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Dinner With Friends in Pai

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To reach Pai from Bangkok you have to take a thirteen hour train ride through the oscillating countryside of Thailand. You disembark in Chiang Mai, take a taxi to the bus station, and then take a four hour bus ride up through the mountains.A bus ride to Pai Thailand If you’re lucky your driver won’t be a homicidal maniac. However, most people are unlucky, and they spend most of their ride clutching the seat in front of them, as the bus barrels through hair pins turns at 40 miles an hour.

Despite the hardships, the journey is worth it. Pai is a small town tucked up in the mountains of north Thailand. It’s easy to imagine it twenty years ago as an underdeveloped village with cows and people riding bicycles. Tourism has changed that. The main road that runs through the center of Pai is a quagmire of inexperienced tourists driving scooters, and people selling fruit smoothies along the side of the road.

In our five months of travelling together, this small village held me and Joanna’s attention longer than anywhere else. We had planned to spend a week there, and wee ended up staying for three times as long. In one sense, it’s funny that we would choose to spend so long in a small mountain village, while actively hating the bustling Bangkok. The pieces fall together once you know Pai, and it’s easy to understand how you can become trapped.

Switching Hostels

Darling Hostel in Pai ThailandWe started our journey in Pai three strong. Me, Joanna, and her friend Asger from Denmark. For a week we stayed at Darling Hostel, where we had an incredible balcony that gave us a beautiful view of the entire town. Every night the expansive deck became a bar, and after five days we had filled a thirty gallon wicker basket with empty bottles of Chang.

Apart from drinking a liver busting amount of beer, the most fun we had was our two days playing with the bikes. In Thailand it’s easy to rent a dirt bike or motorcycle. This was especially true in Pai, as multiple shops had shiny new bikes sitting in front. Asger had driven a bike twice in his life before, and he was confident he could do it again. So I rented my first crotch rocket, albeit a small one, and Asger opted for the dirt bike. We drove them for hours through the mountains surrounding Pai. A better time was never had.

Asger riding a dirt bike in Pai ThailandUnfortunately, unlike me and Joanna, Asger had limited vacation time. After just five short days he flew back to Denmark, leaving me and Joanna to continue the adventure in the tiny town. While staying at Darling, we had been hearing music waft over from another hostel about a quarter mile away. One day a particularly loud drum caught Joanna’s attention and she went to check it out. She came back two hours later.

“Guess what?” She said to me with a grin.

“What’s up?”

“I booked us a room at Circus.”

“Damn, so it’s cool huh. When are we going over there?”

“Tomorrow. Do you remember Eddy from Koh Rong? He’s over there right now. We can go over later and jam with them. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but it’s really freaking cool!”

So it went. That afternoon we went over to Circus and we met Eddy, who we had seen for the first time in Koh Rong, 1,400 km away. Even though the odds of this happening seem low, it’s simply not so. There are only so many popular tourist destinations in Asia, and when you potentially meet dozens of people at every hostel, you’re bound to run into some of them again.

Living at the Circus

At Circus, the bungalows are made out of bamboo with no insulation. High up in the mountains, we nearly froze to death our first night. Three blankets did little to dissuade the frigid air. I remember being close to Joanna under the blankets, hugging her like I would drift out into space if I let go. Poor sleep became a theme at Circus. Loud music, an uncomfortable bed, too little beer. None of it helped. None of it mattered. Circus was a great experiment in happiness.

In our five months of travel we had few lasting rituals, as we changed cities to quickly to allow for them. However, at Circus, we developed the great habit of a nightly dinner. Circus is located fifteen minutes outside of Pai and we rented a scooter to get around. $2.50 a day gets you a ride that turns on and violently protests if you try to go over 20 mph.

Sunset at Pai ThailandEvery night around sunset I would take our wheezing scooter into town for dinner. As the sun disappeared behind the mountains, food stalls began to populate the streets. Pad Thai, meat on a stick, sushi, and various other dishes were available. With just $5 it was possible to get a belly busting amount of food, and my favorite part of the night was picking it out. Parking the scooter, I would walk up and down the street, passing dozens of stalls, filling my bag with food. Once it reached breaking point I would coax the scooter to life, ease it through the crowd of people, and zoom back up to Circus.

