Category Archives: Travel Tips & Advice

Five Travel Lessons I Learned the Hard Way

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We all make mistakes, and when you're on the road it is easy to make a lot - I know I sure have! But as the saying goes, we learn from our mistakes, so in this post I am going to share with you five travel lessons I have learned the hard way.

Travel Lesson 1// Pack a (mostly) neutral wardrobe

The mistake: I made some questionable decisions when I packed my luggage, and brought with me so many different colours and prints. I have too many tops and bottoms that just cannot be worn together! Not such a problem when all of my clothes are freshly laundered, but definitely a big problem when I'm down to the animal print shorts and green patterned singlet that, when worn together, look like I've been dressed by a five-year-old.

Lesson learned: Select your clothes in a careful and planned way, sticking with neutral colours and adding in just a couple of key pieces with colours and patterns. Colourful scarves are a great way to add some life to an otherwise plain outfit.

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Scarves are a great way to add a pop of colour to an outfit

Travel Lesson 2// Don't pack clothes that must be hand-washed

The mistake: Also on the subject of clothing, I packed too many items that require hand-washing. Laundry across Asia is so cheap (and comes back smelling so good!) that it is usually a waste of time and energy to hand-wash clothes. I packed a couple of pairs of brightly coloured underwear that bleed dye every time they are washed, so I can't get them laundered with my other clothes or they will all come back with a pink tinge. It is such a pain, I don't know why I don't just get rid of them already! I also had a dress that was made of delicate fabric that I sent off to be washed and it came back all stretched and unwearable.

Lesson learned: Don't pack clothes that bleed colour, be sure to wash everything at home before you leave to double-check. Likewise, go for durable fabrics over delicate, pretty ones.

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RIP, pretty dress

Travel Lesson 3// Book in advance during peak seasons and public holidays

The mistake: I like to be flexible with our plans so usually we end up booking just a day or two in advance of moving to our next destination. This is fine when travelling during off-peak seasons, in fact you can often not book at all and simply take your pick of accommodation once you arrive. But peak season, along with holidays like Chinese New Year can affect your travel in many countries across Asia. We tried to book a guesthouse in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, a few nights ago and Agoda had ZERO rooms left out of more than 100 hotels. Luckily we managed to reserve one of the last rooms on another booking engine, but then we struggled to book a bus - they were also just about completely booked!

Lesson learned: During peak seasons and public holidays try to plan ahead as best as you can. If you want to be organised but still retain flexibility, try booking a room with free cancellation. Or better yet, travel during off-peak season! I much prefer travelling outside of peak seasons where room prices tend to be cheaper and you're not sharing the sights with hundreds of other people.

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When its busy, try to book in advance

Travel Lesson 4// Screenshot some maps on your phone before you arrive

The mistake: Especially when you're arriving by bus into a new city, you often have absolutely no idea where you are when you are dropped off. In Asia, you will quickly be approached by clever taxi/tuk-tuk drivers eager to take you to your accommodation. When I was in Vietnam a couple of years ago I made the mistake of arriving somewhere new and hopping in the first taxi I saw to take me to my guesthouse. 20 minutes and about $20 later, I arrived there. The mistake was only realised when I walked around the corner later that day and discovered that was exactly where the bus has dropped us off - that cunning taxi driver had taken me on a very expensive joyride!

Lesson learned: By mapping your accommodation and taking some screenshots, along with some zoomed out screenshots that show the layout of the city and a few key street names, you will be more easily able to locate yourself on your arrival. Then you can decide to walk if your accommodation is nearby, or you can barter a fair price with the taxi driver because you have an idea of the distance.

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Rickshaws in Melaka, Malaysia

Travel Lesson 5// You don't have to see everything

The mistake: I am the type of person that feels like I have to see and do everything, everywhere I go. I would plan our days so that we could fit in as much as possible, and I'd feel guilty if we spent a whole morning (let alone a whole day!) doing, well, nothing. But by the time we reached Chiang Mai I was feeling run down and over it - I had lost my travel mojo. Being too 'on-the-go' for too long had taken its toll.

Lesson learned: Although travelling is amazing and fun, it can also be very exhausting, especially when you are on the road for months at a time. Just like you sometimes blob out on the couch at home, it is important to have downtime while travelling too. Don't feel guilty for taking a whole day off, for watching hours of TV, or for missing a couple of the sights. As long as you enjoyed your time there, that is 100% the most important thing!

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It's okay to take a nap during the day

Have you also made some silly mistakes while travelling, that you have later learned from? Please share in the comments below!


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A Helpful Guide to Renting a Scooter in Southeast Asia

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Although the internet has many posts about renting a scooter in Southeast Asia,  I still feel compelled to write a comprehensive guide of my own as we have learnt so much about this topic along the way!

This post is not trying to convince you to give up on renting a scooter, in fact my intentions are quite the opposite. We have rented scooters a number of times now in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, and will no doubt rent many more as we continue our travels through Asia. Our favourite destinations seem to consistently be when we have the independence of a scooter.

This guide is written in regards to the automatic scooters we have been renting, though many of the points are also applicable to semi-automatic and manual motorbikes. It was also written with plenty of input from Alan, my Chief Scooter Driver - because I trust his driving way more than mine!

Tips for renting a scooter in Southeast Asia

Before you hire

  • Before you leave home, ensure to get your International Driver’s License. In New Zealand you just need to pop into the AA with a passport photo and your regular driver’s license, pay $20, and you’ll be given a little booklet with your photo stuck inside that is valid for 1 year. This is your International Driver’s License, which you legally need to drive in most (if not all?) Southeast Asian countries. If you’re stopped and asked to show your license you need to show both your regular license AND your International License. That said, many people do drive without an International Drivers’ License and if stopped by police simply pay a bribe instead, but if you want to avoid all possibility of being on the wrong side of the law then it makes total sense to just hand over the $20 before you leave - the whole process took us both less than 10 minutes, its worth it!
  • If you want to rent a manual motorbike you obviously need to know how to manually change gears (duh) and also hold a valid motorbike license. If you have a regular drivers license you can legally drive a moped/scooter.
  • Expect that you will have to hand over your passport or a big bond (for example on Koh Samui we handed over a 5000 baht bond, NZ$210), which we got back on return). It is a much better idea to leave a deposit, I know I'd rather lose 5000 baht than have my passport held ransom for way more $$!
  • Find a reputable company to rent from or rent from your guesthouse. Take a business card with their name and number on it so you can call should you need to. You'll also usually have to sign a document stating that you're liable for any damage, etc. Make sure you know what you are signing and that you are comfortable with it. There are some dodgy companies out there that have been known to follow you and steal your scooter back after you park it somewhere, then you have to pay them reparation for the missing scooter. If it feels dodgy, it probably is, so use your common sense.

