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Asia, Challenges, Destinations, Experiences, Travel Blog

Bumps on the Road: Why It’s Important for a traveller to Be Flexible

November 3, 2011
Travel-flexible

Here I am – three days before my flight schedule to Bangkok, a trip that supposedly will tick off country #22 of my 25-country travel list.  However, the trip remains to be a big question mark.

I’ve booked my ticket to Thailand five months ago and next week will be my first holiday after six months. And now, most likely this trip will be cancelled unless the flooding situation dramatically improves.

As you may have seen,  most parts of Bangkok are still underwater and are showing no signs of returning to normal in the next couple of days. The flood water was from accumulated monsoon water coming from the north in the past 2 months and has so far claimed more than 400 lives and billions worth of damages.  I’m watching the news 24/7 and the situation more or less looks like it’s going to remain in the next coming weeks.

Splashing on the StreetMy original plan was to spend a few days in Bangkok and then work my way to Chiang Mai just in time for Loy Krathong before heading back again to Bangkok.  Another option is to fly to the south to Krabi or Phuket.

To be honest, I am very disappointed about not pushing forward. I’ve been looking forward to going to Thailand for a while now – fuelled by excitement from reading various travel blogs and sorting out advice from fellow travel bloggers. And to add that this is the third time that my trip to Thailand will be cancelled. (once in 2007, second in 2009)

But who am I to complain? My rant and worry are nothing compared to the problems the floods have caused to the Thais.

It’s tough to accept but I have no other choice but to suck it up and face these changes.

As a traveller, we are bound to have our plans change.  Plans are mere guidelines.

Things will not always go our way.  It can come as an unexpected detour, a delayed flight, or a personal tragedy and we have to be prepared to face it.

For example, how many times have  have we hesitated on visiting a place but end up staying there longer than we expected.

Or planning an itinerary then ending up changing plans last minute because some of the people in the hostel wants you to join their road trip.

But what is an adventure without being ready for the unexpected. Changes and spontaneity make travelling exciting. Often it’s the spontaneity that brings the excitement and thrill of travel – the offbeat path, the hidden thrills and the spontanous night where you get drunk and hooked up with this hot Swedish chick 😛 . those are the experiences that, as travellers, we often best remember.

Changing plans test out our capability to adapt to a situation and seek alternatives if needed.

As for me,  I’m looking into a Plan B for my trip – the current list is between Hong Kong or travelling locally in the Philippines to the beaches of Siquijor, Boracay or Coron. I have yet to make the decision and may leave it to chance come this weekend.

And still, there’s a possibility of going to Bangkok on Sunday and braving the floods. Ground reports are saying that the situation in the center remains to be normal and other cities such as Chiang Mai, Phuket and Krabi are unaffected. So why not push forward with it?

Lille

Who knows what will happen? Even I can’t even make my mind and I’m going to decide maybe in a couple of days.

Life is not constant. Events will pop out that will and can change our lives. And travel has taught me to be flexible and accept these changes whole-heartedly. Change will come, sometimes when we least expect it but it’s up to us to face it and make the best out of it.

* Thailand flooding photo from Flickr norsez and is used under Creative Commons license.

Travel Blog

Confessions of a newbie travel blogger

October 12, 2011
Balloon festival

It”s been six months since I started this travel blog and I realised that this is a tough gig to crack.

For the most part, I”m enjoying the experience.  But as with any endeavours, I developed a  love-hate relationship from making this travel blogging work.

I”m not saying goodbye to travel blogging. I am not keen on doing that. But rather, I would like to tell a few experiences I”ve realised from a few months of being part of the community. Here are a few things that have made this whirlwind experience both challenging but most of the time, inspiring.

  • Travel blogging is, at most, a one-person show

It’s not easy to work and manage a travel blog. You work from start to finish – from buying the domain, doing the design work and fixing technical issues, writing blog posts to scheduling tweets and managing social media channels. It has become a juggling task, that  has taken most of my free time.  Building a blog from scratch requires a steep learning curve,and in order to get your head on the game – you need to have both discipline and patience.

