Author Archives: James

Experiencing the best of Thailand on a budget

Photo by CC user Jonas_Mittag on Pixabay

Photo by CC user Jonas_Mittag on Pixabay

Want to get away from your stressful everyday existence? We all do from time to time, but one glance at our bank balance leads many of us to believe that escape isn’t possible. This is a common misconception, as holiday travel has never been as cheap as it is now.

Below, we’ll show you how you can experience the best of Thailand on a budget – once you get a taste for this intoxicating country, you won’t ever be the same again!

Book a cheap flight

Any trip to Thailand starts with the booking of the flight which will take you, your family, and/or your friends there. Jump online and review all the options available for Mumbai to Bangkok flights, or from wherever you happen to be in the world.

Price will be one of the key considerations, but also be sure to check departure/arrival times, connections, and the amenities available aboard.

Arriving past Midnight may force you to negotiate with Bangkok taxi drivers, some of whom are known to rig their meters or drive hard bargains with tourists unfamiliar with the local going rate for flat fares.

If you get to BKK at a reasonable hour, you can take advantage of the Airport Rail Link, a train which will take you from Suvarnabhumi Airport to the centre of Bangkok in about 20 minutes for 45 baht (₹88/$1.36 USD).

Favour guesthouses and hostels over hotels

Thailand is well-known worldwide for the value it provides visitors. From activities to food, you won’t have to take out a loan to afford a holiday here.

The same applies to lodging, as Bangkok is home to some of the most competitively priced luxury hotel rooms in the world. If you are really minding your money, however, we recommend booking rooms in guesthouses or boutique hostels.

These accommodation types aren’t the fleapits they were a generation ago – a considerable number of them have gone upmarket in recent years. They come with private rooms which have plush mattresses, fresh linens, fridges, cable TV, and other perks.

However, you get to take advantage of the social atmosphere of a hostel, as you will have access to common areas, which often come with bars, comfy seating, high-speed internet, and a slate of planned activities from one day to the next.

With private rooms starting at 600 baht (₹1,170/$18.50 USD), going this route will help you save cash while maintaining a level of comfort befitting of your holiday.

Go north

Many Mumbai to Bangkok flights are packed with visitors eager to head south in pursuit of Thailand’s fabled beaches. However, know that the cities of the north contain worthwhile cultural attractions core to the identity of the Thai people.

Not only will you have a chance to tour uncrowded temple sites in places like Sukhothai and Chiang Mai, you will find that everything from accommodations to meals will be cheaper in the north.

A hostel whose private rooms cost 900 Baht (₹1,760/$27.50 USD) in a place like Koh Samui will sell them for around 500 baht (₹975/$15.25 USD) in Chiang Mai.

While lunch can cost as much as 230 baht (₹430/$7 USD) on the beach at Railay Beach, a healthy Thai lunch in the centre of Chiang Rai can be had for as little as 60 baht (₹120/$1.90 USD).

Travel to unsung islands

Have your heart set on a paradise beach? Of course you do. Instead of traveling to places like Phuket or Koh Samui, though, consider heading to lesser travelled isles like Koh Chang (the one in Eastern Thailand near the Cambodian border) or Koh Lanta in the south.

These places have beaches which boast plenty of room even in high season, idyllic tropical scenes out of your wildest dreams, and reasonable prices.

In a country with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to tropical getaways, you lose almost nothing going off the beaten track.

Tips for Buying a Vacation Home in Another Country

Buying a Vacation Home in Another Country needn't be a challenge

Wouldn’t it be great to have a little place in another country that was all your own? Waking up to rolling hills or sandy beaches every day? Plus, many other countries have property values and a cost of living that is far less expensive than it is here in the states. If an international vacation home is something you dream of, keep these important tips in mind when you are ready to buy:

1. Compare several areas

International markets don’t all move up and down at the same time. You will find that the housing market in one country may be seriously inflated at the same time another has excess inventory. Instead of focusing on a country, think about the environment and the amenities you want. For instance, someone who wants a place on the beach may have the best luck looking at places in Mexico, the Philippines and other countries, as well.

