Month 38: Travel Summary and Statistics


Fulidhoo ocean, Maldives

What an incredible month! From family time in London to a brief few days back in Sri Lanka, from a perfect three weeks in the Maldives to getting back to my base in Chiang Mai, I’ve been flying all over the world this month!

Lauren eating Vietnamese food in London
Vietnamese food in London

I started the month with a frantic race for a belly bar in a tiny town in Cornwall.

About a month ago, I woke up with a hole in my stomach — an event that happens more often than you’d expect. Every few months, I somehow manage to loosen the piercing and have no idea that it’s slipped out of my stomach. I’m always having to replace them — and it can be tricky to do so when travelling!

This time it took place in Chiang Mai, where finding anything other than earrings was impossible. I scootered to fancy Western shopping malls and scoured every shop, always leaving empty handed. I visited an enormous five-floor jewellery shop and they didn’t have them.

So, I did what anyone else would do in this situation and put a big, heavy, dangly earring in the hole and left it. For the next month, I caught my stomach on tables, on towels, and on t-shirts.

So, there I was in Cornwall, celebrating my mum’s birthday with an infection in my stomach. It was painful, I could barely sit. It was hot and swollen, I felt dizzy. But I still didn’t want to remove my earring because I didn’t want the hole to close up.

And that was how I found myself racing around Cornwall, desperately asking shop owners if they had a belly bar. Fortunately, I found one and spent my last days in Cornwall soaking my stomach in Dettol, in salt water, in Savlon.

I don’t know why I didn’t think to go to a piercing place in Chiang Mai.

Cornish mussels had me feeling better
Cornish mussels had me feeling better

I then had a week in London where the plan was to catch up with as many of my friends as possible. As an introvert who was suffering from glandular fever (STILL!), I was left exhausted and drained from all of the stimulation, but it was so worth it! I got to hang out with so many of my friends from college and uni — some of whom I hadn’t seen in almost three years.

I also got to treat my mum to a day of tourist fun! Despite having lived around here for much of my life, there’s nothing I love more than being a tourist in my hometown. We spent out time hanging out in Shoreditch, eating bagels and getting mani-pedis, and even I got to introduce my mum to Vietnamese food for the first time! I’m pleased to say that she loved it. We finished off our evening with a sunset trip up the Shard, which was surprisingly great. So much better than the London Eye!

Views from the Shard
Views from the Shard

And then, it was time to say my goodbyes and fly back to Asia. After one night in Sri Lanka, where I reunited with Dave and gave him a box of vanilla flavoured Cornish fudge that was so amazing that I spent the rest of the day trying to secretly eat it, we were off to the Maldives!

And it was everything I hoped for.

We spent our three weeks island hopping to four different islands. First stop, Maafushi — my favourite island, even though it was the busiest. Which, in the Maldives, still isn’t very busy. It had the best beach, the cheapest food and my favourite palm tree. We were experiencing the stereotypical Maldivian beach for less than $50 a day!

Maafushi Island palm trees
Favourite palm tree.

Our next stop was Fulidhoo, a very small island that I had no idea was so tiny. It was bizarre being the only tourists on an island, and it was definitely something we weren’t expecting. It was wonderful, though. We had every beach to ourselves, and because there aren’t loads of tourists visiting (there’s only six beds on the island), the snorkelling was pretty great. Well, to me anyway. I got to see live coral for the first time! A particular highlight was watching a heron hunting for fish from just a few metres away.

Heron on Bikini Beach, Fulidhoo
Heron on Bikini Beach, Fulidhoo

And then our final local island: Guraidhoo. This was my least favourite of the islands, which is a shame as we spent the most amount of time there! The beaches weren’t great — there was plastic all over them — and they were rocky and full of shells. There wasn’t a Bikini Beach, so sunbathing involved wearing big board shorts and a t-shirt, which wasn’t fun when wet. There wasn’t really all that much to do.

We did, however, take a snorkel trip, with the aim of seeing manta rays. Sadly, there were no mantas around, but I got to experience the best snorkeling of my life. Swimming alongside sea turtles, floating a metre above a massive reef full of colourful coral and thousands of tropical fish.

