I know things have been pretty quiet on this blog for the past month or so, and for that I apologize. The reasons for my absence, as well as those for my return, will be posted on an occasion when I have had the foresight to type them out before traveling across town to the place with a reasonable Internet connection. In the meantime, I present to you: my exciting plans for the future.
As my current visa expires at the end of August, several months before my intended return to the US, I’ll be participating in a time-honored tradition well-known to the expat community: the visa run. A visa run, for those unfamiliar with the term, is a trip to another country at the end of one’s visa in order to re-enter and acquire a new one. In a lot of cases, including when one is changing visa types, you can’t just extend your current visa. Instead, you must leave the country and come back in order to get your new visa. Runs to China and Russia for this purpose are pretty common among the EiM (Expats in Mongolia) community, since they can be reached by train rather than plane. Korea is also a common destination, since Americans don’t need a visa for a quick trip there, as they do for Russia and China.
But since I’ve no pressing desire to visit any part of China beyond the Great Wall (because really, who doesn’t want to see the Great Wall?), and I plan to venture to Russia on a later date, I’ve decided to take this opportunity to see other parts of Asia. I’m an avid reader of Stupid Ugly Foreigner‘s descriptions of his adventures while teaching in Korea, and as much as I love his blog, it has made me both frustrated and envious. So far, despite having lived in Asia for nearly a year, I have yet to visit a single other country on the continent (the Tokyo and Beijing airports, obviously, do not count). It’s mightily discouraging to read another’s beautifully-written accounts of his wild romps through Asia with the knowledge that, despite being in Asia yourself, you have little chance of similar experiences. Lack of infrastructure here makes even in-country travel difficult and time-consuming, and the fact that Mongolia is on the way to precisely nowhere makes for a limited flight schedule. I’d have had a hard time getting away from work for a long weekend even if I lived in the capital – which I don’t.
So now that I have to go somewhere, you can bet I’m headed for one of those places that, so far, I’ve only been able to read and dream about. Which is to say: Thailand. I though about Dharamsala for a good long while, but even if the news hadn’t been recently flooded with ills befalling female travelers, I think I’d still be a mite nervous about tackling India while traveling solo. I will go there someday – just not on this trip. After a year in a country with almost none to speak of, the promise of paved roads and other actual infrastructure in Thailand is just too tempting.
So, readers who’ve been to Thailand and Cambodia: where should I go? Tell me what you remember most fondly, be it a place you stayed, a sight you saw, or a thing you did. (Accommodation and food recommendations especially welcome.) So far, I’ve got Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Chiang Rai on the highly-recommended list, since I’m more interested in hiking and temples and elephants than beaches. A day on a tropical island sounds lovely, don’t get me wrong – but I’m going here to see and do things, not just laze. Also, prolonged exposure to the sun turns me roughly the same hue as my trusty berry-tinted Kelty backpack, and carrying a Kelty in that condition strikes me as a profoundly unappealing proposition.
I also want to drop into Cambodia at least briefly, if for no other reason than because there’s no way I’m getting that close to Angkor Wat without actually seeing it. I don’t know much else about the country, so your recommendations in that regard are particularly welcome. In total, I’m looking to be spend about two weeks in the region and return to Mongolia mid-September.
Leave your recommendations below, where others can find them, or drop me an email at my very creative email address: my first name, followed by my last name (both lowercase), at gmail.com.