Asia Cheap Travel, Screw the Research & Planning!

One of the biggest problems that I face when planning Asia cheap travel is trying to set the main things that I want to do and then to come up with a reasonable time frame and importantly for me a cheap travel budget that is realistic to the goals that I have identified. Research is the key to having a great vacation or an OK holiday, screw this part up and regret it you will. Time and money always being the major influences for me as a professional Cheap Charley, I want the best chance of having a great time so I work it hard before I go on the road.

I go to the travel blogs for my main research once I have an idea where I want to go to, one that I lean on is Travel Blog.org. The people that write on that particular blog have no financial reason to give you slued information and they tend to be more seasoned travelers than the great majority of new guys on Thorn Tree. I look to see what they did and see if it interests me, always keeping in mind that I do not want to follow exactly the hobbit trail, otherwise why bother, just read about it. Now it is safer to follow exactly what other people have done but the surprises that you encounter sometime good, sometimes bad are the stuff that stick in the old cranium.  

For instance the clock tower in Mandalay in Burma Myanmar, why bother unless you need to set the time on your watch, for me it was a waste of time, we did however have a great time at a restaurant that had duck and goose hanging in the window which was not a tourist place as it was not listed anywhere just down the street, just a regular local restaurant that we stumbled into just because the stomach said a stop was in order.  I did really dig sitting in the Savoy hotel having tea which is listed and the time in Bagon was priceless. I tell everyone that they need to make Bagon a priority if they are going to be in that part of the world. Had I did proper research, I would have know that the boat only runs on certain days between Mandalay and Bagon, Major Bummer! The boat was really cool looking when we checked it out on the dock after taking the boring flight because the planner in the research phase missed that one.

Time is always a nuisance, so I recommend that you plan so that there be flex days when you can get the cheap travel on demand, usually bus or train segments, and then if you find a place that really interest you, you can hang longer and really dig into a place. Quiananmen South of Tiananmensquare in Beijing was one of those places for me that created a dilemma as I had a really cheap flight to Bangkok on Air Asia out of Xiamen , which was a very cool place worthy of more time, but I was having such a great time in the Quiananmen Market section to the south of Tiananmen square that I wanted to stay in that area longer, which I did, and was rewarded late at night just before the cheap noodle place closed, to watch a local family restaurant dynamics at the end of the day. The bus boy dishwasher was worked about something and he was letting everyone know in a voice that would not be out of place between me and my precious pussy cat “Mangler”  when I am standing on her tail as she is shredding my leg with her razor sharp mouse killers between the bathroom and my morning coffee, anyway, the fur was flying and the  back and forth was hilarious as they kept at each other with about 6 staff all interacting for about 5 minutes and at the end of the day they all started laughing, now I don’t speak any Chinese but have been involved in that kind of tit for tat and for me that was the highlight of the trip, as I connected with that family group intimately as the fly on the wall contentedly slurping my excellent late night local noodles.

Money is the other thing that I spend a lot of time researching. I ran a small business and the rule of thumb that I learned is that you should have 2.5 times the budget that you think you need and for cheap travelers this is a bit higher than you want to hear I am sure but I would suggest that you have 1.5 available and that you have a reserve of at least 1 times more should something unplanned for happen, nothing worse than being a stranger in strange land making the universal rabbit ears distress signal with your pockets. 

Credit cards are good but bless that little Murphy’s impish soul, in times like these they can shut off for no readily apparent reason and if that is all that you are counting on life can get really interesting. I suggest that you have lined up in advance some back up like a rich uncle or other family member that you know will step up should the need arise. Major tip: People that owe you money are not good bets! Have your checking, saving, debit, Visa, MasterCard card information ready so that they can either do a bank to bank transfer or make a payment direct to your credit card. . American Express works great, but if you qualify you wouldn’t be reading this now would you! The safest bet is having a debit card with a easy pin as you can have someone make a direct cash deposit to your bank and then you get immediate access via a cash point or ATM.   Today banks have real people hours so the longest possible time would be 48 hours.   They can also make a Visa or MasterCard payment but they still might not sort you out and turn you back on if they know you are broke and playing in Asia instead of working hard to pay their legal loan sharking rates, and it usually has at least a 3 day wait.

I send all that banking information to a email account that I can get to from anywhere label it baby pictures or something else totally boring and send it to a Gmail my preference or Hotmail or Yahoo email account so that you can get at it. I also scan a copy of my passport and visas that are in it that you will need on your travels and my drivers license or ID card this makes a for an easy ID if you should lose your passport at the embassy or a bank.

Hey if I see you in Asia with the old look at the rabbits in my pants trick I know that you skipped the planning and I will gladly help you out with some good advice like put a bell on your precious pussy cat!

Wonders of SouthEast Asia

History meets the contemporary and brings out a beautiful combination in Southeast Asia. This chunk of the continent is home to the best tourist destinations, with a variety of landscapes all over. Tourists fall in eternal love with Southeast Asia, all thanks to its sun-kissed beaches, jungles, lush green peaks and a variety of climate changes. To add a cherry to the top, Southeast Asians are known to be the friendliest hosts and would accommodate to the needs of the tourists in the most hospitable ways.

Planning to explore the Southeast chunk of Asia? Here we’ve picked the best travel destinations for you. Whether this is a family trip, backpacking adventure or your anticipated honeymoon, Southeast Asia would delight you a great deal!

