How To: Save for Budget Travel

By the time you’ve paid rent, utilities, internet bill, phone bill, insurance, car payment, gym membership, and Netflix subscription, you’re usually left with just enough money to have some fun and buy your groceries. I hear it all the time…”How do you afford to travel?” It is not something that magically happens overnight. But it is simple.

My mother always used to tell my brother and I as kids, “You can do anything you want to do, if you want to do it badly enough.” Long before my spiritual journey, these words became a lesson from my childhood that I still often reflect on. I did not know how right she was at the time, but I would learn someday.

Before I go on, I’d like to address something very important. Money is a tool. Money will not make you happy regardless of how much you believe it is the missing factor. Nothing will ever be as valuable as being on your own time. This leads many to confuse freedom with money, but lets be clear: they stand alone. Now lets go to Europe!

First, review your spending habits. Do you buy your morning coffee at Starbucks a couple times a week? Do you buy things you “need” but know you may only use once or twice? Where do you and your friends go to hang out? Do you smoke a lot of cigarettes? Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to checking your bank account. Hold yourself accountable! Where can you be spending less?

Next, and once you can trust yourself with spending, do yourself the ultimate favor and apply for an air miles credit card. I use Capital One Venture. It gives you double points on all purchases and 40,000 bonus miles ($400 airline credit) when you spend $3,000 in the first three months. Plus, you can use your miles on any airline. I use my credit card for all of my purchases and pay it off at the end of every month. I haven’t paid a cent on any of my departing flights (normally $500-$900 each).

With airfare out of the way and a firm grasp on your spending, it’s time to crunch numbers. I travel every year. When I am returning from a trip, it is immediately time to start planning and saving for the next one. I would recommend around 10 months of prep before your first trip, if you’re starting from the bottom. Let’s say you’re going to Europe for one month, and have a budget of $60 per day. You’ll need to have money in your account when you return, money to cover any additional airfare cost (whatever your miles don’t cover/baggage fees on cheaper airlines), and $1,800 for your expenses once you’re there. You should plan to return with about $3,000 (this also adds a nice emergency buffer, in case you ever need it). I’d plan for about $800 in extra airfare cost, depending on the time of year and where you are flying from. In total, you’d need to save $5,600. Over the course of ten months, starting with nothing, you’d need to save $560 per month. Most of you won’t be starting from absolute zero, but some of you may have some debt or costs to cover at home while you’re abroad.

Now I know some of you are saying, “Vanessa, there is no way I can save $560 a month, are you insane?” Light your doubts on fire and for a moment just imagine that it is not only possible but it is happening. Now hold on to that excitement and let it fuel you to the finish line. Your greatest obstacle is the belief that your dreams are out of reach. Print out pictures of your dream destination and look at them every morning and every night. Envision being there. It will not be as hard as you are conditioned to believe it will be. I will be posting more tips on saving as time goes on, but for now, just start here. Be excited!

The world is at your fingertips my loves. No matter what obstacles you think stand in your way, they can be overcome. Set yourself free. Unplug and venture far!

Fails in the Philippines

Flying in, watching a beautiful sunset from above the clouds, I had anticipated this moment all day. It had been a long morning and afternoon…we were scheduled to land at 7:30pm in Manila, and I couldn’t wait to crash at the hotel. An announcement over the radio said our landing would be delayed…and so began our hilarious streak of bad luck in the Philippines.

After about 45 minutes of aimlessly flying in the sky, we finally landed. We hurried to get our bags and requested an Uber that was 9 minutes away. I watched the little black car on my phone make it’s way to us…and then turn around, make it’s way towards us and then turn around. After almost 45 minutes, I cancelled the ride. It was after 9pm. Another ride request service was located outside the airport, and they quoted us a half hour for a driver to arrive. We broke down and got a taxi.

