And just like that, it’s over. Months and months of planning, one year of amazing around-the-world adventuring and now I’m back in suburbia, sitting in my sunroom eating a bagel (smoked salmon) and wondering, did that all really happen? I mean, coming back from being away is never easy. Whether it’s a week at the shore or six months in Asia, there’s always that transitional period. I mean sure, the first few days were great. I spent hours upon hours catching up on sleep, luxuriating in the fact that I had my VERY OWN BED in a room ALL TO MYSELF. And when I got hungry? A quick ten foot walk to my parent’s perpetually overstuffed fridge did the trick, as opposed to spending hours scouring food stands and restaurants, looking for that perfect combination of cheap and (at least a little) sanitary. And of course, reconnecting with friends, family and fawning over pets. It’s all good at first. But then a week goes by and you realize this isn’t just another stop. There isn’t a plane, train, boat or even a rickshaw waiting to whisk you off to the next exotic locale. And then the dreaded questions start: “What’s your plan?” “What’s next?” “WHAT’S NEXT?” “Are you applying for jobs?” Where will you live?” And of course, someone will eventually throw in the classic, “Don’t you want a boyfriend?” So, instead of focusing on these terrible real-life questions I’m going to reminisce about where exactly I’ve been over the past year.
Silvia and I set out from Bangkok to Indonesia, and I couldn’t think of a better place for our trip to commence (well, minus the underaged drinking and drug haven that is Kuta, Bali). Besides the aforementioned I loved it all: the crystalline waters and laid-back vibe of the Gili Islands, playing with monkeys in Ubud, the suspiciously lethargic yet awe-inspiring Komodo dragons and even the smog and traffic filled roads of Jakarta that may or may not have given Silvia a serious respiratory infection. And you can’t forget the temples. So.many.temples. Hands down, my favorite part of Indonesia was a four-night boat trip we took from the island of Lombok to the island of Flores, stopping at plenty of deserted beaches for snorkeling along the way. In retrospect it probably wasn’t the safest; and by that I mean the safety standards were probably similar to those of an illegal migrant boat. And there wasn’t a shower, let alone a sink (or wait for it……. a mirror) but it was so much fun. We also learned an important lesson when we rented a motorbike and attempted to visit Australian inmate Schapelle Corby at Bali’s notorious Kerobokan prison. Long story short, just because you show up during visitor hours does not mean you get to go in. Oh, and a word to those who value their lives: don’t try navigating Indonesian traffic. Just don’t.
We only had a few days here so we didn’t venture outside of Kuala Lumpur but I enjoyed my time nonetheless. I mean, what’s not to love? KL is famous for it’s delicious food, world class shopping and nightlife. It was like a vacation from my trip. Does that sounds ridiculous? Trust me, it was much needed coming from Jakarta.
As Silvia was bedridden with that serious respiratory infection we ended up extending our stay in Beijing by about three weeks, giving me and Sasha ample time to explore China’s most famous mega city from top to bottom. Just kidding, that would be impossible. Still, I was surprised by how much I liked Beijing, especially considering I had no prior desire to go there. When I wasn’t giving myself a stomachache from eating obscene amounts of steamed buns, camping on the Great Wall or sacrificing my skin to traditional Chinese medicine, I spent hours perusing the infamous “fake” markets, where the knockoffs are so good you constantly have to remind yourself that nope, there is no way a Marc Jacobs dress could ever be $20.
Once Silvia was given a clean bill of health it was off to the ethnically tense city of Kashgar in China’s far Northwest. Well, after a 72-hour-hard-seats-only-seriously-what-were-we-thinking train ride, that is. Kashgar, with its large Uyghur population, felt worlds away from Beijing. Designer dresses were traded for flowing burkas and hijabs, and instead of having to worry about being run over by some Communist Party princling speeding around in his Lambo, you just had to watch out for the donkey carts. Here, the Far East felt more like the Middle East, and I loved it.