Claudia, Peter, Lasse & Sil discovering the world www.amsterdamonroute.reismee.nl

Looking back at and some figures about our journey

Let's start with some facts and figures. During our journey we slept in 129 different places. This entails quite a lot of travelling! The shortest period we stayed in one place was a 12 hours; the longest period in one place was 2 weeks. In Africa we spent - on average - 3,0 days in the same place; in southeast Asia this went up to 3,2 days and in New Zealand it went down to 1,6 days on average in the same place. A campervan really gets you moving.

During our backpacking period (Southeast Asia), our combined luggage weighed approximately 55 kg. That's excluding laptop, our travel guide and the clothes we were wearing. We all had about 3 different sets of clothing, which were selected for optimal combining amongst each other (you will have noted this in our pictures.....).

While we were away, Lasse grew 6,5 cm and Sil even a little bit more: 8,5 cm. Claudia and Peter also grew, albeit not in length, due to the lack of sport / exercise. We were away for 363 days. We schooled Lasse and Sil on 160 days (96 one-session days and 46 two-session days).

Between us we ended up storing some 12,500 pictures on our laptop. Taking into account the number of pictures deleted before upload to our laptop, we must have taken some 20,000 pictures this year. Considering each picture takes a couple of seconds to make, we have been photographing for over 40 hours continuously. You're more than welcome to come by one evening to watch them......

We travelled nearly 16,500 km in our Disco while touring in Africa. In Southeast Asia we travelled about 4,500 km in buses, minivans and on boats. In New Zealand we drove 3,500 km on the south island and 2,500 km on the north island in our camper. We flew around the world once, in total some 48,000 km as we did not follow a straight line. So in total we travelled approximately 75,000 km - we deserve a holiday!

We have also had our share of luck on this trip. It started with our departure to Cape Town, South Africa, which was made possible due to a two-week window during which the Eyjafjallajokull volcano on Iceland stayed quiet and allowed our plane to fly according to schedule. Peter nearly lost an eye when a piece from a fire cracker hit his eye. Lasse nearly stepped on a very venomous puff adder - to use his own words: 'I jumped and started running while I was still in the air!' Sil's foot was caught under the moped he was driving on with Peter, but luckily nothing was broken. Shortly after we left Thailand the country was hit by severe flooding and shortly thereafter there were riots at the border with Myanmar. And earlier, in Mozambique, three days after we left Maputo, heavy riots broke out during which at least 12 people were killed. In Christchurch we arrived exactly one week after the devastating earthquake. So you see, we must have had a couple of guardian-angels travelling alongside of us.

Some concluding remarks. We started this journey very much in a 'state of doing'. We were making preparations, talking to various people and organisations, doing our research, buying our gear, our clothes and our equipment. All in a very much JDI-mode (just do it). Great fun. Our first leg of the journey we were (still) ‘doing' South Africa, but gradually we entered into a 'state of being'. Just being where we ended up to be, enjoying our time together and getting a feel for the land, its people  and its culture. This was our main mindset during our time in Africa and our time in Southeast Asia. This happens when you go away for more than a few months. We thoroughly enjoyed it, although there were times we did get bored, but we also learned how to deal with this and found that very creative things can happen while you are bored. After entering New Zealand we soon found ourselves in a 'state of seeing'. There was just so much to see! It took away the magic of 'being', but perhaps this was also part of getting used to having to end our journey and going home..... And then, back home. Back into the rich, western world, where we are all very much in a ‘state of having'.

After a year of living out of our rucksacks, our greatest challenge will perhaps be not to get sucked back into the every-day hectic, but to keep things - better still - to keep our lives, sober and simple. And of course the challenge to remain (as much as possible) in a 'state of being', cherish the precious moments with friends and family and keep room for spontaneous decisions and get-togethers with friends and family.

Back home

The check-in on Los Angeles airport went very quick and smooth, against our expectations. The flight was long, with too much choice on our personal TV and too little chairs to be able to sleep, or perhaps it was the excitement, who knows?

In any case we were travelling with mixed emotions. Happy to go back home and see our friends and family, but already sad because our year of travelling, adventures and time together was about to end. Claudia was ready to continue travelling, alas, Peter had to start work again shortly and the kids had to finish their school year in a proper school.

While I am writing this it is too early for concluding remarks, Both Claudia and me are still very much in our 'little travel bubble', even while we are cleaning our house and are painting the bedrooms to make it all look fresh again.

