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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Is there shame in being a shit parent? Yes. And guilt. And regret. And self-loathing. But it’s not the end of the story.
Parenting isn’t easy is fucking hard. There’s no sleeping in if you stay up late, you occasionally get another person’s poop on your fingers, and half your ice cream always gets stolen by someone a third your size.
But those are the easy struggles.
Sometimes you have a 4-year-old, virile monster who won’t settle down, refuses to relax during their bedtime stories, and keeps yelling for food and water when they literally just filled their bellies with both. And half my ice cream.
How I Know I’m Shit
It’s right about 45 minutes into that situation that I lose my shit.
As negative reinforcement for her already scrambled emotional-state (exhausted and playful at the same time) I take away a book each time she gets rowdy, then a stuffed animal, then they’re all gone, and she loses her back tickle.
Her emotional state deteriorates because I’ve just removed her bedtime routine entirely as a punishment for not following her bedtime routine. Great idea, Dad.
So she starts yelling and screaming in frustration, as toddlers sometimes do. So I threaten to put her things in the garbage. She doesn’t stop. Garbage bin: book. She screams.
It doesn’t stop until we’re both mentally and physically exhausted and pass out upset with each other.
Then comes the morning. The wake-up routine goes perfectly well, and I take her to school.
On the public bus ride back to my home it hits me like a baseball bat: I’m a shit dad. I handled the previous night like a rookie.
Where do I go from here? I asked myself a question, “how to be a better parent?”
I took myself on a three-step process to right where I had wronged.
If you’re how to be a better parent, do what I did.
Take These Three Steps to Know How to Be a Better Parent
Step 1: Recognize It and Admit It.
Say it with me: “I did something shitty. I can do better.”
This is probably the hardest part because you have to own it. But taking that ownership and letting go of the idea that you’re a great parent is freeing up yourself to committing to better. You’ll set your goals higher for yourself because you know you can improve.
Once your goals have been refocused, step two is a bit easier.
Step 2: Act Sorry.
When learning how to be a better parent, it takes effort. When I got Auburn home from school, I had her books and her stuffed animals laid out on her bed.
She’s very perceptive, “I thought you threw these out!”
“I did. And that was wrong,” I put my hands on her cheeks so she would look me in the eyes. “I overreacted yesterday, and I’m sorry about that.”
I’m not sure exactly what was going through her mind at that moment, but I hope it was understanding. Understanding that I’m not perfect, and that’s okay, even though my reaction wasn’t. Understanding that I’m trying my best and I can admit when I’m wrong. Understanding that I love her, even if I don’t always show it.
The important thing here is that I’m not just saying I’m sorry, I’m acting sorry. Her books and animals were cleaned and placed nicely on her bed. I made eye contact with her while I sincerely apologized.
It goes a long way, and if you’ve set your new goals to reach that standard of recognizing and reconciling your mistakes, you’re already on the path to becoming a better parent.
That brings us to step three.
Step 3: Do better.
I’m not going to be using my negative reinforcement tactic of throwing away books and toys anymore. It’s counter-productive and only escalates the situation. I want to honestly know how to be a better parent.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that my next tactic is going to be a useful and effective one, but I’m going to try.
I’ve been reading about using fewer words and remaining nonchalant in times of stress; enacting those behaviors have been a different story, but I like to think I’m improving.
And that’s what step three is all about: doing better. It’s about making an effort by reading, exploring, and experimenting with what works for you.
All you have to do now is repeat steps 1-3 for the rest of your parenting life, and you should eventually be a substantial parental figure.
Parenting is a wild ride–are you in control?
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This was a snippet of a conversation I had with my 4-year-old today.
Why? Because she was trying to tell me something in Chinese.
I recently took a solo 12-day trip to Cambodia. It was my first time spending time away from my daughter in over three years. During these 12 days, she stayed at her Chinese Grandma’s home.
Before I left for Cambodia, Auburn’s Chinese language skills were relatively basic. Her speaking was minimal, though her listening skills seemed well-developed (she’s been learning for roughly six months). I really want her to learn Cantonese in Hong Kong, but overall it’s been difficult.
