Thailand to Laos – Two day slow-boat vs. Flying.

After debating with myself, whether to spend two days on a slow boat on the Mekong vs. whether to fly from Thailand to Laos, I decided to fly. Why?

  1. Money. Crossing via land is nowhere near as cheap as it used to be. To be honest, all the latest blogs I had read had all paid different fees, not to mention the ‘extra’ fees at the boarder if you happened to be there on a Sunday, too late, at their lunch break or I guess if they just feel like it. I had tossed up the pros and cons but flying came out the winner. We flew;

Chiang Rai to Bangkok – $20 (two day lay over)

Bangkok to Vientiane – $60

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When I started to enquire about the slow-boat in Chiang Mai, I was being quoted upwards of 1500 Baht. This included your bus to the boarder, the slow-boat ticket and a night’s accommodation half way down the river. I started researching the individual tickets for buses, tuk tuks and boats rather than the package, but from what I could see, I was only saving about 500 baht. Making the long boat option half the price of the flight. If you are on a very tight budget, then the slow-boat is probably the best option for you. This current trip I had a little more than a shoe string budget, so I went with the flight.

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  1. Time. There’s nothing more gut wrenching than realising the time you set aside to visit the country is halved because you spend every second day on a 10-hour bus journey. And I was well aware that Laos was one of these slow-moving countries. I did think about the experience, and how beautiful the scenery would be on the long boat. But to be honest I’ve already spent a lot of time on a boat down the Mekong, so I decided this time to give it a miss.
  2. Visiting Bangkok. As I’ve mentioned before Bangkok is not my favourite place to travel to, however in my previous visit I didn’t tick off everything on my list. I also was very curious about how the city was reacting with the King’s passing, and couldn’t help but be inquisitive in this monumental time. Rowan had also never been to Bangkok and Dylan hardly left his hotel room on his previous visit, so they were both keen to check it out.
  3. Location. Luang Prabang is right in the middle of Laos, which means travelling around would mean backtracking through Luang Prabang at some stage. I wanted to work my way from one side to another. My first thought was to cross the border at Chiang Rai and head to Luang Namtha in the East and eventually make my way down to Vientiane and If I had the time, down through to 1000 islands. Or if I flew into Vientiane I could work my way up to Luang Namtha, which is the idea I’m currently running with. Which concluded my decision to fly to Vientiane.

 

IMG_1250.JPGNow, let me get to the flight… I’ve never screamed on a flight… until now… I’m not the best flyer, my palms are sweaty before we even hit the runway, but a few deep breaths and you’re in the air before you know it… right?

Our flight took off and instantly started with a hard turn, (so the plane took off into the opposite direction, sure okay that’s normal) after reaching a full 180 degree turn around we continued to hook into another hard turn, (you know the type of hard turns where you’re either looking at the ground or the sun and you’re not entirely sure which direction you’re heading) this is where I started to get a little more nervous. Why on earth does this plane have to circle back in the direction that it came from!? We hit turbulence… it started off gently and started shaking a little harder, then came the drops. You would know what I’m talking about if you’ve felt one. Where it feels like the plane is falling from the sky, but your stomach is still up there. Then came our nose dive, where instead of just falling from the sky, my body was thrown forward and the plane was thrown down. Now let me tell you, I wasn’t the only person who screamed! Now when I boarded this flight, I thought it would be a 2-hour flight. (I had read the itinerary wrong) After 45 minutes the captain speaks, “Please move your chair back to the upright position, open you window shutters and prepare for landing.”

IMG_1502.JPGDylan : What? Why? Why are we so low? Are we landing?! Where are we landing? I thought we still had an hour to go. Jade isn’t this flight two hours? What’s happening?!

Jade: Yeah… I thought it was… I’m not sure… Are you okay? I thought you liked flying? Remember you said, “turbulence, it’s just like being on a rollercoaster.”

Dylan: No. No. Not anymore. I’m like you now. This plane is small. This plane is too small. Excuse me, Excuse me! *talking to flight attendant* Ahh what is happening?

