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Life lately and upcoming travels: March 2015 Edition

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In my monthly round-ups, I am looking back at my travels over the past four weeks, what went well and what didn’t, what’s new with Globetrottergirls.com, what’s next for me and the most popular posts of the last month.

Where I’ve been

This month didn’t go as planned – I wasn’t allowed to travel to Indonesia, spent more time in Thailand than I had originally planned, and unexpectedly found myself in Cambodia! Let’s start with the good, before we get to the bad and the ugly.

I started the month traveling with someone and am finishing the month traveling with someone – and was supposed to travel with another friend in between, but that didn’t happen. More on that whole fiasco in a bit. The best part of the month was playing tour guide and showing off some of my favorite places in Thailand. I love showing people how easy and inexpensive independent travel can be and this trip was no different. Almost everything was smooth sailing, except for a horrible case of food poisoning in Bangkok that knocked me out for more than one entire day.

March 2015 Travels
Clockwise, starting u.l.: Siem Reap & Shokha Beach, Cambodia, Koh Chang and Bangkok, Thailand

I started the month in Chiang Mai, moved on to Bangkok where I ended up being stuck for over a week, followed by a whirlwind tour of my favorite places in Cambodia (Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Kampot, Otres Beach), and returned to Bangkok via Koh Chang, an island that I’ve been meaning to check out for a while. I stayed in Lonely Beach in Koh Chang (which turned out to be anything but lonely!) and loved my days on the island, making me wish I would’ve had more time there, but my friend was waiting to be picked up at the airport in Bangkok. I’ll be back to explore more of Koh Chang for sure. Returning to Cambodia was such a treat – I had been skeptical if I would still love it as much as I did the first time around, but I had nothing to worry about. My deep love for Cambodia was the same, and I might even have fallen more in love with the country during this visit, if that’s possible at all.March 2015 Cambodia and Thailand

What went well

Work & travel balance
Even though I traveled A LOT this month, I got a huge amount of work done. Whenever I was in transit, I used the time to write, no matter if I was on a bus, ferry, plane, or minivan.

Digital nomad offices March 2015
Some of the offices I had the pleasure to work in this month

Making time to relax
I’ve had the hardest time over the past few months allowing myself to relax. I kept going, going, going or working till late into the night – this month I actually managed to read book and allowed myself some beach time. It felt glorious.sunset reading koh chang

Revisiting Cambodia
As I already said – I loved being back in Cambodia, despite not having any plans to go there in the first place. I don’t think I could’ve chosen a better place to get over the debacle that kept me from going to Indonesia. And after spending a couple of weeks in Cambodia, I can only say that it still is one of my favorite countries in the world and I found myself walking around with a big smile on my face every single day there. I didn’t do much except for wandering the towns I stopped at, had good food, cycled through the countryside and visited the PHARE Circus in Siem Reap (pictured below), a wonderful non-profit organization that helps local artists to develop successful circus careers. I’ll be writing more about Phare shortly.cambodia 2015

What went wrong

Not visiting Indonesia
My biggest travel fail in years. And I was supposed to meet a good friend there to celebrate her birthday together (she’d flown all the way from Germany to spend her vacation with me) – I still feel horrible for standing her up.

Why did I not go?

The passport fiasco
I was at the AirAsia check-in desk at Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok, ready to check in for my flight to Denpasar, Bali. I didn’t even realize at first that the clerk had cancelled my ticket after saying ‘Indonesia might not let you in. Passport damaged’. But when he handed me a receipt which stated my flight details and had ‘cancelled’ handwritten in large letters on it, it began to dawn on me that he was for real. ‘No!’, I yelled at him, ‘I have to get on this plane! Someone’s waiting for me in Indonesia!’ All I got from him was a stern look and the request to move out of the way so that the next customer could proceed. Long story short- after a frustrating talk with the supervisor, Thai immigration inspecting the state of my passport and some shed tears, I was on my way to the German embassy to have my passport replaced, which means in my case a temporary passport that makes it incredibly difficult to travel around, since it is not biometric. I have to apply for a visa for pretty much any place I’d like to travel to. Even if my friend would have been in Bali longer I wouldn’t have made it there in time to see her, and so my Indonesia plans are put on hold for now.

