What’s not to love about Thailand? Beautiful beaches, amazing nightlife, friendly locals… but the more popular Thailand becomes, the more important it is for us to ensure that its natural beauty isn’t affected.

Thai Authorities Announce Indefinite Maya Bay Closure

You may have heard rumours recently about the closure of Maya Bay, in Koh Phi Phi Leh, Thailand.

The bay, made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie, The Beach, is had previously been closed for 4-months as of June 1st 2018 in order to conserve the surrounding National Park. The Bay was due to reopen in October 2018, however officials have decided to close ‘The Beach’ indefinitely to give the area more time to recover from environmental damage.

Though this may be disappointing news for those travelling to Thailand, this closure is for the greater good of Maya Bay and is a very important step towards sustainable tourism in Thailand.

What you Need to Know

  • Maya Bay’s closure is to allow regrowth and regeneration of the surrounding National Park
  • The Beach is closed indefinitely until Thai officials decide that the bay’s ecosystems have recovered
  • Our 11 day Ultimate Thailand tour will have a slight change of itinerary during this time, offering more amazing snorkel spots and island hopping

Why is Maya Bay Closing?

Seeing over 4000 visitors every single day, the marine life and surrounding nature has suffered, and needs revitalisation to remain as beautiful as it once was.

This is not unusual.

Many marine parks in Thailand are closed between May and October every year for revitalisation, however, Maya Bay has remained open due to popular tourist demand. Supporting sustainable tourism, we are happy to see the Thai government is taking steps to ensure these popular areas do not suffer due to tourism.


How Will This Affect My Trip?

If you are travelling with Ultimate Thailand, you may be disappointed to hear of Maya Bay’s closure, however, rest assured that Maya Bay is only one of the fantastic locations that we visit and your overall Thailand experience will not be affected by this closure!

You’ll still get to experience stunning Koh Phi Phi and the surrounding area, as we will be replacing our time in Maya Bay with a visit to spectacular islands in the Anderman sea, snorkelling and relaxing on a traditional longtail boat!



Have Any More Questions? 

If you have any questions about the Maya Bay closure, feel free to leave a comment down below and we will get back to you as soon as possible! Otherwise, drop us a private message on our Facebook page!

Everything you Need to Know About Bali’s Volcanic Eruption

Bali is one of our favourite travel destinations – a wonderful place with incredible scenery, a rich culture and friendly locals. Following recent volcanic activity in Mt Agung and the evacuation of the surrounding area, here’s everything you need to know about how Bali’s volcanic eruption may affect your trip.

UPDATED  29/06/18:

What’s the Deal with Mt Agung?


Mt Agung, Bali’s highest volcano, has been rearing it’s ugly head over the last few months – with another eruption occurring yesterday. The local authorities have set up an exclusion zone of 8-10km around Mt Agung itself to ensure the safety of the Balinese residents. Denpasar airport has been closed since 02:00am on Friday 29 June, and will remain so until 29 June at 7:00pm. We are expecting another statement from the airport authorities late this afternoon.

What you need to know:

  • Denpasar airport has been closed until 29th June at 7pm.
  • We advise travellers to check with their airlines on their flight schedule and provide updates to us immediately if there are any changes
  • Your Ultimate Bali tour will not be affected
  • The safety of our groups is our top priority

How Does this Affect My Travel to Bali?

Bali’s volcanic eruption has led officials to close the airport temporarily, and this could be further extended depending on the volcano’s activity. Individual airlines may still suspend flights even after the airport reopens. If you’re travelling to Bali and your flight has been cancelled, we recommend contacting your airline directly to discuss your options. Further to that, we suggest checking your travel insurance details should you need to make a claim. The volcanic eruption is ongoing, though we are hopeful that it will be short lived – and the airlines will resume their flight schedules as normal.

Is Bali Still Safe?

It’s important to remember that Bali is a large island, and the majority of the island is not affected by the volcano and its exclusion zone. The areas that we visit on our Ultimate Bali tour aren’t affected by Mt Agung’s activity – so our 10 day trip will be going ahead as planned.


There is no reason to panic or worry – our team on the ground is keeping a close eye on all the activity surrounding Mt Agung and will ensure that everything in running safely. You’re in good hands!

If you’re planning a trip to Bali, we recommend that you don’t to let this affect your decision to travel. There are plenty of beautiful locations in Bali that are extremely unlikely to be affected by these events.

Check out our 10-day Ultimate Bali tour – we hope to see you in Bali soon!

Backpackers Ask: Is It Safe To Travel To Southeast Asia?

From the hustle and bustle of the legendary Koh Phangan Full Moon Party, to canyoning in Da Lat and cliff jumping in Bali, it’s no surprise Southeast Asia is a popular backpacker destination – attracting millions of visitors every year. But with horror stories posted online of injuries and scams, you may be asking yourself: Is it safe to travel to Southeast Asia? Read our handy guide of do’s and dont’s so you can make the most of exploring this amazing corner of the world!

DON’T try to cut costs

When you’re having the time of your life travelling, it can be tempting to prolong your trip as long as possible by stretching your dollar and spending as little as possible. But sometimes it’s worth shelling out a little extra dough. A lot of people who end up injured in Southeast Asia go on tours whose focus is less on safety and more on profit. Some providers aren’t as safe as your home country would be, so when you’re planning adventurous excursions, go by the company’s reputation and not on the price! Read reviews, ask friends and other travellers about their experiences. Better safe than sorry!

DO study up on culture

If you want to fully immerse yourself in a new culture, Southeast Asia is the place to go – it’s a cultural hub with incredible food, people, and traditions! It’s also known for its laid-back party environment, but its still important to be aware that you’re in a different country and it’s important to stay safe. Do some research on the area – common scams, areas to avoid, etc. – and you’ll seem like a local!

DO book a tour

It can be daunting to travel alone, especially in a foreign country. Planning your own solo travel around Southeast Asia is possible, but not as safe – or as fun – as going with a group! Booking a tour gives you access to regional knowledge and added safety. Not to mention, tour companies take care of everything so you can enjoy stress-free planning and focus on the fun!

At Ultimate, we handpick each adventure and accommodation, with your safety as priority! All of our Ultimate guides are fully licensed and first aid certified. And, as an added bonus: our guides are locals! They have loads of knowledge on the area, and know all the fun places to visit, swim, eat, etc! You’re in good hands! Our Ultimate Bali, Ultimate Thailand, and Ultimate Vietnam tours are a perfect way to kickstart your adventure around Southeast Asia in the safest way possible! 

Is it safe to travel to Southeast Asia?

DO go easy on the booze

You’re on holiday – obviously you want to celebrate! But don’t forget you’re in a different part of the world. Have fun, but don’t do anything you wouldn’t do at home. You’re here for a good time, but you want to remember it so go easy on the drinking! Some friendly advice: sharing is caring! Yes those buckets full of booze you’ll pick up at the Full Moon Party in Thailand are delicious, but they’re pretty strong! And if the alcohol doesn’t kick you over the edge, then the “Thai Red Bull” (with 3 x the potency of red bull as we know it!) will! Be a good sport and split one with a mate.

Is it safe to travel to Southeast Asia?

DO stay with your group

A helpful hint: there’s power in numbers! Accidents happen when people decide to wander off on their own, hop fences, and go to restricted areas. Our advice: don’t wander off the beaten path and stay with your travel mates.  If you booked on Ultimate Thailand, our tour guide will take you to the Full Moon Party and tell you all the best places to go! You’ll also be with all your new travel mates, so you’ll want to party with them anyway. Want to prep for your Full Moon experience? Check out our blog on with the ultimate Full Moon Party survival guide

It's safe to travel in Southeast Asia if you stay with your group!

DON’T eat that

We’re all about trying new food, and Southeast Asia you’ll eat some of the best food of your life. But no one wants to get sick on a trip! Avoid “Bali belly” by sticking to bottled water and avoiding food from outdoor markets. Or, listen to your guide’s advice on what market food is okay to try – like scorpions! Would you dare?

Is it safe to travel to Southeast Asia?

DO trust your gut

The same gut that avoided “Bali belly”! Travelling is the best thing you can do so we hope you’re never in a situation when you feel uneasy while travelling. But just remember, you’re smarter than you think! If something seems sketchy, or makes you uneasy – go with your gut and don’t do it. (The reverse works too – trust your gut on trying crazy new adventures for the best experience!!)

DO have a great time

You’re on the adventure of a lifetime – make the most of it! Try new food, go on crazy adventures, party until the sun comes up! At Ultimate – it’s our mission to make sure you’re having an amazing time! Our guides will ensure you’re safe, and take any precautions necessary so you can focus on the fun!

Is it safe to travel to Southeast Asia?

So, the answer is…YES!

Southeast Asia is safe to travel to – just travel smart! Ultimate’s here to ensure your safety and an unforgettable experience! Just follow our guide and get ready for the time of your life!

Want to travel to Southeast Asia? Check out our incredible Bali, Thailand, and Vietnam tours! If you have any more questions about travelling in SE Asia, register your interest and someone from our lovely crew will get in touch!

We love to keep you updated on all things travel! Check out our Facebook page & Instagram feed for trip inspiration!

Pack Your Bags For Bali!

No wonder Bali is on everyone’s bucket list – it is STUNNING! Need some travel inspiration or motivation to get your mates to join you in paradise? Here are 17 pictures and 17 reasons why you need to pack your bags and travel to Bali…ASAP!!

1. Scenic swings

Feeling adventurous? Try a one-of-a-kind experience and swing out over palm tree paradise!

2. Amazing snorkelling

A post shared by Becca Spence (@beccaspence) on Aug 29, 2017 at 7:12pm PDT

The Gili Islands have some beautiful spots to swim and snorkel. Throw on your swimmers and jump in!

3. Gili sunsets

Nothing says paradise more than a waterfront sunset! Head out to one of Gili’s famous swings at high tide for an epic picture!

4. Rice terraces

One of Bali’s highlights are the Tegallalang Rice Terraces in Ubud. You can walk around this beautiful area and see how the friendly locals collect the rice!

5. Colorful beaches

With crystal clear waters and plenty of sunshine, Bali’s beaches are unbeatable! You can grab a spot under one of the brightly-colored umbrellas, kick back, and relax!

6. Insta-worthy locations

Bali is a treasure trove of beaches, waterfalls, and unique spots like this artsy sign. You’re sure to find the perfect backdrop for your own Insta!

7. Epic hikes

Imagine standing here and looking out at Mt. Batur. It’s true what they say – the view from the top is worth it!

8. Perfect pools

A post shared by Becca Spence (@beccaspence) on Aug 21, 2017 at 5:45am PDT

When you have free time in paradise, what better way to spend it than lounging poolside? (Side note: all of the accommodation on our Ultimate Bali tour have outdoor swimming pools!)

9. Breathtaking views

If one thing’s for sure, Bali has beautiful scenery! You can look at waves crashing, watch the sun set behind palm trees, or literally stand above the clouds.

10. Beautiful temples

Bali has some incredible temples, and it’s a must to explore them and admire the architecture.

11. Crazy waterfalls

A post shared by Becca Spence (@beccaspence) on Aug 27, 2017 at 5:46am PDT

Take a hike around some of the country’s most stunning waterfalls, and you’ll wonder why you don’t do this every day!

12. Every hour is happy hour

When you’re spending your days in paradise with oceanfront views and drinks, every hour is fun!

13. Ideal lounge spots

A post shared by Becca Spence (@beccaspence) on Aug 20, 2017 at 5:19pm PDT

With those famous colorful umbrellas and lounge chairs, trendy beaches like La Plancha are the perfect spot to chill with mates and some good tunes!

14. Stunning strolls

Not into intense hikes? Not a problem! In Bali, you can find some pretty stellar walks with equally impressive views – like the Campuhan Ridge Walk.

15. Beach parties

Grab your mates, head to the beach, and enjoy life! Top tip: try the Bintang Radler. It’s delicious lemony goodness!

16. Incredible wildlife

Bali is home to some amazing wildlife – monkeys, elephants, etc! Wildlife wellbeing is really important to us here at Ultimate. Luckily, Bali has great places where you can get up close to some incredible animals without disrupting the local habitat, like the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary.

17. Great memories

Travel is always better with others! Go on an adventure with your best mates, or meet new ones along the way. Either way, you’ll have some great stories to tell after!

Dreaming of Bali? We’re here to help you make it a reality! Check out Ultimate Bali, our epic 10-day adventure to paradise. Register your interest and we’ll be in touch with all the info you need!

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Confessions of a Backpacker in Southeast Asia

So while backpacking many different countries, you’ll find yourself in some potentially sticky situations or making decisions that perhaps under normal circumstances at home you wouldn’t consider. Some of these decisions may be questionable to others but nevertheless end up being a funny story! So here a just a few “confessions of a backpacker” that I have come across while travelling, some of which may be personal experiences and some are stories that I have been told or have seen happen:

The Bum Gun!

When travelling through Southeast Asia, you’ll probably get ‘Bali belly’ at least once. It only takes one dodgy bit of street food mixed with non stop drinking and non-potable water to get you rushing to use the toilet! In this rush, you may forget to check if there is (or remember to take your own!) toilet paper in the cubicle. Upon finishing you may also realise there is none, and your only option is to use the bum gun, an amazing invention which as it’s name suggests allows you to spray yourself with a toilet hose after going. With no paper left to dry yourself, you may have to resort to using the t-shirt you’re wearing to dry yourself.

The Sniff Test!

One that every backpacker will come across! Adopting the ‘sniff test’ while travelling, ie smelling your clothes before putting them on to check if you can get another day’s wear out of them or if you will insult everyone you meet that day. The similar ‘turn your underwear inside out to get another days wear out of them’ trick is also something most backpackers will confess to! Oh the joys of backpacking! 😉

Missing Luggage!

When your airline misplaces your bag and you wear the same clothes for 3 days (see above!) instead of buying a new top or borrowing from a new travel buddy. C’mon, we’re on a backpacking budget afterall!

Weeing in the wild!

When your overnight bus breaks down and you’re in the middle of nowhere desperate for the loo so you end up having to wee behind a bush on the roadside. You’ll never see those locals driving past on their mopeds again right? 

Get Low!

When you take part in a topless limbo in order to get a free bucket on Koh Phi Phi. Girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do! 

Money, money, money

It can be hard to get your head around the different currencies in Southeast Asia! With £1 converting to approximately 17,000 Indonesian Rupiah, the exchange could leave even the best mathematician a little confused. You may learn the hard way and end up paying the toilet attendant the equivalent of £10 to use the toilet, instead of the £0.10 they’d asked for!

#DrunkenTats

When your friend says they want to draw you a travel tattoo and you naturally think it’s a fantastic idea and go along with it.. because you always wanted a stickman on a scooter tattoo!

Confessions of a backpacker in Southeast Asia
Confessions of a backpacker in Southeast Asia
Confessions of a backpacker in Southeast Asia - Getting a drunk tattoo in Thailand

Have you got any travel confessions? Share them with us!!

Thinking of heading to Southeast Asia on your travels? Check out our tours in Thailand and Vietnam!

You’ll be missing out if you go to Thailand and don’t experience the best things Thailand has to offer…

The Street food

Street food in Thailand is uhhh-mazinnggg! Not only can you pick up some delicious Thai curries, Thailand’s traditional Pad Thai and meat skewers but you can also get your hands on some great sweet dishes – Southeast Asian crepes with nutella and bananas will always be a winner!

Fancy trying something a bit different? Get your gnashers around a scorpion, cricket or deep fried tarantula. Give it a try…after a few pints of Chang you won’t even taste it and whilst you might be dying inside, just think of all those Instagram likes you’ll get!

Eating a scorpion in Bangkok

A massage Thai style

One of the best things about Thailand? Thai massages! Thai massages are amazing and so cheap. Yes you might be shocked at how a tiny Thai lady can bend your body in half with so much force but you’ll also get one of the best massages you’ve ever had! When in Thailand make sure you get a couple…or twenty and don’t forget to get involved in a fish foot massage – one of the weirdest ‘sensations’ ever!

A bit of history

You can’t go Thailand and not take in a little culture and history. The temples in Bangkok give a great insight into Thailand’s main religion, Buddhism, and are not to be missed! My fave is Wat Pho, temple of the reclining buddha!

Beach parties

When it comes to beach parties, Thailand is THE place to go! There’s nothing like walking (or weaving your way through the crowds) onto Haad Rin beach in Koh Phangan to see thousands of people dressed in fluro, dancing on the sand with music pumping for miles. Fire shows are also popular on a lot of the islands including Koh Tao and Koh Phi Phi. Want to jump through a ‘ring of fire?’ Now’s your chance!

The infamous bucket!

