What I ate in South East Asia; The Good, the Bad and The Ugly

THE GOOD

I never felt healthier than while traveling through Indochina. Every meal was colorful, fresh, and delicious. I sampled every local deliciously and tried many dishes I would have never picked in the states. My favorite temptation throughout South East Asia were freshly juiced drinks. I had one at every meal. I tried watermelon juice in every country and for most breakfasts. The best was at a tiny cafe in Luang Prabang, Laos.

JUICES

THE BAD

Personally some of the worst foods I ate were fish dishes. However many of my tour mates loved these meals. I do not like fish. I did try everything. But I did not enjoy any of them. Plus the way fish was presented (with its eyes and scales) was not appetizing.

THE UGLY

In Indochina you have to try the weird stuff. Sometimes you just need to close your eyes and eat. I sampled a couple of weird delicacies that turned out not bad! I tried several different fried bugs in Thailand. They were crunchy and had weird textures, but for the most part tasted like popcorn. I also sampled rat in Laos. Honestly if I didn’t know it was rat I would have just that it was BBQ beef skewers. Snake whiskey was the weirdest thing I tried that I actually enjoyed! I did a shot once in Laos and again in Vietnam. It tastes like tequila.

FOOD PORN PHOTOS

RECOMMENDATIONS

You have to take a cooking class in Thailand. I learned tricks that I implement today at home. The class took me through the Asia markets. It taught me how to shop for ripe vegetables, eggs and the perfect meats. I learned how to make Pad Thai, Pumpkin Curry and Sticky Rice. I absolutely loved learning to cook in Chiang Mai.

WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT MY TRIP THROUGH SOUTH EAST ASIA? CHECK OUT:

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Plus Size Girls Packing. Guide to South East Asia

PackforSEA

Before my trip to South East Asia I scoured the internet for packing advice to a plus size girl. I had very little luck. So in order to save you some time I’ve complied my recommend packing list for a curvy girl traveling in SE Asia.

1. Body Glide (Chub Rub Stick): Thick thighs, humidity and extreme heat do not mix. Invest in body glide! If you bring one thing with you, choose Body Glide! I went through two sticks during my trip. Prevents chaffing and irritation caused by rubbing skin or undergarments.

2. Maxi Dress with sleeves: Many temples in South East Asia require shoulders and knees to be covered for entry. Invest in a light weight maxi dress to look conservativ

Bright colors are a must in the tropics!

Bright colors are a must in the tropics!

e but stylish. This dress can also double as a swim suit cover up!

3. Two Linen or Cotton tank tops: Invest in light weight and flowy fabrics. These are easy to pack, layer and clean. I absolutely lived in my Maurices elephant print tank (pictured above).

4. Chiffon Kimono: Modesty is important while traveling in Asia. It’s okay to wear tank tops when at the beach or riding elephants, but when dining or going to the market I recommend covering up your shoulders with an airy kimono like this Floral Print Kimono from Maurices. 

5. Rose Water Spritz: I swear by Boots Botanics Organic Rosewater Face Spray. It cleanses, cools, and moisturizes your skin.  Check out this article on the benefits of Rose Water.

Invest in layering pieces.

Invest in layering pieces like a vest or kimono. 

6. Soft, flexible and Supportive Bra: Many of the packing tip articles I found suggested do as the natives do and “go braless”. Well as a full figured woman there’s no way I could let the girls dangle. Invest in a great bra. Something that will not retain moisture, move with your body, breath and give support.

7. Bring simple t-shirts: I wish I had brought two plain, simple, yet chic t-shirts with me on my trip. I can’t tell you how many mornings I went through my suitcase and simply did not want to put on any of my frilly blouses!

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Invest in loose fitting, breathable tops to keep cool.

8. Don’t bring dainty flip flops: When walking through Bangkok you can play “I spy the broken flip flop!” From crowds stepping on your heals, getting sunk in mud, or just plain bad luck your “Old Navy” $5 thongs will break. Invest in sturdier sandles. I suggest Birkenstocks. They are super fashionable right now. Plus they have a life time guarantee!

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Invest in “Harem Pants” before you leave. Plus sizes are hard to find at the local markets.

