If you were to put a map of Asia in front of me and tell me to circle where I’d like to go, I’d just circle the entire continent. Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible to cover such a huge area in two weeks. Thus are the difficulties of planning Spring Break.
After much contemplation and discussing with friends, I first decided on a quick trip to Bangkok to celebrate Songkran, the Thai New Year. For a few days, Bangkok turns into a huge water fight, and you’re involved whether you like it or not.
I was lucky enough to stay with my Thai roommate and his family, so not only did I get to experience the Buddhist aspect of the holiday, I got to travel to the best places to celebrate with some locals. Water guns, music, and foam were all involved.
Next, I took a shorter-than-expected flight north to Hong Kong. Visiting China has always been a dream of mine, and while in many ways Hong Kong is not part of China, it was close enough for me.
Probably the most significant part of this leg of my journey was the fact that I went alone. A year ago, I would have laughed if someone told me I’d be traveling to and exploring another city completely on my own. I was worried I’d get lonely, not know where to go, or just want to stay in my hotel room.
On the contrary, traveling alone was great. I got to set my own agenda, walk at my own pace, visit as many sites as I wanted, eat when and where I wanted, and experience Hong Kong without having to worry about anyone else. It was one of my favorite parts of my travels, and I would encourage everyone to take at least a short time to travel alone. I felt empowered and independent after, and realized I wasn’t the worried, shy person I was before arriving in Asia.
Next, I was off to Cambodia to meet up with my friends who stayed in Chiang Mai for their entire semester abroad. We stayed in Siem Reap for a few days to see Angkor Wat, one of the largest and most important religious complexes in the world.
It was great to meet up with my friends once again, and seeing the incredible architecture is a must for anyone in Southeast Asia. Siem Reap is a small but friendly town, though it was a little touristy for my taste.
A few days later, my group and I flew to Hanoi, Vietnam, and immediately left for Ha Long Bay. While the drive was longer than we expected, the islands are unlike any other I’ve ever seen, and the island of Cat Ba was beautiful.
The lesson we learned here was to plan ahead and make sure you know how to get from place to place. Unfortunately, we paid a lot more than we should have if we had only done our research.
Finally, we drove back to Hanoi for a couple of days to explore the capital of Vietnam. It was very interesting to note the ways in which Hanoi differs from Saigon despite the fact that they share ethnic and historical ties.
Their modern histories of course shaped the ways they developed, and this was evidence in the rate at which they modernized.
Overall, Spring Break was a whirlwind experience. My top three pieces of advice would be to:
1) Plan ahead, but not too much (which would take the fun away),
2) Travel alone for a bit if possible,
3) take a second to breathe because it’ll be over before you know it!