The welcome at Schiphol Airport was really heart-warming. Peter's brothers, sisters, spouses and their children together with 'Grandma Polly' were holding up large banners welcoming us back. And also our friends from Alkmaar had turned up unexpectedly - a real nice surprise. We had a couple of drinks and some finger food at the airport, but then it was time to head home. And there again, we were awaited by a small welcoming committee - they just wouldn't let us get to bed! Just joking, we thoroughly enjoyed this and also seeing neighbors and others the nex day on the queen's birthday. Some people had too many questions for us to answer - the experiences of the past year will take some time to settle and also for us to be able to talk about them in a more sensible manner. And the nice thing about that is that we will have yet another great time sorting out our feelings and remeniscing about it!

Thank you all for your warm messages during our travel - it really made us realize you were close and traveling with us!

USA - Los Angeles to San Francisco (and back)

On our way around the world we were heading back: from New Zealand to the Cook Island, and now further to Los Angeles. Our round-the-world ticket made a stop-over there anyway, so we decided to spend some days there, also to break the long journey.

We rented a Ford Mustang convertible (if you have to go to the States, at least go in style....) and were planning to drive along the coast upto San Francisco. Unfortunately the coastal road was closed, so we had to take the somewhat boring inland road. One stop underway in Arroyo Grande (bet you never heard of that town!) and on to San Francisco. We had a swell time there, friendly people, good weather and a decent motel.

We shopped for some clothes and music, and Lasse and Sil both got a skateboard there as a delayed birthday present. Two highlights in this short stay-over: 1) driving over the Golden Gate bridge with the top open and 2), visiting Alcatraz State Prison, which was closed in the 60'ties. For Sil and Lasse the highlight was undoubtedly their skateboards and all the places they managed to do some skating with them (while we were enjoying a drink on a terrace).

San Francisco is a really relaxed town and we were happy to have made a stop-over here (even Peter was happy we did.........). Now, our last 24 hours had started, it was time for our flight back home.

Cook Islands - Raratonga

Flying to Raratonga, the capital Cook Islands, we crossed the date-line, so we arrived ‘the day before', so to speak. We had not realized this, and as a consequence, we had no hotel reservation for the day of our arrival. This was, however, quickly solved, albeit against a considerable above-budget cash layout for the hotel near the airport. On the other hand we were lucky, as there was a private party in the hotel, hosted by the Cook Island prime minister, and we were treated to a free evening of local culture and dancing.

We did not do much other than swimming, snorkeling and kayaking on Raratonga. The first half of the week we stayed in Daydreamers Apartments, which were okay, but without good beach access and owned by a bit strange lady. We were invited by the owners for a BBQ one night, which was very friendly and we got to know them a bit better. On Sunday we went to a famous Cook Island church (every mile you will find a church), which was nice because the locals turned out to be very good singers. It was in local language, so we did not get more than the general gist, but it was a good experience nevertheless. After church we were invited by the vicar for a small lunch, which we enjoyed together with all the other tourists that went to church that day.

The last days we went to a more up-market accommodation: Kura's Kabana's. This had direct access to the beach, free use of kayak and BBQ and a very relaxed setting with other guests around. We had quite some rain on the island and got back very wet from a kayak trip a couple of times. On our last day we decided to book a tour with Captain Tama, the local glass bottom boat operator, for a trip to the coral reef and seafood BBQ on a small island just off the coast of Raratonga. This turned out to be a very nice day, with some nice snorkeling, a show with a live octopus (including some ink-squirting) and very funny guides that also knew how to cook a good dinner.

After the tour with the glass bottom boat, we were invited by Karen and Duncan (who just arrived on the island for a 1-year project renovating the harbor) and had a nice dinner from the left-overs of a big tuna fish we saw being cut at the beach.

In the evening Duncan brought us to the airport, where we found out we had to have applied for entrance to the USA in some kind of electronic database. Without it, no access. So there Claudia went, pointed to a very friendly check in lady of NZ Airways to one of their computers and with our passports and a credit card (....... Welcome to the USA, this is what you have to pay...). In the end it went rather smooth and we joined the other passengers who were just about to line up for boarding.

San Francisco here we come!

