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Singapore Budget Travel Tips

This post is sponsored by 5footway.inn, but all opinions are ours.

Singapore is a lot of things – fun, bustling, modern, elegant, artistic.

And expensive.

If you are traveling Southeast Asia, where costs are usually comfortably low, this city-state might throw you.

But we could never recommend skipping it. There is too much to see and do. If your budget is an issue, you’ll just need to make very conscious choices to keep yourself from overspending.

Here are our best tips!

Accomodations

During our weekend in Singapore, we stayed at 5footway.inn‘s Project Boat Quay. This hostel is located right in the city center, so we were able to avoid expensive public transportation because we could walk everywhere we wanted to go (besides the airport). We were minutes from the main tourist attractions and surrounded by restaurants and bars. The hostel had very simple rooms, but a great view of the river from its balcony. At the time we were there, the prices matched the rates of other budget accommodations in the area, although I don’t think any other hostel in that price range could compete the location. To make it even cheaper for you, we have a 10% discount code to share. Email promotion@5footwayinn.com with code KD10.

Our view from the hostel

Food

While the restaurants in Singapore may come at a high cost, the city is also full of some amazing street food. Head to Chinatown or Little India, or seek out the hawker centres food stalls for a good deal on dinner. Street food is a huge part of Singapore, and the low price does not compromise on taste.

Drinks

You can’t spend time in Singapore without trying a Singapore Sling. While many travelers head to the Raffles Hotel, where the drink originated, you can find the exact same recipe at most bars around the city for a much lower cost. Walk along the river and look for good deals – happy hours and buy one get one promotions are usually advertised on signs outside.

We also discovered that sometimes you can create your own deals. Our first night we asked if we could get another two margaritas for the price of one. The bartender hesitated then countered four for the price of two, which we accepted. It never hurts to ask, and many places in Singapore are open to a little negotiation.

Enjoying our Singapore Slings

Activities

Since we were on a budget, we decided that we would have one splurge when it came to sightseeing – we wanted to go to the roof of the Marina Bay Sands and watch the sunset.

But aside from, we didn’t pay for any other activity. We recommend the same strategy for other budget travelers. Pick your top priority, and then enjoy the rest of the city for free.

Just walking around was an experience. We saw so many beautiful murals and bizarre statues, it was like the entire city was a giant art museum. We also saw an amazing light show at the Gardens by the Bay. I took so many pictures, my phone ran out of storage!

The light show at Gardens by the Bay

There is no denying that Singapore is an expensive place to travel. But it is doable on a budget if you set your mind to it, and you can still have a lot of fun. Have you ever visited? What are your best money-saving tips?

Songkran: Behind the Party

Those who find themselves in Thailand for Songkran, the country’s New Year Festival, will enjoy huge water fights and parties with both locals and fellow visitors. It’s quite the experience: hilarious, a little mischievous, and pleasently random from the western point of view.

But how many travelers truly understand what they are celebrating and why these traditions exist?

When participating in a foreign holiday abroad, knowing a little background on the festival often makes it a more memorable and meaningful experience. Here’s what you should know about Songkran:

  • It’s name comes from a Sanskrit word that speaks of the passage of time and transformation. It is believed to signify  a fresh start. You can put old mistakes and struggles behind you and start anew.
  • There are three rules you are meant to follow on this particular day. 1) Put your work aside for the day, and don’t encourage others to work by shopping, eating out, or hiring any services. 2) Do nothing to harm other humans or animals. 3) Only tell the truth.
  • The water fights and chalky pastes are for purification. Think of it as washing away the negatives in your life. After the celebrations, you are clean and ready for a new year full of hope.

  • It’s not all a party. Traditionally, the mornings tend to start on a more serious note. People will sprinkle water over the elderly in their family, the graves of their ancestors, and a statue of the Buddha.
  • It’s also a time for charity. Donations are made and food is given to monks at the local temples.

  • Bright colors are worn to celebrate Spring. You will see a lot of bright floral shirts and flower necklaces. This is welcoming and celebrating the warmest time of the year in Thailand.
  • Fireworks are set off to scare away malicious spirits. These displays are most common in the South.
  • Similar to China, each new year is represented by an animal. The same animals are used, but the years do not match. In Thailand, 2017 will be the year of the Monkey, a time for playfulness, optimism, curiosity, and fun.

