Thursday, January 28, 2010

Marlo

Another week, another blog night. I’ve been back here five months already. How the time does fly here in the ROK. Winter’s almost over. Travel season starts soon, a big reason why I came back here. That, and the health care, and the Taco Bell opening just two months from now. Don’t leave the light on for me, America. I won’t be home soon.

I haven’t been on a trip in forever. Fortunately, this comes to an end in 4 weeks, and in style. On February 26th, I’m going on vacation.

My plan all along has been a trip to Southeast Asia, simply because my trip occurs in late February and early March. I want to get out of the cold, and it’s too expensive to fly to Fiji. My original plan was to fly to Bangkok again and to hit up Laos or Cambodia overland. Flights to BKK from Seoul also seemed expensive, so I decided any Southeast Asian hub (Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore) will do.

Ultimately, I chose to fly to Kuala Lumpur on Malaysia Airlines for a few reasons. Price was a factor, of course. Also, I’m an airline/airport nerd. Malaysia is a 5 star airline, and the Kuala Lumpur airport is ranked top ten in the world. I’ve never flown Malaysia Airlines or been to the KL airport (or KL period) so I’m excited to check out both. Malaysia boasts pretty much the best food I’ve ever had in my life, so I’m eager to get back to that. Finally, KL is the hub of Air Asia, the largest low-cost airline in, well, Asia.

Kuala Lumpur should be cool for two or three days. There’s the aforementioned food. There are cool neighborhoods and museums. Perhaps most interestingly, KL is famous for cut-rate top-notch hotels. I generally hit up a hostel or cheap hotel in the Chinatowns or Little Indias of the world. However, if I can snag a 5 star joint in the heart of town for $75 a night, it would be hard to turn that down. This falls well within my travel ethos. I’m anti-mid-range. No Holiday Inns for me, at least in foreign counties. I’d rather hit up the character and convenience of a no-name below Motel 6 dump. The only logical alternative? The Ritz.

Beyond KL is where my problem lies. My options are pretty much endless. On Air Asia, I could fly for cheap to any Southeast Asian country, along with India, Bangladesh, the UAE, or Australia. I quickly ruled out UAE and Australia, simply because I don’t want to fly for 7 hours on a 737, especially since Air Asia has no onboard booze. The Subcontinent is essentially out too. Again, long flights, plus too vast and too much paperwork required for a weeklong trip. I’m back to my original square one - anywhere in Southeast Asia. Of the countless options on the table, there are five that I’m considering at the moment. I’ll break them down, including pros on cons. Bah, pros and cons in kinda boring, instead I’ll break the pluses down as Rocky IVs (the finest film ever made) and Rocky Vs (the worst dreck ever filmed).

The first option - my original Cambodia plan. I could fly from KL to Siem Reap and spend a few days hiking around Angkor Wat. After a few days in jungle ruins, I could take the slow boat down the Mekong to Phnom Penh. In PP, I could check out ancient Khmer temples, eat French food, and drink like a Phnish before flying back to KL. IVs of this plan - Angkor, which I’ve wanted to see for years, awesome food, float on the Mekong, go to a new country. Vs - slightly long flight, malaria, no beach.

The second option - Thai beaches. I could take the train from KL to Hat Yai, then take a bus to Krabi and a boat to Koh Phi Phi. Time permitting, I could also head over to Koh Phangan. To save time, I could fly back to KL via either Krabi or Koh Samui. IVs - beaches, a cool SE Asian night train, staying a night in a sketchy crossroads town like Hat Yai, undoubtedly a good time. Vs - not checking out any new countries, though I would be in only new cities; terrorism in southern mainland Thailand, Koh Phi Phi is fairly expensive.

The third option - the western Borneo circuit. I could fly from KL to Kutching, a town in Malaysian Borneo that sounds really cool. After two days, I could take the bus (9 hours) to Pontianak, Indonesia on the west coast of Borneo, just below the Equator. After two days, I could fly to Pulau Bintam, Indonesia, an apparently hellish island that makes Hat Yai look like Stockholm. Flights from Pontianak to Bintam are apparently dirt cheap. I could hang out in Bintam for as long as I could stand it (maybe as long as two hours) before catching a 1 hour boat ride to Singapore. After one night in Singapore, I could head up to Melaka, Malaysia for a couple nights before returning to KL in time to catch my redeye flight home. IVs - longhouses and jungle in Borneo, going to fucking Borneo, a good couple beach days in Indonesia, going to a new country, crosing the Equator, spending one day in familiar environs (Singapore), checking out Melaka which is supposed to be awesome, a good mix of urban/rural. seeing a lot. Vs - a lot of movement, never being settled, never having time to get used to a particular place, a 9 hour bus ride, malaria, having to fly on something called Batavia Airlines.

The fourth option - Malaysia and Sumatra. I could go down to Melaka for a couple of days, then take the ferry to Sumatra. After a long bus ride, I could fly a couple of puddle jumpers up to extreme northwest of Sumatra for a world-class, largely untouched beach. After a few days there, I could return to KL on a series of flights. IVs - a new country (Indonesia), a real adventure, a trip to an awesome beach. I’d also be going somewhere that’s well off the beaten track, and wouldn’t have to worry about returning on a future (semi-planned) mega Indonesia trip. Vs - pretty rural, and it will require a lot of travel to get there. Also, malaria. Potential unreliability of flights may force me to return to KL several days early.

The fifth option - Peninsular Malaysia. I could go to Melaka, the east coast islands, the interior jungle, the Cameron Highlands, pretty much anywhere that tickled my fancy. I’d see jungle, world class beaches, and certainly eat well throughout. IVs - undoubtedly the easiest option. I wouldn’t have to book any additional transportation in advance. If I wanted to wake up in Ipoh, I’d wake up in Ipoh. I’d only be dealing with buses and trains. I could really get to know a country. World class beaches. The jungle experience would be similar to Borneo or Sumatra, only with no chance of seeing an orangutan. Vs - the least ambitious choice, no new countries, slight malaria threat should I spend much time in the peninsular interior jungle, the least variety.

Like Marlo Stanfield said, this is one of those “good” problems. Any suggestions?

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