Spreading a towel on our bed, me and Joanna would dig into the food. She preferred sushi, and my main dish was usually something Asian with a list of unidentifiable ingredients. After the main course, we would both finish dinner with meat on a stick. If you’ve ever been to Southeast Asia, or presumably other places, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Business card sized pieces of meat, skewered on a piece of bamboo, doused in sauce and grilled to perfection.

I enjoyed our nightly ritual and I believe Joanna did as well. Every night dinner was different, and it was always exciting to unpack the bag and see the pile of food laid out. Inevitably after dinner we would go out for a beer and a game of pool. The days and nights passed quickly, and before we knew it we had been at Circus for two weeks.

Back to Bangkok, the Saga Continues

After nearly three and a half weeks in Pai we were ready to call it quits. It’s a testament to beauty of that place that a town as small as Pai was able to hold us for so long. In the coming weeks and months I would talk to other people who had been there, and the conversations usually went like this.

Me. “You were in Thailand, did you go to Pai?”

Random person at the hostel “Oh yeah we went there. We we’re going to stay for four days, but then we ended up staying for two weeks. It’s so crazy, we loved it!”

“Yeah the same thing happened to us. Did you stay at Circus?”

“No we didn’t but our friend did. We went there for a day though it seemed so cool.”

The Mountains in Pai ThailandThis conversation repeated itself as we made our way through southern Thailand, and across borders. The above conversation (word for word) happened in Singapore, 2,636 km away from that legendary town up in the mountains.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever go back to Pai. The memories I have of the town are so closely tied to Joanna that it may be more painful for me than enjoyable. Walking through the town, going rafting on the river, drinking beer and playing pool, eating lunch at the same place every day. Dinners on the bed, in a bungalow that was hot in the day and cold at night. Even though Pai may be off my radar for the rest of my life, I look forward to finding other places like it, and creating new lasting memories. When in doubt, take the road less traveled.

The 7 Best Cities to Visit in Southeast Asia

Backpacking Southeast Asia was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. I started in Hanoi, worked my way through half a dozen countries, and got to experience more cultural quirks than I’d ever conceived of.

This article isn’t about me though, it’s about you. It’s a chance for me to take my experience and share it with you. That way, when you’re trying to decide whether to travel to to south Thailand, or visit the stunning beaches of Bali, you’ll know what the best fit is. At just five months in six countries I’m not an expert. However, even in such a short amount of time you can find out all sort of interesting facts.

Food prices, food quality, scooter rental, hostel prices, gas prices, corruption levels, quality of beaches, attitude of the people, and so much more. Even though Bali was the last country on my Asian tour, I’ll make it the first one to receive some love

1. Bali, Indonesia

A Dirt Bike at Mt. Batur BaliFirst off, this island is huge! I thought Koh Samui was big, but me and my girlfriend drove through around it in only three hours. Bali is more like a 12 hour trip. The advantage of the size is the sheer diversity of the place. In the course of three days I got to visit the base of a large volcano (Mt. Batur), a tourist beach with a life changing sunrise, and a stunning beach, more than a mile long, with only six people on it. I couldn’t have been living better if I had $10,000,000 (the above picture is from the beach I’m speaking of).

Now for the bad. The traffic on Bali is worse than those people who dose themselves with Axe spray in the locker room. If you’re on a scooter (and brave) you can jump around the traffic. If you’re in a taxi, get ready to wait. That being said, all of the roads I encountered were in great condition and you can easily take a scooter almost anywhere. I rented a dirt bike from Bali Bike Rental (they have scooters too) and I highly recommend them.

I stayed at a hostel in Seminyak called Capsule Hostel. Loved it. The location isn’t fantastic, but with comfortable beds and air conditioning, sleeping is a breeze.

Cost of living in Bali: 6/10

2. Hanoi, Vietnam

I didn’t appreciate Hanoi as I should have because it was the first place I went in SEA. Now, after twenty or thirty other cities, I have a totally renewed appreciation for Hanoi. You can get a cheap hostel downtown, everything is walking distance, the people are nice, the beer is cheap, as is the food. You can get a scooter taxi to almost anywhere in the city for $3.

Downside, people consistently hawk you for stuff. Restaurants, stalls, tourist crap. It really starts to get old to have everybody yelling at you as you walk past. The solution is to wear headphones. Of all cities in the SEA, this would be one of my favorites to visit again.

