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What Does One Year In Southeast Asia Cost?

What Does It Cost To Travel In Southeast Asia? Robyn Around the World

One question that always gets asked is how much does it cost to travel the world? In this post, I’m going to break down my second year of travel expenses.

I separated out flights, and scuba costs then broke the rest down into three categories: Meals, Accommodation, and Miscellaneous.

Miscellaneous includes shopping, entertainment, postcards, gifts, SIM cards, etc. I didn’t want to get too detailed for here and besides the most important is food and accommodation anyway, right? 😉 I also rented motorbikes in almost all countries which averaged ~$3/day.

Year 2 Total Travel Cost

I visited nine countries during my second year: Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Philippines, with the last 6 being new countries for me. I spent a total of $22,165 of which $5,671 was dedicated to getting Scuba Gear and my Divemaster and Instructor Certifications. Not bad for adding over 100 dives to my belt and now I can teach others my passion.


VIETNAM


I spent most of my year here and was by far the cheapest place to live and play. I also had three months of free accommodation while working at the dive shop, so that accounts for a good chunk of it, but the food is very cheap too, with my morning Bahn Mi costing only $0.50!  I also took a 3-day cruise and did a 7-day motorcycle tour through the mountains, which was another expense, which I added on separately.


MALAYSIA 


The second place I spent my most time in. A lot of my ‘other’ expenses went towards swimming suits and electronics. My iPhone died on me for a second time. It was cheaper to buy a new Samsung rather than fix it again, so I’m now part of the Android family (and I miss my iPhone desperately!) I also bought a new external drive as the 1TB I brought with me is full!


THAILAND


Thailand is generally pretty cheap.  My main ‘other’ expenses went to renewing my passport, gifts for family and private swim lessons to prepare for the Divemaster swim tests. I know how to do a front crawl properly! ☺  I also went a little crazy on eating western here. I found a salad place and ate there almost every day. I really craved green salads, which are not easy to come by in Southeast Asia.


INDONESIA 


I love Indonesia; it’s cheap to eat and get around. Having the villa in Ubud, I made good use of the kitchen and cooked every day. More expensive than eating out, but I love cooking and made use of all my cooking classes I’ve taken.


PHILIPPINES


Surprisingly, Phillippines was not as cheap as I was expecting. The accommodation was cheap, I averaged $7/night for a place, but I did splurge on a beautiful Airbnb condo over the water for my birthday, which accounted for more than ½ of my total accommodation cost. Transportation was really expensive. I took the bus for half the time and the other I used taxis where I was able to negotiate 3-5 hour rides for $30-40.


SRI LANKA


My daily rate was high here at ~$62/day, but I spent three nights in a 4-star hotel after my incident at the guesthouse I was staying. I also couldn’t get enough of their famous pepper crab in Colombo and ate there twice!


MALDIVES 


My cheapest country only because my mom met me there and footed the bill (Thanks, Mom!) But my flight from Kuala Lumpur direct to Male was only $75! Super cheap to get there, expensive while you’re there. We averaged ~$200/day each for room and food.


CAMBODIA 


The most expensive country I visited! I traveled with a friend and ate at mainly restaurants for this trip, which brought my meal average up. If you stick to street food, you can eat for less than $10 a day. The temples are also not cheap to enter, but worth every penny.


MYANMAR 


I spent the shortest amount of time here and really wish I could have spent a month here. I absolutely fell in love with this country. Accommodation and food are cheap. The biggest expenses I had were the entrance fees to see the temples and the visa.


SCUBA DIVING


A quarter of my expenses from the year was on Scuba Diving this year getting gear and my PRO certifications. This is an investment I was happy to make. I also got in over 100 dives in 6 countries! A small price to pay, I think!


