We've been back home for 5 months now. I think it was finally time to close this thing out.
08.04.2010 - 07.09.2010 18 °C
Bonjour de Montréal!
It's been 5 months since we've been back from our RTW trip and I’m back sitting in the exact same spot where I wrote the very first blog entry to Bloggin’ N Globetrottin’ well over a year ago.
Since we've returned we got ourselves reacquainted with our apartment which we had sub-let, my beloved Canadiens surprised everyone and fought their way to the Eastern Conference Finals, my parents moved away, Thanh came through as her cousin’s maid of honor (picture below), Spain won an exciting World Cup, my good Finnish friends Eeva and Juhis came to visit, I turned 34, we’ve had no luck job hunting and fall is fast approaching.
It’s only now, after all of this, that I’ve finally accepted the idea that we’re grounded and that there will be no new chapters added to this blog. So since we’re not going anywhere I figured it’s finally time I write the last entry and close this thing out properly. I’m going to look back on our trip, share some highlights and other tidbits, and finally say goodbye.
We began traveling on July 25th 2009 and unpacked our backpacks for the last time on April 8th 2010. One of our main goals of this trip was to, for once in our lives, avoid the cold and snow of the winter. We can proudly say that that our mission was accomplished! At the time of writing, Thanh and I haven’t faced winter like conditions for the past 19 months! That's pretty good for Canadians!
Throughout this entire 9 month round the world journey Thanh and I have travelled to 17 countries and territories, visiting 56 different destinations. We took a total 22 flights, 11 train rides, and a countless number of ferry, boat, subway, bus, tuk-tuk, shuttle, and taxi rides logging over 60,000 kilometers and settling into 46 different beds.
This voyage was, without a doubt, the trip of our lives. We lived out a dream. We experienced so many great things. We went around the world learning about different places and cultures at our pace. To our delight, we ate some of the most amazing food on this planet! Not only did we have a blast but it allowed us to come closer as a couple and made us stronger.
Highlights of our trip
The highlight of our trip is obviously our engagement night in Paris, but that’s pretty much a given and needs no real explanation. So other than that fantastic life changing moment, Thanh and I have countless other highlights. Some of them are;
The Phillies-Cardinals Sunday day ballgame in Philadelphia, slurping freshly-picked oysters with my family in Grande-Digue, recording a rock music video at the Experience Music Project in Seattle with Sarah & Pat, the night I shaved my head at Ed’s place in Vancouver, eating the freshest sushi and sashimi on earth in Tokyo, going to a baseball game between the rival Giants and Tigers at the famous Tokyo Dome with my buddy Shuhei, our romantic one year anniversary dinner in Kyoto, Shoe and I hanging out in the same VIP area as Aaron Kwok at a HK night club, being forced to rent a room at the MGM Grand and gamble the night away in Macau because a typhoon, the ten days spent living the Chinese life at Thanh’s father condo in Zhongshan, climbing the Great Wall of China, cutting in line to see Mao’s body in Beijing, enjoying all kinds of Chinese food, drinking copious amounts of bia hoi in Hanoi, spending a night on a junk in the middle of Halong Bay, discovering black chicken with Rachel and Jamie in Sa Pa, living the slow and quiet Laotian life for a week in Luang Prabang, tubing in Viang Vieng, returning to magnificent Angkor for a second time in less than a year, falling upon that “Vietnamese” style restaurant in Phnom Penh, stuffing our faces off at the hawker stalls in both Malaysia and Singapore, slowly having the Muslim call to payer cast a spell on us, learning to surf in Bali, chilling out with Paul and Gretchen on a beach in Lombok talking about home, loving the Thai boxing in Bangkok, experiencing Varanasi’s weirdness, admiring the Taj Mahal up close, stumbling upon a temple festival in Varkala, Thanh’s birthday supper with Lara in Mumbai, leaving India, the historic city of Constantinople, spending a beautiful sunny day on the Asian side of Istanbul, the lazy late afternoon felucca ride along the Nile with Ang & Rob and their friends Sam & Dave, climbing the Pyramids of Giza, Easter mass at Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris and finally our lunch at Café Louis Philippe.
Thanh and I both agree that our highlight of all highlights, other than our engagement, was the month spent living the beach bum life in Mui Ne, Vietnam. It was by far the most relaxing and most satisfying moment of our trip. We had found ourselves a wonderful and very modern looking serviced apartment that was right along the beach for a bargain. We were pampered there. We spent a lot of time working on our tans and swimming in either the pool or the ocean. What added to our fun was having a full kitchen which allowed us to take advantage local market and its exotic products.
