34: Highlights of Southeast Asia

Sunday 18th August 2019

Day 110 in Southeast Asia

So today is the day I leave Asia after almost 16 weeks here and I can’t quite believe it. It’s all come around so quickly. I’m not quite done with my adventure yet. I’m flying to Sydney overnight tonight to see and stay with a few friends in and around the city for the next 9 days! It will be a lovely, relaxed end to my trip, even if it is a lot cooler there!

This morning I got breakfast at my hostel and finally had a half decent coffee. We had a relax at the rooftop of the hostel before heading to the airport. Me and 3 of the other girls were all taking the same flight so we got the free shuttle from the hostel together at 1.

Our flight was supposed to leave at 2:40 but was delayed by an hour and a half. The light from Labuan Bajo in Flores, where the boat trip ended, back to Bali was just over an hour. We finally made it to Bali at around 5:30. I fly out of Bali at 10:30pm tonight and arrive in Sydney at 6:30am (local time) tomorrow morning. I have a lot of time spent at airpots today, so I won’t really have much decent blog content.

I thought a good way to make up for this would be to reflect on my time in Asia and really think about the best moments of my time here. I’ve been compiling a list recently of all the amazing things I’ve done and tried to make some sort of Top 10. I failed at this and had to make a top 14 instead!! This will probably change by the day and It’s hard to even remember everything I’ve crammed into the past almost 4 months.

Before I get into the list though I just want to say I would like to thank everyone who I’ve met along the way who’s made my time in Southeast Asia everything that it was. Whether that he fellow travellers, tour guides, hostel workers or locals. I’ll definitely do a much more profound, deep and ‘gushing’ post when I actually do leave for home in a couple of weeks, but for now, here’s my Southeast Asia Top 14.

1. Mount Rinjani Trek, Lombok, Indonesia

A very recent addition to my Asia experiences, you’ve probably got sick of hearing my bang on about this one. But there’s a reason for that. It was tough, very tough, but nothing has ever been so worth my time, energy and money. Standing at the rim of a volcano crater after hiking up Rinjani for 6 hours was just incredible. And despite the lack of sleep in the cold tent on the hard floor, camping above the clouds and watching the sun set and rise there was insane. I probably won’t ever do it again, but that’s why things like that are so special. You take this once in a lifetime opportunity and you embrace every second of it, good and bad, tough and easy, and it makes it all a whole lot more fantastic.

Catch up on my Rinjani adventure in Daily Blogs 29 and 30. 

2. Hagiang Loop, North Vietnam

Another thing I have probably banged on about far too much recently – the extreme 4 days motorbike loop in Vietnam’s northernmost province. This was the most anticipated activity of my trip. Back when I left Vietnam at the end of May I said I’d be back to do it and 2 months later I finally made it! I had overthought it all too much and was so anxious about driving myself. The morning of day one I just wanted to go home. But of course I didn’t and I drove for 4 days, only fell off twice and got the most immense feeling of euphoria at the end of it. The scenery was like nothing I’d ever seen before and the isolated feel of the towns and communities there was something very special. It breaks my heart to think of it inevitably falling into the hands of tourism in years to come. But I am so thankful to have experienced it now and hope I might be lucky enough to do it, or something very similar, again one day.

Read my Daily Blogs in Hagiang in Daily Blog 12, 13 and 14.

3. Cheown Lan Lake, Khao Sok National Park, Thailand

When planning my itinerary for south Thailand I didn’t even know where to start. I wasn’t sure how many islands I wanted to hop between as I expected it to be pretty expensive and also get quite similar. Then I heard about Khao Sok National Park and I do love a good national park. Me and Nikita, the friend I travelled Thailand with, headed there and immediately booked a 2 day overnight trip to Cheown Lan Lake. I’d never heard of it but she’d said she’d been wanting to go for ages. I can’t believe I didn’t know about it because it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen! The turquoise blue water was something I thought only photoshop could create. We spent the 2 days kayaking, swimming, trekking, caving and sleeping in a floating bungalow. The absence of no sound but the jungle was such a beautiful atmosphere to immerse myself in.

Read about my time here in Daily Blog 4.

4. Canyoning, Da Lat, Vietnam

For someone as tight with money as me, it came as a shock when I decided to embark on the £75 day trip to do canyoning. But as one of the main, and only, activities to do in Da Lat it seemed necessary. I’d met a lot of others who’d done it and said it was amazing and totally worth it, and I’m very glad I made an opinion for myself. Like a lot of more expensive experiences, I doubt I’ll do it again. But oh my god it was fun!!! Abseiling, zip lining and jumping down waterfalls was something I never expected to do whilst backpacking Vietnam. I was also lucky to only be in a group of 3 so we got to do a lot of the waterfalls twice!

5. Wanua Adventure, 4 Day Komodo Boat Trip, Lombok to Flores, Indonesia

Once again, something VERY recent! The last month has definitely been the best I think! I’d known I’d wanted to go to Komodo to see the dragons since a girl told me about them when I was in KL right at the start of May. I then found out about this boat trip that took you from Lombok to Flores via Komodo, and all the backpackers that talked about it seemed to love it. The first 2 days were questionable as there was lot of very rough ‘at sea’ time and not much else, but days 3 and 4 totally made up for it. We saw lots of Komodo dragons, so many beautiful islands and the best sunrise view point! I had a lovely group of girls to share it all with too.

Read about my experience on the boat trip in Daily Blog 32 & 33.

