10 Greatest travel experiences

My 10 Greatest Travel Experiences

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Trying to whittle down all the amazing travel experiences I’ve had during the years since the backpacking husband and I decided to sell everything we owned to travel the world in our midlife and beyond, down to just my 10 Greatest Travel Experiences, has been a delightful exercise in travel nostalgia after living in just one place and travelling nowhere due to the pandemic.

I did a brainstorming session that resulted in a list of dozens of wonderful travel experiences!

How to choose just 10? How could I not include our trip to The Grand Canyon? That time we sailed in a junk across Hong Kong Harbour. Cycled across the Golden Gate Bridge. Or went hard hat diving in Mauritius. Or the time we travelling across Seven Mile Bridge to the Florida Keys? Got married again in Las Vegas with Elvis. Got matching half sleeve travel tattoos in Malaysia. Flew in a seaplane across the atolls of the Maldives. Climbed tropical jungle waterfalls. Or sailed on boats in the Caribbean Sea. Or explored South Korea. Or went up to the top of the Petronis Towers in Kuala Lumpur? Or lived in a 500-year-old chateau while housesitting in France?

Maybe the list of My 10 Greatest Travel Experiences should be 100 and not 10?

Then I might also give a shout out to my favourite countries – out of the 56 that we’ve explored to date – and include all the fabulous cities and amazing places we’ve travelled to that are now embedded so deeply in my heart?

Well, I suppose because this list isn’t about my favourite places.

This list is about the top 10 greatest experiences that I’ve had while travelling.

My 10 greatest travel experiences are all about feelings and emotions rather than locations and destinations

I have finally been able to whittle through hundreds of amazing experiences, and somehow, I’ve managed to produce a list of My 10 Greatest Travel Experiences to date. But you should know that they are not listed in any particular order of merit.

This is because every one of these travel experiences has been chosen for the mind-blown pinch me kind of feeling that each evoked. Because while I was there – experiencing these things – I knew without any doubt in my mind that I was living in a very special moment; a unique time in my life that I would forever hold special.

And, when I’m old – if I’m able to achieve old age and still have my memories intact – then I hope I will be able to close my eyes and bring to mind these experiences I so carefully and consciously imprinted into my heart.

I also realise that I haven’t written full posts yet for this website on most of these 10 Greatest Travel Experiences.

How could that be? Well, now that I have collated this list to date, I will definitely want to write more about and to expand on each of these 10 Greatest Travel Experiences with you in much more detail here on my website and on my Travel With The Backpacking Housewife Podcast at some point in the very near future.

So, do lookout for new posts, and why not subscribe to my mailing list for a newsy travel email (with a subscriber giveaway) just once a month? There is a signup link in the sidebar and you may also see a pop-up box as you leave.

So here we go: My 10 Greatest Travel Experiences to date!

1: Volunteering with Turtle Conservation.

The Backpacking Housewife Turtle Conservation experience at Bubbles Resort Malaysia
Turtle Conservation experience at Bubbles Resort Malaysia

There’s a cluster of small and remote coral islands, called the Perhentian Islands, about 10 miles off the north-eastern coast of Malaysia. We took a short (1 hour) flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Bharu on the coast and then a boat over to the islands to stay for a week in a small thatched hut on a half-moon shaped white sand beach in a cove only accessible by boat as the beach and the resort is totally surrounded by jungle.

The resort on that beach is an eco-resort called Bubbles and it’s a 5-star PADI Dive Centre.

Because Bubbles Resort is located on a nesting beach for endangered Green Turtles they also have a turtle and reef experience and conservation project that you can be part of during your stay.

We stayed for a week. The Backpacking Husband was diving every day and I volunteered on the nesting turtle conservation and I have to say that it was one of the greatest experiences of my life.

As I said, the resort is a 5-star PADI dive centre, but it is not a 5-star holiday resort. It is in fact quite basic in that it is unspoiled and laid back and relaxed and the rooms are clean but if you like a bit of luxury in your life then this might not be the destination for you.

Bubbles Resort is totally wildlife and turtle-friendly and it has a ‘house’ coral reef.

The beach is off-limits after dark unless you are on beach patrol to spot turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs and there are only red lights allowed at night rather than white lights because turtles are unable to detect red light.