9. Don’t bring jeans: Jeans are heavy, stiff and downright miserable when wet. If you’re like me and love the look of jean shorts then find some shorts with a synthetic jean like appearance (like these from Maurices).

10. Beach Babe Texturizing Sea Salt Spray: Ditch you curling irons, flats irons and hair spray. Your hair will not withhold the humidity. Use a Sea salt spray to add sexy, tousled waves and a light matte finish to any hair type.

11. Beware Harem Pants: When in SE Asia you will be surrounded by stick thin hippies wearing “Elephant Pants“. You will desperately want to join the cult. However as a size 14+ girl you will struggle to pants that fit in the local markets. I tore three pairs during my trip! So think ahead and find a pair at your mall before your trip. They’re all over the stores right now!

12. Flattering, but conservative swim apparel: Modesty is always important in Asia. I love my body but when I rocked my cleavage boosting bikini on our first seaside outing I felt like I was given death stares at by the locals. I’m a confident woman but I did not like the glares.

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I wish I had brought a suit more like this cute, flattering tankini.

13. Bright Lip Stain and eye liner: You’re going on vacation so why not give your skin a break as well? Ditch all of your make-up and go all natural. Everyone else will as well. Plus any foundation, ect. will just melt off in the humidity. My essentials in Asia were my bright coral lip stick by Pixi brand (Target) and liquid eye-liner for fancy nights out.

14. No Jewlery: Twice on my trip girls lost their jewelry and one girl had her jewlery stolen from her suitcase at the airport! Don’t brink expensive rings, necklaces or family heirlooms with you! It’s not worth it. Instead pick up some cool accessories at the local markets!

15. Scarf: I have a rainbow scarf that has now been two 6 countries with me. It is my number one travel accessory. Invest in a large scarf that can double as a sarong, shirt, blanket, towel, bag, and more! Carry it with you all the time. It will keep you warm, modest, stylish and protected from the sun when needed.

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This temple in Thailand required your knees to be covered. Good thing I had my trusty scarf with me!


Want more information on what I packed?

Packing

Check out my detailed packing list for my Big Indochina Adventure!

Review of the Big IndoChina Adventure with Contiki

I initially chose to go to South East Asia because I wanted to travel to a tropical location for my winter holiday. Other then wanting to catch some rays, I had no other aspirations. But I now have a new love and appreciation for asian culture and solo travel.

This trip introduced me to a completely foreign culture, new (amazing) foods, friendly people, peaceful cultures, exotic adventures and stunning landscapes. This trip put me out of my comfort zone and completely emerged me in different ways of life. I can honestly say I have returned as a stronger, braver and more confident person. I recommend going on this adventure alone. You will meet many like-minded travelers and you will discover so much about yourself.

When I booked this trip I expected to stay in mostly hostels and cheap hotels…expectations were blown out the water. We stayed in mostly 4 and 5 star hotels. Every place was nicer then the last. But my favorite places we stayed we not the 5 star hotels. We stayed at two charming guest houses and on a beautiful junk boat in Ha Long Bay. Every place we stayed had free wifi, water bottles, safes and hot water!

I couldn’t have asked for a better group of fellow travelers. I will forever be friends with many of the people I met. Especially my tour manger Lee (Hailey). I can safely say she made my trip. Lee is super cool, chill and fun. She showed us the best bars, hangouts and foodies in town. She was familiar with the locals and even spoke most of languages. I told her initially I planned on turning my brain off for most of my trip. So it was awesome having her plan most excursions and helping me have the time of my life.

The coolest thing about this trip is you’re not stuck on a bus all day long like many other contiki trips. Don’t get me wrong there are bus trips. The longest was 6 hours. To get through the different countries you will take an overnight train, boats, tuk tuks, buses, vans and jets. I loved our overnight train ride. It really gave everyone a chance to bond.

My favorite things I did on the trip were the Wat Phrathat in Chiang Mai, Thai cooking class in Chiang Rai, Elephant riding, “Kangaroo Sunset” bar and kayaking in Luang Prabang, causing a street dance party in Siem Reap, jumping off our boat in Nha Trang and sailing in Ha Long Bay.

