Feeling refreshed as I laze by the beautiful, blue pool in my condominium I begin to reflect on my life here in Thailand. I don’t do it very often- reflect that is- but life in Thailand is most certainly worth reflecting on. Today I’m remembering the places I’ve explored: Cambodia, Laos, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Thailand, from North to South.
Initially, I intended to stay in Thailand for one year, however, almost three years on, I am still here and I am still LOVING it. In the beginning, I escaped to an island or the countryside almost every weekend. Being only a couple of hours away, a weekend on a tropical island or swimming in a waterfall is hard to turn down.
Exploring Thailand is a real treat: I have hiked the mountains in the north and lazed on the islands in the south. This month, I will once again stroll through the temples of Chiang Mai and raft down the rivers of Pai. The rich and diverse culture of this colourful country never fails to amaze me.
Although neighbouring countries, I was surprised at how different Cambodia is to Thailand. Different but equally as wonderful. I have been fortunate to see the sun rise at Angkor Wat and humbled to learn more about the painful history in Phnom Pehn. The experiences and knowledge given to me by Cambodia will never be forgotten.
Laos was another unforgettable trip. This charming country offers such beauty; the mountainous landscape, the humble villages and the picturesque towns are well worth a visit.
The vibrant Hong Kong was next on my vacation hit list. The bright lights of the city contrast beautifully with the beach- lined coast. Although afraid of (some) heights, I could appreciate the breathtaking views of both city and beach from (in my mind) terrifying heights!
Vietnam. Vietnam, Vietnam, Vietnam. My dad has always wanted to explore Vietnam: he loves history and has read every book about Vietnam (be it fiction or non- fiction) EVER. Being influenced by his enthusiasm, I developed a desire to visit this country so steeped in history. Vietnam was never top on my list of countries to visit, but it was definitely on a list. Having now been to Vietnam, I can say it is most definitely top on my list of COUNTRIES I MUST EXPLORE MORE. I had just over a week in Vietnam and travelled to Hanoi and Hoi An, similar names but unbelievably contrasting places. I navigated a map to find my way through the fiercely intertwining streets of Hanoi; educated myself in the city’s war museums; drank the deliciously cheap beer; squatted on the tiny chairs as I devoured the tantalizing street food and enjoyed every minute. Then there was Hoi An. The beauty of Hoi An is indescribable. I spent every night ‘ooing’ and ‘awwing’ the colourful lanterns that line the petite streets, and every day ‘ooing’ and ‘awwing’ the beautiful, mustard yellow, French architecture that the lights cling to. Relaxing boat rides, strolling and cycling was how I lazed away my days in Hoi An, as well as exploring the history that this town has to offer. At night I tried tasty food, drank smooth beer, listened to soothing music, waltzed through the colourful markets and ‘ooed’ and ‘awed’ at the lanterns some more. My disappointment at leaving Hoi An was somewhat eased as my anticipated return to Hanoi loomed. By the time I boarded the return plane to Bangkok my map of the city was well and truly worn.
So here I am, back in Bangkok with memories of Cambodia, Laos, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Thailand flooding my mind. And where to next? I have set my sights on Japan and The Philippines. The world is my oyster, and South East Asia is a great place to have begun.