Tag Archives: backpacking

Backpacking South East Asia: Packing List

“Who actually likes packing?” an incredulous friend said to me recently. I do. I love packing. There, the nerd in me is out. It taps into my organisational and planning skills and it helps me get really excited for wherever I am visiting! In the past I’ve had a few friends ask me what they should bring backpacking, whether for themselves or buying presents for a friend or family member who is about to leave on their first backpacking trip! The following are all items I actually use or wish I had used the first time I went backpacking. I pack all these items when I have travelled around Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, Sri Lanka and India. The first time I went backpacking around South East Asia, I completely over packed. My backpack was enormous, I complained all the time and often threw a few tantrums and made my travel buddy carry my backpack!

What to Pack in your Backpack

Here’s how to NOT be a royal pain in the arse when backpacking, avoid complaining and pack these 20 useful and practical items:

  1. Dry bag – These are so incredible useful when you are on and off boats and in monsoon or rainy seasons around Asia. I have a 3L and a 5L and I prefer the larger size as I can fit more stuff in! I bought mine in Thailand but if you are after one before you leave check out Amazon for Dry Bag Sack, Waterproof
backpack south east asia pack
Me adventuring around with my dry bag

 

  1. Small backpack – I only recently converted to be a day backpack kind of person! Before I was always resistant as I thought cross-shoulder bags went better with my outfit (so vain!). Since travelling to India, I am a total convert – you can fit a bottle of water in it and it makes everything feel lighter and more manageable! I bought mine at a market in India, it’s not too big and the perfect size for me!
backpack south east asia pack
Incredible India and me and my little backpack!

 

  1. Kindle – As a complete bookworm, I was always slightly wary of the famous Kindle or e-reader. I love the smell of real books, turning the pages and swapping with friends. However, they are also fairly unpractical for travelling light and the glue melts in the sun or hot countries and the pages fall out. So now I have learnt to embrace the Kindle and I wouldn’t travel anywhere without it! The battery lasts forever (even when I frequently forget to turn it off) and any classic literature is free to download and read! Even better when I am on a budget and want to spend money on travel activities and not books! Check out my list of inspiring travel reads here. Get yours from Amazon Kindle Paperwhite E-reader
backpacking south east asia pack
Reading on the beach in the Gili Islands, Indonesia

 

  1. Travel journal – I love writing and like me, so many travellers I know love to document their journeys in a notebook so that they can return to the memories of how they felt at that time. It’s also a great present for anyone setting off on their trip. Just make sure it’s a light one like these from Amazon…

 

  1. First aid kit – I am by no means a medical expert but the following a few things I include and have used in my first aid kit, plasters, anti-histamines, immodium, charcoal tablets, seasick pills, scissors…

 

 

  1. Sleeping bag liner – This one I find so so useful. When backpacking you might not always be staying in the nicest accommodation and you might not always find the sleeper trains or buses the height of cleanliness. This is where your sleeping bag liner can be used, it’s light so perfect for hot countries and means you don’t have to touch that questionable material underneath you! I have one with a ‘mummy’ hood meaning my hair doesn’t have to touch anything and when being stared at on Indian trains I can just pull the whole thing over my head – Sleeping Bag Liner Travel

 

  1. Tiger balm – I swear by this stuff and so does most of Thailand. I use it for mosquito bites, for warding off bugs, for muscle aches and even to put under my nose if I end up sleeping near a smelly bus toilet! It’s generally more expensive in the UK so wait until you get to South East Asia and buy from a local convenience store like 7/11 in Thailand.

