Wednesday, June 22, 2011

One final post on Southeast Asia

Final cost report: Roughly $2559.26 or ¥16711.95

I say roughly because I used a mix of currencies, so I'm using the average exchange rate between USD and RMB for the month of April.

This figure covers every expense that I incurred from stepping into Pudong International Airport in Shanghai to stepping out of it, i.e. airfare, visa fees, foreign transaction fees, SIM cards, etc. The only exception is my visit to the international clinic in Saigon (which cost $96.14), since that will be reimbursed through my health insurance (Thanks, Obama!) and also because it is not a routine expense (though it is something you should budget for).

This figure does not include materials I bought in preparation for my trip. The expenses for those are as follows:

Digital guidebook: $14.84
General travel supplies (inflatable pillow, earplugs, eye mask, etc.): ¥30.36
Adding visa pages to my passport: $82
Backpack: ¥150 (I think)
External hard drive (for photos): ¥60 (I think)
Extra camera battery: ¥40 (I think)

I can't remember the exact prices for the last three items, but they are something very close to those figures. The average exchange rate in March (when I bought these items) was 1:6.56, so the total for this would come out to $139.58 or ¥833.12. I believe that many of you who may be embarking on a similar trip may not necessarily need to add visa pages though, which is the bulk of these expenses.

I am fully recovered from whatever parasite I had (which the doctors could not recognize but the internet leads me to believe is a fairly common parasite among travellers in the region), and it already feels like a distant memory, even though it only ended a month ago. I think the literal physical distance has a lot to do with that, although it's not the entire reason. I have been back and forth between Shanghai and Nanjing visiting relatives and friends, and it looks like I will be pretty transient between those two cities for the rest of my time in China. It is the rainy season here, which means it rains every single day, yet seemingly without any sort of cooling effect.

In contrast, China's greatest freshwater lakes are now dry. This is what happens when you cut down all the trees and then build a huge dam where it makes no sense to do so: Erosion and desertification run rampant, and the nation loses any natural resources it might have had once upon a time. The air is more dust and pollution than it is air, i.e. the air is actually visible. No one should be surprised. This has been a long time coming. The whole of China, whether it is the majority of people, companies, or government agencies, are more concerned about day-to-day survival and profits than meaningful and/or sustainable long-term development. And this is the price of short-sighted thinking. Ok, off the soapbox now.

I had an amazing trip. My favorites were Thailand and Vietnam for things to do and see, and Malaysia for food and relaxation. You already know how I feel about Laos. Feel free to add me on CouchSurfing. (Mention the blog or I'll think you're weird.) The end.