New Zealand - northern island

Leaving the inter-island ferry we split up: Claudia and the kids would drop off the rental car, while Peter was picked up by the lady from the camper rental company to get the camper. First stop was Wellington, a very nice and cosmopolitan city, full of energy and (night) life. Now we had a camper we could stay where we wanted. Our first night we stayed at a down-town camping which in fact was nothing more than a converted parking lot. Location was perfect, but it scored low on ambiance. We spent a day in Te Papa, the great national museum of New Zealand. Really awesome and well done. The weather was nice and we also spent an afternoon hiring roller-skates and skating along Wellington's boulevards. We visited Kedron and Lorenzo, living in Wellington, where we stayed another two nights at a beautiful spot overlooking the ocean. Claudia met Kedron 26 (!) years ago as an exchange student and we spent two nice evenings, dinners and a day together, also visiting and joining in on the local school with their sons. Lorenzo was a musician and we bought one of his CD's to listen to in the camper. Good Italian music, as he himself called it ‘mature music'.

From Wellington we went to Tongariro National Park. Peter wanted to do a two-day hike on the ‘northern circuit', a classic hike in the Tongariro National Park that circumvents Mount Nauguharoe (or Mount Doom for LOTR-fans). Claudia, Lasse and Sil spent two nice days on a DOC campsite (department of conservation) in the park, being lazy and playing games, but also doing some schoolwork. Peter came back a new man, with a fresh sparkle in his eyes from walking in the mountains and at the same time smelling like a pig......

Then it was time to hit the road and explore the North Island by Camper. Having a camper at our disposal meant we were actually traveling nearly every day. Not good for finding our ‘ohmmm', as we would call it. And although NZ is supposed to be covered with so-called ‘dump sites' for unloading our toilet and waste water, they are pretty hard to find at times, which meant we had to stay on regular campsites every now and again. These nights were most loved by Lasse and Sil, as there would be a trampoline available and sometimes even a swimming pool, but Claudia and Peter preferred to camp ‘wild' so to speak. But still, we were fortunate enough to spend nights at the most beautiful places and we met quit some nice people where we stayed for one or two nights. And in between it was either a wild spot along the road or at the back of a roadside inn, or at a holiday park to charge all our electronic equipment and dump our liquid wastes.

The northern island is known for its volcanic activity. After staying a night on a Top 10 holiday park at Rotorua, we went to nearby Waikite Thermal Valley. This was a camp site enjoyed by the whole family. Water from a local hot well (98 degrees C at the surface) was tapped, cooled down and fed into a series of warm pools, all beautifully made for everybody to relax and enjoy. Every night the water was refreshed, so no chemicals, all pure nature.

Near Taupo we spent a morning in a hot spot in a local river. It was just a spot in the river used by locals. Here we met Stacey, who spontaneously invited us to come to Te Aroa and stay at her house. She lived in a lovely little cottage, living mostly from vegetables she grew on her land. Lasse and Sil gave her dog a real good time and lots of attention. We cooked together and spent the evenings either talking or having a dip in her private spa outside on the deck under a star-spangled sky. Stacey gave us an insider tip to go and visit the old Crown goldmine in the neighborhood, which we did. It was a little bit creepy to walk through dark tunnels with our headlights on, but it was well worth the experience and we even saw a small colony of glow-worms.

After a night of wild camping on the parking lot on Mangawhai Head, we met Karen from the Netherlands while walking on the beach. She heard us talking Dutch and we got to talking with each other. We invited ourselves for lunch and ended up staying a night at the beautiful house of Karen and Tom up on Mangawhai Hill, with an even more beautiful view over the green hills and the sea. We cooked dinner together, while Sil played with Storm who was his age, while Lasse was being adored by Mikki, their two-year old daughter.

Another place we dearly wanted to see was Cape Reinga, the northern-most point of New Zealand. It's just one of those things people want to do, spent time on the extremities of a country. In any case Cape Reinga was beautiful, with only very basic DOC-campsites available, just the way we liked it. We stayed on a campsite with beach access, so every morning, afternoon and evening we took a dip in the sea. Lasse and Sil built their own little hut with all kinds of stuff from the camper and things they found and collected on the way. It was also a magic place; where of old people (Maori) came to feel the energy of the land and the two oceans colliding.

