E-mail Update - 2007-04-30

World Trip 4 - Code Name - Awesome Asia

Hey Everyone :)

Well it has taken me a little work to pull together but the plans for trip #4 are set. The destination of this trip took some thought. The first 3 trips had been set by my love of Australia (trip #1), a joint decision with Nina to travel to Peru (trip #2) & a place to work as a dive instructor (trip #3). As I thought about this trip near the end of my stay in Cayman islands several locations stood out for me. They included Central America, Europe & working as a dive instructor in the Pacific. However, the place I wanted to go more than any other was back to Asia to finish what I started on trip #1. At the end of that trip I had planned to explore Asia much more in depth. I ended up staying in Koh Phi Phi to volunteer & get become a divemaster, then in Phuket to become a dive instructor. I don't regret that at all, but have always wanted to see more of Asia. I have only been able to explore parts of Bali, Thailand & Japan. Now I have a second chance to learn what Asia is all about & see the sights. The other consideration is that Asia is a cheap place to go so it will be easy on my budget.

Here is how this trip breaks down (see the full itinerary online www.brockwaterman.com/itinerary). My parents will be taking me to Madison very late on May 14 to catch the bus to Chicago for my May 15 early morning flight to Japan. I will arrive to Osaka on May 16 where Sayoko will meet me. I will be staying at her parents house for part of the time I am in Japan. Sayoko & I will also spend some time traveling around Japan including time in Osaka, Nara & the island of Shikoku. After the first 3 weeks I will be on my own flying to Manila on June 4. I plan to spend a lot of time diving in the Philippines especially on the island of Palawan. On July 29, I will fly out of the Philippines (Cebu) to Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia. This is where the plan opens up quite a bit. As some people may know Malaysia has 2 parts separated by the ocean. The peninsular part is between Thailand & Singapore on mainland Asia. The other part is an island to the southwest of the first. The one island actually is home to 3 separate countries (Malaysia, Brunei & Indonesia). I will be flying into the northeastern part, Kota Kinabalu from the Philippines. I will then travel west, at one point even going to Brunei for a short time as it is between the 2 parts of Malaysia on the island. After I have seen what I wanted in Malaysia & Brunei I will fly to Singapore on the only other required flight that I haven't booked (since I wanted flexibility). After that I will travel overland through Singapore, peninsular Malaysia, & Thailand. Depending on time I would like to complete the Cambodia, Vietnam & Laos loop, even possibly including parts of China if that is practical. The only problem I have doing all this is my time limit as I will be flying out of Bangkok on November 28. I will then spend 2 more weeks in Japan (I got a free layover in Tokyo as part of my flights!) before coming home on December 12. I will then arrive back in Chicago & get the bus to Madison where my parents will pick me up :)

Ok now onto the Top 5 typical questions people ask:

(1) Are you taking your laptop & how is it the easiest to communicate?
- Yes I will take the laptop but only as far as Japan. I will leave it in Japan to get when I come back through.
- For communications, if I get a cell phone I will pass along the number, although I tend to prefer not having one. As usual email is king & it looks like there will be lots of Internet cafes. However, I plan to travel from place to place, not "settling down" anywhere on this trip (outside of Japan). That means I could have some trouble keeping up. I love the personal emails so please send them, just realize I might not send an email back for several weeks. If you need an urgent reply please put that in the subject or call my mom to let her know about the issue (608-375-2870). As in previous trips I have an order of answering email which is:

1 - My parents first, business emails or other high priority emails
2 - Sending out group updates
3 - Individual emails from people answering the oldest emails first

(2) How much will this cost, is Asia an expensive place?
- You can make any place in the world expensive if you try, but as a whole Asia is one of the cheapest places in the world. I tend to at eat street vendor or hole in the wall restaurants & stay at the cheapest accommodations. The most expensive activities are the diving (even though it is incredibly cheap in the Philippines where I plan to do the most diving), mountain trekking or any other action sport. Japan is a notable exception to the other cheaper Asian countries. However, Sayoko has already reserved some of our train tickets & places to stay in Shikoku to get the cheapest prices there which helps. Also I will save a lot of money by staying at her parents house. Brunei & Singapore are the next most expensive places, but on a budget you should be able to stay for $25 to $40 per day (for food, travel & lodging). I bet in total I would not be in Brunei or Singapore for more than 2 weeks, so that is not a worry. Everything else should be on average under $20 per day for all expenses in a normal day.

(3) Are you traveling with anyone on this trip?
- Other than Sayoko during the first 3 weeks & last 2 weeks, no. However, as usual I am sure I will meet lots of people on the road. Also if any of my travel friends are going to be in Asia during this time let me know & we can see if we will be able to get together!

(4) What will you do about the language barriers?
- In Japan I have Sayoko, plus I have been working hard on my Japanese, although I refuse to deal with Kanji so I will be forever illiterate. In the Philippines they speak Filipino & I have a phrase book, but also English is widely spoken. For Malaysia & Brunei the first language is Malay which I also have a phrase book for & will look into a little as I go, some people will also speak English, but this could be a very challenging place in a lingual sense. In Singapore, English is the first language so that is cool. I am guessing that Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam & Laos will be a challenge, but I do also a basic phrase book for them & already know non-verbal Thai which involves a lot of signs & gestures :) Plus occasional people know enough English to help out & you sometimes meet other backpackers who know the language.

(5) There is a travel warning for the Philippines isn't that a dangerous place to go & how about the other places on the trip?
- Every place, including the US, involves a certain amount of risk. Some countries are worse than others. But for those reasons I have avoided places that I have an interest in like Indonesia & East Timor due to unstable situations. To go through the list about what is dangerous.

Japan - The safest place in the ENTIRE world
Philippines - Travel warning for the south island of Mindanao & Sulu which I will not be traveling to on this trip, the rest seems to be stable
Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei - no travel warnings & not considered at all dangerous
Thailand - I have been there before & felt safe (although your stuff can get stolen)
Cambodia, Vietnam & Laos - I know numerous people who have done the travel loop through these countries with no big issues (again stuff can get stolen)
China - from the few people I know who were there seems to be a safe place

I don't have any travel pictures, but I do have some of my cute nephew with his grandpa, grandma & uncle. Also is the picture from when he decided to wrap himself in the blanket. Lastly is a picture taken at Easter with my cousin Karli. I hope you enjoy these pictures, the next ones I send should be from Asia :)

Love & Peace!