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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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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.
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!).
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
POSTED IN: adventure, Asia, Backpacking, fitness, goals, health, inspiration, life, Muay Thai, Thailand, travel
As part of the Booked.net - Top Destinations to Go There promotion, I've been invited to share five of my favourite destinations that I've been before and would love to revisit. I thought this was going to be easy, but as I reminisced over wonderful travel memories, narrowing down my favourites proved to be quite the challenge!
Don't stress guys, it sure was tough but I managed to reduce it down to my top 5...in no particular order - that would be way too hard to decide!
1. Palawan, the Philippines
Palawan, a province in the west of the Philippines, probably didn't know what had hit it when four of us on a girl's trip explored the region for three weeks a couple of years back. We spent our days island-hopping from one pristine beach to the next, and danced the nights away drinking copious amounts of pineapple juice with local coconut rum. Throw in a bit of music on the beach and a midnight swim or two, and you have the recipe for what might be the most perfect girls' trip ever. We need to plan a reunion, asap!
2. Langkawi, Malaysia
Even though I was on this beautiful island just a mere few weeks ago, I'm already thinking about when I will revisit Langkawi. To me, Langkawi was paradise! Perfect beaches, incredible waterfalls, easy roads for scootering around but rugged enough that you feel like you're truly discovering the island. We spent nine glorious nights there and I can't even begin to explain how sad I was to leave. Langkawi is the kind of place that you lose track of time in the best way possible, I've never felt so relaxed in my life as I was there.
3. Tortuguero, Costa Rica
It takes a long time to get to Tortuguero village, a tiny and remote township on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast. This peaceful part of the world has no cars, let alone roads, so you get around by boat and foot. Tortuguero was a wonderful place to recharge, with serene landscapes, lush jungle and plenty of wildlife. As the name suggests, Tortuguero is known for the beach on one side of the village where thousands of sea turtles visit to lay their eggs every year. Unfortunately we were there at the wrong time of year to have much chance of seeing turtles, so I'd love to revisit Tortuguero to see the baby turtles waddling down the beach!
India had me captivated since I first ever visited when I was 14, spending a week in Mumbai with my family. I've already revisited as an adult when I backpacked through the country with some friends and my brother two years ago. Despite spending nearly two months there and loving it, I'm desperate to go back again (and I'm sure again and again after that!). India is such an enormous country that I still feel as though I've barely scratched the surface - I'm yet to visit Hampi, Darjeeling, Pondicherry, much of Goa, the list goes on! India is on our travel radar next year, and I can't wait!
5. Milford Sound, New Zealand
Before I visited earlier this year, I had never been to Milford Sound! As one of New Zealand's most popular tourist destinations I was more than excited to visit, and was certainly not disappointed - Milford Sound is stunning! We visited on a wet April day, though Milford Sound is one of those wonderful places where its better to visit when its raining, as the waterfalls become even more impressive. Mind you, its not hard to get to Milford on a rainy day as it is one of the rainiest places on earth! Such a spectacular and serene landscape, I need to get back to convince myself this place is real - its that beautiful.
I'm nominating the following five travel bloggers to share their top five destinations they would love to return to - can't wait to see where you pick! Petra & Shaun of The Global Couple, Leanne of Broke in the Big Smoke, Greg & Katy of Our Dream Adventure, Alissa of The Living Spree, Sara of Big World, Small Me.
Click here for more info on this promotion.
I'd love to know - where have you visited that you would love to return to?
POSTED IN: adventure, Asia, Backpacking, beach, Costa Rica, dreams, India, inspiration, life, Malaysia, New Zealand, Palawan, The Philippines, travel
We arrived into Singapore with just one thing on our minds. Universal Studios!
Though theme parks are not typically in the realms of budget travel (especially when you’re trying to spend less than NZD$50 each a day!), we couldn’t get the idea of Universal Studios out of our heads, so decided to roll with it and treat Singapore as a splurge. YOLO, right?
To backtrack a little, and provide some explanation, Singapore was not even part of our itinerary when we began roughly planning our route before leaving New Zealand. With the reputation of being expensive and sucking the money out of backpackers (spoiler alert: yup, it did!), we booked our flight from Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur thinking we would simply dip down into Malacca before heading up into the northern half of Malaysia for 6 weeks, skipping Singapore altogether.
I don’t recall if it was Alan or I who first mentioned it, but I do remember us being rather delirious on one of our mega Indonesian bus journeys when the idea to visit Universal Studios in Singapore sprouted. As we are both actually children at heart, it was an idea that was very hard to get out of our heads, and it became one of our hot topics of conversation. Needless to say, we were quick to justify that if we came in $500 under budget for our month in Indonesia we would treat ourselves to a few days in Singapore, and a day or two at Universal Studios.
Of course, after making that decision there was no stopping us coming in well under budget in Indonesia (Indonesia is such a cheap country we barely had to try). We ultimately came in more than $600 (!) under budget and unable to think about much else than rollercoasters, we excitedly raced through Kuala Lumpur and Malacca in just seven nights before boarding our bus to Singapore.
