Guilin Walking Tour in Guangxi Province, China

Guilin, China is a fantastic tourist destination, drawing tons of people from all over China and foreign lands each year. From the bustling market, towering Sun and Moon pagodas, to the gumdrop mountains, it has something to satisfy everyone. My Guilin Walking Tour will take you around to some of my favorite sights around the downtown area. If you just walk the loop, it will probably take around an hour and a half, but there are plenty of places to stop and take in the local scenery and culture. Allow me to introduce you to one of my favorite places in all of China, Guilin!


Guilin Walking Tour Overview

Duration: 1.5 Hours

Distance: 3.0 Miles

Cost: FREE

Suggested Start: Xi Cheng Lu Kou Bus Stop MAP

Suggested Time: After Sunset

Map of downtown Guilin, China outlining The Places We Live's free Guilin Walking Tour. The map includes locations for the Guilin's South Gate, Pedestrian Shopping Street, People's Square, Sun and Moon Pagodas (Gold and Silver Pagodas), Elephant Trunk Hill free viewing area, and Guilin' Night Market. Credit for the image is listed to traviswilldesign.com, theplaceswe.live, and maps.google.com

This free, self-guided Guilin Walking Tour is focused on the top sights for an evening stroll, but if you have the time, it’s worth it to do the loop during the daytime as well, especially since some of the optional, paid attractions are only open during the day. The tour is laid out in a loop, so you can start wherever is most convenient for you. For the purposes of this blog, I will be starting on the corner of Zhong Shan Road and South Ring Road near the Bank of China Self Service Center MAP.


Guilin Walking Tour Stops

Elephant Trunk Hill
Sun and Moon Pagodas
Pedestrian Walking Street
People’s Square
South Gate
Night Market


Elephant Trunk Hill

View from the Elephant Trunk Hill free viewing area in Guilin, Guangxi Province, China. At night, the small mountain that is shaped like an elephant bending over for a drink is lit up with multiple colored lights. Credit for the image is given to Travis Will Design and The Places We Live

Distance from Zhong Shan Road to Elephant Trunk Hill Free Viewing Area: 0.3 miles

From Zhong Shan Road, head East on South Ring Road along the Tao Hua River. To your left, you’ll find shops aimed to catch the attention of passing tourists as well as travel agencies to help you plan your cruise along the Li River. Fish is very popular at restaurants in Guilin, so you will find that many of them have tanks and cages lining the front of the shop. You may even see what looks like a large, caged rat. These are bamboo rats, a dish enjoyed by many people from the southern regions of China.

To the right, the river weaves through the city. Once over the bridge, you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of Elephant Trunk Hill, all lit up in the customary Chinese style.

Just before the road starts to veer North, there is a small area where you can get a free view of the Elephant Trunk Hill through the trees. The location is marked on most maps with GPS, but can also be spotted by the number of other tourists also looking to get that free view.

Considering a Li River Cruise? Read THIS first! Link  Food in Guilin

Elephant Legend Show Option

The best part about unguided walking tours is that you can take them at your own pace and find your own stops. One such stop could be the Elephant Trunk Legend Show. It is a nightly show with music, live elephants, and a great view of Elephant Trunk Hill. The ticket office is only steps away from the free viewing area and has signs in English. [Note: This is not the ticket office for exploring the mountain itself. That ticket office is located across the river.]

Show Times: (Nov to Mar) 7:35PM – 8:00PM & (Apr to Oct) 8:05PM – 8:30PM

Duration: 30 minutes plus time to explore 

Cost: ¥130


Sun and Moon Pagodas

Sun and Moon Pagoda - Guilin Walking Tour - The Places We Live.png

Distance from Elephant Trunk Hill Viewing Area to Sun and Moon Pagodas: 0.3 miles

Continue your Guilin walking tour along the sidewalk as it heads North. On your right stretches the Li River, overlooked by trees and homes lit up in fun colors. You have the option of either (A) walking on the main sidewalk or (B) heading down to the riverside walkway.

A: The main sidewalk is a bit more exciting. There is often loud music, performers, groups of exercisers, and food carts. The food in these carts looks quite tempting and usually tastes even better than it looks. The cart attendants do have a tendency to rip off foreigners though, so remember to barter. No snack should be worth more than ¥10, with the possible exception of slices of walnut cake, which are purchased by weight.

B: There are multiple sets of stairs that branch off from the main sidewalk towards the river. These lead down to the riverside walkway. This is a more relaxing and romantic walk. You will have an uninterrupted view of the river and the buildings that line the other side of it. These river walks can be found along most of the rivers in Guilin and are definitely worth exploring during the day (if you have the time).

Less than a five minute walk will bring you from the Elephant Trunk Free Viewing Area to the Sun and Moon Pagodas. Hop across the street when the way is nearly safe and enjoy the sights and sounds of the Riyue Shuangta Cultural Park.

Walking through this park is completely free, both day and night. The walkways are well kept and clean, but they are a bit narrow and fill quickly with other walkers.

