I’m finally back after my long solo budget adventure, and it was an incredible journey. As you read in my first post on Bangkok, SouthEast Asia is an amazing place to visit since you can do it on an incredibly low budget, but always feel safe – which is important especially for females traveling alone. If you’re interested in going on a similar trip in the future, here are some of the highlights and my advice on Phuket, Chiang Mai and Bali:
Make sure you don’t stay in the main town of Pattong, since it is not relaxing or true Thailand at all. Mostly vendors selling crap, teenagers walking around drunk and people trying to get you into shows where women are projecting things out of their lady-parts. I would use TripAdvisor, which was a godsend for me on the trip – to find somewhere on the outskirts that is more mellow, but keep in mind taxis are a little more expensive on the islands (about $15 to get to some of the more quiet resorts from Pattong). I filled my days with day trips out to PhangNa Bay and the Phi Phi islands, which included Maya Bay, where they filmed The Beach. These are amazing – for about $100-$130 they pick you up and drop you off, and take you out on a boat to beautiful spots where you can kayak or snorkel or just stand in awe and stare at the beauty. Food and massages in Phuket, like the rest of Thailand, are also super cheap (about $6 for an hour massage and a nice meal for $7).
This was my favorite place in Thailand and a must-see if you ever make it over there. I spent the first four days at an eco-lodge up in the mountains, and it was an incredible experience. It was MUCH colder up there, no hot water and barely-there internet, but besides the discomfort it was pretty magical. Chai Lai is run by a fellow New Yorker who employs people from the local Karen Tribe and those who have fled a dangerous homeland like Burma. It is also located right in an elephant park, so you wake up to elephants walking around and can hear them in the surrounding jungle at night. I got to take a bareback ride on one of these amazing animals, and watch them being bathed in the mornings. I was also able to take a trek out to a local village and a bamboo raft down the local river. It was $40/night to stay there, food was super cheap and the entire adventure package was about $100.
I spent the last few days in town, which is amazing. Cute healthy food spots, amazing restaurants and massage places on every corner. Make sure you spend a morning going up to Doi Suthep temple, which is only 15 minutes drive (and $3 for a taxi). Also try out Dash restaurant, where you can get a beautiful meal for about $6 – and Dada cafe where you can grab a wheatgrass shot, green juice and veggie burger for $7.
Oh Bali. My favorite spot. I spent a few days in Canggu – a beach town about 40 minutes from the airport ($11 taxi fare). I stayed in the super cute guesthouse Ole Ole Ollie on Echo beach. It was very relaxing and low-key, right near the beach and only about $40/night. Cute healthy restaurants like Betelnut were nearby, where you could get green juices and dinner for 2 for about $12. You may not like Bali if you’re not a dog person – there are dogs running around all over the place here since people don’t generally keep housepets – they just feed a dog and claim it as their own. It’s strange.
Next up was Ubud, and this is where I fell in love. It’s like a hippy haven. This is where that strange girl from work who wears harem pants and talks about her third eye dreams of going one day. It is really a meeting place of like-minded people, all speaking about energy and chakras and doing things like acro-yoga and sound bowl meditation. There are a ton of amazing, healthy restaurants like Kafe and Clear Cafe with meals costing on average about $10. I did yoga almost every day at Radiantly Alive. I really didn’t want to leave.
Ubud is also where I did my volunteer placement with VolunteerHQ teaching english to 7 and 8 year olds. It was definitely a rewarding experience, although the organization itself was quite unorganized. If you are planning to do volunteer work with children, be prepared for very little prep work or training with the organizers. Fortunately, these cute little faces and their eagerness to learn made up for it all – and I left feeling grateful to have assisted in making a difference in their lives. Knowing english is huge tool for growth and opportunity for children in this country, and you can only hope that they continue to be so eager to learn.
Overall, this was an incredible gift that I gave myself, and one that I do not regret. My post on why solo travel is amazing covered what I really got out of the adventure, but again, if you’re looking for one of those soul-searching getaways, the spots that I traveled are the way to go. If you have any questions, please feel free to post in the comments and I’ll help you out however I can!