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!

Miss Universe Facts!

California’55
 
Like Brazil and the States, Sweden was one of the world’s beauty pageant superpowers in the 50s and 60s. In 1955, this Nordic nation won the global title.
 
Long Beach ’58
 
Surprisingly, Dutch Guiana – present-day Suriname (South America) — was one of the 15 semi-finalists, but did not make the list of the five finalists.
 
Miami ’61
 
Miss Universe 1961 Marlene Schmidt was born in the former East Germany, but she moved to West Germany in search of political tranquility and new opportunities. She was the first and only German to win the international award.
 
America ’65
 
After winning the event, Aspara Hangsakula (Thailand) embarked on a world tour, making stops in the United States, Asia and Latin America. The dark-eyed girl is Thailand’s most famous beauty queen.
 
Florida ’66
 
Inspired by Hangsakula’s victory, Thailand’s representative Jeeranum Savettanum was second runner-up.

Miami ’71

Lebanon’s Miss Universe Georgina Rizk, a native of Beirut, was the one of the first Miss Universes to appear on a national postage stamp. She, who participated in Miss World, is about five feet seven inches tall (she is taller than Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco ), weights 121 pounds and measures 35-25-35. In addition to this, Miss Lebanon Universe speaks four foreign languages.

El Salvador ’75
 
One of the most famous archaeological treasures in Central America, the Tazumal pyramid, was selected by the Miss Universe Organization as the symbol of the 23rd Miss Universe 1975 in San Salvador (El Salvador).

Acapulco ’78
 
Dewi Sukarno, former first Lady of Indonesia, was one of the international judges, along with Mario Moreno Cantinflas (Mexico’s actor), Ursula Andress (Sweden’s actress) and other famous celebrities. Dewi was the wife of former dictator Achmed Sukarno, one of the most brutal rulers in the 20th century.

Perth ’79

In the face of international sanctions, Bophuthatswana, it was not recognized by the United Nations and Washington, sent a representative to Australia, site of the beauty contest. Unfortunately, Bophuthatswana’s delegate, Alina Moeketse,a black girl, did not make the list of the 12 semi-finalists. Like Transkei, Venda, and Ciskei, Bophuthatswana was founded by the former South African apartheid regime.

Perth’79 & Paradise Island’09
 
Venezuela is often seen as a model for Miss Universe Pageant on Earth. In 1979, Venezuela’s representative Maritza Sayalero was elected MU in Oceania. In August 2009, this rich-oil country was the first country to win back-to-back Miss Universe finals. Between 1979 to 2009, the Latin nation has won six global crowns: Australia’79, New York’ 81, Panama ’86, Las Vegas ’96, Vietnam’08 & Paradise Island ’09.

New York City ’81
 
Venezuela’s Irene Saez Conde, 18-year-old, did not learn English until that she won the Miss Universe award in the United States in July 1981.During her reign, under the watchful eye of her professor, Joseph Nassif, she learned to speak English very well.

Panama City ’86
 
Miss Denmark, Helena Christensen, who had received little mention in the Panamanian press,  did not even make the semi-finals of Miss Universe Panama ’86, but seven years later she, who is half Peruvian, became one of the world’s top super-models in the 90s, alongside names like Cindy Crawford, Tyra Banks, and Naomi Campbell.
 
Taipei’88

Four beauty queens from Asia -Thailand (Porntip Nakhirunkanok), South Korea (Yunjung Chang), Japan (Mizuho Sakaguchi), & Hong Kong (Pauline Yeung) — were among the top five finalists. In this edition, Miss Thailand was crowned Miss Universe 1988. Apart from winning the universal trophy, she also won the “Best national Costume”. In Taiwan, Nakhirunkanok ended Latin America’s three year domination of international pageant. The three past events had been won by Deborah Carthy-Deu (Puerto Rico/1985), Barbara Palacios (Venezuela/1986) and Cecilia Bolocco (Chile/1987). Mexico’s Amanda Olivares was the only one to challenge the Asian supremacy: She finished third in the global contest.

Cancun’89

After falling from the Miss World Pageant in Spain/ UK, Angela Visser, Miss Holland, became Miss Universe in Cancun. According to experts on Miss Universe, the blue-eyed woman, an ex fashion model from Rotterdam, was one of the most beautiful beauty queens of the Twentieth century.

Las Vegas ’91
 
Ireland’s representative Siobhan McClaferty, 20-year-old hostess, did not make the list of the 10 semi-finalists, but won the Miss Photogenic award. Miss Ireland Universe, a blue-eyed girl, finished 19th (swimsuit: 8.08 points/ interview: 8.88/ evening gown: 8.44) in the international contest in Nevada. Curiously, she came close to winning the 1990 Miss World — MU’s rival – in the United Kingdom.

Bangkok ’92
 
Suriname – the only Dutch-speaking republic in the Americas – finished in the last place: 78th.

From Thailand’92 to Manila’94
 
By 1994, Miss Colombia placed second for the third consecutive year. Unfortunately, the South American country has not won a MU trophy in 51 years!

