It’s been almost 3 months since I arrived on the island of Koh Chang, began my teacher training and put away my backpack- the very backpack that I have been living out of for 4 months prior to that, the backpack which holds pretty much everything I own, the backpack which (in fear of sounding like a turtle) has acted like my home for months. I was putting my washing away a few days ago and I saw my backpack, hunched over and looking a little sorry for itself. My big backpacking journey may be over…for a little while anyway, but it made me think about the times I’ve felt absolutely on top of the world, like nothing can stop me or ever bring me down; as well as the times I’ve felt like I’d hit rock bottom and things were hopeless (here’s me being dramatic again) all within the past 6 months of living in South East Asia.
Here are some of my personal highlights…and lowlights.
Let’s begin with the high’s…
Elephant Sanctuary on Christmas Day- Chiang Mai, Thailand
Possibly the best day of my life so far; and probably will be for a while, visiting an elephant sanctuary at Christmas was utterly unbelievable. Seeing these gentle giants up close; feeding them, bathing them and being able to make a difference to their lives-which previously revolved around pain and torture, was honestly life changing for me. I will remember this day forever.
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Climbing an active volcano at sunrise- Mt. Bromo, Indonesia
Climbing Mt. Bromo was incredibly surreal. We took a 9 hour train journey where we packed into a carriage like sardines; although the elderly couple opposite- whom were practically sat on our laps, offered us their lunch which was very sweet. Waking up at 2:30 am we were on a coffee buzz and ready to climb a mountain- pity the other people on our trip weren’t feeling the same way; whilst everyone else jumped in a jeep, Joe and I threw on our backpacks and began to hike (we actually beat the jeep FYI!). The sunrise was stunning and the flat, ashy landscape of the volcano was like nothing I’ve ever seen before.
Check out our video diary here!
Swimming with bio-luminescent plankton- Koh Rong, Cambodia
I honestly didn’t even know bio-luminescent plankton existed, never mind what it was. I am so incredibly grateful that we got to swim with water fairies, it truly was a magnificent once in a lifetime experience.
For our full experience, click here!
Being on top of the world (literally)- Nong Khiew- Laos
Northern Laos remains to be one of my all-time favourite places in the world! So serene, so peaceful; it’s a little like travelling back to a simpler time, it’s a place where your worries melt away and very little matters. I would say that I was definitely my happiest relaxing in a hammock on the riverside, or trudging along the dusty roads. Northern Laos has some pretty insane hikes, little did we know they would lead to some of the best views I’ve seen. We were completely unaware of just how treacherous some of the hikes would be- not for the faint hearted, we had to scale sheer rock faces, or work our way over knife-like jagged rocks looking over a 50ft drop. BUT the view speaks for itself.
Want to know more? Click here.
Spending a week’s budget in one day- Singapore
When you’re living on a very strict budget, suddenly letting that go and going crazy can feel pretty liberating. Singapore; whilst being incredibly beautiful is incredibly expensive. So expensive in fact I have vowed never to return until I’m a very, very, very rich lady. Spending over £200 in a day and a half, whilst being fun at the time can only be done now and again or we would never be able to live the life that we do.
Check out our Singapore diary here!
Drinking tea at the edge of the Earth- Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
When I pictured spending time in Malaysia, never did I imagine I would be walking through tea fields, freezing, never taking my rain jacket off, climbing so high we climbed through and above the clouds, or having a very English brunch- tea and scones on a building suspended above the Earth. BUT that’s exactly what happened. Cameron Highlands is so dreamy- 100% one of my all time favourite places.
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Hitchhiking 250km in one leg- Cameron Highlands-Georgetown, Malaysia
Hitchhiking was something I never, not in a million years thought I would feel comfortable doing. I’ve seen the horror films, I’ve seen the News reports- there was no way I was going to be chopped into a thousand pieces by a crazed hitchhiker in Asia, it just wasn’t going to happen. I still don’t know how it happened but I went from being adamant I would never do it…to loving life being bounced around in the back of a random guy’s pickup truck. That’s life for you! Hitchhiking in Malaysia is incredibly safe and is the only country I’ve been to where I would feel completely and utterly comfortable doing it. You know about the pickup truck, but we were also picked up by; a single mother, a family of 5 with a baby in the back and a Chinese student who drove us 250km from the Cameron Highlands to Penang! IN-sane.