Wow, it was one comfy and spacious bus. We were almost disappointed the journey was only five hours long!
The bus stopped in Malaysia’s southern-most city, Johor Bahru, where we switched onto a different, though similar, bus for the last leg of the journey - crossing the bridge into Singapore, checking through immigration and being dropped off at the final stop.
Our hotel was about 3km walk from where the bus dropped us off, so we loaded our packs onto our backs and trudged along the footpath. Despite it being dark (around 7pm), it was still hot and sticky - I was glad it wasn’t any further!
Tip: Make sure you know exactly where you’re being dropped off within Singapore, as there are many, many busses running from Malaysia into Singapore every day, dropping off at all different points over the city. We made sure to book a bus that would drop us closest to out hotel so that we could walk, instead of wasting money on a taxi ($$$). Before you leave, google map the walking directions from there to your hotel, and take a few screenshots. We were so glad we did this!
In our attempts to treat ourselves while we were in Singapore, though without going overboard and completely breaking the bank, we decided to forgo hostel beds (which range about NZD$20-$30 a night per person) and book a mid-range hotel in a less-touristy area. We booked Hotel Orchid 81 in Geylang, which is known to be Singapore’s red-light district - this didn’t bother us as we never felt unsafe (despite the building next to our hotel being named “Happy House”), and actually the area felt quite lively. Especially important to us, it was less than 10 minutes walk to the nearest MRT line, Kallang, connecting us to the entire city. Hotel Orchid 81 cost us NZD$72 per night (for two), which in our opinion was definitely worth the small amount more than booking two hostel beds.
This hotel was just what we needed after a couple of rather average guesthouses in Kuala Lumpur and Malacca, and we basked in the freedom of having our very own bathroom, hot water, returning to a freshly housekept room every day, and a fridge plus tea and coffee-making facilities. But best of all: our room had a WINDOW! For the first time in what felt like forever we were able to enjoy breakfast in bed (porridge, fruit and yoghurt!) and see the world outside. A couple of times it rained and we spent entire mornings in bed with endless cups of coffee, skyping home. It was a nice way to slow down for a few hours.
But I digress! We weren’t in Singapore to drink coffee and stay in bed - we were there for Universal Studios, right?
On our first day we were up early and took the MRT to HarbourFront, where we walked (if I’m truthful it was more like speed-walked, we were that excited!) across the boardwalk to Sentosa Island where Universal Studios is located.
Despite arriving just as Universal Studios opened for the day, the queue was ginormous and we sweltered as we slowly weaved our way to the front. As we reached the ticket counter to purchase a two-day pass, we were kindly informed that a season pass (valid for six whole months!) was actually cheaper than buying a two day pass (only SGD$98 vs $118). Within minutes we were proud holders of season passes and swiped our way into the park for the first of many days of fun!
I’ll let the pictures take it from here…
We stayed in Singapore 5 nights/4 days and ended up visiting Universal Studios three times, during which we bounded around like crazy kids with endless excitement. After spending our first full day there, we had already done just about all of the rides at least once, but we went back a couple more times to do our favourite rides many more times and see the shows (Waterworld! Puss in Boots!).
It also just happened, coincidentally, to be the beginning of the fourth annual Halloween Horror Nights while we were there, so we may have dropped an extra $50 on that. Halloween Horror Nights is an after hours event that runs on select nights through the month of October, and is essentially a number of creepy haunted house setups, well-makeupped actors, and spooky/scary/frightening shows & scenarios that are made to make you scream. Alan may deny it, but we definitely both got plenty of frights that night!
A few tips for Universal Studios Singapore:
- Evenings are best for shorter queues. The park is open until 7pm, but most families leave around 5pm when their kids start to get tired and hungry. After our first day there we would have spent multiple hours queueing. On our second day we decided to go at about 4pm in the afternoon, after spending the rest of the day doing some sightseeing in Singapore. We probably did just about the same amount of rides in both sessions! In the evening we did our favourite ride, The Mummy Returns, about three times in a row without any queue, followed by the Jurassic Park ride twice in a row. There was no queue at all so we were able to stay on our raft and go around for a second time, just the two of us!
- Don’t take much stuff (hence all my photos being taken on an iPhone rather than my DSLR!). On the Mummy Returns ride you aren’t allowed to carry anything loose (no handbags, sunglasses, etc) as its a roller coaster in the pitch black so if something drops or falls out of a pocket there’s no getting it back! There are lockers nearby which are free for a certain length of time (45 mins I think?) but after that they become extortionately expensive.
- You can drink tap water in Singapore, and there are tons of water fountains located around the park and in the queueing areas, so you don’t need to worry about lugging around a water bottle with you.
Despite going back to Universal Studios three times in the course of four days (it was the reason for our trip there, after all) and managing a couple of luxurious morning lie-ins, we did get out and explore a few other areas of Singapore.
I loved wandering Singapore’s Botanic Gardens - in fact I liked them even more so than Kuala Lumpur’s. This may have been because there were friendly turtles - and lots of them!!
