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VIDEO: What To Expect From Travel In Laos

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Laos is hands down one of my favorite countries to explore around the world. With such a rich history, it’s honestly the most unique destination when adventuring through Southeast Asia. Buddhism pervades every facet of life so change comes very slowly and the cities have curfews that are obeyed by most.

This is the perfect destination to kick back, relax and take a moment to appreciate the beauty that is Laos. From the mountainous terrain and countless waterfalls, this country offers so much to all travellers in the most honest and peaceful way possible. Laos is nothing but peace amongst the jungles where time feels like it slows down, and you can really appreciate each day for what it is.

For more information on Laos check out my complete travel guide by clicking here. This is a look into our past three weeks travelling from the North to the South of Laos. So many memories!

A Complete Travel Guide To Laos

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Visa on arrival (30 days) – Easiest way to attain a visa to Laos is by arriving into their international airports. Although this isn’t always cheap and there are limited airlines that fly the routes, it’s a good option to beat the hassle of a border crossing. Be sure to have 2 passport size photos on hand and US Dollars to make payment for the visa. The cost for the Visa’s differs for all countries and can easily be accessed online (Australia $30 + $2 process fee, USA $35 + $2 process fee.)

Minivan/Bus/Sleeper Bus/Flight Bookings –

The country is easy to travel through with many option from minivans to VIP buses. Note: Some of the roads are not that great with many turns and steep cliff sides. All forms of transport are very easy to book once you have arrived at a destination. Here is a quick rundown of the costs I paid this year (2015). These prices do change and the best bet is to shop around and find decent companies. Don’t always go with the cheapest options.

Hanoi – Luang Prabang (Flight) – $140 USD (Laos Airlines)

Luang Prabang – Vang Vieng (Minivan) – $14 USD

Vang Vieng – Vientiane (Minibus) – $4 USD

Vientiane – Pakse (Flight) – $160 USD (Laos Airlines)

Pakse – 4000 Islands (Minivan/Boat) – $7 USD

4000 Islands – Siem Reap (Boat/Minivan) – $30 USD (Asia Van Transfer)

Destinations

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Luang Prabang –

If peace and quite is what you’re looking for, then book a one-way flight to Luang Prabang. I have never been to a city that is so quiet, relaxed and peaceful as this UNESCO World Heritage City. This destination lays aside the Mekong River, which is the perfect backdrop for many great bars and restaurants. Accommodation is easy to come by and varies from hotels to guesthouses at affordable prices for all travellers. Many can be booked online via Agoda, otherwise you wont have any trouble finding a place on arrival.

What Not To Miss

Night Market – This market stretches for about 500 meters down the main street of Luang Prabang each evening from 5pm – 10pm. Here you can buy all kinds of souvenirs from hand made fabrics to silver and shoes. Just know that the prices can be negotiated so have your price set, and 9 times out of 10 they will be happy with this.

Alms Giving Ceremony – Awake early and walk to the main street of Luang Prabang where the ceremony will take place each morning. Your best option is to purchase offerings in the form of food prior to the day or arrival. Be sure not to interrupt the ceremony after it has begun. Follow as the locals do by kneeling down ready to give your offering to each of the monks. This is a great experience to be had, and I highly recommend this for everyone travelling to Luang Prabang.

Watch The Sunset From Mount Phousi – Prepare yourself for a short but steep climb to the peak of the mountain that looks over all of Luang Prabang. The cost is 10,000 Kip ($1.50 USD) and is worth every cent. As the sunsets over the Mekong River, this is a perfect spot to snap a few pictures and appreciate the true beauty that is Laos. 

Kuang Si Waterfalls – This is a great place to spend the day hiking, swimming and observing the jungles of Laos. This location is also the home to several rescued bears and is a great spot to adventure. Minivans operate from town for $5 USD return allowing you to have 2.5-3 hours at the waterfalls. You will need to further pay an entrance fee of 40,000 Kip ($5 USD) at the gates.

Tad Sae Waterfall – These are my favorite waterfalls in Southeast Asia and offer a great day of relaxation and natural massages from the waterfalls. Although a little bit trickier to arrive at, they are definitely worth the journey and I would highly recommend these for a day trip for families. There are many activities at these waterfalls including elephant rides, restaurants, numerous hiking trails, caves and waterfalls. To arrive at the waterfalls you need to:

  1. Find a tuk tuk driver and negotiate to pay no more than $5 USD per person for the 20 minute return journey and 3 hours at the waterfalls. If you want more time there then the price should be negotiated at this time. They will not leave until at least 4-6 people are in their tuk tuk.
  2. Arrive at the boat ramp and pay the 20,000 Kip ($2.50 USD) fee for the return journey on the pencil boats to the waterfalls.
  3. Arrive at the waterfalls and pay 40,000 Kip ($5 USD) to enter.
  4. Return journey make your way back to the boat, head over to the ramp and climb back into your tuk tuk who will then drop you in town. 

Bike Ride – Rent a bicycle or borrow one from your accommodation and take the riverside road around the town. Its a spectacular ride and very easy for all abilities with a flat, paved road. Be sure to time your ride so you don’t ride in the middle of the day when the sun is high in the sky.

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Vang Vieng –

Famously known for its party scene and tubing, let me say this destination is still going strong. After a change to regulations on tubing and the consumption of alcohol on the river, there seems to be an agreement now between the government and locals. In a nutshell, there are still 11 bars open on the river of which only 4 can operate per day. These bars are in full operation, but for those of you who have been tubing previously, there are no longer any high diving boards, zip lines or slip and slides. Everything else is still present with such an awesome atmosphere. There are great accommodation options. It just depends what you’re looking for, and food is very affordable.