During that amazing week, I saw monkeys and lemurs in the trees. Lizards in the jungle. I got to swim in warm clear waters on a coral reef with tropical fish and with turtles. I got to go out on beach patrol at night to see huge nesting green turtles coming ashore under the moon to lay their eggs at the top of the beach. I got to see turtle nests erupting and hundreds of baby turtles emerging from the sand to run on their tiny flippers across the beach to the sea.

I went to several lectures to learn about turtle conservation, and I was amazed to learn that female turtles are around 30 years old when they first return to the beach where they had been born, to lay their eggs. I also learned more about the important work being done at Bubbles Resort with their turtle conservation and reef preservation projects.

The experience, for me, was both life-changing and life-affirming and absolutely one of My 10 Greatest Travel Experiences.

It’s a week I’ll never forget because it was so truly special and extraordinarily memorable.

I’ll forever remember sitting quietly on the beach at night under a full moon, on the cooling sand, listening to palm trees swaying, waves lapping against the shore, and a huge turtle ‘thwacking’ the sand with her flippers as she carefully excavated her nest in which she would lay around a hundred eggs – that three months later, having been carefully guarded against predators by the conservation staff at Bubbles – would hatch with tiny newly born Green Turtles.

Read my full post on Green Turtle Conservation in Malaysia

2: Seeing Orangutans in the wild in Borneo.

The Backpacking Housewife Orangutan Rehabilitation experience in Sepilok Borneo
Orangutan Rehabilitation experience in Borneo

While exploring in Malaysia, we travelled from Kuala Lumpur (KL) over to the rainforest city of Kota Kinabalu (KK) the capital city of Sabah and the gateway into Borneo. We were looking to experience Orangutans in the wild. From KK we travelled across the country to Sandakan and to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in North Borneo.

The centre, in a reserve of virgin lowland equatorial tropical rainforest, was set up by an Englishwoman called Barbara Harrison in 1964 and was the first centre in the world to dedicate itself to the rehabilitation of orphaned orangutans that are living wild in the reserve.

The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre also provides care for dozens of other wildlife species. Some of the other animals which have been treated at the centre include sun bears, gibbons, and elephants.

I’d read so much about the reserve and I have great admiration for the important work they are doing in the rehabilitation of orphaned, especially concerning orphaned and injured (often due to illegal logging and deforestation) and ex-captive orangutans, that had been kept as pets.

It was a big dream of mine to visit and see the successfully rehabilitated Orangutans enjoying their life in the wild.

On the day, we attended the visitors centre and watched a short movie about the work done at the centre.

I will admit to you that I wept with sorrow at seeing the film showing the distressing, indeed harrowing, circumstances that led to how some of the orphaned orangutans had arrived at the centre and then I wept with joy, at seeing the care and transformation that would eventually lead them to rehabilitation and return to the wild.

We walked through the rainforest trails, craning our necks in the hope of seeing Orangutan (meaning: the man of the forest) high above us in the ancient tree canopy. We spent time at the nursery, where the young orangutans are cared for and taught the climbing and foraging skills they will need to live in the wild. Skills they would have – and should have – been taught by their mothers over a period of around 10 years because Orangutans spend the longest time (other than humans) accompanied by and learning life skills from their parents.

Then, in the afternoon, we made our way to the feeding platform where the rangers provide fruit and sugar cane to provide the rehabilitated orangutan with a free feed. Feeding times are at 10am and 3pm. Because the Orangutans are wild, sightings are not guaranteed, but we were soon treated to a close-up experience with the Orangutans when many suddenly appeared, swinging in from the trees and branches, to land on the platform and claim their sweet treats. It was wonderful!

As well as the feeding station, the outdoor nursery is open twice a day and is where you can observe some of the young orangutans playing and learning in their various stage of rehabilitation through Sepilok’s protected specialist programme.

Our day spent at Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre was an amazing and incredible experience!

3: Visiting The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo.

The Backpacking Housewife visiting The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt.
Visiting The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt.

As I write this, I’m aware that final preparations are being made for the opening of a NEW Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) in Cairo. I get shivers of excitement just thinking about it!

The Main Galleries will hold over 12, 000 exhibits and the shrine of the Golden King, Tutankhamen, will display over 5600 pieces. News from Egypt is that the shrine’s ceiling is decorated with a winged sun disk and a gate to the shrine shows inscriptions and texts from the Book of the Dead.