Going down south again, towards Auckland, we stopped over at thermal mud pools (our clothes and our skins still smell of sulfur...) and at Waipu Forrest, home of the largest Kauri trees of New Zealand (the real big motherfuc...rs). Close above Auckland it was time for one last stop. We had been touring around in the camper trying to find a suitable location, when we met Clyde and Pam, just returning from looking after their cattle. They let us stay at their second house, with a very scenic view over Kaipara Harbour. Then time for our last stop in NZ, we would visit Henk an old colleague from Peter at Corus. Henk and his wife Jenny and their four children live in a marvelous house they designed and built themselves in one of the sea-side suburbs of Auckland. We had dinner together, Peter talked a lot about Corus and the kids enjoyed playing with some fresh lego.

So our time in NZ was finished. And with that, also our year of travelling was nearly finished. Time flies when you're having fun! Next stop would be Raratonga, the capitol of the Cook Islands. Curious wha to expect we boarded the plane, Lasse and Sil already excited that everybody had his own television set in the chair before him. Great! A child's hand is quickly filled, we then say.

New Zealand - southern island

The flight from Singapore to Auckland was only half full, so we each slept well on a row of chairs. We picked up our rental car in Christchurch and drove briefly through town to see the impact of the earthquake the week before. The city center was fenced off, but already on our short drive through town we saw lots of damaged and collapsed buildings, cracks in the streets etc. Over a hundred people dead already and more than a hundred people still missing and/or covered under the rubble. Terrible what an earthquake of only 6,3 Richter can do.

From Christchurch we went 200 km north to Kaikoura, for some whale watching. We slept in Dusky Lodge, a real backpackers place. The nice thing about it was that a number of guests could earn their bed by working three hours a day, cleaning the rooms, kitchen or bathrooms. So every morning we saw this small army of backpackers cleaning away, earning their place to sleep. A nice formula called “woofing”. The whale-watching was good. A purpose-made boat took us out 8 miles to the open sea and we spotted 3 large male sperm whales. It is a real impressive sight when they hunch their backs and dive down. We also saw a large school of dusky dolphins that made us really happy. They feed in large groups, one part making jumps and splashes in the water in order to steer the fish towards the other part of the group. They take turns in feeding and jumping / splashing. The sea was a bit rough, so unfortunately Lasse had to make a small offering to Neptune …..

Next stop: Dunedin, back to Christchurch and 350 km further south along the east coast. We left after our whale watching trip and arrived in the evening. We visited Hanzo and Jessica, our old neighbours from Amsterdam, who were having a 7 month break in Dunedin. Lasse and Sil much enjoyed playing with Casper and Tessa, their old friends from Amsterdam. It was very nice to see our old neighbours and chat away, about (world) politics, our travels and life in New Zealand. We got a lot of tips about NZ, making it even more difficult for us to choose. Together we went for a nice walk on Otago peninsula, where we saw a live sea lion and a dead seal. Next day we took a ride on the train through Taieri gorge, offering splendid sights and vistas, passing over high wrought-iron bridges. Peter’s engineering heart became truly alive again, while our children were playing Uno in the train (obviously not sharing Peter’s enthusiasm). On our last day in Dunedin we went out shopping: new shoes and clothes for Claudia and the kids, and a new pocket-knife for Peter.

After Dunedin we headed further south to Curio Bay, where we found a lovely little cottage overlooking the sea. We shared it with a young couple, did our own cooking and thoroughly enjoyed that after eating out for nearly six months in southeast Asia. Curio Bay is known for a group of Hector’s dolphins that live, feed and breed close to the shore. The first morning we woke up to see them jumping out of the water from our bedroom window! Truly amazing. We visited the most southern point of the South Island: Slope Point, which was nothing special except that it was the most southern point of the South Island. One afternoon we helped Nick, our landlord who also was a sheep farmer. We had to drive the sheep towards his shed where they were automatically weighed. There were three dogs helping us, and it was nice to experience firsthand how things go at a sheep farm. The dogs were all geared up and very wild, the sheep were afraid as hell and panicking, so there was quite a lot of blood flowing and one sheep died of a broken neck.