River Walk  Fubo Mountain

Twin Pagoda Option

It is possible to climb the stairs of the pagodas as late as 10:30PM. Although the evening view is listed as the best, the underwater tunnel that runs between the two pagodas is better appreciated during the day. The ticket office is located to the South of the lake on the bank closest to the pagodas. 

Operating Times: 8:00AM – 10:30PM

Duration: 30 Minutes

Cost: ¥45

Two Rivers and Four Lakes Cruise Option

Getting tired already? Or maybe you would just rather do this walking tour without all of the walking? Easy! The Two Rivers and Four Lakes Cruise is an excellent option to enjoy all the night lights of this Guilin walking tour without the hassle of walking. The ticket counter is located on the North side of the lake and will have signs in English.

A fellow blogger describes their trip on the cruise. 

Operating Times: 7:30PM – 9:30PM

Duration: 2 Hours

Cost: ¥190


Pedestrian Walking Street

Pedestrian Street.png

Distance from Sun and Moon Pagodas to Pedestrian Street: 0.3 miles

Near the northern-most corner of the lake is a small road that quickly turns into a pedestrian-only sidewalk. Following this road will take you past a bunch of small craft stalls and then into a busy pedestrian-only street filled with shops and people.

This is an enjoyable walk both day and night, but the street seems to truly come alive in the evenings. The music gets a little louder, the food stalls get a little brighter, and many of the shops put their best entertainers at the doors. I have never found myself judging anyone’s ability to clap before experiencing the shop entertainers on the Chinese pedestrian streets.

Enjoy the sights, sounds, and amazing shopping of pedestrian street. If the prices are marked, that usually means the shop keeper either won’t barter or won’t barter far. Anything else is fair game. Prices can be negotiated down to as low as 25% of the asking price, but that is with a fluent Chinese speaker who has a lot of practice. Unless you are really struggling for cash, a good starting point is 50% of the asking price, with an ending price at 75%. The locals will appreciate it.

Budget  yangshuo

Shangshui Delicacy Street Option

Near the center of the pedestrian street is a four-way intersection. On the right are some stick-food vendors in a small alley, where people are often crowded up, eating their purchases. Head down this packed alley. Keep an eye on the other guests enjoying their tasty and bizarre treats. At the end of the alley and to the right is the street food market. I hope you have an adventurous stomach!

It can get a bit tight inside of the market, so stay calm and remember “Bu yao le” (boo yow la), meaning “I don’t want”. Armed with your new phrase, you are ready to explore the adventurous world of Chinese street food. 

If you’re interested in trying some snacks, but don’t have the stomach for anything crazy, I have a couple of suggestions. One of my favorite weird but deliciously normal foods is Omurice (a fried rice omelet topped with ketchup) from Japan. I’m also a big fan of just about any of the meats on sticks. Don’t worry, you can usually watch the worker cook the meat. It will be grilled all of the way through and topped with delicious seasonings that aren’t usually spicy. If you have a sensitive stomach, I do not suggest eating any of the raw fruit sticks nor drinking any of the raw fruit smoothies. Pretty much anything raw should be marked off the list.

For those of you ready to show off to your #instafriends during this Guilin walking tour, the collections of bugs are cooked just like the stick meats. You order a stick and the stall clerk will grill it right there in front of you. It will be well cooked and seasoned. This is great because it usually gives just about everything a crunchy, rather than squishy, texture. The scorpions and small bugs often come out crispy and salty, similar to a potato chip.


People’s Square

Peoples Square.png

Distance from the Pedestrian Street to People’s Square: 0.2 miles

It wouldn’t be a proper Chinese city without a People’s Square. From the pedestrian street, turn left at the major intersection of Yiren Rd. To the left, you will see a large concrete park.

These squares are popular throughout China, often being some of the major transportation hubs of the city or hosting some of the more important buildings. Guilin’s square is not one of particular note. It is a large and interesting part of Chinese culture, though, and therefore worth a visit. Walk to the end of the square to the free-standing pavilion at the far left corner. It is a stairway down to Little Hong Kong Commercial Market and also the safest way to cross the street.

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Little Hong Kong Commercial Market Option

This market is much larger than it appears at first glance. It actually spans the entire area underneath People’s Square and beyond! This is a great place to buy discounted items, fun trinkets, and all the beauty services you can think of. Gel nails or detailed designs will cost around 60RMB and will include a short massage. Foot massages are around 100RMB per hour and will usually include a short shoulder and head massage as well. 


South Gate

South Gate.png

Distance from People’s Square to the South Gate: 0.9 miles

If you have taken the safer option of using the underground crosswalk at Little Hong Kong, you should be at the bottom of the stairs, having just descended underground. Turn left and walk under the main road of Zhangshan Middle Road. There will be another set of stairs on your left to take you back up to the street. Once up the stairs, continue heading southwest until you reach the bridge. Before crossing the bridge, take a right and join the other walkers along the lovely riverside path.