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Thai New Year; Songkran- Bangkok, Thailand
Thai New Year is basically a nationwide water fight- everyone gets involved, from toddlers throwing a bucket of water over me (making me run and fall flat on my face in front of a huge crowd of people…yes that actually happened) to a grandma with a water pistol. Spirits are high, everyone is laughing and getting a along- it’s a truly unique experience to witness and get involved with.
Click here to check it out
Getting a bamboo tattoo- Koh Chang, Thailand
My mum means the absolute world to me, I speak to her on the phone almost every single day. I ask her for advice about everything I do, not only is she my mum but she’s my best friend, the love of my life and my soul mate. My mother is obsessed with Thailand, she comes here on holiday every year and has a few bamboo tattoos herself. I jumped at the chance to get my own (my only other tattoo is a faded carrot behind my ear, from a drunken University sports society holiday to Salou in Spain) and of course I had to copy her exact tattoo so we can match.
(apologies for the terrible quality photograph)
Going to a Britney Spears concert- Bangkok, Thailand
Growing up, Britney was one of my all time favourite pop singers- she’s my first choice in karaoke, I used to stay up late writing out her lyrics, choreograph routines to her classics and copy her dance moves. Seeing her live in Bangkok was an incredibly surreal yet amazing experience.
Check out more here!
And then the low’s…
Camping in 50 degree heat- Vientiane, Laos
Technically we weren’t even camping, some might call it glamping- we had an actual futon bed, a fan…and it was still one of the worst experiences of my life. Let this be a warning to you all; DO NOT camp during a heatwave in the already VERY hot season in a tropical country-just don’t do it. There was no air con to be seen, nowhere to escape the heat and as I had the worst flare up of crohn’s ever in my life- we had to stay there for almost a week. PLUS we were aroun 15km from Vientiane centre, it was the absolute WORST!
Getting food poisoning- Koh Rong, Cambodia
I wish I could tell you that we got food poisoning from some crazy, exotic cambodian local dish. We didn’t. Truth is, I got food poisoning from a sandwich…yep. A SANDWICH! Turns out the ‘fresh’ salad wasn’t feeling so fresh after sitting outside in the Sun all day. 3 days later, a change of hotel and many many MANY trips to the bathroom later we finally emerged, completely recovered if not a little worse for wear. We were completely bed bound in that time other than when I sat under the shower head for over 2 hours-I was feeling VERY sorry for myself and all I wanted was my mum.
Stranded for 14 hours with no money or food- Don Det, Laos
Don Det does not have any ATM machines. We actually knew this before going on to the island. Actually, technically, there are some restaurants that will charge your card and give you the cash, we were banking (ha! See what I did there?) on those. Our card didn’t work. Joe spent the last of our money on going to the mainland to use an ATM there…again, our card didn’t work. So we were stranded, for 14 hours with no money and no food. I say no food- we did ration a packet of Oreos we’d bought the day prior to that. 14 hours later, Joe’s parents saved the day and wired us money via Western Union.Safe to say we ordered a feast of food soon after and then lay in bed nursing our food babies.
Braving the death roads- Vientiane-Don Det, Laos
I actually met a girl in a hostel who’s bus had crashed in Laos and 3 of the people she was travelling with had sadly died. I heard multiple other stories about this too, I warned practically everyone I met NOT to drive to Don Det; just skip it and fly to Cambodia- which is exactly what we were planning on doing. Flights to cambodia from Laos are preeetttyy pricey, and we had serious FOMO (fear of missing out)- Don Det looked AWESOME! So we took our chances, paid over the odds for the safest looking bus, said a little prayer and took off on our journey. I slept the whole way and refused to open my eyes until we were there safely. I could feel the bus taking the twists and turns of the dangerous roads at high speed-and I kept my eyed firmly shut. We arrived in one piece promising never to do anything so stupid again.
So there you have it…my rollercoaster ride of SE Asia. What are your high and low points? Let me know in the comments.
Much love from wherever I am, Peace!