This weekend marks six months since we left the UK – it’s crazy to think about, but it’s made me look back on some of the amazing experiences we’ve had on this trip already. As our Australia trip so far has only been working, I thought I’d do a post focusing on our favourite experiences from our three months backpacking in Southeast Asia.
Here are my personal top 10:
1. Volunteering at Elephant Nature Park, Thailand
You all knew this would be number one. How could it not be? We spent a wonderful week at ENP near Chiang Mai, Thailand, learning about the dark side of the elephant tourism industry and working to help with day to day tasks around the park. I had a private bathing session with three elephants, fell in love with a certain Mrs, wanted to adopt a dog called Hugo and made friends for life.
Find out more about volunteering or just visiting for the day on their official website: http://www.elephantnaturepark.org
2. Meditating with a monk after a personal tour around a temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia
I stumbled across this tour entirely by accident – I actually googled something to do with etiquette around monks and came across something called a “spiritual tour” by a company called the Bodhi Tree. We picked a monk up in a tuk tuk, he gave us a personal tour around a temple and answered any questions we had about his life and Buddhism, we had a full water blessing from the head monk of the temple, and then meditated with our guide under a tree.
It was a very surreal experience, but extremely special and absolutely one of our highlights of our travels.
3. Snorkelling in Koh Tao, Thailand
As someone with a mild fear of being underwater, I wasn’t exactly keen on the idea of snorkelling on open water. But Ash was desperate to, and so I decided to give it a go.
And was it ever the best decision I made!? We saw spectacular colourful coral and had an entire school of fish swim through a group of us. (thanks to two swim-mates for taking this fab picture on their GoPro, too!)
Read more: Koh Tao: Our Favourite Thai Island
4. Kayaking in Halong Bay, Vietnam
I’m including this because it was a really cool experience. We won’t mention the fact we both SUCKED at kayaking against the current, and how I panicked because we were moving further and further away from our boat.
Still, there are worse places to be lost.
Halong Bay is arguably one of the most beautiful places in Asia, and even though we didn’t have great weather for it, nor did we exactly have the best tour group, I absolutely loved it. It’s high up on my places to go back to, partly in the hopes of better weather, but also because I’d love to go to Cat Ba island and I’ve also found out about some places to get incredible views!
Read more (because apparently I just bunged it into the Hanoi post): We’re Gonna Miss You, Hanoi
5. Songkran, Thailand
Just Songkran in general. What an insane party!!
If you’re wondering what on earth a “Songkran” is – it’s one of the biggest days of the Thai calendar, because it’s their New Year! And how do they celebrate? Why, by having a nation-wide water fight, of course! It actually symbolises cleansing everyone for the new year… but in reality it is just chaos!
We celebrated it in both Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Four days of water fights against locals, fellow travellers, kids, old ladies… total and utter madness – and easily one of the best festivals we’ve EVER experienced!
6. Stopping our scooter to let a family of monkeys cross the road in Koh Lanta, Thailand
We turned a corner about 3km from the national park to find ourselves face to face with a group of monkeys in the middle of the road.
Unfortunately a truck full of locals whizzed by hollering for them to get out of the road just as I went to take a photo. But they chilled by the side of the road for a while, and then on the way back Ash spotted a massive monitor lizard which we stopped to look at!
The wildlife was one of my favourite parts of Koh Lanta, and definitely contributed to me falling in love with the place.
Read more: And Then We Fell In Love With Koh Lanta
7. Bia Hoi in Hanoi, Vietnam
Some of our best memories of our trip are from Hanoi, and a lot of it is down to our first night. We got chatting to two awesome South African girls in the bar, purely because we all laughed at the Vengaboys playing in the background. They quickly invited us out to some street corners for a classy night of drinking 15p beers. This became a regular night out and we had an amazing time every night! I miss these girls and I miss the bia hoi lady who would refill our glasses and miraculously remember exactly how many everyone had drunk!
Read more: We’re Gonna Miss You, Hanoi
8. Floating down the Mekong Delta, Vietnam
Although this is the famous image of taking a Mekong tour, this part of the trip only lasted around ten minutes. The rest of the tour took us to lunch, watching some local musicians, the floating markets, looking around a noodle factory, and sampling fudge and rat. Yes, RAT! And I’m not sure if it was because it was smothered in barbecue sauce, but it was delicious!
We also found THE best smoothies we’d found in Asia (by this point, anyway).
Saying that, I’m not sure if I preferred this tour or the Ninh Binh tour in northern Vietnam, where our guide rowed our boat with his feet through incredible limestone stacks (there’s a reason it’s known as Halong Bay on land!).
Read more: Buses, Boats & Bikes In Saigon
9. Singapore Zoo & Night Safari, Singapore
I’m a huge animal lover and the zoo was the one thing I was most looking forward to on our whistlestop trip to Singapore. We visited on two of our three days – once to the Night Safari where we caught sight of tigers and hyenas feeding, saw a leopard for the first time, and discovered how cute mousedeer are! The day time zoo treated us to monkeys climbing branches above our heads, watched a tortoise get stuck on a log and saw KOALAS! The animals had way more freedom than most zoos, and it’s probably the best zoo I’ve ever been to. I loved it there.
Read more: Our Final Destination In Asia: Singapore
10. Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Last but most definitely not least – the most famous site of Southeast Asia.
In terms of temples, I actually preferred the temples of Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm, but Angkor Wat is an entire archaeological park, and I think they can be inclusive of this. However, there’s no denying that Angkor Wat is one of the most striking images – even if the sun didn’t want to co-operate the morning we were there!