Let’s talk about my passport for a minute: yes, it is probably more used than after passports, after nearly five years of traveling full-time with me, but I also want to point out that I’d taken 13 flights this year already, including in Europe, and was never told that my passport might be an issue to enter a country. As soon as I get my new passport though I will buy a passport holder, that’s for sure. (You’d do the same after being yelled at by a German government official for being careless with an official travel document, trust me.)

passport
Please note that the corners were cut off by the embassy to mark it invalid, that wasn’t me. If you still think that my old passport was in a horrible state, feel free to yell at me in the comments.

Food poisoning
This was the third time on my travels that I didn’t get food poisoning from a dodgy street food cart but from a fancy establishment! This time it happened at the Grand Central VIP movie theater, where 700 baht buy you not only a movie ticket for a smaller, more intimate movie theater with reclining seats, blankets and waiting service throughout the movie (unlimited refills on popcorn and soft drinks), but also access to a fancy lounge with a buffet 1 hour before the movie starts. In theory, the perfect way to spoil yourself after touring Thailand and before a day of exploring Ayutthaya – in reality though, for me the day ended over the toilet, throwing up all the food I had at the buffet, and with a seriously upset stomach. Cycling around the ruins of Ayutthaya the next day? Unthinkable.

kampot food
Pictured is not the food that caused me to nearly die, but a delicious vegetarian Cambodian amok. Enjoyed without any uncomfortable side effects.

Power-less in Cambodia
Picture this: you are in a sweltering heat of 100F /38C, and the only reason you survive is thanks to the air conditioned cafes around town. The power goes out. No air conditioning, no fans, nothing. That’s what happened to me in Siem Reap, just as I was about to eat dinner. It turned out to be the sweatiest meal of my life – my clothes were soaking wet by the time I finished my meal. Luckily I found a restaurant with a generator so that they could run their fans but once they closed, I had to return to my hotel which was still without power. So were my laptop, iPod and iPhone. The room was like a sauna. The entire street was pitch black. Just as I was about to die (no, I am not being overly dramatic here at all), the power came back on. ‘Welcome to the third world’, read the text my friend Carla sent me in reply to me outlining the misery I had gone through the previous night.

siem reap market
I took this photo on said day in Siem Reap’s market. Meat eaters: can you explain to me how fresh meat doesn’t go bad in over 100F/38C temperatures without being cooled?

Drama in Bangkok
After an embarrassing breakdown in Bangkok at the beginning of the month (we’re talking about a full-on drama scene in front of hotel staff, other guests and my temporary globetrottergirl) because of another WiFi incident and a consequently nearly missed deadline for a freelance article I was ready to give up this nomadic life. I couldn’t understand how I ended up in a hotel where the WiFi didn’t work again (the same happened last month!) – in no less than three different rooms, and in Bangkok of all places. Clearly, some higher power was telling me that this whole digital nomad life wasn’t for me?

Bangkok 2015
Other than the WiFi incident, my stay in Bangkok was rather pleasant and involved local markets, cats and penises. No worries – I’ll tell you more about it soon.

Lessons learned

From the aforementioned incident I can only say: my own fault for waiting until the very last minute to submit my article. Don’t wait until the very end to deliver on work commitments. You might think I would have learned that by now, but clearly, I always need some sort of drama in my life.

From the passport fiasco: take better care of my passport, obviously. While I might not care about what condition it is in, the immigration officials in this world do.

Don’t travel on a tourist shuttle
I don’t even know why I booked a direct transfer from Sihanoukville, Cambodia to Koh Chang, Thailand. I’ve not used a single tourist shuttle since I got to Asia, always traveling independently from place to place, using public transportation. I ended up taking twice as long and paid nearly double of what it would have cost me to organize my own transportation, and ended up still changing from a bus at the border into a minivan into a shared pickup truck onto a ferry into a taxi – exactly what I would’ve done independently, but as I said, for half the money and without hour-long waits for the vans to fill up.

koh chang monkeys
Monkeys on Koh Chang. I am fairly sure they didn’t arrive by tourist shuttle.