I’m totally not a snorkeling person — I get seasick on the boat and in the water, I always end up swallowing loads of seawater and gagging, and, well, usually I find it kind of boring. This, however, was really great.

If you’re going to the Maldives, take a snorkeling trip — it’s amazing! Here’s a video Dave took of a turtle we saw:

It was Dave’s birthday while we were in the Maldives and I decided to splash out and treat him to a few nights in one of the famous Maldivian overwater bungalows.

Overwater Bungalows for Dave's birthday
Overwater Bungalows for Dave’s birthday

I’m a total budget traveller, and wouldn’t opt to stay in resorts even if I could afford it. Let’s be honest, I didn’t gain a single insight into Maldivian life while staying here. Alcohol flowed freely, women wandered around in bikinis, there was no call to prayer to wake me up, there wasn’t any Maldivian food available.

But for two nights it was perfect.

We were staying in a bungalow with an outdoor jacuzzi on our balcony, and steps leading straight into the ocean. We had a ridiculously enormous shower, and a bathtub looking out over the sea. The beaches were some of the best we experienced in the Maldives, and having two infinity pools to switch between was wonderful.

It was Dave’s birthday present but it was totally a treat for me as well!

Best jacuzzi ever
Best jacuzzi ever

Then it was back to Guraidhoo for a final two nights, where our scammy guesthouse owner scammed Dave and I out of money. Once more, I’ll say do not stay at Coral Heaven in Guraidhoo. After confirming the price of our transfer to and from the resort multiple times with several different staff members, when we returned to Guraidhoo, the owner decided to double the price. He did the same thing with the people who left the day before us. Ugh. What a horrible to thing to happen after such a wonderful few weeks in the Maldives!

Low season means you can have this entire beach to yourself!
One of my favourite beaches, on Fulidhoo

And then I finished off the month, with a long and dreary travel day, which shows just how unglamorous travel can be.

6am: Alarm wakes us for last minute packing. I consider pouring my bottle of shampoo on the bed to punish the scammy guesthouse owner or, you know, stealing his TV or something. Dave forces me to take the moral highground. I mentally compose the one star Tripadvisor review I’m going to leave. 

7am: Ferry from Guraidhoo to Male.

9am: Arrive in Male. Flight out of the Maldives isn’t until 5pm, so we have lots of time to kill. We glumly walk in the sweltering heat for an hour in search of a cafe with Wi-Fi. The only one we can find is some kind of smoking cafe. The room is filled with around 20 locals, every single one of them smoking cigarette after cigarette after cigarette. We’re bloggers. We want Internet. We step inside. 

10am: My lungs are dying. 

11am: My lungs have died. 

12pm: My lungs are definitely dead. My chest hurts. Am I having a heart attack? I bet I’m having a stroke. I raise my arms in the air and smile to see if I’m paralysed. I’m not. Dave stares at me. 

1pm: Dave and I decide to move on because my smoke-free-for-life lungs are 100% dead. I have chest pains, my tongue feels weird and I feel like I’m suffocating. My legs are shaking. I’m dizzy. We find a new cafe. There’s no Internet, but there are cupcakes. And no smoke. I’m overjoyed.

2pm: We pick up our backpacks and trudge to the ferry terminal. The airport is a five minute journey from Male.

2:30pm: I step on the overloaded ferry and fall flat on my face. With my backpack and daypack on. In front of everyone. I’m pleased I didn’t fall overboard and shuffle inside.

3:00pm: We arrive at Male airport. 

5:00pm: Take off! 

6:00pm: Landing! We’re back in Sri Lanka and spending the next seven hours in Colombo airport. Dave finds a TV showing a cricket match. I try to sleep. I pay $15 for a smoothie and cup of coffee.

1:00am: Take off! We’re heading to Bangkok. 

6:00am: Landing! We’re in Bangkok after no sleep on the flight. It’s 4am in Sri Lanka. 

6:30am: A nerve-wracking pass through immigration. Thailand has been clamping down on people who spend too long in the country and we’re concerned we’re going to be turned away. We make it through unscathed and without question. 

10:00am: Take off! We’re flying to Chiang Mai. 

11:00am: Landing! We’re in Chiang Mai. Finally. 

Finally, we’re home.

Onto the statistics for the month! 

