A round up of our SE Asian adventure in the same format as our South American summary
29.10.2013 - 09.02.2014
Number of days in South East Asia: 88 days
Thailand: 12 + 17 = 29 days
Laos: 8 days
Vietnam: 24 days
Cambodia: 5 days
Malaysia: 7 + (Sabah: 5 days) + 2 + 2 = 16 days
Brunei: 2 days
Singapore: 2 + 2 = 4 days
45 different accommodations
+1 night bus (after that we decided never again! Not in Vietnam at least where the speed limit was 60kph most of the time, 80kph at best and flights were less than £30.)
+2 night trains
We changed accommodation within the same town on 3 occasions:
Luang Prabang was booked up for the second night.
Saigon we had booked two nights originally but the guesthouse was not particularly clean and had a bug problem so we did not extend our stay there.
Kuala Lumpur's B&B hostel got a booking for a school party therefore double booked our room and so we had to find a hotel for one night before moving closer to the train station for the second night where it was cheaper and more convenient for our early start to the airport for Australia.
48 different places over 88 nights gives us an average stay of 1.8 nights at each place, compared to 1.7 nights in South America; however we moved around a lot more in Asia, as South America’s average included changing three times in the delightful town of Calama, 3 nights camping on the Inca Trail and 9 nights travelling. If you look at the average for staying in a hotel or guesthouse only, South America’s average is 2.25 nights and Asia is 1.96 nights. Regardless of which way you calculate it, it is safe to say we moved around an awful lot! It felt as though we moved a lot more in Asia, as we rarely spent more than two nights in the same hotel.
Our longest stay for the whole time was 4 nights in Krabi over Christmas. We managed 3 nights on Phu Quoc island in Vietnam and 3 nights in Hanoi. I think it's fair to say we have literally not stopped moving for 3 months.
We rejected one accommodation and did a midnight dash (at 11pm) to another hotel in Siem Reap, where the hotel was expecting Chris to return with a hooker, when he booked the room with absolutely no belongings. The hotel we left was filthy with gunge and slime in the bathroom and the air conditioning did not work in the stifling 40 degree heat of Cambodia. That and the owner was pretty rude towards me for being a fussy English woman, with a boyfriend (husband) who just goes along with whatever I tell him. Marriage must be a strange affair if this is not the case in Cambodia!
Top 3 Accommodation
This is a lot more difficult to decide for South East Asia as everything was so cheap, we really did not slum it. We did not stay in any dorm rooms, mainly double rooms, occasionally twin and until we got to Malaysia, we did not even have to entertain the notion of sharing our bathroom.
The best country for accommodation is Vietnam, where £18 will get you a very nice 3/4 star modern western style double room with buffet breakfast. Excluding Singapore, which is just generally a lot more expensive, Malaysia was least value for money, with rooms being very basic and bathrooms being a wet room the size of a closet. Turns out our cupboard under the stairs is more than big enough for a bathroom, when I had previously thought it too small to be a downstairs toilet. North Thailand was probably the cheapest and best value for money. We struggled to spend much more than £10 for a cute little bungalow. We also stayed in the most authentic rooms here, without needing to lower expectations in comfort.
Anyway.... I digress.
Chiang Mai, Thailand - GAP's House: lovely traditional large room with lovely wooden furniture and a good breakfast. The hotel was set in the grounds of a garden, which was more like a jungle.
Krabi, Thailand - Cozy Place: this was like a miniature holiday resort hotel with the 20 or so rooms all overlooking the pool. The bed and room were massive, the balcony was a good size, breakfast was good competition for a Brazilian breakfast and Barrel dog lived there! This dog was the roundest fat dog we had ever seen!
Phu Quoc, Vietnam - Lan Anh Resort: these were cute little bungalows around a pool and garden with a lovely outside bathroom behind your room. The breakfast was pretty good too.
We stayed at the Radisson in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, which goes without saying that that was our nicest hotel, but we paid nearly £50 a night for that, and although you couldn't get anything at all for less than £40 a night in BSB, I'm sure if we had spent £50 a night in Vietnam or North Thailand we could have potentially got something even nicer. The Sheraton in Sandakan comes a very close second in the international chain hotels category.
I would say we generally had better luck with accommodation in South East Asia, probably due to the fact there was a lot of competition and more options for each budget in each town. Also in South America, our budget although considerably more per night, was normally the minimum amount you would have to pay to put a roof over your head for the night. Anyway, the worst three:
The aforementioned dirty accommodation in Siem Reap (although can that count if we didn't manage to stay more than a couple of hours here?)
Saigon - the room with the bugs and unwashed blankets
Chiang Khong, Thailand - had a broken toilet and so faeces leaked out over the bathroom floor. Nice.
We had a lot more land to cover on this section of the trip, but perhaps cheated by flying through most of Vietnam, as a 12 hour bus or train journey costed £25 for the one hour fight. Numbers in brackets are times from South America to show a comparison.