It”s been difficult to keep up and you can see it with the ireggular number of posts I do per week. This is not what I want and I”m trying my best to put it back into a good rhythm – but mind you that it”s not an easy task to do to make sure that you have fresh & interesting content available.

But despite that most of the tasks belong to me,  I have friends helping me out with 25travels – proofreading, writing posts and giving editorial advice – I couldn’t do it without them.

  • Success doesn”t come easy

From a travel blogging context , it means that building your name online won’t happen in days, weeks or even months.  This is an accepted fact. But keeping the momentum going to write and improve your blog, without any return on investment, is sometimes discouraging.

  • Every new visit, follower or fan counts.

Checking my analytics has become a daily obsession. I check fanatically my blog”s search keywords, visits, page views, time spent  and comparing it with the previous months hoping that it’s going to be better. But that single increase on my page views is enough to put a smile on my face.

I watch the numbers closely and with every milestone – my first 100 twitter followers, my first blog comment, my first 25 fans on Facebook –  comes as a challenge to work hard and invest more time.

  • Comment Lover

Once you write and upload your post, then you wait on how your readers respond. How will your post fare to the reading public? Will they gate it and love it?

For me, comments are big metrics to see how popular your posts are. Also, if someone re-tweets your post – you are happy. If someone famous (more on #4) re-tweets it, then you start jumping out of your seat. 🙂

It bothers me when a post doesn’t get any comments or feedback.  If I don’t get comments on a post then I assume that there must be something wrong with it. Was my post boring,  uninspiring or just plain unreadable?

  • I get excited when talking to travel blogging celebrity

My first days as a travel blogger was like going to a new school. I am the new kid joining a pool of people who have been in that community for years.They, the popular travel bloggers,  have mastered the art of travel blogging and amassed a huge amount of followers, fans and comments on their every posts.

As a new kid, I get excited every time a travelblogger celebrity reply to my tweets, RT my blog posts or comment on my blog. I can’t help to get star struck. So if you are one and you are reading this, please do say hello and comment back – that will surely bring smile to my face.

  • Travel community is a great bunch

Being a part of a travel community like #TTOT, have given good traction for my blog and a supportive hand in improving it. New & fulltime bloggers work hand in hand in making everyone new feel welcome.

The community allowed to meet people who appreciate and value travel like I do. I’m continuing to learn about places I’ve never heard off , food that I never knew existed and experiences that is now on my ever growing bucket list. Through this community, I also got inspired to work towards doing an #rtw trip soon.

And I’ll also like to extend my thanks to the great people I met in the journey particularly beforeiam35, amzkiz, packsandbucks, hyperren, shivya, fourjandals, 2girls1journey, pckyourpassport, toniwonitravels, our_oyster, a6packofstories, confusedjulia, budgetplaces, AE_carhire.

  •  Small words can have an impact

I talked about success in the context of building a name online. And I”m far from achieving that form of success. But what is the measure of success anyway?

My biggest realisation in doing this blog is that through telling stories about my goal and adventures, I can impact the way you, my readers, think about travel.

This keeps me going,  knowing that through my work, I  manage to influence another person”s travel decisions – even if it’s just a simple hostel recommendation or to begin their own travel goal.

I remember that the reason why I started blogging was I was inspired by other bloggers to start my own.  And now that I am actually doing it, it’s been rewarding to see emails & comments pouring in. That validates me as a travel blogger, even if it”s only in a small way. It’s only a handful of emails since I started – but all those emails, tweets and posts, inspire me to continue this work.

Travel Blog

Travel Rant: Bali for beginners

September 16, 2011
Ubud Market

One guidebook calls Bali’s tourism industry a ‘duopoly’, with the chaos of Kuta typically juxtaposed against the idyllic vibe of Ubud. When I went to the island recently, I have seen these both sides and in as much as I want to remember Bali as a postcard friendly paradise, I think I would have to agree with Mr Daffy’s attitude in The Beach: You know why he wouldn’t ever go to Indonesia? Boycotted because of Bali. He went there only once… and wouldn’t ever go back’ (Garland, 1996).

