I really thought this year would be literally unforgettable but when every day is different it becomes really hard to remember them all! One or the other of us is forever going, “This is like that place in…” or, “Do you remember where we…?” and receiving a blank expression in response! I have my journal and blog of course but, given the number of things I have already forgotten, I thought the end of our time in South-East Asia would be a good time to look back at some highlights.
These three top 10 lists – food, accommodation and activities – are joint between Dean and I and are in no particular order (except I suppose the order in which we thought of them). You’ll have to excuse the repetition of photographs; all but the collages are now stored online.
Our Top 10 Favourite Foods in South-East Asia
At the start of the trip, I set myself three resolutions, the second of which was to broaden my food horizons. This is all relative of course but I have tried lots of things I wouldn’t previously have and I even enjoyed some!
1. Pad thai – Thailand: it never tastes the same in two places but generally it’s a simple dish of noodles, beansprouts, egg, a few greens and perhaps meat or prawns. I’m not sure what goes in the sauce but optional extras are peanuts, chilli flakes or a squeeze of lime.
2. Thai curry – Thailand: fiery, coconut based curries that come in red, green and yellow definitely something that’s grown on me during the trip.
3. Fresh spring rolls – Vietnam: I mentioned these in various blogs including the time we made them in our cooking course. They feel so much healthier than the fried version! Nutritious and delicious!
4. Papaya salad (Som Tam Thai) – Thailand: this is really a Dean only nomination but I did try it a few times. He can make it too! It’s made from unripened green papaya, tomato, lime, fish sauce and lots of chillies.
5. Banana leaf curry – Malaysia and Myanmar: like Indian thali, it’s an eating ‘experience’ where a banana leaf is placed in front of you and onto it are put rice, poppadoms, dahl and a range of curries and sambas. You eat with your right hand and some elements are replenished as soon as they run out until you’ve had your fill.
6. Sweetcorn for dessert – Thailand: a cup of warm sweetcorn, mixed with sugar, salt, butter, condensed milk and, if you’re lucky, hundreds and thousands on top!
7. Longanissa – The Philippines: a small, honeyed pork sausage often served for breakfast alongside an egg and rice.
8. Noodle soup – Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand: variations are served in all these countries, and are eaten with a small, deep spoon and chopsticks usually. It would be a good winter-warmer in England!
9. Hot pot – Laos: as described in an earlier post, this is a fun DIY dinner where hot coals and a cooking pan are brought to your table then you boil soup containing vegetables and noodles whilst frying meat on the top.
10. BBQ – The Philippines: you choose your fish, seafood or meat and it’s barbecued for you. It’s usually served with rice and often an iced tea.
Our Top 10 Favourite Places We’ve Stayed in South-East Asia
Accomodation is the thing which makes sticking to a budget the hardest. Our basic requirements are no obvious creatures bigger than ants, security and clean pillow cases! We’re not slumming it as much as we could though and we’ve found it necessary to book ahead more than we anticipated due to limited options (Myanmar and some islands) or festivities (Christmas, New Year, the everlasting Chinese New Year season and now Valentines Day!). Here are our favourite places:
1. Islands Leisure Boutique Hotel and Spa – Dumaguete, The Philippines: arty and stylish with great massages.
2. Tenface – Bangkok, Thailand: our official honeymoon accommodation before we started backpacking.
3. Sairee Cottage – Koh Tao, Thailand: we moved in on Christmas day and it was a lovely place to chill, close to the beach.
4. Tenzai – Puerto Princesa, The Philippines: an unexpectedly lovely place with friendly staff and breakfast right outside our room.
5. Lao-Li’s house – Luang Nam Tha, Laos: described in full in an earlier post, here there were no luxuries, no bed, no bathroom but this homestay was an unforgettable experience.
6. Pakam Guesthouse – Luang Prabang, Laos: still remembered as our best value for money accommodation, despite thinking it was pricey at the time! We ‘splashed out’ for our first month-iversary.
7. Forest Edge – Sepilok, Sabah, Malaysia: except for the gecko presents on the bed, this jungle lodge was perfect.
8. Little Hanoi Hotel – Hanoi, Vietnam: we stayed here about 5 nights in total because it was the first time we’d had English TV channels and a bath, plus the staff were very nice (oh and it was raining).
9. Sipidan Inn II – Semporna, Malaysia – an unexpected haven in the town we dubbed Smellporna.
10. Sleep Withinn Hotel – Bangkok, Thailand: even though we only spent a few hours here in our epic 48 hour journey from Myanmar to Thailand, we wish we could have stayed longer because it was comfortable and the staff were nice.
Our Top 10 Favourite Activities in South-East Asia
People ask us what our ‘best bits’ have been from time to time. When we get home I imagine it will become even more frequent. Usually I get a mind-blank so we’ve come up with the top 10 so far. I’ve written blogs about all these if you want to know more (search by country using the categories at the bottom of the page).
1. Angkor Wat – Cambodia: a man-made wonder steeped in history.
2. Inle lake – Myanmar: probably our most photographic day making stops around the lake in a little boat.
3. Kinabatangan river – Borneo: wild orangutans, elephants and proboscis monkeys; need I say more?!
4. Phong Nha caves – Vietnam: breathtakingly astounding natural beauty under the ground.
5. Bagan temples – Myanmar: remarkable mainly for their sheer number and fun to explore ona horse cart or electric bike.
6. Exploring Melaka and Singapore with Harry and Ting: so lovely to spend time together.
7. Chilling out on Koh Tao: over the Christmas period, after the diving was done, we thoroughly relaxed here, reading, eating and lazing on the beach.
8. Diving in The Philippines and Borneo: although not without its hiccups, it’s been amazing learning to dive and feels such a privilege to see the underwater world and its inhabitants.
9. Island hopping – El Nido, The Philippines: a lovely, relaxing day, seeing beautiful lagoons, coves and beaches.
10. Orangutan Sanctuary – Borneo: a magical up-close encounter with the kings of the swingers.
So we have a couple of days left in The Philippines then it’s off to Japan on the 15th which entails dropping from a good 30 degrees Celsius to around 3 degrees I believe! Think we might need to buy some coats!
Oh and for anyone wondering where the tarsiers and whale sharks have got to, you’ll have to wait a couple more days 🙂