Traveling Together is the Absolute Worst

Traveling Together is the Absolute Worst

So I spent almost 5 months traveling with my significant other last year… and I’ve gotta say… it was so terrible. DO NOT do it, I repeat just don’t travel together with your partner! Just look at these pictures!

Let’s just start this off nice and easy. Your partner will document you on your road trips with a self stick… so dumb.

Next, when you take a bicycle cruise through Hoi An they’ll stop you in front of beautiful scenery to snap a picture. Lame.

They will capture you looking absolutely horrendous on a boat in Halong Bay, Vietnam.

Or at a restaurant in Hue giggling over something – probably SO stupid – that they said. 

And before you know it, they’ll want to take a selfie with you in front of the Kuangxi Waterfalls in Laos… which was SO embarrassing. 

And you’ll get smooches in all these famous places around the world… blah, blah, blah.

See?

You basically share food everywhere you go… which if you ask me is, like, SO annoying.

Terrible.

Because you’re spending all your time together everything they do becomes disgusting.

SO disgusting… I mean look at this face, this is not a handsome haircut in Thailand AT ALL.

They will document you documenting which is so repetitive and what a waste of a picture.

Like, WHY??? EW, zero fun being had.

And then they’ll FORCE YOU to take a picture of the worst bus ride of your life just to blackmail you later.

DITTO to terrible, COMPLETELY uncomfortable and NOT AT ALL romantic hotels.

And why do they always snap pics when you’re looking totally disheveled and not at all dreamy?

See what I mean????

NOTHING FUN EVER HAPPENS

IT IS SO BORING ALL THE TIME

And no matter how hard you try, you both just end up looking ridiculous.


Therefore, based on physical evidence as expressed by these photos, spare yourself a world of hurt and NEVER travel together with your significant other. You have been warned.

Blanco Texas: Birthday, Beer, & BnB!

Blanco Texas: Birthday, Beer, & BnB!

I recently celebrated my 31st birthday. Constance had made a plan to go camping, but Texas rains are brutal. Rather than risking getting flooded out, we changed up our plans and headed to a little town we knew absolutely nothing about.

Blanco, Texas is about halfway between Austin and San Antonio. Hidden in the Texas Hill Country, this little town has been around since the mid-1800s.

How’d we decide to stay in this town with only 1,900 residents? Well… I just searched on Air BnB within a 50 mile radius around Austin and chose the cheapest option.

A photo posted by Melissa Langley (@lezbacskpack) on

And we really lucked out. We ended up renting out a one room, tin roofed bungalow. Inside had only the essentials; a comfy bed, a claw-foot bathtub, and a six-pack of Texas beer.

A photo posted by Melissa Langley (@mllangley) on

A video posted by Melissa Langley (@lezbackpack) on

Coincidentally, the same day we arrived, Real Ale was having their 20th anniversary only a few blocks up the street. For $20, we got a single wristband that allowed us 4 beers and a commemorative glass.  At the festival, we enjoyed beer, various food trucks, and we even brought our pup Scout to enjoy the open fields. 

A photo posted by Melissa Langley (@mllangley) on

When we returned to Austin a box was left at our door step. Inside were two Baubax jackets. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to wear them on our mini-vacay but the rain was still coming down and we took this as an opportunity to give these jackets a try. We bought a couple tickets to the movies and headed out!

A photo posted by Melissa Langley (@lezbackpack) on

This jacket is now my most favorite piece of travel apparel. It comes with 9 utility pockets! I comfortably stored my phone, wallet, and bulky car keys in the jacket. But there is space for an iPad, glasses, and even comes with a “drink holder” pocket – which I definitely will be using on my next camping trip. Talk about a great birthday present! If you’re interested, you can even score your own for 15% off for a limit time! GO GO GO! So freaking cool. 

A photo posted by Melissa Langley (@lezbackpack) on

Blanco Texas was such a great adventure. I totally recommend this small town to anyone living in Austin.

One-Month Couple’s Guide to Vietnam

One-Month Couple’s Guide to Vietnam

We first stepped into Vietnam not sure what to expect. We’d heard a mixed bag of tales of travel treasures and woes. Follow our guide to Vietnam as we traveled all over the country as a couple.

