01 May 2014


I had about six hours in Singapore so I did my best to work my way around the city just taking it in with no particular goal in mind.  I just wanted to wander around and get a feel for the city and what it was mostly about.  Unfortunately, it was raining the entire time which doesn’t bother me but does affect me taking photos with needing to constantly keep my camera under cover and it limited what I could do so I skipped on parks, gardens or anything where the weather affected my activity, plus I didn’t want to spend a lot of money to merely check the city out in a short period of time.  So I mostly wandered around from area to area on foot or by their public train.

Singapore is an extremely eclectic, modern, and wealthy city with roots in the Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Caucasian cultures and it could be seen everywhere - in their food, architecture, styles of dress and more…  Like the Philippines, it’s diversity of cultures is what sets it apart from other SE Asian countries.  Nice thing about traveling there, pretty much everyone speaks English.  On some level, it feels like if a culture can generally speak English, it’s gonna be more expensive… costs of education and globalization I guess and Singapore does not disappoint when it comes to being expensive.  By expensive, I mean that I would compare it to Australia in some instances but it is at the top of the world’s most expensive city list as numero uno.  So… safe to say I won’t be moving there any time soon.

There was really only one thing I wanted to do, try the original Singapore Sling at the Raffles Hotel.  The Raffles Hotel Singapore is a stunning and historic hotel where they serve the (supposedly) original Singapore Sling cocktail which originated in the early 1900’s but possibly the late 1800’s as it’s history and where it all started is debatable, but there’s an interesting article on it here with Imbibe Magazine.  And since I am a lover of sweet and fruity cocktails I had to give it a go - it was definitely was super delicious and the barterers make an art of it.  Thing is, it’ll set you back about $24 and that was with my discount from my airline, otherwise it would have been $30.  By far the most expensive cocktail I’ve ever purchased and is a bit expensive even by Los Angeles’ standards for above par mixology.  For as fancy of a place the Raffles is, they also serve a handful of peanuts in the shell directly on the table or bar for you, so of course with that comes peanut shells all over the place.  It’s like low-brow classiness but I dig it.  Would I go there again? No, not unless someone else is paying.  It’s just ridiculous to pay that amount for a cocktail that I could slurp up in a few sips and not get a good buzz off of it, but it was a once in a lifetime experience.  I can check that off the list of things to do in my life.

Flash travel question: Would I go back to Singapore to check it out for a longer period of time?  Yes, but only for about two days and I think I would feel like I would have had my fill - besides, I don’t think I could afford to spend much more time than that there (keep in mind that I’m on backpacker budget, not a person on a two-week holiday).  Every person should check out Singapore because of its diverse cultures but also because it’s the new Asia and what it’s going to become and it is a fascinating city.  When you live in Southeast Asia, to get a job in Singapore means ‘you’ve made it’, it’s their New York City.  It’s thought of the epicenter for successful, globalized business here in Southeast Asia.  If you’re based in SE Asia, you can easily visit Singapore for relatively cheap though Air Asia as it’s headquartered there and has so many flight deals emailed weekly.  And by cheap, I mean like if your timing is right, you can get a flight for like $10.  Crazy cheap sometimes!  

If you could do one day in Singapore, what would you do?  And would you have spent $30 on a Singapore Sling?

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12 March 2014


Credit: PopSugar
You know, I have many, MANY Pinterest boards (you can see the obsession here in all of its glory) that I pin to every day in hopes that I'll actually make or do those things 'one day' (I'm awesome at dreaming!).  Yet, I've made no plans to get to them - EVER.  I figure 'one day' will magically happen when I'm so inspired and it will automatically incorporate its amazingness with perfect transition into my life and it will all just appear on my newly skinny body, in my enlightened mind, in my beautiful home, with my awesome blog and gorgeous photography with no plan of action or work on my behalf.  Unfortunately, we all know how that's going to turn out - it'd be a Super Sized Pipe Dream.

So I'm going to change that. 

I'm going to do these things. Not all at the same time because well, that's just unrealistic - I have a life and a budget. But I can let's say pick out one or two items a week and complete them. So I want to start with my 'w o r k o u t' board. I'll pick a post or two a week and do them for five days straight and the following week, switch it up. I'm so damn lazy and it's showing all over my body and my mind.  I'm wasting my life.  It's time to make the change!  Every week, I'll post what I did and how I felt about it.  That way I can commit to you all because I don't want to let you down, and you can join along with me if you want.  Because let's face it, we're not getting any younger and our asses (or belly or arms) are not getting any skinnier.  I want to feel good and I'm the only who can do anything about it.