Lessons taught

I thought I should include this category this month because traveling with other people has had me teach them a few lessons actually, including:

  • How not to get ripped off by Bangkok cab drivers
  • How to find the best deals for hotels
  • How to find out if a hotel is really as decent as it looks in the pictures
  • How to find out what’s the right fare for tuktuks, cabs and other transportation that is not clearly stated on official fare signs
  • How to find cheap flights around south east Asia

If you’d like to know more about any of these things, leave a comment and I will turn it into a full post.

bangkok royal palace
The Royal Palace in Bangkok – visited without being scammed by tuktuk drivers or taxi drivers.

What’s next for me

Another month, another visitor! My friend was dying to spend her birthday on a beach, so why not come and see me in Thailand, right? ☺️

I am spending another ten days in Thailand before my Asia stint comes to full circle in Hong Kong mid-April. I am getting ready for my return to the U.S. which I’ve already hinted on in this article last month, but since I’m still in the planning stages of my exact whereabouts for the first few weeks (guess what – it’s NOT New York!), I’ll wait till next month to share the details with you. Now I only have to keep my fingers crossed for my new passport to be ready in time for me to catch my flight – I have about ten days in Germany at the end of April to apply for a new passport, have the details on my plane ticket changed (it was issued to my old passport number) and get a new ESTA visa waiver. Wish me luck that I’ll be sending my next update as I am on my way to the U.S.!

ao nang boats
Ao Nang, Thailand, where I am writing this. I still have a few more days in this beautiful part of the country.

Best posts of the month

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Tags : Life lately

32 Comments

  1. Sounds like you had the highs and lows. Damn 100/38C with no AC sucks. Definitely would be interested in hearing more about How to find cheap flights around south east Asia? I’ll be traveling in Julyish.

    1. I’ll be writing about my favorite budget airlines in South East Asia shortly.. and the ones that I don’t like too much 😉

  2. I’d love to hear more about how to tell if Hotels are as good as they appear in pictures. I’ve found this to be a struggle multiple times, especially in Egypt.

    Love the recap. Cambodia is also one of my favorite places. I spent a month in Siem Reap and loved it, Phare was an amazing experiences as well!

    1. Tiffany – post on how I go about finding decent accommodation is on its way 🙂 So happy to hear that you also went to Phare!!

  3. As a former Passport Officer – the lovely person you visit at the Passport Office- I actually GASPED at the state of your passport.

    I know you probably want to hear that the Thai Immigration were being too hard on you, but I promise, they were just doing what we were ALL trained to do.

    Someone earlier should have warned you about it, especially with the state of the spine. In this case, it’s really the fault of the people before who didn’t carefully look at your document and not the fault of the Thai immigration (sorry.)

    Finally, yes! buy a passport holder. I have my passport in a holder AND in a ziplock bag.

    I’m done yelling at you now 🙂 Good luck with your 10-day Germany/new passport/new visa turn around! I can’t wait to read about your next adventures 🙂

    1. Janine – I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry when I read your comment! I really had no idea that my passport looked that beat up. Oh well. I am happy to report that I bought a passport holder two days ago! 🙂

  4. Your passport doesn’t look that bad to me – at least from the outside. How was the state inside? Water stains or the likes making stamps illegible, or loose pages which could indicate tempering with the document? Otherwise I would think it was an overreaction. Some of my old passports were similarly worn after years of travel.
    Heads up from Juergen, who just collected a new passport from the embassy in Santiago, 8 months before the old one expired and was close to being full (despite being a frequent traveler passport with 64 pages = some border officials are so inconsiderate, plonking their stamp in the middle of an empty page).

    1. I didn’t think my passport looked all too bad. 🙁 The inside is in PERFECT condition, the page with the photo looks as if it is brand new! And all the other pages, too. I thought that’s what matters… sigh. I’ll definitely get extra pages in my new passport – but you’re right, they fill up quickly when you travel a lot.. can’t see my new one NOT fill up before it expires in ten years 😉

    1. Sorry Paula, I just saw this now.. I hope you found a good way to get back – let me know! I am in BKK at the moment too, btw 🙂

  5. Hi Dani, as usual great update on your adventures. It sucks about the passport and missing your friend birthday in Indonesia.
    I look forward to reading what is happening next.
    Ps. I would love to meet you in person one day.
    Happy travels

  6. That’s horrible! No it doesn’t look any worse than many passports I’ve seen.

    The problem I’m starting to find is I’m running out of space (it’s barely been a year) but countries like China, Russia, Vietnam, Laos etc do like to take a WHOLE friggin’ page for their visa and if that’s not enough, some of them need to use a fresh new page for the stamp (!)

