Welcome to The Butterfly Editions.
I’m Christie. I created The Butterfly Editions to share my travel experiences and connect with travellers around the globe. You’re in the right place to find plenty of information and inspiration for your future travels. Enjoy!
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Oh hey there! How's it going? Good, I hope.
I guess its about time for a little update. If you have still been popping by, you might have noticed that I haven’t been hanging around here lately.
Where on earth am I? What happened? What's going on?
I really didn’t expect to ever have to write a post like this, and to be honest, I’ve been putting it off tremendously. But, I feel like these words simply have to come out before I can carry on.
When you last heard from me, Alan and I were happily exploring Cambodia - then all of a sudden I seem to have fallen off the blogging radar. I haven’t posted on my blog, have barely looked at my Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and all those things we seem to think are so important - but that I’ve quickly come to realise at a time like this they are right at the very bottom of my priorities…and actually make me feel worse.
I had to return home for health reasons, requiring an unexpected and fairly major surgery. By the time I arrived home I remember saying that I’d cried so much that I’d literally run out of tears. I think most of the tears are for my travel dream, that now feels like its been shattered into a million pieces just out of my reach.
I left my spirit in Asia. Thats the best way I’ve been able to describe how I feel right now.
I gave up so much to follow this dream and I guess I just feel cheated. I gave up a stable job, a decent income and my comfortable home to chase this dream I’d had for as long as I can remember - and to have returned this much earlier than planned feels like...failure.
Deep down, I know that I’m very lucky. I could have had long-term health implications. I could have had no “home” to return to. For goodness sake, I travelled through Asia for more than six months - a continent where many will never leave their own village, let alone their country. I’m indescribably privileged to be able to consider travel as an option, not to mention be freely on the move constantly for as long as Alan and I did.
I’ve taken a long break from my blog. The honest truth? It's been too upsetting for me to reflect on our travels, too difficult to write these words, too many tears escaping every time my mind revisits my incomplete travels.
However, it's time to carry on with what I started. I'm digging deep into my dreams, adapting my plans, moving onwards and upwards. There are plenty of posts to come here on the Butterfly Editions, along with some exciting changes over the next few months.
So, there's the simplified version of the story. For the time being, Alan and I are living in my hometown of Nelson, New Zealand. It hasn’t been an easy few months, and I’m still not quite finished dealing with what happened yet. Fake it till you make it, right? But hey, we all get there in the end, don’t we!
Some life changes look negative and painful on the surface, but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new and beautiful to emerge.
- Eckhart Tolle
For those of you that continue to follow along with my journey - thank you. I sure hope you stick around for whats to come!
WOW. Today marks exactly six months since Alan and I packed up our little home in Christchurch, New Zealand, prepared to spend all our savings (eek!), and set off to travel through Asia. In many ways it feels like we have been gone for so long, though in other ways it feels like just yesterday that we left.
As this six month milestone whizzes by, I'm feeling reflective on whats changed in my life over the past half year. It's been an absolute whirlwind - I have learnt a lot about the world, about myself, my values, my hopes and dreams, about the kind of life I want to lead. In many ways I have gained a lot of clarity, but in other ways I'm more confused than ever.
Especially travelling in Asia where many people live on so little, it makes you question a lot about humanity, your morals and what you truly need in order to be happy. I'm not going to get into that today, though - I'll stew that one up and get all deep and meaningful on you another time!
I love a good list (who doesn't?) so I thought it might be interesting to reflect on the past six months of travel with a list of the numbers. Ready? Here we go!
Days on the road: 182 (exactly 26 weeks!)
Countries visited: 7
Beds slept in: 41
Inter-city busses: 30. Including 2 overnight busses, we've managed to avoid more than that!
Local busses: too many to count!
Scooters hired: 10
Inter-city trains: 4
Metro/subway/MRT rides: dozens!
Boat trips: 18
Arguments between Alan and I: 1,000+
Dentists visited: 1 (Alan)
Bouts of food poisoning: just 1 so far! (me)
Crickets consumed: 2 for me and 4 for Alan...yep, I'm talking about the insects!
Theme parks visited: 2 - Universal Studios in Singapore and Vinpearl Island in Vietnam.
Jandals (flip-flops) replaced: 1 pair each.
Mango smoothies consumed: A fair estimate would be 100 each...
Dollars spent: Let's just say my savings are looking a little dry...take a look at my country budget breakdowns if you want to do the maths for yourself.
Panic/stress meltdowns: Christie - approximately 1,000. Alan - zero (how is he so damn chilled out?).
