As a child, I always had a fascination with anything that crawled, slithered, or creeped through the garden. It’s no wonder I now have a fascination with the snakes in Hong Kong.
I would capture every animal I could to examine it further; I even once caught a bluejay a rake when I was in the fourth grade. Fish, lizards, scorpions, snakes, I loved catching them like they were Pokemon. Who knew this love would lead to a scary story in this single dad travel blog?
Thankfully, I was never stung by a scorpion. But I was bitten by snakes as a child, nothing dangerous. But I witnessed their speed and precision first hand.
And though I was never bitten by a poisonous snake, teeth are teeth.
Now, let me tell you about the time that I missed death by three inches.
The Encounter, Snakes in Hong Kong
As I made my final descent through the mountains of Sai Kung, I reflected on the unique juxtaposition of city and nature in Hong Kong . How just a few hours prior you can be in one of the world’s most important financial sectors, and in this moment be encapsulated by green mountains filled with fluttering butterflies, chattering cicadas, and resting snakes.
I spent the day soaking in the sun on Ham Tin Wan, possibly Hong Kong’s most beautiful beach. The day’s tranquility belied the danger I was going to encounter upon my exit.
I left the beach with a several hour hike through the mountainous jungles ahead of me.
The trail was partially muddy, a patrol of mosquitoes rose from its sludge and chased my legs as I squished through the trail. Then I felt a strong bite on my left calf muscle. Mosquito, of course.
I reached down to slap it, inspect the splatter of blood between my hand and lower leg.
I saw my hand, and slightly out of focus behind it on the ground was something black and pulsing.
My eyes dilated and rapidly focused on what I was seeing: hundreds of large, black, diamond-shaped scales wrapped around a curved tube of a body thicker than a softball bat.
Its scaly body pulsed in ominous breaths just inches from where my hiking boot had landed before being bit by the blood splattered mosquito on my leg.
Time to Die, Thank You Snakes in Hong Kong
Easily within striking distance, the large snakes’ fangs inside its cotton-colored mouth could easily deliver enough venom to kill me.
In the best case scenario, my brain quickly identified, you’re going to be hit with neurotoxins and cardiotoxins, you need to remain calm after you’re bitten to slow their progress through your body.
Knowing I needed to keep calm, I instead jumped, screamed, and nearly lost my balance on the slippery trail.
The black mass flinched and slithered off into the tapestry of leaves and ferns.
Had I stepped on that snake–just three inches to the left–with my hard ass hiking boots, it almost certainly would have struck me in defense.
Hours from the nearest hospital, and quite possibly, the nearest antivenom, I could have easily died in the lush mountainside of Sai Kung.
Hiking in Hong Kong can be dangerous–would you risk it?
My feet clicked along the linoleum, one direction, then the other. Occasionally, I would stop and sit on the 3-person wide bench along the white wall and write down the recent events: 10:06am barely miss the down elevator. 10:15am stop at library. 10:45am get food @ restaurant I hate. 11:00am wait for bus; I want taxi. 11:12am get in taxi. 11:32am $93.50 HKD to taxi driver. 11:47am Miranda* checks in. 11:49am I am in waiting room.
Outside the air was heavy and a sparse fog made the orange street lights glow like jack-o-lanterns. Horns and sirens echoed through Hong Kong as life for 7 million people zoomed by during the most important moment of my life.
Inside, a large, circular, convex mirror hung in the corner, but no one was coming. Was I the only person waiting? 7 million and no others here? Where are the other-
The double doors swooshed open for a lady with a white face mask and a poofy, white hairnet that made her look a bit like a walking mushroom. The mushroom gave me a status update, refused me entry, and I wrote down what she had told me.
2:14pm Miranda’s contractions hit one minute.
As much as I was hurting to finally be allowed in, I couldn’t imagine the pain she was in.
No Fear of Pain
“Are you sure you can handle it? You’re pushing a football through your body.” We had already agreed that short of having the birth at home in a tub, the more natural the labor process, the better.
“Mmmmm, no, but if it’s good for my baby then it’s good for me.” I was proud that my daughter would have such a strong mother, then thought about what it would be like pooping a football, and then felt deep relief that I am male.
