Pai

So my favourite place has changed from Hoi An to Pai.

Pai is just so incredible. My favourite thing to do was to hire scooters and drive around the countryside through little villages and stumbling upon waterfalls. The countryside was absolutely stunning. Remember to put on suncream though because I didn’t and I don’t think I’ve ever been more burnt in my entire life. No word of a lie.

I spent a day at the Conserve Natural Forest which was absolutely fantastic. I wanted to do an elephant sanctuary type thing except I am very aware that a lot of them mistreat the elephants and I didn’t want to pay for something I would be uncomfortable attending. I stumbled upon the Conserve Natural Forest on the Internet and so I researched it and it seemed quite good because it also involved learning about plant conservation so I booked onto the Eco Tour.

It exceeded my expectations. It was such a great day and very educational. I was very happy that the elephant seemed very well treated and would be released to the wild once she had gained the necessary skills to survive. I was also very confident that the donation I gave went towards the care of the elephants and plants.

The second part of the day was planting trees to encourage regrowth of jungle which had been removed due to soya and garlic farming. We helped plant seeds of rain trees and then we planted an orchid tree.

We were also given loads of fruit from the garden to snack on and have a cheeky gin and tonic complete with passion fruit fresh from the garden.

There are loaaaads of cool restaurants in Pai but in my opinion the night market is the best. The night market on Walking Street had hundreds of food stalls selling all sorts for as little as 25 pence and it was incredible. The night life in Pai was actually pretty good. Bars close at 12 but you can pay the bar a fee and it will stay open for you which is class.

Overall I was so gutted that I only spent a couple of days in Pai. It’s definitely a place where I want to come back to. Next time I would like to stay out in the country surrounded by nature and hire a motorbike again to get around. Maybe next year …

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Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai was okay. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t in my favour so it was pretty grey and rainy.

Having said that one of the best things I did was a cooking class at Smile Organic Cookery School which was amazing. We were recommended it by a girl at our hostel so we decided to book it because it’s difficult to choose as there is soooo many.

This particular cooking school was 40 minutes outside Chiang Mai town at a farm which I really liked. They picked us up from the hostel, took us around a market explaining all about different fruits, vegetables, meats and sauces that are used in Thai cooking.

Once we got to the school we were offered tea/coffee and fruit before deciding on which meals we would like to cook. I chose pad Thai, hot and creamy soup, spring rolls and green Thai curry. I lovvvve Thai food so I was super excited to be learning how to properly make the food. We were given a tour around the farm and shown the ingredients that we would need to make our food. Everything came fresh from the garden which I liked.

I made the pad Thai and spring rolls first. Then there was a break to eat the food and to set up the next lot of ingredients for the soup, curry paste and curry. It was absolutely unreal. Hands down best pad Thai I’ve ever eaten. The green curry was so nice aswell and I’ve already arranged to have a Thai dinner party with Mum, Dad and Megan when I get home.

Although pricey, the food lasted until the next day because you can take it away as you make so much.

It’s a must when in Chiang Mai. The whole thing is run really well and our tutor was just brilliant, so enthusiastic. A 5* day all round.

Cambodia

I’m going to do a combined post for Cambodia because I only went to two places – Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. The rain was really bad when we were in Phnom Penh so we decided to cut our trip to Cambodia short before heading to Thailand.

Phnom Penh

I like Phnom Penh, it’s quite big so you can walk around for ages. And that is what we did the first day, meander. We went to a cafe called Daughters of Cambodia which is a charity set up to help sex workers get an education and a job outside of sex work. It also provides counselling to these girls and health care. The cafe was really nice, it is fairly pricey but for a good cause and the gift shop is lovely.

On the second day we did a tour of the S-21 prison and killing fields. It was a very emotionally draining day. The prison has many rooms each with a bed in the middle of the floor and a photograph of a tortured prisoner in each. The photographs were just horrendous. The prison was eerie, still with blood splatters on the wall. The killing fields were so peaceful, with birds chirping in the trees however there was an atmosphere that you knew something terrible had happened. Both places did an audio tour which was definitely worth the money as there isn’t much to read in either place so without the headset you wouldn’t be learning much. Really recommend going if you ever find yourself in this part of the world, but do be aware that it’s very upsetting.

Siem Reap

We stayed in Siem Reap longer than intended but our hostel was just so chill that we couldn’t leave. It had a pool and sun loungers and a bar/restaurant so really you didn’t need to leave.

So the majority of the time we spent either by the pool, reading our books sheltering from the sporadic rain (cry) or out on the hunt for food.

We obviously did a tour of Angkor Wat which was brill. It is verrrryyyyy expensive but one of those things I couldn’t leave without doing. We bought tickets and then managed to get a tuk tuk driver to take us at 4:30am the next morning for sunrise.

On our last night we went for an Indian because both of us had been craving one for so long. We found Royal India which did vegetarian meals for $5 and I mean the amount of food was extreme. It was incredible though and I felt like I’d had such a proper feast.

All in all Cambodia was really great. It was really relaxed compared to Vietnam, the people are so nice and kind and the food was really good. Somehow though Vietnam is still my favourite.

