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Stray Asia really does take you further off the beaten track – to really cool things that many travelers haven’t heard of let alone experienced. I was like many other travelers when I first went to South East Asia – I flew into Bangkok, spent two nights mostly in Khaosan area but I also visited some markets and a giant buddha (I couldn’t tell you where).
Then I travelled north up to Chiang Mai and went trekking for four days, visited a couple of hill tribes (set up for tourists I now realize); then flew down to Koh Samui and to Koh Phangan for a Full Moon party. The thing is, that even when I did it I felt like I had missed the point – real local culture and untouched scenery, things that only South East Asia can offer.
The really interesting thing is that this was about 20 years ago – when the book ‘The Beach’ was written and they were already saying that Thailand was a little bit done already. The good news is that even now you don’t have to go to far off the beaten track to find things that aren’t ‘done’ – Stray’s hop on hop off transport network was developed specifically to link great places on and off the beaten track.
In Thailand – places not far off the main route like the old royal palace in Sukhothai (we stay in the old town which is fantastic), alternative activities such as remote village stays outside of Chiang Mai (rather than the developed for tourist ones), and the beautiful white temple in Chiang Khong.
Laos is so undeveloped (it only opened to international visitors in 1996), that almost everything is untouched and hard to access by any other means. Stray has its own fleet of mini coaches to get like-minded people together – with both Lao and a western guides, and take them to extremely remote places for things like hill tribes living the traditional lifestyle, activities such as visiting the old communist caves, fishing with hand nets….
The Lao people are so friendly and with Stray’s guides you’ll get to really understand the Lao history and culture, and have the chance to hang with some locals (even play a game of petanque – their national sport, or sing some karaoke if you’re keen!)
They also still visit the more well known places like the gorgeous town of Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng for those inclined to go tubing. Stray will save you money as they get group discounts on activities and make sure you don’t get charged extra as a ‘tourist’.
Your Stray guide helps book your accommodation – they have sorted a range of guesthouses in the night stops and you just pay as you go. They’ll pick you and up and drop you off right at their door where possible. This saves you a huge amount of time sussing a decent place to stay.
Stray now has connections through Cambodia and also to the Thai Islands so you can really visit the best of South-east Asia.
The main, outstanding thing is that they make their passes flexible so that you can hop off and stay longer anywhere that you’d like. You shouldn’t just take my word for it though – as I work for Stray – here’s what some ex-customers have said.
Good times on the reg’
I travelled with a friend on the ‘Tom Yum’ pass recently and we had an amazing time. From Bangkok through Chiang Mai and northern Laos, right back to Bangkok again we were looked after and the fun, good times and cultural experiences never stopped the whole way. We had two tour leaders, ‘Comrade’ the Russian and Amanda the Aussie who were both very professional, organised and knew their shit, but also weren’t shy about coming out for a Beerlao or two with us at the day’s end which was cool.
Thailand and Laos are fascinating places with so many opportunities for adventure, from jungle ziplining and motorcycling to tubing in Vang Vieng and meeting the local villagers in the remote hills. Stray is great because you can do it all at your own pace and stay as long as you like at each stop, and what’s more the tour leaders organise your desired activities for you so you can focus on having amazing times. Perfect. I would recommend Stray Asia to anybody who likes to have a good time, and indeed would love to do the trip again some time in the future.
By Blair from New Zealand – 18 Nov 2011
My wife and I joined a Stray tour for part of our honeymoon. We had done a lot of research and it was by far the cheapest, most efficient way to tour around Thailand and Laos. We would not have been able to see as many places in such a short amount of time. Our only regret is that we did not have longer to stay in each of the cities/towns. Also, Comrade (Anna) is awesome and if you have a chance get on her bus. Stray, besides for being a great way to see the countries, is also the best way to meet like minded people from all over the world.
By Joey Barr from USA – 19 Sep 2011
I had an amazing time traveling with Stray through New Zealand, and so signed up for the Stray Asia ‘Full Moon’ pass. Whilst a very different beast to Stray NZ, Stray Asia certainly did not disappoint. My two guides Vinay and Jeremy were first rate, as was superstar local guide Boon.
The ‘Long Thaang’ pass was thrown in when I booked to sweeten the deal, and for me this was probably the highlight. Going to more remote and less visited parts of northern Laos on route to the Communist Caves of Vieng Xai, to drinking home brewed Lao Lao rice whisky with the chief of a hill tribe.
I look forward to seeing the Stray Asia network grow and expand to other parts of South East Asia. Thank you and best of luck!
By Ross from UK – 04 Jul 2011
Note: This article was published on behalf of StrayTravel, the views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily state or reflect the views of Thailand Business News
About the author
Tom is a drummer, compores and online marketer working for Stray (backpacker bus tours in NZ, Thailand and Laos, with connections to Camobodia) and Spaceships (campervan rental company in NZ, Australia and the UK).