You can’t visit Singapore without at least one picture of the luxurious Marina Bay Sands…perhaps one day this will be our idea of a luxury hotel, but for now I’m perfectly happy so long as I've got air-con and a window!
In Singapore we certainly managed to eat a lot! Between greasy (but delicious!) burgers, fries and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream at Universal Studios, we enjoyed plenty of mouth-watering Chinese food.
Though we didn’t go as far as trying the fresh frog porridge that was advertised everywhere we looked in Geylang (I couldn’t bring myself to photograph the poor wee froggies in tanks outside some of the restaurants, unknowingly waiting to be hand-picked for lunch…), we did find some other delicacies that we aren’t lucky enough to have in New Zealand...ohmygosh this chocolate blew my mind!
Looking back, I’m so glad we decided to splurge a little on these few days in Singapore. Admittedly, Universal Studios Singapore isn’t the most exciting theme park - many of the rides seem more targeted towards children - but we still had such a fantastic time and spent the majority of our time there with beaming smiles on our faces.
On our final morning we were up early and on the very first MRT of the day to Changi Airport, where we decided to make one final splurge on a flight to Kota Bahru (which would get us there in little over two hours instead of two days of train travel!). From there we were headed directly to the Perhentian Islands, known by many to be paradise. But I’m not so sure…stay tuned to hear my thoughts on these tropical islands!
Are you a fellow theme park lover? What's your favourite theme park that you've visited?
POSTED IN: adventure, Asia, Backpacking, budget, dreams, inspiration, life, play, singapore, theme parks, travel
Friday marked one week since we arrived at Superpro Samui, so I thought I'd write a bit of a recap of the first week of my Muay Thai training in Thailand, and share a few things about Muay Thai that are swirling around in my mind.
These thoughts are in no particular order and are possible very random - my brain and body are tired from being used so much over the past week... it has been one heck of a learning curve, thats for sure!
- Muay Thai training is much, much harder than I anticipated it was going to be. I have a new found respect for those who train as hard as this!
- The structure of the class is essentially 20-30 minutes warm up (skipping rope or a run - normally I run up the hill behind us, the view from the top is worth the run, plus skipping sucks!), hand wraps on, warm up drills, shadow boxing, gloves on, drills on the punching bags, 4x 3 minute rounds in the ring with a trainer, more drills on the punching bag, gloves and wraps off, ab work, cool down drills and some stretches. Indispersed with push ups throughout. This goes for two hours with just a few minutes break here and there to guzzle some water. Did I mention it was 32 degrees celsius yesterday? Phew!
- In the first class, I felt way, way out of my comfort zone and completely overwhelmed. I’d never done anything like this in my life, so apparently I didn’t even know how to throw a punch correctly! I was constantly being told by the trainers to shift my position, go faster, harder, etc. Not to mention I was the only female AND only beginner in the class! At some points I wondered if I would be able to stick it out the whole month. The second class was slightly better, as I was more prepared as to what to expect. By the third class I was finishing with an exhausted smile on my face and its been onwards and upwards from there.
- Females are always made to be right up the front! This made my initial class even more overwhelming, as I had expected to be able to stand at the back and copy the person in front of me (and also kind of hide the fact that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing from the trainers). I’m used to being up the front now, though, in fact surprisingly I quite like it!
- There is so much to remember: jab, punch, hook, uppercut, side kick, front kick, knee, elbow, spinning elbow…etc, in forever changing combinations. Its like learning a dance routine when you don’t know how to dance!
- Muay Thai is the hardest workout I have ever done! I used to do pump and spin class at the gym plus run up Rapaki (a giant hill in Christchurch, New Zealand) twice a week. In my uni days I was a fairly speedy half-marathoner. However, I’ve never dripped in sweat quite like after two hours of Muay Thai. It is so hard but so good!
- Each training I guzzle at least one 1.5 litre water bottle. SO THIRSTY. We find ourselves topping up our water supply almost every day, luckily Tescos up the road sells cheap 6-packs of water (but we can’t fit more than one pack on our scooter at a time).
- Despite not sparring, I’m covered in bruises. Both shins, both knees, right elbow, right thigh, right forearm - how did I even get that many? Alan looked over at me the other day and said he could count eight bruises just from where he was standing. Two of the knuckles on my left hand are raw and slowly healing. Alan has been kicking all his life (Taekwondo) so his shins are really hardened to the impact, whereas my body is still just trying to figure out what on earth I’m putting it through!
- One thing that has changed for me already is my goals, and my reasons for being here. Before we arrived I figured Muay Thai would be a great workout for a month, I’d get some of my fitness back that I’d lost after a couple of months eating my way around Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, and maybe even be able to rock some abs in my bikini (in my dreams!).
- Sure, I still want those things, but now I want to achieve SO much more than that! I want get more confident in my footwork and perfect my left kick, I want to punch harder and faster, I want to get through my rounds in the ring without becoming breathless, I want to prove myself to the trainers and not look like a wuss, I want to not struggle when we’re made to drop to the floor for pushups (which happens way too often during class!) and I also want to be able to run up the hill before class without stopping for a breather. Achievable? We'll see!
