Backpackerbird

An insight into the world of travel

Thailand on a Shoestring. February 14, 2010

Filed under: Thailand,Travel — backpackerbird @ 3:53 pm
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For any of you planning to travel to Thailand here is a running tally of where I have been, what I have seen, accommodation I have stayed in and the travel I have done. Use this as a tool, a benchmark to compare, if nothing else prices to.

Note I travel in high season so some prices may vary. High season in Asia is generally November – March this is when the weather is more bearable, not as hot or humid. So if you travel at other times of the year you my find the prices I  quote to be cheaper.

£1 = 50B

Bangkok:

Accomm: Sawasdee Bunglamphu Guesthouse, Khao San Road, 650B per night for a twin. Quite pricey but staying on Khao San is. This guesthouse is clean and well looked after. In each room there is a TV, hairdryer, bathroom with complimentary shampoo and body wash and aircon. The staff are friendly and breakfast is included. The location is perfect, right in the middle of the busiest backpacker road in Bangkok.
D and D’s Khao San Road. I’m not going to review this guesthouse apart from to say don’t stay here. Too expensive for what you get and the staff aren’t friendly.
Green House, Bunglamphu, 590B for a twin. Basic but clean with private bathroom. Free wi-fi.

Experience: Trip to Kanchanaburi to see the bridge over River Kwai Noi, the tiger temples and an elephant trek, 750B.

Nightlife: Whilst Khao San Road offers all you could ever ask for, inc bars, food carts and markets, just around the corner is the more chilled Soi Rambuttri. The street is lined with lanterns and the bars more sedate, you can smoke shish in the street and drink till the sun comes up.

Eating: Try the street food. Its cheap and very tasty. 30B will buy you Pad Thai, a fried noodle dish with stir fried veg. Add a spring roll for 20B. Green guesthouse on Bunglamphu Road offers a wide range inc falafel if you fancy a bit of western food. Not expensive. A lot of the restaurants have the same menu and offer the same prices. This is prob due to competition. I didn’t have a bad meal in Bangkok.

Travel: Bus and Boat to Koh Tao, 500B. The 12 hour over night bus ride wasn’t at all unbearable. The bus was a VIP and air conditioned, blankets were provided. We arrived at Chumphon at 5am and waited for our boat which left at 8am. The boat was basic but the 3 hour ride was made easier by sunbathing on the roof.

Koh Tao:

Accomm: SB Cabana, 500B per night for a twin. Basic beach bungalows set just off the beach set amongst colourful flowerbeds. Extremely well kept gardens. Only 20metres from Sairee Beach. Fan and private bathroom.

Experience: Koh Tao is renound for its deep sea diving. A day diving will only set you back £30.Hire out mopeds for 200B a day. Explore the island. Head for the hills to take in the breathtaking views and discover all the beautiful secluded beaches which are sheltered by huge boulders. be careful of the rugged turane there is only one road through the middle of the island so dirt tracks are the only option. Head home before sunset as there are no street lights!

Nightlife: Kho Tao doesn’t offer too much but what it has got is excellent. Head to the beach bars Fizz or Lotus for the sunset (5pm) after a day on the beach, before heading back to your guesthouse for a spruce up. The party doesn’t get going until happy hour at Lotus bar at 9.30pm, buy one get one free buckets at 200B. The bar has rugs and Thai cushions on the beach with fire dancers to get the night rolling. By the end of the night everyone is dancing on the beach or in the sea!

Eating: Along the beach front there are many restaurants offering fresh fish, some with lobsters in tanks still alive waiting for you to pick them. Sairee cottages is good for breakfast., cereal, yogurt and fruit,60B or a fry up for 150B. Seashell offers similar, for lunch or tea choose from traditional Thai curries and soups or opt for western dishes, it up to you. A Thai dish will cost you 100B and a western dish perhaps double.

