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.
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 →
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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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.
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.
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!
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 email@example.com for more tips on hostel activities and how you can make your hostel holidays great!
We needed to get out of town and breathe some open air for a couple nights, so we settled on a hastily-researched camping Anza Borrego getaway. Anza Borrego is a State Park in Southern California. Some of California’s State Parks are as incredible as some National Parks we’ve been too. Boy, did it deliver! The stars our first night out there were shining brighter than any I’ve seen anywhere else in California! Breathtaking!
We camped at Tamarisk Campground, which had spacious spots, clean bathrooms, and water spigots, basically everything you need for a good campout! The temperature dropped to around 50 F at night so the campfire was much needed! We spent the next day driving around the massive park getting our bearings. We didn’t do too much hiking because we had the dogs with us. They weren’t allowed on many trails and it was too hot to leave them in the car in the middle of the day. We’ll definitely have to come back for another Anza Borrego getaway explore the Mud Caves and do the famous Palm Oasis hike.
We did check out the awesome visitor’s center, drove to the Ocotillo Sand Dunes, and then ate great cheap Mexican food in the tiny town of Borrego Springs. There were huge rusty animal sculptures all over the town so we had some photography fun with one of those.
The road home took us through Julian, so naturally we had to stop for some famous Julian apple pie! I’m so glad we were able to get out in nature for a couple days. My soul always feels refreshed after some time in the middle of nowhere!
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I’ve never been super into Italian food. Maybe it’s because I’ve never really found the good stuff! We CHOWED down in Italy! Italian food is based on simple, fresh ingredients and exquisite craftsmanship. Every restaurant worth its salt makes their own pasta and menus change seasonally. Thank God we walked so much to stave off too much weight gain.
Breakfast every day was cappuccino and “cornettos”, which are Italian croissants filled with Nutella!!! Yummers!
The antipasto was also amazing! Here’s some bruschetta and prosciutto with melon before lunch!
“Suppli” are basically breaded deep-fried risotto balls. I want to eat these every day for the rest of my life!
Cured meats, bread with gorgonzola truffle spread, tapenades, and veggies at the Mercate Centrale in Firenze. Definitely go there for the amazing local food choices!
The most epic meat and cheese board in the world from La Prosciutteria in Roma.
Pasta made from scratch is SO MUCH BETTER than dried boxed pasta. The pasta was really thick and rich! I tried spinach-ricotta ravioli with garlic sage cream, spaghetti a la pesto, and many more!
Last but not least, dessert! Authentic tiramisu is not very sweet with a very strong coffee flavor. This one was pistachio flavored, hence the green color.
Gelato was also a daily occurrence. This one was from Perche No! in Firenze, which I had dreamed of visiting since hearing so much about how good it was from a high school history teacher. He’s now retired and I half expected to run into him there! I can’t wait to go back to Italia with Zach someday and try all the goodies again! Until then, I’m on the hunt for suppli in California!
Granada is a magical place. The castles, cobblestone streets, and snow-covered mountains enchant. Not to mention the best thing ever, free tapas in all the bars! Every time you order a glass of wine or beer, a new plate of food shows up. We ate a lot of tapas – potato salad, “bacalao,” “jamon,” many varieties of charcuterie on bread, little fish… it was endless. There are restaurants on every corner, and all are full late into the night.
The Spanish love going out; staying up late is part of the culture. What happens is every day people wake up, and go to work at a normal time in the morning, then in the afternoon go home and take a “siesta.” After some sleep, everyone goes out for tapas after 9pm and stays out until midnight (or later). You finish the night with churros and hot chocolate, then wake up and do it all again.
The food is good, the wine is good, the people are friendly. Granada is a great place.
The main attraction in Granada is Alhambra, a super impressive fortress overlooking the city. Originally built by the Moors, the complex was a palace for many sultans and kings of various empires. All the walls are intricately carved in Islamic-style geometric patters which took centuries to complete. It took many hours for us to explore the several different buildings, castles, sanctuaries, and colorful gardens.
Another awesome place in Granada is the area Sacremonte. Situated in the hills at the edge of the city, the neighborhood is a collection of houses built inside of caves.
Occupied by a lot of gypsies and hippies, the houses are also home to many famous flamenco clubs.
Flamenco in the streets
It’s also amazing how quickly you can leave Granada and be in the wilderness. We walked from our hostel in the center to the caves in only 30 minutes, seeing nothing behind them but forest and the mountains in the distance. Hiking, skiing, and many other outdoors adventures are in close proximity! What’s not to love about it?
We were so ready for Spain. After struggling with French all we could think about was getting to a place where we understood what was going on again. I fell asleep on the Rideshare from Bordeaux and awoke to hills and green trees and houses with tiled rooftops. We had made it! San Sebastian was small and came out of nowhere, the ocean bright blue and full of surfers. The surf wasn’t good, but it was nice to be in a slightly more familiar setting.
Our Couchsurfing hosts welcomed us into their house but had to run back to work so we relaxed for awhile then headed out to grab some of the famous “pintos”, the Basque word for tapas-style small bites of food. San Sebastian is very famous for its cuisine, having more Michelin stars (14) per capita than any other city in the world. The pintxos are served for lunch (around 1-4pm) and dinner (approx 7-11pm). They cost between 1 and 4 euros each so it can add up if you are stuffing your face like we did. I was in heaven.
After having one of the most amazing eating frenzies of our lives, we needed to burn some calories so we could eat more for dinner. We headed up the trail to Monte Urgull to where an old castle and a large statue of Jesus looked down on the city. The city appeared even more beautiful than we first thought. Two beaches were split in half by the peninsula with the fortress and Jesus sculpture atop it, complemented by a large bay with a pretty little island, and bright blue water that reminded me of the Caribbean. We were ready to find jobs and move in, seriously.
We got a long nap along with everyone else in town (the Spanish do love their “siestas”), then headed out for more pinxtos. I was obsessed. My inner chef kept telling me to eat eat eat until I could eat no more. Did I mention that La Rioja, one of the premier wine regions in the world was right down the road? This meant amazing wine at amazing prices. “How much is rent here?”