Vietnam has been added to the "Nationalities I've Met" page, bringing the total to 29!
I had mentioned in the previous post that Lisa and I recently left Bangkok in lieu of other places. We first took a train to Ayutthaya, a small city about two hours away. We were floored by the accommodations: a really nice hotel with A/C and television, for about half the price of our previous guesthouse in Bangkok! It was even conveniently located, as it was within walking distance of some beautiful ancient ruins. Numerous Buddhas with their heads lopped off (presumably from some kind of conflict) lined the broken walls.
That night we rented a motorbike and drove around the empty city for hours. It was glorious!
As a last minute decision, we decided to head all the way to Chiang Mai, located in the north of the country. We rode the third class train for budgetary reasons. A 13-hour ride, it was fairly uncomfortable. We spent three days in Chiang Mai, and really enjoyed it! It is pretty much the San Francisco of Thailand: smaller, cleaner, and nicer than Bangkok. I bought a Northern Thai instrument, the Seung, which I intend to learn to play.
Just yesterday, we arrived in Pai, a small town near the Myanmar border. It's extremely scenic and has lots of elephants! More on that soon.
After traveling solo for a month, I was joined by my friend Lisa. She flew in from South Africa to join me for one month. I'm pleased to say this has prompted me to really get out of Bangkok, as Lisa is far less content staying in one place than I am. A lot has happened over the last week, but I'll share one anecdote with you.
Her first impression of Bangkok was not one she is likely to forget. The night she arrived, five of us decided to go Khao San Road to get some food. We sat down, had a nice plate of Pad Thai, then walked to the end of the road. Between the numerous bars and insect vendors was a couple arguing loudly; ok whatever, nothing unexpected. However, things became ugly in the blink of an eye.
Suddenly, the guy shoved the woman into a street stall, very forcefully. We quickly ran to the girl to see if she was okay, and made sure to hold the aggressive man back. It soon became apparent that he was on drugs of some kind; we saw a crazed, violent look in his eyes. He kept shouting at everyone around him, egging them on. Most people pretended to not see anything. In fact, even the street vendor who had been pushed into seemed mildly amused at best. Realizing nobody was going to help us, I called over a police officer who happened to be down the street, and explained the situation to him. While Lisa comforted the struck woman (who was laying on the ground, crying), my other three friends spoke to the cop. Meanwhile, I ran to the local 7-Eleven to pick up some water for the victim.
By the time I returned to the group with a cold bottle of water, the police officer was gone, as was the crazed attacker. According to my friends, the police officer had just laughed and walked away, doing nothing about the guy, and leaving the woman lying on the hard ground. In shock, I realized the attacker had simply walked away in a drug-fueled haze, as did the corrupt officer. The girl, drunk out of her mind, was begging us to let her return to her boyfriend. Realizing we could not let her return to such a violent person, especially in an inebriated state, we decided to let her stay at our guesthouse. This way, she could recover a safe distance away from the guy. We were pretty sure she was a prostitute (a fact which we later confirmed), and realized the authorities looked at her as a joke.
Besides for being a terrible way for my friend to be introduced to Thailand, that night was a complete eye-opener for me. Although I was quite aware of some of Bangkok's illicit activity, I wasn't expecting the police officer to just laugh and walk away. A woman was hurt, and the attacker was shouting in full view of everyone. I cannot speak of the entire Bangkok police force (I have spoken to some friendly officers), but the gross corruption and misconduct I saw was inexcusable. I have a feeling that simply because Khao San Road is the 'backpacker ghetto' of Thailand, the police don't really interfere with activity there.
While Thailand has a very moderate crime rate (I have felt extremely safe throughout this entire trip), I no longer think of its police officers as reliable. Living in the United States has made me quite naive; this experience has mentally prepared me for future potential situations.
