Life & Travel

This journey through Asia: superlative galore

This journey through Asia: superlative galore

By Lonneke — June 05, 2016 09:53 pm
Life & Travel, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri-Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam

Whenever I try to descibe one of our experiences in Asia, I often find I come up short for words to truly describe the essence. Perhaps these words don't exist yet, as is so often the case with things of magnitude. The travelling itself functions as a magnifying glass, it has the tendency to sweep you off your feet, in the best and worst way: crude behavior cuts you like a knife, kindness carresses you like a feather. Poverty squeezes your heart in anguish, beauty blows fresh, sweet smelling air into your being. Everything seems to have a shortcut to your soul.

As a result you do not just explore your new surroundings, but you do a lot of soul searching as well. That's the nice thing about travelling though: while you're diving into yourself and work through the layers, you experience elegance and adventure and amazement.

Being on a small budget, it were the small things that made our journey. Riding motorbikes, moving past an entire lane of cars at the left (wrong) side and ignoring te traffic light turning left, the middle son between my legs shouting: we're totally acting like locals right now! The oldest two partying with Sham in Cherating on our last day there, playing loud rockmusic and headbanging together the whole afternoon, while we took the youngest one to the beach, where the river and the sea meet: the current hurrying him into the salt water as a leaf. Trying yet another local dish for next to nothing. Little inside jokes that originate, as a result of spending every waking (and sleeping) moment together.

Come to think of it, I suppose our favourite spots in each country, are places we wouldn't recommend to others. They all don't hold very special features or comforts. We loved them for other reasons.

Tangalle in Sri Lanka was the first place we stayed for a longer period, mainly for reasons moneywise. We bonded with the couple of our guesthouse, there was beach with extremely high (jumpable) waves and nasty stray dogs and that's about it. Of course we rented scooters and explored the area and one huge plus was the cooking of Harshi: her curries are unprecedented. The boys still talk about her and our time there.

Cherai Beach in India was our homebase after turbulent adventures and struggles with foodpoisening. We lived in an appartment there, spacious housing for the first time. There was sea and absolutely nothing else, literally - not even eateries. We had to take the bikes or ride one scooter with the five of us to go to the nearby town to stock up on fruit and yoghurt.

Ko Samui is a famous tourist destination, but honestly Thailand has far more pristine islands on offer. Our hut on the beach had aircon, for the first time, and we used our time here useful, meanwhile recuperating from India.

Hoi An in Vietnam is real pretty of course, but I would recommend one day, no more. It's way too touristy. Nevertheless we spent two periods there, getting to know a whole different side to it, beyond all the charming lanterns, candle lit river and fruitselling ladies. A side, even more appealing, as it goes, with a few fixed restaurants to go to, bikes to ride, an island nearby the house we rented.

Our longest stay was in Cherating, Malaysia: for five weeks we revelled in our huts and on the empty beach, it was heavenly. By now, we were quite fed up with being constantly on the move. It's hard to say what stood out for us there, I guess the lush, messy garden, where the boys felt at home instantly, as well as the great connection with Sham. The town itself is abandoned for the most part, deteriorated and dusty, and on friday (the day for worship for the muslims) you can hardly find a foodjoint that's open. Outside of the surfing season it has practically nothing to offer, except for the fireflies. But we just wanted to BE so badly, and this was the perfect place for exactly that.

On Bali we ended up in Padangbai, the harbor town for getting on the ferry to the other islands. Because of this, the place is totally not set up for guests that stay longer. You have to look extra hard for warungs or foodstalls, all the restaurants are overpriced. There is beach, but nothing else. But we loved our inn with the multicolored swimmingpool and anything-goes-vibe.

So the places where we lingered are no hidden gems we'd encourage our fellow travellers to go to. Our gems were found elsewhere, in experiences, in people, in ourselves through the possibilities of these places.

I understand that this makes us not easy to pinpoint, to categorise. Just the whole tourists versus travellers discussion and all this popular distinguishing is not something we think about. If I should be forced to say something, I'd say we're neither: best case, we're people among people, otherwise we're people being in different places. With the emphasis on 'being'. Sure, we travelled a lot, and the nature of our travel made it so called 'deep, profound travel'. Really getting to know places, immersing yourself in the culture. This comes with the territory of a tight budget and enduring discomforts; we wouldn't have wanted it any other way. But this also makes it difficult to offer tips to, for example, people wanting to travel/holiday with children. I don't feel suited to hand out random or general advice, because everone is different. Every family has their own dynamics, their own preferences, their own abilities, their own wishes. You know best how your children react if you take them to a museum after a 10-hour busride, or three days hiking in a row. Everyone is welcome to ask me questions and I will answer them the best I can, but mostly I just like to say: do what feels right for your family, the sky is the limit, depending on how far you're willing to stretch the limits of your comfortzone. Don't plan too much, leave room for the unexpected, leave space for staying in when you or your familymembers feel like it. The only practical tips for a world trip I can offer are: bring a sickbag (for example, the one from the plane), bring Lego if you travel for a long time with boys (endless entertainment), take an empty bottle with you on long busrides or trainjourneys, in case they have to go real bad (again, this is only useful if you travel with boys) and make sure you stay in a place with enough space once in a while - running needs to happen! Oh, and if you're looking to make a buck on the road: if you have any plumbing experience at all, you'll never be out of work in Asia - I haven't brushed my teeth or washed my hands once whilst keeping my feet dry.

In Varkala, India, the oldest son was playing his guitar, he didn't have many lessons before we went travelling, but he arranged the chords he knows in a beautiful way. He said: "Mama, sing along with it" and I did, we made up this song on the fly. He's way too shy to perform it with me, but here are the lyrics:

We travel
And as we travel we unravel
Some of the simpler things in life
How to do more than just survive

Cause with each other it is better
For every shared experience
Is a hundred times as intense

New eyes
Nature around you is most wise
Look with freshness at the world
Till the important core has been burled

It's simple indeed
You don't need a lot
And what you need
It can not be bought

(So we keep on going with)
this journey
Cause deep inside we are still yearning
The world is big and we are small
But still we'd like to know it all

We took off in 2015 with a year of travelling the world with our 3 awesome wingmen, wasting time on the better things in life. From that day on we document our endeavours and make things happen.