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

Spend A Day With Me At Angkor Wat!

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Hey friends!

Welcome to the next instalment of my travel series: Angkor Wat, Cambodia! I’m so excited to share this next part of my journey with you guys, I honestly wasn’t too sure what to expect from Cambodia before I arrived, but it was honestly one of my favourite places and incredibly distinct from all the other countries we’ve visited along our journey.

The most interesting part of Cambodia was all the temples, and how they different from Laotian and Thai temples. The temples in Cambodia, rather than intricate paintings and mosaics, had carvings into the rocks that had meanings and stories carved into them.

Ta Keo

Cambodia has huge amounts of temples, both big and small, and in relative stages of so while some are nearly perfectly preserved some are quite interestingly growing back into the surrounding nature. Unlike many of the temples you’ll find in and nearby towns in other South East Asian countries, and the temples that visitors travel to most in Cambodia are out in the jungle. You can choose to go to as many or as few as you’d like, with the most well-known and largest one being of course, Angkor Wat.

I figured this entry would be a good place to share some tips I have for temples (both in Cambodia and elsewhere in South East Asia), as well as what to expect before I go on to cover the day we had exploring these temples!

What You’ll Need

Angkor Wat

All you absolutely need for a day exploring temples is the right supplies, appropriate attire and a good guide.

In terms of the guide, if you ever visit Siem Reap, message me and I’ll have you covered. My friend recommended us the most amazing Tuk Tuk driver named Sorn, who was friendly, knowledgeable, spoke great English and just generally made our whole stay in Siem Reap so much better. He had great recommendations and all kinds of knowledge that made our lives so much easier. So, if you ever get the chance to visit Cambodia, shoot me an email or comment on this post and I can put you in contact with him! 10/10 really made our stay sooooo much better.

Next up: appropriate attire. So, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, when you’re visiting temples you have to show respect with appropriate attire. It’s not optional, but all you have to do is be sure to cover your shoulders and knees and not wear a hat or shoes inside marked areas and you’ll be okay. Some countries have more strict rules about what you can and can’t wear, so this wasn’t bad at all to follow. If you’re planning on walking a lot, running or hiking shoes are also a good idea.

Baphuon

For clothes, while simply wearing leggings and a short sleeve top will be enough to have you covered (literally), there is a reason that every nearby stall sells the classic touristy elephant pants and related temple clothes. These clothes are so beyond comfortable and lightweight, and will help keep you from overheating in the hot weather. I personally opted for a t-shirt and a skirt I bought locally, they both kept me covered and cool, even in the peak heat of the day. Something else to note though is to be careful and look into what’s allowed before you purchase it, however, as Nylah bought a sarong and didn’t realize until we had reached the sacred temple in Angkor Wat that while it covered her knees, it was not appropriate attire.

A Tree Growing Out Of Banteay Kdei

The last thing you’ll need are the right supplies! Based on my own experiences, the absolute necessities are water, snacks, sunscreen, cash, sunglasses, and hair ties. However, hydration salts, cameras, hats, and a change of clothes certainly never hurt. If you have space to bring more stuff, it never hurts to be over prepared!

What To Expect

Well, first and foremost I’d say expect a very long day. Angkor Wat alone takes at least an hour and a half to explore completely at the bare minimum. Not only that, but you have to budget time for any other temples you wish to see, as well as travel time. Realistically, you should dedicate a whole day to temples.

Bapheon

Another thing to prepare for is a lot of walking, but nothing insane. So many people I know who have visited Angkor Wat before have made it seem as is it’s a gruelling and nearly impossible hike, which is far from the truth. Yes, there is a lot of walking — and occasional climbing involved if you want to go up to higher levels of the temples. However, it’s nothing that I feel like isn’t suitable for beginners. It is of course, incredibly hot, and likely pretty crowded during peak tourism seasons, so it’ll be a tiring day no matter what your level of fitness. But no matter what, I promise it is 100% worth it!

My Experience!