 

  1. Clothes line – this was a present from a friend before I went on my first long backpacking trip and it was so incredible useful. Nice hotels often provide towel rails or drying clothes horses, budget accommodation does not! You can hook the clothes line between two wall fittings in the bathroom or outside and put your clothes in between the twists to stop them flying away in the wind. Mine was similar to this Adjustable Bungee Clothesline

 

  1. Gopro Hero – The first time I went backpacking I didn’t have a GoPro and only discovered them later in life – however I feel I am now making up for lost time. I recently bought a new one, the Gopro 4 as it has a screen and you can use down to 40m for diving. The new gopro 5 can only be used to 10m for diving so you need to buy something extra if you want to take it diving. I bought mine from the Amazon equivalent in Thailand – GoPro HERO4 Silver.
backpacking pack south east asia
I took this with my gopro while diving in Nusa Lembongan, Indonesia – the coral colours were unbelievable!

 

 

  1. Deet mosquito spray – once you are in South East Asia, the strongest DEET mosquito spray I have been able to find is 15% compared with 50% at home and I know which one I would want when faced with those jungle mozzies. This is one item I definitely recommend buying in advance, try Repel Max Insect Repellent

 

 

  1. Ear plugs – Again, an item it took me a while to discover but now I won’t travel without mine (and am constantly buying more as I lose them!) So useful for noisy train journeys and to block out the noise of crying babies, hawkers and the rest. These are not always easy to find in Thailand and the airport shops are way overprices so try ordering some from Amazon before you go. I recommend buying a pack with a few pairs! Protection Noise Cancelling Disposable Foam Earplugs

 

  1. Eye Mask – Another fantastic travelling item that I used constantly on flights, night trains and buses. I find it difficult to sleep and if you do too then definitely invest in a cheap eye mask. Mine is a cheap one from a Thai market but I love the ones that have a space around the eyes like Star Moon Deep Molded Sleep Mask

 

  1. Baby wipes – I never like spending a lot of money on those expensive make-up remover wipes and so I decided to go for tax-free baby wipes instead! They are so useful for sweaty moments, cleaning hands, shoes, backpacks, to use as toilet paper…the list goes on.

 

  1. Sarong – I think this is such a useful item. You can use it to cover your shoulders for visiting religious places, to cover up for warmth, to use as a towel on the beach, to lie on on the dirty ground.  I also recommend waiting until you arrive in South East Asia – so many pretty sarongs and scarves to choose from at the markets.

 

  1. Handwash for clothes – While you can get laundry done on mass cheaply in most of South East Asia, there is always the occasional time when you just want to wash the odd item so I recommend carrying a small handwash liquid around with you for when you really just want to wear that favourite top! (or you’ve suddenly realised that you’ve run out of underwear!) A friend bought me some like these and they were very useful! Travel Hand Wash Soap Sheets

 

  1. Selfie stick – In Thailand there is no shame in using a selfie stick and I honestly think you can get some great photos from using one. There is this gopro selfie stick on Amazon Waterproof GoPro Selfie Stick.  I have bought before in Thailand but it broke fairly quickly and I think it’s better to go with a real shop than a dodgy market in this case!

 

  1. Toilet bags to separate items – I usually get frustrated at how long it takes to find things in my backpack so I’ve recently started separating items using toilet bags or soft linen bags so I know what is in each one. I don’t recommend millions of plastic bags as no-one likes to be woken up in their dorm room by the noisy plastic bag person rummaging around for something!

 

  1. Travel towel – The first time I travelled I took a beach towel – What was I thinking? It was enormous, took up so much space and just collected sand for the duration of my trip. Fool. Try one of these small and quick-drying travel towels instead RainLeaf Travel Towel. I don’t think it’s worth spending a lot as after a few months it will smell and you will probably throw it away!

 

 

  1. Pack of cards – for those long, delayed train journeys, and for those wild drinking game nights you won’t remember. Everyone loves the person who brings a pack of cards for entertainment! Alternatively I received Dobble for Christmas (great present from my sister!) and this livens up any dull journey too! I know even use it to teach in my English classes, it’s easy to play, fast paced and so much fun. Amazon sells them Doburu (spot it) / Dobble (japan import)
  1. Anti-bacterial gel – because travelling as a backpacker is not always the most hygienic way of travelling. Use liberally after toilets, staircases, night trains and buses! Check out more travel in Thailand advice here
    packing backpack south east asia
    Buy cheap sunglasses at the local markets too!
    Disclaimer

    This post contains affiliate links. If you click on the link and purchase an item I will receive a small commission with no extra charge to you. These are all genuinely things that I use all the time when I travel.