Where we stayed the longest time: Koh Samui, Thailand, where we trained Muay Thai for one month.
Where we stayed the shortest time: Probolinggo, Indonesia, where we arrived at 3am in the morning to experience the Mount Bromo sunrise and left later that afternoon.
1. Canyoning in Dalat, Vietnam. And zooming down waterslides on Vinpearl Island in Vietnam. And slow mornings in Hoi An, Vietnam. Let's just say Vietnam in general, okay? I love Vietnam.
2. Attending my friends' wedding in Huangshi, China.
3. Learning the art of Muay Thai on Koh Samui, Thailand.
But also because three is far too few: Splurging at Universal Studios Singapore. Playing with puppies in Ubud, Bali. Relaxing in waterfalls on Langkawi, Malaysia. And SO many more!
1. Packing. I swear it gets worse and worse every single time.
2. Being tricked into eating dried rat (yep, rat) in Da Lat, Vietnam, only to be told afterwards what it actually was! Though admittedly, until I was told it was rat I was nodding and thinking this wouldn't be too bad mixed in with a bit of rice...
3. The biggest lowlight of them all? Realising that this can't last forever.
POSTED IN: adventure, Asia, Backpacking, budget, dreams, goals, inspiration, journal, life, travel
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Have you also made some silly mistakes while travelling, that you have later learned from? Please share in the comments below!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Proper English tucker at The Cafe Soi 1
Delicious bagels at The Hideout (run by an Aussie guy who also offers vegemite and cheese sammies!)
Swensen's because...ice cream.
Lemon soft-serve at Lemon Hub - refreshing!
Tanita Coffee House, where you can relax the entire afternoon away
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
I found a swing!
Wat Phra Singh
Three Kings Monument
The Night Bazaar, Saturday Market and Sunday Market
Walking a loop of the city's moat
People-watching at Suan Buak Hat
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.
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!
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, 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.
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?
Emma also has a directory of Female Muay Thai Blogs and Websites that may have some further helpful information, insights and resources for you!
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.
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!
POSTED IN: adventure, Asia, dreams, fitness, goals, inspiration, Koh Samui, life, Muay Thai, Thailand, travel, workout
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.
Malaysia: Our Itinerary
…interlude as we hopped over to Singapore for 5 nights, before returning to Malaysia…
- 5 nights Perhentian Islands
- 6 nights Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands
- 7 nights Georgetown, Penang
- 9 nights Pantai Cenang, Langkawi
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
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.
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!).
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!
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?
POSTED IN: adventure, Asia, Backpacking, budget, inspiration, life, Malaysia, Money, travel
After not loving the Perhentian Islands, I was unsure what to expect as we cruised into Kuah, Langkawi.
It was our last stop in Malaysia and we were here for 10 days, before we passed through customs once more and ferried over to our next port-of-call: Thailand. Langkawi was another place of which I had heard very mixed opinions, so I wasn't sure whether I'd like it or not.
After ten days on this tropical island, let me put it bluntly: people who say they do not like Langkawi are either, a) CRAZY or b) LYING.
Langkawi is P-E-R-F-E-C-T.
I may have repeated over and over to Alan that Langkawi was paradise. Perhaps I shed a tear or two as we boarded our ferry to depart 10 days later…yep, I loved Langkawi so much that I was SAD to go to Thailand. Seriously!
So why did I love Langkawi so much? Here are ten things that makes this perfect island special...
1. Roving Night Market
Langkawi has a night market that is in a different location every evening of the week. Given the island’s relatively small size (you can easily drive around it in a couple of hours), we often came across the night market after a day’s escapades.
We ate from the Roving Night Market three times, and enjoyed the variety of noodles, rice dishes, items on sticks and other snacky foods (spring rolls! donuts!) on offer. Tasty and cheap.
2. Pantai Cenang
Langkawi’s liveliest beach, Pantai Cenang, is popular for perfectly good reason. It is absolutely stunning. Do I need to say more or can I just let these photos do the talking?
Other beaches of honourable mention include Black Sand beach for a sunset stroll and the secluded Pasir Tenkorak beach for a tranquil escape.
Black Sand Beach (Pantai Pasir Hitam)
Pasir Tenkorak beach
Langkawi taught Alan and I that we are both waterfall people. Is there such a thing? We love beaches, sure, but after a couple of hours are ready to move on and do something else. At waterfalls, however, we can unknowingly spend hours.