- Having a comfortable room makes such a difference! We’d booked a simple double room but after some issues with the water pump, we were super thankful to be upgraded to an apartment room which is so nice! Alan and I have been living in close quarters for months so its wonderful to have a bit of extra space, a dining table, being able to prepare some of our own food, and just relax after a hard training session. Of course the palm tree view out one window and the pool just a few steps out the door, helps too.
- I can see how Muay Thai becomes addictive! I feel like I've discovered a new world...I go to bed reading Muay Thai blogs and watching Muay Thai videos on Youtube...is this normal?
Have you ever tried Muay Thai? Is Muay Thai training in Thailand something you would consider doing?
POSTED IN: adventure, Asia, Backpacking, dreams, fitness, goals, health, inspiration, life, Muay Thai, Thailand, travel
We’ve arrived in Thailand, and after spending a few days beaching (yes, I’m sure thats a word!), eating copious amounts of delicious Thai food and celebrating Alan’s birthday, we have arrived in our home for the next month. A home which is very, very far out of my comfort zone - Superpro Samui, a Muay Thai gym on the tropical island of Koh Samui.
We are just two days in and my body is screaming at me! Aches, pains, bruises and bleeding knuckles seem to be becoming the norm. Between training sessions, I’ll be working hard to update the blog with stories from our six-week journey through Malaysia and Singapore, along with my personal experiences, reflections and learnings from this upcoming month of intense Muay Thai training. Stay tuned!
However, today (Sunday) is our one day per week of no training, and I’m in the mood to write something a bit different. I’ve seen the ABC’s of travel floating around on some of my favourite travel blogs and thought I would join in with a little reminiscing on my own travel experiences. I hope you enjoy!
A / Age you went on your first international trip?
I am blessed with parents that love to travel, and had my first passport at the ripe age of three. I first went to Australia’s Sunshine Coast at that age, and Fiji when I was four, but because I was so young unfortunately I don’t have very many memories from these trips. When I was seven years old I was lucky enough to travel to Singapore and Malaysia on a family holiday - two countries I have spent time in again recently, and will be writing about soon!
B / Best foreign beer you’ve had and where?
My favourite beer of all time has to be Belgium's Leffe Blond, despite the fact that I haven't yet travelled to the country itself to drink it. I usually drink my beloved Leffe Blond at my local Belgian bar, accompanied by a compulsory pot of steaming mussels and fries.
Best foreign beer in the budget category has got to be Vietnam’s Bia Hoy (Fresh Beer). I recall evenings spent chugging multiple glasses of this delicious liquid in picturesque Hoi An a couple of years ago. At less than NZ 40c a glass, it can’t be beat!
C / Cuisine. Favourite?
You know what, I ask myself this question every single day, and my verdict is that its got to be a tie between Thai and Italian. I could possibly narrow it down even further and say its a tie between Pad Thai and Spaghetti Bolognese (how predictable am I!), but I won’t go quite that far. Do any other cuisines even come close to being as delicious?
D / Destinations. Favourite and least favourite? Why?
Favourite: Oh gosh, there are so many incredible places in this world, how am I going to choose? I’m yet to write about it on the blog, but I recently spent 9 blissful days in Malaysia’s beautiful Langkawi island, and I’m fairly certain it was paradise! Other frontrunners for the favourite destinations accolade are Ubud (Bali), Hoi An (Vietnam) and El Nido (Philippines).
Least Favourite: Surprisingly, I seem to be the type of person who likes the places others don’t, or at least find something to love about them. I’ve heard negative opinions on many, many places I’ve been, so often I’m naturally surprised when I get there and love it! Probably my least favourite destination I’ve visited recently would be Jakarta, we got ripped off by a taxi driver, had the smallest room possible, and didn’t have long enough there to figure out the city.
E / Event you’ve experienced abroad that made you say “WOW!”?
Hand’s down, my answer to this is the annual Uttarayan Kite Festival in Ahmedabad, in India’s state of Gujarat. I spent a week in Gujarat with my brother in January 2013 and we were fortunate enough to be in Ahmedabad over the time of Uttarayan. I wasn’t expecting much, but it turned out to be blow-my-mind incredible!
By day, the clear blue skies were filled with thousands upon thousands of colourful kites, the rooftops of every building as far as the eye could see brimming with smiling people. My brother and I were taken wonderful care of by a local couchsurfing host and were treated like royalty all day, hanging out on rooftops with his family and friends, indulging in Indian sweets and snacks, and being shown how to kite fight (i.e. cut other peoples kite strings with your own)! I wasn’t much good at that, though I did a splendid job of eating the aforementioned snacks.
My highlight of the whole festival was the evening on the second day, where everybody (and I mean everybody in this city of more than 3.5 million people!) released lanterns into the air. The sky was filled with hundreds of thousands of lanterns drifting up into the sky and flickering into the distance. It was probably the most spectacular sight I’ve ever seen.
F / Favourite mode of transportation?
