Preparing for the Big Trip

We did our best to prepare ourselves for what was, for me anyway, a huge adventure.  We wanted to make the most of the decision we had made and the opportunity we had.  Having had time to reflect on how and what we did we will try and not make the same mistakes twice (not guaranteed) and we will also try to repeat what turned out to be good decisions.

There is a a wealth of information out there about how best to prepare, what to take, what not to take, whether it is worth learning a language, how long to spend in any given place, how to save money and when spending extra money is worthwhile.

We spent hours trawling the internet and as well as taking on advice from trusty sources such as Lonely Planet and Tripadvisor, we also found fellow travellers’ and bloggers’ recommendations useful, up to date and often more appropriate than generic sources.  By way of payback we are going to add some small nuggets of advice of our own.

Much of what we say will have been said already but sometimes it needs repeating and our personal view may cast a different light.

Learning the Lingo

One subject we feel able to offer advice about is language learning.  I learned French from an early age and then German in high school but both languages were rusty 3 years ago.  The Wooky had tried his hand at Spanish and, both being a tad obsessive decided, we decided we wanted to learn Russian and Mandarin.  Not the easiest languages not least because neither shared the same alphabet.

We both followed the Pimsleur courses, took an evening course in Russian before we left London and I tried to learn some Chinese characters.

Neither of us became fluent but both of us excelled in a way and maintained a passion for both languages.

The Wooky has now been studying Bahasa Indonesia now to such an extent that he is practially fluent.  I have also taken some time to brush up on my French from school as we found this is often a second language to many in Asia and obviously widely spoken in Europe as well.

For our basic rule of thumb with learning languages click here.

Our experience learning Mandarin can be found here.

Research

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Con Dao, Vietnam

Everyone says it and I’m about to say it again: research, research, research is the key to any plan. Gone are the days when you pitched up somewhere and walked the streets trying to find the least expensive room with the fewest bed bugs and the cheapest beer.  All this information can be found, relatively up to date, on the internet with recent reviews and candid photographs.  However, try to read a variety of reviews because there are some individuals out there with exacting standards like the Tripadvisor reviewer who complained about a squashed mosquito on an otherwise spotless white wall and dust bunnies under the bed in these beautiful little cabins in Con Dao.

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Tockay gecko
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Our basic hut complete with balcony, hammock and gecko

Unless you learn to read between the lines you could end up paying too much money to stay in soulless and uninspiring chain hotels. Sometimes, by sacrificing the odd luxury (and I like my basic facilities) you can experience the idyllic simplicity of a beach hut with a warm breeze and the sound of the waves lapping the shore (and your very own tockay gecko!).  It might not have an en suite but it’s cheap and one of those places your mind drifts back to long after you’ve left.

For more on our stay in in the Con Dao Island, Vietnam click here.

And for more on Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia (and how to remain British and queue in an emergency) click here.