30 May 2013

LOOKING BACK: 15,500 miles in South East Asia 2012

It's nice to reflect on where I've been, how far I've come, where I am now, remembering all the people I've met along the way that I've experienced such a different way of life with.  I've been moving for a long time now and I need some rest... but only for a little bit.  I'm often asked by new or curious travelers, what my favorite country/city is.  I tell them, "different places for different reasons".  Some places I would love to live in, others only to visit for a holiday, some just to relax and enjoy watching languid river life float by, others to party in, some to ride a bicycle around, many to just let yourself get lost in, a few places to pamper yourself, a few to have amazing meals in, and a couple to just lay on the beach and swim in warm, crystal-clear, blue waters.

While I'm thinking of it. I may as well share my favorite places for my various reasons.  Sure, the list could be longer and more specific, but I'd really have to sit down and think about it and fumble through all of my files - however, I'm just too lazy for that.


To live in: If I could have chosen anywhere in Asia to live, it would have been in Laos, maybe more specifically Luang Prabang or Nong Kiew.  Luang Prabang can be quite touristy, but I love the small town feel, but so many places to explore around it.  It's a gorgeous town (UNESCO Heritage site!) and they have some really good food and especially really good French pastries - which is enormously difficult to find in Asia.  

Nong Kiew because my soul connected with it instantly and I cried when I left.  I didn't want to go.  It's a sleepy little village north of Luang Prabang tucked away in the mountains that I traveled 7 hours by boat to get to.  I'll do a post on it one day, but it was I place I gave some serious thought to moving and working there - however, it's nearly impossible for Westerners to get a job in Laos, let alone a tiny little village.  

Hoi An, Vietnam was also another thought of living there - beautiful town, good food, decent expat scene, really nice Vietnamese locals, and it's near mountains but is on the ocean.  Siem Reap, Cambodia was also another consideration, but frankly, it's way too touristy.  With Angkor Wat located there, there wasn't any way to avoid tourists year-round.  Hanoi, Vietnam is another as I love it's busy energy, but after some thought, I just wanted something more chill.  

I decided Chiang Mai because it's a combination of all those things I stated before (sans ocean), but it's also a small city with character and soul.  If I was going to live somewhere for a year, I needed to have at least one movie theater, all those other locations did not have a theater.  Yep, it's the L.A. gal in me that can't deny herself the latest release films.

Visit for a holiday: Everywhere.  Though technically for me, any beach is a holiday.  I prefer to live surrounded by green mountains.

Just relax and enjoy watching river life: Nong Kiew, Laos though Don Det, Laos is a close second.

Places to party in: Hanoi, Vietnam; Bangkok, Thailand; the old Vang Vieng, Laos; Nha Trang, Vietnam; Halong Bay, Vietnam; Chiang Mai, Thailand; Boracay, Philippines.  I realize there are a ton of places to get drunk and party in like the Full Moon Parties, but the cities I listed are some of my faves.

Best place to ride a bicycle around: Bagan, Myanmar and Hoi An, Vietnam.

Places to get lost in either on foot, bicycle, bus, or whatever tickles your fancy: Everywhere, but also Chiang Mai, Thailand; Hanoi, Vietnam; Siem Reap, Cambodia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Pampering:  My idea of pampering varies, but it mostly involves massage.  Best massages: Laos!  Yep, I love Thai massages but traditional Laos massages take it up a notch and slightly less painful.  My favorite is still in Vientiane well outside of the tourist area tucked behind some temple in the woods/jungle and it's one of my favorites partly because it's an herbal sauna place lit by a fire underneath the room and it's all outdoors.  Best for everything else: Bangkok, Thailand.  Anything and everything you've ever wanted done to you, can be done there for a fraction of what you would spend in the western world and the quality is just as good.  

Amazing meal towns: Hoi An, Vietnam; Luang Prabang, Laos; Bangkok, Thailand; Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Lay on the beach and swim:  Well, I hate to admit I still have yet to go to any Thai beach and yes, I know they will have the best beaches but I just haven't gotten around to going down there.  So for the rest of Asia that I've been to: Bamboo Island (Koh Ru), Cambodia and Boracay, Philippines.

Should any one be considering coming to Asia, you can certainly take this list into consideration or just go out and discover it on your own, which I personally recommend but sometimes, one just doesn't have the time to do what I've done.  

More looking back on individual countries soon...


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