Cory and Melissa's Southeast Asian Adventure 2010 / 2011

Two good friends of Travelling Backflip have embarked on a once in a lifetime trip for 6 months or more through Southeast Asia. Cory Schadt and Melissa Mullis took the extraordinary step of leaving both of their well paying jobs to pursue a dream they had to travel Southeast Asia. Planning for this trip has been years in the making with many hard choices to be made in leaving behind a well established life in Canada. However the drive to see a part of the world that has intrigued them for years spurned them on.

Over the course of the planned 6 months they will cover Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, and small parts of Thailand and Australia. Depending on their financial situation and time constraints there may be trips to India, China and other destinations that come up along the way. Cory and Melissa left at the end of July 2010 flying from Vancouver BC Canada to Bangkok Thailand then immediately onto Malaysia.
The following are pictures, text messages and information they are sending while on the road. This should be a fantastic trip that will shape their outlook on life, thankfully Travelling Backflip is along for the ride.

Follow their trip on the travel blog they will occasionally update at www.coryschadt.com

Updated December 19, 2010

Cory and Melissa have continued to enjoy life on the road in South Asia. They spent a full month in Vietnam and upon leaving proclaimed Vietnam to be the best country on this fantastic trip so far. High praise indeed considering all that they have experienced in the last 5 months.
From Vietnam they flew to the Philippines and spent a few weeks island hopping and spending a good amount of time enjoy the pristine beaches.  in this relatively untravelled country they have seriously relaxed and laid the foundation for their trip to southern Thailand for Christmas and onto Burma in the new year.
Who could not be jealous of all the amazing places they are seeing and experiencing??

Bohol, Philippines
Bohol, Philippines
Siquijor, Philippines
Siquijor, Philippines
Sea Turtle, Philippines
Sea Turtle, Philippines
Tarsier - Bohol, Philippines
Tarsier - Bohol, Philippines
Siquijor, Philippines
Siquijor, Philippines
Chocolate Hills, Bohol, Philippines
Chocolate Hills, Bohol, Philippines
Halong Bay, Vietnam
Halong Bay, Vietnam
Hanoi Hilton, Vietnam
Hanoi Hilton, Vietnam
Saigon, Vietnam
Saigon, Vietnam
Sapa, Vietnam
Sapa, Vietnam
Sapa, Vietnam
Sapa, Vietnam
Sapa, Vietnam
Sapa, Vietnam

Updated October 27, 2010

Varanasi, India
Varanasi, India

Here is a brief email I have received from Cory on their recent visit to the holy Indian city of Varanasi.
"Wow, I have never been challenged this much by a place. I think of myself as mentally strong person, but this place has rattled me a bit.
Everything here is so pronounced, the smells, the decay, the dirt. The alleyways are literally covered in vomit, shit and garbage. Then you walk down a few hundred meters to watch bodies being burned, 200-300 per day. The river is filled with shit and dead bodies of animals while people swim and bathe.
Fucked up place for sure and will be an experience I won't forget. Uploading some photos now.
Heading on a  train to Agra to see Taj Mahal tomorrow.

The following information was written by Melissa on their travel blog.

Crossing Into India
Heading to the Indian border we were ready for anything. Maybe that’s why the process seemed so easy. After being stamped out of Nepal we crossed under the border arch and a series of friendly people pointed us in the right direction for Indian Immigration. Handy since there were no visible signs and the office looked anything but official. There were no hassles as we walked on to the government bus stand and the price given for tickets to Ghorakpur was legit.
India may not be so bad after all... right?
Ghorakpur
We arrived at 8 pm in total darkness with the plan to book our train to Varanasi for the next day, then rest up for the night after our long day of travel.
The train station was full of Indians who had set up camp for the night. Almost all sections of the floor were covered by people sprawled out or by garbage. After looking throughout the station for a ticket booth, we were asked by one man, after he snapped a photo of us, why we had come here. I was beginning to wonder the same thing myself. His translation skills helped us to determine that counter 811, the one that is supposed to serve foreigners, no longer exists. Usually when travelling, the goal is to get a little ways off the beaten track, away from hoardes of other tourists. This was one case however in which any other foreign face would have been welcomed. There were none to be found.
Exhausted, we gave up and went in search of a room. Lesson learned- looking for a room at night near a train station is not a good idea. I had my first experiences with numerous Indian men leering at me and a few ” hey baby, hey baby”s. Cory’s presence didn’t deter this completely, but it was worse if he was more than two steps away. After hearing many responses of “we’re full”, we took the first room available out of desperation. Even desperation however could not force me to sleep in that. The sheets were stained and dirty, likely unchanged for some time, and the walls and floors were caked with dirt and what I hoped was dried food, but suspect otherwise. The last straw was the mysterious bugs that constantly reappeared on the bed.
An even greater sense of desperation brought us back to the train station where we managed to buy two second class general seating tickets for a train leaving in fifteen minutes. We scoured for available seats and were nearly ready to give up when one employee told us to go to the sleeper class instead where we should be able to pay extra on board for an available bed. That sounded great. We grabbed an hour of sleep, but when everyone else was ready to sprawl out on the sold out beds we were left with no choice but to sit on our bags on the floor in the corner by the rail car doors for the remaining 4 1/2 hours. Not the way I would have chosen to spend my first night in India, but it could have been worse. We could have been stuck in that Ghorakpur hotel.

