The person I have to thank for my love of travel is my Dad. From a young age, my Dad took me, my sisters and my mum on the most exotic and amazing holidays. So it comes as no shock that both of my sisters have also been bitten by the travel bug. My younger sister, Alanna, has just finished her second year of University in Bath and is about to embark on a South-East Asia Adventure this summer. Alanna will be recording her adventures with a guest column on The Travelista Blog and will be reporting back to us every two weeks. But enough from me, here’s what the mini-Travelista has to say about her trip!
Part 1 – Pre-departure excitement!
Summer is here and I am finally free from university, so I had to ask myself the question on every students mind around this time of year – what the hell am I going to do for the next 4 months?! For me there was only one credible answer – travel. During a cold December evening I took the plunge and booked return flights to Bangkok, flying out on the 13th June and returning on the 10th September, giving me just under three months to explore the region of South East Asia. I will be packing up my life in my little 40Litre backpack and heading off into the unknown. As a student (heavily reliant on my student loan…) I am on a pretty tight budget for my travels. I therefore plan to save money wherever possible, such as catching sleeper trains instead of flights, dining in street stalls and staying in hostels. I am even spending a couple of weeks living for free in exchange for working on a Filipino family’s coconut farm! While I have pretty much nothing set in stone, I have a good idea of where I hope to go and what I hope to tick off my bucket list. However, I believe that one of the golden rules of travelling is to be flexible, so my plan is by no means concrete! That way, I am able to take advice from fellow travellers I meet along the way and take some detours accordingly (within reason)! I am travelling with my friend Sally for the whole 3 months, and we will be meeting some other friends along the way at different stages of our journey. So time to announce my agenda!
The Travel Itinerary:
I fly into and out of Bangkok, so I will have plenty of time to explore this diverse city. I have visited Bangkok a few times before and it is truly one of my favourite cities in the world. However, the recent political instability and the military rule makes me a little dubious about how the city is going to be during my time of visit. The imposed nationwide curfew from 10pm-5am means nobody is allowed to be out of their accommodation during these hours. Quite how the tourist party districts of Kao San Road and Patpong are going to look during this time I cannot imagine! Nevertheless, I am sure to be able to cram in some sightseeing before setting off to the northern regions.
2. NORTHERN THAILAND
Here I plan to spend a couple of days in the laid back city of Chiang Mai before heading into the far north western region of Pai. Tourists are known to go to Pai with the agenda of spending a couple of nights and end up staying for months. You can book your own mountain view bungalow for as little as £30 a month which is very tempting indeed… Nevertheless I do have time constraints so will try to spend about 5 days here, trekking, visiting the elephant sanctuary and white water rafting while also finding time to kick back and relax with fellow travellers and locals.
From Northern Thailand I plan to catch a bus to Chiang Kong at the Thai/Laos border. From there we will be taking a 2 day long boat journey along the Mekong River to the laid back tourist hub of Luang Prabang. There are an abundance of Buddhist temples in the area we hope to visit and who knows, maybe even take a little Buddhist retreat! After some relaxation, I will be travelling south to perhaps the world’s most unlikely party place – Viang Vieng. This small riverside town is known for tourists, drinking and tubing. Just a night or two will be enough here before heading east into Vietnam!
4. HANOI AND HA LONG BAY
I will spend a couple of nights in the busy city of Hanoi and soak up some Vietnamese culture before heading to Ha Long Bay – a collection of 2000 uninhabited limestone islands surrounded by emerald sea. There are many tour operators offering excellent looking ‘Junk Boat’ experiences where you spend a couple of nights touring the bay, snorkelling, rock climbing and kayaking.
5. VIETNAM COAST AND HO CHI MINH CITY
After Ha Long Bay I will be touring the east coast of Vietnam before finishing my Vietnamese Journey in Ho Chi Minh City. For some of the journey, I want to hop between cities using motorbikes, and for the longer journeys I will use buses or sleeper trains. The historical city of Hoi An sounds fantastic – I am especially excited to get some dirt cheap customised trainers and clothing, of which Hoi An is famous for! Sand boarding on the beautiful dunes of Mui Ne is also a must for me, along with the white sand beaches of Nah Trang. Finally, I will spend a couple of nights in Ho Chi Minh City (previously known as Saigon) before catching our flight to Manila, the Philippines.
6. THE PHILIPPINES
The Philippines is the country I have always wanted to go to most in my life. I am unsure exactly why but I have heard so many good things about this place. The Philippines is not part of the usual SE Asian Backpackers route but I am unsure why – perhaps because it quite far out from the other countries. I am excited to ride the crazy sounding ‘Jeepneys,’ which are converted WW2 American Jeeps transformed into wacky graffiti covered vehicles. After spending a couple of nights in Manila, and hopefully experiencing the renowned ‘Manila Sunset’, I will spend 10 days ‘WWOOF’ing, which stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. I will live with a Filipino family on their Coconut Farm and helping them with farming duties each day in exchange for free food and accommodation. I think this will be an excellent way to understand a little more about the Filipino culture and way of life! After this I will be exploring some of the 4000 Philippine islands, balancing our time with relaxing on white sandy beaches and taking adventures such as volcano climbing and scuba diving.
After one month in the Philippines, I fly into Kuala Lumpar. I plan to spend around two weeks in Malaysia, exploring the cosmopolitan city of Kuala Lumpar, the deep jungles in the Cameron Highlands and the charming east coast Perhentian Islands.
8. THAI ISLANDS
Now what better place to end my three month adventure that in the backpackers’ party paradise of the Thai Islands!? I will first be heading west, checking out the party scene in Koh Phi Phi and the laid back beaches of Krabi. After this, it will be overland to the east coast islands such as Samui, Tao and, of course, Koh Phangan – the home of the full moon party! I will be sure to enjoy plenty of buckets, some last minute sun bathing and late night partying before heading back to Bangkok for my return flight to England!
Stay tuned for the next instalment where I will probably be blogging from an internet cafe in Laos with a nice chilled beer, stories to tell and a few pesky mosquito bites! Alanna x