Speaking of island fun..no beach party is complete without Thailand’s infamous bucket! You can get your hands on one of these bad boys for about 200Baht (about a fiver!) When you buy a bucket you’ll usually get a concoction of M-150 (concentrated redbull), a local spirit and a can of mixer. Just a word of warning – these buckets are STRONG. They give you 4 straws for a reason..sharing is caring! 😉

Local transport

In my opinion, the best way to see a country is by experiencing the local transport. Use local transport such as TukTuk’s in Bangkok, hop on an overnight train with Thai locals and cruise around in Thailand’s iconic longtail boats whenever you have the option!

Wildlife

If you’ve ever dreamed of feeding baby monkeys, volunteering in an elephant sanctuary or getting up close with exotic birds and wildlife such as monitor lizards, Thailand is for you!

Feed monkeys in Thailand

All things Bangkok

Bangkok is an overload for the senses and one of the most exciting cities I have ever been to. Head to the famous Khao San Rd to party with other travellers and to Patpong, Bangkok’s red light district to party with lady boys! Also, Bangkok’s famous floating markets aren’t to be missed! You could even catch a Muay Thai boxing match – no better place to experience it and anyway – Bangkok has you now..

Maya Bay

If you watched ‘The Beach’ you’ve probably dreamed of visiting this stunning bay since you saw Leo swim around with millions of glowing plankton surrounding him! You can’t beat the crystal clear waters of Maya Bay, the beautiful white sand and great snorkelling in the area – just remember your camera!

Hair flick in Maya Bay

Stay in the Jungle

Thailand isn’t all about island life and partying on the beach! Your visit to Thailand won’t be complete without a little ‘off the beaten track’ action. Say hello to Khao Sok National Park! Stay in floating bungalows on the lake, explore caves, go tubing, feed baby monkeys and chill in paradise. This place is heaven on earth!

Khao-Sok

Is Thailand on your travel bucket list? Check out our 10 day tour of Thailand and get in touch for help planning!

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Thailand’s Songkran festival, also known as the largest water fight on Earth is well under way in the streets of Thailand this week! The festival runs from the 13th-15th April to celebrate Thailand’s New Year (following the Buddist/Hindu solar calendar.) The 3 day festival is also celebrated in other South East Asian countries such as Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia. The water fight stems from traditional water pouring, used to ‘wash away sins’ and to start a fresh in the New Year which has turned into a 3 day non stop water fight- Amazing!

Thailand's Songkran Festival

Ultimate travel ledge, Becca went to Chiang Mai (Thailand’s wildest water fight!) in northern Thailand to celebrate Songkran festival. She tells us a bit about her experience and shares her top tips on how to survive Songkran!

“Songkran was literally the best weekend of my whole trip! I celebrated in Chiang Mai and stayed at Soho Hostel which is right in the middle of it all. I arrived in Chiang Mai the day before and the festivities had already begun early. I remember having to get trashbags and cover our backpacks to avoid the water. We also had to take side streets to the hostel just to avoid the mayhem – it was so busy! The festival begins at around 8am every morning and lasts pretty much as long as the people can! There’s lots of music and Changs (Thai beers) being passed around. There are also buckets set up around town as “refilling” stations where you can refill your weapon of choice! 😉 The best part about it is that everyone is celebrating – locals and tourists of all ages! The atmosphere is amazing! It’s as if everyone is reliving their childhood and having the best time- not one frown around! Luckily it’s the hottest time of the year too so its nice to cool off a bit getting shot at with ice cold water! If you’re in Thailand, don’t miss out on Songkran and make sure to check out my top tips (below!)”

Invest in a good water gun

My personal favourite…the turtle backpack!

Invest in a good water gun backpack during Songkran

Don’t wear white

Because there’s a time and a place for wet t-shirt competitions…and Songkran isn’t it!

Don't wear white to Songkran

Waterproof pouch

Keep your valuables safe in a waterproof pouch!

Thailand's Songkran Festival

Goggles

Protect your peepers…plus they look cool.

Wear goggles to protect your eyes during Songkran

Make friends with the locals

There’s no better way to celebrate a national festival than with the locals – you never know who you’ll meet!

Chill with the locals during Songkran

Thinking of travelling to Thailand? Check out our 11 day Ultimate Thailand tour and get in touch for help planning your trip!

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Southeast Asia is a place like no other; an amazingly beautiful part of the world made up of stunning white beaches, paradise islands, bustling cities, fascinating culture & a crazy night life! It’s without a doubt my favourite place to travel to in the world and in my opinion, you’d be crazy not to travel here (at least on a stopover!) on your gap year! As much as I love Southeast Asia, I understand that travelling to SE Asia can be a bit of a culture shock, especially for first time travellers! Tales of scams, theft and lack of healthcare in some areas can make travelling to SE Asia seem a bit daunting but as with most places, knowing what to expect before you start your travels can really help put your mind at ease. Have a read through our tips on being safe and prevent being scammed in SE Asia and enjoy your time in this amazing place! 

1. Be a Good Egg!

Like anywhere you travel to,  it’s a good idea to do some research before you start your trip.  Culture and customs can vary from country to country so finding out about etiquette and rules before you get there, is really important. For example, in Cambodia you shouldn’t touch anyone on the head and in Thailand it is considered rude to point. Better to find these things out now, before unintentionally offending any locals!

Most of the countries in Southeast Asia have very strict rules on carrying and taking drugs, some even resulting in lifelong prison sentences and death penalty – scary stuff! If you’re offered drugs by anyone in Southeast Asia, just say no. Sorry to be a party pooper but it’s just not worth it! Some locals will be working with undercover police earning a commission on any people they can entice to buy drugs from them. You’ll end up paying a hefty fine and in some cases face prison – not quite the gap year you had in mind right!?

2. Do Your Research

Travel guides like ‘The Lonely Planet’ are a great way of reading up on the area you’re travelling to. Get recommendations on hostels, local attractions, travel and watch out for things places to avoid. Also, why not join a travel forum online to chat to other backpackers before you travel – people who have recently ‘been there, done that’  may have some useful hints & tips for you!

Things like knowing where your countries embassy is, and what help you would get should you run into trouble along the way can really put your mind at ease too. Register your travel plans online (websites will vary depending on where you’re from but will be easy to find online!) to keep you updated with safety info: ie if there are protests in Bangkok and you’re registered in Thailand, you’ll get an email to let you know so you can plan your travel around it. Above all, let your friends and family know where you are. If you’ll be off the grid for a couple of days without access to your phone or wifi, let someone at home know!

Here at Ultimate Travel we’re happy to offer advice and answer any travel related questions you may have. We love to travel (surprise!) and love talking about our travel adventures so feel free get in touch for help and advice!

Friendly locals in Vietnam

3. Money & Belongings

Travelling makes you richer in more ways than one! Some countries in Southeast Asia will make you to feel like a millionaire…I’m talking to you, Indonesia with your 1 million Rupiah for 50 quid!..Trust me, it can get confusing! One time in Indonesia, I paid the equivalent of $10 to use the toilet instead of 10cents they’d asked for! Figure out what your money is worth before flashing the cash to avoid spending all your money in one go!

Theft can be common in Southeast Asia but that doesn’t mean you need to spend your entire trip worrying. Have your wits about you, be aware of any common scams in the area and keep these tips in mind when you’re travelling around!

  • If you have cash, never carry all of it on you at one time. Keep an emergency stash somewhere safe just in case! Some backpacks have hidden zips in – perfect for hiding some extra cash in. If not, use socks, a playing card box, sunglasses cases, rolled up clothes.. you get the idea – be creative!  If you’re out partying the night away at the Full Moon Party keep enough money to get you home stashed in a separate pocket  –  you can give yourself a hungover pat on the back in the morning! 
  • Girls, if you can, wear your bag across your shoulders rather than on one arm to avoid theft.
  • Wherever possible, use the safe at your hostel to store your passport whilst you’re out and always use a combination lock on your backpack – even when it’s left in your room!
  • Be wary of pickpockets in busy places (food markets, at beach parties and in busy bars.) Check out our Full Moon Party survival tips!

4. Health

Getting ill abroad, in the heat, without your mum to sympathise and mop your brow is a low point in anyone’s trip to Southeast Asia so get clued up before you travel and take any medication you may need with you. Whilst tummy bugs from tap watered ice and dodgy food are inevitable if you’re travelling for long enough, there are some illnesses you can easily prevent before you even leave home. Lots of countries in SEAsia will require you to get jabs before you travel. Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, Tetanus and Diphtheria are all common jabs you may need to get before leaving home, depending on which countries you’re planning on travelling to. Book an appointment with your doctor at least 8 weeks before you travel to discuss which jabs you’ll need. Your doctor will also be able to tell you whether you’ll need any rabies injections or antimalarial tablets for your trip.

If you need to, you’ll be able to buy most of the medicine you need in Southeast Asia so if you’ve forgotten your anti histamines or imodium, don’t worry! Just keep an eye out for expired medicine – check the sell by date before you buy!

Health in Southeast Asia

4. Scams

Southeast Asia is well known for it’s scams but don’t worry – not everyone is out to rip you off! Most of the locals you’ll come across will be friendly and happy to help but to be safe, find out about any common scams in the area by talking to other backpackers and by doing some research beforehand.

Don’t believe everything you’re told by locals. Once in Bali, I was travelling over to Gilli Trawangan in Bali and was told by a local at the port that there were no ATM’s or places to change up money on the island. He led me to his friend’s shop (obviously working on a commission) to change up some money. Once on the island, I realised I’d been scammed with a rubbish exchange rate and there were in fact a couple of places I could have changed my money up on the islands.

Here are some tips & some of the more common scams to look out for:

  • Always agree on a price with your TukTuk driver before you hop on and don’t be afraid to barter or shop around. If you’re new to an area ask a few different people what they charge so you know what the general price is. Remember whilst you don’t want to get ripped off, there’s no point in spending hours arguing over a couple of Thai baht!
  • Be wary of strangers distracting you in busy places. If someone asks you to take a photo of them/give them directions, hold on to your bag as their mate might be delving into your pockets whilst you help!
  • If you’re visiting temples or main tourist attractions and want a guide, find an official guide – not someone on the street offering to guide you around.
  • Keep in mind that if you let someone help you with your bags, they will expect you to pay them (unless of course you’re in a hotel and they’re paid by the hotel to do so.)
  • If you decide to rent a moped look out for scratches or any problems with the moped before you leave. Take a photo if you need to. When the moped is returned you can prove that you didn’t cause any of the damage. Also, never leave your passport as a deposit for renting a moped.

Riding a tuktuk in Bangkok

Southeast Asia is a wonderful place with beautiful people so don’t be put off by scams! Like everywhere, just be alert, look out for the tell tale scam signs, look after yourself and anyone else you meet along the way and I promise you’ll find it hard not to fall in love with Southeast Asia!

If you’re planning a trip to Southeast Asia, why not book onto a tour? Our Ultimate Thailand and Ultimate Vietnam tours are a great way to meet people and explore beautiful Southeast Asia with the added safety and peace of mind that comes with travelling with our awesome tour guides!

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Thousands of backpackers head to Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia and other countries in Southeast Asia, every year.

In my opinion, Southeast Asia is one of the most exciting, interesting and beautiful places in the world and if it isn’t on your bucket list, it should be! I’ll never get bored of island hopping my way around Thailand, eating amazing street food in Vietnam and partying on the beaches in Cambodia! But how can you make sure you make the most of your time when you’re there?

Here are a few common mistakes made by backpackers (including myself) travelling to Southeast Asia and tips on how to avoid making the same ones!

1. Packing Too Much!

Every time I travel to Southeast Asia I commit the ultimate backpacking sin: packing too much. I overload my backpack and end up spending weeks carting around a massive heavy backpack full of things I don’t need. For some reason I always seem to forget that I’ll be spending the majority of my time in a bikini and shorts, occasionally throwing on a T-shirt and some flip-flops if I feel like it! One of the many beauties of travelling to Southeast Asia is that you can pick up almost anything you want in markets, and it’s usually a lot cheaper! Leave room in your bag for all the bits you’ll pick up along the way and leave your shoe collection at home! There’s something so refreshing about not taking much with you when you’re travelling. Less belongings = less to worry about. You’ll be less concerned about your belongings being stolen and you won’t break your back carrying things around. So girls, leave your hairdryer & makeup at home and embrace salty sea hair and a bare (bronzed) face instead!

2. Going It Alone!

When it comes to travelling to Southeast Asia, especially if it’s your first time, tours are the way to go. You’ll meet other likeminded backpackers, have the ‘safety net’ of an experienced tour leader with you and you’ll be taken to places you might have missed travelling solo, not to mention it’s a much safer way to travel around whilst you’re getting used to being in a new place. A mistake some backpackers make is landing in Southeast Asia for the first time, experiencing a bit of culture shock, not knowing where to go or what to do and not being able to relax and fully enjoy the experience. Having a plan and people to meet when you first arrive is a great way to get started! If you’re planning a trip to Southeast Asia, get involved in Ultimate Thailand or Ultimate Vietnam!

Group tours in Southeast Asia

3. Overplanning

Whilst tours are an amazing way to have fun and explore in the safety of a group, once you’ve got your bearings and if you want to travel on by yourself it’s important to plan just the right amount of travelling. One of the best parts of travelling for me is the freedom to go where you want, when you want. Speak to locals and other backpackers for recommendations but don’t get too bogged down in the planning side of things. If you stay smart (carry just enough cash with you if you know there are no ATM’s in the area and keep your passport safe) the rest will fall into place – it’s all part of the experience! Hop on a boat, head over to that paradise island and see what you find there! Whilst it’s good knowing what you can do in the area so you don’t miss out, planning where you’ll stay and exactly what you want to do at your next destination can take the adventure out of your trip. Be spontaneous and go with the flow – you never know where it might take you!

Island hopping in Southeast Asia

4. Taking It For Granted

One of the biggest mistakes you can make travelling through Southeast Asia is forgetting that you’re in Southeast Asia! It can be tempting to book into a nice air conditioned room for the night, making sure you have constant access to wifi, ordering pizza for dinner and spending your time with other westerners but you’ll miss out on the most important part: actually experiencing the country you’re in. Turn off your phone, eat the local food, try the local delicacies, drink beer on a stool in the street, sleep on a hammock on the beach, use the local transport, chat to and visit the places recommended to you by the locals and embrace the culture. Looking back, you’ll regret that time you spent scrolling through Facebook in the comfort of your air conditioned room when you could have been exploring – make your time count!

Scorpion is a delicacy in Thailand

5. Spending Time Worrying

Horror stories of theft, scams and tummy bugs in Southeast Asia are all too common but with a big tourism industry and friendly locals SE Asia isn’t actually as scary as you might have heard! One of the worst things you can do is ruin your trip by worrying too much! Yes, you might get a tummy bug along the way after eating some dodgy street food, yes your bag might get stolen and yes, you’ll probably be ripped off a few $ along the way but spending your time expecting something bad to happen won’t change that. Instead of worrying read up on some travel tips before you go, ask other backpackers for food recommendations and keep an emergency stash of cash hidden somewhere safe.

Tuk-Tuk- in SE Asia

6. Trying To Do Too Much!

With so much to explore in Southeast Asia, it’s easy to try and fit too much in to your time but in doing so, you won’t be making the most of your trip. Travelling isn’t about ticking a thousand things off your bucket list and fitting in all of the ‘top tourist attractions’ just to get a good photo for Instagram. It’s about experiencing the country you’re in and taking your time to appreciate where you are and who you’re with. Some of the best travel memories I have are from the times I decided to spend longer in one place, getting to know the area and the people I was with, even if that meant missing out on my next stop. Create a list with the places you’ve always dreamed of going to and make a realistic plan so that you can take your time and experience those places properly. Where can you visit with the time and money you have? And if you don’t get to do everything you wanted in one go, you’ll have another excuse to go travelling again..as if you needed one! 😉

Want to travel but not really sure where to start? Get in touch! The Ultimate team have all been there and we’re happy to help! Check out our tours in Australia, Thailand and Vietnam.

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So you’ve booked your trip to Southeast Asia, yay you’ve done it! Get ready for the time of your life. As the countdown shortens and your anticipation grows, you’ll begin to ask yourself some pretty big questions such as: Who will I meet? What will we see? Will I miss home? Nah! But what about the biggest question: What do I pack?! This question haunts us all. Anyone preparing for their next journey knows how stressful this question can become – but don’t worry, we’re here to help. Aside from obvious items such as clothing, traveller’s insurance, and passport, here are 10 must-have items specifically for any Southeast Asia adventure.

Travel Towel

These microfiber, multi-purpose towels are the perfect item to pack. They’ll save you plenty of space compared to your normal bath towel, and they dry quickly in the heat – even better! Personal tip, check the size of your towel before purchase. Nothing worse than a too short of a towel in between hostel shower runs. And don’t worry about packing a beach towel, invest in a cheap sarong instead. Not only is a sarong multi-functional ladies, but it makes for a great souvenir!