Varanasi, India
Varanasi, India
Varanasi, India
Varanasi, India

Varanasi
Many of the negative stereotypes about India are on open display in Varanasi. Large cows and bulls roam free, blocking the streets, garbage is piled everywhere, the calls from the touts are constant and the smells can be overwhelming. But despite all of this, there is something intriguing about the city that makes a visit worthwhile. Much of the intrigue is connected to the religious significance of Varanasi, and the Ganga (Ganges River) to the Hindu people. People make pilgrimages from throughout India, and the world, to bathe in the holy waters of the Ganga, a practice that is on full display every morning along the riverside ghat (steps). I have some question about the holiness of a waterway that is so visibly polluted. The brown waters carry a steady stream of garbage and are clearly the collection point for the cow, goat, dog and likely human feces that litter the ghats and small alleyways each day. The occasional dead animal also floats by.

Varanasi, India
Varanasi, India

Bathing in the Ganga is not the only draw for Hindus. Being cremated on the riverside burning ghat is supposed to send one on the fast track to Nirvana. The cremations take place continuously, and while one body is being burned, other lay in wait on nearby steps. For obvious reasons photography is off limits here, but observing is allowed. If you can shake the steady stream of touts offering guide or boat service, the ceremony involved would have some emotional impact. Loved ones grieve for the deceased from above the wooden fire. Once the cremation is complete, family members carry a small bag with any remaining bones and ash down to the river where they are dropped in. Many Hindus who die elsewhere in the world also have some of their ashes deposited into the Ganga by family members who travel here for that purpose. I noticed one woman walk down the steps during the prayer ceremonies that take place each evening and empty out a plastic bag of ashes into the water. Yet another reason I would decline the chance for a holy bath.

Varanasi, India
Varanasi, India
Varanasi, India
Varanasi, India
Varanasi, India
Varanasi, India
Varanasi, India
Varanasi, India
Varanasi, India
Varanasi, India
Varanasi, India
Varanasi, India

Updated October 23, 2010

Pokhara, Nepal
Pokhara, Nepal

Cory and Melissa have successfully travelled from Nepal overland into India. Nepal sounds like it was quite a change from the previous countries they travelled through in South East Asia. Internet was not as prevalent as some of the previous countries so Cory was only able to upload a few pictures. Sounds like the hiking and clean air of the Himalayan mountains was a welcome change and as some of the pictures below can attest they had some stunning scenery.

Sadhu, Kathmandu, Nepal
Sadhu, Kathmandu, Nepal
Kathmandu, Nepal
Kathmandu, Nepal
Kathmandu, Nepal
Kathmandu, Nepal
Kathmandu, Nepal
Kathmandu, Nepal
Kathmandu, Nepal
Kathmandu, Nepal
Pokhara, Nepal
Pokhara, Nepal

Updated October 5, 2010
Cory and Melissa flew to Nepal today for a taste of the Himalayan Mountains. They just finished 2 full weeks in Laos and it sounds like the laid back pace was just what they wanted. Below is a recap from Melissa on their 2 weeks in this South Asian country.

Wat Si Saket, Laos
Wat Si Saket, Laos

Laos late September 2010
I would find it hard to believe that there is any country in the world more laid back than Laos. The people are quick to offer a smile or assistance and it was a great place to spend the past 2 weeks.
We arrived in Vientianne in mid September and it is clear that the city has had a minor facelift since our first visit 5 years ago. The streets were smooth and clean and there were more restaurants and bigger hotels throughout the city.  The French influence was visable in the many baguette vendors and the mouth watering bakeries. This capital city moved at a pace that could only be possible in Laos and for a change we could cross a street without risking our lives each time. We couldn’t leave the city without trying at least one of the many high-end restaurants in town, so we treated ourselves to a delicious French meal and even a bottle of wine!  We spent less than we would have on a meal at Moxie’s at home. Definitely worth the splurge.

