Our plans changed quite a bit this month. We were supposed to keep going from India to Cambodia with a short stopover in Bangkok. Instead we ended up spending another two weeks in Thailand. In fact this update comes to you from the Suan Luang beach in Bang Saphan, Thailand (well the writing part, the actual posting is from…well that’s an update for next month). Never heard of it? Well, it’s pretty swell. What’s not so swell is the reason we ended up here – a medical emergency, aka a new root canal and crown replacement for Sergey.
Last month we shared on all ‘best of’ things that happened to us in six months of travel. Just so you know, its not all roses. So this month we share our thoughts on what has not worked out that great.
Unforeseen health concerns
Thus far, we have each had a 24-36 hr case of a stomach flu, plus a few days here and there feeling off, sick, or otherwise unmotivated to leave confines of the bed/bathroom. Stomach issues are kind of a given, but we’ve also dealt with a few other illnesses.
Sergey: Had to get a new root canal and a crown replacement. An expensive and less than ideal way to spend two weeks in Bangkok.
Jenia: Came down with a mysterious cough that lasted for almost a month. Around 2.5 weeks in, she went to an international health clinic in Bangkok to check it out. Three x-rays and two consultations with a doctor leads to the conclusion that Jenia does not have tuberculosis… but it is allergies. (WTF?)
Luckily, these are the most serious health concerns we’ve had in seven months. But it’s still time and money we weren’t planning on spending. **We do have travel insurance, and we plan to file for reimbursement. Let’s see how that goes!
Who wants to deal with annoying stuff like filing taxes or medical claims while on the road? Not us, that’s who. But alas, that is what’s on the docket for this week. And it’s not just an occasional, once a year, type of occurrence. Last month was particularly fun – our travel credit card was compromised somewhere in Singapore airport, so we had to spend time on the phone with the bank trying to sort that out.
All of the above is small potatoes compared to filing visa paperwork for some of the countries we’ve traveled to, ahem, India. It is astounding the mounds of documents (bank account statements, marriage certificate, to name a few) required. Not cheap either – we spent a ridiculous 10 baht (30 cents) per page to print what ended up close to one hundred pages of these documents. But the best part was getting lectured at the consulate about how we should’ve applied for the requisite travel permission in our home country. For good measure, our hotel confirmation email was turned down as proof of a place to stay. The consulate requested hotel manager’s signature and an ID copy (at first they asked for a pdf of his passport… who sends copy of their passport to a random person?) for reservation to be valid.
For us that meant racing back to our hostel in order to use wifi to skype with India and try to get them to send us a photocopy of manager’s ID. Of course our speediness was all for naught. Our application by a day, since consulate only accepts documents until noon. In turn this meant a delay in visa issuance, and an almost missed flight to New Delhi (no visa, no travel). After all is said and done – we were ‘punished’ with an extra-special 32-day visa instead of the usual 6 months one. (Btw – China will save you all this trouble by forbidding issuance of visa outside of your home country).
Lack of downtime…
It’s impossible to plan or research a trip that is several months or longer. This means that we are always looking up directions – to the bus / train station, to our hotel, to the restaurant. Every. Single. Day. That doesn’t include research on the actual destinations, or the optimal cost vs time on the option of plane/train/bus tickets. Unfortunately for Jenia things are exacerbated by her FOMO, so bedtime reading and spare moments of relaxation are mostly devoted to guidebooks, blogs, and any and all other resources on our destinations. You can google FOMO yourself 🙂
But lots of transit time!
Most people take transit time as cue to get some downtime – see above for why downtime doesn’t exist for us. It’s more like research time! But seriously, because we have more time than cash, we regularly spend a couple extra hours on the slow train / bus to save money. There have been times when we spent upwards of 48 hours or more to go from point A to point B.
