Best of Thailand

A breakdown of our favorites!

Best Experiences to Do for Free

Go to the beach - anywhere in Southern Thailand (day or night!)

Walk out to Long Beach on Koh Phi Phi

Chill in a hammock on Koh Lanta

Wander the Chatuchak Sunday Market, Bangkok

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Walk around Chiang Mai's Old City

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Sunday Night Market, Chiang Mai

Best Experiences to Splurge On

Live-aboard diving trip to the Similion Islands

Blanco Beach Party Booze Cruise

Hire a long tail boat to explore the Phi Phi Islands early in the morning

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Renting kayaks in either Koh Phi Phi or Ao Nang Beach

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Rent a scooter to explore Koh Lanta

Rock climbing in Krabi

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Diving at Sail Rock, Koh Phangan

Volunteering at Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai

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Best Instagram-Worthy Spots

Kata Beach, Phuket

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Maya Beach, Koh Phi Phi

Long tail boats around Southern Thailand

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Unicorn Cafe, Bangkok

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Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai Grand Canyon

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Silver Temple, Chiang Mai

Pai Canyon at sunset

Best Restaurants & Bars

Order a fruit smoothie on Phuket Beach

Banana Bar for rooftop drinks on Koh Phi Phi

Living Room Cafe & Restaurant, Koh Lanta

The Jungle Club, Koh Samui

SOHO, Koh Phangan

Shirlea, Had Yao, Koh Phangan

Iron Fairies Bar, Bangkok

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Skye 20, Bangkok

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Simple Natural Kitchen, Bangkok

25 Degrees, Bangkok

Iwane 1975, Bangkok

CRAFT Beer Bar, Bangkok

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Breakfast World, Chiang Mai

Khao Kha Moo Chang Phueak, Chiang Mai

Rustic & Blue, Chiang Mai

Sunset Bar, Pai

Cafecito, Pai

Ganesha’s House, Pai

Earth Tone, Pai


Best Places to Stay on a Budget

Slumber Party Hostel, Phuket Beach

FIN Hostel, Kata Beach

Loro Loco 2, Koh Lanta

The Moment Hostel, Ao Nang Beach

Slumber Party Bangkok

Thunderbird Hostel, Chiang Mai

Jikko Harem, Pai

Things We Didn’t Get To, But Wish We Did

Parasailing off the beach

Viewpoint hike on Koh Phi Phi

Diving off Koh Phi Phi

Emerald Cave, Koh Lanta

Sa Phra Nang (Hidden Lagoon), Ao Nang Beach

Lady Boy Show, Bangkok

Floating Market, Bangkok

White Temple, Chiang Rai

A Complete Guide to Sri Lanka During Off-Season

Why Sri Lanka is Amazing

Sri Lanka might not seem like an obvious destination - but it should be! If you don’t have the time or opportunity to dig into the chaos of India (like we didn’t), Sri Lanka is a fantastic way to experience a very different kind of Asian culture than you would find in Southeast Asia. Hinduism is the dominant culture in Sri Lanka, so be sure to take advantage of all the opportunities you have to learn about it.

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Here’s a short list of why Sri Lanka should be one of your top travel priorities:

  • Stunning landscapes - the lush jungle landscapes are easy to experience by train or car, and the beaches are notorious for stellar surfing. The terrain is unique in topography; driving through rolling terraced central Sri Lanka is unlike any landscape we’ve ever seen.

  • Sri Lanka is one of the top destinations in Asia to see wild elephants!

  • If you love your tea time, central Sri Lanka is a main supplier for Lipton! Take a tea tour or two, the factories are a great way to learn about a quirky industry and enjoy a steaming array local flavors.

  • AMAZING FOOD. Curry, different curry, more curry, every kind of curry, samosas, the best bananas you’ll ever have (it’s not just hype), and coconut sambal. And lemon cookies! Notably, Sri Lanka is an awesome food heaven for vegetarians and vegans. They rarely use meat or dairy, so naturally there are a lot of options for the diet restricted. 

  • Extremely friendly Sri Lankans always make time to introduce you to their culture and customs.



Our Travel Plan

Our story starts with a disappointed arrival to our train platform as the train pulled out of the station. Slightly frazzled because this never happens to us, we sulked to the tourist office in search of help. Luckily, a very nice Sri Lankan tourism officer took us in, sat us down, pulled out a map, and taught us the real way to see the country. We had done some previous research and definitely recommend you do too before seeking help from a local, but their knowledge is always more in-depth than the internet. Our friendly officer originally tried to convince us to hire a driver for the entire week, but we already planned for the famous Kandy-Ella train ride (see below).

Although it’s not obvious, car hire is actually a great way to see Sri Lanka, especially central Sri Lanka. While the train is beautiful, you’ll miss out on what’s happening in the valleys you pass if you stick to the rails the entire way. A car hire is US$50 per day, which is much more manageable when you split between friends. We opted for a mix of both, which was ideal for us. Here’s what we booked:



Accommodation pickup from airport to our hotel in Negundi the night we arrived.