What Not To Miss

A Day or 2 of Tubing – Arrive at the tubing rental in town around midday and pay the 55,000 Kip ($6.50 USD) fee for rental of a tube and 60,000 Kip ($7.50 USD) Deposit for the tube, which will be refunded to you if you arrive back before 6pm otherwise you will be fined 20,000 Kip ($2.50 USD) from your deposit. You will also sign your life away for full responsibility if you are injured whilst tubing on the river. Once there are 4 or more people they will provide you with a free tuk tuk ride to the top of the river. Once you jump in, the bars will be sure to throw you a line and pull you into their bar. Beverages are quite fairly priced at a few dollars per drink, and they will play all kinds of games to try and keep you at their location. Once you are finished with a bar, move onto the next. It’s important to note that usually from the last bar it will take you at least an hour to tube back into town to return your tube.

The Sandwich Ladies – If you are hungry, then you can’t go wrong with a sandwich from the numerous stands throughout the main area of the town. For $1 USD, these will blow your mind!

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Vientiane –

This capital city is almost like a through town for those travelling down to the south of Laos. Best bet is to relax in one of the riverside rooftop bars with a beverage in hand and watch the sunset over the Mekong River. There is an abundance of accommodation, restaurant and café options scattered across the city, which meet the needs of all travellers. The architecture of this city has a French twist and is a beautiful location to jump on a push bike and make your way to the sites of the city.

What Not To Miss

Night Market – Stroll up and down the night market that is set up each evening on the riverside and has all kinds of souvenirs you may be looking to purchase from shoes, clothing, rip off wallets, sunglasses and watches.

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Pakse –

This tiny little town is a pit stop to be made on the way to the 4000 Islands in the South of Laos. Pakse is super laid back with one main road that will cater for all your needs from accommodation, restaurants, motorbike rentals and tour operators. When arriving into the airport, be sure to walk outside the gates and jump into a Tuk-tuk (Song-teow) into town for $4 USD. The airport tries to charge $10 USD per person, so don’t be a sucker.

What Not To Miss

Day trip – Rent a motorbike for the day, costing you 100,000 Kip ($12.50 USD), Gas/Petrol ($5 USD) and entrance to the waterfalls around $5+ USD total. The bike rental will provide you with a map and help you choose your path whether to visit the waterfalls and/or villages in the region. The ride alone is awesome with countryside views on each side and a nicely surfaced road. The main waterfalls to get to are Tad Champi, which you can swim in & Tad Fane. I don’t want to give too much away, so just rent a bike and see where it will take you!

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4000 Islands (Don Det) –

Anyone who arrives at the 4000 Islands suddenly is overcome with not a care in the world. This is the easiest way to describe this destination. Time goes slowly in Luang Prabang, but in Don Det time goes even slower. This makes for such peaceful and relaxing days. If you’re about adventure or just tucking into a restaurant and relaxing with spectacular views across the water, Don Det Island will not disappoint. It’s important to note that this island has the occasional power shortage, lack of WIFI and most accommodation options only come with a fan. With that said, if you’re travelling through Laos make sure you stop here for a few days as it’s a quiet and tranquil destination.

What Not To Miss

Sunrise/Sunset – The Island of Don Det is broken up with the sunrise side and sunset side. Both sides of the island offer close to the same options however in the evening, your best bet is to tuck into a small restaurant/bar and watch the sunset over the river. I have never seen anything like the sunsets that we witnessed here with such vibrant and bright colours!

Eat at Mama Thanon’s – We dined here many times while on the island, and the small family run business has delicious food options at a very cheap price .The restaurant is located on the sunrise side, and you will not leave disappointed. Mama’s Banana & Chocolate Pancakes are mouth watering!

Kayaking Day Trip – This is a day well spent and the cost should not deter you as you get your bang for your buck! For the cost of 180,000 Kip ($22 USD) you will have breakfast and lunch included, bottled water, an English-speaking tour guide, kayak rental, entrance to both waterfalls, transportation between pit stops and entrance into Cambodia where you have lunch. The kayaking is awesome and if you are lucky you will stumble across the small pod of dolphins. For anyone adventurous, this is a must! 

Bike Ride – Renting a bicycle for the day will cost you 10,000 Kip ($1.50 USD). It’s an awesome ride around the Island of Don Det, and there is a pool at each end of the island. The pool costs 25,000 Kip ($4 USD) and is definitely worth it! You can also takes the bike over to Don Khon, which is one of the larger island, but you’ll pay 35,000 Kip ($5.50 USD) to enter the island.

Things Not To Miss In The North Of Vietnam

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Phong Nha

This absolute gem hidden away in the jungles of central Vietnam has so much to offer each traveller who makes the trek out to this destination. It’s easy to access by bus from Hue or a short taxi ride from Dong Hoi train station which will cost you $17 USD. This is such a beautiful place which is so new to tourism and shows a side of Vietnam not many people would ever get the chance to see. Walking or riding a bicycle down the streets everyone seems to have a smile on their faces and wave and scream “Hello!” It’s not to be missed, worth the money and the time.

Phong Nha also has many cave formations, including the world’s largest cave for height, width and volume and for a pretty penny you can partake in a tour which hikes and camps in the jungles of Vietnam for around $3000 USD+. After making it to the other various caves I can only imagine the size of the world’s largest as the smaller ones are spectacular. For anyone looking to stay in Phong Nha you can view my review of the Phong Nha Farmstay as I recommend this accommodation for all travellers.

