Last minute holiday plans can be made at the drop of a hat, and the world is your oyster once again.
South East Asia is without doubt one of the best places a traveller can find themselves wondering where to head off to next – there are endless possibilities for the next leg of your journey.
Fancy a last minute boat trip from Hong Kong to mainland China? No problem. Or how about a bus from Laos to Hanoi? Hop on! And the late decision to take an overnight boat from Bangkok to Koh Phangnan is one that many travellers have found themselves jumping on.
The most memorable last minute holiday I can recall was during a month-long trip around China with four friends last year.
Having seen some amazing sights in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Beijing, climbed the Great Wall of China and visited the stunning Summer Palace, we decided to veer away from our carefully correlated plan and find another exotic location in which to spend the four free days that we found ourselves with.
Arriving at Beijing’s busy train station, bags in hand but with no plan of action, we decided to ask the ticket operator for an idea of the best destination to head off to at the last minute.
“There’s a train leaving for Outer Mongolia in ten minutes,” she suggested.
A location that none of us had considered, but the idea of which was pretty exciting – no additional visa requirements, the chance to explore a whole new culture; and it’d take just under a day to get there.
So, in a moment of spontaneity, we hopped aboard the sleeper train and began planning the next leg of our trip – our step into the unknown.
Waking up in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Outer Mongolia, was an exhilarating experience and certainly proved that our moment of last minute madness was not in vain.
On the first evening, we were treated to an authentic Mongolian dining experience by our welcoming hosts (our guidebook had very few recommendations for this part of town – luckily, we’d tried the first one on the list with success!).
This somewhat overlooked destination also enabled us to ride camels in the desert, take a jeep safari over mountains of sand, and sample an evening of traditional dance with the locals.The experience in Outer Mongolia was tough to match throughout the rest of the trip, which saw us head down to Xi’An, Guangzhou and Hong Kong, before catching a flight home, and I am sure that this last minute, impulsive move away from our itinerary had something to do with how memorable it was.
If there’s one thing I learnt from this part of our trip, it’s that adventure, impulsiveness and spontaneity are what travelling is all about. Making last minute holiday plans, having no idea where the next train, bus or plane will take you – it’s an essential ingredient to making the trip of a lifetime.
Stephanie Bartup is an avid traveller, and has spent time exploring south East Asia, the USA and Eastern Europe.