The Border Crossing 

We came into Hue, Vietnam from Vientiane, Laos. We split this travel excursion into 2 days. From Vientiane, we took a bus down south to a town called Savannakhet. This trip took about 11 hours. We stayed at the bus motel across the street. For 60,000 kip, that will get you a bed, bathroom, fan, and a lot of mosquitos but it’s only for a night. The next morning, around 8am, we walked back to the bus station and picked up tickets for a 9am bus to Hue. This trip took 9 hours. Word of advice, pack as many snacks as you can and keep some toilet paper and cash in your pocket in case the bus takes a random potty break. At the border, women will ask if you want to exchange any of your money, if you don’t already have dong, you can get rid of any extra kip you might have. I’ve read you can’t exchange your kip anywhere else other than Laos. The exchange rate will not be in your favor but losing $1 won’t hurt either.

Note: We got our visas for Vietnam processed in Vientiane for $80, which I found to be very expensive considering in Sihanoukville, Cambodia I was seeing signs advertised for about half this price. If you can get your visas processed somewhere for cheaper than $80 and know your arrival date in Vietnam, do it there! 

Hue

Getting There: The bus will drive through the city center and take you to the bus station. From there you can take a taxi to your guest house. I negotiated a price before that I thought was reasonable and we settled in 50,000 dong, a little over $2.

Where to Stay: We stayed at Binh Duong 3 for $6 per person. Our room came with AC, fan, french doors to a balcony, a dry bathroom, wifi in the room, free coffee or tea, and a very helpful reception desk. There are also plenty of delicious and cheap places to eat nearby. We highly recommend staying here. 10206094162221918

What to Do: First day we decided to do a walking tour of the city and visit the Imperial Palace (entry fee 110,000 dong) and Hue’s outdoor market (free).  Second day, we took a tour with our guest house. The tour included going to the Garden House Village (20,000 dong), Thien Mu Pagoda (free), Minh Mang Tomb, Khai Dinh Tomb, and Tu Duc Tomb (each tomb was 80,000 dong). In between tombs we visited a small incense making shop. At the end of the tour we took a “Dragon” boat back to the city center. A delicious buffet lunch was included. All of this, not including the entry fees was about $7 per person. 

Hoi An 

Getting There: We took a big bus from our guest house. It made a few stops along the way but the ride was scenic and comfortable. This cost us $4 per person. When we arrived at the bus station, we each hopped on a motorbike taxi and headed for our guest house. This cost us 40,000 dong each.

Where to Stay: We stayed in the city center at Thanh Binh 1. The first night we paid on Agoda.com, but after deciding to stay a few more days, they upped the price by a dollar to $17 a night. The room was comfortable and came with a fan and AC, hot water, and a window. It’s not as beautiful as the one we stayed in while exploring Hue, but the location is terrific!

What to Do:  The first day we explored Walking Street and made our way to Bale Well for dinner. It’s a set menu so just sit and wait for all the food to come out. One of the women working will come by your table to show you exactly how to create a magical wrap of meat and delicious, fresh veggies. It will cost you 110,000 dong per person, not including drinks. You won’t regret it!

Second day, we rented bikes and did the loop from the city center, to the pagoda, around the rice fields, and through the herb gardens. You can negotiate bike rental prices, but try to stay close to 20,000 dong. We rented 2 bikes for 50,000 and kept them overnight. This day, we also tried a lot of different Hoi An foods. I recommend visiting Karma Waters for an awesome vegan meal. The shredded tofu and mint salad is the best thing we’ve eaten in a long time. For dinner, we ate a 2 different food stalls and got Cau Lau, Hoi An specific noodles. OMG, so freakin’ good. Enjoy a couple beers and take a walk to the other side of the city by crossing the Japanese Bridge.

Hanoi

Getting There: So, how did we get to Hanoi? There were a few options we looked into. There’s the 13 hour night bus. This is the cheapest option and I’ve heard it’s quite comfortable. It would save you a night in a hostel or hotel and a day once you arrive in Hanoi. There’s the train, which is also 13 hours. It’s expensive, it’s actually the most expensive option. Melissa and I chose to FLY. Our first domestic flight! We booked with Jetstar Airlines and it cost us $60 per person. We left early in the morning and arrived in Hanoi one hour later! We were able to spend our day walking through the city and it was actually very nice to be on a plane.

Where to Stay: Our first arrival in Hanoi we took the recommendation to stay on the outskirts of the Old Quarter, in order to avoid traffic, noise pollution, and scammers. We booked online at Anh Hotel on Chau Long. The hotel was nice and we got terrific sleep there. The service was great, our room was cleaned, and the wifi was awesome. However, everyday we had to bite the bullet and make the long walk into the city. This meant that dinner time was usually spent somewhere close to our hotel and there weren’t many options. Although reception was wonderful, they lacked in English skills. Which meant having to do a lot of research on our own. 