What not to miss:

Instead of telling you what not to miss this is how you should attack things:

Day 1:

  • Make your way by bicycle to meet with the boat driver who will take you to the ‘Wild Boar Eco Lodge’ also known as the last point of civilization. Here you will experience a true Vietnamese meal and gaze out into the jungles of Vietnam.
  • On the return journey you will stop at ‘The Pub With Cold Beer’ and enjoy a beverage in company of other travellers if they are about.

Day 2:

  1. Jump on a bike and ride to the pay station for the Phong Nha Cave and Tien Son Cave.
  2. Pay for the entrance fees to the cave and boat rental for the duration of the trip ($15 USD Entrance & Boat Rental.) Note: the boat rental maybe a little more if it’s a smaller group of people as you pay a flat rate for the boat to take you to the caves and return.
  3. Arrive via boat at the the Phong Nha Cave and be paddled around 1 kilometer into the wet cave then walk yourself out and up to the Tien Son Cave.
  4. Board the boat and drive back to the port.

Day 3:

  1. Arrive in town and rent a motorbike ($8USD Rental + $5 USD Fuel) from the bike store opposite ‘Easy Tiger Hostel.’ This place is brilliant as they provide you with a map, ‘road side assistance’ if you break down and this even includes them driving out and fixing the bike for no charge at all. We didn’t sign anything; no passport handed over just a verbal agreement and a smile.
  2. Jump onto the bike and ride into the Phong Nha National Park and ride to the ‘Phong Nha Dark Cave’ where you will zipline, swim and explore the dark cave for around 3 hours. For the small cost of $17 USD its well worth the money. NOTE: After rainy period the dark cave may be closed due to the water level so make sure to check before arriving.
  3. Jump back onto your bike and ride to the ‘Paradise Cave’ ($12 USD Entrance Fee). After a short hike you will arrive at an enormous cave that you will walk one kilometer into. The cave could honestly fit skyscrapers inside. It’s something very special to see. We also had our lunch here, which was reasonably priced and decent food!
  4. Jump back onto you bike and complete the loop back to the motorbike rental store. On the ride back there are many photo opportunities. The complete loop is around 65 kilometers and will take you the day to complete.

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Ninh Binh

This area of Vietnam is known for its spectacular rock formations, caves and endless rice paddies. Easily accessible through tours departing daily from Hanoi ($20 USD+.) For those who are travelling by train through Vietnam, it’s easy to stop for a night or two snatching up a home stay online. This way you will experience something different from the rushed day tour.

What not to miss:

  • Tam Coc & the Caves . Arrive at the port and board a small boat to be paddled through the rice fields and three small caves to then return to port. Note to all travellers: be prepared to be hassled by vendors in small boats and almost forced into tipping the boat rower (typically $1 USD per person)

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Hanoi

This city in the North of Vietnam is much more lively than Ho Chi Minh City in the South in my opinion. It’s a fascinating city with streets that are lined with exactly the same sellers. For example, you’ll find an entire street of shoes or an entire street of bags. I am still unsure if this is good business. Anyway if you’re looking to buy shoes, artwork, bags or hang out drinking cheap beer then this is where you need to be.

What not to miss:

  • The Weekend Night Market is an awesome experience to be had with one of the main roads in Hanoi shut down for the evening. Here you can pick up a bargain if your negotiation skills are good, otherwise you may be paying a little bit more than you should.
  • The Beer Hois are located on many corners of Hanoi. These small bars serve the local beer for around $0.20 cents US and for that price you can’t say no.
  • The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is where you can view Ho Chi Minh body. This is open most morning however make sure to check online before arriving as it may be closed to the public.
  • Wander the streets of Hanoi and really take a grasp of their culture and cuisine.

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Halong Bay
This world heritage site has been ventured to by many tourists over the past decade and is now showing the drastic effects of tourism. After touring here since 2000 the amount of pollution in the water is truly a disgrace and something really needs to be done soon otherwise the effects on this destination are going to change Halong Bay forever. It almost looks like people have upturned their rubbish bins into the waters.

The greatest piece of advice I can give to anyone travelling to Halong Bay is to be wise on who you tour with as we had a not so great experience with an operator on our last visit. The rough price for the 2 Day, 1 Night Halong Bay tour is around $89 USD all inclusive. For those who wish to stay on Cat Ba Island as well this is usually another $50 USD.

With that being said once you see past all the mayhem and blatant rip offs of Halong Bay, you will see the beauty that still exists with magical sunrises and sunsets. It’s just a pity nothing has been done to save this ecosystem from destruction.

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Here is a summary of the cost for my travel through the North of Vietnam via Train. NOTE. Always book these at the station directly not online and not with a tour operator. You can always check online for the schedules at https://vietnam-railway.com/

Danang to Dong Hoi (7 hours) – $9 USD Soft Seat

Dong Hoi – Hanoi (12 hours) – $18 USD Soft Seat

Things Not To Miss In The South Of Vietnam

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Ho Chi Minh City

This city in the South of Vietnam is one of my favorites places to venture about, as there honestly is so much to do. If you’re looking to spend a week here I can assure you, you will be able to fill your days with daily tours and venturing out on your own. If you’re wanting to learn about the Vietnam War then you have arrived at the right destination. Most tour operators are reasonable with their prices; however as always through Asia, the price is negotiable so don’t be a sucker and over pay.

