While we’ve visited several countries that are considered to be ‘dangerous’ I seem to find myself dwelling on the safety aspects of travel more frequently as time goes by. By now I’m pretty sure I should be one of those intrepid travellers who is hardened to the drama of travel advisories and is confident to venture out to places where you wouldn’t typically find many holiday makers.
We were pretty worried about how we’d find travelling in Taiwan – it’s not exactly a renowned backpacker destination after all. After doing some research we decided trains were best for inter city travel but didn’t work out how to navigate the cities until arriving in them which was interesting at times! Having heard reports of people getting horribly lost and having real trouble finding any English speakers to help out with buying tickets etc we were expecting it to be a bit of a disaster.
Okay, so we’re now halfway through our month in Thailand, which has gone insanely fast, so I thought I’d do a quick update on how we’re getting on. Some of you might remember we set ourselves some pretty big challenges for our time here, and I figured I’d be accountable on the blog and let you all know whether we’ve met our goals or not.
We’ve also just about planned our route home from here over the next 3 months or so to round off our current travels to around a year from when we first left the UK.
I wasn’t going to write this post as so many bloggers have written amazing things about travelling on this side of the world. As it stands though, our 10 week South America Itinerary and our 1 Month Australia Itinerary are some of our most popular posts. It’s also an opportunity to look back on our adventures as I can hardly believe that a whole 6 months has passed since we arrived to start our 10 weeks in Australia and New Zealand, with a bonus stop off in Fiji. Time flies when you’re having fun!
So many people who visit Taiwan never make it out of Taipei, which I think is a huge mistake when there are so many other awesome cities to see! Despite a somewhat dodgy start, we found loads of awesome things to do in Taichung, and it turned out to be our favourite city in Taiwan. Deciding to save money by walking the 30 minutes from the station to our hostel we found ourselves walking through some pretty sketchy looking areas. Tower blocks, concrete high rises and busy roads made the whole place feel pretty bleak and soulless and we thought we may have made a bit of an error. We figured that we only had a one day in Taichung anyway so perhaps it wouldn’t be the end of the world if we had to stay in our apartment and get some work done.
Arriving in Taipei was an instant culture shock of the best kind and we loved every minute of our time in this amazing city. It’s one of the few places where my overly high expectations didn’t leave me disappointed and actually as we’ve continued our journey round Taiwan we’ve fallen more and more for the country. It’s a little crazy, very busy and intense at times but the people are so friendly and there’s so much to do that you can’t really help but love it. Do make sure that if you visit Taiwan you leave time to spend at least 3 days in Taipei exploring all the city has to offer.
Penang Island has to be one of the coolest, most laid back places we’ve visited and totally not what we expected from Malaysia. Whether you’re looking for urban creature comforts like wine bars and posh restaurants, art and culture or beautiful beaches and wildlife you’re sure to find just what you’re looking for in this little island as there are just so many amazing things to do in Penang. A short hop from KL by plane (£30 return Air Asia with baggage), or a 4-5 hour journey by bus or train, it’s even cheap and easy to get to.
Despite having studied History to A Level and coming from a family of history graduates and enthusiasts, my knowledge of Asian history was poor to none existent prior to travelling this continent. The majority of my GCSE and A Level history experience as I remember it was, whilst enjoyable, almost entirely centred around the Tudors, the Russian Revolution and WWs 1 and 2.
I wish I could have spent so much longer here. We already had to extend our stay to spend three days in Vang Vieng as to be honest, given the stories about it being a bit of a magnet for travellers acting like dickheads and more of a party town than anything else, we were pretty sure we’d hate it. Whilst we’re not averse to a good night out we’re not exactly major party people, and at nearly (ahem) thirty years old we didn’t fancy hanging out with a bunch of wasted 18 year olds.
Turns out that despite reading many many horror stories about the slow boat from Thailand to Laos (and the reverse journey) it was actually not that bad at all. In fact I’d go so far as to say it’s been one of my favourite long distance journeys on this trip.
After a few busy months of travel we were looking forward to a week in Chiang Mai to relax. The plan was to treat ourselves to a nice hotel, get some work done so we could top up the bank account and eat loads of good food and just generally look after ourselves a bit better for a few days. This became all the more important after having spent a fortnight in Myanmar where I’d been ill pretty much constantly and where we’d had little or no wifi to allow us to work.
You don’t tend to hear a lot of positive reports about Bangkok in our experience. Renowned for everything from temples and palaces to seedy go go bars and night markets, it’s well known globally for its reputation as a party city for backpackers and for some of the more outrageous elements of its nightlife.