FLIGHTS


I got my first free flight! I accumulated enough airline points through AirAsia to get a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok. I love AirAsia and their cheap flights! All my flights were under $100, with most being under $50. I should buy stock in AirAisa 😉

 




Cooking Burmese: Pennywort’s Cooking Class




Burmese Cooking Class - Bagan - Pennywort's - Robyn Around the World

Who wants to learn how to make Tea Leaf Salad? Me, please! Sign me up! Northern Myanmar’s signature dish mixed with so many flavors; you’d think this simple dish took all day to make. Coming to Myanmar, I knew I wanted to take a class. I buffered in extra time in Bagan, so I could learn how to make Tea Leaf Salad and other Burmese classics.


SHOPPING AT THE MARKET


They’re only a couple classes that teach classes. I went with Penny Worts. May is the owner and met my friend near the market and me to start our day. What I loved is she asked us what we’d like to make. She planned salad and curry but asked us what kind we wanted to learn. Of course, I said Tea Leaf then decided to learn a chicken curry. We walked through the market, and she talked about the ingredients we would be using. After shopping, we went to a proper tea shop for a drink then headed back to her house to learn how to cook Burmese.

Burmese Cooking Class - Bagan - Pennywort's - Robyn Around the World

Burmese Cooking Class - Bagan - Pennywort's - Robyn Around the World

Burmese Cooking Class - Bagan - Pennywort's - Robyn Around the World


LEARNING TO COOK BURMESE


May set-up the kitchen while we started peeling and chopping the vegetables. The agenda was three salads and two curries.

Tea Leaf Salad – Using real tea leaves and lots of crunchy nuts
Cucumber Salad – A simple yet refreshing salad
Tamarind Salad – My second favorite salad
Chicken Curry – Slow-cooked in a hearty and savory sauce
Chickpea Tofu Curry – An amazing tofu in a thick tomato curry sauce

All the dishes were simple to make. The salads use many ingredients when mixed give them the complex flavors that burst in your mouth with each bite.

Burmese Cooking Class - Bagan - Pennywort's - Robyn Around the World

Burmese Cooking Class - Bagan - Pennywort's - Robyn Around the World

Who knew there was such a thing as chickpea tofu? I didn’t, and it’s my new favorite tofu. I won’t be going back to soybean tofu anytime soon!

Burmese Cooking Class - Bagan - Pennywort's - Robyn Around the World

Burmese Cooking Class - Bagan - Pennywort's - Robyn Around the World

All the cooking was done on a clay-cooking stove heated by wood. I’ve only seen this type of cooking in Laos and really like this style.

Burmese Cooking Class - Bagan - Pennywort's - Robyn Around the World

Burmese Cooking Class - Bagan - Pennywort's - Robyn Around the World

After we were done making everything, May put a spread out on the table of all the things we cooked along with a few other dishes her family prepared for us. It was so much food and the best meal I had in Myanmar!

Burmese Cooking Class - Bagan - Pennywort's - Robyn Around the World


The Temples Of Bagan – The Best Sunrise You Will Witness




The Temples of Bagan - Robyn Around the World

Myanmar stole my heart within minutes of landing in Mandalay, but nothing prepared me for what I was about to witness in Bagan. Rivaling Angkor Wat’s temples, I’m amazed this place isn’t swamped with tourists. The temples should be part of the seven wonders with over 2000 temples in the area; you can’t walk a few hundred meters without running into one.


EXPLORING THE TEMPLES


The best way to explore them is by e-bike. Myanmar doesn’t rent scooters to foreigners, even if you have a motorbike license and International Driver Permit. You must have a Myanmar license to rent a scooter. To get around this problem and give tourists a similar option there are many shops renting battery powered bikes for $3-4 a day depending on the size you rent.

There are temples all over Bagan, but they are split into two parts: New Bagan and Old Bagan. All the temples you can climb on are in New Bagan, so that’s where I spent all my time. I took the bike around to check out all the popular ones (Ananda, Dhamayangyi, and Shwe San Daw) which were all packed with people.

The Temples of Bagan - Robyn Around the World

The Temples of Bagan - Robyn Around the World

The Temples of Bagan - Robyn Around the World

The Temples of Bagan - Robyn Around the World

My favorite though was Hannah’s secret temple. I spent three days there hanging out at the top for hours writing postcards and taking in the view without other tourists up there with me.