The South Gate is my favorite part of this Guilin walking tour. It would be easy to spend hours strolling along the well-lit river and lake. There are plenty of restaurants, bars, and shops lining the opposite side of the street, but along the water, it is fairly peaceful… by Chinese standards, that is.

At the intersection of the first major bridge is Gunanmen or The South Gate. It is a remaining piece of the city wall that stood guarding the city of Guilin long ago. Now it is a tourist attraction and open square for dancers and exercisers. These groups of exercisers may sneer if you try to take their picture, but are often very welcoming if you choose to join them in a dance.

(A) Long Loop: Continue along Northwest past The South Gate. Take a left over the next bridge to stay on Ronghu Rd North, then over the next (keeping the river on your left side), to Ronghu Rd South. Take a left on the other side of the bridge and you’ll be heading back towards the main road to do a full loop of the river.

(B) Short Loop: Head over the bridge directly across from The South Gate. Then take a left onto Ronghu Rd South. This will take you back to the main road where we left off near People’s Square.

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Xicheng Night Market

Night Market - Guilin Walking Tour - The Places We Live.png

Distance from the South Gate to the Xicheng Night Market: 0.5 miles

At this point, you will have done plenty of walking, so let’s treat ourselves with a little snack at the Xicheng Night Market. Once you have returned to Zhongshan Rd, take a right (heading southwest). Three blocks down, Xicheng Pedestrian Street will be on the right. This is a much smaller and less corporate market. All of the prices are negotiable and the food is local and cheap.

One of my favorite snacks over here are the grilled scallops with rice noodles and garlic. They take a minute to cook, but are packed with flavor. There are also plenty of restaurants, bars, and KTV (karaoke) halls.

So, continue the evening by partying the night away, having dinner at one of the restaurants at the end of the market street (there are a couple that serve some delicious sweet and sour fish), or wrap up the loop by turning left on S. Ring Road and following it back to Zhongshan. Look familiar? Good, since you’re supposed to end up where you started! You should now be back at the same bus stop you left from, only on the opposite side of the road to catch a ride back to wherever you’re staying. Wasn’t that thoughtful? 😉

Instagram  Medium


And so ends my evening walking tour of Guilin, China. Although the full loop is quite long, the actual distance between the various locations is quite short, so feel free to break the walk up into two separate trips. If you do one during the day and one at night, I suggest saving The South Gate and the Night Market for the evening. The rest of the tour is equally as lovely during the day, if not as colorful.

Thank you so much for joining me on this little walking adventure. I hope you enjoy it and I can’t wait to read your comments and suggestions!

Special thanks to Travis Will Designs for the amazing graphics! ♥



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Free Guilin Walking Tour  Guilin Walking Tour

A Week in Sepang, Malaysia

I know you are all waiting patiently for my first post about Melbourne, but I have one more adventure to share first. To save a little cash, we ended up spending another week in Malaysia, this time in the city of Sepang. It is surprising how much money I can save on flights simply by researching my options. I’ll go over this in more detail later, but long story short, I was able to save about $100 by flying from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur, staying there for a week, then flying to Melbourne on the first day of my house sit. Here is a quick recap of our week in Sepang, Malaysia.

Sepang, Malaysia

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Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

Sepang is in the same state as Kuala Lumpur, but about 40 miles to the South. It is the city where the main airport is located and therefore very convenient for anyone looking for a KL layover destination.

Our hotel was easily accessible by either the airport train, a 30 MYR taxi for two, or a free airport shuttle (mostly full of employees). This made it incredibly convenient and inexpensive (cheapest option to KL is about 70 MYR). In addition to the cheap transportation, the hotels are cheaper, and so is the food. Sepang proved to have a much more local-friendly price range.

Our hotel was in a small suburb near the train station. We counted about five restaurants, three grocery stores, six laundromats (?!), two barber shops, one hotel, and that’s about it. Literally. Imagine a block-sized strip mall packed with practically identical shops, a parking lot wrapping the whole thing, a street surrounding that, then jungle. Just jungle. That is where we were. It was… odd.

Breakfast? Dessert? Who cares!

We became quick regulars at the five restaurants in the neighborhood. As soon as the staff saw us, they would call for whichever server spoke the best English and he would come running and start offering us all of the same things we had the day before. We quickly learned that our dining choices were the talk of the town. It wasn’t our fault. The server would hand us a menu three pages long, we pointed to what looked good, he would giggle for an unknown reason, then we would eat our delicious meal. We did eventually discover that we were eating the dishes in all of the wrong orders: dessert for breakfast, breakfast for dinner, dinner for lunch, etc. Whatever. It was amazing!

Roti bread dish served in Malaysia. It is a circular loaf of bread cut into eight slices. It looks to be glazed with a light brown sauce. The plate also displays three dipping sauces. There is a dark red sauce that looks spicy, a yellow one, and an orange one.

Let’s put it to the world. The above dish is a deliciously fluffy bread. It is covered in a sweet glaze. It tasted like a heavenly breakfast or a light dessert to me. BUT it is served with savory, curry dipping options. So is it dinner? What IS it?!

