South East Asia: The Top Ten!

Kuang Si Falls, Luang Prabang, Laos

Hey everybody!

So, as many of you know by now I’ve just returned from a trip across South East Asia that included Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. While it was all pretty amazing, I certainly had my favourite places that I’d consider to be must sees if you ever get the opportunity to travel to any of these beautiful countries! Between the ten of them, I really couldn’t pick favourites, plus everything is completely depended on what people are interested in pursuing while they travel, and which country or areas they choose to visit.

So, without further ado, here’s my top ten! They’re put in order of when we visited them, with absolutely no ranking in terms of favouritism between them. I hope if you’re reading this, it gives you ideas for where to visit on your travels or even inspires you to plan a trip! If anyone else has been/is going to any of the following places, drop a comment! I’d love to hear all about it.

Thailand
Doi Inthanon, Chiang Mai
Doi Inthanon, Thailand

During our time in South East Asia, Nylah and I saw more temples than I could even keep track of. Doi Inthanon, however, was something special. It was by far one of the most peaceful and magical places I have ever laid eyes on. Between the beautiful architecture of these temples and the stunning mountain top view, if you’re ever in Thailand Doi Inthanon is a temple stop you definitely can’t miss. Read my original post here!

Elephant Sanctuary, Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai, Thailand

When people think of Thailand, I’m sure for many elephant riding comes to mind. However, while elephant riding tours certainly still exist all over Thailand, many people have started to realize how inhumane they are to the animals. If you want to see elephants during your stay in Thailand, instead, you should check out a sanctuary like Elephant Jungle Sanctuary! Not only were many of the elephants rescued from elephant riding camps, but you could see how happy and well-cared for these animals were — something you’d definitely miss out on if you choose to ride the animals instead. Read my original post here!

Viewpoint Hike, Koh Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

Koh Phi Phi straight up has to be the most beautiful place I’ve ever visited in my life. If you ever get the opportunity to visit, the best way to take it all in is to hike up to the viewpoint! The hike is a little challenging, but incredibly rewarding as you get a view of the whole island from the top. If you do go, be sure to check out the second viewpoint, the scenery was absolutely insane. If you’re really looking for something special, be sure to hike up for sunset/sunrise for a truly spectacular view. Read my original post here!

BONUS: Get A Thai Massage

Okay, okay, I know I said top ten, but I figured I’d add this one in as a quick bonus. While I went to get a massage in Bangkok, you really could get one anywhere in Thailand, hence why I added it as a bonus — it really isn’t location-specific. Not only can you get an amazing massage for exceptional prices, if you’ve never experienced a Thai massage it’ll be unlike any you’ve had before. Be sure to ask at your hotel/hostel for recommendations for best places in the area!

Laos
Kuang Si Falls, Luang Prabang
Kuang Si Falls, Luang Prabang, Laos

Oh man was this place ever magical. Kuang Si Falls is made up of a series of waterfalls, that cascade down into a set of pools you can swim in. The water is literally bright baby blue, and you can sit in the falls as well. They’re even full of those little fish they have at those pedicure places, so you can get a quick and all-natural pedi while you’re at it! Overall, this was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, 10/10 would recommend. Read my original post here!

Phousi Mountain Hike, Luang Prabang
Phousi Mountain, Luang Prabang, Laos

Out of all the hikes we did, this one was certainly one of my favourites. For the relatively small level of difficulty, the views were spectacular. The viewpoint at the top gave you a lookout over all of Luang Prabang and the surrounding mountains. For an extra special view, be sure to go at sunrise or sundown. Read my original post here!

Vietnam
Ha Long Bay, Hanoi
Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Ha Long Bay straight up looks like a scene out of a movie — it seriously doesn’t even look real. The bay is filled with tiny mountain-like islands, in fact, there’s nearly 2000 in the area. There’s all sorts of things to do in the area, such as hikes, caves, and beaches, so if you go be sure to check out the local boat cruises — I’d recommend an overnight one at least. This place is absolutely magical, and its certainly worthwhile to spend an extra night there, see the sunset, and take in the almost-ethereal locale. Read my original post here!

Hang Múa Hike, Ninh Binh
Hang Múa, Ninh Binh, Vietnam

Out of all the hikes we completed across all of South East Asia, this one was certainly the hardest–but also the most spectacular. If you’re going to give it a try, be sure to go well prepared; it’s certainly not the easiest of hikes, especially it the Vietnam heat. But the view from the top was beyond amazing, words can’t even describe how beautiful and rewarding it was. Read my original post here!

Night Food Market, Ho Chi Minh City
Night Food Market, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam

South East Asia, across the board, had many of the absolute best meals I’ve had in my life — but this place was by far my favourite. Not only did it have a great atmosphere, but there was endless options to choose from. There was all kinds of food stands from a large array of Asian cuisines, without a doubt there was something there for anything you happened to be craving. If I lived in Ho Chi Minh City, I guarantee you could find me here every night. Read my original post here!

