If you take a look at Chiang Mai Thailand on the map you can see that is nearby destinations such as Myanmar (Burma), Laos Cambodia, Vietnam, and Malaysia. In fact South East Asia is home to Siem Riep and Hanoi, which are currently within Trip Advisor’s 2015 top 5 destinations. I’ve been working and living from Taiwan for the past 2 years and for the past 3 months Chiang Mai has been my base. I’m going to explain why living in Chiang Mai is an ideal base to travel deeper in South East Asia.
Chiang Mai is currently one of the most popular destinations for digital nomads, people who earn their living on-line through an overseas income. The reasons for this are many from great weather, good Internet, it’s safe, cheap, and easy to find monthly accommodation. Digital nomads like to live in a location from a month to 6 months and then move onto the next destination. Even if you are not a digital nomad Chiang Mai is still a great base if you prefer slower longer-term travel and want to explore more of South East Asia as I have done.
As a creative digital nomad in my late thirties I prefer a little comfort and have become more settled. I’ve found 2 places in the world other than Vancouver I have lived and called home. That is Taipei, Taiwan and Chiang Mai Thailand. Thailand offers 30-day tourist visa’s for most Western countries if you just show up with your passport. Some digital nomads like to get the coveted triple entry 60-day tourist visa. This allows you to maximize your stay in Thailand for up to 9 months. I’m not the visa expert here and this is not the scope of this article. My point is that if you choose Chiang Mai as your base you can travel to a neighboring country and return for another 30 days to relax in Chiang Mai. Here are some countries I visited during my stay in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai, Thailand – an ideal base to travel deep into South East Asia
Chiang Mai is one of those special destinations in the world that has a lot of offer with few trade-offs. It’s surrounded by mountains and blessed with mostly sunny dry weather. You can enjoy local living in the trendy area of Nimmanhamen, which has an abundance of bars with live music, restaurants, coffee shops, massage shops, and co-working spaces. Many foreigners enjoy living here or want to live here for this reason. I credit discovering this area to a prominent digital nomad named Johnny FD who shares a lot about living life here. Of course Chiang Mai is not all about Nimman and you might want to take a Red Truck or Tuk Tuk to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple up on the mountain. You can even rent a scooter for $70 US a month and have real mobile independence. The night market is good to get some good cheap buys like a wood smartphone cover, elephant pants, or a cool t-shirt. If you want to live here it’s as simple as walking to an apartment to ask for the price and take a look at the suite. Get a simple studio for $200 US or get a comfortable luxury condo for $500 US and you’ve got your base in Chiang Mai
Highlights of Chiang Mai
My comfortable apartment and enjoying living in Nimman and Chiang Mai
Meeting new like-minded friends to work and party with
Working at cool co-working spaces like Camp and Mana
Good cheap local food like Pad Thai’s and Chicken Basil Rice
Enjoying a Leo at a local live bar or from the Nimman Hill Rooftop
Renting a scooter to drive up into the mountains to visit a Buddhist Temple or enjoy the scenery
Taking some photos in the cage with Tigers at Tiger Kingdom
Going for good cheap Thai, foot, and oil massages
I believe Myanmar (Burma) just opened up to tourists in 2012. Myanmar’s main city is Yangon, which is a comfortable one-hour flight for less than $127 US. The people in Myanmar are so friendly and curious about where you are from. I think it’s because they recently opened up to tourism and are not used to seeing tourists. In July 2015 the first KFC opened in Yangon and Western fast food. It was crazy busy, and compared to some local options is a luxury experience. This is the exception though and most of the country is still unspoiled by the west. The country is safe and the food was excellent.
Highlights of Myanmar
Walking around taking in the sunset and night atmosphere of the Shwedagon Pagoda
Buying good and cheap Myanmar whiskey, rum, beer, and coffee
Checking out a chic Shisha rooftop Martini bar
Riding an e-bike temple hunting in Bagan
Enjoying the wide selection of curries and rices
Siem Riep Angkor Wat
Siem Riep is a 1 hour flight from Bangkok and Chiang Mai is 1 hour from Bangkok. The main reason to come here is to visit the famous Angkor Wat temple and the other surrounding temples. You can enjoy a comfortable stay with a swimming pool at a good price. You can hire a Tuk tuk to enjoy the sunrise and visit Angkor Wat and visit the Angelina Jolie temple (Ta Prohm), where the Tomb Raider movie was filmed.
Highlights of Siem Riep
The experience waking up early to see an Angkor Wat sunrise
Temple hunting on Tuk tuk
Renting an E-bike to self ride through the city and the temples on my own
Relaxing at my hotel with a swimming pool
Chilling for drinks and food at Pub street during day and night
The delicious jungle burger
Using US currency
Going to Vietnam is a different experience than the other countries. It’s worth it for the food though. Hanoi is less than a 2-hour flight from Bangkok and you’ll need to apply for a visa in advance. It costs about $45 US and $18 US to ride into town. I recently discovered that like Saigon it has heavy scooter traffic where crossing the street is an experience in itself. You can try Chicken noodle soup for breakfast and some pretty good western food. You can walk through the old quarter and enjoy good eats and shopping. Trip Advisor’s poster image gave me the impression that Hanoi would be more laid back and offer natural landscapes. However, I made the best out of the situation. I stayed in the old quarter at a central well reviewed trip advisor hotel for $18 Us.