 

Songkran Festival – Where to Celebrate and What to Know

Once a year, Thai streets fill with happy party goers holding water guns, hoses and buckets. It’s Songkran, and it’s right around the corner. Are you ready for a massive water fight? We’ll help you prepare.

What is it?

Songkran is Thailand’s New Year festival. The new year begins on the 13th of April every year, with the festival usually lasting from the 13th – 15th April, if not longer. Thailand’s Songkran festival ties in with many lunar new year festivals and holidays being celebrated across Asia in countries such as Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Sri Lanka and parts of India.

Traditionally the celebrations center around a water festival. Everyone, young and old, gathers in the streets with their families and engages in water fights and street parties. The water is used to clear away the misfortunes of the old year and signify a fresh start to the new one.

Where should you celebrate in Thailand?

Bangkok – While most of the city vanishes to their hometowns, Bangkok becomes pleasantly quiet for the period. Even so, there is no shortage of places to gather and have a splashing time. RCA has a stage and arena set up for an all-night party. Khao San Road is usually bustling with locals and backpackers, while Silom Road (Patpong) closes for traffic and fills with celebrations. Many locals will take to smaller sois while various hotels and residences offer tickets for Songkran pool parties.

Join the party on Silom Road

Chiang Mai – The party is centered around Tha Pae Gate. You’ll find stages, music, plenty of water, and crowds of party goers. There are also many street stores, so you’ll never run out of food, water, water guns and beer.

The Southern Towns and Islands – Wherever you choose down south, there will be some sort of Songkran celebration going on. Two popular islands include Koh Samui around Chaweng Beach and Phuket around Patong Beach. Other beach areas we’d recommend are Ao Nang and Krabi. Wherever you end up, you’ll find plenty of party opportunities by the beach.

Where can you celebrate around the world?

Not in Thailand this year? There are a number of other Asian countries that embrace the Thai New Year festivities and water parties, although they’ll tend to have a more traditional approach. You can find celebrations all over Laos, but specifically in Vientiane. Other places include Siem Reap in Cambodia, Yangon in Myanmar and parts of China.

Songkran lovers celebrating in China.

What should you know?

Clothes – It’s true that Thailand is scorching hot this time of year, and Songkran is a water fight, but keep in mind that Thailand and many Asian countries are conservative Buddhist countries. Depending on where you are celebrating, your clothes should be respectful. Take note of what everyone else is wearing – especially the locals.

Nighttime – Want to party all night? You’ll need to find the right place. Festivals on the streets shut down quickly when darkness falls. Designated party zones usually keep going until the early hours of the morning. If you find yourself in a place that seems to be winding down, you’ll need to be flexible. Find a street or party that’s still hopping, and don’t continue to soak people who are ready to call it a night.

You can’t stay dry – It’s just impossible! If you don’t like the idea of getting splashed, Songkran isn’t the festival for you. Even a quick walk to the store will result in someone throwing a bucket of water on you. If you dare to look annoyed by this, three more buckets will take aim. Smile and enjoy yourself!


You won’t know what to expect – Sometimes the water is freezing. You might even notice some ice cubes in the mix. Sometimes the water will feel like warm bath water. Some water has soap in it, so you’ll want to avoid getting it in your eyes or mouth. You just don’t know what’s coming until you’ve been splashed!

Motorbikes and Scooters – The most common time for motorbike accidents and traffic fatalities in Thailand is Songkran. If you decide to drive a bike during the water festival, stay alert and move slowly. Water will be thrown at you as you drive, and the roads will be slippery with soap.

Protect your valuables – It’s easy to find waterproof phone cases during Songkran. Buy one; you’ll need it.

Think before you splash – Be thoughtful and don’t throw water over monks, babies or the elderly.


Got a funny story from Songkran? What did you like? What did you hate? Let us know.

The Magic and Myths of Sicily

I have always been a bit fascinated by the different mythologies, legends, and superstitions around the world – so Sicily was like a magical playground for me.

This Italian island was ripe with stories about ancient gods and curses and heroes among men. I could feel it on every street, and I wanted to hear every story.