The Best National Parks in Thailand

 

If you love adventure, the outdoors, hiking and wildlife then consider heading to some of Thailand’s National Parks. This is, by no means, a full list of National Parks in Thailand but the most impressive ones I have been to so far and am still marvelling at the photos!

Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park

Found about 3-4 hours South of Bangkok in Prachuap Kiri Khan province, this stunning national park is home to 300 birds and the amazing Khao Sam Roi Yot mountains, meaning 300 peaks. I strongly recommend renting a scooter here and exploring all the different caves and viewpoints. It’s an excellent place to practise on a scooter if (like me…you’re kinda nervous/shit scared). About 10 cars will pass you throughout the whole day and the area is flat which is really great for confidence building! Entrance fee is 200 baht for foreigners. I stayed at the small, cute and fairly cheap Namaste Resort*, the owner June was very helpful with renting motorbikes and booking onward travel!

Visit Thailand National Parks Nature
Unseen Thailand: The Hike to Praya Nakhon Cave

Praya Nakhon cave is one of the most famous and has a small but striking blue temple inside an enormous cavern. The hole in the roof of the cave allows the light to filter down where trees and plants are now growing. To get here you can hike about 30 minutes to the beach, and then another 30 minutes after that or take a boat around to the beach if you want to limit your hiking time! The views from the hike are magnificent though!

 

Thailand National Parks Nature Caves
Discover Thailand’s Praya Nakhon Cave

Sam Phraya beach is found just inside the national park. While not a beach for swimming, it’s worth a photo stop of the colourful fishing boats and to marvel at just how far the tide goes out – it seemed like it was on the horizon!

Thailand National Park Nature Beaches
Phraya Nakhon Beach inside Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park

Khao Daeng Viewpoint has been one of my favourite high up views in Thailand so far! It’s about a 30 minute hike up a fairly steep slope with rocks around, so I don’t recommend doing it in flipflops. The trail is only officially open from 8-3.30pm but some visitors risk it for a sunrise/sunset view but bring a flashlight! I went during the afternoon and had these impressive views of both the mountains and the ocean.

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Khao Daeng Viewpoint of the 300 Peak Mountains ‘Khao Sam Roi Yot’

Khao Yai National Park

This is one of my favourite areas of jungle to visit. ! Visit the various waterfalls, do the visitor trail near the visitor office, keep your eyes peeled and ears open to see macaque monkeys, gibbons and there is a high chance of elephants, particularly in rainy season (June-Oct). Remember wild elephants are extremely territorial and dangerous so do not get too close! They are best to see from the road side or from the look-out point near the lake. It’s a great place to stop and chill for lunch too!

You can take a minivan about two hours from Bangkok to Pak Chong. If you are confident on scooters then rent a motorcycle in Pak Chong and head into Khao Yai itself. You must pay 400 baht entrance fee to enter to the park, I recommend taking a map from the visitor office while shows the waterfalls and camping grounds.

National Park Thailand
Khao Yai National Park – Amazing place for jungle trekking and wildlife

For the super adventurous, ask the visitor office about camping. For around 250 baht you can rent a tent at one of a couple of camp sites and stay the night. Bring your own food and drink as there are no shops available in the park! Entrance fee is 400 baht so I recommend staying inside the park to make the most of your money!

Alternatively take a guided tour with Greenleaf tours, they will collect you from Pak Chong and take you into the park in songtaew trucks. Tour includes trekking, guide, lunch and transport and lasts the whole day!

National Parks Thailand
I was lucky enough to spot three wild elephants in Khao Yai National Park. This was an alone adult male.

