Transportation, Travel, Weather

Traveling Solo – Part II

So where were we? Ah, yes.

My first day consisted of moping around the hostel. I couldn’t check in until later. I couldn’t swim. This was not the vacation I had in mind. It’s all very nice if you’re staying at a resort and can turn on the AC and the TV, but I was at a no-frills hostel waiting out the rain with like 30 other people in a very small common area. I small talked with other travelers. Lots of other English teachers from China on holiday as well. Lots of oh-my-god-last-night-was-so-crazy stories being exchanged. When there was a break in the rain, I escaped down to the beach to have a look around. Everything pretty wild: waves, wind, and clouds. I was consoling myself at Starbucks when it started raining like crazy again. Sigh. The rest of the day was much like this.

I spent the first three days mostly walking up and down the windy beach, trying to take photos when possible, drinking lots of coffee, eating foods that I couldn’t get in China. I went shopping. At night I strolled the beach and listened to some of the live bands, one of which I really enjoyed. It was okay, but there was this strong sense that I was just killing time. I didn’t feel like I was really enjoying myself and was anxiously contemplating the hours until I could get on a plane outta there. It’s sad, but true. I didn’t make any strong connections with other travelers at the hostel initially.

On my third night, I met up with a Filipino girl who’d contacted me through Couch Surfing. I was thrilled at the prospect of not being alone for an evening. She and several of her friends were in Boracay for the weekend and we planned to spend the evening together. Finally, I had a satisfying evening with good conversation and great people. I woke up in the morning feeling much better about my trip.

My final day was sunny and beautiful. I spent the morning at the beach and in the afternoon went out on a catamaran with another girl from the hostel. I think boats are so invigorating. Love that whole wind-in-your-hair business. One of my life goals is to learn how to sail. Really. We snorkeled a bit. Getting back on the boat, I was taking down my hair, only to feel something sharp and moving in it. Somehow a little crab had gotten into my hair. The boat guy helped me get it out and then we raced back to the shore.

That evening I failed to connect up with the girl from the evening before and was feeling disappointed. I’d flopped on my bed in the hostel, trying to convince myself to go out again, when this fantastic Korean girl entered my evening. She’d come to Boracay with a guy who was interested in her, but she didn’t reciprocate his interest. Dreading another evening of just the two of them, she invited me along as a sort of buffer. I very quickly agreed. So we drank some strange Korean wine, talked, and passed the evening quite nicely.

In the morning, the three of us went and had a great breakfast at a local restaurant. Then the girl and I packed our bags and headed off. She helped me get onto the correct boat and heading the correct airport. She was so kind and I was so grateful. We exchanged contact info and said goodbye.

The rest of the trip was spent pacing airports, lolling in waiting areas, drinking coffee, and killing time. After a delayed flight back to Macau, I arrived back at the university sometime after midnight.

In retrospect, I am glad that I went. The weather was unfortunate, but normal for this time of year. Though the first few days were rather lousy, at least I had several good experiences to balance it out.

I had a classmate in grad school who loved to travel alone. She only traveled alone. I was astonished and could never imagine myself doing it. Well, I’ve done it and survived. Worst parts? Eating alone in restaurants, having no one to take photos of you, and no one to watch your stuff when you want to swim. Best parts? I suppose you are extremely grateful when you do make a connection with someone. My journal from the trip is a record of the emotional highs and lows of those 5 days.

As I tell my students, the most interesting trips are often the ones that don’t go according to plan. And they make great stories, too.

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Transportation, Travel, Weather

Traveling Solo

I’d like to give a report on my first solo trip, as mentioned in a previous post. For the National Holiday week, I booked a 5 day trip to Boracay, an island in the Philippines which is famous for its White Beach. One of the top beach destinations in Asia, so I’m told. I’d really wanted to travel during this holiday for several reasons: (1) It’s a rather long holiday to stay home; (2) I wanted to see more of Asia; and (3) I promised myself last year that I’d travel this week. So though my funds were limited and I couldn’t find anyone to travel with, off I went.

