Drifting through Halong Bay was a surreal experience. We jumped in some kayaks and floated around for hours. The limestone karsts rise out of the clear water and create a maze-like complex of waterways – there are even small caves that go right under and through some of them. We found our own private cove, where there was no one in sight for miles, and swam in the warm water. It was true bliss! Meeting the local people live on floating houses was amazing too. Visiting Halong Bay was the absolute highlight of the trip, I loved it.

When my friends would go to Thailand, they’d always come home with photos of them lazing on tropical beaches, hanging out at a rooftop bar or munching on a meal of pad Thai. So when they finally convinced me to come with them, I thought that it was going to be just another tourist holiday. But from the moment we touched down, Thailand was a whirlwind of incredible people and awesome experiences. We did so much more than spend all our time at the beach – we trekked up to the hilltribes outside of Chiang Mai, stayed with a wonderful local family and shopped in Bangkok’s crazy markets. It was completely different to what I expected, and I can now see why anyone who comes home from Thailand always returns with a giant smile.

I’ll always remember my night spent with an Iban family in a Sarawak longhouse. As we stepped off the boat from Sibu, our host family were waiting for us – and greeted us like long lost friends. Throughout the next few hours they shared every aspect of their lives with us, from cooking and farming to caring for their children and their community. We spent time in a local school, trekked to a stunning waterfall and met many of the friendly faces that made up the 50 or so families that all lived together in this gigantic structure. Then, that evening, we were the privileged guests at an incredible feast, where freshly prepared food made entirely from jungle ingredients was laid out upon a big table, and so many of the friends we had met that day dropped in to say hello.