World Tourer - Travel Information - March to June 2015

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World Travel Blog - March to June 2015

2nd June 2015

Phantom Trip 2

This is the second of my phantom trip itineraries (see previous post for the first) – the first was a short trip from Australia to Vietnam and this one is a short trip from Australia to Thailand.

I have lived in both countries so I am quite familiar with traveling around (I lived in Thailand for four years).
As with the previous Phantom Trip I will start from Cairns, Australia as that is my closest airport.

Depart Cairns 6th October with Qantas for Brisbane and then on to Bangkok with Malaysia Airlines (via Kuala Lumpur). Arrive Bangkok International Airport 10.15 am 7th October and catch the Airport Train into the city and get off at the last station (Phaya Thai) and transfer to the Skytrain and then get of at Siam and catch a taxi to the Atlas Bangkok Hotel in the city centre (2 nights @ $42/night for double room – A/C, Cable TV, Mini Bar and Free WiFi).

Spend the first day and night sightseeing and shopping in Bangkok central area. On 8th October take a tour of the Grand Palace ($47 per person) and in the evening visit Khao San Road to check out the markets, restaurants and bars. Have a lazy day on 9th with perhaps a boat trip up the Chao Phraya River (it cost next to nothing on the local ferries) and in the evening catch the overnight sleeper train to Chiang Mai (2nd Class sleeper – A/C @ $35 per person).

Arrive Chiang Mai 10th October around 9 am and transfer to Monoceros Resort (2 nights @ $41/night for superior double room). Spend the rest of the day exploring Ching Mai temples, markets, restaurants etc..

On 11th October take the Elephant Trek, Rafting and Hilltribe Village Day Tour from Chiang Mai ($124 per person but great value).
On 12th fly back to Bangkok with Bangkok Airways (noon flight @ $52 per person) and prepare to depart to Sydney with Malaysia Airlines (via Kuala Lumpur) and then with Qantas from Sydney to Cairns arriving back in Cairns in the afternoon of 13th October.

Cost for transport and accommodation:

International airfare – $980 AUD per person.
Hotels – $83 per person ($166 total for two people).
Thailand transport – $87 per person.
Organised Tours – $171 per person

Grand Total: $1321 per person.

All the prices quoted in this post are correct as of today 2nd June 2015 for the dates of the proposed travel.

Tuk Tuk   
Thai Tuk Tuk in Bangkok
 
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20th May 2015

Phantom Trip 1

In this post and the next I will create two “Phantom Trips” to demonstrate how it is possible to travel cheaply. This post will cover a seven day trip to Vietnam and the next post will cover a seven day trip to Thailand. I have travelled in both countries extensively and more than likely will have done these trips in some way and probably staying at the hotels I suggest.

The trips will be starting from Cairns, Australia as that is my nearest airport.

Depart Cairns 12.45 pm Cathay Pacific on 3rd June overnight stay in Hong Kong and arrive Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) 10.15 am on 4th June. Return trip depart Ho Chi Minh City 11.20 am on 10th June and arrive Cairns 4.20 am 11th June – Flight Cost $911 AUD

Overnight stay in Miu Ceon Hotel in Hong Kong – double room $55 AUD

On arrival in Ho Chi Minh City book into Xavier Hotel (2 nights @ $28/night – double room) in the Benh Thanh Market area. Visit Benh Thanh Market and general strolling. Trip to Cu Chi Tunnels on 5th June.

Depart Ho Chi Minh City on 6th June for Dalat flying Vietnam Airlines (approx. $50 per person). Book into Minh Than Hotel in Dalat for one night ($18/double). Walking tour of town including the large market close to the hotel. Book bus for Nha Trang at hotel desk. Depart mid morning for the three hour bus trip down the mountains to Nha Trang.

Book into Ha Van Hotel (my favourite hotel in Nha Trang – I stayed for a month once) on 7th June (2 nights @ $22/night – double room including breakfast). This hotel is in the “Tourist Area” of Nha Trang and a few hundred metres from the beach. Go for stroll around town and down to the beach (perhaps a beer at Louisiane Brewhouse on the beach). There are several excellent restaurants within easy walk of the hotel (the hotel also has a rooftop lounge/bar/restaurant). On 8th June do tour of Nha Trang – visit Long Son Pagoda, Cham Towers and the Dam Market then laze on the beach.

Depart Nha Trang for Ho Chi Minh City on the morning of 9th June – Flying Vietnam Airlines for around $70 per person.
On arrival in Saigon book into the Mi Linh Hotel ($19 double room) which is only a few hundred metres from the airport.
10th June depart Hi Chi Minh City 10.20 am arriving back in Cairns at 4.20 am on 11th June.