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Safety

  • Wear a helmet. Yes, I realise this is the most repeated tip of all time. One thing I’ve noticed from our journey so far is that some places it is the norm to wear a helmet (Malaysia springs to mind), and other places no-one wears a helmet (Bali, Koh Samui, and plenty more). Buck the trend and wear a helmet! Just do it. Also, police are way more likely to target foreigners who aren't following the 'rules' because we are known to have, uh, fat wallets. It is also important to note than a helmet should be included for free with your rental, if they make you pay for it rent from somewhere else!
  • Drive safely. You may be the greatest driver out there, but at the end of the day everybody on the road is not under your control. Be as aware and defensive as you can.
  • Don't be in a rush. Come on, you're on holiday! No need to be speeding and rushing around just to create more danger for yourself and others on the road.

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Helmets

  • Again, please wear one! You'll be surprised how many people (locals and foreigners) drive around with their helmets in their basket, or anywhere on their bike other than their head! This is so they can put it on quickly in case stopped by police. But still, the best and only place for it is on your head.
  • When you park the scooter and your helmet won't fit under the seat, the best way to store it is open up the seat, then close the seat with the strap inside and helmet hanging out. That way there is no chance of it getting stolen, plus you don't have to carry it around when you're out and about. Here's a picture of what I'm talking about...

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Picking your scooter

  • What power to get? Depends on how hilly the terrain is and if its just you or if there will be two of you on the scooter. We had a 110cc scooter on Koh Samui which was fine for generally driving around but when we ventured inland into the very hilly areas there were a few times I had to get off and walk up the hill instead, ha!
  • Don't rent a brand new scooter. The natural inclination is to rent the flashest, coolest-looking one. But, chances are you may drop it or scratch something, so if you go for a less fancy scooter that already has a few light scratches here and there they are less likely to notice if you also add a scratch or two.
  • Before you commit, take it for a quick drive down the road. Check the brakes work, the light works, the indicators, the horn, the speedo (we have had a couple of rentals where the speedo hasn't worked which isn't a big problem, it is just important to make sure the rental company are aware it doesn't go before you drive away, otherwise you may get blamed and made to cough up for fixing it when you return).
  • If there are some minor scrapes or damage to your scooter, make sure you point it out to the dealership AND take some photos as evidence before you drive away, just in case they question it upon your return.
  • Make sure you ask how to open the seat up and unlock the ignition as this can vary between models.

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Filling up the tank

  • Ask how much petrol is per litre and how many litres it will need to fill up. Petrol stations sometimes rip you off so be careful (we got ripped of at a petrol station in Hoi An and have been super cautious about this ever since!). Think about how much driving around you're going to do before returning the scooter, you may only need half a tank.
  • Ask where the nearest petrol station is. Often your scooter will come with an empty tank of gas and your first stop is going to be to fill it up!
  • Are you expected to return your scooter empty or full? Obviously, if you hired it with an empty tank you should never be expected to return it full - go hire somewhere else! But if it comes with a full tank when you rent it, you are usually expected to return it full.

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On the road

  • Always park your scooter with the wheel locked. Just the other day on parking our scooter in Mui Ne, we came across some concerned travellers whose scooter had been stolen (literally, wheeled away like a push bike!) when they forgot to lock the wheel. Locking the wheel makes it a lot harder for someone to steal your scooter.
  • Don't be afraid to use the horn! When overtaking someone is the most common, but some local drivers are known to just speed down the road absuing their horn non-stop. Don't go overboard, but do use it when you need to.
  • You're in Asia, meaning there are more hazards on the road than just cars and an overload of motorbikes. Also watch out for dogs, cows, snakes...you name it! We had two near-misses with snakes in Thailand already! Slow down, beep your horn and gently swerve around them.

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If something goes wrong

  • Usually, you'll have to pay out of pocket if you get a flat tyre - it should't cost more than a few dollars. This has only happened to us once, but one of the friendly guys from our guesthouse in Ubud, Bali, took it to get it fixed and wouldn't accept any of our money to pay for it!
  • Accidents happen - this is where you are going to want to make sure you have comprehensive travel insurance that covers mopeds. You don't want to end up paying for an unexpected hospital visit out of pocket...

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If you haven't driven a scooter before

  • Don't learn in a busy area. Start somewhere quiet and empty (like a parking lot, or I learnt on an empty basketball court!) and practice starting, stopping, corners, indicating, and parking. I wouldn't recommend learning anywhere like Koh Samui or Kuta, Bali.
  • Remember that road rules barely exist in much of Southeast Asia. Don't expect for people to look out for you, give way for you and make sure you know what side of the road you're meant to be driving on (e.g. in Thailand its on the left but in Vietnam its on the right). If you are not very confident, slow and steady is best.
  • Always keep your left hand over the brake - this is the back brake and obviously the one you want to be using the most pressure on. A good guide is 90% of the braking should come from the rear and 10% from the front.
  • Especially if you're on the back of the bike, make sure your leg doesn't touch the scalding exhaust pipe or you will quickly end up with a nasty burn.
  • Adjust your mirrors before you drive - seems obvious but don't forget! As you will have traffic swerving around you constantly, its very important you can see whats coming up behind you and either side of you.

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Phew!

Some of those tips may make hiring a scooter sound scary, but it is truly so much fun! There is nothing better than streaming along with the wind flowing through your hair and the independence of driving wherever you like that day. Many of our favourite travel days have been when we have hired scooters and explored the area we were in. We have seen so much more of so many places than we would have otherwise!

 Have you hired a scooter in Southeast Asia? Any further tips you can share?


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Travel Budget & Summary: Thailand

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Money, money, money! Wanna know how much baht I spent during my two months in Thailand? Read on for a little insight into my wallet...

Thailand: Our Itinerary

Before we left New Zealand we got 60-day Thailand tourist visas (we sent our passports to the Thailand Embassy in Wellington). We squeezed out nearly every day of those visas, staying a total of 58 nights.

Though we had our visas before we left, we didn't have a plan of what we would do in Thailand at the beginning. It was while we were in Singapore that we took the plunge and booked in a month at Superpro Samui. I was also keen to see some of the north as I had never visited that part of the country before and heard amazing things (yup, its true!).

I loved having an entire month in one place - we had a little studio apartment of our own on Koh Samui and did normal things like go grocery shopping and go to the movies and other fun stuff like that. I love travelling but its no secret that this little island has become dear to my heart and I'm already dreaming of going back!

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Thailand: Travel Budget Breakdown

Please note these costs are in New Zealand dollars (NZD), unless otherwise stated.

Total we spent over 59 days for two people: $5,025 ($2,512.50 per person)

Daily average per person: $42.60 (we try to average less than $50 each overall)

Category Breakdown (Note these costs are for two people and I have rounded to the nearest dollar):
  • Accommodation: $1,907
  • Food and drink: $1690
  • Transport: $688
  • Entertainment/attractions: $181
  • Visas: $50 each*
  • Shopping: $495 (most of it was Muay Thai essentials!)
  • Massage: $59
  • Laundry: $5 (surprisingly low! We mostly hand-washed our clothes on Koh Samui so they were clean for training the next day)

*Not included in the cost summary as we got these before we departed New Zealand. Most nationalities get a visa-free 30 day entry, so if you're travelling for less than a month in Thailand you don't need to worry!