Las Vegas ’96

In the preliminaries, Miss India had the highest score in the interviews: 9.48 points, ahead of Venezuela (9.43), USA (9.37), Peru (9.36), Chile (9.28), El Salvador (9.26), Trinidad & Tobago (9.23) and Norway (9.19). India’s contestant Sandhya Chib made the top ten , but was not one of the finalists.

Trinidad Tobago’99

The African republic of Bostwana – an obscure country that had never won a beauty contest- earned the global competition in the Caribbean. It was the first time since Namibia (1992) that an obscure nation had won the prize.

Los Angeles ’06

This year Puerto Rico won its fourth Miss Universe award after finishing second in the 2005 Miss Universe in Bangkok, Thailand. There were a number of celebrations in the island, after Zuleyka Rivera won the universal title in North America.

Paradise Island ’09

According to MU experts, Miss France, Chloe Mortaud, was the pre-pageant favorite to win the MU title in The Bahamas, ahead of Rachael Anne Finch (Australia), Ada Aimèe de la Cruz (Dominican Republic), Iveta Lutokska (Czech Republic) and China (Wang Jungyao). Surprisingly, she, a dual French-American citizen, did not make the top 5, and finished sixth. France’s Mortaud was the first black  to be named favorite since Vanessa Mendoza, Miss Colombia, in 2002.

A Culinary Tour of Asia

The very heart of your Asian vacation isn’t the exotic locale, the invigorating massages, the majestic ancient temples, or even the warm, friendly people. It’s the food. When you’re at home, food is a centerpiece of activity and fun-the backyard cookout, the Friday evenings with friends, or the romantic dinner. When you’re on vacation, it will be even more memorable if you keep food enjoyment high on your list of priorities.

Food is more than mere sustenance. It is a social experience, and a sensory treat that will be remembered long after you return home. Asia is well-known for its exotic cuisine, and no Asian vacation would be complete without thoroughly enjoying the food. In every major Asian city, you’ll find your usual array of the familiar favorites from back home: KFC, McDonalds, Sizzler, and so on-but why not enhance your foray into the unknown with something new on the menu?

The cuisine is as varied as the continent, ranging from the aromatic curries of India, to the fiery-hot tom yum goong of Thailand, to the European-influenced Macanese cuisine found in the Chinese autonomous region of Macau. Wherever you travel, you’ll find unique and fresh ingredients, presented delightfully in authentic surroundings and delivered by friendly, smiling staff.

You’ll find your environment as memorable as the food itself. You may find yourself sitting under a straw roof, sitting cross-legged and eating off of a banana leaf, or enjoying the most elegant, five-star posh surroundings you’ve ever witnessed. And don’t neglect the local specialties. A meal of dim sum (“yum cha” in Cantonese) in a Hong Kong tea house is an event unto itself that will never be forgotten. Take a boat cross the bay to Macau for a trip back to old Europe, where you can enjoy High Tea in the afternoon, and one of the country’s characteristic egg tart specialties. And when you tour Japan, you’ll discover that there are dozens of different varieties of sukiyaki, which is customarily cooked right at the table.

You’ll also find very informal street cafes throughout most of Asia, which are little more than a handful of plastic tables and chairs on the sidewalk, overlooking a kitchen that consists of a propane tank and a wok. If you’re adventurous enough to try one of these places, you’re likely to find very local cuisine that you can’t find in the “normal” restaurants, including wild game, insects, and parts of animals that you never knew you could eat.

Desserts are not to be missed. Unlike the rich, gooey, chocolatey sweets of America, Asians tend towards the lighter, more delicate tastes in sweets. A Chinese sweet red bean bun is very tempting (and does not have the usual disagreeable side effect that beans often do). Japanese sweets (wa-gashi) also frequently use sweet bean paste and are quite delicate. In Thailand, you may enjoy bua loy naam qing (literally, “floating lotuses in ginger water”), which delivers an enjoyable contrast between the strong ginger tea and the delicate rice flour sesame balls floating within.

Often overlooked are the unusual tropical fruits found throughout Asia. If you think of fruit as apples and watermelons, think again-the taste of the lichi, mangosteen, and rambutan are incomparable and a sheer delight to the senses. Beware of the infamous durian though, the heavy, spiky “king of fruits” that has a decidedly foul, almost fishy smell and is definitely an acquired taste.

You’ll find that in most Asian countries, meals are very social, and are often served to your table communally, as opposed to the Western style of each person ordering individual dishes. Don’t be surprised if your host serves you and continues to refresh your drink throughout the meal. Bone up on how to use chopsticks. Here’s a chopstick etiquette tip: You’ll sometimes see diners at inexpensive restaurants rubbing together the chopsticks before eating. This is done when using the inexpensive, wooden disposable chopsticks, to make sure there are no splinters. Avoid rubbing your chopsticks together at somebody’s home or at an upscale restaurant, as it would be considered an insult-you’re saying that the chopsticks are inferior when you do that. But, not every Asian country uses them. Thais eat European-style with a fork and spoon. In China, you’ll use chopsticks, but will never see a knife at your place setting, because it is considered aggressive. In some very rural parts of Asia, such as in the Laotian countryside, you’ll eat with your fingers. But regardless of how you convey the food from plate to mouth, you’re in for a real treat.