2012 South East Asia
Expedition to Southeast Asia
I’ve been to Southeast Asia many times, as it is the most popular tourist destination. In 2012 my plan was to go to the countries that I’ve already been to, but this time I wanted to stay longer to see them much better. In Thailand I was only because of transfers, because flying there was the cheapest. Soon however, I went to Cambodia, then to Vietnam, Singapore, western Malaysian and the Malaysian Borneo. I spent quite a long time in each of those countries and got to know them as I always wanted. When travelling from the state of Sarawak to Sabah, I also went to Brunei.
Introduction to my trip around Southeast Asia 2012
This year’s trip was full of adventures, and while in some countries I’ve been before, this time I have travelled and explored them much better. With regard to the time of the expedition, I planned up to 3.5 months but I stayed one week longer. I flew from Heathrow on the 29.06.12 by Jet Airways to Delhi, and I came back on the 18/10/12, which means that my trip took about three months and three weeks. I landed in Bangkok because at the time when I was buying my ticket it was the cheapest fare which cost me £481 return. In 2012 I had my base in Thailand but for a full trip I went to Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore, West Malaysia, East Malaysia (Sarawak and I started Sabah) and I also went to Brunei.
I would also like to say a few good things about the Indian airline Jet Airways. In addition to good food and a wide selection of films and music on board, it is also a very flexible airline because for changing the return date I did not have to pay anything, and the second date change would cost only £ 30. For example, the Emirates and Etihad airlines, which I had often flown with before, impose huge fees for changing the date.
In 2011 I travelled all over Thailand for two months, that’s why this time I treated Bangkok as my interchange city and the place where I was massaged and fed properly. I also visited a few temples which I had already known from the last time, I did some cheap shopping and had some fun. Once again I saw Wat Arun, temple of the Reclining Buddha and traditionally I went to train thai – boxing. Therefore in 2012 I was in Bangkok two beautiful times.
Then I went by bus to the Thai border with Cambodia in Aranya Prathet and from Cambodia (Poipet) I took the next bus, which took me to Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor Wat. Even though it was my second time in this country, only after spending almost another month I realized what Cambodia really was and how much it had to offer. Apart from Angkor Wat I spent a few days in the capital Phnom Penh where among other things I saw the colourful and decorated with exotic plants Royal Palace and later the National Museum, built in a traditional Khmer way. I also visited the Tuol Sleng (S -21) museum and I went to see the killing fields of Choeung Ek where I saw the results of the genocide done by the communist Khmer Rouge regime.
On the other hand Cambodia is not just about the Khmer Rouge and Angkor Wat. I was on exotic islands, I walked in the beaches and dived in the sea. I also went to the town of Kep where I tried grilled fish and where from I went to the warm and covered with palm trees Rabbit Island. I also have nice memories from Kampot village because from there I cycled through rice fields and wooden hats built on posts, what gave me a good opportunity to see rural life of Cambodia. In addition to all of that I travelled on a bamboo train, I saw a lot of interesting Buddhist temples and caves and at the end I also saw Irrawaddy dolphins swimming in the Mekong river. Cambodia is a very interesting and a beautiful country and Angkor Wat is one of the wonders of the world which should be definitely seen.
The last time I was in Cambodia, in 2004, the country moved forward. They were already roads and cash machines and the capital city Phnom Penh and the second most important town Siem Reap (base to Angkor Wat) were totally changed. In 2004 Cambodia was wooden and primitive and in 2012 it stood at a higher level. Cambodia as well as Laos and Burma are developing countries which develop very quickly.
It is also worth mentioning that Angkor Wat is located on over 16 acres and construction of those monumental, at first Hindu, then Buddhist temples began in the XII century and until the beginning of the XIX century they were were hidden in the jungle and unknown to the Western world. It was not until the French explorer Henri Mouhot who described Angkor in one of his publications in 1860. Since then conservation works started and thanks to the French colonialism we can admire Angor as we can see it today.
Another country I went to was Vietnam where I travelled from the south to the north for a whole month and I have to admit that Vietnam turned out to be just another great adventure of mine. I started my Vietnamese trip from Ho Chi Minh city, even though I prefer to call it “Saigon” because this name has soul and the true character of Vietnam, and it is connected to satanic communism. In Saigon I strongly recommend a very interesting War Museum which tells the story of the US invasion of Vietnam, the persecution of the Vietnamese, mass murder and the use of chemical weapons, what causes handicapped children to be still born in Vietnam. (None of the sides was good but Americans only added more oil to the fire).
