I've been to Thailand a couple of times now, but before I first went out there, I had no idea how much cash to take with me or how much I would be spending out there.
I found Thailand to be one of my better value for money experiences. Sure, its not cheap to get there, however if you book flights in advance, you can get a good deal, especially with Russian or Chinese airlines. While you are out there, you really do get bang for your buck. You can do a whole range of activities, for a fraction of the cost of doing them in European cities.
I won't lie, I did have to save some money before I went, no matter how cheap a place is, spending a significant amount of time away from home will always eat into savings. Whats strange is, the longer you stay, the cost per day actually falls, this is because you begin to realise the cheapest places to eat and the most cost effective ways of travelling or finding shelter for the night.
How expensive is Thailand? Here's my take...
University: Barcelona Graduate School of Economics
Airport Rating ****
Reception of locals *****
I've always wanted to study abroad. Not only is it a different way of learning, but it also helps compare and contextualise the way you've been taught against the way others have been taught and this is important in an increasingly globalised workplace.
Now, I didn't study abroad for a whole degree, or even a one year course, but I did join a summer school in Barcelona to do a course in Economics that was (thankfully) paid for by my work and it gave me a little insight of how things are done on the continent and it proved to be a real eye opener.
Airport Rating *****
Reception of locals ***
Known as the city of a thousand spires, Prague has taken on a new meaning in the minds of twenty something travellers from England, that as a stag city, and it was in preparation for a wedding of one of my Singh friend's that we headed off to this central European city.
The sight of 15/20 brown people walking through the streets of Prague must have been quite unique for the locals as we got a lot of curious stares, but for the most part the city was very welcoming and friendly. They have no idea what a Sikh is - some thought we were Turkish, others thought we were Hindu and even if you try to explain what a Sikh is, they still don't understand, but its not altogether surprising as there are only a handful of Sikhs in the Czech Republic.
When it comes to Thailand, I can't limit myself to my usual 5 favourite experiences as this country has so much to offer.
I have been to Thailand twice in the past 3 years, covering the entire country from the ancient cities in the north to the beaches and islands of the south and everything in between and I loved absolutely everything about it.
From cycling in the beautiful countryside of Lampang to enjoying beach parties in Ko Phangan, here are the 10 things I loved about Thailand.
Peru is one of those few countries that seem to have mastered being modern and traditional at the same time. The majority of the population is Amerindian, with Quechua and Aymara people still speaking the same language as they did during the times of the Inca. There is also a sizeable population of European descent who have brought with them Spanish culture. Unlike other areas of South America, however, the Spanish culture didn't completely replace the culture of the Amerindians, instead it seems to melt into it. When you add minorities from Africa and the Far East, you truly have one of South America's most multi-ethnic countries.
From the cuisine to the sights, Peru has a lot to offer. Whether its modern Lima with its Skyscrapers in Downtown or the bars and restaurants in Miraflores, or Ollantaytambo with its beautiful snowcapped mountains and preserved Incan culture, Peru certainly has a little something for everybody.
I didn't get to explore the northern part of the country and I heard amazing stories about Arequipa, however, here are my 5 favourite things about Peru.
In terms of tragedy, not many countries have the recent history that Cambodia does. Up to three million people (about 25% of the population) were killed in the Cambodian genocide carried out by the ruling Khmer Rouge party in the late 70's and their continued resistance into the 90's. There is hardly a family in the country that wasn't in some way affected by this mass genocide.
However, the Cambodia that I saw was a young, confident nation that had come out of the worst of its adversity and lived to tell the tale. It was a nation that paid tribute to its past but also looked confidently to its future.
There's not much to dislike about Cambodia, but here are the 5 things I absolutely loved.
Between the FIFA World Cup and the Summer Olympics, Rio is somewhat of a buzzword these days with the focus of the world's media on the sixth largest city in the Americas.
A booming economy in the early 2000's has catapulted Brazil onto the world stage, and where Brasilia is the brains, Sao Paulo the hard working heart, Rio is undoubtedly the soul of this great country. I stayed here for just under a week during my trip to South America and I felt like I had barely scratched the surface.
The city retains a portion of its Portuguese heritage and combines it with West African and indigenous culture to create the distinct Brazilian feel that has given the world Carnival and Samba.
The Maracana was closed on my arrival but here are my top 5 favourite things about Rio.
The 20th century saw large scale decolonisation throughout the world. Whilst some transfers happened relatively peacefully (Hong Kong, Macau) others happened more violently. One of the most violent struggles for freedom occurred in Vietnam. After fighting the Japanese, French and Americans, Vietnam entered the second half of the 20th century scarred by fighting and Saigon was a byword for destruction.
However, Vietnam is finally emerging from its tragic recent history by projecting an image of hope and beauty. Vietnam is no longer associated with just a war, its now associated with adventure and fun. From the communist feel of North Vietnam, to a more capitalist feel in South Vietnam, the country still has strong footprints of a tragic conflict, however it also adds to an already rich culture and history.
I didn't have time to visit the famous Ha Long Bay, and I'll be sure to make a return trip to visit the famous area, however, here are my top 5 favourite things about Vietnam.
South East Asia or South America. These two parts of the world have seen an explosion of popularity over the past decade and for most people the decision of where to visit first is often a difficult one. In this entry, I'll try and rate each of the locations on factors that are important to the average person and come up with an overall rating.
Things to consider
Before I get things started, its important to note that my experiences over the two locations will vary. I spent more time in South East Asia, and it was also the place I decided to visit first. There are important locations missing from both locations. I didn't visit Laos in SE Asia and I didn't visit Colombia and Argentina in South America. Personally, I feel that Argentina is a significant omission due to the size of the country and the number of things to see and do. Ratings and experiences are also very subjective, my experience could be significantly different from the experience of others so I'd bare this in mind when you make your decision.
Finally, a comparison between the two locations isn't an exact science. The phrase apples and oranges comes to mind. Peru and Brazil have completely different cultures, speak completely different languages, yet for the purpose of comparison they have been lumped together under a loose 'South American' category. This entry is a subjective rough overview of my experiences and can form part of your research into each location.
I was ridiculously underprepared for my trek to Machu Picchu, but I made it to the site in one piece. Looking back at the trip now, I realise there were probably a few things more important than others, and possibly a couple of things I could have done without.
British Sikh, born in the Midlands, based in London, travelling the world seeing new cultures.