Sleeping bag liner

While all hostels should provide you with linens, a sleeping bag liner can be nice to have on those long bus journeys. Also known as a sleeping cacoon, it’s compact so easy to carry, and light enough to keep you cool. It’ll also help with hygiene and preventing any small creatures getting to you. Lastly, silk vs. cotton? Test them both out, and see which you like best.

Mozzie Repellent

Speaking of small creatures, nothing is worse than letting mozzie bites hinder your fun. Prevent these bites by a frequent and thorough application of repellent containing a medium percentage of DEET. Not only will this help prevent the itch, but it’s a great way to make new friends as everyone appreciates the one who remembered the DEET on a night out!

Packing Cubes

A nifty set of items to keep your belongings organized. Good for separating your toiletries, undergarments, electronics, etc. Avoid the frustration of trying to find that adapter hidden between your clothes at the bottom of your rucksack. Use packing cubes to make living out of a bag easier.

Head torch

Whether you’re exploring a cave, hiking a volcano pre-sunrise, or simply looking for your shirt under the bed, a head torch can be your best friend. Better than a flashlight as you can keep your hands free and have I mentioned, super fashionable.

Head-torch

Bags on bags on bags

Ziploc Bags/Plastic Bags: Something you may not think of, but that always comes in handy. Good for those muddy shoes, wet swimmers, and dirty clothes. The uses are endless and it’s always good to have a spare just in case. Note: when using plastic bags, always be courteous of your sleeping bunkmates. Similar to crisps in a cinema, nothing is more frustrating than someone rummaging through their bag when you’re trying to catch some ZZzz’s.

Dry Bag: Thinking of canyoning in Vietnam, tubing in Laos or joining the largest water fight in the world when visiting Thailand? May be worth investing in one of these bad boys. Don’t stress about your clothes or electronics when you’re getting wet as you’re items will stay perfectly dry.

Day bag: Aside from your large bag, a day pack is a vital item. Good for those day trips and also for holding the valuables you may not feel comfortable placing under the bus. Rock the backpacker look: day pack on the front, backpack on the back!

Combination lock

Avoid theft by keeping your valuables safe during your travels. While hostels should provide lockers for their guests, you will need to supply your own lock. I recommend a combo lock vs. a key lock, as it’s once less item to keep track of. 😉

Tissues

Not the most glamorous of items – but a must! You do not want to step into a public bathroom without these. Be extra prepared and always have tissues on you just in case.

Power Adapters

Before you board the plane, best to pack a worldwide power adapter set. Outlets vary between countries, so be sure to have the correct adapter. Personal tip, remember that these do not convert voltage. Not that any female should be bringing a hair straightener with them to SE Asia to begin with, but should you feel the need and want to avoid a blow-out, invest in a voltage converter as well.

Emergency Kit

Hopefully you won’t have to use this item, but better to be safe than sorry. Pack a travel-sized emergency kit to keep you and your mates prepared. Containing plasters, tweezers, antibacterial wipes, scissors, and sometimes even sewing kits – these packs can really make the difference when needed.

And lastly, YOUR BACKPACK – duh!

Yes, this is the most crucial item on the list so be sure to check out our backpack vs. suitcase blog for additional help, but here are some key tips to remember:

Choose a backpack that’s right for you. Be sure that it’s easy to carry and see if you can even get it properly fitted before you leave. Based on personal experience, I recommend a backpack vs. a suitcase when travelling Southeast Asia. Being that I knew I’d be travelling to Australia after my time spent in Asia, I went for a hybrid of the two and look how cool I ended up looking….not.

Most roads in Southeast Asia aren’t meant for suitcases, and the more off the beaten path you get the more you will find this true. Invest in a good backpack and you can’t go wrong.

Things you can leave at home:

Water bottle and filter: Being that most tap water is unsafe to drink in Southeast Asia, you’ll always be able to find inexpensive bottled water available for purchase.

Expensive accessories: Leave the jewels at home! It will attract unwanted attention and rather than bringing your valuables with you, invest in some knock offs instead. Your friends will be jealous when you return home with a new Rayban collection.

Heavy clothing: Aside from the north, you’ll find the majority of Southeast Asia to be extremely warm and humid. Ditch the heavy coat and stiff jeans for a light down jacket and some comfy elephant print pants instead.

Lastly, pack light! Rule of thumb, pack everything once, then take out 50% and repack. Worst case scenario, you forget something and you’ll need to buy it overseas. But don’t fret, everything from clothing to toiletries to electronics can be found easily and often at an even cheaper price. Although it’s best to be prepared, embrace the spontaneity of travelling. Don’t let your wardrobe get you down. You never know, you may come out looking like a true local by the end.

Planning a trip to Southeast Asia? Get in touch! Our 10 day Ultimate Thailand & 13 day Ultimate Vietnam tours are perfect for backpackers looking for a fun, hassle free, safe way to travel whilst having the time of your life with new mates! Check out our videos for Ultimate Thailand and Ultimate Vietnam here.

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Lights, Lanterns and Lotus Flowers

Thailand is well known for it’s epic Full Moon Parties, drinking buckets and fireshows on the beach but what about Thailand’s festivals? You may have heard of Songkran (AKA the biggest water fight in the world), a 4 day street party that involves throwing buckets of water and shooting water pistols at everyone you see. Then there’s Phi Ta Khon, ‘The Ghost festival’, the religious Ubon Ratchatani Candle festival and Thailand’s very own monkey buffet (It’s actually a thing – Google it!), however arguably Thailand’s most spectacular festival is Loi Krathong, Festival of Lights.

What is the Festival of the lights?

Loi Krathong (literally translated to Floating basket or Floating crown) is a festival believed to date back 8 centuries in Thailand. It involves placing lotus shaped rafts (Krathong) decorated with candles, incense and flowers onto water with the intention of bringing luck and fulfilling wishes. Traditionally the decorations are placed into rivers and canals but nowadays any water including lakes and ponds will do! A popular belief in Thailand is that if the candle on your Krathong stays lit until it disappears out of sight, you’re in for a year of good luck!

When does it take place?

Loi Krathong normally takes place on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar, normally in November, at the end of the rainy season. This year, it’ll take place on Wednesday 25th November. In Chiang Mai an extra ‘show’ is put on for tourists a week after the official free festival for the locals.

Where is it celebrated?

The festival of lights is celebrated all over Thailand. In Chiang Mai in Thailand’s North it’s celebrated slightly differently with a religious festival, Yi Peng. Here lanterns are released into the sky rather than water to pay homage to Buddha. At night, the sky is lit up with thousands of lanterns creating a beautiful light display!

If you’re lucky enough to be in Thailand now, make sure to take part in the festival! Planning a trip to Thailand? You don’t have to wait until next November! Lanterns are sold year round in Thailand.

Check out our 11 day Ultimate Thailand tour and get in touch for help organising your trip! Check out our videos for Ultimate Thailand and Ultimate Vietnam to see for yourself how amazing SE Asia is!

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Vietnam is still Southeast Asia’s hidden gem; A beautiful country with heaps of culture, welcoming locals and so much to explore. Vietnam’s ancient traditions are still such an important part of the culture so when you travel to Vietnam means seeing ‘the real Vietnam’.

I know the title of this blog is a tad dramatic but there is reasoning behind the madness! Here are some reasons I think you should travel to Vietnam sooner rather than later:

The Road Less Travelled!

Vietnam is one of the only Southeast Asian countries that hasn’t been overly changed by tourism; It’s a country true to it’s roots and ancient traditions so despite welcoming backpackers and holidaymakers, tourism hasn’t affected Vietnam the same way it has other countries in Asia.

Vietnam is becoming more and more popular as a holiday destination and it’s inevitable that some of it’s culture (from a visitor’s perspective) could get lost alongside the travel agencies, western food restaurants and pubs over the years. I believe now is the time to go if you want to experience Vietnam in all of it’s traditional glory!

Visiting a hill tribe in Sapa to explore the rice fields for example will allow you to experience Vietnamese family traditions without hoards of other tourists. You might have heard of Halong Bay. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and was featured in James Bond’s “Tomorrow Never Dies”. Halong is a magical place! Cruise around the limestone casts on a traditional Vietnamese junk boat, sipping on a cold one whilst watching one of the most amazing sunsets you’ll ever see! Most people only stay for one night, but if you have the time spend another night on one of the islands hidden in the maze of Halong. How often do you get a chance to wake up on a private island?

Halong bay sunsets are beautiful


Photo taken by ULTIMATE traveller Karin in Halong Bay

Because any time of year is a good time!

You can visit Vietnam any time of the year because the weather is mostly good throughout. This place is so big, there are 3 different weather zones and temperatures change throughout the country. Whilst the south is always hot and humid, the north can get a bit cooler (still approx 15-22 degrees around Hanoi, a little colder in the mountains) between November and February. Whichever month you choose to travel, you know you’ll be getting sunshine in some part of the country!


Photo taken by ULTIMATE traveller Dirk in Hoi An

The locals

Vietnamese tradition focuses on harmony and humanity and as the locals live their lives through these traditions it’s not surprising that they’re so welcoming and friendly. Vietnam hasn’t been spoilt by rowdy, pissed up tourists shouting at locals trying to be understood so locals are patient and are happy to have us there! You’ll be smiled at and left alone most of the time, unlike some other countries where you’ll be hassled into buying souvenirs, food, puppies..

Locals

Safe with a side of adventure!

Travelling in Vietnam is generally safe and backpacker friendly. You’ll be welcomed and helped by locals and you’ll bump into lots of other travellers along the way. Despite Vietnam becoming a more popular country for backpackers, when you’re there, you’ll still feel like you’re on an adventure in an exciting exotic place. Vietnamese is the main language here however lots of people speak English so making yourself understood is easy too (no more ordering random things of a menu you can’t read hoping you’ve just ordered something you can digest)!

Travelling around Vietnam is easy for backpackers


Leaving the Ultimate Vietnam private island stay in Halong Bay

Food is Fresh & Authentic

Wherever you travel in Vietnam, you’ll be able to try local beer and eat authentic and traditional Vietnamese food. Most families cook outside their house, so sometimes you might even find yourself crashing a family dinner! Ingredients are fresh off the fields and dishes are cooked in front of you. Grab a small plastic stool in the street and mingle with the locals – you know you’re onto a winner when the locals are eating the same dish as you!

Food is a big part of the culture here (and it should be – it’s amazing!) so get involved before they start building McDonalds on every corner!

Food in Vietnam is a big part of the culture


Eating lẩu (hot pot) in Da Lat

Because it’s still cheap

You can live like a King on next to nothing in Vietnam. A beer will set you back around $1 (their ‘fresh beer’ is about 30 cents!) and if you want to travel on the cheap you could easily budget $10 a day for all of your food. Accommodation is also mega cheap so you’ll be able to afford to travel for longer – result!

Beer in Vietnam is normally locally brewed


Mingling with the locals in the streets of Hanoi.

Because the reef is still beautiful

Unless you’ve been there, Vietnam isn’t normally the first place that springs to mind when you think about snorkelling however Hon Mun Marine Park, just off the East coast of Vietnam is home to some of the world’s most beautiful coral and varied marine life. Heaps of diving and snorkel day trips head out to the marine park daily from Nha Trang, Vietnam’s most popular beach town. The coral in this area hasn’t taken a beating quite like other reefs in Southeast Asia so you can still enjoy snorkelling in beautiful surroundings. Learning to dive is also cheap as chips in Vietnam!

See the rest of Southeast Asia!

Vietnam’s got some pretty cool neighbours including China in the North and Laos and Cambodia to the West so if you’re planning a Southeast Asia trip, Vietnam is a great starting point! You could travel overland to countries such as Thailand and Malaysia or hop on a flight over to Indonesia..Once you’re in Southeast Asia the choices are endless!

So will an increase in tourism change Vietnam for the worse? Vietnam is a beautiful country with ancient traditions and customs that are valued by the Vietnamese people. In my opinion, Vietnam will adapt to an increase in tourism but the important traditions that set Vietnam apart from other Southeast Asian countries will live on for a long time yet! Still, if you’ve got the choice to visit Vietnam and see this amazing country now, at it’s best, then why not?

Want to know more about Vietnam? Check out our Infographic!

The ULTIMATE Vietnam Infographic

Planning a trip? Check out our 13 day Ultimate Vietnam tour and get in touch for help organising your trip! Check out our videos for Ultimate Thailand and Ultimate Vietnam to see for yourself how amazing SE Asia is!

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Southeast Asia is becoming one of the most popular destinations for backpackers on their gap year. So what is it about this part of the world that has us all flocking and going back for more? l’ll do my best to sum up why Southeast Asia is, for me, an absolutely unmissable stop on any backpacker’s gap year!

Cheap as Pad Thai!

Southeast Asia is really cheap – perfect for backpackers travelling on a bit of a budget. You can live like a king for next to nothing as accommodation, travel, spa treatments, food & booze is all really cheap. In Vietnam it costs aprox 30 US cents to buy a beer and a one hour massage on the beach will probably set you back 3 quid. Nuff said!

You can find a bit of everything…

Bustling cities, stunning beaches, exotic wildlife, jungle, mountains, temples, islands…Whether you’re looking for a busy action packed and adrenaline filled trip, a complete chill out, a cultural experience or a bit of everything, you’ll find it in Southeast Asia.

Fun, fun, fun!

One day you’ll be asleep in a hammock on the beach, the next you’ll be ringside at a Muay Thai boxing match in Bangkok. There’s no end to the beach parties, local festivals, backpacker bars and fun!

Popular with other backpackers

One of the best things about being a backpacker in SE Asia? Meeting other backpackers! You’re guaranteed to bump into like minded people along the way and with parties around every corner you’ll make unforgettable memories with a group of new mates.

Thailand and Vietnam are very popular for backpackers

Well travelled..

SE Asia on the whole is a ‘well travelled’ part of the world and most locals you’ll meet are friendly, helpful and welcoming. They’re used to Westerners walking around with heavy backpacks, beer in hand, and are normally very happy to help out if needed! You’ll find English speaking locals in most countries in SE Asia which makes it a lot easier to book day trips, find out about local events and to know where you’re going!

The locals are kind and friendly

..Yet still exotic

The different noises, the smells, the humidity..Southeast Asia just feels different to anywhere else in the world so whilst it’s a well travelled, it’s still an exciting and exotic place to go. You can still get off the beaten track quite easily if that’s your style too. Sapa treks in Vietnam or National park and jungle visits in Thailand for example will take you away from anything Western for a few days.

Be yourself…

Because where else is it acceptable to drink vodka from a bucket on the beach with a straw, get a sh*t drunken tat, party with ladyboys and go skinny dipping?!

In Southeast Asia just be yourself!

Show off your adventurous side!

Things you wouldn’t dream of trying at home become perfectly normal in SE Asia. You’ll start to jump off boats, cliffs, lighthouses..and basically anything with deep water beneath you! You won’t hesitate to try out that rope swing, swim under that waterfall, jump in a rubber ring and go tubing through the jungle and skip over fire ropes on the beach! In Koh Phangan you can even take part in Thailand’s very own version of total wipeout…amazing!

Asia is full of adventure

The food

The food in SE Asia is amazing and the best part is, as it’s so ridiculously cheap you can eat as much as you want! Wherever you go, try that countries local dish- you’ll never eat it better elsewhere!

Travel at your own pace

One of the beauties of travelling in SE Asia is that you can go at your speed. You could spend months hopping island to island, spending your days on the beach, drinking beer and eating street food or you could plan an action packed trip to see everything in a short amount of time.

Planning a trip to Southeast Asia? Get in touch! Our 10 day Ultimate Thailand & 13 day Ultimate Vietnam tours are perfect for backpackers looking for a fun, hassle free, safe way to travel whilst having the time of your life with new mates!

Still not convinced Southeast Asia is worth a visit? Check out our videos for Ultimate Thailand and Ultimate Vietnam to see for yourself how amazing SE Asia is!

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First stop in Southeast Asia: Hanoi, Vietnam. Population: 7 million. Motorbikes: 1.5 million. Girl from Albuquerque, New Mexico: 1. My first time to Southeast Asia, I couldn’t have chosen a better country to begin my journey. Vietnam is beautiful, historic and eye-opening. Tropical paradise, mountainous terrain, eat and drink like a king, buzzing night life, the list goes on and on! Here’s why I love Vietnam..

Halong Bay

Vietnam’s hidden wonder and absolute paradise. This World Heritage site is a must-see on every backpackers’ list. It’s a personal fave! Begin your trip on an authentic Vietnamese “junk boat” (nothing junk about it!) exploring the turquiose waters and viewing the never ending rock formations. Here you can kayak, rock climb, cliff jump, perfect for the adventure seeker. After one night spent on the boat, you arrive to your very own private island. Yes. That’s right, a private island for just you and your friends! Where else can you say you did that?! Play beach volleyball, drink cheap beer, watch the sun go down and karaoke the night away.

