Asia is one those place that you either love it or you don’t. Having said that, I am hard pressed to find someone that has actually been and not enjoyed at least some part of it. Asia absolutely changed me as a person and almost every one I’ve met that has been said the same thing. It’s a place I think everyone should try to visit. There are so many different parts with adventures that anyone would love.
Culture shock doesn’t even begin to describe what stepping off the plane and on to a busy Bangkok road is. You almost never get used to the smell of the big cities. If you can let all standards go and enjoy it will always hold a special place in your heart. To this day I can’t walk down an alley in the summer without being transported back to Khao San. It’s gross I suppose but it’s totally true. If you’ve been I’m sure you can attest to that.
The first trip I traveled to Thailand and spent 2 months before going to Cambodia for a month. The second trip I covered a little more ground doing Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos in 6 short weeks. Trip 1 : I went as cheap as possible there were a lot of busses. The second time around there were more funds therefore more trains, planes and kept busses to a minimum. Both ways are great and there is so much to see so don’t dottle!
Luang Prabang was the first stop in Laos because they have an international airport. I fell completely in love with Laos from the moment I got off the plane. It is truly an amazing country and every day feels like you are living Jurassic Park. Laos is a completely different feel than the rest of Asia. The lack of beaches makes it less desirable for a lot of tourist which is almost what makes it so amazing.
Luang Prabang was such a nice relief from the craziness in Vietnam and that feeling of being a constant target. I remember breaking down in my last week in Vietnam and just wanting to go home because of how unsafe and uncomfortable I felt. I’ve done a fair amount of traveling in less than safe places so this was a totally foreign feeling for me. To say that Laos was a breath of fresh air is putting it lightly.
The Laotian people are so kind, such a drastic difference to the rest of the trip. I even ended up going back to one of the boat operators village to have dinner with his family. I found a swim up bar and an amazing breakfast restaurant. So for the next week I woke up and ate at my little cafe (they had a breakfast burrito to die for) and spent the rest of my days floating and drinking. I’ll list them below because if you are ever in Luang Prabang you simply must check them out!
The landscape of Vang Vieng is what dreams are made of. Massive limestone cliffs loom over you and you are constantly surrounded by giant palms and jungle. I’m not sure what about the scenery is so different than the rest of Asia but waking up every morning and sitting on my patio was most beautiful than any beach I’ve been to. I strongly recommend if you are going to South East Asia, make the time to go to Laos. It is something that you will thank yourself for later.
They have recently made Vang Vieng less of a party destination. A lot of tourist were dying and it was really ruining the small towns reputation. A curfew of 11pm has been introduced which has tamed the place down significantly. The curfew has effectively shut down what was once know as “Party Island” trying to nip the issues of binge drinking in the bud. Not to worry there are definitely still places to drink past 11pm if you know where to go.
Floating the Vang Vieng River was a huge reason I wanted to go there. The Vang Vieng River like the rest of the city has really calmed down. Of course there is still the standard backpacker bar where you get questionable shots and all that good stuff but gone are the days of rope swings and doobies. Fair enough, I mean how many people have to die a month before they decide that maybe it’s just not a good idea. There was only three bars in total running still, apparently the first and third are the way to go but I just stopped long enough to get beer. I was pretty anti-social I must say but managed to make a couple english friends.
I have been lucky enough to visit Cambodia twice now and Phnom Pehn is a place I will always keep in my heart. The people are just one of the many amazing things that make this country so lovely. Yes, it is stinking hot and there are not a lot of beaches unless you are further south in Sihanoukville ( which I never actually saw so I have no input on that) however I would not let that deter you from making this a priority on your trip to Asia. If the temples aren’t enough to entice you the lovely
Angkor Wat in Siam Reap is of course the greatest attraction in Cambodia for good reason. Plan to spend at least a whole day there but I wouldn’t bother booking a tour unless you really want the convenience of having someone lead you around. My advice would be get a tuk tuk driver and have him take you to the temples. The entrance of the temples are filled with student willing to tour by donation.
There are a ton of temples spread around about 10km *don’t quote me on that* so make sure you take time to do the research and decide which ones you would like to see. I would highly recommend Angkor Wat, obviously.. Ta Prohm and Bayon. Ta Phrohm has made an appearance in a ton of movies and the way the earth has tried to reclaim these temples is truly phenomenal. If you are a photographer make sure your camera is charged and you bring more than one memory card.
Thailand deserves an honorable mention of course, it’s popular for a reason. 20 years ago I think Thailand would have been magically. It’s is a wonderful place but it doesn’t have the same vibe as some of the less travelled places.
People warned me about Cambodia before going there. I was nervous but hopeful because of the need to check Angkor Wat off my list. I’m so happy I didn’t let opinions sway me because Cambodia is incredible. If you ever get a chance to go take it, in fact make it a goal. It’s as safe as the rest of South East Asia and the people are some of the most wonderful I’ve ever met.
(+10 points if you get the “Knocked Up” reference)