Say ‘hello’ to our senior traveller Santhanam who is always on the lookout for new experiences around the world. Here is a first-hand account of his inspiring 10-day journey across Southeast Asia – to Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand. Wanderlust alert! This is sure to inspire anyone, so get your passports handy.
What do you do when you receive a marriage invitation from your close relative? Your first thought will be to find out when and where the wedding takes place and plan accordingly, right? An invite to my nephew’s wedding in Thailand spurred us to plan an international vacation as well. We planned a whole trip around it and added Malaysia and Vietnam around the Thailand destination wedding!
With age comes wisdom and with travel comes understanding, said someone. I can’t agree more. While I have been travelling from my 30s to 60s, the past 10 years have been my peak travel time and I have been to 40 countries so far. After retiring from my corporate job, I have a lot of free time for myself & my family and I am always open to travel. My bags are always packed and passport ready for adventures anytime!
When you hit the ’70s, most people think twice about travelling. On the contrary, I would say – just go ahead and be on the move. Age is just a number and 70s is the right time to go exploring. Here are a few reasons why you should do it regardless of what others say.
- You have a lot of financial stability to go travelling than when you were young. Financial stability also means that you don’t need to think a thousand times before booking that lovely hotel you always wanted to stay.
- Since you have so many years of experience, you have a greater understanding of things. So, automatically before you go to a place you do a lot of research and when you are actually there, you stop being a tourist and explore it like a traveller does.
- You don’t have a toxic relationship with your phone and so, you don’t just click pictures all the time. You stop. Smell the roses and live in the moment. The experience is so profound.
- You can literally go anywhere, anytime you wanted. You don’t have to wait for your leaves to get approval. Retired, just like me? Then all the more good.
- When you are a senior citizen, you get a lot of extra discounts and you will end up saving a huge chunk of money which you can use to make your travel extra special.
So, quite normally when I realized the destination wedding is been planned in Thailand, I was excited. My wife, an ardent listener of my travel stories jumped on board right away.
For planning, I reached out to Pickyourtrail.
Having already explored Australia & New Zealand over 21 days with Pickyourtrail, I was really confident to let them take care of our vacation. With fully customizable itinerary and the all the costing done in quick time, all we had to do was just pack.
And thus began our journey to Southeast Asia.
Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur
We got on a morning flight from Chennai and landed in Kuala Lumpur a while after and got transferred to our hotel. As for the rest of the day, we spent it getting comfortable with the city. The next day, we woke up refreshed to take on Kuala Lumpur. With Batu Caves, Batik Tour, Royal Selangor, Jalan Ampang, Embassy Row, and Sharif Ali Palace on our plate, we had a long day ahead.
We started our day with a walk along the famous road of Jalan Ampang. There we stopped by the Sharif Ali Palace to click some dozen photos under the bright Sun.
We didn’t want to sweat it out too much because we were more eager to head to Batu Caves.
If you are visiting Kuala Lumpur from India, it goes without saying that you visit the Batu Caves as early as possible. Frequently visited by tourists, especially Indians, Batu Caves was full of surprises and we had an amazing time.
There are 247 stairs in total and is a bit hard to climb. But, we did it without any help. 😉 So here’s some inspiration for you. One extra tip: While you are on the climb, be wary of the monkeys.
We then went on a Batik Tour and learned the intricacies behind the traditional process of batik, where the artists use dye to transform an ordinary piece of clothing into an exquisite designer piece.
Interesting read: How to spend the perfect weekend in Malaysia!
Our Batik Tour was followed by a visit to the Royal Selangor. For those who don’t know what Royal Selangor means. It is the largest pewter manufacturer and retailer in the world. We got close to the whole process of manufacturing and even made notes.
Bombarded with too much information to process, we just switched our minds off for a while and lost ourselves to the beautiful views of the lush countryside of the Klang Valley. And that is how our first day ended in Malaysia.
The next day was equally packed as well. And the best way to set the pace is by visiting a temple. Ours was a six-tiered Chinese temple, Thean Hou.
Interesting read: Malaysia “UnPackaged”- 5 Things Every Traveler Must Do
Architecturally splendid with splashes of colours and a lovely garden, Thean Hou was serene and at the same time, magnificent.