6. Mai Chau, Vietnam

My three day trip here was booked through Vietnam Backpacker Hostels. It cost me around £95 and was such good value for money! We stayed at a really nice home stay with a lovely owner and amazing food. The activities included cycling around the rice paddies and local villages, trekking, visiting a chop stick factory, riding motorbikes and swimming in a lake. My favourite day was day 3 when we did the motor biking. It was the first time I’d driven one and I loved it so much!! We drove to a lake where we swam and it was definitely the most beautiful place I’d ever swam (at the point!). I really loved being in such a nice group for this trip as it made it so sociable. All the activities were really fun and it was nice to see a more untouched, less touristy side to Vietnam, after coming from the craziness of the capital Hanoi.

Read about my time in Mai Chau here.

7. Nam Xay Top, Vang Vieng, Laos

If you haven’t worked it out by now, I’m a sucker for a hike to see an amazing view. There are several view points to check our around Vang Vieng but Nam Xay was the one I was most keen to see as there’s somehow a motorbike up there. When we hiked up it was 9:30am, cloudy and very humid so it was a very sweaty and exhausting 30 minute walk up. It was a shame there was no sun and it wasn’t the clearest view but it was still amazing and totally worth it nonetheless.

8. Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

One of the wonders of the world, the complex of Buddhist temples is somewhere I’ve been desperate to visit for years. Of course it is very busy and very touristy but going there for sunrise was undoubtedly a highlight of my trip. The temple is just stunning and even with all the tourists theres 100% a feeling of peace about the whole place, especially being there so early in the morning. There’s not a lot I’d get up at 4am for so that shows how impressive it was.

Check out my Cambodia Travel Guide!

9. Snorkelling with Turtles, Gili Islands, Lombok, Indonesia

I still hadn’t got round to doing any snorkelling by the time I reached Lombok at the start of August. There was a very reasonably priced snorkelling tour on the Gili Islands which took you to 4 spots around Gili T, Gili Air and Gili Mono for just under £6. There wasn’t a great deal of reef to see as a lot of it was sadly day, although as it was the first snorkelling I’d done I was going to be very overexcited by seeing lots of fish underwater regardless. The highlight thought was definitely seeing the turtles and managing to get pretty close to a couple swimming closer to the surface!

Read about my snorkelling experience in Daily Blog 24.

10. Nyang-Nyang Beach & Sunset Point, Uluwatu, Bali, Indonesia

Yes these spots in Uluwatu were amazing and the quieter Nyang-Nyang was SO beautiful, but it was more the people I spent time with here that made the day so memorable. I met some amazing people in Bali, and whilst I didn’t really enjoy the tourism saturated island, the company I was with made it unforgettable. In fact I’m seeing two of the girls next week and am staying with them for a few days whilst I’m in Sydney!! We had such a fun day riding scooters to the beach, swimming in the sea, sunbathing and then riding to the sunset point to watch the sun go down over the sea with a drink!

Daily Blog 21 talks about my day spent at Nyang Nyang Beach.

11. Kayak, Zip Line, Cave Tubing & Blue Lagoon Tour, Vang Vieng, Laos

At this point of my trip I was definitely feeling a bit unsettled and like I wasn’t sure I could stay travelling for the whole four months, so maybe I didn’t enjoy this day as much as I could’ve. But it is for sure still one of my favourite memories. I’ve wanted to zip line for a while but it’s very expensive to do at home, so when I found it combined with other activities in a day tour all for under £30 it seemed perfect! Kayaking down the Nam Son river was actually pretty relaxing and also funny at times, when the rapid currents started to sweep you down the river a bit!! Zip lining over the river gave the most amazing view of the trees and mountains surrounding me & the water in the cave and the blue lagoon was just the perfect blue.

12. Luang Prabang, Laos

This was the only place I stayed for 5 nights in. Here I spent my time with so many cool people that I got on with so well, and that’s why I stayed! The hostel i was at – Sunrise Riverside – just had the best, most sociable atmosphere as pretty much every backpacker in Luang Prabang stayed here. It made it so easy to meet others. The restaurant / bar next door – Utopia – was so chilled and served amazing food and drinks. I loved that the only thing to do after 11 here was get drunk in Lao Lao whisky (disgusting stuff!) and go bowling and do archery! The Kuang Si Waterfalls just out of town and the little bamboo bride that took you to the other side of the river were just so beautiful.

13. Hoi An & Hoi An Love.ly Hostel, Vietnam

Hoi An was such an amazing town and I, along with a lot of other backpackers, totally fell in love with it. The night markets were so busy but I didn’t mind it and just embraced and enjoyed the atmosphere. All the Bahn Mi shops around the town were absolutely incredible and I found myself just eating my way through the Old Quarter. The beaches were just a 20 minute cycle through the rice fields and it made for the perfect, chilled day out. But I think what made this place extra special for me was the hostel. Hoi An was nearer the start of my trip when I was really struggling with being alone and getting lonely quite a lot. Coming to this hostel with its welcoming staff, friendly environment and amazing family dinners was just what I needed. I found meeting people and talking to others so easy and natural here and it’s 100% one of the best hostels I’ve ever stayed at – I can’t recommend it enough!!!

Read my Hoi An Travel guide or check out my Hoi An Itinerary.

14. Heli Pad Bar, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

When saving to travel I resisted the urge to go to really nice rooftop bars at home, as I just couldn’t justify spending the money. Way back at the start of my trip in KL me and my friend Issy went and lived a life of luxury for the night and checked out one of the city’s famous, but slightly hidden, rooftop bars. The Heli Pad bar is a landing pad in the day and cocktail bar at night. The drinks are around £6 each so VERY reasonable for the sort of place you’re at. We were both so excitable when we got here! The view over to the Petronas towers was just stunning.

Read my Kuala Lumpur itinerary here.

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