Thursday, June 27, 2013

Back Home---SE Asia Odds & Ends

On June 14th I took the Delta flight that left at 6AM from Bangkok with a stopover in Japan. I arrived in Seattle on the same June 14th at 8 AM. It was not a 2 hour flight through a teleporter, but rather the crossing of the international date line that took over 18 hours. From the Seattle airport, I caught the light rail to the University St. stop, just 3 blocks from home.

Cost of Trip
In 42 days I traveled to Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam, my total cost was $3,756 or about $89 per day.

My hotel costs totaled $882 for an average of $21 per night. Thailand was the most expensive averaging $28 per night and both Laos and Vietnam averaged just $11 per night----in Vietnam two nights were spent on the train to and from Sapa---so the real average cost in Vietnam was $16 per night. Most of the rooms had A/C, were very clean and neat, had in-room bathrooms with hot water showers, TV with mostly BBC or a fair and balanced showing of Fox along with Al Jeezra---only two places with CNN.

My food costs, including beer, was $1,161 for an average of $28 per day with Vietnam the most expensive at $40---love the French food influence---and Laos the cheapest at $22 per day. By comparison, my Brazil trip averaged $38 per day.

My total transportation costs were $756:

    • The Delta air fare round trip from SEA to Bangkok cost 80,000 miles and $81.30. If I would have paid for this flight, it would have cost me $2,000. The travel time from SEA to BKK is 18 hours 5 minutes and is 7,652 miles.
    • The Vietnam Visa cost $80.
    • The Laos Visa cost $48.

    Ho Chi Minh Tomb, Hanoi, Vietnam

  • Royal Palace in Luang Prabang

    Golden Shower and Tamarind trees in bloom along the Mekong.

    • The AirAsia air flight from Bangkok to Hanoi cost $62.79. This flight took 2 hours and is 618 miles. The return flight cost $132.

    • The round trip cost of the soft sleeper train from Hanoi to Lo Cai was $65 plus another $23 for mini buses to and from Sapa. Almost less than a two night stay in a hotel room.

    • The two day boat ride on the Mekong River from Luang Prabang to Huay Kai cost $29.

    • The remainder of the costs were for the buses, sky train, ferry boats, taxis, and mototaxis.

      ATM Worries
      I was a bit concerned when none of the ATMs in Laos would give me money, and I was glad that I had $200 USD and another 10,000 Thai Baht going into Laos. Otherwise I would have had to use my Visa or AMEX to buy cash at a 3% -5% fee plus 19% to 24% APR on the unpaid balance from the day of the advance.

      Frequent Flyer Miles
      Since 2000, I've made 16 international trips to Asia and Latin America using frequent flyer miles; plus another 14 to Mexico using a combination of frequent flyer miles or companion tickets (Alaska Air). We use our credit cards for almost all purchases to rack up a lot of miles. I do what is called "churning" my credit cards. To learn more about "churning" and how to maximize the frequent flyer programs go to the Frugal Travel Guy website. There, you will learn about some extreme "churners", how to get to your destinations, and see some current credit card offers.

      After I got home, I ordered another Alaska Mileage Visa card from Bank of America which gives me 25,000 miles along with a companion ticket, and an American Air Citi Visa card which will give me 40,000 miles once I spend $3,000 on the card. As soon as I get my next bill from my United Visa card, which I used on this trip, I will cancel it and then open up another one. Last time I got a United Visa card they gave me 65,000 miles---good for another trip to SE Asia. The trick is you pay off the entire balance or it is not worth it.

      My mini iPad--32GB and WiFi Only
      I enjoyed carrying my iPad2 on my Brazil trip, but this trip with my mini iPad was even better. For one thing is is much smaller and lighter by 3/4 lb. It weighs in at .68 lb.