However, since I’ve returned to Hong Kong to reunite with my daughter, she’s been speaking and communicating in Chinese in full sentences, constantly.
And I’m not at all surprised.
How I Predicted My Daughter’s Rapid Advancement in the Chinese Language and What That Tells Us About Language Learning
Before I left for Cambodia, her Chinese skills reminded me of myself a few years ago before I traveled solo to Mexico.
I was speaking a little bit of Spanish at the time, I could understand much more than I could speak. I didn’t at all feel fluent or confident in my skills. I could ask for directions to the bathroom, but I couldn’t always understand them.
However, I spent two weeks in Mexico. The majority of my time was in Morelia, but I saw some other, beautiful places as well, such as San Miguel de Allende.
I knew I was immersing myself in the Spanish language–that was my goal. What I didn’t realize while I was there: I was rapidly developing my ability to speak Spanish.
How? I was hearing it in the grocery store. Listening to it on the bus. But most importantly, I was speaking it every day because I had to. I was finally working a muscle that hadn’t been effectively exercised. And it quickly strengthened.
Before my two weeks in Mexico, I understood enough of what people said, so the words were already in my head. Much like my daughter’s comprehension of Chinese before I left for Cambodia.
How to Learn Cantonese in Hong Kong
In her 12 days of staying with her Chinese family, I knew she was going to do what I did with Spanish. She finally made the jump from understanding and knowing, to speaking.
Only she did in
I did it in my late 20’s. My daughter did it before she was 5. Anyone can do it.
Anyone Can Rapidly Speak a New Language
But only if they’re willing to put in the work of learning the words and recognizing the sounds. This I think is the most tedious part of learning a new language. It’s a rough adjustment phase, it takes time, and the process feels slow (and sometimes frustrating).
Once it’s passed, however, speaking skills rapidly improve.
And it’s totally worth it. For Auburn, it was imperative that she learn Cantonese in Hong Kong. it means the chance to communicate with family, and it makes my eyes get a bunch of dust in them. Stupid dust.
Learning a new language is possible for anyone–now it’s your turn to commit. Please subscribe below to my email list if you liked this article and want me to continue writing! Your subscription is my favorite form of encouragement!
Five rumbling hours through rain later and we pulled into the bus stop outside of the city center.
A mini-bus was waiting to take us to our hotel. Having forgotten to change money or withdraw any Thai Baht that day, we simply had to take a sustained look of disdain along with an upcharge to take us to the money changing place before our hotel.
It was dark out by the time we got to our hotel, so we ate, and promptly went to sleep half way through our 2 weeks in Thailand.
The next week was rather uneventful because that’s how I planned it!
We stayed in ‘Angel Room’ at Hin Ngam Condo, a lovely, relaxing resort with two kids’ pools for Auburn.
She loved the slides, zero-depth entrance, and jet tub. There were squirt guns, pool toys, and the trees next to the pool would drop big leaves in that Auburn loved to collect.
It was easy to let her swim all day while I relaxed and read a book in a lounge chair.
Honestly, the whole week was like this. We had no reason to go anywhere in Hua Hin.
The room was super comfortable; the pool was a fantastic place for Auburn to play, and, frankly, I didn’t want to do anything besides relaxing all week long, happy 31st to me 😀
There were a few food stalls outside the resort that we liked to eat at in the evening. One night they served us something that we weren’t sure what it was.
This isn’t a flattering story to share; it’s actually quite embarrassing, but here it goes.
Until the middle of last week, I always thought that I drank a lot in college. My sophomore year I lived in an apartment that threw two parties every weekend, for example. The place got destroyed. Even then, I never had to question, how do you beat alcoholism?
Drinking in College
We (by we I mean a particular friend of mine) kicked the thermostat off the wall twice (you know who you are!). We broke a few doors, blasted 20-odd holes in the wall, snapped the hinges on the fridge, changed the color of the carpet from soy-latte brown to black-coffee black, used one closet to hide the empty beer cans which eventually became a breeding ground for tiny flying somethings, and on Homecoming morning a kegs-and-eggs pre-game party became an excuse to have an egg fight. The yellow stains never left the wall.
Did I mention the place got destroyed?