Explore Sapa

Want to see the real Vietnam? Venture to Sapa and hike through the endless rice fields. Meet our guide, Vu and her daughter Sho Sho, the giggliest child of them all. We spent two days exploring Sapa by foot and it wouldn’t have been the same without these two. Sapa is truly majestic. The people are colourful in both their attire and spirit, the views are breathtaking and it’s off the beaten path!

Same Same But Different

Anyone who has travelled Southeast Asia knows this common saying. If so – you probably still use the saying today. You may even own a vest with the same writing! Often used when purchasing, this phrase with no doubt will bring you confusion, understanding and most often laughter.
Example: “Are these real Ray Bans? Is this chicken? Is this the correct bus?”… “Same same but different.” All different questions, very same answer. Sometimes a good response, other times not so much.
Regardless, hearing this phrase post your travels will always remind you of your times spent in SE Asia and will most likely bring a smile to your face.

Same same but different!

Hoi An

My favourite place in all of Vietnam! Beach. Culture. Shopping. Food. You name it, this place has it! Ride a bicycle to the beach to watch the sunrise, get tailor-made clothing, see the beautiful lanterns at dark, join a cooking class and party the night away.

Hoi An lanterns

The Food

Some people take photos of the scenery. Others take photos of people or their adventures. My best friend/ co-traveller takes photos of me eating… So the secret is out, I like to eat. In fact “like” is a large understatement. If you’re a foodie like me, you will love Vietnam! A must-eat, the BBQ in Hanoi – we ate here not once, not twice but three times in one day. Also on the list: pho (noodle soup), banh mi (baguette) and fresh spring rolls!

The food in Vietnam - Another reason why I love Vietnam

Ride Like A Local

As the highest motorbike per capita country in the world, what better way to explore a new city than on your own set of wheels? But fair warning: if you’re brave enough to get on the back of a motorbike, let alone drive one yourself – I suggest you invest in some good travellers insurance. Nothing’s worse than letting a small accident spoil your trip. So if you have the guts, hop on board. Otherwise, master the art of crossing street traffic, a challenge in itself!

Riding mopeds in Vietnam is the norm!

Cheap Beer

A true necessity when travelling. Everyone enjoys a good party, but often the cost of drinking can add up. But when a large beer only costs you 50 cents, the round’s on me! Saigon, Tiger, 333 – all common labels. Try them each and see what tickles your fancy. Personal tip: Pull up a baby stool outside a restaurant, purchase a beverage, pair with sunflower seeds and mingle with new friends.

Grab a stool and drink in the street!

Never a Dull Moment

Just an average Wednesday morning. Meet Susie – my new best friend. Deathly afraid of snakes, this is not my ideal moment, but travelling pushes you to step outside your comfort zone. Hold a python, eat a scorpion, feed a crazy monkey – all part of the Southeast Asia fun!

Meet the locals in Vietnam!

Beach Bum in Nha Trang

Want to enjoy the sun and get your tan on? Visit the seaside town of Nha Trang. Known for its blue waters and Russian influence – this town has everything to offer. Partake in one of its numerous water sports such as kite surfing or snorkelling followed by a wild night out on the town. Personal recommendation: Why Not Bar, because why not?!

Nha Trang has got some great snorkel spots.

History

You can’t travel to Vietnam and not learn about the country’s history – it’s inevitable. But that’s what travelling is all about, learning about other cultures and what has happened in the past to shape a country. Travel to Ho Chi Minh and visit the Cu Chi tunnels to learn more about the war. I promise you’ll learn more here than you ever did from a textbook!

Learning about Vietnam's history is great!

Travel the Long Way

Travelling onward? How about to Laos or Cambodia? Don’t take the boring route! We did a 3 day journey from Ho Chi Minh to Cambodia via the Mekong Delta and it couldn’t have been better. Explore the canals, shop the floating markets and see more of Southeast Asia along the way.

Travelling along the Mekong delta was incredible.

Planning a trip to Vietnam? Check out our 13 day Ultimate Vietnam tour and get in touch for info and advice!

‘Like’ us on FB for travel inspiration, photos, videos and more blogs and follow us on Instagram (ultimate.travel) for travel pics!

Southeast Asia is awesome! With friendly locals, great food, beautiful beaches, bustling cities, an exciting culture and so much to see any do, no wonder it’s high on the bucket list for so many of us! Luckily for us, Southeast Asian countries are generally cheap to travel in so your travel budget will stretch a lot further than most other gap year destinations! Despite Southeast Asia already being cheap, it’s always nice to nab a bargain so read on for tips on how to save your hard earned cash and travel through Southeast Asia on a budget..

 1. Don’t be scared to haggle!

In most countries in Southeast Asia, bartering is not just expected, it’s all part of the fun! Don’t be scared to haggle for your goods to get a cheaper price. Most of the time, the good sold at markets in Thailand and Malaysia have such a high margin to begin with, you can usually start off by offering less than half price for what you want! You can haggle pretty much anything in countries such as Thailand and Vietnam including travel on Tuk Tuks, boats and taxis! Be firm yet respectful and friendly and remember to have the price you’re happy to pay in your head!

Top tip: Be careful not to go overboard. The most important thing to remember is that both parties should be able to come to a mutually happy agreement. There’s no point arguing over a couple of quid just to come out on top. That money will probably mean a lot more to your seller than to you!

Haggling the price of goods and travel in Thailand is normal

2. Try the local food

Eating street food and local dishes & delicacies is all part of travelling and is a great way to cut down on your spends! If you want to eat ‘western food’ like pizza, burgers and chips, be prepared to pay ‘western prices’ (around 5 times more than local dishes found on street stalls and food courts!)

It’s not all about the price though. Local dishes are usually amazing, and prepared with natural homegrown ingredients. Vietnam has some of the best dishes in the world including Pho (a popular rice noodle dish) and once you’ve tried a Thai green curry or pad Thai in Thailand, there’s no going back! Just take it easy eating fresh fruit and meats from the street stalls that have been left out when you first arrive – give your stomach time to adjust to the new food to avoid getting ill and wherever possible eat from the stalls where it can be cooked in front of you.

Top tip: If it’s good enough for the locals, it’ll be good enough for you! Follow the crowd as the locals know where will be good to eat and where isn’t!

3. Drink beer

Drinking local beer such as ‘Singha’ or ‘Chang’ in Thailand and ‘ Bia Hoi’ in Vietnam will cost you a lot less than drinking imported beers, alcopops and wine in South East Asia. If you’re a fan of spirits, go for the local spirits as much as possible if you want to save money but go easy…local spirits usually have a much higher alcohol % so have one and see how you go!

Top tip: Be prepared. Booze prices on small islands in SE Asia are a lot higher than other parts of the country as they’re ‘imported’ from the mainland. If you’re a fan of spirits, take a bottle or two with you to avoid paying lots for alcohol!

4. Do your research

Most locals you’ll encounter in SE Asia are friendly, helpful and kind however do be prepared to be ripped off every now and then! If you don’t know how much things cost in advance, you could end up paying heaps more than you need to! I’ve been told before that ‘there are no ATM’s on that Island’, ‘you must withdraw/change up your money here with me’ only to find out that there are heaps of ATM’s on the island and that person just wanted the extra commission!
Top tip: Don’t believe everything you hear from the locals and do your research beforehand to be in the know!

 5. Travel like a local

SE Asia is pretty big so it can be tempting to hop on a plane over to the next country on your bucket list but if you want to save money, wherever possible travel with the locals. In Bali, I decided to take the cheapest boat possible over the Gilli islands and ended up in a tiny boat with 30 other people, about 20 chickens flapping around and what seemed like the islands entire food supply for the next 6 months! I always find it’s those experiences you remember the most anyway! Most SE Asian countries have some great bus and train options too such as the overnight sleeper train in Thailand and overnight buses. You can even bus it over the borders with a mini passport control break in the middle!
Top tip: Travelling overnight means you won’t have to fork out for accommodation that night – score!

 6. Give yourself a daily budget

This might seem like an obvious one but it’s easy to spend in Asia. Yes, everything is mega cheap but if you’re anything like me, that’ll just make you spend more because you don’t feel like you have to budget! Having a strict budget will ensure you’ve got enough to last your whole trip without worrying. Spend a bit more on drinks one day? Check into a cheaper hostel the next night!
Top tip: Budget between AUD$20-$40 per day to travel comfortably.

 7. Accommodation

Accommodation in Asia is cheap! On a budget, you could find somewhere to stay for less than $5 per night! Okay your toilet might be a hole in the floor and you may be sharing with a few lizards and insects but it’s a bargain all the same! If you’re prepared to stay in basic accommodation you’ll save yourself a lot of money. If you’re not, you could stay in a beautiful little private poolside villa with free breakfast for around $20-$30!
Top tip: Planning ahead with accommodation is another way to save money. Accommodation prices in Koh Phangan go up for the Full Moon Party so get in there early for the best prices and before all the accommodation is fully booked!

Floating bungalows in Khao Sok National Park where we stay during our 10 day Ultimate Thailand tour!

Floating bungalows in Khao Sok National Park during the 10 day Ultimate Thailand tour!

8. Buy before you go!

Pretty much everything is cheaper in South East Asia and most things can be bought when you get there however there are a few things that are worth taking with you. Imported cosmetics, suncream & makeup can be more expensive so to avoid paying out for your favourite makeup brands abroad, bring them with you!

Top tip: In most SE Asian countries, anti malaria tablets A LOT cheaper when you get there.

 9. Get off the beaten track!

If you want to save money, avoid ‘touristy’ destinations as much as you can. Anywhere packed with tourists will be more expensive than other parts of the country as you’ll be paying tourist prices rather than backpacker prices.

Instead, chat to locals and get recommendations on where to go (take a mate with you!) or get a map and do some exploring! I remember hiring a moped on Koh Phangan and going to visit some of the waterfalls in the middle of the island. It was great to see another part of the island away from the crowds and saved me the money I would have spent in Koh Phangan that day!

Top tip: Having a local guide show you around is a great way to experience ‘off the beaten track’ safely. Our 3 day Sapa tour in Vietnam gives you the chance to stay in a remote village and experience how the hill tribes live! Check it out here.

Get off the beaten track in Vietnam

10. Know what your money is worth!

Checking the current exchange rate is well worth doing before you start your travels. Knowing what your money is worth will avoid you getting ripped off at the airport when you get there! Click here to check current currency rates.

Top tip: Change up some money before you fly so you have some local money to use when you first land. It’ll give you a little time to shop around for the best rate so you won’t be forced into changing up your money in the first place you come across!

Know what your money is worth

Interested in travelling to Thailand or Vietnam? Get in touch for help and advice!

Check out our blogs for tips on travelling in South East Asia and share your budgeting tips with us in the comments below!

‘Like’ us on FB for travel inspiration, photos, videos and more blogs and follow us on Instagram (ultimate.travel) for travel pics!

Travelling onwards after your trip to Asia? Keep an eye out for top tips on budgeting in Australia and New Zealand.

Great News For Travellers To Vietnam!

Vietnam is one of the new favourite hot spots amongst backpackers travelling to, or through, Southeast Asia … and with good reason! Now, there’s one more reason to add travelling to Vietnam to your 2015 bucket list … depending on where you’re from, you may not need a visa to enter the country.

If you are from the UK, France, Spain, Italy or Germany and travelling to Vietnam for less than 15 days (perfect if you’re only doing the Ultimate Vietnam tour), you will no longer need to apply for a visa from the Vietnamese government. These changes apply to travel between 1st July 2015 and 30th June 2016.

Well, it was never too difficult to get a visa for Vietnam but now, it’s one less thing to have to worry about, leaving you with more time to get excited about your trip! It also means that you will save at least £54. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but at the time we are writing this, that’s about 1,850,000 VND (Vietnamese Dong) which is enough for you to live like a Rockstar for a month!

This is great for Vietnam as it will encourage more people to go and see the amazing things this beautiful country has to offer! And a boost in tourism leads to a boost in economy – happy days all round!

Already know that you’ll want to spend more than 15 days in Vietnam? (We don’t blame you at all!)

No worries at all – check out our Visa Information page and find out about the other visa options that are available …

Got any other Visa queries? Get in touch with the ULTIMATE crew and we’ll come back to you as soon as we can!

Here at Ultimate Travel, we’re thinking about the New Year and what new things we want to experience and new places we want to visit in 2015. We’re all super excited for our new Ultimate Vietnam tour that launches in just a couple of weeks!! (You can check out what’s involved here!) We also have a few new exciting things in the pipeline for later this year (watch this space!)

There’s no doubt about it … it’s all about travel for us here and between us, we have some big trips planned! Which got us thinking … what destinations are on your bucket list for the year? Where do you want to go and what do you really want to do while you’re there?

For two of our Ultimate Alumni, Josh Everitt and Henning Fredriksen, Thailand was on last year’s travel bucket list and when they joined us on our Ultimate Thailand tour, they filmed some great memories which they put together for all to see:

Maybe after seeing that, Thailand will be on your 2015 Travel Bucket List?? Why not get in touch and make that dream a reality!

Are you planning a trip to Asia? Have you thought about booking on to Ultimate Thailand but not sure you want to commit? Want to get an insider’s point of view? Having never travelled to Asia, we sent our Ultimate travel guru Max on the 10 day Ultimate Thailand tour. Here’s what he thought..

So Max, you’ve just got back from 2 weeks in Thailand… Nice tan! What was your favourite part?

The best bit of the tour for me was chilling out on the floating bungalows in Khao Sok National Park. After a few days partying hard in Bangkok it was the perfect chilling spot! I spent my days kayaking in the lake, searching for wild monkeys and eating fresh fish from the lake! It was awesome to wake up in the morning to the sound of silence and a still lake- I actually felt like we were in paradise!

Khao Sok NP

What was it like travelling with a group of people on a guided tour? How would it have been different to travel alone?

Before I met the group I had travelled for 4 days by myself through Northern Thailand. It was a completely different experience compared to travelling with the group: it was my first time travelling through Asia and by myself, I found it a bit daunting and hard to meet people. I don’t normally have any problems with this but I just didn’t meet that many solo travellers where I was! As soon as I’d met the rest of my group, I had 15 other people I could instantly talk to and spend time with. It was great to meet other people on the same wavelength as me and to share travel experiences with people that I probably wouldn’t have met unless I’d done a guided tour.

Ultimate Thailand group

Would you recommend it?

I’d 100% recommend it to anyone looking to meet people instantly and experience Thailand stress free- the tour guides are experienced and have the knowledge needed for us to feel safe on the tour and just be able to focus on having fun!

Ultimate Thailand group

Was Thailand as you had imagined it? In what way?

​No. To be honest I thought Bangkok would be similar to Sydney and other Western cities. It was a bit of a surprise to be surrounded by lady boys in Bangkok! It was much more of a party place than I thought- so much fun- just not what I had expected. The hostel in Koh Phangan where we stayed was one of the best I’ve ever stayed in! The National parks we went to (Khao Sok) and Thai countryside was so much better than I expected! The photos you see just don’t do it justice!

Ultimate Thailand group

Did you encounter any animals along the trip?

​I went to visit an elephant nature park which I’d highly recommend to anyone! They focus on rehabilitation for elephants instead of using elephants as a tourist attraction (as unfortunately so many do in Thailand!) so it’s great to see those charities first hand helping injured elephants​ recover. We also saw LOTS of wild monkeys! I was actually surprised how close up to you they’re happy to get! You can feed them bananas and they’ll come and sit on your shoulder – way more interactive than I thought. Just a word of advice.. If you buy bananas to feed them, don’t let them out of your sight- they’ll be gone within seconds!

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What is your best/funniest memory from the Ultimate Thailand tour?

Total Wipeout! Have you seen the TV show? It’s basically an obstacle course on the water with loads of inflatables, rolling barrels and rope swings. It’s in Koh Phangan and you get the option to go there for about 400TBH (Appox £8) Had such a fun day- it’s definitely my most memorable moment in Thailand!

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Would you recommend others to go to Thailand? Why? 

Definitely! It’s amazing to experience travelling around an Asian country, experience Asian culture and customs and gain new experiences. If you’re planning a trip and Thailand isn’t on your list, you’ll be missing out!

 What experience did you have with Thai people?

Before getting to Thailand, I had heard that Thai people were really friendly and I definitely noticed it, especially outside of tourist areas. Everyone I met was really helpful, very friendly, polite and always smiling!​ At one point I had actually left my wallet near the street food stalls by accident and the Thai guy who owned the stall came running after me to give it back to me!

Would you go back? If so, where? Or another Asian country?

​Yes! I’ll definitely be going back to Thailand at some point. I’d love to go back to Koh Phangan for the full moon party and I’ll definitely make sure I go back to the floating bungalows in Khao Sok National park. Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam are also still on my bucket list!

Did you eat anything weird? Did you enjoy the food in Asia? Street food?

