

Well i had to make a another when i got back from the trip. Work requirement. So here's s picture on the right to show how cool they were ....


Letter From Airline For Damaged Luggage
The reporting process was horrible ... remember this was at a time of beginning of the euro debt crisis so you could see peoples unwillingness to work in a manner or maybe it was just reception for baggage lost and damage report. I had to force them to write the GBP100 into the loss report.

"Money is not Claimable, only items but they pay by weight"

I knew it was a lost cause trying to get any compensation from the airline plus it was the start of my journey and wasn't due back until six months or later. But still a nice report means i could try to claim the travel insurance i bought at home and there was no harm in writing it down.

So much for a smooth journey. It was already starting out as bad as it could go. I still had to find my hostel and " its all Greek to me " .... ( sorry just had to get that pun in somehow )

Bus ... fare ... numbers ... place to stop ... i somehow manage to reach my hostel in one piece .... phew wasn't that hard, didn't get lost and barely asked for directions. I was amazed on how detailed the directions to the hostel was given from the internet. Well at lease i was settled for now all checked in.

The beginning of an adventure .... i could'nt  help but smile as i sat down on my bunk thinking of what to do with dinner.



Post Note :

I did manage to claim back money from my personal insurance but since i didn't buy a very high grade one, they could only pay so much. Still it was more then what i paid for the insurance so it was still a good bargain

Airline email correspondent told me that i was not eligible for anything as the items loss was less than 1kg. Apparently if you loss 1kg it was like USD 10 or some sort which was worthless.

Lesson Learn :
Carry every thing you cant live without on you. Or more accurately anything that can't be replace so easily.
Thou the more i travel everything else seemed less important. I never checked in my Journal it was the only thing i considered priceless.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Itinerary & RTW Tickets


I have read plenty of blogs and travel guides and even RTW guides when I was planning this trip around the world and there was only one thing I remembered in the end.

There is no best way to do it.

Planning the trip depends solely on a person’s personality, style, habits, interest and all the other ME ME ME stuff ….

I think that’s why they say a RTW is also a self discovery trip and I agree to it for the most part. You can discover other people too if you travel with them.

I planned my itinerary based on one thing only which was FLIGHTS

Getting tickets for a RTW and planning the itinerary was intertwined with each other for me for I needed the flights to go where I wanted and I wanted to go where the flights was easily available.

I used the RTW ticket bought from STAR ALLIANCE which was the most convenient if you start the journey from Malaysia. Everything boils down to tinkering with the online flight planner that the websites has and keep tinkering with it to find out how bad your choices are when routes force you to make crazy U-Turn connecting flight. There was also the question of trying to avoid certain airport which has expensive taxes but then again most major hubs are almost unavoidable such as LAX

In the end my flight itinerary looked like this

Kuala Lumpur            --> Athens
London                      --> New York
Los Angeles               --> Honolulu
Honolulu                    --> Seoul
Seoul                         --> Bangkok
Bangkok                    --> Kuala Lumpur 

Here is one thing that should be glaring for most of the non – asian RTW Travelers …. I skipped out almost the whole of ASIA. Well that’s because I am Asian hence I could do it later.

I have not come across any blogs of travelers starting from this corner of the world (maybe my search skills aren’t good enough) but as most guides will advice, I too would encourage people to not rule out ASIA as it’s the most logical, cheap and enriching experience one can get.

That’s was my core plan of my travel right there. Visiting mainly Europe, America, touching Korea and easing back into SEA through a familiar country Thailand.

Below was the actual route i took after six months including flight and overland routes.