This is the post where I break down my traveling spending habits, for your benefit. I spent quite a bit of money during my first 30 days of traveling; however, I have excluded some of the purchases from this analysis. For example, my guitar broke during my first week in Bangkok, and I bought a new one for about $250. It is highly unlikely that you will incur this cost. Additionally, I'm assuming that you have read my post about getting scammed in Bangkok. Therefore, I'm certain none of you will be spending $50 on a fake ring. The final real exclusion I will make is the roughly $33 I spent on film and processing fees. Although I shoot photography primarily with film, I am in the vast minority. For these purposes I'll assume you are bringing a digital camera with you. Addionally, I'm not including my airplane or visa fees. They will be included in a final trip breakdown (whenever that may be), and can't really be factored into my daily costs.
In each category, I'll include the amount I spent during my first 30 days (05/22/14 - 06/20/14). I'll also describe how you can easily spend less.
Without further ado, here we go! First 30 days:
Accommodation - $282.93. Average of $9.43 per day. This category easily made up the bulk of my spending for the month. It's also the thing I could have saved the most money on. While I chose to rent a private room, I could have stayed in mixed dorm rooms, saving anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 of what I spent. Additionally, if you travel with another friend, you will be able to share the cost of a double room, for much less money.
Food - $171.97. Average of.$5.73 per day, or $1.91 per meal (assuming three meals a day). While I tried to stick to inexpensive street food, I also went to restaurants frequently. If I had only eaten the cheapest street food (about $1 to $1.50 per meal), I could have saved a fair amount of money.
Alcohol - $60.61. Average of $2.02 per day. I am not a heavy drinker, and mostly had the occasional Chang beer (about $2 each). However, a private movie club I discovered served cocktails, which were more expensive ($3-4 each). As an avid film buff, I visited the club a handful of times, usually buying a drink or two. Actually, if I did not drink at all, I could have saved the full amount. An extra 60 bucks in Thailand could have been very helpful.
Transport - $35.37. This is probably the category I had the least control over. I tried to take taxis and tuk-tuks and infrequently as possible, sticking mostly to buses and boats. While bus and boat rides usually range between 10 and 50 cents, I did spend about $6 each way too and from Ko Si Chan island, which I previously wrote about.
Water - $18.95. Average of 63 cents per day. Once again, there is little you can do about spending money on water while traveling. It is honestly a very minuscule cost, and is an absolute necessity. I generally stuck to the 1.5 liter bottles from 7-Eleven, which cost around 40 cents each.
Toiletries - $18.61. This includes things such as toothpaste, soap and bug repellent. It also includes stuff such as super-glue, which I needed to repair my broken sandals. Like the previous two categories, you won't be able to skimp much on the cost. I bought everything cheaply from 7-Eleven.
Miscellaneous - $65.34. These are random categories such as: ATM fees ($21.35) a phone and prepaid minutes ($18.55), Two hour long massages ($14.24), Laundry ($7.74), plus an additional $3.46 from various costs and fees. ATM fees are usually $4.50-$5.50 per transaction, and can be reduced by taking out big amounts at a time. However, keep in mind the obvious fact that losing large amounts of money is much worse than losing small amounts. I rarely used my cheap travel phone. It is very easy to just not get one. However, a lot of people would probably spend way more than I did, so keep that in mind if you want to frequently text or call while traveling.
Total amount spent - $653.78. Average of $21.79 per day. If you stay in shared dorms, eat only street food, don't drink beer, and are vigilant with your spending, you can easily knock off several dollars per day. However, keep in mind that you want to also enjoy your trip. Weigh out your costs and needs, and strike a healthy balance between them.
I used a fantastic app called Trail Wallet to track my expenses. You can download it if you have an Iphone/Ipad/Ipod, or you can just do it the old fashioned pen and paper way.
I hope you have enjoyed this budget breakdown, and it is useful to you.
Stay tuned for more thoughts and adventures!
Myanmar has been added to the "Nationalities I've Met" page, bringing the total to 28!