Hour-long tuk-tuk through city traffic to get to the Colombo train station, which caused us to miss our train. Take a car instead and account for traffic.

Train from Colombo to Kandy.

Train from Kandy to Ella.

Care hire for three days:

    Ella to Sigiriya

    Around Sigiriya and its attractions

    Sigiriya to Dambulla by car, to catch a bus onwards to Negundi


We booked all our transport at the tourism office at the Colombo train station. If you have a tighter budget, there are plenty of bus options all over Sri Lanka. They’re significantly cheaper than all other options, but they’re not always very direct or efficient. 


Colombo/Negundi

Colombo International (CMB) is the main airport for Sri Lanka. The name is fairly misleading, as the airport is actually in Negundi, an hour north of the chaotic city of Colombo. In our opinion, Colombo is an easy skip for Sri Lanka. It’s largely a metropolitan city, which is probably not why you come to Sri Lanka in the first place.

Negundi is much closer, and we found it much more enjoyable to stay in. The beach town is far more busy during peak season (December to March), as it’s known for wonderful weather and international surfing. During off-season, the weather is chilly, grey, and wet. That being said, if you’re interested in picking up Sri Lankan souvenirs, there is no better place or time of the year to get them. Shops cut their prices in half just to move products. The shop owners are really nice and willing to negotiate with you. We both picked up leather duffle bags - high quality and under 50 bucks! Magnets and keychains are abundant too.



The Famous Train from Kandy to Ella

Duh. This is Sri Lanka 101 here. The journey is consistently ranked as one of the best train rides in the world. Do. Not. Miss.

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The famous part of the train ride is between Kandy and Ella, but the railway system extends beyond both of those cities. Assuming you fly into Colombo International, start your trip by taking the train from Colombo to Kandy the day before your journey. An afternoon and a night in Kandy is a good amount of time to see the best parts of the city. There’s not a ton to do, but there are some pretty temples and a fun marketplace. Make sure you grab some Sri Lankan bananas for train snacks - they are LITERALLY the BEST tasting bananas in the WORLD.

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Our dear friend Emily found a cool AirBnB/hotel called Square Peg that we absolutely recommend. Here’s a link to check it out if you’re staying in Kandy!

Book your train ticket from Kandy to Ella while you’re in Colombo. If you’re having trouble, the tourism office can help you. Don’t underestimate how popular this train ride is, especially during peak season. 

Alternatively, off-season is much less chaotic. Not to say the trains won’t fill up, but you may get lucky like we did and have plenty of space to move around the car and hang out of the windows and doors. As per the fiasco in Colombo, the tourism guide booked us into a second class car which is usually only tourists and much less crowded than the regular cars. Bring water, snacks, and toilet paper.

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Get ready to take some incredible pictures. The railway follows the ridge-line separating valleys in central Sri Lanka. Some parts you’ll pass through mountain forests, some parts you’ll pass through farmland and tea terraces, and some parts you’ll have unobstructed views of the valleys and cities below.

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The train departs multiple times per day. Some people like sunrise, but we opted for a mid-morning departure. Thankfully, the weather gods granted us a gift that day. Check the weather before booking your tickets, but just remember that the weatherman is not always correct.

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Ella

Ella is a famous destination in Sri Lanka, and for good reason. There are a lot of opportunities in the area to appreciate the stunning natural landscape. The trails range from short walks to half day hikes, so you can find an exciting adventure no matter your skill level.

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You can’t miss Ella’s Rock. And by that we mean: you literally can’t not see it. It towers over Ella, and attracts hikers from around the world.

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If you’re not up for the half day commitment (it’s a long hike), Little Adam’s Peak is a fantastic alternative. We spent two hours leisurely hiking the peak for an incredible view of Ella’s Rock across the valley. On the way up, you pass tea terraces and locals selling coconuts. If it’s a sunny day, bring plenty of water and wear sunblock

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While we don’t have first-hand experience with this, we’ve been told that locals hang around Ella’s Rock to give misleading directions in order to encourage hikers to hire guides. You don’t need to, but you might be more comfortable finding the way with a local - especially if you do it for sunrise.


Cooking Class

Our favorite activity, as Girls Who Cuisine, was a 3-hour cooking class we took in Ella. There are a handful of options if you’re looking to take a class. Book well in advance as they tend to fill up quickly. We took our class with Ella Spice Garden, the first established cooking class in Ella. We highly recommend it! The class is small and taught right in the home kitchen of the chef, Chandika. It’s super authentic, and we had a really great experience. You even get a workbook to fill out during the class so you can bring the recipe home!

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After wandering through the back driveways of Ella, up a few hills and around a couple corners, you’ll find Chandika’s home. You’ll quickly make friends with your fellow classmates and tour the backyard garden where all the spices are grown - it doesn’t get more local than that! Then you’ll have a cup of tea in the sitting room with Chandika talking about the history and local use of the different spices before heading to the kitchen.

