travel as a lifestyle

Posted: February 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

Patricia and I have relocated to Bangkok Thailand from Vancouver Canada . We live in the pleasant suburb of Bangna that hugs the south east corner of Bangkok. If you were to want to travel to Pattaya, Rayong, Trat or Cambodia overland you would pass directly past my front driveway which abuts the Bangna Trat Highway. We chose this area to live after many previous reconnoitering trips to Thailand to find the place that suited us best. We refer to this area of Thailand as being ‘home, but with better weather’.

Because of our personal interests we require stability, technology and convenience. We like easy access to shopping , facilities and we’re twenty minutes from the airport by taxi. Our two bedroom condo supplies us with comfort and security. Being in one place for a long time allows us to spread out and get some perspective on what we are doing and how we fit into the local scene. Pat is chasing a second degree from a Canadian university that offers an on line program in her area that she can Skype into. I am a novelist-poet-blogger-travel writer, both of us need our ‘focus time’. As an artist I find this region extremely inspiring and has led to a fantastic period of productivity. She gets to follow her dreams while suntanning by the pool  jacked into the wireless ADSL. I find swimming in the moonlight particularly inspiring.

Migrating away from the Canadian winter  is a lifestyle choice. Our love of travel has preceded many other considerations, but that’s just us. We have been traveling together for twenty three years. Our first trip to S.E. Asia together included our eighteen month old son. West  is now a graduate of the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. In the early years of our travels we had decided to home school West so that we could continue our devotion to  travel. We were pleasantly surprised at how easy and fun the whole process was.

The Distance Education Program of the Fraser Valley B.C., was extremely generous and helpful. Don Nichols, who was our mentor and contact throughout the process was always ecstatic that we were using the program for what it was designed for and not another set of parents who had become dissatisfied with the public school system. We carried with us a rudimentary modem internet hook up and an ancient laptop , things worked out ,  leaving us with a great deal of independence to be inventive and create our own definitions when the curriculum didn’t match our geographical circumstance.

Streaming video would have helped but we got by fine without it. Our classrooms were funky cities, overgrown jungles,  serene parks and pristine beaches, wherever we happened to find ourselves. If you’re wondering, we accomplished this by selling our house on a whim after returning from a summer long trip to Fiji. I arranged a quick ‘completion’, we trundled everything into a long term storage facility, including our car, and took a taxi to the airport to catch our flight back to Fiji’s Coral Coast town of Sigatoka on the main island of Viti Levu where we had been inducted as honorary members of the Melevu tribe with a fiery ‘Sevu Sevu’ ceremony by the village chief on an earlier visit. Traveling the world turned out to be the best decision I ever made, for all of us. OK, you get the picture, we’re crazy about travel.

We have chosen Thailand as a base, not only because an economic miracle  has overtaken this country and colluded to provide a modern and accessible infrastructure for us to live comfortably, we also have a deep love for the Buddhist culture.  Thai people have always been extremely generous with us. There is a wonderful contact between women that Patricia loves, she calls it a ‘sisterhood’. It’s true, women treat each other, whether local or foreign born,  with genuine friendliness and respect. You’ll think they’re all just one big happy family, it’s quite charming. If you are traveling with a child or children, be prepared to have them fawned over at every opportunity, the Thai’s  love children. It may explain the obvious baby boom that we see in progress.

The unique geography of Thailand presents the traveler with a set of very accessible destinations within easy reach, not to mention that we are budget conscious and seek inexpensive travel options. The country is situated in the middle of the sector, surrounded by Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Malaysia making overland travel a breeze. If you’re looking for travel economy, this is the place to be. I have to mention that Bangkok is as safe a city as any in Canada. Interpersonal confrontation, under any circumstances is virtually unheard of. I have never witnessed violence in Thailand but I have read about isolated incidents through the news media.

Inexpensive air travel gives us access to every other destination in Asia within one to a few hours of flying time. The airlines often have competitive pricing offerings. We have seen prices from Bangkok to Singapore for as little as one dollar during ‘seat wars’ season! Normally, we can fly to Bali, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur or Vietnam for under one hundred dollars return when tickets are booked in advance. Recently there was an offering of a return fare by Air Asia from Bangkok to Sydney Australia for $99 dollars for travel in the April to July period.

Air Asia is our carrier of choice for the number of flights they schedule but there are many other regional and international carriers such as Jet Star, Silk Air, Lufthansa, Nok Air, Thai Air, Bangkok Air etc., using Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur as a hub. Nepal, Sri Lanka, India, Philippines and China are also cheap and popular destinations that are easily purchased from either Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur, with KL sometimes being the price leader because that is where Air Asia is headquartered.

You might be asking how much it costs to spend the winter in Thailand. Given that winter in Canada is at it’s worst over a six month period, lets make that time frame a baseline for our projections. From Vancouver Canada  via Hong Kong to Bangkok , return air fares for two on Cathay Pacific Air cost us $1296.64 ( tax inc)  each. You will need a visa to enter the ‘Hip Kingdom’ at a cost of $105.00.  I suggest the multiple entry six month option with reentry options at 60 days. You will have to leave the country every 60 days to renew your visa. The visa runs average cost to us is usually $600.00 for two for any general Asian destination. A forced holiday to some exotic destination every two months . I know, nice problem to have.

We’ve splashed out on a 160 sq. mtr. condo at $700.00 p/m in a highrise. The electric and the water are billed separately and cost on average $40.00 p/m. Cable TV is free with the unit. We have concierge and security. The pool is enormous.   Public transport is very inexpensive. It costs 8 baht to ride a local bus, that’s 24 cents! The air conditioned Skytrain for longer journeys is 65 cents. To ride the entire length of the system costs 40 baht which is $1.40 cents. I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with the river and khlong ( canal) boats that are a local staple at 15 baht or 50 cents one way.

Food costs here are so cheap that you will cry in the aisles when you have to return to Canada. An average meal of fried rice or rice noodles with veg and meat or seafood costs 30 baht or one dollar cdn. Ice coffee is 50 cents, but can be had for less if you look. In spite of our having a fully equipped kitchen we have never cooked a meal. It’s cheaper, easier and certainly cooler to eat out every day. We use the microwave for breakfast and coffee.

Our ADSL line is $12 dollars per month for streaming video capability. Our total cost ( including laundry soap and mosquito coils) with airfare averaged monthly as well as all costs runs around $1750 per month. I looked at the weather report for Vancouver this morning, apparently they have extended the snowfall warning. My $1700 per month is money well spent in my opinion.

Fellow traveler, make sure you buy travel medical insurance every time  you pass out of the jurisdiction of your plan, be that a state, province or international border. A six month international travel medical insurance policy for two from British Columbia that does not enter the United States can be purchased on line from a company such as Coast Capital for just under $600.00. Now that’s money well spent. Don’t forget to keep up your monthly premiums at home so that they don’t lapse and leave you uncovered. Happy travels.

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