Hailey's travels. The Journey to SE Asia: Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia

26 July 2011

After the most amazing time in Thailand we spent the next month traveling completely on our own, without the comfort of the tour group! Luckily, we made some amazing friends on the trip who decided to join us for the rest of our travels! We didn't get lost once and no trips to the hospital so all in all, I feel it was successful! I know most people say this but I miss it soooo much and almost wish that I had appreciated it even more than I did at the time! Even though that would be impossible! Anyway, here are some photos from my time out there:

Next stop: Vientiane, Laos

The journey from Bangkok to Vientiane Laos involved two trains and some tuk tuk journeys. First was the 12 hour sleeper train from Bangkok to Nong Khai. We were actually very lucky because our sleeper train was clean and comfortably but we have heard of stories from friends of sleeper trains being full of cockroaches! From Nong Khai we took a small local train to Thanaleng, Laos. From here we crossed the border into Laos, visa's were sorted on arrival, and we took some tuk tuk's to the centre of Vientiane and then to our local hostel.


Bangkok - Nong Khai sleeper train.

One of the first places we visited was the Ho Phra Kao Museum, holding a lot of Laos art. The temple we visited is adjacent to the Presidential Palace and used to serve as a private temple. Although I had seen MANY temples by this stage, this was one of the most beautifully preserved temples...despite it being the least decorated in gold.

Lane Xang Avenue and Patouxai

(Laos adaotion of France's Champs-Élysées and Arc de triomphe, having been a former french colony)

BBQ Time! Amazing how you can eat like a Queen for barely anything! I was meant to lose weight traveling but with all this amazing food, that didn't happen....

Next Stop: Vang Vieng, Laos

We stayed in a lovely hotel along the river and of course, the only thing to do when in Vang Vieng was tubing! This consists of being on a rubber dingy, floating down the river, ropes thrown to you from various bars to pull you in and getting very drunk! Didn't have a water proof camera so no snaps from my tubing experience but it was something everyone should try!

View from Popular View Guest House

The best thing about this was not only was it a cheap and clean guest house to stay in but you could tube it all the way from the start point all the way back down to the guest house. Good side - float meerily down the river. Bad side - you have to make it back before 6pm to return to the tubes. Plenty of time? Well, not when it takes you about 2 hours from one bar to the next when they're right next to each other! The bars were amazing with water-slides to mud fights and mud volleyball/tug of war! Great fun! Definitely advise anyone to have a go!

Next Stop: Hanoi, Vietnam

Without a doubt is one of my favourite places in the world, let alone my travels. For a country ravaged by so many wars it maintains it's charm and beauty. Of course Vietnam is renowned for the many thousands of mopeds that fill the streets! Photos don't even capture the scale of just how many there are! Crossing the road can be dangerous and the best thing is to look confident and just make a break for it! They tend to weave round you anyway... so it all worked out in the end!

Just 'a few' mopeds, there were many more behind this lot!

Little Hanoi Hotel

If you stay anywhere in Hanoi, you must check this place out. Run by the most kind and friendly family and really go out their way to make sure you feel comfortable and happy. Clean, all en-suite facilities too! Bargain for what we paid as well!

Jade Pagoda

(Built by the Cantonese community in Vietnam in 1900)

Sewer Tunnels prisoners climbed through to escape, Hao Lao Prison 1951

Of the 16 political prisons who creeped through the sewer door, 5 succeeded in joining the resistance base to continue the struggle.

Hoan Kiem Lake, Central Hanoi

Fanny's Ice cream

If you get a chance to go to Vietnam, Fanny's ice cream is everywhere! Their main store is located near the lake in Hanoi. It is the most delicious ice-cream parlour! Everyone we knew who had spent time in Vietnam recommended it and it lived up to it's expectations. My diet in Vietnam consisted a lot of this ice-cream!

Centre of Hanoi

I presume this was meant to be their version of a roundabout. You could spend hours here looking down and watching the mopeds weave their way around each other!

Flower market, Hanoi

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Note: You can't walk through this grassy area unless it is a national holiday. We did get chased off by an angry security guard... I felt like a naughty child!

Next Stop: Ha Long Bay

Of course if you spend time in Vietnam, you cannot go without doing the boat trip to and around Ha Long Bay! Whilst it is something you don't need to do more than once, it is definitely worth doing! Amazing to discover the little villages that live in between the limestone outcrops all year round, with schools and markets! We spent some time kayaking and looking around the markets! Our boat was called "Dragons Junk"... so random! Anyway here are a few shots:

Fish market in the ocean!

