It didn’t take long for us to dislike Vietnam. Well, not at the very beginning. We had been warned about Hanoi from countless travelers. It was going to be too busy, loud, in your face. We had low expectations, but ended up finding it enjoyable. It was afterwards, when heading south that we encountered the worst type of welcome we have received anywhere in the world. But when we were ready to give up on Vietnam, we looked a little deeper and found a country with much to love.
The view off the side of the old wooden bridge was unmatched. The river below meandered between jungly growth. The golden spire of the hillside temple shone in the fading sunlight. As the light dimmed, three monks dressed in shades of bright orange crossed the foot bridge to the left. We had found the perfectly iconic scene in modern day Laos.
We rode in the bed of a pickup through Northern Laos. Music echoed between buildings, punctuated with noises of partygoers. The streets were flooded, both with people and with the water being flung, sprayed and shot at anyone in range. The whole country had broken out in a giant water fight in celebration of Laos New Year, and we had nothing to protect against the onslaught.
We were paddling down the Mekong in Eastern Cambodia, over 250 kilometers from the nearest major city. The water on which we rode had originated in China’s Tibetan Plateau, and would eventually empty into the ocean below Vietnam after meandering through six countries. With the exception of a few fisherman and small stilted house villages, there wasn’t much out here. The air was quiet save for the sounds of dolphins surfacing for breath around the kayaks. This was the Southeast Asia we had been expecting.
The laidback riverside town of Kampot in southern Cambodia is the perfect place to unwind after a long trip in Asia. It has international influences which add to the charm, while still maintaining its authentic culture. This affordable area and surroundings have plenty of things to do and a diverse selection of restaurants. We found Kampot to be one of the best places in Cambodia, and the type of town you won’t want to leave.
Imagine what you would think if a group of people, sharing no common culture, language or appearance, showed up in your neighborhood and started pointing at your house and photographing your children. Maybe they are arriving at your home in London, Melbourne, or Dallas and this is a bus full of Chinese, Iranians … or Cambodians. How would you react? How would they be greeted by the residents? It sounds weird when you think about it, but many of us do exactly that when we travel. The truth is that most people greet us with open arms and a genuine smile, and hopefully we would offer that same welcome if roles were reversed. There are few countries where this level of warmth and hospitality is more apparent than in Cambodia.
Thailand, one of the most visited countries in Southeast Asia, has a charm that draws people from all corners of the globe. The food is famous worldwide and the country conjures images of mystical temples, jungles and stunning beaches. But even with its relatively small size, there is plenty to do and see, making it difficult to narrow down which places to explore. This post shares the 9 areas we visited during our peak season month in Thailand, and includes plenty of pictures to inspire your own trip.
In a country with millions of yearly visitors, is it possible to escape the tourist trail and get back to nature? This questions was nagging us as we toured around Thailand. This country had been amongst the most anticipated as we trekked around the world on our non-stop search for adventure. But with such a desired destination comes a well traveled route and plenty of tourists, making an escape from normal all the more special. We found our ticket out of the ordinary in Khao Yai National Park, where the remote, wild and dangerous come together in an incredible spectacle of nature.
Directly to our right sat a huge beefcake of a Russia man, adorned only in a tight speedo which left little to the imagination. When his belly hung just right, it appeared that he wore nothing at all. He looked to be in his late 60s and a recent graduate of a state sponsored doping program. The cute little girl in the row behind us, no more than 3 or 4 years old, was screeching bloody murder. She had been so adorable when she boarded our boat just an hour before. Her father was attempting to calm her by talking loudly over the engine noise in what sounded Chinese. He may have been yelling, but without linguistic context, it was hard to tell the difference. The entire boat stared ahead, hoping that the next beach would have less than 1,000 other tourists. Social media only needed one good picture to make this trip look amazing.
The chef was asking us to back up. It was hard to tell if he was serious after so much sarcasm during our class, but this time it wasn’t a joke. The fire ball exploded from the wok, hitting the ceiling and leaving a flaming mushroom cloud above the stovetop. This was really hot. Even hotter than the green curry paste we had mashed by hand with ten chilies. Maybe he was joking when telling us to add that many?
We left that day with full stomachs and something wonderful to bring along on our journey. More than just the throbbing of our scorched tongues.