This month we’re Straying with Rebecca Mussenden from England. Rebecca graduated from law school and then decided to put down the books and travel the world.
Over the course of 4 months, Rebecca Strayed with us in Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and New Zealand – everywhere you can Stray, she Strayed!! Now she has the travel bug bad. America and South America are next to the list!
What is the most interesting thing you learnt or did while on tour?
I surprised myself and really embraced the history of Cambodia. Our guide Coco spent hours in the evenings explaining the history of Cambodia from 1863 and the French involvement all the way to 2016 and the current political situation! Within our group we had bought some books that were written about the Cambodian civil war and the killing fields. My favourite was called “first they killed my father – a daughter of Cambodia remembers” by Loung Ung. This was a fascinating read, it was well written in first person by a women who lived and survived the war. I would highly recommend it to people interested in Cambodian history it will really bring a different dimension to your travel and make you appreciate and understand the visits to S21 Prison and the Killing Fields that little bit more! I, along with most other people, find it crazy how recently this all happened. The fact that you can still speak to survivors is something that took me a while to get my head around.
What are the 5 things you can’t leave home without to travel in Asia?
- Portable battery pack! – essential for long travel days, accommodation with generators or just general convenience especially as I’m a top bunk kinda gal, you don’t always get near enough to a power plug when there is 2 plugs in a bunk room of 16 people, trust me, it’s easier to just plug into your battery pack than join the rota for charging phones!
- sleeping bag liner – my silk liner is like Jesus is hugging you! Perfect for sleeper trains, and the last minute accommodation choice where clean bedding doesn’t look like their top priority. It’s nice just to have your own liner to sleep in, it keeps you cool and comfortable which is good for the hot Asian nights!
- GO Pro/ similar action camera – I actually left home without one as I didn’t buy one before my travels as I had a bulletproof, waterproof camera but having seen all the go-pros on my travels in hindsight I would have bought one. They are smaller, easier to carry and easier to attach to you when doing crazy stuff! I am just seriously jealous of all you go pro owners!
- Neck cushion – these bad boys are seriously underrated. A must-have for long bus journeys and plane journeys and basically anywhere you might just want to take a nap and need a pillow!
- A can do attitude – you need to be open to new experiences and meeting new people and not be afraid to approach people and try new things. All the fantastic memories are down to saying ‘yes’ when you want to say ‘no’ and just sharing the whole experience with new people who become your new best friends.
What are your personal hotspots/destinations in Asia and why?
Myanmar was awesome! I had a fantastic guide called Sonny and we had a small group because it was not peak season. Myanmar was an awesome country because its nothing like anywhere else in Asia. It has only recently been opened to tourists and this is what makes it so awesome! You can go for days without seeing another tourist and it has still to be influenced by the western culture. You wont find any Mac Donalds here for sure! Bagan was one of my favourite places in the whole of Asia, although I don’t think I appreciated this until I had finished Asia 2 months later, and only then did I appreciate how unique it was.
Equally Chiang Mai is an awesome place for activities. I am a bit of an adrenaline junkie so any destination where you can be doing crazy stuff or active stuff is up there in my personal hot spots! Chiang Mai is known for its elephants and zip lining! I also loved the boat trip in Sihanoukville in Cambodia where we got to go snorkelling and trekking. Da Lat in Vietnam has THE BEST canyoning – I mean who doesn’t want to spend the day abseiling down waterfalls and jumping off cliffs?! The Dark Cave in Phong Nha was the weirdest thing I think I have ever done! You literally float in mud! I can’t even explain how cool it is, you just have to do it! Finally, how can I forget Angkor Wat! It is what it says on the tin! And I would definitely recommend 2/3 days here, 1 was not enough!
What is a handy tip for other travellers thinking about Straying Asia?
Pack light, trust me you will be fed up of packing and unpacking your bag after a few days on the move. Pack the essentials in reality you wear the same clothes every day anyway! I have clothes that I carried for 16 months and never wore!
Also I cannot stress enough the need to budget!! I met far to many people who had run out of money or had already used double their initial budget. Asia is cheap yes, but not as cheap as you think it is. Can you eat for £2 a day? Yes, if you want to eat street food for every meal every single day. Trust me no one wants to do that! You will want to enjoy a nice meal now and again or just eat somewhere, where you don’t have to sit on children’s chairs on the roadside. There is nothing worse than getting to an awesome destination with all these fun things to do and being the one who can’t do anything because their budget only barely covers their accommodation and food expenses. I’m not saying save millions I’m just saying do some research and plan ahead – yes you will spend more on beer than you think you will (factor that in haha)
What is your top tip for everyone who travels for the first time?
Enjoy yourself. Make sure you stay in dorms, speak to people and be friendly. You never know who you might be spending the next few months with it could be anyone you bump into. It’s also likely that you will bump into the same people a few days/weeks/months later somewhere random. The best advice you can get is from people who have been there and done it. Heading to Cambodia next and staying with some people who have just come from there? Ask them what they did and what they would recommend! A conversation like this will give you invaluable information and probably end in a good night out with new friends!
What will you miss the most when you return home?
I will miss the constant company. I love being around people, sharing experiences with people and constantly being busy. It will be weird to go home to my own room. I imagine it will be so lonely. I mean who will I have the midnight chats with now and the dorm movie nights? British Bake Off nights and the impromptu drinking games. It will be a struggle! But I guess a little bit of privacy will be a welcome change and sleeping without earplugs will be a luxury! I WILL NOT miss people who snore! Haha.