Our end of the year bill was just shy of $1,200 for repairs. Yikes. We were drunkards.
Or so I thought.
Getting smashed a few times a week in college isn’t uncommon. Not throwing any shade on anyone who does that, because I did that. That’s not alcoholism, even though we should take the concept of binge drinking very seriously and it’s not something to joke with.
That being said, I thought I was an alcoholic in college.
But, I was wrong.
I wasn’t depending on alcohol daily, I wasn’t using it to battle my stress. I was using it to not be such an awkward dork in a group of outgoing cool kids. Oh, well.
Drinking for Stress Relief
Last week, however, I realized that I had crossed over a line, and I Googled a question: how do you beat alcoholism?
I’ve been living in Hong Kong since September, and I could have told you before I moved here that living in Hong Kong is stressful for me (I’ve lived here before). But I’m not living here for me, I’m living here for my daughter. For those of who aren’t aware, she’s half-Chinese, and her Chinese family is from Hong Kong. So, she’s here to learn their language and get to know her loving Chinese family.
Unfortunately for me, that means I’m also living in an environment that stresses me out every day. Don’t get me wrong, Hong Kong isn’t necessarily an awful city to live in, it’s because I spent my entire life living in the woods. I grew up surrounded by trees, fresh air, and falling asleep to the sound of crickets and frogs outside my window, then waking up to deer or turkeys waddling through my backyard. When you drive down the road where I grew up, you generally wave at everyone you pass by.
Hong Kong is nothing like that, it’s a big city with a big city environment. There are tall buildings, cars and buses honking, people shoving past each other on the street and throwing their litter on the ground, sirens blaring, helicopters chopping the air, rats dashing between alleyways, upside-down cockroaches on the sidewalks, and shops and people making a general nuisance for a mind like mine that developed on the sound of leaves in the wind.
Even now, as I write this post, someone is hammering away in a nearby room in my apartment building, and I want nothing more than to beat them to death with that hammer.
But I’m not a murderer. I’m stressed out.
How Alcoholism Begins
How have I been handling my stress the past two months? With alcohol.
It started off with a beer at lunch to get me through the day, maybe another beer with dinner to help me relax before I put my daughter to sleep.
Then it became a beer with lunch, one with dinner, and another afterward to put my mind at ease from the city life.
Then, slowly, it built up.
On Thursday last week, I drank 2.5 liters of 5.0% ABV beer over the course of the day. Not partying, not enjoying it with anyone. Just doing my writing at home, drinking, all day.
I woke up on Friday and asked myself, why the fuck am I drinking so much? But, I knew the answer, it’s the stress of the city. However, it’s no excuse. So I decided I needed to quit drinking. I needed to ask another question, how do you beat alcoholism?
Why? I know the long-term effects that alcohol can have on your brain and body. I could tell I put on some weight over the past two months. And I just don’t want to drink that much. I knew I was using it as a crutch, and I don’t even like drinking that much anymore, so I was just generally grossed out with myself.
Soaking in hot springs to weaving in between rush-hour traffic on 125cc scooters to showering in beautiful waterfalls, Chiang Mai was the Perfect place to vacation. If you’ve been following this blog, you know that my daughter and I travel a lot together. This time, however, we were joined by a third-generation of Demski: my father. Here’s a breakdown of our two weeks in Thailand,
week number one.
This will be the first of two posts remembering our two weeks in Thailand.
The best hotel with easy access to BKK (the international Bangkok airport: Suvarnabhumi).
We landed in Bangkok (a city with heaps to do but we passed over for now) and stayed at the best hotel for quick visits next to BKK: The Great Residence. For $5, the hotel provided us with a shuttle that took just 5-10 minutes to reach the hotel. I’ve stayed at this hotel several times so I knew what to expect: a warm pool beside a lazy river with panfish nipping at the surface, a delicious and healthy continental breakfast, clean, colorful rooms with comfortable beds, but best of all was the easy access to the Bangkok airport (BKK).
I highly recommend this hotel to anyone needing a quick transfer to or from BKK. The next morning, we were flying out to Chiang Mai so there was no reason to enter the heart of the city just yet.
