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.
When the electoral votes were getting counted up time zone by time zone, I decided to go on a kayak trip with my friend Justine. I had been working long hours at my politics job leading up to this and I knew when we got back to dry land everything would be settled.
So we got a kayak and went out on this beautiful, sunny day from Tonsai beach in Krabi, Thailand. We had an ambitious first goal of some islands pretty far away, and we were about halfway there after 40 minutes of kayaking when we started to notice the faint grey clouds in the distance growing a lot closer, and darker.
We didn’t know how far we were from the closest island we were headed to, so we decided to switch courses and head to the closest beach. We were still a fair distance out when the storm hit and completely soaked us for about 20 minutes on the open seas before we were able to find cover.
(also known as the story of how my ipod and smartphone got broken :-/ )
But it’s hard to be upset about those things when you’re surrounded by such stunning beauty which, as you can see, we were.
And the election results were pretty good too.
In a few days I’m moving to Australia. I don’t know for how long but, as always, anything is possible.
Like my ticket to Bangkok, I was kind of drunk when I bought a flight to Perth two months ago. It was my first night in Vietnam, I was hanging out at a bar with the only two expats who lived in the town, and I used the wifi to check my email using my phone. Is that ever a good idea in a bar? Personally I don’t think so but based on the fact I do it every time I have the opportunity it doesn’t seem to have registered with me yet. In this case, doing so gave me an excuse to avoid the increasingly inappropriate advances of one of the old men, so I became more engrossed in the activity than I normally would be. Long story short, AirAsia was having a sale and 15 minutes later I had bought a ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Perth, Western Australia, on November 15. It was $130. You probably don’t need context to know that, drunk purchase or no, that’s a really good deal.
Since then I’ve had this date to look forward to. I decided soon after I bought the ticket that I was going use Australia to settle down and take a break from backpacking. By the time I get there, I’ll have been homeless for 7 months. While fun and liberating, unpacking and repacking your life every few nights does get tiresome. I guess that in my old age I’m finally getting domestic urges: I want to unpack all of my clothes, and hang them all up - I want to have more than three outfits to choose from. I want to go grocery shopping and cook for myself, buy wine for later and chill liquor in the freezer. I want to have friends that I can call up and do nothing with. I want to go on actual dates again (not that wandering Khao San Road together, drinking beer on the street in the neon glow of the ping pong show lights isn’t hella romantic and all), awesome dates that I’ll plan based on my local expertise. I want to buy tickets to shows in advance, I want to have opinions on all my local bars, I want to have bloody mary supplies always on hand, I want to do my own laundry, I want to take home leftovers, I want any stray hairs on my bed to just be my own (in a hostel, it’s always a mystery). I want to master the local transport and I’ll also own a bike. And dammit, I want a gelato rewards card. And all these things will happen, because I will make them.
The last time I was Down Unda I cuddled the world’s cutest marsupial, so I know anything’s possible:
I leave Thursday night and arrive in Perth Friday morning. I already have weekend plans set up with some locals, starting with a bike ride to the beach immediately after I land. This is the weather forecast for the weekend; in Australia, the schools are letting out and that infectious summer buzz is just starting to bloom…
….yeah. This is going to be good.
By 1pm I had completely lost my sense of time and direction.
I had started out from Bangkok the previous night, unsure of how the following day was going to work, just knowing I needed to cross the Thai border to Myanmar (Burma) and then head in the direction of Koh Phangan, which could be accomplished in a number of ways.
Bangkok southbound bus station, 9pm
From Bangkok I had a sleepless bus ride to some random border town, Ranong. I got in at 6am, the day still dark and the air sticky with humidity, and immediately hired a motorbike taxi to the border. ”Where you go?” “Burma.” “OK.” In my delirious state I found this exchange highly amusing. Usually “Where you go?” is followed up by the hostel I’m staying at or a general location where you can find cheap digs. But this time - take me to Burma! Sure - you got it.
The Thai border exit point in Ranong was basically a small pier, and its primary purpose appeared to be a fish market, the stench of dead sea life throughout the entire area as strong as anything I’ve ever smelled, huge mounds of fish piled up on tarps outside the small immigration area. I’ve done a number of border crossings over this trip, but each time I do one like this it really impresses me with just how far removed I am from the paranoid ultra-security of American borders.
I’m finishing up my weeklong fasting detox on Koh Phangan. Finally, through the chalky aftertaste of my most recent clay shake, I can taste my freedom. This is my reflection on Day 6 and 7; Days one, two, three, four, and five <—— are there.
Day 6 & 7: Accepting my fate
I’m spending a week on Koh Phangan, beautiful island full of all-night parties, delicious seafood, and lovely day activities, not doing any of those. Instead I’m fasting and detoxing for no reason in particular and writing about it. This is the 5th day of 7.5 - here are Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4.
Day 5: Cheater, cheater, peanut eater