Kuala Lumpur #Top5

  1. The Bad Boss

So, we weren’t in Malaysia long enough to be able to give a proper account, so here are just a few things I enjoyed whilst in Kuala Lumpur, where we stopped for a couple of nights before flying back to the UK. The Bad Boss was the best restaurant we went to, and we only tried it the night before we left. It also had the funny concept of having a bad boss and needing to let off steam, including gloves and punch bag.


  1. Fresh Smoothies

Smoothies can be hit and miss in Asia. I remember them being so good in Thailand, but in other countries they sometimes add milk. When it’s a nice sour drink like pineapple or lemon, that’s not what I want! But there was a smoothie place in a mall and it was soooo good!



There’s a lot of high-rise buildings, and a few places to view the landscape. It was a bit murky on our visit, but we went up the observation tower, and did some fun little extras that were included, like going to a mini-zoo where we held parrots, which was cool.


  1. Parks

In between the mass of buildings, there are some nice park areas to walk around, and they give Kuala Lumpur a nice relaxed vibe. There was one park that was really big and worth exploring more, but we got dehydrated and hungry!


  1. Markets

When we got hungry, we also went to a cool tea shop and found out all about different teas and tried some out. I did a bit of shopping in the markets in Chinatown and replaced two pairs of comfy trousers that had got really holey on my travels!

Tips: I would say that the main thing would be to get out of Kuala Lumpur, and go for more time to explore the rest of Malaysia as my friend did this from Thailand and it looked like it had some glorious beaches.


Indonesia #Top5

  1. Silver workshop Ubud

When people show pictures of their travels, they’re most likely all smiles and never show just how varied the experience can be. Yes, I laughed, but I also cried, got stressed out, got scared. It’s life, just somewhere else. It’s not perfect. And damn, those clear turquoise waters look perfect, but they are also not always perfect… more on that later. The silver workshop I attended in Ubud, Bali, was a personal highlight because it encapsulated a time that wasn’t always easy, but I wanted to appreciate every moment. I made a moon crescent ring, which reminded me of the sky in Thailand, and engraved the word “gratitude” as a reminder to myself. For me, it’s a symbol of strength and shows me how I can be resilient and that my positive attitude towards life will always see me through.


  1. Cremation ceremonies, Ubud

In Ubud, despite the shocking amounts of tourists, you do get to learn about the culture simply from being there. We were in a homestay, and we were told all about it by the family, who told us how they build a temple and that every household has the same tradition, including a place for drying and storing rice. We were also told about the cremation ceremonies, and there was a large one when we were there as one of the members of the royal family has recently passed away. Sadly, it clashed with my booking for the silver workshop and I didn’t manage to shake my refusal to be purposefully late for something. However, of what I saw of the ceremony, it was more of a celebration of life, with hundreds of people gathering, a parade with lots of music, and lots of decoration.


  1. Silent Meditation Retreat, Ubud

I went here for a day, and it wasn’t completely silent, but it made me feel so refreshed and relaxed. It reminded me of what someone had recently said about bringing these elements into your daily life, and that you don’t always need to go on holiday to do the things you enjoy doing on holiday – such as swimming, reading and lying down! So, no swimming here, but we started with a rice terrace walk, where we were guided through the surrounding nature. The day was then filled with eating truly wholesome food, yoga and meditation, and reading on sofas and hammocks, ending with some star-staring.


  1. Sengiggi and Gili Islands

We used Sengiggi as a base for going to the Gili Islands, and although there wasn’t much there, the sparkly sea was really nice to swim in, and there was hardly anyone there. One morning we were literally the only people in the water. We went to Gili Meno and Gili Air. It would have been nice to spend longer on Gili Meno, and it was nice, but the water was very shallow where we were, with lots of coral, and then I stepped on a sea urchin just to make life a bit more difficult! Thankfully it wasn’t anything major, so we took local advice to bash it with coral and, hopefully, I shouldn’t have any long-term issues from it. Gili Air we walked around the whole of, and it certainly is a luxury to be somewhere with no motorised transport. The food here was also incredible – with ate a lot of Gaddo Gaddo, which is basically a vegetarian dish with lots of satay sauce!


  1. Dance, Ubud

I saw a shadow puppet show, but it was the dancing that stole the show in Ubud! If we were there longer, I would want to see more. Again, the story was hard to follow simply through dance, but it was a similar one (I’d actually just been reading myths and legends before I went away). The kecak and fire trance dance was really hypnotising and a truly unique experience, with the sounds of men’s voices creating the music, and the main dance, plus the trance dance that involved moving in the fire’s embers.