Cost of living in Hanoi 4 /10

3. Pai, Thailand

The Bus ride to PaiNestled up in the mountains, three hours from Chiang Mai, is Pai. This place is paradise! What sets it apart from other cities is that it’s been developed naturally. No ostentatious high rises or condos, none of that shit. Just lots of bungalows, cute restaurants, and mountain views everywhere. You’ll probably want to rent a scooter to get around, but at $2.50 a day you can’t go wrong. Hostel recommendations include Darling, Circus, and The Purple Monkey.

Trying to think about the bad is difficult. I suppose the terrible crowded downtown main street is definitely a minus. Also, it can get chilly at night. So if you’re only packed for tropical weather, you might want to buy a hoodie and some jeans. Another downside is the bus ride to Pai. You’ll take a about a three hour bus around hairpin turns where the driver’s sworn duty is to kill you. Someone people rent scooters and drive from Chiang Mai to Pai. Even as an experienced driver, I would never do this.

Price 3/10

4. Koh Rong, Cambodia

If I had more blog readers I wouldn’t even bring up Koh Rong. This is a small island just off the mainland of Cambodia. It’s heaven. Perks includes no police, no roads, no cars, no scooters, crystal clear beaches, cheap hostels, cheap food, and loads of other crazy cunts who like to drink and play beach volleyball just as much as you do.

Downside, internet can be spotty. All of the affordable hostels don’t have AC, and a mosquito net is a must. That being said, you can read about my experiences drinking Jameson on Koh Rong, and I would instantly trade all inconveniences to go back. If I ever decide that the world is too much, and I want to cop out by drinking myself to death Hunter Thompson style, Koh Rong is where I’ll do it.

Cost of Living 4/10

5. Koh Lanta, Thailand

Sunset at Koh LantaLoved this place. Some of the best beaches and atmosphere. Also, it’s really easy to explore the island on scooter. The roads are all well paved and you can go to the end of the island in less than two hours. Keeping in mind that there are two sides of the island, and you’ll have to decide which side to go up (I vote west side, it’s like driving through a paved jungle. Pro tip here, stay at Sanctuary hostel. It’s right on the beach, the bungalows are great, you have a beautiful private bathroom. The food they cook may be overpriced for Thailand, but it’s delicious. Also, three minutes from a  7/11. Convenience is a law of life.

If you’re into drinking, you’re in luck. There are more bars on the beach than there are cartons of Ben and Jerry’s in a fat ladies freezer. If you want to get to a club farther down the island , Tuk Tuks rarely charge more than $5.

Cost of Living 6/10

6. Singapore, Singapore

The Banana Building in Singapore

I know, a city with the same name as the country. What kind of anarchy is this? A well maintained anarchy. Singapore is a first world country and may pale to London and New York, but it’s still an important financial powerhouse. Everything is modern, with chewing gum being illegal the sidewalks are so clean.

Rumors abound that Singapore is too expensive to have a good time. Yes and no. Look, you can find an awesome hostel like the one I stayed at (Happy Snail Hostel) for about $12 night. From there, a subway ticket is just $1.50 or so one way. Sure, some food costs more than the GDP of Nigeria, but you can also go get chicken and rice for $3. I honestly believe that Singapore is as cheap or as expensive as you make it.

Cost of Living 8/10

7. Mui Ne, Vietnam

Fishing boats in the Bay at Mui NeIf you’re going to explore southeast Asia, you have to hit Mui Ne. In particular, stay at Mui Ne Hills Budget Hostel (which I assure you is anything but a budget place.) They’ve got a great pool, then another. Then there happens to be another one, and if you get curious, you’ll find the fourth one. Three of the four pools have a fantastic view straight to the ocean. You can order two beers and a delicious dinner for less than $5. You can drink in the pool. Everyday there is a volleyball tournament at four.

I met Joanna here, which turned out to be a defining experience in my travels through Southeast Asia. I simply cannot recommend this hostel enough. Or the whole town for that matter. There are dozens of bars directly located on the ocean. You can sit in a chair, sip your Tiger, and hawk a loogie into the South China Sea. In America this privilege would cost $20 a beer. In Vietnam, about $1.50.

Price 4 /10

The Sun, the Sea, The Cheap Beer

After backpacking Asia for five months, I have so much more to say than what I just mentioned. Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Phuket, Koh Samui, Kuala Lumpur, Melaka, Nha Trang, Dalat, Saigon, and so on. I just mentioned the places that I enjoyed the most. If you’d like to learn about more SEA, leave me a comment or hit me with a short message.

