Ulaanbaatar Monastery

Last minute plans can lead to the best travel experiences – a monastery in Ulaanbaatar (capital of Mongolia)

by Stephanie Bartup

Vientiane Laos Temple

Shimmering Laotian Temple (Vientiane)

One of the most exciting – and completely daunting – aspects of travelling is undoubtedly the ability to have that drop-everything attitude when you decide you want to move on.

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.

China Great WallHaving 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.

Xian Terracotta Warriors

Terracotta Warriors are a world famous sight in Xi’an, China. This is one place well worth planning for!!

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. 

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2 Responses to Making Last Minute Trip Plans a Memorable Part of your Holiday

  • I would love to see the Terracotta Warriors. They brought several of these to the US and I saw them at the Atlanta High Museum. Something to see.

  • Stephanie, I have to agree with you that spontaneity is definitely a good companion for all sorts of travels. Although, admittedly I have not boarded a train yet without knowing which country it was going to. While I do admire your spirit, it still seems surprising that you didn’t need a visa for Mongolia. A few years back I took the same train and I remember applying before the journey for the Mongolian visa. But be it as it may, seeing the emptiness of this vast country was definitely something special… :)

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Welcome to Travel Wonders
My name is Mark and I’m a keen traveller. In fact, over the last 25 years, I’ve travelled to every continent and over 80 countries. This blog is about the most memorable destinations – the places I regard as the travel wonders of the world. I’m also a keen photographer, and have taken nearly all the photos you’ll see. During my travels, I’ve met some incredible people, seen inspiring places, viewed extraordinary wildlife and scenery and had some amazing experiences, and I’m writing these stories not only to entertain but primarily to inspire others to discover their own travel wonders.
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