Three months ago, I gave you all a peek into my upcoming travel plans. You all gave me such amazing advice and feedback last time that I decided to do it again.
One month from today, I’ll be waking up in Bangkok, ready to traipse around Southeast Asia once more. Sometimes I think this is the region of the world that my life will be dedicated to exploring, that’s how much I love it. I’ve been away for over seven months now, and frankly — it’s been too long. I’ve had a fantastic summer and fall taking shorter trips (I’ve still got a week in Florida coming up!) and spending lots of time at home, but I’m ready to strap on my enormous backpack and really get out there and challenge myself again. And a good challenge it will be — the majority of this trip I’ll be traveling solo.
This trip will be “just” five months. I can’t help but think of it that way — “only” one hundred and fifty days. Maybe it’s because in the past I’ve had the luxury of traveling without a return ticket, or maybe it’s because I love Southeast Asia so much that I kind of want to stay forever. But because of my time limitations, I’m trying to get a rough idea of how I plan to spend my months.
Which is where you come in. Readers, I need your help! On this trip I’m finally going to use the grant I received to do my Divemaster course — I just need to figure out where. I’ve included some of my ideas in this post, and I’d absolutely love your feedback in the comments.
No surprise here — my first stop will be back in my beloved Thailand. I’ve decided to kidnap my little sister for her winter break, so she’ll be joining me for the first three weeks of my trip. We’re basically heading straight to Koh Tao, where I’ll catch up with friends, get some Muay Thai and yoga in, and of course dive my favorite spots. Once my sister leaves I’m going to hit up some new destinations — visit a friend who moved to Koh Mak, and attend in Pai. I know a lot of you are going to be in Thailand around this time, so I’d love to plan a reader meet up!
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Once I get my Thailand fix, it’ll be time to add a new stamp to my passport. The Philippines has long been on my radar as a place just one degree removed from the typical Southeast Asia Backpacking trail, a challenge I’m ready to take on as a solo traveler. I want to trek to the rice terraces of Northern Luzon, party all night in Manilla, swim with whale sharks in Donsol, and absolutely scuba dive my face off at some of the best reefs in the world. Depending on how my budget is looking at the time, I might even cross something off my life list and do a week-long kitesurfing course in Boracay. Is there anything I shouldn’t miss in the Philippines?
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Just as the rainy season comes to a close at the end of March, I’ll be heading to Indonesia. If I end up doing my Divemaster course here (see below!) I’ll just have three weeks or so after to travel. Thus, I’ll likely be limiting my travels here to the islands of Bali and Lombok. That’s fine with me — I’d rather explore a small region slowly and thoroughly than scramble all over with an 80L backpack strapped to me. I’m going to hit all the highlights — hiking Gunung Rinjani, playing with monkeys in Ubud, and dancing the night away in Seminyak. I’m even hoping to sneak a yoga and surfing retreat in there somewhere.
The biggest decision I need to make on this trip is where to do my Divemaster course. At bare minimum, I’ll be spending a month in that spot — a full fifth of my trip! I’m looking for a place with a combination of impressive diving and a good lifestyle up on dry land. Here are some of my contenders, and I’d be so grateful for your advice.
• Puerto Galera, Philippines. From what I gather this is the place to do a divemaster in the Philippines. The diving is meant to be top notch, however the beaches don’t get great reviews and the nightlife is decidedly seedy. Still, the island of Mindoro is large and I doubt I’d get bored here.
• Moalboal, Philippines. As Lonely Planet says “diving, drinking, and dining top the list of activities in the dive colony of Moalboal.” There also appears to be plenty of land based activities. Still, I can’t find tons of information about doing a Divemaster course here.
• Bali, Indonesia. What can I possibly say about Bali, one of the superstars of Southeast Asia? I know I’d be happy on land here. On the downside, the diving here is notoriously cold and the island might be a bit distracting.
• Gili Trawangan, Indonesia. This is my current top contender. I hear frequent comparisons between Gili T and Koh Tao, which is a fantastic sign. Yet I wonder if there is enough to keep me from getting island fever on an island so teeny and if the diving is at the level I’m looking for.
So what was so important as to convince me to book a round trip ticket for this trip? My baby sister’s graduation from New York University. No way am I missing that! Then, the following weekend I’ll be in Toronto for TBEX. Beyond that is a mystery, though I suspect I’ll spend a chunk of time in Martha’s Vineyard helping my mom fix up her new old house, and I have a plan to Cuba on the backburner. If everything goes according to plan, in the fall I’ll be taking off on another major adventure.
Readers, do you have any advice for me, or blog posts to share about any of these destinations? What are your upcoming travel plans?