What to Do: We did a walking tour! This got us acquainted with the city and took up most of the day. Melissa used the map that came in our Lonely Planet to map out the parts of the tour, tracing our steps with a pen before we took off. When we arrived at each destination we read a little bit of history and then headed to the next spot. Taking pictures along the way, we enjoyed people watching and some street food. 

NOTE: Reading blogs on the internet, I’m sure you’ve also run across articles about phone and bag snatching and scams. If you are interested in how we survived Vietnam’s dark side, check out this post! 

Sapa

Getting There: Take the bus. We booked with Dao’s Travel Agency. We heard about them through a friend and walked into their office located in the backpacker’s district. It’s affordable, only $28 per person ROUND TRIP. The bus picks up at 7am and arrives in Sapa around 1:30pm. The ride was smooth and only took about 5.5 hours AND included 2 rest stops. Even better, the bus drops off IN Sapa. Apparently, four months ago, you had to make a shuttle transfer in Lao Cai. The bus was comfortable, had plenty of empty seats and the agent at Dao was super helpful, honest, and best of all, she wasn’t pushy. This travel agency offers tours and other bus trips. Do as you wish, just remember, Sapa is cold and rainy. Booking your treks when you get here might be a better option, giving you an idea of what kind of weather to expect. We were lucky to not be in the middle of a village during an all day downpour. 

Where to Stay: Anywhere.  Sapa is known to have 1000 guest houses. Take your pick. When you get off the bus, there will be people to greet you and start offering their best price for a comfortable room. If this makes you uncomfortable, the bus station is located at the city center and every which way you turn is a guest house. Take a look around and see which price is good for you. We stayed at Lotus Hotel for $12 a night. The room was standard, no terrific views or anything but running hot water and wifi in the rooms. 

What to Do: We got off the bus, checked into our hotel, and got some lunch. We immediately set off for Cat Cat Village. It’s about a 2km stroll and will cost you 40,000 dong per person to enter the village. You’ll see traditional houses, rice terraces, local hill tribes, and piglets! Sapa is a great place to rent a motorbike and explore the highlands. The traffic is sparse and the roads aren’t too bad. Just be careful driving through the curves and turns, make sure you honk your horn to signal you are on the other side. I would also advise NOT taking a motorbiking trip if it’s raining. The roads get slick and the visibility alone could cause a major accident. While we were there, we weren’t able to take any day long treks because of the rain. We hear great things about their guided tours, so shop around for the best price and go for it! Also, no worries if you’ve packed nothing but beach wear. There are a ton of places where you can either BUY CHEAP mountaineering gear or RENT for the day. 

Halong Bay

Getting There: We booked our tour with Dao Travel Agency because our bus to Sapa was comfortable and speedy. Unfortunately, the van that took us to Halong Bay was not as comfy. The ride was only 3.5 hours but it was cramped, too hot, too cold, and in general, exhausting. This seemed to be the way people were getting to Halong Bay no matter which tour company you went with. 

What to Do: When you book this trip through a travel agency, your schedule is filled for you. We arrived at our boat and each person was assigned their room. Be sure you let them know you want to share a double bed, if not, you could be coupled with a stranger. We ate lunch, headed to Sung Sot Cave, one of the largest caves in Vietnam. As crowded as it was, we had a great time. We then had some hang out time on the boat before leaving for the Halong Bay kayak experience. Melissa and I did our best to kayak as much as possible with the 45 minutes they gave us. Afterward, we headed back for some dinner and “squid fishing.” Fishing for squid isn’t a year round occasion, so make sure it’s squid season so you can enjoy this part of the trip. Then it was karaoke time, which sounds alright if you’ve had a few beers but everyone was stone cold sober. Luckily, the remote was busted and that was no longer an option. A few of us stayed up late on the boat and drank beers late into the night. If I had to make a suggestion, it would be to bring your own bottle of liquor or buy beers from the women riding around in the boats. The drinks on the boat were expensive. BEWARE: If you are caught with your own alcohol, you’ll have to pay a 20% fee. 

I would recommend staying on the boat overnight. We had a good time, a lot of that may be attributed to the people on our boat. So if you can get a larger group together, you guys could take over the boat and have a great time. 

