Today’s post was written by my friend Erin, who has appeared a few times on Photography Friday on the blog, and also was on the group trip to Eastport, Maine over the New Year. She recently came back from 2 weeks in Southeast Asia, so will have a few posts and pictures on the trips over the next few weeks.
With two weeks to travel and a recession hanging over my head, I tried to think of a place to go where I would get the most bang for my buck.
Then it hit me, Southeast Asia.
With 30 baht to 1 USD it was the perfect choice for an exotic adventure. Of course the flight is the biggest expense but with the $20 hotels and $1 meals big enough to feed a small family, SE Asia is still less expensive than a trip to Europe! So, with my passport and xanax (for the flight, of course) in hand, I hopped on a 20-hour flight to Thailand!
Bangkok is currently rated the number one travel destination in the world.
And after seeing it first hand, Bangkok definitely takes the cake. While not every place has hot water or air conditioning, and the mattresses aren’t quite as soft as here in the good ol’ U. S of A. It’s an experience, and after a couple days, you step out of your comfort zone and fall easily into the culture. Well…except the toilets, that’s just something you will spend the entire trip trying to get over in Asia…but keep an open mind! (And always carry toilet paper.)
The shopping is amazing and like everything else – CHEAP! There are markets everywhere- floating markets, black markets, food markets – My favorite thing about Bangkok was the shrine to Buddha in every store, its not intrusive, just a nod to their religion and a part of their every day life. Speaking of, The Grand Palace is probably the shiniest place I’ve ever been. Don’t miss it if you go! It’s absolutely beautiful.
I loved the people, the culture, and the smells of the city.
My friend kept telling me Thailand has a distinct smell of food and incense that you will never forget and sometimes when you’re home, you’ll be reminded of it – instantly transporting you back to that far away city. The traffic is something to experience – there are no rules – motorbikes zip in and out of traffic – onto the sidewalks – but amazingly enough, there were no accidents.
The Food! Try all of the Food! I am a very picky eater but I went there with an open mind and made a deal with myself that I would try everything and I’m so glad I did! I lived on Sangkaya – sticky rice with sweet custard – I could eat it every day….and I did. Food is unbelievably cheap. A lavish meal for 4 (really a meal for 8 since I went with three boys) would cost us around 10 USD!
The biggest plus about SE Asia is the ease in which you can travel within the country or to surrounding countries.
After that flight, there was no way I was only going to stay put in Bangkok! I planned to spend 4 days in Bangkok, 4 days on the island of Koh Lipe and then head to Malaysia.
Of all the islands in Thailand, Koh Lipe is one of the least developed, which made it the number one choice on my list. Since its inexpensive to fly within the country, and you can usually share a cab or a van with fellow travelers, the trip south cost us less than 50 USD each. Be ready for adventure because the island is definitely off the beaten path. After a 1.5 hour flight to Hat Yai, a 1.5 hour cab ride to Pak Barra and a one-hour speed boat ride, we finally made it to the island – the most gorgeous place I have ever been in my entire life and 150% worth the trip! I was afraid I had died on the speedboat and gone to Heaven!
If you’re looking for rest and relaxation, Ko Lipe is the place to go!
A small island with very little tourists and they rarely see Americans there so I was something of a sideshow. There are no roads and no cars, and very few shops and restaurants. In fact during rainy season (despite the name, the weather was great!) the waitress at the main cafe in town you will find is also your masseuse, your store clerk at the deli and shopkeeper at the convenient store (Chang Beer for 90 cents!!) We stayed at Castaway Resort on Sunrise Beach – perfection. And Sunrise Beach has the calmest water with the least amount of people – and obviously the most beautiful sunrise – if you’re going, stay there, it was only 15 USD a night!
Eight days into my trip to Thailand I had not spent over $150, I had been eating like a queen, spent time shopping and exploring the city of Bangkok then relaxed for four days on the island. The time had come to get back on the speedboat and take a shared van to Malaysia for a whopping, get ready for this, 11 USD. 11 bucks!! I can’t even get from Grand Central to my Upper East Side apartment for 11 USD and here I am heading to another country!
Buckle up; we’re off to Malaysia.