Solo Travel: Fact or Fiction

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Solo Travel Main Pic

When you're on the Banana Pancake trail (the Lonely Planet trail that every Southeast Asian backpacker is following), when you always meet a fellow traveller on every hostel/bar/restaurant you go to, when all roads lead to the backpacker district of that makes me wonder:

Does anyone ever travel solo anymore? 

I started traveling solo in Ha Noi, Vietnam, Lois and Hutch were off to Sa Pa to see the famous rice fields of Vietnam and I stayed in Ha Noi to spend 2 days on a Halong Bay boat cruise. You could say I was now on my own.  I was finally traveling solo!

Can I now cross it off our 30 before 30 list? Was I really traveling solo?

IMG_2124Here's a recount of my day as a 'solo traveler' in Luang Prabang, Laos and you decide:

Any day in Laos should always start with a fresh baguette for 10,000 LAK (1.25 USD) and Lao coffee for 6,000 LAK (0.75 USD). I go to my favorite vendor on main street: Mama, who's so sweet she reminds me of my Lola Ludz.

I head back to Spicy Laos Hostel, one of the cheapest places I've been to where dorm rooms are only 4 USD/night (172 PHP). Yesterday, I made plans to go the Kuang Si waterfalls with Randy, an American guy I met on the balcony of the hostel.

Spicy laos
Photo courtesy of Spicy Laos
It is way expensive to hire a tuk-tuk to Kuang Si waterfalls with only 2 people so Randy and I hatched a plan. Grab a tuk-tuk, drive around town looking for people who might look like they're going to the falls (a bikini or board shorts is a dead giveaway) and convince them to jump in.
'Waterfalls, Waterfalls. Now! Cheap, cheap. We give early price, best price!"
That was our chant all the way across town. It took us 10 minutes to find a girl outside a travel agency (wearing a bikini under her top!). Her name was Hamilton or Amy, she was French and traveling for close to 3 years.

From 75,000 LAK, we now got the price down to 50,000 LAK.

We weren't done yet. Amy was even more adamant to get more people on board to reduce the fare further. Now, Amy and I were both shouting:
'Waterfalls, Waterfalls. Now! Cheap, cheap. We give early price, best price!"
After 15 minutes, 2 Americans took the bait. Lance and Eleana, a brother and sister traveling duo, didn't have anything planned for that day so our insane shouting for 'Waterfall' sounded good to them.

From 50,000 LAK, we now got the price down to 35,000 LAK.


We all got back into town happy, giddy and wet. (It was the start of the New Year and children were already starting to pour buckets of water on all passing vehicles.) Once again, as it always happens, strangers became not so much like strangers at all.

Lance and Eleana had to leave for Chiang Mai that night so Randy, Amy and I decided to meet up for dinner at the night market food stalls. You can have all-you-can-eat buffet of noodles, veggies and fruit for only 10,000 LAK.

We were joined by more people from Spicy Laos: Jon from England, Dima from Germany, Stuart from the U.K. (who I also met in Halong Bay) and Christian from America.

Beer and alcohol followed next at this amazing chill-out place called Utopia. Everyone in Luang Prabang almost always ends up in Utopia and there's a reason for that: great food, garden setting, a deck on the river with mattresses you can lie or sit on and cool music. The place was aptly named Utopia.



A little monkey-stranger we met who liked Beer Lao!
The only downside is that the place closes by 11 pm (as with all the rest of Laos). So, what do backpackers do when they want to have even more fun?


Go BOWLING, of course!

Where a bottle of local whiskey is cheaper than bottled water!

Johanna and Caroline from Sweden joined the bowling game!
We baptized the little monkey, Ling Lao Lao.
And he ends up in someone's skirt (probably too much whiskey)!

I climbed into bed at around 4 am. Before I slipped off to dream land, I realized that this was the only time I've been truly alone in the past 24 hours.

blogcarnival*This post is part of the Pinoy Travel Bloggers blog carnival series. This month, all pinoy bloggers answer the question "Solo Travel".  Nina Fuentes of hosts this month's blog carnival.

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18 sole trails

  1. Emery Kempis-DaigleApril 19, 2011 at 9:03 AM

    I love traveling solo too! I wish I had all the time and energy to write such a beautiful blog! I'm one of your avid followers! :)

  2. I've been waiting for a post like this one Chi! Love this! Keep 'em coming! I'd like to read about your craziness in Vang Vieng! I saw those tagged photos from Facebook and I just died from envy, of course I had to reincarnate to post this comment! You take care always. =)

  3. hahaha! and I don't know how that photo got attached to this comment! embarassing! delete it for me puhhlleeez! LOL

  4. I think it still makes you a solo traveler. Solo travelers can pick up companions along the way, but there's usually an understanding that you can go your separate ways at any time. When you travel as a pair, you are in a committed team. Just my 2 cents.

  5. Very true. You can travel alone for a really long time and never really spend much time by yourself. There's usually someone to go somewhere with. And it seems as if you always run into the same people over and over again in different places. I noticed I met the same group of people taking the same traveling route as me when I was in Southeast Asia. The same thing happened to me when I was in Costa Rica.

  6. Tambling. Paano ako naging National Geographic photographer?! :-O

    Thanks for sharing your story, Chichi! Looks like you're having quite and adventure in Laos ;)

  7. It's great traveling solo, gives you more chances to meet such amazing people! Thanks for following our journey Emery!

  8. So you've been waiting for the party photos? Some aren't fit for this blog, if you know what I mean. Which you probably do, Archie!

  9. Um I'm sorry, there' s no possible way we can delete that photo. It will forever be attached to this post for our 1 million visitors to see ;p

  10. You've made a good point Roy. It does leave you the freedom to leave wherever you like. But I've found that with so many great and interesting people to hang out or travel with, I've chosen to travel with them rather than doing it solo. Sure, I have some 'me' time as well but never for long. I've also noticed that most solo travellers say their solo but then their almost always part of a larger group at any point in time.

    Appreciate your input!

  11. I've met some solo travellers but they were never really alone. Just like I was. You meet so many different people. I think that travel memories and experiences are best shared with others.

  12. I just made you into one, Nina! Sorry about that, copy and paste from the previous blog carnival entry ;p

    I'm having the best time in Laos (but that's what I said for Vietnam too!). I love this country, seriously!

  13. Seems like you had a very nice time, Chichi. I can relate with your experience though. In 2001, I traveled alone to Sagada (or so I thought), then saw my officemates there. When I went to Batad the same week, I learned that my mountaineer friends were also there. But more than that, when I travel solo, I also make it a point to hook up with those I travel with. They make the experience more memorable, even if you don't meet again after your trip.

  14. Ohh i love laos... wish I can go back there soon. Didn't know na may bowling alley pala sa Luang Prabang

  15. My time in Laos was amazing - the country and the sights were great but the people whom I now consider friends were also a great factor in that. We share the same sentiments, Aleah!

  16. I'm now in Cambodia and Laos keeps on calling to me. I'm really tempted to go back! I thought the bowling alley was just a nickname for an underground club. It was deff a shock when I saw that it was actually a bowling alley!


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