​I tried a scorpion in Koh San Rd in Bangkok which kind of tastes like crispy chicken. I definitely didn’t enjoy it but it was an experience! I loved trying all of the Thai food, especially the street dishes like Pad Thai and chicken satay with rice. It’s all so much cheaper than the western food you can get and tastes awesome! Some restaurants do better food than others- the trick is to see how many locals are eating in the restaurant – if it’s good enough for the locals…!

Any other moments/events you want to talk about?

​ We had so much fun tubing near the jungle village in Khao Sok! We spent 2 hours tubing down the river, drinking beer and chilling! Also the temples in Bangkok were another highlight- it was great to experience some of Thailand’s history.

Got any tips for travelling to Thailand?

Learn to haggle! Haggling is expected in Thailand and haggling when buying things in markets will make sure you’re not getting ripped off! Ask the vendor what their price is and if it seems too much, tell them. Be polite, keep it light hearted and never get angry. You can usually get down to about half of what was originally offered and pick up some bargains!

Check out the 10 day Ultimate Thailand tour online and get in touch with us for more info!

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10 Places We Love in Vietnam

We love Vietnam and with the launch of our 13 day Ultimate Vietnam tour in January we thought it’d be a good idea to tell you all about what Vietnam has to offer and what we think makes this beautiful South East Asian country so amazing! Here’s just 10 places we love in Vietnam …

1. Food in Hanoi

If you like food, Hanoi in Northern Vietnam is a city not to be missed! Walk through narrow alley ways in Hanoi’s Old Quarter to find some of Vietnam’s most amazing traditional dishes. In Hanoi the street is where the food is at! Try meat skewers, fresh fruit, broths, noodles and traditional Vietnamese pork rolls. Wash it down with a cold Bia Hoi (Vietnams local beer) or Hanoi’s famous coffee- food and drink heaven! Check out our website to visit Hanoi.

2. Halong Bay

Translated literally to descending Dragon Bay, Halong bay in Northern Vietnam is made up of 1000 or more stunning islands. Cruise around the bay on a traditional Vietnamese Junk Boat, check out the coves and beaches and kayak through the crystal clear waters. Stay overnight on a Vietnamese junk boat as part of the 13 day Ultimate Vietnam tour.

3. Hoi An

Hoi An is a beautiful old town in the south central coast of Vietnam once used as a trading port. Go shopping, try a Vietnamese cooking class or chill out at Hoi An’s beautiful beach only a short bike ride away. At night, the streets are lit up with red and white lanterns, hanging from trees, buildings and shops giving Hoi An it’s nickname: “City of Lanterns.” Come with us!

4. Nha Trang

Nha Trang on the South central coast is the beach capital of Vietnam. Explore the area by boat on a snorkelling trip in warm waters and discover the bay’s beautiful coral. Check it out on the Ultimate Vietnam tour.

5. Dalat waterfalls

Vietnam’s central highlands area is known for it’s stunning Waterfalls. Explore the Dalat area by hiking through rainforest. If you’re with Ultimate Vietnam, abseil and canyon down the waterfalls!

6. Ho Chi Minh city

Formally named Saigon, this bustling city has an exciting atmosphere and a vibrant nightlife. Ever wanted to try deep fried snake? Try both traditional and daring Vietnamese food here with us!

7. Cu Chi Tunnels

Explore the underground network of tunnels used during the Vietnam war and learn all about Vietnam’s interesting history. We will take you here on the Ultimate Vietnam tour!

8. Sapa

Located in the North West of Vietnam, Sapa is famous for it’s amazing views over the rice terraces, hill tribes and picturesque towns. Hike through the hills, valleys and rice fields and go shopping at the market. Sapa is available as an add on to the 13 day Ultimate Vietnam tour. Check out the add on details here and if you have any questions, just get in touch!

9. Mekong river

The Mekong river is the 12th longest river in the world, not only running through Vietnam but also Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Burma and China! The river meets the sea through a number of smaller distributaries which make up the Mekong Delta. Take a river cruise, check out the floating markets or take a bike ride around the area! Contact us to plan your trip.

10. Phu Quoc island, Vietnam

With gorgeous white beaches, friendly locals, fun water activities and a chilled out atmosphere, Phu Quoc island located near the South coast of Cambodia is not to be missed! Phu Quoc is pretty much untouched at the moment and has only recently been discovered as a tourist destination so get in there quickly!

Want to discover Vietnam for yourself? This beautiful country has so much to offer and is not to be missed! Get in touch for Vietnam info, trips and tours- we’re more than happy to help!

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Travelling SE Asia is a rite of passage for any backpacker and rightly so! It’s an incredible place, with so many amazing things to do and see! But … you wouldn’t go to London and say you’ve seen England would you? Well, you can’t say you’ve truly seen SE Asia until you been to Vietnam!

Although growing in popularity, backpacking in Vietnam is still not very high on a lot of young travellers’ agenda. Which is a shame, because it is an amazing country! It may not be rich in wealth, but it is rich with culture, has lots of history and is home to potentially some of the nicest people you will meet on your Ultimate quest to tick off as many countries as possible!

This is exactly why we made Vietnam our next Ultimate adventure! If you don’t know by now, our Ultimate Vietnam tour kicks off in January 2015 and we are SO excited for it to start!!

When it comes to launching new tours, we’re very thorough with our research … a lot of hard work goes in to finding the best spots to take you, the best things to see and do etc. After all, it has to be the ULTIMATE tour of Vietnam right?!

So earlier this year, two of our lovely Travel crew were shipped off to SE Asia to check it all out and put something together that will be an awesome experience for everyone that joins us.

The stories they came back with were amazing! Here’s a little snippet of what they thought about their time in Vietnam …

What was your favourite part of Vietnam and why?

Ultimate Hanoi

Dirk: The island stay in Lan Ha Bay, which is part of Halong Bay, was stunning! We cruised through a maze of little islands, stayed on a stunning beach, ate amazing food and saw some incredible sunsets!

Karin:  I loved the authenticity of Hanoi … it feels like a step back in time. The food is amazing and the atmosphere is so different to any place that I’ve ever been before! Life is out on the streets all day and all night. People cook on the streets, people eat on the streets. We sat at little plastic tables, on tiny plastic chairs and drank beer from kegs with the locals.

Was there anything about Vietnam that surprised you?

Dirk: The coffee was crazy good! Also, despite tourism being such a big part of their economy, Vietnamese people live their own lives and culture. Ho Chi Minh is becoming more westernised but the north of Vietnam is still authentically Vietnamese.

Karin: I had no idea that the Vietnamese beaches and underwater world were so stunning! Pristine white beaches and Nha Trang is awesome for snorkelling!

What’s your favourite part of the tour and why?

Da Lat – Where else can you abseil down a waterfall in the middle of a rainforest?!

Dirk: Lan Ha Bay is a definite highlight! But I think the awesome buzz of Hanoi and the chilled out vibes you find in Hoi An will be popular with a lot of people who join us!

Karin: I think everything we do on the tour is amazing but Halong Bay and Da Lat are definite highlights for me! Halong Bay is incredibly beautiful and serene (and has the best food!!) I loved Da Lat because it was the first time I have ever abseiled down waterfalls in the middle of a rain forest – there’s not many places you can do that and I’ll never forget it!

Is there anything that isn’t on the tour that you would recommend people do?

Dirk: Trekking in Sapa will blow your mind! It’s not just about picturesque mountain scenery and rice fields, but also seeing how local Vietnamese people make a living, which makes you appreciate just how privileged your own life actually is.

Karin: Sapa for sure! It has the most amazing scenery and you get an awesome cultural experience! Comfortable shoes are a must as the trip involves a lot of hiking and climbing – it’s so worth it for the views!!

What’s your top tip for travelling Vietnam?

Dirk: Learn a few Vietnamese phrases, be curious and don’t be shy to mingle with the locals.

Karin: Do it with Ultimate Vietnam, we’ll show you the best places and make sure you have the most fun! :0)

Join us on Ultimate Vietnam!

Chuc Mung Nam Moi!! Or Happy Vietnamese New Year!

Vietnamese New Year, or Tết as it is known, falls on February 19th in 2015 and what better way to celebrate than with an Ultimate Vietnam trip?!

Tết is kind of like Christmas and New Year rolled into one. Vietnam starts preparing for Tết weeks before the actual celebration – they buy gifts, clear debts, visit loved ones and prepare amazing food for the New Year celebrations.

Held on the same day as Chinese New Year, Tết shares similar traditions to its Chinese counterparts. During the celebrations, family and friends exchange red envelopes filled with monetary gifts. The numbers 6 and 8 hold a special place in Tet celebrations too so you might see people exchanging gifts of $6 rather than $10! There are parades and street parties as the country bursts to life!

Tết is an amazing celebration that gives you an insight into Vietnamese culture. While Vietnam, particularly its major cities, have all the hallmarks of Asian growth – Tết gives people a chance to celebrate their history and plan for the future.

One of the most interesting traditions is the Leaving of the Kitchen God. Vietnamese people believe that at the end of the year, the Kitchen God leaves their homes to report on their family to the Jade Emperor. Sacrifices are made to impress the Kitchen God as people burn gold leaf in their homes.

The Kitchen God needs transport for his journey so families buy a live carp, place it on their family altar in a bucket of water to make it easier for the Kitchen God to get to the Jade Emperor! If you see a lot of buckets filled with fish, that’s what they’re being used for!

Like a Western New Year, Vietnamese New Year comes at the stroke of midnight so expect fireworks, fire-crackers and celebrations galore! Tết is a noisy celebration so expect to stay up all night! Drums will be beaten, shouts will be raised, it is even considered good luck to make a dog bark so expect a lot of that too!

2015 will be the Year of the Goat (if you were born in 1991, you’re a goat too so have a great year!) so expect to see a tonne of parades and fireworks in celebration of the New Year with goats taking a starring role.

One of the most famous aspects of Tét is bánh tét – an amazingly tasty rice dish that is only made around the New Year parties! You’ll be able to spot (and smell) bánh tét a mile away – it is wrapped in a banana leaf and will be all over Vietnam in the lead up to New Year.

Bánh tét is pretty difficult to describe. It kind of looks like a Swiss Roll but it is made of rice with a variety of fillings. Wrapped tightly in a banana leaf, the rice sticks together so bánh tét is served in slices of deliciousness!

Watermelons are also incredibly popular thanks to the luck connected to the colour red. The redder the watermelon is in the middle, the more luck a family can expect in the New Year!

If you want to head to Vietnam to experience the culture and tradition of the country, there are few better times to head there than during Tết. Ultimate Vietnam gives you the chance to see the majority of the country and offers unique experiences like spending time with hill tribes, living on the water in a traditional ‘junk’ and eating your way around an amazing country!

Travelling Vietnam during Tết is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that should not be missed. If you want the perfect antidote to those February blues (they’re a thing, right?) then get in touch about Ultimate Vietnam today!

You are probably familiar with the awesomeness of Thai food but have you ever taken the plunge with some Vietnamese favourites?

Vietnamese food is similar to its Thai counterpart in that they use similar ingredients but the history of Vietnam has had a marked impact on their food.

Having been colonised by the French from the 1880s until the early 1950s, French food and flavours have had an impact on Vietnam. Whether that influence is felt in the amazing bread produced daily, or some of the best coffee you’ll ever drink anywhere in the world – Vietnamese food is one of the highlights of the country.

You’ll try all kinds of Vietnamese goodness during your time with Ultimate Vietnam. You’ll be take on an incredible, foodies dream tour of Hanoi. We’ll stop off at local favourites and get you eating the best Vietnamese food you’ll ever taste!

You’ll also be able to try your hand at creating some of the Vietnamese classics with your very own Vietnamese cooking class! On your 15-day Ultimate Vietnam adventure you’ll eat some of the best food you’ll ever taste and then be able to make it for everyone else when you get back home!

Without further ado, here are some of the Vietnamese classics that you’ll absolutely love when you take head out on Ultimate Vietnam!

Pho

The quintessential Vietnamese food, Pho (pronounced ‘fahr’ not ‘fo’) is a big bowl of the best broth you’ve ever tasted. You’ll see pho on pretty much every menu in Vietnam and you’ll see (and hear) people slurping pho on practically every corner.

A gorgeous, salty broth, packed with rice noodles, herbs and spices with your choice of meat (usually beef), pho is a staple of the Vietnamese diet. You’ll get mammoth portions of pho anywhere you stop so prepare to be full to the brim once you’re done!

You haven’t been to Vietnam if you haven’t gorged on pho so put this on the top of your Vietnamese food list!

Bánh mì

Bánh mì, the humble Vietnamese pork roll, is one of Sydney’s favourite dishes. Whether you’ve been to Marrickville for the best pork roll in Sydney (there is no contest) you need to try a true Vietnamese pork roll, in Vietnam!

Bánh mì is a marriage between the French colonial culture and traditional Vietnamese food. The baguette was introduced in Vietnam by the French and the Vietnamese have created one of the finest sandwiches in the world with it!

The gorgeous bread is about the only constant with a Vietnamese pork roll. Depending on what part of the country you’re in, even what part of a city you’re in, you’ll get a totally different sandwich! We are talking pork though, probably two ways, with a pate thrown on there too. Pickled vegetables, coriander and cucumber are usually there too but your best bet is to try a lot of them!

Gỏi cuốn

Vietnamese spring rolls are another classic of the country. Not to be confused with the greasy favourites of your local Chinese restaurant, Vietnamese spring rolls are wrapped in rice paper which makes them transparent!

Whether you want a vegetarian option or a meaty option, Vietnamese spring rolls are the best. The rice paper makes them so much fresher than the greasy wrap you’ll be used to and the tương xào (hoisin sauce to you and me) is the perfect dipping partner. To be honest though, you can dip them in fish sauce, peanut sauce or nothing at all and they’re still amazing!

Find yourself some grilled pork spring rolls or prawn if you like seafood and you’ll never look back!

Rau muống

Something for the vegetarians, rau muống is also known as morning glory or water spinach and can be prepared in many ways…and you’ll try a lot of them during your time in Vietnam.

A great little healthy bar snack, morning glory is usually stir-fried with a bit of garlic to add to the flavour. Rau muống is a perfect side dish as well, so when you order too much food you’ll probably find a bowl of this somewhere on the table!

It’s like any other spinach but when stir-fried with garlic, is an absolute dream! A good antidote for a lunch after a massive meal the night before…trust us.

Bánh tét

This is a little bit special and is only served around the New Year celebration of Tét held at the end of February. Bánh tét is a rice cake wrapped in a banana leaf filled with other Vietnamese delicacies like mung bean paste – not the tastiest sounding name but they are amazing!

Normally a savory, you can get bánh tét with sweeter fillings like banana and sweet red beans but whichever way you go, if you are in Vietnam around Tét you’ve got to try these bad boys!

Ca phe da

Another holdover from French colonialism, the Vietnamese love a good coffee. Vietnam are the second biggest coffee producer in the world (Brazil top the list for the trivia hunters) so it is no surprise that Vietnam is famed for its coffee.

Ca phe da is actually Vietnamese ice coffee which is a local delicacy that is catching on around the world. Whatever type of coffee you fancy, whether you want it hot or warm, Vietnam has some of the best brews in the world. Starbucks is slowly creeping into the country but stay away from the more expensive chains and find somewhere local for a real taste of Vietnamese coffee.

Ca phe da is perfect for cooling down on a humid day and giving you that extra boost of energy. It’s also great for curing a hangover…trust us, we know!

If you’re interested in Ultimate Vietnam or any of our Ultimate trips, get in touch with us and we’ll help you out!

If you close your eyes and think of Thailand – what are the first things you see?

Try and keep it clean please people, we don’t want ping pong balls cluttering up an otherwise simple exercise.

Thailand is exotic. It is hustle and bustle. Colour and light. Mysterious sights and sounds, sumptuous smells that waft through the air.

Basically, you are thinking of a Thai floating market – one of the most amazing experiences Thailand has to offer!

Thanks to the increase in tourists visiting Thailand, floating markets may not be as authentic as they once were but a trip to the canals of Thailand is one of the most amazing experiences to be had in the country. It gives you an idea of the history of the region and just how culturally different the area is to anywhere you’ve ever been.

In the 19th Century, Bangkok was known as the ‘Venice of the East’ thanks to sheer number of canals, or khlongs, in the city. The khlongs were, and to some extent still are, the lifeblood of the city.

When you are in Bangkok as part of our Ultimate Thailand adventure, you will be taken on a river and canal cruise through Bangkok where you will be able to see historic temples and houses that skirt the edge of the water.

The canals and rivers of Bangkok may not be filled as they once were but a long-boat ride lets your imagination run wild!

The floating markets aren’t too far from Bangkok with some of best located less than three hours from the city centre. Day trips can be organised from the Khao San Road and our handy guides can help you book them. Here are some floating market names to remember!

Damnoen Sanduak – the most popular.

Only about an hour and a half from Bangkok city centre, Damnoen Sanduak is the go-to floating market for tourists and tour companies in Bangkok.