Highlights of Hanoi
Good and cheap chicken and beef pho
Cheap and good Vietnamese sandwiches
Excellent spring rolls
A food tour where I got to discover street foods
Enjoying Vietnamese coffee French style people watching
Good shopping for Fedora or military style hats
Going for a sunrise walk around Ho Kiem Lake
Enjoying a Hanoi beer with cheese sticks
Making local friends at Gecko bar and Highlands coffee
Enjoying a Hanoi beer at Avalon lounge with a view of the lake
Filming the craziness of Ta hien
Getting my selfie stick from the market
Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) City
Saigon was my introduction to Vietnam. I heard some good things about it from other Digital nomads. If you haven’t been to Vietnam before you may find it chaotic and noisy. I found a great cheap well-reviewed hotel in Trip Advisor that made this stay more comfortable. It was hard to find but was located in a narrow alley that introduced us to the morning street markets right outside our hotel. I enjoyed French influenced foods like crepes and sandwiches. Some of our favorite restaurants were located in the French area near the Notre-Dame Basilica. The military museum is interesting some fun photo ups with military tanks and planes as well as learning about the war. I hated the night market and if you’ve been to the Taipei night markets this doesn’t compare. This city will keep you on your toes and isn’t boring.
Highlights of Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) City
Trying out Vietnamese coffee and buying a coffee maker and bag to take with me
The Chu Chi tunnel tour – The friendly and funny guide and making a new Irish friend
Getting buzzed at a Chic Australian owned lounge at Happy hour
Cool photo ops at the War Remnants Museum and the cultural experience
Pho for breakfast and crepes for dinner
I know I’m just scratching the surface. If you’re interested in learning more about Chiang Mai , Thailand, or South East Asia then sign up to my newsletter. I’m thinking of creating guide to include the following
Chiang Mai living guide
The actual hotels I stayed at, flights I took, and how I got around
Sample costs so you don’t get taken advantage of
Where I got travel insurance for myself and my gear
Survival tips – How to get around and not get taken advantage of
Must try foods and restaurant recommendations
Info on Sim card plans
Tips on where to get the best Photo and Video ops
Food and drink maps
I’m also thinking of writing why Taiwan is an ideal base to explore Japan, China, and Hong Kong
2015 is a good time to visit Tokyo. I remember years ago I also wanted to go there. The problem was I was all the way in Vancouver, Canada and I just imagined it would too expensive for me.In 2011 Japan was struck by the East Coast Earthquake, which resulted in radiation to Tokyo. According to a Bloomberg article Tokyo’s radiation level is less than Paris or London 3 years after the meltdown.
My memory is still fresh from my long recent trip to Tokyo. I spent most of my time filming video and eating food. I flew a low cost airline from Taipei to Tokyo for about $100 us, stayed one night at a capsule in, before staying 3 nights at a private Airbnb apartment in Akasuka Roppongi living like a local. I would compare the area I stayed to Yaletown in Vancouver. It was close to a park at the upscale Tokyo Midtown Center with plenty of options for food. I enjoy my Japanese beer, gyoza, ramen, beef rice bowls, sake, sushi, and udon. I spent a lot of time trying to research and figure out where to spend my time to eat and what to take footage of. I know there is a lot of free information out there, but you’re probably not going to use it. How do I know? Because some of it’s outdated, and it doesn’t feature beautiful pictures. Worst of all it’s all over the Internet.
It’s a good time to visit Tokyo, Japan. The currency is not as strong and Japan offers great food, some of the politest people in the world, an original culture, in a world class city.
In this guide I’m going to give you a nice PDF cheat sheet with the following:
Information on where I got my cheap flight and how much I paid.
Tips on getting from Narita airport to town
Tips on getting a shuttle (yes even for 7am flights) to Narita airport for 1000 yen
Where to get free Wifi for your trip in Tokyo
The Japanese coffee house you must try (no not Starbucks)
Tips on finding good cheap food like gyoza, rice bowls 24/7 for under 700 yen
Where to find some of the best Sushi in Tokyo and where I got that delicious seafood donburi
The stations and areas that you must visit and how to get there. As I take video footage I will also give you tips on where to get the best angles. For example: Shibuya crossroads you want to go to the 2nd floor of Starbucks to get a birdseye view
How to figure the Tokyo metro
The best Japanese beers to try and where to get them
Where to get craft beer (IPA’s) in Tokyo
Which Airbnb I stayed at and my experience staying at the upscale neighborhood of Roppongi
I’ll give you at the actual business cards of some of the places I visited
Where to get a skyline view of Shinjuku skyscrapers for free
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It’s hard to imagine I’ve lived in Taipei for almost a year and 4 months. During this time I spent some time learning Chinese, teaching English, and building several businesses on the Internet. It wasn’t until I met a fellow Canadian that came to visit Taipei that I began to think of myself as a Digital nomad.
What is a digital nomad?
A digital nomad is someone that earns money on the Internet. It is the idea that you can do work where you are free of the constraints of being in your office. In fact you can do it anywhere in the world. I spend most of my time working from home or the many cafe’s throughout Taipei. The type of businesses can vary. There are developers and coders that have clients in other countries like South Africa, but they are able to do their work from a country like Taiwan. Usually it makes sense to live in a country that has lower costs, but where you can earn overseas money to maximize your situation. A digital nomad is not limited to a coder. I myself create video stock footage and sell them through stock agencies on the Internet like Pond5. Some people earn income from youtube, google adsense, and being an affiliate for different products. I also create courses that are in video format that are available and sold on learning platforms like Udemy.com and have also began publishing and selling Travel adventures on Amazon Kindle. I believe the idea of traveling and being able to work anywhere over an Internet connection was popularized by the book “the 4 hour work week” by Tim Ferris. There are different types of Digital nomads of course. I prefer to spend 3 months or longer before traveling to a nearby country. There are some digital nomads that travel more frequently.
Again this idea I believe was also made popular my Tim Ferris. It is the idea that you can do work upfront that earns you can income while you sleep. While it’s not always while you sleep you can create a digital products like an e-book and then put it up for sale. The courses I create are in video format and once on the internet the sale of the course happens automatically through the platform. You can automate the sales transaction and the delivery of the product to the customer so you could be having dinner when you can get an email from Paypal telling you that you have money. Another advantage of this type of income is that once you have created your product or service it can continue to bring in a regular income so you can move onto the next project. An example is that I built a course on making money with travel videos that sells every month. I am now free to build a new course that there is a cumulative effect.