If you share my passion for the otherworldly around the world, here’s what you’ll want to know before you arrive in Sicily.

There is a monster trapped under Mount Etna. 

Mount Etna is one of the most famous active volcanoes in all of Europe, and it has quite the legend behind its towering and ominous presence.

When Zeus ruled the heavens, he was once challenged by a monster called Typhon, who wanted the cosmos for himself. If he could steal the kingdom of Zeus, all humans and divine beings would be under his command. He concocted a scheme and attempted to kill Zeus one night as he slept.

Typhon was easily defeated, but Zeus knew he was too dangerous to continue to roam freely. To contain the monster, he imprisoned him under Mount Etna where he remains to this day.

Sicily is the home of Cyclops.

But Sicily’s most infamous monster is not trapped under a volcano, he is living in caves and appearing in many legends to oppose the heroes of old.

Cyclops first appearance comes in the Odyssey, where he eats four soldiers trying to journey back home from the Trojan war. As the rest of the men escape, the monster pitches a fit throwing large boulders after them. These rocks can still be seen today off the coastline of Sicily; they are called ‘I Faraglioni di Aci Trezza.’

Cyclops later falls in love with a sea nymph named Galatea. He is overcome with jealousy upon discovering her lover, Aci. Again, Cyclops decides large rocks are the answer to his problems. He crushes Aci under one, believing he now has Galatea all to himself. But Zeus, always the romantic, reunites the couple by transforming Aci’s blood into a river and Galatea into sea foam.

The god of wine made a delicious discovery here.

But not every legend set in Sicily features monsters or creatures from the dark! Here’s a feel-good story sure to put a smile on your face:

One day a young god, Dionysus, was exploring Sicily during his travels. He found an unfamiliar vine, cut off a piece, and brought it home to experiment with. This vine was a grape vine, and soon Dionysus had created a new favorite drink: wine. Needless to say, it’s popularity spread among all divinity and mankind.

We’ll all raise a cup to that!

Finding the Party in Guangzhou, China

Guangzhou is a strange place.

It’s bustling in the daytime, but when nighttime falls the streets clear and the city empties. It’s peaceful, or maybe even eerie. As one of the top 3 largest cities in China, this wasn’t exactly what we were expecting.

Sometimes, as we walked home from a night out, we could imagine the odd tumbleweed whistling over the empty roads.

It might not have been this extreme in every area of the city, but one of our first impressions on arrival was that there seemed to be a lack of nightlife.

While there were bars more catered for dining, pub quizzes and the 11pm finishers, there didn’t seem to be the late-night parties. The bars we found at first were okay, but we like a late finish after a week at work (or, really, any time we can fit it in), and nowhere was providing that for us.

So we became determined to seek out these party places – and we found some gems.

If you ever find yourself in Guangzhou, wanting to get away from the typical western pub, here’s our top recommendations:

KTV

KTV is everywhere here! If you have a group of friends ready for a good night, you can rent a private room, buy some booze, order a ton of local food, and sing the night away. Most KTVs will let your crowd stay until about 5am.

The English playlists are fantastic, ranging through all the classics in every genre. No matter where your music tastes go, you’ll find something you’ll love.

But don’t think you can’t meet new people and socialize on a KTV night. I have found myself drunkenly exploring the mazy corridors, finding some rooms full of locals, and being welcomed in to sing with them and have a bounce around.

Some we’d recommend:

Music Box (堂会) – 1-3/F, Tianhe Hui Plaza, 160, Tianhe Zhi Jie, Tianhe District, Guangzhou.

Party World (钱柜) – SinoPec Building, 191 Tiyu Xi Lu, Tianhe District, Guangzhou

Top KTV (星派对) – Junhui Building, Tiyu Xi Rd, in Guangzhou

Sing the night away at KTV. 

Nova

In quiet Zhujiang New Town, you’d think a bouncing nightclub would stick out like a sore thumb. It doesn’t. Nova is relatively hidden, but it’s well worth the find.

It’s popular with the locals, and being a foreigner in this place will make you stand out. That shouldn’t put you off. The music is great and you’ll easily get a buzz from the local liquor, Baijiu, which is pretty much all they serve.