Stunning views

Next Stop: Saigon, Vietnam

Unfortunately as we only had four weeks to do four countries, we couldn't go to all the places in between the two cities.. such as Hue, Vinh and Hoi An! However, it means another excuse to go back! Therefore we made our way to the capital, Saigon (aka. Ho Chi Minh City):

Post Office, Saigon

We also spent a day trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels, learning about the impact the Vietnam War had in Cu Chi. It was amazing to see the incredibly clever tunnel system used by the Cu Chi people to survive the war, below is a photo of one of the holes used by the Cu Chi snipers to defend their land from the American soldiers.

Cu Chi Tunnels

We also spent time exploring the Mekong Delta taking in the local scenery. We took a boat ride from My Tho on a small motor boat along Dragon Island, Unicorn Island, Pheonix Island and Turtle Island.

Along the Mekong Delta

We were told by our guide that many of the original Saigon people now live in the shanty huts along side the river, having been pushed out during the war and the rich.

Pure honey bee-keeping farm, Unicorn Island

Unicorn Island

Me tasting the amazing honey-tea!
Rowing boat along the nature water coconut canal
Motor boat trip to Ben Tre

I'd obviously given up on caring about my looks here!

Next Stop: Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, Cambodia

Due to time constraints we had to make a whistle stop tour of Cambodia! Firstly arriving in Phnom Penh, Cambodia after a 6 hour bus ride from Saigon. However, the main reason I wanted to come to Cambodia was to explore the beautiful Angkor Wat Temples! I took over 600 photos so it was tough to whittle it down to only a few. Although I had seen so many temples in Thailand so far, they were completely different to the ones in Siem Reap. The Angkor were just stunning, many still intact despite being centuries old! We got up early for the sunrise at 4.30am and spent a total of 6 hours climbing/walking through the temples. The area is so huge that it requires a tuk tuk from one site to the other! Take a look and see what you make of it yourself:


Next Stop: Langkawi, Malaysia

We decided to treat ourselves and have another beach week, we just missed Koh Phangan too much! Luckily, Malaysia has a cluster of islands and it really is living a life of luxury here. We spent only a few nights in Langkawi, more than enough because there isn't an awful lot to do apart from lie on a beach, eat and the various water sports! However, the views did not disappoint...

Views from Penang Centai, Langkawi

Lovely restaurant close to our resort, so yummy! I couldn't resist taking a photo to savour the moment!

Last Stop: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

It actually breaks my heart to say that this was my last stop on my travels...well except from HK, last of my back-packing holiday anyway! There is so much to explore here, so many shopping malls which is amazing if you had lots of money! Unfortunately funds were running low but it still didn't stop us window-shopping! It felt a little like Hong Kong with clean, easy public transport all with air-con! LRT and the Monorail was my new favourite best friend! Anyway, most of our time here was spent looking around the local markets, shopping malls, tourist sites and eating of course! Here are a few snaps of my time there:


Central Market, KL

China-town Market, KL

Times Square Shopping Mall, KL

Lake Gardens, KL

View from Petronas Towers, KL

Petronas Towers, KL

So that concludes my travels around South East Asia! It's actually so depressing looking back over these photos, I honestly had the most amazing time of my life! I hope that it isn't too long before I go back and get to explore even more! I hope you enjoyed the photos and hope that you too get a chance to go or if you've been, brought some memories back on your own!

Although traveling doesn't quite stop here... haha, seeing as we're in Hong Kong right now. Watch this space!

Hailey x


Hailey's Travels. The Journey to SE Asia: Thailand

19 July 2011

So as you know, I recently spent a few months traveling around South East Asia! It was the most amazing experience I have ever had with some of the most amazing people I have ever met. Anyway, Winn asked me to share some of my experiences and photos. Unfortunately I took too many to stick them all up here but here are a few favourites...

First Stop: Bangkok, Thailand

We arrived in the early hours into Bangkok, Koh San Road. I'm sure you've heard, it's ridiculously crazy and hectic! Lots of bars, road-side entertainment, pad-thai stalls and cheap accessories to buy! We wanted to get stuck in as soon as possible but first had to locate our hotel, bit of a struggle when you have a stupidly heavy rucksack on your back whilst trying to navigate your way through crowds of people! Once we managed to find our hotel, we decided to dump our stuff and explore the area on our first night before meeting our volunteer/tour group the next day!
Travel diary now filled with souvenirs and memories!
Koh San Road, Bangkok
Tuk Tuk's are the local transport around the country! We bumped into a few fellow travellers along Koh San Road and decided to have a bit of a race on these Tuk Tuk's. It was possible the must fun, dangerous and exciting experiences I have had to date!
Along Koh San Road there were plenty of stalls selling fried insects as well! Naturally we had to try some, they were salt/chill flavoured. Can you guess which one I had? I will not be doing it again, trust me! I can say that others did try the cockroach, frog and grasshopper! Yuk!
We did manage to tear ourselves away from the crazy Koh San Road to see a few of the sites around Bangkok though...

