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Facts at a Glance
Myanmar (Burma)


Tuk-Tuks, Temples
and Thai Boxing

Ayutthaya -
the Ancient Capital

Phnom Penh and
The Killing Fields

Faces of the Jungle
Angkor Wat and
the Khmer Dancers

Temples Amid the Vines
Sunset on the City

Nong Khai
Joe's Lament

The Gateway to Laos

Luang Prabang
Kingdom of a Million Elephants
Bicycle Tour
The Pak Ou Caves

The Mekong
A Journey up the Mekong

The Golden Triangle
Opium Scales and
Tiger Skins

Chiang Mai
Wats, Wats
and a Backrub

Hilltribes, Inc.
Temple on the Hill

Planning a Trip:

Susanne and I like to pack lightly for our trips. While we don't fancy ourselves as backpackers (at least not in the traditional, grungy, haven't-bathed-in-a-week sense), we both subscribe to the notion of carrying all of our belongings in one large, sturdy backpack. I use a Kelty backpack I purchased on sale at REI for around $100. It's worth investing in your backpack because you'll have to lug it around for weeks, and you'll want it to be both comfortable and strong. Large backpacks often come with either internal or external frame support - internal frames strengthen your pack from the inside, while external frames are visible on the outside. I prefer internal frames because they're less likely to get banged up.

So what do you put in your backpack? It's up to you of course, but the one common mantra you hear among backpacking veterans is "Pack as little as you think you'll need, and then leave half of it behind." There's good sense in doing this - the longer you travel, the more of a burden your pack becomes. Remember, it's your back shlepping this thing around. You'll also want to leave enough room to carry anything you might buy along the way. I also leave just enough space for me to fit a second backpack - a small, over-the-shoulder daypack - in order to carry my camera and other daily supplies while we tour the sights. And remember, at any given time you'll be wearing one outfit, so just because you've packed only one pair of pants doesn't mean your not wearing a second pair. Also, if your traveling with someone else, you can always split the load and share each other's stuff. For example, I would carry shampoo while Susanne carried conditioner, or we each carried two of the four books we brought. That's one of the nice things about not traveling alone - you can have someone else help you lug the same stuff around.

So with all of that in mind, here's everything I brought on the trip.

  • three light cotton shirts
  • two cotton undershirts
  • one pair of jeans
  • one pair of cotton pants
  • one bathing suit (doubles as shorts)
  • five pairs of underwear
  • four pairs of socks
  • one pair of weatherproof hiking shoes
  • soap
  • shampoo
  • conditioner (carried by Susanne)
  • toiletry kit with all the usuals (razor, toothpaste, toothbrush, etc.)
  • blank travel journal with two pens
  • travel literature (Lonely Planet's guides to Thailand, Hong Kong, Laos and Cambodia, each of us carrying two books)
  • face cloth
  • water purification tablets
  • foam ear plugs
  • eye shades
  • medicines (Tylenol, Tylenol PM, Neospirin, Imodium AD, Pepto Bismol, etc. See health section for details)
  • camera
  • film (13 rolls each)
  • tape recorder with one 90-minute audio tape
  • extra batteries for camera and recorder
  • passport
  • money (see cash section)
  • hat
  • insect repellent (see health section)

After the trip was over, though, I realized I never used the bathing suit, either as shorts or for swimming. Everything else, though, was put to good use.

Copyright 1999 by Andy Carvin. No content may be copied without the author's permission.