Thai Boat Noodles – Street Food Bangkok

Depending on where you stay in Bangkok, you might have some locals suggest you grab some “Thai boat noodles.”  The best boat noodles are located near Victory Monument, right off the BTS Skytrain. Thai boat noodles are generally served in small bowls and the object is to eat a lot.  Most shops serve upwards of seven different types of noodles and if you manage to eat ten bowls they will give you a free liter of cola.Thai boat noodles

There are a series of canals that run through Bangkok.  Traveling by boat through these canals used to be the easiest way to get around the city.   There were many floating markets along these canals where the vendors sold products from their boats.  Several of these markets still remain in the city but are mostly just there for tourists to take pictures.  However, these are where the “”boat noodles” originated and, although they are no longer served off of boats, the shops that sell them are still located by the canals. Read more

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Chiang Mai : Asia’s Home for Digital Nomads

Chiang Mai has long been on our list of must dos.  A hub for expats and digital nomads in Southeast Asia, we imagined it as a place we could settle down for awhile.  After a few weeks of Bangkok, we needed to get out of the big city so we purchased a cheap flight to Thailand’s north.  You can also take the train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, but for a minimal amount more you can trade the 12 hour ride for a 1 hour flight.  On arrival around midnight we took a cheap taxi pickup truck, called a songthaew to our hostel.

The hostel, to our dismay, had forgotten our booking, which we found out right as it started to downpour.  Fortunately we found a private room right around the corner at Nomadic Guesthouse for only 200 baht per night and got ourselves some rest, ready to explore the town in the morning.

Chiang Mai roteeWe instantly loved Chiang Mai.  The vibe was so much more relaxed than our previous weeks in Bangkok, and the friendly people made us feel very welcome.  Read more

Backpacking Malaysia: Easy Asia Travel

Backpacking Malaysia is great for easy Asia travel.  Easier than South America, easier than Thailand.  We traveled the length of the Malaysian peninsula from Malacca to Penang, Kuala Lumpur (KL) to the Perhentian Islands through the Cameron Highlands.  The people are friendly, welcoming, and excited to have you in their country.  The buses are clean with organized stations and the roads are smooth with minimal traffic, especially in the countryside.  The highlight of backpacking Malaysia was the food.  From Malay to Chinese to Indian, the cuisine is an amazing fusion of different cultures, living together in relative harmony.  Low food costs are easy for every budget traveler and in Malaysia you can get a full meal starting at $1.50 for a vegetarian banana leaf lunch.  Even though the government just added a tourist tax to all hotel rooms, Malaysia still has good deals for travelers on a budget.  We stayed in some of the nicest and most fun hostels of our lives, and our 15 days in the peninsula didn’t scratch the surface of what the country has to offer.

Pick a Route:backpacking malaysia easy asia travel

Picking a backpacking route though Malaysia is easy.  For a two week trip we would recommend starting in Singapore and working your way north from Malacca to KL, Cameron Highlands, Perhentian Islands, then back across to Georgetown, Penang.  If you have three weeks we would suggest adding Taman Negara National Park and Langkawi Island.  These are both trips along the standard backpacker trail, great for your first time in Malaysia.  Since Malaysia has much fewer tourists than Thailand, you will run into the same friendly faces as you go.  There was one lady on our trip that we ran into in at three different places on our adventure.  Of course there are many other parts of Malaysia worth exploring, mainly the jungles of Borneo where things are more wild.  On a four week trip we would suggest spending a week there getting off the tourist path.

Enjoy the Food:

backpacking malaysia easy asia travel

The food in Malaysia is easy and good for any backpacker’s budget. The most we “cooked” for ourselves in Malaysia was to peel a banana, maybe once.  The local markets are great places to pig out economically.  Check out the laksa, poh piah, mee koring, and nasi kandar.  Western style restaurants are there, but they are the most expensive and generally not as exciting as the local flavors.  Every city has a Chinese neighborhood and an Indian neighborhood.  Little India was always our favorite spot to eat, great for vegetarians and meat eaters alike!  For one meal I had seven different curries and spent a total of less than $3. For these reasons, Malaysia was my all time favorite country to eat in!

