SE Asia First Time

Tripoto
17th Jun 2014

Sapi Island in Sabah, Malaysia (Borneo)

Photo of SE Asia First Time by Cecilia Lockman

Cliche Angkor Wat picture!

Photo of SE Asia First Time by Cecilia Lockman

Gondola ride in Ninh Binh (Perfume Pagoda)

Photo of SE Asia First Time by Cecilia Lockman

Hoi An! One of my favorite cities in the world

Photo of SE Asia First Time by Cecilia Lockman

Tam Coc Boat Ride in Ninh Binh

Photo of SE Asia First Time by Cecilia Lockman

Luang Prabang, Laos

Photo of SE Asia First Time by Cecilia Lockman

Kayaked down the Mekong River in Luang Prabang

Photo of SE Asia First Time by Cecilia Lockman

Kuang Si Falls, Laos

Photo of SE Asia First Time by Cecilia Lockman

Elephant jungle trek near Chiang Mai, Thailand

Photo of SE Asia First Time by Cecilia Lockman

Visiting the Karen Hilltribe, Thailand

Photo of SE Asia First Time by Cecilia Lockman

Ayutthaya, Thailand

Photo of SE Asia First Time by Cecilia Lockman

There were several times on this trip where I thought 'this is the happiest moment in my life'. Can you remember the last time you recognized, while in that moment, that it was one of your best moments? Take the risk, go travel.. maybe the rough kind of travel, and I bet you'll feel something like it. High risk, high reward* 