What not to miss:

  • The Cu Chi Tunnels Half Day Tour ($5 USD for Transport & $5 Entrance Fee) showcases a region that was bombed during the war. This region is scattered with hundreds of kilometers of tunnels that were used by the Vietnamese to hide from the Americans throughout the war. Here you will learn some history, climb inside the tunnels yourself and for those interested in firearms you can shoot a range of guns on the range.
  • The War Ruminant’s Museum ($2 USD Entrance) This is a must when visiting Vietnam to learn about the war. As confronting as it may be for some, this is an eye opener as to what went on during the Vietnam War, what the rest of the world thought about the war and the damaging aftermath of Agent Orange.
  • Ben Thanh Markets (FREE) Looking to pick up some souvenirs or rip off handbags, wallets and watches then this is the place to visit. At night there is a regular night market, which also offers great food options. Remember to bargain on the prices as they will shake you for everything you have!
  • Baba’s Kitchen (Farely Priced) I ate at this restaurant in 2011 and have recently returned. The food is just as delicious as before. Don’t get me wrong eating Indian food in Vietnam does seem strange however this is hands down the best Indian food I have ever had!

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Nha Trang 

This beautiful stretch of coastline in the south of Vietnam has so much to offer you. Once you see past the abundance of Russian writing on majority of the billboards and menus across the city, you will see the true beauty that is Nha Trang. There are many hotel and restaurant options to choose from. I would highly recommend the Azura Hotel ($18-$20 USD per night) one block from the beach and in the heart of all the action.

What not to miss:

  • SCUBA Diving ($75 USD for 2 dives, gear and breakfast) and/or Snorkeling. You should get out onto the reef and adventure. It’s something truly special. I highly recommend diving with Rainbow Divers (click here to read my review).
  • Thap Ba Mud Baths ($10USD +) Looking to relax in the fresh mud baths and leave feeling refreshed? Make your way here, and you will not be disappointed.
  • Watch a sunset from the beach of Nha Trang (FREE)
  • The Local 2 Restaurant This place has awesome food at a cheap price of around $2+ USD and has the cheapest Saigon Beer we could find in Vietnam $0.30 cents USD.

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Hoi An

This destination is a short taxi ride from Danang. The taxi costs roughly $20 USD to your hotel if your bargaining skills are good otherwise you can be safe and go on the meter which may be a little more. Once you arrive in Hoi An, you will almost feel like you are somewhere else in the world. If you have been to Cartagena, Colombia you will know what I mean. With a French colonial style of architecture this city is beautiful with such a cool vibe. If you’re in the market for tailored clothing and have a few days to play with then this is a place for you.

What not to miss:

  • Exploring the beaches. Jump on a bicycle, into a taxi or tuk tuk and make your way to the coastline and spend the day laying out and observing the stunning scenery.
  • My Sons UNESCO World Heritage Site ($5 USD for Transport & $5 Entrance Fee) If you’re all about the history of Vietnam then adventure to the old temple ruins. Quite a fascinating day tour with guides who will try and answer any question you throw their way.
  • Dining at ANY riverside restaurant! Most restaurants offer a set menu which is well worth the money. Best bet is to walk the riversides during the afternoon and return in the evening to dine at a place that fits within your budget. The restaurants all vary in prices. Don’t be fooled if no one is dining downstairs as most have a second floor or ‘roof top’ where most people will go to catch the fresh breeze and sunsets over Hoi An.

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Here is a summary of the cost for my travel through the South of Vietnam via Train. NOTE: Always book these at the station directly. Don’t book online or with a tour operator. You can always check online for the schedules at https://vietnam-railway.com/

Ho Chi Minh City to Nha Trang (10 hours) – $31 USD Soft Sleep

Nha Trang to Danang (13 hours) – $25 USD Hard Sleeper

The Ultimate Guide To Thailand

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Khanom

By far one of the much nicer and more authentic places to travel in Thailand. This little beach town is situated on the coastline in the south of Thailand. It’s a truly peaceful location with so much to offer with a beach that extends for kilometers. There is a wide variety of hotels, restaurants and bars to choose from and an awesome weekend night market a destination that you should make the effort to get to. So if you are looking to take some time and put your feet up my recommendation is to check into Jam Bay and grab a bungalow for a few nights. This place has everything you need with great food options, located on the beach with awesome company and an owner who is the coolest cat in Thailand. Guarantee your stay will be stress free and relaxing!

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Khao Sok

Adventurous and love the outdoors? Then this is where you need to get to. Khao Sok holds the record as the oldest evergreen national park in the world! If you’re not sold on this alone then simply searching images of this stunning place is sure to change your mind. Khao Sok is accessible by bus (minivan) from Bangkok, Phuket and Surat Thani with great bungalow accommodation and offers all kinds of daily activities, which include trekking to caves, kayaking, swimming and boating around the large National Park. I highly recommend anyone travelling to Thailand to take the time to adventure to Khao Sok.

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Krabi

This famous beach town in the South of Thailand sees many tourists each year and has stunning beaches, which are only a small boat ride away. Personally I feel the local beaches are a little bit dirty to swim and spend the day. Once you climb aboard a rented boat, make your way to Railay Beach where you will be able to see why this place has such a great reputation with travellers. This beach is a photographer’s best friend with clear blue waters and long tail boats moored on its shores. You have the ability to snorkel here, rent a kayak, sunbake, lay in the water or grab a bite to eat. A day well spent! I would recommend anyone travelling to Krabi to stay at the ‘J Hotel’ which is roughly $12 USD a night and ask for a roof top room. These give you your own roof top deck and stunning views out across to the ocean. There are many great food options scattered across the main beach area.

