Three Unique Things to See in Asia that You Won’t See in the USA
If I wanted, I could write this post forever because there are such vast differences in the food, culture, and landscapes between the United States and Asia.
Also, they’re both gigantic and could feature an endless amount of content based on them.
I’m going to stick to 3. Not just three things, but three things I was able to capture on video (I’ll get better at this, I promise).
Here are three unique things to see in Asia that you won’t see in the USA. Courtesy of this single dad blog.
The Mekong Delta
Incredibly beautiful, exotic (in an American’s eyes), and relaxing. Unless, you hit the overcrowded, hawker-filled, easy-to-find tours that we did.
It’s a mangrove of palms trees, home to countless numbers of birds, insects, fish, and things with four legs. I’ve always wanted to visit it ever since I saw it in National Geographic when I was a kid.
Nature was still there, but the main tourist destinations are anything but natural. People are constantly bugging you about money and trying to sell you something. I’m there to relax, so fuck off guy who wants money for showing me some bees I didn’t want to see.
You’re probably better taking a multi-day trip to the more remote parts of the delta if you really want to see what it’s like. I’m not sure, I only did the crappy tour I found in District 1 for $8.
More Motorbikes than Bike Week at Daytona Beach
Seems almost everyone in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and other Asian countries only drive motorcycles. Hondas and Suzikis are everywhere in these countries. Sometimes carrying an entire family.
It’s madness. But it’s madness in the same way a shoal of fish is madness. Everyone moves together and it seems much more peaceful than the rush hour anywhere in the United States.
New Restaurant, Dirty Dishes
Apparently, many restaurants in Hong Kong don’t entirely clean the dishes they’re placing on your table. They leave behind soap residue and cleaning materials. Weird.
Normal. For locals. They have their own way of cleaning the dishes in a bath of hot water and tea before they eat. Maybe this is why no one leaves a tip here at the end of a meal?
Check it all out in the video below! Pardon the language, this is a single dad blogger here.
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So you want to live in Hong Kong? There’s heaps of beaches, a wild party atmosphere, mountains to explore ghost villages in, and some lovely places to take your kids. If you haven’t seen it, check out here for a quick idea of how life is for my daughter and me.
If you’ve gotten this far and you think, I can’t live abroad, you’re wrong. I’m a single parent, and I live abroad with my daughter. I’m from a small town in the middle of Michigan, there’s nothing special about me.
I didn’t leave the USA for the first time (except to Windsor, Ontario at 19) until I was 24. If I can do this, the only thing stopping you is you. Or, probably a million other things, but don’t let them get in your way. Do it.
If you’re wondering about the cost of living in Hong Kong, wonder no more.
Essentials Included in the Cost of Living in Hong Kong, per month
Taking a ride on Hong Kong’s MTR is an ultraconvenient way to travel. It’s cheap, fast, clean, and relatively uncrowded when you’re not traveling during the rush hour. The MTR is the city’s subway system.
Buses are ubiquitous in Hong Kong. There are so many; there are big buses and little buses, red buses and green buses. You literally can’t walk down the street without getting blasted by their exhaust pipes in some places, like next to Prince Edward Station. Buses in Hong Kong are affordable, safe, well-marked, and the plethora of information online regarding Hong Kong’s buses is excellent for mapping your route ahead of time.
Taxis and Uber are available. More expensive, but safe and they are everywhere.
Walking is ideal in Hong Kong if you’re staying in a tourist area. No reason to hop on transport at all if you’re within a kilometer or so of where you’re going. You’ll get to the city from ground level!
Ferries and boats are continually bubbling through the waterways of Hong Kong. Use them to cross from TST to the Island. Or take one to an outlying island and see what you can find. Highly recommended!
Overall, transport is relatively cheap if you avoid taxis. Shouldn’t be more than a few dollars a day if you’re using public transportation. Since travel is something impacting your cost of living in Hong Kong everyday, so might as well look for ways to save!
Food (local HK food, specialty cuisine, western food, groceries): >$300
Cooking in Hong Kong is difficult. Why? Space is limited in Hong Kong, so accommodations can be small. If you’re wealthy enough to afford an apartment that comes with a full-western kitchen, you’re probably not too worried about your money anyway, so I can’t imagine why you’re reading this.