Khao Sok National Park

Another area of astounding beauty, this park is about two hours north of Krabi. From your  accommodation you can arrange trekking, wildlife spotting with a guide and an overnight stay on the beautiful floating bungalows on the lake, which is definitely worth it. You can rent kayaks and pootle around trying to spot monkeys, gibbons and even the odd elephant! (or so I’m told!). We saw fish eagles, dusky langur monkeys and gibbons on one of our boat trips around. If you want to visit I recommend arranging transport from Krabi and try booking into a treehouse! I usually use Agoda * for hotel bookings in Thailand.

Thailand beautiful destinations nature
Kayaking in Khao Sok National Park after staying in floating bungalows on the lake

Doi Ithanon National Park

These mountains contain the highest peak in Thailand and they are the start of the foothills of the Himalayas. You can join a day trip in a minivan from Chiang Mai to here which also includes waterfalls and a lunch stop. On a clear day you can see fairly far into the mountain ranges and the unusual temple pagodas are worth a look, like something out of Star Wars! The gardens are also stunning with so many different kinds of flowers!

Thailand National Parks Nature
Gardens at the top of Doi Ithanon National Park, Thailand

Khao Lak National Park

I only visited an extremely small area of this but it’s worth it if you find yourself in Khao Lak for a couple of days as I am not a big fan of the town itself. If you take a short hike into the national park then you can stumble across golden sand hidden beaches with hardly anyone on them which is definitely worth it, in my opinion! There was a small entrance fee (I think around 40 baht).

Thailand National Park
Hiking around Khao Lak National Park, Thailand and waiting for the sunset

Erawan National Park

I’ve written about this place before but it is definitely worth a visit to see the impressive Erawan waterfalls – one of the best waterfalls in Thailand. You can spend the day hiking in the jungle and swimming in gorgeous blue pools of fresh cool water. The colours of the water appear bluer the higher you climb so be prepared to head up to the top most step, the 9th one. Bring your own food and water as there is little on offer here You will also find it quieter the higher up you go as the lower and closest steps are often full of local children playing! It’s about 45 minutes drive from Kanchanaburi town and entrance fee is 200 baht.

Thailand beautiful waterfall destination
Swimming in magical blue pools in the Erawan National Park

Don’t Forget to Take:

    • Insect Spray – National Parks in Thailand can be full of mosquitoes so make sure you take insect repellent with you. I recommend 50% DEET if you are prone to being bitten. Try this Repel DEET Pump Spray from Amazon
    • A practical bag – I’ve spent many a time faffing about with the wrong bag, it’s size or style and I’ve finally found that dry bags are the best way forward for any destinations in Thailand that will involve water or sand! Buy yours in all sorts of great colours from Amazon here: Water Proof Dry Bag
    • GoPro – I’m a total gopro convert and love making videos of all my trips! The colours come out really vibrant and as they are waterproof you don’t need to worry if it rains or goes in the sea. Compare prices here for Gopros on Amazon here GoPro HERO4 Silver I’m currently using the Gopro Hero 4 after my Entry Level Hero gave up the ghost in India (advice: they are not smash proof when dropped on a stone floor while ziplining!)

 

For backpacking essentials that I actually use and are very practical check out my blog post here

*This post contains affiliate links. If you click on the link and make a purchase I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Thailand Itinerary: One Week

So you’ve got one week in Thailand? Whether you’re a beach bum, a party animal, a culture vulture or an adventurer I’ve suggested an itinerary for you to make the most of your trip around Thailand! If you only have one week I suggest flying most places unless you are on a tight budget and then use night buses and night trains to make the most of all your days.