If that floats your boat (yes, I went there) then check it out! If you’ve already had your fill of those weird frog-noise things and ‘Same Same but Different’ t-shirts, maybe give it a miss.

If this is the market you select, it isn’t all Americans with bum-bags. You can still find some secluded areas where you get a feel for the local culture of a floating market. You can buy fresh produce and Thai craft and take some of those awesome photos of baskets filled with colourful vegetables.

Amphawa – the local version.

Amphawa floating market is where the locals head to the water for their shopping. It is a Thai experience like no other as the long-boats crowd around the popular stall-boats for their favourite produce or freshly cooked food.

It is an impressive site, hundreds of long-boats crowding the small canals of Amphawa. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen really. The sights, sounds and smells will entice and amaze you as you bob along in a long-boat of your own, past countless stalls!

Taling Chan – the food-lovers paradise!

In all honesty, the food and produce at each Thai floating market is amazing but Taling Chan just tips the scales with its amazing seafood selection.

From fish heads to crab legs, and everything in between, Taling Chan is foodie heaven and is filled with locals looking for something tasty for their weekend lunch!

If you aren’t brave enough to plump for some seafood, there are plenty of other options to impress your palate at Taling Chan.

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These are just some of the floating markets on offer in the Bangkok area but there are hundreds more across the entire region.

You might not be a markets person or have seen your fair share of crowded stalls throughout your travels – a floating market with its mystery and wonder is definitely not to be missed!

Remember to take a look at our Ultimate Thailand trip for more information on an amazing adventure in Thailand!!

So, you’ve had the most awesome time on Ultimate Thailand and are ready for your next Asian adventure!

Whether you are off around Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam or somewhere else, chances are you will encounter a night bus somewhere along the road and it is better to be prepared than to go in blind.

You may hear horror stories, you may think they are going to be the most painful nine hours of your young life but fear not! If you follow these simple guidelines, you’ll survive your night bus – hey, you might even enjoy it!

What Type of Bus?

Night buses in Asia are an awesome adventure. It could be a rickety old school bus or it could be a bus filled with mini beds, two or three bunks high – it really varies. It is best to at least try and check before you leave what type of bus you will be subjected too.

Ask fellow travellers, staff in hostels or check online. Companies may not have reviews but the journey might have. If you Google ‘Ho Chi Minh City to Nha Trang’ for example, someone will have written something about the journey.

A sleeper bus (the one with the beds) is more common in Asia so more than likely, you’ll be on one of these which is an adventure in itself!

Pay For More

Treat yourself and go for the more expensive option. If you’re going to spend the next nine hours on a bus, you’re going to want the most comfortable one you can get.

You’re on a budget, you don’t want to throw more money at an already expensive travel expense. Have one night off the beers, don’t buy that rubbish t-shirt that you think everyone is going to love because it has Ho Chi Minh’s face on it, eat more street food – there are other ways to save money and remember you’ve already saved a nights accommodation.

If you know what you are getting in to – make your own choice. Ask around in hostels, people will have travelled this route before so see what they think. How much did they pay, would they do it again? Scout out the bus company, just walk past it when the bus usually leaves in the afternoon or evening and check it out!

Know what you are paying for but given the option, go for the more expensive and you will not regret it.

On the other hand, you’ll get some awesome stories when you’re in cattle class!

Spread The Valuables

Firstly, don’t panic. A night bus isn’t a hub of criminal activity but you might meet an unsavory character so it is better to plan ahead.

Keep your valuables on you at all times. You’re going to put your big backpack under the bus but you can keep hold of a smaller one on-board if you have that many valuables. Remember, when it comes down to it, your valuables are three things:

1) Tickets

2) Money

3) Passport

You can buy another iPad (you won’t want to, but you can), but if your passport gets lifted you will be in a world of pain! You can get another one, but it’ll take time and you’ll be stuck wherever you are.

Keep them in your pockets, your shoe, or wherever you want. Spread your money around if you are carrying a lot of it. Hide a few notes in a few different places.

Keep the backpack you are taking on the bus with you at all times. Use it as a pillow or a foot rest, tie it to your seat or use one of those little locks if you are super paranoid (or carrying something super valuable).

Most importantly though, don’t worry! Everyone is not out to get you and your stuff – just be cautious.

Two’s Company

You are going to get bored and you are going to get lonely. Your seat buddy is a big call on a traditional night bus but if you are looking at a bunk option, then hopefully you’ll get a bunk to yourself.

Try and befriend a fellow traveller. It’s fun! It is a great way to meet someone, with a similar mindset – you are both on the same bus for a reason – ask where they are going and where they’ve been!

This is really simple advice but try and use it, you never know who you might meet!

Choose Your Seat Wisely

You know whether you prefer an aisle seat or a window seat. If the bus is a sleeper bus, your seat doesn’t matter too much.

If you are on the top bunk though, every corner you zip around might feel like you are going to fall out of bed. It gives you a couple of nervous moments during the journey but nothing too bad.

If you are travelling with friends, don’t go for top and bottom on the same bunk or you’ll never see each other. Both take a top or a bottom and then at least you can chat through the journey or pass the snacks easily!

Travel Sickness…

It might be your worst nightmare or you may never have experienced it before but beware travel sickness.

If you know this is something that will be a thorn in your side, plan accordingly. Find yourself some travel sickness pills and take them before you get going. It is really important to have them before you start moving, so don’t wait until you get on the bus.

If you don’t normally get travel sick, there is no reason to believe you will on this journey but it might be an idea to find some sleeping tablets if you want to rest while on the journey and struggle sleeping when on a journey.

Prepare For Cold

It might be balmy outside but the overnight bus is often like a frigid cargo hold. Plan for the cold as you can always take layers off, if you haven’t got layers to throw over yourself, you might regret it.

Even if you do have a couple of layers and want to take them off, they work great as a pillow for the rest of the journey.

Ear Plugs and A Sleep Mask

I cannot stress how vital these are. You will probably be given them on your flight over by your generous airline so keep hold of them and they will soon become your best friends for long distance travel.

When you are on the bus, look around and you’ll see the prepared and the struggling. People will have t-shirts wrapped around their heads, hoods pulled low, hats on – all to try and keep out the light. The light is fine, but what about the noise?

Those three Germans at the back of the bus just will not shut up. Or that Canadian up front has the most annoying laugh you’ve ever heard…good luck for the next nine hours.

Seriously, this is a two dollar fix for an hundred dollar problem. Buy some ear-plugs, find a sleep mask – you will not regret it.

Neck Pillow

Everyone with a neck pillow looks like an idiot. The sooner you come to this realisation, the better. I was never convinced of the values of the neck pillow. You really look like an idiot and they are a bit of a pain to carry around on each stop.

Once you go neck pillow, you never go back. Whether you wear it front, back or on the side a long journey can be saved with this ingenious pillow!

If you are on a sleeper bus they might not be as awesome. You are lying down after all, but they are still better than nothing. The sleeper bus technique of rolling a sweater up and using it as a pillow always goes down well but the neck pillow just adds to the comfort.

Bite the bullet and buy one!

Snacks and Drinks

This is a must. Big time. If you are going to be on a coach for a long time, you are going to need sustenance.

Whether you choose sweets, chips, or other sugary goodness or go for something a little more wholesome you are going to need to eat something.

A good little tip is to eat something just before you get on. For me, it was always a bowl of cereal before we left the hostel. Buying a little box of Frosties and a little carton of milk costs nothing and you can eat it out of the package to save on the washing up!

You don’t want a massive meal that you have to struggle with through the journey and I’d also hold off on trying something new on the day you leave – you want to be safe in the knowledge that the food is going to stay where it is. You’ll stop off at some dodgy looking restaurants on the journey – scout the food and see what you think before jumping in head first.

Drink is another issue altogether. The coach may have a toilet on but it almost certainly won’t be a pretty sight after a couple of hours.

You will have to drink something but don’t go chugging a couple of beers before you get on-board or your bladder won’t last.

Use The Bathroom Breaks

This one goes without saying.

Plan For Your Arrival

Eventually, this journey will come to an end! It may not feel like it when you are four hours in with five to go, but trust us, you’ll get there eventually!

When you do get there, what’s next? Have you got accommodation sorted or are you just going to wing it? When you get off the bus, there will probably be people waiting to take you to some hostel or hotel that happens to be having a special just for the arrival of the bus!

If you haven’t got accommodation sorted yet, ask around. These guys might be from a great hostel, ask them the name, where it is and how much. I’ve found great, cheap accommodation right off the bus in South East Asia but this strategy might not be for everyone.

Just bear in mind that when you get off the bus, you’ll have to take your bags somewhere…

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There is is! Your survival guide to a night bus. Oh, one more thing….don’t miss the bus!

If you are looking to start your Asian adventure with a bang, check out Ultimate Thailand here. Got any other tips? Had an absolutely nightmare on a night bus or always find them plain sailing? Let us know on Facebook and in the comments section below!

Thailand is full of myths and legends, many of which surround the ancient tribes that still exist in the northern regions of the country. Groups of ethnic minorities call the hilly regions of Northern Thailand home and each tribe has a distinct, unique history. It is believed that these tribes migrated from parts of China […]

Hi Guys

We wanted to update you on the situation in Thailand.

As reported in the media, with ongoing political unrest the Thai army has enforced a military coup, to maintain civil safety during the transitional process of electing a new Government.

News reports appear grim but, in reality, these events are limited to particular areas and are not affecting the areas in which we visit. Suvarnabhumi International Airport and Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok are operating normally, and despite some heavier traffic, your airport transfer will be unaffected.

One thing to check before your departure is your insurance documentation. Many, if not all, insurance companies will include a section in the fine print which excludes claims involving martial law and military insurrections. While this should not affect any claims made for general reasons (lost baggage, stolen goods etc) it is best to check with your travel insurance provider before travelling to be sure of your terms and conditions.

Our guided activities in Bangkok are in popular tourist areas, away from protest sites. Our journey to Khao Sok National Park, Koh Phi Phi and Koh Phangan are also unaffected.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us. Upon arrival in Bangkok, your tour leaders and local guides will answer all your questions, and will ensure everything runs smoothly and your trip will be the adventure of a lifetime!

See you soon in Thailand!

Travelling Cheaply

So you’ve been travelling around for a while now and want to make your trip last as long as possible, but need to make your funds stretch a bit further? Thailand is a great destination if you want to live on the cheap. We have picked up some tips on our travels to help you get by on as little as possible. The average Thai lives on less than $250 AUD per month, that’s just under $9 per day! And how do they do it? Read on, and you’ll learn how to save money in Thailand …

  1. Live like a local: Eat delicious local Thai food wherever you go. Save the overpriced western food for when you are back home and enjoy tasting some Thai delicacies on your travels. The street food is awesome in Thailand, and costs a fraction of the price of a meal in a restaurant. You can get an amazing Pad Thai on the streets of Bangkok for only 30 baht, which is less than $1.
  2. Travel like a local: Taxis and tuk tuks aren’t particularly expensive in Thailand, but to save a bit more cash and experience true Thai life, take the bus! There are 2 to chose from, the air conditioned or the non, otherwise called the ‘hot’ bus, and some of them are free! If you do decide to take a taxi, make sure you ask the driver to run the meter, rather than agree the price upfront. You’re bound to get a cheaper fare that way.
  3. Speak like a local: Speak as much Thai as you can. The Thais really appreciate when westerners make the effort and you will get a better price and a friendlier service if you can show you are willing to adopt local practices. Pick up a few handy phrases here.
  4. Haggle at the markets: Never settle for the first price you are given at the markets. With a little clever haggling you can save a huge amount on your purchases. Take a look at our haggling tips here.

 

By following these simple guidelines, you’ll have way more money for the fun stuff!

There’s certainly something magical about the idea of riding elephants in Thailand, and who doesn’t want to say: “I went to Thailand and rode an elephant” and post some cool photos on Facebook to show your friends? Unfortunately though, the truth is, riding elephants is not cool, and here’s why…

For thousands of years, elephants have been an important part of Thai culture. Due to their size, strength and powerful trunks, elephants were highly revered as a creature for work and warfare. However, in 1989, the tradition of using elephants in industry ended, mainly due bans imposed on the logging industry. This created huge problems for the elephant handlers and owners (mahouts) who had to find a way to pay for the care and upkeep of their elephants, who require up to 200 kilograms of food a day.

Many mahouts found their only option was to earn money from tourists, through elephant trekking, rides or entertainment. The tourism industry was a viable alternative but it came with bad consequences, with the risk of exploitation when animals and commercialisation meet.

We won’t go into detail, but the sad truth is, we will never support elephant camps in Thailand that provide ‘entertainment’ such as elephant painting or training elephants to dance / sit / stand on two legs. Don’t believe everything you hear – these elephants are mistreated and and their ‘training’ is abusive. Take a look at photos online – the line of scars across the elephant’s foreheads are not there by accident, and may have something to do with the metal spikes the handlers are holding.

We’re happy to say we do support a small selection of Thai elephant sanctuaries who are dedicated to providing elephants with the highest quality-of-life possible. We would LOVE you to experience elephants up close, in this kind of environment, so ask us about it and we’ll tell you more!

Thanks for your understanding!

– The Crew at Ultimate Thailand

Southeast Asia is on many a backpacker’s bucket list and it’s easy for our Ultimate Travel crew to understand why! Whether it be Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi, etc, as soon as you arrive, you’re welcomed by a burst of culture that you don’t find in areas that have been ‘westernised’. That can be a […]

What’s the first thing that springs to mind when you think about food in Southeast Asia? For me, at Ultimate Thailand HQ, it’s Pad Thai! I love Pad Thai! For all you foodies out there, even you non-foodies, Southeast Asia is a culinary treat for all who pass through. With all the different combinations of […]

Survive The Full Moon Party! The Full Moon Party –a party that takes epic to a whole new level! We’ve all heard of it, we’ve seen the pictures, listened to the stories and we want to be a part of it! An estimated 20,000 to 40,000 party goers descend on to Sunrise Beach of Haad […]

Whenever you are in Thailand, there is always something worth celebrating, which is just one of the reasons why Thailand is one of our favourite places in the world. The most well known festival is the Thai New Year celebration of Songkran in April, but if you can’t make it over for then, there is […]

If you’re coming to Thailand with the hope of new experiences then I’ve got just the thing for you taking place in November. In a little town called Lopburi, just under 4 hours away from Bangkok, you can witness a particularly special feast. Eat before you come however, as unfortunately this feast isn’t for you but for our simian relatives!

Thais believe that treating monkeys with kindness will bring them good luck, so one local hotel owner treats his monkey pals to a huge banquet each year. Tourists delight as they watch these delightful creatures monkeying around as they literally dive head first into a three course meal. There’s no use telling them not to play with their food though, as the meal soon becomes a huge food fight while the monkeys fill their boots.

If you don’t get the chance to travel up to Lopburi to see the feast but want to get up close and personal with some monkeys, as part of the 10 day Ultimate Thailand trip, we take you to monkey temple, where you can hand feel baby monkeys yourself! These cheeky little creatures will climb all over you and take nuts right from your hands. Don’t forget your camera!

It’s no secret that Thailand has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. But did you know that Thailand is home to about 1430 islands? The idea of choosing which ones to visit can be pretty daunting! With Ultimate Thailand we take you to some of our favourites, Koh Phi Phi and Koh Phangan, but after your 10 day adventure, we can recommend some other fantastic islands to check out on your onward travels through South East Asia. Feel free to get in touch with our crew for some travel tips from us!

“Koh” is the Thai word for island, and they are grouped either to the east or west of the mainland, each with varying weather systems. If you find it’s raining on the side of the country you are on, it might be worth a hop across to the other side to continue soaking up the sunshine.

We end our tour on day 10 in Koh Phangan, and a popular choice after this seems to be to hop over to nearby Koh Samui, which is just a short ferry ride away. Koh Samui is Thailand’s second largest island, with 1.5 million tourists a year.  It’s not surprisingly one of the most popular options as it has so much to offer, from luxury honeymoon destinations, to budget bungalows and villas. There are also many hidden coves and quiet beaches to discover. If Koh Samui is a little touristy for your liking, why not head over to the increasingly popular Koh Tao where you can dive in one of the world’s best spots. As an added bonus, just 15 minutes from Koh Tao is a group of islands called Koh Nangyuan that are all connected by strips of powdery white sand.  Why not rent a scooter for the day to explore the island, watch the sunset and unwind in utter paradise.

Once you’ve explored the East side to your heart’s content, head back across the mainland over to the West, where crystal clear waters await you. If you’ve just finished our 10 day tour, you will have already seen the breathtaking Phi Phi islands, so I’d suggest heading to Krabi where there are numerous island exploring boat trips to choose from.  Krabi is also where a key ferry port is located, giving you easy access to loads of the other amazing islands of Thailand. If you really want to head off the beaten track you should head over to Koh Lipe, Koh Muk or Koh Lanta, read more information about them here.  Wherever you choose, give yourself plenty of time to check out some unbelievable places. After all, who can get bored of tropical paradise?

