It’s so amazing how time flies fast. My goal was to backpack across the countries of Southeast Asia. But because of unavoidable circumstances, I got stuck with 2 countries at the moment – Thailand and Cambodia.
It has been 3 months since I started this journey towards self-discovery in my attempt to fulfill my dream of seeing the world.
I would be lying if I tell you that backpacking and leading the life of a digital nomad is fun. Well yeah, there were good times. But there were also bad times. And I experienced it the hard way.
Money is key when you travel. But when I lost my main source of income on my second month, I thought my travelling vice would come to an end. I was on the verge of going home and giving up everything. Luckily, I had friends who helped me get through. I was so overwhelmed by the support I got from well-wishers and some friends who showed me the light. To my friends online and offline, you know who you are. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Things I Did On My 3rd Month of Backpacking
Good bye Laos.
I was supposed to travel to Laos with my travel buddy. But an urgent situation forced me to stop the trip to Laos. On the morning that I was supposed to leave Siem Reap to travel to Bangkok and head up north to the country of Laos, my travel buddy delivered the bad news. He spent the entire night looking for cheap flights to Singapore and announced that morning that he won’t push through with the trip sine he will travel to Singapore the next day.
At the back of my mind, I got envious (in a good way ) By flying to Singapore, a 1st-world country, a country that’s so expensive for my ailing travel fund, he would be accumulating another passport stamp! He’d have a total of 6 if the Singapore immigration lets him through And I was stuck at 2! pft!
My budget for Laos was good if I had someone to share the expenses with and with my travel buddy leaving soon, I was doomed.
I had mixed emotions at that time. I thought it was best not to travel to Bangkok and stay put in Siem Reap but my friend was a mess at that time and I had to make sure he had a clear mind before he set foot in Singapore.
So with me lost in a limbo after he left Bangkok and with not enough funds to keep me afloat, I decided the unthinkable. I decided to go to Chiang Mai, Thailand instead.
buying bus tickets to Chiang Mai at the Morchit Bus Station
Hello Chiang Mai
I booked tickets to Chiang Mai without knowing what to expect in that quaint city. I just prayed before the bus left for Chiang Mai for me to have a safe trip and for HIM to take care of me. I had no idea where to stay or go. My mind wasn’t working right at that time. I even allowed myself to be scammed by a tuk-tuk driver who asked me to pay 100 baht instead of the usual 20-30 baht. I willingly obliged without even haggling for the price.
My foot led me to a guesthouse where I got to share the room with a French exchange student, Lucie. I didn’t know what came over me when I asked her if she wanted to share a 180 baht room with me. Getting the room all to myself would cost me 150 baht. Whereas if I find a roommate, I can just pay less.
baby panda busy munching bamboos…so cute!
During my stay in Chiang Mai City, I got the chance to visit the Chiang Mai Zoo, Doi Suthep, celebrate the Songkran Festival, visit the different temples within the city and I also went on a 2-day adventure trek with Lucie and her friends, Paige (from USA) and Stephanie (from Peru).
with sisters Chloe and Joanna, Lucie, Paige and Olivier
The 2-day trek promised us fun-filled adventures in Chiang Mai as we visited the Orchid Farm, went white water rafting and bamboo rafting at the Mae Tang River, rode elephants and then spent the night at the Jumbo Elephant Camp. On the 2nd day of the trek, I scolded our drunk tour guide when he decided to go on a drinking spree first instead of starting the trek early. In the middle of our pointless trek in the jungles of Chiang Mai, I slipped and almost died.
an almost 90 degrees descent to nowhere; somewhere down below was where I almost died…
Luckily, I grabbed a small plant and fought hard to stop myself from rolling down the hill. Our tour guide came to the rescue. By that time, he probably felt guilty after the scolding I gave him before the trek started because he stayed with me the entire trek and kept saying “Don’t die Doi. Doi don’t die.”
We also got the chance to see a waterfalls and a tribal village after the 2-day trek. It was sort of an extension since the drunk tour guide and the driver came up with gazillion excuses not to bring us to those places. To compensate for the inconvenience, the tour company offered to bring us to the 2 destinations we missed for free.
one of my fave temples within the city, the Wat Chediluang Varaviharn
I figured that since I was already up north, I might as well head over to Pai to see what the buzz was all about. Den was on her school break so I forced her to join me on that trip. When my newfound friends left Chiang Mai, I was forced to look for a new home as I awaited for Den’s arrival. My feet brought me to the Giant Guesthouse.