Arrival in Chiang Mai
If you’re looking for a quiet place to stay with free coffee and a pleasant garden to drink it in, take a look at Naruncha Greenhouse just outside of the Old City in Chiang Mai. It’s not luxury by any means: for us 3 it costs less than $15 per night so what would you expect. But, it’s relaxing, comfortable, and the people who worked there are incredibly helpful.
The Grand Canyon Waterpark
After renting a few motorcycles and in been pointed in the general direction, we headed out to the Grand Canyon Waterpark in Chiang Mai. After briefly getting lost and having to stop to ask for directions–a complicated 30 minutes of poorly drawn maps, wild hand gestures, and imperfect translations–we eventually found our way there. In all of the two weeks in Thailand we spent, this was funniest and equally frustrating interaction I had with locals.
Approaching the waterpark, we came along the road that looks down into an ancient quarry filled with over 100 feet of water, with a floating waterpark bumping hip-hop. For $30, we received lockers and entry passes for all three of us before a quick golf cart ride brought us to the park. People are jumping off cliffs, zipping down slides, and bouncing off obstacles as their friends laughed at their belly flops.
So there’s a kids pool for the little ones, Auburn wanted to enjoy the adult part with her dad and grandfather. Climbed on the inflatable’s, bounced on floating crocodiles, and fell in more times than I can count. Don’t worry, she was wearing a life vest.
The San Kampaeng Hot Springs
The water park was exhausting so on our next day trip, we needed somewhere to relax. If you spend two weeks in Thailand, hot springs are a must. I’m a huge fan of hot springs; the warm water, the minerals rushing into your skin, and the atmosphere surrounding them are a few of my great loves. The San Kamphaeng Hot Springs was no exception. The primary sprout and its pool are nothing to soak in, that is unless you’re an egg. For about $1 we bought two woven, bamboo baskets of eggs, attached them to hooks in the hot springs, waited about eight minutes and had ourselves a delicious boiled lunch.
After indulging our taste buds, we decided it was time for a soak.
For a few more dollars, we entered the hot spring’s swimming pool. A peaceful pool, there’s a small waterfall pouring into this 40°C mineral-filled pool. Auburn climbed onto my back as I descended the steps into the relaxing waters and we swam around and played on the waterfall and she giggled and splashed me. She’s a brave little girl, then when she decided to walk around the pool’s edge by herself I wasn’t surprised or worried. That is until she fell in.
Initially, her whole body disappeared beneath the milky waters before her head popped back up, she grabbed a quick breath before her buoyancy gave out again. Her nose and mouth sank below the water line. Thankfully, she’s had swimming lessons so she’s quite strong in the water, but not strong enough on her own.
She bobbed up and down, her face half submerged. Her eyes had a frightening look of terror as she kicked and paddled at the water trying to get another breath. In total, she was probably scrambling like this for less than eight seconds. But as a parent, those eight seconds terrified me. Luckily, her grandpa wasn’t far from her and made it to her quickly.
Pulling her up from the water she let out a cry which assured me that she hadn’t swallowed any water. She was scared. As grandpa handed her to me I commended her for her strength and bravery as she explored on her own.
A few hugs, a few kisses, and a few reassurances later, she was giggling about how she had bobbed up and down like the eggs we had boiled in the primary hot spring. It’s probably her favorite memory of two weeks in Thailand. 😛
She relaxed, explored some more, and enjoyed the waterfall before we headed back to Chiang Mai. It’s an hour-long trip on a motorcycle for the hot springs to Chiang Mai, and apparently, we caught rush hour. I’ve been riding motorcycles and dirt bikes since I was about 10 years old, but never through traffic like that. It’s incredible to see how Thai people move their cars and bikes like fish in a school during such a congested traffic.
Without blasting their horns or flipping each other off, Thai people gently look out for one another, cut each other off, and steadily make progress down the highway. Perhaps, all of them had just come from Hot Springs, relaxed, or perhaps, the mindset of Thai people is much more communal and forgiving than that of stressed-out Americans. This two weeks in Thailand really showed me how calm Thai people are.
Our Trip to Doi Suthep, or as close as we got, anyway.