When I first saw the treasures of ancient Egypt for myself and experienced walking around the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo (first inaugurated in 1902), I was so overwhelmed by it all that I burst into tears of joy.

We’d hired a guide for the day to show us around the museum, the oldest archaeological museum in the Middle East and with the largest collection of Pharaonic antiquities in the world, because we’d been warned that if you walked around it without a guide or a plan, then stopping to gaze – even for a moment on each of the 120,000 fabulous exhibits – then you would not spend many hours in the museum but many many years!

Our guide, Sharif, a qualified Egyptologist, marched us through the hallways and straight past the most incredible sights – sarcophagus and statues and unimaginable treasures and gold and jewellery.

But Sharif had asked us that we trust him to show us all the things ‘we needed to see’ in the limited hours that we had available to us to investigate and explore the expanses of the museum.

He was right, of course, because without him we wouldn’t have been regaled with the fabulous and detailed ancient history of each of the important pieces that he’d highlighted. We might not have made it to the Mummy Room or the highlight of the exhibition – the Golden King Tutankhamen room, in which I stood, face to face with the king who had been crowned King of Egypt aged nine and who had died abruptly – and mysteriously – at around age 18.

I could hardly believe I was looking at the same mask and the very same antiquities I’d read about in books when I was a child. I stood for several minutes in awe in front of his famous golden mask and then I looked around me to see all the treasures of his lifetime uncovered in 1922 by Howard Carter.

Visiting The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Tahrir Square, Cairo, was such a mind-blowingly incredible experience for me. And now, with the Grand Museum of Egypt soon to be opened at Giza – I’m excited for the new building – but I’m also feeling grateful that for that one special day in my life, I was able to see and to experience being inside the very over-crowded and incredibly over-whelming original home to a collection of Egyptian treasures.

I know I’ll absolutely treasure the experience forever.

4: Exploring the Great Pyramids at Giza in Egypt.

The Backpacking Housewife exploring the Pyramids at Giza in Egypt.
Exploring the Pyramids at Giza in Egypt.

After exploring the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in downtown Cairo, our guide, Sharif, drove us out of town and to the Giza Plateau on the edge of the desert, to investigate the Pyramids and the Sphinx. All were built during the Fourth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom of Ancient Egypt (2700-2200 BC). The Great Pyramid is the oldest of the Ancient Wonders and the only one still in existence.

My excitement knew no bounds and I actually gasped aloud as I caught my first glimpse of the pyramids from our car.

We parked up and walked across the sand right to the base of the giant block structures and we posed for lots of photos – which Sharif absolutely insisted on taking!

Perhaps the best thing we did that day was to employ Sharif to guide us through the museum and to the Giza Plateau. He was friendly and enthusiastic and so knowledgeable – not only on Egyptian history – but he always knew where exactly to take us for the best experience. He also spoke discreetly to the pyramid guards and somehow managed to convince them to allow us to take our small camera into the pyramids with us even though I’d spotted a big sign saying ‘no cameras inside’.

I’m guessing that we were only allowed to get away with it because there weren’t many tourists that day.

Did I mention that it was HOT? It was over 40 degrees plus C!

Squeezing into the narrow shaft and climbing down into the pyramids – all the way down to the crypts at the bottom – I imagined felt akin to being baked in a pizza oven. But, of course, it was worth the sweltering discomfort and feelings of claustrophobia to be so deep inside the only remaining wonder of the ancient world.

Although, I would have hated to have been there when it was busy with lots of visitors, as the narrow shaft only allows for one way traffic.

And, as if seeing the Pyramids and the Sphinx at Giza wasn’t enough, our guide Sharif arranged for one of the guards at the plateau to open a locked wooden door at the bottom of some steps in the sand, to allow us entry into what Sharif described as the Engineer’s Tomb.

This secret tomb was, we were told, a gift from the Pharaoh Khufu to his chief engineer – an eternal resting place for him and his family. As we waited in great anticipation for the wooden door to the chamber to be unlocked, I saw rows of perfectly preserved hieroglyphics on a stone above the door.

To say I was excited was an understatement.