For those who see Bali as an Eden on Earth with swaying palm trees and friendly locals in the backdrop, take heart: unless you are staying in five-star hotels luxury travellers are raving about, let me warn you that Bali is beautiful, but it is a bit overrated. Maybe I went during the wrong season, or bad luck strikes me more than other tourists (which has something to do with me looking like a Balinese, which I will talk about later), but I’m sharing my experiences to forewarn you of the things that might ruin your vacation in the so-called island of the Gods.

Sweet Bali High

But first, the good stuff. Balinese are friendly people, and I’m not talking about hotel staff, taxi drivers and market vendors who are, in a way, financially motivated to be so. I went to a walking tour in the heart of Ubud and I can say that the farmers, the ordinary people going about their lives in the villages are sincerely friendly. They offered food to a stranger like me, gave their warmest smiles and most of them wish I had a good day during my stay in Bali.

Ubud

These are the locals – not tainted by any monetary gains whatsoever – who make me believe that Bali is indeed a paradise, but probably back in its heyday.

Bali Boo: Rippin’ Off my Rupiah

My eco-tour lasted for half a day, and after my stroll to the green fields, hidden waterfalls and local villages, I needed to come back to the tourist zone. But the more I move out of the fields, and closer I get to the tourist drag, the more I feel disconnected from the real Bali. I think all the travel hype about the island is well, just a hype, and the brochures are just glossies full of fluff.

Partly, it has something to do with me being Southeast Asian and looking like someone from Jakarta or even a Balinese (according to the locals). At first, I thought I would easily blend in and no one would suspect I’m a traveller. But, it became a disadvantage on my side. And this sort of ‘discriminatory treatment’ I have felt strongly in the restaurants. I went to a pizza place in Jalan Pengosekan in Ubud and the moment I got in, I requested for the menu and the staff asked me to go to the counter and order. I have nothing against ordering if that’s the SOP, but five minutes later, two Westerners/Caucasians came into the restaurant and one of the staff eagerly came to their table, handed them the menu and even had a chat about the bestsellers! In Kuta, meanwhile, my friends and I ordered some snacks in a restaurant and the waiter, after taking our orders, asked: “Are you tourists?” (I thought to myself, “I’m a traveller, not a tourist”) Upon learning that we are indeed non-locals, the waiter did not sound convinced and he even uttered, “Are you sure?” and I detected a condescending note in there. Maybe it’s a case of bad service or bad English sentence construction, but I cannot forgive the sarcasm.

Fruit stalls - Ubud Market

Bad service aside, it’s the perpetually painful ripping off that made me disappointed with Bali. All memories I have of Ubud Market are vendors trying to rip off tourists. Take the case of the red wooden bangle: When I went to Ubud Market, I spotted a red wooden bangle and in three different stores, vendors are trying to sell it to me for 60,000 rupiah. I declined and when I went to Kuta, a vendor is selling it for 30,000 rupiah. I asked if there’s a chance she can lower the price and the vendor replied, “Fixed price, 30,000”. I thanked her for her time and started walking away. She tried to run after me and said: Okay, I can give it to you for 10,000 rupiah”. I appreciated the effort, but no thanks. 60,000 rupiah reduced to 10,000 rupiah is just insane.

And of course, what kind of travel rant will this be without the quintessential taxi story? Sadly, I have had my share. Taxis in Kuta overcharge, that’s a given. But what’s worse than charging 50,000 rupiah for a ‘parking fee’? My friends and I took a cab from Kuta to Ngurah Rai International Airport and we insisted on using the metre. Upon reaching the Departure Gate, the taxi driver exorbitantly charged us 63,000 rupiah, including, the 50,000 parking fee. We had an argument about it, insisting that the toll he paid is only 5,000! He only gave in and accepted the correct amount when an airport officer intervened.

If you chance upon this post and are heading to Bali, pardon my bitterness and heed my advice: drop all your expectations the moment you land at Ngurah Rai. And if you have been to the Bali, and had a totally different experience from what I have had, good for you. Hit the comment box for your equally violent reactions, if you may.

Thanks to Nick Botter & Alpha for the photos. Under creative commons license at the time of posting.

Have you been to Bali? How was your experience?

 

This is a contribution from Nelly Hernandez

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