Solo travel and the people I've met on the road

"A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.”Tim Cahill 

More travel quotes here: 50 Inspiring Travel Quotes

One question that people often ask me, aside from "Where are you?" or "Are you in the Philippines?", is "Why do you travel?"  This is one question that is easy to answer, and I have many. One of which is to meet new people, to meet new friends.

In the last 10 years, I've met quite a few, and thanks to Facebook, I'm still in contact with some of them. For those whom I am not in contact anymore, I still have our shared moments to cherish. My traveling experience has been made memorable by these new found friends, and on this post, I would like to give tribute to these amazing fellow adventurist.

Crazy Christmas eve celebration in Saigon, Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, 2009

On my first solo backpacking trip in Southeast Asia, I ended up celebrating my Christmas in HCMC, Vietnam. It was my first Christmas outside the country, and the first time I am spending it alone. After a tour of the Mekong River, I went back to the hostel and discovered all my roommates getting ready for dinner. It was an 10-bed mixed dorm in the middle of Pham Ngu Lao - Saigon's backpackers' area.

It was a crazy mix of solo travelers, a girl from Netherlands, a lady doctor from Brazil, a couple of Aussie guys, and the rest from different countries in Europe. We went out to dinner, then had a few bottles of Saigon beer. Too early to call it a night, we transferred to another area that served cheap draft beer (I think it was about 1 USD for a pitcher). Stories were shared, advice were asked and even stories back home were overflowing. After midnight, we went back to the hostel too drunk to care as the others were competing for the loudest snore.

Cooking class in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai, Thailand, 2010

I love Thai food so much I wanted to cook and eat it when I get home. And the best place to learn the art and science (I believe it is both) of Thai cooking is in Chiang Mai. The are many cooking school to choose from, from half day affairs to days and weeks, it's your choice.

I chose one that I can do after doing a day of downhill biking (read about it here). We started around 4PM, by going to the market to buy the ingredients that we will use, followed by a visit to the garden to discover all the spices and herbs used in Thai cooking. For around PhP 1500 (30 USD), we'll cook around 6 dishes (appetizer, soup, salad, curry, main dish, and dessert) - and the best part, we get to it eat after! Yum!

It was a small class, there were only 9 of us - three couples, 2 girl friends, and me. Though I was the odd one out, I never felt out of place. It was great sharing what we cooked over great conversations.

The great Mekong Adventure
Vang Vieng, Laos, 2010

Vang Vieng, Laos is like one big party place (proof here). You start the adventure by doing tubing (floating using an inflated rubber tube) along an underground river that runs through a cave system. Then, you do a bit of white water rafting and transfer to a kayak. While kayaking, you'll pass by an area that looks like a children's playground - with mud crawl, tug of war, and the works - except that booze is overflowing.

Having had your (more) than fair share of earthly fun, you continue to kayak until you're back in town. This is where I met Michele, a nurse from Taiwan. We still communicate via Facebook.

New Year in Halong Bay
Halong Bay, Vietnam, 2009

After Christmas in Saigon, I made my way up Northern Vietnam passing by Nah Thrang, Hue, Hoi An and Hanoi. From the capital, I got a 3 day tour of Halong Bay where I spent my New Year aboard a boat. Being such in close quarters, and having an ass for a tour guide, the 10 of us got closer. We were entertained by this Argentinian couple, with the guy on his guitar, the girl serenaded us with her sweet voice. Cynthia, who's from Canada, decided to join me as I continue my trip to Laos.