Back to Hanoi: From Halong Bay, we ended up going back to Hanoi to plan the rest of our trip. Having already explored the center and the north, we needed to plan how to get down south. There are three choices: bus, train, plane. Jetstar offers cheap flights so we went with flying to save time. Keep in mind, this was also the tail end of our 4.5 month long trip and we had been on plenty of buses and trains. 

Where to Stay: This time we stayed in the backpackers district. For $18 a night we stayed at Box Hotel. I know what you’re thinking, $18 is a bit steep but a full breakfast AND coffee are included in that price. You also get air conditioning, wifi, and your room serviced with bottled water daily. The night life in the backpackers district is also more lively and we rarely found ourselves bored or hungry. 

Saigon – 

Getting There: Fly. If you choose to take the bus or train, you are looking at 30+ hours of travel time. Flying takes a couple of hours and the cost is comparable to a train ride. 

Where to Stay: We stayed with Khoi Hostel which located in the backpackers district of Ho Chi Min City. Although we were centrally located, places aren’t has compact as Hanoi. We found we were walking A LOT from place to place. 

What to Do: 

1. Visit the War Remnants Museum. It will take a you a couple hours, if not more to get through the entire museum and it’s super cheap.

2. Go on a walking tour. We saw the Saigon Opera House, Central Post Office, Reunification Palace, Dong Khoi Street, and Notre Dame Cathedral.

3. Eat at Propaganda. The prices are higher but the food is amazing. Try their salads and their noodles. They are also connected to the restaurant next to it that has an entire menu of western style foods. Delicious!

4. Do your last minute shopping at Cho Ben Thanh Market. Melis and I bought all of our weasel coffee here. It’s also a great place to have a cheap authentic lunch!

Mui Ne –

Getting There: We booked with our hostel and the cost ended up being $7 a person. We took a 5 hour sleeper bus which allowed us to catch up on some sleep, read, and relax. The buses in Vietnam are pretty amazing. 

Where to Stay: We stayed a couple nights at Backpacker Village. I don’t know why you’d want to stay anywhere else. This place is quiet, has cheap tasty food, AND A POOL. Mui Ne is hot, y’all and the ocean is not a place you want to swim in this town. Melissa and I spent HOURS by the pool, reading and getting ready to head home. The pool made it all worth it.

What to Do: We were only in Mui Ne for a couple days. Most of the people staying in the hostel were motorbike travelers. They didn’t seem to be in any rush to get on their bikes to head up north. We rented a couple of bikes and visited the Red Sand Dunes. If you ride passed the dunes, you will come to a fishing village. Just be sure to wear plenty of sunscreen and bring extra water. Afterward, we headed straight for the pool…again. We also ate seafood. This little town is known for their fresh sea food. And if by seafood you mean crocodile, then yes we ate that, too. No worries, we passed on the shark and other tropical fish.

Vietnam ended up being our favorite country on this tour. Hard to believe it could beat Thailand considering their is no beach life like Thai beach life. Melis and I preferred the cities in Vietnam and the mountainous country living. The air was fresh and the people were fantastic. We also preferred the delicious Vietnamese cuisine. There was always something to do, something to look at, and something to eat. Vietnam also had the best accommodations for the money. It was a great country to end our trip in and we definitely have plans to visit again. 

One-Week Couple’s Guide to Laos

One-Week Couple’s Guide to Laos

Huay Xai

Where to Stay: We stayed a night in Huay Xai to rest and get ready for our long travel day. We chose the route of getting to Luang Prabang by bus. Most opt for the 2 day Mekong adventure but Melis and I wanted to save a day and save some money. The VIP bus costs 180,000 kip per person. It picks up at 9am and leaves 10am. The seats were more like beds and came with 2 pillows and a blanket. If you’re not traveling with anyone, you’ll be bunking with a stranger. We were excited about being able to catch up on sleep and watching a couple movies while laying down but we soon found it wasn’t so comfortable. The bus fills quickly and you might find a third person bunking with you, which makes laying down impossible. There is no bathroom on the bus and our driver rarely made any stops on this 13 hour tour. If and when he’d stop, you’d have to run off and try to find a quick place to squat on the side of the road. Because of bags and people, it made it very difficult to get on and off the bus. Be ready, prepared with toilet paper and some money in your pocket just in case the bus decides to stop. I would also recommend wearing slip on shoes, as you will be taking them on and off as you enter and exit the bus.Laos29

Luang Prabang

Where to Stay: We stayed at Culture Guest House for 120,000 kip. It was a nice fan room, with a large window, and private bath. It’s located in the city center but is offers a quiet place for rest.Laos7

What to Do: The first day we walked through the city and ate a delicious sandwich at Jomo. We visited the wats through the city and made a plan for the following day. The night market is incredible! We ate, met a few people on the way, and enjoyed a couple of whiskey drinks. It was important to take a rest day after our bus ride.

