Hi everyone! This summer I went to SEA for the first time and had two months with my boyfriend.
The route we did was the following:
I researched a lot for this trip, not only in guidebooks but in forums like this one and travelfish. We went like backpackers and spent around 100$ a day for both of us.
We decided to do a lot of places in a short time manly due to us being young and energetic and we just couldn't choose lol.
I'm Portuguese and find it hard to write detailed information in English so I'll give you an idea of my experience in each place:
We loved Bangkok. It was the only place I felt I could live in and had everything. It was also where we spend most of the time, around 6 days.
Bangkok has it all, especially for food lovers! From great street food (don't be afraid, we never got sick) and great fine dining like Nahm. It was also a great city just to walk around. When I think about it we didn't saw that much for the time we where there. And while I enjoyed the temples what makes the city for me it's the street life and people watching. One thing I want to recommend it's to go to is Thonburi, to Khlong Bang Luang for a slower pace and gorgeous khlongs where there are no tourists at all besides on the boats passing by. I knew this place from travelfish. Getting there was problematic because no taxi driver knew where it was. After a lot of tries the 6th taxi drive knew the street and was one of the highlights of my trip.
This is a weird place. Its gorgeous, I took some of my best pictures there. But the town it's just weird! The restaurants are all for the backpacker tourist. Same menu, same writing on the boards of the menu, same prices, same same. And they consist of basically of burgers sandwiches pancakes etc... To find some place else we had to go further away from the backpacker scene where we found a local man eating, there we had a great noodle soup and a papaya salad (that I will end up loving in Vietnam) that was so spicy that my ears started burning. When they say it's spicy, it's REALLY spicy! We saw no tubing even though I think it on because I saw people with the tubes around town. The best way to love Vang Vieng it's to get on a bike and explore the beautiful countryside and if you do that you'll love Vang Vieng. Blue Lagoon was nothing special only the ride there.
I liked nong khiaw even if just for the night. I had a blister on the palm of foot that I got from my birkenstock so I could not do the trekking to the viewpoint. I was sad about that and went to Luang Prabang sooner than expected. But I would recommend to everyone, very scenic little town.
Well, I must say I can't say much about Luang Prabang. I heard a lot of good things and I think that if you have some money, you like comforts and pretty places you might like. I did not love it, I did not hate it either. But I ended up spending little lime there. The morning alms ceremony I saw when I got from the night bus and was walking to the hotel. It was nice to see since I was probably in a place far from the tourists and very serene. I probably just got lucky because I know it's not like that. If you like to eat local and good you won't like LP but if you have money and like to go to good restaurants it's good. There are nice temples to see, I did not go to the waterfalls. I don't get the hype, Luang Prabang seems to nice and clean for the rest of Laos and you feel like you're visiting an European village, it was my least favorite place of Laos.
Coming from Luang Prabang and knowing that many people put Luang Prabang Chiang Mai and Hoi an in the same lot, I was prepared for not loving this place. I loved Chiang mai, the night, the food and the markets, I recommend the one in the chinatown of CM, almost no turists, nice vibe and life. Like in Bangkok we did not do much besides eating and wandering around. The temples are nice, I would just walk in when I was passing by. I did not do any tours to see elephants or trekking so I can't comment on that.
Yangon was a bit of a shock to us. My boyfriend did not like the city, I just did not love. I guess it has that rough feel to it that you want to feel comfortable about but sometimes you can't. The city in rainy season it's very wet, dark, old and dirty. The men stare a lot at you if you're a girl and you feel more like I think people might feel in India. Looking back I wish I was a bit more open minded. Having that said, I never felt insecure and the people we talked to were very nice like in the rest of the country. The shwedagon pagoda is unreal.