Aside from our continual faux-pas or ordering off the wrong page of the menus, we had an amazing time returning to the delightful dishes of Malaysia. We ate as often and as much as we could and enjoyed every bite. We were particularly excited to have another chance at our favorite, three layer tea.

Two tall glasses of iced, milk tea. The tea has three layers, the bottom layer is dark brown and thick. The middle layer is milky, and the top layer is light and brown. A menu for Hijas Restoran is held up in the background.

Eating our way through KL: a dining adventure of spicy goodness. ♥

Staying Busy

It might be noticed that I haven’t mentioned the name of our hotel. That is because we were very torn about our opinion of it. It was cheap, but extremely clean. The internet didn’t work very often, but when it did, it was lightning fast. The staff wasn’t particularly helpful, but they were incredibly friendly. It was just sort of “meh”.

White walls and white floors with a black desk in the corner. The desk holds bottles of water, a purse, framed photo, and a CO alarm.

We were put in a windowless, white room. The only thing that wasn’t white was the tiny desk in the corner of the room (the major selling point to the room), but the desk didn’t have any accessible electrical plug-ins, so that was a bust.

Read about our hotel in KL: Hote123 ♥

What do you do in a windowless white room with random internet? Sleep. A lot. After a couple of nights, completely losing track of time and our tans, we finally came out and started to explore again. Who knew fresh air could feel so good?

One night, our neighborhood hosted a night market. We grabbed one of just about everything and had a small feast of crazy flavors for less than $10. I also purchased my second souvenir of the trip, a beautifully decorated head scarf in the local style. Maybe not my most practical purchase, but I really liked it.

Night market stall selling grilled meat on sticks.

Nasi Lemak Burger

If it sounds like I am giving off the impression that all we did in Sepang was sleep, work, and eat, it is because that is exactly what we did. So the story of our Sepang adventure ends with yet another story of food: the McDonald’s Nasi Lemak Burger.

That’s right, nasi lemak is one of our go-to meals in Malaysia as it is filling, varied, delicious, and usually cheap. Most often, it is a plate of coconut milk rice, paired with dried anchovies, cucumber salad, boiled peanuts, sambal, and either fried chicken or lamb curry… or both. It seemed like an odd combination at first, but we warmed up to it.

A plate of nasi lemak in Malaysia. White rice, curried lamb, grilled shrimp, cucumbers, hard boiled egg, boiled peanuts, dried anchovy, and sambal

Luckily enough, we passed by a McDonald’s on the launch day of their new Nasi Lemak Burger. In line with our previous American fast-food chain adventures around the world, we went in for a taste.

Close up of McDonald's Nasi Lemak burger in Malaysia.

It was a little more expensive than we would usually pay for lunch, but totally worth it. The bun was the star of the show, a coconut milk bun with pepper flakes. Next, a layer of sambal, cucumbers, and caramelized onions. Finally, a fried egg and large fried chicken breast. We were very happy with this burger and the flavors paired very well together.

To Melbourne… Finally!

As we travel full-time we can sometimes get caught up in the “can’t wait” loop. “I can’t wait until we get to China! I can’t wait until we get to Malaysia!” etc. This is a horrible habit that keeps us from appreciating where we are here and now. We are absolutely excited about Melbourne and we know our readers are too, but I can’t let my excitement keep me from posting about an entire week we spent in Sepang.

But now that the time has come and gone, it is time to get stoked for our next adventure. Good-bye SE Asia (for now) and hello Australia!


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"From This" image of traditional nasi lemak plate "To This" close up of McDonald's new nasi lemak burger in Malaysia.


 

Brews Around the World: Malaysia and Thailand

Long time, no see! That’s right, it has been two months since my last Brews Around the World Update. Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been drinking beer. It just means I have been waiting to share all of the awesomeness until I finally had enough to write about. Get ready for a dual post of Brews Around the World – Episode Four: Beer of Malaysia and Thailand!

S1E1 Brews Around the World – Beer of Idaho, USA 

S1E2 Brews Around the World – Beer of Florida, USA 

S1E3 Brews Around the World – Beer of China 

Malaysia Brews

The month of February was spent in lovely Malaysia, where brewing beer is illegal! Drinking beer, however, was still OK, yet it was all imported and decently expensive. We did the best we could, though, walking miles out of our way to try something interesting. My favorite find was the Penang Craft Beer IPA, which we drank in Penang… but is brewed in California. I also really enjoyed Rogue’s Dead Guy Ale. This is one of my all-time Oregon favorites, so it was really nice to have a taste of home while in Kuala Lumpur.

As a result, I did not collect any new Malaysian brews. I did add a few things to my Life List though. We left Malaysia with six new brew flavors, bringing my unique brew total to 54.

