My time in Taipei was all too short, with only four full days to explore Taiwan’s capital. But I made the most of my limited time there, seeing the city’s famed monuments, escaping Taipei to explore some more rural areas, and experiencing three accommodations. Arriving late the first night, I checked into a hostel, which was pristine yet antisocial, a vast change from the other hostels I’ve experienced in Southest Asia. From there, I headed to the Taipei Marriott for two nights, which I reviewed in this post, and, finally, I wrapped up my Taiwanese adventure with a night at the Sherwood Taipei.
If there’s one thing most visitors to Malaysia rave about after visiting, it’s the food. My first few days in Kuala Lumpur demonstrated just why, and an evening of tasting the local cuisine with Food Tour Malaysia had stood out as one of the best experiences I’d had in my five weeks of traveling so far. But my taste buds were just getting started, and I was in luck. From Kuala Lumpur, I was heading several hours north to a state that has a reputation for being an absolute food paradise, Penang.
If there’s one thing you’ll see everywhere you go in Southeast Asia, it’s motorbikes. Playing Frogger in Saigon, hopping on UberMOTOs to navigate Bangkok, weaving through the Burmese countryside on a bike… As of a few years ago, Cambodia had nearly two million motorcycles for a population of just fifteen million. This transportation is a way of life in that part of the world, so how fitting is it to explore the region on a stylish Vespa? I had the chance to do just that on a Phnom Penh nightlife tour.
Having just opened in October 2015, the five-star Taipei Marriott is a new star on Taipei’s hotel scene. I had the chance to call it home for two nights during my visit to Taiwan in April, and the hotel is already off to a shining start. Walk into the Marriott’s stylishly gorgeous lobby, and you’ll be in awe straight away. But that’s only just the beginning.
Eighty days and eight countries later, my Southeast Asia trip has come to an end. I fly to Japan tomorrow and then onward to Paris, with a day in Abu Dhabi in between. For a part of the world I had never given much thought to until the last few years, Southeast Asia has stolen my heart. My next destinations will certainly be a massive change of scenery, so I thought I’d reflect on some of the things I will and won’t miss about Southeast Asia.
Call me a philistine, but, prior to my stay at Watermark, never had I ever treated myself to a professional massage. To be honest, I was a bit apprehensive. Lie on a bed and have a stranger touch me all over while rubbing oils into my back? If you’ve never experienced it yourself, you have to admit it sounds pretty weird. But, obviously, most of the world raves about the luxurious pleasure of massages, so it was time to give one a try.
I didn’t want to say goodbye to Vietnam. In my two weeks there, the country had exceeded already very high expectations. I don’t know if it was the country itself, the people I met there, or the fact that I seemed to be hitting my travel stride two and a half months into my round-the-world trip, but I had found total comfort and happiness in Vietnam and wasn’t ready to leave it behind, no matter how exciting my subsequent plans.
I had started in the north of the country and made my way south, with my last stop being Vietnam’s largest city, Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. While hostels had treated me phenomenally during my Vietnamese adventure (especially Vietnam Backpacker Hostels), my last two days included the special treat of staying at the beautiful PARKROYAL Saigon.
Castaways, Castaways, where to begin? I write this several days after returning, still trying to digest it all…and still trying to get the sand out of my hair. For backpackers in Vietnam, Vietnam Backpacker Hostels’ Castaways Island trip to Halong Bay is legendary. You’ll be hard-pressed to meet a young traveler who hasn’t been on the trip or at least hasn’t considered it. And, as I found out this week, there’s good reason for that.
We departed from the Vietnam Backpacker Hostel in Hanoi bright and early and boarded a bus followed by a boat followed by another bus followed by another boat, but all of that was worth it the instant we set eyes on our final destination. Our home for the next two nights? A private beach with straw huts and blissfully soft sand surrounded by steep limestone cliffs. It was ours, all ours to make whatever we wanted of it.