The driver was very nice and talked to us about where we were staying and where to go on the island. The hotel was only about 5 miles away…food, shower, then bed! I’m so close! I thought…

The traffic was the worst I had seen anywhere. Rush hour in LA would have been a godsend in comparison. Gone were the peaceful law abiding freeways of Taiwan, and into the madness we stumbled. It took us an hour to drive 5 miles. At 10:15pm, we checked into Amorsolo Hotel. After a 15 hour travel day…there’s nothing like finding out the hotel you booked online is located in a red light district. Great. We made plans to leave Manila in the morning.

After another failed Uber experience in the morning, we took a taxi to Victory Liner bus terminal and made our way out to Subic Bay at 11:30am. Our taxi driver from the airport had said it was about a 3 hour trip, and roughly 90 miles. It turns out the traffic is just constant and it took an additional hour and a half to get out of the city. We arrived in Subic Bay around 4pm.

We stayed at The Pub Hotel. Great reviews on line, right next to the beach, this was exactly what I was looking for. A few days on the beach would be the perfect send off back to the US. Funny though, none of the reviews mention that National Highway, where the hotel was located, was yet another (larger) red light district. I laughed inside and let it go. You can’t win them all!

I tried to see the situation with as much humor as possible but the deathly energy of Subic Bay was very present. Young beautiful girls flaunted their bodies everywhere, and I felt their emptiness. Old men smoking in the streets, I felt their anger. There was a draw on my own energy. I exuded as much love and peace as I could and will never stop praying for the lost souls I encountered. I will never stop hoping that someday their eyes open and they see how much power and magic is within them.

We hid out at our hotel for the evening and left National Highway in the morning. We headed south to Olongapo and stayed at the Horizon Hotel for two more nights before heading back to Manila. The Horizon was located in a better area, very close to a large mall and water activity centers. It was another long bus ride back to Manila to catch our plane to Vancouver. It may not have been the perfect send off, but it had me itching to come back to the US.

No matter what the country or the experience had there, there is still purpose, understanding, adventure, and fun to be had. My adventures in Asia may have come to an end for now, but they will live within me forever. Growing up, I could have never grasped just how rich and fulfilling my life would become. I couldn’t be more grateful. Now off to plan the next chapter of this incredible journey we call life.

A special thank you to all the beautiful souls I encountered, this big wide world to explore, and YOU. Xox

Taroko National Park

It was a restless night. I was awake for what felt like most of the night, still energized from my experience on the train earlier, and excited about the following day’s adventures. When morning did come, I wasn’t tired. We got ready and headed to the 7-11 down the street to get some waters and snacks for the day ahead.

While we were dead set on going to Taroko, we still weren’t entirely sure how we’d get there. In all the other countries we went to, an international drivers license wasn’t needed and there were practically no road laws. Every website and forum online stated that we would need one for Taiwan if we hoped to rent a motor bike. Undeterred, we decided to try our luck anyway and hope for the best. We decided our best option would be to go back to Hualien Station (just one stop from Ji’An, and the hub to go to Taroko) and talk to some of the vendors offering motorbike rentals. As it turned out, some of the vendors were willing to rent motorbikes to foreigners without an international drivers license…for a severe upcharge. That was until a friendly man named Paul handed us his business card and gave us a great deal. Transport to and from Taroko? Check!

We filled up with gas, got breakfast at the Aqua Cafe, and headed out. It was just under an hours drive to the National Park. For the last 15 minutes of the drive, we could see the fog covered mountains that awaited us. We stopped in at the visitor center to grab a map and were informed that there had been a lot of rain the night before and most of the trails were closed for repair, but we would be allowed to take the scenic 45 minute drive through the park. I would have been slightly disappointed had the drive not been one of the most spectacular moments of my life. Truly one for the books.

The vines I saw on the train ride were within touching distance from my head. They hung down from the thick foliage surrounding the road. I don’t think I could have counted all the waterfalls if I tried…I guess that rain storm was just preparation for an incredible showcasing of mother nature. Large tour busses struggled to round the tight corners and squeeze through the water dripping caves. Definitely rent a motorbike if possible. We were able to see so much more of the park being on our own rather than with a tour group. Plus, there really is something magical about driving through leaky caves getting splashed with water.