2. Consider the places where your dollar goes farthest

One of the great things about traveling internationally is the chance to get more for your money through differences in currency value. If you pick a place where the currency is weaker than the dollar, you can enjoy more house for less.

3. Think of all the amenities and features you’d want

Sometimes it’s easier to narrow down a location by choosing what you want in a home. A garden you can tend during extended stays? Night life in walking distance? A view of hills or water? Make a list of your dream amenities and features before you look.

4. Figure out how you are going to finance your purchase

In many cases, bank financing may not be available. Mortgages like those that are available in the United States are not common in many parts of the world. In areas where bank financing is available, there may be restrictions on foreign buyers.

While a bank loan may not be an option, there are other ways to get the funds together, and budgeting strategies remain largely the same. Borrowing on your first home’s equity may give you the funds that you need for your home abroad. Others choose to use funds out of their retirement accounts. In still other cases, it may be possible to find seller financing in the country were you want to find a vacation home.

5. Learn the real estate processes of the region

In many parts of the world, there is no MLS service. To ensure that you are seeing all the properties that fit your needs, you should probably work with more than one real estate agent. Licensing requirements for real estate agents may be different than in the states; in areas where there is no license or where agents don’t get a lot of training, look online for reviews before settling with an agent

6. Research average housing costs

In an area far from where you live, it can be hard to know what’s a good deal and what prices are inflated. See if there are local sales records available. You should also study listings for awhile and break down the cost per square meter for the sorts of listings you like. This will help you know which prices are in line with the average.

By finding answers to the big questions early, you can be better prepared for the house hunting and buying process. The time you spend preparing can add to the anticipation and the excitement of finding your international vacation home.

Making the most of a winter holiday in California

Los Angeles is the perfect place to go on a winter holiday in California

Photo by CC user ahhdrjones on Flickr

Want to escape the worst aspects of winter in North America? Have you considered planning a winter holiday in California?

With electrifying cities, enchanting coastline and soaring snow-capped mountains, a trip to America’s most exciting state will serve to recharge your batteries during what is normally the most depressing time of year.

Looking to travel in comfort? Don’t put up with the hassles of staying in a hotel, as there are plenty of California vacation rentals available from San Diego to the Napa Valley.

As such, there is no shortage of luxurious spots throughout the Golden State where you can make yourself at home after an exhausting but satisfying day of activities and sightseeing.

With amenities ranging from outdoor pools and hot tubs with privileged views, to state-of-the-art electronics and furnishings, these villas will make your downtime during your California

That being said, let’s explore what California has to offer you this winter.

1) San Diego

If warmth is a priority for you and your traveling companions, be sure to base yourself in the San Diego area.

Average day time highs in January are in the mid 60’s Fahrenheit (about 18-19 degrees Celsius), but temperature can get up well into the 70’s (23-24 degrees Celsius) on the warmest days.

The ocean is a bit chilly for swimming in winter, but surfers will be perfectly comfortable if they don a thin wetsuit, as the water is typically in the low 60’s (about 15-16 degrees Celsius) during the coolest parts of the winter season.

The San Diego Zoo is a great option for families, and after dark, the Gaslamp Quarter has plenty of restaurants and nightlife options for adults looking to live it up.

2) Los Angeles

Those looking for a high-energy holiday in California will want to search for a villa in Los Angeles. Whether you want to go star hunting in Beverly Hills or on the streets of Hollywood or enjoy theme parks ranging from Universal Studios to Disneyland, there are plenty of options for travelers of all interests.

Traveling surfers will love the opportunity to match wits with local wave shredders on Huntington Beach (aka Surf City USA), while culture hounds will have their days filled by hopping from museum to museum (don’t miss the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Getty Center, or The Broad).

3) Napa Valley

If you are going to spoil yourself during your time in California, be sure to spend several nights enjoying America’s finest food and drink in the Napa Valley.

Winter is the low season in this popular gastronomic destination, meaning that those that come here at this time won’t have to cope with the crowds that pile into this peaceful paradise during the summer and fall.