Summary

Accommodation

Our accommodation in Koh Samui was by far our biggest cost as it included training - we paid 1000 baht a night (about $40, or $20 each). We were meant to have a standard double room at Superpro but due to some plumbing issues we scored a free upgrade to a studio apartment which was amazing! We were really happy with the value of this, especially as it included our training, plus had facilities like a gym, swimming pool, yoga classes and more.

With our 30 nights at Superpro taken out of the equation, over the remaining 28 nights we spent an average of $26 per night ($13 each). We continued to use Agoda for most of our bookings because not only do we love a good deal, we love to pay in New Zealand dollars (no conversion fees, hooray!). As always, we stay in private double rooms of varying quality - though overall in Thailand I felt the standard was pretty good.

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Our digs at Superpro Samui

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...through to our modest bungalow in Pai

Food

We spent about $29 a day on food and drink for both of us. I love Thai food to bits but because we were there for so long we definitely ate western food quite often, which is often a bit pricier. I usually try and find highly rated western restaurants on TripAdvisor first so that I know we'll be getting a good meal for your buck!

Of course, I can't go past a good Pad Thai, but I'm also very, very fond of a creamy Panang Curry. Lip-smackingly good! I also had a favourite place on Koh Samui where I felt very virtuous ordering their delicious tofu and cashew stir-fry on brown rice. Alan cursed me whenever I wanted to go there for lunch as it was a good half hour drive away on the far side of Lamai - but it was worth the effort! I still think my favourite meal in Thailand was the one we cooked in Ao Nang, followed a close second by Kalasea on Koh Samui - they get bonus points for ambience!

Naturally, mango smoothies continue to be a common occurrence. I'm addicted - even now, as I write this in Vietnam, I'm still sipping on one! Though admittedly, I did cheat on my love of mango smoothies with the BEST vanilla milkshake of my life at Cheeseburger Cheeseburger on Samui, so...my heart is torn!

Our apartment on Superpro had a big fridge but no cooking facilities, so when we wanted to eat in we chowed down on plenty of filled rolls and peanut butter sandwiches. We always made breakfast in our apartment and it was so nice to put together my own muesli, fruit and yoghurt just the way I like it! I enjoyed being able to grocery shop at Tescos, but in fact eating out is often cheaper so we did plenty of both.

I should have been focussing on my fitness, but hey, you only live once so a few fun nights were thrown in there! Probably the most memorable were my 25th birthday where I was surprised with a cake and sung happy birthday at the Lamai Kickboxing, and the other highlight being our final night where we had a bit of a leaving shindig - I may have enjoyed a few too many wine coolers and come *this* close to getting my upper-ear pierced...hey at least it wasn't a tattoo! Alan hasn't let me live that one down yet.

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One of many times at Kalasea Cafe

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Doing normal things like grocery shopping!

Transport

We came from Langkawi in Malaysia, and simply took a ferry from Langkawi to Satun on the Thai mainland where we checked through very basic immigration point, then took a shuttle onwards to Krabi. We travelled overland by bus for the rest of our journeys (except by ferry to and between the islands, of course!), bar one flight we splurged on between Surat Thani and Chiang Mai. An hour in a place versus two overnight busses/trains? Yeah...

We rented a Scoopy-i 110cc scooter on Koh Samui, which cost us 3000 baht for the month (about NZ$4 a day). Originally we got a pink one because it was all they had available, they told us to come back the next day to switch. I didn't mind the pink but since Alan was mostly driving it probably wasn't that great for his image haha. We went back most days for nearly two weeks until we were able to switch to a blue one!

We also rented scooters on Koh Tao and in Pai, both places I think its pretty essential to have some wheels in order to explore. Not that we were really in the mood to do so while we were in Chiang Mai, but I think having a scooter there would have made a big difference in the way we were feeling - unfortunately we didn't have our passports (they were at the Consulate getting our China visas) which are used as your 'deposit' for rental. So we used our feet mainly, I don't know about yours but my feet prefer scooters.

And how could I forget - we also cycled plenty around Sukhothai and Si Satchanalai!

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Cycling Si Satchanalai

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Alan modelling our scooter, complete with exceptionally flattering helmet, in Pai

We loved our time in Thailand and I'm comfortable with the amount we spent (you could easily travel way cheaper by staying in dorms, fan rooms and eating less western food and more street food). I'm already hatching a plan to go back - wait and see if we are able to make a second round at Koh Samui happen this year!

Have you travelled to Thailand? Did you visit on a backpackers budget, or go all out?


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How I Lost and Found My Travel Mojo in Chiang Mai

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In the name of being honest and open, and not over-glamourising this adventure of ours, I'm going to tell you exactly how I lost my travel mojo - and then found it again -  in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Alan and I had entered our fourth month on the road and I had begun to grow weary.

I don’t expect you to feel sorry for me! After all, I am living my dream of travelling the world and on the whole couldn’t really be happier than I am right now. But travel burnout can be ruthless, it hits you in a way that makes you want to hibernate in your dark room, consoling your tired mind with a pointless spiral of youtube videos and endless Facebook feeds, rather than explore your exotic new surroundings.

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Despite aiming to stay 5+ nights in most places we visit, sometimes it is still exceptionally tiring to be packing, moving, planning, travelling and generally living without a home base. Sadness from departing our perfect little lifestyle on Koh Samui, sickness on Koh Tao, and a now very indefinite amount of time ahead until we temporarily ‘settle’ somewhere again had all added up to me feeling a bit uneasy and blue.

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Combined with my stress-inducing personality of we-must-be-busy-all-the-time, I was mildly exhausted. I was tired of sightseeing on a daily basis. Don’t hate me - but there are only so many temples you can admire, history you can absorb and local specialty foods you must try until you need a break.

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After a night’s stop over in Surat Thani back on the Thai mainland (see the very end of this post for details!), we flew the next day to Chiang Mai. Arriving in the afternoon, we were quick to hop on the back of a songthaew and make our way to the cheerful Buddy’s Guesthouse. I spent most of the evening stalking Buddy the pug (yep, the guesthouse is named after him!) until he eventually gave in and let me shower him with snuggly pug cuddles.

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We already knew that the next day we were not going to have time to see or do anything in Chiang Mai. It took a gruelling nine hours straight to nail our upcoming three weeks in China down to a tee, as whilst in Chiang Mai we had to apply for our China visas which are notoriously specific about your travel plans. A tasty plate of mango and sticky rice gave me the energy to power through the planning, and before we knew it we were up with the sun the following morning to queue outside the Chinese Consulate with our visa applications. Forms filled out, passports handed over and a gazillion pages of flight, accommodation and train booking confirmations later, it was now just a waiting game.

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On applying, the visas were to take four working days to process, excluding the weekend in the middle. We had a whole week ahead of us in Chiang Mai, passport-less and feeling unenthused. The worst thing about not having a passport in Chiang Mai is that as far as I am aware, you need it as a deposit for hiring a scooter - so we were on our own two feet for the entire time - which probably did us some good physically, but didn't give us the sense of freedom we love about hiring a scooter, and meant we didn't escape the city for any of its outer sights during our stay.