Seven Wells Waterfall (Telaga Tujuh) was our favourite, so much so that we went back twice. You can swim at the bottom of the waterfall which is lovely (though rather busy), however it seems that not many people realise you can walk to the top of the waterfall, and literally stand at the top looking down over the waterfall below. There are different pools you can relax in, natural water slides you can coast down and a rock you can jump off.
Best of all, the cool water is a refreshing break from the island’s intense heat.
We also visited Temurun and Durian Perangin waterfalls, both of which were also pretty magical.
Durian Perangin Waterfall
The number one rule of Langkawi’s waterfalls is: watch out for the monkeys! The cheeky devils will try and steal your things, and anything within a plastic bag they will think is food. Watch your stuff and don’t leave it close to the bush. Watch yourself too - I was minding my own business eating a biscuit from a plastic wrapper when Alan yelled at me to look out for the monkey, it was creeping up behind me and within centimetres of entering my bag for some goodies!
4. Rainbow Lodge
Rainbow Lodge in Cenang was perfect for us. This budget lodge is set back from the main road so is peaceful and quiet. Our room was spacious and clean, the hammock on the front frequently used to peacefully sip a beer as the sun went down.
Turns out it’s mentioned in the Lonely Planet - we didn’t even realise it was a recommendation until we were skimming through the Langkawi section when we were already staying there!
Just down the road is the best place to start your day where we ate breakfast for most of our stay. The friendly owner chit chats with you about life, business and rugby as he prepares your food, and it is always delicious. Perhaps my biggest stress on chilled out Langkawi was whether to have the scrambled eggs on toast or the muesli/fruit/yoghurt - because both were breakfast heaven to me! (Can't recall the name of the cafe for the life of me, but its the one with the umbrellas out on the left as you head towards the main road from Rainbow Lodge, if you're interested. Only open for breakfast!)
5. Skycab Cable Car
We ummed and ached over justifying a trip up the hill on the the pricey (for us!) Langkawi Cable Car. Eventually we decided to just do it and forked over the 35 ringgit each, though perhaps only because it was so close to the Seven Wells waterfall that it justified us a second visit.
Departing from the very touristy and slightly odd ‘Oriental Village’ complex, the process to actually get on the Skycab is not simple, made especially difficult in the 30+ degree heat. We showed up around 11am and were issued a ticket for the 12.15pm boarding time. Why one needs a boarding time for a cable car (what we would call a gondola in New Zealand) of which there is a new ‘car’ coming by every 10 seconds or so is confusing.
You wait in the scorching sun for your boarding time to be called, then everyone scrambles and pushes into something resembling a queue. Slowly you weave your way through, up some stairs, wind around for another half hour or so until you reach the theatre. You’re then ushered into the theatre (which is part of your ticket) where you sit in these chairs that lean right back and watch a couple of different short 3D movies above you (I was skeptical of this but it was actually really awesome!). About 5 minutes later, thats over and you rejoin the queue for another 10 minutes or so until we finally we able to board our cable car! Let’s just say, I’m glad I took snacks.
Why you don’t just enter the queue as you buy your ticket, I don’t know…but hey, we got there in the end. And just look at what we we able to see!
If you go on the Skycab my advice would be: 1) get there when they open, 2) expect it to be confusing and difficult, 3) it takes a long time so take snacks, 4) but expect the views from the top to be worth it!
There is so much to do on Langkawi! Perhaps thats why I loved it so much more than the Perhentian Islands?
Some days we would spend ambling around Cenang with the bliss-inducing recipe of sunbathing a little, swimming a little, eating a little, then repeat over.
However, my favourite days of all were those where we hired a scooter and explored the island.
Where we veered down side roads, got lost and found ourselves again...and again. Getting lost is the best way to explore, in my opinion!
7. Scarborough Fish N' Chip Restaurant
Guys, I’m from New Zealand, where indulging in a greasy pile of fish and chips is integral to our culture! Surely it would be insensitive to my homeland if I weren’t to indulge in a giant plate of fish and chips that comes so highly recommended on TripAdvisor?
Though not remotely Malaysian in taste, these fish and chips were fantastic, on par with the incredible surrounds we were able to enjoy them in. Deliciously blissful.
Scarborough Fish N' Chip Restaurant is located on Tanjung Rhu Beach.
8. Guning Raya
The highest peak on Langkawi, we commandeered the scooter up Guning Raya one moody, misty afternoon.
Its a long and windy drive, though despite reaching the top with a numb bum and having slightly underestimated our petrol situation (we had to drift most of the way back down, oops), it was worth every moment for these views.