The Jameson Diaries of Koh Rong

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Joanna was the first person to tell me about Koh Rong. We were sitting together on my bed in Dalat, and she was pointing out the best places to visit in Cambodia.

“Siem Reap is ok” she told me “but I didn’t really like Angkor Wat. Everything was old and falling apart, and it was all the same color. I liked Phnom Penh, but the best place in Cambodia is definitely Koh Rong.”

“What’s that?” I asked, curious what the attractive, blonde Dutch girl sitting next to me would say.

“It’s an island just down here. You see it?” Pointing to a small speck on Google Maps, she tried to zoom in on it, giving up several seconds later. “Your laptop sucks” she said without laughing. 

“No, it’s the best laptop in the entire universe, you just don’t know how to use it” I said, defending my $200 investment from an entirely justified comment.

“Here’s Koh Rong, you have to go there. There aren’t any cars, no scooters, nothing. There isn’t even a road.”

Sold, I asked her how to get there.

“You take a ferry from Sihanoukville. You don’t have to book a hostel in advance, you can just show up and find something. When I went there I met a girl on the ferry and she told me about Ty Ty’s hostel. You should go there it’s awesome!”

After knowing Joanna for just an hour or two, I couldn’t have known that three weeks later we would go to Koh Rong together. We began travelling together in Saigon, and it wasn’t long after that we ended up in Sihanoukville. We bought our tickets in the evening, and the next day we boarded the ferry an hour before noon. Beers in hand, ready to leave the mainland behind. Before the breakfast beer dulled the attic, I counted my blessings that I was going to a tropical paradise with a girl who I was wildly attracted to. Sometimes things work out like that, and it’s beautiful when they do.

Stepping Onto the Beach

The beach is the road at Koh Rong. It emerges from the ocean and goes directly up to the steps of every hostel, bungalow, restaurant, and bar on the island. In some places the front door of a building is a mere ten to fifteen feet from the ocean. In other places it’s sixty feet. Nowhere is it farther than Tom Brady can toss a football.

We got off the ferry and stepped onto the dock, ignoring a man loudly bellowing advice about how to survive on the island.

“We don’t need him” Joanna said to me, briskly stepping past the shirtless alcoholic. “I’ve been here before, I know where to go.” So I followed Joanna. I’ve never met anyone in my life who walks as fast as her, and I may not ever meet someone again who does. She turned a three minute walk into a ninety second one, and we quickly arrived at Ty Ty’s. They had a room and we booked it for a week. After dropping our stuff off and stepping back out into the tropical heat, I looked around and shrugged.

“Well, let’s get a beer.”

Joanna smiled “let’s do it” she said.

With that the tempo was set. When in the tropics, drink like a fish. Given the Scrooge pleasing prices of alcohol in Cambodia, this was easy to accomplish. We grabbed a few cans and sat up on the balcony of Ty Ty’s, looking out at the ocean and watching drunk tourists walk below us on the beach. Despite having been in Asia for more than a month, this was only the second time that I felt like I was somewhere truly special. An island with no roads and no police. Cheap alcohol, sand whiter than a Swede at Christmas, the ocean clear as the screen on a brand new phone, and the company of a girl who I loved.

Embracing the Lifestyle

Everything that I learned in college had prepared me for Koh Rong. I knew how to drink, how to make friends, and how to blow off all responsibilities. Most days began with breakfast prepared by the wonderful staff at Ty Ty’s. After that we would lounge around till ten or eleven. By then the boredom would set in and we would start drinking. Sometimes at the hostel, most of the time on the beach.

I had left my laptop charger in the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, and I had no way to get any work done. All I had was my cellphone and a weak internet connection. That was enough to send out messages to my clients though, most of which went something like this.

“Sorry, I can’t do any work for the next week or two. I’m in a tropical island in Cambodia and I can’t charge my laptop. As soon as I get back I’ll be available again!”

Luckily they were just as agreeable to this arrangement as I was, and I didn’t lose any work during my tropical vacation from reality.

A picture of three people playing guitar on Koh RongWhat’s interesting about Koh Rong is the effect that it has on people. The locals who live there year round only make up a small percentage of the total population. The rest of the people on the island are tourists. There for a week, two if they’re lucky, and then back to the grind. Even though me and Joanna were by definition tourists, after a few days we had thrown off this label and we began to see ourselves as locals. We made jokes about the obnoxious, drunken behavior of the twenty-something travelers, even though we regularly made fools of ourselves.