BEACH BUM

Day 1

Head down to Krabi (fly or night bus) – spend 2 days in Railay, on the beach day 1, do a snorkelling tour day 2

Day 2 & 3 Boat to Koh Phi Phi, beach day and hike to viewpoint,

Day 4 trip to Maya Bay to see ‘The Beach’ beach, snorkelling, party at night

Day 5  – Do a try dive/ island hopping trip

Day 6 fly back/night bus back to Bangkok

For the Ultimate Beach Bum: Read about the best islands in Thailand

PARTY ANIMAL

Day 1 – take night bus/train to Koh Tao

Day 2 and 3 on Koh Tao

Day 4 and 5 Head to Koh Phangan, time with a Full Moon/Half Moon/Jungle Party. Make the most of the Full Moon Party with these tips and advice

Day 6 back to Bangkok

Day 7 explore Bangkok

For the top things to do in Bangkok

CULTURE VULTURE

Day 1 & 2 stay in Bangkok and spend time exploring

Day 3 & 4 Take train/minivan for 3 days in Kanchanaburi – visit waterfall, visit war museum, see bridge over the river kwai, visit an elephant sanctuary

Read more about Kanchanaburi on my post about Thailand’s Top National Parks

Day 5 –go to Ayutthaya the ancient capital in Thailand

Day 6 Take train/minivan from Ayutthaya back to Bangkok

 

ADVENTURER

Day 1 Spend time in Bangkok

Day 2 & 3 Take a minivan to Khao Yai National Park and go camping and jungle trekking

Day 4 & 5 Fly from Bangkok to Chiang Mai or take the night train and spend 3 days in Chiang Mai, ziplining, seeing elephants or any other adventure activities on my Chiang Mai list

Day 6 Fly/night train back to Bangkok

My Travelling Regrets

Because sometimes we have travel regrets, some big and some small! Unfortunately it’s not all coconuts on white sand beaches (only most of the time!). While I love reading about the amazing experiences people have done while travelling the world, I also think it’s good to talk about what we missed out on so that a fellow traveller might not make the same mistake!

  • Not taking enough photos. I seem to always take a million photos of exactly the same angle of the popular sights like certain temples or famous monuments but I forget to take photos of the every day; the colourful tuktuks, the street food stalls, the flower markets and these are really the snaps that help sum up the real feelings and atmosphere of a place. When I recently visited India I tried to take more real photos that take me back to that moment!

travel regrets photo mistakes thailand india asia

 

  • Not visiting the sand dunes in Mui Ne Vietnam. The person I was travelling with didn’t want to go so I didn’t go. Silly decision. Likewise with Monkey Island near Cat Ba in Vietnam. That was the first time I ever went backpacking, now I know I would be confident enough to go it alone!

 

  • Not researching Dalat, Vietnam properly and missing out on canyoning down waterfalls because I didn’t know about it!

 

  • Overpacking. So the story of my life is that I have too many clothes, too many shoes and just too much ‘stuff’ in general. My backpack was too heavy, and as a result I spent a lot of time complaining and being too lazy to walk too far to find accommodation which probably meant I stayed in scummier places at not as convenient locations.

 

 

  • Getting in a big argument with a tuktuk driver in Siem Reap, Cambodia about money. I feel ashamed to have acted this way and it turned into a scene. It was after all, not very much money for me and a lot for him. In my defence I was a newbie and struggling with culture shock and poverty like child beggars. But really this where I should have been at my most generous and I’m embarrassed to say I was not. Hopefully now I am older, wiser and more understanding!

 

  • Missing Christmas at home. It was just once, when I first moved to Thailand and I have made a pact with myself to never skip Christmas again. For some people Christmas travelling might be fun, a chance to celebrate on the beach or with new friends or old ones across the world. However, for me Christmas should be and always will be about family, and mine did not celebrate together because of me (I stole my sister who joined me in Thailand). Christmas is not the same without everyone who matters arguing about Dobble under the same roof. Also as a British person, Christmas should be cold! Wearing santa hats in the heat is just a step into the surreal for me!

 

  • Worrying too much about planning things that I forget to enjoy the moment of where I actually am! (Still working on this one!)