You can pay 10 ringgit ($4 NZ) to go up the tower for what I’m sure are spectacular 360* panoramic views, but we chose to keep our wallets happy and take in what we could from just below.
Seriously though. Langkawi’s landscapes, I just can’t get enough!
9. Blues and Greens
Everywhere I looked in Langkawi there was intense colour. Bold blues and vibrant greens, every hue nature could have possibly created. Again, I just can't get enough!
10. I felt relaxed in Langkawi.
Why yes, that’s a big deal for me!
In Langkawi I felt whole, happy, and present in the moment. I didn’t wear a watch for the first time since we started our trip. I didn’t worry about planning the day, about seeing/doing every single little thing, and about organising any future travel.
Langkawi made me feel free. Zipping around the island, wind sweeping through my hair. Sliding down waterfall rocks, not a care in the world. Easy afternoons spent writing, reading or dreaming as rain pattered down outside. In Langkawi, the days drifted by, simply.
I’ve thought about Langkawi just about every day since we left. While I’ve loved many places we have visited on this trip and other travel I’ve done, there is something about Langkawi that stole my heart.
If I had to name paradise, Langkawi would be it.
Have you visited Langkawi? Did you love it as much as I did?
In the two weeks since we left our beloved Superpro on Koh Samui, we have stayed in four different towns/cities, and five different guesthouses. After staying in a single place for one glorious month I had forgotten how much moving around and having just a couple of days somewhere makes you busy, busy, busy!
Not to mention some unfortunate food-poisoning-laced Tofu Noodle Soup, along with the fact we have been spending hours upon hours (upon HOURS) putting together our three-week itinerary to obtain our China visas (which we leave for on December 29th!), my stressed out little brain has had little time for my beloved little corner of the internet.
But I digress!
Though Week 4 of Muay Thai training in Thailand may have ended over two weeks ago... better late than never, right? Let's talk about our final week at Superpro Samui!
Week 4 was a fun one. We knew we were coming to the end of our time there so were making the most of our last few days with our group of friends. We continued to train every day, except Saturday as our bus picked us up early in the morning, onwards to our next adventure!
Classes were feeling easier (though by no means does that mean they were easy!), and I noticed how much fitness I'd gained in the past three weeks. It was still hard to make it to the top of the hill each morning on those killer runs, but it was certainly easier! Since I first made it up without stopping at the end of Week 1, I never once walked up the hill again - a physical and mental feat I am proud of.
The rounds in the ring were also noticeably easier to get through. In Weeks 1 and 2, I was dying by the third round, but by Week 4 I could get through four three minute rounds with energy, even though I consistently sucked at the compulsory push-ups between rounds. I was still being corrected on my form, but was coming out of the ring with a touch of energy remaining, enough to get through to the end of class.
As I mentioned earlier, Week 4 definitely became more about our friends. Training was just a mere side-activity! We enjoyed plenty of dinners out, revisiting some of our favourite local haunts and some last-minute sightseeing before we left.
The most epic night of all was our final night on Koh Samui. Everybody squeezed into our little studio apartment and we ruined the last four weeks of hard work by noshing down on copious amounts of chips, cheese and crackers. Later on we headed out for dinner to one of our favourites: Wine Connection at Central Festival (100 baht red wine, yes please!). Perhaps a few too many glasses of wine and Spy wine coolers later, my head was spinning adequately as I drifted off to sleep. A night of lots of fun and a million selfies, but also very sad to to say goodbye to some of my favourite people. Thank goodness for Facebook, right?
Before we arrived to Superpro Samui, I had absolutely no idea what Muay Thai training in Thailand was going to be like. And I suppose for everybody, depending on your goals and reasons for being there, nobody will come away with the same experience.
However, it certainly came as a surprise to me (and Alan), that not only did I handle an entire month of this full on training schedule in a sport I had absolutely zero prior knowledge about, I really ENJOYED it!
Even when I was frustrated because I just couldn't get the technique right. Even when my alarm bleeped at 7.30 in the morning telling me it was time to wake up. Even when I arrived at the bottom of that damn hill, looked up, and knew that a hellish run was ahead of me. Even when I cried in the shower after my first ever training wondering how on earth I would get through the whole month.
I'm so, so happy I pushed through the pain and did this.
I'm super proud of my month training Muay Thai in Thailand. Not only did I learn some new bad-ass self defence skills, discover a new sport that I enjoy (I don't mind watching the fighting, though can't see myself ever doing that thanks!), and exercise more often and with more intensity than I ever have before - there is one thing that I am proud of above all else:
I did something completely out of my comfort zone, something that scared the living daylights out of me, and I enjoyed it!
