AS frightening as the road may be for wide-eyed travelers, there’s a beaten path travelers have followed for decades: the Banana Pancake Trail.
It’s a tourist circuit stretching through and around southeast Asia that’s accommodated nomads from all over for decades.
It earned its curious name from what became a breakfast staple at local guesthouses in their effort to cater to Western tastes. Today, it’s more than a buzzword; it’s taken on a far more important meaning, a baptism of sorts to welcome one into the travel community.
The Trail typically begins in Khao San Road, a central street in Bangkok, and ends, well, wherever your heart pleases. There’s no single universally recognized route, but take note of what piques your interest as you plan your trip.
First of all, the Trail is incredibly affordable. Look up any wanderlust-inducing quit-your-job-and-travel-the-world article online and read the comments section. You’ll find an astounding number of naysayers doubting the feasibility of the trip on a financial basis.
But the truth is, if you take the Trail, you can easily travel weeks or even months with a small budget, sometimes even as little as US$20 a day.
Lodging, food and drink, and private transport won’t break the bank. With the prominence of budget carriers, even flying can fit a modest purse, as a massive range of destinations from Kathmandu to Bali are available at prices that won’t burn a hole in your pocket. Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur are the main hubs that connect the region.
Sometimes the most valuable experiences you’ll have will actually cost close to nothing, such as chatting with a local about his town’s history over a cup of tea.
And even when things get noticeably pricey, there are attractions you just can’t miss when you’re visiting this part of the world (like Angkor Wat, Ha Long Bay and Bagan), and they’re often worth it.
You won’t believe it until you’re actually there yourself, but it’s so easy to get around on the Trail. A short boat trip, a long train ride, and a couple of bus transfers can get you from Sumatra to northern Laos bordering China. And if you can bear the motion sickness on country roads, you have little else to worry about.
As English proficiency continues to improve throughout the region, travel also becomes easier. The language barrier that may have been a Great Wall in itself years ago has shrunk, and hospitality staff in many southeast Asian countries will be more than willing to assist in shuttling you to your next destination.
Transport booking may also be available online as travel agencies are always eager to churn out visas, and your first “friend” in every city will likely be an overenthusiastic tuk tuk driver marketing every waterfall or pagoda you can visit (Warning: You’ll tire of this).
It’s been said that the people you meet on your travels make all the difference. There are no guarantees about what kind of folks you’ll meet, and some travelers are so hellbent on finding suitable company that they even go as far as using dating apps.
Open your ears and your mind and let these people feed your fire. If you find that your hopes and dreams overlap with those of others more than people from back home, then you’re already getting answers to some important questions you set forth with.
If you treat it as an overpriced self-help session, you may have difficulty finding relatable testimonials. No two travelers will ever have the same experience, even if they travel together.
But have no doubt that the Banana Pancake Trail will always give you answers, even if it’s in the form of more questions. There is no secret nor middle ground, just a leap waiting to be taken.