Asian Adventure » Review by Jmac
I went on this tour a few years ago in 2011 and I have just booked another Contiki because I had so much fun on the last one. My tour guide was Cam and he was a very knowledgeable guide but was also very relaxed which made for a really fun 2 weeks!
I met up with some fellow Contiki crew the day before the tour started at the hotel, which was a nice welcome to the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. Bangkok was certainly an experience, although I was very glad to make our way north on the overnight train to Chiang Mai in the country. The train was a very different experience but loved it, I did feel sorry for the 2 monks we had in our carriage though.This felt like the real Thailand! I loved the Thai cooking class, and making big flames with my cooking! The Tigers were absolutely amazing, scary at first until I gave him a big belly rub.
The Long neck people in Chaing Rai was very eye opening as I had never seen anything like this before, and they were so friendly. We had a nurse on our trip which was helpful to the locals who had a sick little boy at the time.
The boat was a nice relaxing time, being able to chill out was just what we needed to prepare ourselves for the next week, a great time to read a book!
Pakbeng was a really cute little place, and glad we got to stop by there.The accommodation was nice, as Cam said about the bathroom "you can sit on the toilet, have a shower and brush your teeth at the same time" that's how small it was :)
Luang Prabeng was great fun, the elephants, the water falls, and a night out a Utopia! Riding bikes around the town was super fun with our local guide Tooey! I did miss out on the giving of the alms which is the only thing I regret about the trip ( I turned my alarm off in my sleep ) So make sure you go to bed at a reasonable time for this activity! Once again the accommodation was nice, and they even have a laundry service so take advantage of this!
The bus trip to Vang Vieng was a very long and adventurous journey. It was supposed to take 8 hours it took almost 13!!! These roads were very very very rough due to the wet season and landslides etc. So be patient and remember its about the journey not the destination. We had a lot of fun singing to old classics and taking in all the local village life. We came to a section of the road that was literally a river! we had to stop and take our bags out of the bottom of the bus and put them into the bus as the water was going to go through the baggage area, it was an unexpected event but gave us a real insight into how the Laoation people live. The locals took the flooding as a chance to go fishing, drink beer and laugh at the tourists is the bus!!
After a very long day we arrived in Vang Vieng, this place is amazing! the accommodation is set right on the river amongst some beautiful mountains.
One thing you must do is Vang Vieng is to split up into some smaller groups and go on a local tour. It cost about $15 AUD, but worth every cent. They picked us up from the hotel and took us to a local street and talked all about their way of life, cost of building a house etc. They then took us into some caves and into a water cave on tubes that attached to a rope with headlamps on, meanwhile it was pouring rain, so don't wear anything you care about, buy a Lao Lao singlet or something! I also recommend taking some sandals such as Teva, that way you can wear them in the water without them coming off. Thongs were kind of impractical at times. The we had lunch in a hut by the river which was delicious! Our guides took all of our bags and followed us down the river tubing, making sure we were all ok. I know this part of the trip has been taken off the itinerary, which is unfortunate but I can understand. I am certainly glad I had a local guide with me when we did this for extra safety.
Vientianne was nice, I think we were only there for a night so I don't recall anything too crazy! We did go to a restaurant that had amazing local food that supported a charity.
We flew from Vientianne to Pnohm Penh which was a nice change to a long bus trip. Pnohm Penh was crazy! We hadn't even pulled up to our hotel and young locals were selling us thing through he windows, such as books and sunglasses. This is great if you want some bargains, but be careful, they wont leave you alone!! The tour to the Genocide museum was sad, but its great to have a real insight into their history.
From Phnom Penh to Siem Reap was also by plane! They save the best till last, I LOVED Siem Reap, the accommodation was just beautiful!! Visiting the floating villlages was unique, great photo opportunity here. Siem Reap had some nice shopping and cafes, I even bought and ipad there! I was envious of everyone else with one which made swapping photos with each other a lot easier. So having a computer or some spare USBs is handy at this point as the trip is about to end. Angkor Wat was just crazy!! Especially drinking champagne watching the sunrise up over the landmark. It made getting up early that little bit more interesting!
The last night in Siem Reap will be the best yet as you have made some really great friends. Believe it or not you only met them 1 days ago and you wont want to leave them :(
I went on this tour on my own and don't regret that at all. I am still in touch with some of the girls and guys 3 years on, and plan more trips together as they are all like minded people. That's why your on this trip right?! To meet people from the other side of the world, gain more contacts for your next adventure, visit them in their country!
All in all this was a life changing trip as I am still talking about this trip, it gave me such an unforgettable cultural experience and I still use the Language I learned on the trip on Thai restaurants here is AUS. I recommend using their language as much as possible, just to see the smile on their faces!
I'm sorry for the long review, once I got started i just couldn't stop, so I hope this was helpful - things may have changed from my trip to your trip though.
My next tour is the Thai Island hopper East in April!!
Review written Feb 2014event 0.3