Month 38 travels

Countries Visited: 4

The Maldives, Sri Lanka, Thailand, United Kingdom

Places Visited: 10

The Maldives: Maafushi, Male, Fulidhoo, Guraidhoo

Sri Lanka: Colombo, Negombo

Thailand: Bangkok, Chiang Mai

United Kingdom: London, Padstow

Distance Travelled: 13,954 kilometres

Photos Taken: 1893

Highlight of the Month:

Arriving at Olhuveli and getting to see Dave’s face when I surprised him with our fancy bungalow! We immediately jumped in our jacuzzi and spent the next few hours watching stingrays and tropical fish darting underneath us. So much happiness.

Lowlight of the Month: 

Being scammed by the horrible guesthouse owner in Guraidhoo. What a terrible way to end such a wonderful trip! So disappointing.

Incident of the Month:

I nearly missed my flight back to Colombo from London!

I’d booked all of my upcoming travel on one ticket with Sri Lankan Airlines: Bangkok – Colombo – London – Colombo – Kochi. As you know, I couldn’t get my Indian visa, so I bought a flight to the Maldives instead. However, when I came to check in at Heathrow, the guy at the check in desk told me that my bag was going to be checked all the way to India.

I told him that I didn’t have an Indian visa and needed to collect my bags in Colombo and he told me that wasn’t possible. Because my layover in Sri Lanka was less than 24 hours, my bags would automatically be checked all the way through and there was nothing he could do about it.

Panic!

So for the next hour, I stood helplessly as he made phone call after phone call, convinced I was going to end up with lost luggage.

Half an hour before boarding, he finally figured out how to cancel my flight to India and get my bags checked to Colombo. Half an hour before boarding.

Security was crazy-busy at Heathrow. The guy working the security was all, “I hope you’ve taken all liquids out of your bags, because if you haven’t, you’ll be pulled aside for a detailed search, and the queue for that is over an hour!”

Double panic!

But I made it through. No liquids, plenty of sprinting towards my gate. And then I was on the plane.

Photo of the Month: 

Shades of blue in Fulidhoo
Shades of blue in Fulidhoo

I love all the different shades of blue in this photo from Fulidhoo!

Money Spent: 

Accommodation:

  • Padstow: N/A
  • London: N/A
  • Negombo: $25 for one night
  • Maafushi: $93 for four nights: $23.35 per night
  • Fulidhoo: $185 for six nights: $30.83 per night
  • Olhuveli: As this was a birthday present, I won’t be disclosing how much I spent.
  • Guraidhoo: $218 for six nights: $36.33 per night
  • Chiang Mai: $6.67 for one night

Taxes and Fees for Accommodation in the Maldives: $216

Transportation: 

  • Flight from London to Colombo: $368
  • Transfer to and from Colombo Airport and Negombo: $20
  • Flight from Colombo to Male: $78.00
  • Ferry from Male Airport to Male: $0.71
  • Ferry from Male to Maafushi: $2.00
  • Ferry from Maafushi to Fulidhoo: $2.00
  • Ferry from Fulidhoo to Guraidhoo: $1.00
  • Tranfer to and from Guraidhoo and Olhuveli: $40.00
  • Ferry from Guraidhoo to Male: $2.00
  • Ferry from Male to Male Airport: $0.71
  • Flight from Male to Bangkok: $150
  • Flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai: $35

Food: $791.84

Activities: 

Snorkeling off Guraidhoo: $50

Miscellaneous: 

Scammed by our Guraidhoo guesthouse owner: $30

Total Amount Spent: $2098.83

month 39

The Next Month:

I’m looking forward to taking a break from all the travel over the next month and — as you know — Chiang Mai is the perfect place for me to do so! I’m looking forward to staying put and working hard. I’m excited to share my experiences from all over South Asia with you over the next four weeks — The Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Nepal.

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!

Previous How to Travel the Maldives on a Budget: It's Possible!
Next Falling in Love With Maafushi

38 Comments

  1. September 26, 2014
    Reply

    I never understand people in the travel industry who try to scam tourists – do they not realise that in the long run it does them NO favours?

    • September 26, 2014
      Reply

      Yeah, seriously. He knew we were travel writers, too, so it seems like an especially stupid thing to do!

