Stray Days – Stories from the road. Straying with Clarke!

Clarke Cooper had spent a year working and travelling in New Zealand having the time of his life when abruptly his visa was up! Shock and realisation set in. What would he do now? Going straight back to Scotland simply did not seem like a good enough option. Where could he escape to before he reluctantly went home? Clarke decided to spend two months travelling Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam on the Lot Pass. The perfect last hoorah!

What is the most interesting thing you learnt or did while on tour?

I learned that you are never too old to travel or have fun. Lots of people think when they hit their thirties that the solo travelling thing is over and in the past! No chance…people on the Stray bus are from all ages and all different cultures. Although in Southeast Asia you are surrounded by amazing temples, caves and what feels like a completely different world to the one you are used too, some of the most interesting things on your Stray trip happen inside the bus. You chat with people for around an hour…and feel like you’ve known each other for years!

Learning about the Vietnam War and the killing fields of Cambodia were incredibly interesting and the museums were a must see. To be able to experience these with the amazing guides at Stray and the new friends I made along the way was the best part by far.

Mekong River
Soaking up the serenity at the Mekong River Homestay

What is the best thing about travelling with a guide?

Throughout my trip in Southeast Asia I had 6 different guides and they were all amazing. Without these guys Stray would be just another travel company. Actually without the guides a lot of the people on the bus probably wouldn’t really talk to each other. The guides really bring everyone together and create a family atmosphere. They are very professional when telling you facts about the country they are from and when they take you to museums and temples. But most of all you always know you have someone there to help you out (and sometimes get drunk with) 🙂 For people on their first solo travel, Southeast Asia can seem quite daunting but the guides completely put you at ease and they are so enthusiastic about wanting to tell you about their country. I can’t recommend them highly enough!!

Our group with Phaeng (Paul), one of our awesome Laos guides.

What is your favourite photo from your trip? 

My favourite group picture is with our group and guide in Vietnam. We stopped off at Da Nang to have a look around some ruins…and a spontaneous picture was taken. The background looks amazing and it’s a photo we will all look back on and say, “Ah, when I was in ‘Nam…!”

Stray Asia Group in Da Nang
At an amazing viewpoint, with new friends, travelling Vietnam – it doesn’t get much better than this!

What are your personal hotspots/destinations in Asia and why?

I loved Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, but for me I would love to go back to Vietnam someday. Hoi An was my personal favourite out of all the cities we visited. I hopped off there for 6 days. The food was amazing, the beer was cheap (very cheap) and the architecture was incredible. There was so much to do there.

Hoi An Fruit Sellers
Got myself a new job in Hoi An. Banana anyone?

What are the 5 things you can’t leave home without to travel in Asia?

1) Sunscreen
2) Inspect repellent
3) Shorts
4) Indigestion tablets (showing my age)
5) An open mind

Taking in Wat Phou, an ancient Khmer religious complex in Laos.

What would you say to yourself one month ago before you jumped on the Stray Bus?

I would say, “Don’t worry about anything… Stray has it covered!”

You turn up, Stray provides the guide, some awesome travel buddies, a great route and all the adventure you can handle!

What has been the highlight of your Stray Adventure?

There are many highlights. Meeting some amazing people…meeting the guides…seeing some incredible landscapes!! But skinny dipping in Bai Xep with thunder and lightning was probably the most memorable 🙂 And made me realise I really should tan my bum when on holiday!

Boat on the beach
Before the thunder…and the skinny dipping.

What’s the one thing you’re going to tell everyone back home about your trip?

The main thing I’ll talk about is the scenery of all four countries. It’s easy to get flights from each country to the other but when you are on the Stray bus (and you aren’t too hungover and want to sleep) just looking out the window and seeing how the people and wildlife live is an awesome experience. I lost count of all the boat trips we went on. Floating down the Mekong River for 2 days from Thailand through Laos was definitely an experience I will be telling everyone about back home.

Mekong River Slow Boat
Floating down the Mekong River for two days – bliss!

Clarke is back to reality in Scotland now, although he plans on heading back to Vietnam again and hopes his job as a fruit seller in Hoi An is still available 😉 .