The most fun I’ve ever had on public transport was riding on the roof of a jeepney in the Philippines. We rode the couple of hours from Sabang back to Puerto Princesa, on the island of Palawan. The only worry was that we had to be sure to duck our heads every time we saw power lines dangling from one side of the road to the other, to avoid any nasty accidents!
G / Greatest feeling while travelling?
Travelling creates so many great feelings that is is very difficult to narrow it down to just one! Possibly my favourite feeling would be that anticipation of exploring when I very first arrive somewhere new - I like to get my bearings as quickly as I possibly can. The feeling of arriving somewhere new is made 10x better when you check into your accommodation and realise its much nicer than you were expecting! That makes for one happy Christie.
H / Hottest place you’ve ever travelled to?
Arizona, USA - it was 110 degrees fahrenheit in the shade (more than 43 celsius!). In fact that whole holiday was hot! When we were kids, my brother and I had the extraordinary fortune of winning a family trip from little New Zealand to Disneyland, California. My parents had the foresight to extend our holiday and we spent a phenomenal couple of weeks road-tripping around USA’s South-western states. I recall it being so hot at Disneyland there were multiple visitors fainting!
I / Incredible service you’ve experienced and where?
While in Costa Rica, we stayed for a few nights in a guesthouse in Heredia, within the country’s Central Valley. Their service was fantastic, collecting us from the airport late at night, dropping us off in the early hours of the morning, helping us to organise transport, serving tasty breakfasts every morning, the list goes on. The best part was that everything was always with a friendly, genuine smile. The guesthouse was Vista Los Volcanes and I’d highly recommend it. I don’t think incredible service has to be restricted to 5-star hotels!
J / Journey that took the longest?
New Zealand is a long way from anywhere, so most journeys tend to take a long time! By air, my longest journey would be from my hometown of Nelson, New Zealand, to Madrid, Spain. Two places that are on the exact opposite side of the world to each other, and I did the whole journey in one go - as a solo 17-year-old, might I add! Nelson - Auckland - Singapore - Frankfurt - Madrid —> the journey took 36 hours if I remember correctly.
By land, my longest journey would be the series of busses I recently took in Indonesia between Lovina, Bali and Yogyakarta, Java. I blogged about that mega-journey here!
K / Keepsake from your travels?
I don’t buy a lot when I’m travelling. I prefer to spend my money on experiences and take photos as my keepsakes. Especially when I’m travelling long-term, like I am currently, I don’t want to carry anything extra on my back that I don’t need!
L / Let-down sight. Where and why?
I have no regrets from any of my travels - ever, but possibly my best answer for this question is India’s majestic Taj Mahal. Don’t get me wrong, the Taj Mahal itself was not a let-down, in fact it was more beautiful in real life than I could have ever imagined! The let down was the weather - it was so foggy that we could barely see a couple of metres in front of us, let alone the Taj Mahal itself. It was such a disappointment to leave Agra without truly seeing the Taj in all its glory. Luckily, I had a few days on my own in Delhi a few days later, so I took another trip back to see it, with more luck that time - phew!
M / Moment where you fell in love with travelling?
I don’t think I ever had a choice about whether or not I would love travelling, I’m positive its an inherited trait! Both of my parents love travelling the world, as did both sets of their parents. I'm sure I fell in love with travelling before I even knew what it was, as a kid I loved poring through photo albums and hearing mum and dad tell stories of their travels.
Though, its safe to say that if I hadn’t already, I definitely picked up the travel bug when I travelled to Singapore and Malaysia at the age of seven. It was my first foray into Asia, into eating restaurant food other than chicken nuggets and chips, into an unknown language and my first memories of learning about a lifestyle so different from my life back home.
N / Nicest hotel you’ve ever stayed in?
Last year one of my best friends and I had a girls’ long weekend away together in Auckland and stayed at The Langham, one of Auckland’s fanciest hotels, for four glorious nights! We splurged on the buffet breakfast, eating ourselves silly with something like four courses each, and spent much of our days lazing beside the rooftop pool and enjoying the spa’s facilities. It was a total dream and while I don’t tend to travel at that expense when I’m travelling internationally, The Langham was absolutely worth every penny!
O / Obsession. What are you obsessed with taking photos of while travelling?
I’m a pretty amateur photographer, and sometimes I’m too lazy to lug my camera around with me. But, when I do bring it I tend to snap photos of everything and anything! I’m currently working on trying to take more photos that tell a story and capture moments - rather than just the standard tourist shots, i.e. Alan in front of this, me in front of that.
P / Passport stamps. How many and from where?
I think I’m currently on my fifth passport, though only from old ones expiring, not from filling the entire passport up! My current passport has stamps from Costa Rica, USA, Vietnam, the Philippines, India, Thailand (twice), Indonesia, Malaysia (twice) and Singapore.
It also has an Australia stamp that has been stamped over with a bold “Stamped in error”! Fortunately that is not as exciting/scary as it sounds, we simply had some incorrect transit instructions when we checked right through in Dallas, so had to rewind our way back through security in Brisbane. Oops!
Q / Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where?