 
Kuala-Lumpur-->Athens-->Patras-->Corfu-->Igounamenista-->Bari-->Naples-->Pompei-->
Rome-->Florance-->Pisa-->Siena-->Milan-->Bern-->Interlaken-->Lucerne-->Zurich-->Salzburg-->
Vienna-->Bratislava-->Prague-->Berlin-->Leipzig-->Cologne-->Eindhoven-->Amsterdam-->Rottadam
Tillburg-->Antwerp-->Brugges-->Gent-->Luxemburg-->Brussels-->York-->Dublin-->Derry-->Belfast-->
Galway-->Cork-->Dublin-->Bristol-->Bath-->Salisbury-->Staines-->Winsor-->Cambridge-->London--> USA


 
From London -->New York City-->Washington D.C-->New York City-->Buffalo-->Niagra Falls -->
Buffalo-->Chicago-->Memphis-->Houston-->New Orleans-->Albuquerque-->Denver-->Boulder-->
Las Vegas-->San Francisco-->Los Angeles-->Honolulu--> Seoul-->Jeju Island-->Bangkok-->
Home Sweet Home 

 

Thursday, 17 January 2013

The Nitty-Gritty Stuff

(Things You Only Do For A Big Trip – Rearranging Your Life)


Unlike short holidays where your life can be on pause before you get back to moaning of how short that trip was and how you wish it was longer; a long trip like a sabbatical requires delicate re structuring of lifestyle before takeoff

My list included

A : STORAGE

First step was to get storage space to keep anything you think is worth keeping and of coz that includes sorting out all your belongings and I mean ALL YOUR BELONGINGS …
Surprisingly I threw almost everything away. Things I kept were books and notes from my life collection, a guitar, and my desktop computer.
The space I took up was a pathetic 1m2 of a height of 2m

B : THE AGE OF THE WEB

These days everything can be online so if you have some dealings which are not in-tech dump it for a better service. I track down all my banks, bills, loans, taxes, etc and anything that I need and made sure there was an online solution. Online banking, Online Fund Transfer, Online Bill Payment, Online Credit Card Payment, … you get the picture >
Some things still required the traditional black and white paper for record purpose hence I rented a P.O.BOX from the post office and re-direct everything in there so it was like a mail storage.

C: ……. WAIT FOR IT …….. END.

What !!! Yeah without knowing I was already living like a nomad before I even started travel. The room I was renting was easy enough to just say goodbye and stuff I needed like backpack and gears I just shop around. I practically only bought my backpack and made sure I had some Credit Cards and Global ATM Cards.

Oh yeah camera ….  I did buy one gadget which was SONY ERICSSON XPERIA ARC

By the way that’s not a camera … it’s a android smartphone which was required for everything from getting online with free wifi and paying bills while I travel, posting pictures and wat sort on facebook and keeping in touch with family with watsapp and of course taking photos.

How To Get A Sabbatical

I wouldn’t even know how to start advising people how to get a sabbatical from work and most advice I have read online is pretty generic and this is quite understandable since there are so many industries and job types that its almost impossible to give a step by step tutorial on how to extract a sabbatical from your work with a 100% or even 50% guaranteed chance

Once common answer thou is if you dun try you will never get it.

(Remind me of a saying from a gambler … “no lottery ticket = no luck” as in to even be qualified for anything you need to take the first step)

So this will be my story on how I manage to get a sabbatical and if your work scenario fits even remotely close to what I do and you decide to try what I did well who knows … I wish you all the best.

It was my grand plan of ways and means to get a sabbatical. It wasn’t as if I needed it because I was already prepared to resign and go for the trip regardless if I got the sabbatical or not. However there were privileges on getting a sabbatical; like technically you are still employed hence with a company letter of a sabbatical, it would be easier to apply for a US Tourist Visa plus if I got a sabbatical leave I may have a chance on the benefits of a pro-rated bonus which they dish out once a year.

I work as a site engineer in a construction company on a project base hence for example once the project is finish they would have a few choices for me which is either transfer to another project if available, go on standby mode in HQ doing odd jobs till there is another project available or FIRE. I was also a Malaysian working in Singapore under an employment pass which means once I am out of a job I would need to find one quick or leave the country.