Anchor Smooth Draught, Heinken Asia Pacific - The Places e Live  Dead Guy Ale, Rogue Brewing - The Places We Live  Guinness Draught, Guinness - The Places We Live  Penang Craft Beer IPA, Bay Bridge Brewing - The Places We Live  Skol, Ambev - The Places We Live  Tiger, Heineken Asia Pacific - The Places We Live


Amazon com guinness draught.pngAmazon Link: All purchases earn Josh and I commission. Thank you!


Thailand Brews

We spent the majority of March in Thailand. Beer in Thailand was readily available, but limited in variety. Our choices were pretty much just Leo, Singha, Chang, or overpriced import beers. I was a little disappointed with only three new flavors, but all three ended up being pretty tasty. They paired very well with the hot weather and spicy food.

So, once again, I did not collect many new flavors while in Thailand. I added three new flavors to my Life List, bringing my unique brew total to 57.

Chang - The Places We Live  Leo Beer, Boon Rawd Brewery - The Places We Live  Singa, Boon Rawd Brewery - The Places We Live


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Amazon Link: All purchases earn Josh and I commission. Thank you!


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Brew Around the World S1E4 - The Places We Live Brews Around the World S1E4 Title - The Places We Live Beer of Thailand - The Places We Live


 

A Weekend Near DMK Airport, Bangkok

Our house sit in Hua Hin, Thailand has ended and it is time for us to move on to our next location. Our next sit is two weeks away and in an entirely different hemisphere. Here is a rundown of our adventure near the Don Muang International Airport in Bangkok.

Hua Hin to DMK Airport

Map of Bangkok with the Don Muang International Airport (DMK) marked quite a bit North of the city.

The Don Muang International Airport (DMK) is one of two airports in the city of Bangkok. It is most often used by the discount airlines, like AirAsia, and is in an absurdly inconvenient location. Bangkok has a great subway system… that doesn’t service DMK. Taxis are cheap in Bangkok, as long as you aren’t traveling to DMK. Buses run regularly, but due to traffic, will take at least an hour to go anywhere from DMK. The Don Muang International Airport is the absolute worst… as far as location (the food and shops are delightful).

Thankfully, we found a direct mini bus from Hua Hin to DMK for 200 baht ($6 USD) each. Our host dropped us off at the Hua Hin 51 Alley New Bus Station. There was a line of windows, each clearly labeled with the various locations. We were immediately accosted by touts, but they didn’t seem to be scammers. We’re pretty sure they just get a commission for walking us to the correct window. Still, there are signs up with the major destinations in English, so it’s probably best to just find the right window on your own.

Pros: The mini bus was a large van with AC and a fan in the back. It was a little hot by the halfway mark, but otherwise had a pretty comfortable temperature. The van stopped once every hour for about 15 minutes and once at the halfway mark for 30 minutes. The whole journey took almost exactly four hours.

Cons: It was a bumpy and uncomfortable ride. There was no space for our bags, either in the cab or between the seats. This meant we had to carry our 50 lbs bags on our laps for the entire trip. Needless to say, my legs were very sore and a little bruised by the time we finally got out. Josh got a little car sick from the tight quarters and erratic driving.

That said, I think I would still take the bus again. Despite the issues, it was saved a lot of time and hassle once in Bangkok, not to mention it was considerably cheaper.

Homey DMK Hostel

On our brief layover in Bangkok earlier last month, we stayed for a single night at Homey Don Muang Hostel. It was the cheapest and most convenient hostel to the Don Muang airport with vacancies. We immediately fell in love with it and returned to stay there again during this trip to Bangkok. It is now rated as one of our all-time favorite hostels.

Homey is located a short walk (10mins or less) from the airport. It is a very exciting and interesting walk past a train station, food carts, temple, and suburban canal. I wouldn’t say that there is enough things to do in this neighborhood to visit for more than a day or two, but it kept us entertained enough between working and sleeping.

Four, large bunks at the Homey Hostel near the Don Muang International Airport near Bangkok. The bunks have white linens, shelf, mirror, and brown curtains. There are wood and metal ladders connecting the top bunks. The Places We Live

We got two beds in a 10 bed dorm for 350 baht ($11) each. The room had a large AC, set of large lockers, and a reading nook. Each bunk had linens and towel, mirror and shelf, reading light, two plug ins, and a thick privacy curtain. Despite the bunks, we slept very comfortably and loved the nice, wide beds.

Down the hall was a toilet that was cleaned regularly and provided toilet paper. On the other side of the hall was a large shower closet with rain shower head, hand shower, shampoo, and shower gel dispenser. Once again, it seemed to be cleaned after nearly every use.

The bunk at Home Hostel has white linens, wood wall, and wood shelf with a sliding mirror. Jen's bunk also includes at CO alarm and a framed photo of her friends. The shower closet is quite large. It is white with a waterfall shower head, removable shower head, and soap dispensers. The Places We Live

The hosts at the front desk were delightful. They gave us great advice for every question we threw at them and showed honest care for our well-being. The hostel does not provide free breakfast (which is unusual at that price range), but it does provide free snacks… which was even better. In the mornings, we were treated to free coffee and toast. Sometime there would be muffins or bananas as well. Throughout the rest of the day, there were cup noodles, cookies, and bottled water available. The provided food, along with the more local prices of the nearby restaurants, made for a very affordable food budget.

