When last heard from the traveling Hedgehogs were enjoying some waterfalls and some shopping in Luang Prabang, located in northern Laos. Over the next two weeks they would also visit Vang Vieng and Vientiane before returning to Bangkok where our next story begins...
There have been many times during our trip that Tim and I have been brainstorming about an idea only to get stuck. Suggestion after suggestion will be discarded, another potential problem will be identified, nothing will feel right. And then, somehow, we always seem to turn the problem on its head and come up with a much better solution than we thought possible. All of the pieces fit together, everything will feel right again, and we’ll be excited about our next step.
When we planned this trip, we had originally intended to leave at the beginning of February 2005. Our first stop would be Southeast Asia, followed by Europe, and finally South America before we’d head home. But as February grew nearer, we realized it would be better to wait one month and leave at the beginning of March 2005 instead. We’d be able to save a bit more money, we could complete our 2004 taxes at home during February instead of while we were on the road, and I could have my wisdom teeth surgeries and still have enough time to heal before we traveled.
The problem, though, with pushing the trip back by one month is that suddenly our itinerary fell to pieces. With the February departure we were going to hit the “sweet spot” in most of the places we were traveling to: the time when the weather is still great, but there aren’t as many other tourists. Leaving in March would mean that we wouldn’t have enough time in Southeast Asia before the monsoon season hit, we’d be in Europe during the winter, and South America during the height of their high season.
It was the end of December, we were under a time crunch, and we were at a loss as to what we should do. And that’s when the idea occurred to us.
“Why don’t we go to South America first and Southeast Asia last?”
It was an idea that in the two years of planning our trip we had never considered before. But suddenly, with that simple question, all of the pieces fit together and everything felt right. And a few days later, we bought our plane tickets to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
It was early in the evening and Tim, Klaus, and I were sitting at one of the beer stalls that magically appear around that time of day on Rambuttri, a street located near Khao San Road in Bangkok but not nearly as hectic. The plan was to enjoy a few cheap beers before heading out for dinner. But between our excellent people watching location and the gorgeous weather, we found ourselves enjoying the conversation too much to move on too quickly. And so we sat and talked and enjoyed quite a few cheap beers along the way.
Tim and I had been debating our next travel step for the past several days. We couldn’t decide where to head next. Several itineraries had been put forward each day, only to be discarded for this reason or that reason the next day. None of our ideas were feeling right, and we were stuck trying to figure out where to go. Klaus, meanwhile, was on the last few days of his trip with plans to fly back to Germany in under a week.
We had already traveled to Cambodia, and we had traveled to Laos too. Vietnam had been cut from our itinerary already (more on that another time), and Malaysia was being saved for the end of our trip. That left Burma and other parts of Thailand. But we wouldn’t be able to leave for Burma quite yet for a few reasons (we were completing our 2005 US taxes for one thing), and we weren’t really in the mood for some of the parts of Thailand that we had brainstormed about visiting. Klaus, meanwhile, enjoyed mocking us.
“You can go to China. Or North Korea. I hear they’re quite nice. We can go to one of the rip-off tourist agencies on Khao San Road and buy you overland tickets to Afghanistan.”
Ignoring his taunts (while giving a few of our own about him changing his ticket to Germany), we sipped more beer. And that is exactly when the idea came to me.
“Why don’t we go back to Cambodia?,” I asked.
It was an odd suggestion. Back in South America we returned to Argentina from Uruguay, but that was because Uruguay was just a quick side trip. We’ve returned to Thailand after Cambodia and Laos, but that’s because Bangkok is a convenient home base for us in Southeast Asia. And of course we’ve talked at length about all of the countries and places we want to return to years from now. But we had never considered returning to a country for a second visit on this trip itself. There are so many places we want to see this time around. It would be a bit nutty to return to a country we’ve already traveled for one month in.
Nutty be damned, it took less than a minute for us to compile a list of reasons supporting a return visit to Cambodia. We realized we could see our friends Sam and the monk again and find out if they ever received the package of photos we sent to them. We could even bring them some school supplies. We could head up to the northeast to see the crater lake we didn’t get a chance to visit last time. We could do some nice shopping in the Russian Market in Phnom Penh and see the bats at the temple. We could have those shakes that we liked so much at Friends again. When we left Cambodia we could go via Krong Koh Kong to get some of the pictures we wanted to take the last time we were there (one of which, incidentally, is at the top of this post).
It took less than a minute for Tim and I to think up at least 20 more reasons supporting a return visit to Cambodia. It took less than a minute for all the pieces to fit together and for everything to feel right again.
And so it was decided: we would return to Cambodia for two weeks. And afterwards, on the way back to Thailand, we would stop over on the island of Ko Chang for another visit to that magical place too.
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