We spent several hours taking in the serenity of Taroko before heading back to town. We returned the bike, grabbed a pizza, and made some chaotic plans to get back to Taipei in time for our flight tomorrow. We would be leaving at 7:30am, and getting to Taipei way too early, but all the other trains were sold out, and better to be too early than too late. Our next adventure would take us to our last country before heading back to the United States. It was bittersweet, but Taiwan had given me some incredible experiences and growth. I am so thankful.

Ji’An

Preparing for our departure south made for a chaotic morning. We had planned to take an 11am executive train to Ji’An station, one stop past Taroko where we were going the following day. Not only did we arrive at the main station too late, the train had already been sold out since the night before. Although it would take an hour longer than the executive train, there was another train leaving in 45 minutes and turned out to be significantly cheaper. We got some snacks and boarded.

I watched our location on Google Maps as we rode through the foggy mountain landscape. Seemingly in the middle of no where, waterfalls trickled from rocky cliffs, vines crawled through trees and dangled from branches, and nature lived in peace and solitude. I would have loved to stop the train just to spend a few hours exploring but a grander experience awaited ahead.

The long train ride offered the perfect opportunity to catch up on some audiobooks and ponder life’s wonders. I had come to Asia in part for spiritual growth, and I felt the connection to my inner self grow exponentially while in Taiwan. I looked back on my tumultuous years prior with nothing but a deep understanding of their importance. It felt as though I was sitting inside the protective vessel of my body, indulging in the magic that surrounded me, absent of the mind that once took over my life. I felt overwhelming amounts of gratitude, significance, love, excitement, purity, and happiness. I had experienced moments like this in meditation, but they always subsided with time and rarely occurred this intensely. I marinated in this state of bliss while I watched the countryside pass by the window. Four hours had passed and we slowed to a stop at Ji’An station.

Our hotel was less than a mile from the station, so with 2 backpacks and now a third bag carrying our Muay Thai gear, we walked to Fang Yi B&B. It was located on a small side street just off a main road. There were no distinctive markings outside the building, but we were able to find the entrance. A girl in her twenties greeted us and gave us “house slippers” before welcoming us inside. Her english was impeccable and she greeted us by name. Her name was Stacy. The home was owned by her mother, who rented out multiple rooms upstairs. The home was filled with exotic furniture, large crystal statues, and photos of her mom’s dancing career. The entire place felt like home. Starving from the train ride, we checked in and looked for a place to grab some food.

On Google Maps, I noticed a little cafe located nearby called the Aqua Cafe. Little did we know that Taiwan would become home to the greatest waffles and lattes of all time. The inside of the cafe had an under the sea vibe, with blue aimg_9940nd white walls and window murals of the ocean. The owner was so kind and created a true masterpiece for our late lunch.

Worlds Fastest Elevator & an Upside Down House

We woke the next morning, well rested and ready for the day. There was only one coffee shop open but it ended up being a great spot to grab some breakfast. It was a little more expensive than everywhere else we had been traveling, but severely inexpensive for a first world country. We had no plans for the day, and while looking at Google Maps, we saw a marking for Huashan 1914 Creative Park. After doing a little more digging, it seemed to be worth checking out. We mapped out how to get there (again, praise Taiwan’s Metro system), and we were on our way! (TIP: Get the day pass when using the Metro! It’s cost effective if you’re planning on a busy day and you’ll get coupons to use throughout your trip! Including one for Taipei 101 which we used)

The Creative Park was located just across the street from Zhong Xiao Xing Sheng Station. It started to rain as we made our way to the exhibitions, but there were plenty of cute little shops to spend time in while we waited for the storm to pass. From handmade miniature wood figures and giant beetles preserved in clear plastic, to upside down houses and 3D museums, there’s plenty to do and something for everyone. We spent a couple hours walking around before heading to a nearby mall to grab some lunch, and then going back to our hotel.