Cambodia
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Along with Doi Inthanon, Angkor Wat was my favourite temple we saw along our trip (and as I said, we saw a whole lot of temples). Not only was it crazy to see how Cambodian Temples differed from those in Thailand and Laos, but the sheer size and grandeur of Angkor Wat makes it a must-see. You could easily spend hours here and feel like there’s still more to see — and the views from the top are unreal. As the largest religious monument in the world, Angkor Wat is something you absolutely can’t miss if you’re travelling to Cambodia. Read my original post here!

Phnom Kulen Falls, Siem Reap
Phnom Kulen Falls, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Like Kuang Si Falls, Phnom Kulen Falls are a great place to stop in for a swim–but also distinctly different from the falls in Laos. This waterfall had two swimming areas; one a smaller fall that was more like a shower, and a giant pool at the bottom of the second, massive waterfall. It was so beautiful and relaxing, and I’d highly recommend checking it out if you’re ever in the area. Read my original post here!

So there you have it! I really hope that some of y’all can find somewhere on this list that inspires you for your next trip. If any of you have been to any of these places and would like to share your thoughts, let me know! As well, I’d love to hear it if you have any suggestions of your own. It’ll probably be a little while before I’m going to be able to travel again, but for next time I’m thinking Japan, Singapore, or Europe!

But that’s all for now! Until next time.

Lots of Love,

Meredith

Things To Do: Koh Phi Phi Edition!

Me, At The Beach In Koh Phi Phi

Hey everyone!

Welcome to the next instalment of my travel series: Koh Phi Phi, Thailand! Sadly, this is the last location we’ll visit before heading back to Bangkok, and therefore means that this will be one of the last of my South East Asia travel series. Going home is certainly bittersweet, I’ve honestly had some of the best experiences of my life on this trip and would love to stay and explore more, but am also excited to go home. Besides, going home just means I get to work on planning my next trip!

Anyways, Koh Phi Phi!

To preface, I’ve actually been to Phuket before, and spent a day on a boat trip around Koh Phi Phi and the surrounding islands. However, this time I got the opportunity to actually stay on the island of Koh Phi Phi itself, which was a dream. Phuket and the surrounding islands are hands down my favourite place on earth, and while this location certainly offers a lot less in terms of religious culture and exploring than the others, it still is my personal fave. Not only is Phi Phi the most beautiful place on earth, or very well may be one of the most relaxing. Stay tuned to hear all about my favourite things to do in the area (besides just lying on the beach)!

Do A Boat Cruise!
Phi Phi Island Boat Tours

One of the best ways to get some exploring done around the islands is to book a boat cruise! They’re offered everywhere you look in Koh Phi Phi, so take some time and do the research about which one is best for you, but you really can’t go wrong! On our personal half day boat trip, we did a mix of snorkelling, kayaking and beach exploring. We stopped in first at Bamboo Island to snorkel, kayak or head into shore and check out the beach. After that, we stopped in at another reef and were given time to snorkel some more. And finally — my personal favourite — for our final stop, we kayaked into some beaches that were inhabited by monkeys! We actually got to go on shore, feed them and take photos of them, which was incredible. They were so cute and so fascinating to see up close in their natural habitat, and not some kind of exhibit or zoo. 10/10, would highly recommend checking out if you take a boat cruise, but there’s all kinds of option to choose from! If you’re interested, there’s other islands and activity options, and you can read more about it in my next post!

Hike To The View Point!
Sunset View, Viewpoint #2, Koh Phi Phi

To be fair, Koh Phi Phi is full of beautiful views no matter where you look. However, hiking up to the top of the viewpoints was one of the most spectacular views I have ever seen. To be fair, you should be prepared for a fair amount of stairs and a good work out if you decide to check this one out, but it’s 100% worth it (especially viewpoint #2)! I’d definitely recommend planning to head up to catch the sunset, which was both just amazing to see as well as a little cooler than hiking up midday.

Check Out The Local Restaurants!
Eggs Benny at Acqua

Koh Phi Phi is a pretty small island that’s very much geared towards tourists, so everywhere you look there’s either shops, bars, restaurants, and tour guides. So many of the restaurants at Koh Phi Phi were fantastic, but we certainly had a few favourites: Acqua, Anna’s, Unni’s, and Charlie’s. As Phi Phi is a lot more tourist-friendly than almost any other place we’ve visited on this trip, most restaurants do not stick to a singular cuisine and offer a variety of options. Most places will have, at the very least, both Western and Thai options — as all the places I loved most did (especially as I did get a fairly serious case of food poisoning from the food stands at the docks and had to take it easy for the first half of our visit). They’re all still unique in their own way, however; Anna’s was predominantly Swiss/German and Thai, while Unni’s and Acqua were both more standard North American and Thai. Charlie’s, in comparison, focused mainly on Italian cuisine but had Thai options as well. Not only would I highly recommend any of these four restaurants if you ever get the chance to visit Koh Phi Phi, but I can almost guarantee that even though it is a small island, it’ll have something for everyone. Seriously.

Go to Phuket!
Sunset View, Phuket

Okay, so I feel like the usual trip is “Go to Phuket, visit the Islands” and not the other way around, but I feel like I’d personally suggest focusing your trip around the islands. However, Phuket is still amazing in a completely different way and shouldn’t be overlooked! While you’re in Phuket, the beaches are a must-see. They’re so different from other South East Asian beaches, and have evergreen trees lining their shores instead of palms. Not only is it a cool change from a regular beach experience, but these beaches are just spectacular in their own right. So whether your trip is based around the islands or Phuket, be sure to check out both during your stay!