I have a hot plate and a rice cooker/steamer, but I have to store them under my bed, and I cook on top of my fridge (just to give you a sense of space limitations in Hong Kong).
If you’re cooking, however, you can buy rice/noodles relatively cheap. Fruits and vegetables are reasonably priced in the wet markets (sometimes less expensive for locals than you), and if you shop around (like I do) between the nearest Wellcome, Park n Shop, and Vanguard you might be able to find some meat and yogurt (and sometimes even beer!) with a 50% off sticker stuck to it. That’s usually a good way to go.
Affordable ‘street food’ is available, but not like in Thailand. You can find plates of fried noodles, rice and (add ingredient), etc. for less than $2.50, even in the more touristy areas. Fast-food-style restaurants dot the ground level corners of Hong Kong’s buildings.
You could easily eat this for every meal and spend less than $10 per day on food. But do you really want to do that to your digestive system? No judgment, I love the occasional gut bomb.
Bakeries are abundant, and they offer everything from sugary donuts to tuna fish buns to banana bread to rolls stuffed with red beans. Most buns are less than a dollar, few are more than $2. If you get them warm, they’re extra delicious, but the bakeries are always a good option if you aren’t gluten-free.
There are a gazillion restaurants that can eat up your cost of living in Hong Kong. Chain restaurants like Cafe de Coral and Fairwood are yummy, and most meals are between $4-$7. Western restaurants like Outback Steakhouse are no stranger here. Some bars have great deals on burgers (like a place on the island that has an impressive burger and a craft beer for about $12, just wish I could remember where it was). Hotpot, Korean BBQ, and other buffet style restaurants usually let you eat all you can for an hour or two starting at $20. If you want to splurge and eat at something 5-star, Hong Kong has that, also, but your budget is going to soar.
Western comforts are everywhere. McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, 7-11 are all thriving in Hong Kong. Don’t get Pizza Hut though, get PHD, it’s way better here.
Rent is wild in Hong Kong. $400 gets you a shoebox. Well, a bed, a bathroom, and no more, anyway. If you’re looking for an apartment akin to a modern apartment you would have in New York City, you’re also going to be looking at over $1,000 in rent each month. $2,000-$3,000/month isn’t an uncommon price for a relatively basic apartment on the island.
Rent increases every year in Hong Kong; it’s definitely the most significant contributor to an inflated budget if you’re picky about where you live.
My daughter and I live in a tiny place, but it doesn’t bother me. I actually prefer small areas because it’s less to keep clean and helps maintain my minimalistic ideals.
Utilities (electric, wifi, water): Free-$??
This will vary based on your accommodations. If you’re paying for everything yourself, expect your cost of living in Hong Kong to be similar in prices to the United States.
Internet starts around $30/month. I tether my computer to my phone. Why? My prepaid monthly plan gives me unlimited data for $12.50. Head over to Chungking Mansion in TST to find the guys selling sim cards and data plans.
Shop around between the shops until you find the features you want. I was previously paying $36/month for a similar service to what I have now.
Fresh Water: >$5
Bottled water prices aren’t inflated here, but they aren’t cheap either. You could easily spend a couple of dollars each day on bottled water if that’s how you’re getting your drinking supply.
I recommend you don’t do that unless you want to quintuple your cost of water.
Instead, have a refillable bottle (or two or three) and fill them at the children’s playgrounds where you’ll find fountains with cold water. Better yet, buy a several liter bottle with a handle when you first get here and refill that each time you need to. It’s how I survive!
If you’re doing laundry 4 times each month, you’ll probably spend $10 each time if you drop them off at a cleaner, depending on how many clothes you have. If you do them yourself at LaundryUp or a similar place they will be cheaper, just a few dollars each time.
Local or international? Montessori or corporal punishment style? Hong Kong’s schooling system is diverse and competitive. You can pay over $1,000 a month for the top international schools, or you can do like I did and send your children to a local school where they will learn Chinese like my daughter did. That school costs less than $200/month.
