A Travellerspoint blog

March 2014

2 weeks to go and I'm packed already!!


View Italy road trip on Libbytes's travel map.

So it's two weeks to go (roughly) til I fly to Bangkok! I decided to try to start getting my bag ready, practice packing, make sure I have anything and/or make sure I don't take anything that I don't need. I wanted to make sure everything I want to take fits and that I am actually capable of wearing a fully loaded backpack!

So, what am I taking?

I have a medium sized towel in the bottom of my bag, had a look initially at those microfibre towels, but they're not cheap...at least the towels I already have are free, and in the local weather I doubt I'll have a problem with it drying!

1 pair of full length cotton trousers
1 pair of cropped cotton trousers
1 pair of thin full length combats
2 pairs of short shorts
2 bikinis and some surf shorts
10 tops of various styles, some vests, some t-shirts, some 3/4 sleeves,
7 pairs of knickers, 4 pairs of socks, 2 bras

All my clothes match... yep... they're all browns/neutral/greens/orange etc. So I should be sorted for every occasion! :)

I also packed about 1 litre of sunscreen (perhaps excessive, I don't know, maybe I should only take 2 bottles, but having just completed a PhD on the negative effects of sunlight exposure, perhaps not. And from what I've read about South East Asia, good sunscreen (5 star UVA, reflective based ingredients) are hard to come by/expensive). I got this from ASDA, factor 30, 5* UVA, £1 per 100ml - best value sunscreen by far. The jungle formula was cheapest at Wilko - only £4.50 a can!
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Toiletries, I'm taking soap over liquid body wash (to try to avoid spillages - and smaller/lighter), my face wash, shampoo (again, completely unnecessary, but I love this shampoo and at least I don't have to worry about buying when I'm there), razors, tooth paste and brush. A rechargable epilator for my legs and mini scissors and clippers.
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My first aid kit has plasters, antiseptic cream, anthisan cream, sewing kit, painkillers etc. And hopeful after tomorrow, 180 tablets of doxycycline - anti-malaria tablets.
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Also taking my flip flops, sketchers pumps and trainers. My snorkelling face mask. Plug adapters and chargers and instead of a sleeping bag, I just have a sleeping bag liner - polycotton - for quick drying/no ironing. I got some permethrin fabric treatment for it, my clothes and if I buy a mozzy net over there - hopefully I can avoid the dreaded bed bugs! eek!
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And there it is, all packed in, even enough room for my hair dryer! And that's all without the extension, which means I have an option of buying gifts etc whilst out there!
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As for my day pack, it will have my kindle, purse, phone, travel documents, a travel pillow, a pair of mini binoculars (99p from eBay!) A wind up touch, my make-up bag and face creams, an extendable cable lock and my new sunglasses!
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I love my backpack, in case you haven't noticed, there is a bit of a pink thing going on in everything I have, topped off with my bag locks! (£8 Inc postage! haha)
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My backpack, as you can see from photos, is side opening- like a suitcase, which is a lot more accessible. It has an extendable internal capacity and a few separate compartments. The straps are all adjustable and can easily be covered up. Plus the day bag can be attached to the main bag so you only have one bag to carry but can remove it easily to use as hand luggage or a day bag.
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So, the finished article...
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It. Is. Heavy. Wow.

I tried walking up and down the stairs and after about 5 minutes of wearing I was hot, sweaty and close to out off breath!! Haha! I guess I'll get used to it after a few days, and hopefully I won't have to carry it too far with all the public transport options available.

Looks like I'm almost ready to go...

Bangkok on the 26th, here I come!

EDIT 22-03-14

So I've ditched my shampoo and am only taking 2 bottles of sun cream! Instead I've got a Lush shampoo bar. I don't know what I was thinking when I packed a litre bottle of Tresemme shampoo! lol Essentially, taking these 2 items out lost me close to 1.5kg off the weight. I think that's all I'll be doing over the next few days - taking things out! I also caved in a bought a microfibre towel (don't laugh...) - it's massive! As tall as me and twice as wide and weighs nothing, so perhaps it will be a good investment in the end....

I also added some heavy duty duct tape, a bungee rope (for washing line, hanging mosquito net, locking doors etc) and Maria got me a travel 'Scrubber' for washing clothes!

