Our very own Laura Porter has recently come back to OPT from a 6 week sabbatical around South East Asia. I caught up with her to find out about her trip.
First of all why? What made you decide to up and leave for 6 weeks?
Well, working in the travel industry you learn a lot about different destinations and different properties this has always given me a burning desire to go out and see them, I’m lucky that this goes hand in hand with my job, It’s a big old world out there!
Why did you pick South East Asia as your destination of choice?
Being primarily a Caribbean specialist I wasn't as familiar as I would have liked to have been with this destination which, I think pushed me to make my decision. I also wanted to focus a little on some personal growth as well as destination knowledge which I felt Thailand and Vietnam could offer with their Buddhist culture and spiritual outlook on life.
How did it feel being a solo female traveller?
I'm a pretty independent person and enjoy my own company so for me this was the only way to do it. I wasn't scared and I felt pretty safe, I think this was because I was lucky enough to have stayed in some of the top luxury hotels so I never felt vulnerable at all. However, I ensured I got out and explored as much as possible, what is it they say? Fortune favours the brave!
What were your top 5 backpacking essentials?
An eye mask for the flights – especially domestic flights that aren't always the most comfortable but the perfect opportunity for catching a few z’s. Anti-bacterial gel especially for when visiting some of the food markets! Sun cream is a must, mosquito repellent spray and a camera for as many photos as possible.
What was your favourite hotel you visited?
This is a really tough one as I experienced a whopping forty-two of South East Asia’s finest luxury hotels and resorts but I am going to say Point Yamu in Phuket. Being Como hotels number 1 fan having stayed in Parrot Cay I was expecting the best and it did not disappoint. It helps that I’m slightly obsessed with their shower care range ‘Invigorate’ - I can’t help but be transported somewhere heavenly every time I smell it. The best thing of all is that throughout this uber design led location the sense of place is not lost. Subtle hints such as orange light shades against white wash walls are reminiscent of the golden orange robes of Buddhist monks and fabulous antique hands found at Bangkok markets are scattered around the place as door handles. One of my favourite features that hit you (not literally - obviously) as soon as you arrive are designer lobster trap ceiling lanterns which add an authentic Thai “rough luxe” feel to the mix. As expected, the food and service was also amazing and the hotel design was second to none, love it!
What would you say your holiday highlight was?
Riding elephants at the Four Seasons Golden Triangle by far! It was the most amazing experience and something I won’t ever forget. I was slightly concerned about the welfare of these majestic animals so it was great to learn all of the animals there were rescued from the cities in Thailand (where they were used solely for entertainment purposes). At The Four Seasons Golden Triangle the elephants are part of the family that is the Mahout tribe and you can see they really are loved and looked after. Firstly we were taught the basic mahout skills, such as mounting and dismounting, telling the elephant to stop and go, and even instructing her to turn. After learning about elephant bathing and feeding, as well as confidently steering and riding, we spent the next couple of hours trekking through tropical Thai jungles - even splashing about in the Mekong river! I can honestly say this was one of the best days of my life - I feel totally blessed and grateful for this experience - these animals are something else!
Out of the destinations you visited where was your favourite?
I fell in love with Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh was my absolute favourite. The street food night tours on the back of motorbikes are an experience not to be missed! Just a heads up – the BBQ’d frogs legs were bearable – but I won’t be rushing back for the goat udder! The coffee was also right up my street - it seems an obvious thing to say, but over the course of 3 days I was even more hooked on this inexpensive and readily available drink. Coffee shops are a huge part of the city's culture, they are literally everywhere, from independent street vendors to side-walk shops, it's hard to beat having an iced coffee and watching this endearingly crazy city go by. Prices range from 30p from a street vendor, to £2.50 or more at the top-end places. Order it Vietnamese style, served on ice with condensed milk giving you coffee milk ice, or ca phe sua da which is strong and sweet... and awakening!
Where will you be off next?
South America is where I would like to head next, it’s somewhere I have always wanted to go. I might even be lucky enough to tick Rio De Janeiro carnival off my bucket list!
Fancy talking to Laura to discuss your own South East Asia holiday? Why no get in touch by email or give her a call on +44 1993 899 430.