I always love it when readers of this blog submit your own travel questions; any help I can offer in getting more people out on the road, the better. Here’s one that came through recently that some of you thinking about taking a trip out here may find useful. Cheers and happy travels.
my names siti from perth. i’m backpacking south east asia in april/may to malaysia thailand and vietnam! your spending was so cheap and i just wanted to know how u got onto accommodation and transport? is it hard finding accommodation, did u know where u were going each time? it’s my first time back backpacking and i’m going for 3 weeks in each country. any recommendations?? :) siti
It’s super easy finding accommodation and transport anywhere you go in Southeast Asia. My first stop in Australia was Perth and I was shocked how user-unfriendly the coach system is in WA and how gross the hostels were compared to Southeast Asia. I would recommend using hostelworld.com or hostelbookers.com to look into hostels ahead of time and read reviews - don’t feel the need to book ahead of time though, there will always be heaps of options and sometimes you don’t like it when you get there, but it helps to have a few places in mind and know what a good price is.
As for transport, it’ll be the easiest thing ever. There will be heaps of travel agencies and buses to anywhere you’re trying to go - and nearly all of their prices can be bargained down. Look around a few places to get an idea of a fair rate and then go from there. Seriously though, (especially compared to Australia) bus travel in SE Asia is a dream (as for the comfort and facilities… well, therein lies a different tale). But the operators are excellent at getting you to where you need to go. One thing though, when crossing borders via bus, be aware of potential scams - Wikitravel is usually a good resource for more details on potential ones. This only happened to me once though (from Bangkok - Siem Reap) and I was able to avoid getting ripped off, though you have to be OK with people getting pissed off or yelling at you.
I’m glad you’re hitting Malaysia! So many people skip it but I really loved traveling in that country. Don’t miss the Perhentian Islands while you’re there, they were my favorite place I visited.
Hard to believe I’ve been on the road for over 18 weeks now, but that’s what the calendar says. One of the most common questions I’ve gotten from friends and people who want to do something like this is how much this crazy adventure is costing me. Let’s break it down.
Indonesian dinner: $0.70.
Update: Going to VIetnam? Click HERE for what I spent over my 5 weeks in Vietnam (and how you can do it cheaper).
I’ve gotten a few questions recently from people who want to do a trip around Asia similar to mine and are curious about what to pack. Well, the picture above is everything I packed as a clueless Californian about to embark on something that I had no idea what would happen on.
For the most part it’s been sufficient, a few notable things I’ve bought/haven’t needed. A few weeks in I bought a small daypack backpack because up until then my only bags were a small-ish purse and a fanny pack type deal. I needed something bigger, especially since I have a small laptop with me. It’s something that seems obvious in retrospect but it was super easy to pick up when I decided I needed one.
Also, before I left I bought a water-purifier device, since I knew the tap water here wasn’t safe to drink and that’s what I was used to drinking in San Francisco. In the 14 weeks or so I’ve been traveling I’ve used it only a handful of times; there’s always bottled water available and it is always cheap. I may find myself in an emergency situation where I need to purify some questionable water source… but probably not. I’m not really going super off the beaten track here.
Other than that… there’s been some clothes I’ve bought and small toiletries but those are all easy to find and really cheap and not worth carrying around for longer than you need them. Basically always err on the side of less stuff. This is something that literally every traveler you ask will tell you, so it’s probably a valid point.
There’s really just one thing I really, truly should have brought more of, and that’s tampons. Ladies, seriously. Especially if you plan on traveling in Muslim countries like Indonesia or Malaysia, stock up. Even when you can find them over here in any country though, they’re imported and expensive and often not the small travel sized ones that I prefer for this trip. Aaaaaand that’s about the extent of my advice. Bring tampons, everything else will work itself out.
Also feel free to keep sending me questions, always happy to give my opinion and it’s exciting to see so many of you (especially my friends from back home!) deciding to give this kind of travel a shot. It’s the best.
My day started with a long local bus from my hostel in Kota Bharu, Malaysia to the Thai border. Immigration was slow and empty, and no one really paid much attention to anything I did. I filled out an arrival card, presented my passport, and that was it. Nobody spoke to me and my bags were never checked. When I walked through to the Thailand side, I was greeted by some goats milling around in the departure lane.
The goats were in charge of immigration, while the sheep had the highways under control.
Once in Thailand I took a motorbike taxi to the train station and booked the next train to Bangkok, which would turn out to be a 24hr journey. All the sleeping berths were taken - the best seat available was a 2nd class seat in a car without AC. I decided to go for it as I just wanted to get to Bangkok, and at this point in my trip comfort is definitely a dispensable option.
I had read that this region of Thailand was particularly prone to violence and terrorism, and that most Western governments advised their citizens against travel there if possible. Apparently even most travel insurance is void while traveling here (Sungai Kolok). Bombings are common, this incident having occurred three days before I was there. I had heard of trains being subject to attack here, but not recently. Technically I could have avoided starting my train journey there, but I try not to let fear make my decisions for me and logistically it made the most sense based on where my last location in Malaysia was.
When I got to the station the increase in risk was made dramatically clear by all the armed guards and military personnel patrolling the area, their assault rifles and handguns casually hanging from their shoulders or belts.
Last night I was up late in Melaka trying to figure out what I would be doing today and someone who had found me via this blog started chatting with me. We talked a bit, I told her I didn’t know where I was going next in Malaysia, and she threw out a few suggestions. I had been to the ones she suggested until she mentioned Ipoh, and I asked her what was there. She sent me a link to its Wikitravel page, which mentioned it was a gateway to the Cameron Highlands about 85km away, which was a place I had maintained an interest in seeing. I decided to sleep on it and figure it out the next day.
Oh Singapore, Singapore, Singapore.
also known as the destination where Michelle and my paths separated.
After the serene calm and unbelievable beauty of the Perhentians and Pulau Kapas, it was time for a change of pace. Onward to Kuala Lumpur, the busy capital of Malaysia, where Michelle and I stayed in the never-a-dull-moment Chinatown district.
Before I started to doubt their tastes after the fish sausage, the Malaysian guys who gave us a ride were telling me about their favorite dessert, ais kacang (ABC). I wasn’t too clear on the details, but understood it was shaved ice (or maybe ice cream) and then something to do with juice, milk, jelly, corn, and red beans. It sounded like it had the potential to be pretty good, and at the very least would be interesting to try, so I promised to get one the next time I had a chance.
On the tiny, undeveloped island of Pulau Kapas, some of the beaches are connected by these stairways built into the rock. The rest you would have to climb over rocks or take a boat to visit. During this time I was the only one using them, and they were too good not to photograph.