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Sri Lankan meals traditionally include 4-5 different curries, almost all vegetable based: potato, garlic, and daal curry. Plus coconut sambal (your new favorite base), and rice. Also the explosive and addictive papadams. These are the things you learn how to make in this class.

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Do you know how many cloves of garlic are used in a typical serving of garlic curry? Over 50 cloves. And you’ll learn how to efficiently peel and slice them too - yay teamwork! Have you ever fleshed a coconut? The tool to do so looks a bit too much like a torture device, but this may be your only chance to use it… shredded coconut works just as well. We won’t share the recipes, you’ll just have to learn them for yourself! They’re all delicious and the class itself was a blast! 

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Valley Hopping Drive from Ella to Sigiriya

We were convinced to have a driver take us through this portion of the trip, and we’re glad we were talked into it. It may not come up immediately in your searches, but the valleys between Ella and Sigiriya are full of picturesque landscapes that you won’t get to experience the same way from a ridge-line train. Bus routes in this area are long and require more transfers than it’s worth, so a driver will give you the most out of your journey. There are wonderful stops characteristic to Sri Lanka that you may miss without a knowledgable driver.

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Tea factories are stationed all throughout the valleys, as tea is the main export of Sri Lanka - they are the main providers for Lipton! Any of the factories will give you the inside scoop of how tea is harvested, processed, and sold. It’s also a great excuse to stop for afternoon tea!

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Sri Lanka also produces an entire market of natural beauty products. Anything from hair products, skin care, to topical ointments and massage oils - you name it, they’ve made it from some sort of plant. We got a tour of the garden at the place we stopped, and were given detailed descriptions of how and why each plant provided the natural benefits for specific products. Were we prepared to buy one of everything? Yes. Luckily, our backpacks prevented us from overspending. However it is a fun and unexpected way to learn about Sri Lankan natural remedies.

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It’s a very long drive. You will pass a lot of magnificent viewpoints. Don’t be afraid to ask your driver to stop so you can stretch your legs and snap a few photos. A lot of the smaller villages you pass through are charming and picturesque, so take it all in.

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The roads are narrow, windy, and mountainous. If you’re prone to carsickness (I’m sorry), take a Dramamine and claim shotgun. Maybe bring a doggie bag.

Sigiriya

There’s plenty to do in centrally located Sigiriya. Not only is Sigirya part of the cultural triangle so there are lots of opportunities to explore Hinduisum, but it’s also an outdoor adventure hotspot.

We stayed in a hammock haven hostel called Jungle Vista. We definitely recommend it - their adorable dog is reason enough. Apart from the little precious, the hostel organizes trips every day and makes home cooked dinners for everyone at night. The atmosphere is really laidback and you’re sure to meet some awesome people! The owners are super friendly too!

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Dambulla Cave Temple

There’s a beautiful temple carved into a mountainside 10 minutes from the middle of town. You have to climb a lot of stairs to get to it, but the peaceful sanctuary at the top is breathtaking.

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Hindu paintings spread across the cavernous space, and huge diety sculptures reach the ceiling. Golden buddhas fill each cave and glisten even in the dark. It’s quickly obvious why Dambulla Cave Temple is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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As with any temple, you must cover your shoulders and knees - you can rent a coverup at the entrance if you need one.

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Lion’s Rock

Sunrise at Lion’s Rock should be at the top of your Sigiriya bucket list. Get up early, as in 4am early, to give yourself extra time to make it before the sun comes up - you might get a little lost at the beginning… the trail is not very obvious. Wear comfortable hiking shoes, bring your camera, and bring a flashlight. The hike is short, but steep and scrambly at some parts. Look for the white arrows when you get near the top, it’ll guide you over some big boulders and onto the top of the rock.

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Technically, the hike is a viewpoint to see Lion’s Rock at sunrise. You’re not actually climbing Lion’s Rock itself. Similar to Little Adam’s Peak in Ella, we think this hike is more worthwhile because you get a view of the “main attraction” instead of standing on top of it. The panorama of the surrounding area is awe-inspiring, and it’ll feel like you’re in the middle of the pink and orange swirls in the sky as the sun comes up.

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Don’t be afraid to stay a while, people usually leave right after the sun crosses the horizon. You’ll probably have the place to yourself if you stay a little bit longer. Pack some samosas and hot drinks if you’re game for a picnic breakfast in the sky.

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Elephant Safari

Sri Lanka has the largest wild elephant population in Asia, around 4,000 individuals living in protected parts that cover a vast portion of northern and central Sri Lanka. There are a lot of easy options to ethically enjoy their presence. We went with Kalum Jeep Safari and had a top-notch experience. There are other guided safaris that run everyday in the Sigirya area, just do some research on a company’s reputation before booking.