My cousin and I arrived in Bangkok after flying for something like 21 hours. We hated it.. it was hot, it smelled, people EVERYWHERE (tuktuk dropped us off at Khaosan Road) and it was dark and we were so exhausted. We couldn't wait to get out. So the next morning, we woke up and got on a local bus to the train station, and went to Ayutthaya. I ended up going back to Bangkok several times throughout this trip once my cousin went back home, mostly to use the airport. I can't believe I'm saying it, but I LOVE Bangkok! It is now a city that I really miss and can't wait to get back to. All by myself, I navigated the city by ferry, local buses, the back of motorbikes, the skytrain, and a map written in Thai. And I always found my way back to my guest house. I always went back to the same guest house. They were friendly, clean, and far enough off of Khaosan Road, but easy enough to navigate there.. about a 12 minute walk. Plus, they were a decent amount cheaper than all of the other guest houses that I looked at. I was finding that Bangkok's dorm rooms were about the same cost as private rooms in other parts of Asia. I really really didn't like staying in dorms, so always opted for a private room. KC Guest House was a hidden gem. I paid $10 for a small, private room with a shared bathroom. There was a bed with no sheets, a ceiling fan, and a small side table, but I was thrilled that I had found it. If anyone is interested in staying here, feel free to message me and I can attempt to guide you there from the beginning of Khaosan Road. Great little restaurant downstairs too!
What a cool place! Ayutthaya (pronounced uh-you-tee-ya ..when pronounced how it is spelled, nobody knows what you're talking about) is a perfect place to spend a day or two. We stayed overnight at the Tanrin Guest House right across the street and down an alley from the train station. The woman at the guest house was super sweet and the room was just like most others, but had a very tiny outdoor space where I hung dry my clothes that I hand washed. The "patio" was about 5'x7', but nice to have, nonetheless. Tip: You have to cross the water on a 1 minute ferry ride to get to the temples/ruins from the train, unless you want to go way around. So I recommend that you rent a bike on the other side of the water to avoid carrying it down what would have been an illegally steep ramp and set of stairs in the US to get to the ferry. We learned our lesson, and got a crazy arm workout.
We really only stopped here because we got on a train from Ayutthaya to Chiang Mai that had no air, just windows and people walking up and down the aisles selling hot food the ENTIRE time. Still being incredibly jetlagged, we needed a break from the train. We got off at Phitsanulok and quickly realized that we were the ONLY foreigners. Nobody could help us, there was no english written anywhere, and we couldn't find a guest house. After one sweet young boy trying to help us, we finally stumbled upon maybe the only guest house there. The next morning before boarding the train to continue heading north, we walked around the morning market which I am still impressed by when I think back on it. Phitsanulok was probably the least-touristy spot I have ever been to in my life, and I'm so happy that we stopped there.
I LOVED Luang Prabang. A nice little place to
From Hanoi, we took two separate day trips to Ninh Binh- Perfume Pagoda tour & Tam Coc boat ride. I would recommend both.. not even sure if I could choose one over the other. Either way, you can't lose!
This is one of my very favorite places in the world. Yes, it is filled with tourists, but I still loved it. With art galleries, lanterns, custom made clothing shops, beaches, beautiful nature, and back roads to get lost on, I said from the first hour in that I could happily live there. I'm still thinking about it! Just have to find a job...
Stayed at the Moon Resort in my own private bungalow, but it rained the entire time. Met up with a guy that I had met waiting at the airport and we rode around in the rain on a motorbike. We found this amazing waterfall where all of the locals swim and hang out which I would recommend finding for sure. The night market is okay, seemed like a pretty relaxing atmosphere. We grabbed some beers and sat on a bench up on a rock near the lighthouse and hung out. Unfortunately it only stopped raining at night, so I would go off of someone else's opinion of this place. I'm sure it's lovely but we didn't really get to experience too much.
This was my cheap escape. I averaged spending about $15/day, sometimes less. I stayed at the Apple Guest House in a pretty big private room with a bathroom and cold shower for $5/night. $5! It was about a 45 second walk to Ocheuteal Beach which had a bunch of restaurants lined up. I would rent a motorbike from about 8am-10pm for $5 and cruise around to different beaches. I also paid $3 for a 30min beach pedicure. Jackpot! There was nothing cultural about this place really.. I didn't see any museums or tours besides diving, so really the only big expenditure here would be alcohol for the drinkers. The real bummer about this place is the amount of 16 year old prostitutes who are drugged up on meth, dancing with old white men. Every night you see this all over. It is incredibly sad, and a lifestyle that they get stuck in. Another bummer was the lack of relaxation on the beach because of the young kids trying to sell you string bracelets. Pretending to sleep on your lounge chair won't help.. they will sit down on the edge of it and wake you up. I would rent a bike and go to a beach farther down.
This place is magical. I feel wrong even trying to describe it.. I just think that you should go and experience it. Yes, there are so many tourists.. and unless you find a small restaurant with just local food, everything is a bit more expensive. I was totally alone 90% of the time I was there because it seemed filled with just families and couples. Now for the good things: It is the perfect place to wander around and get lost. You start walking and soon you're surrounded by rice fields and friendly locals. The local food is amazing, and the tours offered are of incredible value. Every night they have traditional dance shows, Legong and Barong. You have to get there very early to get a good seat, depending on which location you go to. I saw a show at the Ubud Palace at the top of Monkey Forest Road, and couldn't see a thing. The next night I went to the Water Palace and got a seat near the front and it was amazing. When you arrive at the Denpasar airport, your only option to get to Ubud seems to be by a taxi for a set price of $25USD. Traveling alone and not wanting to spend so much, I had a breakdown. In retrospect it was ridiculous how upset I got, but I'm kind of glad that I did. I don't know what I imagined would happen by my saying 'screw this, I'm going to just start walking' but way past the line of taxis, there were men with motorbikes. The one offered me a ride to Ubud, and I agreed. I think I ended up paying about $15 for the 45min ride still, but it was the coolest ride! Because we were on a motorbike, we could weave in and out of the back roads of Bali, through the villages taking shortcuts. Probably a dangerous decision, but I was really trusting at this point of my trip. He dropped me off at one of his friends' guest house near Monkey Forest Road, but not right on it. After a lot of negotiating, he offered me my private bungalow for $10/night. I woke up the next morning, took a freezing cold shower, and sat on my private porch to read my map. His wife walked over with the cutest puppy, and asked what I would like for breakfast. I looked puzzled.. I didn't know breakfast was included! She brought over a banana crepe, iced coffee, and a bowl of fresh fruit. This was every morning when she saw me on my porch. The sweetest family, and I will stay with them again next time without a doubt. The day before I had to get back to the airport, Ketut (the man) called up his friend with a motorbike to see if I could do the same thing to get back, rather than pay the crazy high taxi price. His friend agreed to pick me up at 4:30am so I could get to the airport in time. I went outside at 4:30 the next morning, and started to panic that the guy forgot. Then, at 4:35 Ketut came out and sat with me while I waited. This was the sweetest gesture.. I can't say I would have done the same for some strange girl too cheap to book a regular taxi. Tip: Find your way to the Campuhan Ridge Walk. Make sure you do this. 2nd Tip: If your craving for western food kicks in, you have to go to Umah Pizza. Wood oven, large pizzas that are so delicious, and sooo cheap! They will even give you a box to bring your leftovers home. Their local dishes are amazing as well.
Aravilla Homestay. The best part about Kota Belud. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Aravilla-HomestayTaungusi-Village-Homestay/221922024553295 Tiara and Raman are rays of sunshine in this world, and while this part of Malaysia might have been my least favorite place, my experience because of them was one of the best in my life.
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