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You all know by now how much I love epic festivals but sadly it’s been a while since my last one. So I’ve teamed up with Holidays by Destination2 to talk about some of the amazing festivals around the world which could give you a travel experience to remember. Whether it’s a food festival, a religious celebration or even a huge music festival. There’s nothing like combining travel with epic festivals to really turn an average trip into a one you won’t forget. I remember a few years back when I was invited to cover Hideout Festival in Croatia for the website I worked for, cue turning it into an epic 10 day holiday with a huge group of mates and it’s definitely a trip I will always remember.

Throughout my travels I’ve stumbled upon all kinds of amazing local celebrations from Chinese New Year and comedy festivals, to Tamil parades and even street parties across Germany, the UK, Australia and Asia. There’s something special about joining in the local celebrations, you don’t just look at a new culture, you become a part of it and for me, that’s what travel is all about. I’ve picked out six festivals from all corners of the globe that offer completely different and unique experiences. Whether you’re traveling in Europe or as far as Asia, there is always a way to get involved and join the festival atmosphere. Next time you’re planning a trip, why not check out what events are going on in the local area? It’s a great way to meet people when you travel and to have an extra-special travel experience. Here are just some of the epic festivals that are waiting for you:

Six epic festivals to squeeze into your travels

Pic by IZATRINI.com

Trinidad & Tobago Carnival, Caribbean

When? March 4-5

What could possibly make your trip even better than celebrating life itself? Filled with energy, vitality, the brightest costumes and colours and the intoxicating, hip-shaking sounds of Calypso and Soca music, Trinidad and Tobago Carnival is the biggest of all epic festivals in the Caribbean. I’ve not been lucky enough to travel to this part of the world yet but it’s definitely high on my bucket list, and when I go there, I know I want to party, so how better to plan a trip than to coincide with such an epic and well-known event? The festival was originally created in the 18th century to imitate and mock the pre-Lent celebrations of the plantation owners, but took on a life of it’s own following the abolishment of slavery. Head to this festival to join the greatest street parade in the world, join the revelry by dancing all day and all night, drinking in the sights and sounds of Caribbean life. Read more about the history of this event here.

Epic festivals in Vietnam

Pic by Carla Cometto

Hoi An Lantern Festival, Vietnam

When? Every month! Full list of dates here

Hoi An was one of my absolute favourite parts of Vietnam, such a beautiful little town with such a rich history and heritage. You can read all about my trip there in this post. I’m so sad that during my week there I didn’t manage to see the lantern festival when the colourful little town comes alight and you can really appreciate it in all it’s splendour. Each day once the sun sets, the villagers light lanterns as part of a centuries-old tradition for the locals to give offerings and worship their ancestors by setting the lanterns into the river. At 8pm, all the town’s lights are turned off so you can really see the town aglow. The best time to go is the first full moon of the lunar new year when the most people will gather, but the event does happen every month so its an easy one to fit in with your travels.

Six epic festivals to squeeze into your travels

Pic by Carrotmadman6

Maha Shivaratri, Mauritius

When? February 13

Some of you might not know but my dad’s side of the family come from Mauritius, and although I have been to visit twice, I haven’t been for around 10 years. I would love to go back and see how the country has changed since I last visited, and what better time to go than when the biggest Hindu festival outside of India is taking place? When we’re talking epic festivals, Maha Shivaratri lasts a whopping five days and see nearly 500,000 people (almost half the population of the Indian Ocean island) dressing in white and joining a procession towards the lake of Grand Bassin. Celebrating the victory of Shiva and Vishnu on Brahma, the pilgrims consider the lake to be an extension of the Ganges, making offerings and bathing in the water. Visitors will be treated to quite a sight and will also have the opportunity to admire one of the tallest statues in the Indian Ocean

