In our latest World Travel Blogger post, Travel PR specialist Lynne Gray discovers the joys of the exotic destinations on her very first trip to South East Asia.
If you ever get the chance to go to South East Asia, grab it very, very quickly with both hands. I guarantee it will be one of the best decisions you make. It’s just fascinating; wonderful countries, beautiful people and so much to discover.
As part of the ‘trip of a lifetime’ my friend and I had planned to change planes at Singapore on our way to Samoa, one of the gorgeous Polynesian Islands, but on looking at the atlas, how could we land there without going on an adventure to some of the surrounding countries?
As well as Singapore we visited Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia. We found Singapore to be very modern, slick but in no way boring. China Town was fascinating. The development around Clark Quay is lively and varied; so many places to eat, drink and spend your money. If you get a chance, try the chilli or peppered crab at Jumbo’s – mouth wateringly delicious.
Hanoi in northern Vietnam next and a huge culture shock awaited us. The chaos of the old city and traffic was somehow exhilarating. The people were so helpful and friendly. We had our first experience of a cyclo there. You need steady nerves for that! We went to HaLong Bay from there and were fortunate to have a cruise booked for three days. The serenity and beauty of the place was good for the soul. Back to Hanoi and more amazing food and then down to the south to visit Ho Chi Minh City (previously called Saigon). It was very different from the north of the country. The people were a little more reserved and the city was a little more modernised. Again, so much to see and do.
On to Cambodia and our first stop was at Phnom Penh, the capital. The next day we went to see the Choeung Ek Memorial, also known as the ‘Killing Field’ Memorial. This country has been invaded so many times, undergone huge hardship and genocide and here, what you witnessed was grace and dignity in bucket loads. We were in awe and that just multiplied when we went on to Siem Reap and visited the breath taking Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples. Oh my goodness, it was one of the most marvellous and privileged days of my life.
Next stop, Thailand and the capital city of Bangkok. Another busy, busy city with so much going on. Whatever you do, do not miss going to see the Royal Palace - it will blow your mind, a joy to behold and marvel at. However, do remember that the rules of respect at the Palace ask that you wear clothes that cover your shoulders and also your legs, men and women.
There are shops outside where you can rent clothes for the duration of your visit, as you will not be allowed in if dressed unsuitably. Well worth any effort to see the treasures and buildings. We did so much walking that we treated ourselves to a full body massage that evening. Oh, it was good. We also visited the Bridge over the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi on the Death Railway, which was a very poignant and moving day.
Malaysia and its capital Kuala Lumpur were next. We met up with Umei and Josen of CC Food Travel and spent a day with them. What a delicious time we had. They took us to an amazing food market where everyone sat in the middle of a circle of small restaurants and chose different foods and courses. Umei and Josen selected ours and what an experience it was – South East Asia food is full of spices and flavours that seem to explode in your mouth. Yummy scrumptious is how to describe it!
Back to Singapore and on to Australia … Would we visit again? We’d go back tomorrow, given the chance and for a good few months too.
Lynne Gray: Lover of our planet, passionate about conscious travel & tourism, friends, gardening, soul & chocolate. Lives in the bodacious shire of Bedford, England. You can read more on her blog That’s PR, follow her on Twitter @lynnerosie and like her Face Book Page That’s PR.