Stay in a Hostel:

Frame Guesthouse backpacking malaysia easy asia travel
The Frame lobby — a minimalist hostel in an old framemaker’s shop. Frame is a very zen/minimalist place with cedar ceilings and antique stairways. We really liked our private room here and stayed for three nights enjoying the AC and waterfall showers.

Backpackers will love Malaysia for the hostels which are cheap and easy to book online.  Sometimes they do fill up, especially in the busy season, so we suggest booking in advance.  They range in price and quality and there is a new 10 Ringgit tourist tax for every room.  Our favorites were the Lemongrass on Long Beach in the Perhentians, and Frame Guesthouse in Georgetown, Penang.  Prices range from $10 per night for a dorm bed, $15 for a beach bungalow, or $18 for private room with A/C.

Speak With the Locals:

Backpacking Malaysia is easier than other parts of Asia because most people can speak or at least understand English.  A majority of the signs are also in English and Malay, so you will never have a hard time finding your way around.  Malay also using the English characters so it’s easy to pick up a little bit along the way which always makes the locals appreciate you more.   Knowing few words like terima kasih (thank you) can get you a lot of respect points and make you look a little better than the average traveler.

 

When looking for easier Asia travel, backpacking Malaysia should be at the top of your list.  With top notch people, food, nature and adventure, and hostels, never ending aventuras await you in this tropical paradise!

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Like this post about backpacking Malaysia for easy Asia travel?  Check out our archives for never ending travel advice, reviews, and many stories of adventure in Malaysia!

Hostel Holidays : Sharing Traditions Around the Globe

Hostel Holidays are the best holidays.  You meet friends from all over the world and share a special time together.  It’s an incredible opportunity for travelers to learn about new holidays they don’t celebrate at home.  Sharing holidays is an important part of cultural exchange.  It creates a bond between the traveler and the local that becomes the base of friendship.  Having activities like these are what makes great hostels great.

Hostel Holidays
American Thanksgiving is a fun way for skinny backpackers get some nourishment.

Take Thanksgiving for instance– it’s a great hostel holiday.  It’s so much fun to cook a huge feast of all your childhood favorites and show the other backpackers what they’ve been missing out on their whole lives.  This year we are planning a food and wine buffet at Yim Yam Hostel & Garden in Bangkok.  Mashed potatoes are of course the most important part, with lots of butter and salt.

Hostel Holidays
American Thanksgiving, hostel style!

While Carrie was working at a hostel on Christmas in San Diego they would have a special free breakfast buffet with champagne mimosas, then do the “present ball” game with dollar store gifts!  You could also do a white elephant gift exchange, creating mayhem by swapping and stealing each others presents.  It always turns into a bunch of laughing and merry hooting and hollering.  Getting some free drinks into your customers is a good way to start the holiday off right!  This is why hostel holidays are the best!

Hostel Holidays
Christmas Cookie Decorating!

As a local, it’s nice to keep travelers up to date on the upcoming holidays – especially if it involves stores closing or transportation headaches.  One of our craziest holiday experiences while traveling was when we were in Morocco for Eid al Fitr.  Eid is the biggest holiday of the year for Muslim families.  Signifying the end of the Ramadan fasting period, Eid is the yearly giant feast.  Most families will purchase a sheep which is slaughtered on the morning of the feast.  The week before the feast it’s a sight to behold with sheep being shuffled around all over the city.  There were sheep on the backs of motorbikes, parking lots turned into temporary “sheep parking”, and sheep just about everywhere.  We walked into the apartment complex where we were CouchSurfing.  Our host sniffed the air like “What’s that smell?” and tried to open the basement door.  “Sheep parking in the basement!“, he realized.  We called it the sheep genocide.  The festival impacted where in Morocco we could travel as the bus tickets were almost all purchased by locals in advance.  We ended up having to change most of our trip but since we’re flexible we still had fun.

You should also create events for your guests around the holidays.  If there is a Christmas parade in town, take them to go see it!  Free food for a Buddhist vegetarian festival?  Make signs and organize a tour there!  Contact us at globaltravelernetworks@gmail.com for more tips on hostel activities and how you can make your hostel holidays great!