We loved Inle Lake. It's one of those places I wish I did not go to just so that I could go there again. Nyaungshwe is a great place to walk around. I must say the workshops, even though were not a disappointment since I knew how it was, were the lowlight of Inle Lake for sure. If you are fit, I advise you to rent a bike and search for a biking map of inle lake, there's a route where you go through beautiful scenery to a village where you get a boat to the other side. Our boat driver showed us the fisherman (much more authentics than the ones we saw on the lake tour) and took us to a village on the other side. That village its very nice it has a great day market (make sure it's on the day you'll be there) where we where the only tourists there. It was great to see the little kids going to the school. Then on our way back to Nyaungshwe we stopped in a little restaurant called bamboo hut, near the vineyards. In the main road you see a sign for the restaurant. It was great, we were there alone and the owners picked everything from the garden in front. It was so peacefull and one of the highlights.
Bagan is one of those places you cannot describe. If you go to Myanmar I'm sure you'll go there and you'll know what I mean. I don't think anyone can hate it. If you heard things about the number of tourists, just forget it. They are very little for the dimension and beauty of the bagan plains. The problem is that they all go to the same temple at sunset and sunrise so they look a lot. Again, one of our highlights.
Mandalay is hot. Is dirty and sunny in comparison to Yangon in rainy season. We did not spent much time there and next time we will visit the surrounding places. We saw the sunset in Amarapura and was the most beautiful sunset I ever saw in my life. But the feeling you get in Bagan is way more special. Even though the bridge was packed most of the people were Burmese.
Ho chi minh city it's a cool city. It's modern and has a lot to keep you interested. The war museum it's impressive and makes you sad and mad at the same time. It has a lot of nice cafes and good local restaurants. We had a map and walked almost everywhere by foot: its a great way to see the city and when you get tired you can always stop in a cool place for a break, there are plenty.
We just passed by. We were sorry about that, it looked nice and the beach deserted. Everyone said hello to us, it was funny. We would be saying hello nonstop. People were just nice.
How can I start... Hoi an... It was HOT, crowded and a pretty and ugly place. We did not like it but our camera loved it. I had felt that in Luang Prabang but it was intensified here. Even though it might be even more of a pretty town than Luang Prabang, had SO MANY tourists it was crazy. It felt like Europe in summer. Again not great to eat local but great for people who like comfort and good restaurants for tourists. We went to the beach that was supposed to be the local beach and had no locals at all. I guess they don't like beach lol but there were a lot of tourists even in that one. We went away much earlier than expected.
It was an highlight. For some reason it sticks to my memory even more than Inle Lake and Bagan. The scenery was the one that made me stop and think "how did I get here? I'm so far from home." and all I could think of was that I wish I will never forget what I was feeling in that moment. I wanted to go to ninh binh a lot but heard bad things about tam coc and how touristy it was and full of scams. Since I did not go on a tour I did not experience that and even went to tam coc, but in late afternoon (5pm). I saw only about 3 boats coming back and one going like us. It was beautiful. We also went to Hang Mua or Mua cave (it's not the cave that its special but the view). The ride there was as good as the view from the top. I went to Hanoi in the 3rd class train car with the wind on my face looking to the countryside and felt I did not wanted to end and wished I would go back there and that it was just the same.
Biggest disappointment on the whole trip. I think it was because: 1-I was coming from ninh binh 2-was not prepared for the number of tourists there 3-they all take the exact same routes trekking. We had a 3 day trek with homestays. Our group was of about 10 but we were going on a route with many other groups. There were so many we were always losing our guide. On top of that our guide was so fast that if we stopped to take pictures we would fall behind and had to run to catch her. That made no sense whatsoever because we arrived to the homestay just after lunch! we had no time to appreciate the views just to get to the house where we were supposed to do drinking games. Not what we were expecting at all. That night we saw the most beautiful night sky ever. In the next day we decided to get back to Sapa on the back of a motorcycle. Beautiful views! I wish to come back to Sapa and see it like that.
Hanoi was a nice city, we were thinking we would love it much more than hcmc but looking back we are not convinced on that. Again, it's great for food lovers and also if you like shopping. If you go there you have to go to the newday restaurant. Great food, very affordable, a mix of tourists and locals and the best green papaya salad ever.
That's about it. At the end of our trip we had to start planning the next so we did not get so sad lol! I took a lot of pictures and when I put them on the internet I will post a link to share.
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Hi everyone! This summer I went to SEA for the first time and had two months with my boyfriend.