Saigon

Ho Chi Min or Saigon as the locals call it was cool although my experience with the city was limited with just one full day here.

The day was spent roaming around, stumbling upon temples, church’s and markets.

One of the coolest thing we came across was a market which was much more ‘normal’ than the other markets. As in the clothes weren’t all elephant print and travelley, they had actual clothes that you would wear back home.

Because of the short visit it was difficult to grasp a feel for the city. One things I really liked though was the clear French influence throughout the streets.

I felt like although we only had one day, it was enough time to go around the city and look around the streets. We had nothing particular in mind that we wanted to see or do so that one day felt like enough time here.

Hoi An

I think I’ve found my fav place in Vietnam. Haven’t even finished travelling around here but it’s going to be hard for anything to beat it.

It’s just so pretty, quaint, fairly quiet and the locals are so nice. It’s the sort of place you could grab a drink at a local cafe and sit content for hours just watching the world go by and observing the locals going about their daily business.

We had a two and half day stop here.

DAY 1: arrived around midday so just went for a wander. Hoi An is full of tailoring shops so naturally we ended up ordering some silk dressing gowns to be made for ourselves. Genuinely was such an exciting thing as I’ve never had any item of clothing tailor made.

It was a mission trying to choose which fabric and design we wanted but we eventually got there.

It was the Buddhas birthday so in the evening there was a big celebration down by the river where big lanterns hung from buildings and trees, boats swarmed with people toured the river and floating water lanterns were released with hopes and wishes for the future by locals and tourists alike. It was such a magical evening and something which I’ve never experienced before.

DAY 2: We got up bright and early and three of us hired bikes. We followed a route suggested by the hostel which took us through the rice paddies, vegetable and coconut farms and fishing villages. It was an absolutely beautiful cycle taking us away from all the tourists and into a more authentic Vietnam away from the hustle and bustle of the town.

We ended up cycling around for about 6 hours and we were all burnt to a crisp which sucked but none of us had reapplied suncream so what can you expect.

Once we got back it was time to go to the tailors to get alterations done however once we got there the dressing gowns were perfect.

I’ve packed mine away in a secret compartment of my bag to open on my birthday as a birthday present to myself. Happy birthday from me, to me.

DAY 3: because of how energetic we all were the previous day we didn’t leave the hostel until around 11. Today was scorching so we decided to do indoor activities considering the amount of sun exposure we got on the bikes.

Firstly we went to the Precious Heritage Art Gallery and Museum. It was a museum about a project that a French photographer had started. He travelled around photographing various tribes in their traditional dress. The tribes had donated their dress which was shown in the museum, some being the last piece of traditional dress left since younger generations no longer wear these outfits or know how to make them. The photography is exceptional and it’s clear to see the bond that this photographer creates with his subjects.

Then we went across the road unintentionally to a traditional Vietnamese houses owner by an extremely friendly kind elderly man. The house had been in his family for six generations and he had kept the top floor for visitors to see the architecture which was clearly done with French influence.

All in all I think this is such an wonderful town. I think this could potentially be a holiday destination for the future (if I can ever afford to come back). It’s easy to see why everyone raves about Hoi An, I will be too.

Hue

The entire time we were in Hue it was absolutely boiling hot, almost too hot to actually do anything. But regardless we still managed to go and see some of the sights.

The hostel we stayed was super nice. We actually got a dorm to ourselves which was lush because it gave us a good rest.

We spent a lot of time wandering. Whilst wandering we found the restaurant which we would go back to again and again everyday without fail. It was super cheap but the food was always top standard and you couldn’t fault the portion sizes.

One thing which was a stand out for me was the free embroidery museum. We randomly went in for some shelter from the sun and it was full of such amazing art. The embroidery was insane and you can watch the woman doing it by hand which is so intricate and skilful.

Another thing to mention is the citadel which is pricey at 150,000 dong but it’s so cool. It’s surrounded by old brick walls and contains so many buildings which have been restored to their former glory. Also brilliant architecture, so detailed.

Hue was a nice city, not too big and perfect to walk around. For me personally I struggled with the 37 degrees Celsius heat and so it wasn’t super enjoyable. It was sweat central. You wouldn’t need more than a couple of days if you are visiting.

Halong Bay

Halong Bay was on my must see list and I’m glad it was. It so beautiful and is like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

I did a 1 night, 2 day tour which picked me up from Hanoi. I just got the cheapest tour as I’m on a budget but it was fantastic.

They had various activities such as a cooking class, kayaking, going to caves and an oyster farm and a trip to a beach on one of the islands. It cost around £55 and we booked through a separate tour company than the one offered by the hostel due to cost.

The people on our boat were super cool and there was only a small group of us which was nice.

It was two busy days full of the activities mentioned above plus a party at night. We had free beer from 8-9 and then free vodka orange from 9-10 meaning I spent no money whatsoever on the cruise which was amazing.

It’s a really beautiful place. I don’t think you need more than one night though. Definitely go if you are in that area.