Whenever you are in Thailand, there is always something worth celebrating, which is just one of the reasons why Thailand is one of my favourite places in the world. Here are some of the top Thailand events in the calendar for you to look out for!

The most well known festival is the Thai New Year celebration of Songkran in April, but if you can’t make it over for then, there is something going on pretty much every month of the year. I’ve put together a list of my favourites from religious festivals, to sporting & music events.

After Songkran, the second biggest festival is held in November, and this is the Loy Krathong festival. It is held all over Thailand, wherever there is a body of water.  Loi means ‘to float’ and a Krathong is a little boat made of banana leaves or coconut shells.  Come night time hundreds of festival goers float their homemade boats, complete with candles, flowers and coins on the water as a way to symbolise letting worries and misdeeds float away. Make sure you stop by to take some photos of all these twinkling boats floating down rivers and streams.

If you fancy a party, on the 5th of December, the whole country gathers to celebrate the King’s birthday, with huge celebrations all over the country! The king is considered by Thais as almost a living God, so they want to give him the best birthday party. Head over to the Grand Palace in Bangkok to celebrate with live music, food and a big birthday sing song! Join in the birthday celebrations before meeting us in Bangkok for your trip!

An event with slightly less cultural significance, but worth getting involved in all the same is the Pattaya International Music festival in March. This is a free event which attracts music lovers from all parts of the world. It runs for three days, featuring local and international artists, with beach activities during the day and all genres of music at night. Pattaya is just a few hours from Bangkok and a great place to start your Thailand Adventure before joining our trip!

If it’s sporting events you’re particularly interested in, in November this year, Phuket is hosting the 4th Asian Beach Games, which is an array of 23 beach sporting events including volleyball, sailing, wrestling, beach basketball, water skiing and many more. Head over to Patong and Karon beaches in Phuket to watch, or just chill out in paradise! Phuket is also a great island to hang out on at the end of your trip.

Also on Phuket, held in June this year is the Laguna Phuket International Marathon. If you’re going to run a marathon, you might as well do it in paradise! The route takes in beautiful beaches and Thai village markets before finishing in the resort of Laguna Phuket in the North West. If you’re not quite up for a whole marathon, there are other distances that you can walk/run including half marathon and 10k fun runs.

A trip to Thailand is for most of us, a once in a lifetime experience, so make the most of it and do something a bit different! See you there…

There are cultural differences everywhere you go, whether it be subtle ones county to county in the UK or big, noticeable ones like those found in South East Asia. We’re always writing about the amazing things that you should do in Thailand but there are a few that appear on the ‘What not to do in Thailand’ list!

You may not know you are doing it but it can be easy to commit social suicide should you do the following. Some of these are obvious, but some not so much … never fear, Ultimate Thailand is here to point you in the right direction when it comes to Thailand’s social dos and don’ts.

Watch where you put your feet.

It can be considered exceptionally ill-mannered for you to point your toes or the soles of your feet towards people, places and inanimate options. Even more so if you point them in the direction towards temples, images of a Buddha or monks … this is a big no no! It is also frowned upon for you to use your feet when you shut a door, step over or kick something.  (Also, remember to take your shoes off when you go in to someone’s house or a temple … especially if there’s a big pile of them outside the door!)

Don’t touch their head.

To a Thai person, the head is thought of as the most holy part of the body. Unless you have a very close relationship with that person, touching their head will be considered as a sign of disrespect and would be a source of great discomfort and uneasiness.

Whistling at night is bad luck.

Thai people are superstitious and they believe that by whistling at night, you call the spirits which is bad luck! This may not be so much of a worry for some these days but many will still feel a sense of anxiety if they hear a whistle once the sun has gone down.

Keep the noise down.

Thai people are very gentle and softly-spoken and travellers usually stick out like a sore thumb! As a general rule, we are not as reserved as they are. Where you are in the shops or dining with friends, try to be a bit quieter. If you find yourself in an argument, try and stay as calm as you can. By increasing the volume or shouting, you will embarrass all involved.

Don’t get touchy feely with a monk.

It is prohibited for monks to make physical contact with a woman. If a monk places something down for a woman to pick up, instead of handing it to them directly, they are not being rude!

Guys, you are allowed to be in contact with a monk, but they will still probably leave a respectful gap between you. A big no no … don’t stand over or put yourself in a higher position than a monk!

If you make an effort to stay away from these social no no’s, it won’t go unnoticed and the wonderful people who make Thailand so great will respect and appreciate your efforts to respect and appreciate them, which means everyone is happy … and we at Ultimate Thailand love happy people!

If you’re heading to Bangkok and you’ve done a bit of research, it is likely you will have heard of tuk tuks being a very popular way of getting around in Thailand. When it comes to getting somewhere quickly, tuk tuks are very good as they can weave in and out of traffic. If you have a lot of luggage though, there’s not going to be much room left for you and your friends. Make sure you’re ready to bargain with the driver before you get in and start your journey … they will almost always quote a price that is over the going rate so if you know roughly how much it would be in a taxi, you will be able to get a fairer price.

If a tuk tuk doesn’t tickle your fancy, there are plenty of other ways to travel, ways that are tried and tested by the locals.

Scooters

This is the cheapest and easiest way to get around any Thai city. You can hire a scooter for about $5 a day and you can then go anywhere you want, at any time! If you don’t feel particularly confident driving a scooter, especially where there is heavy traffic, you can get a scooter taxi. You can spot these a mile off – the drivers usually wear brightly coloured vests to distinguish themselves.

Songthaews

What’s one of them when it’s at home?? Simply put, it’s like a covered pickup truck with benches inside for passengers to sit on. They can be found in a lot of the urban and beach areas and there are no official stops for them, they can just be flagged from the side of the road. Trying to figure out where they are going can be a bit confusing! If unsure, it is best to ask the driver so you don’t end up in the opposite direction to where you want to go. When you want to get off, just press the buzzer to let the driver know, then go round to the driver’s window to pay. With the songthaews, you pay a fixed fee depending on how far you have travelled.

Taxis

If you have a lot of luggage with you, a taxi may be the way forward. Ask the driver to run the meter for your journey, you will probably end up paying less than you would in a tuk tuk and there is no need for awkward haggling.

When you get in to your taxi, try to make a note of the cab number, the colour and the name of the taxi company. That way, if you were to lose anything or forget anything when you get out, you will have a better chance of tracing it again. If this does happen, there is a taxi call centre you can call on 1644.

Be prepared to embrace slow and inconsistent journeys

You need to look at the transport system in Thailand as an adventure! It is difficult to find transport timetables online and even harder to book seats before you travel. You will quickly find that trains and buses are often late, slow and overcrowded, meaning that standing toe to toe with your fellow travellers in the aisles will be a frequent thing! (A good way to make new friends?) You may know never the easiest way to get somewhere, or when you will actually arrive, but once you stop worrying about all this, you’ll realise just how much fun the craziness of the transport system is!

One last tip …

If you make an effort to communicate with your drivers, you will notice a difference in how you are treated by them. It is not hard to learn a bit of basic Thai, it is a sign of respect and will be greatly appreciated by the locals! (Learn a few of the basics here!)

By showing that you have made the effort to at least try and learn some basic phrases, you may find that this encourages your driver to take the shorter route versus the longer one, or to give you a cheaper price. It will get you more help at bus and train stations and helpful advice from any passersby that you may stop along the way. Plus, you’ll feel great being able to speak to these wonderful people and it is them who make Thailand amazing!

So you’ve booked your Ultimate Thailand trip and are now eagerly awaiting your arrival! It can be daunting travelling to a new place, especially if you’re going alone, and it’s sometimes impossible to decide what essentials to pack. I’ve put together an Ultimate Thailand checklist of top priorities:

Ensure your passport has 6 months validity from date of travel: You won’t be able to travel if your passport is due to expire within 6 months. Check whether you are eligible for a free visa on arrival, read more information here.

Travel Insurance: No matter how prepared you are, things can always go wrong. Travel insurance is essential for our tour. Check these guys out for quotes.

Take two photocopies of your passport/ticket/insurance details and other important documents, leave one set with someone at home and take a copy with you.

Insect Repellent/medicines: We don’t travel to any areas of a high risk of Malaria with Ultimate Thailand, but as with most hot climates there can be lots of pesky mosquitoes to contend with. Pack a high strength mosquito repellent to keep them at bay. The most common illnesses backpackers face when travelling to South East Asia are those from contaminated food and water. Be smart with what you are eating and drinking, and pack some medicine just in case.

Unlocked mobile phone & charger: Thai sim cards are available all over Thailand, and they are super cheap. If you are staying for a little while I’d suggest getting a sim card, they have a great data allowance so you can chat to your friends back home and avoid those huge data roaming charges.

Essential clothes/toiletries: Pack lightly, Thailand is hot and it’s easier to get around with a small backpack. Take lightweight t-shirts, shorts & swimsuits. Ladies, if you are planning to visit the temples in Bangkok you will need to cover your shoulders and knees. Anything you will need is easy to buy and super cheap in the markets in Bangkok. There are also laundry facilities pretty much everywhere and like all things in Thailand, it’s cheap!

A smile: After all Thailand is the land of smiles with friendly and helpful locals.

If you have any questions, please get in contact. But in the meantime, put your feet up and dream of beach parties and paradise on the trip of a lifetime!

…a lot of you were exploring Thailand last year.

Siam Paragon, Bangkok’s biggest shopping mall, tops the list of the most instagrammed locations of 2013. When its home to 9 floors of shopping delights, with each floor having its own theme, it’s no wonder! Dubbed the ‘Ferrari’ of shopping malls, this place really is like no other shopping centre you’ve ever seen. From ‘Gourmet Paradise’ on the ground floor, boasting an extensive array of cuisine, to luxury on the main floor, fashion on the first and ‘IT World’ on the fourth, there is something for everyone! When you’ve shopped until you are ready to drop, you may want to visit their Cineplex … it has 15 screens and an IMAX theatre, a perfect opportunity to keep up to date with your favourite block busters! The real selling feature to this amazing building must be ‘The Oceanarium’ on the basement level, featuring a 15 metre high bow-fronted aquarium containing schools of fish and an amazing coral reef.

It’s not just about Siam Paragon however, plenty of you could be found exploring the streets of Bangkok and the city as a whole came in at number 2 in the list of the most instagrammed cities of 2013.  So come and see what all the fuss is about!

Did you know that the city of Bangkok has over 400 temples?! Might be a bit of a hard task to see them all! Most backpackers aim to see a handful of the most popular ones, which allows us to get a taste of the cultural and religious significance of these buildings. At the start of our Ultimate 10 day trip we have a Bangkok City Tour and we take you to two of the most awesome temples, or Wats, in Bangkok. The culture of Thailand is what draws backpackers here in their droves and for me the city tour was certainly a highlight and allowed me to soak up as much culture as possible from a local and knowledgeable tour guide.  After all, I wasn’t in Thailand just to drink buckets in Phi Phi or sunbathe in paradise…honestly. A Wat refers to a place of worship in Thailand and we show you Wat Arun and Wat Pho. Wat Arun is known as the ‘Temple of Dawn’ and provides unrivaled views of the city. Climbing up the almost vertical steps is fairly easy going but it’s the getting down again that can prove a bit of a challenge. Certainly not for the faint-hearted. Wat Pho is the temple of the reclining Buddha, which features the largest Buddha in Thailand at over 150 ft long, covered in impressive gold leaf. This place really is a must see. Pictures of these temples do not do them justice; they really need to be seen in person to be truly appreciated. How many Bangkok temples can you tick off the list?? We’ll see you in Bangkok!

Travelling around Thailand and South East Asia is guaranteed to be an amazing and memorable experience. But we don’t want it to be memorable for all the wrong reasons…. like contracting a nasty but preventable disease! Make sure you take all the possible precautions to keep yourself safe, happy and healthy. We recommended that you contact your GP around 8 weeks before your trip, telling them where you are going and for how long and they can give you the best possible advice, tailored to your individual needs. The most commonly recommended vaccinations for Thailand are Hepatitis A and Typhoid, but you can read more information about these and others here.

With Ultimate Thailand, you don’t travel into any high risk malaria zones, and high strength insect repellent and common sense should be sufficient in keeping those pesky insects at bay. If you do plan on doing onward travel in the north of Thailand or its bordering countries, Laos or Cambodia, for example, you may need to take preventative anti-malarial medication. Your GP will be able to advise if this is necessary.

It is very important to get the necessary vaccinations before you travel, but it is equally important to be aware of other health issues that cannot be vaccinated against. In fact, the most common health problems encountered by travellers come from food and water borne diseases, and a staggering 60% of travellers can be affected. Adhering to simple food and water safety advice should be enough to avoid the Thai Trots, Delhi Belly or whatever else you want to call it! Have a look at this site for advice.

Unfortunately, despite your best efforts, things can go wrong and you may need the help of a doctor while you are away. Make sure you have appropriate travel insurance for your trip, it is mandatory for the tour. Have a look at quotes here

… Happy travelling!

Fancy island life a little different to the norm? If you’re prepared to leave the beaten track, we’ve discovered some right gems for you! …

Koh Lanta : The largest of the four, and becoming increasingly popular, Koh Lanta is easily accessible from Krabi, and a great alternative to the more touristy islands of Phuket and Koh Phi Phi. The island has 9 white sandy beaches along it’s west coast, and although it’s not a huge party island like nearby Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta certainly has a lot to offer as proven by the increasing number of backpackers.

Koh Muk : If you’re not content with whiling your days away relaxing in the sun, then Koh Muk has more of an active vibe, which could be perfect for you. Hiking, Kayaking and snorkelling are among loads of activities you can do here. One of the highlights is the Emerald cave, which is an amazing snorkling spot. So, if you’re feeling adventurous don your head torch and do some exploring!  It’s stunning!

Koh Lipe : Located 150km from Koh Phi Phi, is the paradise island of Koh Lipe. This very small island has loads to offer and is becoming increasingly popular. So get there while it’s still exclusive! Koh Lipe offers some great diving and snorkelling opportunities, picturesque beaches and a range of accommodation to suit all budgets.

Koh Lao Liang : If you’re in for a serious Castaway experience, then this island will be a treat for you. With only one resort which accommodates 60 people, you really will be getting away from it all. You stay in tents directly on the beach, under the shade of a nearby forest. The local Thai food is absolutely to die for and the island is known for its incredible rock climbing. This isn’t an island for those seeking a luxury beach resort, this is about roughing it in paradise, so if you’re keen, grab yourself a “Wilson” and head on over! The island is only open for visitors between November & May.

Can’t choose which island to visit? Why not head over from nearby Krabi and hop between the four?  These are guaranteed to be amongst the beach beaches you’ll ever see!

Krabi is easily accessible from Koh Phangan, the last stop on our 10 day Ultimate Tour of Thailand, and the perfect place to continue your travels with your new friends!

A recent competition held by the Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) and partners, called ‘Inspiring Thailand’ has captured the essence of this wonderful country across three different categories – Lifestyle, Culture and Attractions. The competition entries show the diversity of the country and its culture and showcase a vast range of activities and experiences for visitors to take advantage of.

This is a competition that is run every year, each time with a new theme. The photos that are submitted as entries to the competition are amazing and really capture a magical side to Thailand.

Have you been? What about Thailand inspires you? Why not share your favourite Thailand pictures with us on Facebook … we love seeing what you lovely lot get up to!

Take a look at all the entries here and marvel at the wonders Thailand has to offer. It’s true, Thailand inspires! It really does!

And if that has convinced you that you absolutely must go and explore, Ultimate Thailand can take you there.  With our 10 day package, you can have the perfect introduction to your Thailand adventure! And when it’s time to move on, our team can help you plan where to go next!

Did you know that Thai people don’t refer to their Capital as Bangkok?  The name Bangkok is actually thought to have derived from the Chinese, and adopted by us Westerners, as we were struggling to remember its 169 character original name.  But if you’re up to the challenge you will be sure to impress the locals… The full name is Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit. Translated this means “City of Angels, Great City of Immortals, Magnificent City of the Nine Gems, Seat of the King, City of Royal Palaces, Home of Gods Incarnate, Erected by Visvakarman at Indra’s Behest… Wow!! Luckily, often the locals use the abbreviated version Krung Thep, which means “City of Angels”.

So, Head to Bangkok now and show off with your new found knowledge!  Check out our tour start dates here!

As we reflect on 2013, well after the Christmas and New Year buzz trails off, we at Ultimate Thailand are remembering all the wonderful things we saw and did last year. 2013 really was an ultimate year for Ultimate Thailand, and not just because it saw the beginning of our Thailand adventure!