We then did a quick walkthrough of the National Mosque and the impressive attraction of the National Monument, which is highlighted by the world’s tallest freestanding bronze sculpture.
Our next visit was to Petronas Twin towers and the Menara Kuala Lumpur. Iconic and impressive, both these structures were the best part of our Malaysian experience. We spent few hours at Petronas twin towers and were particularly impressed by how both the towers were connected.
Interesting read: Adventurously yours, Malaysia
In terms of the views offered, Menara Kuala Lumpur is the clear winner. The panoramic views from the top were spellbinding. There is also a telescope that will help you view further.
Merdeka Square and the Old Railway Station were the last of the attractions on our enlightening tour of Kuala Lumpur.
Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh
The next day, we got onto our afternoon flight from Kuala Lumpur and landed in the historical city of Ho Chi Minh, all set to learn everything about the timeless destination. But not until a good night’s sleep.
We woke up to a colourful breakfast spread that brightened our day even before we went out. Talking about food, our first stop was the vibrant Ben Thanh Market. Always buzzing with people, Ben Thanh Market is lively and from shoes to souvenirs to local cuisine, you get everything in here. But be ready to bargain (which comes naturally if you are an Indian).
Interesting read: Vietnam visa requirements for Indians
The aroma of the local food and the interesting conversations with the vendors is something that will keep you occupied.
When we felt we have had enough of the market, we went on an exploration of the War Remnants Museum. Interactive with its displays and galleries, War Remnants Museum was really impressive and we could feel the tension, torture, and the pain Vietnamese people underwent during the Vietnam war and it is unfathomable. The whole experience was moving and is close to our heart.
Interesting read: The Adventurous female travellers Guide to Vietnam and Cambodia
Following the wonderful experience, we then got up close with the striking Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral. Huge in size, the cathedral is easily the centre figure of the square and it is hard to overlook. In close quarters to the cathedral is the French style building of Central Post Office. You will find decent souvenirs here and it is also a good place for window shopping.
We ended the day wandering around the majestic Ho Chi Minh square.
Now that we have explored most of the famous attractions in the city, it was time for us to escape from the hustle-bustle of the city. The next day, we set off to experience the legendary Cu Chi tunnels.
Here is a video of me as I go explore the Cu Chi tunnels.
Used by the Viet Cong soldiers as a hiding spot during the Vietnam War, the extensive tunnel network of Cu Chi tunnels is deep with history and just being in the atmosphere as of the soldiers was surreal. We took a tour of the underground hideouts, hospitals, and hoàng cầm stove, followed by an informative short film that explained everything about the Cu Chi tunnels and its significance.
Our Cu Chi tunnel experience ended with a delicious local steamed tapioca. We couldn’t have asked for a better climax and the whole tour was amazing. Hats off to the soldiers for executing the war from these narrow tunnels. It is simply unbelievable.
My favourite memory of Cu Chi tunnels will be the part where I went through the narrow tunnel like a Viet Cong soldier. One more thing that I will recommend everyone visiting Cu Chi tunnels is to try and fire a 15 metre AK-47.
The ride back was filled with beautiful rice paddy fields and lush soothing greenery which made it extra special.
Thailand – Phuket
We left to Phuket the next day with a whole lot of memories of Vietnam. We spent that day recovering from the weariness of the long flight while also recalling the wonderful memories we built along. The subsequent day we were transported to the lovely Phi Phi islands by boat.
Interesting read: The best Thailand family vacation itinerary
We did a bit of sightseeing around Loh Samah Bay, Pileh Cove, and Viking Cave before having an appetizing Thai Lunch. I must say we were thoroughly impressed by the way Pickyourtrail came out of their way to ensure I had access to vegetarian-friendly Indian food all the time. 🙂
We then spend time people watching in Monkey beach.
Interesting read: 7 most beautiful beaches in Thailand!
The entire afternoon was very relaxing and peaceful with just the sound of the waves and the wind brushing our ears. In the evening we were shifted to our hotel rooms where we spent the night before heading on to Khao Lak to attend our nephew’s wedding, who made it all happen. 😛
About the author:
Santhanam is a 72 years old Chemical Engineering post graduate from IIT. Presently, he has retired from his corporate job and spends most of his time travelling around the world, getting his passport inked. He has been to over 40 countries till date.
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