I have also weighed my bag........ only 14 kgs and 4 kg hand luggage! I'm proud of myself! 4 DAYS! AAAAAHHHHHHH

FOLLOW UP 18-03-2015

Sadly, I returned from my 8 months trip in November last year. I'm currently still trying to catch up with my blog writing from some notes that I took and photos. I have had a lot of people contact me about whether I was correct in what I chose to take with me, and I have also took the time to reflect what I used/threw out/needed to buy. Here are my conclusions....

  • I have a medium sized towel in the bottom of my bag and then I also caved in a bought a microfibre towel (don't laugh...) - it's massive!

Actually possibly the best investment of my trip. I bought my towel from a UK store called decathlon and it was only £12 for the biggest size. I was so light and packed small and due to the fabric it was able to dry almost instantly. Using it every day to dry after a shower with only a weekly wash (or often less...) meant my towel took a hammering, but it did not smell musty or damp like a normal towel would, plus it was always dry when it came to packing my bag up so it didn't transfer water to my clothes/bag contents. The best thing about it was on the beach, since the fabric was smooth not like a normal towel, it did not collect sand, and you could just shake it out, hang it on the outside of my bag when walking back, and it was dry by the time I got home! Plus, I loved the colour the size was big enough to let my friends share it sitting on a beach!

  • 1 pair of full length cotton trousers, 1 pair of cropped cotton trouser, 1 pair of thin full length combats, 2 pairs of short shorts, 2 bikinis and some surf shorts, 10 tops of various styles, some vests, some t-shirts, some 3/4 sleeves, 7 pairs of knickers, 4 pairs of socks, 2 bras

I think I got my clothes about right... apart from I chucked the combats to leave just one pair of full length trousers. The only problem I faced was that I lost quite a bit of weight during my trip and about half-way through a belt just wasn't cutting it. Luckily I was in Vietnam at the time, the home of cheap tailoring, so I threw pretty much 80% of my clothes and had some new ones made cheap (shorts, bikini, dresses). I also jumped up to having 5 dresses in my collection as that was one thing I really loved wearing in the evenings.

  • I packed about 1 litre of sunscreen

This was not excessive by any means... I was a bit of a suncream geek I must admit... I wore it religiously. And I did get it down to 1 bottle of cream in the end, which was the perfect amount for the trip. I was wrong in assuming high quality suncream would be hard to find, but it was also relatively expensive. The weight was ok as it obviously got far less over the duration of my trip. One of my top tips would be to purchase on of the 100ml plunge dispensers to top up with the cream, so you don't have to carry around the massive bottle all the time!

  • The jungle formula was cheapest at Wilko - only £4.50 a can! I took 2 cans

This was pointless as I found it had little to no effect in repelling mosquitoes! Instead I chucked it and started using a local brand which was very cheap, available everywhere, and came in small bottles for easy carrying.
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  • Toiletries, I'm taking soap over liquid body wash (to try to avoid spillages - and smaller/lighter), my face wash, shampoo, razors, tooth paste and brush. A rechargable epilator for my legs and mini scissors and clippers. and then So I've ditched my shampoo...Instead I've got a Lush shampoo bar

Lush shampoo bars seemed like a great idea, but in reality they melted in the heat and only lasted a month or so. Instead I changed to just buying liquid shampoo every few weeks, and the same with the body wash... the soap was a bit of a hassle. It was actually nice too to be able to try out different products for hair/body that are not available in the UK. In the end I fell in love with a Pantene shampoo that they don't sell in the UK, so I'm sad now that I'm back and can't have it! One of the main things I realised when travelling, was actually how easy it was. I thought there would be some places that would be so remote I may not be able to get shampoo.... seems silly to think that now. Maybe if I ventured out of Asia... but here even in the remote places, there was always a tiny corner shop selling a multitude of personal products.