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Turns out, all I needed to get my travel mojo back was a break from my own exceedingly overboard need to do and see everything.  Before we arrived in Chiang Mai I had a list a mile long of what we would be doing while we were there. But when we arrived, and after some serious convincing from both myself and Alan, I threw any plans out the window and chose to listen to my instincts.

My body was telling me to just chill out and go with the flow. Nope, there wouldn't be any overnight trekking, no temple-hopping just to tick them off the list (we did visit a handful but in a very relaxed, unplanned sort of way), and no schedule. Each day would come and go exactly as we felt. Activities would happen if we felt like it and not if we didn't feel like it.

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Basically, I did my very best to ignore the voice in my head telling me what I 'should' be doing, and instead did what I felt like doing.

Of course, I always feel like eating, so ate tonnes of non-thai food and enjoyed every bite. Lasagne! McFlurries! Bagels! Vegemite sandwiches! Ice Cream Sundaes! Porridge! Mexican!

Margaritas were essential at Miguel's Cafe

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Proper English tucker at The Cafe Soi 1

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Delicious bagels at The Hideout (run by an Aussie guy who also offers vegemite and cheese sammies!)

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Swensen's because...ice cream.

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Lemon soft-serve at Lemon Hub - refreshing!

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Tanita Coffee House, where you can relax the entire afternoon away

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The sights of Chiang Mai just 'happened' upon us as we wandered around, rather than being planned - which is kind of magic. A holiday from our holiday, if you will.

When we weren't chilling in our room enjoying doing absolutely nothing or devouring all of the food ever, here's what we got up to.

Wat Chedi Luang

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I found a swing!

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Wat Phra Singh

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Three Kings Monument

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The Night Bazaar, Saturday Market and Sunday Market

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Walking a loop of the city's moat

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People-watching at Suan Buak Hat

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Travelling long-term is different to being a tourist. This is among the lessons I am learning and slowly coming to terms with along the way. I don't have to see and do everything, everywhere. Downtime is perfectly acceptable. There is more to travel than sightseeing. Simply being in a place, eating up its food, soaking in its culture, wandering its streets, sipping a coffee whilst watching the world go by - each are perfectly valuable activities to experience a destination beyond its sights.

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Though I didn't visit all the 'must-sees' in Chiang Mai, I felt a lot more relaxed and in the swing of things when I left than I did when I arrived, and surely thats a good thing - right? Just in time too, because it was time to collect our passports, board yet another bus and conquer the 762 corners to our next destination: the quirky highlands town of Pai!

Have you ever lost your travel mojo? How did you get over it?

I haven't written a post on Surat Thani as we didn't have time to see or do anything there, but I simply must mention the hotel we stayed in as it was truly fantastic and I would recommend it to everyone! For a mere NZD$23 per night, we stayed in what felt like luxury at My Place @ Surat Hotel. They had a welcome sign with our names in the reception area, a personalised welcome message in the room with a fresh flower and on departure the following day gave us a handwritten postcard when we left thanking us for staying there. Five-star service - not to mention impeccably clean, nicely decorated and spacious rooms. The room was nicer than our hotel in Singapore that we paid more than triple per night for. A must-stay, for sure!


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Muay Thai Training in Thailand: Helpful and Inspiring Links for Beginners

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This post is for the Muay Thai beginners and newbies that are interested in embarking on your own journey of Muay Thai training in Thailand. In my quest for information myself, I discovered some excellent resources that I recommend you read before you go.

Before I went to Superpro Samui to spend a month Muay Thai training in Thailand, I knew absolutely NOTHING about Muay Thai. Zilch. Zero. Nada.

I'd never watched a Muay Thai fight in my life. I didn't know that Muay Thai is nicknamed the sport of eight limbs (fists, elbows, knees and kicking). I didn't know how freaking tough it would be to do two hours of training in a day, let alone the days where we committed to four hours training. I didn't know how much I would learn so quickly. I didn't really think about it as learning a new skill, I thought of it more as a fitness bootcamp. I didn't know I'd even enjoy Muay Thai, let alone find it interesting to watch and read about!

After my first class and realising I was way out of my comfort zone, it quickly became my mission to learn as much as possible about this intriguing form of martial art as I could. I found SO much inspiring and helpful information, that I am happily sharing in this post to inspire and help you!

You can read all my posts about Muay Thai training in Thailand at the following links:


Miss Roxy Balboa

Miss Roxy Balboa, a former Pro Muay Thai Fighter come Muay Thai Coach, has so many helpful posts focussed towards beginners to the sport. Some of my favourites are...

20 Tips for Muay Thai Newbies - a must read!

I Just Started Muay Thai & My (Blank) Hurts. Is This Normal? - talks about all different kinds of injuries/pain/bruising etc you may experience (I sure did!) and what to do about it.

Muay Thai Sparring: It's okay not to want to get punched in the face - because I don't want to get punched in the face, please.


Under The Ropes

Emma is an English fighter working in Bangkok and training out of Master Toddy's Gym. She writes lots of interesting articles on her blog and I also follow her Facebook page. My favourite posts are as follows, but you can easily get lost in her blog for hours!

Muay Thai Documentaries and TV Shows - The Directory - since coming across this directory I've watched heaps of these, its worth bookmarking!

Three Years of Living and Training at Master Toddy's - will your story be similar to Emma's?

Does Fighting Change You?

Emma also has a directory of Female Muay Thai Blogs and Websites that may have some further helpful information, insights and resources for you!


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A team of contributors write this blog, each chronicling their own journeys and insights into the world of Muay Thai training in Thailand.

Guidelines for Training in Thailand's Muay Thai Gyms - extensive advice to not only help you manage physically, but also adapt to ensure you are being culturally sensitive during your training.

Interested in Training Muay Thai in Thailand? Some Things to Consider Before You Go, followed by part 2: What Can You Really Handle? - A must read series before you go, with all the right questions to ask yourself. Ensure you know why you are going, what you want to get out of your Muay Thai experience, and that you are going to the right place.


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An American fighter in Thailand, on her blog Sylvie chronicles her journey to 100 fights in Thailand (a goal to which she is currently very close!). In addition to fight recaps, Sylvie covers a range of Muay Thai topics that are very interesting to read.

How Do You Know When You're Ready To Fight? - I'm not personally interested in being a fighter, but for those of you that are? Read this.

15 New Techniques That Will Improve Your Muay Thai - a post with tonnes of videos Sylvie has made that are worth a watch, you'll certainly learn a thing or two!

The Myth of Overtraining - Endurance, Physical and Mental for Muay Thai - There's no doubt that Muay Thai is intense training (let along Sylvia's training schedule, which is super full on!). This post covers a lot of information that will inspire you to push yourself through the pain.

I hope this post helps you with some inspiration and information to kick-start your Muay Thai training in Thailand. Let me know in the comments if you have any further helpful links to add!


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10 of My Favourite Things To Do on Koh Samui

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I’ve blogged a lot about our time on Koh Samui from the Muay Thai training side of things, however of course we also spent plenty of time out exploring, eating and playing on this beautiful island.

