This is what I had been dreaming of! This is what I had been waiting for! Finally I had the chance to take 2 months off work and do some serious travelling! I had already been travelling in Southeast Asia many times, mostly island hopping in Thailand so this time I wanted to travel around a lot more. I did not have any specific plans made in advance but I knew that in addition to Thailand I also wanted to explore Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore, and visit friends along the way.
My first destination was Bangkok. During my previous visits to Bangkok I had already explored most of the must-see sights of Bangkok so this time just decided to take it easy, chill out at the hotel rooftop swimming pool as well as concentrate on the entertainment and shopping scene of the city. I went on a shopping spree around the world at Terminal 21 and found local treasures at Chatuchak Weekend Market. At Asiatique I was entertained by a ladyboy cabaret show after which I headed up to Octave Rooftop Lounge and Bar on the 47th floor of the Marriot Hotel Sukhumvit to admire the sun set over Bangkok while enjoying some cold drinks. More about My absolute favourite places in Bagkok here.
From Bangkok I flew with Air Asia to Siem Reap in Cambodia. Siem Reap is the gateway to the historical Unesco World Heritage site of Angkor, the largest religious complex in the world and one of the most important archaeological sites of Southeast Asia. Here I hired a tuk-tuk and a driver for one day and explored Angkor‘s impressive temples, monuments and water reservoirs.
From Siem Reap I took a bus to Phnom Penh, the capital and largest city of Cambodia, where I spent three days admiring the city’s many temples, discovering local fruit and vegetable markets and bazaars but also digging deep into the bad and ugly history of Cambodia, from which the country is still recovering.
From Phnom Penh I took a bus to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) in Vietnam. To my surprise Saigon was a modern city with French colonial architecture, wide boulevards, luxury boutiques, trendy restaurants and bars, and high-rise office buildings. The city was totally thronged with traffic as there were over four million scooters and motorbikes teeming through the streets.
I continued my journey up north along the coast of Vietnam, first stop being Nha Trang, a beach destination that was very popular with Russian tourists. I was fairly confused as the locals spoke Russian instead of English. Here I spent two amazing days on the long and quiet beach enjoying the sun.
The historical town of Hoi An was definitely one of the highlights of my trip. I was totally charmed by its easygoing small town character. The beautiful old town located by the Thu Bon river is a Unesco World Heritage site with winding lanes, Chinese-styled colourful shop-houses and religious buildings. The old town is particularly atmospheric in the evening when the sun goes down and thousands of lanterns are lit up.
The capital, Hanoi, in the northern part of Vietnam was a charming and energetic city with interesting monuments, ancient temples and bagodas, colonial architecture and tree-fringed lakes and parks. The Old Quarter was the heart and soul of the city, a bustling commercial chaos with plenty of boutiques, shops, market halls, art galleries, restaurants and bars.
After Hanoi my next destination was Halong Bay 170 km east of Hanoi, a Unesco World Heritage site famous for its mystical landscape of limestone islets, scenery similar to Krabi in southern Thailand. At Halong Bay there are 3000 islands rising dramatically from the turquoise waters. The scene is absolutely breathtaking. Here I went on a three day cruise during which we got to see the best of the bay, explored caves and islands, did canoeing and enjoyed delicious local food.
From Halong Bay I went back to Hanoi before flying to Trang in Thailand. I spent one night in Trang and then took a boat to the islands with the intention to do island hopping all the way until Langkawi in Malaysia. The beautiful rocky island of Koh Mook was my first island destination. During my stay Koh Mook was very quiet, it felt like I was the only person there, and it was absolutely perfect for complete relaxation. My bungalow was located conveniently right on Hat Farang Beach on the west coast, which was an ideal place to watch the sunset over the nearby island of Koh Kradan.
From Koh Mook I continued to the small island of Koh Kradan just a short boat ride away from Koh Mook. On Koh Kradan there were no roads, no cars, no motorbikes, only a couple of sandy paths across the island. The main beach was long and thin with powdery white sand and crystal clear waters offering great snorkelling right off the beach. The island was an absolute jewel, so quiet, no one around, not much to do or see. As a result, my days were filled with swimming, snorkelling, sunbathing, napping in the hammock, reading a book and collecting sea shells.
My following island destination was Koh Lipe, the southern most island in Thailand located in the beautiful Tarutao National Marine Park and definitely one of the most beautiful islands I have ever been to. Koh Lipe offers a relaxed and laid back vibe and as I was travelling off-season it was nice and quiet to chill out on the long white sandy beaches and swim in the emerald waters. Along the Walking Street that connects Pattaya Beach and Sunrise Beach there was a good selection of small restaurants, bars, cafes and shops. Koh Lipe was definitely one of my favourite places along the trip!
To get to the Malaysian island of Langkawi I took a speed boat from Koh Lipe, and it was quite a bumpy ride for two hours. I stayed in Pantai Cenang Beach at a nice boutique hotel and was happy to enjoy the large swimming pool and the location right next to the beach and the small shops and restaurants around. The atmosphere on Langkawi was different from the Thai islands I had just visited. Maybe due to its muslim population. Different but very relaxed and laid back. The island did not wake up until 10 o’clock in the morning, which felt fairly late to me as I got up at 6 am every morning to do my morning run along the beach and to watch the sun rise.
After Langkawi I spent a week in Singapore visiting friends. I did not have any prior expectations of Singapore, but I was fairly surprised that it was just like any western metropolis with high-rise office buildings, but only located in Asia. The Waterfront area offered great views over the city, lots of restaurants, bars, cafes and shopping. The public transportation system was fast and efficient, and made it easy to move around from place to place.
Before heading back home, the island of Koh Samet in Thailand was my final destination. Most of the island is protected as part of a national park, making it clean and relatively unspoiled. All visitors were collected a national park entrance fee when entering the island. Koh Samet was a truly laid-back island paradise with 14 white sandy beaches. I found Hat Sai Kaew Beach the most beautiful beach with the softest white sand and clear blue waters. At sunset restaurants would set out tables and chairs on the sand.
As I had an early morning flight back home from Bangkok I was forced to spend a night in Pattaya. Naturally the other option would have been to stay over in Bangkok. But I decided to stay in Pattaya and do some last-minute shopping. Pattaya was what I would call the ultimate tourist trap! OMG. I cannot even find words to describe it.
Did you like this blog post? Read more about my adventures in Southeast Asia: