Hostels are great places that laid back traveling people can enjoy. They are some of the best places to meet new friends and share your favorite backpacking stories. However, we’ve all met some types of people who just shouldn’t stay in hostels. While there are more, these are our top seven types of terrible hostel guests.
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:
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:
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:
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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Tuk Tuk Hop – A great way to explore Bangkok’s temples! Bangkok is an enormous city and its public transportation systems aren’t the easiest to figure out for travelers. It seems every destination requires a different and sometimes confusing combination of Skytrain, bus, ferry boat, taxi, tuk tuk, Metro, etc. Some of the most historic and famous destinations in Bangkok aren’t anywhere close to the BTS Skytrain or Metro lines. What’s a budget-conscious traveler to do? Download the app and use code LAAVENT60 to get 15% off!
Enter Tuk Tuk Hop! Tuk Tuk Hop is a new mobile app which is kind of like Uber for tuk tuks in the historic old city area of Bangkok. Users pay a flat fee for unlimited tuk tuk rides from 8:30am-6pm. The service area includes 23 available drop-off/pick-up locations at points of interest. Basically, you get to create your own tour by picking and choosing where you want to go in what order and not having to walk the long, sweaty kilometers in between destinations! Just download the free app, pay, and enjoy personalized service by certified TukTukHop drivers! If you don’t have a Thai data plan on your phone, TukTuk Hop will even rent you a WiFi device for the day.
Here’s a short video explaining #TukTukHop! Don’t forget to use the code LAAVENT60 to get 15% off!
For our Tuk Tuk Hop tour, we started by getting ourselves to Wat Arun then Wat Pho using the BTS to Saphan Taksin then the Chao Phraya river-crossing ferry boat. Wat Pho is home to the world’s largest reclining Buddha! It was truly impressive.
From Wat Pho, we ordered our first tuk tuk ride to the Grand Palace! It was great not having to negotiate for an overpriced taxi. We just waited at the point marked on our app for our certified TukTuk Hop driver. He knew exactly how to go to avoid some of the traffic around the Grand Palace (“Sanam Luang”) and get us where we wanted to be. Around the palace, we got to witness the massive crowds of mourners there to honor the late King Rama IX. What a special time to be in Bangkok!
After walking through two temples and around the Grand Palace we were starving so it was time to chow! We had heard that there were a lot of good restaurants around The Giant Swing, which was another Tuk Tuk Hop stop, so we ordered another ride and jumped in! Riding in tuk tuks and feeling the breeze as you dodge traffic is definitely the most fun way to get around the busy Bangkok streets! Don’t forget to use the code LAAVENT60 to get 15% off!
For those confused by the Giant Swing, we learned that it was formerly used in an old Hindu religious ceremony where men would have a swinging competition symbolizing “swinging their way into heaven.” The ceremony was stopped in 1935 after several people died! Now the huge swing structure serves as a landmark in Bangkok and there are many great Thai restaurants nearby. We found some vegetarian noodle soup from a small shophouse to satisfy our hunger and enjoyed seeing lots of shops selling golden Buddhas and Hindu relics for temples— so cool!
After our late lunch we didn’t have too much time left, so we decided to grab our tuk tuk and hit up one more temple — Wat Benchamabophit, “The Marble Temple.” This amazing place is made completely of Italian marble and it is stunning!
You can go to way more places than this using Tuk Tuk Hop if you start early enough! We recommend starting right at 8:30am so that you can use the service all day and really get your money’s worth. It’s such a fantastic way to experience all the most famous historic sites in Bangkok without spending all your time and energy walking! Tuk Tuk Hop is also offering 10% off their normal price AND free umbrella rental for the rest of 2017!
Don’t forget to use the code LAAVENT60 to get 15% off!
We weren’t compensated in any way to write this blog post. We just really enjoyed the experience!
This is the first in a series of posts we’re starting that will feature the businesses of our traveling friends and clients of Global Traveler Networks! We’re featuring amazing people who we 100% support and helping them spread the word about the good they are offering the world!
Iosif and Natalia of Mattera Life Designing & Psychotherapy are quite inspirational. We met them randomly over the internet and they kindly offered us a free first psychotherapy session of “couples therapy from a couple” as they call it. Their focus is in combining psychotherapy, metaphysics and spirituality to create a holistic approach to bettering your life. Originating from Romania but currently based in Bali , they conduct their sessions in person or via Skype. Most of their clients are people who have already broken out of the so-called “normal realm” of thinking and are looking for the next level of consciousness. Long term travelers and digital nomads could find them the most beneficial, since when living overseas its hard to know where to go or who to turn to if you would like to talk to a therapist. Also, local therapists from the country you are in might not understand your background and your nomadic lifestyle!
One of the most interesting things that we talked about in our session was our fears around money. Natalia and Iosif really opened our eyes to the difference between the “spending mindset” vs the “investing mindset. ” Whenever you are using money for any reason, do you think of it as “spending” i.e. the scary loss of money, or as “investing” into yourself. “God is in you, and you can trust god” said Natalia, “You must know that you will be given all that you need, when you need it”.
Mattera is picky about the people they take on for sessions as they are better suited to those who have already started along the path of expanding their conscious awareness. The best way to describe their target market might be “hippie traveler digital nomads”.
If you go to their website, mattera.life, you can sign up for a free first session so Iosif and Natalia can get to know you a little bit. They want to open doors for you inside of yourself, so you can search around for your own happiness. Some of their areas of expertise are helping people with limiting beliefs, emotional blockages and traumas, and accessing higher states of consciousness. Their theory is that by building your life in the right way, the universe will conspire to give you everything that you need.
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As soon as we entered Oregon we could tell that this thing was going to be huge. Every car was loaded down, tents and coolers strapped to the roof. The Great American Eclipse, as it was being called, was turning small towns across the nation into giant festivals with fields full of thousands of campers. Several years before, a few farmers near Madras, Oregon had noticed that the eclipse would pass right over their fields. More than 5000 campsites were sold just in those fields, with other farmers hosting similar events nearby. We arrived on Saturday in the evening; the big event to happen Monday morning. The place was already a mad house and I believe we took the last available space, with many more people circling for spots. Solar Town was the name of our event and Solarfest was happening in the town a few miles away. We were already super efficient and competent campers so we had ourselves some chuckles at everyone struggling with their new tents. The town was simple with portapotties and free showers, along with a variety of food vendors that we never sampled because of the long lines and our tight budget.
We had fun meeting our neighbors and even got to hang out with our friend from home Kelly, who ended up being camped in the next field over!
We made a short video about our experience so you can get a taste of what it was like. We didn’t actually get a shot of the eclipse happening because we didn’t really try to. We wanted to be fully present. But you can see Solar Town and see our reactions to the wonder! We both cried when totality happened. There was nothing that could have prepared us for those moments. If you ever get the chance to witness an eclipse, DO IT!
We had been trying to go to Cuba for awhile. We had the whole plan set to go before we were officially allowed to, but easing of the restrictions made it easier for us. Our flight from Mexico City to Havana, Cuba set down after dark and we had our visas and passports and we couldn’t wait to get out there exploring. They took our picture at customs then we waiting in the muggy airport for a long while waiting for our luggage. Everything was painted USSR red and the women customs agents wore tight khaki army skirts along with fishnet tights and heels. The agents led basset hounds around the airport, making people drop their bags while the dogs circled them. The form we signed made it very clear we were not to bring drugs, guns, or pornography into the country.
Our taxi driver was waiting for us with our name on a sign. She would take us to our casa particular in Centro Habana. First we had to change money. Cuban locals use the peso, while foreigners have to change their cash into Cuban Convertible Pesos which equal $1 or 24 local pesos. They charge 10% to exchange dollars so it was cheaper for us to bring Euros and trade them for CUC (Cuban Convertible Pesos). All the local shops use pesos while tourist areas only take CUC so after you get the CUC you can trade a little bit to pesos to spend on snacks and ice cream and such. It was confusing and redundant, like many things we would find in Cuba.
Our taxi was a red ’50s Chevy with the inside refurbished and a big TV screen that played loud reggaeton music videos. It was awesome. In Cuba travelers have two options for accommodation: government-run hotels or private “casas particulares” which are rooms in private family homes. Kind of like AirBNB, the casas are much more affordable and friendly than the overpriced, stark government hotels! In Havana we stayed in a fifth floor apartment in the center, with a nice lady whose Spanish was understandable.
The first thing I noticed in Cuba was the lack of billboards. The only thing resembling advertising was political propaganda. There’s about a 50/50 ratio of old/new cars in the city. The stores had dim lighting and the shelves were sparsely stocked with dusty goods. No Coca Cola! Only a national soda brand.
In Havana it seems like everyone is always out and about, living their lives outside. Every building is a different color and in a different state of disrepair or renovation. The cars were the same, with the freshly-painted old classics always full of tourists driving loops around the city. As we walked through Habana Vieja (Old Havana), enchanting live music flowed from almost every cafe, even at lunchtime.
Surprisingly, we were never really hassled; we just had a lot of friendly people want to know where we were from. We walked and walked, seeing the old castles and fortifications that kept the pirates out.
It was super hot on our first day in the city (high 80s) but the sea breeze coming off the Malecón (sea wall) helped a bit. The Malecón is where everyone gathers at night to hang out, drink beer and rum, and see and be seen. On our second night the wind picked up and sent waves over the wall in dramatic fashion, closing the road and sending careless tourists running for dry ground.
West of the Malecón lies the Vedado neighborhood. Newer than Havana Vieja, Vedado is home to the large hotels, sprawling residential areas, and the city’s best nightlife.
