Month 21: Travel Summary and Statistics

Colourful buildings in Penang

After a crazy three months in Australia and New Zealand, this month was all about slowing down, taking it easy and catching up on work.

And yet, having said that, the start of the month included one of my most stressful travel moments…

Oh, you know, that time when I realised I’d forgotten to apply for an Australian visa 12 hours before I was due to fly to Melbourne? When I hadn’t bothered to do any research because the thought hadn’t crossed my mind that I’d possibly even need to apply for a new visa? When I suddenly went into a panic 12 hours before the flight when I checked on the Australian immigration website and realised that I’d need to apply for a new one and that the site was about to go into scheduled maintenance?


An Australian visa is valid for six months so I’d assumed I’d be fine — I’d spent a month in Australia before coming to New Zealand and my New Zealand trip was for two months. There would be plenty of time left on my Australian visa.

But I’d also had to get a new passport in New Zealand and hadn’t realised the visa doesn’t carry over to your new passport.

And so, my final 12 hours in New Zealand were spent anxiously checking my email every 5 seconds, refusing to go to sleep, freaking out when the Australian immigration website underwent 6 hours of scheduled maintenance and weeping when the cheapest replacement flight I could find online that bypassed Australia was $1,500.

Our taxi to the airport picked us up at 6am and I still had not received confirmation of my visa.

And yet, somehow, it all worked out in the end. There were no questions on either the New Zealand or Australia side and I really don’t know what happened. I don’t know whether my visa was approved and I didn’t receive notification because the site was down, I don’t know if my previous visa somehow carried over to my new visa when I re-applied.

Either way, I was so relieved and so ridiculously grateful. Needless to say, I will not be forgetting to apply for a visa ever again!

Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur

After three days of catching up with Dave’s family in Melbourne, it was time for us to return to Southeast Asia, where I’d be visiting Malaysia for the very first time.

Malaysia! Man, I was excited to be there.

I loved the food (especially in Penang), I thought the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur were stunning, and every single building in Penang had me reaching for my camera.

In fact, it was in Penang that I forced myself out of my comfort zone by packing my laptop away, hitting the streets for hours on end, and ordering unfamiliar plates of food. Being one of the best cities in the world for food, you know that absolutely everything I tried was delicious.

Our plan for Malaysia involved spending time in Kuala Lumpur and Penang, and then heading out east to island-hop our way along the coastline. When Dave and I began researching the Perhentian Islands and couldn’t find a decent guesthouse with somewhat reliable internet that was under $50 a night, however, we gave up and began looking at other options.

I know it sounds ridiculous not to visit somewhere because of the internet situation, but we were seriously behind on work after our time in New Zealand, and needed to catch up. It’s one of the downsides of living a life like this. But hey, the hours behind a screen allow me to live a life of freedom, so I can never complain too much. I’m sure I’ll make it to the islands another time.

Colourful buildings in Penang

You probably won’t be shocked to hear that we ended up in Thailand.

Though there were other beach options in Malaysia, they all involved long bus journeys, seemed to be quite expensive, and would again be lacking in wifi.

So, two days after deciding I was going to be spending a month in Malaysia, I changed my mind and headed for the Thai island of Koh Lipe instead.

Though I feel like I should have given Malaysia more of a chance, I know that it’ll be there when I’m next in the region, and hopefully I won’t be so tied to working online then.

Heading to Thailand was absolutely the right decision for me at this point in my travels.

Koh Lipe sunrise beach

I loved Koh Lipe. I spent my 10 days there sunbathing, writing, napping, and swimming in the sea, which was exactly what I needed.

Seeing as I was now in Thailand, how could I possibly resist heading back to my favourite island in the world? In Koh Yao Noi, I spent another 10 days doing exactly the same as I had in Koh Lipe.

And then, I shockingly decided to head up to Chiang Mai…

… Onto the statistics for the month!

Distance travelled: 11,950km

Countries visited: 4

New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Thailand.

Cities visited: 9

Ashburton, Christchurch, Melbourne, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Koh Lipe, Krabi, Koh Yao Noi, Chiang Mai.

Money spent:

New Zealand: $35.21 over 1 day = £19.48 per day.

Australia: £50.62 over 3 days = £16.87 per day.

Malaysia: £272.86 over 9 days = £30.32 per day.

Thailand: £474.91 over 18 days = £26.38 per day.

Miscellaneous: Flights from Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur: £171 

Total amount spent: $1103

My accommodation for 3 days in Malaysia was covered by AsiaRooms and I stayed with friends for my 3 days in Australia so had no accommodation costs there either.

The next month:

Given that my recent travel plans post is now invalid, here’s my new plan for the next 30 days.

I’ll be staying in Chiang Mai for a month and you’ll be surprised to hear that I made the decision to extend my original plan of two weeks within 6 hours of arriving! I’m planning for a relaxing few days in Chiang Dao without my laptop at some point, but other than that, I’ll be eating, writing, catching up with friends and not moving. Once my time in Chiang Mai’s up, I’ll be heading to Saigon to live there for a month.

After the hectic few months of travel I’ve had, it feels so unbelievably good to have finally stopped moving!

Looking to follow along with my travels through my monthly summaries? You can read the previous month’s summary here, the next month’s summary here, or head on over to the monthly summary page to read from the very beginning!