Day to Day

As mentioned, there wasn’t much to do in the area. We could have caught a cab into Bangkok pretty easily, but we were trying to watch our spending due to the expensive airline tickets we had just purchased. So, we spent most of the days catching up on sleep, watching movies, working online, and exploring the neighborhood.

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We enjoyed some great street food, strolls through malls and night markets, and a quick exploration of a neighboring temple. Overall, I think we got a pretty good feel for the neighborhood.

Moving On

We will be returning to Thailand later this summer and are already looking forward to it. Thailand didn’t immediately feel like home to us, but once it did, we were all in. It is a country full of kind people, beautiful women, delicious food, and amazing scenery. Our one month in Thailand was not nearly enough! We can not wait to come back and explore more of this country that we have come to love.

But for now, we are at the DMK airport getting ready to set out on our next adventure. We have two $180 tickets on AirAsia to Melbourne, Australia. This will be our fifth continent in 400 days (we visited Barcelona and Marrakech last March)! I can’t wait to explore the new variety of flora and fauna of the Southern hemisphere… but also to enjoy the more familiar language and culture. I hope they have Mexican food!


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Homey Hostel - The Places We Live


 

Birds and Critters of Thailand

There was a lot to see in Thailand. The food, people, culture, birds, and critters were drawing our eyes in every direction. It was an overload of the senses in the best possible way. We discovered so many new things that the thought of doing just a birding blog for Thailand seemed to cheat the country of all of its glory. This post will be of the birds and many other native critters of Thailand!

Thailand Birding

The birding game in Thailand was top notch. I captured only a few new birds, but I saw so many more really lovely ones. I enjoyed all of the new shapes and colors of the birds in Thailand. Many were completely new from anything I had ever seen before.

I spotted several Chinese Pond Herons, lots of Mynas, a few beautiful Olive-backed Sunbirds, Greater Coucal (I think), and some Red-wattled Lapwings that I practically chased for a picture, but had no luck. I photographed and identified four new birds in Thailand, bringing my Birding Life List up to 112.

Hua Hin, Thailand Birding: Blue Tailed Bee Eater - The Places We Live Blue Whistling ThrushPacific Reef Egret Sooty Headed Bulbul

Check out more of my birding adventures! ♥

Critters of Thailand

At first, the critters were a nuisance. The cows and packs of wild dogs caused traffic jams and the spiders and cockroaches in the house caused constant worry and fear. Until one day, when it became just too much.

We heard a noise outside our Hua Hin house we didn’t recognize. The pets seemed startled by the noise as well. It was loud and like nothing we had ever heard before. We turned off all of the lights and rushed to make sure the doors were locked. I grabbed my phone and Josh his stick. We ducked behind the curtains and peeked through the windows to see who/what was after us. Nothing…

Turns out it was frogs. Just frogs. After that, things took a turn for the… comfortable? The giant cockroaches in the kitchen were more scared of us than we were of them. The spiders that stalked the living room were defeated without fight by the small and fragile cat. The monsters had been revealed, and as always happens, weren’t nearly so scary in the light. This experience changed me. I even came to appreciate the company of some of our regulars and their little quirks.

Jen's Critter Friends in Thailand: Fifty Centipede and Ribbert the Frog - The Places We Live

I built on this feeling and continued to try and introduce myself to more of the critters that I met. I tried to find what made them special or pretty and focused on those features. We particularly enjoyed the variety of lizards. We even saw a foot-long, baby monitor lizard while we were having lunch one day. The kids’ reactions to it were the best!

Monitor Lizard

Learning and Growing

I think it is really cool how well we have been adapting to new places. Josh is afraid of heights, but he took to the skies at the KL Eco Forest Park. Neither of us feel comfortable meeting new people, yet we had a blast making new friends at the couch surfing meetup. Why should I remain worried about stupid things like spiders and other creepy crawlers when I could make them my friends instead? It’s weird to be in my 30s and still be learning how to deal with life, but it’s also really rewarding at the same time.


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Thailand Birding


 

 

 

 

Harrier House Hash – Hua Hin, Thailand

One evening, while out getting acquainted with the local expat scene in our little Hua Hin neighborhood, we met up with a particularly outgoing group of folks. Over beers, our new friends insisted that we join them for a run they participate in every week. They called it “The Hash” and seemed very surprised that we didn’t know what they were talking about. Most of our Hua Hin friends are of retirement age, so we assumed this Hua Hin Hash Run would be a safe and healthy way to spend an afternoon. Boy were we wrong.

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A Quick History of Hashing, According to The Interwebs

Wikipedia, that trusted font of knowledge, says Hashing started just before WWII in Malaysia by a group of expats. They wanted a way to stay fit and work off their hangover from the weekend. So they invented a “game” similar to the traditional British racing game, Paper Chase.

Find a Hashing group near you. 