When you aren’t admiring the view of rolling hills and vineyards from your villa up in the benchlands, enjoy a variety of winery tours, dine in a number of exquisite restaurants (seven of which possess Michelin stars), or soar above the valley in a hot air balloon – the possibilities are endless!

Penang – Pretty Much The Best Visa Run Destination Ever

Penang is probably the best visa run destination for those coming from Thailand

Penang’ is the best visa run destination for nomads and travelers in Southern Thailand, as it has no shortage of attractions to discover while your passport is getting stamped.

After spending a week exploring Koh Samui, it was time to leave Thailand, as my 30-day exemption had run out. If you are in the south and you are looking for a great place to go on a visa run, Penang is an easy choice, as its combination of culture, drool-worthy cuisine, and historic attractions make the island the best visa run destination for those hanging out in Southern Thailand.

Butter Chicken and Naan, Penang, Malaysia

Char kway teow, Penang, Malaysia

Succulent Pork Chop, Penang, Malaysia

As one of Southeast Asia’s best food destinations, you can bounce from Indian to Chinese to Malay and Western food – and all of it for just a few dollars.

Door in Penang, Malaysia

As much as your meals here will be a star attraction, the sheer joy of walking around Georgetown surpasses it.

Door in Penang, Malaysia

As common as these entryways appear to its lifelong residents, their weathered appearance gives them a presence that the impersonal, unspectacular doors back home could never muster up on their own.

Archway, Penang Malaysia

Archway, Penang Malaysia

Archway, Penang Malaysia

Meng Eng Soo Temple in Penang Malaysia

The buildings here are not only gorgeous, but they are also custom-built to protect you against the elements. They feature overhangs that shield you from the intense equatorial sun, as well as monsoonal downpours that would otherwise soak you to the bone.

Chinese Temple in Penang Malaysia

And that doesn’t even cover this UNESCO-recognized town’s main attractions, as there are Chinese temples like the one shown, in addition to the Clan Jetties, which are so detailed that they will get their own post (stay tuned, it’s coming up very soon).

Love Lane in Penang, Malaysia

Iron street art, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Penang Malaysia

If you only have time to see one thing of note on the streets of Georgetown, make a sport of hunting down the stunning twisted iron sculptures that tell the story of this port on the Straits of Malacca. With 30 or so scattered through its Jalans, you’ll be spending some serious time outside – don’t forget to put on some sunscreen before heading out.

As mentioned earlier in this post, there’s more to come from Penang – have a question about this popular destination in Malaysia? Ask away in the comments below, as I’ve visited the island twice over the past six years.

Traveling to Koh Samui for the first time? Here’s what you can expect…

The view from my ferry's bow while traveling to Koh Samui from Don Sak pier // photo: James Shannon

The view from my ferry’s bow while traveling to Koh Samui from Don Sak pier // photo: James Shannon

Thanks to my super-long break from blogging, the pictures that I have taken from my Asian and Latin American travels have been collecting dust on my hard drive.

However, now that I have gotten the hang of running the day-to-day aspects of my business, I am finally making a commitment to get back to documenting my never-ending pursuit of excitement!

Although the trip in this post occurred over three years ago, it makes sense to go back in time given how long I have been ignoring this site.

After flying to Thailand on a whim and securing the first client for my nascent business, I was already running out of time on my 30-day visa exemption. While I had to leave the country to secure a proper visa, I decided to see a part that I had not seen on prior backpacking trips.

Many have derided this island as being the Gulf of Thailand’s version of Phuket. As much as I had loathed Patong Beach when I was there, traveling to Koh Samui was necessary in order to know this place for myself.

Chaweng Beach, Koh Samui, Thailand // photo: James Shannon

As it turned out, Chaweng Beach (the most popular resort area on the island) was quite the busy hub, but it wasn’t the in-your-face circus that Patong had been.

If you are looking for a place with all the restaurants, bars, and services you could ever want, paired together with a decent beach, you’ll want to base yourself here.

Chaweng Beach by day, Koh Samui, Thailand // photo: James Shannon
A spot like this wouldn’t be my first choice for some R&R (for me, that’s Koh Chang), but for many folks, it works well as a home base to enjoy one of Thailand’s finest islands.