Six epic festivals to squeeze into your travels

Pic by Leocadio Sebastian

Thaipusam, Kuala Lumpur

When? January/February

Another Hindu festival but this time in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where I was back in November. We had just one day in the city but made sure to visit the Batu Caves which were astounding. During Thaipusam the celebrations attract over a million people who gather in the city and join a procession which walks the 15km to the caves, taking around 8 hours. Quite a sight, and the festival normally attracts around 10,000 tourists. Looking for epic festivals in Asia? This one is all about putting your body through torture to appease the Lord, so we’re talking incredible body piercings using hooks, sewers and small lances – when it comes to crazy festivals I think this one is definitely up there and I can’t imagine what it must be like to actually be there and see all of these amazing sights. If you’re traveling in Asia, Kuala Lumpur is such an easy stopover and a great place to spend 24 hours, we were there for just 10 hours and had loads of time to get out of the airport and to explore lots of different sights – read my post here.

Epic festivals in Abu Dhabi

Pic by Ryan Hurril

Abu Dhabi Film Festival

When? October

The Middle East always looks like such a fascinating and beautiful place to travel, I know that it has had a bad rep for the political strife in some countries, but I know so many people who have traveled to this part of the world and have raved about their experiences. Israel, Jordan, Iran and Oman have been on my travel list for a while, and when you have great places to stopover such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi, why not build a festival into the trip? One of the most anticipated cultural events in the city, visitors can learn more about the vibrant film culture in the Middle East by seeing the talents of Arab directors pitted against some of the world’s most respected filmmakers. If you love creative talent and want to experience more Arab cinema, this is the festival for you, it’s about time Western travelers spent more time in this beautiful part of the world.

Epic festivals in SpainPic by Łukasz Lech

La Tomatina, Spain

When? Last Wednesday of August

Who doesn’t love a food fight? Here’s the perfect combination of epic festivals and a crazy food fight experience! If you’re planning any European travels this summer, why not time your trip with a stop in sunny Spain for the world’s biggest food fight? La Tomatina is held in Bunol, near Valencia, and each year it attracts thousands from all over the world to join in the crazy, messy fun as more than 100 tonnes of over-ripe tomatoes are thrown in the streets. Since 2013 the event has been officially ticketed which has limited numbers to just 20,000 so be sure to grab tickets so you don’t miss out. I’m allergic to tomatoes and extremely resentful of having to try and avoid eating them, so this just sounds like so much fun to get even by throwing tomatoes in the streets!

Have you been to any festival celebrations abroad – how was your experience? Would you plan a trip around a festival? Which of these festivals would you love to attend?