Doi Suthep is a Wat that sits on top of the mountain overlooking Chiang Mai. It’s surrounded by a national park filled with waterfalls and places to hike and explore. This is the very reason we never made it to Doi Suthep. There’s just too many awesome things to see before you’ll ever encounter Doi Suthep.
With views overlooking the city and incredible waterfalls to climb, we never made it all the way up the mountain. Our longest derailment came in the form of one of the most beautiful waterfalls I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, I can’t remember its name. However, if you want to find it simply head up towards Doi Suthep and find the waterfall that costs 100 Baht to enter. Hike up to the second level of the waterfall and you’ll enter a holler where a chilly waterfall offers a cool shower on a hot day. Bamboo, fruit trees, and a thicket of green ensconce the entire area and give you an incredible place to relax, meditate, or if you like take further into the mountains, but for what I couldn’t tell you; it was time for us to go home, it wasn’t the end of two weeks in Thailand, but it was the end of a beautiful day.
If you have any questions about Chiang Mai or any of these activities I’ve mentioned, please feel free to contact me today.
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?
If you’re like me, you’re never entering a toy store with your child. Why would you torture yourself like that? It’s the third level of hell. Most of the toys you’ll see are puracaca: they’re cheaply made, un-educational, and going to die a slow death crushed to pieces under the weight of all the other crap smashing it in your toddler’s overflowing toy box. Worse, your child is going to pull boxes off the shelves, shout about wanting every toy, and you might accidentally impulse buy a drone because, let’s face it, those look pretty sweet with the VR Helmets and attachable NERF rockets.
Thankfully the web helps us avoid those problems, but, being a parent is difficult enough without having to sift through the internet looking for the top educational toys for your child. Luckily for you, I have some free time today so I’ve compiled my favorite list of toys that I’m considering buying my toddler for the holiday season this year.
Top Educational Toys for Children for the 2017 Holiday Season
SmartMax Start XL
If you’re looking for a toy that will encourage your child’s spatial and logical awareness while building and replicating awesome structures with a long-lasting toy, then the SmartMax Start XL is the best choice for you! The pieces are large enough that it’s safe for children as young as 1-year-old, but they’re colorful and engaging enough for an older toddler. Your little architect can learn about the power of magnetism while practicing their engineering skills. Seriously considering this as the next toy for my little Auburn! Click the image to check it out!
Amazon Fire 7 for Kids
Honestly, I’m tired of my daughter taking over my Kindle to play her games, I wanna play my games! So it’s about time I get her the All-New Fire 7 Kids Edition Tablet with Kid-Proof Case so we can play together! For less than $100, this is perfect choice for my top educational toys! It comes with a two-year guarantee that if your child breaks, they’ll replace it, which is the best peace of mind you can offer us parents, in my opinion! It includes a free year of FreeTime, which gives them access to educational videos, games, books, PBS and Disney, for starters. And if you’re looking to buy more than one? There’s currently a variety-pack promotion that you can buy two of these tablets for just $149.98!
You know the drill, click the image or the links to check it out!
Mini Kick Scooter with Light Up Wheels
Okay, I’ve been geeking out over these Mini Kick Scooter 3 Wheels! So jealous I’m not a little kid and would probably crack the axels of one of these because I’m a chubby, old man super handsome, stacked, 30-year-old. I see other kids whipping around on these, wheels flashing multicolors, leaning to steer and slaloming between pedestrians, uggggh, I wanna do that! The next best option is buying one for my daughter so her childhood can be happy and I can imagine mine was, too. Without one of these scooters, however, I can’t lie to myself, childhood sucked. But how is this educational you ask? Duh! It teaches kids how to be awesome-looking. Also, balance and depth-perception are important parts of physical intelligence.
This model is less expensive than some its better-known competitors but doesn’t sacrifice on quality. I honestly think the only difference in price (this is one better!) is the cost of marketing. Probably because they get free marketing from thoughtful parents like yours truly.
Check it out via the link or the picture, it comes in several different colors!
