Thursday, June 14, 2012

Planning my Summer 2012 vacation

I think I'm starting to wrap my head around the idea of living a teacher's schedule for the next however-many-years. I've never really planned for vacations before, having worked in very busy and deadliney business and IT jobs for so many years, so I'm going to take a stab at planning a long vacation for this Summer break.

Until now, I think the longest vacation I've ever taken has been about 10 days, and those 10 days sure did seem luxurious. I was just informed that I will have about 6 weeks off from mid-July until end of August. WHAT?! Six weeks?? ::faint::

Here is my very tentative plan:

Beijing, China
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Battambang, Cambodia
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Don Det, Laos
Kratie, Cambodia

Here's an overview snapshot of the Cambodia/Laos part of the trip, which is basically one big loop...

I currently live in Haikou, Hainan Province, China... way up there in the upper righthand corner of the map. It's an island and is the southernmost province in China.

Express Train from Haikou to Beijing to visit a long-time friend. I have been promising my friend that I will visit for the past 4-ish years since he moved there from the US, and this is the perfect opportunity. I'm finally in China! If this Summer doesn't work out, maybe I can head up there for Spring Festival in January during the other school break. I would like to try the express train instead of flying. Yes it will be uncomfortable and smelly, and no doubt my feet will get spit on and I may even get bucket-o-noodles spilled on me, but it's part of the adventure. I love trains, and I'll get a superfast 31-hour tour of China from wayyy south to wayyy north via little train window. And I've done so much flying over the past couple of years for work that I'm looking forward to other modes of transportation.

Fly from Beijing to Phnom Penh and probably stay the night. May not have time to see much of the city. It's funny how things work out, as this was the first place I researched teaching ESL until deciding to job hunt in China. It'll be nice to catch a glimpse and feel of the city to see if I may like it for future living/teaching gigs.

Bus from Phnom Penh to Battambang to attend a 10-day Vipassana meditation course. I've been wanting to do this for a couple of years now, and am excited for it to become a reality. Ten hours of meditation a day for ten days, while observing a 'noble silence' which means no speaking or communication of any type. No computers, cell phones, writing journals, no distractions of any kind. This is the main purpose of the trip to Cambodia.

Bus from Battambang to Siem Reap to visit the Angkor temples. I am choosing to visit the temples after the meditation course instead of before, since I think it will be a very special way to end the course, spending two days exploring these amazing temples and the surrounding nature.

Bus from Siem Reap to the Laotian border and then hop a boat to Don Det, Laos. Don Det is part of the Si Phan Don (The 4000 Islands), a riverine archipelago located in the Mekong River. It's a very chill place to lay in hammocks for maybe 5-6 days while exploring the surrounding islands and scenery by foot and bicycle. Apparently the largest waterfall in Southeast Asia is within a 45 minute bike ride of Don Det. Can't wait. I was originally thinking of spending the chill time in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, which is supposed to be a pretty great place to relax, but maybe I'll save that for a future trip. After reading a lot of reviews it seems to be more touristy and more of a backpacker party hangout than Don Det. But who knows...after 100 hours of meditation and complete silence, maybe I'll be ready to party with some crazy backpackers. This may be a game-day decision.

Boat ride from Don Det, Laos to Kratie, Cambodia down the Mekong River, which is probably as far as I should attempt to travel in a day. I keep reading that the full trip from Don Det to Phnom Penh is aggressive for a single day, so breaking it into two days by staying in Kratie is the smart way to go. Boating down the Mekong, what?! Doesn't sound quite real yet.

Bus from Kratie to Phnom Penh to catch a flight back to Haikou. Again, I doubt this leaves much time to explore Phnom Penh, but we'll see.

This leaves roughly 2 days to settle back in Haikou before going back to work. That first week back to work isn't really 'work' since all of us teachers arrive a week before the students to just sort of get classrooms ready, so I don't feel the need to allow too much chill-at-home time at the end of the trip.

So that's the tentative plan for now. Vacation starts a month from today! I've never really been a big planner. I really like this rough outline, but will probably leave plenty of room for spontaneity. This is all too surreal. Really feeling extremely fortunate lately,

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