Not an attraction so much as a quirky experience, when I was in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, a couple of years ago, one night we had a few drinks and hit up one of the local clubs, Tiki Bar. Being just about the only foreigners there, we were called up to dance on stage (to Gangam Style, of course!) multiple times throughout the night, we were bought a bucket of beers by an old dude who claimed to be the town’s Mayor, and later were invited backstage for a ‘meet and greet’ with the band!
R / Really frightening. One place you’ve visited where you felt unsafe or uneasy?
Despite feeling safe the majority of my two months in India last year, there were a couple of unfortunate exceptions. One uneasy moment happened to be at the Kite Market, the night before Uttarayan (Gujarat’s annual Kite Festival I mentioned earlier). This was the most chocca-block market I have ever seen, and there were very few females. Gujarat is not a heavily-touristed state either, so to be foreign and to be female is apparently quite a sight at the Kite Market. I was there with a couchsurfing group made up of a few girls and a few guys, so the guys of our group sort of surrounded us to keep us safe from inevitable gropes and stares. Lets just say a few prying hands still managed to slip through and attempted boob/bum grabs. It wasn’t my favourite experience.
S / Splurge. Something you have no problem spending money on while travelling?
As a general rule, I’m happy to splurge on memorable and/or once in a lifetime experiences. I value experiences more than things and have no problem spending a few extra dollars on something that I’m going to remember forever!
Uh, apparently I also don’t mind splurging on bowls of pasta, either.
T / Touristy thing you’ve done?
Despite preferring to call myself a traveller, rather than a tourist, I have done plenty of ‘touristy’ things everywhere I’ve been, and will continue to do so!
U / Unforgettable travel memory?
Oh, so many! One particular memory that sparks in my mind is a few years ago when Mum, Dad and I travelled to Japan to visit my brother who was living and studying in Tokyo at the time. We spent a white Christmas (which is very unusual for us in New Zealand as Christmas for us falls at the height of summer!) in Nagano and when we sat down in a restaurant to have lunch on Christmas Day, Mum pulled out four Christmas crackers from her handbag. We sat their happily munching away on our soba noodles, wearing our colourful paper crowns, sharing the silly christmas cracker jokes. Later that day we purchased a “Christmas cake” which, rather than your typical dense fruitcake, turned out to be a heavily frosted chocolate sponge cake. A deliciously non-traditional family Christmas!
V / Visas. How many and for where?
I’ve had tourist visas for Vietnam, India (twice), Thailand (twice, I’m currently on my second 60-day visa) and a transit visa for the US when I spent a few days in Dallas en route to Costa Rica in May - I think thats all? I’m too lazy to grab my passport and check. We Kiwi’s are very lucky that we don’t need pre-organised visas for many countries.
When we head to Bangkok in a month or so I have to get a tourist visa for China, here's hoping that isn’t going to be too difficult!
W / Wine. Best glass while travelling?
My love for wine is another trait that I’m sure is genetic, which is currently a problem for me since I am travelling through Asia, the land of cheap beer! Luckily I also love beer, right?
While in France with my family a few years back, I took a tour of the Mumm Champagne factory, which ended with some tastings. Surely nothing beats drinking champagne, in Champagne itself!
But of course, I have to be a little bias and mention my favourite wine in the whole world - Neudorf Maggie’s Block Pinot Gris. Grown on my parents’ section just outside of Nelson, New Zealand and named after my mum!
X / eXcellent view and where from?
Though I could think of hundreds, the first excellent view that sprang to mind is this one from the other day, in Langkawi, Malaysia. We took the cable car to one of Langkawi's popular viewing platforms, where we lucked out with a magnificent day (sometimes it can be a little cloudy). I love this view towards Thailand’s islands. Seriously, have you ever seen sea and sky so blue? It looks like they are just about merging into one!
Y / Years spent travelling?
Honestly, I think this question is silly. Travelling is not a competition! In my opinion it is not important how long you have been travelling for, the important thing is that if travel makes you happy - do it!
Z / Zealous sports fans and where?
I’ve never seen anything like Auckland’s Queen Street after the All Blacks won the Rugby World Cup in 2011. At the time I was living in Auckland, in a small inner-city apartment across the road from The Cloud, which was where much of the action was at. We had a whole lot of friends over to watch the final and like much of the rest of Auckland, ran out onto the streets after the AB’s won, jumping for joy and hugging everyone around us. I’m not even a very big rugby fan, but the patriotism took over that night - it was awesome!
I'd love to know your ABCs of travel - share them with me in the comments below!
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!
Indonesia: Our Itinerary
- 3 nights Kuta, Bali
- 5 nights Ubud, Bali
- 3 nights Gili Air
- 1 night Sanur, Bali
- 3 nights Nusa Lembongan
- 2 nights Lovina, Bali
- 1 night overnight bus to Probolinggo (Mount Bromo), Java
- 5 nights Yogyakarta, Java
- 3 nights Pangandaran, Java
- 2 nights Jarkata, Java
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
POSTED IN: adventure, Asia, Backpacking, Bali, budget, inspiration, Java, life, Money, travel, Ubud
Please note this post is my own personal opinion and is not compensated. Trail Wallet is simply an app I have discovered and love!
