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Month 6 Roundup

February 28, 2014


Days on the road: 184

Distance traveled: nobody cares 🙂

Number of beds: 14

Countries visited: Thailand, India — we did about 2 weeks of chilling in Thailand, one week on the beach and another in Chiang Mai (with a stopover in Trang). Then we really kicked it into high gear with our trip in India.

Postcards sent: 4

_MG_0593_1Cousins of the bride in Amer, India


Six months traveling feels both long and short. We have never had a vacation for longer than three months – and that was when we were still in school (not college, since summer months provided no respite from work). We’ve never traveled for longer than two-three weeks at a time. In that respect six months is by far and away a long time. But it doesn’t feel like it. Six months of anything is usually exhausting and drags on, and you just want to be done with it: six months of work, six months of winter. In this case, we might be a bit tired, but definitely not ready to be done with it.

So in the name of such occasion, we have the “best of” round up, of what we’ve seen, where we’ve been, what we’ve learned, and so on. Some mentions of worst thing ever will be present, of course.

Best airport

Sergey: BKK
Jenia:  Shanghai’s Pudong airport, it has the world’s only civilian magnetic levitation train servicing it. To experience Maglev = to experience total awesomeness.
month6_280214_housetolaos_0027Maglev logo looks like Space Invaders… 

All airports on this trip: NYC – JFK; Moscow – SVO; Tokyo – Ibaraki; Shanghai – Pudong; Guangzhou – Baiyun; Bangkok – BKK and DMK; Krabi ; Yangon;  New Delhi – Indira Ghandi;

Best airline / flight experience

Sergey: AirAsia – the best airline cost/quality ratio.
Jenia: Sri Lanka airlines – budget price, but top-notch service, with delicious food, wine and real silverware and glassware! Oh and generous luggage allowances.

All airlines: Transvit (Russia), Spring Airlines (China), Sri Lanka Air, Air Asia (Malaysia), IndiGo (India)

Best train / train experience

month6_280214_housetolaos_0007Thai train personnel on inspection before departing Bangkok. 

Sergey: Best trains are, hands down, in Thailand. The worst ever are in Myanmar.
Jenia: Trans-siberian express was epic, and that was my favorite experience. But most comfortable train ever (not the most punctual) are in Thailand, second class.

month6_190913_housetolaos_0025Journey on the Trans-siberian railroad, crossing Russia, Mongolia, and into China. 

Countries where we took the train: Russia, Mongolia, China, Japan, Thailand, Myanmar, India.

Best boat ride

Jenia: Boat ride to and from the island of Sviyazhsk near Kazan, Russia. It was on the day of our second marriage anniversary, which makes it particularly memorable. The sun was shining, and the scenery of Russian dachas on the water was stunning – that helps too. )
sviyazhsk_20130903_housetolaos_0039Floating down the Volga river in Sviyazhsk, Russia. 

Sergey: Best boat was the hydrofoil from South Korea to Japan, speedy goodness. Also, taking the slow boat from Mandalay to Bagan was pretty neat.

Fascinating 15 hours floating down the Ayeyarwaddy river in Myanmar. 

Boats we’ve been on: Sviyazhsk, Russia; Ferry from Tsingdao, China to Incheon, South Korea; Ferry from Busan, South Korea to Fukouka, Japan; Ferry in Andaman Sea connecting various Thai islands, slow boat from Mandalay to Bagan, Myanmar; boat from Mawlamyine to Hpa-an, Myanmar.

Best (if there is such a thing) long distance bus

month6_280214_housetolaos_0009All aboard and ready to depart, 2 minutes early, per usual. Bus stop in Chengdu, China. 

Sergey & Jenia: Bus ride from Chengdu to Kangding in China. Great scenery, fascinating Chinese movies, and steep curves provide an adrenaline rush.

We rode the bus in: Korea, China, Myanmar, Thailand, India.

Best metro system

Electronic boards atop metro boards indicate transfer lines, past and future stations, and which sides the doors will open on. Announcements are made in English and Chinese. Also, there are flat-panel tv screens playing shows, and / or teaching English / Chinese words. 

Sergey: Beijing is easiest and logical. Moscow is the most beautiful.
Jenia: Beijing – incredibly easy to use, very inexpensive. Worst – Bangkok, where there is a BTS, an actual metro, suburban rail network, an airport link, and water buses – all of which require separate tickets, which are relatively expensive. Also, there is no convenient app showing where to transfer, how much the fare might be or how long it will take.

We took the subway in: Moscow, Beijing, Seoul, Kyoto, Tokyo, Shanghai, Wuhan, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Bangkok, New Delhi.

Best city

View of the Chao Praya in Bangkok. 