Zhujiang New town has a lot of bars suited for pre-drinks, such as The Brew, The Tavern, and Gails – but it’s harder to find somewhere close by to finish the night. Make this your place.

Address: 1/F, Jin Bin Teng Yue Building, No.49 Huaxia Road, Zhujiang New Town, Tianhe

Address in Chinese: 天河区华夏路49号津滨腾越大厦1楼

Feeling

Feelings, now known as BePotatoes, is a must if you want an extremely cheap night. Some of their promotions seem too good to be true. One Friday they were giving unlimited free beer until 11 – no catch!  Most nights their (already very cheap) drinks were half price.

Found right near the South China Normal University, it’s a popular student choice. We can see why. Amongst our search we never found anywhere else this cheap, and we tried.

Keep in mind, a Long Island iced tea might come out bright blue, but that was really just part of the fun. You never know what you’re going to get, but you’ll get it without a dent to your bank account.

Sometimes with a side of hilarious karaoke – with a free bottle of vodka for the most popular singer, typically shared with the crowd.

Tsingtao is the cheapest beer you will find in there, but beware the hangover is like no other.

Address: Shop 207, Shangde Mansion, 141 Wushan Road, Tianhe District, Guangzhou (Metro Line 3 South China Normal University, exit C)

Address in Chinese: 广州天河区五山路141号尚德大厦207(地铁站华师站C出口麦当劳楼上)

Tsingtao is lethal 🙂

Perrys

Perry’s is a chain in China, and there are a couple in Guangzhou. It’s another place often filled with university students, but in an expensive drinking city this is sometimes welcome.

What should you expect? A dark dingy room with an unexpected charm, blaring loud music, and crowds of people at every table. You’ll notice most people playing an addicting dice game similar to Bullshit. If you want to play, a table of locals will be happy to show you how and play a few rounds with you.

 Address: 3/F, Zhong Yi City Garden, No.21 Linle Road, Tianhe District, Guangzhou

Address in Chinese: 天河区 林乐路中怡城市花园3楼

After a cheap night at Perrys

 Party Pier

Party Pier is Guangzhou’s most well-known entertainment destination, balancing well between a crazy party and a space for art and creativity. It’s another good ending spot for your night. You can tell your taxi driver “Take me to the party!” and you’ll end up here. Wave Nightclub is among its most popular spots, but there are a number of different places to choose from.

Address: Zhujiang Party Pier, Yue Jiang Xi Lu, Haizhu District (Exit at Modiesha Tunnel)

Address in Chinese: 阅江西路珠江琶醍啤酒文化创意园

 Huanshi Dong Lu

There are many fun bars in Huanshi Dong Lu (near Taojin subway station). While this is often promoted to be a heavily western area, we typically went during the week and rarely saw other foreigners around.

You can almost always find a good buy-one-get-one-free deal at one of the bars.

A couple we’d recommend include:

The Cave Bar: China, Guangdong Sheng, Guangzhou Shi, Yuexiu Qu, HuanShi DongLu YanXian, Huanshi E Rd, 360 510060. Address in Chinese: 环市东路360号珠江大厦地下

The Gypsy King Bar: Basement of West Tower, Zhujiang Building, No.360 Huanshi Dong Road, Yuexiu District, Guangzhou Address in Chinese: 环市东路360号珠江大厦西座地下

Some Random Bar by the River

Unfortunately, that’s all we can even remember for this one!

But we know you’ll be able to find your own unnamed random bar by the river (or park, or temple, or shopping mall) if you give this city a chance, dig under its quiet exterior, and really look.

The point is that there are some hidden gems and brilliant party spots in a city that might not give that vibe on arrival. Don’t just settle for the first Irish pub you find. Get out there and explore.

Our time in Guangzhou taught us something valuable for future travel. We like a party, and wherever we are, we can find one – and we will!

If you find any more hidden beauties in Guangzhou, let us know below.

7 Quick Facts About the Mayan Ruins in Tulum

When I first became serious about pursuing a life of travel, I immediately made a mental note that Mayan ruins should go at the top of my World Wishlist. Any Mayan ruins would do – I wasn’t picky. Also, I didn’t know any specific site by name.