Tips: The main issue we had was getting to the Gili Islands. We were told we would be on the 10.15am boat, and had actually got up quite early, only to be made to wait for ages, conned into spending more money on a horse and cart, which we didn’t use because we got up and walked for five minutes instead. We then watched the completely packed boat go away, before one of the staff we booked with gave us the boat ticket. We had no information, and after an hour of waiting I found out it was possible we would need to wait until 4pm, when the last boat would leave, to see if the boat fills up. Long story short, we ended up leaving another hour later, only because my boyfriend figured out the best option was to pay the rest of the money to get the remaining tickets. Because it was so late in the day, this meant that the waves were worse and again I feared for my life as it felt as if the boat would tip, but thankfully we made it! The rest of the boat experiences were more positive and less rocky.

Vietnam #Top5

  1. Cat Ba Island

I went here twice, and both times were amazing in their own way. The best part about Cat Ba island was that the roads aren’t busy, and you can drive through on a moped so easily (though not me, unfortunately I was useless and had to go on the bank of my boyfriend’s bike). It gave me an unbelievable sense of freedom and relaxation. We did it for so long that my bum hurt a lot afterwards. It also has an amazing walk to mountain-top views, as well as various caves, animals, and – of course – three beaches. The waves were pretty big when we were there, but the water was otherwise nice. It just meant you would go under a few times.


  1. Da Nang

Although this was another place that seemed to be infested with sea-lice, as well as an incredible amount of jellyfish, it was well worth the visit (once we’d found some nice roof-top pools). I really enjoyed the food here, from the fried rice to the spicy squid. It was also very pretty, with sights such as the dragon bridge, and it was fun, as you could also have a go on a segeway nearby. We also went to see the Lady Buddha, which was a fantastic temple site, but also provided wide views of the coast. On the walk back, we were invited to eat with a group of Vietnamese women at another wonderfully colourful temple. So, as well as the usual tourist attractions, you’re bound to have experiences like this that show you the generosity of humanity.


  1. Ninh Binh

You can’t do much in Ninh Binh without transport; we had a taxi service the first day, but I would say that a moped is the best way to get about. The highlight of this area, which is more of a base for areas just outside Ninh Binh, was the row boat through the caves. It was incredibly serene, and was amazing to go through these caves and think that you’re actually under a mountain, which you were also surrounded by in the beautiful landscape. There was also a modern temple that spanned an extremely large area, and it was really interesting because, whilst it seemed a lot of the older temples tried to replicate the Buddha image, here it seemed to deliberately have differences in each one, whether subtle or obvious. Each statue was filled with character and more women were also featured.


  1. Hanoi

There is so much to see in Hanoi, and whilst most of it is very busy, there are quieter parts. I have to admit, as I was living there, I did use my visits to eat some Western food, but the Vietnamese food was also very good, including the chicken (which was not so good where I was based, in Haiphong). The massive lakes and beautiful parks were lovely to walk through, there were some good shops where I got souvenirs and clothes (I already wrote a whole feature on the Gingko brand) and the art galleries and museums are enough to keep you coming back for more.


  1. Living

Haiphong isn’t somewhere you would go as a tourist, other than to get to Halong Bay and Cat Ba island. The worst thing about living there is that being a “farang” (foreigner) you stand out a lot, and as someone who is self-conscious anyway, it is really disconcerting to constantly be looked at, and it does become a challenge to always be greeted “hello” by strangers, especially when walking alone, especially when some men also turn a friendly thing into a cat-call. That said, despite these difficulties, I will look back on my time in Haiphong with fondness. Despite the rats, the ant-trails, and the humidity. I enjoyed my time teaching there – the students were (mostly) a pleasure to work with, and I got into a routine with the schedule. There were some nice lakes to walk around, lots of places to eat great street food (satay pancakes will be missed) and a cinema, which I frequented regularly. I didn’t have a chicken and supermarket food was expensive, so I got to eat out every night – living the dream indeed.


Tips: There are also some scams in Vietnam, but different ones to those in Thailand. Here are some of the ones we found:

  1. In Hanoi, women will put their baskets of food on your shoulder and ask you take photos. They will then want to charge you for this.
  2. In Ninh Binh, the people rowing the boat will go to a boat with different snacks, and they will suggest you buy something for them. They will then also ask for a tip despite the fact you have paid way too much money, and they will simply sell back the refreshments you bought specifically for them to consume, which I had read before we got scammed.
  3. My boyfriend was stopped by a shoe repairer, and he agreed to have them buffed, but then the man proceeded to resole the shoes and refused to tell him how much it would cost as he was doing it, and ended up being quite rude. He had a knife in his hand to cut the sole, so it was a potentially scary situation.

