A Guide to South East Asia

A Guide to South East Asia
Hey everyone! I recently got back from South East Asia and I am feeling more motivated and better than ever.  My trip was an incredible experience the worth every second.  This trip was another reminder that life goes by FAST! We need to make sure we take every opportunity we have to make sure we are living the best life that we can.
I can not even put into words how I felt on this trip. My mix of emotions over the last 3 weeks were very overwhelming. I felt excited, stressed, happy, sad, motivated, sick and every other emotion under the sun.  I suppose that's what happens when you hop on a plane, fly to the other side of the world, and land in another country with nothing but your backpack.
 
I could make everything sound amazing and perfect, but in reality that is not how life is or how this trip went.  Do not get me wrong, I had an amazing time, with my amazing friend and I would not have changed anything about the trip.  BUT it would not have been a backpackers travel experience without some mishaps right? Although stressful in the moment, looking back all the little obstacles made me learn a lot about myself and how I handle stressful situations.

Where did we go?

Great question, I'll start from the very beginning.  First of all I would like to do a HUGE shout out to Scott's Cheap Flights for making this trip possible.  We scored a round trip ticket to Phnom Penh, Cambodia for an amazing price.

So anyway, our flight took of from JFK in New York, from there we flew to Tokyo, Japan and had a 16 hour layover.  This was perfect as it gave us plenty of time to explore one more place and make the most out of this trip.  Because of both layovers we were able to explore parts of Tokyo and my favorite, Narita. Narita is a smaller town where the airport is.  We walked down the main streets, found a beautiful little park with cool buildings and gorgeous scenery
 
From Tokyo, we flew to Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  We explored the city, saw amazing architecture, ate some yummy street food and had a great night out at our hostel.
After Phnom Penh we took a 6 hour bus to Siem Reap, Cambodia, home of Angkor Wat temples.  Everyone we talked to suggested that we get to Angkor Wat to see the sunrise. Unfortunately the day we were there was pretty cloudy. Even though we did not see the sunrise, the temples were still gorgeous.
 
From Siem Reap we took another bus to Bangkok, Thailand. Although I am glad we had the experience of exploring Bangkok, it was my least favorite part of the trip.  Bangkok is like any other city. Its huge, dirty and crowded (I'm NOT a city person, if you can't tell). One good things about Bangkok was that it had pretty good and cheap street food. There is a good subway system, and it did has a lot of beautiful architecture.
After Bangkok, we flew to Koh Samui, Thailand, a small island off of the east coast of Thailand.  We spent most of our time here and I am so happy we did.  I love the beach, and I love small, intimate towns that are easy to get around.  Being on the island was so much more peaceful than staying in a big city. We enjoyed delicious food, and a great hostel environment where we made great friends from all over the world.  There were fun bars and parties, beautiful beaches and cute shops.  If you plan to go to Thailand I 100% recommend checking out this amazing little island.  
 
Since we were in the area, we knew we had to make it to a full moon party.  The full moon parties are on an island that is pretty close to Koh Samui, called Koh Phangan. The full moon party is every month on the night of the full moon. Party goers cover themselves in neon paint, drink way to much and stay up until dawn partying. It was definitely a once n a life time experience and I highly recommend attending. 

From Koh Samui we flew to Singapore.  Unfortunately we had one day to explore Singapore but we definitely made the most out of it.  We were able to see the Garden's by the Bay light show, the botanical gardens, the cloud forest, and go on the Singapore flyer.  We walked around Singapore, explored got some yummy foods and saw cool street art before heading to our next destination.

Jakarta, Indonesia was our next stop.  While in Jakarta we were lucky enough to be able to stay with some of Lily's extended family that has been living there for the past 2 years.  They showed us around Jakarta and the smaller suburb where they lived outside the city.  While there we also went to Taman Safari, an awesome safari experience where you drive your car literally right next to animals.  I'm not kidding, we had Zebra's sticking their heads inside our car windows, it was crazy and I was a little more afraid than I would like to admit.  It was an awesome and crazy experience and like nothing else I had ever seen.

After Jakarta we flew to Hanoi, Vietnam.  Vietnam was my favorite part of the whole trip. Everything was gorgeous, and the food was yummy. Plus, the cities we were in (Hanoi and Ho Chi Mihn) seemed much smaller and less crazy than the Bangkok and Phnom Penh.  My favorite part about Vietnam was the tour we did to Halong Bay, the views were breathtaking.  We were able to kayak in the bay, hike through a huge cave and relax on a big boat that took us through the bay.  I also loved walking around Hanoi and going through all the little shops and stopping at local restaurants and coffee shops.

Vietnam was our final stop before we headed back to Phnom Penh to fly back to Tokyo, then back to JFK and finally back home to Boston.  It was a crazy and amazing 3 weeks and I am so happy that I was able to experience such an amazing place.  I already know I will be planning another trip back to South East Asia.

South East Asia Tips and Tricks

Bring USD to Cambodia, thats the main currency they use.

Bring a debit card to take out money from ATMs in the local currency everywhere else.  Almost no where (except in Singapore) accepts credit cards, including the hostels, so be prepared.

Be prepared to have a very different bathroom experience! A lot of places have holes in the ground toilets and no toilet paper!

Dress for 200% humidity all day, every day.

Get comfortable bartering. As a tourist most people will try and charge you way more than they should be, and bartering is part of their culture, so just go for it.

People in Vietnam (maybe other places too, but we didn't experience it) do not wait in line, so don't be offended if people cut you off for the bathroom or any other place with a line!

Be prepared to have your picture taken with a bunch of random people on the street.

If you want to take a picture of a local person, ASK! Just like you probably want to be asked before you have your picture taken.

Get ready to eat more rice and more noodles than you ever have before.  After only 3 weeks there I never want to see another grain of rice again.

Eat the street food, its cheaper and basically the same food you will get in a fancier restaurant.

For more specific recommendations such as places to stay (hostels!), restaurants and different tours we used, feel free to send me an email at taylor@healthiertravels.com and I will be happy to share!



  • Nice post! Vietnam looks amazing, I'd love to go there one day :)