  • My first aid kit has plasters, antiseptic cream, anthisan cream, sewing kit, painkillers etc. And hopeful after tomorrow, 180 tablets of doxycycline - anti-malaria tablets

I don't know what I thought was going to happen to me, but I don't need all this stuff in the UK... so why would I need it there?! I found most things in my 'first-aid kit' to be unnecessary. There are pharmacists everywhere, so whenever I needed something I was able to pick it up really easily. The anthisan got ditched and replaced by the much more effective Tiger Balm, which is available everywhere in Asia.
I also ditched my anti-malarials... I based this decision on weighing up the side-effects, which I heard could be pretty draining, and the fact that there are so many other mosquito-born diseases you can't protect against (dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis etc). So, in reality, if I am going to be covering myself in mosquito-repellent to protect against those... why would I need to take anti-malarials too? Actually, throughout my whole trip, I got very few mosquito bites thanks to the amazing orange-scented mozzy spray available everywhere (see pic above)

  • Also taking my flip flops, sketchers pumps and trainers. My snorkelling face mask. Plug adapters and chargers and instead of a sleeping bag, I just have a sleeping bag liner - polycotton - for quick drying/no ironing. I got some permethrin fabric treatment for it, my clothes and if I buy a mozzy net over there - hopefully I can avoid the dreaded bed bugs! eek!

Flip flops and trainers was all I needed, I never wore my pumps, and the one day I did they gave me huge blisters (I think the heat made my feet swell), so they got ditched straight away. I also ditched my sleeping bag liner. Every hostel I stayed in always provided fresh bed sheets, and I only encountered bed bugs once (I guess reading hostel reviews first helps you to avoid this). I never got round to using the fabric treatment, so that got dropped as well. And again, most hostels which were in heavy-mosquito areas provided nets, so I didn't end up buying one.
Having a good fitting snorkel mask was also fantastic, until I lost it after a boating trip... :(

  • And there it is, all packed in, even enough room for my hair dryer!

And no, I don't regret taking my hairdryer at all! It was my luxury item and I felt so much better for it!

  • As for my day pack...

My only regret was not taking a normal bag with me! I felt like a bit of a saddo wearing my geeky backpack all the time, and it made me stick out like a sore thumb as a tourist. This was almost immediately replaced by a small handbag satchel, and updated regularly since they got so battered by excessive use!

  • My backpack, as you can see from photos, is side opening- like a suitcase, which is a lot more accessible. It has an extendable internal capacity and a few separate compartments. The straps are all adjustable and can easily be covered up. Plus the day bag can be attached to the main bag so you only have one bag to carry but can remove it easily to use as hand luggage or a day bag.

My bag actually wasn't that great. It's main fault was that with all the adjustable parts and metal it was heavy without anything in it! And I eventually found it too big with too much empty space that I couldn't get rid of. I will definitely buy a new backpack before going travelling again. One which is as light as possible and has a smaller capacity, maybe 40-50L. And not once did I attach the smaller bag to the large one, it just made it too back-heavy. I found it much easier to carry the smaller bag on my front as a counter-weight.

I guess one of the things I learned whilst travelling, was that it was nowhere near as difficult or as scary as I had imagined. I didn't need to take all my bag with me. Essentially most things in my bag were a safety net that I just didn't need... At no point in my trip did I worry that I would lose my bag, as long as I had my handbag (passport, money, phone, (and my make-up bag!!)) the whole contents could've been replaced for a fraction of the cost to buy in the UK. And in my opinion, that's all you want. No valuables, and simple contents that is easy and light to carry, which would not be a big deal if you lost. I was fortunate enough in my trip never to have anything stolen or lost, but I had no stress or worries about leaving my bag in storage or on a roof rack out of sight, I could just enjoy my trip to the fullest. And I did! :D

Posted by Libbytes 08:03 Comments (1)

So this is it... I'm finally here!

semi-overcast 35 °C
View Italy road trip & PhD Celebrations! on Libbytes's travel map.

So apparently you need proof of onward travel to enter bangkok... seems obvious, but as I spent the last 3 months planning whether or not to buy a microfibre towel, I neglected to fully research this problem. I was under the impression that all you need to get a travellers visa for Thailand was 6 months left on your passport and proof of sufficient funds for onward travel.... but since my plan is to leave Thailand via slow boat to Laos, I had no proof that I would stick to my 30 day visa. Swiss airlines were quick to point out that I have no proof, leaving me to frantically buy a flight to Ho Chi Minh city out of bangkok for £40! Unfortunately, the stress and anxiety of almost not being allowed to board my initial flight in a 6 month adventure meant I did not fully appreciate the farewells from all my family; whom I miss already.