Like Nat Geo
5:00pm Admission to labor room.
The first thing I saw of her was a little tuft of hair. It was matted to her scalp like someone had taken a warm sponge to it. The doctor said something in Cantonese, then a nurse handed her some gauze.
Out popped two brown eyes and a nose that a button would wear as a button. I don’t remember crying at this point; but, afterward, her mother would tell me that the nurses had kept asking her if I was okay.
If I had understood Cantonese and been able to respond in kind, I probably would’ve laughed and cried even harder. Okay? Okay?! I was more than okay; I was rhapsodic!
Overjoyed, Overwhelmed, Overly Wordy
It’s often said that people who aren’t parents don’t know what it’s like to have a child; the love you feel is like nothing you’ve felt before.
So, what I tell them is this: imagine someone kidnaps you (this got dark quickly, I know, but stick with me even though it gets darker right now), chops off your arms, blinds you, removes your inner ear, and sterilizes you. Imagine it hardcore…like it’s real. You feel that dread and that horror?
It’s the exact opposite of that. It’s cup of water under a running tap; continuously overflowing and uncontrollable. It’s trying to hold back a wall of marbles; it’s too much, it completely takes over your entire world.
Only that running water and that wall of marbles are not wasteful nor painful. A parent’s love isn’t just the overflowing cup; it is the water, the spigot, and the drain. It’s not just a million marbles crushing you to the ground; it is the marbles, it is the ground.
It is everything.
After her face completely emerged, the rest of her seemed to slide out of a purple water slide. It’s not as gross as people make it out to be, at least not all the time. When you finally see it, it just is.
There is no judgment on the body fluids, the baby that looks like a sweet potato, or the tears pouring out of a grown man’s eyes. It just is.
And it’s beautiful.
A Fragile Moment
The doctors wanted to push me to cut the cord immediately. But, as Miranda and I had discussed, we were going to wait a few minutes and let the last bit of placental food give our daughter the best start she could have.
She looked so helpless on her mauve towel. Limp little arms and legs wiggled as she adjusted to gravity. Lips and eyes closed and opened slowly. A few grunts, but not the screaming baby you see in the movies. Like I said: helpless.
The scissors sliced through the cord in one quick snip. The nurse clamped it shut and wrapped her in a towel. She picked her up and handed her to me. Every YouTube video, all the pantomiming, all the practice I put into holding a baby all came down to this one moment: don’t drop your baby, don’t break her neck.
And I didn’t.
With her head gently resting in the crook of my elbow, I looked down at her little face and saw the same look I still see in her eyes today: she knows I’m Dad.
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If you’re looking for a Valentine’s Day gift for a dad this year, you can’t ask a better expert than a single dad.
Because a single dad has the clear head of a loner, the few wants of the strong, and an insatiable yearning for something more. Single dads have the perfect psyche to know exactly what to get a dad for Valentine’s Day.
This single dad blogger has the answer.
These are the 3 things I would ask for this Valentine’s Day…if I weren’t single.
*Affiliate links are present. Your cost stays the same, I take a small commission from Amazon. Read here for more information.
Top 3 Valentine’s Day Gifts for a Single Dad
Beard Grooming and Trimming Kit
It’s February and it’s still cold out. A beard keeps our faces warm and protected. A beard kit keeps our beards their sturdiest.
Check out this beard kit on Amazon. It has organic ingredients, makes styling easy, and is a perfect gift for a dad keeping up his beard game.
The Oculus Rift
The Oculus Rift is the best VR headset available. I’ve tried a few of them and the realism of the Oculus outweighs the others. It’s getting into a whole new world.
Best of all, they’re as cheap as they’ve ever been! They’re $200 less than the last time I checked the price.
Click here to read more about this awesome Valentine’s Day gift for a single Dad, or any person, really.
Fossil Hybrid Smartwatch
It might not look like a smartwatch, but it is! This is the best watch to buy a dad for Valentine’s Day.
Why? This single dad blog will give it to you straight.
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?
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.