Tuesday, January 20, 2015

7 Guidelines to Solo Travelling

1. Start the Conversation
Yes everyone wants there alone time while traveling, obviously or you wouldn't be doing this solo trip in the first place. But don't be that girl hauled up in the hostel for two days straight draining the life out of your phone and Facebook stalking. Hangout in a common area, ask people where they're from, where they're going,how long they've been traveling, what their plans are for the day, etc. Guarantee you they will have some awesome stories to share and will probably be down to have someone join their group and explore the area with them as well.

2. Shit happens
I'm going to be a typical child of the 90's right now and quote a Disney movie as a life reference. But as a wise man (Timon) once said, "Bad things happen and there's nothing you can do about it, right? Wrong. When the world turns its back on you, you turn your back on the world." One thing you have to realize is that there are going to be hiccups in your trip! Whether its missing a flight, getting completely lost in a big city, getting overcharged for a taxi,or getting personal belongings stolen...but when these things happen you have to realize things aren't going to be as easy to fix in a foreign country as they are at home. It's also much more stressful going through this alone.So take a deep breath, relax, and try not to let a small thing ruin the rest of your adventure.

3. Eat local
Not only are you supporting the local economy by doing this but honestly the food is way better. Like I just don't see the point in going to a McDonalds or Subway when right down the sidewalk there is a local market with amazing food stands for a fraction of the price. That's another huge perk of traveling by yourself, you don't have to agree with anyone on somewhere to eat, the world is your oyster:)

4.Saving and splurging
After being by yourself for a month you become very savvy on when and where to save and splurge. I do my best to save as much as possible while I'm traveling; eat street food or find a weekend market to eat at, stay at the cheaper hostels even when they are not always the nicest,and take full advantage of the public transportation wherever you are! Yet there are things to definitely splurge on...When in Thailand get as many massages as you want, for 300 baht ($9) you cant beat it and you probably deserve it haha. Dress up for a night and go for a drink or two at an amazing rooftop bar, whether its a helicopter pad in Kuala Lumpur or the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. Even if the drinks are a little pricey you simply just can't beat the views. And lastly, sometimes its worth it to just buy the flight to your next destination. We all hit that point in our trip when another 16 hour overnight train by yourself just isn't worth losing your sanity.

This one is simple, do not be "that American". I am extremely proud of where I come from but it gets to a point where everyone gets pretty sick of hearing how amazing the US is. Have an educated conversation with someone, ask them where they're from, talk politics, but just know where to draw the line.

6.Get a map
Any hostel, hotel, guesthouse, etc. will have maps at the front desk. I'm not saying to walk around the city looking like a complete tourist with your nose glued to the inside of the map but its always good to have one as a back up. There's nothing worse than being lost alone in an area that you don't know. And if you really don't want to be a loser and get a map just ask your front desk for basic directions. You are obviously not the first backpacker they've ever met and any hostel I have ever stayed at has always been able to give awesome advice and directions for the area.

7. Have Fun!
You worked your ass off for this trip, relax and enjoy! Sleep in, get lost in a book, rent a motorbike, drink out of a coconut on the beach, do WHATEVER YOU WANT! When your Monday morning consists of trying to decide whether you want to head to Bali or go explore Northern Thailand for a couple of days then life just isn't that bad:)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, January 19, 2015

Oh hey Ban Phe!

So my journey from Bangkok to Ban Phe was definitely interesting. One thing I have learned from my first 48 hrs in Thailand is that NOTHING makes sense here haha seriously nothing...
Exhibit A:
I go to the Ekkamai Bus Station in Bangkok and buy my ticket to Ban Phe. As I walk towards the busses each bus has a label of its destination taped in the window as well as on a sign hanging on the bus. So being the somewhat intelligent person that I am I head to the one and only bus with a sign that says "Ban Phe" in the window, only to be yelled at by some crazy bus lady that I had to go on the bus that was labeled Pattaya (which is an hour west on Ban Phe....So being very confused I double check with about three other people on the Pattaya bus and sure enough it is heading to Ban Phe, apparently the drivers decided to switch routes for the day and apparently that was common knowledge to everyone but me.