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There are three main protected parks in Sri Lanka. Your guides will take you to the best place depending on the weather and “status” of local elephant herds - trust in their ability to find the giant animals in the jungle.The elephants in the park are happy, protected, and not afraid of visitors. You won’t be able to leave your vehicle, but the driver will get you really close to the elephants anyway.

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Our tour was just our party of three, which was lucky for us. We got to stand through the roof of the jeep and take photos while driving through the park. The whole tour lasted about three hours, and we saw easily over 20 elephants - including babies! Our tour costed US$15 per person, which was a fantastic deal. Book online or through your accommodation, it’s one of the most popular activities in Sri Lanka.

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Keep your eyes peeled for other wildlife! The parks are home to tons of other amazing animals. We saw a beautiful peacock, snakes, and a crested hawk-eagle. Don’t miss out on the tour, it was one of the best things we did!

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Best of Vietnam

A breakdown of our favorite places to explore, things to do, and experiences to splurge on in Vietnam.

Best Experiences to Do for Free (or very cheaply)

War Remnants Museum (Saigon)

Wander around the night markets

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Explore the Old Town of Hoi An

Rent bikes or scooters and wander around (Tam Coc)

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Hike 450 stairs up Hang Mua, a.k.a. Lying Dragon Mountain (Tam Coc)

River tour (Tam Coc)

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Wander around the Old Town of Hanoi

Explore the lakes around Hanoi

Try egg drop coffee (Hanoi)

Rent a swan boat on the lake (Hanoi)

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Train Street (Hanoi)

 

Best Experiences to Splurge On

Cu Chi Tunnels (Saigon)

Canyoning and jungle trekking (Dalat)

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Tailoring clothes (Hoi An)

Oxalis Tour in Phong Nha National Park

Kayaking tour in Phong Nha Cave

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Ha Long Bay cruise

Bar crawl (Hanoi)

Motorcycle road trip (Ha Giang Loop)

 

Best Instagram-Worthy Spots

Canyoning in Dalat (the tours take the photos for you!)

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Old Town lanterns in Hoi An

Anywhere in the jungles of Phong Nha National Park

The top of Hang Mua in Tam Coc

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Landscapes of the Ha Giang province 

Bikini pics in Ha Long Bay

 

Best Restaurants & Bars

Secret Garden Restaurant (Saigon)

Pho Hoa - The Family Dynasty One (Saigon)

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Broma Not a Bar (Saigon)

The Gin House (Saigon)

Whiskey & Wares (Saigon)

The Maze Bar (Dalat)

The BBQ place in Dalat, ask someone at Wolfpack Hostel, they’ll know

Either of the Morning Glory restaurants, they also offer cooking classes! (Hoi An)

**DO NOT MISS** Banh Mi Queen (Hoi An)

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Jim’s Snackbar (Hoi An)

Mr Bean Bar (Hoi An)

Bamboo Cafe (Phong Nha)

Paradise Pizza (Phong Nha)

Andy’s Bar and Restaurant (Phong Nha)

Oasis Bar (Cat Ba Island)

Pasteur Street Brewing Co. (Saigon & Hanoi)

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Bit Tet Chim Quay (pop up restaurant, corner of Hang Buom and Hang Giay)

The Alchemist (Hanoi)

Mojito Bar (Hanoi)

Polite and Co. (Hanoi)

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The Mad Botanist (Hanoi)

 

Best Places to Stay on a Budget

Bui Vien Hostel (Saigon)

Wolfpack Hosel (Dalat)

Hoa Binh (Hoi An)

Trang An River Homestay (Tam Coc)

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Catba Central Hostel (Cat Ba Island)

Babylon Garden Inn Hostel (Hanoi)

 

Things We Didn’t Get To, but Wish We Did

Sapa terraces

Chu Chi Tunnels

Mekong Delta

Phu Quoc, Nha Trang, and other southern islands

Best of Cambodia

A breakdown of our favorites!

 

Best Experiences to Do for Free

  • Siem Reap Night Market (if you spend $3 on a pedicure, you can watch the drag show)

  • Wandering Central Market, Phnom Penh

  • Watching the boats in Kampot

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Best Experiences to Splurge On

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Best Instagram-Worthy Spots

  • Sunrise at Angkor Wat

  • Golden hour at the Bayon, Angkor

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  • Neak Pean lake in the morning, Angkor

  • Fig trees overgrowing Ta Prohm (Tomb Raider temple), Angkor

  • Phnom Penh's creepy crawly night markets

  • Wat Phnom, Phnom Penh

  • Phnom Penh Post Office

  • Salt fields and pepper farms of Kampot

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  • Rabbit Island, Kep

  • Crabbing Market, Kep

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Best Restaurants & Bars

  • Siem Reap Beer Street

  • Green Dragon Restaurant, Siem Reap

  • VIBE Asia, Phnom Penh

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  • Mexicano Restaurant, Phnom Penh