Banteay Kdei, First Temple

The best part about going to Angkor Wat and the nearby temples in the summer months is that it is not a popular time for tourists, meaning many of these sites were near-empty. In total, we toured 5 different temples along a route Sorn, our Tuk Tuk driver prepared for us. Before I get into it, I’m going to put a little disclaimer on this: While I tried to keep track of which temples we visited, I’m not 100% sure I have the right list. I’ve been researching to make sure I have it all correct, but if I’ve mixed one up please message me and let me know!

We started with two smaller temples, Banteay Kdei and Ta Prohm, with a quick stop in at the Ta Keo Temple, before carrying on to two larger temples in Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple and the Baphuon Temple. Finally, after all of this, we headed to Angkor Wat.

Example of Deterioration, Ta Prohm

The first two temples were small and practically empty, which made them incredible to explore. Both of them appeared to not have had any restoration completed such as the others were undergoing, and were slowly deteriorating and becoming part of the jungle surrounding them. At the first temple, Banteay Kdei, Nylah and I were guided in prayer by a local at the temple, who gifted us with good luck bracelets while we explored.

Ta Prohm, Second Temple

The second temple we visited, Ta Prohm, was small and well-known for its unique look that inspired the temples in the Tomb Raider franchise. It was a little larger and more crowded than the first temple, but still relatively small and empty compared to the others and incredibly beautiful. Seeing how this temple had literally grown into the forest was breath-taking and having it be as empty as it was made for a less touristy-feeling experience.

Ta Keo, Third Temple

After that, we stopped in quickly at Ta Keo, which was also quite empty and quite tall, which made for a crazy cool view. I opted to not go all the way to the top as I was under the impression that Angkor Wat was going to be more challenging than it was, but Nylah said the view was spectacular and even from the lower levels it was a nice, quiet overlook over the nearby jungle.

Buddha Head Carving At Bayon, Fourth Temple

From there, we headed over to Angkor Thom. The Bayon Temple was certainly the most busy of the temples we visited, as well as the most tiring. However, it was also one of the most large and interesting, sporting three levels, courtyards, maze-like hallways and of course, the Buddha heads carved into the pillars on the top level of the temple. I’d certainly suggest to pay attention to the signs telling you which direction to head in to make sure you see the whole temple in a timely matter and without getting lost.

After that, we headed to Baphuon. This temple was larger AND empty, allowing us to walk up to the empty higher levels and enjoy the views in peace, with absolutely no one else around.

Bapheon, Fifth Temple

After that, as I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for, we headed off to Angkor Wat. Before we even got to the entrance, you could see how absolutely vast it was. Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world, and it certainly was massive. It took a while to cross the grounds over the sacred temple, but apart from that and the set of stairs leading up to the temple it wasn’t physically challenging at all. The temple itself was beautiful, and almost empty compared to the massive crowds Angkor Wat draws in peak tourist season. It was so beautiful and just serene.

Carvings At Angkor Wat

After we toured the main temple, we took some time to walk down the hallways, covered in intricate carvings, as well as smaller temples that lined the sides of the walkways. After that, we wandered the grounds and took in the views around us.

Overall, it was an amazing experience and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who has the chance. The temples of Cambodia are so distinct from other South East Asian temples, and getting to go when it wasn’t peak tourist season made for a much more relaxing, spiritual and enjoyable experience than if it were packed with tourists.

Angkor Wat

And that’s all for Angkor Wat! Stay tuned to hear all about my favourite things to do in Siem Reap later this week! Hope you all are having a fantastic Thursday!

Xo,

Meredith

PS: BONUS CONTENT! Check out these other photos I snapped on my trip! Hope you enjoy them (and the other photos as well!)

More Examples Of Deterioration At Ta Prohm

Bayon

Things To Do: Luang Prabang Edition!

Me, At The Kuang Si Falls near Luang Prabang

Hey everyone!