Travel: Boat and bus to Krabi 750B, boat to Railay 200B. The over night boat from Koh Tao to Surat Thai was probably the roughest I have been on. The boat was a sleeper so very comfortable. A group of us had to stop our game of poker to lay down and try not to feel sea sick. The boat rocked vigorously. The bus to Krabi as VIP and air conditioned but we were dropped off in the middle of nowhere forced to buy an onward ticket. This is the typical Thai con. Once you arrive in Railay you need to head for Ton Sai, the next beach on. Railay is now full of resorts and families on holiday. Ton Sai is totally travellers and a haven for climbers. The only way to get there is to climber over the mountain or wait for the tide to go out (3pm) and walk around the huge rocks separating the beaches.

Ton Sai, Railay.:

Accomm: Mambo Guesthouse, 500B for a double. Very basic bamboo hut set in the woods with private bathroom but out side. Cold shower. Electricity from 5pm till 7am. (this is true for the whole of Ton Sai) The staff are very friendly.

Experience: Climbing is the only thing you can do really. This will set you back quite a lot of money especially if you need to hire equipment and a guide to show you where to climb. Around 5000B for the day. This does include kayaks and lunch too.

Nightlife: Limited… Ton Sai is very laid back. Climbers are tired after a whole day on the rocks. Head away from the beach to find the livelier bars. Reggae bar is set on quite a large piece of land. Loads of hammocks and cushions to sit on. fire dancers walk the slack line whilst showing off their skills. Space cakes are available at the bar.

Eating: Any of the bars and restaurants serve a standard menu but try the traditional Thai BBQ’s if you are into your meet. You can pick your fish or meet from a wide selection and pay by the lb. I haven’t heard a bad thing said about this food.

Travel: Boat to Koh Phi Phi, 350B. A long tail boat will take you to the main boat anchored out at sea then a 3 hour sail.

TBC…

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Day Pack Essentials and Dodging Excess Baggage Fines December 9, 2009

Filed under: Rio,Travel — backpackerbird @ 4:55 pm
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I thought this day would never come. 6 long months I have been waiting patiently ’till the day when I can start packing. ‘You still have 3 weeks left until you hit the road’ I hear you say… 3 weeks of  trying to fit all my friends around the last few days of work. Many a boozy night is ahead of me now, I simply haven’t got time to wait any longer. Of cause I will probably pack, unpack, re pack and pack again. Im that kind of organised freak.

So I thought I would compile a detailed list of what I would call Day Pack Essentials. I will follow this blog up with Backpack Essentials. But for now here is all you will need in your day pack, all the things you will need to hand, a fool-proof guide to getting it right when travelling.

I must add, the day pack is an extension to your backpack. If you are anything like me you will be struggling to fit all you want to take in one rucksack. Things tend to overspill into the daypack particularly when you have been on the beaten track for a while. No matter how hard you try not to buy useless tack that at the time you thought would be a perfect gift for your mum, you inevitably end up carting around more than you set out with. Curbing spending money on such things is a skill I am yet to acquire.

I had been in South America for 3 months when I was due to fly from Rio to Lima. I had the mistake buy, my Roxy soft surf bag (mentioned in Getting the right backpack. (a follow up on what to take)), my day pack, additional hold all I had purchased in Argentina and a stiff cardboard tube containing a large (100cm x 30cm) panoramic photo of  Rio. Arriving at the check in desk I was asked the usual… ‘Has anyone helped you pack your bags to day?’ No… ‘Has anyone offered to carry your bags today?’ No… and ‘How many bags will you be checking in today?’ Ummm. Well I did try my hardest to check in just the one bag and sneek the rest on as hand luggage but of cause there is a weight restriction on this. And yes you guessed it, my bags were over that limit, even over the check in bag weight limit. I was carrying 45kg, 23kg over the limit.  Oooppps.

A moment later and a receipt was presented to me, the charge of my 3 month long over spend in South America… $200. £200? I can’t have had $50 to my name at this point of my travels, how was I going to pay for that. Jesus I’m in trouble. Panic set in, I had to battle with the tears that wanted so badly to steam down my embarrassed red cheeks. I took a huge gulp and asked to speak to someone about this matter. I quickly composed myself and put on my ‘I can talk myself out of anything’ head and walked towards the smartly dressed official who was coming my way, he had a look of purpose across his face. this wasnt going to be easy.

