I had just arrived on Koh Phi Phi island, and I was exhausted. The very thought of trudging around the island with my oversized backpack in search of a hostel made me grouchy. As I tried to figure out which direction to start walking in, my oversized backpack and I stood in the middle of the walkway inconsiderately forcing the pedestrian traffic to maneuver around me. And then I looked up, and problem solved! I found myself at the foot of the steps of the most glorious accommodation I had seen in months, Phi Phi Hotel.
Chiang Mai was like a breath of fresh air for me – literally: Crisp, clean air filled my lungs as I stepped off the train and onto the platform, leaving me instantly revitalized. A picturesque little city bordered by a river that marked its perimeter, Chiang Mai was the perfect dose of small town life that I needed. Aware of the fact that I only had one night to recharge before I hit the road again, I quickly made it to the centre of town to book the long awaited Trek and Elephant tour that I heard so much about.
As we spilled out of the tightly packed market and onto the road after taking the River Boat, I couldn’t quite figure out where I was. According to my map, I was supposed to be at the foot of the Grand Palace, but all I could see was a long road running alongside some tall cement walls. I figured that the attraction had to be on the other side of the wall, so I began to walk. After a block or so, the street life began to dwindle as the road transitioned into a residential one. Back I went in the other direction. Walking down the tuk tuk-lined road, and alongside the mysterious large cement wall, I had a feeling that I was headed in the right direction.
Forget about airplanes! Flying is often more expensive, time consuming and essentially the dull alternative to getting around Southeast Asia. Stick to land transport – it’s a money and time saver, as well as an adventure at the very least!
Here are the Best Ways to get Around Southeast Asia without Flying:
It was my third visit to Bangkok: I had one day and I was determined to see it all. Map in hand, I found myself wearily standing on a dock (which was in fact a random slab of wood) while waiting for the River Boat and praying that the platform didn’t break it’s feeble attachment to land and float away.
I’m always scrambling for words when people ask me to describe Bangkok.
The capital cities of its neighbouring countries seem to pale in comparison to Bangkok’s vast and thriving metropolis. The sight of flashing lights, tuk tuks jostling with SUVS, and roadside kiosks at the foot of sky scrapers that rub shoulders with ancient temples blew me away. To me, Bangkok was an enigma – I somehow left unsettled with a feeling of disconnect, and totally puzzled as to how I felt about the city.
It was my second time in Bangkok, and I had just arrived at 11pm, totally exhausted after the long haul from Koh Phi Phi Island. Flashing fluorescent city lights were blinding me, and the irritating combination of horns and nightclub base rang in my ear as I sat in the back of a squeaky tuk tuk in New York City style gridlock. I could see Khao San Road in the distance, so I tapped the driver on the shoulder and asked him to let me out, figuring it would be much faster to walk. Fatigue started to set in, and my backpack felt like it had doubled in weight as I searched for a place to stay. I got a sudden whiff of Indian food, so I let my stomach lead the way. About half a block later I ended up in front of the Rainbow Hostel and Guesthouse, which had an Indian restaurant in its lobby. My mouth began to water as I shuffled around some patrons to get to the desk in the back.
After trying a couple of different restaurants and finishing my book on the beach, I began to get a bit restless. I loved Koh Phi Phi, but I’ve never been the type to lie on the beach all day. I couldn’t help but wonder what else there was to do on this beautiful island. I heard some mumblings that there was a scenic view, so I decided to take a stroll and figure out where it was. I hit about three or four dead ends before I found a walkway that extended beyond the 500m that I was accustomed to. Before I knew it, I had escaped from all of the hostels, huts, and restaurants, and I was headed down a path where there wasn’t an end in sight. I must admit that I felt a bit nervous because I had left the tourist area and there wasn’t a soul in sight, but it was a nice change. I was put at ease when I started to see signs for this mysterious “Viewpoint” that I knew nothing about, which were interestingly paired with signs for Tsunami evacuation sites. Thinking about how beautiful and lively the island was made me forget that it was once ravaged by natural disaster.
The first Thai Island on my list was Phuket, which proved to be extremely overrated. I found a room in Phuket Town, but quickly learned that people used the town as more of a transit point to reach the other beautiful islands. I barely lasted one night and then hopped on a ferry the next morning to Koh Phi Phi island, most famously known as the set of a Bond movie and “The Beach” with Leo DiCaprio.
After travelling for so many years, it’s a bit difficult to single out my favourite travel memory…