Ko Si Chan was incredible. A change of pace from the noisy, busy Bangkok, the island offered a peaceful, quiet getaway for the three of us. Unlike most of the local islands, Ko Si Chan catered more to Thai tourists than to Western tourists. Therefore, my two German friends and I were among perhaps ten (at most) non-Thais there on vacation.
On the first night, we decided to go out and explore the island. Unfortunately, there were many dogs, most of whom were incredibly aggressive. Side note: on a later day I was nipped hard by one of them, for absolutely no reason at all. I think they were not so used to foreigners, and had nothing to do. Anyhow, on the first night we found ourselves surrounded by a pack of these barking, howling beasts. Sure we were going to be eaten, we made a quick escape into some random people's backyard, where a barbecue was taking place. They welcomed us with open glasses of Thai whiskey and a cheap acoustic guitar which, to their amusement, I played. We were treated like celebrities; many of them insisted on having photos taken of themselves next to us. I think some Thai people got a lot of likes on Facebook.
Day two. After hiking up a mountain, we discovered a hidden beach. It wasn't hidden in the way that nobody was there; in fact, a decent number of people graced the sand. Rather, it only became visible after we trekked far down the mountainside. We could easily have missed it, but thankfully we didn't! The ocean waves were powerful and rapid. Swimming was incredibly fun, and we didn't leave until it began to rain.
On day three, we shared the cost of renting a motorbike. Both of my companions had driven cycles before, and rode us to the beach. The next morning, before leaving the island, they gave me some lessons (the bike was semi-automatic, and I didn't even have a driver's license), and I drove a motorbike for my first time! A little more practice, and perhaps I'll have a new mode of transport for other parts of my trip!
Almost everything about the trip was top notch: the delicious seafood, beautiful nature, cool beach, and friendly locals. The only bad thing about the island was the dogs, who were way too aggressive for their own good. Bangkok has some really cute, friendly dogs, but for some reason Ko Si Chan was full of bored, neglected savages.
If most islands in Thailand are similar to Ko Si Chan, I cannot recommend isle stays enough.
Besides going to a tropical island (which I will indeed write about in detail!), the past week has been exciting. As you may or may not know, I started a Kickstarter campaign to record my debut album in Thailand. So far I've raised over $200, but I need a total of $5000 to meet my goal. It's an all or nothing goal, so it's important for me to keep the ball rolling, and let it pick up momentum!
I recently shared a demo on Facebook. Here, I'll also share it with you.
If you'd like to support my Kickstarter, here is the video and link: Another song is in the video, and one more on the Kickstarter page.
80% of projects that make it past 20% funding, end up getting funded (and 90% of projects that make it past 30%). Therefore, it's imperative that I raise as much as I can in these early days of the campaign! I have only 23 days left to go, but will try to make each of these days count for something. Help me record my debut album, and fulfill my dream!
I'll be completely honest, I rarely cook back in the United States. Every time the idea pops into my head, I think about how it would be much easier to just buy some pizza instead. While I doubt my habits will change all that much when I return to the US, I do now have the confidence that I could make a killer Pad Thai if I'd like. It takes about 10-15 minutes, and is totally worth the time.
My guesthouse owner, Jane, showed us how to cook Pad Thai. I won't mention specific measurements of ingredients, because nobody measures here. You can experiment with different flavors and amounts; it's extremely difficult to mess this recipe up.
Chopped peanuts (optional)
1) Let the rice noodles soak in water for a few minutes. You can begin chopping the vegetables in the meantime.
2) In a large pan, fry some oil. Add chopped onions, garlic, cabbage, basil, and radish. Fry for a bit. You can substitute/add other vegetables if you’d like.
3) Add one egg per serving (i.e. if three people are eating, use three eggs). Let it (them) fry, but don’t mix it into the vegetables yet.
4) Add a little water into the pan (to prevent burning), then mix the egg and vegetables together.