Our tour guide Rich Ford, gives his personal highlights below:

“Growing up reading National Geographic and dreaming of travel, the first time I pulled out onto the lake in Khao Sok National Park on a long tail boat I felt like I’d driven into a spread from the magazine. It’s hard to describe that first experience, even harder to have it matched without fail every trip. The breath taking views, the fresh air, the uncanny experience of being on a long tail boat heading into, in my opinion, one of the most pristine National Parks in the world. For me, as the guide, it was a highlight every week to look back at the group as we round that first corner into the vast expanse of the lake and see, etched in every face, the same awe and wonder I myself experience on every excursion.

Koh Phi Phi is a stand out for the mixture of scenic serenity in Maya Bay, the beach from the film ‘The Beach’ and chaos in the nightly beach parties that combine pumping rhythm, neon face paint and epic fire shows. There’s no such thing as a dull night on Koh Phi Phi, beach parties frequently leading to bamboo tattoos and fond memories. The ferry over to the island is full of scenic views of the islands of the Krabi Province, culminating in arrival at the island without cars, Koh Phi Phi.

Full Moon in Koh Phangan started out calmly but boy did that one escalate quickly. Fire shows turned into fireworks, crowds turned into dance parties, mechanical bulls threw guests off left and right, face paint turned into body paint and as the night progressed the tide went out leaving a small sand island that turned into the greatest dance floor of all time. The scene was manic, a beach packed full of parties, fire shows, fireworks, lanterns, signs aflame and our group on our own ‘private’ sand island dancing till dawn.

The night train down south is always eventful but there’s one group that stands out. Some of the group had teamed up to buy speakers, a laser light machine and a box of mixed alcohol. We had the whole car rented out for the group and needless to say nobody slept as we staged our own cart wide private party. The party climaxed when one of the ladies working on the train selling beer had a dance off with one of the group members and turned out to be one of the best pop n’ lockers I’ve ever seen. At one point the police officers on the train came down to see what all the commotion was about and with the sternest face he could muster the lead officer looked as though he was going to scold us but instead broke into dance.

There’s no telling what’s going to happen in Thailand and the surprises always come from the most unlikely places for the best memories.”

Our tour dates for 2014 have just gone up until April, so help us make 2014 even more unforgettable. Book your spot now!

So you’ve booked on to our amazing 10 day tour of Thailand (the only introduction to Thailand there should be!) and you’re starting to think about what you might do next. You’ve heard people talking about Chiang Mai (according to Trip Advisor, it’s the 24th best destination in the world for 2013) and you want to know more about what you can do there … Ultimate Thailand to the rescue!

Founded in 1296, Chiang Mai is an ancient city in the north of Thailand. In stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of the wonderful Bangkok, Chiang Mai is home to around 200,000 people, compared to the 9 million people found in Bangkok. You’ll get an authentic Thai experience in Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai is fast becoming famous for the markets they have available. The Night Bazaar has some great bargains on offer. If you want fake designer clothes and watches or a nice token t-shirt to take away for a keepsake, this is the place to go! Be prepared to haggle though, these bargains don’t come too easy!  For tips on haggling, check out our advice on how to bargain effectively, without causing offense.

Once you’ve explored the Night Bazaar, if you’re not too shopped out, head to Rajdumnern Road for their market, held on Sundays. While the Night Bazaar is great for cheap fake brands, the Sunday Bazaar has authentic hand-crafted goods, usually sold by their creators. If you make your way through the stalls, down to the Chiang Mai City Museum, you’ll find live traditional performances starting around 7pm. The streets are lined with food stalls offering many different options of food including dishes you would be familiar with and must try new culinary delights. The atmosphere alone is reason enough to visit, even if you are not there to shop. With an abundance of sounds, smells and sights to behold, this market will delight all your senses!

For a glimpse of authentic Northern Thai life, head to the Bull and Water Buffalo market on a Saturday morning in Sampatong. You probably won’t buy a buffalo but the experience is definitely worth sacrificing a lie in for!

There are adrenalin rushes a plenty on offer in Chiang Mai. You can experience the Flight of the Gibbon where you glide through the rainforest on the longest zip wire in Asia. If you wanted to extend this experience, you can choose a multi-day tour … choose from white water rafting, kayaking, rock climbing and much more.

If you can, it is recommended to hire a moped and drive to Doi Pui, the highest peak in the national park. From here you can access Mae Sa falls, Huay Kaew falls and Monthathan Falls, explore the forest, filled with some amazing wildlife and visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, one of the holiest Buddhists sites in Thailand. If you want to take a peek at a way of life that has hardly changed for hundreds of years, visit the small hilltribe villages that can be found in the vicinity of the park. You will not be disappointed!

Chiang Mai is a great spot to experience the delightful elephants but in a way that is safe and kind to them. We at Ultimate Thailand don’t condone some of the elephant experiences that are available but we can vouch for some of the sanctuaries that can be found around Chiang Mai. One of our favourites is the Elephant Nature Park where you can help feed and bathe an elephant for the day, help overnight or volunteer for a week and contribute to the care of these wonderful animals!

Other things to check out in Chiang Mai … the Thai Boxing comes highly recommended. Check out the Thapae Boxing Stadium found in the heart of the backpacker region. There’s an excellent rooftop reggae bar – check out their Facebook Page. If you get the opportunity to catch the lantern festival while you’re there, don’t miss out!

If you need any advice on where to go and how to make the most of your trip, Ultimate Thailand is here to help in any way we can! Contact our team … they’ve all travelled Thailand extensively and will happily pass on a few of their experiences to you to help make your trip unforgettable!

Hi Guys! It’s always nice, when going to a new country, to be able to communicate with the locals in their mother tongue. Though learning a foreign language is no easy task, it is a huge sign of respect and will be very well received if you can say at least a few simple phrases and be seen to be making an effort. With that in mind, Ultimate Thailand has come up with a list of phrases you may find helpful when on your travels. Learn to speak Thai and enhance your experience in this wonderful country!

SawatdeeHello
Sabai deer uHow are you?
Pood Thai mai daiI cannot speak Thai
Mai kow jaiI do not understand
Nee tao rai?How much?
Lot noi dai mai?Can you give a little discount?
Sanaam BinAirport
Khob KhunThankyou
Nit noiSmall/a little bit/not much
YaiLarge
RonHot
NaoCold
Naam KengIce
NaamWater

 

And the most important! …

BiaBeer

 

As with a lot of languages, it can change slightly depending on whether the speaker is male or female … to make what you are saying more polite, add krub/khrup to the end of your sentence if you are male, and kah/kaa if you are female.

So ladies, when saying ‘thank you’, to be polite, you would say ‘Khob khun kaa’ and guys, you would say, ‘Khob khun krup’.

Now you have the basics, be sure to practice your Thai with the people you come across on your travels in Thailand. Chok Dee!! (Good Luck!!)

Gayle x

Hey guys, Gayle here!

We’ve almost all heard of the legendary Full Moon Party at New Year but have you heard Of Songkran, the Thai New Year celebration?

If the answer is no, let us remedy this for you, because we’d hate for you to miss out!

Songkran happens from April 13th to 15th and is a 3 day long water fight in celebration of the Thai New Year. The idea is that it washes away the old and welcomes the new. April happens to be the hottest month of the year too, so it is a welcome relief. People will go around throwing buckets of cold water on one another and although this happens all over the country, you’ll find the biggest celebrations in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

There is no escape! Kids and adults alike get involved and the only way to stay dry is to be seen holding either a camera or a cigarette … or stay inside – but why would you want to? This is some serious fun! For at least one of the days, it is recommended that you get a Tuk Tuk and drive through the city whilst spraying people with water … it’s the ultimate waterfight and a great way to meet people and make new friends!

The best way to truly understand how this goes down is to see it for yourself … check out one of our favourite Youtube videos below!

Great news!! … We still have a couple of spaces available for our Ultimate Thailand Tour on these dates, so not only can you join us for the best way to start your Thailand adventure, but you can get involved in what must be one of the biggest water fights in the world!

Don’t miss out … Book today!

We’ll see you soon! (We’ll be the ones with the water guns!)

Hi Everyone!

It’s Gayle at Ultimate Thailand. We wanted to post an update for you all regarding the current situation in Thailand. This week, a state of emergency was declared in Thailand, following recent periods of civil unrest and protests in Bangkok. We know that all of the stories being reported in the media regarding the situation in Thailand sound worrying, especially if you are unsure what it all means.

By imposing a state of emergency, the government has basically enforced curfews which will prohibit political congregations and protests in Bangkok, and some surrounding areas.

This won’t affect your Ultimate Thailand tour. Our trips are still running as usual, and our team in Bangkok on top of the situation. Our tour does not operate in any of the affected areas, so we’re far away from any protests.  It is possible that we may see the odd delay when travelling to and from the airport, but at this stage, our itinerary has not been affected at all. Should the situation begin affecting areas that we visit as part of the Ultimate Thailand tour, we would amend our itinerary accordingly.

The safety of our groups and our staff is our absolute number one priority. We take your safety very seriously. We are constantly monitoring the situation and rest assured that if there was any threat of danger to any of our groups, we would not run our tour.

At present, we at Ultimate Thailand do not believe this is necessary. Our trips continue to go ahead as planned and we will continue to show this beautiful country to all who wish to revel in the wonders that Thailand has to offer.

Please, if you have any concerns, do get in touch! As always, our team are here to answer any questions that you may have.

We look forward to seeing you soon in Bangkok.

xx Gayle

We all know the score … a new year brings a new set of resolutions. You might be starting a new diet the next day or having a month of detox and no drinking. So for your last night of indulgence, you want to make your New Year’s Eve in Bangkok a special occasion. What a place to bring in the New Year too!

If you’re planning on spending New Year’s Eve in Bangkok , make sure you have somewhere to stay in good time. Bangkok is a busy place during the festive period and you don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you do not have a place to lay your head once you’re all partied out! You do not want to spend your New Year in Bangkok sleeping on a random bench somewhere!

Once you have glammed yourself up for the celebrations ahead, you need to find a party! This will not be hard! If you’re looking for the biggest event in town, head across to Central World Square and count down to the New Year with amazing light and sound shows, including live performances by some of the favourite local artists. You can also countdown with other countries, whose celebrations will be shown on huge projector screens. Be sure to get there at least three hours before the clock strikes 12 though, as it gets incredibly busy!

If large crowds feel a little impersonal or just aren’t ‘your thing’, there are plenty of rooftop venues in Bangkok that will give you a great view of the fireworks at midnight. These venues generally charge an entry fee and will require you to think ahead so that you can reserve your spot.

If you’re on a bit more of a budget than the rooftop venues will allow for, make your way to Thonglor, RCA, Silom or Khao San Road. Thonglor provides the hip and chic bars and the latter areas will provide the wild, well-into-the-night parties aimed at the younger and more energetic crowds.

Whatever you choose to do, wherever you choose to do it, you’ve picked a great city to welcome the New Year in and you’re certainly in for a night you’ll never forget … even if you don’t remember that much to begin with! Happy New Year from Ultimate Thailand – we hope your New Year in Bangkok is awesome!

Hi, this is Nikki, one of the Guides at Ultimate Thailand. I wanted to share some information about my experiences as a volunteer in Thailand. A great way to volunteer as an English teacher in Thailand is not through a school but by providing your time to a charity. There are many refugees and orphans […]

Hey guys! It’s very nearly Christmas and we’re all excited at Ultimate Thailand! 

If you’re lucky enough to be spending Christmas in Thailand this year, you may expect to find the celebrations a little different to that which you are used to! 25th December is not a that is recognized as a holiday in Thailand, a predominantly Buddhist country. So even though it’s Christmas day, all the schools, offices and shops will remain open.

In Bangkok, although it is not a traditional holiday, it is becoming more and more popular, most likely due to the huge tourist industry that exists here. Although the weather is warm and you’re very unlikely to see snow, you won’t feel too far removed from the usual Christmas atmosphere in a big city like Bangkok. All the major shopping malls will be decorated and there are even walking tours you can join if you wish to seek out the best decoration displays in town!

Head to Central World, a huge shopping mall with an equally huge Christmas tree found in the front plaza and many other decorations to be seen inside. Equally impressive, are the decorations in neighbouring malls, the Paragon Mall, MBK Mall and Amarin Plaza … all worth checking out if Christmas decorations are your things.

Chitralada Palace is surrounded by fairy lights … they are not intended for Christmas but they have been described in the past as ‘enchanting and beautiful’. If you decide to go down and check them out, the evening is the best time. Don’t get too close to the building however, or you may find yourself face to face with less than impressed armed guards. (Not recommended!)

If the idea of missing out on a traditional Christmas dinner makes you want to weep in to your eggnog, don’t despair! There are plenty of places you can go for a decent dinner with all the trimmings … we recommend the Londoner on Sukhumvit Road, where you can get turkey and stuffing and a Christmas pud for about 1400 baht per person (roughly AUD$48 or £27) or got to the Dubliner for roast turkey and mince pies for about 1000 baht per person (roughly AUD$34 or £19).

Don’t forget to Skype your friends and family to wish them a Merry Christmas and tell them what you’re up to! (Your mum will never forgive you!!) Most hostels have Wi-Fi available but if yours doesn’t , or you’re out and about and need the internet, there are heaps of free Wi-Fi spots in Bangkok. Find the spot closest to you here. Now you have no excuse!!

So, if you’re worried that you won’t be able to get in to the Christmas spirit, being so far from home, don’t! There isn’t too much different to how you would celebrate at home. The thing you’ll struggle with the most, is getting used to it being warm on Christmas Day … and let’s face it, that’s not the worst struggle to come up against is it!

Let Ultimate Thailand know how your Thai Christmas was! Where were you? What did you get up to? What ever you do, make your Christmas in Thailand one to remember! Tell us all about it on our Facebook page … until then – Suksun Wan Christmas!

Hey, its Karin at Ultimate Thailand. If tropical waterfalls are your thing, you’re in for a treat in Thailand…  Thailand is home to some of the most spectacular waterfalls in South East Asia. If you think you might fancy ignoring TLC and chasing those waterfalls after all, here’s our list of the top waterfalls in Thailand…

Umpang Thee Lor Sue Waterfalls, Tak
You’ll find this beautiful waterfall in the Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary and it is claimed by many that this is the biggest and most beautiful waterfall in Thailand. The best time to visit is during the wet season and it takes about 30 minutes to walk to the top where you can admire the stunning views.

Mae Surin Waterfalls, Mae Hong Son
Set amongst the mountains in Namtok Mae Surin National Park, Mae Surin Waterfall has been described as a ‘not-to-miss attraction’. If you decide that you want to see what all the fuss is about, you can visit all year round, but the best time to go is November to December … it is then that you can combine your visit with a trip to Doi Mae U-Kho, the sunflower hill which blooms in spectacular style for just a couple of weeks at this time of year.

Mae Khamin Waterfalls, Kanchanaburi
One of the major attractions in Sri Nakharin National Park, Mae Khamin has seven tiers to boast of. You can walk to the waterfall and trek through the forest if you wish … be sure to check with the information office which routes are the best ones. If you are so overcome by all this beauty, you can spend the night in the park.

Erawan Waterfalls, Kanchanaburi
Kanchanaburi spoils us with waterfalls! There’s also the beautiful Erawan falls, found deep amongst rough jungle and described as ‘one of the most beautiful falls in Asia’. You can also spend the night here if you wish. About 10km north of the falls is another local attraction, Pra That Cave … squeeze through the small opening to reveal an assembly of rocks that look like they belong to another world!

Khao Soi Dao Waterfalls, Chantaburi
Don’t just settle for the lower levels of this remarkable 16 level waterfall … sure, the are beautiful! But, if you can find it within yourself to lace up your walking shoes and make your way to levels 9 and 10, you’ll be glad you did … it’s here that you will see water collect in a pool half way down before it continues to fall to the lower levels. And while you made it this far, you might as well keep going to the top!

Want to check them out? We can help you get there once you’ve finished your tour with us! Just speak to our team and we’ll do the leg work for you … Be sure to let us know what you think and share your photos on our Facebook Page!

Have fun!

x Karin

You’re in Thailand, you’re at the markets and you really want that special item that you’re going to take away and treasure forever. But you’re also on a budget and want to save yourself a bit of cash. There’s no way around it, you’re going to have to haggle and bargain for the best price! […]

So you want to teach English in Thailand? Working as an English Teacher is a great way to fund your travels in South-East Asia. Here’s our beginners guide to teach English in Thailand… How much can I earn? Working as an English teacher in Bangkok you can expect earn between 40-50,000 baht a month. This […]

Thailand has loads of cultural practices and beliefs that are different to those in Western societies. Your Ultimate Thailand Tour Leader and our Thai Guides will teach you everything you need to know during the trip, but here’s a few bits to get you started… The Royal Family – The Thai’s love their Royal Family! […]

Every country has their entry requirements and Thailand is no different! When you travel to Thailand, make sure you are fully clued up as to what you need regarding your passport and visa. There’s different kinds of visas for Thailand, so be sure you know which one you need! Depending on which country you are […]