That's what makes me proudest of all.
I miss Superpro Samui every single day.
If you are a fellow newbie considering Muay Thai training in Thailand, or even if you have never considered it (like me!), but it intrigues you in some way - go for it! You won't regret it.
POSTED IN: adventure, Asia, Backpacking, fitness, goals, health, inspiration, life, Muay Thai, Thailand, travel, workout
Penang was the kind of place that I wanted to take photos of EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME.
I'm guilty of visiting some places where my camera remains untouched in my bag for days, but in Penang - Georgetown especially - I enthusiastically lugged it around pretty much constantly.
In my opinion, every street, every building, every moment, every itsy bitsy detail was worthy of being snapped into the memory bank.
I'll admit I was skeptical of this popular Malaysian island before we arrived. I'd read a few fellow bloggers' posts about being underwhelmed by Penang so I was worried I'd feel the same. I'd also visited as a kid all the way back in 1997 and had some great memories...thankfully I was anything but disappointed!
We stayed seven nights in Georgetown, Penang state's capital city of about 750,000 people. Our days and nights were spent exploring and eating - this UNESCO World Heritage area also has a reputation of being a Foodie's paradise!
The number one rule of ambling the streets of Georgetown is: don't forget to look up! There is incredible creativity at every turn, vivid lanterns piercing the blue sky, and antique wooden shutters hiding stories from the past. Penang blinded me with colour no matter which direction I looked.
Prepare yourself for the onslaught...a plethora of photos of this island I loved.
So what did we get up to?
Georgetown is known for its diverse street art. There is such a creative vibe to this city, I was delighted with what we found at each and every turn.
We picked up a map from our guesthouse and took ourselves on a lengthy DIY walking tour of Georgetown's street art. As well as spotting many of the popular works marked on the map, it was just as fun ducking our heads around corners and getting lost down alleyways - you never know what you might discover!
As we explored the lively streets we welcomed the respite of beautiful temples and mosques, inviting us in for a few moments of peace and gratitude.
Eventually we reached the ocean, and explored some of the Clan Jetties. Established in the late 1800's by Chinese immigrants, some families still reside in these housing settlements built out over the water. Despite slowly developing into what seems to be a string of souvenir shops, a wander down Chew Jetty (and the other five remaining Clan Jetties) remains a worthwhile glimpse into another life - plus some incredible sea views!
Why yes, that is a long drop toilet going directly into the sea!
We meandered Georgetown's lanes of Little India, absorbing the rich aromas of spices cooking and Bollywood music blasting.
Whilst we were there, we couldn't resist grabbing a thali for lunch.
Perhaps followed by a few rainbow-coloured bites of Indian candy?
One evening, as the sun slowly dipped below the horizon, we ventured out of Georgetown to Penang Hill, for a half-price ride (after 7pm) up the funicular!
Boasting spectacular, sweeping views right across the bright lights of Georgetown and all the way back to the mainland, it was worth the expense.
Another day, we laced up our walking shoes and spent an afternoon ambling from Chinatown to Gurney Drive, wandering along the shore and admiring the views back towards the mainland.
While we were nearby, we couldn't miss the Dhammikarama Burmese Buddhist Temple and Wat Chayamangkalaram Thai Buddhist Temple. Breathtaking!
Fort Cornwallis and the Jubilee Clocktower
For a rich lesson in Penang's trading history, we headed to Fort Cornwallis and the Jubilee Clock Tower. Fort Cornwallis was originally built back in the late 1700's, yet has never seen a battle!
The Jubilee Clocktower was built in commemoration of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897. Two interesting facts: 1) it is 60 feet tall, one foot per year of the Queen's reign, and 2) it is ever so slightly on a lean from the impact of bombings during WWII.
Of course, no visit to an island is complete without a day on the beach! From Georgetown, we caught a bus to Batu Ferringhi to feel the sand between our toes and have a laugh at those holding on for dear life on the banana boats.
Once back in Georgetown, why yes, we did indeed visit the local Cat Cafe! It was my first Cat Cafe experience, and despite the decadently delicious chocolate cake I'm not sure I'll be back. The cats were a bit...boring? Puppy cafe, anyone?
In addition to chocolate cake, of course we devoured plenty of tasty food. Penang has plenty of local specialties - and while we did our very best to eat as many as we could, it appears my hands were too busy shovelling food into my mouth rather than getting snap happy with the camera.