Street Food Heaven – Penang, Malaysia

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Shophouses in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
Buddhist ceremony in Georgetown

Penang, Malaysia had been on our bucket list since before we even knew what country it was in (😳embarrassing)!  One sleepy afternoon years ago, we were watching Anthony Bourdain on “Parts Unknown” stuff his face at Line Clear in Georgetown and decided then and there that any trip to Asia would have to include Penang.  After all, it was street food heaven right? We had five nights planned!  We decided to stay at the Tipsy Tiger Party Hostel because everyone on the backpacker trail was talking about it.  The price was kind of high at 40 Ringgit for a dorm bed but included was free breakfast, all-day coffee and water, and two strong drinks at the bar.  The bar area closes at 11 after the nightly beer pong tournament then everyone goes on a pub crawl down the street to Love Lane where you can continue the party as late as your heart desires.

most popular new hostel in malaysia
Tipsy Tiger Party Hostel
Tipsy Tiger Hostel Party
The Bar At Tipsy Tiger
love lane party street
Love Lane – Party Street Penang

The Tispy Tiger was a good time but after two nights of craziness we were ready for something more chill.  Our second accommodation, The Frame Guesthouse, a very zen/minimalist place with cedar ceilings and antique stairways.  We really liked our private room here and stayed for three nights enjoying the AC and waterfall showers.

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The Frame lobby — a minimalist hostel in an old framemaker’s shop

The highlight of Penang for us was the street food.  Every corner had different stuff and you could really experience the fusion of Malay, Chinese, and Indian cuisines.  We tried to eat as much as possible, always opting for fourth and sometimes fifth meal.  It was a hard life.  Most of the food vendors have a few tables where you can sit and eat, and most require you to buy a bevarage- beer, soda or fresh-squeezed juice- if you use the table.  It really was a street food heaven.  Here are our favorites!

street food heaven
Laksa noodles- get in my belly
street food heaven
Pohpiah – like a large spring roll stuffed with tofu, veggies, and chili sauce!
street food heaven
Biggest Indian Meal Ever!
street food heaven
Obama Vegetarian Spring Rolls from Red Garden Food Paradise
street food heaven
Fermented pork belly noodles
street food heaven
Cendol – Icy Bean Dessert
street food heaven
More laksa bowls, yum!
penang food
Banana Leaf Indian
vegan food malaysia
In a healthy turn of events, we got vegan food from Wholey Wonder.  Yum!  The unicorn “cheesecake” is naturally-colored from the different superfruits in the layers.  So awesome!

One of the best places to eat is the famous Red Garden Food Paradise.  They usually have some singers and dancers in the center stage and around the edges there are so many different food vendors selling dishes from all over the world.  It has a very classic feel with red plastic chairs and happy families sharing tables stacked with food.  It’s always busy and opens at 6pm nightly.

red garden food stalls
Red Garden

My favorite late night spot was the 24-hour joint Line Clear.  Always a line and barely a menu, they kind of yell “What do you want?” when you get to the front then they slop it on a plate with rice and you get a scoop of sauce from each of the curries.  The food they sell is called nasi kandar, which pretty much means “country rice.”  It’s simple and everything you ever wanted after having a few beers on Love Lane.  Street Food Heaven indeed!

line clear nasi kandar
Line Clean 24hr Nasi Kandar.  Surprisingly they even had some vegetarian options for Carrie!

24 hour nasi kandar

Georgetown is unique in Asia because it largely avoided the bombings of World War II and the following wars.  Only a few bombs were dropped there so the old architecture has remained, giving the city a whole lot of character.   The only negative is the lack of sidewalks; you basically just walk along the side of the road and hope you don’t get clobbered by a drunk, texting motorbiker.  There was a lot of unique street art, most memorable of which were the cartoon wire sculptures depicting life in Penang throughout the years.

Georgetown Street Art
Georgetown Street Art
Georgetown Street Art
Georgetown Street Art
Georgetown Street Art
Georgetown Street Art
Georgetown Street Art
Georgetown Street Art

Georgetown Street Art

Georgetown Street Art

Georgetown Street Art

Georgetown Street Art

As in the rest of Malaysia, the mishmash of cultures and religious blends peacefully and beautifully in Penang.  So, I’ll leave you with a sunset over the downtown mosque and Hindu temple.