This is what I would call the high speed “Southern Loop” tour of Vietnam (I have done this trip twice) visiting Ho Chi Minh City, the mountain town of Dalat and the beachside town of Nha Trang. I tend to be a “High Speed Tourist” as well as a “Cheapskate” but his trip good easily be extended by another week visiting the same places but staying longer – the additional cost for this week (accommodation only) would be less than $25 per night ($12.50 per person).

Cost for transport and accommodation:

International airfare – $911 AUD per person.
Hotels – $96 per person ($192 total for two people).
Vietnam transport – $130 per person.

Grand Total: $1137 per person.

All the prices quoted in this post are correct as of today 20th May 2015 for the dates of the proposed travel.

Saigon Cyclo    Dalat Roundabout
Saigon Cyclo in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam                         Dalat Roundabout, Dalat, Vietnam     
 
Big White Buddha
Big White Buddha, Long Son Pagoda, Nha Trang, Vietnam

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28th April 2015

I have been in Darwin since yesterday and spent today driving south out of the city. I went down to Berry Springs only to discover that you can no longer swim there due to “Dangerous Micro Organisms” in the water. I spent several years in Darwin as a teenager and Berry Springs was my favourite swimming spot.

After Berry Springs I headed for the Adelaide River planning to go on the “Jumping Crocodile” cruise but they were not operating. I then headed back towards Darwin stopping at Fogg Dam and also at Howard Springs on the way. Howard Springs also had the “Dangerous Micro Organisms” sign and “No Swimming” signs erected.

All in all a disappointing day out and I imagine this may well be my last visit to Darwin.

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23rd April 2015

More on Beaches

Having lived in Thailand for four years I got to visit most of Thailand’s beaches. They vary from fairly ordinary to quite good. Jomtien Beach (where I lived in Thailand) was OK without being anything special as the water was quite often dirty and polluted with plastic bags etc. Pattaya Beach which is only a few kilometres from Jomtien is actually worse and gets overcrowded. My pick of the local beaches was Tawaen on Koh Larn (Coral Island) a 45 minute $1 ferry ride out from Pattaya. Tawaen is a very popular day trippers beach and is clean and sheltered – it also has several restaurants and souvenir stores along the beach front.

Hua Hin is a town almost opposite Pattaya across the Bay of Bangkok and has a very good clean long beach. Hua Hin is the traditional holiday spot of the royals. Whilst the beach is great the cost of living in this area is above the average for Thailand. Also despite the fact that Hua Hin has an airport I don’t think there are any commercial flights there. The first time I went I cought the VIP bus (very slow bus – more than five hours to cover 200 kilometres) from Bangkok and caught the Special Express Train (very slow train as per the bus) back to Bangkok. On my second visit I caught a mini bus from Bangkok which was both faster and more comfortable.

Patong Beach on Phuket is probably the best beach in Thailand but Patong itself is very touristy and not really a good example of how Thailand actually is. On Phuket I prefer Kata Beach which is south of Patong and more like the real Thailand. Krabi has some nice beaches although the good ones are only accessible by boat.

My personal favourite beach in Thailand is White Sand Beach on Koh Chang (Elephant Island) although it is quite hard to get to as it is not on any major transport lines. The options are – fly from Bangkok to Trat then mini bus, ferry and songthaew – or get mini bus and ferry all the way from Bangkok. The two times I went there I caught the mini bus from Jomtien to the ferry and then a songthaew to my hotel. From memory I think the trip took about six hours each way.

Since I have been back in Australia I have spent 18 months at Palm Cove (Cairns), certainly the best beach in the Cairns area. I am now living on Wongaling Beach (Mission Beach) about 150 kilometres south of Cairns. Wongaling Beach is good and there a several kilometres of clean beach in this area between north and south mission beach.

Jomtien Beach    Tawaen Beach

    Jomtien Beach, Thailand                                   Tawaen Beach, Koh Larn, Thailand


Tup Beach    Palm Cove Beach
             Tup Beach, Krabi, Thailand                          Palm Cove Beach, Cairns, Queensland, Australia

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17th April 2015

Beaches

During my many years of travel one of the things I have been looking for is the “Perfect Beach”. I have come to the conclusion that there is no “Perfect Beach” or if there is I have not been there yet. I spent several years looking at tropical beaches as I have decided that I will be retiring to somewhere tropical with a beach. There is quite a lot of information online about beaches of all varieties but I like to see the real thing rather than read a story and see a photo. As an example I came across an article that stated that White Beach on Boracay, in the Philippines was voted as the number one beach in the world. It sounded interesting so I took a trip there and found that, in my opinion, it was just an ordinary beach with no special features.