  • Club Love, Phnom Penh

  • Brown Riverside Cafe, Phnom Penh

  • Epic Arts Cafe, Kampot

  • Simple Things, Kampot

  • KAMA (Kampot Arts & Music Association), Kampot

 

Best Places to Stay on a Budget

  • Eighty8 Backpackers, Phnom Penh

  • Mad Monkey, Kampot

  • Monkey Republic, Kampot

 

Things We Didn’t Get To, but Wish We Did

  • Sihanouk

  • Phu Quoc

  • Any other Cambodian beaches

Best of Malaysia

A breakdown of our favorites

Best Experiences to Do for Free

  • See the towers in Kuala Lumpur

  • Mossy Forest in Cameron Highlands

  • Hiking paths in Cameron Highlands

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  • Wandering around the Unesco Heritage Site of Georgetown on Penang

  • Visit the tea plantations in Cameron Highlands

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Best Experiences to Splurge On

  • Slowboat to monkey beach and turtle beach in Penang National Park

  • Shopping in KL malls

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  • A weekend on Langkawi

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Best Instagram-Worthy Spots

  • Tea plantations in the Cameron Highlands

  • Towers of KL

  • Batu Caves in KL

  • Street art of Georgetown

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  • Piers and jetties of Georgetown at sunset

  • SkyBridge on Langkawi

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Best Restaurants & Bars

  • Changkat Street in KL - great area for going out

  • Zouk - biggest club in KL

  • Grandmama’s in KL mall

  • Night market in KL

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  • Geographer Kuala Lumpur

  • Merchant's Lane Cafe in KL

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  • Cameron Curry House in Tanah Rata - we went three times

  • Food stalls in Tanah Rata

  • Travellers Bistro & Pub in Tanah Rata

  • Jungle Bar in Tanah Rata

  • Teksen Restaurant in Penang

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  • Mr Shwarma in Penang

  • Tipsy Tiger Bar in Penang - great for their cheap liquor, bar crawls, and free body shots;)

  • China House in Penang

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  • Scarsdale’s Fish Restaurant on Langkawi

  • The Kasbah on Langkawi - amazing burgers, outdoor lounge seating, and all around chill vibes

 

Best Places to Stay on a Budget

  • Reggae Mansion in KL

  • Map Travelodge in Tanah Rata

  • The Frame Guesthouse in Penang - for a quieter, more minimalist stay in Georgetown

  • Honey Badger Hut Hostel on Langkawi - they have cool huts for private rooms and resident cows to keep you company on the patio at night

  • Vila Thai - huge hostel with big dorms, and they have scooter rentals and massages available even if you’re not staying there

  • Tipsy Tiger in Penang - if you wanna parttyyyy, otherwise you’ll be up all night anyway

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Things We Didn’t Get To, but Wish We Did

  • All of the east coast beaches!

  • Sabah region of Borneo, but more specifically:

    • Orangutan Conservation Centre

    • Sun Bear Conservation Centre

    • Rainforest Discovery Centre

    • Mount Kinabalu in Kota Kinabalu

    • Pom Pom Island off the East Coast

Best of Singapore

Singapore is the shiny, expensive, diamond in the rough of Southeast Asia. Notorious for its clean streets and safe, diverse neighborhoods, Singapore is consistently credited as one of the best cities in the world. This electrifying metropolis is an incredible example of urban planning and eco-design at its finest.

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The massive Changi Airport has countless flights connecting to pretty much everywhere, making Singapore a great last stop to blow your leftover dollars before heading home! Pro tip: Singapore’s impressive airport not only boasts a full size shopping mall for killing time, but if your layover is over 8 hours in duration, you’re eligible for a free tour of the city!

If you're looking for a budget friendly Singaporean experience, base yourself out of Chinatown! Everything is cheap, and it's only a short metro ride away from the Marina Bay area if you still want to have a wander around the luxurious landscape. The route along the Singapore River towards the Marina Bay is lined with beautiful parks and sculptures. Well worth the walk! 

Gardens by the Bay

Absolutely no trip to Singapore is complete without venturing down to Gardens by the Bay. Made up of the famous vertical gardens, the Flower Dome, and the Cloud Forest, you’ll catch your breath as you marvel at what Singapore has built.

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The vertical gardens, known as the Supertree Garden, are impossible to miss as your approach Gardens by the Bay. They tower over the surrounding area, ranging between 25 and 50 meters (82 and 160 feet for our fellow Americans). There’s a chance you may have already heard of them; they were featured in BBC’s Planet Earth Season 2 in the episode “Cities.”

While these trees are stunning during the day, be sure to catch a ride down to see them at night. They glow an eerie blue or light up with a dazzling display or neon colors.

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The Flower Dome and Cloud Forest are the other two main attractions at Gardens by the Bay. Our favorite, by far, was the Cloud Forest, which is designed to mimic actual cloud forests found in places like Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands or Costa Rica. 