It was quite clear to us at the time that this crypt was not normally open or available to tourists…

Inside the Engineer’s crypt, it was low and narrow and deep, with stone columns decorated with more of the perfectly preserved hieroglyphics holding up the roof. On the walls were carved pictures and statues of the Engineer and his entire family. It felt so very special and sacred to be inside this mausoleum.

Even though I’m a writer, I don’t really know how to find the words to explain to you how I felt that day – experiencing the ancient wonders of Egypt with my own eyes – touching them with my own hands.

It was and still is one of the most special and emotional days in my entire life.

Standing in front of the very same sights and antiquities that I’d gazed at in the pages of The Readers Digest books as a child was, at times, just too much for me and I spontaneously wept with wonder and joy several times that day. Simply because I couldn’t contain my overwhelming feelings on being faced with such incredible history.

As well as exploring The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo and the Giza Pyramid Complex and the Sphinx and the Sphinx Temple, we visited a papyrus (Egyptian reed paper) museum and we sailed down the Nile in a traditional sailing boat called a felucca.

Clearly, I have to write a whole post on our Egyptian experience so I can go into more detail about what we saw there and to show you all my photos!

5: Living on a Caribbean Island that was hard to leave.

Island Life On Utila Honduras so idyllic I didn't want to ever leave.
Island Life On Utila Honduras so idyllic I didn’t want to ever leave.

When we first set off on our travels, we went to explore the islands of the Caribbean. As you might imagine, it was fabulous.

We eventually found ourselves in the Eastern Caribbean, in The Bay Islands, just off the coast of Honduras.

The smallest of the three inhabited islands there is called Utila and I wrote about it in my post ‘A Secret Place In The Caribbean’. It felt like not too many people knew about it. It felt like we’d discovered a secret place.

Utila is a tiny tropical island paradise sitting on the Meso-American reef – the second largest coral reef in the world – tucked away in a sheltered bay where the water is warm and clear.

There is a song on YouTube about Utila and the verse includes: ‘If you come to Utila, you’ll never want to leave.’

The first time we visited Utila, we stayed for six months (we left for a few days after three months, as required by our visa on arrival stamp, but then went straight back again simply because we really didn’t want to leave.

I remember how we’d first arrived to find the house we’d rented double booked but we didn’t stress about it – we soon found a room to stay in for a couple of nights – and then another place to rent.

We found a little wooden Caribbean style house on stilts and with a porch to rent near to the beach.

During those blissful six months, the scuba diving backpacking husband did his PADI Dive Master course at a dive shop called Gunter’s Ecomarine. The people there so warm and friendly – even to middle-aged travellers like ourselves – that they soon became good friends and like family to us and the dive shop on the dock soon became our second home.

Days were spent diving (the backpacking husband) writing romantic adventure novels on the porch in our little house or reading in a hammock under a mango tree (me) and we also had many days out in boats on the reef and lazing around in the sun on the beach and drinking rum at beach bars into the evening with our lovely island friends.

Island life was fun and fabulous and so blissfully wonderful.

I’ve heard Utila likened to the ‘Key West of the 1950’s’ and it’s true that the island has a kind of timeless but also unpretentious laid-back vibe about it.

Over our years of travelling the world, we’ve been back to Utila many times, sometimes staying for the three months allowed by the arrival visa and sometimes for six with a visa run in the middle.

Not that it’s easy to get to Utila from Europe. We usually factor in at least one overnight stopover in either the USA or Honduran mainland and it involves many flights – each plane getting smaller.

Until we eventually arrive on the island’s tiny airstrip in a four-seater Cessna.

We were heading to Utila when the pandemic hit and our plans for summer 2020 were put on hold, and it’s the first place we plan to go in the early part of 2022, when travel becomes possible again.

And, I know when we finally get back to Utila, that we will never want to leave.

You can read more about my island experience on Utila in my post ‘A Secret Place In The Caribbean‘.

6: Exploring Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

The Backpacking Housewife Experience of the Angkor Archaeological Park and the sites of Siem Reap Cambodia was truly wonderful.
Experience of the Angkor Archaeological Park and the sites of Siem Reap Cambodia was truly wonderful.

I’m not a religious person but I will admit to being spiritual and I absolutely love an old temple.

So, given the opportunity to spend a week in Cambodia to explore Angkor Wat – the largest religious structure in the world – I was beyond thrilled and excited.