My Spanish wasnt the best let alone my Portuguese, I didnt have a hope of understanding this guy. I tested my charm on him, it didnt work. He soon got fed up of me begging in a language he didn’t understand and sent me to an office behind the check in desks. Here I was pleasantly greeted by a good looking petite girl, I’d say a reject air hostess who didn’t meet the hight restrictions to be a fully fledged hostess so had been shoved in an office. I sat in front of her and tried my very hardest to explain my situation. After a good old grovel and an animated shaking out of my purse to reveal only a $20 note and a few coins. we came to an agreement. I would slip her the $20 and she would work her magic. I couldnt believe it, I had got away with a $200 fine for a backhand $20. I went on my way. Result. Lets hope I don’t acquire too much excess baggage this time round!

So, a good place to start when deciding what to pack in your day pack would be to look in the bag you use on a day to day basis in your normal life. If you usually carry medication pack that, if you chew gum, throw that in. There are the additional seasonal indispensable, sun cream and mosquito repellant. This is what I plan to have in my day pack and why.

Camera – any one who knows me knows that I cannot leave home without my camera, capture every moment forever.

Sun cream – avoid looking like a lobster.

Passport – you wont be going anywhere without this.

Vaccination record – some countries can be funny about you entering without proof of vaccines.

i pod – helps ease the 17hr flights and 24hr bus journeys. (although mine has just decided to die, typical)

Phone – not only can you communicate but doubles up as a clock. I never wear a watch when travelling, the only time you really need to know the time is if you are catching a flight.

Purse/wallet – goes without saying or you’ll get nowhere.

Insect repellent (deet) – avoid being eaten alive in the tropics.

Lip balm spf 20 – to soften lips on the air conditioned planes and to avoid burning lips in scorching heat.

Condom – you never know when you might need one,always protect yourself.

Sunglasses – or you will be blinded by the lights

Lighter – dont get caught out when you fancy a little recreational drug use.

Antibacterial hand gel – get those hands clean before eating.

Deodorant – freshen up on a  long journey.

Toothbrush and paste – get rid of that travel breath after being asleep on the bus for hours.

Chewing gum – freshen your breath before liaising with the opposite sex.

Spare memory card – you dont want to run out of photo space before you have chance to download them.

Padlock – lock your bag when you are in crowded places or if you are leaving it to persue an activity like sky diving.

Penknife – Always useful, make sure the blades are less than 6” or you will run the risk of being interrogated for carrying an offencive weapon.

Medication – paracetamol, antihistamines etc

Guide book – always good to read up on where you are heading.

Journal – you never know when you might be inspired to write. Good for scrawling down contact details of people you meet.

Mac-in-a-sac – A good a place as any to keep your rain coat, at hand to whip out in a flash tropical storm.

As you become more comfortable with travel you will tailor your day pack to your individual needs. You will realise what you need regularly and can’t face digging deep down into the depths of your backpack for every time you require it. You may leave your backpack on the roof of an Asian mini bus or in the hold of a Boeing 747 but your day pack will by always by your side.

 

I have a dream. November 19, 2009

Filed under: Travel — backpackerbird @ 7:56 pm
Tags: , , , ,

You know when you wake up in the middle of the night with an idea so great that you can’t get back to sleep for love nor money? (not that there was any one there to love me or to pay me). Well it happened to me last night. Erika. Ive got it… I am going to document my forthcoming travels to enable others to travel with more ease. I will provide a service to my fellow trekkers. I will tell you of the amazing places I’ve been and the places to avoid like the plague. You will come flocking to my site for the latest news and best places to go. You will love it. That is if i can get my non technical mind round how to blog in the first place!!! Im a bit of a technophobe, but:  I have equiped myself with the latest gadgets (thanks Dave from my local Comet store, he really did live electricals!) and I will be taking them away with me. I have plenty of time to learn the basics before I go, 6 weeks to be exact. Ooo not that long come to think of it. I will have to enlist the help of my friend Adam the techno king and my brother  Josh the ‘I’ll try anything’ dude who is back from living it up in London town any day soon. Here’s hoping they have the patience of angels because I really do have  limited knowledge of this whole demain. Wish me luck.