And that’s Koh Phi Phi! Stay tuned to hear more in depth about my boat cruise experience! For anyone looking to travel to Thailand, I really personally believe Koh Phi Phi is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen and I already am hoping to get the chance to go back in the future. For such a tiny island, it really has it all — a HUGE party scene, plenty of adventures and wildlife, snorkeling and scuba, and all sorts of places to kick back and relax. It really is a must see and perfect for almost any Thailand trip, no matter what you’re looking for.

Much Love,

Meredith

Me, At The Beach In Koh Phi Phi

Spend A Day With Me On A Boat Cruise In Ha Long Bay!

Me, At Ha Long Bay

Hey Loves!

Welcome back to my newest travel blog instalment! Today I’m going to be sharing with you my experience staying on an overnight boat cruise through Ha Long Bay, Vietnam!

Ha Long Bay was honestly beyond unreal. It was honestly one of the most magical places I have ever witnessed. The bay is full of nearly 2000 moutain-like islands that you can boat through and explore, and the scenery is beyond stunning. The boat cruises often come with a planned itinerary, making it easy to go and see many aspects of what Ha Long has to offer in a short period of time.

Before The Adventure

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

So I figured I’d preface our little excursion with what we did before exploring. Our tour company, Ha Long Phoenix Cruiser, picked us up directly from our hostel and took us on the 3-hour drive to the bay. Once we arrived, we were given a welcome speech (peach juice included!) and our room keys, then lunch after we’d settled in. We toured through the islands after when we had some free time, before coming to a stop where we’d be anchoring the boat overnight.

First Stop: Island Exploration!

View From The Top of Ti Top Island

For our first stop, we took a little boat out to Ti Top Island. The island offered a small beach, ocean swimming, and a hike. Nylah and I opted to start off with the “hike”, which, while certainly presenting some level of challenge, was pretty much okay for everyone. Not just like “young adults everyone” — as in toddlers, older adults, and the whole range in between. It was hot and a little tiring, but the view from the top was 100% worth it. Plus, if you work up a sweat on the way up, you can do what we did on the way down: immediately plunge into the ocean as soon as you’re down!

Second Stop: Cave Tour!

Cave Tour At Ha Long Bay

Next up, our little boat took us across the river to a cave tour. The cave tour had 3 caves to explore; small, medium, and large (read: HUGE). The walk up to the caves looked daunting from the bottom, considering we had already been hiking, but was no where near as bad as it looked since it pretty much evened out after the first cave. Now, I know the idea of caves aren’t for everyone, but this one has been rebuilt in a way that makes it safe, easy, and minimally scary for everyone — and on top of that really is cool to explore!

Third Stop: Drinks And Sunset!

Sunset View, Ha Long Bay

After all our excursions, we returned to our boat for dinner and drinks. The best part of the boat was honestly how quickly many of us became friends. This obviously varies depending who you end up on the tour with, but being out at sea with 10-20 strangers does tend to help bonding a bit. We had drinks through sunset all the way until near midnight — and possibly even longer if we didn’t have a curfew!

Fourth Stop: Cave Kayaking!

Ha Long Bay

Cave Kayaking was more a less what you’d expect — we took our boats and went through a quick paddle through one of the ocean caves. There were certainly some highlights (ie. we saw monkeys), and then we returned to the boat to pack and have lunch.

Fifth Stop: Vietnamese Cooking Class!

Hanoi Style Spring Rolls

Our very last activity was a pre-lunch Vietnamese Cooking class. Our class focused specifically on one of me and Nylah’s (literal) favourite foods in the world — Hanoi-style Vietnamese spring rolls. We were taught how to assemble them, then made all our lunch spring rolls before they were given to the kitchen staff for frying. Overall, it was both super fun and incredibly cool to see how one of our favourites foods were made. (Also, they were delicious).

Sixth Stop: Back To Hanoi!

Ha Long Bay

Post-lunch we sat up on the top deck as we prepared to dock. Overall, it was an amazing experience — not 100% perfect, but the food made up for the bad. I’m not usually one to criticize in my posts, however our specific boat did not quite live up to expectations. First of all, many of the advertised aspects (such as 24-hour bar and other perks) certainly did not exist. As well, I know it is a boat, but our room was exceedingly damp (read: somehow literally soaked with condensation) before we even arrived. It also smelt pretty potently of mould; which was fairly concerning for me as I’m pretty seriously allergic to some types. However, overall between the absolute MAGIC of Ha Long Bay, the excursions, and the friends we met on the boat, I’d personally say it was beyond worth it and I wouldn’t exchange the experience for anything.

So, that’s it for Hanoi! I was absolutely crazy about this city and I won’t lie, I’m more than a little sad to leave (but also excited to see what comes next!) Follow me on my next instalment in my travel diary — Things To Do: Ninh Binh Edition!

Love you all lots and thank you all for your support so far!

Xoxo,

Meredith