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Koh Tao

If you’re into your diving or are interested in becoming a diver, this is the place to be. With that being said snorkeling here is also a great option for the non-divers. This tiny little island out in the middle of the ocean has a reputation for awesome diving and partying. I can vouch for this. A short ferry ride from Surat Thani, Koh Samui or Koh Phangan will land you on the shores of Koh Tao. This island has lots to offer from countless dive operators who are very competitive with their prices to beach bars who will guarantee you have a great night. If you’re going to make the most of your time on Koh Tao, make sure you dive or snorkel during the days, rent a motorbike and ride to the secluded beaches and head out on the pub crawl. If your looking to SCUBA dive or undertake a course in Koh Tao I would highly recommend La Bombona Dive Centre. Please read my attached review. If you’re looking for accommodation Asia Divers Resort may be what you’re looking for. Click here to read my review.

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Koh Phangan

The home of Thailand’s notorious Full Moon Party, which operates each month, is sure to be a destination for anyone feeling like having a bit of fun. The madness begins two nights prior to the Full Moon once people start arriving on its shores and is just one huge party on Haad Rin Beach. If you’re looking to party non-stop, the Haad Rin Beach area is the place for you. If you’re searching for somewhere you may get some sleep, look to the other ends of the island as there are great options. I would recommend staying in the Thong Sala area and renting a scooter to get around the island. Tuk Tuks are easily accessible and the prices are always negotiable. During the night of the Full Moon Party the beach is packed with people, alcohol vendors and fire twirlers and skipping ropes. Just make sure you watch your valuables as unfortunately there are people waiting to pounce at any opportunity.

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Koh Samui

This is my least favorite island in the south of Thailand. After travelling here in previous years, each time I arrive back it seems like the authenticity of Thailand is slowly disappearing, especially in the Chaweng area. This area is becoming overpriced and over-travelled by tourists and you can see this in the way people treat the streets and the beaches with the amount of rubbish left behind. There are many other areas to stay in Koh Samui and I suggest anyone looking to get away and relax on a nice beach in Koh Samui to look else where on the island. Many yoga retreats and meditation programs are on this island as well.

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Phi Phi Island

This little island has had its fair share of wear and tear from Mother Nature and sees many tourists each year round. With several accommodation options for all types of travellers, the beach bungalows are always a popular sell. Phi Phi Island is all about tucking into a beach bar or laying out relaxing. This island also offers great SCUBA Diving options out to the smaller islands and surrounding areas for around $70 USD for 2 dives. A big seller from Phi Phi Island is their day tour to ‘The Beach’, which includes Monkey Island, snorkeling, cliff jumping and a mandatory bucket of local whiskey. travel-asia-thailand-adventure-guide-phi-phi-island

Chiang Mai

Hands down one of the highlights of Thailand. If you’re looking to escape the coastline and head inland to the jungles of Thailand then this is your destination. Chiang Mai is smack bang in the middle of the jungle with such a rich and thriving culture. Now known as a digital nomad’s hub, this location really has a lot to offer. You can spend your days roaming the streets and entering the countless temples within the city and spend your evenings strolling the night market picking out the local favorites of Khao Soy and Penang Curry to eat.

Chiang Mai offers many day tours to several Elephant Camps scattered around the region however I would highly recommend ‘Bobby’s Elephant Rescue Center’. All of Bobby’s elephants are rescued from Thailand and across the borders and roam free around his property. Once you meet the owner you will see the love he has for the elephants and they have for him. It’s a magical experience not to be missed!

Another great tour operating from Chiang Mai includes the day trip to the Golden Triangle and Wat Rong Khun (White Temple). If you unaware of the Golden Triangle this is where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet and you have the opportunity to jump aboard a board and travel over to step into Laos.

For those who are adventurous, rent a scooter from ‘Pop Riders’ and ride up into the mountains for the day to see Chiang Mai from up in the clouds. The ride up the mountain has some of the best views across Thailand’s jungles and into the city.

Last but not least if your into having a lazy day floating down the river get in contact with the team at ‘Chiang Mai Tubing & Beach Club’ they will be sure to look after your every need. That is right there is tubing in Chiang Mai, Thailand and for the price you will be silly not to jump at the opportunity! Click the link here to check them out! 

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Phuket

For those looking to party and pay the same price as you would for a beer in Australia, then Patong is the place for you. This region of Phuket is known for its over priced bars, ping pong shows, drug use, extortion, prostitution and robbery of tourists. However Phuket also has a much nicer side once you make your way to the areas outside of Patong. These areas are known as Kata and Karon Beach where you can find some of the nicest beaches in Thailand. There are hotels to meet your standard from basic stays to luxury and restaurants and bars to complement this. If you’re looking to get away and put your feet up for a few days I highly recommend booking yourself into Mom Tri’s Villa Royale Hotel. You will not be disappointed.

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Bangkok

This booming city is starting to remind me of Sydney, Singapore and Melbourne. With so much infrastructure and development going on, it’s slowly becoming extremely “high-rise.” Bangkok has so much to offer from stunning roof top bars to restaurants that will have your taste buds in a craze. Many travellers are also looking for that big night out and make their way to the backpacker’s area of Khao San Road which has an array of bars and clubs which party until the wee hours of the morning. I will vouch for Khao San Road. It is a good night out with a group of people and is something I feel you have to do at least once in your life. No need to worry if you get hungry on Khao San Road. You will be able to buy the local delicacy of bugs, insects and spiders. Bangkok also has many great shopping centers, which have very cheap food courts with many options for all types of fussy eaters.