Angkor Wat was built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II in the first half of the 12th century, around the year 1110-1150, making Angkor Wat almost 900 years old.

It was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1992.

Angkor Wat lies 5.5 kilometres (3.4 mi) north of the town of Siem Reap and is the most famous temple at the Angkor Archaeological Park – a park that stretches over 400 square kilometres and contains some of the most famous temples in the world, including Ta Prohm (the incredible location of the Lara Croft movie and The Bayon (iconic temple of many faces) Temple.

There are also literally dozens more stunning ancient temples to be explored outside of the park.

We flew from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Siem Reap, Cambodia. We booked a hotel on the recommendation of a friend.

And, my number 1 tip and by far the best and most affordable way to get around and to see all the sites, and to avoid too much walking in the incredible heat – is to hire a tuk-tuk and driver for the day.

Your tuk-tuk driver will take you to the archaeological park office to buy your tickets, whisk you around to all the temples, and wait for you while you explore the sites at your leisure and own pace.

We actually hired a tuk-tuk and a wonderful friendly driver (from outside our hotel) for several days.

We visited Angkor Wat on our very first day and then saw a magical medley of temples around the Angkor Archaeological Park on days two and three. I was blessed by a monk – several times actually and even danced with some Khimar (Apsara) dancing girls – and it was incredible.

It was also awe-inspiring to be surrounded by all these incredible and intensely spiritual temple sites – some of them in the middle of the steamy jungle – with their giant tree roots growing through the centuries-old stone structures!

We followed this with a ‘pool and spa day’ to relax and recover from our exhaustion from all the walking.

Then, we continued on our explorations with our tuk-tuk and driver on a trip out to a war museum.

We finalised our incredible week and what felt to me like a magical time in Cambodia by experiencing the Floating Village on Tonle Sap Lake. Taking a boat out to see how a whole community lives on the lake in floating houses, floating shops, and even animals and chicken coops on rafts is an incredible sight and an experience I heartily recommend to you.

We even had our lunch at a floating restaurant!

Our experience of Angkor Wat and the Angkor Archaeological Park and the sites of Siem Reap in Cambodia was truly wonderful. It’s such a special place and the Cambodian people are genuinely kind and friendly to visitors.

A unique and memorable time I’ll forever treasure in my heart.

7: Travelling through jungle on the North Borneo Railway steam train

All Aboard The North Borneo Express for a fabulous old train experience!
All Aboard The North Borneo Express for a fabulous old train experience!

We had the most amazing travel experience travelling into the heart of Malaysian Borneo on a fabulous and romantic old steam train re-living memories of a bygone era of old colonial times.

We were greeted on the station platform by friendly staff dressed formally in colonial style uniforms complete with a ‘pith’ style hat. The train – an old Vulcan vintage steam engine manufactured by the Vulcan Foundry Ltd in Lancashire, UK – is one of the last of an entire fleet of steam locomotives that have travelled through Borneo since the 1880s.

The carriages have been refurbished inside and out and have a gleaming cream and teal green livery.

Inside, the carriages are furnished with upholstered seating and oakwood tables and lamps from the vintage colonial era, providing a truly authentic and nostalgic experience of steam train travel in the early 1900s.

We were given travel ‘passports’ as we boarded our carriage and they were stamped at every town that we stop at along the way. We took our seats, and it was exhilarating to hear the departure whistle blow and to feel the train start to move out of the station.

Once on our way, we had the benefit of a fragrant breeze blowing in through the train’s open windows as we chugged along the coastal route, catching glimpses of the South China Sea.

En route – a journey of some 36 miles – we also went through villages, tunnels and steamy jungle.

We passed temples, rice fields, plantations, and we waved at cheering people as we chugged along.

It’s a half-day trip to ride from Kota Kinabalu to Papar, stopping off at several towns and hopping off at stations along the way, to sightsee and to shop in local markets and to engage with the friendly people and to enjoy all the unique and special places all along the rail route.

The North Borneo Railway runs two weekly return departures on a Wednesday and a Saturday all year round. The train leaves at 9.30am from Tanjung Aru Station at Kota Kinabalu and shortly after departure you are served a continental breakfast and a traditional ‘Tiffin Lunch’ on the way back.