Time spent on buses: 90.75 hours (141.5)
Time spent on trains: 25 hours
Time spent on flights (excluding connection times): 44.75 hours (37)
Time spent on ferries: 33.5 hours (13.5)
Total time travelling: 194 hours/ 8 days and 2 hours (192/8 days)
$4 additional fees at the Cambodian border. $2 of that was for the official medical check.......the other $2 were because I have your passport and because I can.
Probably completely ripped off at various other times, but actual thefts are zero! Yay! (Compared to three in South America.)
So again I will try to do this as a top three for each country. We have an incredibly long list of highlights to choose from though.
The Royal Palace, Bangkok
Bangkok - Exploring the capital city of Bangkok, which we both absolutely loved. Some of our favourites were the unmissable Royal Palace, a long tail boat tour around floating villages on the Thonburi canals, Wat Arun lit up by night, exploring the locals’ alleys around the river by our first accommodation and enjoying cocktails at the Sky Bar by night.
Kanchanaburi – Riding Death Railway over the River Quai bridge and a day trip to the picturesque Erawan Waterfalls
Chiang Mai – Cooking class and the elephant conservation park, where we washed the elephants
Ah I’m cheating already….
Sunset at Khao Lak
Khao Lak – The best snokelling trip we went on was to the islands of Koh Similan
Krabi – Kayaking around the mangroves, karsts and caves
Koh Jum – Actually stopping to relax on this deserted rustic beach island. There is nothing to do, which was just what we needed!
Mountain scenery between Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng
Slow boat along the Mekong from the border to Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang – The food! Our own private buffet barbeque and taking a rowing boat across the river to a hidden bamboo restaurant in the trees
Vang Vieng – tubing along the river and exploring the hidden caves, which included walking through the pitch black empty caves in water up to your chest.
Hanoi by night
Hanoi - Exploring the narrow streets of the old quarter on foot and by cyclo before enjoying a coffee overlooking the chaotic rush hour traffic in the square below and then enjoying the corner bars known as ‘bia hoi’.
Hoi An – Wandering the streets of the old quarter, by day and lit up with colourful lanterns by night before stopping for a relaxing cup of tea and cookies in a deaf tea house.
Children in a minority village
Kon Tum – Tour in French by moped of the minority villages and all the interesting stories he shared with us.
Locals returning from a fishing trip at sunset on Phu Quoc
Phu Quoc Island – Relaxing on the beaches and exploring the island by moped before taking a boat out for a snorkelling trip.
Former school, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
Phnom Penh – Former S-21 prison, now home to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Cocktails at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club
Cheoung Ek - The Killing Fields
Temples at Angkor
Siem Reap – Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples
La maison bleue, Georgetown
Langkawi - Walking up the Telega Tujuh Waterfalls and sliding down the rocks between the Seven Pools
Georgetown - Wandering the streets of the UNESCO centre and admiring the street art, traditional Malay shop houses, Peranakan mansion house and Cheong Fatt mansion house (La maison bleue) before heading to Little India for a traditional banana leaf curry.
Ipoh – Visiting the strangely placed Kellie’s Castle, which does not exactly match its surroundings.
Borneo – Sabah
Sandakan – Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre and Rainforest Discovery Centre and its canopy walkway
Sandakan - Afternoon tea in the traditional English tea house overlooking the bay
Kota Kinabalu - Scuba diving off the coast of Gaya Island
Kampung Ayer Water Village
Bandar Seri Begawan - Royal Regalia museum, the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque lit up at night and the boat trip with self-assigned tour guide for a driver along the river to find the proboscis monkeys.
Tasek Lama Park – Walking the trails along tarmac and climbing root covered steep muddy hills before watching the monkeys cool off in the stream just outside the park
Kampung Ayer – starting off in the visitor centre, which goes into more detail about the history of the villages before meandering through the jetties, which link this water village together
Gardens by the Bay
Singapore zoo and night safari
Gardens by the Bay Light Show before enjoying cocktails in the bar atop one of these trees
Sentosa Island - Waterslides at Adventure Cove and snorkelling through the tropical fish tank, taking the chair lift up the hill in order to toboggan back down and the S.E.A. Aquarium.
Overall, our favourite country was Thailand, with Vietnam being a close second. In both countries, they enjoy a good haggle; however this seemed to be quite light hearted and more of a game in Thailand, whereas in Vietnam, you always wondered how much you were going to have be ripped off. You never felt like you were winning or at the very least breaking even in Vietnam.
We absolutely loved our adventures and have had the most amazing six months of our lives, but my goodness, by the end of it, were we tired! We found it incredibly tiring for the last couple of weeks to pack up and change accommodation again; however this was probably partly because we knew we were nearing the end of our trip. Six months was a decent amount of time. If we had more time, we would have loved to have better explored Australia; but where do you stop?
Last post will be a short summary of our fortnight in Australia. I decided to do it separately to the Asia summary, as it was such a contrast.