Singaporean backpacking South East Asia. 111 Days, 1 Continent, 7 Countries, $S4915. Including PADI Scuba Diving OW and AOW Certification
So yes, I have a big ambition of Travelling. But how do I get started? Is the Country safe to travel? Travel Itinerary? How long do I Travel for? VISAS? What's my budget?
This isn't my first time Travelling solo. So I know what it feels like to be travelling alone. So how did I get started? Since my first solo trip was in Krabi, Thailand. And I loved Thailand so much, I decided to travel Thailand for a month. The planning process started in March'16.
Everyday on the way to school, in the train, I would be researching on my phone. "backpacking guides to Thailand." "Backpacking Thailand in 30 days". "What to do in Thailand." And then I see blog articles on "Backpacking South East Asia in 2 months." I thought to myself. Hey lets do South East Asia instead. Then I have even more questions, How to Overland to another country? Ok, If its SEA. What countries? How long?
Why not Europe? I've read blogs in Backpacking Europe. And lets face it. In 10 years Europe will still be the same. Visiting churches, and sight-seeing. I wanted Adventure. I wanted to Scuba Dive, visit a Volcano, see the Beautiful Lagoons in the Philippines.
SO HOW DID I DO IT WITH $S 4915?
1. Decide on how long you want to Travel.
2. Set a Budget AND stick to it.
(Food, Transport, Accommodation and Activities.)
Hints* Hostels are really cheap in Asia. Its also a great way to meet people! CouchSurfing is free to meet a local too!
3. Plot your itinerary on a map, in my case I used google maps.
SINGAPORE - CHIANG MAI - PAI - CHIANG RAI - LUANG PRABANG - VANG VIENG - VIENTIANE - HANOI - NINH BINH - TAN KY - PHONG NHA - KHE SANH - HUE - DA NANG - HOI AN - NHA TRANG - DALAT - MUI NE - HCM - PHNOM PENH - SIEM REAP - BANGKOK - KO TAO - SURAT THANI - PHUKET - KUALA LUMPUR - CAMERON HIGHLANDS - PENANG - KOTA BHARU - PERHENTIAN ISLANDS - MALACCA - SINGAPORE - MANILA - CORON -EL NIDO - SABANG - PUERTO PRINCESA - CEBU - MOALBOAL - OSLAB - DUMAGUETE - SIQUIJOR - BOHOL - BORACAY - SINGAPORE
ALL PACKED AND READY TO GO! Its an Osprey Farpoint 55, comes with a main backpack and a day pack! I will write up on separate post on my gear and what to pack.
Waiting to board for Chiang Mai.
Where to stay in Chiang Mai? Have I already mention that Hostels and Guesthouses are cheap in Asia? I did not make a reservation, because it was the start of low season. So there should be availability for 1. So, Pros travelling in low season is, you can bargain and probably get an upgrade.
$S5 was for a Dorm, I paid $S6 and got a private room with a private toilet. YAY! Location was really good, street stalls are easily located on the main road. If not, there are lots of cafes and restaurants.
This is Khao Soi, Basically curry noodles with crackers. If you come to Chiang Mai, YOU must eat this. Khao Soi is only available in the North of Thailand!
Street art in Chiang Mai
Here's a tip given by some locals, Eat in Universities! Student Price. I paid all these with a Mango Shake for 100 Baht! 4 SGD?
I paid 1000 Baht to spend some time with the big tiger, and it includes a photographer and a CD with all your images in it! You can bring your phone in to take pictures too.
This is Art, someone I met on CouchSurfing! He owns a tour agency and he's so nice to give me discounts on the tours!
After visiting the Tiger Kingdom, Art brought me to the shopping mall. And he has a friend who's working there. So coincidentally, it was a travel fair. And they had a massive discount for the Chiang Mai Night Safari. Which cost, 350 Baht! That is $ 14 SGD! So yes! I booked it.
I paid 2000 Baht for a full day no riding elephant tour, and because I was the only one who booked a full day tour, I had the chance to spend time with Jumbo alone! And because I'm so light, they asked me to ride the elephant. One of the best experiences I had Backpacking Asia. In a full day tour,you will first start the day early at 8 AM. Arrive at the elephant camp, have a briefing on what to do and what not to do. Then, play with the elephants and have fun, you will also learn how to make medicine that helps with the elephant's digestion.