5) Add the pre-soaked rice noodles and oyster sauce. Stir continuously, allowing the noodles to cook. You can substitute other sauces for the oyster sauce if you’d like.
6) Finally, add in some chili powder, and mix it into the Pad Thai. Use more if you want it spicier, and less if you want it milder.
7) Turn off the flame. Put Pad Thai onto plates. Garnish with chopped peanuts and more chilies if you’d like.
This recipe was for delicious vegetarian Pad Thai. If you'd like, you can cook it with almost anything: Chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, tofu, etc.
If you make this dish, feel free to post pictures of your creation!
After staying in Bangkok for over three weeks straight, I decided it was time for a change. So when a couple of my new guesthouse friends asked if I wanted to spend three days on an island, I jumped to the occasion. At first, we weren't sure we would make the last boat of the day. After all, we lazily left at 1:30 in the afternoon, and had 3-4 hours worth of bus rides just to get to the ferry! The last ferry was supposed to leave at 5:00.
The first bus dropped us off waaay too early: a half hour taxi ride from the second bus stop. We had also stopped to eat, figuring we might as well fail with full stomachs. By the time the taxi brought us to the second bus, it was 3:30. The bus departure time was 4:00, and the trip was supposed to take two hours. With a ferry leaving at 5:00, we stood no chance of getting to the island. At least the bus was air conditioned; it allowed us to resign to our fates in cool comfort.
Indeed, our bus arrived at 6:00, and we realized we'd have to stay the night, then catch a boat the next morning. We walked to the pier just to check out the departure times, and...VOILA! There was one more boat leaving that day, at 7:00! Totally unexpected, but a pleasant surprise.
After eating a delicious seafood dinner at a local restaurant, we sought out a guesthouse. Because the island was full of Thai vacationers, we expected accommodations to be expensive. However, the very first guesthouse we found, offered really cheap housing: roughly $5 a night per person! This is way cheaper than my guesthouse in Bangkok, plus we get to stay on a beautiful island! Just another reminder of Thailand's great eco-diversity and affordability!
The town is very relaxing, and a lot quieter than Bangkok. My next few days will be spent soaking in the sun, sand, and fun. I'll also take a few pictures to share!
Italy and Syria have been added to the "Nationalities I've Met" page, bringing the total to 27!
Although the majority of my friends and family supported my decision to jump ship and travel the world, a few initially dissuaded me. The face of adversity can be a tough one to grapple with; in fact, there will almost always be obstacles standing in the way of you following your dreams.
I say this not to be pessimistic; in fact, I want to make this point to show that true optimism usually wins out. Optimism has nothing to do with fighting against your opposition. In fact, the more you struggle, the farther you move away from success. By fighting opposition, you may end up harming yourself and those around you. No, the true way to follow your dream, is to understand why some people try to dissuade excitement and positive thinking.
On the surface, love appears to be the motivation. You want to do something that appears dangerous to your friend or family member. They're only being concerned as they should be, right? Well, that's rarely the case, and even when it is, love is only half the reason.
The real reason is fear. And not necessarily fear of losing you. More times than not, the fear is more about them than it is about you. When you challenge one's perceived idea of what can and cannot be done, it makes the person very uncomfortable. You see, people have ideas of normality and safety, which can often be overly restrictive. Sticking to such ideals may pay the bills. They may even give you a cozy house. What they will not do, however, is allow you to realize your full potential. Potential can be maxed out when one realizes that he or she has very few limitations in life. Sure, everyone has some limitations to deal with, and they are important to be aware of. The limitations I'm referring to, however, are mental constructs - certain norms that are usually followed without question. I'm talking about a herd mentality, one that keeps you alive and healthy, but does not enable you to live!
People are afraid when you chase your dreams, because it makes them feel insecure about themselves. Perhaps they have disdain because of some missed opportunities, or are too scared to go after their own heart's desire.