A second group started in Singapore in the 1960s and, by the 1970s, could be found nearly all over the world. Now, there are over 2,000 groups worldwide including more than one in Antarctica.

Pre-Gaming

We got a ride to the starting point from our new friends. It was about 30 minutes South of Hua Hin. We parked on some farmland and met a couple of people under a tree. We’ve done fun runs before, which usually start out at some sort of parking lot and involve a DJ getting people to dance and get psyched up beforehand. The Hua Hin Hash Run was nothing like those runs. This looked pretty low-key, just a bunch of friends hanging out in a field. We paid dues of 350 baht ($11) which paid for the run and endless beer… once we finished the run.

As we waited, more and more people arrived of varying ages and nationalities. There were around 25 people there. Most were European and retired, but there was another couple about our age from Canada and a large family with small children as well. Everyone was really nice right off the bat and immediately treated us like friends.

Once everyone arrived, we were told to circle up as per Hash tradition. The person in charge made some jokes then introduced us to “The Hare”. The Hare is the person who lays out the course for the week. This week’s hare led the circle and explained the rules.

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Rules

From what we gathered, we would be running through the jungle without a distinct path. Instead, we needed to watch for piles of shredded paper that The Hare had set out for us earlier in the day. As long as we kept the piles of paper in sight and on our right, we would be fine… unless they were on the left…. or they were part of a false trail… or it was part of the temporary unmarked trail. This idea sounded like a lot of fun, but with a quick glance at the thickness of the forest, I was getting a little nervous.

Potential Obstacles

As if the chances of getting lost or eaten in the jungle wasn’t bad enough, The Hare then warned us of the potential obstacles. He had set up two False Trails that went off in the wrong direction and then just ended. He also added a couple of Broken Trails requiring the first arrivers to find the continued trail, then leave a sign for everyone else.

Unplanned obstacles included barbed wire, broken glass, and at least one pack of wild dogs. This was on top of the spiders and red ants our Thai friends warned us about in the car. My confidence was getting weaker and weaker. I noticed Josh was going a bit pale despite the blistering heat.

Just Do It – Running the Hua Hin Hash Run

We set aside our worries, put on a brave face, and set off at a good run. It was pretty easy at first; we simply followed the runners in front of us along a dirt road. Then, the piles of paper turned off the road into some tall grass and the runners began to spread farther and farther apart. Pretty soon, Josh and I were on our own, weaving through the fields neighboring the roads. At least we couldn’t get too lost…

Until we did. We went completely the wrong way and ended up face to face with a large pack of dogs. Josh grabbed a stick and watched the dogs while I hunted for our next pile of paper. Thankfully, the last of the runners heard the dogs barking and came over to help. We got away from the dogs and they pointed us to the trail that went off into the jungle proper.

We were grateful that these runners stayed behind to walk/run with us for the rest of the way, because this Hua Hin hash run trail was insane. I had no idea where we were. We were walking through bushes, over rocks, and under fallen trees.

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Actual Obstacles

The Hare did a great job at describing the dangers of the trek. The packs of dogs were quite large and scary. They were truly wild and looked ready to bite intruders. The stacks of paper were sparse in places and difficult to follow. However, we ran into a few other things that I’d like to add to the list:

  • Vines – The vines were super long and at least the width of my thumb. They would tangle around my ankles or once around my waist. I know they are harmless, but there is something really scary about being restricted so thoroughly in the middle of a jungle.
  • Spiky Trees – We quickly got out of the habit of reaching for branches to assist with our balance. Many were covered with spikes that would rip at our skin and clothes. Josh ripped his hat and my shoes were covered in spines by the end of the race.
  • Whip Scorpion – Go head, Google it. Someone found one of these on their leg!!!

This is not the first time our adventure has caught us by surprise. Learn more. 

Last, But Not Dead

Apparently, we were the last to finish the Hua Hin hash run. It hurt our pride a little bit to be some of the youngest and fittest in the group, and then arrive to see everyone else already rested and drinking at the finish line. They laughed and joked while Josh and I tried not to scream from our pent-up anxiety. We wiped at our scratches, bumps, and bruises, and grabbed a beer.

One of the sayings for the Harrier Hash House is that they are “drinkers with a running problem”.  I know we shouldn’t make light of alcoholism, but the beer did help. We were quickly feeling good and mingling with the group. We may not have been particularly fast, but we did finish the run. The whole thing was an adventure. We hopped in a car with strangers, who took us to an unknown location, ran through the jungle, and came out alive…. it was f*cking amazing!

I can’t wait to add these hash runs to our travel activities as we travel the world. I’ve already found a group near us in our next city. All we need now are our nicknames, and we’ll be official Hashers!


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The Places We Live - "Drinkers with a running problem. #hashrun" Jen from The Places We Live running through the jungles of Thailand for the Hua Hin Hash Run.