Travelling for a year is a scary prospect, especially when you have worked so hard to save up so much money and all of a sudden you are going to be blowing just about all of it, albeit on the travel experience of a lifetime!
To make our hard-earned money go as far as we can on our travels, we need to be tight on our budget and manage our money wisely.
We have set ourselves a maximum budget of NZD $50 per day each (essentially $100 a day for the both of us). Having done plenty of research we know this is a feasible number to base our spending on, especially considering our travel plans are primarily within Asia, which is known to be significantly cheaper than Europe for backpackers (in most cases, anyway!).
We know that some days we are going to splurge on once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and other days we are going to get by on the bare minimum. Sometimes all we will need to pay for is a bed and something to eat, other days we will be paying for buses, trains, planes and expensive activities. Its all a balancing act!
The question in my mind was: how on earth are we going to track our spending to ensure that we are staying within our budget? I couldn’t think of anything worse than returning home early with my tail between my legs, having run out of money because we were too lazy to track our spending.
Well, thankfully we found an app that we have been using since the beginning of our backpacking adventure (three weeks now!) that is making this seriously easy for us.
Enter: Trail Wallet.
Trail Wallet is amazing, efficient, and very simple to use.
You start by creating ‘trips’, so we are creating a trip for each of the countries we go to. You simply enter in the dates you are going to be there, and your daily budget. We create our trips as we go.
From there, you simply enter in any expenses you have during the day. We have the app on Alan’s iPhone 5 (because apparently I live in the dark ages with my iPhone 4!), which comes with us just about everywhere so we usually enter it on the spot, however others may prefer to jot down notes of what they have spent during the day and enter it in each evening - up to you. It only takes about 5 seconds!
There are many great things about Trail Wallet:
- You can select the currencies you wish to use, for example our Indonesia trip was set up for NZ Dollar and Indonesian Rupiah. That way we can see every day exactly how much we are spending both in the local currency and our home currency!
- When you enter your expenses you allocate it into a category, e.g. food, accommodation, transport, entertainment, etc. You can add categories as you wish, for example we have set up extra categories for Laundry, Massage and Visas. It is interesting to see the breakdown of your spend! Trail Wallet shows you a pie graph of your expenses so you can see what proportion of your spending are going where. Ours is a constant battle between food and accommodation.
- You can spread expenses across multiple days, or input them in for a future (or past) date. For example, with accommodation you can split a total across three nights and it will automatically split it for you, or for renting a scooter you can split it across the amount of days you are renting for. When we book transport, we usually put it in for the day we are travelling itself, rather than they day we booked.
- You do not need an internet connection to enter any of your spending data. The only thing you need the internet for is to initially download the app itself, occasionally check and update the exchange rates or if you want to share any of your data (you can send yourself a CSV file of it, share on Twitter or Facebook).
With Trail Wallet you can see right in front of you what you have spent for the day, the last few days, the last month, or your entire trip. It can help hold you back on unnecessary spending because you know you have overspent for the day, or perhaps if you know you haven't spent much that day you could indulge yourself in a massage!
I will be using our Trail Wallet data to divulge what we spent in each country with a bit of a breakdown of our costs, look out for Indonesia in the next couple of weeks! So far, I am pleased to say with Trail Wallet holding us accountable we are coming in well under our overall budget.
Trail Wallet is SO easy to use and SO helpful to track your spending on the road. I would recommend this to any traveller without a doubt!
How do you manage your budget on the road?
I have a giant list of post ideas for my little blog, and sat down this afternoon with the intention of working through just that, but with our long-term travel adventure looming my brain has other ideas and this candid snapshot of thoughts came out instead!
Our adventure begins in about three weeks time, so it has been a hectic few weeks of organisation, finishing up projects at work, and managing to sell most of our stuff - and as to be expected not all has gone smoothly and easily. Last night was the first night I have slept for 8 hours in a looong time, and man, it felt good!
The best way I can describe my brain at the moment is like a blender on the pulse function - a mixture of feelings all whizzed up together in go-go-go mode! Every now and then though, I find myself completely calm with this content feeling that everything is going to work out fine. Which it will, of course, but there is plenty to do before then! My mind is playing tricks on me and it is all rather confusing!
I thought it might be a good practice to write down what's on my mind now so that hopefully, in a year or so, I can look back and laugh/reminisce about the silly things I was worried about at the time. Here goes my random brain dump...
I'm going to miss this place, and everybody that comes with it. I seem to have this problem that the minute I feel comfortable somewhere I have this urge to shake it up and do something outside my comfort zone. I love change, but it also terrifies me. I'm going to miss my perfect little house, my car (I had to say goodbye to it yesterday), my family, my friends, earning money, my part-time dog...at least I don't have to say goodbye to Alan!
What if I don't like travelling? I've backpacked for 3 months through Asia before, but never any longer than that. And I talk about travelling ALL the time. Will we come crawling back with our tails between our legs after just a month or so? Gosh, I hope not.
Will we get our to-do lists done before we go? I sure hope so! Aaaah brain overload, so much to do.
