Tag Archives: Asia

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.

Photo: buying pork products in a majority Muslim country

In many parts of Malaysia, pork and other goods deemed as haram (forbidden) by Islam can be hard to come by, as many places outside of the cities are majority Muslim regions.

In deference to those that are Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, or agnostic/atheist though, stores in these parts of the country often have a dusty shelf towards the back where devilishly delicious pork products and other forbidden goodies can be bought.

Another random fact: these stores have to have at least one person on staff at all times who is not a Muslim to handle these purchases when they are brought to the checkout, as the ones that are are not permitted to even handle these products, much less consume them. Malaysia is a very interesting country to say the least!

My First Full Year As A Digital Nomad: 2014 In Pictures

photo by CC user 70626035@N00 on Flickr image credit: photo by CC user 70626035@N00 on Flickr

Well, we’re halfway through January, but with all the freelance work I’ve been bashing my way through, this year in review had to wait for awhile.  In many ways, 2014 was defined by the growth of my mobile business, which caused this blog to be neglected at times ( Mama’s been busy, but I still love you all … sorry!).

In true digital nomad fashion though, I managed to get in tons of travel between the ever frequent 12 hour work days (the less glamorous aspect of the trade), starting in Chiang Mai, Thailand on New Year’s Day and progressing through Malaysia, Indonesia, Canada, Mexico and Belize.

I’m currently writing this from Guatemala, which is where I traveled to on New Year’s Day, and looking back over the past year, it was another tumultuous ride. Let’s dive right into yet another 2014 in pictures post, shall we?

January

I began my year in Chiang Mai with one final month on my apartment lease, so I took the opportunity to get out and see parts of the city I hadn’t seen. One of those spots included Warorot Market, a multi-level traditional trading house with everything from hill tribe clothes to weird Thai-Chinese food.

It was at the outer stalls where I picked up the giant blanket and pillow for my bed back in November 2013 … paid 500 baht total (bedding in Thailand is expensive for some reason).

February

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February saw me take to the road again after four months of working to get my business plane off the runway, with the end goal being Bali.  Along the way though, I spent time in Krabi (the awesomeness of Railay Beach cannot be understated) and Koh Lanta before heading to Kuala Lumpur to catch a one-way flight to Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia.

In the days before my flight though, I had the chance to have a long-awaited reunion with Paul Phillip, a native Malaysian who I went to college with back in Canada from 1998 to 2003. Tiger beers were had, bowls of Hokkien Mee were greedily consumed, and stories exchanged. Can’t wait to hang out with my old buddy again (next winter maybe?)!

March

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Much of March was spent in Indonesia, but not in Bali.  The second half of February was when I explored that island paradise, leaving most of this month for me to make my way across the densely populated, volcano-studded island of Java.

This place sees a trickle of the foreign tourists that visit Bali, and in cities like Surabaya (pictured above), one can experience the real Indonesia, a place that is rough around the edges, but is still a profoundly rewarding place in which to travel.

April

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Arriving back in Canada in late March via British Columbia, I kicked off my time at home by exploring a corner of this gorgeous province that I had never explored before.  Vancouver Island turned out to be all that and more when it came to sublime beauty, with no place exemplifying this principle more than Tonquin Beach in Tofino.

May

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The rest of April was spent in Alberta catching up with friends and family, and skiing/hiking the slopes of Jasper before returning to the Greater Vancouver Area to take up my first housesit acquired through TrustedHouseSitters.

I spent three weeks caring for Cleo the Cat and Emma the Black Lab in the suburb of Surrey while cheering on my Habs through to the Eastern Conference Final. The arrangement had its challenges at times, but I find myself missing my furry roommates even as I type this.  When I get back to Canada, I will definitely be doing this again!

June

After completing my housesitting assignment ended, I began my eastward journey by checking out Whistler, then after another pet sitting date in Calgary finished up, I set out on an epic 54 hour bus ride to Toronto. You don’t want to know how smelly my feet were after that! 😛

Once I got rested up and showered, it just so happened that Toronto was hosting World Pride … camera in hand and ready for a fabulous time, I snagged an awesome spot on Yonge and watched the festivities unfold…

July

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July saw me finally get home after over two years away from Nova Scotia, and it was for a joyous occasion, as I attended the wedding of my little sister Meghan and her vertically endowed partner, Malcolm. Thanks again for two fun-filled days Meg, and congrats!

August

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Once the wedding was over, I spent a full month reconnecting with family back in the Scotia before I set out to continue my world adventures in Latin America.  On August the 21st, I landed in Mexico City, and had my intense fears surrounding the place shattered in a matter of hours.

Anybody with a modicum of street smarts and common sense will be fine here, and with a wealth of museums, fine architecture and modern attractions, nobody on a extended Mexican trip can afford to skip this place.  Set aside at least four days.

September

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While most of September was spent in balmy Puerto Vallarta, the photographic highlight of September occurred early in the month, as the mountainous colonial gem of Guanajuato stole my heart.  This was the first in a series of oustanding historic towns that I’ve seen on my Latin American journey that you all need to see with your own eyes … stay tuned for posts in the new year on these places!

