34,000+ miles in 2.5 weeks through 6 cities in 3 countries

Sometimes you imagine, or even go so far as to fantasize [about] an extravagant vacation, and leave it at that. An entertaining dream that you are reminded of each time you flip by the Travel channel at home, catch a glimpse of an airline ad on the side of a billboard, or find yourself staring at an obtrusive Flash promo for a vacation package on a website.

I did all that. Like the average mid twenty year old, I had only scratched the surface of traveling for vacation. I have visited California… a puddle jump away from Seattle. I had gone International. Then again, driving 2 hrs. to the Canadian border is well, like driving to Portland. I assumed that my real travels would not happen until the later half of this century.

Fortunately, my assumption was all wrong. I had a rare opportunity to travel [now]. A real vacation that would take me outside of the country and into a completely different world. An opportunity to experience food, culture, and people in three countries – Vietnam, Thailand, and Korea.

It has been a full week after the fact. 34,000+ miles flown / driven in 2.5 weeks through 6 cities in 3 countries. Sans jet-lag and body / mind fully recovered, I can now sit down and share thoughts, highlights, sights, and experiences.

Pre-departure preparation and planning

Malaria laden mosquito’s, street vendor food triggered travelers diarrhea, and extreme hot / humid weather. Call Syl and I overly cautious, but [looking back] we were "duped" hook, line, and sinker into believing that we were putting ourselves into a very vulnerable situation concerning all things health related. Not that the change of environment would have an impact, but the local Travelers Clinic did a real good job of instilling "worry / caution". "Don’t eat street vendor food." "Going outside? Apply a layer of sunscreen, a second layer of bug repellent (anything with Deet), and a third layer of sunscreen." "X country has [insert disease name], we recommend [insert medication]."

By the time we had left the clinic, we an additional $400 hole in our wallets to cover vaccinations and medications. Did we end up needing everything? Not really. Was the peace of mind worth it? Of course.

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Discuss - 24 Comments

  1. Bayliss says:

    That was awesome. I think about going there for the photo opportunities.. but if only i had the money.

  2. Dude, what an amazing post. A definite pleasure to read. You both took some amazing pictures. Really, really makes me want to give it a shot.

    Glad you had such a good time and came back in one piece 🙂

    Meanwhile, I just rode through china town here in Honolulu (2am) and saw a cat chillin’ on the corner. Laughed to my self, “Woah, that kitty isn’t really in the safest of places, he’s breakfast tomorrow.” Haha.

  3. Joshua says:

    Jellyfish going up your boardshorts!? Damn, that’s pretty intense.

  4. […] Derek Punsalan writes about his vacation trip to Vietnam, Thailand, and Korea. Some wonderful photos and altogether jealousy-inspiring piece. Sounds like an excellent trip. […]

  5. kca says:

    BT= Be Thong= beton (french)= concrete

    The Graffitties are in fact the phone number of masons, you can call us if u got some tilling works, demolition works, masonery…

    It is nice… Only when it is not your wall: Landlords get crazy because of that.

    I do confirm: You got more chance to find a free wifi spot in Hanoi, than Bangkok, HK, or Singapor. Amazinggg.

  6. Derek says:

    Meanwhile, I just rode through china town here in Honolulu (2am) and saw a cat chillin’ on the corner. Laughed to my self, “Woah, that kitty isn’t really in the safest of places, he’s breakfast tomorrow.” Haha.

    The cat was probably in better shape than any of the cats or dogs we saw on the streets: http://flickr.com/photos/0401/2704313783/

  7. Must have been an awesome trip mate. Was there no entertainment on the plane? You should try Singapore Airlines, they have amazing stuff (movies, games, music etc. for free) to ease the long journey. And like Joshua said, jellyfish? That must have been quite an experience.

  8. Derek says:

    Must have been an awesome trip mate. Was there no entertainment on the plane? You should try Singapore Airlines, they have amazing stuff (movies, games, music etc. for free) to ease the long journey. And like Joshua said, jellyfish? That must have been quite an experience.

    There was entertainment on the flights – Asiana & Thai Air.. In total, I watched 8 in-flight movies. It’s entertainment, but being in a seat for as long as those flights were is not at all comfortable. Things would have have been significantly different if we had flown first class.

  9. Looks like you had a blast man!

  10. Kyle Baxter says:

    Sounds like an excellent trip! Certainly made me jealous. Since my trip to China in January, I have wanted to visit Vietnam, too. Asia is a wonderful place to visit.

    Bartering for items on the street or market is a challenge. The idea is to drive the purchase price down as low as possible. While I was more than capable of pushing for a lower price, I couldn’t help but feel guilty that I was cutting into a sellers profit (livelihood).

    I wouldn’t be too concerned about it. I had a hard time bartering at first, too, but it’s important to remember that for street vendors and street shops, that’s the way it’s done, so they mark up the starting price significantly so they can comfortably reduce it.

    My rule of thumb, which is a quite loose standard, was to bargain it down to a place I felt was a great deal per American prices, but never go to a level where I felt I was ripping them off. While I felt like I had gotten a great deal, it tended to be a significant premium over the “usual” price they’d get. Win-win as far as I am concerned.

    I remember one sweet old lady at the Summer Palace who was selling Beijing postcard packs. My friends and I bought 3 packs each or so for about 10 RMB each (which was a about $1.30 at the time). She sold something like 150 RMB of post cards to us, and she began weeping and thanked us, because that was more than she usually made in a month.

  11. David says:

    That was a great post. It is so hard to find non-partial, real-life people like yourself that can give such a personal view of places most of us can only dream of going.

  12. John Postlethwait says:

    That is really awesome Derek. I’m going to be having a similar experience in Germany, Netherlands and France here in a month. Unfortunately the USD doesn’t convert as well over there as it did for you here.

    Ha Long Bay is really really beautiful looking. I think VIetnam will be my next international trip. This looks amazing.

  13. […] If you were ready to read a tense, nerve-racking account of what happened throughout my five days of absence, forget it. You can forget it if you were looking forward to my recipe for banana milkshake, too. I haven’t got either niceties ready for your delectation. Although, if you must read about someone going on holiday, read this big post by Derek Punsalan. […]

  14. Andrea says:

    What a great trip, I went this year to Koh Samui, and was thinking of visiting Vietnam next year, after viewing your photos, I’ll go for sure, cheers.

    It’s a real pity you couldn’t visit Koh Samui though, maybe next time. If you go there, check out Kamalaya, a spa resort on the South of the island (the best part of it if you like quiet) Samui is great, fantastic food, beaches…

    Thanks for the photos

    Andrea

  15. Keiron says:

    Some fantastic photo’s there Derek – not sure I’d want to meet Jerry Springer mind!

  16. ijook says:

    Vietnam is my dream plan to see….

  17. Max says:

    Hi Derek! Very nice post & photos!
    You definitely need to come back to Thailand one day, so much things to see here (travel North if you can)!
    If you need, I can be your tour guide! (I live & work in BKK)

    Cheers,
    Max

  18. Daus says:

    Great trip Derek. Btw, I’m using your old theme October Special, and made some modifications. Maybe you wanna take a look.

    Cheers 🙂

  19. Drekwon says:

    To bad you missed out on Koh Samui. It’s a really awsome place to hang. But I guess you already got a fair chair of awsome places. heheh

  20. Martin says:

    Thanks for the beautiful photography and epic post-

    Arrgh! planes!