Six epic festivals to squeeze into your travels

11263156_10152789718277617_6876131025164693250_nTravelling through Vietnam was one of the most exhausting stints of backpacking I have done, but one of the most rewarding. It’s an incredibly beautiful country with such a rich history, but I seriously underestimated how huge the country is and quite how long it would take to travel between places. I spent almost every night on overnight buses or trains, just trying to grab a few hours sleep before exploring the next stop on my journey. Read about how I managed to see Vietnam in 2 1/2 weeks. One of the truly amazing places I was lucky enough to visit, but sadly didn’t have time to write about in full at the time, was the breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage Site, Halong Bay. Including around 1,600 tiny islands and islets, with towering limestone cliffs scattered across this stunning seascape, it’s one of the places that remains etched on my memory. You know how some places just take your breath away, how some places are just so spectacular that you can’t believe you were one of the lucky ones who got to experience it first hand? Well Halong Bay was like that for me, I got to experience it with an amazing group of people from all over the world from the comfort of our own little cruise.11266462_10152789772667617_2663953592848547660_n11070949_10152789765032617_239983065223812444_nI’ll be honest and say that the name of my cruise company has slipped my memory now, but there are endless numbers of companies to choose from. From the ultra luxurious to the backpacker party boats, there’s something for everyone. I was a bit bored of backpacker partying, so I plumped for a mid-level boat with all the comforts I needed and none of the rabble. I was excited at the thought of witnessing this beautiful place with a group of adults who just wanted to appreciate natural beauty and relax rather than chugging beer. I wasn’t disappointed, the boat was amazing, so well-equipped and comfortable for the cheap price. I shared a cabin with one other woman and we had our own en suite bathroom, it was a perfect size for the two of us and there was lots of space up on the main deck and in the cabin for us to spend the rest of the days. The inside cabin came with a well-stocked, although expensive, bar, dining tables and even a small club set-up at one end for entertainment. Up on deck was our favourite area, lots of space for sunbathing, taking in the view and relaxing.11009109_10152789763827617_4078149230160823855_n11329990_10152789718307617_2680379706561751748_nWith so many different types of cruises, come just as many options for entertainment during the trip. I chose a two day, one night trip around the bay that took us on a cruise all around the stunning islands. The first day we spent the afternoon exploring some of the most incredible caves I have seen yet, Surprise Cave, in Bo Hon Island, is absolutely huge despite seeming quite small at first glace, as you step further into it’s hidden depths you are met with an enormous cave system full of twists and turns. Our guide took us on a walk around the caves, pointing out strange rock formations that have been given nicknames over the years as light poured in through tiny cracks and crevices in the rock. It was an amazing sight and a real contrast to the stunning openness of the rest of the bay. You’re really struck by the vastness of the landscape when you come out of the caves to find a panoramic view across Halong Bay. After we made our way back to the boat, we were treated to a Vietnamese cooking class where we made our own fresh and friend spring rolls ready for dinner. It was messy, good fun as we watched the demonstration and then tried our hand at making our own rolls, with both vegetarian and meat options available.11143494_10152789718237617_480855464583478058_n11150784_10152789764887617_4287145996265943834_nThat night we enjoyed a feast of delicious Vietnamese dishes as a group, it was lovely to sit around with so many different types of travelers. Some were couples on a two-week holiday, others were backpackers who were part-way through a year-long trip, others were travelling the length of the country. It’s easy to get stuck around backpackers when you stay in hostels, it can be refreshing to meet different types of travellers and hear about their experiences as well. The evening was spent drinking beers and watching the sunset from the top of the boat – a perfect end to our first day in Halong Bay. I woke bright and early the next day and got to see the sun come up over the Bay, is was so beautiful and peaceful. No-one apart from the workers and fishermen were up yet and I felt like I had the whole Bay to myself – that blissful moment of pure stillness is how I remember Halong Bay. Then it was wake-up time for everyone else because we were all going kayaking around the Bay, I shared a kayak with one of the other ladies on the boat and we had a hilarious time trying to manoeuvre our boat around the islets. It was lovely to spend some time out on the water and it was amazing to explore the floating market and village near where we docked – it’s just amazing to witness how these people live out on the water in their little huts. Such a simple lifestyle in such a stunning setting, I felt so lucky to experience just a taste of their lives as we waved at them from the kayak.11140073_10152789718447617_1288152903033423786_n11167977_10152789718337617_8050975412757218929_nOnce we rowed our way around the islands, we couldn’t resist jumping into the clear, fresh waters for a swim under the morning sun, it was a shock to the system but the perfect way to start the day. After breakfast, we took a slow cruise back to the harbour, ending our trip with a smile. It was such a well-needed break from the hustle and bustle of Hanoi, and the stresses of travelling after a rocky start in the country. Getting out to sea was a perfect way to show you why you were travelling, why you had ventured across thousands of miles to do this – for these incredible natural sights, for the people you meet and for the amazing experiences you have along the way. Whatever you do, don’t miss a visit to Halong Bay – you won’t experience anything like it anywhere else. Read more about my experiences in Halong Bay here.1524651_10152789718367617_3879816317198010925_n

Have you been to Halong Bay – tell me about your experience. Can you recommend any cruise companies? Have you been to a bucket list location?