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The enormous glass dome is an explosion of cool, tropical jungle plants. Take in the impressive indoor waterfall just as you walk in and take the elevator up to explore what’s called “Lost World.” This walkway will take you down in a spiral so that you can admire the indoor jungle from all heights and angles. It truly feels like a lost world - we spent over an hour alone in the Cloud Forest.

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The Flower Dome is also beautiful, though we would’ve skipped it if we hadn’t been obligated to pay for admission to both (locals get to pick one, foreigners must pay a double entrance ticket). That being said, the Flower Dome is bursting with color and flora from all around the world. Give yourself at least 30-45 minutes to embrace the flower power - you paid for it anyways!

The Infinity Pool at the Marina Bay Sands

Perhaps one of the most iconic hotels in the world, the Marina Bay Sands and its unbelievable infinity pool tower over Singapore. While a two-night stay here was the definition of treat yo-self, we couldn’t resist getting our crew of six up to the pool for a dip and the best view in the city. 

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The hotel feels more like a small city than a room for a night. With three towers, bars, a club, cafes, and walkway to the enormous Marina Bay Shopping Mall, you can spend your whole vacation in this complex. The highlight, however, is the world’s largest infinity pool on the 57th floor.

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When people say security is strict, they mean it. You need a key card to get up to the top floor and past the guard into the pool area. You also need to swipe in and out and there is someone posted at each entrance. It is NO joke. Courtesy of so many people trying to sneak in, security is very intense.

If you have at least one or two key cards, then all you have to do is take turns going up to use the pool. No one checks to see if you’re actually a guest if you have one. This is what we did to get all six of us up in turns. 

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Once you get up, it truly is worth the view. Of course, everyone wants that amazing picture (including us), and it’s worth it to be patient and get that shot. That being said, if you get up to that pool, take the time to float and enjoy the view, which truly is something spectacular.

ArtScience Museum

This lotus shaped architectural masterpiece of a museum is actually part of the Marina Bay Sands development, only a 5-minute walk from the main boardwalk outside the mall. The sun-soaked galleries “explore creative processes at the heart of art, science, technology and culture, and their roles in shaping society.”

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Check out their ongoing exhibitions for some inspiration and plan to spend at least one lazy afternoon wandering the interactive exhibits. Somewhere among the Titanic artifacts, Andy Warhol specials, or even Harry Potter wonderments, you’re sure to find an exhibit to get lost in.

Gilman Barracks

If you’re still itching to dive deeper into the art scene, make a trip to the southern end of the island and wander around the Gilman Barracks. This military base gone art hub is an awesome playground to get a feel for the young, lively art vibe in Singapore. There are tons of buildings to explore - from internationally renowned exhibitions to local artists’ galleries, the energy of Southeast Asian art is oozing from the barrack seams. 

Check out their schedule for special events or temporary installations! We spent our Friday night hopping around an opening night concert for Singapore Art Week - flashing LED headphones included.

Chinatown

Looking for somewhere to eat and stay in Singapore that won’t break the bank? Look no further than the city’s thriving Chinatown. With its central location, endless foodie options, and bustling markets, you can’t miss this vibrant corner of the city-state. 

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Take a stroll through the night or early morning market and try a dish you’ve never heard of before (if you dare). Check yourself into one of the many affordable hostels or hotels in the area. Everything you could possibly want/need is right outside your door.

When in Chinatown, don’t miss out on the world’s cheapest Michelin-star meal: Singapore’s Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & noodle. There may be a line - but it’s worth the wait!

Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle

Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle

 

Dine in the Dark

One of the coolest experiences we had in Singapore was undoubtedly our ladies night at Nox: Dine in the Dark. 

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We made a reservation at Nox off a recommendation from a friend who claimed this was her favorite thing she did in Singapore. A secret three-course meal, 12 dishes in total, all in eaten in total darkness. While the concept isn’t unique to Singapore, it was to us and we loved it.

So, how does it work? After showing up, you enter the restaurant’s downstairs bar where you order a cocktail and let the staff know if there’s anything you can’t/don’t eat. Don’t forget to mention that deadly peanut allergy, but be as adventurous as you can - it makes it more fun!

You’re then led upstairs into a pitch black room. I mean you can’t see A THING. It’s a weird experience at first, but one you quickly get used to. Your waiter will introduce themselves and then you’re off on your culinary adventure! Fun fact, all the waiters who work at Nox are blind and seamlessly navigate the room with 30+ tables.

Textures, smells, and tastes will take on a whole new meaning in this experience. One of the best parts is simply trying to guess at what you’re eating. They don’t keep you in suspense forever though. At the end of your meal you’ll get to take your guess and see just how close you got when they reveal everything you’ve tried. 

If you’re a foodie, need a clever date night idea, or are just looking to try something different - definitely give Dine in the Dark a try. It was delicious! 

PS: We definitely recommend taking the wine pairing with the meal, because everything is better with wine.

