Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Shoestring travellers

For us, sometimes the thrill of traveling lies in discovering new places on a shoestring. You will often find us rubbing our hands gleefully after calculating our trip expenses (or how little we have spent).

In the recent years, we've managed to go on a week long eco-tour in Thailand for less than S$500 each (US$333) and a weekend escapade to an Indonesian Island without spending more than $200 (US$133) per person. We've even managed to do a 5-day trip in Northern Australia for less than S$750 (US$500) each!

It all boils down to being willing to rough it out like staying in simple lodging houses or flying on budget airlines. For us, the adventure lies in taking in new sights and experiences.... a la Lonely Planet style... not lounging around in luxurious bedrooms or soaking in jacuzzi tubs.

With the owners of Lamai Homestay situated in Ko Pet, a rice village in the heart of rural Isan in N.E Thailand. Jimmy and Lamai are committed to sustainable tourism and try to tempt tourists away from the usual travel routes and destinations. Instead, they try to show the "real" Thailand.

We learned to weave straw mats using reed harvested from the rice fields.

Life is idyllic here. Our free time was spent walking past rice fields and feeding cows.

We had a unique opportunity to be part of a rural community in an area of Thailand where silk is still made in the traditional way - each process; from breeding the silk worms to dyeing, spinning, and weaving takes place in the village homes using hand-made equipment. This village regularly wins the Queen's Award for Excellence in Silk Production.

The beautiful Lamai Homestay is surrounded by a lush garden growing bananas, papaya, mango and custard apple. There is a cool, shady barbecue and eating area in the garden and a splashpool nearby to rest tired feet.

In the cool evenings, we sat on the verandah, watching the sun set over the lake.

The Greenleaf Lodge is another place in Thailand that brought back wonderful memories of our off-the-beaten track adventure.

Situated near Khao Yai National Park which is famous for being Thailand’s oldest national park, the guest rooms are simple and spartan but we still had a great time. As it was listed in Lonely Planet guide, we met lots of backpackers from all over the world. Nights were spent drinking Thai beer out in the garden exchanging travel tales late into the night.

Besides wildlife spotting in the national park, we also managed to see some nice waterfalls.

One of the best stays we've ever had was at Loola Resort in Bintan Island where large bungalows, restaurants and terrace, are all built in local style above the water. We enjoyed simple activities during the day and saw the moon rise over the water at night.

Have you tried archery under the coconut groves?

Or seen a food trolley crafted out of wood?

We surprised ourselves by traveling to Darwin on a whim one day. It was our first time flying Tiger Airways (new budget airline) and I must say, the flight was great. We found a room in a backpackers' haunt called Frogshollow (I know, it was the name that attracted me) and had a fantastic time in this not-so-touristy part of Australia.

The lounge area of Frogshollow is painted in a cheerful mix of pink and yellow! Set in lush, tropical gardens and opposite historic Frogs Hollow Park, it has been awarded "The best budget backpacker accommodation in Darwin", by Lonely Planet and other magazines.

We went swimming in waterfalls and diving into the Burley Rock holes at the famous Kakadu National Park.

At the scenic Litchfield Park, we admired the gigantic Cathedral Termite Mounds and the strangely pointed Magnetic Termite Mounds which are made out of a mix of saliva and excrement. The magnetic ones have been constructed so that they have two points which perfectly face north and south. These tiny creatures are pretty darn clever!
Of course we had plenty of time to feed the fish at the sanctuary and fool around with fake crocodiles in the pool too!


Anonymous said...

You should've tasted the silkworm. It's part of the Thai experience too!

Blur Ting said...

Then, why didn't you eat the termites too?

Unknown said...

I used to work in the travel industry and put together itineraries like these...the best part of that job was hearing from clients when they get back from their trip :)

Anonymous said...

The Darwin guide didn't offer me one!

The World According To Me said...

Wow, great pics.
I've always fancied going to Thailand and it's encouraging to hear it can be done on a shoe string budget!

Blur Ting said...

Hi World, Thailand is one place you really can travel on a shoestring. It's a big country with lots of different attractions, from gorgeous beaches to highlands. Food and accommodation are cheap. Traveling by bus and train is also cheap. You'll find that your British pounds can go a really long way over there!

Unknown said...

I think travelling is the world's best pleasure t be had. It changes you as a person

Amel said...


So if I want to do a budget travel, I should ask you or read Lonely Planet, eh? HE HE HE HE...I LOVE budget travels he he he...

You've had SO MUCH FUN it seems during the travels.

So that was a fake crocodile? I was at first SHOCKED that you were THAT close to a "real" crocodile he he he he he...Phew!!!

Mike Minzes said...

What great advice, story and pictures!!

Anonymous said...

Instead of spending money on lavish accommodations, your focus was on what really matters, Blur, the authenticity of the environment and culture.

Beautiful pics, btw.

Anonymous said...


The souvenir shops in Darwin sell these very life-like floating croc heads. They're a hoot if you have a swimming pool!

Blur Ting said...

Yah, CH almost wanted to buy one home. I was like.... *roll eyes*

Blur Ting said...

Yes, RM, always an eye opening experience. everytime.

Amel - Lonely Planet gives really good advise and shows you where to go where to avoid the tourist traps. I do research on the Net too, like Tripadvisor.

Mike - Thanks!

Holly - We figured we're gonna be spending most of the time outdoors, so we try to cut down on accommodation. But in some places, we do need to go for the better hotels due to safety reasons.

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