Konglor Cave, Laos
Konglor Cave, Laos

Next we headed to the smaller town of Tha Kaek, followed by a two day return trip to the Konglor Cave. Caves aren’t usually my idea of a good time (small, dark, smelly places, no thanks), but this was not your usual cave. It took almost half an hour in each direction for the boat driver to navigate us through the 7 km long passage on the river. At one point we were able to get off the boat and explore a section of stalactites and stalagmites that geologists must dream about. After going through the cave we spent the night in a homestay in the Konglor Village. I’ve been in some similar villages before, but it was completely different walking through knowing that this was where we were going to be sleeping and eating our next couple of meals. We traversed the muddy pathways by balancing on thin wooden planks, passing by dozens of clucking chickens, dirt caked water buffalos and playing children.

Rural Laos
Rural Laos

The home we stayed in was a newly constructed wooden building, lifted about 7 feet off the ground on stilts. Our beds were simply thin matresses on the floor, covered by a mosquito net and the bathroom was in a shed around the back of the main house. The tiolet was squat style of course. Before dinner I was able to clean myself up by bathing from a bucket of rainwater with a plastic scoop. A sarong here is essential. The family was extremely friendly and the food was simple but delicious. I chuckled to myself in the morning when our breakfast of noodle soup – from a package, Mr. Noodles style – was served up. I guess everyone likes to make use of some modern conveniences every now and then.

Buddha Park, Laos
Buddha Park, Laos
Buddha Park, Laos
Buddha Park, Laos
Buddha Park, Laos
Buddha Park, Laos
Wat Phu, Laos
Wat Phu, Laos

Continuing south we moved along to Pakse as well as Champasak to see the Khmer ruins at Wat Phu. These were interesting as they had some similarities to Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
We tried to use local transport most of the time in Laos, partially because it is cheaper but also because it is a great way to get some glimpses into the daily life of the people who live there. As a result we spent a significant amount of time listening to obnoxiously loud Thai and Lao music vidoes on window cooled buses and rattling around in the back of sawngthaews (pickup trucks with two rows of benches in the back for passengers). Luckily we only had to wait around on the side of the road for one flat tire repair. In Pakse we opted to rent bicylces for the day to tour around and go to the bus station to buy tickets into Thailand. We didn’t have a map, but the town wasn’t that big and we knew the general direction, so we thought we could just ask for directions on the way if needed. People were extremely friendly when we asked, and each time pointed out where we should go. Unfortunately, 2 out of 3 times these directions took us on a scenic ride in the wrong direction. What I learned is that the Lao people want to be helpful and they don’t want to disappoint us or be embarrased if they do not know the answers to our questions, so they will just take their best guess. Understandable, but in the case of directions this can get a little frustrating when the hot sun is beating down on you.

Wat Phu, Laos
Wat Phu, Laos
Patuxai, Laos
Patuxai, Laos
Patuxai, Laos
Patuxai, Laos

Laos was a fantastic experience, but it is not an action packed destination. Ready to get moving a bit more and see some big sights, we’ve crossed back into Thailand for a week until our flight to Nepal.

Updated September 21, 2010
Cory and Melissa have now finished their month long trip through Indonesia and have flown to Laos. After speaking briefly with Cory the other day it sounds like the jungle trekking to see Orangutans living in their natural environment on the island of Sumatra was a stand out highlight.
Cory and Melissa have now changed their travel plan while on the road to include Nepal and India after they decided to cut Laos short. How great would it be to have the freedom to make a decision like that?


Here is a quick recap from Cory

We just finished up our 30 day Visa in Indonesia. All I can say is “wow” what a place. 30 days is definitely not enough time to explore Indonesia in depth.
We started in Bali. Sanur beach then on to Ubud. Next up was Java to explore the amazing temples of Borobudur and Prambanan.
Then on to my favourite place so far: Sumatra. I gather you could spend 2-3 months contently exploring Sumatra.
We spent the first little while on Lake Toba, the largest lake in South East Asia, on the Singapore sized island of Samosir.
Next up was Bukit Lawang. Bukit Lawang borders Gunung Leuser national park which is home to Orangutan, Tiger, Rhinoceros, Elephant, and a variety of Monkeys.
We spent a day trekking in the jungle and were able to observe wild orangutan, gibbons, and other small critters. The trek has been one of the highlights of the trip so far.
Next up? Laos? Nepal? India? we’ll see.
Cory

Orangutan, Sumatra Indonesia
Orangutan, Sumatra Indonesia
Borobudur, Indonesia
Borobudur, Indonesia
Prambanan, Indonesia
Prambanan, Indonesia
Prambanan, Indonesia
Prambanan, Indonesia
Borobudur, Indonesia
Borobudur, Indonesia
Borobudur, Indonesia
Borobudur, Indonesia
Borobudur, Indonesia
Borobudur, Indonesia
Borobudur, Indonesia
Borobudur, Indonesia
Ubud, Indonesia
Ubud, Indonesia
Borobudur, Indonesia
Borobudur, Indonesia
Prambanan, Indonesia
Prambanan, Indonesia
 

Classic Quote from Melissa posted on Facebook Sept 15

Orangutans were amazing. I think I know how they feel being stared at by tourists though. The people around here stare at me and snap photos like the paparazzi.