Honestly, I didn’t know anything about Mayan culture at the time, aside from those circulating rumors that their calendar predicted the end of the world on December 21, 2012. But I had concluded that their culture was shrouded in mystery, magic, and prophecy – and I found this absolutely enchanting.

Of course, I planned to explore the Mayan Ruins in Tulum, Mexico just three days before “the end of the world.” I thought the timing couldn’t be more perfect.

When I arrived at my destination, I quickly discovered that I had many misconceptions about the place I was visiting and culture I was fascinating by. Here is what I learned:

The Mayan calendar does not predict the end of the world. December 21st, 2012 was the end of a calendar cycle, which means big changes, but it did not mean anything apocalyptic was about to happen. In fact, it was a promise of positive things to come, such as societal progress and spiritual enlightenment.

Mayan culture is not a thing of the past. Many people talk as if Mayan society has died out, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Mayans continue to live in Mexico and Central America today, and they have preserved their customs, language, and traditions.

Mayan ruins are not always relics of spirituality or mysticism. The Tulum ruins do include a temple and ceremonial sites, but they also served as a fortress protecting the city, and as a center for trade. These are the only ruins by the seaside, and with this position, the city was well-positioned to serve many purposes. You will see a blend of both the sacred and secular, magic and the practicalities of day-to-day life.

This doesn’t mean they didn’t take their spirituality very seriously. Walls were constructed to separate priests from commoners, and the stairs were purposely made to allow people to walk sideways up and down – this kept them from ever turning their backs on their gods.

These ruins were once called “The City of the Dawning Sun.” It is believed this name was earned because the city’s temple was built to perfectly capture the sun during the summer solstice.

The City of the Dawning Sun has a touch of darkness. One eerie site you’ll see in the Tulum ruins is the ceremonial center where animal and human sacrifices were once made. This was a common part of their ancient religion, and of most other pre-modern religions.

The Mayans were ahead of their time when it came to predicting weather and natural disasters. One legend claims that conch shells were perfectly placed along the shoreline of Tulum, and when a hurricane was approaching the shells let out a sound to warn the inhabitants.

While my visit to the Tulum Mayan ruins was not what I was expecting, it was still enchanting, and it was certainly an eye-opening experience that helped me see the importance of experiencing a place or culture firsthand.

Have you ever been surprised by a place or culture during your travels?

Beyond the Mona Lisa: Interesting & Unusual Art in the Louvre

I didn’t expect to be overly impressed by the Mona Lisa the first time I visited the Louvre.

I’d heard that it was small and constantly surrounded by crowds of tourists, so I set my expectations accordingly.

But here was something I didn’t expect: while the Mona Lisa was tucked away down several maze-like hallways, the entire museum had signs pointing visitors toward it. It seemed that many people rushed with a single focus from sign to sign. They were not looking at anything else. Their only goal was to find the Mona Lisa, snap a photo, and make a hasty exit.

Of course, if you are visiting the Louvre, you will want to see its most famous piece – but we encourage you to keep exploring from there. Neither of us have any specific passion for art and we aren’t very studious museum-goers, but I still believe the Louvre can spark your curiosity and interest if you seek out the more unusual pieces.

These are the paintings, drawings, and other works of art I found the most intriguing, beautiful, or pleasantly weird:

The Seasons by Giuseppe Arcimboldo

These creepy, otherworldy portraits feel like a dark fairy tale. Scratch below the seasonal imagery and they are also depicting men of the royal house of Habsburg. The painter sought to both romanticize them and offer an ironic political commentary.

Monkey as Painter and Monkey as Antiquarian by Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin

These playful paintings may have a few tongue-in-cheek things to say about humanity – especially when we start to feel a bit too self-important.

Three Monkeys Stealing Fruit by Frans Snyders

Here’s a much more humorous take on the cliche fruit-in-a-basket drawing. Also, maybe I have a thing for strange monkeys in my artwork?

My Friends, Let Us Not Refuse a Clever Guest by Pierre-Jean Mariette

During a great feast, several guests are suddenly uprooted by their tables and shot up into the air. Typical dinner party problems – we’ve all been there! This drawing was inspired by a comedic Italian play.

