Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Have backpack, will travel

On Jan 6, 2007, in the warmest hours of the day, I was walking in the city of Chiang Mai looking for accommodation. I carried two backpacks – a big one on my back and a small one in the front. (The small backbag essentially became a chest bag!) Despite in the middle of cool season, The Rose of the North was surprisingly warm. I later learned from locals that Chiang Mai was not as cool as in previous years. Al Gore’s inconvenient truth was real!

I eventually settled in a guest house off Tapae Road. I left the big backpack in the room, and headed for Wat Chedi Luang with the smaller one.

What were in my bags?

The big bag – 3 sets of clothes, towel, toiletries, first aid, alarm clock, charger for camera batteries, notebook etc.

The small bag – Thailand Handbook, jacket, photo gears, water bottle (actually outside)

There were plenty of stuffs, and the big bag got heavier as I added souvenirs to it.

Let’s see what Carl Parkes, author of Thailand Handbook, says about packing…

Overpacking is perhaps the most serious mistake made by first-time travelers. Experienced vagabonders know that heavy, bulky luggage absolutely guarantees a hellish vacation. Travel light and you’ll be free to choose your style of travel. With a single carry-on pack weighing less than 10 kg you can board the plane assured your bags won’t be pilfered, damaged, or lost by baggage handlers. You’re first off the place and cheerfully skip the long wait at the baggage carousel. You grab the first bus and get the best room at hotel.

(Carl Parkes, Thailand Handbook, Moon Publications)

“Single carry-on pack? Is this possible?” I was in disbelief when I first read the book. But Parkes was totally right. In Oct 2005, shortly after second terrorists’ assault, I traveled to Bali. In the airport, I saw one guy with just a small, carry-on bag. (He did check in one huge surf board.) In my 2007 Northern Thailand trip, I also met two Americans, each with a medium-sized backpack. I believe they only brought 2 sets of clothes. Wash one, wear one - this is what Carl Parkes suggests in his book.

One of the biggest headaches in my trip was laundry. Ideally, I should drop my clothes in the laundry and collect them back before moving on to another destination. Unfortunately, I often spent just one day in a place – not long enough to have my clothes washed. For my Northern Thailand trip, I decided to bring enough clothes so that I didn’t have to send them to laundry. Worse still, as a shutter bug, I brought a big camera plus an external flash. That explains why I needed a big backpack that could not meet the dimensional limits of carry-on baggage.

The trip lasted eight days. Every shirt was worn for two days. Fortunately, I was traveling alone. Had I traveled with relatives/friends, the other people would have to bear with me wearing dusty clothes and stinking socks .

So, the “wash one, wear one” concept didn’t work for me. But my vacation was definitely not hellish. I had not been very healthy prior to my Northern Thailand trip, and saw backpacking as a form of physical exercise. It turned out that the added load of my bags wasn’t a bane .


  1. Thanks for your info is very useful to me.. =)

  2. Pros and cons, I guess. But... very good info, KS. Thanks for sharing.

  3. happysurfer,
    Thanks for leaving your comment.