India was one of our most challenging and most rewarding stops. We saw the heights of art and architecture and the depths of poverty and despair. We were sweet-talked and hustled, greeted graciously and treated with kindness. We were thrilled, frustrated, over-stimulated, exhausted, energized, thankful and sad, often in the same day. India will touch you, one way or another, in ways you can’t imagine until you’ve been there. We spent our five weeks exclusively in the north, taking our time, but still covering a lot of ground. We did the full Rajasthan circuit, substituting a couple of less-traveled spots for those we heard were over-saturated. Outside Rajasthan, we visited Varanasi and Khajuraho, New Delhi, and Agra (Taj Mahal).
From the Mekong Delta in the south to the mountains in the north, from the urban hubs of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi to world-famous Halong Bay, Vietnam is a country of diversity. Go prepared to bargain and use your street smarts, especially in the cities. Keep and open mind, and don’t shy away from the chance to sit on a plastic mini stool and eat some amazing food or take a ride on a motorbike! Gorgeous landscapes will surround you, and a new adventure is around every corner.
Cambodia’s recent history gives plenty of cause for sadness, but its people’s smiles are our dearest memory of the beautiful country. This breakdown of our expenses while visiting in November, 2011 is less skewed than some others because we did not redeem any points for flights or hotels during our time here. We traveled by boat, bicycle, tuk tuk, van and bus, and were able to get to a few less-visited spots. There are still many left to explore on a future visit. Posts on Cambodia can be viewed HERE. Our photo gallery from Cambodia is HERE.
With beautiful beaches and untouched reefs, Indonesia is a dream for snorkelers and SCUBA divers alike. We both are SCUBA certified and took full advantage of the opportunity to get some bottom time. We dove on Gili Air, which was a great place, but the gem was Komodo National Park. Make it out that far and you will be rightly rewarded for your efforts. The whole area is a National Park, above and below the water, making some of the healthiest reefs we’ve had the privilege to enjoy. Diving is one of those activities, though, that will always be on the pricey side. This is not an activity you want to take a risk with old equipment or questionable staff. Our diving splurge in Indonesia, including Advanced Certification for Donny and Nitrox Certification for both, certainly counts for the bulk of the Activities category. It also surely increased the daily expense of being in Indonesia, though it is an optional expense.
Our Thailand expenses are a little different, since they were spread out over three separate visits between September 2011 and January 2012. We arrived in Bangkok, and spent about a week there, before heading north by train to Chiang Mai. After another week or so there, we head into Laos. The next time we crossed the Thai border was via the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge into Nong Khai, in northeastern Thailand. A few days there, and we were headed to Phuket for a mid-RTW rest stop at a Marriott timeshare! A few months later, we returned to Bangkok again just in time for Christmas and New Year’s.
Watch out if you’re visiting China in summer! We were there in July and August, just in time for all the university students and families to snatch up the budget-priced seats on the trains. We were stranded on several occasions without any option of where to go. In one case, we ended up having to buy an airline ticket rather than lose more days when we were more than ready to move on. This obviously increased spending in the overall “Transportation” category.