What I Have Learned From My Backpacking Indochina Experience

 "Two roads diverged in a wood and I - I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."

“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

Adventure without risk is Disneyland“–for a theme-park addict, this slapped me on the face. But if you come to think of it, it is true. Ok, I am grooming myself here to become the most adventurous person I can be. After backpacking for nine days, I can completely define a tourist and a traveler quite distinctly.

James Michener said “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home“, should this stop me? To tell you, it did, once! It took me quite some time to ingest that I will be in the middle of the bustling street of Bangkok, the heat of Siem Reap, and on the sidewalk of motorcycle-packed Saigon. But that turned out to be the best decision yet. You really cannot imagine how far you can go by just trying something new. Being a foreigner is definitely not easy, there are questions like “Is there a McDonald’s?, How about Starbucks? Or even KFC?” And being stuck in Indochina with nothing compared to Manila in terms of Fast-food per mile, keeping your sanity for a long time is quite a challenge. But hey, I tried new food, and I liked it. now I am definitely adventurous in my own scale.

Grand Palace in Bangkok Thailand

Grand Palace in Bangkok Thailand

Lif, sampling the fried snake at Pub Street

Lif, sampling the fried snake at Pub Street

Motorcycle-packed Saigon

Motorcycle-packed Saigon

Patience is a virtue, having clogged nose is a vice. Long hours sitting traveling from point to point even across Ho Chi Minh makes my travel time from Laguna to Quezon City a breeze, minus EDSA, makes it look more like teleportation. What makes the travel across three countries memorable is when you know how to laugh the hours away, not minding a person called by nature go out of an enclosed space with a tail of smelly air. Whew! Now that’s an experience. But aside from that, uh-uhm! (Cough), I had a fair share of “senti moment”, just when everyone is probably dreaming about anything, curtains down with mp3 player on the shuffle and replay mode, I chose to keep my curtains open and observe the things outside.

On a 9-hour journey from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, you are the crappiest person ever if you didn’t get to realize a thing. If you’re gonna ask me, I honestly had the corniest of senti moments. I didn’t mind the heat of the sun, the dusty road, the smelly toilet and the person beside me(Sorry Kat), all I know is that I admire how nationalistic the Khmers are. Almost every house has the Cambodian flag outside their house, I mean here in the Philippines, we have all the reason to love our country but some of us chose to not like it, and then there are the Khmers, third world and yet they love their country.

Life in Cambodia also makes you realize the blessing of having the simple things, I just think that I cannot live in a hot place with no electricity, and WiFi. Those are the things that we take for granted at home. In a hot place like Cambodia, escaping the sun is not a challenge because that star is not going anywhere, it will haunt you even in the coolest shade. But looking out the window, I started to admire how the light passes through the small gaps of the leaves of the trees. Yes it’s a pretty “you-are-so-corny-you-are-starting-to-sound-insane” thing. But I felt it, who cares? Anyway, being thousand miles from home is not the most relaxing thing to think about. But it gives you the idea that the longer you travel, the more you see new places, and the more you travel, the more the world becomes a bit smaller.

Cambodian Flag along Pub Street in Siem Reap Cambodia

Cambodian Flag along Pub Street in Siem Reap Cambodia

Choeung Ek - The Killing Fields in Phnom Penh Cambodia

Choeung Ek – The Killing Fields in Phnom Penh Cambodia

Experiencing things you often see in a bucket list is quite gratifying–expensive! But gratifying. Learnings come from the things we do, not by the things we see. We learn from experiences, not from photos, collect moments not things, try something new. It is easy to go where everyone is going, but hey, do we always have to fit in? Aren’t you born to stand out? Try something off the beaten path. As Robert Frost said “Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.

Ta Prohm in Angkor Heritage Park Cambodia

Ta Prohm in Angkor Heritage Park Cambodia

For the most parts, the defining moment of my trips are photos from a fictional kingdom, a giant toy, or a five-star hotel. But traveling is more than that, it is about putting on a shoe of a local, it is about immersing yourself in an unchartered water, it is about meeting new friends, it is about experiencing new year abroad, or Christmas or a festival. It is about being alive.

"Little by little, one travels far" - JRR Tolkien

“Little by little, one travels far” – JRR Tolkien

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