First Impressions of South East Asia

south east asia bangkok to singapore on a shoestring g adventures thailand malaysia singapore

So I recently did the Bangkok to Singapore on a Shoestring tour with G Adventures over the festive period as you already know. I travelled across three countries in South East Asia in two weeks – Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.

Here I am, thinking about which part of the world I want to see next. (At the moment, Canada is at the top of my list.) At the same time, I’m in a particularly reminiscent mood. Now that a bit of time has passed since my Bangkok to Singapore trip over the Christmas holidays, I thought it’d be the perfect time to reflect on my first time in South East Asia.  Think of this a sort of ‘round up’ blog post.

It was so exciting for me to visit these places as South East Asia was a part of the world that was whole new territory to me – visiting three countries and a continent I had never visited before in my life.

It was also very terrifying as during the weeks and months leading up to the trip, I kept hearing things like ‘[In Thailand] they kill people for fun’ or ‘They plant drugs on you and lock you up.’ You get my drift…

Really terrifying things…

After my first solo travel adventure to the States with Trek America over a year ago, I thought I’d go to a location I was a lot more unfamiliar with. I’d never been to South East Asia before and it was a part of the world I was extremely fascinated by. So I went ahead booked the tour.

As I arrived in Bangkok after a long flight from the UK, it was early in the morning. I immediately thought it was very congested with lots of traffic. Basically everything I expected from a bustling city like Bangkok. No one came at me with any guns or threatened me. Nothing sinister like that happened.

Then as I ventured out waiting for my hotel room to be ready, I noticed that Bangkok was a popular choice for backpackers and solo travellers as I walked past quite a few hostels. Bangkok has some of the most beautiful architecture – take the Grand Palace for example. The water taxis tend to get very crowded though.

I heard some crazy stories of Khao San Road and decided to completely avoid it like the plague. From my knowledge, it sounded like the Magaluf strip where the craziest, nastiest shit tends to happen.

Besides, I was WAY too tired and jet-lagged to fully sample Bangkok’s nightlife so I skipped altogether to catch up on some sleep. Nightlife is the absolute least important thing to me when travelling. But I know it’s an absolute ‘must do’ for others. I know that’s what draws many travellers to Bangkok.

Next after the overnight train was Krabi. I noticed that Krabi was more chilled out and relaxed than Bangkok. Its beaches were so beautiful though, so I definitely felt it delivered in that sense. During my time in Thailand, I noticed that most of the non-touristy areas were extremely run down and rough.

The buildings looked very rough and destroyed. It goes to show how little we see of the reality of the destination and how much of the glossy, picture-perfect, Instagram-worthy parts of it we see. Another thing was a lot of the public toilets, particularly Thailand and Malaysia, are literally a hole in the floor, no seats or anything. So you literally have to bend right down to use the toilet. But they do have normal toilets as well thankfully.

My first impressions of Malaysia were that it was cleaner and less deprived than Thailand. It made me chuckle that there was a Tesco chain Malaysia. Definitely not something I ever expected to see during my travels around South East Asia.

Singapore was my favourite on the tour to visit. It’s so clean and the air is far less polluted. I didn’t feel like I was in South East Asia at all. Basically, it’s a much nicer, cleaner version of any UK city. One thing for sure, the malls and shopping districts in Singapore are absolutely incredible.

Not only are the pavements clean, public transport is clean and fresh. It’s also really easy to get around and found their transport system so much easier to navigate than the London Underground. This makes me feel weird and less appreciative of taking public transport back in the UK, as they are often really dirt and nasty. People don’t respect public transport anywhere near as much as in Singapore.

I really wish that public transport and the place in general would be treated with just as much respect as the public transport in Singapore.

Yay or Nay?

There were lots of highs and lows on this trip. I did a lot of fun things and have some fun memories. I would recommend this particular tour as it offers a lot of diversity, a rich history and an amazing culture.

My journey through South East Asia was a very eye-opening one indeed. It was fascinating to me to visit three very diverse countries in South East Asia and gain an enriching experience.

I feel extremely grateful and privileged to have visited the places I visited and experience them first-hand. There are quite a few places on the tour I’d love to go back to. Namely Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Cameron Highlands and Krabi. But I definitely want to explore more of them in the future…

Have you ever been anywhere in South East Asia? If so, what were your experiences of it like? What did you think of it? Are there any particular parts of South East Asia you would like to visit the most?


Check out the full G Adventures Bangkok to Singapore on a Shoestring itinerary here…

Catch up on my previous posts: Exploring Bangkok | Christmas in Krabi | Heading to Penang | Cameron Highlands | New Year in Kuala Lumpur  | Exploring Melaka | Exploring Singapore

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