The Temples of Bagan - Robyn Around the World


THE BEST VIEW IS AT SUNRISE


Bagan is the most jaw-dropping sunrise I’ve seen in Southeast Asia to date! My friend Hannah over at Eat Sleep Breathe Travel gave me directions to a secret temple she found when she came here last year and promised it would be empty. She was right! I was the only one at the temple for sunrise! It was kind of magical being the only one up at the top of this temple watching the sunrise and freaking out that I was in Myanmar witnessing all of it! Even though I didn’t get to see hot air balloons (they only run October to March) it was still pretty amazing to witness all the temples in the early morning light.

The Temples of Bagan - Robyn Around the World

The Temples of Bagan - Robyn Around the World

The Temples of Bagan - Robyn Around the World


GETTING TO BAGAN


I took the bus from Mandalay, it was a 5-hour ride and costs $9. There are many local buses that go each day. Ask your guesthouse to book a seat for you and the bus will pick you up at your guesthouse. Once you reach the border for Bagan, the bus will pull over for you to buy a week pass to see the temples. The pass is 25,000 Kyat ($25), and you must keep it on you at all times.

The Temples of Bagan - Robyn Around the World

Traveler tip: You can now apply for an e-visa online that allows you to get in to both Mandalay and Yangon.


10 Places To See In Mandalay




Top 10 Places to See In Mandalay, Myanmar - Robyn Around the World

I spent three days in Mandalay and wished I was there longer! All the blog posts I read before I went there talked about how there was nothing to do in Mandalay and don’t spend that much time there. I loved Mandalay, and was overwhelmed with everything there was to see! Even after all I did, there were still a few things that I didn’t get to see. Here are ten things I did while I was in Mandalay.


WATCH 1200 MONKS RECEIVE ALMSGIVING


Around 10:30 am every day 1200 monks line up to get almsgiving and have breakfast. It’s one of the largest Almsgiving that I’ve witnessed during my time in Southeast Asia. Unfortunately, this has become a favorite spot for tourists, and you will also see them lined up to photograph the monks. The monks could care less that you’re there, and I bet they wish you weren’t. I caught a few off guard when I smiled at them and said ‘Mingalaba’ which means hello. I even got a smile back. If you go, don’t treat them as a zoo, smile and say good morning, your pictures will turn out better that way too.

Top 10 Places to See In Mandalay, Myanmar - Robyn Around the World

Top 10 Places to See In Mandalay, Myanmar - Robyn Around the World

Top 10 Places to See In Mandalay, Myanmar - Robyn Around the World


PLAY WITH CHILDREN AT AUNG MYAE OO MONASTERY


My favorite place in Mandalay was the Children’s monastery. I’ve never met more happy kids! The girls are called nuns and wear pink robes, where the boys wear the traditional orange. They’re over 2500 kids, and it was fun to watch them play. The girls kept coming up and put flowers in my hair. I had 4 or 5 flowers by the time I left.

Top 10 Places to See In Mandalay, Myanmar - Robyn Around the World

Top 10 Places to See In Mandalay, Myanmar - Robyn Around the World

Top 10 Places to See In Mandalay, Myanmar - Robyn Around the World

Top 10 Places to See In Mandalay, Myanmar - Robyn Around the World


VISIT WEDDING DRESS FABRIC MAKERS


These needle workers are no joke! There are two on one loom, and it takes one month to finish a sheet of fabric. The material is then used to make wedding outfits for the bride and groom. Not cheap, though. The silk fabric turned to wedding dress costs upwards of $1000, but gorgeous no the less.

