It is a tad overdue, but, like India before, we thought we would round off our time in mainland Southeast Asia before moving on.
In short – Places are so much more (and sometimes less) than what you see in the guidebooks when planning.
The long version is as follows;
Where we actually went – Unless you have an encyclopaedic knowledge of mainland Southeast Asia, the place names we have been talking about probably hold very little meaning.
Bangkok – A night on the streets Krabi – Night food-market
Koh Lanta – Motorbike and sunset Koh Phi Phi – Home of ‘The Beach’
Khao Sok – Bugs and jungle-huts Koh Tao – Snorkeling: Take 2
Siem Reap – Home of Angkor Wat Phnom Penh – Genocide Museum
Ho Chi Minh City – Cinema trip Mui Ne – Beach for Jade’s birthday
Da Lat – Cable-car rides Hoi An – Pottery and flooding
Hanoi – BBQ chicken Street Cat Ba Island – 2-day boat trip in Lan Ha Bay
Vientiane – Dodgy Pad Thai Luang Prabang – Missing waterfalls
Pak Beng – 1st stop on slow-boat Chiang Khong – Laos/Thai border-town
Chiang Mai – Elephant Sanctuary Pai – Hotspring & canyon sunset
- Time spent in mainland Southeast Asia: 10 ½ weeks
- Distance Travelled: 7606km (2755 miles) covered by bus, motorbike, plane, bicycle, rickshaw, boat, taxi and one train.
- Photos Taken: 2540
- Photos Deleted: 1948
- Photos Kept: 592
Top 3 (5 – we couldn’t agree) Places to Visit
- Chiang Mai 1. Cat Ba Island
- Cat Ba Island 2. Koh Lanta
- Da Lat 3. Angkor Wat
Top 4 (6 – we still couldn’t agree) Things We Did
- 2-day boat trip in Ha Long and Lan Ha Bay 1. Snorkeling on Koh Tao
- Snorkeling on Koh Tao 2. Kayaking through Lan Ha Bay
- Elephant Sanctuary 3. Elephant Sanctuary
- Christmas in our ‘own’ home 4. Slow-boat through Laos
Bánh Mi – Picture a fire-warmed baguette, filled with succulent chunks of marinated pork, an ample spreading of pate, a few slices of mystery processed-meat (better than it sounds), fresh nettles, a liberal layer of salad leaves, slivers of cucumber, 3 delicious sauces and a generous ladle-full of pork stock. If you can’t picture it, don’t worry, we’ve got a picture to help you.
Ok, so it’s basically a fancy pork sandwich, but it is bloody delicious and filling; a saliva inducing sandwich that only costs 36p.
Thai banana-and-chocolate roti – Queuing up at a grimy cart may not seem like a gateway to dessert heaven, but you’d be surprised. A large dollop of butter is thrown onto a scorching circular metal plate, melting and bubbling instantly. Next to go on the hotplate is an elastic pancake dough, which has been repeatedly thrown, pulled and stretched into a thin and drooping sheet. A banana is rapidly diced and thrown into the centre of the cooking pancake. With a practiced hand the edges are folded into the centre, creating a squared parcel. Once browned off it is whipped of the heat and plated up. The final (and best) touches are then added – it is smothered in Hershey’s sauce and topped off with a frantic drizzle of condensed milk.
Special mention goes to the caramel popcorn we had at the cinema in Ho Chi Minh City; absolutely amazing. Our mouths are watering just writing this.
Least favourite food
Mystery-meat soup – Whilst it did actually taste quiet nice, the flavour was not worth the crippling stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea that followed. Steer well clear.
Xoi Lac – It comprises of sticky-rice, peanuts, coconut, sesame seeds, and bean paste. Whilst we like each ingredient individually, when combined they produce a nausea inducing concoction, which, in one bite is overpoweringly sickly-sweet, and in the next is so salty that drinking a pint of sea water would be a preferable alternative – simply inedible.
We recently watched Forest Gump, and were able to draw parallels between his classic phrase, ‘Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get’, and our trip around Asia. Despite researching before we left, the glossy tour guides only ever offer half the story, and you truly don’t know what you’ll get until you’re in the midst of it.
Southeast Asia chucked everything it had at us; floods, relentless swarms of mosquitos, bus breakdowns, border scams, and nights on the streets. However, it was responsible for what are now some of our most cherished memories. The opportunity to view and interact with an astonishing array of animals, from the minute to the gigantic; the most beautiful sunsets we have been privileged enough to witness; for allowing us to take a dive back in time and walk through a millennia-old city; and introducing us to the undisputed king of food, Bánh Mi.
No destination is exclusively good or bad, it’s the balance of the two that craft the experiences, and the memories.
We left feeling jaded by the impact – both positive and negative – tourism has had, but also enriched, alive, and hopefully a little wiser for the experience.
Would we go again? Definitely; with our eyes a little more open to the living, breathing contradictions that are Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.
Jade and Jamie