For those of you new to our blog, here’s some background (this stint began March 2016):
We leased out our home in the United States for two years with the intent of seeing as much of the world as possible. ‘Seeing’ being defined as hanging out (our term for cultural interaction), usually off the beaten path, with visiting attractions as a secondary goal. We planned to return ‘home’ periodically to visit family and friends. Our budget for this little misadventure was $100/day for two people (married). That included all expenses; travel, lodging, food, booze, tours, laundry, you name it.
From that, you can conclude that we didn’t stay at 5-star hotels or eat at any establishments that began with or included the words ‘Chez’ or ‘Cuisine.’ You can also conclude that when traveling from place to place we used deep discount airlines and economical minivans/buses.
Even the booze we bought was the cheapest we could find. If that’s not dedication to the cause, then I don’t know what is. Actually, finding cheap booze forced us to research local favorites, which resulted in the discovery of new, for us, types of alcohol. The plan was to spend two to three months in Southeast Asia, then head off to Europe for five to six months before returning ‘home’ for a short visit.
Oh, I should probably mention which Asian countries we assaulted. Malaysia, but only Kuala Lumpur, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. So that’s the background.
With the completion of part 1, Southeast Asia, it was time to reflect on how we did relative to the plan and what we could have or would have changed. Also, what we liked and disliked.
Country Rankings: Our favorites based on our priorities. Yours may and probably will be different, so take our ranking with a grain of salt.
1. Laos: Great food, incredible scenery, friendly people. relatively undiscovered. Negative: The roads!
2. Vietnam: Especially Northern Vietnam. Good food. Beautiful scenery and just plain fun.
3. Cambodia: Incredible Beaches. Angkor Wat!
4. Thailand: Disclaimer–We stayed mostly north of Bangkok, so our assessment doesn’t include the southern tourist areas. Good food. Lots of cool temples. Don’t do the north in March/April when they burn the fields. Negatives: Getting around from place to place was more difficult than in other countries.
Also, the hotel/hostels were not generally prepared to help with tours and transportation.
The good points, surprises, and tips:
We stayed on budget. We accomplished 2.5 months of bumming around Asia for about $100/day. It wasn’t always pretty, but we did it. We even got used to the cheap booze. If a pampered vacation is what you’re looking for, then stop right here and google another travel blogger. Don’t get me wrong, we had clean (usually), comfortable lodgings, good food, and relatively comfortable transportation. We just had to work to make those things happen.
The lodging in almost every instance exceeded our expectations. We never spent more than $25/night and usually much less. The rooms were clean, Wi-Fi was always included, air conditioning was a must and available, and everywhere, except in Thailand, staff were able to help with tours and transportation. Much better bang for the buck than the lodging in Central and South America.
Places that we consider a must see: Angkor Wat, Koh Rong Island, Cat Ba Island, Hanoi Old Quarter, Vang Vieng, Chiang Mai, Plain of Jars.
The cooking class we took in Hua Hin, Thailand, was a blast. It’s all about the instructor- chef and we had a good one. The food we made was awesome if I do say so myself.
Booking.com worked great for reserving rooms for our next location.
Travel Lite: Plan on doing a lot of walking. Getting to your hotel isn’t always easy and taxis aren’t always available. Remember, none of the hotels have bell boys. We used Ebags for our luggage. They can be carried like standard suitcases, Shoulder strap, or backpack. So far they’ve been great. We also used packing cubes to help organize.
The Bad points and what to avoid:
Kuala Lumpur. Just not our cup of tea, plus we had our phone ripped off while on a bus.
Hoi An. Highly touted, but again, just not our cup of tea. It seemed to be all about shopping and manipulating the tourist.
Bangkok. Just say no!
Don’t eat anything remotely sketchy the day before traveling or you will pay the price. Being ill while on a plane or bus is no fun!
To conclude, the last 2.5 months were enlightening, educational, sometimes stressful, and exhilarating. We also proved that you don’t have to be a youngster to do this type of traveling because I’m, well I’m…Let’s just say I’m no spring chicken. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
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4 thoughts on “Traveling S.E. Asia on the Cheap: What Did We Learn?”
Wonderful synopsis and notes for me to file away for future travel. I had a wonderful 3 weeks in China and Tibet last month and want to see more of Asia and will heed your advice. When you do fly back to the US to “visit” you can stay in our studio guesthouse as long as you want and the price is right – free 🙂
Thanks Karen. Glad to hear that China and Tibet were fun. Tibet has been our radar for many years. Maybe someday. You know, the old expression; too little time…
Thanks for the lodging offer. Love the price! We should be back sometime in October. We’ll keep you posted.
Finally, not so busy & I’m now catching up on your posts. Pat looks kind of pooped in that first photo, then last photo big smile.. amazing what a drink in hand will do (bracing). What are possibilities/feasibility of a bike (or motorbike) for transportation? Or maybe that would just take too long. Glad it’s all gone so well. Miss getting together with you guys. rae
Hey Rae! Great to hear from you. Naw, I wasn’t pooped, I was pensive. No bikes for us. We’re walkers. We miss hangin’ out with you as well. Probably see you this fall. Stay in touch.