I thought I had done a brief summary of my trip – it appears I did just that. Thought about it!
I loved Asia, there are some places I’d love to go back to and spend more time and others where the time I had was enough.
We arrived in Bangkok after a rather tiresome trip there. I was almost bumped off the flight out of Auckland to Sydney (our FIRST flight!). The lovely ground staff at Qantas got me on the plane but not “my” bag. We didn’t know this until we got to Bangkok (about 5pm their time) and found we were a bag short. However the muppets checking us in labelled one of the other girls bags as mine and mine as hers. I felt really sorry for her not having her bag, and as she’s quite highly strung there was talk of going home and other things. Luckily the bag turned up about midnight.
We had a weekend in Bangkok exploring; went to the Floating Markets, Baiyoke Tower, Weekend Markets, MBK and another shopping mall. It was a great experience and a good way to get into the holiday mode!
Our first day of the trip starting with a “Flight of the Gibbon” – http://www.treetopasia.com for more info. Basically it’s a zipline through a rainforest for a couple of hours. If you are afraid of heights it’s possibly not the thing for you as you are clipped onto trees the entire time or the zipline but it’s high up. For adrenaline junkies like me it’s truly amazing! We joined our group that evening and then the real fun started.
We left for Cambodia the following day and got to know our group on the four hour bus ride. Luckily we had a good group of people so the long bus rides we took were quite fun. Often we were all asleep! I love Cambodia, it’s an amazing place. The people are so nice and happy, and after all that has happened to their country and with the little they have it made me realise that I am so very lucky with what I have (and sometimes I feel as though I don’t have all that much). We went to Angkor Wat for sunrise one morning – definitely worth the 4am start! Quad biking through rice fields that evening. Phnom Penh is a busier city in Cambodia, I wasn’t a fan, it was too busy and not very welcoming. We went to S21 and the Killing Fields – worst day of my life! I ended up with a migraine which was probably just from being so emotional whilst there. The guide we had told me he gets one in however many people like me who just look at though they will keel over as it’s a bit much. We spent some time in Siahanoukville which is a beach town, so we got some time to tan and swim. We had a boat trip to islands so spent the day snorkelling and island hopping and just relaxing in the sun. I was hustled by a little girl and bought a plaited bracelet for $2 (she had given me a “free” one the day before).
Vietnam was the place I was really looking forward to as so many people had raved about it. I definitely liked Vietnam and would love to go back to Hoi An and the south of Vietnam but I still prefer Cambodia over Vietnam. The South was quite warm and very summery much like Cambodia. We bused to the border then had to walk in the 30º+ heat and stand around with our packs for ages as the officials at the border certainly don’t rush for anyone! We had a home stay our first night in Vietnam which was an experience. The family were lovely and showed us how to make dairy and gluten free pancakes – out of saffron and rice milk (and other ingredients I can’t recall). They then brought out an amazing feast for us. The sheer volume of food was astounding! I don’t know that anyone had a good sleep that night as it was very noisy with animals and police turning up to check passports (regular occurrence in Vietnam) and the beds weren’t the most comfortable. It was fun though.
I got two dresses and a pair of jandals (flip flops) made in Hoi An, it’s a lovely quaint little town and a nice slow pace compared to the cities. I also went abseiling there – I’m hooked, it’s such a rush! I want to do it here in NZ but it’s SO expensive! After Hoi An the weather got a lot cooler and continued to get cold. Ho Chi Minh City reminded me of Auckland with the immense humidity, it wasn’t the most exciting city, but I was glad to have been. We had a couple of wet miserable days in Hue before going on our third overnight train to Hanoi and then bus to Halong Bay. We had a fun boat trip in Halong Bay, some of the others went Kayaking around a fishing village but I was getting sick with a headcold so opted to lie in the sun on the boat – bliss!
Hanoi was a culture shock. It is SO busy! I was told the population of Hanoi alone is 7 million and there are 5 million motorbikes – I swear I saw them all. I was quite ill by that point so after lunch on our first day there I went back to the hotel on my own and the rest of the group had a walk around. I had to climb over motorbikes, one guy helped me up over his bike while I was standing on his wheel, someone else helped me stand on the back of the seat so I could jump off over. It was nuts. Craziest thing I’v ever seen, and I thought Bangkok was nuts?! Bangkok was tame compared to Hanoi. We went to a water puppet show which was so cute! I really enjoyed it, so much so I fell asleep. It was a nice temperature inside and the music so soothing and calming. After a couple of days in Hanoi we flew to Laos and started our trip in Vientiane (capital city) where we walked around for a morning (many kilometres of walking that day) to see a Pagoda and temples. From there we went to Vang Vieng which is like a surf town, or holiday town. It’s quite touristy but still quite cheap. There is a bar there called Kangaroo bar which a few of the group and I visited. We were paying $1.50USD (equivalent) for 1.5L beer. Crazy! We had a day kayaking on the Mekong River. I stupidly thought “oh my legs never get burnt I won’t waste sunscreen on them” – legs do get burnt and it hurts! My shins were tomato red for days and so hot! They ended up going brown then peeling two weeks later! Luang Prabang is the capital of Laos and I really liked it there. We were there for Christmas so had a cooler Christmas than I’m used to but only by a few degrees! We had a nice group dinner out on Christmas eve then a street food market dinner on Christmas day ($1.50 for buffet!). On Christmas Day we went to Kuang Si waterfall where we climbed to the top. I had to scramble up this bank like a small child on my hands and knees. I felt so ill at the top – the most exercise I’ve done on Christmas day ever I’m sure. It was so much fun.