After that I was disappointed but still kept looking – I had heard that there were several excellent surf beaches in Costa Rica, Central America. I went to Costa Rica for two months and covered most of the country including the two coasts (the Pacific and the Caribbean). All I can say is that after that trip Costa Rica was crossed off my list of potential retirement locations for two main reasons – 1) The beaches are not up to standard and 2) The entire country seams to live behind bars as security is a major issue (as an example my local supermarket had a guard with a machine gun at the entrance and my condo complex had 24 hour armed guards patrolling).

I also did a beach hopping trip down the south west coast of Sri Lanka as some of the backpacker blogs had good reports about the area. Again I was disappointed as they were mostly very run down and looked like they had not had many visitors in a lot of years. The pick of the beaches was Unawatuna.

Of the tropical beaches I have visited probably Kuta Beach, Bali, Indonesia would be my pick but it is not really a viable retirement option as the accommodation is expensive.

My favourite beach in the World is Kings Beach, Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast north of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia but again the cost of living there is expensive (I did live there from 2003 to 2006).

I am now living on Wongaling Beach in tropical far north Queensland and in Australian terms the cost of living here is quite low ($195/week for a fully furnished one bedroom flat).

My current retirement plan is to retire to Nha Trang in Vietnam. Nha Trang is a beach resort town (the most popular in Vietnam I think) the climate is tropical and suitable for swimming all year round. The country and the people are wonderful and the cost of living is very low. I have visited Nha Trang many times and lived there for the first three months of 2013.

Kuta Beach        Kings Beach
               Kuta Beach, Bali, Indonesia                           Kings Beach, Caloundra, Queensland, Australia

Nha Trang Beach

Nha Trang Beach, Nha Trang, Vietnam

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23rd March 2015

Train Travel

I have travelled quite a lot throughout South East Asia by train. Most of my experiences have been good and the trips enjoyable. I am not really a good train (or bus) traveller as I do not like to be sitting for long periods. My first train trip in Asia was the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai (Thailand) and it was great. The seats were converted to beds by the crew at bedtime and were comfortable. Meals and drinks were available on board and the train was air conditioned (a must for me in the tropics). So for about half the price of the air fare you get transport and accommodation (Mr. Cheap).

The inter city trains in Thailand are generally slow and old (the Chiang Mai overnight train is probably the most popular route with the best trains etc.). The relatively new airport train is the simplest and cheapest way into Bangkok from Suvarnabhumi airport. Phaya Thai the last station on the airport rail link and connects to the Bangkok “Skyrail” system which is a great way to get around Bangkok cheaply and in comfort (they are all air conditioned).

The railways in Vietnam are good but seem to be getting worse as time goes by – I don’t think they are spending enough money to maintain the trains and stations. I have travelled the length of Vietnam from Hanoi down to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) during several trips over several years. Most of my trips were on the overnight sleeper trains (Mr. Cheap) which are popular with Backpackers.
In 2005 I went to Japan and travelled on the Shinkansen trains (Bullet Trains) up and down the country between Tokyo and Yokohama, Fuji, Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka. The price was quite expensive even though I had bought a 2 week pass in Australia (which turned out to be about half the price it cost in Japan). The trains and overall service were terrific and travelling at around 300 kilometres per hour is a good way to get around. I believe the Japanese have the most efficient train network in the world – trains generally run within 5 seconds of the timetable times.

On my first trip to China I landed in Shanghai and caught the Maglev train from the airport to the city. I was expecting it to be silent and smooth (as it floats on a magnetic field) but it was quite rough and noisy but did travel at 440 kilometres per hour.

On my second trip to China I flew into Tianjin (because it was the cheapest air fare) and caught the high speed train into Beijing. The trip was 120 kilometres from memory and took 30 minutes reaching speeds up to 340 kilometres per hour. It was so smooth that if you didn’t look out the window you would not even know you were moving. I also took the overnight sleeper train from Beijing to Xian (to see the Terracotta Warriors) and it was just an old slow rattle train, but OK.

My worst train experience was in Sri Lanka where I went for a west coast “Beach Hopping” trip. All the trains were overcrowded, old, dirty, slow and travelled so roughly I was amazed they stayed on the rails. The final train I caught was from Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, to the airport and I think I could have got to the airport quicker on foot.

I also travelled the length of Egypt by train (a 16 hour trip in a seat) and the train was slow and smelly.
A lot of the information I got about train travel was from the website The Man in Seat 61 which I found to be very comprehensive, accurate and up to date (including fares).

I will be returning to South East Asia next year and no doubt will be travelling on more trains there.

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