Bonus: her school paid for a field trip this year where they took us to Disneyland! My schools were never that cool; for one field trip in elementary, we went to my home because we had a pond. Yawn town.
Lifestyle Choices: $200
Everyone needs entertainment in their lives. The question is: what kind of entertainment do you enjoy? Hong Kong has everything you can think of: scuba, golf, parties, theme parks, boat excursions, the list goes on forever. Your cost of entertainment solely depends on what you like to do.
If you’re on the alternative side, street drugs are easily locatable in Hong Kong. Quality can be low (or superb), prices are high, dealers are shady, but the cops don’t seem to care too much (at least not enough to stop the obvious slinging in some areas).
Be warned: drugs are illegal here, and you’re not going to bribe your way out of an arrest here like you might in other Asian countries. Not only that, but the addition to your cost of living might not be worth the quality of the products here. Probably equally bad for your health.
Visas: Free, 3-month validity
You’ll have to leave Hong Kong to renew your visa (the easiest way is to hop on a ferry over to Macau and back) every three months if you want to stay any longer without finding a job and getting a working visa.
Tourist visas are free, fantastic! But they aren’t unlimited. Border hop too many times and you’ll be treated with a stamp in your passport that limits your future trips, even banning you for a year.
Side note: Hong Kong is passport friendly in the sense that they offer you a small slip of paper to place in your passport instead of taking up precious stamp real estate. Don’t lose this seemingly insignificant piece of paper though, you need it upon your exit. Otherwise, your first stop is to fee city.
Those fees don’t help your cost of living in Hong Kong, so avoid them by being organized.
Health Insurance: up to you, $100 for me
When considering the cost of living in Hong Kong, you should likely invest in travel insurance. You can receive travel insurance through your credit card, airline, or through the servicor I prefer: World Nomads.
I pay about $100 per month for both my daughter and me, and that covers anything I’m worried about. The piece of mind is well worth the cost, but World Nomads also does well in keeping its promise to pay out when you make a claim.
Total Cost of Living in Hong Kong for My Daughter and Me: ≈ $1395 per month
This price tag doesn’t include transportation in and out of the cost of living in Hong Kong and is a rough estimate based on the information provided and assuming going the cheapest route every time. And this is for a single parent blogger, not a lone traveler.
Even if you’re alone, that $1,395 could easily jump to over $2,000 if you aren’t paying attention to your budget or are living above the basics.
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So you want to live on an island in Thailand? You’ve seen the pictures of coconut trees backdropped by a beautiful blue sky with people snorkeling in the turquoise waters, right? If you haven’t seen it, check it out here, courtesy of Matador Network.
If you’ve gotten this far and you think, I can’t live abroad, you’re wrong. I’m a single parent and I live abroad with my daughter partly by running this single parent blog.
Thailand islands are as gorgeous as every backpacker blabs they are. Honestly, I didn’t want to write about the cost of living in Thailand, especially on the islands, because I like to keep my secrets to myself. So, foregoing my general feelings of disdain towards spoiling the places I love, here is the cost of living on Koh Tao for me and my daughter over our course of six months there. So you’re wondering about the cost of living in Thailand? Here it is, specifically for Koh Tao.
If you’re looking for a place to stay on Koh Tao, click here for a few ideas! It’s an affiliate link that costs you nothing but helps support this site. Cheers, my friend!
Essentials Included in the Cost of Living in Thailand, per month
Buying a Motorbike: $300
You need to be mobile. I bought a motorbike for $300 and when I sold it before I left Thailand, I sold it for around $290.
On the islands, there seem to be mafia-style price controls that make it far more expensive to use a taxi each day than to simply invest in your own motorbike.
A few caveats: you’ll likely be driving illegally, random checkpoints will pop-up where police may stop you and fine you for XYZ (though this never happened to me once in 6 months, not even riding in Chiang Mai on vacation last month), and if you don’t already know how to drive a motorcycle then don’t try to learn in Thailand; you’re going to hurt yourself and possibly someone else.
Renting a Motorbike: $75
You can also rent a motorbike; it will cost you around $75/month or more depending on the bike you rent.