1. Cambodia
The land of Cambodia is famous worldwide for its tourism and textiles. The country is home to attractive temples that would most certainly draw your attention. Angkor Wat, also known as the City Temple is the most popular among these. Since it dates back to the 12th century, touring the temple is an amazing way to explore Cambodia’s past. The Bayon Temple and BanteaySrei are some others that are most often admired by tourists. On the Gulf of Thailand lies the wonderful Sihanoukville and its white sand beaches. The Silver Pagoda stands out for its architecture and the gold Buddha statues. Cambodia is warm nearly all year round, leaving tourists with more choice of when to visit the country.

2. Thailand
If there’s one destination you can’t miss in Southeast Asia, it would probably be Thailand! You must have heard of the great Phi Phi. It is located close to Phuket, and is the ultimate spot for beach lovers because of the million activities the archipelago supports. Once you’re in the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, do not miss the Grand Palace. The amazing architecture of the gigantic palace and its majestic lawns would leave you awestruck! If you can allow yourself more time in the country, explore its Northern side. The traditional ways of the hill tribes will amuse you a great deal along with the endless adventures the landscape offers. For your eyes to witness the most breathtaking views, take the rail journey from Thai to Burma. Along with the picturesque views, learning more about the history would keep you entertained along the way.

3. Laos
The landlocked land of Southeast Asia has attracted tourists because of its landscape and unique culture. When in the Northern Laos, explore LuangPrabang. This town was listed as UNESCO’s World Heritage Site. Despite being small in area, its beauty is matchless to any other part of Southeast Asia. Backpackers would fall in love with VangVieng. The city is famous for the endless adventures it offers and also stands out for the limestone karst hills. The serene atmosphere of the city makes it a perfect tourist spot. Tham Kong Lo is an amazing limestone cave on the PhuHin Bun River. It is considered one of the most special wonders of Southeast Asia. If you’re looking for adventures, it is a must to visit these caves.

Keeping Safe in Asia

ASIA, LAND OF DIVERSITY

Asia is a beautiful and diverse place, from rain forests, rice fields, and cultural landmarks, to bustling cities, gridlock motor bike traffic, and relentless marketeers. But there are two sides to this intriguing land; Asia is also a place of terrible crime, violence and corruption. Travellers to Asia can take safety precautions and procedures to ensure you are kept safe.

CRIME PREVAILS

Most Asian countries are developing nations, where people on average have a much lower income than people from western countries. I was talking with a young 20 year old man that was waiting on us at a restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. He told me he worked 18 hours a day, 28 days per month, and he earned US$40 per month (US$1.40 per day). Although these people get by, living in these conditions can be very difficult, and turning to crime would be an attractive and almost irresistible option. Just a small amount of pick-pocketing and stealing could provide a lot more for their families.

TRAVELLERS ARE TARGETED

Most lower-middle class Asians will see foreigners as very wealthy people. In their minds, if you can afford to travel here, you are rich. Criminals will know that you will be carrying valuable items and cash, and you could be targeted as a potential victim. My friend and I were walking to the park near our hotel in Ho Chi Minh. He was taking photos with a very expensive camera and kept it loosely around his neck with a strap. Thankfully, before anything happened, a concerned local who could speak very good English told us that we should be extremely careful if we were to have the camera out, especially at night time. We returned the camera to the hotel room before returning to the park.

AUTHORITIES ARE OF LITTLE USE

If you are a victim of a crime in the developing Asian countries, there is not much help provided. In fact, the police can be just as corrupt as the criminals. While in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, I was visiting an Australian who lives there permanently. She had just bought a car and was giving it a test run. She saw some locals drive down the wrong direction of a one way street and decided to do the same. Immediately she was stopped by the police. According to protocol, she was to go to the police station and receive a US$25 fine for breaking the road rules. She waved a US$10 note to the policeman, he took it, returned to his car, and let her go about her business. The police in Cambodia rely on bribes and corruption to provide food for their families, as the wages they get do not go very far.

HOW TO BE SAFE

No-one likes to be a victim of crime, so here are techniques to be safe while travelling in Asia.
1. Do not keep valuables lying around in hotel rooms. Hotel cleaning staff earn a lowly wage, and although they may be nice and honest people, don’t tempt them. A good idea is to lock your luggage zippers with a padlock when leaving possessions alone in hotel rooms.

2. Do not keep valuables loosely hanging on your body. Cameras and belt bag straps can be slit with a small knife very quickly, and by the time you have figured it out, your items are gone. Use a slim, poly-cotton money belt, strapped inside of your clothes, around your body. They are very thin, almost invisible under clothes, and inaccessible by shifty pick-pockets.

3. If possible, wear your backpack at the front. This is not so important if you are in a group, but when alone or in a pair, this is a good idea. An acquaintance was sharing with me his experiences in Cambodia. A foreign woman with a bag on her back was riding on the back of a moto (motorbike taxi service) when a man (who was on foot) grabbed her pack as she was riding by. The woman stubbornly held on to her pack and came off the back of the moto. Although she got to keep her possessions, she was covered with cuts and grazes from the fall.

4. Travel in numbers. A good rule is to have at least two people going everywhere you go, ESPECIALLY at night time. When we were in Cambodia we made it a rule to walk in pairs, even throughout the day. I know this can be difficult for people that travel alone, may be you could find a group from your country that is going to the same country that you want to go to.
http://www.asiaexplored.com An up and coming website dedicated to travel in Asia.