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imageAfter days of stuffing my face with Hoi An’s delicious food, me and the boys decided to catch a sleeper bus to Da Lat and to get physical. Da Lat is the place to go in Vietnam if you fancy getting a bit adventurous – there’s no end of mountain biking, hiking, climbing, abseiling, canyoning and countless other outdoor activities. So it’s the perfect place to release your inner Jungle Jane and to liven up your trip a bit. It was a great contrast to the culture, beauty and heat of Hoi An to arrive in the mountains in this rugged and exciting landscape with skies filled with angry storm clouds. We were lucky, our bus pulled up outside Da Lat Central Hostel, which normally I wouldn’t trust as the first accommodation I see. But this turned out to be really cheap and fantastic accommodation – it was the cleanest and most luxurious hostel I had seen in the whole of Vietnam and if I were to return, I would definitely stay there again. Plus it was just down the street from the biggest bakery in Da Lat, which me and the boys frequented on a daily basis for coffee and delicious cakes – I was getting a bit addicted to the banana cake which I swear was the best I’ve ever had!imageWe only had a few days to make the most of Da Lat and we didn’t want to waste a second – I’d been eager to get here ever since arriving in Vietnam and hearing about all the awesome things we could do there. We headed straight out to check out the Crazy House which is a pretty unusual sight you have to see with your own eyes. It’s amazing architecture that belongs in Disney or some kind of theme park and the place has a great history I’d recommend you read about or ask about while there. You won’t need long to walk around it, perhaps an hour or two at most… We had to be quick as we could see a huge storm rolling in across the mountains and this was not somewhere we wanted to be stuck in the cold and rain after a long overnight bus ride and no sleep. We did get caught in the rain, and boy did it rain! When it rains in Da Lat, it really rains – not for long, but bloody hard! We were soaked and had to get a taxi back to the hostel but we’re so happy to arrive there where hot showers and our beds were waiting for us. After a nice nap, it was time for dinner and I headed out to the market down the road with friend Paul who has just as huge an appetite as me – we were determined to try as much food as possible. While he was wolfing down soup and barbecued meats, I plumped for a seafood platter of some delicious shellfish topped with garlic and herbs – all freshly caught and so tasty!imageThe next day we had booked in for what was quite frankly the best $20 I have spent since travelling – CANYONING! I had been waiting for a chance to do this ever since I was in Thailand – word had spread that far among travellers that I knew it must be good, but I had no idea how amazing it would be. We booked the trip through the hostel, but you can also go to the two main tour operators in town and book it through them – anyone will be able to direct you. We were picked up at about 8am and were whisked away in the minibus with our guides for the day who named themselves Tom and Jerry, much to our amusement. They were fantastic guides and really gave us all the support, help and encouragement we needed to take on free-jumping, abseiling and rock climbing without fear. I love stuff like this and was eager to throw myself off a few waterfalls and do something a bit scary. We were hooked up to harnesses and strapped on our gorgeous orange helmets and life jackets – we looked amazing. Then we were shown how to rappel down the steep cliff side towards the river, we then had to test our skills by actually abseiling down the side of the rock into the water. After that little taste we were excited to get on with the day and moved on to the first couple of abseils which took us into strong rushing waters where we skidded down natural water slides and floated down lazy parts of the river. We completed three huge challenges which saw us abseiling down the cliff and into waterfalls or the river.imageThe final one – the washing machine – was pretty scary because we couldn’t actually see what the hell we were letting ourselves in for! My favourite was the second one where we climbed down a huge waterfall in our socks before letting go about halfway and dropping the rest of the height into the river. It was amazing – such a rush! We also completed free jumps including one from around 18m which nearly broke my face as I accidentally face planted the water – holy shit that hurt. (Don’t worry – there’s a smaller one to choose if you prefer!) But I’m so happy I did it and showed that I could – Tom, or Jerry, thought I’d be too scared but I wasn’t! Definitely ended up with a fat lip though.. That’ll teach me to be stubborn! It was an amazing day it one that luckily ended when it did as a huge storm rolled in and turned the jungle into a swamp with rivers running down the cliffs we then had to try and climb to get back to the van – I genuinely didn’t think I would survive this climb, it was the hardest thing I have ever done. I was one second away from giving up and sliding down the hill back into the river when we made it to the road. Covered in mud, scratches and practically drowning in the torrential downpour – after six months in baking heat it was a strange experience to see, hear and feel real weather! I can’t tell you how amazing the hot shower felt after that day in the woods, and I can’t tell you how much my body hurt after that day, but it was all so worth it and I can’t recommend it enough!imageThe next day, we wanted to make sure we got out for a few hours before our night bus to Ho Chi Minh so we decided to ward off our aches and pains with a nice bike ride out to some nearby waterfalls. We hired mountain bikes for a few dollars and headed out in the sunshine for a cycle round the beautiful lake where boats and swan pedalos bobbed peacefully, then we stopped off at some lovely gardens where we bumped into a friend from our dorm in Hoi An – it was a great little reunion so he joined us to cycle to the waterfalls. We headed out of town and started out along the 7km ride, it was easy – all downhill and a great view across the rolling forest. Until it dawned on us we had to cycle back up the bloody hill to get back! We nearly stopped and headed back after suddenly feeling like we wouldn’t have time to get back before the afternoon storm – but then we realised how close we were and couldn’t resist.