  2. September 26, 2014
    Reply

    Love this breakdown, especially the money part of it! I’ve been trying to figure out how I can travel full-time and seeing how others break down their budget is super helpful!

    Also: can’t wait to get back to Chiang Mai. Love it there and I miss Khao Soi!

    • September 27, 2014
      Reply

      Thanks so much, Jenn! Glad you found it helpful :-). Currently living on khao soi!

  3. September 26, 2014
    Reply

    Boo for the scammer but yay for that sweet birthday present!! (Love presents that you get to enjoy too!) Also, I spent the first 5 minutes reading this wondering what a ‘belly bar’ was :) It’s a belly button ring or navel ring for us on the other side of the pond haha!

    • September 27, 2014
      Reply

      Ah, even though it’s shaped like a bar and not a ring?

  4. Nichelle
    September 27, 2014
    Reply

    Very comprehensive post! Sounds like you had an exciting month. I am following your Maldives posts and I enjoyed reading them. Thank you for sharing information like the fees for accommodation and transportation. It helps a lot, at least I have an idea now how much it would probably cost me to take a trip there. :)

    • September 27, 2014
      Reply

      No problem — glad you found it helpful! :-)

  5. Carney
    September 27, 2014
    Reply

    Looks like the time home made your smile bigger! Glad you are doing well and having fun. Your pictures are amazing- so many vibrant colors.

    • September 28, 2014
      Reply

      Thanks so much, Carney! I loved my surprise visit home and it was definitely worth the added hassle and money :-)

  6. September 27, 2014
    Reply

    HA I feel much the same about snorkelling! Now that I’ve done the great barrier reef, I think I am done with water activities FOREVER.

    • October 4, 2014
      Reply

      Glad someone else does! All of my previous snorkeling adventures have been pretty boring.

  7. September 27, 2014
    Reply

    Those flights between Sri Lanka – Maldives – Thailand are so bargainous, I’m gutted I didn’t think to look into doing something similar when I visited last year. I know for next time!

    • September 28, 2014
      Reply

      It was insanely cheap! My flight from Bangkok – Colombo – London – Colombo – Kochi ended up being less than $1000! Sri Lankan Airlines have some amazing deals on at the moment :-)

  8. September 27, 2014
    Reply

    you’ve been busy! I had my rook pierced for ages but they close so fast… it fell out in a village in Goa and when I got back to the beaches 2 days later I couldn’t find one shop with small enough size so it closed :( bummer!

    • October 4, 2014
      Reply

      Ah, that sucks! I hate that they close up so quickly. I’ve had my belly pierced for ten years and it still starts to close up after 24 hours.

  9. Anxious Traveler
    September 28, 2014
    Reply

    I’m always impressed by how low your budget is. $2000 per month over 12 months is only $24,000…which I suppose is close to a below average wage in the UK! Plus you’re managing to do a fair amount of flights and actual travelling which is impressive! I just need to find a job that will pay me $2000 per month remotely!

    Got to say you have the worst luck ever in terms of health when travelling! Worst I’ve had to deal with is the odd case of food poisoning!

    • October 4, 2014
      Reply

      Thank you! Yes, I typically average around $2000 a month if I’m travelling around, ~$700 if I’m basing myself in Southeast Asia. It definitely takes some of the financial stress off.

  10. September 28, 2014
    Reply

    I know you guys have spent time in Chiang Mai before, but let me know if you have any questions! I’ve been living there the past three years…

    • October 3, 2014
      Reply

      Thanks so much for your kind offer, Alana! I’ll be sure to drop you an email if I have any questions :-)

  11. September 28, 2014
    Reply

    Urgh, that guesthouse owner is so stupid to scam travel writers! The photos from the Maldives are so stunning, I can’t even imagine what seeing all those shades of blue is like in real life!

    • October 3, 2014
      Reply

      It did seem pretty stupid! Still tossing up whether to write an angry post about it.

  12. I used to have the same problem with my tragus piercings, even harder to find than a belly bar (I used to have that piercing too)! I am definitely considering flying to the Maldvies when I am in Sri Lanka next year now, I never released how close they were. Will definitely avoid Guraidhoo though!

