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Belmont, California, United States
Monday, May 21, 2012

Less than two weeks to go before we head out on our RTW trip !

The last few weeks have been somewhat of a blur. Once we made up our minds that the trip was on, we decided that we would probably be on the road for 8-10 months. At least that is what we would be telling people when they asked how long we plan to travel because we really do not know any better at this point.

We immediately got into the planning phase, something both of us really enjoy doing specifically when it has to do with travel. We spent time contemplating the world map that was promptly hung up on the kitchen wall, tracing our fingers over continents and countries that could potentially be on the route of our grand plan !  A month here. Two weeks there. Given our mid-summer start, is it going to be winter before we hit these northern latitudes ?  When would be a good time to cross over into the southern hemisphere ? Such weighty questions were given due consideration and discussed at length. But given our short planning ramp, we decided that we could reasonably plan only for the first 2-3 months. Getting into any level of detail beyond that would be a waste of time. That also meant we would not be buying a RTW ticket but would be buying individual legs as required. That might turn out more expensive overall but it would allow us to stay totally flexible.

Having made that decision, we began raiding our local libraries for guidebooks. A significant part of the entire LP guide collection from our neighborhood library now lies scattered in various rooms of our house. We have spent hours reviewing Classic Itineraries, Getting There-Getting Away, Budget Lodging and even the Dangers and Annoyances section for various cities in an effort to to piece together a high level plan for first 3 months. At least equal if not more time is being spent scouring online travel forums like LP Thorn Tree for recent trip reports and updates and reviewing packing lists of other RTW travelers.

A shared Google doc for RTW planning was immediately started to capture questions, tentative plans and a growing Todo Before Leaving list. We have spent the last few weeks chasing down and striking off items off this list, a very satisfying activity !

Our plan is to head west and and continue heading in that general direction till we are ready to come back home (or when our budget runs out !). Our immediate focus will be Japan, S. Korea, China and other SE Asian countries and while we have some familiarity with the region from past trips, we are also faced with the challenge of acquiring visas in a hurry for some them.

Getting the Myanmar visa specifically was a slightly stressful experience.  Reports from travel forums indicated that the "10 business days" claim on the consulate website was only a casual approximation.  Some people had been waiting for 3 or more weeks and others had to change travel plans because the passport had not been returned on time.  Also they had a reputation for not picking up the phone when you tried to contact them.  All indications were that it was risky to send off our passport into the unknown (Washington D.C) and expect it to be stamped and back in time for our departure. Besides they required that you pay not with a Credit Card ( a reasonable expectation), or a Cashiers check (inconvenient, but still doable) but drop a couple of US $20 currency notes into the envelope and mail it to them ! That seemed totally sketchy. But it was actually legitimate, it says so in the instructions on their website !
So send it off we did, with a request to expedite on account of our impending departure.  Not having heard from them after the stipulated 10 business days, we did manage to get through on the phone to the embassy and convince the person on the other side of the urgency involved.  We were given a direct email address to make a personal request to the Consul General and that worked like a charm. Our passports are back (with the visa stamped) within 4 days of this request - overnight delivery no less !  So that ended well. Hopefully getting other visa(s) is a less anxiety inducing experience.

 All for now. Stay tuned for updates.



Enjoyed what I have read so far of your blog, and looking forward to more. From Latha, on Apr 13, 2013 at 04:12AM
@Latha: Thanks! From Malini and Venkatesh, on Apr 13, 2013 at 10:16PM

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