October

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October was defined by a highly controversial story in Mexico where 43 student protesters (or normalistas) were rounded up my police in one of the poorer parts of the country and disappeared.

It came out later that they had been turned over to the cartels and subsequently murdered, touching off mass demonstrations across the nation, with this wall in San Cristobal de la Casas showing the signs of the public’s anger and discontent.

November

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I settled into Playa Del Carmen for most of November and into early December for both work and pleasure, with my parents joining me in one of Mexico’s best resort towns later in this month for some shared vacation time.

The highlight of our time together was our swim and trek through Rio Secreto, which was an enclosed cenote with some of the purest, most effervescent water I’ve ever seen. For those scared of organized tours, go ahead and give this one a go!

December

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The final month of 2014 had me blissing out in Belize, with my time split between Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker and San Ignacio.  The above pic comes from a breakfast cafe in CC, where the silky breezes of the Caribbean combined with the eye candy to give me a moment of solace in a year where there have been precious few.

Business is hard and can consume your life occasionally, but it beats not having control of your time, and better you get at running your own affairs, the more it becomes possible to do things that just aren’t possible in a 9-5 career.

Tentative plans for 2015

As far as my business is concerned, I have more freelance work than I can handle at times, so the emphasis will be on improving the quality of work that I accept going forward, and freeing time so that I can work on personal business projects that have been on the back burner in my brain for far too long.

I got an idea journal full of potential websites, products, and so forth just waiting to be acted on … I just have to clear enough slots on my dance card to give them the attention they need to take root and grow.

On the travel side of the coin, the goal is Ushuaia, Argentina.  The bottom of the world.  How or when I get there in 2015 is immaterial. If I can gaze towards Antarctica (the trip to the frozen continent will have to wait, as I don’t have $5,000 laying around at the moment) from the rocky shores of the bottom of the civilized world, standing astride with some penguin friends, my journey will be a complete success.

What are you up to in 2015? Tell us all about it below! 

Making A Pilgrimage To The Baebang Buddhist Temple

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While Christianity has a significant presence in Korea, Buddhism also has a large following as well.  On a typical weekend off from teaching in Baebang, I decided to seek out out local temple.  After hiking into the hills above my town through rice and kimchi farms, I finally reached its hallowed grounds. When you are faced with a view like the one displayed above, how could you not build a shrine to your deity of choice?

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Despite arriving at its doorstep on a weekend afternoon, all was quiet. Perfect for a spot of exploration and a rare moment of serenity in a nation as crowded as South Korea…

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Unlike more elaborate inner sanctums that one would find in halls of worship in places like Seoul, Beijing or Bangkok, Baebang has kept things simple, with a small idol of the lord Buddha accompanied by offerings of abundance and sublime style elements.

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One thing I wasn’t able to figure out during my time in this country was the purpose behind altars built in the honor of seemingly prominent Koreans. Not sure who this guy was, but I’m sure he was integral to the building up of this nation, or at least this community.

Ever visit a non-descript temple, church, or mosque that captured your heart?  Let us know below!

Malaysian Food in Borneo: Delicious Eats On Gaya Street

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Everywhere you go in Malaysia, one life-changing meal after another can be found in the numerous cafes, food courts and restaurants can be found on the main streets and back alleys of its cities, towns and villages.

While the home of Malaysian society can be found on the Malay Penninsula south of Thailand, the lip-smacking cuisine (such as the claypot chicken and mushrooms with rice dish above) can also be found throughout its holdings on the northern third of Borneo.

Malaysian food in Borneo is taken very seriously, so any foreign tourists that come here expecting a good meal are in for a serious treat!

Being one of its largest cities here, Kota Kinabalu is a natural home to the best of Borneoan cuisine, which is a mix of Indian, Malay, Chinese, and indigenous styles of cooking.

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No matter your preference though, coming in one of these homely places and merely ordering a random dish will likely end with a pleasurable result.

With most meals costing less than $3 USD with drink included, it’s hard to go wrong (especially when you’ve got pork slices slathered in gravy, chicken noodle soup, and a refreshing mug of freshly squeezed pineapple juice sitting before, as it was for me above!)

Photo: A Fine Day At The Floating Mosque, Penang Malaysia

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Penang Malaysia is often a curious blend of the old and the new, with soaring condo developments overshadowing Chinese shophouses, food carts and establishments that crank out time-tested recipes, and ornately designed temples and mosques that testify to the faith of those that live on this lively and industrious island in the tropics.

Of the latter, the mosque with the most inspired architecture on Penang is none other than the Floating Mosque.  Located around the northeast corner of the island, it stretches out into a shallow bay, blending in with the surrounding landscape, yet standing out in its own special way.

If you do visit this landmark and wish to venture inside, don’t be like me and throw on a pair of shorts, which bars you entry. Instead,  don a pair of pants and a shirt with sleeves, which properly respects the cultural mores of the devout, and see this fabulous place from the inside and the view from its incredible deck out back.  I was not able to access it due to my dress that day, which limited me to just a single photo of its exterior.