After Luang Prabang we had two days on a slow boat on the Mekong River, the night we had another homestay; this time in a fishing village on the banks of the Mekong. The village was tiny, smaller than the farm my parents manage. The kids were so cute and taught us different words and generally laughed at our bad pronounciation and our names. That homestay was quite good, I should have slept well but not sleeping in a locked room does wicked things to my crazy brain so I was on edge all night. (I still can’t sleep anywhere I can’t lock the door). The second day of the slow boat was a bit torturous as we were all getting cabin fever. Not actually as the boat had a roof and half sides but was basically open so it was bloody cold! We got to the Laos/Thai border and had to do all the immigration stuff. Getting into Thailand some of us were charged 5BHT but others weren’t. We couldn’t figure it out haha Not worth arguing over as 27BHT was $1NZD.
The first night in Thailand we stayed in a strange small town and had an ok dinner together as a group. The following day the two people who had had fried rice for dinner were severely ill with food poisoning and some of the rest of us felt a bit dodgy. Before we carried on to Chiang Mai we went to the hospital to visit some people from a different G Adventures group who had been hit by a drunk driver when they were walking back to their hotel. Those poor people were in a bad way, they would all live and walk again but just seeing them was really hard. I felt so sorry for them, they were on a trip of a lifetime and only just beginning their tour (going reverse to us) and they were all going home as soon as they were discharged from hospital. One girl couldn’t walk as her back was so swollen and sore, she was going to require a lot of physio when she got back to Australia. When we got to Chiang Mai the sick people took to their beds and the rest of us went to Tiger Kingdom to cuddle some tigers and see them up close and personal. I was filiming tigers play fighting in their pool and they fell over splashing us and I got water in the lens of my camera. Thankfully it has since dried and no long lasting damage that I can see. But it meant the next day when we were at the Elephant Conservatory I had to use my phone so my photos are decent but not quite as good as I’d have liked. Elephants. Ah it was so amazing going there, we saw them take a bath and play in the water, they put on a show and painted for us, we went on a ride and then saw the nursery and the hospital as well. This conservation park lets the elephants go at night and they are free to come back the following morning if they choose. Most do as they are rescued from circuses and things so they are used to human contact and being fed. Any that are bred there are let go into the jungle and live a life free in the jungle. Lovely place. I was ill that day having had food poisoning set in, lucky it was quite mild so aside from some vomiting the previous night I was just nauseous and not hungry. A little clammy but it was bearable.
From Chiang Mai we took a sleeper train to Bangkok. By this point the food poisoning had sort of gone away but I was getting horrid waves of nausea so although the train was comfortable and steady I did have some moments where I wasn’t very happy. We had one final day in Bangkok, most of the group went to see temples but two of my friends I’d travelled with and I went for a 10km+ walk to the MBK mall again and wandered around having a leisurely lunch and just chilling out looking at shops. We were temple’d out by then! That night we had dinner at Cabbages and Condoms – http://www.cabbagesandcondoms.com check out the website for all that they do. It was an interesting meal with the two really sick only just coming right and I was still feeling a bit dodgy. Ginger ale became my favourite drink!
The following day was 31st December, one of my friends and I flew to Krabi for the next five days where she was happy to do very little while I suffered from extreme nausea and an inability to really eat until our last day. I still can’t have lactose milk or flavoured yoghurt or cream cheese, sour cream or ice cream. I’ve worked my way up to a little cheese, cottage cheese appears to be ok and greek yoghurt and goats milk feta. Our flights home were good, we were both awake for over 24 hours as my friend doesn’t sleep whilst travelling and I (despite having slept on every other flight, bus ride and boat ride) just wasn’t sleepy – too excited about getting home. We had been given access to the Qantas business lounge between Sydney and Auckland which was fantastic, away from the hustle and bustle of the airport and quiet. With great food. I ate a little but by the time we had to board our flight the nausea was back and I was not feeling good. I forced myself to sleep as soon as the plane set off and felt less ill when I woke up, avoided lunch which smelt awful. Luckily I’d been spraying perfume on myself while at the airport and my cardigan which I’d removed smelt soooo good so I held that over my face the remainder of the flight.
I had never been so glad to see my bed as I was when I finally got home, my cats couldn’t quite believe it was me haha They were so cute and didn’t leave the house much for the next four days. I guess they wanted to make sure they weren’t dreaming it.
I had such a wonderful time on my trip and I’m so glad I went. It’s definitely set the travel bug alight though and I had originally thought South America would be my next trip but it’s not that appealing at the moment. So NYC to LA here I come. I also want to go to the Greek Islands (on a cruise I think), Spain & Italy. As well as Ireland. But plenty of time for that :)