Sergey: Bangkok
Jenia: It’s a tie between Kyoto and Bangkok.

Best small town

Sunset over Gyeongju, South Korea.

Sergey: ? – no love for small towns.
Jenia: Gyeongju, South Korea

Best beach

Sand, blue skies, the ocean; low on people, high on relaxation; beautiful sunsets; what else could you possible need? Klong Nin, Koh Lanta, Thailand. 

Jenia & Sergey: Klong Nin, Koh Lanta

Best hike

Sergey: Mt. Emei, Chinamonth6_061113_housetolaos_0004
Erie and misty, 54 km ascent to Mt. Emei, Sichuan province, China. 

Jenia: Climbing hills and visiting a Tibetan nunnery outside of Tagong village in western Sizchuan, China.

Monastery school outside of Tagong, China.

Best hotel overall

Sergey: The Hut, in Koh Lanta – not sure you can call it a hotel though…
Jenia: Golden Empress Hotel in Lake Inle, Myanmar and homestay on Olkhon Island on Lake Baikal, Russia. Worst ever – the prison cell of a room we stayed in in Bagan, Myanmar and paid $20 a night for.
Hanging out with Siberian huskies at our homestay on Olkhon island, Russia.

Best value for a hotel

SergeyCC’s Hideaway in Phuket, Thailand – we got in on a family and friends deal, and chilled for a few days at a true resort with plush bathrobes, a great view, amazing bed, the works!

Poolside at CC’s Hideaway, Phuket, Thailand. 

Jenia: Kesar Palace Hotel in Udaipur where for $17 a night we had the super deluxe penthouse suite, with a spectacular view, particularly of the sunset. The hot shower with excellent pressure and plenty of water was amazing.

Penthouse room in Kesar Palace, Udaipur, India. 

Best Couchsurfing experience

Sergey: Greg in Gyeongju, South Korea and Kenji in Tokyo, Japan
Jenia: This is hard and a bit unfair, since every single experience we’ve had so far was very good and personally enriching. But I have to say that Kenji in Tokyo, Japan and Pushpender in Amer, India take the cake for being the most memorable!

Outside of Kenji’s house in Tokyo, Japan. 

Best performance / show

Super-excited Jenia and a very well composed geiko (geisha apprentice) before the performance in Kyoto, Japan. 

Sergey: drawing a blank
Jenia: Geisha performance in Kyoto.

Best cultural experience

Sergey: Being invited to and participating in an India wedding.
Wedding celebrations – arrival of the groom in Amer, India 

Jenia: Hanging out with all sorts of people in Mynamar  – we’ve been invited to homes, parties, celebrations – all of it with huge smiles and absolutely no expectation of us, never experienced such kindness and hospitality. Also a wedding in India, and a birthday party in China!

Best cuisine overall

Sergey: Thai
Papaya salad from Siam Cafe on 20 Silom Soi in Bangkok, Thailand

Jenia: Japanese – from sushi to noodles.
Sushi from the Tsukiji market in Tokyon, Japan.

Best meal

Sergey: Red Snapper at Richie’s on Koh Lanta; Dinner at the Japanese Pub with Nobu and hist family in Chiba, Japan
Jenia: Sushi breakfast at Tsukiji Market in Tokyo; grilled fish at a floating village restaurant in Inle Lake, Myanmar.
Sushi from the Tsukiji market in Tokyon, Japan and grilled fish from floating village restaurant by Inle Lake ferry crossing, Myanmar. 

Most memorable meal was eating duck face at a street market in Chengdu, China with our host Shanshan.
Duck face – check, plastic gloves – check. Enthusiasm? Chengdu, China.

Best book read while on the road

Sergey: Still “reading” Game of Thrones Series
, alright listening to..
Jenia: China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power by Rob Gifford. We listened to it as an audio book, and it was a fascinating companion while we journeyed through China.

Skills learned

Sergey: Negotiate everything and trust no one. Driving a tuk-tuk. Thai cooking.
Jenia: Diving head first, scuba diving, driving a scooter (a little), and Thai cooking.
Class at Time for Lime and scooter practice both on Koh Lanta, Thailand. 

Most favorite memory

Sergey: Watching The Great Gatsby in a train compartment on the border of Mongolia and China through an iPhone projector and bluetooth speaker with our new friends Courtney and Martyn.
Jenia: Hanging out, drinking Myanmar whiskey in a restaurant facing rice paddies in Hpa-an, Myanmar. A Burmese guy with his girlfriend were at a table next to us, and he gave the most awesome impromptu guitar and signing performance for an hour and a half. The scenery was so beautiful, the mood so romantic – it was beautiful.

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