Beach Hop Asia 2016: Sixteen Days After

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It was the first day I traced my way back home. Walking down the same road I’ve been through a thousand of times, those old familiar faces and traces of everyday lives before me, everything seemed the same but me. It’s not about the nth layer of tan on my skin nor the excess fat I acquired but the way it feels. I was home. This is home. With all the lovely places I’ve been to, I couldn’t think of any place to call any home but this neighborhood. And it was a sweet come back; as cliché as it gets, you will come home a different person, every time. And I love it. I love the excitement I feel before I leave on a trip and I also love the anticipation of coming back home.

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Manila > (Malaysia) Melaka > Kuala Lumpur > Langkawi > Penang > (Thailand) Surat Thani > Koh Phangan > Krabi > Koh Lanta > Koh Phi Phi > Phuket > (Sri Lanka) Colombo > Dambulla > Batticaloa > Arugam Bay > Ella > (Maldives) > Hulhumale > Maamigili Island > Male > Singapore > (Malaysia) Johor Bahru > Kuala Lumpur > Manila

55 days. 5 countries. 22 key destinations. BeachHopAsia2016.

It took me sixteen days to finally settle down and collect myself after a crazy summer trip. And as always, we had destinations but not a concrete hardcore itinerary, we just played it by ear most all the time. Last year’s ASEAN Summer Loop was an uphill-downhill kinda thing, our Nepal-SEA trip in 2014 was Amazing Raceish, our Sulu and Babuyan Islands trips in 2013 were terrifying, and our Beach Hop Asia trip this year was nothing but slowing it down. And guess what? We were joined by some of our closest friends on some of the legs which was really cool.

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On one of our beach hops in Thailand, we watched this movie called Into The Wild which featured a guy who went to extremes just to pursue his dreams of traveling to Alaska. There were a few mishaps but the most notable thing I got was a line saying, Happiness [is] only real when shared (I won’t divulge much about it so you’d watch it). That line truly echoed what I feel when I’m traveling.

I already did a solo trip and, yes, it was fun but it lacks this certain depth that you’d only find when traveling with someone, that shared feeling of excitement, angst or oblivion. Well again, that’s just me. And I’m lucky to have a travel buddy who has the same idea of traveling (and budget constraints) as with me. And imagine having a group of eight battling it out on bus and ferry terminals just to secure better seats or realizing that everyone was bitten by bed bugs; epic trip multiplied by eight.

I love traveling with people who knows me pretty well that nothing will change just because they’re crashing my trip. I may only have a handful of friends but what I have are really great ones who could understand why I suddenly shush out of nowhere. Don’t get me wrong, I love traveling with my buddy and consider him as the perfect travel partner. Of course, we do have our own little misunderstandings here and there but it’ll be always (and always) turn out to be a laughing matter afterwards. Spending a night on the cold floor of airports or a 23-hour layover on four different countries, no one could ever understand my over the top mood swings but my buddy. I digress.

Three’s a crowd. Our good friend joined us on the Langkawi leg of our Malaysia trip and there wasn’t a night that we were sober. Langkawi is a duty free island and beer can go as low as $0.40 a can so we hoarded cartons of beer and ended each night with a drinking spree on our beach front villa. Travel stories, aspirations and whatnot; drunken nights are always fun with great friends.

Team Philippines conquers Full Moon Party. It wasn’t my idea as I am the most anti-social person in the group. Six of our friends crashed the Thailand leg of our trip and managed to convince me to go to Koh Phangan for two nights of non-stop partying on the beach. And it was the first time that I’ve been to a local place where it was totally dominated by non-locals. Party, booze, drugs, nudists and sex were as common as tuk tuks. I had fun, yes, but not the way my buddies did. I promised that it will be my last while they were plotting their next visit.

Maldives is not only for honeymooners. We’ve been crashed by my high school chummies on the Maldives part of our trip. They flew all the way from Manila while me and my buddy took a 40-minute flight from Colombo, Sri Lanka. We had two days of non-stop stormy weather and then paradise for the next six days. We had great time swimming with whale sharks, snorkeling through the great reefs, night fishing for our dinner and days of nothing but the famed Maldivian sun, sea and sand. I know that it wouldn’t be as much fun without them.

For third year in a row, Singapore is still the most expensive city to live in the world (EIU annual survey). Yes, indeed. But with the company of friends (two Singapore-based and one trip-crasher) everything was divided into five, in terms of beer costs but the fun surely doubled, even tripled.

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I do miss the forever struggle of computing exchange rates and deciding whether or not we can afford a bottle of beer or not. I don’t miss airports, me hate airports. I miss being mistaken as Thai, Malaysian and even Chinese. I don’t miss skipping our bus stop three times on a rainy day with our backpacks in tow. I do miss the great tropical beaches of the Indian Ocean. I don’t miss the agony of waiting but I do miss those fun times with my buddy while waiting.

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16 days after our 55-day trip and I am slouching here on my bed trying to encapsulate two months’ worth of memories. After getting back to the grind I finally could go back to eating my mom’s cooking and spending our beer nights on her garden while me and my friends would laugh about a mere mention of a certain event on that trip; because I still believe that no matter how beautiful the place is, it’s that someone who’d look after your backpack when you need to use the toilet that counts.


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