Big Indochina Adventure (Until March 2017) » Review by Alexandra
This tour was absolutely incredible. My mum did a similar tour with Intrepid a couple of years ago and always went on about how amazing it was over there, so I knew I had to go. I did this tour in January of 2013 with one of my friends who I met on my Europe Contiki tour. We had such an amazing time and the tour just made us even better and closer friends. The other travellers were all so amazing. One thing that is certain when you travel on a big tour like this, is that you will meet some really great, interesting and entertaining people. We made some friends who (as I said about my last tour) I know we will be friends for a lifetime.
A lot of people joined the Contiki meet up online for our tour, so we got to talk to a few other travellers before the tour actually started. My friend started up a Facebook group so that we could talk and get to know each other even more easily, which I found was really good. For the first couple of days that we were there before the tour started we were able to get in touch and meet up with some people early.
Our tour manager, Rory, was a little seedy to be honest. He never made a move on me (he wouldn't dare!) but I know that he did on a couple of the other girls, and they found it really uncomfortable... which obviously sucked. He did however give us a 'Rory's Tips' page in each of the more major destinations we went which I did find to be fairly helpful and all the local drivers and tour guides we got in each location were very knowledgeable and friendly.
South East Asia is so cheap, so it's really easy to find nicer accommodation at reasonably cheap prices. All the hotels we stayed at were in excellent locations, clean and comfortable (some were actually really fancy! - Chiang Rai for example).
It is winter over there during that time of year, so the weather was perfect! It only rained once the whole time we were there, that was one morning in Hoi An. Other than that it was blue skies and perfect temperature. Bangkok was pretty humid, but where I live it's like that all the time so I'm used to it. In the more Northern regions it was a little chilly, but all you needed was a cardigan or a light hoodie.
As the weather is so nice that time of year, all you really need to pack is shorts and t-shirts (and a cardigan). Oh, and a few casual dresses for night time. It's is so casual and chilled out over there, so don't take anything fancy because chances are you won't ever wear it. For shoes, thongs or sandals are fine. I lived in my Country Road jelly sandals.
I did all the optional extras. There aren't that many and they are all pretty cheap so I recommend that you do them all. The cooking class in Vietnam was so good. We all cooked up a storm and the marinated chicken we made was to die for! The Kuang Si Waterfalls was also another must. It was so beautiful there. The water is an incredible baby blue and the waterfalls cascade down one another. The water absolutely freezing. It's like that all year round, but it's so worth going in, you'll regret it if you don't. Honestly, you can't go all that way and not go in! There is a rope swing and a higher waterfall you can jump off into the main swimming area, but you can even choose any of the other more private ones to swim in. Also, the day trip out snorkelling in Nha Trang was another great optional extra.
In Vang Vieng we did a couple of extra activities that weren't apart of Contiki's optional extras. We got Rory to organise them for us. We had one of the funnest, funniest, action packed days every. In the morning we went for an 11km kayak (not as bad as it sounds - we are beginner level kayakers), which included a little caving (which was so scary… he made me go first into a pitch black cave with water up to my armpits and just said 'Go! Walk until you reach the shore!'... Excuses me, mate, I've seen Anacondas! I know what happens next). After that we had some spare time so we went and hired scooters and cruised around doing mainies (for anyone who isn't Australian - that basically means driving up and down the main street. We're so cool, I know!). We ended the day by going hot air ballooning, but I swear our balloon driver didn't know what he was doing because we crashed into 2 trees and then crash landed in a bunch of trees! That was one of my favourite days of the whole tour.
The food everywhere was amazing. I love Thai curry! I couldn't get enough of it. Although, I am a pretty fussy eater and I think I may have gotten the whole way through Laos without eating any of the local food. All the food and drink is extremely cheap. It really hurt when I got home and tried to order a cocktail only to remember it is $18, not $2 like over there. That truly broke my heart… and because it is so cheap I came back with pretty much all my spending money I went over with.
This tour was spectacular. The only thing that was slightly annoying about the tour is in a lot of the main sights you didn't get nearly enough time for photos. However, I still would 100% recommend this tour to anyone. It is so cheap and there is so much to see and explore. With all the sights, smells, and sounds you can't help but appreciate the culture. I have gained so many fond new memories and friends and I couldn't be more grateful. I'd say this tour is ideal for anyone looking to travel, you can do it on a budget or go all out, it's up to you! I will definitely be back to South East Asia, you can count on that.
Review written Jun 2013event 0.3