The experience of being a Digital Nomad in Taiwan
Let’s start with basic needs. Shelter, connectivity, food, transport, and social life. Compared to Vancouver and other North American cities I found just about everything cheaper in Taipei. I traveled to many places around the world from Singapore, Australia, and South Africa. Taiwan is one of the most Internet Wifi friendly cities that I’ve traveled to. The Taiwanese love their wifi and their smartphones. Just look at the number of people looking at their phones with power banks attached to their phones. Rent is cheap compared to apartments in North America. You can get 3 or 6 month contracts ready to move in that are fully furnished and have fast Internet. I’ve observed directly and heard from many local Taiwanese friends that there are more foreigners now in Taipei in the past year or so. Taiwan is often overlooked, but I believe it is a gem in Asia and the word is getting out. Taiwan is a food paradise with local specialties like noodles, soup, and rice available at cheap prices. Food is cheap enough that I can eat out almost every meal giving me more time to work on my business. Transportation is convenient and cheap with numerous options from the MRT, bus, u-bike, or Taxi. There are also plenty of social and business events to meet new friends and fellow entrepreneurs around Taipei. There is a happening nightlife in Taipei if that is your thing. Because of convenient and cheap transportation you can have a good time without worrying about driving.
The bottom line is Taipei is a good choice for being a digital nomad. You can get connected, live and eat at a low cost. I’m not promoting this, but you can purchase a can of Taiwan beer for 35nt and drink it in a 7-11 or out on the street. Taiwan is a clean, safe, and modern city. Taiwan is also a foreign friendly city with low cost healthcare. It is easy and cheap to get around. However, to get the most out of Taiwan it definitely helps to speak Chinese Mandarin. You can get by on English though.
Costs of being a Digital Nomad in Taiwan
I’ve read about costs of being a digital nomad in techinasia.com’s article and the Digital nomad guide’s site. Techinasia has claimed a cost of $2121. I wanted to share with you a breakdown of my actual monthly costs of being a digital nomad in Taipei that is approximately $1071 US. Note that Taipei is the most expensive city in Taiwan. You could travel to Kaoshiung, the second largest city in Taiwan and reduce your accommodation costs by 40%. This is hearsay from a local friend, and I haven’t had a chance to look up the rental costs myself. Ok lets begin
Digital nomad monthly budget in Taipei, Taiwan
Accommodation in the central Taipei – 16,000NT Food (based on a 400nt daily budget) – 12,000nt Transportation – 1500nt Entertainment – 2000nt Cafe – 2000NT Mobile monthly wifi 2gb 320nt Total 34,020 NT US $1071 $1283 CDN 706 GBP There is no tax added on for most expenses for the customer. Most places don’t ask for tips except for nicer or western style restaurants. Of course you are probably wondering the assumptions behind the figures. I live near central Taipei, which is considered more on the high end. If you live in New Taipei City (20 minutes MRT across the river) you can expect to pay about 10,000nt a month. If you share a 2 bedroom apartment with a roomate you could pay 25,000nt in the Da-an area. Included in the the accommodation is High speed Internet, furniture, television, garbage service, and a small kitchen. It is normal to eat out every meal in Taiwan because it is good and cheap. Some apartments don’t have a kitchen area. I normally like to eat a healthy hot oat breakfast with fruit and then I’ll buy a noodle or rice dish for lunch and dinner. A bowl of beef noodles at a local shop goes for $130nt $4.11. You can go more expensive for western foods like a good burger and fries at Bravo Burger for 270nt $8.56Us or get a bbq chicken leg rice dish with vegetables, soup, and drink for 90nt $2.85. You can get around 1 way on the MRT to most locations in Taipei for 25nt one way .79 cents US. If you take the bus it is 15nt or .47 US. If you take the U-bike (free bike rental) to your destination in under 30 minutes it is free. The MRT is modern, fast, and has extensive coverage throughout the city. As I am central I save money on my transport as I don’t have to travel that far. I budgeted about 50nt per day to arrive at the that figure. If you need a taxi for those times on the weekend you can get to most locations from the Xinyi nightlife district for 200nt or under $6.34.
Starbucks cafe’s allow you to get a tall black coffee for 80nt and offer a good environment to work in. Note that not all Starbucks are equal. Some will be offer more space and offer plug outlets. If you buy a Starbucks card you get 2 hours daily free wifi. Local coffee shops like Mr. Brown you can get a coffee and unlimited daily Internet. If you go to the trendy cafe’s you’re looking to pay 130nt $4.11 US for an Americano. There are many choices with varying prices for Wifi. I heard that that 7-11 offers free wifi if you sign up and that’s completely free. If you’re heading for a night our you can expect to pay about $230nt for a pint of Heineken. $150nt for a small glass of wine. I use a mobile sim card on a 2gb plan which I think is super cheap. This isn’t your full-time connection for work, but good for communication with your friends or checking email when you don’t have coverage. Most cafe’s and restaurants will have wifi to converse your data, and when you have depleted you can always refill at different increments. 180nt $5.70Us will give you another 1GB. Do you have similar or different experiences in Taiwan. Please comment. Would you like to share your Digital nomad experience in another city that you live. Please comment.
Where to go for great cheap local food Where to go for good Western food in Taipei Where to go to relax and exercise ( Gyms, Pools, hotsprings)Current prices of food, shelter, food, clothing and more Where to meet new friends Which areas and neighbourhoods to stay and workWhich bars and clubs to visit in Taipei’s nightlifeHow and where to find an apartment (without overpaying)How to meet other Entrepreneurs living in TaiwanHow to stay safe in Taipei Where to get the the fastest and cheapest SIM-card plans with mobile data with the exact address Tips on hacking Chinese with technology Cultural differences and how to cope with them
Starbucks Taipei 101 is a must-see If you’re going for a visit to see Taipei 101 which I highly recommend. It offers the some of the best views of Taipei for the lowest cost. The best views for free are at the elephant mountain hike, which I’ll cover on the future post. You’ll need to make an advance appointment to do so. You can watch the video to get the phone number and they understand english.