Among the many interesting places such as the Mekong Delta trip or the adorned with dragons Cao Dai temple I went to see Cu Chi tunnels where it was shown how Vietnamese people built traps for Americans in a very clever way and how they managed to move around underground. It is fair to say that the whole nation was like an army. Then I went to the coastal towns of Mui Ne and Nha Trang but I didn’t spend all my time just by the sea. I took my pretty blonde to the sand dunes, I rode an ostrich and walked in a shallow stream through the red canyon. I also liked the Marble Mountains with its spectacular temples, statues and oriental plants. Also worth mentioning is the town of Hoi An, popular for its old architecture and Da Nang, where the US troops first landed (in the “defense of democracy” of course).
I organized a trip from Hue city to ancient temples, pagodas and tombs and then I went to the capital Hanoi. Even though Hanoi is also a city of mopeds it was different than Saigon. In addition to the sights around Hoan Kiem lake I recommend the propaganda art from the times of Ho Chi Minh as it truly gives a good insight into the communist absurd. From Hanoi I also went to enjoy the nature around the Perfume Pagoda and after that I went to the famous Halong Bay. I spent there a few days on a ship, I saw a few caves and relaxed on the beach. On the other hand I will never forget the unbelievable arrogance in Halong Bay and institutional fraud that involves robbing tourists (more in my journal). At the end I went to the hill station Sapa where I walked in the mountains, I admired green rice fields, buffaloes at work and people in the far away villages. Yes, Vietnam was an interesting, moped adventure with a strong anti-American feeling.
I explored Vietnam with my beautiful and brave travel companion.
From the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi, I flew to Singapore where I spent more time than the average tourist would. In Singapore I spent six beautiful days and I think that I managed to get to know it quite well. First of all I bow my head before the ever demonized British Empire because Singapore is the best proof that the British did a lot of good things in the colonial countries on all continents. We are very outspoken about the bad things that the British Empire did but they used to also build, educate, protect and develop economies of those countries, what benefits them greatly until today. Let’s also not forget that the slave ships belonged to Jews and English people only worked on them. Without Stamford Raffles today Singapore would be probably just an obscure fishing village at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula but thanks to the vision of one man and the empire that helped him Singapore is a global financial power with a great port and a high standard of living. (Exactly the same opinion I have about Hong Kong and a few other postcolonial countries).
Singapore is a small country / city but there is a lot to see. I moved around on the underground (MRT) and saw all the important areas. I was in Little India where I saw the Indian culture and tried food from the Subcontinent. Then I went to the Muslim district of Kampong Glam which is very nice and has nothing to do with the Muslim sewage that colonizes Europe. Whilst there I advise to pay attention to Parkview Square which because of its appearance is called the Batman building from Gotham City. I also went to the colonial part to feel more like in England than in Asia, then to the business centre with its skyscrapers and then to Marina Bay where there are attractive Botanical Gardens. Then I also went to stand by the river, by The Quays and finally I ended my day in the busy Chinatown.
I also recommend the Singapore zoo and the Botanical Gardens near Orchard Road which I regard as the nicest places in Singapore. At the end I went to the spectacular Buddhist temple called Kong Meng San Phor Se and then to the island of Sentosa to relax on the beach. To poor travelers like me I recommend Aljunied district where I lived. It is a district which we will never see on postcards. It’s a neighborhood of cheap bars, cheap hotels, erotic shops and brothels. Aljunied is Singapore in a different way but surely has its own unique atmosphere.
Then I got on a bus in Singapore and I went to West Malaysia where I spent more than three weeks. First I sailed to the island of Pulau Tioman. I walked around the jungle, I climbed on the rocks, I swam in the sea and I discussed important matters with monkeys. Whilst on Pulau Tioman I understood why on certain issues I like Malaysia much more than Thailand. In Malaysia almost the whole exotic island I had to myself while in Thailand it felt like in Europe but with exotic landscapes. I prefer peace and quiet. I also went to Malacca to see the remnants of the Dutch colonialism which as a matter of fact left a lot of good things in Malaysia. I also didn’t miss the capital Kuala Lumpur with its famous Petronas Towers and later I went for a trip from KL to the Hindu Batu Caves. I was impressed not only with caves alone but also with close contact with snakes, which I love so much.