Second day, we jumped on a tuk tuk and headed to the Kouangxi Water Falls. Be careful here and be sure to shop around for a good price. They will want to start off by asking you for 100,000 kip per person, which is way too much. We had some lunch where the drivers wait for customers and once the driver found more people to go, he ended up giving us a great deal of 40,000 kip per person.Laos17

Laos19

Third day, we got a late start and got some breakfast at the sandwich and shake stands near the night market. We needed to beat the heat so we headed towards the part of town where you can cross on the famous bamboo bridge. From there we got into our suits and floated down the Mekong River. We shopped for bus tickets to Vang Vieng and found some for 120,000 kip per person.

Vang Vieng 

Getting There:

Where to Stay: Pick a place. Any place. There are more than 1,300 room to choose from.

First day we hiked the 3km to Lusi Cave and it was well worth it. It was crazy hot, but once you got inside the cave, it was nice and cool.Laos21

Laos23

Second day we floated the river! Invest in a dry bag and make sure you have plenty of cash to indulge. The bars rotate. Bar 4 explains the history of the river so if you want to be a responsible tourists know these things:

55,000 to float.

60,000 for tube deposit.

You have until 6pm, if you show up late you will lose 20,000 kip from your deposit. Some would think this would be easy, but floating the entire river, especially in the dry season is difficult to do when you’ve also made it a priority to visit the bars and meet new people. Even if drinking isn’t something you prefer to do, stopping at the bars is actually quite fun. People play volleyball in fields surrounded by gorgeous mountains, water basketball, or mud pit jousting. It’s easy to get caught up at each bar for an hour or so, just make sure to pay attention to your watch. If you do stay later, you can forfeit the 20,000 deposit and just take a tuk-tuk at the “2KM” bridge for 10,000 kip.

Vientiane

Getting There: We booked a mini bus from our guesthouse for 50,000 Kip. the bus is air-conditioned and nicer than expected. If you find a cheaper bus, ask where the bus drops off. Our bus company charged a little more because they dropped us off in the city center.

Vientiane was a place we stopped into in order to get our visas for Vietnam and hadn’t really made plans to visit all the sites. If you are wanting to do this city extensively, I recommend visiting this wiki travel page.  It not only provides details of places to visit but also the best ways to get to those places.

Where to Stay: We splurged a bit and stayed at Funky Monkey Hostel. For 160,000 kip we got free breakfast and coffee, AC, and a private bathroom. The room was clean and quiet. After our second night the staff offered to have our room cleaned, which was very nice. During the dry season, air conditioning in Vientiane seems necessary! If you can handle the heat, you can opt out of this option but beware!

What to Do: Rent a bike for 10,000 kip and take a ride through the city. You should definitely visit Vientiane’s Patuxai (Victory Gate). It’s huge and you can climb to the 7th story of this concrete structure. Vientiane’s Patuxai was build as a war memorial for those who fought for independence from France. Curiously it looks similar to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris except with Laotian features. An inscription on the wall says it’s unfinished due to war and now stands as a cement monstrosity. We thought that was a little harsh.

 How was your time in Laos? Do you have anything you’d add? Please share!

A One-Month Couple’s Guide to Thailand

A One-Month Couple’s Guide to Thailand

Thailand has become one of our favorite destinations. We came in overland from Penang, Malaysia which put us in Krabi Town. This is a complete guide of Thailand, starting in the south.

Krabi Town/Ao Nang 

Where to Stay: While in Krabi Town we stayed at the Grand Tower Hotel and Good Dream Guesthouse. Both were about the same in quality, Grand Tower Hotel being a bit cheaper. Good Dream offered delicious western style food and the ambiance catered to backpackers. Finding a nice, quiet place to sleep might be hard in this part of town so try and meet some people and have a good time!

What to Do: Go to the night market and eat as much as you can. The food is incredible and you’ll have 100’s of foods to choose from. One of the best night markets we’ve ever been to. Not only is it cheap, it’s a lot of fun. There is a stage located in the center of the market where locals put on various shows. The night market happens during the week but to get the real deal, you’ll need to stick around for the weekend to enjoy even more food, crafts, and music.

