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My Banana Pancake Trail

2010 April 26

Via Wikipedia:

The Banana Pancake Trail is the name given to the well-trodden and constantly growing routes around South East Asia travelled by backpackers and other tourists. The Trail has no clear definition but is used as a metaphor for places that are well-visited by mostly Western tourists who have left their marks on the local tourist industry, which has created restaurants, hotels and entertainment catering to these travellers’ needs.

Ahhh the Southeast Asia circuit… what a majestic, inspiring and well-worn path. After a spending a couple of days in Bangkok, I slowly formed a rough itinerary in my head. I learned that there were two directions most people took: clockwise and counterclock wise. Most people start in Bangkok and either go east into Cambodia or north into Chiang Mai, followed by Laos. Both routes usually loop through Vietnam and end up back in Bangkok.

I decided to go east and head into Cambodia because I figured it would be easier to get a visa for Vietnam in Cambodia versus Laos (we screwed up our diplomatic relations with Vietnam with that little thing called the Vietnam War). I ended up trekking through Cambodia, up the coast of Vietnam, through Laos, back to Bangkok, down into the islands and finally back to Bangkok one last time. The map below is a pretty accurate representation of my route.

View Southeast Asia Trip in a larger map

Along the way, you’ll find that a lot of people talk about the “Lonely Planet” route. Because most people are using the Lonely Planet Southeast Asia book (affectionately called the “Yellow Bible”), everyone ends up going to the same places and seeing the same things. The further I traveled, the further I realized this was the case. In fact, I ran into a couple (Ian and Claire) in 6 different places over the course of about 1 month.

And because of this, one will inevitably run into people (the high-and-mighty traveler; I’ll write about them later) who shun these places because they are so “touristy” and not “off the beaten path”.¬† But the truth is, the reason why those places are so frequented is because they are the most interesting/fun/historical places to go. In my opinion, anyone who tells you otherwise is either full of shit or has their nose so high up in the air that all they see is the sky. Yes, it’s fun to get away from the touristy areas for a while, but overall for me, I like talking to people who speak English, I like partying with other travelers, and I like hanging out with people who have something in common with me.

The worst case of a snobby traveler was when I met a girl at the Spicy Laos guesthouse in Luang Prabang. She told me that I “hadn’t seen Cambodia” because I didn’t go meditate/pray with some monks in some rural, middle-of-nowhere village. Apparently seeing Ankor Wat (jewel of Cambodia) and Phnom Pehn (capital of Cambodia) did not qualify me as seeing Cambodia. News to me. I have no problem with people doing what they want, but when they preach it onto others and put everything else down, then their opinion is rendered worthless to me.

If there’s one thing you should remember while traveling, it’s to do whatever YOU want to do. In the end, it’s your time, money and experiences. Don’t let someone else cramp your style. Take your trip by the horns and for once, do everything that you’ve wanted to do.

10 Responses leave one →
  1. May 13, 2010

    I agree that there are some travelers that will put down others that go for interesting places that are highly visited. I went to Saigon (HCMC) and although there were many travelers I decided I would rent a motorbike and see a few of the other districts . Sounds like you enjoyed it all though!

  2. sarita331 permalink
    May 14, 2010

    Oh snobby travelers, aren’t they fun!? Other expats have called me “repulsive”, “unlikeable” and “unstable” because of what I’ve written on my blog. Generating any kind of reaction that strong is sort of flattering in a twisted way. Like, thanks for reading it despite its lengthy repulsiveness? People hate associating themselves with tourists, even when they clearly fit into the category, but like you say, touristy sites tend to be touristy for a reason. I think as long as you make an effort to be respectful to the locals and their customs (i.e. get wasted and make out on Khao San Rd, not Angkor Wat), you’re in the clear. Trying to force an “authentic” cultural experience or religious awakening will more often set you up for disappointment than not. Just follow your gut. Someone told me once that Malaysia used to market itself to travelers as being set apart from Asia – as in, come here, we’re not like the rest of Asia, we’re comfortable and nice. Then it became more hip to have the “cultural experience,” so now Malaysia’s marketing line is “Malaysia- Truly Asia.”

  3. moo permalink
    February 3, 2011

    Ah, the snobby preachy backpacker. I hate them.

    Easter religions. A big number on the list of Stuff White People Like. Why would I waste my time trekking to assfuck cambodia to pray with a monk when I think religion is fucking retarded? I am repulsed by Christianity, so I see no reason to waste my precious time consorting with religious nutcases and engage in Eastern supersitious nonsence on the other side of world.

    BTW, most of the monks in SE asia re just going through the motions. They are sent there for a few years and then most fuck off and live their lives in the real world.

    • February 3, 2011

      That is fucking hilarious. Yet so, so true. Yea it’s weird, you see monks with cell phones all the time.

  4. October 25, 2011

    Hey, Great article, just finished my Southeast Asia Backpacking trip and im missing it already!

    Check out my blog

    For more tips and guides on backpacking in Southeast Asia.


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