Travel and Transport
Living in Southern California, my main method of transportation for over 15 years was driving. I got so lazy to the point where if it was cold and I didn’t feel like walking the 10 minutes it took to get to my parents house nearby, I would drive instead. So it was a difficult but refreshing change of pace to not have to get behind a wheel of car since I left the US a month and a half ago. Since then, I’ve been using almost every other means of transport available from airplanes, trains, metro/subways, buses, taxi, motorbikes, bicycles, ferries, and kayaks, to the most old fashion way of getting around, walking.
My one-way flight from LA to Tokyo and then Beijing took a total of around 17 hours. With an endless number of on-flight movies to keep me entertained, the time passed by fairly quickly. I’ve also been on several international flights before that took around the same time so I knew what to expect. Nothing was out of the ordinary.
Once I got to Beijing, I wanted to try something different and travel by train and make my way south through China and into Vietnam. My 6 overnight train rides from Beijing => Pingyao => Xi’an => Shanghai => Shenzhen/Hong Kong => Guilin => Vietnam all added up to a total of 85 hours. So that’s almost 4 days spent on tiny train beds and doing everything I can to hold it in so as not to have to use the disgusting bathrooms on there. But I endured and made it to Vietnam finally after a month in China.
And just when I was slowly becoming accustomed to train travel in China, my 12 hours sleeper bus ride from Ha Noi to Sapa took uncomfortable to a whole new level. These recliner seats mean to be slept on are half the size of the small train beds and twice as hard. The seats are also packed right next to one another so I am just inches away from my neighbor. Turning on my side took careful positioning so as not to disturb and invade the space of the person sleeping right next to me. Also, because these recliner seats only recline to a maximum of about 165 degrees, my body ended up slightly crooked after a night of sleeping on my side. It was quite an experience I plan on not repeating unless necessary.
Then there are the metro/subways and buses. I knew China was crowded but I didn’t realize truly how crowded until I was jammed packed into a metro/subway and/or bus like sardines in a can. One time, a staff had to literally push me and the backpack I was carrying inside so that the subway door can close behind me. I also made a rookie mistake of over packing and having to lug my huge luggage up endless flights of stairs to change metro lines was exhausting to say the least. I learned my lesson the hard way and quickly shipped my huge 32inches duffel bag along with 1/3 of what I had packed back to the US once I got to VN and bought a much smaller luggage about half the size.
It may not come as a surprise when I say that taxi, motorbike and bicycles are my preferred methods of getting around. Although cars in China rarely obeyed traffic signs and I almost got hit a couple times, renting a bike for a day to explore Beijing was very fun and allowed me to see different parts of it that I hadn’t seen. Biking around the Xi’an high city walls was also amazing and allowed for spectacular views of the city from above. In Sapa, Vietnam, I rented a motorbike to explore nearby villages and the view along the way of rice terraces carved into the mountainous region was stunningly magnificent.
All and all, the best views I had the pleasure of enjoying were from the short Star Ferry from Hong Kong Island to Tsim Sha Tsui, the long ferry from Tuan Chau to Cat Ba Island in Ha Long Bay. The view of the Hong Kong skyline from the Star Ferry is quite impressive considering everything was man-made. On the other hand, the natural view of the archipelagos from the ferry in Ha Long Bay was almost otherworldly. Kayaking in Ha Long Bay and navigating around endless archipelagos to find tiny deserted beaches to relax and swim in was definitely my favorite thing to do.
Then there is walking. My first few days in Beijing proved to be trying as my feet was not accustomed to walking so much. It took at least a week for my leg muscles to kick in and get used to walking everywhere. In the beginning, I only carried my iphone around because even carrying my DSLR was an extra weight I couldn’t bear. Now, more than a month into my travels, I can comfortably walk for miles with two DLSRs and a tripod in my small backpack. Not only my feet but also my back is adapting to the extra weight and extra abuse I am putting it through.
It hasn’t been an easy 6 weeks getting from place to place but the amazing sights I’ve seen make it all worth it. I am determined to travel by land as far as I can after Vietnam through Cambodia, Thailand, and Malaysia, to the tip of Singapore before I will need to fly to Bali. All these different modes of transport, good and bad, is helping to shape me into a more experienced traveller. I try to my best to enjoy every single moment, from the most visually rewarding to even the most disgustingly uncomfortable, and remind myself to be thankful everyday for being able to travel and see the world.
I would love to hear your thoughts regarding this post or your own personal travel experiences in the comment section below. Also, check out my travel photography and shoot me an email to say hi or connect with me on your social media of choice to get updated pix from my travels and new blog posts. Thank you for reading, visiting my website, and sharing it within your social network if you like what you read and see.
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