I have exams to revise for but I can’t help it, the wanderlust is stirring inside of me, and my travel guides offer as good a form of procrastination as any. It’s now only 11 days until I leave Hong Kong for three months of travelling through China and SE Asia. It’s all so thrilling, it’s no wonder that I can’t concentrate on drudging through my lecture notes. Don’t get me wrong, I am fascinated by Chinese foreign policy, but revising for an exam always sucks a bit of the enjoyment out of a subject.
So, in another bid to put off the work a little while longer, I thought I’d share my travel plans with you…
For my first week in China, I haven’t really got a clue what’s happening. Not a very promising start, I know, but bear with me on this. On a whim I decided to sign up to a cultural exchange that HKU has organised with a university in Hunan province. I put my name down not even knowing this much, but the trip is being paid for by the university so why not! In stark contrast I have spreadsheets charting out the rest of my travels (why am I not this organised in any other aspect of my life?). Now I know that we shall be visiting the mountains which inspired scenes from avatar, I am even more eager. Such a exchange seems like it should offer a unique opportunity; I like to think that, in my travels, I am not merely just a tourist (but don’t all we all, us bloggers/travellers/explorers/anything-but-tourists).
The next two weeks shall be spent in Guilin, where I have enrolled on an intensive Mandarin language course and will be staying with a local host family. I’m slightly apprehensive about staying with a group of strangers – the main issue being that I am not looking forward to having explain to them my ridiculously fussy eating habits – but I know that staying with a host family will not only help my language skills, but should provide a more rewarding cultural experience (and who knows, maybe I’ll come away liking some new foods). I’ve been learning Mandarin for a year now, and hopefully this program will help give me an extra confidence boost when it comes to actually speaking Mandarin. Lots of people choose Beijing or Shanghai as locations for studying Chinese, but I’ve been looking forward to visiting Guilin since I’ve arrived in Hong Kong. The surrounding area is supposed to offer the most spectacularly beautiful scenery in all of China.
From Guilin I shall be flying to Bangkok, where I shall be reunited with my boyfriend Matt, after nine months spent on opposite sides of the globe. He has patiently listened to me gleefully go on and on about what a fantastic time I have been having in Hong Kong, while he’s been back home, working very hard. On top of that, the pictures I kept smugly sending him of beaches probably didn’t help his mood, especially not whilst the weather in England was miserable. But, through all that, he’s stuck with me, so now it’s his turn for some fun too and I couldn’t imagine a better travelling companion.
It shall be an eight week adventure, encompassing four countries, and stopping at the following:
Bangkok, Siem Reap, Battambang, Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Koh Rong, Ho Chi Minh City, Mui Ne, Nah Trang, Hoi An, Hue, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Hanoi, Halong Bay, Sapa, Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Vientiane, Chang Mai, Pai, Sukhothai
I know we should try not to squeeze too much in, but it’s as though every time I go online I find somewhere new to be added to the list. I’ve researched every portion of the trip, looked up where to stay, calculated how many days we should approximately need in each place, but beyond the flights and our first hostel I have avoided booking anything concrete. For shorter trips I like to have everything sorted and organised before I leave, so i can just enjoy things out there. But for a trip this long we wanted the flexibility of being able to adjust our plans.
I happily welcome any input from fellow travellers, so what do you think of our proposed itinerary?