Firstly, was our trip really as good as I was making out all the way round? Well, yes, it most definitely was.
Far too many to settle on a top 3.
Bangkok - a great introduction to S.E. Asia. Very modern in so many aspects but with the noise, the heat, the crazyness of the streets both roads and pavements. Also great history and peace in the temples. Combine that with a fantastic cuisine (even if my poor choices came back to haunt me later) and interesting nightlife and you simply couldn't get off to a better start on a trip like this.
Ho Chi Minh City - what a place. One of the most vibrant cities I've ever visited. Watching the people of a rapidly developing country simply getting on with business was a privilege. Replace cars for motorbikes too and you have a street level madness that makes Bangkok seem like a sleepy village, pure adrenaline.
Mekong Delta - Cruising along such a massive river delta, watching the people who live their entire lives on the river, fascinating and extremely tranquil, a total contrast to the City elements of the trip.
Hoi An - An altogether too brief visit to a place of interesting narrow streets, a thriving tailoring trade, and the cheapest beer I've ever seen! Any reticence on the approach from Da Nang quickly blown away by the old Hoi An town. Unfortunately this area will be spoiled soon with a whole string of massive beach resorts, hopefully the UNESCO tag for the old town will be sufficient.
Hanoi - Another grower of a place. I didn't think it possible that anywhere could be more manic than Ho Chi Minh, but a first venture out onto the streets of Hanoi proved an almost traumatic experience after the quiet of Hoi An. However, a better selection of routes and a wider appreciation of the City and Hanoi showed itself to be every bit the capital of this up and coming country.
Hong Kong - Our visas lasted for 180 days. Could've easily stayed for all of that. OK, granted, we were staying in just about the best hotel we'd ever seen, but on top of that Hong Kong generates a very different type of energy than the other cities we'd visited. It is of course an incredibly mature economy, back to cars instead of motorbikes for starters, and everyone appears to have a purpose and direction. The architecture, while incredibly modern and not to everyone's taste, just simply can't be ignored and all perspective of size is lost. I happen to love skyscrapers, so it all works for me! At night, the spectacle of neon and the population taking to the streets (their appartments are all too small!) to simply live out their lives is just fantastic - TV, who needs it?
Length of Trip - 25 days is an amazing amount of time to travel when you're so used to a 14 day maximum and to spend 25 days in the uninterrupted company of my wife was, I say through crystal clear - not rose coloured - spectacles, a wonderful experience and one that I don't imagine will have the opportunity to be repeated for a very long time to come, which will be a great shame. With no explanation as to why, because there isn't one, we both also felt that the trip felt like it lasted much longer. Bangkok certainly seemed a whole world away from Hong Kong and even by Hoi An our illnesses were a dim and distant memory.
There must be something, surely...
Being Ill - I certainly played down our illnesses at the time knowing full well that there was literally nothing anyone could do and while I was perhaps the closer to needing actual medical attention, looking back I was actually only ill for about 12 hours. It weakened me for about another 24 hours but after that was completely back to normal. Sarah's illness lasted longer, a few days, but while feeling rubbish, her strength of character allowed us to still fly from Cambodia to Vietnam and get out sightseeing the next afternoon.
Cambodia - Could easily have gone in the highlights section, but as our illnesses bookended our trip I feel our time there will always be tainted by how we were feeling at the time which is an incredible shame as I suspect Siem Reap will have changed completely even in the next 12 months. As expected Cambodia was the least developed nation we visited but of course that's what we were there for. That said, our hotel was up there with any resort hotel around and we will always be able to say we spent New Year's Eve 2008 in Cambodia - a completely surreal experience.
Length of Trip - Eh, wasn't that covered above? 25 days is too long/not long enough. I dunno, something like that. Fact of the matter is I didn't want to come home! For once I wasn't alone, even Sarah who's first to jump on the plane and can't wait to get home was hesitant and felt like we could've stayed longer. The travelling itself becomes what you do, it's not all about sitting by pools and relaxing either, we pounded the streets all day most days. Indeed when I normally return to work after, say, a week off I find the first couple of walks into work a little harder than I remember - this week the 2 miles have been completed without even breaking sweat. I'm actually fitter coming back than I was going!
Anybody who loves to travel, to experience cultures which are very different to our own and isn't afraid of a bit of dust and heat get yourself to S.E. Asia. Any of it, all of it, as much as you can. We missed out on Laos which hopefully will be redressed before it's too late. What you must do is go sooner rather than later. While Bangkok and Hong Kong are fantastic in themselves, the rest will catch up and then it'll be simply like taking a city break tour of Europe - interesting, but not real travel.
And finally... Another thank you to everyone who read this and sent so many positive comments both to myself and Sarah while I was away. It was a joy to write especially knowing that people were actually reading it! Sarah read every single word before any of it was published to comment and ensure I'd got things right and for that I thank her wholeheartedly.
I think that's it!
Where next? Suggestions?