Camping in  Pantanal, Brazil
Pantanal, Brazil, 2010

Old friends in  New York
New York, USA, 2011

Travel is also a way to connect with old friends, and an opportunity to partake in an expensive dinner. I was walking from the subway to the UN Headquarters when I saw a familiar face, that of Atty. Ancheta and his wife doing their morning jog. They asked us to join them for dinner in one of the famous Chinese restaurant in NYC. The total bill for the six of us was around PhP 15,000 (USD 400) which up to now is the most expensive dinner I've had so far. Good thing our host covered the bill :)

Friendships that spanned 3 countries
Luang Prabang, Laos, 2010

I met Cynthia in Halong Bay, Vietnam. On the bus to Laos, we met Mauricio who is from Mexico. It was a bus from hell. They overbooked so much that at least three Australian girls were not able to board and thus missing their flight in Laos. Mauricio was one of those whom the driver wanted to bump off the trip to accomodate some locals. He borrowed my phone (always good to get a local SIM in Southeast Asia) and called his ticket agent. Thankfully, he was spared. And that's the start of our traveling together, sharing rooms to save, and being each others photographer (Mauricio loves taking photos so much!). We were together in Vientiane, Vang vieng and Luang Prabang in Laos, until we arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We still communicate via Facebook.

First time in Malaysia
Melacca, Malaysia, 2005

From Kanchanburi to Bangkok

Kanchanaburi, Thailand, 2010

I met this group while on a tour in Kanchanburi. The couple was from Australia, the lady beside me was from Austria and the other lady was from England. We had a great time together that we decided to have dinner together once we get back in Bangkok, since we are all staying in Khao San. We're still connected via Facebook today.

Happiest day on the road
Siem Reap, Cambodia, 2011

After visiting Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor several times already, I decided to do something different. I visited a boarding school for girls in the outskirts of Siem Reap. You can read the story here.

Visiting an Indian Family

Thanal, India, 2012
Meeting young leaders in China

Beijing, China, 2003
Enjoying the beach in Southern Brazil

Florianopolis, Brazil, 2010
Long train rides mean long conversations
La Paz, Bolivia, 2010

I met this Bolivian lady on a train from the Bolivian border to Brazil going to the capital. She's studying in Brazil and was going home to attend a wedding.

Amazing Thai friends
Koh Samet, Thailand, 2011

We've been friends for more than 2 years now. I met them the first time I was in Thailand. The second time I went, they accompanied me to Phuket, the fourth time they brought me to Koh Samet.

Funny Korean girls in Thailand

River Kwai, Thailand, 2010
Being welcomed inside the home of an Indian Family

Thiravandrum, India, 2011
Southeast Asian friends in Mekong

Mekong Delta, Vietnam, 2009
Reconnecting with old friends
Washington DC, USA, 2011

Tatum was a friend back in high school. When she learned I'm coming to New York, she invited me to visit her in Virginia. Together with her husband, they toured me in Washington and the best part? They saved me from celebrating my birthday alone :)

Great times in Nah Trang
Nah Trang, Vietnam, 2009

I don't even remember the names of these guys, but I can still remember the great times we had.

Meeting a local
Hoi An, Vietnam, 2009

I was spending an afternoon by the beach in Hoi An, and had great conversation with this local - a vendor selling various souvenirs. I think I've learned more about Vietnamese culture in the 2 hours that we talked (and probably spent more on souvenirs than I planned).

Fellow Pinoy
Mekong River Cruise, Vietnam, 2012

It's always a pleasure to meet fellow Filipinos while traveling, like this instance on Mekong River tour. 

Tara, byahe tayo!

Froilan Grate | Last Row Traveler
Visit also No Bystanders | Planet Run | Customer Wow | Halo Halo and more 

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Budget Biyahera said...

This is an awesome tribute, Froi! :)

Last Row Traveler said...

Thanks for visiting Mai! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Kuya Froi! Panalo yong picture mo (with your friends) sa Cambodia :)

Unknown said...

galing sarap basahin ng blog mo!!
lalo akong ginanahan mag travel pero kailangan munang mag trabaho!!

lucky nakapag work ako sa sg at na explore ko ito now im here at doha at sisiguraduhin kung lilibutin ko rin ito!!!
congratz galing galing ng blog mo thumbs up

Last Row Traveler said...

Hi ewey, thanks for visiting. How is it in Doha? Try to explore the surrounding cities and countries too.

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