Tegu 42 Piece Magnetic Wooden Block Set
I’m having a very difficult time choosing between the SmartMax Start XL and this 42 Piece Tegu Magnetic Wooden Block Set! I honestly can’t recommend one over the other because they both look awesome, have a sturdy build, and will teach your child about magnetism, engineering, and spatial awareness. I would like your feedback in the comments to let me know what one you like better to help me decide!
Again, click the image to check it out!
Super Nintendo Classic Edition
Yup! I’m going there, the Super Nintendo Classic Edition is making my list of top educational toys for 2018. Firstly, don’t give me your ‘video games aren’t educational!’ nonsense. You obviously haven’t ever played video games, researched their benefits, or been crushed by a rival in Mario Kart. Video games teach kids all sorts of things: eye-hand coordination, pattern recognition, increases memory skills, improves brain speed, and if you’d ever been crushed by an annoying rival in Mario Kart, then would know that it teaches you humility and improved social skills.
Also, I grew up on a Super Nintendo so maybe this is just my nostalgia speaking, but Star Fox is the greatest game ever invented. You might disagree, but that’s because you’re an idiot. Click the link or the image to see what other games that come included you could incorrectly argue are better than Star Fox.
Whether you’re looking for the top educational toys to help your child build, improve their balance, or increase their eye-hand coordination, any of these can help your child grow into a more complete human.
I don’t take my choices for the top educational toys lightly. You’re welcome for doing your holiday shopping.
Shopping for children is a serious business of making smart choices–choose wisely.
How Traveling as a Single Parent Kills Your Children
I felt it coming, but I didn’t know what it was. My stomach was cramping, my head was spinning, I could feel my blood pressure dropping, and my only thoughts were of my sleeping 3-year-old and how she would wake up to her daddy dead on the floor then she would die a week later of starvation.
Thankfully, I did not die. Or did I? And I’m writing this from the grave, you decide.
Questioning the Idea of Single Parent Travel
Bad dad jokes aside, food poisoning is no laughing matter. In fact, it made me seriously reconsider my efforts in single parent travel. Why? Well, what if I did die? What would happen to my daughter? What would her memory and experience be? When you think you’re dying from food poisoning, these thoughts burst into your head and rip apart your moral foundation, convince you that you are a fool, and shred your sense of self-worth.
For me, the poisoning came full-force as I stumbled into the bathroom of our bungalow. Cautioning my readers here: it’s about to get graphic. Without aim, purpose, or an ability to control any bodily function, I painted the wall, floor, and wash bucket with vomit. I literally had no idea my body could hold that much inside of it. At this point, I was sure I was dying, and it happened, again and again, throughout the night. Seriously, how does my stomach hold that much fluid in it? I’m not sure, it was nasty you guys, for real.
Before this, I’d had food poisoning before, twice, in fact. But this was serious. What had it been? Auburn and I had eaten the same food, but she didn’t get sick thankfully. There’s only one food it could have been: street food in Thailand, specifically, grilled chicken and pork. I can’t remember who ate what, exactly, but Auburn and I definitely ate together and shared our food. Thankfully, I ate the bad part and suffered the consequences. She slept through the night.
Every time my body convulsed and ejected another round of fluids, I can remember thinking, ‘this is how I die, and Auburn will wake up to find her Daddy dead in a pile of his own puke, what a fucking mistake this was.’
Surviving the Qualms
As with any negativehorrible experience, you gotta push through, just like I did. I spent the whole night convulsing, the next day in shambles, and far too much time pondering the mistake I had made moving to Thailand alone with my daughter, but it was all worth it.
Yeah, cliché right? I don’t want to ever catch food poisoning again, but if it means that my daughter will get to see the world and grow up outside of any bubble that society can place her in, then that’s a life lived right and a parenthood I can be proud of.
I would recommend single parent travel, or duo-parent travel for that matter, to anyone who has children. You’re going to suffer along the way, yes, but you’re going to suffer no matter where you are, it’s just a point of choosing your suffering. I choose food poisoning over a 9-5, the loneliness of living outside of the USA over the comforts of it that make me fat and stupid, and I choose for my daughter to see the world over any desire I have to fit in with anyone else.
I have my best friend seeing the world with me, bring on the pain!
Traveling with children makes children as wise as it makes the parents strong; wisen-up the kids, strengthen yourself.