Make your way to Ao Nang! You’ll be asked if you want a tuk tuk but that could end up costing more than double what you’d pay just taking the local shuttle. The shuttle stops right across the street from Good Dream and costs 50baht.

Where to Stay: In Ao Nang we stayed at Popeyes (900 baht for 3 people, we were traveling with a friend). Ao Nang is a little more expensive because it’s more of a tourist town. You’ll want to stay a couple nights here because although their night market is small (located at the end of the main street) the food can’t be beat. Ao Nang will also be the place to get you to Railey Beach.

What to Do: Railey Beach is only a 10-15 minute boat ride away. We did a day trip from Ao Nang, no need to pack more than a day bag to head that way. The side you want to hang out on is through the east side, go to the end where you will see rock climbers called Phra Nang Cave. At the other end of this beach boats are lined up ready to cook food and offers great snacks and beverages. The crystal clear water draws a big crowd but we had a great time sunbathing for the day.

Bangkok

Getting There: We took a night bus from Krabi Town to Bangkok. Opt out of the bus and book the sleeper train a couple days before you plan on leaving. It’s safer and more comfortable. Also, the train will stop at the station so you’ll have an idea of where you are in the city. Our night bus drop literally dropped us off on the side of the road at 5am in a sea of tuk tuk drivers ready to take us around the corner. If taking the bus is your only option, you’ll want to read this.

Where to Stay: We stayed at Kamin Bird Guest House (280 per bed).  It’s not the cheapest you’ll find but it’s clean, quiet, has strong wifi, it’s on the subway line and the owners are helpful. It’s also a little bit outside of the city so you won’t feel the grime of Bangkok. The guest house is located close to a couple sizable night markets and a large department store.

What do Do:

1. Visit the Siriraj Medical Museum.

2. Go to Chinatown and feast.

3. Walk down Amulet Road (near the palace) and haggle for some trinkets.

Chiang Mai

Getting There: Take the sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. You’ll need to make your way to the train station the day before to purchase your tickets. Request the lower berth, it’s more spacious and easier to get and out. Pack some food, although they do offer a menu of meals, the options are limited and bringing your own will save your a few dollars.

Where to Stay: We actually stayed with friends while in Chiang Mai. We would encourage couchsurfing. There are a ton of expats living in Chiang Mai now being that the average monthly living cost is only $650. Many of them have rented out big houses and have the space to accommodate travelers comfortably. Give it a try!

What to Do:

1. Rent a motorbike for only 200 baht a day. If you plan on being in town for the week, try haggling for a lower price. Thailand2

2. Scooter around town and visit all the temples. There are so many!

3. Enjoy the wonderful Sunday Walking Market.

4. Go to Doi Sethep on your motorbike.

5. Swim at the rock quarry for FREE.

6. Get pampered and ready to do the rest of northern Thailand.

Mae Hong Son

Getting There: Head to Chiangmai Arcade Bus Terminal and purchase your ticket at the Mae Hong Son window. The bus is local, small, and old. Get ready for the ride!

Where to Stay: We stayed at Kiandoi House 2 (300 Baht for 2 people). The place has good food, good wifi, a private bathroom, is quiet, and has a helpful desk.

What to Do:  Rent a scooter for 150 baht a day, just down the street from Kiandoi House. Go to the Fish Cave and walk around the park. The ride and hike are nice and easy. Tham Pla (Cave Fish) Forest Park is around 17km from Mae Hong Son on the road to Pai. Thailand8

Visit the Mud Spa and get a mud mask and foot bath for only 100 baht. Continue to scooter around the mountains and make your way to Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu. It’s very beautiful at sunset and overlooks the Thai/Burma border. Afterward, head out to the market down the street from the guest house and fill up on pad thai papaya salad, and various desserts.

Pai

Getting There: Go back to the station where you got dropped off. Take the big bus that leaves at 8:30am, there’s only one. OR Take the minibus for 150 baht per person which leaves more frequently, we left at 12:00pm. It has a ton of curves and turns, take some dramamine if you get motion sickness. The ride is 3 hours and 15 minutes with one break in between.

Where to Stay: There aren’t any tuk tuks in Pai, so you either have to rent a motorbike or walk the main road and find an accommodation. We stayed at Pai Pura for 450 baht a night. I’m sure you can find a better deal but this place seemed clean, quiet, and safe. It was just outside of the town’s center, so it was quiet, but within walking distance.

