The big Indochina trip: back home 

I’m back home and I’ve had a fantastic trip! I’ve actually been at home for a few days now but I haven’t posted anything until now because it’s taken a few days to unpack my stuff and sort through all my photos. Now I’m done with all that and it’s time to write the last post.

Before I sum up my trip however, I want to do a little bit of promotion:
The people I stayed with in Mae Hong Son were so nice and so hospitable I think they deserve a special recommendation. If you (or anyone you know) are passing through Mae Hong Son, and you want some genuine hospitality, make sure to stay at Uncle Otto House.

And now, back to summing up my trip.
I’ve been on the road for three months, visiting four different countries; I’ve seen and experienced so much, I’ve had a lot of fun but also some hardships and I’ve met new friends along the way. Through all this, I think I’ve learned a lot about myself and I feel I’ve grown as a person. Looking back, I feel the things i did at the start of the journey were much longer ago than three months, strange as it may seem, I feel nostalgic when thinking about them.

A collage of some of the best pictures from the entire journey

Though I’m over 30 years old, I still felt young and a bit naive when I first got on that motorbike. Now I’m more of an experienced traveler and I think I’m better equipped to handle whatever my future travels, and life in general, throws at me. The only problem is that I now have a taste for long journeys, which is bad when you have a family and a stable job.

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Map of all the places I visited. Like you can see, there are still parts of Thailand left empty

A few things I’ve learned during my journey:
A lot of the trouble I had with border crossings and so forth came from a lack of planning. I don’t regret making things up as I went along, that was all part of the adventure, but for any future journeys across international borders i need to do a little bit more research, just enough that I could adjust my itinerary to avoid them. But like I said, I don’t regret my lack of planing, overcoming hardships is how you grow as a person and besides, t makes for far better stories than if everything had gone smoothly. The only thing I do regret is not getting a longer visa for Vietnam, because that would have allowed me to find easier workarounds to my problems.

Travelling by motorbike is really fun, you see so much more than when going by bus or train, and you can interact more with the people. However, it’s not all that comfortable, the next time I go on a long self drive journey, I will go by car. Also, if I go on any longer motorbike journey some time in the future, I will buy a bigger, proper bike. Sure, riding the cheap little Honda Win was an experience in itself but I prefer something a bit more powerful, a bit more comfortable and a bit more reliable. I’m sure I will feel the same kind of bond with the machine after a few thousand kilometers as I did with the Win.

I’ve always thought of myself as a bit of a lone wolf and while I do enjoy being on my own, I discovered that travelling for a long time one your own gets kind of lonely. Of course I did make friends along the way, I actually surprised myself at how social I could be, and I did meet up with Renegade Wife several times but still. The next time I go on a longer journey, I will go together with someone all the way (this meeting up stuff was a lot harder to plan than I thought), not only is shared joy doubled, but hardships and problems (and I can guarantee there will be some) are easier to endure when you are two.

I was  doing things at a rather high pace, often going out sightseeing right after a long drive. It was doable, but only just. If I had been out for any longer than I was, I would have had to lower the pace a bit, stay longer in some towns and add more days to just relax and do nothing. In some ways I also wish I had more time because I had to rush through some parts, and in that case a lower pace would definitely have been necessary.

Some final advice for anyone planning to do a similar journey: Do a bit of extra research regarding border crossings and visas, it will save you some trouble. Get a three month multiple entry visa for Vietnam, that way you can use that as a sort of transit country, should you encounter any border problems. If I were to do this trip again, I would change my route. I would start in Thailand, travel around by bus and train for a while then cross into Cambodia. I would hang around the hostels in Siem Reap for a few days and buy a Honda Win from a backpacker there, then I could use that to travel through Cambodia and cross into Vietnam down in the south. From there I would go to the Mekong delta, then travel northward through Vietnam, maybe skipping Ho Chi Minh City, all the way up to Hanoi. If I felt like going further north I would set the bike on a train up to Lao Cai, then go from there up to Sapa and maybe a few other places. I could then cross into Laos at Na Meo, and go all the way through Laos down to Pakse. I would probably skip 4000 Islands, and just go straight from Pakse back into Vietnam and sell the bike in Ho Chi Minh City, then fly home from there.

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Better route for motorbikes than the one I took

Well, it’s been an amazing journey but now it feels good to be home, sleep in my own bed, eat normal food and just take it easy. In some sense, it actually feels good to come back to work too.

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