Our fabulous trip onboard the North Borneo Express was a travel experience I will never forget.

8: Island Hopping from Thailand to Malaysia

The Backpacking Housewife spent a month backpacking and tropical island-hopping along Thailand’s Andaman Sea.
We spent a month backpacking and tropical island-hopping along Thailand’s Andaman Sea.

One of the most memorable and greatest travel journeys I’ve ever experienced was the time we travelled by various types of boats and spent a month slowly backpacking and tropical island-hopping our way all along the islands off Thailand’s Andaman Sea.

We began our trip by taking a longtail boat from Krabi on the mainland to Railay Beach – only accessible by boat -where we stayed for two nights. From Railay, we moved onto Koh Lanta, the island of sea gipsies and the largest island in the chain, for a couple of weeks.

From Koh Lanta (koh meaning island) we moved south, spending an assortment of nights on the small tropical islands of Koh Ngai and onto Koh Kradan – stopping off to explore the emerald cave at Koh Muk – all by longtail boat – and then by a bigger boat for the distance involved onto Koh Bulon.

Some of the islands on this archipelago are more popular with tourists than others due to the variety of accommodations – budget, mid-range, or luxury – and availability.

As accommodation is usually limited it is always best to book ahead of your arrival especially in high season – from November through to March. We travelled in November and I booked all but one of our hotels via Booking.com except for our stay on Koh Bulon at the Bulone Resort which had to be booked directly with the hotel. I think, for this reason, not many people seem to know about it.

When our boat arrived at Koh Bulon, dropping us off into the shallow water next to the arc of white sand beach with a backdrop of verdant jungle and swaying palm trees, we were the only ones to get off and we were amused to see everyone on the boat in jaw-dropped awe at seeing the island.

‘Oh wow – where is this?’ we heard them ask and we just replied. ‘This is paradise’.

We left Koh Bulon after four nights and travelled on by speedboat to the border island of Koh Lipe (where immigration is a hut on the beach) to reach our final destination of Langkawi, Malaysia.

We explored the island of Langkawi for a week before flying onto the capital city of Kuala Lumpur.

The whole experience of island hopping down the Andaman Sea in Thailand was heavenly. Travelling from one paradise island to the next. Arriving by traditional long-tail boat or motorboat and mostly being dropped straight onto the beach, or as close as our boat could get to the shoreline, which usually meant us climbing out into thigh-deep crystal-clear and bathwater-warm water with our backpack held high as we waded ashore.

The few hotels on these islands are on the beach, set back under palm trees, amidst fragrant tropical gardens. There are palm-thatched tiki bars on the beach and the views are of clear blue water lapping the white sand beach and sandbanks a little way out revealed by a low tide, and a horizon line littered with giant and majestic limestone rocks sticking up from the sea, green with tropical vegetation that is breathtaking to behold and often resemble the shapes of animals and birds.

If you ever dreamed of an authentic tropical island-hopping holiday then this is absolutely it.

9: Chiang Mai to Bangkok by old train with my best friend.

The Backpacking Housewife. Not the most comfortable journey but the most memorable way of travelling through Thailand with my best friend!
Not the most comfortable journey but the most memorable way of travelling through Thailand with my best friend!

While I was living in Thailand – on the island of Koh Tao – my lovely best friend came out from the UK on holiday for a couple of weeks. As she has pale skin and red hair, being in the sun on the beach all day wasn’t really going to be her thing. So we decided to leave the island for a week by ferry, to travel first to Koh Samui where we could fly north to Chiang Mai, where it would be cooler and there would be lots of sightseeing and temple bagging to do in the ancient walled city.

We had a truly fabulous and memorable time in Chiang Mai and when it was time to leave, we decided that instead of taking the one hour flight back to the coast, we’d take the train instead.

I informed my dear and somewhat sceptical friend that we would be taking an interesting and authentically Thai journey on an old and iconic train and that it would be a great experience.

Little did I know that it would certainly be authentic to the extreme. That the 12 hours from seeing the sunrise in Chaing Mai to seeing the sun setting over Bangkok would seem like forever. That the toilet on the train would soon stink out the whole carriage and the lunch provided to us would be a green Thai curried fish head complete with bulging eyes!

But what we both knew straight away, from the first moment we boarded that early morning train, was that we would be talking (and laughing) about that incredible journey for the rest of our lives!

