Wednesday, January 29, 2014

PREPARATIONS/PLANNING-PRIOR TO START OF SE ASIA TRIP 2014

     About Us:

Me-Chris-a retired teacher, age 68 but I turned 69 while in Bangkok.  I love photography but I'm just an amateur.  I'm also keen on ancient sites and history, experiencing new cultures and everything that entails.  I was a bit anxious about all the walking and climbing we'd have to do as I've had minor surgery on my right knee twice.  I really do enjoy the planning any trip takes-whether the trip is long or short!

My husband-Richard, a retired construction contractor, age 71 in tip top physical condition.  His interests are scuba diving (he did this in Thailand and while diving encountered a whale shark-the highlight of his trip as this is a rare experience) and golf.  He will have no problems with any of the physical aspects of our trip.  He leaves all the planning to me and rarely complains about any activities I've planned.

     I have been planning this trip to Cambodia, Myanmar, and Thailand for several months.  I got so much help from Trip Advisor and Fodor's-so many who posted trip reports and then the destination experts and finally the "regulars".  I was a bit OCD in that I made up monthly calendars-January, February, March, and April-with our hotels, flights, destinations, activities, $$ amounts, etc.  Some of this worked, a lot didn't!  I still advocate research but maybe not go overboard like my husband said I did!








     I booked my international flight to be open jaw where we'd depart from Buffalo to Siem Reap and return from Bangkok to Buffalo.  Cost of our international flight, open jaw for the 2 of us was $3310.60, booked on May 14, 2013.  This price included all flight segments, taxes, and insurance.  This was mostly a DIY trip except for using a local agency-One Stop-in Myanmar to book the hotels and flights I requested.  As with any planning things did not always go smoothly but for the most part I'd say our trip was great and was everything we expected it to be.

     I took 2 credit cards and 1 debit card from a company that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees.  For Myanmar it took 3 months to secure the pristine USD bills that were required.
New $100 bill

     Despite taking precautions I got sick in Cambodia (not from the food) and had a slight injury touring the sites in and around Siem Reap.  Luckily I had packed some first aid supplies but truthfully that wasn't necessary as in all 3 of these countries there are pharmacies all over where you can get anything you need for less than what you'd probably pay at home.  My husband cursed all my plastic zip loc bags of things that went into our checked bags.  I must admit most could have been left behind.  What we used was the first aid stuff, the Tide packets for hand washing things we didn't send to the laundry, our sunscreen, mosquito repellant.  Oh, for Myanmar/Burma I used my pumice, heel repair lotion for my feet, and wet wipes.  Your feet will get dirty/gross when you have to be barefoot at some of the temples.  Everything else I could have bought overseas.
Too much unnecessary stuff!



 


      I did a pretty good job packing as we used most of what I packed.  Only while we were in Cambodia did my feet swell to the point where I couldn't wear some of my shoes.  What I packed too much of was shoes.  You can get by on a sturdy/strong pair of flip flops and a pair of shoes for walking on uneven surfaces or climbing steep, narrow steps.  My husband and I each had a pair of waterproof Keens which we wore sightseeing in SR and in northern Thailand for our day with the elephants.  There are very inexpensive places where you can do laundry and we did that a lot.  Bring clothes that are lightweight, will dry fast, and mix and match.  One thing that I wish we had brought from home was a compass as the one we bought in SR didn't work right and it would have helped in exploring the Angkor sites.

     Photography equipment that I brought in a carry on specially designed for this kind of stuff-
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5  This is the camera I used and was happy with it for the most part.
Canon EOS digital Rebel XTi  This is the camera my husband used.  I also brought a 70-210 lens for this camera along with filters.  I should have left this camera/lens/filters at home as not used that much.
Sony digital HD video camera recorder.
We took around 20, 000 pictures and possibly 5 hrs. of video.
For our next trip if my husband wants to practice taking pics I'll get another very good point & shoot.
Or does anyone have any suggestions??

     I was impressed for the most part with the local airlines we used.  Favorites were Air Asia, Air Bagan, Air KBZ, and Air Mandalay.  Ones I would not use again were Cambodian Angkor Air and NOK Air mainly for their excessive baggage fees.  For international airlines we felt Asiana was way better than Air China and forget about the US airlines ( I mean you Jet Blue!) although hats off to the lady at the United check in counter who got us from Chicago to Buffalo on an earlier flight and noticed that Asiana had tagged our bags as going to Cleveland!

     Itinerary-24 nights in Cambodia, 28 nights in Myanmar, Thailand split 12 nights/then 26 nights, and 1 night air travel from home to SE Asia and 1 night air travel from SE Asia back home.  Grand total 92 nights-our longest trip so far.  We left home January 4, 2014 and returned home April 6, 2014.  The best thing was that we missed one of the worst winters on record for Buffalo/western NY!

     I decided to do this blog to record our trip although I did keep a journal while traveling.  I also wanted to give back to those who helped me in my planning by sharing my experiences-good and bad-with any future travelers.

     Important things I learned:  planning can be great; things don't always go as you planned so be flexible; people overseas/from a different country are as interested in you as you are interested in them; a smile can go a long way; don't expect things to be like back home as the food is different, the climate is different, and the traffic is certainly different!  I'm sure there's more but these are just a few of mine.  Ah, I learned I don't like living out of a suitcase so future trips will have destination stopovers of at least 5 nights minimum, preferably at least 1 week.  Too much schlepping around for my liking this trip.

     And so our adventure to SE Asia begins!  

1 comment: