Lesson #26: When you’ve got some knowledge share it

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When you travel you spend a lot of time giving advice. Backpackers are itching to make the most out of their trips and I’m never one to shy away from helping them out. I also get a lot of emails thrown my way, readers who are planning their own trips and are curious for recommendations and tips.

So lets pretend we are having a chat, lets pretend you are on your way to South East Asia (who knows maybe you are), let me tell you my best bits of info and advice from a year out in the world of temples and buckets. Sit down, get comfy, and listen up.

Disclaimer: Obviously these are my opinions, were all different, but if we were friends, this is what I would tell you…

Thailand:

1.  Do go to the North. I can’t tell you how many people I met who have told me that there trip to Thailand only included Bangkok and the islands. The islands in Thailand are magical, some of the most beautiful beaches that I’ve seen, but culturally I felt more connected to other backpackers and my own burnt skin than I did to Thailand. Go to the north, walk through the markets, rent a motorbike and get lost on your own up in the hills, chat with monks. Make you’re way up north, if you want a full understanding of Thailand.

2. If you’re on your way to Laos travel via Isaan. Stop in Nong Khai for the night, stay at Mut Mee guesthouse, connect with a less travelled part of the country, and take in the culture of the Mekong river.

3. Here’s something I never thought I would write, go to Koh Phangan. Drive to the north of the island where the scene could not be more different than what’s on over at the Full Moon Parties. Spend your days at the beach, come sunset get a massage, then head up to the sauna in the north, eat a vegetarian dinner, then drive back to the beach and get your groove on at one of the moonlit drum circles.

Vietnam:

  1. Spend time doing absolutely nothing in Hanoi. I loved the pure energy of this city, the darting motorbikes, the incredible street food (bun cha is a must), and the crumbing crammed building of the old quarter. Schedule in some down time while you’re here, if your day is jam packed with activities you will miss the entire essence of the city.
  2. Stop in the lovely town of Hoi Ann, it’s the kind of place that everyone falls in love with. A spectacular beach, your chance to become the designer of your own shoes, and an intimate yet late night party scene.
  3. Eat things you don’t think you will like. Eat things you wouldn’t try at home. Try things twice, wait try it again. Eat at the red plastic tables low to the ground. Eat when you’re not hungry, You get the point, when you’re in Vietnam eat like it’s your job

Laos:

  1. When you’re in Vientiane, sink into the slow pace of the city. Most backpackers scoff at how little there is to do here, I relished in it. It’s not that there isn’t a lot to do its just that it’s not as obvious as some of the other cities. I loved the café culture, renting a bike which cost less than one taxi ride for the whole day, and spending my time on the hunt for new books to add to my suitcase.
  2. Take the time to go to Phonsavan, the setting for Laos secret war. A place where bomb shells create the structure for fences and grainy videos in the corner of a dingy restaurant tell the story of a countries most unfortunate secret.

Cambodia:

  1. Don’t miss out on going to the killing fields in Phnom Penh. I was wary that the whole experience might leave me feeling more depressed than actually informed, but thanks to the guided audio tour I left feeling oddly optimistic. Thanks to feeling inspired about educations power in creating change.
  2. See Angkok Wat at sunrise, you might think an image that the you’ve seen hundreds of times in pictures won’t be done justice. It will.
  3. Skip Sihanoukville, it’s a party place with an unfortunate lack of class, plus the islands of Thailand blow this grungy town out of the water.

Myanmar:

  1. Splurge and stay on a floating gueshouse at Inle Lake. This is one place where I decided to stray far from the backpacker budget accomodations and I was so glad I did. Waking up the sun rising over the lake and relying on boats as my only form of transport made the whole experience perfectly unique.
  2. Sink into the feel of the land. Most nights in Myanmar I was in bed by 9 jumping back into a good book and up by 5 with plenty of time to watch the sunrise.
  3. Drink tea in the afternoon, eat tea leaf salad for dinner, and faluda for dessert.

Three Places to Add to the Bucket List:

  1. I wish I had taken the time to trek around Sapa in the north of Vietnam. Everyone I met said the mixture of markets, culture, and natural scenery made it one of their favorite places and experiences in South East Asia.
  2. I didn’t get to travel to Eastern Asia, I stayed strictly to South East Asia, but of course everyone would ask if I had been. It was my chance to press them for info. Where should I go when I returned to Asia? The top of everyone’s list- Tokyo. If I were planning a trip right now back to Asia this is where I would head, I was told the toilets would make me giggle and the energy of the place would make my head spin. A city I will most definitely explore one day. The city can be a tad expensive, the main reason why I didn’t stop there this time around, but there are some good value hotels in Tokyo to be found if you look around.
  3. Eat in Malaysia. You eat for cheap everywhere you travel in South East Asia and the practice of sitting down for the night to a feast of layered flavors is one of the best parts. Next time I’m headed straight to the country of Malaysia where an infusion of Indian inspired dishes is said to be impeccable.
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