Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Few Travel Run Downs

Thailand - two weeks
$725 for round-trip flight (LAX to Bangkok w/ stop in Taipei)
$150 rt flight (Bangkok to Phucket)
$1,000 spending cash (paid for boat travel, ATV excursion, hostels, clubs, etc.).

Because I backpacked and stayed in hostels for half the trip I saved a lot of cash. I traveled with a Thai friend of mine and stayed with her family for 3 nights while in Bangkok, so that helped tremendously. I didn't buy any souvenirs except for a $7.93 purse. Honestly, the tourist trinkets were cheap and gaudy. I understand a lot of people go to Thailand for knock-off Von Dutch clothing or Pumas, but I'm not the type to wear that ever. I did however spend between $100-$150 on thai massages! I can rationalize the massages since I'm into alternative/holistic wellness, but I regret buying so many books at airports and in Thailand. The boredom on 16 hour trans-pacific flights coupled with my idea of paradise includes reading on the beach until noon, results in spending $50 on magazines and books. Since I couldn't carry around heavy books while backpacking all over, I donated them to bookstores who were devastated by the tsunami.

Switzerland - 2 days
$49 bucks for 2 nights in dorm.
$50 for entertainment stuff (cigarettes, clubbing, food)
$12 train from airport to Montreux

I stayed with my sister who was a part of a study abroad program. I was planning on just informally joining her, but the school found out and charged me $49 USD. Not a huge amount, but this charge wasn't intended. Ohhh....wait! I just remembered I ate 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, and 2 dinners in the school's cafeteria. Lake Geneva is gorgeous. Also Montreux Jazz festival had free concerts outdoors that we attended.

Italy - 1 day
$30 train to Locarno, Switzerland
$40 bus to Milan
$150 taxi*
$100 hotel*
$80 dinner*
*prices are for 2 people

This day was pretty much a debacle. Besides seeing the beautiful alps and visiting a gorgeous rambling monastery on Lake Maggiore, I messed up this day. Our (sister and I) goal was to get to Milan to catch a flight, but we decided to stop in Locarno, where they had this famous bridge where you could bungee jump. The jump was apparently in a newer James Bond movie. I didn't call ahead and we couldn't make a reservation. Worse than that, we missed out bus to Milan. Then we pretty much got conned into a taxi (language problem) who drove us a good distance (maybe 25 miles) to get us caught up to the bus. At least, the bus still had an hour to drive, but I got into a argument with the driver. Since we had a plane to catch, we had to catch that bus or else stand to lose plane tickets.

We got a hotel near the airport and ate dinner. Since neither of us were going to be in Italy, this was our chance to eat Italian. Capers, swordfish, pasta, and carpaccio - it was delicious. My sister and I are complete. total. utter. foodies and our expectations are pretty high - so it was perfect to end this day with a yummy dinner.

$120 hostel* (for 4 nights)
$200 food*
$60 Hamman*
$120 excursion to ben-ait-haddou & telouet*
*prices for 2 people

We met another American (recent college grad) at the airport upon landing and split a cab with him to his hotel. We clicked and bonded (he was traveling alone) - so my sister and I took up his offer of staying with him at the Marrakech Four Seasons. We used the pool the next moring and bought him breakfast. All 3 of us hung out for several days. We found a traditional Morroccan bed and breakfast and stayed there for $30 bucks a night. We saved by taking the rooms on the roof which are usually very hot (Morocco in July, think about it) and noisy (right behind the kitchen). But the 12 ft. by 12 ft room had air-conditioning, two twin beds, and a private bathroom, what more can you ask for? The excursion to the Atlas mountains was awesome and for a 12 hour trip, $60 was super cheap.

Greece - backpacking alone
$150 plane ticket from Milan to Santorini (easyjet)
$250 hotel rooms (5 nights, didn't have anyone to share w/)
$50 bars/clubs
$100 food
$100 ferry tickets to Paros, Samos, Lesbos, Izmir

Food was less of an expense because I was traveling alone. Food stands and eating grocery store stuff is more condusive to the singleton. I did meet some girls at a bar and we hung out for the night. Later I met 3 Italians (with a rented car) who make a yearly one month trip to Santorini. They drove me to different beaches and showed me the local homey restaurants. Greek yogurt and honey is THE best.

Turkey - backpacking alone
$40 overnight bus from Izmir to Istanbul (not comfortable, but amusing to watch Fast and Furious 2 on the TVs. Very cultural, eh?)
$50 hotel room (1 night - I needed sleep, tv, and a shower)
$52 hostel (4 nights)
$50 food
$15 boat cruise up Bosphorous
$200 hookah

I ate mostly at food stands along the bosphorous and outside the Blue Mosque. My hostel was right behind the Blue Mosque in the older section called Sultanahmet (sp?) I met other young travelers at the hostel which had internet and great advice. Topaki Palace and the big cistern have nominal entrance fees and by traveling myself I could avoid the huge packs of tourists and go at my pace. The most foolish thing I did was buy a hookah, I resisted all the hawking of tourist shit for 4 days, then on the last day I actually bought something. One good decision I made was to not go to a club. I really wanted to check out the scene before I got to Turkey, but after hearing horror stories from other ppl in the hostel and meeting a few Turkish people who regularily went....I decided to pass. (thoughts on this? anyone been to one of those fancy clubs on the water?)

I will post more travel stuff soon.

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