Now, I want to be clear about one thing, I'm not necessarily doing this because I want to be 'skinny', my body shape doesn't really bother me that much despite knowing I'm a bit unhealthy right now (I'm in denial that I'm 'bigger'), but I realize that working out and being fit is imperative to being healthy in both body and spirit. I haven't been feeling so awesome lately, I'm lacking motivation to do anything that I'm not nearly forced into, and I think it has to do with me being so damn lazy and tired, i.e. not working out.  So this is my way to change that.  If I'm not going to make the effort now, it's just going to get more and more difficult as time goes on.  So, the first post that I want to tackle is a full body circuit workout plus with either walking or swimming in the morning.  So, on that note, I'll follow up with you all next week with the results of me trying to at least start this madness!  Wish me luck!

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02 February 2014


Today I will be attending an all-day workshop here in Chiang Mai called Freelancing for Freedom and I'm super excited to be going because the challenge with living abroad is that I'm unable to attend workshops back home like AltSummit and Blog Shop amongst the many smaller workshops with some of my favorite bloggers.  Ever since the new year began, I've had a lot more momentum in not only catching up on my blog (that I'm a year behind on), but I have so many ideas that I've been collecting for a while of the different kinds of things that I want to share with you.  Thing is, is that I can be really f'n lazy and caught up in the day-to-day bullshit... or getting lost on Pinterest for hours.  I need to be pushed and pulled, have a fire lit under my ass, and slapped around to focus and get shit done - I need to make it happen!  So I'm stoked to be attending one locally with women that have some kick-ass blogs and freelance businesses!  I'm looking forward to their inspiration, guidance, and ass kicking.  

So let's get down to the nitty gritty…  In addition to my travel posts, I want to share with you my new life living abroad.  My life has evolved and so must my blog.  It's not just about my travels especially since I'm no longer "on the road" but to also share my wanderings in this new country that I'm living in, even in my own backyard, as there are some crazy cool and interesting nooks and crannies here.  But let's face it, we also have lives that exist in the depths of the interwebz too and I want to share some of mine with you.  Here are a few of the ideas I have for new weekly posts you'll be seeing soon:

- Share interviews with some of these incredible fellow wanderers that I meet along my journey that will hopefully be an inspiration for you as they most certainly are to me (thus why I never want to go home).

- Share recommendations on some awesome food and things to do here should you ever come to visit - if not, well, you can vicariously live through me, I'll even eat for both of us!  I'm a team player.

- Share some of the projects that I'm working on (or going to commit to when I get my ass into gear) to help develop some of my personal goals - maybe you'll join me in doing the same.

- Share some new music that I discover.  With being around all of these travelers from around the world, I get to hear some pretty interesting and sweet tunes, so let me share some playlists with you even if some may be a trip down nostalgia's lane.

- Share some adventure inspiration as I want all of us to get out and wander a hell of a lot more even in our own backyard.

- And of course, share some pretty pictures. 

You've read up to this point so you must have some interest in what's going on over here, you have a little break in your day, and you're looking for a little escapism into April-Land.  Well, I want you on this journey and I want to keep you on this journey with me and grow along with me - maybe even inspire you to come join me out here (hint, hint!).  You don't have time or money to do some exploring in the world?  Wander with me for just a few minutes plus with the added bonus of not traveling in the cramped, non-air conditioned buses, weird street smells, getting ripped off, and travelers diarrhea!  You've always wanted to do a photo project but need a little inspiration-kick-in-your-ass?  Me too!  So let me inspire you to kick your own ass or watch me kick my own - your choice.  (Frankly, I'd rather have you inspire me - I get fired up over that shit!  I love it!).  Looking for some more Instagram/Pinterest users to follow?  Me too!  Pinterest is like pornography for me!  Let me share some with you and you can share with me.  Deal?  

So for whatever reason you're reading this, I love that you're here.  Henceforth, let's commence with Project Kick Ass!

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22 January 2014


Hint:  It's damn cheap!! ...and awesome!