I’m back with my second instalment of my Laos travel diary: things to do in Luang Prabang! Our stay here was super short but absolutely packed with some of the most amazing parts of our trip so far. (Yes, I know I say that a lot, but I swear this trip just keeps getting better and better!) Anyways, since our stay was so short I’m going to cover places to eat and things to do all in one post. If you’re thinking of traveling to South East Asia, be sure to add Laos to your itinerary. I honestly didn’t know much about it before arriving as it is a bit of an uncommon place to visit, but it’s honestly so beautiful here, even Thailand can’t compare. Keep reading to hear all my best finds in the beautiful city of Luang Prabang!

Take A Boat Tour!

The Mekong River

Luang Prabang has the massive Mekong river running through the whole country, making a boat tour one of the best ways to get around! Your options are pretty endless with these boat tours, as they offer both half and full day tours, with options to see the falls, elephants, and more.

Textile Display At The Textile Village

On our particular boat tour, our first stop was at a textile village that also brewed its own sticky rice whiskey and wine. They offered (many, many) samples of their whiskey, as you got to explore the village and it’s beautiful textile stalls. My personal favourite in terms of the drinks was the dark rice wine, which was sweet and delicious. However, they also had some INCREDIBLY strong whiskey, for those who were looking for something with a little extra kick.

Whiskey Display At The Textile Village

After that, we hopped on the boat and headed over to the local Pak Ou caves, which hold buddhist temples inside. The stop featured two caves, one which was deep and dark and the other which was quite light and open, for those who aren’t a fan of caves. Both of them were incredibly beautiful and super cool, and I would highly recommend checking them out if you have the chance.

Pak Ou Caves

Check Out Our Favourite Restaurant: Tangor!

Our Meal At Tangor

Oh my god was this place ever amazing. It offers both patios and indoors, but with an open front so that me and Nylah got to sit just off the patio and still see outside. The food here was INCREDIBLE, the pumpkin soup and fried spring rolls I ordered had to be some of the best I’ve ever had in my life. To top it all off, they offered cocktails categorized as “strong”, “refreshing”, “classic” etc. I got one of the “refreshing” cocktails and it certainly lived up to the name, as well as being one of the most delicious and well-crafted drinks I have ever had. If you’re ever in Luang Prabang, this restaurant is a must-try.

Hike Up Phousi Mountain!

Sunrise View From Phousi Moutain

This hike gives you a beautiful view over the city. Its easy enough that it wouldn’t be too tough for beginners, even in the heat. For an added bonus, you can take the trip up at sunrise or sunset for an even more spectacular view. We chose to do the hike at sunrise, but there’s certainly pros and cons to both. The benefits of doing a sunrise hike are the nice, cooler temperatures before the sun rises and a much less crowded viewpoint at the top. However, the sunset views are probably more spectacular and the viewpoint is set up much better for a sunset view. The only downside is how hot it would be that late in the night, as well as the fact that apparently the viewpoint is packed in the sunset hours. I’m sure either way it would be amazing, but the sunrise hike was a wonderful way to start out our last day in Luang Prabang!

Explore the Kuang Si Falls!

Kuang Si Falls, Luang Prabang

I’ll keep this one short as I know I already covered it in my previous post, but this place is both spectacularly beautiful as well as easy to access and explore. The water is the perfect temperature to cool off in the Laos heat, and getting to swim through a waterfall is always a plus! For the more adventurous types, you can also hike up and see the sights from the top of the waterfall. Be sure to be prepared though, as the hike is pretty steep (as well as the heat being an added challenge!). As well, if you have water shoes, they might be a good idea as the algae on the rocks gets pretty slippery. However, still a 10/10 stop overall and I’d highly recommend it to other travelers!

Explore The City!

Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang is honestly one of the most beautiful towns I have ever visited. Seriously, from the moment we arrived I’ve been joking to Nylah that I’m ready to leave everything behind and just move here. There’s plenty to see in the town, from local shops and restaurants, to the beautiful river and more. As well, there are beautiful temples all over the city to visit, and lack the crowds that many of the temples in Thailand attract!