It is easy to get there. You can take the MRT underground subway and closest station is Taipei 101 World Trade Center on the new red line. The red line was installed around September 2013 so you’re in luck.
The verdict: It is a bit of a hassle to get there, but armed with this information and if you’re already going to visit Taipei 101 this is a must do.
For the price of a coffee and food you can get amazing views and skip competing with the crowds trying to go to the viewing platform.
While you’re in this area here are some ideas of what to do.
Eat at the Xinyi food court in the basement level for good cheap eats
Try the Xiao long Bao at the Din Tai Fung by the same MRT exit 4. It’s probably the biggest and busiest of the Din Tai Fung branches in Taipei so be prepared.
Jason’s market place is nearby which is the closest thing Taipei has to wholefoods. You can grab a nice ipa beer and drink it while you wait.
Visit the ATT4Fun area. There are more places to eat, watch movies, and drink.
Go for a visit to Elephant Mountain for a hike and the best views of Taipei.
The day after my birthday celebration my local friend and I met at the Taipei Mrt station of Guting at 8:30am. From there we caught our hour and half train ride out to Yilan. Prior to this trip a couple of locals mentioned that Yilan had natural beauty.
I did’t have time to plan as I usually do, but my friend had a chance to speak to my other local friends to give us some guidance. (Thanks Tina and Riwen).
We decided to get some brunch at a vegetarian buffet near the train station. For 100nt we had a delicious veggie buffet. All the good dishes started to come out at lunch. After we decided to rent a car nearby for about 1300nt for the day. Public transport is not as extensive as Taipei and we were there just for day for heavy camera gear so we thought the car would be handy. We rented a 4 door mini automatic car with a 1.3 liter engine that was capable of 100km/hr. Good enough. Armed with my iPhone, google maps, and a 3g internet connection from taiwan mobile we eventually settled on our next stop at plum blossom lake.
On our ride we passed by western style houses with green dancing grass that reminded me of areas in Bali. It was nice just to see western houses in Taiwan, which I haven’t seen in a year. Plum blossom lake has a flower shaped lake. It started raining hard so we took shelter by a food stand with a delicious lean pork grass wrap. Look at the pics they so more than I can do than words.
After we went drove up to the Sancing temple which took 15 minutes. I drove as close as I could to the temple and was happy to get free parking. It featured an awesome view of the lake and city. The temple itself was impressive and reminded me of the Forbidden city architecture especially with the animals on the roof. With my friend Serena sheltering me and my camera I managed to get some footage. the rain quickly stopped and cleared up. The weather in Taipei and Yilan changes very frequently throughout the day in May.
We had already used up most of our day and had just enough time to make it to the Su-ao area. We managed to take some pics of the Su-ao cold springs and the Su-ao port for some great shots. We rushed back to the car rental to catch our train and passed by the Luodong Night Market.
As I wrap up this blog I realized that Yilan will require more time to fully appreciate its beauty and what it has to offer. Special thanks to Serena for making the trip happen.!
Bali is a good travel destination if you’re in search of tropical vacation and are already in Asia. The prices aren’t too expensive, food is good, and there are interesting cultural experiences. Beyond Bali there are many other destinations in Indonesia. For example, the Komodo islands are home to good diving and the komodo dragons.
Our plan was to visit Bali Indonesia and head over to the Komodo Islands to visit the mythic Komodo dragons.
We stationed ourselves in the proclaimed upscale area of seminyak, bali. My friend and I were happy with the the modern spacious loft from Clio . It is a great value and great location. I spent many hours and days researching accommodation in Seminyak so you can take my recommendation and save yourself the time if you like.
The area of Seminyak was not as luxurious as I had imagined in my mind. True there were upscale and trendy shops, but compared to Yaletown Vancouver Seminyak is still undeveloped. It is an experience dealing with the high figures like 100,000 rp for a massage, 20,000rp for Bintang bear, 80,000rp for sun beds by the beach for 2 people all day.
If you are in Seminyak the Seminyak square was the central landmark in town and where most of the restaurants, shops, and bars were. I recommend trying out a massage as they are a good value compare to North america.
The trendy Ku de Tah bar that I had heard so much about was not that much further away from Seminyak Square. First we decided to walk to the beachfront. We decided to detour in a hotel resort, which was pretty luxurious and gave us access to the beach. After we went to the Ku De Tah. It had no cover and it was surprisingly trendy, family friendly, and hip at the same time. A DJ played music in the background as my friend and I ordered an overpriced weak cocktail and sat by the beach.
To get around it is a good idea to hire a driver. Our car broke down after getting our sim car and had to get another taxi back to the hotel. Make sure you negotiate your cab fare first as we made the mistake of getting in and finding out we were overcharged once we arrived at the hotel. There was a huge argument between us, the driver, and the hotel who had organized the driver. In the end the hotel covered the fare, which I think is fare. Anyhow, lesson learned take only bluebird taxis and negotiate the fare before you get in. Getting a sim card for my unlocked phone was also super difficult, and almost not worth the trouble to get connected. The day after I got my sim card it ran out of data. The sim card vendors don’t speak english and we had to rely on our driver for translation. Even then something obviously got lost in translation.
We salvaged the day by checking out the Legian beach, which is between Seminyak and Kuta. The beach sand is not that great, but it is bearable and the waves were decent enough for surfing. There are some good choices for lunch near the beach and the sunset was spectacular.