What to Do: Rent a motorbike from AYA, 140 baht per day, 100 baht helmet deposit, and 40 baht (per day) for insurance.  It’s well worth it to get the insurance. We saw some poor Chinese kid paying for his motorbike because he had gotten into an accident. If only he had paid the $1 a day insurance fee!

1. Scooter to Chinatown and enjoy the pot of tea at this famous viewpoint (20 baht per person).  Thailand16

2. During the Lunar New Year, you can visit the Lisu Tribe. They celebrate with fire crackers and ceremonial dancing.

3. Walking street had a ton of food stalls. Our favorite being a Chinese noodles vendor served cold noodles with red pepper flakes, acorn jelly, and cilantro.

4. We visited the Land Split twice! The crack in the earth is a mystery and it’s changed this once farm into a tourist attraction. Even though they aren’t able to farm most of the land, they still have some crops including this spread. Thailand18

5. We visited Pai Canyon which is pretty incredible and SCARY. We then spent the day by the pool, relaxing and using that time to plan the rest of the trip.

Note: We didn’t want to spend 550 baht per person to get to Chiang Rai from Pai, so instead we paid 80 baht and took the local bus at 12:00pm back to Chiang Mai. It was long but not terrible. We stayed a night near the bus station to catch another bus to Chiang Rai the following morning.

Chiang Rai

Getting There: Taking the bus here is cheap, only 180 per person. We took the Green Bus Company and that ride was ROUGH. It left us both feeling uneasy in our stomachs, so I took dramamine. That left me feeling sluggish for the rest of the day. Maybe taking an earlier bus would help? We stayed at City Home Hostel, only 320 baht for a basic room with shared bathroom. They also offered private A/C rooms with a private bath for 600. This is the only place we stayed where the actual quality of the bed changed depending on what room you stayed in.

What to Do: Chiang Rai can be done quickly. We rented a motorbike for 250 baht and visited the White Temple and the Black House (free entry for both). Both places are on opposite ends of each other and although there is a bus that takes you to these places, having the freedom to come and go made renting a motorbike worth it. However, if you are a beginner, be cautious about renting a bike, the traffic patterns are different in Chiang Rai and can be dangerous. Thailand21

Mae Sai

Getting There: Due to the traffic on the road, we opted out of the motorbike and took the local bus 1.5 hours to Mae Sai (39 baht). When you get to the bus station take a tuktuk to the border (30 baht). You can go to the Border Market and step into Myanmar for the day. Have 500 baht per person ready for the visa.

What to Do: There are a couple things you can do here. First walk through the markets and find a place that serves a traditional Myanmar spread. We ate at Valentine’s and for 170 baht, we got 10 side dishes, fried tofu, 2 drinks, and fried rice. Next, walk this off by visiting the Golden Pagoda. It’s a bit hot so if you are wanting comfort you can take a tuk tuk. Take some photos then head back to the border where you will get a renewed Thai visa for 30 days! We headed back to Chiang Rai to prepare for the next day where we would be crossing to get to Laos!  Thailand25

Chiang Khong to Huay Xai – Border (THAILAND TO LAOS)

No need to stay the night in Chiang Khong, from Chiang Rai expect about a 2 hour and 20 minute ride and from there immediately take a tuk tuk to the border to stamp out of Thailand, get your Laos visa on arrival and head into the border town of Huay Xai. Huay Xai is a quaint town with plenty of food to eat and plenty of places to sleep. The day you get in, make sure you’re thinking about where your journey will take you next and start shopping around for tickets. Thailand31

Aranyprathet – Poipet Border (CAMBODIA TO THAILAND)

If you are leaving Cambodia back to Thailand, do not take a night bus. Instead get up early and head to the border town, Aranyprathet for a night. The morning bus is cheaper, safer, and more comfortable. Also, by the time you reach the Poipet border, immigration will be easy to get through as there are less people. Walk to the other side and take a tuk tuk to Market Motel or reserve your bed here on Agoda.com. It will be an early morning, so get plenty of rest because you’ be taking the commuter train into Bangkok for $1.50. You’ll be greeted by women traveling to the market with a lot of great food that they will happily sell to you on the train. Watch the sunrise and meet some locals. Note: When you’re going towards Bangkok, sit on the right side to avoid the sun.

In Thailand there are so many recreational activities! I’m talking, snorkeling, diving, motor biking (make sure you have your international drivers license), and trekking. Make sure you have Travel Insurance! While in Ao Nang, Melissa had to have a slice of her big toenail removed and it was nothing we anticipated. World Nomads covered that emergency surgery and we didn’t have to take that money out of our travel budget. World Nomads also offers a very reasonable priced packages depending on how long you will be traveling and what kind of things you plan on getting into while in the world.