Flight attendant: We are landing Sir.

Dylan: We are landing?? In Vientiane??

Flight attendant: Yes Sir.

Dylan: Ahhhh I see. Thank you.

I look at Dylan and shrug. The plane’s weight sways one side to the other as we decent in our windy landing. Finally the wheels hit the ground and the heartrate decreases.

Dylan: Well, that’s it, looks like I’m living in Laos now.

Rowan: Haha what do you mean? You’re not flying again?

Dylan: Nope. Laos for life.

img_1208We went through immigration, and Dylan and I paid $30 USD for our visa on arrival, (make sure you have a passport photo and US dollars, which is all you need to purchase your visa on arrival) Rowan paid $35 USD for his as his passport is UK.

We walked through to the exit where a line of travellers were waiting to purchase transport to the city. I tried to look for a tuk tuk, bus or shared minivan, but from what I could see this was the only way. We paid 55 000 Kip for a private van to our accommodation which was a 10-minute journey. (The price was a little steep but we weren’t too sure what the alternative was.)

So all in all, I paid an extra $40, saved myself a few days and experienced a small heart attack.. Maybe next time I should take the boat? Haha.

Have you had an experience travelling between Thailand and Laos? I’d love to hear about it!

 

 

 

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How much one week in Krabi, Thailand cost me. How much cheaper could I do it?

I often get asked “how are you always travelling, how do you afford it?!” As I’ve mentioned before, travel can be as expensive or inexpensive as you like. Let me give you a quick break down of what this week cost me.

img_1214Now Keep in mind that this week was not meant to be on a shoestring budget, it was a bit of luxury without breaking the bank. The first two-three weeks of my travels are with my family, doing family activities staying in family orientated hotels. After these couple of weeks, Rowan and I are back to true budget style backpacking.  For this trip Rowan and I are running off one travel card, so I will calculate our total spending, and divide by two when need be.

img_0674Flight – Air Asia

Sydney to Kuala Lumpur – $150 per person.

Kuala Lumpur to Krabi – $30 per person.

Shared minivan from airport – 150 Baht p/p ($5.50)

6 nights in Ao  Nang (Ao Nang Cliff Beach Resort) – 12 000 Baht (6000 per person) ($223 p/p)

This resort was stunning to stay in, our room had a bath tub on our balcony, the rooftop pool was an  infinity pool overlooking all of Ao Nang, the buffet breakfast had the biggest range of food, (which actually prevented us from buying lunch all week as we ate so much in the mornings!) housekeeping would light oil burners after the cleaned the room, the list goes on! Would definitely recommend staying here!

4 Island boat trip – 600 Baht p/p ($22.50)

(we were also meant to pay a national park fee of 400 Baht per person… but we just couldn’t see where we were meant to pay… ?)

img_1176Minivan Ao Nang to Krabi return for Night Market – 200 Baht p/p ($7)

Alcohol for the week – approx. 1000 Baht p/p ($38)

Food and Drink for the week  approx. 1000 Baht p/p ($38)

Shopping – 300 Baht p/p ($12)

Massages (4 of them) – 800 Baht p/p ($30)

Shuttle to airport – 100 Baht p/p ($4)

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Which brings this week to a total spending of $560 p/p including flights, accommodation, food, alcohol and activities.

How Cheap Could I have done it?

After a quick scan on booking.com I’ve found that you can stay in backpackers for the same 6 nights for 1188 Baht ($44.50p/p) or to have a private room in a hotel is 2341 Baht ($87.50 – so $43.75 p/p)

IMG_0663.JPGIf you filled up on breakfast, didn’t eat lunch and only ate 50 Baht meals for dinner then you would have spent 300 Baht ($11.50) – if you wanted lunch then it would be 600 Baht ($23)

Alcohol is of course different for everyone. If you drank two big beers, each day and no cocktails it would be 690 Baht ($26)

And let’s say you do one tour that week, we will add on the 600 Baht ($22.50) I paid for a boat trip.

