Southeast Asia Recap and Q & A

My six-week journey through Southeast Asia and China was another epic adventure. I decided to crunch the numbers and see just how epic it was, and here are the results.

Countries visited: 5 (Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and China)

Flights (including stops for layovers): 17

Kilometers by plane: 32,938 (20,499 miles) 

Longest flight: 11,400 kilometers/14 hours (Shanghai to Chicago)

Shortest flight: 351 kilometers/1 hour (Bangkok to Siem Reap)

Kilometers by long-distance bus: 2,398 (1,490 miles)

UNESCO World Heritage sites visited: 11 (Angkor, The Great Wall, Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Beijing and Shenyang, Temple of Heaven: an Imperial Sacrificial Altar in Beijing, Hoi An Ancient Town, My Son Sanctuary, Ha Long Bay, Complex of Hué Monuments, Central Sector of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long – Hanoi)

Books read: 20

Pictures taken: 2,966

I also asked for questions from my friends on both Facebook and in person. If you have a question, feel free to add it in the comments, and I will update this post.

seasia mapHow did you get from one spot to another (plane, boat, train) and what was it like?

For this trip, I traveled by plane and bus. As I’m sure you’ve heard, air traffic in Asia hasn’t had the greatest safety record in the past couple of years. However, there are several “budget” airlines, including AirAsia that make flying so cheap it is hard to pass up. I flew AirAisa from Singapore to Phuket and from Bangkok to Siem Reap. Both flights were pretty uneventful. I managed to get all my stuff into two bags (one carry-on and one personal item) so I avoided any extra fees. It seemed like they weren’t super strict on this policy, but I think it just depends on the day and flight how much they let you get away with. We took the bus from Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh City and the open bus in Vietnam. The roads were better than I expected, and the buses left on time (most of the time) and arrived on time or a little late. These buses were also not crowded, had working air conditioning and were pretty comfortable. A few places we also took a taxi or tuk-tuk (a cart pulled by a motorcycle). The tuk-tuks were nice and cheaper than a traditional taxi. Traffic was nuts in some of the cities (Ho Chi Minh City was the worst), with tons of motorbikes and cars driving in an erratic yet controlled way (I only saw one minor accident). Being a pedestrian requires a high level of awareness, as stoplights are not alway obeyed.

Where was globalization most evident?

This is a tricky question (submitted by one of my former professors). There are many ways I saw globalization. The first was in the prevalence of U.S. and European chains, especially in the large cities. In the Khao San Road area, there was a McDonalds, a Burger King, a KFC, and multiple 7-11s. In China, I saw big stores for brands like Gap, Nike, H & M, and luxury brands like Cartier, Michael Kors, Prada, Gucci and more. I did eat at McDonalds when I was in China, and it turns out that a McChicken tastes pretty much the same. Some of the McDonalds that I saw had some options geared at the local market, including the one in Bangkok that had sweet chili chicken and sweet corn pies. While China won for the most Western brands, it had the lowest number of people who spoke English.

In most of the places I visited, it was not difficult to find someone who spoke English – and good English at that. I would say that the place with the most English speakers (besides Singapore) was Vietnam. I also heard guides at various attractions speaking Russian, Spanish, Italian, and French (and probably more languages that I didn’t recognize). Again, I was in pretty highly touristy areas, so many of the businesses were trying to reach this international audience.

Will you come share with my sociology class?

Of course! I love speaking to classes, clubs, groups, whoever about my travel experiences, as well as my Peace Corps experience. Just send me an email/text/bush note and we can try to work something out.