Datanla Falls are definitely worth the visit and the ride out there is great – we went on the little luge ride to get to the bottom and took a few snaps by the waterfall before luging our way back up, just in time to move the bikes out of the rain. We sheltered at the restaurant and had some of the worst Vietnamese food I’ve had while waiting there… But the views across the jungle were amazing! After the skies cleared and the rain slowed, we quickly jumped on the bikes dreading the journey ahead but despite some horrible uphill struggles, we actually made it back really quickly. Just in time to shower and catch our bus to Saigon. Now I spent all of 12 hours in the city and went to see the palace, but that was about it. Personally, I preferred to spent my time in Da Lat and Hoi An, and I’m glad I made that decision, but it’s totally up to you what you choose.image

 

Have you been to Da Lat? We’re you brave enough for canyoning? Where else have you been that you could recommend for outdoorsy types? 

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imageI was really excited to arrive in Hoi An – all through Thailand and Laos I kept meeting people who had loved it there, who raved about the food, the shopping and were often wearing fabulous clothes they had made there. I was looking forward to exploring the history of the city and to having that perfect combination of historical city, pretty riverside, lively markets and having the beach just a few kilometres down the road. It seemed like Hoi An would offer everything I wanted in one place – what more could a girl want? My friend Matthieu and I arrived after a long bus ride from Hue and set about finding somewhere to stay – we ended up at the Hoi Binh Hotel which charged hostel prices and was very good value considering it had a swimming pool and breakfast included. Plus it was right in the centre of everything which really helped when exploring and walking around the city. I spent the first afternoon exploring and eating some of the fantastic local delicacies including the White Rose wontons, spring rolls and other delicious snacks. Hoi An is well known for having fantastic food and I know a lot of people who did food tours there which they said were amazing but sadly I didn’t have time – I just made sure to eat as much and as often as possible while I had the chance.imageKnowing I was there for just a few days and on a tight schedule – one of my priorities was getting some clothes designed and made for me. Now while many were getting outfits or suits made for work – I was lucky knowing I won’t be back in a desk job anytime soon so I used my money to buy cute outfits I knew I could wear on a daily basis out here in Asia and Australia. I went to see a tailor who comes very highly recommended on Tripadvisor and through other blogs I follow – Miss Forget Me Not – hoping her work would love up to the hype. I was convinced straight away after seeing how busy she was – her and her workers invited me in to look at designs and materials. I explained what I was after and showed pictures I had previously found online of designs I loved – two playsuits and a top – then chose out some lightweight, floaty, summery materials. It took ages to choose – so don’t go there on a tight schedule because it’s a bloody hard decision!imageFinally we worked out the details and designs to suit my body shape and I was measured up for each, it definitely helped that I had taken my own designs but they do also have a collection of their own you can use depending on what you are after. There is also an option for you to provide a material you like if you don’t want one of theirs which definitely helped a few people who were struggling to match a material with their chosen design. My clothes took one full day to make and I was due to return for a fitting the following night and to pick them up the following day – talk about impressive! Everything fit like a glove and only one seam needed altering slightly – they were all so professional and such lovely women. My clothes cost around the equivalent of £40 for two playsuits and a top, all custom-mad to my design and choice of material in less than 48 hours. Pretty bloody amazing if you ask me, especially considering I could, have paid up to £50 for one of these playsuits in the UK. I wish I had more space in my bag to get more made and am already looking forward to returning to Vietnam with more designs!imageThe rest of my time in Hoi An was spent walking the streets, exploring historic houses and markets, talking to locals by the riverside and