In the evening we went to Taipei 101, the world trade center in Taiwan and home to the worlds fastest elevator. Just how fast are we talking? 38MPH fast. It only takes 40 seconds to reach the top, and there is no lacking in the ear popping mild motion sickness department. But the ceiling of the elevator offers a “sky full of diamonds”-esque show to keep you entertained. 

We waited until it was dark outside so we could view the city lights, and from 89 stories up the view did not disappoint. When purchasing our tickets, we were given coupons to use at the shops and vendors located at the top, including specials on mango beer and souvenirs. The 89th floor is the viewing floor, but visitors are also allowed on the 88th floor, which boasts luxury items for sale for the uber wealthy (like you’re ready to drop 400k USD on vacation for a giant globe kind of wealthy). All kinds of novelty items were for sale, from huge amethyst geodes and fluorite fountains to carved coral thousands of years old.

 

Before I knew it we had already spent several hours at the trade center and didn’t get back to our hotel until almost midnight. The following day, it was time to head south towards Taroko National Park.

Taipei, Taiwan

We checked out of our hostel in Phuket at 2pm and took a taxi to the closest bus station. The airport is pretty far from town and Taxi’s were charging 800 baht to get there. Getting to the bus station only cost 400, and then another 100 from the station to the airport. It was a long bus ride considering the distance due to traffic and frequent stops to pick up other passengers, but we arrived at the airport plenty in advance for our flight.

We flew Nova Airlines to Taipei, with a layover in Bangkok. It was a late flight, departing at 11:30pm, and arriving in Taipei at around 7am. The Phuket airport was run down, and poorly maintained, but new terminals are scheduled to be opened in September 2016. Our layover was in the middle of the night and sleeping on the second plane proved to be near impossible. After a long night of travel, we arrived early the next morning and quickly made our way out of the airport. Immediately, it was as if I had been transported to another world. Was I still in Asia? Taiwan was so advanced and clean. Their public transit seemed so organized and efficient, which was a vast improvement from the lawless roads of Thailand. There are buses every fifteen minutes to Taipei Main Station, where we would be taking a train to our hotel. It was a little under an hour before we made it into town. The main station was flooded with people but we navigated through the crowds to our line and made it to our stop.IMG_9860.JPG

We stayed at MetroStay Plus Shihlin Station. It is located on a bit of a side road, but in a safe section of town and very close to the train terminal. The room was small but comfortable and clean. Due to the early flight, we couldn’t check in at the hotel when we arrived, so we relaxed at a coffee shop around the corner for a couple hours until our room
was ready. We were exhausted from our lack of sleep, so we took a long nap in the afternoon, headed out for dinner and then relaxed at the hotel for the rest of the evening to prepare for the following days adventures.

Work Hard, Play Hard

I’d be lying if I said I made it to every class but I have learned so much and could not have asked for a better, more authentic experience. I have nothing but great reviews about the facility and staff, who pushed me beyond my imaginary limits. So what did I do while I was playing hookie from Muay Thai? I drove along the breathtaking coastline and swam through the jade waters at Surin beach.

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40 minutes from Tiger Muay Thai, Surin beach is a true gem of Phuket. While Patong beach is regularly crowded, Surin offers a peaceful alternative. The sky was slightly overcast but the water was still warm. The scenic drive alone would have been worth the distance, but playing in the water was a sweet cherry on top. Parking was abundant and the beach itself was relatively clean.

The tide was very strong, and it was truly a magical day. I am an avid fan of beaches, but beyond my bias I believe the oceans hold the some of the greatest powers of emotional and mental healing. I’ve never known someone who can stand in front of such vastness and not be effected in some way. My mother hates going to the beach, but during some bad days prior to my parents divorce, we sat in the sand on multiple occasions.

