Friday, October 15, 2010

Observing the 2 month mark of our RTW trip

one seat for Greg and one seat for my backpack
As of 02OCT we have officially been traveling for two months. The time is definitely flying by but yet when you consider everywhere we have already been, it is also hard to believe we have seen all of these places (5 countries and too many cities to count) in only 9 weeks.

The trip is going well. We have not had any major problems although it has been difficult sometimes, particularly in China, to overcome the language barrier. We had to modify our itinerary slightly when the flight we had planned to fly standby on from Seoul to Tokyo sold out. But a confirmed ticket from Seoul to Hiroshima only cost $150 more than flying standby so it was not financially devastating. We also ended up flying from Beijing to Shanghai instead of taking the overnight train because everything was fully booked for several days. Again, we had to spend about $100 more per person than the train would have cost, but ended up recouping some of that money when our flight was delayed for 6 hours due to a mechanical problem and we each received instant 400CNY (about $60) cash refunds when we finally boarded the plane.

Both of us have been relatively healthy but my shoulders/neck ache constantly from the strain of carrying the backpack (which still weighs in at around 13.5kg plus another 7kg for my daybag) and also from the hard beds. My left knee, on which I had arthroscopic surgery many years ago, also aches whenever I have to carry the pack for long durations or when we are hiking on uneven terrain or climbing lots of stairs. We have both had some days when our allergies are more active and thus are sneezing or have runny noses but do not actually feel bad. We have also had head colds (2 for me, 1 for Greg) but have recovered from the worst parts within about 3 days. Greg has developed athlete’s foot which we were trying to treat with hydrocortisone cream that I was already carrying before it became worse. Unfortunately that did not stop the fungus from spreading so we went to a pharmacy in Suzhou and, after showing one of the staff his foot, were “prescribed” an etinazole spray.

We try to eat a balanced diet and to seek out the local specialties but at the same time are very careful that the food is fresh & thoroughly cooked. So often that means we don’t eat a lot of meat, vegetables or fruit. We have developed a habit in Asia of eating instant noodle bowls for breakfast as we always have access to boiled water, whether from an electric kettle in our room or from a larger system somewhere in the hotel/hostel where we are staying. As the sodium content of the flavor packets is extremely high, I usually only put half of a packet into the soup. We still drink a fair amount of beer as it is very inexpensive here (about $0.50 for approx 500ml bottle if we drink one of the major Chinese brands). We have also been using our Katadyn water purification systems since we arrived in Asia, although it really wasn’t necessary in Japan.
a somewhat unidentifiable meal
I know we both handle the typical travel stresses better when we are not on the road every single day and thus can “settle in” to one place for a few nights. This also gives us time to do laundry and catch up on writing & photo editing as well as to plan for our upcoming travels. We continue not to spend our time or money seeing all the recommended sights but rather only those that we are particularly interested in. Plus walking around and just getting a feel for a location is usually just as rewarding for me, not to mention free!
Greg ponders our trip in Kyoto (he was sick with a head cold when this was taken)
We have been able to stay in touch with our families via email and Google Talk and can either instant message or talk to them over our internet connection for free. This has been easier since we arrived in Asia where the time difference is only 13 hours so we usually connect in the morning for us & previous evening for them or evening for us & same day morning for them. As expected, we cannot access any social networking sites from a Chinese IP address, so we haven’t been able to stay informed about the latest goings-on of our friends & other contacts. Nor have we been able to upload & share our photos or blogs. This is not really a problem as we continue to write and edit our pictures offline and will make multiple posts as soon as possible.

I referenced trip costs earlier and generally we are staying on target with our budget. As always, we could certainly travel cheaper and cut costs in any number of ways, but for our own sanity & ability to endure the more challenging aspects of the trip, we are spending a few more dollars per day/night versus the absolute budget traveler. We have yet to stay in a Western hotel, have only eaten at “American” restaurants a handful of times, and have only taken a taxi when other options were either not available or truly not feasible and the cost was minimal anyway. We try to “do as the locals” whenever possible for a more authentic experience.

appreciating other religions is one way to "go local"

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