Later that night we decided to sample the Kuta night life. We saw the memorial dedicated to the tourists who were killed during the terrorist bombing incident. This is the central part of the strip where you will be see rows of bars all down the street. We found all the bars pretty tacky with watered down drinks. The most interesting bar was the Reggae themed Apache Reggae bar which had live reggae music where the crowd could dance and have a seat.
The next day our driver picked us up. We asked to go to the cultural town of Ubud, see some rice terraces, and go to the Mother Temple of Besakih. This took up our entire day. The highlight for me was the a coffee tour we got to see the kopi luwak coffee. It is the boutique coffee that is made from the poop of a cat. We got to see how the coffee was made and sample it after. In the same area we got to see some rice terraces.
Many hours later we arrived at the mother temple. We had to purchase a sarong, which I later found out was a rental fee as they take it back. The sarongs were 300,000rp I believe so try bring your own. We got a good guide who took us right to the top. The weather wasn’t too great but we made it to the mother of all temples in Bali!
Next: I talk about our journey from Bali to the town of Labuan Bajo where I’ll do some scuba diving and we go in search of the Komodo dragons.
Greg is a modern World Explorer, Film-maker, Mobile & Google friendly Website producer, & Entrepreneur at the intersection of travel and technology. He has directed, shot, edited, and produced over 30 high definition travel and lifestyle related videos on Youtube in addition to producing ChicVoyage in Asia – modern travel adventures on the Amazon.com store in 2012. He has been instructed by globally renown SLR Director and film-maker Phillip Bloom. His 4 month 2013 journey took him to Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
Before heading to Melbourne I had just left Auckland New Zealand with my suitcases, camera gear, and dreams to experience Melbourne.
My plan was to spend 14 days living like a local in Melbourne, filming, and asking whether Melbourne really is the most livable city in the world? First I would live with Airbnb locals getting a taste for the lifestyle in the South Bank area and then going on to explore sights, sounds, and tastes of downtown Melbourne. Exploring the grafitti alleys of Hosier lane, sampling pour over coffee at Market Lane, or enjoying a glass of wine at a local Jazz and wine bar.
I met a family friend Melissa and we would visit the colorful houses of Brighton beach and taste some of the best pies at Skyhigh Mount Dandenong. I visited Victoria market and the infamous Rod Laver stadium, home of the Australian Open.
A trip to Melbourne would be incomplete without exploring the coast on the Great ocean road tour for a day long road trip seeing koala’s and sights like the twelve apostles.
– My real personal story and experiences in Melbourne
– Travel tips like where to get the best pies or which is the best wine jazz bar in town
– A new feature I’m introducing with this book. Twitter posts I made during the actual trip that capture the detail and mood to precise detail
– Useful links or addresses of the places I visited at the end of the book
– A live google map with the places I visited
Greg is a modern World Explorer, Film-maker, Mobile & Google friendly Website producer, & Entrepreneur at the intersection of travel and technology. He has directed, shot, edited, and produced over 30 high definition travel and lifestyle related videos on Youtube videos in addition to producing ChicVoyage in Asia – modern travel adventures on the Amazon.com store in 2012. He has been instructed by globally renown SLR Director and film-maker Phillip Bloom. His 4 month 2013 journey took him to Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
22 days living like a local in Sydney: The journey begins
A several months of planning, anticipation and talking about Australia it was now actually going to happen.
The first order of business was to get set up on a cell phone sim card for a local number in Australia with internet access. I ended up selecting a sim card provided by Yes Optus for $30 for 30 days of high speed access on a 3G network, which is fast enough for youtube, google maps, facebook, and surfing the internet. Vodaphone is a familiar name, but even the employees said that their coverage would be poor in some of the other Australia cities I was going to.
As I have basically sold all my major possessions and savings to make this trip Ive been more frugal than I normally am. As such I’ve been avoiding some luxuries such as cabs and limiting expensive dining out. It takes discipline after having enjoyed these comforts already while working at a good full-time job.
Sydney public transport and helpful Australia
I hate transfers from airport to your place of accommodation in most destinations. If I had the resources I would make this experience better. You should be able to get off the plane and after customs walk directly to your transportation that will take you where you are staying. It’s not rocket science. Back to Sydney so I missed the Eastern shuttle from the airport to Bondi beach area, and now I had my first experience with the Sydney public transportation system. Compared to Singapore, Taipei, and Vancouver I found the system confusing. Many square grids and colored lines and many interconnecting trains with dangerous gaps between the train and the platform. I was surprised that the train itself wasn’t exactly in tip top condition.
On the bright side I had a working cell phone and an Airbnb host to guide me as well as some friendly Australian locals. I asked a local girl at Bondi junction which bus I needed to take and she escorted me right to my bus and helped me with my luggage. I can tell you 18 days into my trip that local Sydney Australians are probably among the most friendly and helpful people that I’ve met. As a Canadian I have taken this friendliness for granted.
The Bondi Crib
As I monitored the blue dot on my Google maps I arrived at the stop at Dorcas street. My host John introduced me to the apartment and the area. This was my first private apartment suite from Airbnb. The spot was an original with the custom sandstone and surf inspired theme. The apartment had everything I needed from wifi, full kitchen, condiments, couch, ping pong table, and washer and dryer. John even provided wetsuit, surf and snorkel gear, which is a value add in my books. This would be a perfect space for a couple of people to enjoy a Bondi surfing retreat for a week.
As soon as I unpacked I made a stop to the local owned Chinese grocery store. I picked up some pasta, some veggies, pasta sauce, milk, and a small bread and the bill came to almost $30. I use a small cup of coffee from Starbucks as a baseline between prices in Vancouver and Sydney. A small coffee in Vancouver goes for about $2. A small coffee at a Sydney Starbucks is $5!, but if you find a local spot (which most are better) the cheapest you will find is $3.50. Good cheap food will go for $10-13. Now I really appreciate the good prices we have in Vancouver. If I was going to survive 2 months Australia I was going to have to be in super frugal mode. This meant shopping for local groceries, taking public transport, and basically questioning every expenditure while still trying to have a decent time. Sounds challenging? Well I was still able to enjoy a local Australian Porterhouse steak dinner by getting two steak cuts for about $8-9 by picking it up from Woolworths (where the locals shop for good priced quality groceries).