Soi Ta-iad was starting to feel like home. Every day, we ate at restaurants up and down the street. We shopped for groceries. We did our laundry. Some days, we drove up to Central Festival Mall for dinner. It was so comfortable and I will absolutely be back. But for now, our time in Thailand has come to an end, and it has gone above and beyond it’s purpose.

As fate would have it, this is not the end of our journey. Sam and I never travel with a plan. It can be stressful at times, not knowing which country you’ll be heading to next. (Can that really be counted as stress though?) Take your guesses.

Tiger Training

We awoke to a rainy morning and quickly packed our things to prepare for the busy day ahead. At around 10am, we took a taxi to The Siam Hostel and got our things settled before heading out to find gear. I had lucked out and found a great deal on gloves at SuperSports in the Central Festival Mall, but I still needed shin pads and Sam needed both shin pads and gloves. Despite being an inexpensive country to travel in, the markups on gear made it close to US price, if not higher. I would recommend bringing gear from the US if possible, but if not, the low price of the classes makes overpaying for gear really not seem so bad.

We also went to Tesco Lotus to stock up on some food for the week. Classes would be going on throughout most of the day, and they began at 7am, before most places opened for breakfast. The street was lined with storefronts selling all kinds of gear. We ended up purchasing our shin pads for 1200 baht, my 12oz gloves for 550 baht, and Sam’s 16oz gloves for 1600 baht.

We went to bed early the night before training and set our alarms for 6am. I went through several scenarios in my head as I fell asleep but little did I know, nothing could really prepare me for what I had signed up for the next day.

I was tired in the morning when the alarm woke us, but my excitement quickly took over. I ate a banana as we walked to class and cleared my head. I payed special attention to stay as present as possible throughout the class to absorb as much as possible. I arrived at the outdoor training area and found two or three students running in a circle. The instructor motioned for us to join the circle and so the class began.

We ran for about 20 minutes, adding different variants to the laps closer to the end. By the time we were finished, I was already drenched in sweat from the humid weather. The instructor stood on a wood platform in front of the class and began to describe the punches we would be practicing, giving each of them a number he would say during combinations. He fittingly called himself Mr. Miyagi, a very special soul. We practiced punches and kicks for about a half hour, as other coaches walked around the room correcting student’s form. We stopped to get water before we were taught fighting strategies. We paired up with other students around our size and practiced pulling and pushing them into submissive positions. It wasn’t long before we were training one on one with coaches, they called out numbers as we performed the corresponding punches and kicks. Then we did bag work, doing push ups and sit ups in between each set. 15 minutes before the end of class we stood up and said our name and where we were from. I assumed the exhaustion was over until Mr. Miyagi gave us 100 more push ups and 300 more sit ups to do. As if that weren’t enough on it’s own, coaches walked around the room with pads, hitting students in the stomach as they did their sit ups to break down stomach facia. I thought I was going to be sick.

We walked back to our hotel room exhausted, unsure of how we were going to complete the second class in just a few hours. I just got my butt kicked, I thought as I could barely stand in the cool shower. My muscles were already starting to ache but somehow, I mustered the strength to complete another grueling two hour class in the heat. It was the beginning of a very long week…

Bus Rides and Ocean Vibes

It truly felt like an eternity before the InterTop made it’s wide turn into the bus terminal. There are two bus terminals in Phuket one in the center of town and one farther north. We ended up at the one further out of town and ended up taking a taxi for 400 baht into town. The taxi driver dropped us off at a central location
and we walked to a place called the Waffle House for some food and free Wifi. We ended up finding a hotel on special just across the street called The Quil. It had a great city loft style with a 50s flare. The concrete floors and tall ceilings kept the room cool and for USD $19 a night it was a steal. IMG_9794
The next morning we rented a motorbike for 300
baht to check out what part of Phuket we wanted to be in. We drove about 30 minutes to Patong beach, an extremely
popular tourist destination, crowded with vendors and travelers. We walked around and grabbed a
smoothie from a drink bar run by a very happy French man. It was hot, but there was a slight breeze and the sky was overcast. We drove along the coast and took in some of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever ex
perienced. As we rode our motorbike along the cliffs edge overlooking the ocean, I couldn’t help but ask myself, how is this my life??!