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
Masjid Kapitan Keling Mosque in Georgetown

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
Sri Mahamariamman Hindu Temple in Georgetown
Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

 

Why Your Hostel Needs A Marketing Consultant

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We are hostel marketing consultants and in our years of traveling we have stayed at a LOT of hostels.  The difference between a good hostel and a GREAT hostel is often so small that it’s hard to notice from an inside perspective.  We have worked with almost 50 different hostels and hotels on five different continents.  Our hostel marketing, consulting, writing, photos, and videos have helped many places jump the gap from failure to success.

Here are the 5 biggest reasons why you should hire a hostel marketing consultant:

1) A Different Perspective:  

When you are at your hostel day after day, you become blind to the real problems.  You also get attached to things that are maybe not the best ideas.  A hostel consultant can help you fix problems and think outside the box.

2) Knowing What Foreigners Want:

You know what the locals want; we know what the tourists want.  Travelers want clean, easy, safe, and fun!  Places and activities that might seem unexciting to locals might be exactly what travelers want!

3) English Promotions On Different Media Types:

Eye-catching social media posts are crucial to your success.  Nowadays, many travelers only use Instagram and Facebook to plan their trips.  Having a follower base and daily exciting posts are crucial to building your business.

Here are some examples of Instagram accounts from hostels we have worked with:

4) Keeping Up With The Times:

The hostel world is always changing.  When you are managing a hostel there is little time for exploring other countries, scoping out your competition, or keeping up with events and attractions around your area.  We love travel and the first thing we do when consulting with hostels is to get to know their area like a local, but seeing it though the eyes of a tourist.

5) Professional Photos, Highlights Videos, and Blogging

We specialize in making your hostel shine!  iPhones can take pictures, but having professionally edited photos from real cameras sets you above the competition.   Highlight videos let people feel like they are actually there from the comfort of their own home.  They show how fun, clean, and comfortable your hostel really is.  We want your hostel to be a tourist attraction in itself.  A website blog highlights attractions in your area which increases the traffic to your website and your hostel!

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The website blog for Yim Yam Hostel & Garden in Bangkok

How we can help:

Contact us at globaltravelernetworks@gmail.com to discuss hostel marketing and consulting help for your business!

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Click HERE for more ways to work with us!

The Perhentian Islands – Paradise in Malaysia

From the Cameron Highlands we left early in a van headed east, our destination was the  Perhentian Islands, Malaysia’s diving paradise.  Down the hill we drove super fast through heavy rain.  We passed some amazing rock walls that I hoped to come back to climb someday.  The culture became more and more Islamic with most signs written in Arabic and few women without hijab.  In Kuala Besut we were left at the jetty where the boats to the islands leave.  Our boat was included in the transportation price but we had to pay 30 Ringgit each to enter the islands, a conservation fee.  We loaded our stuff onto a boat after about an hour of waiting then moved everyone’s stuff around again a couple more times because no one took charge of telling us where on the boat to put the luggage.  (Culture=no one likes to show authority.). The boat ride was overloaded and a little sketchy but we made it just fine.  There are two islands, one with the resorts and an older crowd (Pulau Besar) and one a little smaller with the backpacker/diver folks (Pulau Kecil).   We chose Long Beach on Kecil Island, a paradise with white sands and blue blue water.  We stayed in a bungalow seconds from the water at the Lemongrass Guesthouse.  The friendly owner explained the snorkeling options and we were excited to see some sea life.  The area was a mecca for divers with amazing coral and sharks and sea turtles but we haven’t gotten into that whole scene yet – we are still stoked about snorkeling (for now).

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From Long Beach you can hike to many other beaches on the island, the closest of which being Coral Beach, not as nice but having some cheaper (better?) food options.  When we find decent food we usually will go there a bunch of times over a few days.  Our spot was Ewan’s Cafe, midway on the trail from Long Beach to Coral Beach.  They had a large menu of cheap Malaysian food and western favorites.  We ate there maybe 6-7 times and it was all pretty good.  Our absolute favorite spot though was at the end of the trail just onto Coral Beach, a guy with a sign Fatimah’s “Best Roti Canai” and it really was the best.  Roti canai is a folded flat bread with bananas or egg or tuna inside and is served with curry sauce for dipping.  You had to get there at the right time though because they would sell out rather quickly when the bread was ready.

