To Go or Not to Go


In January-February 2016, I was about to have a six-week spring break from my study in Guangzhou. What would I do? The default and obvious plan for me was to stay in mainland China and travel, making use of my visa. But would I? I had my doubts and worries.

First, language. Second, hygiene. Third, costs. Fourth, … well, it could be endless. When I first landed in China, I thought I’d do my best to learn the language so I would be able to roam the land freely. But after a couple of weeks’ worth of learning, I realized it’s just not feasible. Then I thought I’d ask some local friends to travel with me – this too failed. So, would I still go?

In the end I decided: I should just buy the tickets. I started by purchasing the train tickets. Despite of the itinerary wish list I built based on my Lonely Planet, I ended up deciding where to go based on availability of train route. So the itinerary came to be: Guangzhou-Shanghai-Beijing-Xi’an-Gulin-Guangzhou. Except that I found out the train travel between Xi-an and Guilin would be 27-hour long since the route doesn’t have fast speed train. I then switched to airplane just for this leg.

Second came the accommodation reservations. I decided early on that I’d only use Airbnb – opting to stay with locals and thus augmenting my travel. I also listed my itinerary on Couchsurfing, trying my luck that some generous locals would accompany me in traveling in the cities I’d visit. That’s how my travel of a lifetime come to be: a 16-day Eastern China Grand Tour.

But I’d still have four more weeks of holiday. What would I do? Next, obviously, I need to come home to Jakarta, to meet my family. On my way home I thought I’d meet my old friends who’ve been living in Kuala Lumpur for many years – and whom I hadn’t met for as many years. That became the second part of the holiday, leaving me with about two more weeks of holiday. Unwilling to spend these days in deserted Guangzhou, I decided to visit some classmates who would be home, in their home countries.

My Nepalese friends told me it wasn’t a good time to visit them, due to some political and energy crises there. Good for me, my Laotian friends joyfully welcomed me. So Laos it would be. But then, why not visit a neighboring country? So Thailand was added to the list. My final spring break itinerary ended up having 15 cities in China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Laos, and Thailand. It would start on 15 January 2016, 5:00 am, hours after the last of my first semester final exams, and end on 29 February 2016, 11:00 pm, hours before I should re-register to the university for my second semester. Talk about making the most of my holiday.

I’ll try to make some notes on these adventurous weeks – at least for my own reflection, but I do hope somehow it would be insightful for others as well.

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