Gasoline wasn’t a huge expense because Koh Tao is quite small. You can drive from the north to the south in about 30 minutes pretty easily.
Food (local Thai food, western food, groceries): $300
Island food is a bit more expensive than the food you’ll find on the mainland, of course (you’re paying for the shipping costs, essentially), but it’s still incredibly cheap. Overall, food is likely to be one of your largest factors when calculating your cost of living in Thailand.
For breakfast I recommend stopping at a smoothie stand, they cost between $1-$1.33. Add on a barbecued pork skewer or fried chicken leg and at most, you’re looking at a $2 breakfast.
A pad thai will be as little as $2. A margherita pizza can be $3. A burger and fries will be about $5. You can go up from there, it just depends on your taste and spending habits.
Ice creams are as cheap as $0.45 in 7-11, or $0.66 from the guy who drives a scooter around selling coconut ice cream.
I’m giving you my budget based on usually eating pad thai or something similar, pizza once a week at least, and occasionally some monster BBQ skewers at a beachfront restaurant for $6 at sunset. Add in that I also have to feed a child and our food budget was about $300 each month.
You could easily eat three meals a day at $2 a piece and keep your food budget under $200.
Rent depends on what you want to rent. Do you want a tiny, ant-filled bungalow like I did? Or do you want to stay in a resort?
I’m not telling you where I found a place to stay for $150 per month on Koh Tao. That’s privileged information and it’s difficult to find. If you scour my blog and do the footwork on Koh Tao, you’ll be able to find it. However, you can easily find a bungalow for $200 per month almost anywhere on the island.
The best resorts on Koh Tao serve up a price tag of around $600 per month. They are gorgeous. You can get a private villa with a pool overlooking the sea where you can watch the sunset in privacy surrounded by palm trees for that price.
Utilities (electric, wifi, water): Free-$??
Many places don’t charge you at all for utilities. Other places do. If you find a place that charges you, you’re never going to pay more than $50 per month for electric, wifi, and water. If you do, you’re either getting ripped off, or you’re blasting your airconditioner non-stop.
Fresh Water: Less than $5
You can purchase heaps of one-liter bottles if you want but you shouldn’t. It’s bad for the environment, it’s a waste of resources, and a waste of money.
Instead, buy the giant, cooler-sized bottles from Green Fresh or the ice place in Sairee (not far from the main crossroad). The initial purchase of the bottle is $5, but you can refill it for about $0.66 each time. You’ll probably only have to refill it once or twice each month.
Pro tip: Place the bottle sideways where your feet go on your scooter. You’ll lose some water on the way home, but not much. Drive slowly and safely, no one is racing on the island. If your legs get tired, stop to take a break instead of risking your safety.
Charged by the kilo, you can get your laundry washed, dried, folded, and ready the next day (or same day for a slightly higher cost) for about $1.33-$2 per kilogram. I don’t travel with many clothes so I was spending between $2-$4 per week on laundry.
My daughter attended school on Koh Tao when she was 3 and 4-year-old. There are a few kindergartens on the island. They are both around Sairee. Both have their ups and downs. One requires you to sign a contract that sticks you if you need to leave early, the other doesn’t. One has a brand new playground, the other is quite small in comparison. All the staff of each are lovely. If you are looking for specific recommendations or have any questions about the schooling on Koh Tao, ask away!
There is also a local school which I’ve heard charges around $70 per month. You’ll need someone who speaks Thai to help you enroll in that school, I’ve heard.
Lifestyle Choices: $200
Everyone needs entertainment in their lives. The question is: what kind of entertainment do you enjoy? Koh Tao has a mini-golf course, rock climbing establishments, windsurfing, scuba diving, snorkeling, hiking, loads of bars and beer on the island.
Your cost of entertainment simply depends on what you like to do.
If you’re looking to smoke marijuana on Koh Tao, you can, but be careful, it’s illegal and fines can be steep. Jail time, I’ve heard, is worse. There are some bars that let you smoke openly and will sell prerolls, but do so at your own risk. Smoking pot in Thailand is safest on the islands, but be as discreet as possible; Thai police don’t take kindly to people smoking weed.