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Top 5 Things To Do In Penang, Malaysia

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  1. The Penang National Park

If you are looking to have an awesome day out and about exploring nature then this is defiantly up your alley. Easily accessible by bus, the Penang National Park has so much to offer for all types of travellers. It’s also free. With several options from hiking along trails (2km-5km one way) to boat rides around the National Park this is a destination not be missed. Take note the trails are on uneven surfaces and can be quite a challenge for some. The route we took included an hour and a half trek to Turtle Beach to the turtle sanctuary. From here we boarded a boat for $13 and discovered the coastline and were dropped at Monkey Beach. This beach indeed has just that monkeys, water sport options and small restaurants and bars. I would suggest if you are not up for a great hike back to the gates of the National Park then elect to jump back onto a boat. The hike is very challenging with many areas under construction.

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  1. Georgetown Street Art

Georgetown is best known for its spectacular pieces of street art, which decorate its walls and side walks. Easily accessible by foot or bicycle you could spend an entire day roaming the alleys and streets discovering each and every piece of street art Georgetown has to offer. The street art ranges from unusual wire frame art to large-scale paintings. Defiantly a day well spent.

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  1. Khloo Kongsi Clan House

Recognised as one of the oldest clan houses in Penang, The Khloo Kongst Clan House can be found in the midst of Georgetown and is a beautiful piece of architecture. For a small cost of $3 you can wander about the property inside and out and learn more about the Chinese influence in Malaysia.

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  1. Dine at the Eastern & Oriental Hotel

This is a serious gastronomical experience in Penang, and I can promise you will leave extremely satisfied. The Eastern & Oriental Hotel offers buffet meals throughout the day that have an array of local and international dishes. We made a reservation for the buffet dinner arriving at 7pm and did not leave until close at 10:30pm. An unbelievably delicious meal!

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  1. Night Markets (Street Food)

Be sure to jump online and check out where each night’s market is located as there are several scattered across the city, which offer all types of authentic Penang dishes. It just comes down to what you’re in the mood for. My recommendation is to attend the ‘Farlim Night Market’ on Wednesday nights, where they serve up dishes like char koay kak, Japanese pancakes, lok-lok and many more. Although I will say this market gets quite busy as it’s a local’s favourite!

My 7 Essentials For Travel

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As we travel we usually pack items that we think are going to be of a benefit to us at some stage on our journey. Yet half the items we do pack are indeed of little to no use at all to us throughout our trip and may never actually leave our bags. These items are additional dead weight that we have to lug in and out of airports, taxis and hotels. Ask yourself this question do you really need those additional changes of clothing or that hair dryer?

Besides packing the basics I have comprised a list of items, which I feel are essential for travel. These items are easily attainable and add to the experience of venturing around the globe.

  1. GoPro

I feel like I should be a sales rep for GoPro. I can’t get enough of this awesome piece of technology and the ability it has to capture awesome moments. Now your memories may last a lifetime but a picture or video clip will guarantee this. The GoPro may seem a little bit pricey to some however the fun you can have with this and the footage you can capture is remarkable. For the past year I have used my GoPro across the globe above and below sea level and have had no problems at all. I see this item as an investment for travel and if your serious about capturing moments you should seriously consider investing as well. These can be found online and at all good surf stores and technology outlets.

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Pc – www.gopro.com

  1. Universal Charger

I have left home on big trips and forgot my universal charger which is an absolute buzz kill when your stuck at a lay over in the middle of no where and just want to browse the net, and your electronics are out of battery. These are easy to pick up online or at a travel store for a small fee. Most of the modern chargers come with built in USB charger points and multiple power points.

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Pc – www.youtube.com/watch?v=kAQ4FaaH8Lk

  1. Combination Locks

These will only cost you a couple bucks from most big stores. Now don’t get yourself locks with keys because losing the key means your now faced with a locked bag. Take the time and find a four-digit combination lock. It’s very simple and easy. These are useful to lock your bags while you travel, lock your lockers at hostels, swimming pools wherever you are looking to store your valuables.

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Pc – www.zappos.com

  1. Diving Cert (Open Water/Advanced)

This has been a valuable qualification to have as I travel. I preach to anyone looking to travel any coastline to invest in the time to complete your SCUBA diving course. Whether this is PADI or SSI, it’s worth the time and the money. There is nothing like travelling and arriving in locations like Australia’s Great Barrier Reef or Mexico’s Cenotes and having the ability to walk into a dive operator and book a day’s diving or a live aboard. Being certified allows you to be able to explore the underworld not float on the surface wearing a snorkel, mask and life jacket.

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Pc – www.paradisediver.net

  1. A Lighter

Some may ask the question why? I don’t smoke however many countries when you buy beer the bottles are not twist top so having a lighter handy in your backpack makes for the perfect bottle opener. May even better your chances of meeting that special somebody if they ask you for a light for their cigarette.

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Pc – www.dingolighters.com

  1. Cash $$$

When travelling I find it much easier to travel with cash than a preloaded bank card which allows you to withdraw from cash points. The preloaded cash cards allows you to withdraw from specific cash points for free however when you are unable to locate these and withdraw cash from a different bank you are hit with a big fee. These fees can be quite ridiculous and add up to a big amount quickly. Whilst I travel through Asia, I find it much easier to bring cash and exchange this for the local currency at a much better rate than any bank could offer me in Australia. I can spend at my own leisure and change as much or as little as I like at a time. Quick Tip – bring big denomination with you as the bigger the note usually the better the rate. For example if you travel with US dollars in Thailand you get a much better rate on the $100 and $50 US notes compares to the $20, $10, $5 and $1’s.

