We finally did it, we finally said YES!!
We sat down, did our numbers, drank some more coffee and just decided to make it happen!!
We rented out our house in Cape Town, quit our jobs and bought two backpacks and a one way ticket to Southeast Asia. We left our home in Cape Town in December 2016 and traveled for just under 8 months.
Asia has such a special place in our hearts and we have been obsessed with the culture, nature and banana shakes ever since our first trip to Thailand and our second trip one year later to the Philippines.
Our Journey across Southeast Asia:
We flew from Cape Town to Bangkok (cheapest route) – from where we flew to Mandalay in Myanmar
We spent 3 weeks in this incredibly authentic and still pretty untouched country.
We started with the spiritual town of Mandalay, then on to the temples of Bagan, the gypsy villages at Inle Lake, the trekking adventures of Hspiaw and ending with the glorious pagodas of Yangon.
In short, Myanmar is incredibly cheap, with mainly bus travel and friendly faces.
Our highlights were the treks to Buddhist villages and the sunset views of pagodas and temples.
Bus from Yangon to the South Mywaddy border. Then bus up to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand.
We spent 2 weeks in Northern Thailand, discovering there is way more to Thailand than just the beach.
Chiang Mai was okay, but the real highlight was hiring a motorbike and wandering through all the Northern villages and towns on the Mae Hong Son Loop! We could not recommend this enough if you love lush views, waterfalls and a more secluded experience of the Thai culture.
Bus from Chiang Mai to the border town of Chiang Kong.
Bus from border to Luang Namtha in Northern Laos
We spent 3 weeks traveling from the far North of Laos all the way to the Southern Border.
From the jungle treks in Luang Namtha, down to the UNESCO town of Luang Prabang, the crazy parties in Vang Vieng, the Bolaven Plateau motorbike loop of Pakse and the ancient town of Champasak. Ending off relaxing among the 4000 islands in the South.
In short – Laos is probably the most underrated country in Southeast Asia with SO MUCH to offer!! Although it has the worst internal transport in Asia, it makes up for it in natural beauty and adventure!
Bus from the South Laos border to Siem Reap in Cambodia
We spent three weeks temple gazing, swimming and continuously sweating in Cambodia.
Our highlights were definitely Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, The shocking but educational museum in Phnom Penh, the lazy days in Otres, the secluded hippy days on Ko Ta Kiev and our two best island beaches: Soksan Beach on Koh Rong and Saracen Bay on Koh Long Samloem.
Although we struggled to find as great accommodation in Cambodia with our $15 budget, the half a dollar beers and breathtaking island sunsets made up for it!
Bus from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Month City (applied for Vietnam visa in Sihnoekville 1 week prior)
We spent one week in what we can’t help but call one of our all the favorite countries! From the vibey city of Ho Chi, the ancient town of Hoi An to the surfing bliss of Da Nang. Then headeding up North to Hanoi from where we cruised down the Tam Coc River in Trang An, cruised Halong Bay and Cat Ba and motorbiked and trekked through the incredible Northern highlands of Mu Cang Chai and SaPa.
Vietnam not only has some of the best cuisine in Asia, but the people are insanely amazing! The internal flights are super cheap and we had the best accommodation and meals for our strict budget!
We applied for China visa in Hanoi and caught a train to Nanning in South China 5 days later
We spent 2,5 weeks in the Southern province of Guangxi. Although the laungage barriers and food may not have been as traveler-friendly as the rest of Asia, the natural beauty of Yangshuo, XingPing and Gulian were land versions of Halong Bay. We then experienced a local, more rural city in Nanning and then the complete opposite in the beyond impressive Shanghai.
Although slightly more expensive, this country has SO much to offer and can really open your mind to what you may be perceiving of China and its proud citizens.
We flew from Shanghai to Suran Thani in Southern Thailand – reuniting with the beaches once again
We had 3 weeks of absolute island bliss in Southern Thailand.
We started in the 3 islands of Suran Thani: Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui
We then moved down to the beautiful Railay Beach in Krabi, the turquoise luxury of Ko Phi Phi and then the secluded beauty of Koh Lanta. We then made our way further south to the beautiful Koh Lipe Island.
Thailand may be flocked with travelers, but for a good reason! The beaches and hiking views are spectacular, the Thai food is absolutely the best and the vibe is something very special!
Ferry from Thailand’s Koh Lipe island to Malaysia’s Langkawi island. Easiest border crossing ever!
We spent just under 3 weeks in this MOST surprising country in Asia!
From the duty-free island of Langkawi to the artsy town of George Town – the variety continued to shock us as we entered our all time favorite island at Perhentian and onto the lush beauty and treks of the Cameron Highlands. Ending with incredible cityscape views from an infinity pool in Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia is not only cheap, but each area is a complete contrast from the last with so much to offer!
Flew fro Kuala Lumpur to Denpasaar in Bali, Indonesia
We spent 3 weeks in and around the island of Bali. From the surf route of Bali, the majestic rice terraces and waterfalls of Ubud, the empty coastline of Lombok, the beautiful Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan Islands, to swimming with Manta Rays at Nusa Penida and turtles at Gili Trawangan.
Indo is absolute paradise, with the incredible marine life, surf, fresh coconuts and smoothie bowls. We know that we have only discovered a small section of Indo – so we are itching to return, like asap!!!
We flew from Bali back to Kuala Lumpur, and then straight onto Delhi in India
We spent 2.5 weeks exploring the Golden Triangle of crazy culture-shocking Delhi, the beautiful Taj Mahal in Agra and ‘the pink city’ of Jaipur. We then moved on to the Rajasthan towns of ‘the blue city’ of Jodhpur, the desert town of Jaisalmer and the ‘Venice of Asia’ in Udaipur.
Although it was Monsoon season and the heat of Summer, India is the ultimate cultural experience!! At times we felt dirty, overwhelmed by poverty and frustrated with stares and heat rashes. But we also felt deeply moved, inspired by colour and old world architecture and completely in love – in a way that’s almost impossible to describe.
We then flew from Mumbai back home to Cape Town, South Africa
For just under 8 months we survived with 2 backpacks and $15 a day, each.
We had INCREDIBLE experiences and we learnt some pretty life changing lessons,
like “How far is too far out of your comfort zone“.
But most of all, we valued the time and growth we experienced as individuals and as a couple. And now more than ever, we just want to encourage other couples to do the same!!
*Read how we felt about returning home – the honest and awkward truth.
Because what is marriage if not a grand adventure …