Example: We had to get from Koh Lanta to Chiang Mai – rather than fly Krabi-Chiang Mai, we opted for two days on the train via Bangkok. We took the 4-5 hour minivan ride from Koh Lanta to Trang. We arrived several hours ahead of train departure. And what do you know, we couldn’t buy tickets because the central train ticketing system was down. Over five hours we watched two trains to Bangkok roll by, powerless to get on. We resigned ourselves to a sleepover in Trang. We missed the Sunday night market in Chiang Mai. Lucky for us, we built in a bit of flex time, otherwise we would have missed our visa interview appointment at the Indian consulate in Chiang Mai. You’ve got to roll with it, I guess. **Side note: Delays could lead to great adventures – Trang was actually pretty neat.
No friends and family, but a lot of each other
We love each other. A lot! And at this point we have totally gotten used to spending 24 hours together. But it still would be super nice to get a break, see some friends, hang out with family. We actually talk quite frequently about which one of our friends would love a particular place where we are, or an activity that we are doing (Hi Peter!) And about how much we would love to transport everyone we know to Thailand so that we don’t ever have to leave (j/k…or are we?!) It’s true – we were actually incredibly lucky to have Sergey’s parents visit us for two weeks in November. We also got to hang out with a friend from DC and a couple of friends from Moscow. We’ve even made friends on the road with whom we hope to keep in touch and see in the future. However, on daily basis there is no one else but us. And many fleeting connections and conversations with people we will never ever see again. Like first week of freshman year of college – only on repeat.
– Oh, hi! What is your name? Where are you from? Where are you going next?
Not coming (to comforts of) home
Yes, we miss our bed; and our cat; there is only one and only Otto, although bed at Abode in Bombay and cats at the Hut on Koh Lanta came very close. But there are no antique, beautiful clawfoot tubs in Asia like the one we have at home.
A true and particularly pitiful story from Jenia: I got Delhi-belly in India. The first night was really bad, but after 24 hours I was feeling much better though still a bit off / feverish. After those 24 hours we moved to a CouchSurfing house. We were floored by hospitality and generally enjoyed getting to spend time with Indians who weren’t trying to sell us stuff. But, our bed barely fit us together and didn’t have a proper mattress. Meanwhile, we were using a squat toilet and the only shower available was cold – given that the temperature outside didn’t rise past 20C / 70F, this was an unappealing prospect at best. We stuck with it, and were rewarded with rich cultural experiences via Indian wedding extravaganza but it was tough, no lie.
Stress from leaving home behind
Otto chilling in the kitchen of VIB, Washington D.C., USA
Yes, we worry about our cat. Otto is indoor / outdoor. Once he didn’t come home for 4 days. We were miserable. Now, we (ok, Jenia) worry… what if he does it again, but our tenants won’t notice that he is gone. Or something like that. What if he gets hurt? What if he gets flees, heart murmur or some other terrible cat disease?
Speaking of tenants. They are responsible for paying rent. But the buck stops with us when it comes to paying our mortgage. That’s stressful. (So far, so good on that front – knock on wood and cross our fingers). Thank you Taylor, Sean and Hal!
Oh, and this one just happened. We were sitting on the beach (Bang Saphan) enjoying ourselves, reading email, keeping up with the world. News from home: it’s raining in the kitchen. Must be a burst pipe. Thank god we have a rock star manager Pat and a repair crew lined up for contingencies. But it is still stressful.
SYRACUSE started 25-0 this basketball season. Best start in school history. They beat Duke (!!!) in the first ever ACC match up between the two schools. They were ranked #1 for like gazillion weeks. We saw two measly games (including the end and OT of the Duke game, which was a w e s o m e). We will be in Cambodia / Vietnam for March Madness – it’s not looking up.
Aside from Syracuse basketball, there is nothing that Jenia loves more in sports world than the Olympics. Trying to stream the games via Pushkar’s (and the rest of India’s) miserable, god forsaken internet was pure torture. In fact, 3G was faster than our WIFI, so we bought 500 Rupees of 3G and streamed ice skating event from an iPhone. But that’s still not an Olympic marathon that Jenia devotes 2.5 weeks every two years to.