14708251_10155443407354478_4181292344065764498_nTake a trip to the night markets 200 Baht p/p ($7.50)

1 Massage 200 Baht ($7.50)

And a few things shopping 200 Baht ($7.50)

Airfares and transfers were as cheap as they come already ($189.50)

Which brings us to a total spending of $316 p/p including flights, accommodation, food, alcohol and activities.

You could cut it down even cheaper again if you were only paying for food and accommodation, but where’s the fun in that!

If you would like to read how much the separate meals and drinks cost then check out https://imustgo.net/2016/10/19/cheapest-eats-in-thailand/

I will also be posting another blog on cost Solo vs Accompanied.

What to Pack When You’re Trying to Pack Light.

No matter how many times I pack and repack, and um and ahh my bag is never as light as I want it to be! And it makes it even harder when you’re relocating overseas for an extended period of time rather than backpacking. I’ve spent way to many hours in Canadian airports battling with the weight of my snowboard bag! Let me tell you of the tricks I’ve learnt about how to pack light.

 

  1. Take a Small Backpack as your Carry on Luggage

    If it doesn’t look like your bag is overflowing, and your bag is of a reasonable size then who is to think that it weighs 15kg?! My carry on baggage is ALWAYS overweight, but I honestly can’t remember the last time I was asked for it to be weighed. I travel with all my electronics, heavy, expensive and valuable items in my carry on (not to mention a spare change of clothes incase your checked in goes missing.) I also tactically pack my bag and place the things I will need on the flight (ipod, toothbrush etc) in side pockets or in their own little bag inside to prevent digging through luggage on the flight. (Remember that liquids under 100mls can be taken on board if they checked through security -Clear sandwich bags are really helpful to put these items in so you can pull them straight out. Also great for toothpaste and brush) And when the inevitable time comes where your checked in luggage is overweight – look for the heaviest items, I usually go for the shoes, and start squashing them in the carry on. You’ll be surprised at the desk attendant, they still won’t ask to weigh that bag- I’ve even tied shoes to the outside of the bag because there was no room and still nothing!

  2. Where Would you Wear the Item?

    It sounds silly but when you’re packing think of the entire outfit- don’t just throw in a nice shirt, later to find you have nothing to wear with it. Create outfits and then once you’ve done that- is there any that look quite similar? Get rid of it! Is there any that you would only wear once? Get rid of it! I know everyone wants to have that one nice set of clothes but where are you going? Realistically how many times will you wear it ? Is there another nice-ish item that you could dress up? Basic, plain items are great to dress up – I always travel with a large blanket sized scarf in my carry on- you be amazed how many uses you find for it! Not to mention it’s great to cover up when you’re entering temples and religious sights. Same goes for shoes – Aim for two, three at the most.

  3. Layering is Key

    Even if it’s your favorite coat, if it too heavy it can’t come. The only exception is if you wear it on EVERY flight. And trust me airports get hot! Invest in quality thermals that are light. Denim jackets; as much as they look great, they’re bulky, they don’t fold well and they’re really not that warm. Trust me, I took my denim jacket to Canada and wore it once in spring! Same goes with any pretty jacket that doesn’t offer much warmth –You’re going to have to put another jacket over top and then when you get inside you’re going to want to take it all off, so when do you even get to show off the pretty jacket?

     

  4. Shoes

    Do you really need them? Think about what you would wear them with and how often to you wear them normally. Also do they suit the climate you are going to? Rule of thumb, no more than three. I usually have one for hiking and pair of sandals if I’m on a trekking trip. If  I’m going to be wearing something nice I’ll take a pair of plain black boots- something versatile.

  5. Pack ahead of time and make a checklist.

    Don’t leave packing until the last minute, give yourself a few days to think about what you have packed. If you leave it until the last minute you’ll find yourself packing things ‘just in case’ rather than the necessities. If you make yourself a check list and realise you have 7 shirts and 2 pairs of pants, you may be able to remove a few shirts – especially if you know you have access to a laundry. By packing a few days in advance you may find yourself lying in bed when suddenly you realised you forgot to pack something important or you comes to terms with an item that you probably won’t need at all.