Haw Pha Bang, Luang Prabang
Visit The Night Market!

Coconut Pancakes At The Night Market

Okay, I know I’ve discussed my love for night markets before so I’ll keep this one short. Taking time to stroll through the night markets in any town is a great way to relax and take in the culture. Besides, you never know what gems you’re going to find — like these mini coconut pancakes!

So that’s Luang Prabang! I hope you’ve all been enjoying reading my travel blogs as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them. If you have any recommendations or felt inspired by any of my posts, feel free to let me know! If you ever have the chance to visit Laos, it is 110% beautiful and amazing and I would highly recommend it. Next stop: Hanoi, Vietnam!

Much Love,

Meredith

Things To Do: Chiang Mai Edition!

Hey friends!

I’m back with my second instalment of my travel blog series: Things to see and do in Chiang Mai! We have a pretty jam packed few days here, but here’s a low down of my favourite things I’ve experienced in this beautiful city!

Visit the Old Town

All of Chiang Mai is lovely, but the Old Town in particular is beautiful! Not only is it full of adorable restaurants and plenty of tourist-friendly things, but it also has loads of culture and temples you can visit.

Visit The Temples!

This city is literally packed with more beautiful temples than you could count. When I came here a few years ago, I saw the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temples, which were absolutely stunning but also completely overrun with tourists. This time, I stuck to temples in the Old Town and saw the Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Phra Singh Waramahavihan temples, which were both so incredibly beautiful but even more importantly, not at all crowded. This made the overall experience like 200% better as me and Nylah actually got a chance to walk around and really take everything in peacefully, without having to mill through massive crowds. 10/10 would absolutely recommend checking out some of the smaller temples if you visit.

Visit An Elephant Sanctuary!

This was honestly one of the days best spent in my time in Chiang Mai. The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary is in the business of rescuing elephants from tourist elephant ride attractions, circuses, and other areas that abuse these creatures. When you spend a day here, you get to feed, play with, and wash the animals in a space that keeps them safe and happy. It is so clear that they love these animals and put their needs first, and all the elephants were so friendly and gentle. When I came here a few years ago, sanctuaries like this did not exist and instead there were parks where you could ride the animals, such as the one this sanctuary rescues their elephants from. The difference in the happiness of the elephants is clear as day. I’m not even sure if you can ride elephants in Thailand anymore, however, if you’re considering it, please think about this instead. You still get to spend a whole day with the animals and it was honestly such a highlight of the trip for me.

Hit up the Night Market!

Chiang Mai offers two night markets, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. Me and Nylah went to the Sunday market, which was in the centre of the Old City and absolutely packed with hundreds of adorable little stalls. They offer art, clothes, food, desserts, fresh fruit, and more! Not only was it super fun to just walk and look around, they had all kinds of cool stuff to try. I had some durian for the first time, which was super interesting, and some sticky rice with mango which is hands down one of my favourite foods. Overall, it was a 10/10 experience.

Take A Tour Of Doi Inthanon National Park!

Oh my GOD was this place ever magical. If you’re going to go, I would highly suggest taking a tour as it’s both likely cheaper and easier than making your way there yourself. We stopped at two waterfalls, a textile village, and a lunch break on our way to the peak of Thailand’s tallest mountain, where we did a nature walk through the rare habitat of the cloud forests. On our way back down, we visited the two Chedis pictured above, which were honestly two of the most beautiful temples I have ever seen in my life. This was honestly one of my favourite places on our trip so far, and if you’re ever in Chiang Mai it’s 100% a must see.

Check Out The Street Markets!

The street markets, or anywhere in Chiang Mai really, have the most AMAZING fruits you will ever eat in your life. Seriously. You haven’t lived until you’ve tried some. If you’re ever in Thailand, be sure to stop by your local market and pick some up. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.

So that’s all for now! I hope you’re all having a lovely week and enjoying my little travel series. Be sure to keep checking in for adventures, recommendations, updates and more!

Xoxo,

Meredith