The Bondi lifestyle
Bondi is well regarded by locals and from what I’ve read one of the most popular beaches in the world. I will vouch for that. I have seen some of the better beaches in the world from Turks and Caicos, Cancun, Maui and Honolulu. In my opinion Bondi is one of the best beaches because the sand is nice, it is large and spacious (unlike Honolulu), offers free Wifi, is clean, relatively clear water, and it has real waves. Big waves. There is a strong surfing culture. There were large groups of surfers in wetsuits riding waves and even chatted to a couple in the water. I bumped into several on my walk to the beach on their way out or on the way back. You don’t have to go that far out from the beach to catch some good waves. The north side of Bondi has tamer waves that are more beginner friendly while the side closer to Bondi Iceberg is closer to the rocks in the picture with rougher. The waves are very powerful and it’s hard to get far from the shore. I didn’t find this at Honolulu.
tip: use a longer board. 7 foot or longer if you are a beginner. wear a wetsuit as salt water will burn against your stomach and the board.
Bondi is among several other beaches along a seawall path that leads to other beaches such as Bronte, and Tamamara. Each beach has it’s own vibe and characteristics. The locals here come out to walk,tan or jog along this path and at Bondi beach as part of their daily lifestlyle.
There are plenty of shops in the town of Bondi to have a drink and eat. I walked into town on a weekend night in Bondi to get a feel for the nightlife. It felt like a different vibe during the day with a lot of wild young people spilling outside of bars and young people loitering on the street. I enjoy my nightlife, but for some reason this didn’t feel like my scene or that welcoming.
I read much about Bondi Iceberg and felt that I had to at least check it out while I was staying in the area. The camera operator that I hired told me that the Bondi Iceberg club was a bit snooty and I had to arrange a filming with them beforehand. Later during my stay I came there for a drink and found that it was not pretentious as I thought it would be. They just asked for my drivers license and you’re free to order a drink and enjoy it on the patio along with some of the views of Bondi beach. In fact the prices of their beer and wine are very good. I sampled some other spots in Bondi like the Bucketlist bar for a beer and the surf shop for a deep fried Mars Bar. The Bondi Iceberg pool is something I didn’t try. It is not heated and I think the appeal of it for the locals is the heritage and the branding associated with the club.
There are many well located waterfront properties along the beach. I would love to have a vacation home here with the proximity to a world class beach, good year round weather, and it’s just about 25 minutes away from the Sydney CBD. to top it off there are many great adjacent beaches if you walk along the beach path known as the coastal walk.
Celebrating my birthday in the Sydney CBD
I found an excellent and attractive masseuse at Bondi iceberg, and treated myself to one with her to start out my birthday in Sydney. My masseuse had suggested checking out Watsons Bay. I made a mental note. Sydney is a huge area. Good thing my next Airbnb host offered to pick me up from my place at Bondi. I based myself in the neighborhood of Surrey Hills using Airbnb, a good neighborhood located a short 10 minutes walk to the CBD area. I started by exploring on foot to get familiar with the streets and my surroundings. I started by doing some grocery shopping at the local IGA. I had never once experienced a birthday in a city where I knew just about no one. I felt that I had to at least have a drink and attempt to make some friends. I quickly search the meetup site and found an informal entrepreneur event where beers were allowed. I walked and navigated myself using Google maps and asking people directions. At the event I had a good chat, drank some beer, and exchanged some business cards. Like some meetups in Vancouver this one felt like a superficial crowd and didn’t feel like I made many genuine connections with exception with one couple from New Zealand. I reached a point where I was ready to leave and try to see Iron Man 3 by myself. I found the main movie theater on George street and was not allowed in the movie theater because I brought my SLR camera. I decided not to risk leaving it with their office and sadly headed home.
I walked down Elizabeth street checking out the various asian restaurants. The Mcdonalds cheeseburger meal wasn’t going to suffice as dinner after all it was my birthday. I was reading the menu of a Thai restaurant when I bumped into the New Zealand couple from the meetup that were doing their Avatar conference just up the road. They kindly offered to invite me for dinner at this restaurant. We had a good conversation and the couple suggested that I visit an area called New Town while in Sydney. Funny how things worked out that night. There are some good people in this world. I hope you’re reading this. Thank you.
Tip: It’s a good idea to get familiar with your local area on foot or on bike.
Surrey Hills & the Nightlife
Located just south of the main attractions Surrey Hills is a suburb lined with character homes with unique second floor terraces and cafe’s. It is a safe neighborhood during the day, but at night especially during the weekend I found much of the nightlife crowd makes their way through this area during the weekend. I did reserve a Friday night to sample some nightlife just a 4 minute walk away from my place. First stop was the H bar, which appeared to be a happening spot for a drink on a Friday. I snagged the only seat available on the outside bar for a sparking champagne. To figure out my next stop I asked the bar tender who suggested the wild rover and the Playbar just a minute away. Next stop was the Playbar. A bouncer guarded the door, but as I approached he greeted me and let me in. There was a good vibe in this place, with a live dj, and some benches to sit. I grabbed a quick drink and took some footage before moving onto the Wild Rover.
The Wild Rover looked intimidating from the outside. A darkly lit building with people coming in and out guarded by a bouncer. As I walked closer I mentioned I was referred here by H bar to come have drink and was let in. This place was a controlled chaos. Limited seating with some table and seats by the bar with the majority of the space standing room only. Bar tenders dressed in smart outfits and with the crowd appearing to have a good time socializing with their group. Not the most solo friendly space but an interesting spot to check out on both floors and have a good beer. I ended the night by walking 5 minutes down Campbell street where you’ll find many of the Asian restaurants. I enjoyed a good meal of Korean Jap Chae noodles at the Campbell food court
Tip: Ask local bar tenders for suggestions for bars and lounges if you are unsure. They are usually in the know.