Okay so then we are driving and after a few hours and a quick pit stop we are almost to our destination ( Ban Phe, not Pattaya). The bus driver proceeds to ask me and the other five people left on the bus if we are all going to Koh Samet ( some quick background info: Koh Samet is an island that is a quick ferry ride from Ban Phe ). Soo everyone else on the bus says yes that is where they were going, except for me :/ I told him I just needed to go to the Ban Phe bus station (where were supposed to be dropped off and where I had directions to my hostel from). Instead we stop at a Koh Samet information desk for everyone else to get their tickets for the ferry and when I asked how far the bus station was in relation to our current location and the bus driver just kept telling me "No, you go Koh Samet, it's very fun", which I am well aware of and am planning a day trip there tomorrow but at this point I just wanted to get to my hostel. So off I went, just knowing that my hostel was by a bus station and a 7/11. Thankfully it was next to the first 7/11 I saw which was about a quarter mile from the info desk so the trek wasn't so bad. I was also asked by at-least six people on my way to the hostel if I wanted to go to Koh Samet hahaha I was ready to go off on the next person that asked me. But long story short, I made it to Ban Phe hostel safe and sound and am only paying 150 Baht a night (5 USD)! So it's not a bad deal and it's a pretty cool hostel as well.

So Lori met me here around 6 o'clock and we went and grabbed dinner at a place right around the corner from where I am staying. The restaurant was pretty good but told us they were basically out of everything on their menu so we just ordered some sandwiches and a few beers, which the owner had to run to the store to get for us haha but all in all it was good eats:) After dinner we hit up a local bar called Christie's to have a couple of beers and relax for a bit. Okay so here's another example of things getting weird in Thailand; so we are at Christie's and when our first drink is served they give Lori and I a plate of peanuts, which is completely normal at a bar. Then the next beer we order the bartender gives each of us a banana (maybe they ran out of peanuts?idk) and thennnn after our third drink the bartender presented us with a plate of popcorn and some kind of squid flavored-cheeto looking things hahaha Completely bizarre. But we had a lot of fun with everyone there singing and eating our weird bar snacks and I will definitely be going back again during my stay in Ban Phe.
SO thats about all for today, I guess we will just have to see what tonight brings:)

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

So my time in Malaysia was definitely one for the books. From getting my phone and debit card stolen, dealing with every Western Union in KL, staying at the most amazing hostel ever, then having a mouse run across my bed at the next hostel, changing the course of my trip (about five times), beach bungalows, island hopping,running into old friends, making new friends...the list goes on and on. I'll try to sum up my past 10 days as best as possible...

So my time in KL was only supposed to be about three days but due to some technical difficulties it was extended to about five nights and six days. A word to the wise, anyone ever looking for a place to stay in KL I would HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend staying at the Reggae Mansion hostel. It's a three-story hostel located right in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. Just a short walk from China Town, Little India, and the Masjid Jamek train station which can get you anywhere you want in the city. I stayed in the 24 bed mixed dorm and I can not talk highly enough of it. Every morning housekeeping was in the rooms cleaning windows, mopping, taking out trash, etc. I dont think I ever saw even a cobweb during my entire stay. There is also a rooftop bar and a 40 seat cinema as well. All of this for just 48 RM (13 USD) a night! Can't beat it!


Okay enough about the hostel haha...
So after Charlotte and Lisa left I ran into a friend I had volunteered with and Cape Town and spent the next day hanging out with him and his friends in KL and when we went out that night is when all my stuff got stolen...because I have awesome luck. But seriously after my minor panic attack, dealing with irritating Western Union people, and having the lady at Bank of America...and another lady at Western Union make me cry I pulled myself together and got on with the rest of my trip. There's only so much you can do when bad things happen and the only way to deal with it when you are on the other side of the world from your bank...and Verizon is to just pick your shit up and move on. Which is what I did:)

My last night in KL I went out and had a nice dinner at a Shabu Shabu place in city center that was absolutely amazing and then the next morning I woke up early and headed to the bus station to catch a bus to Penang:)

(My shabu shabu dinner:)
So the bus ride to Penang was about three hours but they flew by...mostly because I slept the entire way there and the bus seats were super comfortable.

(This isn't me, just some random lady really enjoying the bus hahaha)

Once we got to the Butterworth ferry station it took a little more navigating to find the actual ferry but once I did it took about fifteen minutes to get boarded and then just a quick boat ride and we were in Penang....Now I start the next chapter.
So although I only spent two days in Penang that was enough for me. The history and the food were the two highlights of my time there, especially the food!

But the hostel I stayed at here was definitely lacking..This hostel was also a Reggae Mansion but wasn't even close to the standards of the mansion in KL. The people that worked here were so nice and accommodating, especially Uncle Charlie! The rooms were set up just like the ones in KL yet the only difference here was that I had two mice as dorm mates. Yes,mice. One of whom kindly scurried across my bed at four in the morning and woke me up in complete shock haha They moved me into a different room after this but I could hear the "scurrying" in this room as well so I opted to just crash on the couch in the common room for the night. But other than the mice the hostel was great :/

While I was in Penang I met some amazing people as well. One night I hungout with four people; two from France and the other two from England. We went out for drinks and it turned into a night full of different drinking games from each of our different countries, karaoke, and eating burgers from a street vendor at three in the morning. Definitely a night well spent.