 

  • That said…BADLY PLANNING things. On two occasions I hadn’t factored in enough time to see a place and with transport being particularly SLOW in some areas of South East Asia I successfully managed to arrive in BOTH Penang and Singapore late at night… in order to fly out the next morning. Luckily I’ve since been back to Singapore for the weekend but I’m still waiting on that Penang trip…

travelling regrets asia singapore thailand mistakes

 

  • Not being more adventurous with food. Ok, I admit, I am so boring with food! I eat cornflakes EVERY morning for breakfast. Luckily for me, travelling forces me to be more adventurous with food and I need to do this way more. The first time I backpacked I refused to eat noodles, didn’t like Vietnamese food and generally did not enjoy eating food in South East Asia! Four years later, while I still eat my boring cornflakes I also point at random stuff displayed at street food stalls around Asia and I will try it.

 

  • Having the worst hangover of my entire life in Siem Reap Cambodia in a boiling hot hostel with no A/C or fridge for water. Lesson learnt: hangovers in heat are the worst! If you know it’s gonna be a messy night, consider splashing out on an A/C room.

 

  • Getting so used to travelling constantly that I became too lax about airport timings and missed a flight to Taiwan. Cue arguments and tears and FINALLY being allowed to board the next one! Sometimes making a (tiny) fuss pays off!

 

  • Thinking that I probably wouldn’t like mountain biking but wanting to be adventurous so I signed up anyway. There was an afternoon of 10km downhill, or a full day trip of 25km downhill from the top of a mountain in Chiang Mai. Guess which one this idiot chose? Within the first five minutes I knew I hated and it DID end in tears and me walking my bike down the mountain. I’m glad I tried it but I regret not going for the ‘taster’ session!

What are some of your travel regrets and mistakes?

Thailand: Most Beautiful Destinations

These are my top 6 most beautiful destinations in Thailand…that I’ve been  to so far! Even after three years here I am still discovering so much…

Koh Similan

This group of white sand islands are found off the West Coast of Thailand, about 2 hours by speedboat. You can only visit during dry season (end of Oct-end of April) and try camping through the National Park to avoid the day tripper crowds!

Thailand Beautiful destinations beaches islands
Viewpoint on Similan 4, steep hike to the top but it was worth it!

Khao Sok National Park

Stay the night on floating bungalows on a blue lake surrounded by jungle. Kayak around spotting monkeys and wake up to the sound of gibbons. About 2 hours North of Krabi, try staying at a Tree House before heading for an overnight on the lake! You are given a guide as part of the tour who will help you to spot gibbons, eagles, dusky langur monkeys and even the rare elephant!

Thailand beautiful destinations nature
Kayaking with my Dad around the lake after sleeping in floating bungalows

 

Koh Lipe

One of the beaches with the whitest sand and the clearest water I’ve seen! The snorkelling was beautiful with lovely corals too. The main beach is stunning but be warned, they do have a litter problem because of the tides so walk around to the sunset beach and unfortunately you will find rubbish lying around. The sunsets are some of the best in the country!

Thailand beautiful destinations islands sunset
Sunsets in Koh Lipe, Thailand

Erawan Waterfalls, near Kanchanaburi

A 9 step waterfall found inside Erawan National Park, it’s worth the hike up to the uppermost step! Spend the day swimming in pools of stunning turquoise water. Ignore the ‘no food/drink’ sign and head to to one of the higher steps to avoid too many people. I suggest a week day visit for this place as it is very popular with Thai tourists.

Thailand waterfall destination
Swimming at the top step of the Erawan Waterfalls, Thailand

Phu Chi Fah

A little known place up in the mountains between the border of Laos and Thailand, you can take a motorbike to the top and watch the sunrise while hanging out on the border of two countries! I think having your own transport would be necessary for here and be prepared to find very few foreigners around.

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Phu Chi Fah, sunrise viewpoint in between Laos and Thailand

Do you agree? Any other places you think should be on my list? Here is my list for islands only! 

Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park

A new favourite of mine to visit! About 3-4 hours by minivan from Bangkok is Prachuap Kiri Khan Province. Inside the province are majestic limestone mountains known as Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, translated as Mountain of 300 peaks. Rent a scooter and ride around to beautiful beaches, explore caves and viewpoints and check out empty beaches!

thailand most beautiful destinations
Khao Daeng Viewpoint, Thailand National Park Destinations