I've been asked by several of my friends what it's like to live in Chiang Mai as well as what the costs of living are so I'd love to share my experiences with you as well since I find myself answering these questions more and more these days.  Often it's a friend that I've met somewhere along my travels reaching out to me for some advice.  For some, they say that they've quit their dead-end job to pursue their passion more seriously and others are planning on being teachers here in SE Asia.  They hear that Chiang Mai is a great place to get their TEFL/CELTA certification and would like to work here afterwards, or it's just a good and cheap place to live where one can continue their Internet job or just to have a home base while they travel around SE Asia.  So of course, many questions follow after that of what's it like, where should they look, how much is an apartment, how are they going to get around, etc.  Keep in mind that my recommendations are based solely on the fact that I'm a single woman who prefers to live alone, eat out, and generally live on the cheaper (but not cheapest) - not for a family of four or someone who makes a lot more money than I do.  I live off of less than $1,000 a month with the ability to save money too.  As of the date that I'm writing this, $1 American is about 30 baht, so have fun with your conversions!  …Now let's get to it!!

What's it like to live here?  Well, it's awesome.  Chiang Mai is the perfect combination of a small city with big city amenities - malls, movie theaters, large chain stores for supplies and western brands, wifi everywhere, a big live music scene, great restaurants, fantastic festivals, a big expat scene, and night life living right next to rural life about 15 minutes in any direction, mountains hovering over the city, hill tribes, mountain trekking, jungles, farms, rivers, most buildings under 5 stories, almost no chain restaurants/fast food, and a relaxed attitude on life.  The weather is generally lovely with approximately three seasons - hot (and humid) as hell, wet, and nice and cool with temps between 60-97 degrees Fahrenheit.  It's basically a little paradise.  

There's start up costs no matter where you go and luckily here, they're generally pretty cheap.  You're looking at a deposit for a place to rent, appliances/miscellaneous stuff, and a motorbike (buy or rent - more on that later).  All of these things can vary greatly, but I'll give you an example of what I ended up paying for all these things for a realistic picture.

Low 5,000 baht/month.  Low deposit 12,000 baht, plan on 15,000+
Like any city, prices of dwellings vary from neighborhood to neighborhood.  Here, the more expensive places to live are in the old city (inside the moat) and the Neimenhaemin areas.  Furnished studio apartments can start around 4,500 baht per month within town, though average is closer 5,000 on up.  I pay 5,200 baht for my place in the heart of Neimenhaemin plus utilities and wifi (approx. 500-1200 baht/month for utilities and 600 baht/month for wifi).  

Many people opt to live with roommates in 3-4 bedroom townhouses which can vary as well.  A townhouse around Neimen can go for about 18-20,000 baht per month.  Can you find one for less in a different neighborhood?  Yes, you can.

Another thing to look out for, many places will ask for a 6-12 month lease and they give you a better deal the longer you stay over 6 months.  There are several places that do month to month as well which is great for people who aren't sure how long they're planning on staying here or need some flexibility.  For a deposit, plan on 2-3 months of rent up front.

Can you find better deals around town?  Yes, absolutely.  It doesn't hurt to talk to people who have been living here a while to see if they've heard of anything available as places are often passed down from one traveler to another for pretty much the same exact rent as the previous renter.  I've got a friend renting a great place in the old city for about 5,000 baht per month with utilities included and she lives in a nice little studio above a garage with a big balcony area!  How did she hear about it?  From a friend of hers that was moving away.  When she leaves, I want to get in there next!!  The deals are there but they're easier to find once you're here.  I always recommend staying in a guest house for a few weeks while you get your bearings and get to know the different parts of the city, where you ultimately need to be near, and where you want to be.  I chose Neimen because it has several bars and restaurants within a short walking distance, if I have several drinks, I'm close enough to walk home or take a tuk-tuk for cheap, there's two 7-11's and a small Tesco Lotus market nearby, as well as shops, a good little night scene, it's central, and close to the Super Highway making pretty much all of Chiang Mai easily accessible.  

Depends on several factors
It may seem strange that I would write about the miscellaneous costs like appliances and linens.  But the thing is, is that they often are not included in furnished apartments and are definitely a factor financially as many things are not the same costs here as they would be back home.  So this section includes what some of those slightly more expensive miscellaneous costs could be.