Malaysia-88Roti Canai

The island was pretty relaxed during the day but at night several beach bars would open up and after 11 there was always a DJ playing electronic music that turned pretty clubby.  The highlight was the fire spinners who would post up in front of each of the popular places.   They were really talented, rivaling the best spinners we’ve scene at Burning Man.  We watched them for hours and I talked to them about how they built their sticks, looking forward to making one myself.  The beach was the only spot to be at night besides in bed under your mosquito net as the bugs got bad the further you strayed from the sea breeze.

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Snorkeling was definitely the best thing we did on the Perhentian Islands.  We payed for a tour through the Lemongrass where we were staying and left a little after 11am on a boat with another American, one French girl, and a group of Malaysians.  They took us to several spots around the island – Shark Point, Turtle Bay, and a few others.  I saw a two foot shark at Shark Point, small but cool, and at every spot there was amazing coral of all sorts.  We saw beautiful schools of parrot fish, a green and blue sting ray, and the star of the show was a giant sea turtle.  The turtle was so impressive and I was able to swim underneath it when it surfaced for air.

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We took a pit stop for lunch at a local village near the Silver Mosque which was in the middle of the call to prayer when we arrived.  The scene seemed surreal with the beautiful shining building and the village and the perfect blue sky reflecting in the water.

Silver Mosque Malaysia
Silver Mosque

The sad part about snorkeling in the Perhentian Islands was the lack of education that the guides gave the tourists.  Many of the local people couldn’t swim and would stand on top of the coral, breaking it with their fins.  It was heartbreaking to watch, mainly because of how avoidable it was.  With coral dying all over the world, it is more important than ever to take care of what remains.   Elsewhere in Malaysia, we had started yelling at people when they threw trash on the ground because it ruins my world and your world and everyone’s world.  I think just having the fear that some white dude is going to come yelling at them might keep them from doing it again.  However, I didn’t feel right trying to tell the snorkeling guides that they needed to instruct these coral standers, and I don’t think it would have changed anything.  Like I said before, in Malaysian culture no one likes to give directions or show authority over anyone else.  But if I see a western person standing on coral I’m going to show you my scary side and it best be the last time you do it.

Here is a highlights video! Please subscribe to our YouTube channel as there are more videos to come!

Another interesting thing on the island was the giant monitor lizards.  They would eat your kittens if you let them stray and our guesthouse host spent most of his day making sure his little kitties didn’t wander around the wrong corner.

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We spent four lovely days in the Perhenthian Islands and it was a little sad to leave.  But we were headed to Penang and we were so excited for the food.  We carried our backpacks all the way across Long Beach to the pier, passing all the silly kids who had shown up with rolling suitcases.  Seriously, why do so many people bring those things to the beach?  We waiting around the pier watching a young Malaysian couple snorkeling in the water below.  They were so different from us bare-it-all westerners, trying to swim while holding hands, the girl covered in hijab and a head-to-toe conservative swimming outfit.  Even the men were nervous about taking their shirts off, always replacing them for pictures.  Eventually we were shuffled onto a boat and made the rounds collecting people from other beaches before heading back to the main land.

We took a taxi from the pier to the bus station where we got a local bus to Kota Bharu.  We stayed at Zech’s Guesthouse, owned by a super friendly older couple.  Zech, a faithful Muslim, was excited to share a name with me.   As I remembered from Morocco, when people hear my name it brings about many questions.  I feel like there are more Muslim Zecks than Christian Zachs and the name seems to gain me instant respect. We talked a little bit after being shown all the room options and they told us about a great night food market where we got the blue rice which is colored with a flower and famous in the region.  In the morning after his pre-sunrise prayers, Papa Zech drove us to the airport because it was too early for taxis.  He told us of his recent trip to Mecca, a pilgrimage that he was proud to have finally completed.  We arrived early like good travelers but most people didn’t get to the airport until 40 minutes before their flight.  There were only six other passengers and our “private” jet was the easiest flight we have ever taken.  At least it wasn’t Malaysian Airlines, which has a nasty reputation for disappearing into thin air.  Next up… Georgetown, Penang!!!!