Timing was crucial when asking for a sabbatical. You couldn’t ask for it when your boss is angry or when the project is near critical completion stage and you are holding a lot of loose ends. Normally the second part is true like taking even a normal leave for a few days for it will be rejected coz you are needed for work and there is no one else to replace you or rather it would be a pain in the ass for your boss to train someone else when you have already know the job inside out for three years

I had to find leverage …

Like I said the project that I was working on at that time was near completion and that’s of coz when things gets crazy busy. My employment pass in Singapore however was expiring just three months before the completion of the project.

So there it was my boss’s dilemma. To keep me and finish the job he would need to renew the employment pass but there was a catch to the renewal …
What happens after three months?

He was very honest with me telling me that the company does not have much new projects at the moment and the chance of a lay off was there once the project was completed. I jumped at the new found leverage right away and told him if I were to finish the project I would have a condition attached to it (The Sabbatical). My boss could have hire another guy for just three months but it wouldn’t make sense since I already know the job inside out working there for three years. Hence the picture of a win-win scenario was painted.

I lay the condition that if I was to continue working for that short three months period the company (not my boss) will have to agree and give me a sabbatical for six months in writing and to sweeten the deal if and when I return from the sabbatical if no new projects or openings are available the company have the option to lay me off without any consequences.

Company Win
  1. They get the best guy for the job ( me )
  2. Once the project is finish they dun have to FIRE me
  3. In six months if they need me they have me … if they dun … no hard feelings
  4. No extra cost

My Win
  1. I get a sabbatical in writing ( Used for Applying US VISA )
  2. I got pro-rated bonus agreement written into the sabbatical letter
 ( if there is one for the year of coz .. they never really tell but in all three years serving there always was something )

  1. When I come back high chance for a job waiting for me

So there you have it just like that I had a sabbatical in writing

Note :

  1. During my travels they paid me the pro-rated bonus … which was a huge booster to the travel
  2. When I came back I was given a new project and It sure is a great way to settle back into routine life instead of running around looking for jobs.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The Idea


What makes you wan’nar travel the world in the first place ?

Frankly I still quite can’t answer that question and I get that a lot from family, friends and acquaintance that I met along the way or through work. Usually I will come up with any story I can make up at that point in time depending on mood which could go either way from

Me                             : “I dunnu, I just always wanted to do it since I was a kid “
Others Typical Reply    : “Live long dream eh”

Me                               : “I love travel and why not go for the grand adventure”
Others Typical Reply    : “There has got to be more than just that, it’s a BIG TRIP”
           
Me                               : “Does a long explanation on some people in history inspired me bla bla bla and how traveling would open up the mind bla bla bla and whatever the person I was talking to wanted to hear bla bla bla”
           ( Blugehhh I could vomit myself thinking of the crap I fed them sometimes )

Others Typical Reply    : ( They are normally satisfied with the rubbish I feed them hence the end of the question )

Sorry to those go got the fabricated answers … oh well I just dun have all the answer or there is just no one simple answer to that question.

If I would to reflect on what inspired me to do a Round The World (RTW) travel then it would derive to these few key things

Personality

I have always been a free bird with no liking of commitments or dead weight.
I love the idea of not a care in the world and doing whatever you wanted instead of what is expected … seams easy enough?? Well dun forget asian communities can have load of expectation for people to conform to the norm and culture.

Traveling could be associated to two types in my point of view…. A holiday …. Or an adventure, hence being the kind of person who loves having the freedom to do anything he wants,  it was an adventure I craved, an adventure to be free and disconnected from the ties of cultural norms and expectation

Inspiration from Friends and Family 

I came from a family where almost half of the extended relative are abroad either migrated or married to the locals … and it’s from both sides of the family (mom and dads)
Some of my relative I have never even seen nor contacted them till today but they are out there somewhere ….

The most influential would be my cousins which are half British half Malaysian which was my mom’s sister son and daughter Jon & Karen. They are elder then me a few years but during my younger years it was exciting to see family from far-far away come back to visit during Chinese New Year and hearing all the different stories and culture.

Then there was my uncle whom married his wife who is of Thai national and has been residing in Thailand and working there ever since.