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Pc – www.telegraph.co.uk

  1. Decent Shoes

Make sure you have just one pair of decent shoes, which can sustain any terrain. By this I mean a pair of joggers/sneakers which you can wear hiking, white water rafting, bike riding, running, cliff climbing and jumping, walking or whatever you may be doing this one pair of shoes can get you through the day comfortably. Now you may think hey I can buy these when I get there, and this may be true. Why not save yourself the stress of finding them and just pack a pair in your bag just in case. You can buy a decent pair of shoes online from sports stores around the globe for $40-$50.

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Pc – www.runblogger.com

8 Things To Consider When SCUBA Diving

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Choosing that dive operator that is going to work for you at an affordable price can take a substantial amount of time. It’s easy to type into a search engine ‘diving in…’ or once arriving in a location find the cheapest option however this doesn’t always create the best memories. There are many elements that contribute to a great experience diving which need to be considered. So here we go…

  1. Dive Company

It is imperative that you take your time to do some research online into certain companies operating within that region and choose someone that is going to suit all your needs. And even if you’ve done all the research in the world, always take into account your gut instinct when you first meet with the dive company. You should always feel comfortable and confident with their abilities.

My personal recommendation for diving in Australia would be to book with Pro Dive as they are not only extremely affordable, but also boast excellence in all fields of diving from their gear to their dive sites. It is truly a special experience. I further recommend you to dive with La Bombona Diving in Koh Tao, Thailand as a newer operator they have everything to meet all your needs and express this with utter professionalism. I guarantee you will create memories to last a lifetime! Both of these companies offer all forms of diving courses and their staff are experienced, cool, calm and collected. Essential trait when diving!

  1. Clean & Healthy Diving Equipment

There is nothing worse than diving with faulty gear. It’s important to read reviews and personally check over your gear before entering the water. Make sure you check your Tank, BCD, Regulator, Wetsuit, Fins and Mask. If there is any concerns or issues let someone know prior to entering the water. Anything that would impose on your safety is a threat. All gear has the potential to present issues. For example a BCD that has faulty connections or a regulator that doesn’t flow with consistent air.

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Suited up in our mandatory stinger suits for the box jellyfish on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia.

  1. Mask Comfort

Every dive operator will provide you with all your diving gear; however having a mask that will work for you, is extremely important. I would advise anyone who is serious about diving to make the purchase and buy a decent mask that you know will not pose any problems for you. There is nothing worse than continually clearing your mask of fog and water seeping in. Personally I need a mask, which is frameless and doesn’t have a stiff plastic frame. Comfort is the key as diving is all about staying relax, moving slowly and discovering what lives under the ocean.

  1. Boat

Choosing a dive operator that isn’t operating off a tiny little off board motor is important. If you decided to take part in a live aboard experience or a day trip its vital to feel like you are not over crowded on the vessel and that you can move around at your own leisure. Companies such as ProDive and La Bombona Diving have large, modern boats that have all the key amenities that you will need whilst out diving. Once again do your research!

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  1. Dive Sites

When diving its important to once again do some research into where the dive operator’s dive sites are. You don’t want to be taken to a barren, dark dive site where there is nothing but dead coral and the odd fish. Most diving companies that operate with their day trips will advertise where they are going that day prior to boarding the boat. However it’s important to understand these constantly change due to accessibility to these locations due to the forces of Mother Nature. Its incredible that you may enter a dive site and have 10 meters visibility then on your second dive a mere kilometer away be diving in crystal clear water and have 25 meters visibility.

  1. Overall Health

It is important to be feeling 100% when diving. There is no point entering the water with a cold, blocked ears, headache anything that doesn’t feel right. All you will do is disappoint yourself and I speak from experience. I completed my second dive of the day to 15 meters with a small headache and when I resurfaced I was struggling to keep my eyes open my head was pounding so badly. You always have to ability to push your dives back if the operator is lenient and if you are onboard a live aboard you do not want to risk the possibility to undertake your other dives which are scheduled.

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  1. Safety

Safety is number one when diving. If you feel unsafe or are at risk while diving let your dive buddy or instructor know and resurface. Emergency situations can occur whilst you are diving and they can pose a threat to you or others in your dive group. These may be the result of fault gear, someone touching something they should such as a poisonous coral or fish or you or others injuring themselves underneath the water. Make sure to conduct all your dives with a dive buddy who you trust and feel confident with underwater. Many reported accidents whilst diving is the result of careless preparation and not abiding by the rules of the sea.

  1. Have Fun!

Make sure to make the most of each dive. If you follow this rough guideline you are bound to have an enjoyable experience and create memories that will last a lifetime. Remember when diving with your buddy or instructor you are there to observe and discover what lies under the ocean and communicate this to one and other. Once you enter the water it’s a totally different world when your 25 meters below sea level!

Check out our short video from our experience diving with La Bombona Diving, Koh Tao, Thailand.

Pro Dive, Australia:

http://www.prodive.com.au/

La Bombona Diving, Koh Tao, Thailand:

http://www.labombonadivingkohtao.com/en/

Review: Asia Divers Resort

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Looking for somewhere to bunk down on the island of Koh Tao, Thailand?

Look no further than Asia Divers Resort. Tucked away beneath the jungles of Koh Tao, this resort boasts luxury with a mere five-minute walk to Sairre Beach. The resort is located within the Haad Sairre Area amongst their stunning and peaceful, green tropical gardens. Asia Divers Resort is located in an area that has great access to everything you would need from a gym, shops, pharmacy, excellent restaurants and bars.