  1. We spent nearrly 2 months in Malaysia (though approximately half of that was in Borneo) and really enjoyed it, but I do think people who start their adventures there in KL may be doing the country a disservice. On our first visit to the city, we actually disliked it quite a lot! It wasn’t until we returned following our time in Borneo that we were able to slip under the skin of the city a little bit more and really enjoy it.

    I agree about Malaysian beaches being frustrating, however! We spent our last days in the country up in Langkawi and it was a huge disappointment and pretty expensive all things considered.

    Did you wind up finding Lipe to be that much cheaper than the Perhentians, though? (I know you didn’t wind up going, but you were looking at lodging options.) It was supposed to be our first stop in Thailand but we nixed it because everything there seemed so ridiculously overpriced and it seemed like you needed to book weeks in advance!

    • April 23, 2013

      Well, given that KL was the cheapest place to fly into, it was our only option to start there :-). I’d love to go to Borneo though…

      I found Koh Lipe to probably be the most expensive Thai island I’ve been to — but a lot better value than what we looked at in the Perhentians. We stayed in two different places in Lipe — one was 750baht, the other 1000baht… but the 1000 baht one was a really lovely wooden bungalow on the beach with decent wifi. The only accommodation I could find in the Perhentians for that sort of price had reviews saying it was dirty, had cockroaches, terrible wifi…

      And there was definitely no need to book in advance — our place seemed to only have about 10 of 30 bungalows occupied at any one time, but this was April so things were getting quieter anyway.

  2. Scarlett
    April 22, 2013

    Yay for changes of plan!! Don’t feel guilty about not staying longer in Malaysia, you have to listen to your instincts and go where the wind blows you xx

    • April 23, 2013

      True… going to Thailand was definitely the right decision! I’m sure I’ll return to Malaysia at some point and spend more time there :-)

  3. Khoa
    April 22, 2013

    Hi Lauren, glad that you liked Koh Lipe, that makes me feel more assured as I am going there soon. Also if you are still in Saigon between 16th May to 6th June I would love to meet you in person :) I originally from Saigon so I may be able to show you around.

    • April 23, 2013

      Yep, Sunrise Beach was one of the best beaches I’ve been to in Thailand. I’ll be in Saigon from the 20th May onwards :-)

      • Khoa
        April 23, 2013

        have you got any plans for Saigon yet?

        • April 24, 2013

          I’ll just be there to work, so no plans apart from eating :-)

          • Khoa
            April 24, 2013

            haha, yeh I am just coming back for 12 days seeing some relatives and old friends, then off to Cambodia. Let me know if you need any advice (although things have changed so much since I left).

  4. Nicole @ Suitcase Stories
    April 22, 2013

    We are heading to Thailand in Oct! You always rave about it in your posts so Im really excited! Im definitely putting Koh Lipe on the list! You also talk a lot about Chiang Mai which has also made our list. Cant wait to see why you love Thailand so much!! I have a feeling I may never want to leave.

    • April 23, 2013

      Nice! I have a feeling you’ll love Thailand. I always seem to end up there at some point every year! :-)

  5. April 23, 2013

    Very nice! Glad the Australian visa business worked out in the end! Hope you enjoy Chiang Mai and get that trip away from your laptop at some point!

    • April 24, 2013

      Thanks, Sam! I’m already loving being back in Chiang Mai.

  6. Julia
    April 23, 2013

    I’m sad you didn’t enjoy Malaysia too much, but we all have different preferences. I didn’t really like Penang (maybe because I was sick while we were there) but I loved Melaka. I wish I could get as excited about Thailand but I just can’t.
    However, after two expensive nights for us on the Perhentians with no internet after there was rainstorm, I think you made the right decision! It was gorgeous, but nothing can help when you have no internet lol!

    • April 24, 2013

      Yeah, it wasn’t that I hated it or anything, I just didn’t fall madly in love and wanted to stay forever, like I have with everyone other place in Southeast Asia!

      Yep, that was what we were worried about on the Perhentians!

  7. April 24, 2013

    Australia was the cheapest? Wow, I’m so surprised. Though Asia would be way cheaper as well.

    • April 24, 2013

      Yeah, as I said, I stayed with friends in Australia and only paid for 3 meals over 3 days, so…

  8. April 24, 2013

    Nice work here Lauren. £28 a day is pretty awesome and cost effective. Defo one of the benefits of living in Thailand. I like these breakdowns and round up’s they help any aspiring traveler budget for a long term trip.

    Nice one.


  9. Tamsin
    April 28, 2013

    Ahh, what a shame to miss out on the Perhentian Islands! My friend and I had a beach hut there for about $8/night each with fab wi-fi (When the generator was on in the morning and evening)! Awesome place! On the other hand – it sounds like you spent your time in Koh Lipe exactly how I spent mind in the Perhentians with a similarly beautiful view!

  10. Lilian
    April 29, 2013

    I love your budget breakdowns, especially since I’m hoping to go to Thailand at the end of the year. I know it’s really cheap, but it’s nice to know exactly how much you need per day and how much transport and accomodation cost.

  11. Katie
    May 8, 2013

    I loved my time in Thailand and I completely understand why you would choose to stay longer. I’ve never been to Koh Lipe, but seeing that picture definitely made me want to! I only stayed in Thailand a month, but it was nowhere near enough. I loved the country and I want to explore more of Southeast Asia…. good to know that Malaysia is a more expensive option.

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