On our way out of Curio Bay we stopped at the farm of Nick’s brother to experience the shearing of sheep. Loud music, four young guys shearing away and 4 other packing in the wool and cleaning. A rather electrifying experience, both for us and for the sheep! On our way up north, we stopped over at Wanaka and Te Anau. From Te Anau we made a day-trip to Milford Sound, one of the fjords in the southeast. Very beautiful scenery all around, but everything is heavily regulated due to the large number of tourists visiting NZ every year. NZ is definitely a place to see, not a place to be. Too much adrenaline- and thrill-seeking activities on offer. On the west coast we stayed some days at Franz Jozef, one of the two glaciers that nearly come down to sea-level (Fox being the other). Did a big hike to an elevated viewpoint overlooking the enormous glacier. Splendid. Second stop on the west coast was at a lovely little lodge called Beaconstone, which was 100% eco, solar power, dry toilets, etc. Most importantly – our kids were welcome and the atmosphere was very friendly (some lodges plain refused us because of our kids – “sorry, we don’t do kids below 12”). In Beaconstone Lasse celebrated his 10th birthday. We bought him a big birthday cake, which he shared with all the guests in the house. On our last day before going further north, Peter spent an unforgettable day at a knife-making workshop while Claudia and the kids also had an unforgettable day at the pancake rocks and amazing blowholes at Punakaiki. Lasse and Sil had difficulties dragging Claudia away from the blowholes.

After the workshop and the blow holes we still had to drive for some 4 hours to the starting point of our 3-day hike in the Abel Tasman national park, which was scheduled to start the day after. So we arrived late and our room turned out to be a typical youth-hostel, muffy little cabin with 4 bunk beds. Great! Next morning we were lucky to be able to hire our cooking gear at the youth hostel, after which we were picked (quite literally!) up by our water taxi to be dropped off at the start of the first leg of our hike. We walked for three days along the northern coast – beautiful see-throughs, crisp golden beaches, (very) cold water, and sleeping in lodges with only bunk beds, cooking on a small camping stove – you can imagine how much we all loved it! Claudia and Peter were foolish enough, however, to do all the carrying; next time Lasse and Sil can carry their own backpack! The hike was something special, because on every day we had a crossing that could only be crossed at low tide. So we had to plan around this and it was quite special to cross these wet lands.

One night in Nelson to catch our breath and then on to our last stop on the southern island: the Marlborough Sound (no, we still don't smoke). We had heard from this very, very nice lodge, far away at the end of Kenepuru Sound. After doing our groceries for 3 days, we 'enjoyed' a long and very windy, bumpy and hilly road to the lodge, but it was well worth the trip. There were kayaks for us to use, fishing gear and a hot spa overlooking the sound Lasse and Sil went out on a fishing trip  and caught a nice big Kahawai, which was immediately smoked to perfection by the owner of the lodge. That evening we ate fish together with the famous NZ green mussels, also served by the owners of the lodge on their weekly mussel-evening for all the guests. Very nice. After some days of relaxing and kayaking it was time for us to move on. Back again along the windy road along Kenepuru Sound towards Picton, where the InterIsland Ferry would take us to the northern island. When checking in on the ferry, we learned it would take more than three hours, where we had counted on three quarters! Wonder whether we would have enough time to return our rental car and pick up our camper......

NZ phase I finished, but there is lots more to come! 

Singapore

We took the bus from Melakka to Singapore. The border crossing was something special. Leaving Malaysia we had to get out of the bus to get our passports stamped. Back in the bus, on to the Singapore border. Here we had to get out again, this time with our entire luggage, which was scanned as if we were travelling by air. New stamps in our passport, back in the bus en on to Singapore city.

What we immediately noticed is that Singapore looks like one big, gigantic garden. Everything is so neatly maintained, no litter or debris on the streets or in the parks. It looks nice, but the down-side is that it is achieved by heavily enforcing numerous rules onto the people (littering - 100 SP$ fine, crossing the streets next to the designating crossing area - 50 SP$ fine, and so on).

We stayed one night. The afternoon of our arrival we enjoyed the streets around our hostel, ate dinner and went for a nightcap while Lasse and Sil were working themselves into a sweat on their borrowed skateboard. On the next day we went to the city-centre, with all its skyscrapers and very nice architecture. We visited the botanical garden, which was a bit boring, and were really low on energy, so we ‘enjoyed' a fast food lunch on the stretched-out lawns. Back to our hotel to pick up our luggage, a last drink, a last trip on the skateboard and into the metro to the airport.

We were so early that they could not even give us a gate number at checking in. We did not know what to expect with the earthquake in Christchurch - our destination - so we allowed some extra time. Our tickets had to be changed to allow for an extra stop-over in Auckland (later we learned this stop-over was to re-fuel the plane, as fuel was short in Christchurch). We checked our luggage, had dinner and bought Lasse a new mp3-player, as we lost his somewhere along the way.