This modern resort caters for the needs of a wide spectrum of travellers from those travelling on a budget to those who don’t mind to splurge at an affordable price. The resort offers standard, comfort and superior rooms with air conditioning at a higher rate than fan. Each room includes your very own balcony, satellite TV, free wifi and a large swimming pool to kick back and relax when taking some much owed down time.

Asia Divers Resort further offers SCUBA diving courses and conducts training for those wishing to become certified or undertake further training. The resort charters a daily boat, which takes divers out to spectacular diving locations around Koh Tao. Fun dives can be booked for both morning and afternoon and includes hire of all gear and total of two dives at two different locations on the reef.

Our stay:

We stayed 4 nights with Asia Divers Resort in a comfort room on the third floor. Our room came with a ceiling fan and cold water however might I add this is all you truly need on the island. Hot showers are over rated when it’s so hot outside. Each room has modern shutters on the windows, which slide open with the fly/mosquito screens for those at night who don’t mind a cold breeze. These rooms are just as the name states ‘comfortable’ with large balconies, which look across to the jungle, over the pool and down to the ocean side of Koh Tao and are cleaned daily with fresh towels and bedding.

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The rooms were large and clean with comfortable beds and great pressure in the showers. These qualities ticked all the boxes for me in terms of what I see as essential elements to a great stay. The Internet connection was great throughout our stay in all areas of the resort. The staff always acted in the most professional manner and catered to all of our needs and questions we had.

We dined at the Asia Divers Resort Restaurant on several occasions, as the food is exceptional and at a competitive price. Once again there are food options for all types of fussy eaters from burgers to pizza to all types of Thai dishes. I can assure you will find something on their menu to satisfy your taste buds.

However we didn’t dive with Asia Divers Resort each day they were running SCUBA training courses in the pool and taking those certified out onto the reef for fun dives and further training. From what we could see they conducted themselves in a very professional manner and all gear was clean, new and of a top standard.

The pool is stunning at the hotel and nothing else says relaxing after a long day of diving then to kick back by the pool with a drink in hand. To then freshen up and walk on down to Sairee Beach and watch the stunning sunset truly caps off a day well spent.

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Watching the sunset from Sairee Beach, Koh Tao, Thailand.

For those looking to stay at a quality resort on the island of Koh Tao, Thailand which will meet all your needs click the link below to make a reservation:

http://www.asiaresortkohtao.com/

Disclaimer: I was a guest of Asia Divers Resort in exchange for this review. As always, I would never endorse or recommend a service or product that I didn’t honestly enjoy!

Why You Shouldn’t Categorise Yourself While Travelling

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It would be fair to say when it comes to travel I think a little bit differently than the normal traveller, nomad, backpacker, soul searcher whoever you may be. I place myself in a different category of travel; something that you may find so simply strange. Hence the name Sir Wanderlust. Throughout my many years of walking the globe, I still to this day have not come across someone parallel to myself in their vision of travel. Every traveller seems to categories themselves from the moment they leave their front door into a stereotypical group of travellers or establish themselves within this category whilst out exploring.

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Lets paint the picture; You leave the house as:

  1. A traveller is someone who would usually travel for work or pleasure seeing those things along the way they wish to see mapping out their every move. Usually resting up in Hotels and not afraid of spending a few dollars. These are stereotypically the older generations ‘fossils’.
  2. A tourist is someone who walks around looking almost confused, holding an extended pole with a camera on the end taking photos of anything and everything. Usually resting up in Hotels or stay with relatives/friends. Travelling in packs of 20 plus.
  3. A nomadic traveller is someone who spins the globe and sees where they end up. Makes plans to not make plans. Not one to spend a lot of cash or finds it hard to dish out a large sum. Nomads usually would find other avenues to attain accommodation working for accommodation in hostels or Couch surfing. Laid back and take each day as it comes.
  4. A backpacker is someone who is looking for the closest bar and good times. Has saved a set amount for a wild trip jumped on the bus tours and isn’t shy of blowing a little bit of money if it means having some serious fun. “Backpacking” tends to be a trip funded by mummy and daddy.
  5. A soul searcher is someone who travels for love or to find love somewhere around the globe. This may be from meeting that special someone online to just taking a chance and flying to Paris, standing under the Eiffel Tower and hope she arrives and sweeps you off your feet.

I find it hard to categorise myself amongst these groups of travellers as I feel so utterly unique in my adventures. I would never identify myself as any of the above however a combination as I hold certain elements. I hold this mentality that I need to work hard, to travel harder.

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I have no boundaries or limitations when I travel because I have worked and juggled a handful of jobs at the same time to get to where I am. I am not talking working a 9am-5pm – I am talking sunrise until 2,3,4am for weeks on end with little to no sleep. Sacrificing time with your family, friends and significant others. We all know in order to put our full devoted attention into something we need to sacrifice time, however for me I have always wanted to make the most of my life and this desire to travel the world trumps everything.

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With my approach to travel I am happy to tuck into a cozy hostel 32 bed mixed dorm room; however when I am looking for that change I will check into a luxurious hotel. The difference between myself and nomadic travelers and backpackers is they seems to be on this extreme budget and if we get so caught up on how much we can spend each day I feel this takes away from the experiences and memories you can make. While I’m all about the couch surfing to save a few dollars, work aways or just working for accommodation for a few nights to experience something different, I never want to feel I have limitations when I travel and it all comes back to the way you wish to travel. You never need to categorise yourself amongst the stereotypical groups so go out and create something different just like I have.

Experience the world, work hard, travel harder and create your own identity.