 

Budget – April 2018

Around The World Travel Budget

There seem to be a bazillion travel bloggers out there talking about how cheap it is to travel, but very few are open about their finances. We’ve gotten quite a few questions about how we can afford to travel full-time, so we’ve decided to open up the books and do a monthly post with the details of our around the world travel budget. The hope is that these posts will help prepare others who are thinking about jumping into the nomad life, and help us re-assess our spending habits. Enjoy this Thailand travel budget!

In our preparations for this ’round the world (RTW) trip, we assumed that we would not actually make much money for at least a full year. So, the plan for this first year was to evenly spread out our savings. This left us with $200 USD per week on one year of RTW adventure for two.

April 2018 Travel Budget

For the most part, this has been a very suitable around the world travel budget. As our travel “careers” develop, we hope to keep the budget as is until we are able to break even in terms of money spent versus money made. So far, we are 10% of the way to our income goal, bringing in a little over $20 per week with our new careers.

April Travel

April Budget Calendar

We spent the majority of April in Hua Hin, Thailand for our house sit. The rest of the month was spent between Penang, Bangkok, and Kuala Lumpur for our travel days. It was difficult to get a direct flight into Hua Hin, so we had to travel through Bangkok to get there. In addition, flights to and from Kuala Lumpur were cheaper from everywhere else in the area, so KL worked as our travel hub for this portion of our RTW journey.

Cost of Living for Two

Malaysia

  • Average Daily Food Cost = 55 MYR = $14 USD
    • Breakfast – usually supplied by hotel for free
    • Snack – two ice cream cones
    • Dinner – two entrees and two sodas
  • Average Daily Accommodation Cost = 80 MYR = $20 USD
    • Either hostel or basic hotel outside of city-center
    • Included: wifi, breakfast, and air conditioning

Thailand

  • Average Daily Food Cost = 300 THB = $9 USD
    • Breakfast – cereal, milk, and coffee from the grocery store
    • Lunch – peanut butter and jelly sandwich from the grocery store
    • Dinner – two entrees and two beers
    • Snack – two ice cream cones
  • Average Daily Accommodation Cost = 230 THB = $7 USD
    • House Sit – free
    • Hostels in Bangkok = 700 THB per night = $22 USD per night

Month-Ending Balances

Current state of our Around the World Travel Budget - The Places We Live

As we wrap up our fourth month of our RTW travel, we have pulled $3,614 from our savings account. This puts us $214 over budget for the year so far. Not too bad really, but we hope to knock that down by the end of June (we expect May to be an expensive month).

Weekly Break Down

Our average withdraw is $212 per week, which is $12 over our goal around the world travel budget. We hope to reduce this by continuing to focus on house sitting (a huge money saver) and building better routines around transition days (consistently our most expensive days).

Week One

Around the World Travel Budget: April Week One - The Places We Live
The math isn’t perfect due to currency exchanges.

Obviously, Week One was a challenging one for us. We went over our $28 per day, around the world, travel budget nearly every day. This was due to some travel issues Sunday through Tuesday, then a “first day” grocery store trip on Sunday. We made $24 and spent $326, putting us at – $302 for Week One.

Week Two

Around the World Travel Budget: April Week Two - The Places We Live

Week two was an excellent week for our around the world budget. We had our lovely Hua Hin house sitting home (for free), we had a date night on Monday complete with dessert and cocktails, and a one hour Thai massage for me on Wednesday. The only day we went over budget was on Saturday for another grocery store trip. We made $12 and spent $110, putting us well under budget at – $98 for Week Two.

Week Three

Around the World Travel Budget: April Week Four - The Places We Live

Week three was another great week and would have been even better than Week Two had it not been for some unforeseen expenses. On Thursday, we received a 500 baht ticket for driving without a license and on Saturday we unexpectedly had to pay dues for the Hash Run. Otherwise, we felt like we had balanced Week Two’s grocery run to fulfill both week’s food needs, so our costs were quite low. We made $26 and spent $132, putting us under budget at – $106 for Week Three.

Week Four

Around the World Travel Budget: April Week Four - The Places We Live

Week Four killed our month. We moved out of our house sit on Sunday and moved up to Bangkok. We got two bunks in a hostel in Bangkok for 700 baht ($22) per night. On Wednesday, we got a flight for $70 each to Kuala Lumpur. There, we got a hotel in Sepang which is within ten minutes of the airport. Since the hotel wasn’t in KL proper, it was significantly cheaper at 47 MYR ($12) per night. We made $36 and spent $410, putting us over budget at – $374 for Week Four.

Wrap Up

Each month seems to get a little easier and we get closer and closer to achieving our spending and earning goals. April ended up being our second most expensive month, which was a little disappointing, but we know exactly where we went wrong and have ideas on how to avoid the same issues in the future.

We are expecting May to be another difficult month… we’re going to Australia!!! I got a great price on the tickets but, obviously, a plane ticket isn’t going to come anywhere near our daily goal of $28. We’re hoping that some of the preparations we have made in developing our careers and building good routines will keep us from losing all of our money, but I guess that is part of the adventure isn’t it?

See you all next month. Wish us luck!

Read more about our Around the World Travel Budget here! ♥


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