Preparing for a hike

Mount Batur, Bali, Indonesia. July 2015.
Mount Batur, Bali, Indonesia. July 2015.
  1. Pick your destination. Decide if you’ll be going for a day activity or if you’ll spend the night there in camping or at an accommodation nearby.
  2. Pick the trail you’ll be doing according to how long it is and its difficulty. If the difficulty isn’t indicated, check out the elevation compared to the distance.
  3. Check the weather forecast on the day of your departure. Dress accordingly, in layers, and wear good hiking shoes.
  4. Pack light, wear a well adjusted backpack, and bring everything you need. Don’t forget …
    1. a wind/rain coat
    2. lots of water (and maybe some Gatorade)
    3. snacks, lunch
    4. a flashlight (in case you get stranded in the dark)
    5. some toilet paper and a “ziploc” bag (for the soiled paper)
    6. a first aid kit
    7. sun screen, mosquito repellent
    8. hand sanitizer or hand wipes
Mount Giant, Adirondacks, NY, USA. 2014.
Mount Giant, Adirondacks, NY, USA. 2014.

Hong Kong: Tian Tan Buddha and Ngong Ping area

Hong Kong: Tian Tan Buddha and Ngong Ping area

The main highlight of my stay in Hong Kong was my visit of Ngong Ping, located on Lantau Island.

It’s funny because when you think about Hong Kong, the first thing you think about is usually skyscrapers with plenty of chinese writing. However, Ngong Ping is so far from that image.

Once you get to the island by MRT (which is so easy by the way!), you can walk to the Ngong Ping 360 cable cars to buy your tickets. Then, the cable car takes you up the mountains to Ngong Ping Village. The village in itself didn’t please me as it was extremely touristic. However, the panoramas on the way up there are to die for. The journey lasts around half an hour, with a gorgeous view of Tung Chung Bay, the South China Sea, the surrounding mountains as well as the Hong Kong International Airport.

Mountain Gate, Ngong Ping, Hong Kong. May 2015.
Mountain Gate, Ngong Ping, Hong Kong. May 2015.

The Mountain Gate is a beautiful site in itself already, as from there, you can also see the Giant Buddha on top of its mountain.

Tian Tan Buddha, Hong Kong. May 2015.
Tian Tan Buddha, Hong Kong. May 2015.

Tian Tan Buddha is an awe inspiring site that is even more majestic in real life than it seemed in photographs. The long and narrow stretch of steps lead straight up to the giant Buddha statue, from which you can enjoy a 360 degree panorama view of the surrounding water and mountains while taking in the refreshing wind. The giant statue really incarnates the harmony in which nature and spirituality can cohabitate.

Next to Tian Tan Buddha is the Po Lin Monastery. In front of the main building is burning incense and you can visit a part of the religious building. The Grand Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas is entirely covered in gold.

Wisdom Path, Hong Kong. May 2015.
Wisdom Path, Hong Kong. May 2015.

A short walk away from the center of attractions is the Wisdom Path. 38 wooden monuments line the path where serenity is at its best. On each wooden monument are chinese inscriptions . It is not much to see but the peacefulness of the site is a refreshing change of air from the city. Take a moment to take in the scenery and tranquility.

Things to know before you visit Southeast Asia

  • There are funky smells everywhere.
  • It is so humid your sweat won’t even be able to evaporate. You’ll get used to taking 3 showers a day to freshen up.
  • Traffic is chaotic, but you’ll realize it’s not a big deal after all. At busy motorbike intersections, just cross the street and walk at a moderate but constant speed while the motorbikes pass right near you.
  • Haggling in markets is a MUST. The prices are set higher knowingly. You can often get the items at half the asking price.
  • A few dollars go a long way.
  • Those temple pants that everyone have are actually super comfortable and worth a try… you might end up buying a half dozen to take home!
  • Renting a motorbike can be a great way to get around. Make sure not to touch the exhaust pipe; many tourists get horrible burns because they don’t know this and have never used a motorbike before.
  • Driving is on the left side of the road.
  • Locals drive very fast on those sinuous cliff-side mountain roads. It can be quite scary.
Typical busy intersection in Ha Noi, Vietnam.
Typical busy intersection in Ha Noi, Vietnam.

