On an ordinary day back in December 2011 Katie Cumming’s entered her details to a competition to win an Epic Asian Adventure as part of our Like It and Land It prize giveaway on Facebook.
On an amazingly extraordinary day in January she received a call from our Marketing Exec Emma to say she had won the trip for herself and a lucky plus 1.
In April this year Katie and her new best friend took off on their trip of a lifetime to experience the charm of Southeast Asia on a journey that saw them hit Bangkok and the magnificent beaches of southern Thailand, before heading down to Malaysia’s street food capital Penang, through the bright lights of Kuala Lumpur and across for a short stop in beautiful Malaka before finally arriving in the exciting metropolis of Singapore.
We’ve crammed Katie’s 2 week trip into this bite sized blog post so grab a brew and spend 5 glorious minutes fantasising about taking off to sunnier climates.
Enjoying getting to know new friends
STA Travel meets Katie Cummings
How did you hear about the competition?
I first heard about it on STA Travel’s Facebook page. I knew there were monthly competitions via the Like It & Land It app, and I always entered them every month.
How did you feel when you won?
When I had the phone call from a girl at STA Travel, I was sat at my desk at work and at first I thought it might have been a call about buying a holiday. It was great timing because it was two days after New Year, and what with all the cold weather, it was a rather depressing time. When I heard I’d won I honestly couldn’t stop screaming; I was shocked. All my colleagues looked over and couldn’t believe it, and once they heard I was looking for a travelling companion, everyone started to bring me lots of cups of tea!
Had you ever thought about visiting Southeast Asia before?
No, never. I never took a gap year after university and I always wish that I had because I felt like I’d missed out to some extent. I really wanted to go, so the chance to do a condensed version was perfect for me.
Taking in the sights and sounds of Kuala Lumpur
Who did you take with you and why?
Alas, my boyfriend was unable to go. He was gutted but you snooze, you lose! So I took my brother instead, he is similar to me in the sense he had also never travelled before and because of this, I knew he’d really appreciate it – a very deserving candidate.
Did you have any preconceptions of any of the places you were travelling to? When you arrived, were they proved correct/incorrect?
I’d been told a lot of the possible positives and negative sides by my friends, in the end I told them to stop telling me their tales or the things they had heard; I just wanted to gather my own perceptions. I was really looking forward to the food and the weather. It was January in the UK and freezing! When I first heard I was going I couldn’t wait for the tropical weather. I’d seen the film The Beach before and this was my (hopeful) vision and I wasn’t disappointed.
Shopping trip with a difference in Bangkok
What were your first thoughts when you arrived?
It was so hot! Also, Bangkok was insane. You either love it or you hate it. At the start of the trip, I was jet-lagged and I got off the plane into 38degree weather. It was so crazy and smoggy; I was really looking forward to sitting on the beach.
What was the best/worst food/drink you had while away?
Our tour guide was a well known character in Bangkok. He took us for some local food – a ‘tables and chairs at the roadside’ kind of place. You can get a massive plate of food for the equivalent of 50p and it was the best food ever! I’d say you definitely have to try to sample the local food when travelling – it’s a waste if you don’t.
Did you pick up any special souvenirs?
I’m a girl, so I bought lots of clothes and jewellery. Also, in the Cameron Highlands, we visited the tea plantations. I took home a backpack full of tea and I’ve still got some left. In fact, I had a cup of my Thai tea at work today.
Absorbing the tranquillity on the beaches of Malaysia
Did you meet some nice/memorable people on the trip? Anyone you will keep in touch with?
The tour guide really made the tour for us, he was awesome. He knew all the best restaurants to visit and all the best activities to do. He was a total character and really put us all at ease. I was surprised that the group size was only 6 people. Given the small size, we all got to know each other really well and it was nice to learn that we were all there for similar reasons. We are all still in touch now via Facebook, swapping photos.
What was the highlight of the whole trip? Something/a moment that you will remember forever?
It’s hard to choose! Though Langkawi in Malaysia was amazing. Lazing on a boat, floating through a mangrove swamp, monkeys in the trees; then chilling in the crystal clear waters of the coast was one of the best days of my life!
Navigating through the densely green landscape of Langkawi
Do you have any insider tips to give to others planning a similar trip?
Always take wet wipes and toilet paper. These are little things but they make all the difference – especially as a girl. The wet wipes also help in case you are hot.
Has the trip changed your opinion towards Southeast Asia or travelling/travellers in general?
Yes, especially the beauty and simplicity of adventure tours. If you want to go alone, you can, it doesn’t matter what you want to get out of the trip as the tour guide will always be able to help out. I was kind of afraid to do an organised tour, but it wasn’t regimented. The guide tells you your options, a consensus is reached and it’s really dynamic and flexible
How would you sum up your trip in 4 words or phrases?
Life changing, beautiful, paradise and hot!