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

Done straying in New Zealand? Where can you go next? Luckily the Stray Universe is an ever-expanding entity, so there are heaps of options. Check out this travel story from Clarke who decided to stray Asia after finishing his work & travel holiday in New Zealand.

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 a Stray Asia tour. 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 of 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 to, 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.

Slow Boat on the Mekong River
Cruising along the Mekong River

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!!

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 tour group in Vietnam
Exploring Vietnam on a Stray Asia Tour

 

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.

Lanterns in Hoi An
Lanterns in Hoi An

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

What would you say to travellers before jumping on a Stray Tour?

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

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!

Secluded beach
Secluded beach

What’s the one thing you’re going to tell everyone 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.

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 😉

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Travel Mate (guest blogger)

Have you travelled on a Stray tour in New Zealand, Australia or Asia? How about creating a blog post about your experience? Or are you a frequent traveller and want to add your travel knowledge to our travel blog? Get in touch. We welcome relevant guest posts.

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