May 1, 2014

Day 204 – So long South East Asia

I spent a total of just under 7 months in SEA and what an amazing run. Initially I thought the days wouldn’t pass, but of course they do and now that it’s time to leave I can’t quite believe it.

 

I’ve been asked by many along my trip, what my highlight has been, it’s very hard to say because each country, each journey has been different and I have met various people along the way so truthfully I don’t know. I can however, sum-up my highlight in each country.

 

Vietnam – Here was where it all started, I met some amazing children, whom I still miss and managed to teach English for the first time! Would I teach again? I most certainly would because it is good fun! Here was where I also met some amazing people, some of whom I later travelled with. Celebrated my birthday here and had many great nights out. I will miss Dalat the most, a city with mountainous landscape and milder temperatures. The first thing I marvelled at here was Halong Bay, beautiful beyond words. Vietnam is the only country by far that has the best sleeping buses and the cheapest beer! Best Vietnamese food – would have to be curry and anything with tofu! Loved fruit smoothies and eating many mango’s! I won’t miss the crazy roads of Saigon, the never-ending motorbikes, cockroaches, rats and the heat.

Good times in Mui Ne with Julian, Magali, Thelma, Le La, Cecilie and Dani

Good times in Mui Ne with Julian, Magali, Thelma, Le La, Cecilie and Dani

Cambodia – I ended up volunteering by chance and I”m so happy that I did! Children here are just as sweet and I miss so many of them. I met more amazing volunteers here, some of whom I hope I will meet again, somewhere, somehow!  This volunteer house was very different and after having spent 3 weeks here, I realised that I could pretty much stay anywhere! I pushed my comfort zone and thankful survived! Celebrated both Christmas and New Year here, Siem Reap was buzzing with people and energy. Not quite like home, nothing like London and at times, I did feel home sick. The thing I loved the most was Angkor Watt – historical temples, some better preserved than others but each just as wonderful.  I managed to get my second tattoo here, a ‘om’ symbol encapsulating everything, the beginning, middle and end.

One of the amazing temples at Angkor Wat

One of the amazing temples at Angkor Wat

Thailand – I ventured to the North of Thailand on my own and it was grand. I managed to survive a three day trek in Chiang Mai, realised that just in case packing is over-rated and it is better to travel light if in doubt. It was here that I sat on a Elephant for the first time and tried water rafting which is heaps of fun! Did a cooking class which I thoroughly enjoyed and will attempt to re-create some of the magic once back at home. The best moment here was zip-lining, by far the greatest thing I did in Thailand. Going from one tree top to another, so high up in the sky with nothing but rope dragging you along – truly a liberating experience. Best Thai food – papaya salad, mausam curry and mango with sticky rice plus pad thai! I left Pai with my third tattoo, bamboo tattoo, five lines on my back – not as pain free as I hoped but worth it.

One of the beautiful temples in Chiang Mai

One of the beautiful temples in Chiang Mai

Laos – Here I made some great friends, whom I travelled with for the most part. From drinking games to late night bowling. We went tubing in a cave and kayaking down a stream! Here locals are really chilled out and the policy, quite simply is, please don’t rush.  The highlight for me here was the 4000 islands – I managed to see both Don Det and Don Khon, both really relaxing islands where there is no craziness or chaos.

4000 islands

4000 islands

Myanmar – Myanmar was a dream come true for me. This country is by far the most unique country in SEA.  Whilst it is not easy to enter via land, it is well worth booking a flight to see this amazing country.  You enter the country and travel back in time, the streets, people, technology all of it so very old school.  Here you meet the friendliest locals, many of whom simply want to strike up a conversation with you because you’re foreign. Bagan is bursting with stupas and hot-air balloons plus horse and carts. I made more friends and survived a three day trek to Inle Lake! This is perhaps the only country I visited where there is next to no night life.  That said, Mynamar, as a whole, was amazing for me and my trip to SEA most certainly wouldn’t be complete without it.

Inle Lake

Inle Lake

Malaysia – One of the more modern countries of SEA and reminded me very much of London. The roads, three-pin plug and diversity all made me think of home. The city is buzzing with cheap food, malls, busy roads and endless shops. I fell in love with Penang – the street art, street food and locals all amazing. But then you pay a visit to Cameron Highlands and it takes your breath away. For all of us who love the beach, pay the Perhentian Islands a visit – the sandy white beaches and beautiful blue turquoise waters perfect to top up your tan! It was here I tried snorkeling for the first time and what an experience! What did I love the most? A mossy forest walk I did in the Cameron Highlands because it was something out of Lord of the Rings, something you don’t experience often. Best Malaysian food for me was the roti canai plus paratas and dosas!

The Perhentian Islands

The Perhentian Islands

Singapore – By far the most expensive city and a fine city! Here the streets are squeaky clean and people follow rules for everything, there is not a hair/person out of place. You see no homeless people for instance, no litter, no graffiti- how is that possible? I hear you ask, well it’s beyond me. The red double deckers and the MRT are sure to remind you of London minus the delays and the madness of course. I didn’t stay here for long but loved walking through Little India – had the best pav bhaji and lassi here plus paid the temples a visit. The highlight for me was my indoor skydive, not as good as the real deal but worth the experience.

Gardens by the Bay

Gardens by the Bay

Indonesia – Filled with great diversity from island to island and so much to see and do along the way. I started off in Sumatra, where there are next to none travellers and locals are very helpful. Surrounded by batik houses and prints and motorbikes. Java was where we visited two amazing temples and climbed two volcano’s. Bali, for me, was by far the highlight, the energy, the locals, the rice paddies, yoga classes, temples, beaches – simply amazing. It was also here that I tried diving, a little crazy I know given that I don’t know how to swim but it sure was an experience and I found Nemo! Locals here are happy to see a different face, have a chat and many will pluck up the courage to ask if they can take a photo with you – how cute!

Sunset at Bali

Sunset at Bali

It’s been one roller-coaster of a ride with many highs and a few lows. I’ve loved my time here and would defo come again. I’ve stayed in places I never thought I would, eaten food that I’ve never heard of, tried things I’ve never done before and made decisions based on my gut feelings.  Yes, I haven’t seen everything or experienced all that each of these countries has to offer but for me, I did more than enough, I saw more than I imagined and am nothing but grateful for all the amazing people I met along the way that made my trip so memorable.

 

So my time spent here is up and I move on to my next adventure, until we meet again, somewhere, somehow, so long SEA- leaving with nothing but love for this place and so many amazing memories!