    My passport was almost fresh before setting off last year and I’m now looking to having to get a new one due to lack of space 🙁

    1. Stefan, make sure to add new pages to your passport asap – some countries also require a certain number of blank pages. Cambodia will fill up an entire page too with their visa. Australia and New Zealand both require four, if I remember it correctly. But I still don’t understand the sense of that regulation!?

    1. It suuuuucks 🙁 Luckily I can get into Hong Kong with it and then I can just hope that the new passport will be ready in time for my flight. :O I hope you won’t have any problems with your passport, Katie!

  7. looking for answers for the following please

    How not to get ripped off by Bangkok cab drivers
    How to find the best deals for hotels
    How to find out if a hotel is really as decent as it looks in the pictures
    How to find out what’s the right fare for tuktuks, cabs and other transportation that is not clearly stated on official fare signs
    How to find cheap flights around south east Asia

  8. Hi Dany, I’m new to the blog, but already addicted! I’m starting a 6 month Asia trip with my partner in September. First time backpacking, so would love answers on all these things!
    How not to get ripped off by Bangkok cab drivers
    How to find the best deals for hotels
    How to find out if a hotel is really as decent as it looks in the pictures
    How to find out what’s the right fare for tuktuks, cabs and other transportation that is not clearly stated on official fare signs
    How to find cheap flights around south east Asia

    1. Thanks so much, Neil! 🙂 I’ll publish posts on all these topics shortly, definitely before you get to Asia 🙂 Was frustrated to see that the Bangkok scams are still in full swing and will write about that topic again, too. But other than those little nuisances (and if you know how to avoid them!) you will love Asia! In my opinion, Asia is the perfect place for a first-time backpacking trip.

  9. Oh man I do not know how you coped without AC or a fan; you aren’t being dramatic at all when you said you almost died, that heat is BEYOND hot!

    1. BEYOND HOT INDEED, Lucy 🙂 I am so glad that the power came on again that night, otherwise I seriously might have died. My clothes were soaked! Heading over to your site now to read your article now on keeping fit on the road.. feel like I haven’t always been successful when it comes to keeping up my workout routine, ahem (but then.. in that heat!! It’s so hard :O)

  10. Hi Dani
    Always glad to read your posts. My husband and I followed your blog exclusively through Guatamala last year. What I particularly liked was your “hotel tip of the week.” Using your suggestions allowed us to spend the least amount of time looking for accom. I’ve searched other blogs but have yet to find others that do this. Do you have any other suggestions of blogs you like with accom suggestions? Yours were bang on! (And I’m relatively new to blogs – what do I have to do so you get a credit? What link gets you the most bang? I’m very willing to help bloggers whose info helps us!)

    Happy travels!

    1. Hi Lynda, thanks so much! Your comment made me so happy 🙂 I know that other bloggers occasionally do hotel reviews or mention at the bottom of the post where they stayed – if it was a place worth mentioning. Let me think again which other bloggers do it and I’ll get back to you with a list. Where are you planning to travel to next? I’m struggling recommending anything for the Philippines, for example – sometimes you just don’t find great places 🙁 In Central America, I was luckier 🙂
      P.s. I have an affiliate link to Booking.com in my sidebar and use it when I write about hotels but I guess I could make it more prevalent 🙂

  11. Oh no, sorry about your Indonesia fiasco. The passport does look pretty battered, but that makes it look really cool actually. I am dying to go back to Cambodia for a visit. I love this country so much and your photos bought back many wonderful memories. I feel your pain on the powercuts. I am living in Ghana right now and we have 12-24 hour-long powercuts almost every 3 days. It is super annoying and so hot. Luckily I have a generator in the office, but we haven’t got one at home, so we have to survive on ice water bottles (like hot water bottles but with frozen water) to keep us cool at night. 🙂

    1. Wow, those are loooong power cuts! Returning to Cambodia was the favorite part of my Asia stint. I hope you’ll get to visit soon – but I bet you’re using all your vacation time to explore other parts of Africa while you’re in Ghana 😉 I hope our paths will cross soon again! xx

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