While I stuck around this area more than I wanted to (bloody cold … I had bad luck that year with tropical islands and being ill!), I did eventually get around the island on a guided tour.

Koh Samui // photo: James Shannon
While many tours on Koh Samui are worth the cost, be sure that they leave out the monkey show.

This exploitative attraction nearly ruined the entire day, as its cruelty overshadowed the other worthwhile sights that the guide had shown us.
Wat Phra Yai, Koh Samui, Thailand // photo: James Shannon

However, there was one cultural highlight that had me walking away impressed: Wat Phra Yai (Big Buddha Temple).

Wat Phra Yai, Koh Samui, Thailand // photo: James Shannon

Boasting several gigantic Buddha idols and other icons of Buddhism, it was a refreshingly Thai corner on one of Thailand’s most hyped islands.

Wat Phra Yai, Koh Samui, Thailand // photo: James Shannon

Have any questions about Koh Samui? Been there yourself lately? Share your queries/perspective in the comments below.

Greetings from Chiang Mai!

Back in Chiang Mai, the digital nomad capital of the world

So … it’s been a while since I’ve updated the Pursuit of Excitement. You probably thought I’d given up on the digital nomad life? Wrong. I spent much of this year working harder than I ever have before, driving my freelance earnings to new heights. While I had to focus hard on that to make that happen, it made me realize how much I miss blogging.

And here we are.

What happened between January and now? I spent more than half a year in my old college town of Fredericton, re-connecting with friends, settling my tax situation (the CRA actually owed ME money … funny that), and restructuring my online banking to make offshore bill payments easy and simple.

Lonely Beach, Koh Chang. Paradise.

With those issues settled and my wanderlust returning, I flew out to Western Canada in October, saw more friends, and then left for Thailand in November. After spending some time in Bangkok and Koh Chang (my favourite Thai island), I’m back in Chiang Mai (whoo hoo!).

Over the next 5 weeks, I look forward to networking and meeting fellow digital nomads, and getting back into the habit of blogging again, along with putting the toe in the pool with regards to other projects (e-books, learning to code, exploring the idea of starting new websites, etc).

Let’s see what happens.

Quick Safety Tips When Traveling Solo to Manila

Traveling Solo to Manila is perfectly safe if you follow some common sense tips

Photo by CC user Alvin js5 on Wikimedia Commons

Going on a solo vacation can be an exhilarating experience. You have full control of your own schedule, meaning you can move from one place to another at your own pace. While it’s not as scary when hopping from one state to another, it can be much scarier to jet to a different country on your own, such as the Philippines. Known for its sunny beaches and welcoming locals, it’s one of the best places to go on a budget.

But before you decide to book a stay in affordable hotels in Manila, you need to keep a few safety tips in mind when traveling on your own—especially if it’s your first time going solo. Let’s discuss a few ways you can stay safe no matter what island you decide to visit.

Always Be Mindful of Your Belongings

Tourists are hot targets for a lot of pickpockets. You might own some nice accessories, but wearing them while weaving your way through a packed area such as Divisoria may not be the wisest thing to do. Make sure to keep your bag’s straps on you at all times. If you must put your bag down on the ground, secure it by placing it between your feet, with one strap wrapped around your foot. For your valuables, you may want to invest in a waist pouch, but make sure you tuck it away properly.

Try to Stay Awake During Transit

Once you get onto a train, taxi, or bus, resist the urge to fall asleep, even if you’re exhausted from your itinerary. Unfortunately, you don’t have a travel partner who can watch out for you while you rest, so you need to be extra cautious about your surroundings. You never know when somebody might steal your belongings while you’re snoozing away. At the same time, you might end up sleeping and missing your stop. In the Philippines, you need to tell the driver where you want to be dropped off, or else they’ll keep driving on. If you have a tendency to nap despite your best efforts to stay awake, you might want to invest in cable locks and a mesh protector for your bag.