Top 10 Places to See In Mandalay, Myanmar - Robyn Around the World

Top 10 Places to See In Mandalay, Myanmar - Robyn Around the World

Top 10 Places to See In Mandalay, Myanmar - Robyn Around the World


WITNESS THE LARGEST BOOK IN THE WORLD


The largest book in the world in at Kuthodaw Pagoda. There are 729 pagodas, each housing one large tablet with the Buddhist scripture. The pagodas are all white and in rows with large trees intertwined in the area. You will see many locals sitting on the grounds reading or praying. If you wanted to try thanaka, local ladies will paint a leaf on your face for free, but then try to sell you their postcards.

Top 10 Places to See In Mandalay, Myanmar - Robyn Around the World

Top 10 Places to See In Mandalay, Myanmar - Robyn Around the World


SEE PUPPETS BEING CREATED


These intricate woodworkers not only create planks of doors into beautiful doors, but they also make puppets on strings. I didn’t have a chance to go, but there is a marionette show in Mandalay that I heard is worth checking out. The puppets themselves are beautiful.

Top 10 Places to See In Mandalay, Myanmar - Robyn Around the World

Top 10 Places to See In Mandalay, Myanmar - Robyn Around the World

Top 10 Places to See In Mandalay, Myanmar - Robyn Around the World

Top 10 Places to See In Mandalay, Myanmar - Robyn Around the World


WATCH BUDDAH SCULPTURED OUT OF MARBLE


One street in Mandalay is responsible for all the marble carvings in the country. These workers carve Buddha out of marble in all sizes then polish and hand paint detail on them, before placed in homes and temples.

Top 10 Places to See In Mandalay, Myanmar - Robyn Around the World

Top 10 Places to See In Mandalay, Myanmar - Robyn Around the World

Top 10 Places to See In Mandalay, Myanmar - Robyn Around the World


SEE THE PAGODA MADE OF GOLD


There are two pagodas in Mandalay made of gold. Mahamuni Pagoda is a favorite with the locals. Don’t miss walking down the side streets, there are a couple markets where you can buy local goods and souvenirs.

Top 10 Places to See In Mandalay, Myanmar - Robyn Around the World

Top 10 Places to See In Mandalay, Myanmar - Robyn Around the World


TALK TO MONKS AT THE TOP OF MANDALAY HILL


You can either walk or take a motorbike up the hill. Beware, though, my motorbike taxi’s bike was old and couldn’t make it up the hill, so I walked part of the way. Once to the top, there’s a 360-degree view of all of Mandalay. It’s perfect to go up for sunset. Also on top are many monks who come up right before the sun sets hoping to talk to foreigners to practice their English. I talked with a 13-year old who has been with his monastery for three years and had another two years to go. His English was impeccable.

Top 10 Places to See In Mandalay, Myanmar - Robyn Around the World

Top 10 Places to See In Mandalay, Myanmar - Robyn Around the World

Top 10 Places to See In Mandalay, Myanmar - Robyn Around the World


WALK ALONG THE LONGEST TEAKWOOD BRIDGE IN THE WORLD


U Bein Bridge was built out of teakwood in the 1800’s and is 1.2 Km long. If you come at sunset, don’t plan to get the bridge to yourself. Tourists and locals both come here to watch the sunset and are packed to the brim with people taking selfies. There are boats that you can hire for a ride around the lake and get a better view of the bridge, albeit full with people on it.

Top 10 Places to See In Mandalay, Myanmar - Robyn Around the World

Top 10 Places to See In Mandalay, Myanmar - Robyn Around the World


VISIT THE TEMPLES AT INWA BY HORSE BUGGY


To visit Inwa you need to take a passenger ferry then from there you can walk (which I don’t recommend) to the temples, but will take you about 2 hours to get there, or you can hire a horse buggy $10 per carriage for 90 minutes. The carriage ride is very bumpy, but the four temples are worth going to see.

Top 10 Places to See In Mandalay, Myanmar - Robyn Around the World

Top 10 Places to See In Mandalay, Myanmar - Robyn Around the World

Top 10 Places to See In Mandalay, Myanmar - Robyn Around the World

Top 10 Places to See In Mandalay, Myanmar - Robyn Around the World


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