Among some travellers Koh Samui has a poor reputation of being super-touristy and not worth the visit. Early on in our stay I asked one of the ladies in our Muay Thai class who lives on the island for some ideas of less-touristy things to see and do. This was much better than a guidebook, and she kindly gave me a long list of what to do on Koh Samui, which we spent the next four weeks trying to fulfil - many of her suggestions made it onto my favourites list!

After spending an entire month on this beautiful island, I can assure you that it is entirely possible to escape tourist-laden Chaweng Beach and discover many nooks and crannies that will have you feeling relaxed and happy in no time! You just have to know where to go and what to do.

Here's my top ten favourite things to do on Koh Samui!

1. Hire a scooter and drive around the island

Hiring a scooter is the easiest way to escape the chaos of Chaweng, and driving around the perimeter of the whole island only takes a couple of hours without stopping. While you’re at it, make sure you also drive through the middle of the island for a completely different aspect. The road Maenam Soi 1 will take you from Maenam right through to Lamai. You'll suddenly find yourself amongst lush, untouched greenery, complete with snakes crossing the road!

We rented from Ohm Cycles Samui and rented our Scoopy-i 125cc automatic for 30,000 baht/30 days - of course if you're renting shorter term you can expect to pay a higher daily rental rate. Please, always wear a helmet, drive carefully and be aware - we saw an awful fatal accident in the time we were there, and unfortunately this is a regular occurrence.

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2. Kalasea Cafe

Easily our favourite eating spot on the island, Kalasea is pretty much as far away as you can get from busy Chaweng, being halfway around the island. Fill up on mouth-watering food (salads! fresh spring rolls!) and delicious drinks (mint soda! oreo shake!) followed by a swing over the sea - Kalasea is the kind of places you can stay for hours. We did just that so many times!

From Chaweng, drive through Maenam and just before you reach Nathon there are a cluster of beachfront cafes on your right - Kalasea is the ones that is painted white with a thatched roof.

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3. Boat Temple

I'm letting you in on a bit of a secret here, shhh! Near Laem Sor Pagoda, which is also a beautiful spot, is a small temple that barely any tourists seem to know about. It is called the Boat Temple because it is in the shape of a boat, inside a man-made pond. You step onboard the boat to look inside the temple, which is rather unique!

Follow your map to Laem Sor Pagoda, once you get there hang a left and drive along for another minute or so, eventually you should see the temple up on the hill on your left. There is a smaller, model version of it in a building near the pagoda - don't get mixed up thinking that is it like we did the first time! We had to visit again in order to find the actual temple itself, oops. As always, be sure to dress respectfully when you visit a temple - that means covered shoulders and covered knees.

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4. Wat Plai Laem Temple

Visit on a sunny day and you will be taken aback by the colour and vibrancy of the 18-armed Guanyin statue and a very happy giant Buddha. This is a stunning complex to wander around for an hour or so and take in the ornate details of the temples in a peaceful setting.

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5. Go to the movies

For those of you on holiday trying to escape normality, perhaps this isn't the suggestion for you, but after a few months on the road we loved being able to go to the movies in English! We really enjoy going to the movies at home, so it was a treat to be able to go a few times while we were on Koh Samui.

The Major Cineplex Lotus Samui is in the big Tescos shopping centre in Chaweng. It is just like going to the movies at home except for two things: 1. It is way cheaper (180 baht for a ticket, about NZ$7), and 2. Before the movie starts you have to stand in honour of the King for a couple of minutes while a musical clip plays. Its a unique experience!

6. Visit the dog shelter

We spent an afternoon visiting the animals at Samui Dog and Cat Rescue Centre. Based in Ban Taling Ngam in the southwest of the island, this foundation was set up by a German and Dutch team in 1999 to provide medical treatment, food, shelter and sterilisation for street dogs and cats, along with providing education for Koh Samui people on how to care for their animals. It is a great foundation and keeps going by way of donations and the help of volunteers.

I am dog-obsessed so spending an afternoon there giving the animals some love, along with a bit of dirty work like scooping up some poop, is much appreciated by the dogs and humans alike! My only regret is that I didn't make it back more often. They love helpful visitors, be sure to check out their website here for more information and to donate.

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7. Chill out at Silver Beach

Escape busy Chaweng beach by visiting some of the other beaches dotted around the island. Our pick of the bunch that we visited time and time again is Silver Beach. Located between Chaweng and Lamai, its a small beach that you enter through a restaurant (marked Silver Beach Resort). Grab a bite to eat and a smoothie at the restaurant before laxing out on the beach for the rest of the day. Every time we went there it was never very busy and there was always plenty of space to relax in the sunshine.

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8. Take a Muay Thai class

You're in Thailand, and what better place to learn the eight-limbed martial art of Muay Thai than in the heat and humidity of the Thai islands, right? Seriously though, Muay Thai is an integral part of Thai culture, and just a couple of hours of training will not only give you an amazing workout, but also a greater understanding of Thailands #1 sport!

We loved training at Superpro Samui, you can stay onsite and training is included as part of your accommodation, however you can also visit for a one-off class. Check out their website for more details. Read my post about the gear and essentials you'll need to be prepared for your training session!

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9. Lamai Boxing

Now that you have completed your Muay Thai class and have a better understanding of the sport, hop on your scooter and head to Lamai on a Saturday night to see some fighters in action! The kickboxing at Lamai is in a boxing ring surrounded by bars, so unlike the two stadiums in Chaweng that are extortionately expensive (more than 1,000 baht!), watching the Muay Thai in Lamai will only set you back the cost of an overpriced drink (100 baht or so), and provide hours of entertainment. It starts around 9.30pm and goes through until about midnight, depending on how many rounds the fights last for!

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10. Secret Buddha Garden

Hidden high up in the hills behind Baan Saket, the Secret Buddha Garden is a jungly oasis built by a local durian fruit farmer after he retired back in the 1970's. Its essentially a lush, green garden with waterfalls, statues and figures of Buddhist folklore that make you feel as though you have entered some kind of mythical land! We visited on a drizzly day and were the only ones there at the time - it felt quite eerie and magical. The two of us drove up on one scooter, and while this is certianly manageable be aware that there are quite a few steep sections of road where the person on the back might have to quickly jump off so the scooter has enough power to reach the top!

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Bonus Activity: Cheeseburger Cheeseburger!

I feel almost guilty admitting this one, but while we were on Koh Samui a new eatery opened up, and as we are travelling long-term we have no qualms about indulging in some delicious western food! And Cheeseburger Cheeseburger, at the entrance to the Bophut Fisherman's Village, hits the spot BIG TIME. It's what I ate for lunch on my 25th birthday and it was soooo good. In fact, the vanilla milkshake was the best I've had in my life - I'd go all the way back to Koh Samui even if just for a Cheeseburger Cheeseburger milkshake - its THAT good! On the pricey side (as in, similar to what you would pay at home) but you are promised the #1 cheeseburger on Samui, so totally worth the splurge.

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There you have it, my favourite activities in Koh Samui. Enjoy your trip!