I walked around the mountains and tried tea straight from the bushes in Cameron Highlands and afterwards I organized a two-day trek through the jungle in the Taman Negara national park. I slept in a cave, I set my own fire and I swam in the river. Whilst there I felt that close contact with the nature is what I need most in my trips. Then I went to the beach paradise of peninsular Malaysia, to Perhentian islands where I swam with sea turtles, I drank coconut juice and I walked along the beach. It is also worth mentioning that on Perhentians people are very serious about protecting sea turtles. At the end I went to the island of Penang to try good street food but I also went to beautiful botanical gardens and I visited a huge Buddhist temple Kek Lok Si, decorated with swastikas as symbols of love and happiness.
In Penang I hitchhiked to the airport and soon I landed in East Malaysia. I went to the state of Sarawak to the city of Kuching. Malaysian Borneo is divided into states of Sarawak and Sabah and this time I spent about three weeks in Sabah while Sarawak I only started. It is also good to know that even though Malaysia is a Muslim country on Malaysian Borneo the majority of people are Catholic. (Hurrah!). My journey through Sarawak was a journey through the national parks. It was an expedition where only a very close contact with the nature truly mattered to me. I crossed the jungles, I was in the biggest caves in the world, I watched thousands of bats flying in the sky, I swam in rivers, I saw long-nosed monkeys in their natural habitat, I took showers in waterfalls, I climbed to top of of the mountains and I caught snakes on a twig. In Borneo I was really happy because there were very few people but instead there were a lot of trees and a lot of animals. One thing that really made me me was a visit to the Orangutan Rehabilitation Center in Semengogh where orangutans live in semi-wild conditions.
Among the many places that have explored in Sarawak I went to the Gunung Gading national park to see rafflesia, which is the largest flower in the world. It was named that way after Singapore’s founder Stamford Raffles who whilst crossing the jungles of Borneo stumbled accidentally upon this miracle of nature. I was also in Boko national park where I saw monkeys and snakes and where I roamed the jungle with an amusing Chinese girl. Apart from that I went to the parks of Mulu and Niah where adventures through the jungle and caves never ends.
As for the state of Sabah I was only in Kota Kinabalu and on one of the exotic islands in the Tunku Abdul Raman national park. These were my last days on the beach under palm trees, although I was still smiling because of big monitor lizards bathing next to me. On the way back to Thailand first I stopped on the Malaysian island of Labuan, then again in Brunei and from there I flew to Bangkok (massages, pad thai, thai-boxing, bankruptcy, return to England).
I also went to the Sultanate of Brunei for two days. I had been warned before that it could be really boring but nevertheless I found a few interesting sites to see. When I was on my way to Brunei I had a great satisfaction that I could be there, that I reached such a far away country. Most of my time in Brunei I spent in the capital Bandar Seri Begawan (usually called BSB) with the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin mosque right in the centre and with its attractive pond. Among other things I saw a huge palace of the Sultan of Brunei which is 5 times bigger than the Buckingham Palace. I saw a museum where the Sultan holds his gifts from heads of other states and I took a boat trip to a town built on water. Finally I went for a very important meeting to mangrove forest because I had an appointment with long nosed proboscis monkeys. We discussed very important issues!
I recommended Brunei as the new travel experience. At the border I asked for a very clear stamp.
Summary of my Southeast Asia trip
I include my trip to the very successful ones. I didn’t see Sabah the way I wanted but only because it wasn’t worth rushing at whatever cost, just to complete all my initial plans. I do not stand for ticking off countries but for their exact exploration and that’s why I will go back to Sabah when I have optimal time for it. Apart from that I fulfilled all my plans and I feel very happy about it.
I would also like to give a warning with regard to Air Asia!!! Cancelling and getting a refund for an unused flight is impossible, and having a departure or arrival date change is almost as expensive as buying a new flight. When booking a flight with Air Asia you should be 100% sure to the date and the place of departure/arrival, book as early as possible, and pay attention to the additional costs that appear out of blue whilst booking takes place. In my opinion Air Asia is full of financial traps, what could possibly make it the most expensive airline.
- Agkor Wat temples
- Angkor Thom
- Bandar Seri Begawan
- Batu Caves
- Cambodia death fields
- Cu Chi tunnels
- expedition to Cambodia
- Halong Bay
- Ho Chi Minh city
- Hoi An Japanese Bridge
- Khmer Rouge regime
- Kuala Lumpur
- Malay Peninsula
- Malaysia caves
- Malaysia Niah caves
- Malaysia Semengogh orangutans
- Malaysian Borneo
- Mulu park
- Perhentian islands
- Phnom Penh Royal Palace
- proboscis long-nosed monkeys
- Southeast Asia
- Sultanate of Brunei
- Taman Negara. Pulau Tioman
- trip to Malaysia
- trip to Singapore
- trip to Vietnam
- Tuol Sleng (S -21)