Here is an update from Cory with some new pictures from Indonesia. I have also attached a copy of an msn messenger conversation we had the other day that may have been a cause of some rough stomach issues he suffered.
Eric Sept 14

Prambanan, Indonesia
Prambanan, Indonesia
Prambanan, Indonesia
Prambanan, Indonesia
Prambanan, Indonesia
Prambanan, Indonesia
Prambanan, Indonesia
Prambanan, Indonesia
Prambanan, Indonesia
Prambanan, Indonesia
Prambanan, Indonesia
Prambanan, Indonesia

cory says:
*Hey dude
Eric says:
*Hey buddy
*how its going
cory says:
*Good good
*Stomach has been a little messed but no problem
Eric says:
*bit of the sprays?
cory says:
*Na cramping
Eric says:
*hmm rough, what did you do today?
cory says:
*Hired a driver
*Saw some stuff
*Couple small temples
*And a coffe plantation
*Tried a coffee that an animal shit out
Eric says:
*?
cory says:
*It eats it (beans), then shits it, then you drink it
Eric says:
*WHAT?!! is that healthy? what animal is shitting out the coffee?
cory says:
*Some small ferret looking thing
*Google it
Eric says:
*what did the coffee taste like
cory says:
*It was smooth
*Was cool
*You can get it in the west but it is really expensive
Eric says:
*so really your eating diarrhea shit coffee that came out of a small rodent and its pretty good? No wonder your stomach is hurting

Ubud, Indonesia
Ubud, Indonesia
Ubud, Indonesia
Ubud, Indonesia
Prambanan, Indonesia
Prambanan, Indonesia
Ubud, Indonesia
Ubud, Indonesia
Ubud, Indonesia
Ubud, Indonesia
Ubud, Indonesia
Ubud, Indonesia

An update from Cory after a couple weeks in Indonesia

After we left Singapore we jumped back into Malaysia and stopped for a few days in a town called Melaka.

Melaka is a very laid back town with a large Dutch Influence. We basically explored by foot taking in some temples and the night market on Jonker street in Chinatown.

After Melaka we spent a few days in Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur. KL was definitely interesting compared to Singapore. Gone were the ultra clean streets and subways while cheap eats and accommodation were abundant. We stayed in KL’s large Chinatown district and used the MRT and LRT to get around which is very efficient. We hit the main touristy areas such as the Batu caves and the Petronas Towers and did some shopping. Then we hopped on a flight to Bali Indonesia.

We have been in Bali now for about two weeks, mainly in the town of Ubud. Ubud is a chilled out town surrounded by rice terraces, temples, ancient sites and volcanoes in the distance. Highlights of Ubud were taking in a traditional Balinese Legong dance, visiting a Balinese village, Kayaking in Lake Batur at the foot of the still active Volcano Gunung Batur and purchasing some beautiful wood carvings.

Tomorrow we are heading to the Island of Java and then on to Sumatra.
Cheers,
Cory

Pictures from Cory of their 3 weeks in MALAYSIA

Floating Mosque, Penang, Malaysia
Floating Mosque, Penang, Malaysia
Street Food, Georgetown Malaysia
Street Food, Georgetown Malaysia
Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Georgetown, Malaysia
Georgetown, Malaysia
Kek Lok Si Temple, Penang, Malaysia
Kek Lok Si Temple, Penang, Malaysia
Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
Central Market, Kota Bharu, Malaysia
Central Market, Kota Bharu, Malaysia
Tea Plantation, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
Tea Plantation, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
Khoo Kongsi Temple, Georgetown Malaysia
Khoo Kongsi Temple, Georgetown Malaysia
Khoo Kongsi Temple, Georgetown Malaysia
Khoo Kongsi Temple, Georgetown Malaysia
Central Market, Kota Bharu, Malaysia
Central Market, Kota Bharu, Malaysia
Batu Caves, Malaysia
Batu Caves, Malaysia
Batu Caves, Malaysia
Batu Caves, Malaysia
Georgetown, Malaysia
Georgetown, Malaysia
Georgetown, Malaysia
Georgetown, Malaysia
Khoo Kongsi Temple, Georgetown, Malaysia
Khoo Kongsi Temple, Georgetown, Malaysia
Khoo Kongsi Temple, Georgetown, Malaysia
Khoo Kongsi Temple, Georgetown, Malaysia
Batu Caves, Malaysia
Batu Caves, Malaysia
Side Street, Georgetown, Malaysia
Side Street, Georgetown, Malaysia