In the end we had to hurry to be in time for boarding - New Zealand, here we come!

Malaysia

With the very relaxing experience of the Mekong Delta home-stay still lingering in our minds, we were picked up by Air Asia and thrown into the heat of Kuala Lumpur, capital of Malaysia. As always, but more so when you travel by air, we had to get adjusted to our new surroundings. We were not very well prepared for Malaysia and we ended up ‘enjoying' our first breakfast at McDonalds - We're lovin' it! We climbed Menara TV-tower, offering great views of Kuala Lumpur and visited the Petronas Towers - unfortunately all tickets were sold out for the day. Whether we would like to come back tomorrow at 7 am? Thanks, but no thanks.

From Kuala Lumpur we took the bus to Ipoh, up north, famous for its tin mining. Bus transport in Malaysia proved something special. At the bus station we were awaited by various bus operators, all shouting for our attention and demanding where we wanted to go. We went with one of them - not knowing how to pick the best or cheapest one - and bought our tickets there. Then one guy brought us to our bus, on the way picking up other passengers who booked tickets with other tour operators. We had to overcome some second thoughts, but it worked out fine. Ipoh showed another face of Malaysia: very run-down and poor(er) people, not the nice skyscrapers of Kuala Lumpur.

In search of some nature we headed further north, to the Island of Penang and spent some days in Batu Ferringhi, with its nice beaches and relaxed atmosphere. We had to get used to the more western prices for living, but enjoyed the sea and our time there (despite the stinging jellyfish). Highlight being our spontaneous trip together with a Malaysian family that stayed at our guesthouse. We met in the morning, our children played in the sea together and they invited us for a tour around the island in their car in (4 adults and 5 children in one car!). They took us to a tropical fruit farm where we ate 'king fruit', typical for Malaysia and traditional food to eat on this public holiday (in the honour of the prophet Mohammed). Altogether a very nice experience.

Next stop Georgetown, which we skipped earlier (on our way from Ipoh), because it was a big city with many skyscrapers. This time we ended up in the old city centre and found out that Georgetown had a very nice side as well. We stayed in Chinatown, walked through the Indian quarter and visited an old English fort called Fort Cornwallis.

After Georgetown we took the bus to Kota Baru, at the far north-west of Malaysia. We did not stay long in Kota Baru, yet another city, and went on to Kuala Tahan, in the middle of Malaysia and one of the entrances of the Tama Negara national park. We took the ‘jungle train' from Kota Baru that indeed took us through beautiful jungle. But, unfortunately, also here extended signs of deforestation with the gaps filled in with endless rubber and palm oil plantations. Kuala Tahan was a small village with a couple of floating restaurants that doubled as trek organizers. As Peter fell ill with a throat and ear infection, we had to limit ourselves to smaller walks and trips, and not one of the multiple day hikes that were on offer. We did a nice canopy walk and went swimming several times in a beautiful spot in the park. We met up again with a Dutch/German couple we met in Kuala Lumpur: Jeroen and Andrea, much to the joy of our kids.

From Kuala Tahan we travelled by boat to Jerantut and further by bus to Temerloh. We were on our way to Melakka, an old, historic coastal town south of Kuala Lumpur. As it happened, Temerloh was crowded due to elections and all hotels were fully booked. Luckily, we managed to get a small room in the back of a Chinese hotel - it was certainly not a high light, but we could not afford to be picky. Still tired the next morning, we got up and continued our trip to Melakka. Melakka was a funny town, like a living museum. Lot's of history around, ruled by the Portugese, who were defeated by the Dutch, who, in turn, were defeated by the British. VOC everywhere and the old church hosted many old Dutch gravestones. A very local manner of entertaining the tourists was to peddle them around in a very colourful decorated Trisha while playing very loud music. We did not do it ourselves, but loved watching them go by.

Next stop would be Singapore, from where our flight to New Zealand would depart.

Malaysia failed to really touch us in the manner that the other southeast Asian countries did. The people were friendly, the nature often beautiful, but it was all too much of a mix, too little of an own identity. Hard to explain, but the country simply did not really jive with us. Perhaps because it is really a discovered holiday destination, and the country has many places and opportunities to enjoy your holiday - it seemed less geared for backpackers, however beautiful it was. Still, we were happy to have seen it and were treated very well by its people.