Have you visited Koh Samui or any of the Thai Islands? What was your favourite thing you did there?


Thanks for reading! Let me know in the comments if you enjoyed this post. Don’t forget to follow me on BloglovinInstagram & Twitter to stay up to date with The Butterfly Editions!



3 Things I Love About Christchurch, New Zealand

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I've been invited to share three things I love about my favourite city, as part of Accor Hotels 'A Tale of Three Cities' promotion.

My favourite city in the world? This has had me thinking for quite some time - there are so many cities I love, how on earth can I pick a favourite!

Despite leaving New Zealand to travel the globe, I am a proud Kiwi and love my home country to bits. So of course my favourite city has to be in New Zealand! But I have already lived in four different New Zealand cities, and loved each of them for different reasons, so how would I be able to choose?

Not to worry, guys - I managed to figure it out. Despite being very partial to my hometown of Nelson, before I left to go travelling I lived in Christchurch for 1.5 years and found so many things I love about that little city that I simply have to share with you.

With a population of around 400,000, Christchurch is New Zealand's third-largest city, though compared with many cities of the world it is just teeny-tiny!

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A little story before I convince you Christchurch is worth a visit...

Just the other day I was chatting to a European traveller who had spent a couple of months travelling around New Zealand a couple of years ago. He was advised by many travellers not to bother going to Christchurch, especially since the devastating 2011 earthquake (which destroyed the entire central city and very sadly killed 185 people). Ignoring the advice he was given, the traveller I was speaking with visited Christchurch anyway and loved it there - of course I absolutely agree with him, Christchurch is an incredible city!

Read on for three (of many!) reasons why I love Christchurch, New Zealand.

1. It is New Zealand's 'Garden City'

Christchurch is not nicknamed 'Garden City' for no reason! There are a number of parks and gardens in and around the city. Hagley Park and the Botanical Gardens are both in the central city and can be enjoyed any time of the year. In fact, I used to spend half an hour wandering through the Botanic Gardens nearly every single day on my lunch break and would always return to the office feeling refreshed and revived.

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Perhaps my very favourite area is the Daffodil Woodland during spring - vibrant yellow flowers peeking out of the lush green grass in every direction you look.

You can download a walking guide to the Botanic Gardens here, so you don't miss any of the stunning foliage the gardens have on show!

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2. The Creative Temporary Inner-City

When I lived in Christchurch I worked in the inner city, an area that as I mentioned above was almost completely devastated by the earthquakes. The city centre continues to be in a constant state of change - buildings coming down, new buildings going up - meaning there are many empty sites all around the city as businesses slowly trickle back into the CBD during this lengthy rebuild phase.

You may have heard of the Re:Start Container Mall, which is a shopping area built entirely out of shipping containers! Along with the nearby iconic Ballantynes Department Store, it is now one of the city centre's most popular destinations.

Container Mall Christchurch

There is also an initiative called Gap Filler which is AWESOME. They have helped create fun and build hope in this destroyed city, with creative, colourful and exciting 'gap fillers' to make the most of empty lots and turn them into something engaging.

"Gap Filler is a creative urban regeneration initiative that temporarily activates vacant sites within Christchurch with cool and creative projects, to make for a more interesting and vibrant city.

We utilise vacant sites and spaces for temporary, creative, people-centred purposes. We work with local community groups, artists, architects, landowners, librarians, designers, students, engineers, dancers – anyone with an idea and initiative."

Perhaps my favourite Gap Filler was the Pallet Pavillion which was a semi-permanent events venue built from, yup you guessed it, pallets! I went to Christchurch's Holi festival there and it was brilliant. I also love the different art installations around town, which add colour and vibrancy to the CBD. There is now a cool Gap Filler called The Commons which holds all sorts of events and is dubbed a "hub of transitional activity", in fact I believe the Holi festival will be held there this year instead.

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3. Nearby to Nature

It is true that no matter where you are in New Zealand, you are never very far from being able to completely submerge yourself in nature. From my humble opinion, Christchurch is one of the best places in the country to base yourself for tonnes of fun outdoor activities in the midst of nature.

Probably my most favourite (and FREE!) activity EVER is Cave Stream, about an hour's drive from Christchurch. Like the name suggests, this is essentially a pitch-black cave with a stream running through it, including a 3-metre waterfall! You wade in one end and out the other - 362 metres later! Take a headlamp, some buddies and some courage, and venture through! Use your common sense and don't go after it has been raining or the forecast is for rain, don't go unprepared, and always tell someone where you are going - this is a dangerous activity, don't say I didn't warn you! Read this for more information.

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Other favourite activities of mine within a one-hour or so drive of Christchurch are...

Castle Hill - a series of incredible rock formations to explore, nearby Cave Stream.

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Ashley Gorge - this is a great spot for camping and summer picnics!

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The Port Hills, near the central city and home to my favourite Rapaki Track.

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Amberley Beach - a small camping spot run by an honesty-box system. Not to mention they do not skimp on ice cream scoops in this little community so be sure to get your compulsory NZ Hokey Pokey ice cream fix here!

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Skiing at Mt Hutt

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Taylor's Mistake - a picturesque beach and the starting point for an incredible coastal walk.

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Oh, I could go on! There you have it - three things I love about Christchurch. A city that has changed so much over the last few years, and will continue to change into the future. A beautiful city of hope, of adventure and creativity, thats only going to get better!

Thank you, Accor Hotels, for reminding me why I love my favourite city so much.

Share something you love about your favourite city in the comments!


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Travel Budget & Summary: Malaysia

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Oh hey there! Its time to talk money again! Specifically, what we spent in Malaysia during our five weeks there.

Before we get into the dollars again (here's the first budget post I wrote on our month in Indonesia), the best way to describe our travel style is not uber-cheap - we are travellers on a budget, that like good value and comfort, and I'm sure our spending reflects that.

The reason I am sharing this information is because, like I mentioned in my last budget post, if this can inspire just one reader to realise that living your travel dream is financially possible - and not as scary as it looks - then this will all be worth it!

Right, let's get started.

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Malaysia: Our Itinerary

…interlude as we hopped over to Singapore for 5 nights, before returning to Malaysia…

As New Zealand citizens we received a 90-day visa on arrival into Malaysia (we flew from Jakarta, Indonesia to Kuala Lumpur). We stayed in Malaysia for 34 nights.

In the beauty of hindsight, had we factored Singapore into our itinerary earlier on, we could have saved a chunk of money by flying from Jakarta into Singapore and then working our way up the island, instead of flying from Singapore to Kota Bahru (the jumping off point for the Perhentian Islands). However we had booked the Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur flight back in New Zealand before we left and it was a budget-conscious decision at the time. You live and you learn, right!

Especially in the second half of our time in Malaysia, we relished in moving more slowly and staying in places for at least a week. I loved travelling a bit slower, as it gave us time to unpack a little, settle in, get our bearings, find and frequent some of our favourite restaurants etc.

We considered travelling to Borneo, however after splurging in Singapore and in favour of travelling more slowly throughout Peninsular Malaysia, we decided we will visit Borneo on another occasion when we have more time and money!