The Gift of the Heart

Ah, courtly love. I am a sucker for a romantic fairy tale scene, but I also like that the coloring is so dark – almost sinister.

Corinthian Aryballos in the Shape of an Owl

Basically just a really cute owl! Oh, and he used to hold perfume.

Have you been to the Louvre? Did you find anything that captured your eye, made you think, or made you laugh? Share it with us below.

10 Recommendations for the Thailand Traveller

Thailand is a must-see country. It’s cheap, cheerful, random and provides endless fun to anyone who visits – whether they are backpacking with a budget or looking for a luxurious getaway. The country has it all, from a huge bustling city, to stunning tropical beaches, a quiet countryside and old Asian villages. It is popular on the tourist trail, and for a good reason. Here are some of our top recommendations to consider when visiting.

 

Party hard in Bangkok.

Get jolly in one of Bangkok’s many party spots.

Bangkok is mental. It’s a city that never sleeps. No matter how late you want to stay out, you will never have a problem finding somewhere to dance, drink and have a good time. First-time visitors often find themselves on Khao San Road, but we recommend getting out around the city for other cheap drinks and a different atmosphere. There are bars and Thai clubs all over. Here are few alternatives to consider: A Sukumvit bar crawl, Snop on Rama 4 or Sukumvit Soi 4. Inebriation is cheap here if you know where to go, especially if you’re ordering local beers and spirits.

And end the night nice and merry.

Take a bicycle around Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya is an interesting little town just an hour outside of Bangkok. If you’re looking for ancient temples and a lot of culture, this is the place to go. Rent a bicycle and have an adventure. Should a bicycle not be to your taste, you should be able to find a Tuk Tuk guide for pretty cheap, although you won’t be able to explore as freely.

The ancient temples of Ayutthaya.

Enjoy the island life down south.

Get out and about down south.

Heading south, you’ll discover some of the best beaches the world has to offer. Soft white sands, turquoise water, and warm temperatures all year – you can’t ask for more. Craving peace and tranquility?  Take a boat trip or rent a canoe to get around the more remote locations. We love Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta. Despite some bad press, we definitely recommend checking out a full moon party. As we’ve said before, sometimes tourist hot spots are popular for a reason. These parties are always crazy, and you’ll have a great night.

And see the stunning sights.

Do Songkran in Chiang Mai.

Thailand celebrates a few festivals, but we strongly believe that Songkran is the best one. The cities swarm with people drinking, dancing in the streets, and throwing water at anyone and anything (including moving traffic). There are endless smiles and fun with other tourists and the locals. Songkran is celebrated throughout the entire country, but Chiang Mai is the top place to be. The central square is full of chaos and excitement, usually lasting 5 days in mid April.

Cause a splash at Songkran.

Rent a villa with friends and have a weekend to remember.

Rent one of many luxury villas in Thailand.

Here is the perfect way to take advantage of Thailand’s cheapness: Get a group of friends together and rent a luxury villa. When you split the cost, it shouldn’t be more than an average hotel, but you’ll get so much more privacy, comfort, and quality. All the beach towns and islands have them available. During our villa weekends, we sometimes never even leave the property. It’s easy to make your own entertainment with a pool to yourselves and speakers for your music. Bring your own booze and food, and you’re set for a great holiday for a low cost.

And enjoy the villa life. 

Experience Pattaya’s Walking Street.

Pattaya may have a certain reputation, as does a lot of Thailand, but sex tourism is undeniably part of this country. If you’re like us, you’ll want to see every part of the places you travel to, even if they initially make you a little uncomfortable. Get to Pattaya and check out Walking Street while you’re there. You’ve never seen anything else like it, and it can be a good laugh. If you have a girl in your group, the bar workers will flock to her. They always seem fascinated by foreign females, maybe wanting to practice their English or just have a normal conversation. Take advantage of that, because they are usually fascinating people and quite fun to joke around with.

Things get interesting beyond this point.

Visit the White Temple in Chiang Rai.

The White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) is one of Thailand’s most famous landmarks. This art exhibit was designed to seem like a Buddhist temple, but with a style that is uniquely its own. If you are fan of the kooky, strange, and creative (or you just love to get a good photo), you need to make time for this attraction while traveling Northern Thailand.

