So many countries, so little time.
I’m now two-thirds of the way through my stay in the United States. It’s turned out to be fulfilling, fun, and unexpectedly lucrative…I should come back with enough money to float me for half a year, sufficient time for me to nail down my plans to sustain myself in Asia. It’s also meant that I’ve been extremely busy and haven’t been able to maintain the blog well, though that will soon change back as I return to Asia and have more time on my hands.
For now, I’m organizing my thoughts about what comes next in my adventure. If you like, you can play along at home and offer suggestions.
When people have asked me “so where are you going back to live when you go back to Asia?” it’s been awkward to say that I don’t really know. I think at this point there will be one more year of wandering around before I pick a spot. This isn’t based on anything other than where I feel like I’m at mentally and physically and the things I’d still like to do that I haven’t done yet. Everywhere has its own set of drawbacks and advantages so a lot of it comes down to me simply deciding what things are most important for me.
I know roughly what I’m doing when I get back in November. A month in the Philippines – half in Manila and half in Cebu. The question then becomes what to do when my visa expires 30 days from my return. I have to decide this soon because before they’ll let me board my flight back to Asia, I have to show an onward destination from the Philippines. Also it’s Christmas season so mistakes in booking are particularly unforgiving.
So here are the options as I see them. The biggest consideration of each is in red.
1. Stay In The Philippines
There are the general advantages to the Philippines that always exist: access to cheap and good health care, English speaking infrasctructure, lenient visa terms, access to my possessions that are stashed there.
I could finally experience Christmas in the Philippines, which is off the hook. They literally started playing carols there on September 1st, before I even left. This is a double-edged sword, though!
I would have time to explore parts of the Philippines other than Manila and Cebu, something I really want to do and haven’t been able to owing to the 30 day limitations.
If I went to a Tagalog-speaking part of the country (e.g. northern Luzon) I could continue to nail down the language.
It’ll be a waste of money, since I will have to purchase an onward ticket that I will not use and then pay for a visa extension. (Even if I apply for a 59 day tourist visa in theory I still need an onward ticket, and though this probably can be for 59 days from arrival, I would still have to deal with the disorganized Filipino embassy in the U.S.)
The usual disadvantages of the Phils: it’s expensive relative to the amenities, internet is subpar, and the food is not great.
2. Back to Bali
The usual advantages. Great food, cheap, beautiful area, known quantity.
I could brush up my Indonesian (I was nearly fluent when I left, but I’m afraid that if I put off returning to Indo I will lose most of it before I get back – this is a very big consideration for me).
If I don’t go back to Bali at this time, it will probably be a long time before I do go back. I am starting to miss it.
Possibility of going to other parts of the island like Pemuteran, where I was in 2016 and really enjoyed.
It’s overall the cheapest option available moving on from Manila, both in terms of transport, visa fees (there are none) and accommodations.
Intriguingly, there’s a super cheap ticket from Bali to Phuket, Thailand right when my visa elapses. I’ve never been to Phuket, and I could move on from there to some interesting spots.
Though Sanur is home to me, I’ve spent so much time there already – it is a touristy island location where nothing much happens, after all. If you’re feeling restless, and I do, it’s not the best place to be. I could deal with that by going somewhere different, but then I’d miss out on seeing familiar faces and places, which I am starting to miss. I could split my time between Sanur and some other place, but that will increase expenses.
Usual disadvantages in Bali – expensive health care relative to the cost, strict customs and visa enforcement means I won’t be able to get much work done while I’m there.
It’s a bit of a dreary season to be in Bali, and slippery…this is when I broke my ankle last year.
3. Siem Reap (Cambodia)
I’ve been dying to go back to Siem Reap. I’m really feeling this town right now. I almost went over the summer but with the government changeover I chickened out.
It’s the ideal season weather-wise to go to Cambodia. I really want to spend time on the mainland this trip and December through March is prime time for that. If I wait, it might be February before I get back.
There is a reasonably cheap flight there from Manila.
Good food and cheap lodging (similar to Bali).
I really want to spend some more time on mainland Asia and the best season to be there is November-March. Also puts me in striking distance of some interesting spots I’d like to visit again: Laos, Thailand, Vietnam.
Usual disadvantages in Cambodia: expensive and crap health care, sketch government, I don’t speak a word of Khmer.
Gotta pay for a visa ($30), and it’s only for 30 days.
Although it’s cheap to get there, it’s NOT cheap to get anywhere from there. Not outrageously expensive, but when you add up the visa fees and plane fees it’s quite a bit more expensive than Bali.
Once I’m on the Asian mainland I will probably remain there, so it makes it more difficult to return to the Phils and especially Bali until the weather changes. I will definitely go back to Siem Reap; question is whether December is the right time or not (but there’s no cheap way to Siem Reap from Bali in January).
4. Other Places
There are a number of other spots on my wish list: other parts of Indonesia, plus I want to return again to Luang Prabang, check out other parts of Thailand, and more time in Vietnam. What’s tricky about that is the timing. As I said above, best time to visit the Asian mainland is November through March, so we’re hitting prime time. That said, I don’t want to let the relationships I’ve built with Indonesia and the Philippines totally languish while I’m bumming around Asia, plus I will have work to do over there. My equipment will be located in Manila, so I either have to move it (and risk incurring customs fees coming and going) or return to the Phils to do the work.
I do also have vague plans to hit Europe in the summer, but there are a number of different ways that might go down, including a possible music tour. So I don’t need to think about that just yet.