3 Sisters & the making a good friend on the Meetup Coogee Coastal Walk Hike
I decided to take half the day to get out of the city and take the train to go see an attraction called the 3 sisters. You take the train to small town and catch the bus to get off and take pictures of 3 pointed rocks known as the 3 sisters. Sorry I’m not getting too excited about this one, but the attraction did attract bus loads of chinese tourists that I had to compete with to get some decent pictures. If you’ve got some time in Sydney and want to get out of town to see an attraction then this is one idea. Personally I would like recommend spending your time seeing the Sydney Opera, Harbour Bridge, or the Coogee Coastal walk before even thinking about the 3 sisters.
Speaking of the Coogee coastal walk I joined a meetup group called the Sydney Bushwalking Meetup to do this walk with a group. We would meet at the Circular Quay , the location where you would catch ferries and also see the Sydney Opera House, the Rocks, and the Harbour Bridge. We met our group and I immediately hit it off with an attractive UK expat. We got took the Ferry to Watson’s bay and snapped some shots of the Sydney skyline and along the coast. The walk is a great way to get some sunshine and exercise while enjoying the beautiful ocean and views along the coast. We walked past Bondi and Bronte beach and stopped at our destination at Coogee beach. During the walk I had a glimpse into expat life as one of the girls who had been living there told me that it was frustrating making friends with other expats because they would leave shortly after they met. Her solution and tip was to join associations that were more established like tennis clubs and make friends there. By the time we arrived at Coogee I found out my UK friend had a South African boyfriend, but we exchanged contacts to do dinner in Newtown before I left. Coogee was a nice family friendly beach to have a bbq or a picnic. Most of the group was too tired to BBQ after the hike so we picked up some kebabs and beer before I caught the bus back. A productive day where I got some exercise, some shots, and made a new friend.
Saving the best for Last: The Opera house & the Harbour Bridge
Before I traveled to Sydney the image of Opera house was the image I envisioned when I thought about Sydney. To me it was an iconic structure and I had to all type of shots of it before my trip was over. To get to the Opera house you go to the circular quay. You have to walk about 10 minutes from there until you get to it. The first sight of it will have you reaching for your camera. It is indeed amazing. I recommend taking pictures of it during the day and night time and from both sides of the Harbour Bridge to cover all the angles. I walked inside it to check it out and use the bathroom. If I had budget I would probably have seen a show, but instead I chose to enjoy an organic tap beer at the Opera Bar. This bar is happening and you can enjoy it sitting my a heat lamp at night or by an outside table as you enjoy prime seats of the Opera House and the Harbour bridge. One sunny day I decided to reward myself after I filmed and enjoyed a beer and a pizza at this Opera Bar. It was one of my highlights of the Sydney trip and I savored every minute of it.
The harbour bridge is also a significant structure and I recommend walking across it. Instead of paying hundreds of dollars to walk on top of the bridge you can spend around $11 halfway through the bridge and climb to the top. At the top there is a viewpoint where you can enjoy amazing 360 degrees views of the Opera house, the bridge and the people climbing it, and more. I also recommend to continue walking to the other side of the bridge where you will be rewarded with views of the Sydney skyline and another angle of the Opera House. If you plan it well you can get to the other side by sunset to take evening shots. Just when you thought you got all the best pictures try taking the ferry back to circular quay instead of walking back across the bridge. You will get picture angles of the Opera house that a good percentage of the tourists had never thought of.
Tip: Try taking the ferry to Manley beach from circular quay. Its a worthwhile trip on its own and you’ll get good photo ops of the Opera house from the ferry.
Newtown & Brekkie
On my last evening I met with my UK friend at the Newtown train station for dinner (she is camera shy btw) Newtown was packed with restaurants on both sides of the street. We decided to try a vietnamese restaurant. The next morning I decided to sample some brekkie in Surrey Hills. I settled on a spot referred by locals called Reuben Hills. The portion was small, but good quality and I ended up tagging some good tracks on my Shazam so I was happy. Back at the Surrey Hills mansion I had my bags packed and was about to open the door for the shuttle when I saw it drive by and stop at the street. I chased it down in my socks and the Airbnb host got him to drive back in front of the house. We said our goodbyes. Next stop a return to Auckland.
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Produced by Greg Hung for Chicvoyage Productions 2013
The footage in this video is available for licensing
ChicVoyage offers high quality global travel content (videos, pictures, entertainment) available for licensing.
Greg is a World Explorer, Film-maker & Travel & Technology Serial Entrepreneur has directed, shot, edited, and produced over 30 high definition travel and lifestyle related videos on Youtube videos in addition to producing ChicVoyage in Asia – modern travel adventures on the Amazon.com store. He has been instructed by globally renown SLR Director and film-maker Phillip Bloom.
Get inspired for the Grand Canyon – Video, pics, geo-map, and itinerary – Chicvoyage Travel
The idea of going to the Grand Canyon came after a scheduled Las Vegas trip. This trip was scheduled for April and I was hopeful that there would be sunny weather. I decided to visit the Grand Canyon Southern Rim to take this amazing attraction off my bucket list. I booked a car rental from Las Vegas airport and proceeded to take the 5-6 hour drive from Las Vegas to Bright Angel Lodge at the Grand Canyon National Park. I had missed my first flight from Bellingham to Las Vegas and so I began this drive around 9pm. There are long stretches of this drive especially during the last hour where it is pitch black. Watch your speed on the highway as there are wild life that cross the roads and they are patrolled by police. I got freaked out when I saw a pair of glowing eyes in the dark that I think came from an elk that I almost knocked over. I actually got pulled over by an officer, and I was fortunate enough to get let off without a ticket for the first time. I arrived inside the park gate around 2am in the morning with the toll gates closed and checked into the Bright Angel Lodge for a night. The staff at the lodge were friendly and I looked forward to some sleep before waking up at 5am for sun rise.