While our trip was a fun and happy adventure, there had to be some lows as well;
The perverted men who would stare at Thanh or harass her, especially in India and Egypt. The horrid air pollution in countries like China, India and Egypt was barely liveable. The awful case of car sickness I got when we took a 5-6 hour mini-bus ride going through a mountainous part Lao. We both got pretty sick in Indonesia which confined to our bed for a couple of days. Thanh left a bunch of her favourite clothes, including a cute dress she had bought in HK, behind at the Gili Islands in Lombok. My digestive system was not stable for 5 out of the six weeks we were in India. The intense poverty and despair in Kolkata and India in general could be hard to deal with. The incessant demands for baksheesh in Egypt. The rude Parisians LOL!
Some More Tidbits
Most surprising country; Malaysia. A predominantly Muslim country that still manages to be quite diverse, that has really tasty food, great shopping, pristine beaches, and modern cities. Highly recommended!
Most disappointing country; Egypt. This country hasn’t produced anything great in over 2000 years and it shows. Sorry Egypt.
Countries we plan to go back to; Japan, China, France, and of course Vietnam.
Countries where we could see ourselves living; Japan, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, France.
A country where you couldn’t pay us a million dollars to live; India. It’s just too crazy there.
The country with the best overall value; Vietnam. The lodging prices throughout the country are relatively low and of good quality which really helps the budget. The food is also very yummy and real cheap.
A country that's more expensive than you would think; Accommodation in India turned out to be more expensive than most countries in South East Asia and even China. When it comes to lodging in India you really pay for what you get. Yes there are tons of budget places but they are generally pretty awful, so forget that. There isn't much in the mid-range category so the everything gets booked up fast and prices are higher than they really should be.
Best food cities; Vancouver, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, Hanoi, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Georgetown (Penang), Singapore, New Delhi, Istanbul and Paris.
Just some of the strange things we ate; Sea urchin sushi, raw shrimp, chicken & whale sashimi, goose intestine, pork stomach, various kinds of chicken's feet, chicken heart soup, massive tasty fish head, fried fish stomachs, fried duck head, fried scorpion, stir-fried eel, black chicken, spicy entrail soup, ABC Special, fish head curry, papdi chaat, roasted pigeon, and much more.
Best shopping cities; Tokyo, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Singapore, Istanbul and Paris.
The following products are things you are guaranteed to find all around the world: Coca-Cola, Kit Kat, Mars and Snickers bars, Pringles, Oreo cookies, Ritz Crackers and bottled water.
Total spent on trip (257 days, 17 countries); $44,857.76 (Canadian Dollars).
Total amount of cash withdrawn from ATMs around the world; $15,232.29.
Average cost per day, per person (not including airfare & accommodation): $46.89.
Total amount spend on all 22 flights; $9,754.85. Just one RTW ticket with Star Alliance (11 segments and 7 stopovers) would have cost us around $6600 each! We saved over $6,000 buying tickets as we went!
Total amount spent on accommodation; $9,601.10 + approximately $2,000 spent in cash, so we'll round up and say we spent something around $12,000 for all of our accommodation. The average cost per day, per person for accommodation is estimated to be $21.40.
Our most expensive meal (for two people); $240.48, Imahan, Tokyo, Japan. A sukiyaki meal with melt in your mouth Wagyu beef.
Our cheapest meal (one person); 35 rupees (less than $1 Canadian) thali in Kolkata. Here we're talking about a full meal at a real restaurant with service, not street food.
Number of pictures taken; 15,099! We would have finished with over 17,000 of them if we hadn't lost our Laos and Cambodia pictures to a virus.
And here are a few pics of the passport I used :
Final Words, Thank Yous & Goodbye!!
We started writing this travel journal to keep in touch with our friends and family. It was not long into the trip that we realized we really enjoyed doing it. Hopefully those who have read our blog found it interesting and entertaining. We are not gifted writers and it wasn’t always easy finding the motivation to do it, but in the end I think it’s OK and we’re proud we did it. It certainly be a great thing for Thanh and I to look back on and reminisce.
We want to thank our friends and family that we got to share moments of this experience with; Thanh’s family, my parents, Jody & Kozue, Patrick & Sarah, Ed & Laura, Julia & Joel, Shuhei, Mark A.K.A. Shoe, Thanh’s Dad, and Angela & Rob. Everyone was very supportive, generous and hospitable
This fantastic experience also allowed us to meet some new friends. All of these encounters were to short but remain special to us. Thank you Eli, Rachel & Jamie, Beth & Pierce, and Gretchen & Paul, for the good times we shared.
I also want to thank my good friend Lionel for looking over our apartment for us. You were really helpful. Thanks again.
Finally, I want to thank everyone who followed us and read our blog. We really appreciate the interest and support.
The end of this trip is the beginning of a new life for Thanh and I and we have some exciting times ahead. We plan to start new jobs, buy a home, get married, start a family…and travel again one day!
So that’s it. The trip is over. This blog is done. We’re outta here!
Mark and Thanh
GO HABS GO!!!
Thanh and Mark on Christmas Night in Mui Ne