My cousin from that branch of the family was younger than me and they could not speak a single word of English back in the days (age 10 ish) still it was the most challenging thing to try and communicate. I actually found it enjoyable

Jon & Karen was the first to start doing RTW in my family circle that i know of and they were always pit stopping in Malaysia visiting us and of coz that was the initial idea of Round The World Travel.

Still it was different for us in Malaysia back then. The earnings of wages and the exchange rate makes it almost impossible to imagine being able to travel the world.

I remember my cousin Jon told me this or somewhat close to this;

“There is minimum wage back in England. You can’t earn lower that GBP 4 an hour because it’s illegal. I can eat five McDonald meals here for an hours work in England”
 (To enlighten GBP 1 = RM 6 back then and McD was about RM5 a meal back then)

You never know till you try … :)

Small Travels Big Dream

From all the small travels I had done before going on the BIG trip it was like a training camp. It started with road trips to the whole of peninsular Malaysia by car navigating the small roads instead of the major highway. Traveling to see my Uncle and his family in Hatyai, Thailand which he brought my family further on another road trip to Phuket and and Koh Samui on different occasion.

Budget airline in asia made it possible for the beginning of the extended adventure. I was supposed to plan the trip to Vietnam for my friends but actually all I did was book the flight ticket. Training for traveling without a plan I was thinking but two days before the flight, I was busted by my friends and had to smack something together last minute.

The trips and short holidays made me itch for a BIG TRIP. Like someone trying to substitute a craving with another thing and it just made the craving worst. The dream was alive and it was planning planning planning from then on.

Timing

Sometime it’s all just plain dumb luck. You needed money to travel however skimpy you are and you need the timing to be right. I have read about people managing their money and have a saving plan to do a BIG TRIP but I was just too lazy for that.

I basically save whatever I can and since I dun spend much on materialistic stuff it wasn’t that hard. Thou when it comes to party and lush food I always throw the money away but it was worth it. That said I somehow saved enough after three years of working and the project I was working on was coming to an end.

I somehow manage to squeeze out a sabbatical agreement from my company and boss.
(Story for another time and I will tell the story of HOW TO GET SABBATICAL or at lease how I did it anyway)

The last part no one could have predicted I supposed … the euro debt crisis … and the American dollar slump …. If that was not a big discount on going on a BIG TRIP I have no idea what is.

It went down to three things:

I had money I saved up
The project I was working on was ending and I got a sabbatical leave
The euro crisis and American dollar slump made my BIG TRIP CHEAP

Sometimes it’s all just plain dumb luck :)


If you are reading this to find inspiration to travel I hope I have helped nudge you closer to your goal.

The best inspiration I feel is from oneself … whatever the reason …


Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The Wiser Plan

The big journey ....
"its a once in a lifetime journey"

Which was what most of my peers and friends and relative and almost anyone I knew told me when they found out of my plans to travel the globe back in 2011. Some told me that i was crazy too. Little did they knew soon after i have landed back in Kuala Lumpur, my hometown, i was already itching for a next trip.

Hence the creation of a blog which i am now wondering if it's such a good idea.

You see back in 2011 when i first started my journey backpacking across the globe alone for six months i had no plans at all. I manage to coerce my boss into giving me a sabbatical ( or so i think ... but story for another time ) and after much planning .... about two months i hopped on a plane and the rest was ... well i made it back.

Now the second trip ... HAH ....thou i am now wiser and shall try to set up a blog and write up some shit and hopefully fish in some $$$ somehow. I thought why not try it (blogging). If it could earn me a couple bucks just by writing a blog / journal / diary / why not try it.

I do have to break some rules i set myself back in 2011 ... that i was not going to try and make money by selling my soul to people by blogging or writing article to papers or magazine and such. Well after the trip ..... I realized some things should be shared ... like a good adventure even if its just on paper or computer.

I'll try to re- write my whole trip for 2011 - 2012 .. yep it was six months of solid travel September 2011 to March 2012 and hopefully inspire people to travel ....

Especially Asians ... .... story for another time