We’re a married couple from Wexford Ireland. As far as Yin Yang, opposites attract we probably tick most boxes. She loves to shop, I feel physically sick inside a department store! I’m a Sci Fi nerd, I love Star Wars, superhero movies and generally anything to do with horror. She loves comedies, chick flicks and ANYTHING to do with animals! I will eat pretty much anything at least once. She is a coeliac, has a very specific diet and has a very bad shellfish allergy. Eating anywhere is always a challenge for her/us and things are much better in some places. But travelling comes with its own perils, mostly the language barrier. Somewhere along the last 9 years or so we’ve been together, we’ve picked up each others’ habits and managed to maintain our individual interests. She’s now watched (and liked) Star Wars, I’m pretty sure she would leave me if Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine walked into the room and she is jealous slightly of Jessica Alba even in chick flicks! But the single biggest love that we both share is the love of travelling. We aren’t backpackers, flashpackers, 5 star hotel experts, travel snobs, we don’t have unlimited deep pockets but somehow we have managed to travel to a fair few places together (and separately) and have found ways and means of paying for it. We are just two people who like to travel and the best education we have discovered about the world is going out into it. A few times I’ve heard how do you travel so much? How can you afford it etc. In most cases it’s a struggle to get the funds together. Instead of going out drinking and clubbing every weekend we have worked, stayed in, cut down on cinema trips (probably my favourite thing to do in the world) we don’t smoke, and as much as Denise likes to shop, she has replaced designer shops for Pennys/Primark when possible. Trust me, my wife will sniff out a bargain from a hundred yards and make it look like she’s paid a fortune. Her motto is ‘I couldn’t leave it there!’ As much as I’m loathe to go into shops, the motto rings true when planning or researching a holiday destination or idea. If there’s a bargain to be had then it’s always worth a second look! Various websites and internet search engines have become my bible! We cook most meals, avoid take-aways, and cut down on any bills that aren’t a necessity. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we lead boring lives and we don’t do anything – far from it! We do drink, we do go to the cinema, we do shop and generally try to have fun whenever possible. It’s just that when it comes to travelling there is an element of dedication and stubbornness needed in order to finance any trip whether it’s long haul or a short break a few miles away.
We were in Thailand last June for two weeks for Denise’ 30th birthday. The day we met she was meant to be on a flight to the Land of Smiles and instead ended up in Wexford. As fate would have it, we were introduced, and now we are married. In those early days of young romance I promised her I would bring her to Thailand as she had never got to go. We went to Hua Hin and Bangkok. While we were in Hua Hin, our bank cards got stopped (something that banks will do over and over again unless you get yourself a dedicated travel credit card with no fees!) We had one night with literally a few Baht in our pockets and had to wait until the next day (time zones are a bitch) to ring home. Just down from the hotel we were staying in we found a small street market (or so we thought) This market stretched on through a back street into a big public park. Live music in makeshift bars, street food and crafts everywhere. Thousands of people bartering, eating and drinking on little plastic stools. We ate like kings (and queens). I had a few beers while Denise had a wine cooler drink. Even though this part of the world is close to Australia’s New World Wines, there is a severe lack of wine anywhere to be had. And the whole thing cost around 200 Baht (€5.45, $6.14, £4.06). Not bad eh? It got us thinking. We work hard and play hard. Work and save during the year, and do a city weekend break in Europe, a week in the sun etc – you know the drill. But that night in Hua Hin cost us less that two coffee’s at our local at home. Could we do this long-term? Could we travel a lot longer on the same money? It was a pipe dream we briefly discussed and got on with our holiday. But it lingered there. WAS it possible? Could we travel all around South East Asia on a budget? We decided to go for it and got to doing a bit of research. Denise went and bought Lonely Planet’s South East Asia on a budget book. I took to a few websites and started following a blogger or two. I’d check in on them and read about their experiences. Backpackers are not some dingy girls and boys who survive on nuts, don’t wash and generally scrounge to get by. There are some who do and you do meet them, but as a travelling population they are American gap year students, Australian vegetarians, single white female travellers, couples young and old, European guys who want to escape their daily lives, surfers looking for the ultimate wave, party people, peaceful vegans, hippies, retired history seekers, full families with teenagers and young toddlers – the list goes on and on. Backpackers can be anyone, all shapes and sizes, colours, sexual orientation and religion (or lack of). Make no mistake about it. Sure you will no doubt find the majority being younger but as a couple in our 30’s we are at the lower end of the spectrum. At least so far!
The majority of blogs I’ve read have been written by solo travellers, and my favourite one is http://www.nomadicmatt.com/ Matt can show you how to travel anywhere in the world for $50 a day. Well worth checking him out. His site is like my bible. Another I like is http://www.goatsontheroad.com/ a nice site by a couple who travel together. As for researching, I found it a bit tougher to get definitive info for couples at times and as mentioned earlier, one of us is coeliac and that makes it harder to choose a location/destination without compromising her safety and allowing us to still travel to where we want to go. Food safety in general is a topic that you have to face up to when travelling anywhere in the world. Sure you will find a McDonald’s on a corner somewhere and yes it will taste the same. If home comforts are your thing then you will get the same Western foods at the same Western prices. But I don’t eat that shite at home and Denise can’t eat it due to her illness. One of my reasons for starting a blog is that I found the very best advice for travelling on these blogs by people who are doing it, making mistakes, getting scammed, learning how to make money last longer, seeing with their own eyes and learning all the time about themselves as people. As I mentioned earlier, we are not traditional backpackers and this will be our first time attempting this form of travel. If there are any tips or advice I can find out that might help anyone out there to try do the same then cool!
So as regards the trip here’s a rough guide to the plan. It might not work and the flexibility of backpacking will probably be called upon a few times…
Jan 19th Fly from Dublin Ireland to Bangkok Thailand
Spend a night or two in Bangkok. The train to Chiang Mai needs to be booked in advance at Bangkok’s main train station. Check out the man in seat 61. http://www.seat61.com/Thailand.htm#How_to_buy_train_tickets_when_in_Thailand The single best website for any train travel anywhere in the world. Every ounce of info was perfect.
Spend 4/5 nights in Chiang Mai and then figure out how to get to Cambodia to visit Ankor Wat http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/668 in Siem Reap. Spend 3 nights or so there and move to Phnom Penh for a night, then onto Sihanoukville (Snooky) a coastal beach town and then maybe get a boat across to Koh Rong. I heard about this place through http://www.backpackerbanter.com/ a solo surfer called Chris. Again some nice info! Stay here for 3/4 nights. This is a small Cambodian island with no electricity. Then work back to Phnom Penh by bus, catch a flight to Kuala Lumpur.
1/2 nights in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia and then train down into Singapore for a few nights. After that the plan is to get to Bali in Indonesia for about 2 weeks and then make our way back to Thailand’s islands before back to Bangkok and home.
We will be away 53 days in total and will be home just in time for Paddy’s Day! We have set our budget at €50 a day. Flights are not included in this budget. Basically the challenge is to find accommodation, eat, see the sights and travel (train, bus, flight or boat – it could vary). Now, this may seem a lot to some and not enough for others but it’s what we have to work with. So it’s into the unknown we go with a little nervousness and a lot of excitement. At the time of writing we are on our third day in Chiang Mai Thailand. I’ll throw up another blog shortly with a roundup of what’s been happening so far…