#WhenInSEAsia: A Whirlwind Trip Featuring the Best of Southeast Asia

It’s been about a week since I came back from Southeast Asia—mind you, it was my first trip to anywhere in Asia! My overall sentiment is that everyone was so gracious and warm. There is a genuine hospitality there that is really refreshing to experience.

If you weren’t following along. Let me catch you up to speed!

From September 20th until September 30th, I got to experience South East Asia with ASEAN Tourism. This was no small trip. We went to Krabi, Thailand; Ipoh, Malaysia; and Bintan, Indonesia. Talk about a GREAT introduction to Southeast Asia! I also got to travel with two incredible content creators: @angelzheng_ and @uliaali.

This was, as I like to call it, a “choose your own adventure” sort of trip. What do I mean? Well, basically I would poll my audience beforehand, and they would vote on what activity I should experience. This was such a great way to connect with all of you who follow along, but many followers and friends said they actually felt like they were on the trip with me! That was pretty cool.

So… what did I end up doing? Here’s the recap:

Krabi, Thailand

This was it. I was officially in Asia for the first time. I wasn’t in an airport, I was out and about and ready to take on Thailand.

Our first day, the choice was between an elephant sanctuary or a spa day. Luckily for me, you all chose the Krabi Elephant Sanctuary! Such an epic experience!

If you know me, you might know I’m not super fond of “wild animals.” Why? Well, mainly because they are “wild” and I never know what they are going to do. I was very cautious at first, but within minutes I realized these elephants had personality! These playful ladies were sniffing around for food, swatting me with sugarcane leaves, and dancing… yes, dancing in mud. We kissed, we laughed, we hugged. If you have never been around elephants, I highly suggest that you do your research, find a reputable and ethical place, and play with them!

If you’re in Krabi, definitely check out the Krabi Elephant House Sanctuary. They even make paper out of their “poo.” So there’s that! Haha!

As a bonus, and a nice kick-off to the start of the trip, we also got to go to the

spa, the hot springs, and get REAL Thai massages. This was the perfect first day!

 

The second day, there was the choice of either going rock climbing or to the Monkey Cave Temple and Canoeing in Phang Nga Bay. So cool to explore a temple built into a cave with monkeys running around. But even cooler, getting out on the water and exploring Phang Nga Bay. We each had our own boat and got to sip coconuts while cruising the islands. The trip ended off with us going to the famous James Bond Island—oh yes, you know the one.

Thailand was a dream. But before we knew it, we were off to Malaysia!

Ipoh, Malaysia

After a quick overnight in Kuala Lumpur (definitely NEED to come back and stay longer!), we headed out to Ipoh in Perak.

Our first day of the trip you voted on that we go white water rafting and rappelling. Um, thank you! The rafting was fun… but the rappelling was INCREDIBLE! There is no way I would have opted to do that without YOUR vote. When I got to the top of the waterfall and looked down, knowing I had to walk down at a 90-degree angle… I was nervous and terrified. But I did it! So cool to push outside of your comfort zones!

The second day in Ipoh, the poll led us to the Lost World of Tambun. The Lost World is a theme park. Not just any old theme park, but an amusement park, petting zoo, wild animal park, water park, and hot springs all wrapped into one! Ulia (@uliaali) and I spent the entire day feeding animals! Of course, the rides were fun too.

 

 

The history of the park is pretty interesting. Jeffrey, our tour guide explained that it was founded by one of the sons of the Sunway group. After he had studied in the States he realized that Malaysia was missing an amusement park. SO when he went back home he created The Lost World of Tambun based on his experiences at amusement parks in the United States. It is one of the largest parks in Malaysia!

And with that we were off to Indonesia—the island of Bintan to be specific!

Bintan, Indonesia

Indonesia greeted us with more than just palm trees and warm weather, but with delicious smells of cakes and breads. I don’t know what it is about baked goods in Indonesia, but they take is very seriously and there were bakeries everywhere!

After a quick day of rest, we were off to a fun full day of exploring the island. From little temples to fruit markets to the beach, we zig-zagged all over the island. Chasing the sunset, we ended up at the 500 Lohan Temple (just as people had voted for). Oh man, was this place INCREDIBLE! It’s a relatively new temple, only a few years old, but it is noted by 500 monk statues. Each one had a different expression and unique facial characteristics.

Since we arrived just after closing—specially arranged by our tour guides, Eko and Saleh—we had the place to ourselves. The sun was setting and a nearby mosque was singing the evening call to prayer. It is moments like these that remind me why travel is so incredible. We can be in a place so far away from home, yet so well taken care of by strangers. That’s the power of humanity.

Of course, there was still one more day in Bintan. The second day we got up early so we could cover a lot of ground! We started at the markets then went to the Sand Mines. This place is dedicated to mining sand. In fact, much of Singapore was built out of sand from these mines. It was like a little mini desert in the middle of the island. Certainly, a first for me!

 

This was yet another time where we were treated to both options on our poll. We cruised the mangroves by boat just after lunch on the water. As a surprise to us, Eko and Saleh took us to the largest man-made pool in Southeast Asia, Treasure Bay. You’ve certainly seen pictures of this beautiful and massive pool—and it’s everything you’d imagine it would be. Epic!

After Treasure Bay we caught the sunset on the beach and rode ATVs until the sun went down. Our last

dinner was a night street market, where I had probably some of the best food of the trip!

For those that know me well, you know I am vegetarian. I have to say, it was not difficult being vegetarian at all on this trip. There are so many wonderful options, not to mention delicious fruits and fresh produce, that it was very easy.

Our last morning, Eko and Saleh wowed us yet again with two last trips. Both so pretty and instagrammable (after all, if it wasn’t on the ‘gram, did it even happen?).

One to the largest temple on the island, Vihara Avalokitesvara Graha, and the other was the pink mosque. The pink mosque was notable as there are only four pink mosques in the world. Pink represents tolerance and patience in humans and encourages kindness and love. What a way to end the trip?

Before I knew it, I was heading back to Los Angeles. I was exhausted but oh-so-full of rich experiences, new friends, and an excitement to come back soon. The culture in Southeast Asia is so vibrant and dive

rse, and I know I only experienced the tip of the iceberg.

SE Asia, I’m Coming Back

 

Special thank you to ASEAN Tourism and to Victorinox for sponsoring this once-in-a-lifetime trip. See you soon, SEAsia! I’m coming back for ya’ real soon!

#wheninseasia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written By
More from Sarah Dandashy

Travel Tip: Buy Travel Insurance When the Trip is Booked

I see it all the time. Guests dealing with baggage delays, medical...
Read More