Something to consider when selecting a place to live, is that many apartments and studios do not come with a "kitchen" as we are accustomed to in the west with stove, oven, microwave, sink, etc..  My studio did not come with one and most smaller, cheaper apartments don't come with one.  Many Thai people sort of "build" a kitchen on their balconies that include a gas cooking stove along with a sink, that's very normal.  I have a single gas cooking stove that looks a bit like a camping stove that I bought for 300 baht.  That along with a little shelf/table to put it on and I called it a day with my "kitchen".  Sure, it'd be nice to have a microwave (but does a person really need one??  No.) and a toaster oven, even a blender.  And you can buy all those things if you really need to, but I found that I don't need those things.  To build out a kitchen with cheaper appliances (double burner stove, toaster oven, blender) you're looking around  3,500 baht+.  Another note, several places have all the appliances in them too, but you're gonna pay for it one way or another.  Thing is, it's so damn cheap to eat out here and so many foods are ready-made or very fast to make, many people don't cook at home.  So, it's entirely up to you how much you want to spend on cooking equipment.

Linens and such... it's typical that things like sheets and towels aren't provided, but odd thing is, is that decent sheets are quite expensive here.  You'd think that with as cheap as everything is here in Thailand including clothing and even fabric, sheets are not. Most out there are this crappy, itchy, uncomfortable polyester usually with some sort of colorful cartoon on them.  I definitely don't do cartoon or polyester sheets for a place I'm going to live in and I definitely don't do anything but good quality cotton sheets.  So, I splurged on buying a half decent set (fitted sheet and two pillow cases only) of cotton sateen of which I got on sale for 1,700 baht.  But when you go shopping, don't be surprised to find that the costs of nice sheet sets can go up to 9,000 baht.  Yes, $270.  One last thing… most beds in Asia are quite uncomfortable - the ground is softer then many of the beds here.  So, buying a pillow top for your bed is sort of essential if you want to save your back and actually get a good night's rest.  For decent ones, plan on spending 2,500 baht on up.  

Of course there are a million other little things that one has to get for their place to settle in, but whatever it is, it's cheap here and inconsequential for me to talk about.

// FOOD //  
Low 180 baht/day, Mid 400 baht/day, High - sky's the limit!
On that note, food budgets can vary greatly.  Since my income is on the lower side compared to what many Westerners make here, I tend to eat cheap, but I eat cheap and well.  If you need to keep your finances on the more conservative side, you can be like my friend and eat for about 100 baht a day.  She eats breakfast and lunch provided by her school, then has a larger dinner for 100 baht.  Most of my meals can be anywhere from 35 baht for a large bowl of soup with protein, to 100 baht for two salads and a small entree at the local Burmese place and I'm eating like a total boss there.  So I'd average out my daily meals (light breakfast, lunch, and dinner) to 220 baht per day.  Sure, some days are quite a bit more especially when I eat Western food.  With Western food, plan on each dish being about 80 baht for a small sandwich to 250+ baht for an entree, depending on what you're eating and to be honest, how much cheese is on it as that's pretty much the most expensive food item here, along with Australian or American beef.

// DRINKS //
I'm not going to give you a budget on this as it varies too greatly from person to person, but plan on domestic Thai beers running around 40 baht for smalls, 75 baht for large, imported beers around 200 baht, cocktails around 90 baht, and a glass of house (boxed) wine for about 90 baht.  Obviously, drink prices can be a lot more expensive than that, but this can get you started on your booze budget.    

Motorbike rental 2,500 baht/month or buy for 10,000-25,000 baht
There's four ways to get around here, songteaw (a covered red truck that is basically a public bus/taxi), bicycle, motorbike, and car (well, of course your two legs too but that's free).  

First up:  Songteaw's can take you pretty much any where in town for about 20 baht a ride.  Good and cheap, BUT there are some drawbacks.  1. Along the way, the truck will continue to pick other passengers up, sometimes making your ride a lot longer than you were hoping.  2. Often, you end up choking on exhaust fumes from either your songteaw or other vehicles around you.  3. You may have to wait for a few different songteaws to find one that is willing to go in the direction you're headed.  4. It gets stuck in traffic like all the other cars.  However, should you be in a real rush, you can buy out the songteaw from 150 baht on to take you directly to your destination without picking anyone up.

Second:  Bicycles are a fun way to travel and get exercise too.  They can be rented for 50 baht/day or you can purchase a used one for as little as 1,000 baht like I did.  Thing is, when it's the hot and humid summer here, the last thing you'll want to do is do any sort of physical activity that will make you hotter than it already is.  However, if you're willing to deal with it, it's a great low cost way to get around.