Tip: Rent a GPS device if you are making the drive to the Grand Canyon
Tip: Drive under the posted speed limit for your safety and that of the wild life as well to avoid speeding tickets
Tip: The Bright Angel Lodge is an excellent choice for great value. Book well in advance to get rooms.
Tip: Get a map and guide to the park from your hotel. It will help you plan your visit
I woke up early in the morning for the sunrise at the Grand Canyon. One of the benefits of the Bright Angel lodge is the amazing proximity to the Grand Canyon view. You are literally a minute walk away or less depending on your room from the Grand Canyon views. It was cold in the morning, but I was happy it was dry. It was an amazing sun rise and when I saw my first view of the Canyon I was in awe. I have never seen anything like this and if you watch the Grand Canyon video I believe you will agree this is awe inspiring. I had a good breakfast at the Bright Angel lodge to provide some energy for the day. The plan was to film footage of the main view points along the desert view drive. I was told by the staff at Bright Angle lodge that you will get amazing views of the Canyon at most view points, but the Watch Tower is popular stop.
My first stop was the Moran point and after a series of stops I finished at the popular Desert View Watchtower stop. I got there late just before sunset and the tower was closed. You can expect a good walk from the parking lot to the Watchtower viewpoint and fresh spring water taps to fill your water. It definitely worth to check the sites along the desert view drive, but not necessary to go all the way to the Watch tower . I spent night two at the Yavapai lodge as there wasn’t room available at Bright Angel. The Yavapai doesn’t offer the prime location that Bright Angel does and expect to pay more, but your rooms are close to the market area.
Tip: Don’t settle for cafeteria food at the Yavapai. There are many options in the park that are a short drive away
On day 3 the plan was to do a quick hike. I went to the visitor center where you can park your car and take a bus shuttle to the hiking location. I picked the South Kalibab trail and took a quick hike down. Along the path I bumped into people that were doing mule rides, an interesting experience to try for next time. You can see different views from the hiking trails that descend down that are worth your time if you want some good pictures.
Tip: Come well prepared for the hike. Sun glasses, sun screen, water, appropriate hiking shoes are some suggestions.
I recommend watching the Grand Canyon video if you need some inspiration to visit!
Book car and GPS from Las Vegas Airport
Get something to eat at the airport or Las Vegas
5-6 hour drive to the Grand Canyon National park at Southern Rim
Check into hotel and settle in
Take pictures of the Grand Canyon sun-rise by the Bright Angel trail
Have a good breakfast at the Bright Angel Lodge
Follow the desert view trail for a day of picture taking
We are nearing another holiday season in Vancouver. The pace at office begins to slow down and become more social and relaxed. The Christmas trees and decorations at the office, retail stores, public spaces, and apartments lobbies signal the season has begun. In Vancouver cold weather, rain and sometimes the chance of snow are also part of the experience. You might be doing last minute Christmas shopping, going to parties for your work, going to parties for your friends, or you might be throwing a party of your own. On Christmas day most shops are closed except movie theaters and Chinese restaurants.
It was this time a year ago when I was filming and traveling through Shanghai and Singapore around the holiday season. I had escaped the holiday obligations for gifts with friends and family back in Vancouver. In Shanghai there were Christmas trees and decorations up at the hotels and malls.
I was fortunate to know my local friend Jeff who invited me to a local party in Shanghai. The entrance would be a respectable gift for a secret Santa and some booze. I purchased some quality tea from the Shanghai museum. The host of the party lived in a good sized apartment and offered us some beer and food. We looked at some photos on his television and then put on fights from the UFC. Later we would do secret Santa where I won a hot pot set, which I traded in for something I don’t remember. I was lucky to get a ride back to downtown Shanghai from the apartment which was about 30-40 minutes from the person I gave the hot pot set to. So it all worked out and felt very much like a Vancouver Christmas experience.
I arrived in Singapore several days before Christmas to spend time with my Grandmother, cousin, Aunt, and new nieces. I must admit that there is no replacement for spending the holidays with your family. We had a Christmas tree set up with some gifts already there. A signal that I was running out of time to get gifts for my family in Singapore. I had plenty of time to explore the central areas such as Little India, Orchard Road, and the Marina Bay. Marina bay had lights set up to recognize the season, Little India didn’t have much set up, and the Orchard area had a tree with bright lights. There were huge crowds out to take pictures of the lights and to publicly enjoy the occasion outdoors. My grandmother cooked us a Christmas dinner that we ate at home. After the dinner it was business as usual with the family winding down getting ready for bed. I went out in search of some action by going down to Marina Bay area. I was disappointed to see that it was very quiet, everything was closing early, and it started raining.
After spending Christmas in these 3 different cities I see that it is recognized and celebrated similarly. The chance of a white Christmas is most likely to happen in Vancouver, but the usage of lights, christmas trees, the spirit of giving, and time with family and friends are common elements. Wouldn’t it be interesting to a get a glimpse into how it is celebrate in other cities around the world?
ChicVoyage in Asia is a collection of modern travel adventure documentaries showcasing must-see attractions, food, culture, nightlife, and unique adventures with local friends in popular cities in Asia.
Originally invited to participate in his best friend’s wedding in Taiwan Greg took the opportunity to extend the trip and see more of Asia. In December 2011 Greg went on a journey to cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Guangzhou, Xian, and Taiwan. After a month and a half in Asia he returned to Vancouver determined to produce a collection of 6 entertaining, inspiring, and informative travel adventure films to share Asia with the world.