We had one more stop before we would head back to the hotel, Tiger Muay Thai. Tiger offers training for all levels of Muay Thai and having always wanted to try a martial art, I was intrigued. We toured the facilities and looked into pricing. It was located in fitness heaven, the entire street lined with all kinds of gyms and every flavor of protein shake you could want. The weekly rate for the program we were interested in was just under USD 100. It was too good an opportunity to pass up. We spent the next couple hours pricing out weekly rates at the hotels along the street. We decided on the Siam Hostel, which was USD 17 per night. We would spend tomorrow preparing for our class and begin the following day.

The drive to the hotel felt short as I marinated in my excitement for the upcoming experience. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew it would leave an impact. Here I am at 21 years old living out dreams I never knew could even exist in fantasy. I’m in awe of this life.

A Day in Hat Yai

It took 9.5 hours, but we made it to Hat Yai safely!

No one can expect a great nights sleep on a bus, but it wasn’t so bad. We chose Inter Top, one of the nicer “executive” bus options, which cost us roughly USD 12 per person. The seats reclined to a decent level and there was a bar to rest your feet on, under the seat in front of you. However, there was no bathroom on the bus, which was extremely inconvenient for those who like to stay hydrated during the night. There were no pillows or blankets on the bus, so I curled up in my seat and used my jacket as a pillow and Sam shared his sleeping bag with me, which we used as a blanket. Without the two, I wouldn’t have slept a wink. Come prepared.

We were woken up several times from 4am onward as we stopped for gas and crossed borders. Our bus wasn’t full, but ours was one of several to be crossing the border in the early morning, so we did have to wait in line for about 45 minutes before we got back on the road. We ended up making it into town at around 9 am.

When we finally arrived in Hat Yai, we posted up at a Starbucks to make some plans for the rest of our stay. We ended up staying at V-Ocean Palace. It was a fair value for the price and in a safe section of town. The hotel unfortunately ended up being my favorite part of Hat Yai. After checking in, we took some showers and rested up from our long night of travels before heading out to find some dinner and finding bus tickets to Phuket.

It was raining when we woke up so we took a TukTuk to a small shopping center closer into town to get some lunch. Through a “miscommunication” (rip off), we ended up paying the TukTuk double what he had quoted us, it took us nearly four hours to find lunch, it was raining, and Sam was catching a cold. We were frustrated, desperate for a fresh meal, and tired from having walked all over town. Everywhere we went it seemed the locals just wanted to make an extra buck and we went back to our hotel without bus tickets for the next day to Phuket. We spent the evening with a couple jugs of orange juice and made the plan to arrive at the bus station the next morning and hope for the best.

We arrived at the bus station at 8:30am, and as luck would have it, the next bus was departing at 9am. It was a double stacked executive bus with a bathroom and about half the price of what we were being quoted in town. We got some drinks and snacks and boarded the bus shortly after 9. 7.5 hours later, we arrived in Phuket…

A Night in Malaysia

After departing Denpasar International, and spending an unfortunately uneventful day in Java, we arrived in Kuala Lumpur at 3:30pm. Starving, and malnourished from the lack of fresh vegetarian options while traveling, our food prayers were answered in BMS Organics. BMS (standing for Body, Mind, & Soul) offers a variety of vegetarian and vegan options for my heIMG_9776alth conscious traveling friends and it has my highest recommendation. I ordered a vegan burger on a charcoal bun and it did not disappoint. Sam ordered the sweet and sour tofu with rice, which was equally as enjoyable. The whole meal was under USD$12, including two drinks, which is a steal compared to American organic restaurants.

Their airport was much larger and more technological than Denpasar, and we had multiple options into the heart of the city. We took the bus into town, which cost USD 4 for both of our tickets. However, the “fastest way into Kuala Lumpur” is by train and cost USD 14 per person.