5 Things we Learned Traveling Southeast Asia as a Lesbian Couple

5 Things we Learned Traveling Southeast Asia as a Lesbian Couple

It’s inadvertent and only there to help you be a well informed traveler. But travel blogs, articles and information that we perused before embarking on our trip through Southeast Asia, left us with a small amount of baggage that has been the heaviest to carry. Fear.

First, we’re women. Next, we’re traveling alone. Finally, we’re gay. This is a combination of attributes that, from much of our reading, makes us extremely vulnerable anywhere in the world.

I sometimes wonder if this fear keeps gay people from traveling – we have met and seen a few others in Southeast Asia, but just look up lesbian travel blogs and you’ll be surprised at how few there are – shocking because I feel there is a need.

So, I wanted to take this post to address the things we noticed as we made our way through this area of the world, to share a personal perspective that I haven’t really seen after doing my own research.

1. We can pass sometimes… maybe? Because of Constance’s gender presentation, androgynous/slightly masculine, and mine, traditionally female, we are often mistaken as a straight couple in Southeast Asia by locals. Constance has been addressed as sir or hey, man! so many times that we’ve lost count. Once, when walking down a dark street, a tuk-tuk driver called over me to Constance, even though I was closer to him. He asked her, “Tuk-tuk, sir?” When noticing her chest, he quickly apologized. But we wondered, if he thinks Constance is a man, so much so that she is automatically given the authority to make decisions for us as a couple, are we getting other straight privileges? Are we being hassled less? Do we not get catcalled because I have a “man/boyfriend/protector?” There is no way to know if these thoughts are true or valid – but they do somehow make us feel safer.

2. For the most part, it seems like Southeast Asians just don’t really care if you appear gay. What you wear or how you present yourself is not really the issue. As long as we are respecting the cultural norm of not showing affection publicly, no one glances at us strangely. This rule applies to everyone, gay or straight. Also, it kind of leaves it up to you to come out. Globetrotter Girls coined a term that I find fascinating: the travel closet. Despite being out at home to our friends and families, we’re back in the closet here, selectively outing ourselves as we feel comfortable.

3. I know that some countries in this region, especially Thailand, are already well known for being gay travel destinations. But I feel like this title is so often only for the boys. So, I was very surprised to see so many visible lesbians in Southeast Asia. I have seen lesbian partners in school uniforms flirting on a subway train, in a hair salon, offering advice about a haircut, at markets eating together and laughing, traveling together. They are everywhere. I haven’t been in the United States for some time now but it feels like I’ve seen more openly gay women in Southeast Asia than at home. It’s glorious.

On top of this, trans people are also visible. They were our nurses, clerks, servers, guesthouse attendants. It feels like there is a space for trans people here that isn’t made in the west.

4. I illogically feared locals refusing to give us a place to stay because of our obvious gayness. The people that we have come to be weary of are westerners. Being drunk and ignorant is probably one of the worst combinations of all time. This was especially true in Korea. When Con and I would enter a foreigner bar, hoping to find the comforts of home, we also took on the issues of that place. Sitting at a sports bar filled with westerners, an older gentleman wagged his pointer finger in our faces and said, “No!” Another made lewd hand motions every time he saw us, regardless if we were being close or not. While Koreans would often mistake Constance for a man, we never felt in danger because of those confusions. It’s a different story with people from back home. Is it because we are more comfortable in western spaces abroad? Do we inadvertently hold back our affections in spaces dominated by local people? Would this bring about more aggressive behavior on their parts?

5. The fear that might have held us back from traveling to a more traditionally conservative country was entirely unfounded. Yes, you must be safe and protect yourself. This goes for everyone. You have to be mindful that you are a representative for gay people, and your home country, when you travel. You are a cultural ambassador. I often don’t want to play that role. I don’t want to be the educator. So I don’t offer up my relationship as what it really is. I wonder if that makes the experience for myself, and the others around me, suffer. Regardless of the answer to that, traveling has been an enriching experience for me. I would not allow my sexuality to stand in the way personal growth.

If you would like some other personal perspectives on traveling as a lesbian woman/couple here are some resources:

One Bed or Two – Globetrotter Girls

Traveling in and out of the Closet – Bounding Over our Steps

Lesbian Travel: What to Expect – 30Traveler

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