My flight left from Macau. I chose Macau because I can take public transportation all the way from my university to the airport there. If I go to Hong Kong airport, the ferry ticket is a little steep; and if I go to Guangzhou, it would actually be a much longer trip, with changing between buses, trains, and subways. Since Macau is a Special Autonomous Region, that means you have to exit China and enter, uh, another part of China. So a stamp out of China and a stamp into Macau, with forms to be completed on each side. I’d feared the lines would be epic due to the holiday, but I actually made it through in good time and caught my airport bus with no problems. (Traveling alone, there’s so much mental checklisting going on: bus to Macau, check; immigration, check; money exchange, check; bus to airport, check; arrival at airport, first mission accomplished. Penguin high five to self.)

The Macau airport was compact, but stocked with all the essentials, like Gloria Jean’s Coffee. I had lots of time to kill due to excessive planning-for-the-worst-case-scenario. So I sat and sipped and read books on the Kindle. When I went through Security, my eyebrow tweezers pinged on the bag check and I apologized, expecting them to confiscate them (Rats, I thought, my favorite tweezers!), but surprisingly they said it was okay and sent me on my way. This trip also marked a landmark accomplishment for me. Not only did I travel solo, but I also brought only a carry-on. Gasp! First time in my life I’ve managed to do this.

Flight to Manila was fine. The layover was not so fine. I actually attempted sleeping across 3 chairs. It was horrible. I paid what seemed an excessive amount of money to be able to sit in another coffee shop with comfortable chairs. I was very grateful to board the flight to Boracay.

We landed in Boracay in a very jungle-ish environment. I’d asked my hostel to help me with transportation because it seemed a little complicated, so a nice young guy was waiting for me outside. We look a giant tricycle down to the ferry port, a boat across to Boracay island (impossible to land on the island itself), then another tricycle, and finally a brief walk down a very muddy lane to the hostel. The sky wasn’t looking so good and I’d only been in the hostel maybe 30 minutes before it started pouring. And I mean pouring.

Will the rain ruin her trip? Will she survive her first solo adventure? Stay tuned!

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China, Travel

Away I Go

I spent most of the day up to this point (3 PM) hard at work. Working on what? Travel plans.

Next week is the Chinese National Holiday, which is equivalent to the 4th of July. Yet instead of a mere 3-day weekend, Chinese do it right with a full 8 days of vacation.

Last year, as it was only my fourth week in China, I stayed in Zhuhai the entire time. It is an understatement to say that it was not a very good week. I was not surprised to hear that a freshman student committed suicide last year. Far from home on a deserted campus in an unfamiliar city—who wouldn’t consider it?

This year I was determined to travel. And not just China travel, but international travel. Everyone in China has this week off and everywhere in China will be absolutely smashed as only China can be. Why not take the opportunity to explore Thailand? Malaysia? Indonesia? Don’t mind if I do!

Unfortunately with the busy-ness of the semester starting plan-making got delayed. And delayed. And delayed. The holiday starts for us tomorrow and it was just today that I sat down to make plans. Which means that tickets are scarce and expensive when they are found. My list of possible destinations was being slowly whittled down to nothing.

I found a relatively cheap ticket to Manila and was intrigued by the historical aspects of the city. I was seriously considering it, but I’d really been dreaming more of a lay-on-the-beach vacation that a steamy, populated city trip. A little more digging led me to Boracay, a popular island in the Philippines famous for its white sand beaches. With the additional flight from Manila to Boracay the ticket is not nearly as cheap as I’d hoped, but is still lower than flights to Thailand or Malaysia.

And did I mention that this is a solo trip? Yes, I, Amy Abigail Esther Van Gundy will be traveling alone. Send a search party with coffee if you don’t hear from me in a week.

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