Asia has always been my dream travel destination as I’m fascinated by the culture and natural beauty. So when the first Covid-19 outbreak ruined my gap year plans I was devastated. I kept hold of the money and the hope that I’d get there one day. Then suddenly in January I decided to take the leap and cram my entire (originally six-month-long) trip into just one.
While I’m great at curating Instagram photos of idyllic places and browsing Airbnb, the logistics of travel isn’t my forte. In fact, I was once stranded in San Francisco on my third date with a boy because I booked our flight home four months too late! But that’s a whole different story... Naturally, I was nervous about booking such a massive trip, but I managed to create a whirlwind itinerary which included Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand (again). This just comes to show that with practise, excitement and endeavour, travel planning is achievable despite seeming daunting at the start.
The trip began in Surat Thani, staying in a remote camp in the jungle where we interacted with elephants, before taking a traditional Thai longboat to a river camp of floating bungalows. Whilst there, our days were spent kayaking through the jungle searching for monkeys and eating some of the most delicious foods I’ve ever tasted. My favourites were the fried rice and sticky sweet chicken, a definite must-try if you’re in Thailand! We enjoyed a few days in the gorgeous Khao Lak villages swimming, dining, and drinking cocktails. And then, after just six short days, our time in Thailand was up and we headed to Vietnam.
Seeing the stunning Ha Long Bay for the first time was simply a dream come true. We had the most amazing time on a three-day cruise through the bay. We learnt how to make traditional spring rolls, explored remote Vietnamese villages by bike, received fish pedicures, swam in the water, and had incredible seven-course dinners each night. It was truly the most amazing experience and I couldn’t recommend it enough. Next came the part of the trip that I was the most excited for, Japan. I’ve always been fascinated by Japanese culture and seeing it for myself was even better than I had imagined. Perhaps the best part of Tokyo was the food; we had amazingly tasty and fresh sushi, massive sticks of candy-floss that were twice the size of my head, and cones of ice-cream, eight flavours high! We were incredibly lucky that our Japan trip fit perfectly with the Sakura blossoming, as seeing the gorgeous pink flowers was surreal. This stunning scenery was only enhanced: we drank rosé and ate candied strawberries whilst watching lanterns light up between the gorgeous cherry blossoms. We also indulged in a traditional Shabu-shabu meal where we cooked our food in broth and dipped it in sauces of our own creation. So yummy! On our second day in Tokyo we learnt how to make sushi, visited a micro-pig café (yes, it's as cute as it sounds) and went toa ninja-samurai experience. There, we learnt traditional techniques, used swords and blow darts, threw ninja stars, and then finished the day with some delicious ramen. I still dream about it now.
Our last full day in Tokyo was spent at Disney Sea, an eclectic mix of all Tokyo has to offer: incredible engineering, architecture, and food. It was an amazing, albeit, tiring day. Then, after a quick detour to race go-karts around the Tokyo streets dressed as Winnie-the-Pooh char-acters, we headed to Kyoto which provided are spite for our aching feet as well as more sushi, ramen and iconic fluffy pancakes (which were definitely worth the hype and 40-minute queue).
Afterwards, we joined an island-hopping tour in Coron – a small island in the Philippines. Our days were spent exploring stunning crystal-blue lagoons, white sand beaches and vibrant coral reefs, and our nights sleeping in beach huts on private islands and playing games with other travellers on the tour. With the absence of electricity and running water, we were able to truly appreciate the beauty of the islands and the diverse company of people from all over the world. It was an amazing experience and a truly gorgeous country.
After a very long journey to Singapore (and a well-needed hot shower), we spent a few days traversing the city, watching light shows, visiting waterparks and indulging ourselves. Afterwards, we boarded a cruise to Penang and Phuket, drank cocktails, attended cupcake-decorating classes, and went on an array of island hopping tours. Unfortunately, between all this splendour, we had to spend some time recovering from a severe bout of food poisoning, before finally heading back to Heathrow. All in 31 days. This trip was immensely busy, yet incredibly enjoyable. I had the most amazing time with the most amazing person, and it definitely exceeded my idealised expectations. The beaches truly live up to the stunning photos and the food alone is worth the trip. We met incredible people, had unforgettable experiences and I would whole heartedly recommend it to anyone.