I’ve been reminiscing recently about the best summer I’ve ever had… but have also thought of some tips that I wish I’d known before I went travelling. My friends and I went from Thailand to Vietnam to Cambodia, back to Thailand and then over to Bali. I’m sure if you do plan to go, you’ve read up about it, but here’s a few extra pointers (if you are going to similar places) that may help.
Don’t let the taxi drivers rip you off, guys! Especially when they pick you up from the airport, they know you’re new there and if you get a taxi from Bangkok airport to the centre (near ‘Khao San Road’) just remember they start at 300 Baht (about £6) if I remember correctly, then you can just keep an eye on the meter from there.
Now, depending on what kind of holiday you are looking for, I would say avoid Bangkok if you’re not up for getting hammered every night! My friends and I (to our dismay) ended up going back there five times. Yes, five. We couldn’t avoid it because it has so many bus/plane links to the rest of South East Asia. I will say this, ‘once is enough’. We flew into Bangkok and on our first night we went out on the famous ‘Khao San Road’… it was messy and I lost a bet and had to eat a scorpion. (Bleurgh. Definitely an acquired taste.) They do have some nice places if you’re staying right in the centre, such as lantern lit streets and cute markets, unfortunately we discovered these on our 4th visit!
The cuisine on Khao San Road…
One of the nicer streets we found in Bangkok.
Always over-estimate how much you’re going to spend! Things are more expensive than they were a few years ago, backpacking especially has become so much more popular and prices have inflated. My friends and I spoke to so many people before we went and they said we should be fine with taking £1500 for 7 weeks… it sounds bad but… we weren’t. It didn’t help that the day we left Brexit occurred, so the pound was worth a lot less. Bloody ‘el.
I mean, unless you want to stay in a sweaty hostels with no air-con and bed-bugs, I’d say work your balls off before you go because every penny will start to count. You also need to consider travel from one place to another, especially if you’re taking a night-bus to somewhere, you’ll need to pay for that as well as food for the journey etc. Unless you can read Thai/Vietnamese/Cambodian or any language out there, guarantee the only thing you’ll eat at a service station is Pringles! We never knew what the labels on food products said.
I cannot stress enough how awfully these lovely animals are treated. Please, please, please try to forget about that picture you’ve wanted riding an elephant because it’s totally not worth it. My friend and I were on a bamboo raft, next to where the elephant riding company was, we saw an elephant being struck with a hook time and time again. It was one of the cruelest things I’ve ever witnessed, the elephant tried to buckle his legs to get the people riding him off his back, but was only beaten more. If you want to see some elephants whilst you are away, you can go to an elephant sanctuary to feed them and bathe them, it’s a much better experience without the guilty conscience.
A picture of one of these incredible animals, taken in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand.
Time of year
My friends and I swanned off to Asia in the rainy season (early July to the beginning of September), sometimes this was good and sometimes it was not so good. We could appreciate the cooler weather but also loved it when the sun came out, depends what you prefer. We didn’t wear jumpers once unless the air-con in the hostel was too cold and occasionally we would wear a rain mac out.
Here’s a picture of where we stayed on Koh Phangan, it was called ‘Bottle Beach’… can’t complain!
The Full Moon Party
Ah, the ‘Full Moon’. It was like nothing I’d ever been to! There were fire-eaters, dancers, fortune-tellers and loads and loads of people getting absolutely hammered. Once again, if this doesn’t sound like your type of thing, it probably isn’t. I had a great time but wouldn’t go back for round two. My favourite part was when the sun rose and the tide went out because it was actually on a really nice beach so everyone went for a morning dip.
Cambodian money and culture
Cambodia is one place in South East Asia which I felt was completely different to the rest of it. It has an astonishing but terribly sad history (quite similar to Vietnam) but I’d suggest doing some research on its background before you go. It’s a very interesting place. Because of its history, it’s not quite as developed as the surrounding countries so I suppose what really struck me was the amount of poverty. They have a number of charities that you can go and volunteer with if you are just passing through to get from southern Vietnam to Thailand, which I would recommend doing if you get the chance.
Here’s the lovely lot that I spent a few days volunteering with.
Something that I found confusing when we first went to Cambodia was the fact they have two currencies! Cambodian Reel and US Dollars (dollars are worth more to them because of the exchange rate), so change some money to dollars before you go.
Trip Advisor. Download it. Honestly, it was the best app to have out there (as well as Hostel World). You can trust the ratings they have. There is nothing worse than being starving, not knowing where to eat that’s good, picking the closest place and then not enjoying it at all. I did that with my mates so many times! We’d want to go somewhere ‘authentic’ and would then end up eating battered chicken claws, not feet, claws. No word of a lie, that image will stay with me for a very long time.
This was for sure the best meal (and by far the biggest) we had out there, funny enough it was Indian food.