I would recommend this trip to everyone. I always felt safe, culturally submerged and had a blast.

Tips I wish I had been given:
-Bring temple wear (Long pants, t-shirts)
-Pack your bag and then take out half. It’s super easy to do laundry.
-Bring only one swim suit. There are water activities, but not consecutive ones. You only need one suit.
– You should not need more then $25 a day if you don’t plan on doing much shopping.
– Invest good pair of flip flops. You have to remove your shoes a lot and they’re easier to get on and off then sandals.
-Don’t bring a huge suitcase. A back pack is better.
-You don’t need to bring makeup. Most of the girls on the trip won’t wear it. It will just sweat off.
-Bring your own bug spray.
-Bring or be prepared to pull out american dollars. You will need to pay for most excursions with USD. Also Cambodia widely prefers USD over Riel.
-If you’re coming from the states you don’t need an adaptor. All outlets take the US plug!
-Wifi is everywhere. Turn your phone on airplane mode and don’t bother getting a plan. Just Skype and iMessage people using wifi.
-Pack playing cards!
-Pack your own portable charger!

Last night in Hanoi

Where did I stay? Hong Ngoc Hotel

Our final night in Vietnam we went to see a water puppet show and had our final group meal. It was pretty anti-climatic, but it’s hard to top Halong Bay.

I have loved every second of my tour of South East Asia. I’ve met some truly amazing people. A few who I hope to be friends with for the rest of my life. I will honestly miss Becky, Sam, Adam, Rhys, Lee and everyone else too! It’s been an amazing life changing experience. I feel like I’ve grown into a more confident, happier and braver citizen of the world. Every expectation I had for this trip were blown out of the water! Check out my next post for an overall review!

Halong Bay

After a three hour drive from Hanoi we arrived to Halong Bay. To board our junk boat we had to catch a ferry. Our group was split up when a bunch of Chinese tourists invaded our ferry. So half of us had to figure out which boat was ours without our local guide! After searching we eventually found it.

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Our ship!

Then we boarded our beautiful Chinese-style junk boat for an overnight cruise. Our ship was absolutely stunning. It was a five-star cruise ship. defiantly more than what I expected. The company is called Halong Sails. It would recommend them to anyone! Our room was the fanciest of the trip so far and the best was like sleeping on a cloud!

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After a bit of sun bathing on the top deck we jumped into Kayaks to explore the lagoons and secretive mountains of Halong Bay. For a while we were alone in a beautiful lagoon surrounded by towering mountains. It was so peaceful and quiet. We paddled through the stunning blue waters and past playful monkeys. It was simply breath-taking. As we were leaving several tourist boats zoomed by us and into the lagoon. I’m very glad we had the place to ourselves while we could. 1501730_10152765343290813_6595236365577869226_n

After kayaking the sun started to come out so we headed to the beach. While some people trekked to the top of a mountain I decided to take a nap on the beach. It was glorious and refreshing. I felt well rested which was important because that night we had a “Pirate Party”!

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The party was wild! I drank my weight in vodka and even got to DJ. I got a bunch of people to dance by playing mega hits like “Grease” and Spice Girls. We even convinced the cabin crew to dress up. At one point the bar stopped keeping track and we were pouring our own shots!

I woke up early in the morning with only a mild hangover. But my hangover was amplified when we went to the VERY loud Sung Sot Caves. We had to wait in a long line and push through tons of tourists before getting into the caves. Our guide neglected to mention the winding staircases and long hike. So those of us who drank a bit too much the night before had a pretty rough time at the caves. But we had a great time laughing at each other’s misery!

Bustling Hanoi

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We arrived into busy Hanoi mid-day and headed to the famous Temple of Literature. It was college graduation day so the temple was insanely crowded. But it was cool to see the locals dressed up, celebrating and socializing. All of the girls looked stunning in their traditional Vietnamese gowns and the boys looked like models in their perfectly tailored suits.

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Then we went to this great restaurant right outside of the temple. The restaurant supports local kids and provides job training. I had delicious Pho and Water Melon Juice. Everything was heavenly.