Other drugs: be forewarned, if you think Thai police will be harsh on you smoking marijuana in Thailand, try getting caught with anything harder. I’ve heard some horror stories.
Visas: $100/3 months/per person
This is actually more confusing and costly than it sounds. The initial tourist visa is going to cost $40. Towards the end of your first two months, it will cost you another $60 to extend it for the third month. You also have to go to Koh Samui to do this, so add in the cost of your boat ticket, taxi to the immigration department, and the time lost spending a day doing this. Unfortunately, visas and visa runs can add significantly to your cost of living in Thailand.
Health Insurance: up to you, $100 for me
When considering the cost of living in Thailand, you should likely invest in travel insurance. You can receive travel insurance through your credit card, airline, or through the service I prefer: World Nomads. I pay about $100 per month for both my daughter and me, and that covers anything I’m worried about.
Total Cost of Living in Thailand for My Daughter and Me: ≈ $1200 per month
This price tag doesn’t include flights in and out of the country and is a rough estimate based on the information provided. Either way, for living on such a beautiful island, with healthy food, and a great place to raise kids, it’s well worth it.
There, I’ve given you the keys to my favorite place in Thailand to raise children and live–so when are you moving there?
Let me be the first to say it: I fucked up. If I hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t be starting a blog called ‘The Single Dad Nomad’ and I wouldn’t be writing this from inside a ‘bathroom’ that has a toilet I have to manually flush with a bucket.
Living in this bathroom, there’s at least three different ant species: one ubiquitous, larger, black species that’s likely eating my bungalow from the inside-out, a smaller black species that seems to find dirty spots the most attractive, and a red species whose enforcers have an insidious looking set of pincers protruding from their faces. When I turn on the faucet, they burst out of the sink.
I think the geckos eat them, and there’s a lot of geckos in here. The big one is the size of my forearm.
The millipedes are longer than my fingers. The mosquitoes can easily fly through the unfettered gaps in the walls. The mirror looks like someone had once or twice set it on fire; I haven’t clearly seen my face in a month. The water never gets hot, the air never gets cold, and a week ago I spent 10 hours painting my bathroom with vomit as I battled a nasty case of Thai-Tummy. My sandals broke the first day I arrived on this island, and I’ve been barefoot now for 5 weeks. So yeah, it sometimes sucks here and the misery can be exhausting, but at least I choose this misery and that makes it a little more bearable. So why am I sitting in the bathroom? Because there’s nowhere more comfortable in this bungalow then on this tile step.
After destroying a few relationships in fantastic fashion, I found myself living in limbo, and pain, with no real direction to go in life. My self-entitled attitude had finally come back to bite me in the ass and my righteous sense of victimhood finally made me a victim, which makes me feel shitty about myself even more for thinking I’m again a victim.
This is what having shitty values does to you. You fuck up, then torch yourself for fucking up, then torch yourself for torching yourself, and so on and so on until you implode and decide to book one-way tickets for you and your daughter to the middle of the Gulf of Thailand.
Thus begins The Single Dad Nomad. I packed up a wheeled-backpack I got at Goodwill for $10 and off we strolled to the train station when I realized I forgot my daughter’s stroller. With no opportunity to return to retrieve it, I lugged my wheeled backpack, and a 3-year-old munchkin who thinks it’s funny to pretend burp in my face, through a 5-hour train ride, a 14-hour flight, a 5-hour flight, a 6-hour bus and a 2-hour boat ride. Things aren’t always peaches, but I’m the one who taught her to burp so that one is on me.
My daughter’s name is Auburn and I’ve hurt her in a way that I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to forgive myself, I forced away the woman she called ‘Mom.’ This wasn’t her ‘real’ Mom, but to Auburn, it was her Mom–a sweet girl I have known for over seven years and had previously dated–who came into Auburn’s life not long after I first got custody of her at 18-months-old. This girl eventually took on a massive role in Auburn’s life, and I forced her away last winter.