Anyway, not everything goes as planned, but at least I eventually made it to Bangkok!

Funnily enough, the guy I sat next to on the flight to Bangkok also had the same situation as he left from Paris! And he too was made to purchase a flight leaving Bangkok which he will not use, so at least I wasn't on my own in the oversight!

I made it safely to my first stop, link corner hostel, with Baptiste from the flight in tow (he hadn't reserved a room and so joined me after my recommendation to stay here).

I met Ben soon after I arrived and the 2 of us ate at a street vendor - the food was so hot it blew my socks off! And I'm usually fine with hot food - perhaps it was because it was 35° too!
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We visited the night market and then chilled on Ben's balcony overlooking the centre of town. I tried my first rose apple, which was so juicy and refreshing, like a really juicy cross between an apple and a pear.
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Above is victory monument by night.

My first impressions of bangkok... it was beautiful on the way in on the sky train... It's busy and there's certainly too much to see in one lifetime; I know it will be hard to decide what to do tomorrow!
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Posted by Libbytes 03:02 Archived in Thailand Tagged bangkok Comments (1)

What Wat?

sunny 35 °C
View Italy road trip & PhD Celebrations! on Libbytes's travel map.

So after a dreadful nights' sleep due to jet lag I decided to move to my next hostel - Hi Mid Bangkok - via taxi. I hailed one from outside link corner and it took me right there, only it dropped me off on the wrong side of a very busy road! Instead of running for my life across 6 lanes of traffic with speeding motorbikes, tuk-tuks and cars, I walked to the nearest pedestrian overpass. By the time I arrived at hi mid I was drenched with sweat!! So much for trying to avoid a walk. 2 showers later and Bel and Ben joined me for breakfast. The iced coffee here has been amazing so far; they put condensed milk in and it's so sweet and cold!

Since Ben was visiting Bel's mum that afternoon, I had my first taste of solo travel... I did ok I think! I took a train down town to Chao Phraya river, then a boat back up to visit Wat Pho. The temple complex was amazing. I think I read somewhere it is 8 hectares, and it had many mini shrines and Buddhas, all gold leaf plated. The main attraction here was the HUGE reclining gold Buddha - almost 50ft long I think - with mother of pearl feet. It was spectacular. But I also enjoyed watching some kind of initiation ceremony for young Buddhist boys. They were getting their heads and eyebrows shaved, then applying yellow powder; which looked like turmeric as it stained their heads yellow, before washing themselves with water. Some had nicks and cuts from the shave, I guess that's what the turmeric was for, but they were all smiling and laughing. There was an old man with a hose pipe who seemed to delight in splashing them and the young boys were also playing with the water, splashing each other!

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On the boat to wat pho.
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Pillars
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Reclining Buddha
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I think these were donation pots, people would take a bag of small copper coins and place one in each pot as they walked.
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Bonsai style trees were everywhere.
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Almost everything was gold-leaf plated!
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This but wasn't... bit toothy though!
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Young boys even got their eyebrows shaved off!
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But they got to get sprayed with water afterwards, and it was very hot!

I then got another boat across the river to the opposite side to see Wat Arun. Completely contrasting to Wat pho, everything was stone decorated with ancient Chinese ceramics. The Khmer style tower was about 80ft I think and you could climb it - up some very steep steps! The front steps were busy, but round the back was nobody and the steps there were in the shadow of the tower so much cooler!

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Wat arun, ok maybe some things were gold still!!
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Outer pillar
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Ceramic decorations
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Climbers on the sunny side
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You could just see wat pho over the river from the top.

I got a taxi back to the hostel from here after a stroll through a park nearby.

Not sure what I will do tomorrow, but I know Ben wants to go to the weekend market, and I would like to see the golden mount which I didn't see today (spent to much time watching people in wat pho!)

I will post some pics of the hostel tomorrow as it is beautiful!

Posted by Libbytes 00:51 Archived in Thailand Tagged bangkok wat_arun wat_po Comments (2)

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