AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Flexible Philippines

We were intending to go to Laos and so booked the train to Nong Khai, on the Thai side of the border. We had even planned a route through Laos and purchased a phrase book. It seemed definite and we thought we may as well go to Laos since so many others we had met had been and really liked it! In readiness for crossing the border we began to look at hotels in the capital, Vientiane, pronounced Wieng Chan. The prices were extremely high for such a poor country. Laos was supposed to be a cheap country for us to bring our spending down before Nepal. The reality is Laos recognises that tourists are cash cows and inflates prices accordingly.

We had been dithering in whether we were going to Laos. Initially deciding not to go, then going to see only Vientiane and Luang Prabang, before once again deciding not to go, then finally once more doing a full circle and revisiting our initial plans made in August 2013. However, nothing really excited us about the country. Treks cost a lot, £100 for a couple of days per person. Vientiane gets rubbished by people who have been and the infrastructure is poor, meaning getting around is very slow. 10hours to go 300km on bumpy roads.

Once we arrived in Nong Khai via the overnight sleeper train we were tired; Despite it being the most comfortable sleeper we have been on, with a padded seat that turned into a bed, topped with a mattress and the bunk being wider than in China and Vietnam I failed to clear my mind and sleep. We had anticipated this and hoped to check in to our hotel and sleep for a couple of hours.

Anyhow, at the hotel we discussed if Laos was where we wanted to go and thought about going to Malaysia instead, since the flight to Kathmandu goes via Kuala Lumpur. (NB./ Once we’ve been there it will be known as KL). We then thought about the Philippines. I checked the weather and it seemed like the best time to go. While Andrew slept I browsed pictures of idyllic, turquoise coral reefs and lots of gushing waterfalls. I was sold! Plus it was voted tourist destination of 2014 by TripAdvisor and lots of Europeans are heading there so they can’t be wrong…well except Thailand isn’t as great as I’d hoped and that’s crawling with British tourists!

The flight is now booked and on the 3rd February I hope to keep my nerves in tact and land safely in Manila ready for the onslaught of tuktuks, jeepneys.

Having a year to travel allows a greater degree of flexibility. People on a two week holiday usually cannot go to a destination and decide they don’t like it before going somewhere else, especially if they have booked a package holiday. By being versatile in our approach we can change the plans to accommodate places that look or sound good. It doesn’t always work out with our trip to Nong Khai exemplifying this, TripAdvisor and Thorntree Forum, our main sources of information suggesting a couple of days here. On the plus side by not having a concrete plan means you can make amendments and add-ons, however if we are not careful we can waste a day procrastinating over what to do.

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