      The three Lonely Planet travel guides I downloaded to my mini iPad iBooks, saved me carrying over 2 1/2 pounds of guide books. The search features, table of contents, bookmarks, cross references, color maps that I could magnify made this an invaluable and light weight resource. The Kindle version of the Lonely Planet guides were much too difficult to navigate, and were in black and white. I have an app on my mini iPad for my stored Kindle books so I do not have to carry my old Kindle ver. 1.

      The camera and video features have improved considerably over my old iPad2 with a 5 mp for photos and 1080p HD video on the mini iPad compared to a 1 mp photo and 720 VGA video. I was able to use video clips from the mini iPad that were as good as my Panasonic HD video camera. The uploaded photos are almost as good as those taken with my Fuji 14 mp compact camera. Other travelers and the locals enjoyed seeing the photos and videos I had on the mini iPad, especially when they were in the picture.

      WiFi spots at hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, airports, and other locations are much more available throughout the tourist areas of SE Asia than that found in the Seattle area. It is now hard to find the internet cafes with computers and printers that were so popular just a few years ago. I had to email my boarding pass to the hotel staff to get a printout since I could not find any internet cafes in Bangkok.

      The battery life was generally not a problem except for the overseas flights of 18 hours since the battery was only good for 10 hours. The lightening plug was much better than the old plug because I bent the iPad2 socket and had to pry it open to recharge.

      Medical Issues
      At the beginning of my trip, I got a sore throat which went away after a few days, but then I continued to have a cough and congestion in my lungs for the duration of my trips which lessened over time---Fisherman’s Friend was my friend.
      I carried a 20 day supply of anti-malaria medicine (Atovaquone-Proguanil), but I did not use it because there were not many mosquitos, and I generally wore long pants and a windbreaker in the early mornings and evenings when they came out.
      I got a slight attack from some bedbugs that were lurking at the Happy House Guesthouse in Sokothai. At first I thought the bumps on my chest were from heat rash, but then I spotted the little buggers. The guesthouse staff gave me a free breakfast for pointing that out to them.
      I had no intestinal problems, and used Aqua Mira purifying drops in the tap water I drank from throughout SE Asia. I do not buy plastic filled water bottles in my travels, but carry my own one liter bottle wrapped with some duct tape.

      My Luggage
      My total pack weight including my Golite Breeze Pack weighed in at 7.8 lb. The 2 Hawaiian silk shirts both got ripped as I moved around when they were saturated with my sweat so I replaced them with two cotton polo shirts I bought from a street vendor for $10. I eliminated carrying the waist camera bag and the money belt which weighed 13 oz.
      I wore another 8.2 lb. of clothing, camera gear, mini iPad in my shoulder bag along with sunglasses, handiwipes, shoes, travel documents, and iPad charger.
      If I was just staying one night in a guesthouse or hotel, I would wash out my shirt, underwear, and socks and hang them so the fan or A/C would blow on them to speed drying. If I was staying longer, I would give the hotel staff my dirty shirt, underwear, and socks to launder. For my pants, right before I went to bed, I would generally wash them out when they got rank, and use the same drying technique  with the other items. By morning everything was dry and clean.

      Travel Issues
      I am now thinking that this time of year is not the best time to be in SE Asia. It was very hot and humid with temperatures on several days reaching above 100 degrees and then there were the frequent downpours while they cooled things off for a bit, they limited travel activities and got my shoes soaked as the streets flooded.

      I continue to find few individual Americans are traveling in SE Asia except in tour groups. Most travelers I met were from Europe, and Australia along with some from other Asian countries. My hope is that more and more Americans resume traveling overseas.

      At this time, I do not know where my next travels will take me just like I don't know where this bamboo bridge leads to across the Nam Kan River in Luang Prabang, Laos.

    Goodbye until my next travel adventures.


    1. I'm so excited for this, its like I'm traveling with you! Can't wait to see it all on the blog!!

      Best Travel Blog

    2. Thanks for your comments. I am now mulling over two locations next. The Trans-Siberian train trip or to the Philippines.