Motorbikes in my opinion are the way to get around and that's what most people drive here.  They're quick, they fit in-between small spaces like between cars that are sitting in traffic and you just zip right by them, you can drive them on the sidewalk (bypassing yet again, those pesky cars and buses that are blocking up the entire street), you can do turns that cars can't, you can park pretty much anywhere you want, you can drive the wrong way down the road and no one bats an eye as that's perfectly normal here, they're cheap and pretty much everyone can afford to either rent or buy them.  While technically, you should have an International Drivers license or a Thai driving license, you don't totally need one.  Only time you need it is the off-occasion when you get pulled over by the police because you're not wearing your helmet or some other ridiculous reason when they need to make some cash - most often, local farangs ignore them and keep driving by, and no, the police don't come after you.  Though if you're caught without a license, the fine is pretty small, I'll guess around 400 baht. 

Now for the downsides to motorbikes: you are exposed to all of the weather both cold, hot, or rainy, if you get in an accident, you're gonna get kinda fucked up (the least being some bruises and a bit of road rash, the worse being well, broken limbs or death), you're gonna end up sucking all the crappy exhaust that comes out the cars and buses that are never maintained for smog pollution, and you are the lower end of the totem pole when it comes to who rules the road.  The bigger the vehicle, the more right to the road they have - though there is the unwritten rule of power in numbers.  Pedestrians, you're generally not even a consideration so keep your eyes open even when you're on the sidewalk.  The other expense you have to consider is gas and basic maintenance.  Gas obviously depends on how much driving you do.  To fill up your tank is about 100 baht.  When I worked about 15km away from home, I spent about 300 baht a week with my motorbike that isn't fuel efficient.  Now that I work closer, I spend about 150 baht a week. 

Cars, I have no experiences with cars here as I simply cannot afford one and even if I could, I likely wouldn't have one as it's impossible to park them any where and any commute is significantly longer than a motorbike.  So, no helpful advice in this department.

Low around 500 baht/month
Most people have either an unlocked smart phone or a regular ol' phone that can only do basic texting and calls.  Smart phones are the same prices if not more expensive here than back home, but basic phones can be around 1,500 baht or so.  SIM cards are either free or super cheap.  Phone plans are also super cheap.  You can choose to have a plan that is deducted monthly or top up at 7-11 or other top up machines around town with just about whatever amount you want on there.  A decent smartphone plan for a month is about 500 baht.  If you top up, you can spend less, but essentially you're paying per call (1 baht/min with True), per text (3 baht/ea), or data usage (no idea how much).  Plan on spending 500 baht per month on the safe side if you don't use your cell data too often and use free wifi around town.

Depends on your visa
Ok, we're all here for different reasons and are on different visas.  I can only speak from experience of being on an educational (ED) visa.  I take Thai language classes twice a week for two hours a day and it not only allows me to learn the Thai language but also about the culture - plus, you're able to obtain a 1-year visa.  The costs of the courses vary slightly from school to school but mine was about 26,000 baht.

The other costs that people don't always talk about are the visa runs and the residency check-ins with immigration.  The average visa run to Vientiane from Chiang Mai can be about $200 with buses, different visas, to get in and out of Laos, the actual ED visa costs, a place to stay, food, etc.  Plan on 3-days to do a visa run.  Immigration check-ins are 1,900 baht every other month.

If you're just chilling out here in Chiang Mai and don't want to do language courses, you can opt to do border runs every 30-days.  It takes the better part of the day to take a bus there and back along with the typical BS that you have to deal with but it is significantly cheaper and faster than going to Vientiane.  However, it can be a pain in the ass to do this every month.

My friend Daytona brought up an interesting fact, if you absolutely must move away from this little paradise, you can sell most of your stuff online through various Facebook groups for nearly the same or just a little less than you originally bought it for.  Things like motorbikes, linens, yoga mats, dishes, etc.  Usable goods in good condition tend to hold their resale value.  I've personally sold a few items on Facebook group like 'Secondhand Chiang Mai', 'Chiang Mai Buy, Sell, Swap', and such and it was rather easy.  Post a picture, how much it is, and any other instructions and it pretty much goes from there.  

So now that you know your general costs, you can make a more educated decision as to whether you'd like to live here in Chiang Mai.  This city has one of the highest number of expats for a number of reasons - low costs of living, quality of life, natural beauty, good culture, a high turnover in teaching jobs, several beautiful places to travel to in northern Thailand, and the Thai people are  so lovely.  There really isn't anything that's missing here if you're looking for the near perfect place to live in SE Asia.  

If you have any questions, feel free to email me and I'd be happy to help!

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