playing dominoes with them. One highlight was visiting the Tran Duong family home – nestled down one of the quaintest and most beautiful little streets I have ever seen – it has seen four generations of the family and holds a wealth of history about the city. Mr Duong was more than happy to welcome us in and spoke perfect English to tell us all about his family, the history of the house and the wider history of both the city and Vietnam as a whole – it was so interesting to hear about it from someone who was educated enough to speak impartially about the political history of the country. I learned more in an hour and a half spent at the house than I did from any guidebook or website, so I highly recommend you visit as well. Elsewhere you have to pay for a ticket to visit a number of historical sites around the city although many of them you can see without actually entering the sites. I personally preferred to walk around the streets and to see the locals living their day-to-day lives, chatting to them down by the river was lovely. One of my favourite things to do was to spend a few hours catching up on blogging by the river over a delicious Vietnamese ice coffee – heaven!imageAnd I mustn’t forget the beach! Hoi An has a gorgeous beach just three kilometres down the road – a perfect distance for a nice cycle ride with friends, especially when it’s so cheap and easy to hire bikes everywhere. Me and two friends cycled there for a few hours on our last day – one the guys went swimming while me and Paul decided to be completely insane and do a workout on the beach. It was hilarious and really fun – plus it was such a beautiful and empty beach. I really wished I had time to visit the beach again for a day of sunbathing, but sadly not on this trip as there was just so little time and so much to see and do. I would really recommend – if you have enough time on your trip – spending up to a week in the city, perhaps with a few days staying down at the beach and a few within the city to get the history side. When you arrive, make it a priority to get your clothes order in so you can ensure they will be ready in time and the relax, enjoy and explore the city at your own pace. There are lots of walking tours, cycle tours and food tours available, or you can do it all by yourself and have fun getting lost and discovering many of the hidden treasures the city has to offer. One for me was finding a selection of restaurants around that work for the community with all money raised supporting orphanages or helping to educate children or get the, away fro domestic violence or drugs. I love that by doing something as simple as eating out I could be supporting the community and giving something back – plus when the food is that good why not?!image

 

Have you been to Hoi An – what did you think? Any advice you can offer for the historical tours, or for having clothes made? What was your favourite part of Vietnam? 

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imageTo say I didn’t have the best first experience of Vietnam would be an understatement. It was a sad goodbye I said to my friends as I waved them off in their bus from Laos to Chiang Mai for Songkran while I waited for my sleeper bus to Hanoi. After travelling with the girls for two or three weeks it had become a way of life, it was just normal to wake up with them there so it felt strange to strike out on my own again. I was excited for Vietnam and the chance to experience another culture, and to get away from the partying in Laos for a bit. But it was bittersweet, I would have loved to have gone to Songkran with all my friends but I only had two weeks left on my visa for Vietnam and I didn’t want to miss out on the chance to see the country. Plus who wouldn’t want to spend 24 hours on a bus to get there? Uhh… Me.

I planned to book a flight to Hanoi to save time, but when I looked into it, not only was it ridiculously expensive but also the last two seats had just sold out! I had no choice but to brave a sleeper bus for the first time. I’d heard mixed reviews of those used across Asia, and while part of me was dreading doing the long journey myself without anyone to entertain me, but the other half wasn’t too bothered and just wanted to get there. Finally it was time to hop on the bus after a long drive in rush hour traffic across Vientiene in the back of a truck as a storm was about to break. We made it just in time, as we shoved our bags in the luggage hold and climbed aboard the black skies opened and lightning split the heavens. I should have taken it as an omen.