The famous White Temple in Chiang Rai.

Spend some time in Kanchanaburi.

Start your weekend at the famous Bridge Over the River Kwai.

Kanchanaburi has a pleasant countryside feel to it. Wooden huts and shacks by the famous River Kwai make it the perfect place to relax. It’s unbelievably cheap, and the common presence of backpackers has inspired many restaurants to include favorite foods from home on the menu, along with vegetarian versions of many popular Thai dishes. One of our favorite spots in Konchanaburi? The 10 Baht Bar, of course, where you can get mixed drinks for about 20 pence. Konchanaburi also has an array of sights to see including the Bridge over the River Kwai, and Erawan Waterfall, which is located about an hour outside of the city. Should you wish to avoid the crowds Erawan attracts, there are a number of other waterfalls to visit in the area.

And end it at a great waterfall.

Pamper yourself with a spa day.

Nothing beats a spa day, and in Thailand it’s actually affordable. Whether it’s a spa in the center of Bangkok or a simple massage by the beach, these simple pleasures are highly recommended. Most spas offer a wide range of treatments, including the infamous Thai Massage. Be warned; the full Thai massage is rough and you might find your arms and legs going in positions you didn’t think possible.

A Thai spa is a relaxation must do. 

 Visit Lopburi.

Lopburi is about 90 miles outside of Bangkok and it’s well worth a look. You’ll find it to be an unusual place that has a surprising number of wild monkeys roaming about. They are fun to see, but don’t trust them. Like any tourist hot spot, you’ll need to keep an eye on your possessions. But unlike the average pickpocket, these little thieves will be the monkeys hoping to claim your valuables. While you’re here, you should also check out the temple ruins. Other spots of interest include the bat caves and the sunflower fields.

Be careful of these little terrors.

Did we miss anything? If so, we’d love to hear your recommendations.

A Crazy Quick History of the Forbidden City: What You Should Know Before You Go

If you’re planning a trip to Beijing, chances are the Forbidden City is near the top of your must-sees. It definitely was for us – it was the first place we visited, even before finding a hotel for the night.

But, we’ll confess, we didn’t know too much about it when we arrived. We just knew it was a globally-revered tourist attraction, and that we couldn’t visit this ancient city without having a look.

This is a situation we often find ourselves in: exploring a place filled with history but not really understanding what we’re seeing and why. I always plan to prep myself beforehand with tons of research, but the next thing I know I’m boarding the plane and I still don’t really know the significance of what I’m about to see.

And while I am a bookworm who honestly can spend all day on the couch reading, when I’m out and about, we find that we don’t have much patience for reading plaques in museums or other tourist hot spots. We like to keep moving!

Can you relate? If so we’d like to help, starting with Beijing’s Forbidden City.

Here’s what you should know:

WHY IS IT CALLED THE FORBIDDEN CITY?

The simple answer is that this “city” was the home to the Emperors of China, and people were forbidden to enter or exit without his permission.

But there is also a bit more symbolism to it.

When written in Chinese characters, the name alludes to The North Star, where the Jade Emperor lives in the heavens. According to several common Chinese religions (Taoism, Caodaism, certain sects of Buddhism) this is the “first god,” often called “Heavenly Grandfather.”

The Forbidden City was seen as the earthly version of this mystical palace.

It was both a spiritual and political center for the nation.

HOW OLD IS IT?

In 1406, a new emperor (Zhu Di) moved the Chinese capital to Beijing from Nanjing. Here he began construction of his residence: The Forbidden City.

It took 14 years and over 1 million workers.

In its history as a royal residence, it housed 24 emperors from two dynasties.

WHAT SHOULD YOU LOOK FOR?

The Forbidden City is filled with symbolism if you know how to find it.

During the Ming dynasty, the predominant theme of the Forbidden City was supremacy.

The Qing dynasty emphasized harmony, and also added a lot of shamanistic imagery.