However there was one dish in particular that caught my fancy and which I perhaps ate every single day we were there. Without a doubt, the world's most perfect combination of rice noodles, cockles, prawns, bean sprouts and chives, bound together in a deliciously addictive soy sauce.
Char Kway Teow. I love you.
Hawker food centres abound in Georgetown, with anything and everything you could want to eat! If you're staying in Chinatown, Red Garden is worth getting to for dinner.
The constant heat of more than 30 degrees Celsius had us begging to quench our thirst. From many days of arduous research, Alan and I can conclude that fresh apple juice trumps all. You can thank us later.
Relax and Sleep
We escaped some hours of the exhausting heat in our peaceful room. We hunted down a brand spanking new guesthouse, in a perfectly renovated traditional building - I'd be back to stay at Rope Walk Guesthouse in a heartbeat.
We sunk deeply into the bed at night, and lapped up the extravagant shower and its multitude of settings (mist!). Seriously though, how could you resist this outlook from bed, for just NZD$30 a night?
As our guesthouse was very new and relatively unknown, we were the only guests. The friendly staff generously attended to us with delicious food, while insisting we relax and watch some TV.
We were fed fresh Roti Canai for breakfast, and brought peanut pancakes and cendol at just the slight mention that we were interested in trying them.
Oh, Penang, you really got me good.
Penang, I'll be back!
Have you visited Penang? What was your experience like?
POSTED IN: adventure, Asia, Backpacking, food, inspiration, life, Malaysia, Penang, travel
How on earth we are already more than 3/4 of the way through our month training Muay Thai at Superpro Samui is beyond me. I remember Week One going soooo slooooow, but this past week has zoomed by! Where has the time gone and can I have it back now please?
I took training a lot easier this week, after spending last Sunday hobbling around feeling sorry for myself. Two hours of morning Muay Thai training, followed by two hours again in the afternoon, before compulsory Saturday night drinks and dancing on the beach (because hey, I'm on a tropical island), apparently makes for one sore left hip that plagued me for much of the week. Kicking, of which there is plenty in Muay Thai, was not possible for a few days!
I skipped Monday entirely, then took it easy for the rest of week with just one class a day. Ha - its funny how 'taking it easy' was still 10 hours of training in a single week, which is more than I'd EVER do at home! But its all relative I guess.
I was kind of kicking again by Wednesday, and by Thursday was almost back to normal. But then Friday I turned the ripe old age of 25 (when did I grow up?!?!) and I'm pretty sure that's the first time I've ever worked out on my birthday. Of course, I only did it so I could eat without guilt all the cheeseburgers, milkshakes, cake, lollies, chocolate, chips, cheese and wine....that I may have consumed over the course of the day! Needless to say, getting up on Saturday morning for Muay Thai training was quite the challenge so I'm glad it turned out to be the most relaxed class we've had so far.
In terms of the Muay Thai itself, as I say in every weekly update it is bit by bit becoming more natural. Of course I've still got plenty to learn but its surprising how quickly you pick it up when you are training every day in a condensed format like this (as opposed to going once or twice a week like you might for sport's practice at home).
Its funny, because I was chatting to someone here saying how at first I used to enjoy the 20-minute warm up run because it was the part that I could actually do. Now that I can get through the Muay Thai drills without doing everything wrong (more or less, albeit in some awkward beginner way), I actually prefer the Muay Thai part of the class and dread the run! Hill runs suck, why do I choose that route every single day?
On Saturday night we went to watch the fighting in Lamai - there were a couple of women's Muay Thai fights but also three men's fights, and two young boys fighting (which I mostly covered my eyes for - I didn't want to see them hurt!). One of the men's fights ended in a KO (knockout) which was rather exciting and one of the girl's fight in a TKO (technical knockout). Another men's fight also ended in KO and an elbow that had caught him to the eye had his face dripping with blood. Intense much! It was an interesting experience, where its kind of exciting but also nerve-wracking and also rather violent so you're not quite sure how to feel. I think I kind of enjoyed it?
There have been a few goodbyes this week, which is always sad. You have your little group of Muay Thai friends but its always changing as people come and go. It makes me sad to think that its going to be us departing next week - its such a happy little lifestyle here!
I felt like this was a lazy week, but laziness is going to hit me for real when we leave in a week's time to Koh Tao. I am going to do nothing for a few glorious days and soak up every second - just like this water buffalo...
Three weeks down, one to go!
POSTED IN: adventure, Asia, fitness, goals, health, inspiration, life, Muay Thai, Thailand, travel, workout