    • October 4, 2014
      Reply

      It’s frustrating that they’re so hard to find, especially when abroad! Definitely check out the Maldives if you’re going to be that close. Flights are super cheap between Sri Lanka and the Maldives, too.

  13. September 29, 2014
    Reply

    The Maldives remain high on my list, but if I went, it would be all out: fancy dinners, snorkling, and overpriced hotels every night :P I’ll be passing through Chiang Mai in December.

    • September 30, 2014
      Reply

      But that would cost you around $1000 a night, over $70! And the beaches are the same quality :-) No need to go fancy when you can have similar experiences on the local islands!

  14. September 29, 2014
    Reply

    Great and comprehensive breakdown as always! A while back, I was advised to get my tonsils removed, but then I would have to take out my tongue piercing so I chose not to get the operation. It worked out well for me – I hope the same goes for you. Have a great time in Thailand.

    • October 4, 2014
      Reply

      Thanks, Miriam! Glad it worked out for you :-) I’ve been fine since I found a belly bar/ring replacement!

  15. September 30, 2014
    Reply

    Wow what a month! I would love to travel more. Thanks for sharing!

  16. October 2, 2014
    Reply

    Wow, now that’s a story! The smoking issue was ironic – Ive had that happen a lot. Its amazing how the US, EU are very different in that regard to the rest of the world.

    • October 3, 2014
      Reply

      Being around smokers never used to bother me, but I didn’t realise how much the smoking bans have affected my tolerance. I felt like my lungs were bleeding!

  17. Stanislav
    October 5, 2014
    Reply

    Hi lauren,
    Great writing, really enjoyed that and especially if we are planning very similar trip too! Could not agree more that information on budget travel in Maledives is very limited, I have planned following trip before I found your blog and would like your opinion if you don’t mind. We should arrive in Male on Sunday past all ferries so we would stay in Hulhumale overnight and then next morning board a ferry to Maafushi where we will stay few days and after that stay few days in Fulidhoo. Still thinking about how we should divide that… Fulidhoo seems to be nicer and more quite but maybe limited trip possibilities. We would like to try diving, manta or shark watching etc. Also my fiancee is having birthday during that stay as well so I’ve found Fun Island resort accomodation at “reasonable” price.150 Euro for night… My concer is how that can be organised let’s say from Maafushi.. With guest house staff ? They will come to pick us up from there as well ? I saw that you did similar thing from Guiradhoo and got ripped .. We have 11 days for all that which is not a lot and we might compromise some options but hoping for a great vacation anyway :) And one more thing if I may. My fiancee is concern about vaccination. We know that there are no mandatory ones for Maledives but we do not have any of them. Our flight is little less then 2 months from now so we (or she as I feel like it should be fine without it..) can do some of recomeneded vaccinations if necessary..
    thanks

    • October 22, 2014
      Reply

      Okay, let’s see what I can do!

      Fulidhoo is definitely much quieter, but I found the beach to be better in Maafushi. The water is much calmer there. I found there to be the same amount of activities on Fulidhoo as there was on Maafushi — our guesthouse owner had all sorts of activities we could do.

      Yes, you can organise the return trip with the guesthouse staff, or by talking to local fishermen and offering to pay them a small amount to take you there and pick you up. The resort will let you call ahead to book the return trip if you’re not travelling with a phone. Our guesthouse owner dropped us off and picked us up from Olhuveli.

      I wouldn’t bother with vaccinations. I have Hepatitis A+B and Typhoid while I travel but that’s it. The risks are very low. Malaria and dengue are probably more of a concern.

  18. October 13, 2014
    Reply

    Always so inspiring. I can’t wait to settle down in Chaing Mai. Looks like it’s been a whirlwind this month for you!

    • October 22, 2014
      Reply

      It’s been pretty crazy, and has been wonderful to relax and stop moving for a while :-)

  19. abdul
    November 27, 2014
    Reply

    Travelers like you are great inspiration and the cost table is very help full. I have not yet started this part of my life. I hope to get on the road some time soon. Great shots. all the best with your future endeavors.

    • December 9, 2014
      Reply

      Thank you so much, Abdul! Happy to hear you find my travel expense rundown helpful :-)

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