On that first evening we drove for hours in the dark, the rain and wind, finally pulling up at a rest stop for dinner and for the team of Lao/Vietnam guys to decide there was something wrong with one of the rear wheels and that they needed to remove it. We watched on, wishing we were back in the comfort of the bus instead of this damp, smelly, cockroach-filled rest stop. After 40 minutes of them staring blankly at the wheel, removing it and putting it back on again, it became clear there was a real problem but they didn’t bother to communicate this to us so we hoped it would be fine until we arrived. Back on the bus, we fell straight back asleep and didn’t really stir much until we arrived at the border and were rudely awakened by the driver at 7am.

After spending four hours standing around waiting in the pouring rain and cold of Vietnam, we were less than impressed at the lack of communication over why things were taking so long and why we had to unload, reload and unload all of our bags three times, check our passports about 10 times and go through five checkpoints. It was such a convoluted process and seemed highly inefficient compared to borders I had crossed previously. Finally it was over and we hopped back on the bus and were on our way, only to be stopped down the road by police twice, on both occasions half the Lao and Vietnamese people on the bus had to bride the police for some reason or another – fully endorsing all the stories I had heard about the corruption of the country.

Much later on, after we had been driving for closer to 48 hours with no explanation for why we were running so late other than assuming it was to do with the broken wheel. We were all half asleep when our driver suddenly swerved, almost tipping the bus over, then back the other way. There was a huge crash and a lorry was coming through the bus towards me, where luckily I sat near the back. Thankfully, all us tourists at the back of the bus had a split second where we saw what was going to happen before the impact where we could grab hold of something to stop us sliding forwards towards the crushed up front, otherwise we would have ended up like the guy who sliced his hand open or the other one who badly hurt his ankle.

After a second a pure confusion and panic over what had happened, people got their act together and we started to gather our things and climb out of a window at the side of the bus. The front was so crushed we couldn’t even get down the stairs. Once standing out on the side of a busy highway in the dark, we could see the full extent of the damage – as you can see from the pics it wasn’t good but amazingly the lorry was barely dented. We waited as the guys cleared the rubbish and broken bits of bus from the road and spoke to the lorry driver – we expected the police to turn up at any moment.

All of a sudden, the bus was driving off. We didn’t know what was happening, the guys hadn’t said anything to us and neither had the driver – who had clearly been drunk from the beer cans around the drivers’ seat and smell of vodka in the air. Our big rucksacks were still in the luggage hold and many people had left the money, passports and valuables on the bus – thankfully anything of value I owned I had the sense to pick up up and had with me. We walked after the bus thinking it would stop further flew the road, but it carried on so we started to chase after it until some bright shark had the idea of hailing a taxi and chasing it down. Luckily the taxi driver was on our side and pinned in the bus so it couldn’t drive off. After a lot of shouting and arguing, our bags were freed from the bus and another was organised to pick us up free of charge – a pretty amazing outcome considering how dire the situation seemed.

We finally made it to Hanoi around 50 hours after starting our journey, traumatised, confused and exhausted. Not great for a first sleeper bus experience. Why am I sharing my horror story with you? Because I had no idea this could ever happen to someone in real life, it wasn’t even something I considered. I don’t want to scare people but I want you guys to be aware that drunk and dangerous driving is a big issue in Vietnam and although you have no choice but to place your life in the hands of the driver, that you can make some checks to help you feel comfortable and safe. When travelling alone this is a must. Keep your wits about you at all times, no matter where you are travelling, and always keep hold of your passport, money and valuables.

Have you been on sleeper buses in Asia – what were your experiences like? Have you been involved in a crash abroad – what happened? 

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imageWhen you first pack your bags and head off into the big wide world on your travels, it’s a pretty exciting time. It’s been a long time coming and you’ve lost count of how many times you fantasised about being on that beach thousands of miles away from the stresses of home. It’s easy to get swept away in the excitement and say yes to everything, to everyone who invites you for dinner, sightseeing, or just to hang out. And why shouldn’t you? Hell you should grab every opportunity with both hands, make new friends at every turn and have an amazing time because you’re no longer holding yourself back. I certainly did – I’ve now been travelling for about four months by myself and it has been a truly amazing four months spent exploring Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and now Cambodia – it’s been more than I ever dreamed it would be.