Thailand #Top5

So, I’ve written a few summaries on my highlights (and some lowlights aka tips for travelling). I’ll start where it all began… in Thailand!

  1. Cookery Course, Chiang Mai

I did a cookery course on my birthday, because I love food. I don’t mean to blow my own trumpet, but the Penang curry I made was better than any I’d actually tasted in Thailand. Actually, I don’t claim my cookery skills to be better than Thai people – it was good thanks to the team effort of smashing a great peanut-filled curry paste together, and obviously the skilled instructions from the course leader. We also made soup, spring rolls, and Pad Thai (classic). You can do these courses all over Asia, but I recommend Chiang Mai as it is known for its cuisine, and we also got a recipe book to try them out at home.


  1. Nai Yung Beach, Phuket

It’s worth noting that in the low season, there appears to be more sea-lice in the water, and this really stung me in a lot of places all over Asia. However, Nai Yung beach sticks out in my mind as the best all-round beach we went to over the whole of our travels. It was how I imagined all the other beaches would be, and was perfect for swimming. This area of Phuket was not easy to travel from, but it is quiet and was just what we needed after Bangkok, jungle treks and Ayutthaya. Around the beach were lovely restaurants (one right on the beach, we went to about 3 times), massage parlours, and great street food in the form of Pad Thai and chicken on a stick.


  1. Night Markets, Chiang Mai

Luckily, this was another birthday activity. The Chiang Mai night market was one of the busiest and biggest over the trip. There were food stalls, and music, and tons of things for sale in the stalls that lined the streets. We wished we had brought more money with us, but I got the gift of a magnet (I like to collect them from each country I go to) and an elephant ring. We went there thinking we would just take a quick look, but ended up staying until closing time. There’s something about it that’s hypnotising, but it could just be the culture of consumption we’ve grown up with in the UK.


  1. Nature, various

The two big nature activities we did in Thailand were trekking in the forest on Bobby’s Jungle Tour, and going to the Elephant Nature Sanctuary. The first of these trips took place in a National Park. But National Parks in Asia aren’t like many I’ve experienced before. Much of it contained wild forestry and animals lived in their natural habitat for the most part, and we walked in search of animals. The best part was seeing millions of bats escape from their cave at sunset, which would go on for at least an hour. I booked the Elephant Nature Sanctuary for two days, and although one day would have been enough, the second day was more enjoyable for some reason. My favourite part was feeding the elephants, as well and just generally learning more about elephants and hearing their individual stories.

  1. Temples, Bangkok and Ayutthaya

My partner is a big fan of temples, so mostly I would go for that reason. However, the temples in Thailand are undeniably amazing, and it’s really fortunate that they allow tourists to look at these incredible architectural wonders. I preferred those in Ayutthaya to those in Bangkok as the pace of the old capital is slower and there are old ruins, and the Buddha head entwined in tree roots, so it was historically interesting, as well as beautiful.

Tips: Beware of scams, and buy a copy of Lonely Planet’s guide to South East Asia. My partner didn’t want to take it at first because of the weight, but he admitted that it was really useful to have. This outlines the scams and we could pretty much tick them all off during our time there. Here are some of the ones we experienced:

  1. The first day we set foot out in Bangkok, we were offered a ride to the boat port, and the driver took us to the wrong one. Despite having already checked the prices, we forked out an extortionate amount for a private boat, when we should have taken a cheap public one.
  2. We approached one of the main temples in Bangkok, and were approached by a man who claimed to work there (no uniform) and he told us it was closed until the afternoon, and reserved for monks at that time. I knew he was wrong as I’d checked the opening times, so we didn’t get caught out on this one.
  3. A man kept following us, trying to get us in a too-cheap tuk-tuk. This was likely to be a gem scam, and could have been potentially dangerous. He followed us into a 7-11 and may have been trying to steal something.
  4. We were dropped off at the beach on a very small island, and we were told they would pick us up for the last boat back to Phuket. However, they did not show up and we were saved by a taxi that got us there just as the boat was boarding. I’m not quite sure what the scam was, perhaps to get us to stay and spend money on the island?