Auburn’s birth-mom and I separated right before Auburn turned 1, she was a breastfeed baby and stayed with her mom when we separated. I left Hong Kong and went back to the States and didn’t get to see Auburn for 6 months. I cried every day for the first 3. Then a little less thereafter, but I still missed her so much all the time. My body would have a physiological reaction to other kids crying, a boost of adrenaline that would overwhelm me with sadness. You can imagine how elated I was to get custody of her at 18-months! But can you imagine how unhappy Auburn was to be losing her mom and primary source of food?
She wouldn’t eat enough formula, so she couldn’t sleep, and her heavy bond with her birth-Mom at that point was a devastating loss for her emotionally, psychologically, and physically. She could only sleep on my chest, the same way she napped as a baby on the weekends when I didn’t have to work. Every single night she would wake up every hour to remind me how much she was hurting by crying relentlessly and screaming for her Mom in a language I couldn’t understand (hint: her birth-Mom had spoke to her in Cantonese for the last six months).
By the end of the first week, I was a zombie. After 3 months, a ghost. She was sleeping 2-3 hours at a time and crying for an hour or 2 in between at night. After 6 months, Auburn didn’t remember why she was hurting anymore, but she was still waking up crying every few hours, every night. The only thing that helped her sleep again was picking her up, pacing, and singing to her and rubbing her back. She was usually inconsolable for at least an hour, but different methods worked at different times. At first it was having to let her sleep in my chest and stomach. After a few months I could slowly roll her on to the bed, but dare not leave it. A few months later, I could creep out of the bed, but not every time. A few months after that, I could get her to sleep by reading her books and often sneak out of the bed without waking her, but she would eventually always wake up and cry. A few months later I could get her to sleep in her own bed, but she would still wake up 2-5 times a night crying. If you want to time travel, don’t sleep for awhile. Because when you wake up, it’s two years later.
Two years from getting custody and my sleep schedule is not the 9-10 hours I was getting in college, but the 4-10 hours I’m likely to get as a parent. Auburn rarely suffers night terrors which are difficult to deal with. She doesn’t always get to bed when she is supposed to, and she grinds her little teeth which worries me. But sometimes she giggles when she’s dreaming and my eyes get watery and I giggle right along with her.
Two years from getting custody and I’m finally starting a blog, alone in a sheet-metal bathroom, next to a sink that literally just drains right out the wall and into the nearest bush. Why? Partly because a part of me has always wanted to share Auburn’s story but I’ve been too afraid to. But mostly because my values were so trashed that I thought it was a better idea to cheat on my now-ex-girlfriend, rather than talk to her honestly about what was upsetting me. My pride became more important than my sense of dignity. I hurt her greatly, and I left my daughter without the female role-model who had been her Mom for the past year.
Now my daughter cries for her, she tells me how she misses her and talks about things she remembers doing with her. I say the only thing I can, ‘I miss her, too.’ I do my best to remind her it’s okay to miss people and that not every family has a Mommy and Daddy all the time and some have neither and some have two of each and some have probably more than that. It’s a truth about society that helps me keep her from thinking she is a victim. God forbid my trashed values wear off on her this young. So, I’m doing what I can now to reevaluate my values and improve my relationship with my daughter. She’s the most important thing to me and I want to raise her to be a strong and open-minded person.
Occasionally traveling outside of the United States is how I see best fit to do that. I’ve traveled with her before, but never solo. Removing myself from the judgment and social pressures of American values isn’t always easy. It forces me to live in a shitty bungalow, to have to dodge ants when I take a piss, watch where I walk so I don’t cut my bare feet on glass, and occasionally projectile vomit because I eat some rancid meat off some nose-picker’s charred BBQ grill.
It’s worth it because I’m getting more time than ever with my daughter. In just over a month we’ve become closer than ever, she misses her ‘Mommy’ less, and as a massive bonus, she’s been sleeping through the night regularly! Curious about how she does that here? Yes, we live in a shitty bungalow, with one bed, so yes, we co-sleep, and no, I don’t care what your opinion is on the subject, co-sleeping with my toddler is awesome. She’s snuggly and I love her to pieces and if she sleeps well then I’m good. And I know where to draw the line, I don’t let her use me as an all-night footrest, not always.