Leeches and beaches

Island retreats in Thailand's sunny south

My next destination from Chiang Mai was the sunshine island of Koh Pha Ngan in the Gulf of Thailand, some 1500 kilometres south. It’s possible to take a couple of trains all the way to the nearby town of Surat Thani, but again my last-minute decision cost me a seat on the first one to Bangkok, leaving only road based transport to get there. I hadn’t…

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Oh my, Chiang Mai

Finding adventure and tranquility in Thailand's northern paradise

I can’t fault the overnight sleeper train service from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. I’d rank it on par with the Paris-Moscow express in terms of comfort. There are only one or two second class sleeper AC carriages on the train, and most of the passengers are foreign tourists. The seating/sleeping configuration isn’t arranged in compartments, but it’s still spacious with only one upper and lower bed either…

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A very sombre Bangkok

An understated welcome from Thailand

A swift three hour coach ride from Siem Reap took me to the chaotic border town of Poi Pet. It’s a hectic town but I wasn’t there for long – after clearing customs it was only a short walk across the border to Thailand customs. After some lunch at the train station (only plain rice and monkey nuts unfortunately) I boarded a 7hr train to…

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Temple Run

Exploring the ancient ruins of Angkor

After another three hour endeavour on a fishing boat back to Sihanoukville, I boarded a bus back to Phnom Penh. The road infrastructure in Cambodia is still quite limited, so it’s not straightforward to travel directly to Siem Reap without first going to the capital. Happily, though, I made the most of this stop to visit the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre run by Wildlife Alliance….

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Khmer curiosities

Entering rugged Cambodia

Well, I say ‘rugged’ Cambodia because that’s the first word that came to mind after entering the capital Phnom Penh, and I couldn’t find another suitable adjective to describe this unique country. Getting from Can Tho to Phnom Penh wasn’t feasible without first going back to HCMC and staying a night to catch an early morning coach the following day. It was a long ride –…

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The Mekong Delta

Floating through my final stop in Vietnam

The chaotic streets and endless hooting of the cities had given way to the serene and peaceful waterways of Can Tho, located in the southern Mekong Delta region of Vietnam. It was only a 3hr coach ride to get there from HCMC. Its geography is unlike anywhere else in Vietnam, or much of Asia in fact. The Mekong River empties into the South China Sea…

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On the Ho Chi Minh Trail

Mountain and city retreats in South Vietnam

The next stop in Vietnam was the highland town of Da Lat, and it took just under a day to get there from Hoi An. The first leg was via overnight train along the Reunification Express from Da Nang to Nha Trang, and unfortunately with my last minute decision I was told there were only seats available (when I instantly recalled the nightmare leg in…

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Tunnel Vision

Natural wonders, imperial relics and a brutal history lesson

A three hour bus ride took me from Cat Ba island to my next stop south, Ninh Binh. As bus journeys go, this was pretty frightening. The driver had only one speed – as fast as the engine pistons permit, and without as much as a thought for anyone else. Motorcyclists have it worst off; they’re forever hooted at and shoved off the road by bus drivers…

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Ha Long Bay

Karsting my eyes out to sea

A scenic retreat was in order after the nightmare that was Hanoi. Cat Ba island – and more specifically the karst formations out to sea – proved just the natural remedy I needed. It was a 2 hour bus ride (accompanied with a soundtrack of an X-factor style Vietnamese karaoke) and an hour on a speedboat to get to Cat Ba. I elected against going…

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Good morning Vietnam

A frustrating greeting from SE Asia

Travelling long distances overland has its challenges, as I found many times on this leg of my journey. So apologies in advance for this long and rather negative post! Maybe worth skipping over this one for some more positive travel tales. Leaving Guilin, my destination was Hanoi, Vietnam, via Nanning at the very southern tip of China. In Nanning, the plan was to book an overnight…

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