You should feel no anger toward such people - only compassion. Nothing you say will change someone's mind. The only thing you should do is remain steadfast in your goal, and keep a forward-thinking attitude. Sometimes, optimism is infectious. Most reasonable people will eventually embrace you when they see the passion in your eyes. We can only hope that most "debbie downers" discover their own untapped potential, and follow their dreams. However, until then, you cannot let them bring you down. Life is yours to live, and you should never heed the advice of those who do not mean well.
The world awaits. You need only step outside the box.
I just launched a 30-day Kickstarter campaign to record an album in Bangkok! Hopefully I can accomplish my dream of recording my debut album in Southeast Asia.
Time is running fast, so please check out the link and spread the good word!
I love you all!
Two more countries, Australia and Bhutan, have been added to the "Nationalities I've Met" page, bringing the total to 25!
If anyone has told you that traveling is really expensive, ignore them. Traveling can be as cheap or costly as you'd like, particularly in the affordable region of Southeast Asia. All it takes is some motivated saving, which I'll teach you how to do.
For starters, I saved roughly $6000 in 1-2 years for my travels. Why 1-2, you might ask? Well, I did use about $1500 that I'd already saved before I decided to travel. However, most of the money was saved within a year's time. So where did the other $4500 come from? Automated savings.
If you think I quit some high paying job, you're wrong. I was making a very modest salary, actually, just above minimum wage. When every dollar counts, it can be tough saving money. That's where automated savings comes in.
I used Smartypig.com, an online-only savings account, with a fairly competitive interest rate. On Smartypig, you can create as many different savings goals as you'd like. Then you link your checking account to Smartypig, and choose a savings plan. Let's say you get paid every two weeks, and want to save $150 out of every paycheck. You just start a savings goal called "travelling," and tell Smartypig to withdraw $150 every two weeks. This way, you never forget to pay your savings account. You sock away money in a clean, automatic fashion, plus you get an estimated date of meeting your goal!
For example, you decide to save a minimum of $150 from each paycheck, assuming you are paid bi-weekly. That equals 26 paychecks per year:
26 x $150 = $3900
I recommend setting a minimum savings amount per paycheck. Then, on top of that, save any extra money you have left at the end of the month. For example, tell yourself that if your checking account is over $1000 when a given month ends, you will stash every dollar over. So if you have a balance of $1200 on June 1st, you add an additional $200 to your savings account. Every dollar counts. If, for example, you are able to save an average of $50 extra from each paycheck, your savings all of a sudden becomes:
26 x $200 = $5200
Big difference, right? It's all about prioritizing your money for travel. If you receive a birthday or Christmas gift, try to add at least half of it to your savings account. If you can, try to supplement your income with a part-time job. Eat out at restaurants twice a week instead of every day! Honestly, I wasn't eating ramen noodles each meal in order to save. I simply stuck to my plan. The minor changes add up. Saving $25 doesn't seem like a big deal at the time, until you do it 20 times and get to stay another month in a country.
I understand that sometimes you simply cannot save much. In a circumstance where you cannot afford to put away $100 or more per paycheck, just take your time. There is no shame in saving $50 or even $25 every two weeks. It may take longer, but you will eventually accomplish your goal. Also, for whatever reason you may not want to travel for six months straight. If you are on a tight budget, and wanted to go for one month instead of 6:
26 x $75 = $1950
Honestly, $2000 is more than enough for a round trip plane ticket to Thailand, plus a full month's stay. All from saving just $75 per paycheck.
If you can save even more from your job, power to you! Extend your trip to six months, a year, even two years! If you really want to travel, but cannot save much, save anyway - $10 here, $25 there, etc. It's far too easy to underestimate the power of saving. You can do it, and it will have been worth it!
My name is Yonah Paley. I quit my job in the United States to travel. I also write music and do photography. As I backpack across the world, I share stories, philosophy, and travel tips.