Other Digs in Singapore

  • Any street food in Chinatown - pick a stall and take a seat! Look for somewhere crowded, it's always a good sign...

  • Central Perk Cafe - the only copyright-approved Friends-themed cafe in Asia!

  • Hit up Clarke Quay for all-nighter bars and clubs.

  • McGettigan's CQ - of course we scoped out the best burger joint in the city.

  • Hawker Chan - the cheapest Michelin star restaurant in the world.

  • 28 Speakeasy - a completely unmarked bar, you might only be able to find it if you keep your eye out for some kiddos smoking some cigs on Hong Kong Street.

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More Pictures!

The Best of Australia

A quick breakdown of our Aussie favorites:

Best Experiences to Do for Free

  • Pink Lake (Port Gregory, WA)

  • West Coast National Parks (Karijini, Katamutu)

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  • The Rocks Discovery Museum (Sydney, NSW)

  • Botanical Gardens (Sydney, NSW)

  • MONA Museum after 4pm (Hobart, TAS)

  • Walking around Fremantle (WA)

  • Shark Bay World Heritage Site - see the dolphins at Monkey Mia (WA)

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Best Experiences to Splurge On

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Best Instagram-Worthy Spots

  • Bay of Fires (TAS)

  • Wineglass Bay (TAS)

  • Russell Falls (TAS)

  • Rottnest Island - get that Quokka selfie (WA)

  • Fremantle waterfront esplanade (WA)

  • Pink Lake (Port Gregory, WA)

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  • The Pinnacles (Nambung National Park, WA)

  • Shell Beach (Shark Bay, WA)

  • Cable Beach (Broome, WA)

  • Lake Argyle infinity pool (Kununurra, NT)

  • Anywhere in the desert for sunrise (WA)

  • The entire Outback (NT)

  • Sydney Opera House (NSW)

  • Any mural in Byron Bay (NSW)

  • Great Sandy Dune National Park (Rainbow Beach, QLD)

  • Lake McKenzie (Fraser Island, QLD)

  • Whitehaven Beach (Whitsundays, QLD)

  • West Point for sunset (Magnetic Island, QLD)

  • Underwater on the GBR (Cairns, QLD)

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Best Cities to Hit

  • Hobart, TAS

  • Melbourne, NSW

  • Fremantle, WA

  • Exmouth, WA

  • Broome, WA

  • Darwin, WA

  • Sydney, NSW

  • Byron Bay, NSW

  • Noosa, QLD

  • Airlie Beach, QLD

  • Cairns, QLD

 

Best Restaurants & Bars

  • The Source at the MONA (Hobart, TAS)

  • Cascade Brewery (Hobart, TAS)

  • The Croft Institute (Melbourne, NSW)

  • The Swamp (Melbourne, NSW)

  • The Brass Monkey (Perth, WA)

  • Little Creatures Brewery (Fremantle, WA)

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  • Pot Shot (Exmouth, WA)

  • Wisdom Bar (Darwin, NT)

  • Monsoon’s (Darwin, NT)

  • Elixiba (Byron Bay, NSW)

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  • Legend Pizza (Byron Bay, NSW)

  • Woody’s (Byron Bay, NSW)

  • Malaya (Sydney, NSW)

  • Chin Chin (Sydney, NSW)

  • Doyle's on the Beach (Watson’s Bay, NSW)

  • Lumi (Sydney, NSW)

  • Chinese Laundry (Sydney, NSW)

  • The Jam Factory (Sydney, NSW)

  • The Rail Friendly Bar (Byron Bay, NSW)

  • The Bean Drop (Noosa Heads, QLD)

  • Lillipad Cafe (Cairns, QLD)

  • Rattle N Hum (Cairns, QLD)

 

Best Places to Stay on a Budget

  • The Nook Backpackers (Hobart, TAS)

  • The Art House (Launcester, TAS)

  • Bambu Backpackers (Perth, WA)

  • Linga Longa (Port Gregory, WA)

  • Pot Shot (Exmouth, WA)

  • Lake Argyle Resort and Holiday Park (WA)

  • YHA Darwin (NT)

  • Jump Inn Alice (Alice Springs, NT)

  • The Art Factory (Byron Bay, NSW)

  • Noosa Nomads (Noosa Heads, QLD)

  • BASE Magnetic Islands (QLD)

  • Gilligan’s (Cairns, QLD)

 

Best Things to Bring With You

  • AUX cord

  • Bluetooth speaker

  • Headlamps

  • A dry bag to keep your valuables dry and sand-free!!!!

