Boracay beach

Beach time and beers in Boracay

I was extremely excited to head over to the Philippines 6 months into our travels. It seemed to be off the typical Southeast Asia ‘banana pancake’ trail and I’d heard through the grapevine that it had a completely unique vibe. But I had been warned that Boracay, known as the party spot of the Philippines was extremely busy and touristy. So, I mentally prepared myself for the ‘Brits abroad’ type of tourist, or perhaps a similar crowd that frequent Thailand’s full moon parties on a regular basis.

However, I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, Boracay was definitely a tourist hotspot. But, it seemed to be a tourist hotspot for those living in the Philippines and other countries in Asia, which was definitely new to me! So after settling into our hostel, I was keen to grab a beer and get to know some of the locals.

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Perhentian kecil

Pristine paradise in the Perhentian islands

Our time spent in Malaysia consisted of visiting some really cool places, including the likes of the lush jungles of Taman Negara and the bustling atmospheric city of Kuala Lumpur. However, my favourite spot in Malaysia was the idyllic Perhentian Islands, hands down. Why was this, you may ask?

To put it quite simply, this small grouping of islands situated off the coast of Northeast Malaysia are absolute postcard perfect paradise.

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Sunset in Bagan

Two weeks in Myanmar: An itinerary

Whilst planning my Southeast Asia trip, I have to admit that the idea of visiting Myanmar hadn’t even crossed my mind. I didn’t really know much about the country and in all honesty, my initial perceptions of it was that it was quite dangerous for tourists to visit. Of course, I was completely wrong.

However as I became more familiar with travelling Southeast Asia and I met more and more travellers who could only sing Myanmar’s praises, I became increasingly keen to visit this country that sounded so fascinating, so intriguingly different to anywhere else I’d heard of. I had been told that now is prime time to visit, as it is one of the few countries in Southeast Asia that isn’t teeming with tourists, fast food outlets and commerciality. And being the curious little explorer that I am, I sure didn’t want to miss out!

I toyed with the idea for a while. It wasn’t originally part of my plan, so my time there would be limited, or I would have to sacrifice plans in other parts of Southeast Asia. As well as that, my friends weren’t willing to pay for the extra visa costs and flights to get there, and one downfall of the country being so uninterrupted by tourists meant that it would be harder to meet other backpackers.

But when did that stop me? With good timing, I made a plan to go with someone I had met back in Laos and we decided to go for 2 weeks. I usually spend about 3-4 weeks in each country in Southeast Asia, so I knew it would be a challenge to see everything I wanted in just 2 weeks. Here’s how we crammed it all in.

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Mui Ne fishing village

My Mui Ne itinerary

Mui Ne is a charming little spot in Southern Vietnam, mostly known for its unlikely sand dunes. We stayed for a couple of nights, although I feel that Mui Ne can be easily and thoroughly explored in just one day and night, depending on how jam-packed you like your days to be!

Where we were staying, Mui Ne Backpackers Village, you could join a tour for $7 to take you to the best attractions in the area. However we very cheekily decided to copy their itinerary and do it ourselves on rental mopeds. This allowed us to explore at our own pace and was also more cost-efficient – bonus!

This itinerary for us was in fact spread throughout a couple of days, but here’s how I would fit it all into one day and night.

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Koh Rong sunset

Koh Rong: Beach island paradise

Oh Koh Rong, where do I even start? This small Cambodian island is about an hour’s ferry ride away from Sihanoukville on the mainland, and after hearing great things from many other backpackers, me and my travel buddies had been keen to check out the island for a long time. And boy were we impressed!

Back mid-February, as our boat pulled into the docks of Koh Rong, it immediately became blindingly obvious that I’d be enjoying myself there. The water was a dazzling hue of aqua-blue, the sand looked luxuriously soft and white and the teeny-tiny shops and restaurants along the beachfront were buzzing with backpackers. But that was just the beginning.

Koh Rong beachfront
Not a bad first impression…

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A fire show in Sihanoukville

Sihanoukville: The party town of Cambodia?

When I think about my time in Sihanoukville, I struggle to come to a conclusion on how I feel about the place. Described in the lonely planet as the party capital of Cambodia, I didn’t expect too much. Beaches, bars and booze – yup that’s basically what we got. After pretty much travelling mainland throughout our trip, at the sight of seeing a stretch of sand and some sea we were all keen for some sun and swimming. But whether I liked Sihanoukville or not? I’m still not sure. So, here’s what I thought of Sihanoukville; the partying and the beaches, which is, in a nutshell, all there is to do there!

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Si Phan Don's Four Thousand Islands

What is there to do in Four Thousand Islands?

After successfully completing the Laos Thakhek bike loop, some of the group decided to head down South for some chill time in Si Phan Don, more commonly known as ‘Four thousand islands’. We stayed on one of the more popular islands, Don Det, which is still a tiny little place very much backpacker orientated with a cool hippy vibe. We were there for four nights but again like in Pai in Northern Thailand, when I look back at our time spent there I struggle to pinpoint exactly what we got up to! It is very much a place to hammock-dwell with little planned. Many travellers we met said they had ended up spending a lot longer there than anticipated, simply enjoying the sunshine and having a chance to relax without rushing around doing activities and excursions.

So, what exactly did we do?

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Pai Canyon

Chilling out in Pai

A three hour drive from busy Chiang Mai, the relaxed hippy town of Pai in Thailand is a much more laid back affair. When people have asked me what there is to do in Pai, I have to stop and think for a bit as nothing really springs to mind immediately. We stayed for 6 nights and spent a lot of our time relaxing, eating (of course) and exploring the small town and its surroundings. To be honest after a lot of crammed days and late night partying in both Bangkok and Chiang Mai, some chill time was very much welcomed!

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