6 Weeks in Southeast Asia – The Best Travel Experience

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My first time in Asia (perhaps) could have not been any better

I’ve traveled a lot in my life, I’ve been to tens of various countries, seen hundreds of places and experienced so much that sometimes it feels like there is not really much new for me out there, and it’s not easy to get as excited about anything as I used to get. Living out of my comfort zone has just somewhat become “normal” and I feel like it’s no longer possible to get my travel experiences even higher.

Well, I didn’t know that six weeks in Asia would bring into my travels (and life as such) a totally different perspective, though. Telling you all my stories and impressions would probably be for a few hours. And even if I was the best narrator in the world, I could never manage to express my exact impressions anyway. Perhaps because it was my first time in such a completely new world, I was without any bigger expectations or plans, and had the traveler’s luck by my side, 6 weeks of traveling around southeast Asia have topped all my previous trips and the trip has become for me the best travel experience at all.

Either way, I’ve tried to list down the highlights of my trip. May this short summarization motivates some of you to travel 🙂  It’s amazing to realize how much you can experience within 6 weeks of your life when you step out of your comfort zone and meet your luck halfway.

So here you are: 

    • I saw a live crocodile
    • I climbed a coconut tree to pluck a fresh coconut
    • I played football with the natives under coconut trees in the jungle
    • I saw so-called Malaysian giant squirrel 
    • I ate mangrove snails that we freshly picked
    • I tried out a real Thai Massage in Thailand
    • I tried out a real Indonesian-Balinese Massage in Bali, Indonesia
    • I almost stepped on a snake (twice)!
    • I visited one of the largest cave systems in the world (Niah)
    • For the first time I drove a scooter (in Bali and Langkawi). I also fell over once.
    • I swam above corals and saw a jellyfish with red and blue starfish
    • I got totally soaked while hiking in the real tropical rain in the real rainforest 
    • I took a dip in waterfalls
    • I went on the hardest hike in my life so far
    • I watched hundreds of fireflies “lighting up” a tree
    • I saw live at least 3 endemic species (proboscis monkeys, dusky leaf monkeys, sun bears)
    • I made at least 10 new friends
    • All in all, I visited 5 countries and around 50 new places!
    • And as an icing on the pie….my phone got stolen by a troop of macaques 👿 
    • (I didn’t manage to visit the oldest rainforest in the world – have to come back!)

The most memorable experience

There are apparently quite a few of them, but this one simply wins.

I experienced two nights with an amazing family in a wooden house (they call it longhouses) built on the sea, showering with rain water and eating with my hands. They took us on a fishermen boat cruise with wildlife watching and snail hunting (yes, we were picking snails living on mangrove trees’ roots). I saw crocodiles and proboscis monkeys, played football with the natives under coconut palms in the middle of the jungle, in boots like 4 sizes smaller, climbed a palm to get a fresh coconut, ate snails for dinner, and at night watched millions stars and lighting plankton! 

The craziest experience

Strange enough, the weirdest experience I’m bringing back home from my travels didn’t happen in Malaysia, but in China. Yes, I was traveling to Kuala Lumpur with two stopovers in China, whereas the first one was in Ürümqi – the biggest butthole I’ve ever seen. Now picture this situation. You are after 24 h of traveling, 7-hours-long flight. You are in a different time zone so you actually don’t know what time it is. The local clock says it’s 9 a.m., but it’s pitch-black dark outside (apparently they only have one time zone in China so it dawns very late here in Ürümqi – at around 10 a.m.). Now you are stuck in the transit zone, nobody speaks English, every single Chinese has a very serious face and is wearing a mask. After a few hours long internet research you took a risk and came all the way to China without visa and now you hope they won’t send you back. Not enough depressing?

Every plane coming to China has to land in Ürümqi as the first city in the country, so a really proper and serious check of everyone can be done. The whole control took almost 3 hours! Horrible experience….they check here literally everything. And if they don’t like something, they throw it out. Many power banks were thrown out. Much checked-in baggage was downloaded from the plane, opened and lots of stuff, such as lighters, knives, scissors, repellents and others thrown out too. Then, there was a guy walking and asking around with a sheet of paper with quite a few names on it. First I didn’t know what it was about but was just hoping not see my name on the list. It wasn’t there and my luggage went through.

Now let’s level the whole experience up a bit more. Due to a crazy inversion not only it still feels pretty dark outside and you can’t even see from the plane the end its wing, but the plane can’t take off and we get stuck at the worst place on earth without any shops or wi-fi connection not really knowing what is gonna happen. And of course due to the 6 and half hours long delay, I missed the connecting flight to Kuala Lumpur. Fortunately, we were offered a hotel over night so I eventually arrived in Kuala Lumpur next day.

This was my first, and at the same time last, journey through China. Highly recommended to avoid that when flying to Asia.

The most unpleasant experience

Overall, Malaysia feels pretty safe and I didn’t get into any troubles there. Some places in Borneo are quite dodgy though and I was warned to avoid certain places. One of them is in the city called Kota Kinabalu. I was sitting on a bench by the sea, eating my dinner, with my camera put next to me and my backpack on the opposite bench. It wasn’t any hidden, dodgy place, but right in the middle of the nightlife with many people around. All of a sudden, three young guys approached me, one sat by next to me asking for money. As I was eating my food and contemplating, it took me a while to realize what this was about. Luckily for me, the guy made a wrong move as he looked at my backpack. I immediately stood up, grabbed my backpack and camera and they all ran away. That was the only situation in which I felt unwell though. I’m happy that I didn’t experience anything worse (like being kidnapped by pirates or so (it does happen in Borneo, seriously)).

The most grotesque experience

As comic as it sounds, this was the hardest while for me. I was driving around the Langkawi island on a rented scooter. At some point I stopped to take a photo with my phone. Just around 100 m farther there was another view point so I stopped there again to take a photo. As I got on the scooter and was leaving the place I realized I didn’t have my phone in the pocket (even though it was a pocket with a zip). As I was already back on the road with a few cars behind my back, I couldn’t immediately return back and had to go a few meters farther until I could turn back. It was literally like 3 minutes, but when I came back the phone was not there. I’m like what the hell, it’s impossible, it must be here or at the other place. I didn’t walk farther than 5 m from my scooter. I looked for it everywhere, at both places. I asked people that came over in the meantime for help. We were not successful. I exactly knew where it must have happened and it’s impossible that someone else would withing those few minutes arrive there, found it and went away (definitely not in Malaysia). When I saw a troop of monkeys staring at me just a few meters farther, I knew my phone had been taken to the jungle….

Now imagine, not only I was f*ing furious about the phone, but also about the cards and lost data. But above all, I was in the middle of the island with no map, GPS, number and booked accommodation….