I also met two girls in Penang, Elizabeth(Austrian) and Leila(Switzerland). We did some sightseeing and grabbed lunch one day and they invited me to tag along with them to Langkawi for a couple of nights, so of course I said yes! We took a ferry over and it took about three hours during which we watched The Mask (so random) which was a bit hard to hear over the screaming of two toddlers who wanted OFF of the ferry hahaha But once we got there I did not regret my decision. Langkawi is absolutely beautiful and as were were approaching in the ferry it looked like the approach to Jurassic Park, it was awesome.

Once in Langkawi my days consisted of laying out on the beach, eating cheap street food, island hopping,drinking beers on the beach, and sleeping in our cute beach bungalow that was just a block off the beach. It was definitely the relaxing two days that I needed at the end of my time in Malaysia.

Okay so thats the end of this post and the end of my time in Malaysia. A huge thanks to everyone that made my stay here one to remember:) Although my time there went longer than expected I am so happy it did and I will definitely be back to this beautiful country again. Until then, peace out Malaysia, I'm off to Bangkok!
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Batu Caves and Heli Pads

So far Malaysia hasn't disappointed, other than my money and phone being stolen haha But it really is a beautiful and amazing country.

So I checked in at the Reggae Mansion hostel in Kuala Lumpur and if anyone is ever looking for an amazing and cheap place to stay while backpacking, this is the place! It is absolutely immaculate, has great wifi, free breakfast, rooftop bar, and all for a price of $15 a night! I have met some pretty cool people as well. My first night here I met two Aussies, Lisa and Charlotte.

My first night in KL we mostly hungout at the rooftop bar and played some pool with some of the other people staying at our hostel.

The next morning Charlotte and I grabbed a train at the Masjid Jamek station, conveniently located right next to the hostel, and we headed up to the Batu Caves.

They are a series of caves that are home to a beautiful Hindu temple,an extremely large statue of Lord Murugan(whom the temple is in honor of), and also lots and lots of monkeys. Seriously though I thought people were exaggerating when they said the temple was overrun by monkeys...they were not exaggerating hahaha

There was also quite a few stairs that you had to climb as well to reach the caves, so we walked and walked and walked anddddd we FINALLY reached the top!

The whole day was just awesome and we grabbed some Indian food for lunch, got some henna, and then headed back to the hostel.

We had heard that there was a bar near our hostel that served as a working helicopter pad during the day but turned into a bar at night so obviously we had to go! Now, this was a HUGE push for me being that I am absolutely terrified of heights! But it was definitely worth it, we had an amazing view of the entire city, including the Petronas Towers. It was breathtaking, and the drinks weren't too bad either :)

So far on this trip I have been on two amazing rooftop bars and haven't fallen yet haha Guess my fear of heights is getting a little better!

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Lions, life changing dumplings, and a T.Swift cover band

So I am now in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and realizing I am quite a few days behind on my blog so I will catch up and get a few entries done now haha
Sooooo first, a few days ago we did a night safari and then spent the next morning at the Singapore zoo. The night safari was absolutely amazing! We saw lions, tigers,elephants,and all different other kinds of animals. Seeing the animals at night is so much better than just a normal day trip to the zoo, the animals were all awake and moving around which was pretty cool.

The next morning we went to the Singapore zoo for the day and that was also an amazing experience!! The Singapore zoo has such an open concept to it, like the monkeys are literally swinging in the trees above your head and at one point I even had a mouse deer run right in front of me. The zoo offered a "token feeding" of the animals which is basically going to and from each animal exhibit and watching the handlers feed the animals. Some of the animals like the giraffes and rhinos you could even pay to feed yourself.

The Singapore zoo was hands down one of the best zoo experiences I have ever had.
*Five Hours Later*.....

Soooo later that afternoon my cousin Daniel and I went to dinner at Din Tai Fung which is a dim sum place in Singapore. I had heard it was going to be good, but it was beyond good haha Who knew that something as small as a pork dumpling could change your life?! Well I found out very fast that it can.

We began the meal by first ordering some hot and sour soup, fried rice, and some garlic spinach.

Then came the dumplings.....
We had pork dumplings, pork and shrimp dumplings, pork and veggie dumpling, and even red bean ones for dessert!

Like I said...life changing.
So after dinner we proceeded to go on a night tour of the city that started with an amazing light show at the Super Trees that sit in the shadow of the amazing Marina Bay hotel, then a tour through the city, and finished with some drinks at Clarke Quay accompanied by a fabulous band covering everything from T Swift to Earth, Wind, and Fire!

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