It is actually a journey that can no longer be replicated because the train that now runs from Chiang Mai to Bangkok’s station – a journey that took 12 hours – has now been replaced by a modern and more luxuriously appointed express train.

You can find out more about the current journey, train times and how to book trains in Thailand from Seat61.com

Book your train tickets in advance on the recommended online site at: 12GoAsia

The rolling stock before then, that we experienced (and endured!) was an old train originally imported from Vietnam with original box style carriages and hard straight-back vinyl seats, with air-con provided by a ceiling fan (if you were lucky).

Also, the arrival station at Bangkok is now (or soon to be) diverted away from the old and architecturally magnificent Hua Lamphong Station to the ultra-modern brand new Bang Sue terminal.

So, although looking back on our iconic and authentic 12-hour Thai train travelling adventure on that old slow and rattling train, wasn’t the most comfortable journey I’ve ever taken. It really was the most memorable way of travelling through Thailand with my best friend that I could ever experience!

10: Island hopping in the Seychelles.

The Backpacking Housewife impromptu ‘island hopping’ experience in Seychelles was both memorable and truly one of my greatest travel experiences.
Our impromptu ‘island hopping’ experience in Seychelles was both memorable and truly great!

My final greatest travel experience to share with you is the time we went on an island-hopping adventure in Seychelles.

The Islands of Seychelles are located in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Africa, and these islands often called the most beautiful in the world and are a tropical dream destination high on a bucket list for many of us.

Except, our trip to Seychelles happened quite by chance.

Having sold our home, our cars, and all our possessions to travel long-term a year or so before, we had been travelling the world and had headed back to the UK as arranged for a friend’s summer wedding. Our flight (from Central America via the USA) had brought us back two weeks before the wedding day.

So, after shopping to get kitted out for the wedding, we were looking for somewhere to go from the UK in the meantime, to fill those two weeks. We were particularly looking for a last-minute booking.

So we checked our usual internet sites and airline schedules and booking sites for discounted deals.

We found two seats on a return flight to Mahe, Seychelles, for two weeks, at an amazingly affordable price that was leaving the very next day. We booked it and then looked to book our first couple of night’s accommodation on a hotel booking site.

Our plan was to arrive in Seychelles and have a couple of days to relax and get our bearings and then to arrange to ‘island-hop’ around the islands.

There are in fact 115 islands in Seychelles and as we only had two weeks to explore, we knew we had to be both selective and practical with our time and resources.

On our wish list was visiting the world famously beautiful beaches like the one at Anse Source D’Argent on La Digue, which is one of the most photographed beaches in the world, then seeing the iconic sights like the legendary ‘coco de mer’ – a giant nut only found on the island of Praslin and to see the giant Aldabra tortoises that roam freely on the tiny island of Curieuse.

Getting over to Praslin island from the main island of Mahe involved taking a large modern catamaran ferry boat.  I have to tell you that the sea was rough when we did the crossing and I felt horribly seasick throughout the 75-minute journey. I sorted this by making sure to take seasick tablets ahead of taking the return journey.

Once on the island of Praslin, we found it quite easy to hire a driver and car for the day to explore the island.

Our driver took us all around and to see the famous ‘coco de mer’.

We were also able to take day trip boat tours from Praslin to many of the other islands.

We spent a truly amazing two weeks in Seychelles, our experiences included exploring the island’s tropical jungle and white-sand beaches, as well as taking time for ‘days off’ to allow for scuba diving and snorkelling and just to take things easy, soaking up the sun, working on our tans, and swimming in the turquoise ocean and in our hotel pool.

Our impromptu ‘island hopping’ experience in Seychelles was both memorable and truly one of my greatest travel experiences!

Do you have a list of your greatest travel experiences to date or are you at the planning stage?

Do train journeys have a place on your great experiences list?

Do you have a bucket list?

Which one of my ten greatest experiences had the greatest affinity with you?

Get in touch and let me know!

Email me through my Contact Me Page here on my website or get in touch through my social media channels. I’m on Facebook as The Backpacking Housewife and I’m on Instagram as Janice Horton Writer and if you are on Twitter please do Tweet me at @JaniceHorton

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the Backpacking Housewife 10 Greatest travel experiences

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