We found a Beatles themed rock club called Amarillo Submarino where they had a great rock ‘n’ roll cover band. It used to be illegal to play all English music, but times have changed in Cuba.
Our favorite spot in Vedado was the Coppelia ice cream shop. The place is shaped like a giant space ship and was opened in the ’60s right after the revolution. Always busy, you have to wait in a long line where they have a one in-one out policy. They try to usher foreigners into a separate area, but do not be led off course because the locals’ area is the real deal! Once inside you will be ushered into one of four rooms, seated at shared tables and served whatever ice cream flavors they feel like at the time. Each room has different flavors, so cross your fingers when getting seated. Oh, and the scoops are one peso each, or about 4 cents. Since the ice cream is so cheap, everyone orders at least 1o scoops apiece! On the best night we got a choice of mint or chocolate mint flavors, on the worst the choice was between guava, banana or plantain. It’s also a great place to people watch and witness the redundancies of the communist workforce. There are bored bouncers in several different locations, servers, scoopers, bussers, water pourers. It takes a simple ice cream shop to a crazy level of complexity. Never did it stop being strange.
Havana is a city of layers, never lacking in character or interesting encounters. The people are full of life and resiliency, pushing forward despite everyday struggles that are sometimes unbelievable. I don’t think you could see the same Havana twice with so much change happening at every moment. It did make us appreciate just how easy we have it, the simplicity of just going out and buying whatever, whenever. But then again, is that how things are supposed to be? Is that ability to freely spend really necessary, or is it just a lie created to fill fat pockets? I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
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Today was the day to go to the famous Mexico Zipline, the biggest in the world. We set up a driver to take us to the Barrancas del Cobre (Copper Canyon) the night before but after waking up early and waiting around for him, we ended up having to call him and wake him up. Once there he drove us to the center of town where we switched to a different car with a different driver. This guy was a real Mexican cowboy with white hat and pointy snake skin boots. He drove fast out of Creel on the road which follows the famous tourist train, El Chepe, into the the deeper parts of the canyon.
The views were magnificent as we passed through small towns of tiny log cabins and indigenous people looking for rides. This area was home to the Tarahumara (or “Raramuri” as they call themselves) people, famous for trail running (check out the book Born to Run) and the women’s colorful skirts. Supposedly it is also a hideout for many narcos, as we were advised by our Mexican friend from the area keep to the main road. We headed for Parque de Aventura Barrancas del Cobre, the adventure park, and stopped about 10km out to check out a mirador (view point). The view was grand, reminding us of the US southwest with its pines and high desert colors. There was a family of indigenous people selling pretty jewelry, woven blankets, and baskets made from maguey leaves.
Up ahead was the park. We paid 20 pesos each to enter and were left off at the lodge overlooking the canyon. He was were you found a restaurant/bar, many shops, along with the “adventure” part consisting of a seven-zipline route with hiking, a rappel and ropes course, and the world’s longest zipline that took you three km into a point in the center of the canyon. From there you rode back to the lodge on a teleferico (cable car). Edward Abbey would have rolled over in his grave, but this is Mexico and they don’t always have the same ideas about conservation and such. To our eyes it seemed like the adventure park actually brought many more tourists (hence more money to the area and the locals) to Barrancas del Cobre than would otherwise come. Hopefully the increase in tourism is helping with conservation. The ziplines were quite expensive for Mexican standards and few of the locals we asked had actually tried it. We ended up buying the seven-zipline and rappel course as a package, and were ushered off to get harnessed up. First up was a 48-meter rappel onto a ledge below, woo! Next we followed a path which involved climbing rebar steps bolted into the sides of the rock hanging over gaping chasms, then a rope bridge, a Tarzan swing across a chasm, a four-wire bridge, more rebar traversing, a windblown tightrope bridge about 100ft off the ground, then finally up a chimney. It was way cooler and more thrilling than we imagined, and the guides practiced safe procedures.
Back on top we were told that the Mexico zipline park wouldn’t start for 45 min so we would have to wait, problem was that we needed to leave with our driver before then. After expressing our frustration, they agreed to let us do the ZipRider, the world’s longest and fastest (2.5 km long and reaching speeds up to 80mph) zipline for the same price, which we were glad to do! After waiting behind a family of 16 (it went two at a time and took 2.5 min to get to the bottom), and some standard Mexican slowdowns (they had to wait for the cable car to bring the harnesses back up) it was finally our turn. Here is a video of our ride on the Mexico zipline in Barrancas del Cobre Adventure Park!!
Back up top we looked for our driver, who was nowhere to be found. We got worried cause we were late, but of course he was just later than we were. We got some delicious gorditas while waiting. On the drive back to Creel, we stopped at Divisadero, the main train stop with a cliffside hotel and gorgeous view into the canyon. Back in town we got some chicken soup since it was cold and had a chill night, buying bus tickets and souvenirs, very glad we had came to this place far into the depths of Mexico.
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