  • Sleeping bag liner

  • A hat and sunnies

  • Multiple bathing suits

  • Two towels (one for salt and sand, one for suds and soap)

  • Ladies - hair oil… your hair will take a beating between the salt and the sun

  • Divers - your own mask and snorkel

  • LOTS of sunblock

  • maps.me for the West Coast drives

 

Things We Didn’t Get To, But Wish We Did

  • Cradle Mountain (TAS)

  • Great Ocean Road (NSW)

  • Adelaide, NSW

  • Cage diving with Great White Sharks (NSW)

  • Margaret River (WA)

  • Karijini National Park (WA)

  • Diving with whale sharks (Exmouth, WA)

  • Gold Coast (QLD)

  • Camping in the Whitsundays (QLD)

  • Daintree National Park (QLD)

 

Things to Remember in Australia

  • Drive on the left side of the road

  • Gas stations are few and far between

  • The heat is intense… like really fucking intense

  • HYRDRATE HYRDATRE HYDRATE

  • Humidity gets worse as you travel north

  • Australia is more expensive than you think

  • It’s a HUGE country. Give yourself more time than you think.

  • Marsupials are nocturnal, don’t look for them during the day and…

  • Drive slowly and carefully at night - you don’t want to kill anything

  • Wear close-toed shoes and bring a headlamp to the Outback

  • Bugspray.

  • Book everything on the east coast in advance

  • New Years in Sydney is very chaotic, plan accordingly

  • If you miss whale shark season in Exmouth, you’ll still make it for turtle mating season:)

  • Go to the outer parts of the GBR if you can!

  • You will make some really amazing friends, especially on tours! <3

How to Backpack the Best Two Months in New Zealand

It's impossible to see the best of any country in just two months, but here's a breakdown of how we did it:

 

Car Camping

There are lots of ways to get around New Zealand, but we decided a rental car would be the best way for us to see some of the more remote attractions. Simply put: it's the easiest way to do it. We each had a 70L backpack to fill with out essentials. Check out their contents here!

Bringing trustworthy camping gear will take your trip to the next level. New Zealand is decked out with TONS of campgrounds in the most stunning landscapes you'll come across. It's well worth the extra few pounds to be able to pitch a tent at the base of Mount Cook.

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Best Things We Brought

Camping gear to sleep under the stars.

Small luggage locks to secure our belongings in hostel lockers - they provide the safes, but you'll have to rent a lock if you don't bring your own!

Tarp/sitting blanket for a quick picnic. Doubles as a groundcloth for your tent!

Rain jacket because rain.

Hiking boots so you can climb those peaks.

External battery pack for your electronics, especially while camping.

Solar lanterns for easy lighting anywhere!

Fixed wide angle lens for landscape photography - MJ's personal favorite.

Mini bluetooth speaker to broadcast your tunes in the hostel kitchens.

Navigation app (maps.me) to get around the country. You'll thank us later.

Camping app (CamperMate) to find the best campgrounds that fit your budget.

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Best Things to Do for Free

Hiking Nelson Lakes

Stargazing in the Makenzie Dark Sky Reserve

Swimming in the Blue Pools

Drive up to the Remarkables Ski Area

Coromandel's Hot Water Beach + Cathedral Cove

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Best Experiences to Splurge On

*Renting a car!!!!!!! (JUCY)

Marlborough Wine Tour

Banquet Tour at Hobbiton (for all those hungry hobbits out there)

Marine mammal tours in Kaikoura

Cruise in the Fiordland National Park

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Best Instagram-Worthy Spots

Ocean murals of Napier

East Coast Highway of the North Island

Castle Hill (a.k.a. Weathertop)

The Mermaid Pools in Matapouri

Wai-O-Tapu geothermal area

Key Summit Alpine Loops in the Fiordlands

#LoveTaupo

Paradise Road

Farmlands of Southern Waikato

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Best Cities to Hit

Queenstown

Wellington

Napier

Wanaka

Kaikoura

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Best Restaurants & Bars

Kaiaua Fisheries in Kaiaua

Emporium Bar & Eatery in Napier

Rata in Queenstown

Capital Nomads Bar in Wellington

Fitzpatrick’s Irish Pub in Wanaka

Lakefront pub place in Wanaka 

Cowboy’s in Queenstown

Surreal in Queenstown

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Best Hostels

Crash Palace in Rotorua

Bad Jelly Backpackers in Kaikoura

Tailor-Made Backpackers in Tekapo

BASE Hostels in Wanaka and Queenstown

On the Beach Backpackers in Hahei

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Things We Didn’t Get To, but Wish We Did

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Lake Wharakemoana

West Coast of the South Island

Abel Tasman Coastal Track

Routeburn Track (Key Summit Trail was a great substitute though!)

Another night in Wellington

Skydiving above the Remarkables

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Things to Remember in New Zealand

Drive on the left side of the road!!!!!

It’s not customary to tip, but 10% is appreciated for exceptional service.

Leave No Trace. Our wild lands are worth protecting.

You probably won't see a kiwi, but give it a shot!

Always ask DOC officers for recommendations, but take it with a grain of salt. KNOW YOUR OWN CAPABILITIES!!!!!!
Book huts and campsites way in advance during peak season - everyone else knows how beautiful it is too!!!!

Be prepared for weather that’s worse than you anticipate. Always.

 

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