Malaysia: Travel Budget Breakdown

Please note these costs are in New Zealand dollars (NZD), unless otherwise stated.

Total we spent over 34 days for two people: $2,916 ($1,458 per person)

Daily average per person: $42.90 (our daily budget is $50 each)

We came in 19% under our maximum budget.

Category Breakdown (Note these costs are for two people and I have rounded to the nearest dollar):
  • Accommodation: $918
  • Food and drink: $968
  • Transport: $679 (this includes a rather expensive last minute Air Asia flight from Singapore to Kota Bahru)
  • Entertainment/attractions: $189
  • Visas: VOA is free!
  • Shopping: $145 (seemingly lots of little things like some multi-vitamins, sunblock, paracetamol, toiletries, sunglasses & too many snacks!)
  • Laundry: $17

Summary

Accommodation

On average we spent $27 per night on accommodation ($13.50 each). Though we probably could have stayed in places a bit cheaper sometimes, Malaysia budget accommodation on-the-whole is definitely priced slightly on the higher side, with less value for money. We continued to use Agoda for most of our bookings because not only do we love a good deal, we love to pay in New Zealand dollars (no conversion fees, hooray!). We still tried to book rooms with breakfast included, however do read my comment on food further below…these breakfasts were typically nothing special! We continued to stay in private double rooms, though often had shared bathrooms - these are pretty common throughout Malaysia - with varying levels of luxury and cleanliness.

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Food

We spent about $28 a day on food and drink for both of us - again slightly on the higher side, however we stayed in quite a few places where breakfast was not included which pushed that price up. Also, food on more remote places like the Perhentian Islands tended to be more expensive.

I loved the variety of food on offer in Malaysia! Indian, Malay, Chinese, Western, and sometimes a combination of them all. Coming from Indonesia where the food was ‘just okay’ to me, Malaysia literally blew my mind with diversity and food options! In Penang, known as a foodie’s heaven, there is a pamphlet you can pickup from most guesthouses with all of the local specialties (and there are a lot!), we had fun trying many of these and ticking them off the list. Some we liked, some we didn’t like so much - but thats the exciting part!

Unfortunately “included” guesthouse breakfasts typically lacked variety, usually consisting of just toast and jam…boring! Though I must make special mention to our accommodation in Kuala Lumpur, Matahari Lodge, where they had quite possibly the most delicious peanut butter in the world. A thick lather of that was enough to get you through to lunchtime!

I may have kicked my cornetto habit, unfortunately in favour of the odd oreo mcflurry…I had far too many of these in Malaysia! I justified it by saying I would simply burn it off come our month of Muay Thai training in Thailand…but I’m not sure that justified the cost. Oh well, we can’t all be perfect, can we!

Alcohol took a backseat in Malaysia, as it is very expensive (i.e. on par with what you would pay for a beer back home in New Zealand, $6-8 a pop). We had just a handful of beers throughout our time there, until we reached duty-free Langkawi and beer was once again a bargain. One or two enjoyed on our little porch most evenings became the norm, though Langkawi certainly isn’t a party island at all (which is fine by me!).

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Transport

Scooter rental was more expensive in Malaysia than in Indonesia, so we only rented a scooter in Langkawi, and even then we didn’t hire one for our entire stay. Our scooter rental there cost us almost $10 a day, which was on the higher side but also super convenient as we rented directly through our accommodation so returning it was a breeze.

We had hoped to use trains in Malaysia, however unfortunately our route was not very harmonious with the railway system! So busses it was, most of the way. Malaysia’s roads are amazing, and their busses very efficient and affordable, so travelling by bus wasn’t a problem at all. We bussed from Kuala Lumpur to Malacca, then onwards to Singapore - both which were very comfortable and spacious. We then flew from Singapore to Kota Bahru (a 1.5 hour flight versus a 2-day bus/train journey…um yeah), and shared a taxi with some fellow travellers to Kuala Besut pier before catching a boat to the Perhentian Islands. After the Perhentian Islands we took a tourist minivan to the Cameron Highlands (local busses on that route are either non-existent or few and far between), and again took a tourist minivan onwards to the island of Penang. Finally, it was just a couple of hours on a ferry from Penang through to our final stop, the paradise of Langkawi!

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Overall, despite coming under budget our spending in Malaysia was quite high. We could have probably done it a bit cheaper, but at the end of the day this is our lifestyle for the time being and we don’t mind spending extra on a few comforts! Malaysia has the reputation of being one of South East Asia’a more expensive destinations, so I’m perfectly happy that we came out under budget.

Have you travelled to Malaysia? Is it a country you would be interested in visiting?


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Muay Thai Training in Thailand: The Gear and Essentials You’ll Need

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From six days a week of Muay Thai training in Thailand over the last few weeks there are a few things I have quickly learned are essentials! If you are a Muay Thai beginner like I was (and, uh, very much still am!), read on for a complete list of gear you'll need for your training.

I've sorted this into two lists: Gear, and other essentials.

Gear

Depending on your Muay Thai gym most gear can be borrowed, however this can be a little gross and smelly (Muay Thai is one VERY sweaty sport!).

  • Boxing gloves

    I have a pair of Twins 12oz gloves (pink, of course!). Gloves are sized depending on the thickness of the padding, most gloves range from 8oz to 16oz. It would pay to check with the gym you plan on training at to check their requirements, as some may require 16oz gloves for beginners. I'm happy with my 12oz and would recommend this size for a beginner female, these protect your fists pretty well and I probably don't punch hard enough to get sore hands anyway! I purchased these on Koh Samui in a local Muay Thai store and they cost me about NZD$80. If you buy locally make sure you buy from a reputable Muay Thai store to ensure your gear is authentic. Also make sure you try them on to make sure they fit, they shouldn't be tight, you'll probably be wearing hand wraps underneath so there needs to be some space.

  • Hand wraps

    Can be purchased for pretty cheap (around NZD$10) but I've been borrowing mine so far. We wear these for most of the training session, also beneath our gloves. Hand wraps make me feel bad-ass.

  • At least two full sets of sports clothing

    More if you can fit it in your luggage! Two hours of Muay Thai training in Thailand will have you dripping with sweat, unlike anything you've experienced before. Imagine a two hour workout in a hot yoga studio and you'll begin to get the idea! I have two sports bras, two workout shorts and two tops plus a few pairs of socks that I've been hand-washing and rotating. I wish I had more!

  • Sports shoes

    Despite being barefoot for all the technique/skill training and while you're in the ring, the first 20-30 minutes of our classes are always dedicated to a cardio warm-up. You'll likely start with a run or skipping rope, if you don't have shoes you'll have no option other than the torture of the skipping rope. Bring shoes and make sure you give yourself the choice of going for a run!

  • Shinguards (not essential)

    Mostly to be worn during sparring to protect your shins. I haven't sparred (don't fancy getting punched in the face, thanks!) so I don't have any - though I do have multiple bruises on my shins!

  • Mouthguard (not essential)

    Again, if you're planning on sparring you'll probably need one of these.

  • Groin Guard (not essential)

    Only if you plan on serious sparring.

