Another beautifully lost dreamer with an incurable case of wanderlust.

Going Overground

Here’s a little post on my experiences of overland travel in South East Asia…

Slow Boat
To be fair, it wasn’t as slow as I thought it was going to be. But it was a very long journey indeed. 3 days it took us to get from Chiang Mai to a Luang Prabang. Stopping off twice at Chiang Khong and Pak Beng. Pak Beng is probably the most creepy little town I’ve ever visited. There is nothing but grotty hostels and crazy men offering you drugs. When I googled the town it told me to ‘watch your bags here’! Hilarious. The boat itself was a hazard. The seats have been ripped out of a car and placed (not fixed!) in to rows. Many of us fell off these chairs. And no, I’m not going to blame the beer Lao for that. The ride itself was rather pleasant. Beautiful scenery; apart from when you see animals in plastic bags awaiting their grim fate on the water bank! I am glad I experienced the slow boat, it was a change from deathy bus rides, you get to drink and with other travellers and you can snap some stunning photos. A ride not to be missed.

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Boat
You can also travel by speedboat. I decided to avoid this option as the death toll is pretty high. Even the locals take safety precautions when using this transportation. And that is saying something. If you want a slightly more relaxing option you can travel to the islands by a bigger boat. We took a trip to Halong Bay by boat, it was amazing. Sunbathing on the top deck, we were living the dream. That was until some poor Chinese lady got violently seasick and I had a panic attack. Awkward.

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Bus
We have travelled on three types of bus. The VIP bus was the first. When I think VIP I get pretty excited. Perhaps my expectations were a little high. VIP in Laos apparently means bus that makes you feel horrifically travel sick, has broken air conditioning and dead bugs everywhere. But, I’m not going to moan, because at one point I genuinely thought I was going to die. Our driver was overtaking on blind corners, on a mountain, above the clouds. But he didn’t kill anyone, so I’m thankful for that. Next is the minibus. I don’t mind these. They are just like the ones at home. Fully working air conditioning and generally just a little more secure. I would chose a minibus over a VIP bus any day. The sleeper bus. Those 3 dreaded words to any traveller in Asia. But, you know what… It wasn’t all that bad. I refused to use one from Laos as I’ve heard many horror stories, but I figured Vietnam has slightly better laws so I gave it a go. The sleeper bus is a great place to meet people and trade stories. Unfortunately the name is deceiving though. You will not sleep on this vehicle. Unless you’re my height. Yes, being tiny was certainly an advantage. I fit nicely in those little Asian sleeper bus beds. My advise to you is 1. Don’t use the toilet, a UTI infection would be the least of your worries. 2. Eat before you set off. I regretted this. In 24 hours I ate half a packet of rich tea biscuits. Without even a single cup of tea. It was horrific. 3. Have a chat, pop some sleeping pills and don’t look out the window. 4. Put your headphones on. Music passes the time and blocks out the sounds of other passengers vomit.

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Taxi
Avoid. They rip you off.
*And remember, nothing is ever free. Some travellers here seem to be quite naive to that*

Train
Night trains are great. You get on, eat, then sleep (and you can actually sleep on these). When you wake up you get bought cookies for breakfast and you arrive at your destination. Perfect. Just take a jumper, as the air con is freezing. Oh, and maybe some sunglasses, as we couldn’t work out how to turn the lights out!

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Motorbike
I hate motorbikes. I refuse to ride them. Especially in SE Asia. Apparently it’s the most convenient mode of transport. But with over five million of the things, just in the city of Hanoi, I’d rather live thank you very much.

Push Bike
If you fancy a bit of exercise then hiring a bike is perfect. For only a dollar a day you can cycle around until your heart is content. It’s a good way of seeing sights off the beaten track, and getting to the deserted beaches. Just be aware on the roads, there seems to be no kind of Highway Code in Asia.

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Tuk-Tuk
These are great fun. It’s got to be done in rush hour in Bangkok. It’s a pretty, errrm, ‘interesting’ experience, that’s for sure! Just make sure they don’t take you to any jewellery shops on the way.

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2 comments

  1. Traveling by boat is the greatest thing in the universe. Followed by train. And every time I have to get on a night bus for 14 hours I die a little inside. At least in Turkey, where they basically only have buses, they stop ever 2 hours, and give you tea and snacks for free. And since Turkey is huge and bus rides are 18 hours long, it was pretty great.

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