Learn as Much as You Can Beforehand

Always do your research before going to any particular location. For example, the way you conduct yourself in the U.S. may not go over well in the Philippines. And while you may be exposed to unusual food or practices, the worst thing you can do is to show clear distaste for any part of their culture. Some countries consider certain types of clothing to be offensive or unacceptable. You should also memorize a few useful words and phrases in the local language so that you can ask for help if you need to. In addition, do some research about any facial expressions or gestures that might be considered rude in that area. The last thing you want is to accidentally get into a fight with somebody without even knowing why.

Keep Information About Your Trip Private

While it’s wise to inform your friends and loved ones about where you plan to go and when you expect arrive, you shouldn’t share that information to just anybody you meet on the street. You’ll want to withhold any info about where you plan to go, as well as where you’ve booked a room. Don’t let any strangers figure out that you’re on your own, either. If you have to, pretend you’re waiting for somebody else. Otherwise, people might end up using what you’ve told them to track you down and steal your belongings. This isn’t to say that you can’t trust anybody in another country. For instance, Philippine locals are particularly friendly and helpful, especially when you’re asking for directions. Still, when you’re all alone in another country, it still pays to be safe than sorry.

In Short: Do Your Research and Stay Alert

By putting in enough preparation, you’ll find that traveling solo isn’t all that frightening. You might even gain deep, personal experiences you wouldn’t have had on a group trip. Keep all of these tips in mind and you should be able to stay safe and sound on your next trip.

Best Destinations for a Memorable Honeymoon

Tropical destinations such as Bali or Palawan have everything you need for a Memorable Honeymoon

Honeymoon is always the best time in all the relationship. It is because of this fact that most of us try to choose the best destinations for honeymoon. If you are married and all set for a honeymoon, you should know what exactly you need to choose and where you should go so that the most beautiful time in your life become really something to be treasured. Here are the some of the destinations that every newlywed wishes to go.

1) Sintra, Portugal 


If your dream destination is Europe and you are so much into history then Sintra can be an amazing city to visit. It is rich in history alluring landscapes, stunning scenery, intoxicating greenery and above all the very charming residents. It is also a destination that is much affordable compared to France or Italy. The place offers you with great deal of historic monuments and museums to visit. You can also enjoy hiking as well as driving to the neighboring cascais. This place even can provide you chance to stay in an ancient palace where history is lingering all over and Oxygen Jungle Villas hold its name on the top. Tivoli palacio de seteais is the best place that you can choose for a luxurious stay. This place is very near to many of the historical places of Sintra. You get amazing views from this place.
 

2) Ubud, Bali

Ubud is the finest destination for foodies. This place is much specialized with organic food. The restaurants of this place are very much affordable and they even serve with juices that are fresh, healthy and very much tasty. This is the place that is located in the central part of the Bali and can get offers for so many day trips to the temples there. You can eat anything that you want and enjoy the food that is what this place has in hands for you. It has got boutique hotels with statues and Balinese pool among which Viceroy Bali and Komaneka at Monkey Forest are very much popular. 

3) Palawan Province, Philippines 


This is again a stunning destination but not the ones which are much visited by people and so one of the amazing place to enjoy without much crowd. You can say this place as one of the best islands of Philippines. This place allows you to enjoy tanning, relaxing on beach, boating, fishing, diving, snorkeling and kayaking. The
honeymoon destinations allow you to pick finest stay in this place in discount price. 

4) Venice, Italy 

Venice is the romantic city that has got all the charm to attract you. You can enjoy the best Italian food at this place. If you get a chance to be in this place make sure you enjoy gondola rides. You can get a ferry to some neighboring islands. There are so many amazing hotels to stay in this place like Corte Di Gabriela and Gritti Palace. 

5) Istanbul, Turkey 


It is one among the largest cities of Turkey which connects continents of Europe and Asia. Here you find a blend of culture and also many historical monuments. The culture of this place is something that should be explored and enjoyed.

Spend your vacation at one of many Costa Rica resorts

Spending vacation on different cities and countries every year has been a trend these days. In the olden days it was not like that. People spend their vacation in nearby cities, staying in hotels and restaurants.

They stay in hotel and move out for sightseeing, pubs, parties, drinks and bars. They have to move to different places to enjoy all these things. To enjoy partying they have to go to discotheque and pubs situated away from the hotel they stay.