Before leaving for Pai, we got the chance to visit the paper umbrella making center in Chiang Mai. If not for Den, I would not know that there was an umbrella factory in Chiang Mai.
Umbrella Making Center in Bor Sang
Pai is Love
After seeing the photos from the Sole Sisters when they went to Pai, I told myself I had to go there and check it out. When we arrived in Pai, my first impression was that it was a dead town. The streets were empty. There were only a few people walking in the streets. What’s worse was that some of the people I saw were wearing casts on their arms or legs. Some had bandages on their forehead. How can anyone have accidents in this small town? Well I guess it must be from careless driving or I dunno…
why i saw Pai as a dead town…empty streets!
Going back to impressions, I thought there’s something spooky or fishy going on with all those hyped “I love Pai” signages. Kinda a good marketing strategy to charm people to visit this small town in northern Thailand. My friend Den was really in love with Pai. On the other hand, I got stuck with my first impression.
However, now that I am no longer there, I can see the whole picture clearly and I miss Pai terribly! I miss biking on Pai’s deserted streets. I miss the little bungalow that Den and I shared. I miss taking photos of the place.
Pai Canyon, they say is best visited during sunset…
I met an old guy who owns a shop at the foot of the Pai Canyon and he told me to come back in October in time for the sunflower season and on December-January, the cold season, where sakuras will blossom. He didn’t have to say more. He had me by the mere mention of sunflowers. I promised myself I’d return to Pai (hopefully this October and December) to witness sunflowers and sakuras blossom.
Mae Hongson Adventure
Den wanted to see the long neck village desperately. My funds can no longer support that trip. My passport was about to expire too and my friend Audrey was arriving in Bangkok to join me on my way back to Siem Reap. However, Den won the ‘argument’. We booked for a tour package to see Mae Hong Son for a day.
long neck women in Mae Hong Son
The tour included a visit to the Lahu village, or the pig village. it was a place where pigs have their own village. And yes it stinks! We also went caving at the Nam Lod Cave, visited a couple of temples and we got to see the Long Neck village, the place where you will see the women with coils surrounding their necks to lengthen them.
the entrance to the Nam Lod Cave in Mae Hong Son
As an added bonus, I went on a side-trip to the border of Thailand in Mae Sai for my visa run. This is where I got the chance to set foot on Burmese soil and got my 3rd SEA country stamp! Weeee! It was short-lived though for I had to travel back to Pai immediately
After my Chiang Mai and Pai adventures, we went back to Bangkok where Audrey joined us.
Heading ‘Home’ to Siem Reap
Before heading back to Siem Reap, I got the chance to watch Hunger Games at Major Cineplex in Ratchayothin. Wednesdays is Movie Day and you can get a 50% discount on your movie tickets. I paid 100 baht instead of the usual 200
When Audrey and I got back in Siem Reap, we spent most of the days bumming around in our beds. Every day is lazy day in Siem Reap! We only left our guesthouse when the sun was about to set. I also had the chance to set foot on Angkor Wat again as I attempted to be Audrey’s tour guide.
When Audrey was around, all we did was eat out at night and searched for the mojitos with the best value for money. So far, nothing has beaten NYDC’ record
It has been weeks since Audrey left. I resumed living on my own again and kept fighting the urge to go home…
Backpacking Travel Expenses
The image on top sums up my expenses for the past 3 months. I never paid attention to how much money I spent for food on my 3rd month since I was not at home [in Siem Reap] to cook my own meals. Since I only stayed in Siem Reap on my 2nd month, my expenses were not as high as the 1st and 3rd month. For this month, I spent a lot on miscellaneous stuff because of my Chiang Mai and Pai adventures as well as the food trips Audrey and I did in Siem Reap.
What surprised me was despite the fact that I had limited funds, I surprisingly found ways to stretch out my money and managed to travel to different places. Never mind the stress involved in budgeting everything
As of writing, I am currently in Bangkok for my visa run. It would have been practical to stay in Siem Reap but since my funds were not enough to pay for a 3-months visa, I decided to travel to Bangkok.
Now that I am running on my fourth month of backpacking in Southeast Asia, I intend to find more ways to increase my travel fund so that I will add more stamps to my passport and visit more places in Southeast Asia and hopefully the rest of the world
Again, I’d like to thank old and new friends (online and offline) for everything.
And in case you happen to be in the same place where I am, please don’t hesitate to ask me for a meet up to say “Hi” or something…
P.S. Actually, the visa run was an excuse. I’m in Bangkok now because of the Avengers and Major Cineplex’ Movie Day. No kidding!