Jul 1, 2006

Plan Your Own Vacation

The self-planned holiday
By LEONG SIOK HUI i-July-2006

So you want to trek the Himalayas, pedal around Ireland and kayak Halong Bay in Vietnam, but can’t find a Malaysian operator to help you plan the trip? LEONG SIOK HUI suggests D.I.Y.

After he reached the peak of Mt Kinabalu in 2002, Tan Ay Bing, 49, aspired to climb higher mountains.

He read about Mt Kilimanjaro (5,895m) in Tanzania and bought Lonely Planet’s Trekking in East Africa guidebook. During a travel fair, he stumbled upon a Malaysian travel operator who could plan this climb for him.

“My biggest constraint was time, and I thought it would be a hassle to plan the trip myself,” said the director of an engineering firm.

But when he arrived in Africa, Tan was transferred to three different agents before the actual trekking began. The Malaysian agent’s role was just to hook Tan up with these agents, and they each got a cut from the cost of the trip.

“I realised it would have been easier to plan my own trip, get to Moshi (the town nearest to the mountain base) and arrange for a trekking operator there,” said Tan, who also trekked to the Everest Base Camp (5,300m-plus) in 2004.

Tan forked out a hefty RM11,000-plus for his trip though most Kilimanjaro (self-planned) trips usually cost about RM6,000 to RM7,000, minus the safari excursion.

“What I really learned from the trip is that you can travel alone. Once you’re there, your fellow travellers are your best supporters,” said Tan who wasn’t used to independent travelling before.

“A lot of people want to make that first move (to independent travel), but they just need a push.”

Yes, independent travelling IS the way to go. It allows flexibility, freedom and even brings with it moments of serendipity.

Besides, planning a trip is half the adventure and can be fun.