Travelling by yourself means you have to give 100% every single day, you never have anyone else to pick up the slack if you’re hungover or tired, so it’s that much more exhausting than travelling with someone else. I know, how can laying on beaches be tiring – well consider the time that goes into travelling between places, the organising of transport, accommodation, the arguing with tuk tuk drivers, having to find new friends at every destination… The list goes on. There’s a lot more to travelling than just laying on beaches – I write this after travelling through the length of Laos and Vietnam in one month – that’s really not long and trust me I’ve barely slept for the whole time. Between late nights hanging out with friends in Laos and sleeper buses/trains throughout Vietnam, plus the constant movement, sightseeing, exploring, and all the physical activities like mountain biking and canyoning – it’s bloody knackering! I’ve actually had to take a little holiday from travelling and am spending a few days catching up on sleep on a beach in Cambodia.

What’s my point in all this? Well, it’s suddenly struck me that if you are travelling for any length of time last a few months, you really need to take this into account when you plan. You need to realise that at one point or another you will hit a wall if you go full pelt every single day, you need to allow your body time to recover and to relax as well as trying to fit everything in. This is something I’m learning as I go, and to be honest I’m not great at – I just get so excited about everything that I want to do everything at once and don’t want to miss any opportunity! I’m the sort of girl who does three festivals in a row and works two jobs in-between instead of allowing time to recover – and I need to learn to change my ways. I’ve noticed lately that I’m getting tired so much earlier in the day and it is my body telling me to rest instead of organising the next stage of my journey – so as I’m coming to the end of my time in Asia I have plenty of R&R time booked in. I’ve made the decision to stay on this beach for a few days before heading to a yoga and meditation retreat for a week, followed by a few days of shopping, being pampered, going to the gym and relaxing by a pool in Bangkok before heading to Australia. Then I can arrived refreshed and ready to take on a new world of travelling.image

Have you got traveller burn out? My top tips for how you can beat it:

Don’t be afraid to say no. Travelling solo means often you feel obliged to take up every invite extended to you but that’s not always the wisest move – this can mean you’re too busy to really appreciate any of what you are doing. Sometimes it’s best to pick out what you really want to do instead of following the crowd on everything – after all, that’s why you came away by yourself.

Spot the signs. Feeling achy or getting ill? Tired for no reason, not sleeping well, can’t be bothered to socialise? All signs you’re getting burnt out and need a break – listen to your body, it knows what it’s talking about! Give yourself time to relax and unwind, eat properly, drink lots of water and don’t feel guilty!

Know that time spent alone is time well spent. I find it hilarious that actually in the time I’ve been travelling I have usually had to fight to get time alone rather than being surrounded by a gang of people – Cambodia is actually the first country I have predominantly been alone! But that does mean that often you lose the fight and end up spending all your time with other people, getting locked into a pattern where you feel like time by yourself is wasted. It’s not, it’s very important. If you can’t be happy in your own company, you never will be with others, so take time to get to know yourself and your own thoughts.

Get your priorities in order. Sightseeing is not the most important thing and if you don’t end up seeing some temple because you needed a lay in, fancied a leisurely breakfast or just wanted to lay by the pool – that’s okay! You don’t have to see every historical landmark, every temple, every bridge and every pretty viewpoint. Pick wisely and see just what you want to see, that will give you time in-between to chill as well – often if you try to see everything you end up not enjoying anything and that is why you are there! To enjoy yourself!

Remember what you did to get there. Think back to the time you were working five jobs to find this trip, to when you cried in the toilets at work because you were so stressed out over something that just didn’t matter, or to when you had spent 20 out of the past 24 hours working and we’re seeing double you were so tired. Now ask yourself why you’re pushing yourself so hard and demanding so much – you came here to relax and be happy. So do it and don’t feel like you have to achieve all the time. You’re free of that damned rat race and you need to enjoy it before you get sucked back in.

Have you had traveller burn out? How did you beat it? Any other tips for getting back on track?

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