Monday, 15 January 2018

Thinking of Summer... Dreaming of Asia

So, how do we fill the void between Christmas and New Year, and the next consumeristic circus events that are Valentines and Easter?..  we plan our summer holidays of course!

And, as we begin to dream of new faraway adventures and wonderfully warmer climes, we probably also reminisce about some of the places we've already visited... South East Asia being right up there on my list of favourites. 

It's no wonder January has many of us turning our thoughts to summer, the first month of the calendar year cannot exactly be described as the best. For a start it's cold, dark and dreary. Many folk are being good and partaking in 'Dry January' (what are they thinking, putting the rest of us to shame?) and we are well and truly over the excitement of the festive season.  The real cost of that oh so wonderful Christmas is perhaps catching up on us in more ways than one... maybe our credit card statement has dropped on the doormat/appeared in our inbox, or perhaps we've begun a ridiculously brutal workout and diet regime, in line with potentially unrealistic new year resolutions (which seemed like a perfectly good idea at the time). 

So, as I turn my thoughts to summer, I can't help but reflect on how fortunate I've been this past few years, and what fabulous experiences I've been able to enjoy, in some very special parts of the world.


In 2016, my hubby and I visited my daughter in Sydney (also up there on my favourites list and definitely one for a post of its own), and on the way, decided to drop in at Ho Chi Minh City and Hoi An. We only had a week in this amazing country, but that was long enough for us to fall in love with the place.  

Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) is marvelously mad!  The fusion of intense humidity, and delicious street food aroma is intoxicating.  Bustling markets are everywhere, and there is literally nothing you can't buy from the charming, friendly (and occasionally cunning) locals.  As night falls, this city of apparent organised chaos, steps it up a notch (as if that were possible), with the markets and street food stalls becoming an even greater, and very pleasurable, assault on the senses.

  I have never seen so many motorcycles and mopeds in one place, some carrying a load that you'd struggle to fit in a transit van, and others transporting literally whole families around Saigon's busy streets. Hundreds upon hundreds of two-wheeled vehicles (which by the way often mount the pavement to avoid the traffic signals), make crossing the road in this pulsating city an experience in itself.  It's certainly not for the faint-hearted!

Now well and truly ready to slow things down a little, we then made our way to the delightful city of Hoi An.  Situated on Vietnam's central coast, Hoi An boasts a very impressive and well preserved ancient town, not to mention a beautiful beach... it was the perfect contrast to Saigon. We had just four days in Hoi An, but boy did we cram a lot in.  We hired a moped which allowed us to explore the many quiet lanes off the beaten track.  Taking in views of rickety floating bridges, rice paddies, and traditional villages along the way, the moped allowed us a sense of real immersion into local life.  The absolute cherry on top of my delicious Hoi An cake, has to be the Lantern Festival, which I believe takes place once each month... breathtakingly beautiful just about sums it up!   


Our tiny taste of South East Asia, certainly whet our appetite for more, and the following year we decided to try Thailand. 

First stop Bangkok,  where we met my daughter and her partner for what we hoped would be a fabulously exciting cultural and culinary adventure... we were not disappointed!  We spent three nights in Thailand's capital, and loved every minute.  From huge (but friendly) monitor lizards in Lumpini Park, to state of the art shopping malls (not especially my thing, but impressive nevertheless), the crazy buzz of Khao San Road (where scorpions on sticks are the must have snack, and where ladies are more 'creative' with ping pong balls than you could ever imagine (so I'm told!)), this city has it all.   Take a river boat ride, visit a temple (spiritual type or not, they're seriously  impressive), take a tuk tuk to China Town (or anywhere), and (don't be shy) have a wander down Soi Cowboy... a little seedy? yes, for children? no, great fun? absolutely!

Again exhausted with the excitement of the big city, we then took a flight south to Krabi... absolutely beautiful, and a fabulous base from which to do a bit (or quite a lot) of island hopping.  Pretty much daily we took a boat at the end of the road to some amazingly picturesque settings (Railay Beach probably my favourite of all).  
Beach barbeques, the most magnificent sunsets, speed boating, bio luminescent snorkelling, cute little monkeys, turquoise waters with stunning limestone cliff backdrops... I could go on, but you need to see it for yourself.

It kind of goes without saying that if you love diverse and delicious food, made with the freshest of local ingredients, you're in for a culinary treat in South East Asia.  And if clean, comfortable accommodation, with unrivaled hospitality at ridiculously low prices is your thing, then this part of the world is for you (though do check Trip Advisor, like anywhere there are also some flea pits to be found!).  

So what are you waiting for?  Check out Asia, you won't be disappointed!

After all that reminiscing of far-flung and fabulous travel experiences, it's a little difficult to accept that this summer we're probably holidaying in the UK (camper-life rules right?!)  Yes, it's time to try and recover a little financially from all those trip-of-a-lifetime shenanigans (I know, dull, but true!).   However, it's only a matter of time before my feet touch Asian soil again... I feel a certain affinity with this part of the world.  Perhaps next time I'll visit Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, or I might  decide to return to Vietnam and Thailand.  I was lucky enough to visit South Korea some years ago and could also be very tempted by Japan and China, or maybe I'll try South Asia... India, The Maldives, the possibilities are endless (if only my bank balance was too!)  

Happy Holidays!

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