To Laos or Not to Laos?

Let me tell you guys a bit more about my big adventure to Southeast Asia!  So I know I previously told you all that I am moving to Thailand (to teach English!).  But quitting my job in the USA to move to Thailand and immediately starting a new job seemed super lame, seriously how often are we in between jobs and can do whatever we want wherever we want because no one is expecting us to show up to work? Not often my friends!! So when I decided to move to Thailand I knew I should take advantage of every bit of freedom before my pockets run empty and I have to start earning those dollah dollah bills again.

Hence the (almost) two months I am taking off to travel before my Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) class starts in Chiang Mai, Thailand! The plan is as follows…

Spend almost 27 hours traveling from my hometown of Boston, MA to Southeast Asia, landing in Hanoi Vietnam.  This will include a 16 (!) hour flight from NYC to Taiwan (one of the longest non-stop flights in the world, according to Wikipedia), soo bring on the gossip mags and at least five so-dumb-they’re-actually-kinda-funny movies. (Seriously what is it about airplanes that make me crave a Kevin Hart or Kevin James comedy??) Then…

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Vietnam!! For a month!  Vietnam was actually not super high on my list of places I want to visit, but it makes sense for me to fly in there and spend some time in the country. Hanoi has a large international airport (that, according to this website, is one of the cheapest Asian airports to fly into from North America), and Thailand can easily be accessed from Vietnam by land, so I don’t have to spend more money booking another flight.  And although it wasn’t one of my top destinations, after doing a bit of research on Vietnam, I’m pumped to be heading there now! My four weeks in the country will be spent teaching English to both kids and adults in Hai Phong, with a program I found on Workaway.  (I will be writing a longer blog post about Workaway later, stay tuned!)   After my month of teaching English in Hai Phong is over, I will travel back to Hanoi to explore Vietnam’s capitol, and then take a train down to Ho Chi Minh City, possibly stopping in Hoi An along the way. (What do you guys think, have any of you been to Hoi An before? Is it worth stopping there? Let me know in the comments!) After Ho Chi Minh I will be heading over to…

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Cambodia!! At this point I will have a little over two weeks to travel to Chiang Mai before my TEFL course starts, and in order to get to Thailand by land, I’ll be passing through Cambodia. My plan is to travel from Ho Chi Minh City to the capitol of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, spend a few days there, and then travel to Siem Reap to see the ruins of Angkor (pictured above).  Also hoping to go to Phare, The Cambodian Circus, an amazing circus act that promotes sustainability and community development by encouraging Cambodian youth to use the arts to make their world a better place. (It’s hard to summarize all the good they are doing in Cambodia in one sentence, check out their website for more details.) And they don’t use animals in any of their shows, so you know there is zero animal abuse happening behind the scenes.  I will be traveling into and around Cambodia using Giant Ibis busses, based off recommendations I’ve read from other blogs (also Cambodia doesn’t have a train system so that was out of the question).  My research has told me that Giant Ibis might be a bit pricier than others forms of transportation, like, say, a taxi, but they are a well established and safe company, and honestly their website is so professional and easy to use I was sold from the start.  Not sure exactly how long I’ll be sticking around in Cambodia, it all really depends on…

…whether or not I’ll be heading to Laos before I make my final stop in Thailand.  To Laos or Not To Laos THIS IS THE MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION!!! And if anyone can offer any opinion on whether or not I should make an effort to visit Laos please leave me a comment!  One part of me says, hey, Alex, you love to travel, you have this amazing opportunity to spend some time in yet another amazing country in Southeast Asia, why the heck not?! And then on the other hand, I know that Laos is not a country I’m absolutely dying to see, I’ve heard it’s a tad bit more expensive than other Southeast Asian countries because of it being landlocked, and spending a year in Thailand I’m sure will afford me many opportunities to spend a long weekend in Laos.  Not going to Laos on this particular trip will give me more time to spend in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand, so I can travel at a slower pace and see more of these beautiful countries.  I’m also not exactly sure how to get from Cambodia to Laos, I know Laos has a train system that connects it to Vietnam and Thailand, but I haven’t been able to find a bus or train that travels from Cambodia into Laos.  This is my first big solo adventure, I want to be confident in the transportation I am taking so I don’t get stranded in the jungle having to hitchhike my way back to civilization!  I think I’m leaning towards skipping Laos on this adventure, and visiting the country when I have some free time while teaching English in Thailand. But we shall see, I might end up staying in a hostel in Cambodia where people are RAVING about Laos and telling me how I just HAVE to go, so I’m keeping an open mind and am open to suggestions! Regardless, one way or another, my final destination will be…

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Thailand!! If I bypass Laos, I’ll head from Siem Reap to Bangkok, and then up to northern Thailand, and if I do travel through Laos, I’ll cross directly into northern Thailand.  I’m eventually settling in Chiang Mai to take my TEFL course at SEE TEFL, but before that, I’m hoping to make a pit stop in Pai, mostly because a good friend of mine visited the region recently and said it was pretty cool.  But to be perfectly honest with you guys, the main reason I’m dying to check out this part of Thailand is to stay at the Spicypai Backpackers hostel, seriously check out some of the pictures, it looks amazingggg.  The open air living plan, sleeping out under the stars, a warm breeze caressing my face, sounds like heaven to me!  (Stay tuned for my review of all the hostels I stay in as I travel from Vietnam to Thailand, I’ll let you know if I truly do find a slice of heaven, or if I’m slapping away mosquitoes all night.)  And then off to Chiang Mai to settle into my job of teaching English as a foreign language!

So there it is, my big Southeast Asia adventure! Having recently traveled to Thailand, I’m SO excited to getting back to that part of the world, relaxing in the warmth, eating the delicious food (I haven’t had rambutan since I’ve been back in Boston and OH LORDY HOW I MISS IT!), and interacting with the kind and generous people who make these countries feel like home. Southeast Asia, I’m so ready for you, and I hope you’re ready for me!!!


All profound crazy/funny/weird thoughts and opinions are entirely my own, it’s just how I roll 😎

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