The Grand Palace, Bangkok
Wat Arun Temple, Bangkok
(VERY steep temple to climb up to! Worth the view though)
Reclining Buddha - Wat Po Temple, Bangkok
Music and Cocktails at 'Gazeebo', Koh San Road
(Possible my favourite bar!)

Next Stop: Kanchanburi, Thailand

Our next stop was a little place called Kanchanburi. We stayed at a gorgeous place just alongside the River Kwai! Our first night was spent on a floating-restaurant along the river. So beautiful! Anyway here are a few snaps:
View from the floating restaurant

Erawan National Park
We spent a day in the beautiful Erawan Waterfall Park. It was absolutely stunning as you can see. The waterfall contained the types of fish that eat your dead skin, mental that people actually go to foot spa's specifically for it! Far too weird for me! There are 7 levels at the waterfall, bit of a trekk to the top but worth it! The higher you go, the less fish you'll find and the clearer the water!
Cute menu from Camelia Resort, Kanchanburi
We explored so many temples during our time in Thailand! However this one was probably the toughest, it has over 500 steps and climbing it in 30+ degree isn't too much fun! Totally worth it when you get to the top though. Oh...we discovered that the steps don't stop at the mouth of the dragon either, there are MANY more to go after that...
Another temple, what makes this one unique is the fact there are three routes to the Temple at the top. From left to right, each represents Love, Health or Business and locals believe if you choose a route, the same up and down, to the temple it will bring you good luck in that!
View from the Temple
Tiles to write your wishes on for good luck.
Monks teaching us to meditate at another Temple.

Next Stop: Sangkhlaburi, Thailand

Sangkhlaburi was one of the locations we spent the longest time in. We were really lucky to be able to come to a place like this, it was still quite rural and under-developed. Only open to tourists in the last 10 years, it had one bar, a few restaurants, a few shops and lots of walking in between to get to them! Really beautiful though and the people were so friendly!
Here are some photos of how we spent our time there:
Elephant Ride, Sangklhaburi
I was told that Thai children have to spend either 3 weeks, or if the choose 3 years, at a monastry to learn about Buddhism. I just happened to be walking down one of the main roads in Sangklhaburi and saw a small army of them!
Baan Unrak Bakery, Sangkhlaburi
A few of us couldn't resist coming back to this Bakery for their chocolate cake time and time again! So friendly and profits go to a good cause as well!
Dream House Orphanage, Sangkhlaburi
The main purpose of joining this tour/volunteer group was to volunteer at this orphanage. Whilst a few of us spent time teaching some of the children English and child-care activities. The rest of us were busy slaving away to construct this water-tank for safe drinking water! It was tough work but incredibly worth it!

Last Stop (in Thailand): Koh Phangan!

I loved every minute of our week on Koh Phangan, as you can imagine! It was a beach week filled with time to relax, time to party and time to soak up our surroundings! Great way to end the most amazing month in Thailand.
On the way to Koh Phangan - view from the boat
Our beach huts, Mac Bay Resort
View from our stunning beach
We went out almost every single night to a place further down the coast from our resort called 'Haadrin'. Drink, alcohol or not, was filled in sand buckets (see above!) and entertainment consisted of dancing on tables, watching fire-dancers, taking part in beach tournaments and lots of madness! We were lucky enough to be there during the Black Moon Party also! Lots of neon paint and glow sticks too! Unfortunately I didn't take my camera out much, there had been many casualties involving dropping cameras in the sand! So I'll leave it to your imagination instead....

We did however, prize ourselves away from our beach and the bars to take in the surroundings. Here are a few snaps from a day out we had around the Angthong National Marine Park - incl. Wua Ta Lap Island, Mae Koh Island, Samsao Island and Koh Wao...
Where we stopped to do a little bit of snorkelling.
View of the lagoon reported to have been where scenes in the movie 'The Beach' was filmed.
View from the top of Mae Koh Island.
And there we have it, my one month in Thailand summarised into just one post! It was one of the hardest things to say goodbye to all the friends I had met, traveled and worked with along my journey. I can definitely say that if you have the opportunity to get yourself out to Thailand, to do so ASAP and i'll probably come with you! A country full of so many surprises, so many things to do/see/try and the friendliest people I have ever met. I did have a little cry when I left and i'll be sure to return soon! All i can is, at least this was only part one of my travels...

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