Name and Position in the company: Erika Swanlund, Travel Manager at IGOTRAVEL
Age: 29 Years Old
How many countries have you been to? I have been to Thailand, Mauritius, Zanzibar, Mozambique, Hong Kong, China and Laos
Where did you travel to? This particular trip I went to Thailand (Bangkok, Koh Samui and Koh Tao) as well as Laos (Vang Vieng)
When did you travel: 08-26 December 2017
Who did you travel with? My partner, Chris
Describe a typical day: Most of our days were spent out adventuring and doing activities. In Vang Vieng, Laos we did Hot Air Ballooning, Tubing down the Vang Vieng River, and the Vang Vieng Challenge (2 day hike, more details below). In Bangkok, we did a lot of walking, visited Sky Bar which is the highest open air bar in the world – however you are paying R400-R500 per cocktail. We got a lot of massages in Bangkok and Kos Samui as well. Koh Samui’s activities – we went jet skiing, hired a motorbike and travelled most of the island in one day, hiked up a water fall and went to a couple view points. Koh Tao – even though it is such a beautiful island, this was at the end of our trip so all we did was snorkel, swim and lie on the beach or around the pool, of course with a constant flow of local beers!
Biggest highlight of the trip? My absolute favorite thing about this whole trip was the Vang Vieng Challenge. 2 day hike was so incredible I would love to go back there and do it again. It was between 100-150 USD per person (Depending on how many people join your hike). You start at the base of a mountain and hike up to the top the first day, which includes crossing suspension bridges made purely of wire (And not very much of it), and a whole lot of rock climbing. At the top there is a waterfall, with a log cabin there – this is where you spend the night, sleeping out on a wooden deck and waking up to the sun rise the next morning. On day two, after you are cooked a lovely local breakfast, we headed out to the waterfall and started our Zipline and abseiling tour back down the mountain. It was absolutely incredible, with 14 Ziplines and free falling abseils – no better way to overcome fear of heights.
What to do there (or name favourite thing about the trip): There is just so much to occupy yourself with, so many activities. If you are an out door person, I would recommend doing the hike up the side of the waterfall Na Muang – it works up a lovely sweat and wow what lovely views. Otherwise, beach, cocktails and sun tanning!
What not to do there (or name least favourite thing about the trip): One of the biggest downside of Thailand in my opinion is the exploitation of the elephants. On our walk to the waterfall we had to pass some elephants that were kept in captivity and used for tourist wanting to take elephant rides. It was one of the saddest things I have seen. I have travelled to Thailand 3 times now, and have always avoided things like this, however this time it was unavoidable as our path took us right through their pens. There are a few elephant sanctuaries in Thailand where they are treated in the right manner, but most of them are there just for the money.
What is the top 5 things you need to pack for this trip? Sun Cream (LOTS), comfortable walking shoes, Passport photo’s for when entering Laos (you get your visa on arrival, pay cash and need to have 2 passport photos), Lots and lots of swim suits, and lastly Sunglasses!
Any tips or recommendations? Try eat from a different place every time – this way you get to experience such a wide variety of food and Thai people. They are all so friendly, that you would want to meet as many as you can! If you’re in Laos, there is so much adventure there – but when you are looking for a little down time to relax in the evening, they have this AMAZING café which we called friends café. It is quite obvious to spot, you can lounge around while the play reruns of friends all day and evening, such a stunning atmosphere
What would you recommend to someone travelling for the first time? Travel with an open mind, realize that tourism is their main income and without you most of them would not have jobs. Always treat the locals of a country with the respect they deserve, you are visiting their beautiful country and they are kind enough to share it with you
Where would you like to go next? I would love to go to Ecuador, it may not be my next trip – as it will be an expensive one, it will also need time and lots of planning. But the country looks amazing, with the equator running through it and so many fun things to do. There is a little town there call Banos that reminds me so much of Vang Vieng in Laos – so much adventure. They also have the Galapagos Islands there, which is home to so much wild life.