I am so excited to own hardly anything. We have sold SO much stuff. Our cars, all of our whiteware, furniture, plus lots of clothes and nick-nacky things. And it feels good! I'm worried about when we come back (will we come back?) how we will afford to buy the things we need, but for now it feels wonderful, and I am inspired to live a more minimalistic life. Hopefully this mindset lasts!
Everybody else is starting to spend money on responsible things, and I'm about to splurge my entire savings on travel. My Facebook feed is filled with friends buying homes, getting married, having babies, buying new pets, engagement rings and new cars. These are all things I want, but not just yet. Should I want that right now? Am I going to regret spending all of this money on adventuring through the unknown rather than a downpayment on a mortgage? Gosh, that sounds so serious. I'm confident in our decision to travel and I'm positive that we won't regret it - but my Facebook feed certainly doesn't agree with me!
I'm proud of how I've retrained myself in regards to my money. I used to never have a second thought about spending a day at the mall and purchasing essentially a new wardrobe, buying a takeaway coffee at the office each morning, or spending $10 or more on my lunch nearly every single day. Since January this year when I began saving for our holiday to Costa Rica, I have been so strict on myself when it comes to money. I haven't bought new clothes in months, nor a coffee, nor lunch. I pack my lunch every single day. I drink coffee that is provided for free in our staffroom. And I repeat outfits often. So what? I've managed to save a truckload of money! In this process I have also become great at budgeting, become a lot closer to my money and understand my financial position a lot better including my gigantic student loan and Kiwisaver.
I'm dying of anticipation! I'm eager to board that plane and turn all of my travel dreams into reality. This long-term trip has been in the back of my mind for more than 10 years, and I'm SO excited that the timing has finally fallen into place. We have a very basic plan, and I just can't wait to see how our adventures evolve as we discover new opportunities, meet new people, and become comfortable with life on the road.
Have you ever set off for a long-term adventure? What were your thoughts going into it?
There are plenty of posts similar to this out there on the interwebs, just about every travel blogger has a post dedicated to the best tips and tricks of how to save money for travel.
I'm not going to lie, the way I have saved for travel is nothing new.
Here's my tips and tricks as to how I have saved enough money to travel for an entire year on a NZD $50 a day budget (you do the math!). While I've been saving I've also managed to fund a 10-day road-trip around New Zealand's South Island and a two week holiday in Costa Rica. For the record, I have a fairly entry-level marketing position i.e. I am certainly not raking in the big bucks.
1. I stopped spending money on unnecessary items. Yup, super basic. I stopped buying new clothes, new makeup, buying my lunch, basically anything that wasn't essential I have completely cut back on. I work in a department store, so this hasn't been easy! However, over the course of the year so far I'm surprised that I no longer feel any desire to buy anything new whatsoever. While I am now totally unfashionable and have no idea what the latest trends are, I'm pleased to not actually care at all which is a very freeing feeling!
2. Kind of an extension of #1, I started relating any spending to what I could buy when I was travelling with that amount of money. For example, why would I spend $4 on a coffee, when I could buy 10 pad thais on Bangkok's Khao San Road for the same amount? It really starts to put the expense of things into perspective. Why buy a $6 sandwich from the bakery when that could pay for an entire nights (or even two!) accommodation in Laos?
3. Selling all of our belongings. We (Alan, if I'm going to be honest) have been selling our belongings on TradeMe for weeks now (for non-New Zealand readers, TradeMe is NZ's equivalent of eBay). I'm honestly surprised as to how much we have been able to sell! Even if only for a few dollars, when you are thinking on terms like Tip #2, just a few more bucks can add an extra day or more to your trip! Xbox and games, Nintendo and games, random toys, old clothes, a box of timezone tickets (!?) all sold for a profit on TradeMe. We are also selling our "big" stuff (washing machine, fridge, etc), and are in the process of selling our cars. We plan to leave barely anything behind - which is a thought that I am very scared and nervous about but also extremely excited about the freedom that will come with it!
4. I made a budget and stuck to it. I planned out exactly where every dollar from my pay check would go each week (rent, supermarket, gym, petrol, power) and how much I could expect to save each week. Usually some sort of unexpected expense would arise however it definitely worked to give me a good gauge go where my money was going, and it definitely stopped any frivolous spending pretty quickly! I definitely think that the closer you are to your money makes you want to continue to keep it close and not spend it.
5. I got used to instant coffee instead of fancy, cafe coffee. In my office we have a morning tea break together each day, and I was stuck in the bad habit of buying a coffee as we sat in the cafe for our daily catch ups. Thats $4 per coffee, 5 days a week, every single week. It sure adds up! I simply brought a reusable takeaway cup from home and started making my own coffee in the staffroom instead (coffee = free). Yup, I'm the awkward person who brings their own coffee to a cafe and sits there with my muesli bar, but as long as I'm saving money I don't mind if I look silly!
With about six weeks to go before we head off, we still have plenty more belongings to sell, a few more pay cheques to bank and a few more lunches to pack from home for work, we are on the homeward straight now!
What are your top tips for saving money?