  6. Packing Cells

    I wish I knew about these earlier! All those bulky items that don’t fold so well- cram them in the packing sells and zip those bags, keep it nice and compact! They also double as great places to keep your dirty washing so they don’t touch your clean clothes!

  7. Roll Don’t Fold

    It does crease the clothing a little more but you can definitely fit a lot more in! Be sure to distribute the weight evenly with the heavier items as it does make carry your bag easier. Items such as socks and underwear – stuff those into your shoes, take advantage of every bit of space in your bag.

     

     

     

     

When Homesickness Strikes

It hit me today, like two high speed trains passing. It stole my breath, but not like a first kiss does, more like your first heartbreak. Day 64 of travelling through Europe was when the first wave of homesickness struck. I’ve been travelling extensively for over 4 years now and it still hit my just like the first time.

At first I did’t realise, I though I was missing my morning coffee, but then it came like the third wave of the set. Like one of those days at the beach where the waves just seem like a fun ride… until it thrusts you to the very depths of the ocean.

I tried all my usual tricks, my usual comforts, but nothing seemed to work, in fact it made me angry that I had failed at all my usual tricks.

It made it harder to listen to my intuition, it made me want to rebel. in fact it wasn’t until the voice was screaming in my head not to walk that way that I actually listened. I was sick of seeing concrete buildings and the cities business people. I was being quite ignorant to acknowledge I was lost, because my anger had me storming that I knew better, I never get lost. And so I listened to that voice and turned the other corner to find the Reichstag. The Reichstag is a piece of beautiful history and it instantly dropped my temper, suddenly I realised how ridiculous I was being. Homesickness had overcome me and there was nothing I could do about it.

If you’ve felt it before you now it comes in many forms and there’s no real way to describe it. And if you haven’t, I have no explanation for you. Homesickness creeps up on you, sometimes there’s a trigger, other times no trigger at all. I’ve had friends tell me they’ve just cried in a field for hours, others that have eaten their way through their body weight in a day, as for me I feel empty. There’s not a lot you can do when it hits, I have a few tips and tricks, but all in all, you just have to ride the wave. And that’s exactly what I did.

I didn’t want to waste the day so I wandered around in search of some interesting areas, but I hit a wall and it was time to go back to my temporary home. I made my way back to the bus stop and clambered onto a bus, only guessing at where at where to get off. I was meant to be going to my aunties meditation, which in hindsight probably would have made me feel better, but I couldn’t deal with conversing right now. I just needed some creature comforts. So I went and got some pizza a couple of bottles of beer, went home to watch a chick flick and put myself to bed by 7.30pm. There was nothing I could do but embrace the ride of the homesickness wave.

Homesickness is very similar to going through grief. First denial and isolation, “Surely I’m not feeling homesick, I’m a strong independent woman who don’t need no help.” Then anger. anger at everything and everyone. “Stupid pavement how dare you be raised and making my foot stumble .” Next comes bargaining, “I know I’m missing home a little, but I just need a cultural burst to remind me why I’m on the other side of the world to all my loved ones all by myself.” Then comes depression, “Well this is just shit, what’s so special about all these buildings anyway. Oh and now its raining fan-bloody-tastic.” Then finally acceptance, “I’m getting pizza and beer and going to bed.”

I just want you to know that you are never alone, it is perfectly normal to feel this, and no matter the time zone there is always someone to offer a little love! I am more than happy to be that person too, I am only an email away!

When homesickness hits it hits hard in any form, at any time and there isn’t a cure. There are ways to subside the symptoms but everybody is different. I know it’s painful but enjoy the ride, it fuels you with passion to drive you where you need to go. You may simmer for a while, maybe you’ll spend the day in bed, maybe two days, and that’s okay. I’ll be the first to put up my hand and say that I have been there. But I promise you, maybe its the third day, maybe the forth, you’ll wake up refreshed and empowered, you’ll look out that window and think,” Where next?!”

Remember, blooming takes time and growth, you cannot bloom all year round, but when you do start to bloom, it’s so beautiful.