This is the situation for all other entertainments like movies, beaches, cuisines, sports, adventures etc. They were not able enjoy all these things in one place. But the modern day development does not let it as it is. The modern developments have changed this situation and named it resorts.

Resorts are the best place to stay, spend vacation, partying, and sightseeing, beaches, to enjoy massage, fishing, swimming pools, pubs, dances and multiple cuisines. The resorts are usually situated in the out skirts of the city to keep calm and peaceful ambience.

The ambience of the resorts is very important as it is the man factor for the success of the resorts. People get attracted to the resorts because of the ambience that gives peaceful stay and other facilities.

There are different types of resorts are hill resorts situated in hill places, beach resorts are the resorts near the famous beaches, luxury resorts with luxury facilities and the spa resorts for massage and relaxation.

The beach resorts are the famous resorts people always love to spend their vacation. It is the most favourite resort than other types. That is why the Costa Rica Resorts are very famous as they are situated in worlds beautiful beaches.

The best of Costa Rica is they are situated in two main coastlines, the Caribbean and the pacific. The tourists and the travellers from various parts of the world come to Costa Rica for the stunning resorts with 24×7 parties, the cuisines with famous dishes of all the countries and the beach view.

The best of Costa Rica is there are many best massage centres inside the resorts that will give relaxed mind and body and you will have deep rest and enjoyable stay.

The resorts of Costa Rica are listed in various websites and they offer concessions and discounts for those who book earlier. The early bird booking is available and they ensure not only comfortable stay but also safe stay all the days.

You will want for more if you spend a day in any of the Costa Rica Resorts. Before doing the booking visit different websites and know their facilities. There are many resorts that offer wide range of facilities for decent price.

The facilities given by the resorts will differ as per the cost and the size of the resort. The rain forest is another feature of Costa Rica and the tour guides from the resort you stay will take you to different sights and unseen locations if you want to enjoy sightseeing. Costa Rica is one of the best places to visit and the resorts of Costa Rica are the one of the best resorts to spend.

How to Convert Travel Videos to Be Mobile-Friendly

Use software programs to convert Travel Videos to mobile friendly formats

For the most part people tend to watch their travel videos either on their computer screens or TV using a DVD player. However nowadays seeing as mobile devices screens that are capable of displaying crisp, sharp and detailed videos – watching travel videos on your tablet or smartphone is really not that unimaginable.

Assuming you’re constantly on the go or traveling, being able to watch videos on your mobile devices will let you enjoy them no matter where you are. However as much as it is extremely convenient, the one problem that you may run into is the fact that your travel videos will very quickly fill up the storage space on your mobile devices – and that can be a problem.

Optimize and Compress Travel Videos

Rather than wasting a good opportunity, the best way to work around the problem is by optimizing and compressing your travel videos so that they are much more mobile-friendly. While that may sound somewhat involved, using Movavi Video Converter will actually make it very straightforward.

With Movavi Video Converter you will be able to convert videos between various formats, and so to convert MP4 to AVI (for example) is as easy as adding the MP4 video, selecting AVI from the list of formats and clicking ‘Convert’. When it comes to optimizing travel videos for mobile devices you can simplify that even further and select a preset for the mobile device that you’re using.

Considering there are hundreds of presets available, you should have no problem finding one for your mobile device. Once you do, the software will automatically use the best possible format and settings for the device when it converts your travel video.

If you like you can even use Movavi Video Converter to compress your video further. All that you need to do is adjust the output file size until it falls into a range that you’re comfortable with. Be aware that compressing your travel videos in this way may result in a loss of quality – so be careful when you do so.

All said and done with Movavi Video Converter you’ll have countless ways in which you can edit, tweak and improve your videos. If you want you could cut and combine video segments, improve the video quality, add customizable text, create animated GIFs, extract audio tracks from videos, and crop or rotate the video frame and orientation.

Between all these options, converting your travel video to make it more mobile-friendly will definitely be a piece of cake. Matter of fact you may even find that you can go a step further and extract only the relevant bits from your travel video to save as individual clips for your mobile devices.