Why I fell in love with Southeast Asia

Before leaving for my trip to Southeast Asia,  I was afraid of the unknown, afraid of having to face challenges or problems for which I wouldn’t have a solution. However, I quickly understood that I simply had to make some mistakes to learn from them. I came back from this trip having fallen in love with Southeast Asia and wanting to see and do more, wanting to go back. I normally don’t particularly want to go back to someplace I’ve already been to, because I think life is too short to return to the same place a second time, whereas you could be spending that time and money on visiting someplace new. However, this time, I absolutely want to go back.

What are the things that made me fall in love with this part of the world? It would be too hard to explain why as it is the overall experience that won me over. However, I will try my best to put into words the reasons why I think Southeast Asia is a magical place.

Phuket Big Buddha on the peak of mount Nagakerd. Photo by Vincent Chenevert.
Phuket Big Buddha on the peak of mount Nagakerd.
Photo by Vincent Chenevert.
  • The culture is extremely rich and the people is open to show it to you. The traditions, ceremonies, traditional clothes, altars and decorations are beautiful.
  • There are many preserved natural spaces with majestic landscapes.
  • Spirituality, meditation and mindfulness are very present and are an inspiration to me.
  • There is a HUGE variety of things to see and do… go shopping in a humongous mall in Bangkok, go elephant riding in Luang Prabang, go visit the ruins of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, lounge on the beach in Nha Trang, and the list goes on… There is something interesting for everyone.
  • There is a lot of history and therefore, a lot of things to learn for us Westerners who do not know much about the history of Southeast Asia.
  • The people are very friendly. Some are very inspiring when you look at how hard they work and at how little they need. The children are happy with so little and are as joyful as any child elsewhere in the world.
  • Everything’s cheap! (But be prepared to haggle…)

My take on how to pack for 2 months in Southeast Asia

As you might be telling yourself, it seems absolutely impossible to be able to fit enough clothes to wear for 2 months overseas in a reasonably sized luggage.

Here are some of my tricks and tips based on my experience.

Nusa Lembongan, Indonesia
Nusa Lembongan, Indonesia

Backpack

If you will be staying at only very few different places, then a standard luggage might fit your needs. However, if you are planning to move a lot, i.e. to go from one place to another repeatedly, it might be interesting for you to consider using a backpack. A backpack is much more practical in terms of carrying it up and down stairs, walking through crowded or dirty streets and being in a hurry to catch a bus/train/plane. The size of the backpack can vary in terms of volume. To choose the size of your backpack, consider that you should have to be physically able to carry it on your back for example for a 30 minute walk. Don’t forget to adjust your backpack, as this will make a huge difference in your ability to carry it. If you are not sure on how to do it properly, I suggest you ask the salesman to help you with it as he is probably more knowledgeable.

In my case, I used a 44L XS Osprey Rose Red Kyte backpack and a Lowepro Photo 22L Hatchback as my carry-on. Osprey backpacks come with a “All mighty guarantee” and will replace any product that was damaged for any reason. The price might look steep as mine was 200$CAD, but i have used it for 3 trips already and plan on using it some more later on. If it is too expensive for you, perhaps you have friends who might lend you theirs. The Lowepro Photo Hatchback is great for me as it has a removable compartment at the bottom which is padded and made to store and protect my DSLR camera.

If you are planning on taking the plane within Southeast Asia and choosing to go with budget airlines such as Tiger Air, Air Asia, … then also keep in mind they may charge you extra for checked baggage. Consequently, if you would like to save some money, you can avoid having to check your luggage by making sure it meets the requirements for a carry-on luggage in terms of size and weight.

Continue reading “My take on how to pack for 2 months in Southeast Asia”