Keep an eye out for these symbols:

  • Colors – Yellow was the color of the emperor and his empire. You’ll see that most rooftops are a dark yellow. Green rooftops are above the residences of the princes – this was believed to encourage growth. The library has a black rooftop, which brought protection to the books and knowledge inside.
  • Numbers – The organization of the buildings often includes groups of six or groups of three. Six represented heaven, and three represented Earth. The overall message was that this was a place where divinity and humanity mingled together.
  • Jade – In Chinese culture, jade’s significance is similar to our views about gold in the west. It represented wealth and beauty. There are also superstitions that it could preserve health and prolong life.

WHAT DOES THE MODERN FORBIDDEN CITY OFFER?

The Forbidden City ceased to be a place of residence when Imperial China came to an end in the early 1900s. It is now open to the public, with several bragging rights as a museum:

  • It is the most visited art museum in the world.
  • It has over a million works of art in its permanent collection.
  • It has the largest collection of art from the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368).
  • It has the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures.

These are just the basics to give you an idea of what to expect at the Forbidden City, and why it is so important to the history and culture of China. Have you visited? What would you add to the list?

A Scooter in Bangkok: The Best Kind of Death Trap?

At first, renting a scooter in Bangkok seemed like one of the best decisions we could have made. This sprawling, chaotic city is notoriously difficult to get around, but with the scooter we had found independence and freedom.

We could go anywhere. No more taxi drivers refusing to turn on the meter. No more long ticket lines and crowded trains. We took our scooter to work. We spent weekends zooming all around the city. We even took it on holidays to Pattaya and Kanchanaburi. After 4+ hours on the road, we’d arrive at our accommodations sore and grumpy, but adamantly insisting that the discomfort was worth it to avoid the horror of public transportation.

The scooter gives you the option to stop and see at any time. 

We even named him – Tooter the Scooter. He was an essential part of our life – until a collision from behind sent me flying and thinking: is it worth it?

Traffic here is the 2nd worst in the world, after Mexico City. Cars and buses are crammed on every road. There is no such thing as a smooth journey around Bangkok. I’ll never forget the day that I spent 4 hours in a taxi – without the traffic congestion, it should have been 25 minutes.

The BTS and MRT trains only cover a fraction of the city, and the buses are always packed, vile, and reeking of body odor. You might occasionally see a public boat on the river, but that route won’t take you many places either. A scooter seems like – and is – such an appealing option.

However, our biggest regret was becoming so reliant on the scooter, to the point that even the thought of using other modes of transport was stressful. The reality is, after such collision, they’re really not that bad.

It became the ONLY way to travel.

While we’re not going to say never ride a scooter in Bangkok – honestly I’d probably encourage you to give it a try – we do want to offer some insight into the annoyances and potential dangers you could face.

The first point is the traffic. You’d think a city with so many bikes on the road would know how to accommodate both cars and scooters. Ideally, cars would stay in straight lines within their own lanes, and scooters could easily move between them when traffic gets congested. Instead, you’ll find cars all over the place, making it beyond infuriating to find the best path through. What should be a quick skip through the middle of still cars takes twice the time because you have to weave in and out – and it’s not easy dragging a scooter in a city with stifling temperatures 12 months of the year!

Notice that most cars are not directly behind the one in front. 

Always be vigilant! Always! I’ve seen cars cut 3 lanes of traffic just to get 10 metres in front of where they were originally. Pointless and idiotic, but that’s what you have expect.

Meanwhile, buses think they own the road, and the not-so-rare moron can be found speeding around traffic on a motorbike doing wheelies.

To be honest, the majority of the people you share the road with are going to be idiots.

The point is, even the safest driver can’t be assured that he will avoid an accident. There is always a risk. We couldn’t have been more careful. We drove slowly. We paid attention to our surroundings. We stayed in the left lane whenever we could. But it wasn’t enough, and after 7 months an accident did occur.

You might do nothing wrong, but you can’t control what another driver will do! Even trying to be safe and going slower will usually result in a car up your backside blasting their horn at you. It was difficult not to get shaken up when that happened without warning. Just what a scooter driver who lacks a little confidence needs, being scared from behind!

The chaotic roads of Bangkok. 

After the accident, I immediately realized I never wanted that horrible collision feeling again. But I can honestly say that if it didn’t happen I would still be on the scooter because it makes travelling the city so much easier. It’s quite a dilemma. But for us, never again!


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