This is Kiah and Jason! The lovely couple I met in Pai, we met at the Buddha on the hill early in the morning. It was scorching hot 45 degrees Celsius, then we decided hey let's check out some waterfalls. So spent a whole day together, visited 2 waterfalls which 1 was completely dry. Then, we went to the waterfall which you could slide down. As you can see in the photos below, the kids are showing us how its done!
CHIANG MAI Night Safari
Total Expenditure for 8 Days in the North of Thailand
I kinda went over budget doing all the tours! If given a chance I would visit during songkran, and do the non-touristy stuff.
Next I head over to Luang Prabang via land!
One of the worst bus rides I had! I paid $25.6 SGD for this "VIP overnight bus". It departed at 5pm from Huay Xai and arrived at 6 Am at Luang Prabang in the morning. So 13 hours of hell. It was super cramp, there was a local boy sitting next to me. I felt like he was gonna pickpocket me. Because he was super touchy. And the bus was so full, people were sitting on the floor. But oh well, if you want to do it cheap. This is the cheapest way to Luang Prabang. I will have a separate in-depth guide on how to do this overland from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang.
kuang si waterfalls, luang prabang, laos.
There is a "hidden" waterfall. You have to trek up about 10 minutes through a jungle path. Where it says "NO ENTRY" you go pass it. AND LOOK! We have a private waterfall!
When you pay for the entrance fee to Kuang Si, you will walk passa bear sanctuary. The entrance fee costs 20000 kips. 3 SGD. You can take a tuk tuk or a shared minivan for 50000 kips. Bargain if you are taking a tuktuk! And do not pay up front, if not they will leave after dropping you off.
When the mini van drop you off, there are stalls to eat. This cost, 25000 kips! $4.20 SGD.
Sunset over the Mekong River
This is Tristian and Noel! French guys I met on the bus to Laos. We got along well and decided to climb the hill together to see the sunset over the Mekong River. We also had dinner and some drinks together.
Next, I overland to Vang Vieng!
What is there to do in Vang Vieng? PARTY. So you can go river tubing and stop at bars for drinks. But I did not do that due to bad weather. So in the night, you go to Sakura bar to party. Famous place where you buy 2 vodkas and you get this free t-shirt!
Ok, other than partying. There's some cool stuff to do. Vang Vieng is a small town. Yes you can catch a beautiful sunset! And also other than sunsets, you can wake up really early in the morning at 6 AM to see monks queuing up with alms to collect their food.
Next, I overland to Vientiane and only stayed for a night. Because I don't like to cities! I just had to leave a mark :P This is in Dream Hostel, Vientiane.
Total Expenditure for 7 days Laos $S179
I loved Luang Prabang, Kuang Si waterfalls. Would I come back to Laos? Yes. I would have given more time to the South, 4000 islands etc.
Vientiane - Hanoi.
Stay tuned for part 2 where I bought a scooter and did a road trip from Hanoi - Ho Chi Minh!
Every guy who turns the age of 18 in Singapore has to undergo a mandatory military service which is a 2-year long training. It is a rigorous one which is about 12 hours a day. You start your day at 5am and the day ends about 10.30pm. Learning how to defend the country, building one's stamina by being physically fit, following commands by our platoon sergeant and learn to work together as a team. But this training probably will prepare us for the war and triumph, but will it prepare me for the real life ahead?
There can be thousands of things to do before the National Service, but I chose to travel. And I travel alone. I got to see the differences in culture, stayed in a local's house, hostels. Learn a new foreign language. Being a solo traveller, you will eventually step out of your comfort zone. I was an introvert back home. Being all shy and I did not have much to talk or share about, because I was a boring guy. I stayed home most of the time playing video games.
I know very well, I got bolder, more courageous and adventurous. I started to initiate conversations, make new friends and started doing things I would not have done living in Singapore. Such as, buying a scooter in Vietnam and doing a road-trip, jumping off a cliff, learn scuba diving, hiking and trekking up mountains without a guide.
I have been travelling for 3 months now as we speak, lots of my friends ask " Even if you saw that beautiful mountain alone, don't you feel lonely? Because you can't share the same experience telling the stories back home." No, I don't feel lonely at all. In fact, I feel accomplished. At the peak of the mountains or getting from country to country, and haggling for cheaper tours/souvenirs/transport.
Why I'm writing this? I encourage every who is reading, GO. PACK your bags and travel while you still can. Life is short, and its not about working and saving money. I would rather not spend a $1000 dollars on a 5D4N resort and do nothing, go back home yearning for another vacation. Can you believe I spent a month in Vietnam and only spent $S688? This includes food, accommodation and transport. In the upcoming blogs/guides I will write on how I did it.