  • Muay Thai shorts (not essential)

    Most of the guys wear Muay Thai shorts to training, but can I point out that most of these guys are pros, or have been training for years! I'd like some Muay Thai shorts but am waiting until I feel confident in my skill before I go ahead and buy some. Just a worthwhile note for other females, I have read that the pink shorts are typically worn by the elite - as in you earn the right to wear pink. I don't think it would be too big of a deal, but its probably safer to avoid the pink shorts and choose another colour instead.

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Other Essentials

This is just to give an idea of other items you'll need over the month that are related to your Muay Thai training. You can buy these along the way and top up as needed.

  • Washing powder

    Remember the sports clothing I mentioned above? Yep, after each session you'll be hand-washing it straight away in the shower/sink and hanging it out to dry for your session the next morning. Washing powder does a much better job of removing the sweat stench (an unfortunate truth) than hand soap. Trust me.

  • Shampoo and conditioner

    Your hair will be so drenched with sweat after each training session that you'll be dying to jump straight into the shower and wash it. If you're training twice a day you'll be washing and conditioning your hair twice a day too. I thought I'd get away with just washing my hair every now and then, but no, this kind of sweat-head is too far gone for dry shampoo to fix.

  • Drinking water

    Dont skimp on drinking water! I feel sorry for people who unknowingly turn up to class with a small 600ml water bottle, which is maybe enough to get through the first half hour of class. Especially in Thailand's heat, you're going to need at least a 1.5 litre bottle per session. Because you can't drink tap water in Thailand, its cheapest to buy them in 6 packs (around 50-60 baht, $2 NZD), and store them in your room.

  • Plasters, strapping tape and antiseptic cream

    Blisters on your feet are common, as is taking the skin off your knuckles. Strapping tape is essential as band-aids alone will slip off the moment you start sweating! Be sure to use antiseptic cream on any wounds as you're standing in other people's sweat all the time - yuck.

  • Hardcore hair-ties

    You don't want your hair falling out, especially not while you're in the ring with your gloves on - annoying! Invest in plenty of durable, strong hair-ties. On that note make sure your hairstyle is going to work for you - instead of a ponytail, I usually wear mine in a tight bun or a french braid, as I find my hair comes out less knotty after two hours of training. Knotty hair does not make for a happy Christie, Alan will attest to that.

  • Patience

    Unfortunately this isn't something you buy, but you'll certainly need it none-the-less. Particularly if you have never done martial arts/boxing before you are going to be incredibly frustrated with your uselessness, just like I was. Instead of being embarrassed every time the trainers come around and correct your form, take what they are saying onboard and try as hard as you can not to make the same mistake again! There is a lot to learn and it just takes time, commitment and patience.

If I discover anything else over the next couple of weeks I'll add it to this list, but for me as an absolute beginner I feel that this covers the essentials. Let me know if you've got any further suggestions!

Would you be interested in training Muay Thai in Thailand?


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Travel Budget & Summary: Indonesia

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So here it comes, the first of many travel budget posts, in which I disclose exactly how much money we have spent in each country we travel through.

I've been umm-ing and aah-ing over whether or not to write these kinds of posts. Talking about money is a very private subject and I worry about being judged about our style of travel by others - while we consider ourselves budget travellers, we certainly do not rough it. Some will read this and scoff that we could have done it a lot cheaper (yes, its true!), whereas others will wonder how it is possible to spend so little on a month long trip for two people!

However, I have decided to go ahead divulge exactly what we are spending on the road, as Alan and I found these kinds of posts by a number of different bloggers insanely helpful while planning how much money we needed to make this trip possible. If this can inspire just one reader to realise that living your travel dream is financially possible - and not as scary as it looks - then this will all be worth it!

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The life of a backpacker ain't so bad - Ubud, Bali

Indonesia: Our Itinerary

As New Zealand citizens, we received a 30 day visa on arrival into Indonesia (we flew into Denpasar, Bali). We stayed in Indonesia for 28 nights, and visited a grand total of four islands. Indonesia consists of more than 17,000 islands, so we barely scratched the surface!

Indonesia: Travel Budget Breakdown

Please note these costs are in New Zealand dollars (NZD), unless otherwise stated.

Total we spent over 29 days for two people: $2,307.45 ($1,153.73 per person)

Daily average per person: $39.80 (our daily budget is $50 each)

We came in 20% under our maximum budget - hooray! How about a category breakdown? Note these costs are for two people and I have rounded to the nearest dollar.

  • Accommodation: $710
  • Food and drink: $700
  • Transport: $520
  • Entertainment/attractions: $201
  • Visas: USD$70 ($35 each for visa on arrival)
  • Shopping: $50 (this includes items like shampoo and soap, but is very high for Indonesia because we purchased our Southeast Asia on a Shoestring Lonely Planet on the way to Bali!)
  • Massages: $47
  • Laundry: $10

Summary

Accommodation

On average we spent about $25 per night on accommodation ($12.50 each), however some places came in well under $20 a night and others we splurged on $30 or more a night - its all about balance, right?

We use Agoda for the majority of our bookings as they have great value 'insider' deals, and most importantly it means we can pay in New Zealand dollars via credit card, which saves us in both currency conversion fees and ATM withdrawal fees!

We always try and book accommodation that includes breakfast, to help offset the cost of food. All but two of our accommodations in Indonesia included breakfast.

We stayed in private double rooms, mostly at guesthouse style accommodations. Private bathrooms (as in, adjoined to your room and not shared) are common in Indonesia, and all of our rooms had them.

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Food

On average we spent about $25 a day on food and drink, for both of us. Mostly, this included lunch and dinner, as breakfast was usually included with the accommodation. Some of our cheapest meals were $2 for both of us (crazy cheap!), whereas our more expensive ones were western food and hovered between $15 and $20 for two (mainly Yogyakarta and Ubud). An average meal of a plate of noodles or rice-based dish with a smoothie at a sit down restaurant, cost about $8 for both of us.

This category also includes beer, which we would have most days (often one with dinner, sometimes a couple more), plus our unhealthy obsession with pringles and cornetto ice creams which is a bad habit that we are working on! Beers typically cost about 20,000 - 30,000 rupiah each ($2-3). We also had quite an unnecessary splurge on Starbucks at Jakarta airport on our final morning, ridding our wallets of our remaining rupiah.

Kuta Beach

Transport

We hired a scooter in Ubud, Nusa Lembongan and Lovina, costing us between $5-8 a day. We love the independence of having a scooter!

We used tourist buses to get from place to place in Bali, and a mixture of local and minibuses throughout Java. We wanted to catch trains but unfortunately our route didn't really make much sense to take the railway, we would have had to combine with bus travel making it more expensive and more complicated. Long, sticky bus journeys were the best way round for us.

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We were really pleased with ourselves for coming in well under budget in Indonesia - so much so that we splurged much of what we had saved on visiting Universal Studios in Singapore! Because, um, YOLO. But thats a story for another time.

Tell me what you think - is it interesting to read about our travel budget? Are you surprised with how little (or how much) Indonesia cost us?


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