Once at KL Sentral, we found the local transportation system easy to navigate. Additionally, there were lockers large enough to store our bags. We packed light, but not having to carry our bags around was definitely a relief and allowed us more focus to enjoy what we were doing. USD$3 well spent.

We had scheduled a night bus from TBS to Hat Yai, Thailand, as our final destination is Phuket. The bus didn’t depart until 11:30pm, so we had some time to kill. We decided to visit the Petronas Twin Towers, boasting the tallest sky bridge in the world. It was four stops away at KLCC on Route 5. From KLCC station, it couldn’t have been more than a five minute walk to the towers. Coming from Indonesia, it felt like I had been transported to a different world. Kuala Lumpur is definitely every bit of the city feel you would expect. I stood outside of the H&M Home Store (yes, they have one of those) and tried to orient myself with my GPS. It said I was right next to the towers, but in front of me I only saw one massive building…because it’s twin was hiding behind it.

I entered through the mall, where names like Armani, Coach, and Gucci lined the shiny marble walls. Hmmmm…wasn’t I just in the land of $2 t-shirts?! I made my way to the Petronas Towers and by this time it was roughly 7:00pm. I was disappointed to hear the tours had been sold out for the entire evening, but this allows me to pass a lesson onto you, my readers: BUY TICKETS ONLINE IN ADVANCE. Being as impromptu as it was, my disappointment turned into appreciation that I was able to experience this at all. The base of the towers offers a lot of information on the building process and you can still enter the gift shop.

Hungry yet again, we had dinner at Limoncello’s just outside the mall, overlooking a multicolored water show. Malaysia was a food PARADISE. I had a caesar salad and minestrone soup, which would seem very average, but for an Italian girl who had been eating lots of curry and rice in Indonesia, it was a godsend. Thus far, my favorite meal in Asia.

FullSizeRender 6We walked around the fountain show before heading back to the station at around 8:45pm. The train that would take us to the bus stop didn’t show up until 9:40pm, and it was recommended we be at the bus stop a half hour early. Once on the train, we accidentally got off one stop shy of where we should have, where we had to wait another 20 minutes for the next train. 10:30pm and finally we showed up at TBS…where we found that our tickets from busonlineticket.co.th had never been emailed to us. We ended up repurchasing tickets through the booking agent at the terminal, deciding to deal with our online fiasco the following day. It has yet to be resolved, but I will update this blog post when it has.

At 11:45pm, we were on our way to Hat Yai.

Tanah Lot & Bye Bye Bali

We rented our motorbike for another day and decided to drive out to Tanah Lot, another temple roughly an hour from where we were staying. We left a little after 8am, hoping to beat the midday crowds. I should have done some research before we went, as I was disappointed to find out that we couldn’t actually go inside or even get to the island it was built on. The entrance fee was a little over USD 2 for foreigners, but it’s even cheaper for locals. There is a parking area about a half mile from the temple itself and the streets leading up to it are lined with vendors. Once you get to the viewing area, there are more vendors and restaurants to the left. It was beautiful. The weather was perfect and a handful of surfers had gathered to take advantage of the tide.

Personally, it was underwhelming, probably due to the incredible experience I’d just had the day prior and my unrealistic expectations. The vendors are just like the ones you see all over town, and there’s only so long you can be entertained by viewing a temple on an island, especially after seeing pictures online. We got some lunch and had a great time, but after driving for an hour, we weren’t there for as long as I had imagined.

Our time on Bali was incredible. Despite being known as more of a honeymoon resort style travel destination, there were lots of fellow backpack style travelers as well, mostly from Australia and New Zealand. Lodging and dining is inexpensive, and although transport throughout the country can be a little tricky to arrange at times, it can still be cheap. You can truly travel anywhere on a budget. Just remember that there is always a better price (so haggle), and always take metered taxis (no exceptions). Next stop Malaysia!