Koh Rong has the potential to convince you that you’re special, a world apart from the other riff raff. It’s a unique feeling that I never fully experienced again. I don’t know if it was because I was with Joanna who already knew the island well, or if it was because of our hostel, which blended into the island like a chameleon. Whatever the reason, we carried ourselves with a certain amount of pride, even as we accomplished nothing.

Elevating Our Game

Five days into our tropical escape I made an exciting discovery. Not only is beer cheap, but you could get a liter of Jameson (my favorite liver-buster) for just $18. After convincing myself that this wasn’t some form of fraud, much the way you can buy a Rolex for $50 from the night market, I paid for a bottle in cash and walked out onto the beach.

Jameson Sam

Posting this picture on the internet will probably haunt me one day, but fuck it. It’s so blurry I can at least deny this is me at 10:30 in the morning

The best way to imagine my situation is to picture Jack Sparrow, marooned on that stunning tropical island with the beautiful Elizabeth Swann. Nothing in his hand but a bottle of rum. I walked up and down the beach with my Jameson, the way more sensible people were carrying bottles of water. I’m not particularly proud of the person that I became with that Irish whiskey, but nor would it be right to hide it. I took the bottle with me everywhere, from the beach, into the sparkling ocean, and back to the beach.

The culmination of all my efforts came to me shortly after noon one day. I had been drawing on the Jameson for the better part of two hours, while we sat with a few other guys. One of whom we would meet a month later, 1,400 km away in Pai. Joanna was playing her ukulele, and Eddy was on the guitar. Baked from the sun, I pushed myself to standing position to go for a swim with the Jameson. Standing shakily, I found myself completely unable to walk forward. Instead I ended up staggering ten feet to the left, before collapsing in the sand. Jameson in hand, sand on my cheeks, dignity lost.

After that day I didn’t buy any more liquor. Me and Joanna worked on the beer and enjoyed the water. Right up to the end Koh Rong maintained its magic. I would have been happy there for a month, but my liver and wallet couldn’t stand it any longer. We bought our ferry tickets, paid the last tab at the hostel, and departed the next day. I left with mixed feelings. It saddened me to leave behind an island where I had so much fun, and made such an ass of myself without consequence.

On the other hand, I was ready to see what was next. When you travel a lot you begin to develop an inquisitive spirit. Even though the conditions you’re in may be ideal, you still think about why the next place is going to be awesome. The ferry ride out of Koh Rong was sad, but then again, we had our travel beers to lighten the mood.

Joining the Real World

Back in Sihanoukville me and Joanna visited half a dozen computer shops looking for a charger so that I could restore life to my dead laptop. At the time I had no idea that a hostel in Phnom Penh was holding onto it for me, and I thought my only salvation lay in buying a new one.Joanna on a dirt bike in Cambodia For better or worse, that never came to pass.

All we managed to find was a dirt bike, which brought me just as much joy as any charger could. We rode through the Cambodian countryside, discovering the most pristine beach I’ve ever seen in my life. We stripped down to our underwear and dove into the exotic blue water. All thoughts of Koh Rong and Jameson were washed away, to be tucked away into my long term memory until next time. Someday I hope to go back to that hedonistic island, and resume the suspension of reality.

Playing Hide and Seek in Da Lat

I was the worst tourist ever in Da Lat. There’s loads of different cool activities like canyoning and hiking, and I did none of them. However, I still managed to have a blast. I stayed at Mr. Peace’s hostel which turned out to be great! Mr. Peace is an eccentric Vietnamese guy who loves to swear in heavily accented English. I’ve never heard someone say motherfucking bitch as much as this cool character.

When I did get out of the hostel, it was usually only for one reason: to go to 100 Roofs Cafe. This is by far the trippiest, craziest, most insane cafe I’ve ever been too. I say cafe but what I really mean is bar. Nobody was drinking coffee when I was there.

Asked to describe to the uninitiated, I would say that it’s like Hogwarts. Which is really pretty close to the truth. 100 Roofs Cafe is at least five stories and it’s more of a maze than anything else. The front of the cafe is fairly straightforward, but as you go back into it everything starts to get complicated. There are tunnels, small corridors, tucked away hiding places, and so on. The pictures don’t do it justice, but they’ll give you some idea at least.

Playing Hide and Seek

A picture from 100 roofs cafe in Da Lat vietnamIf you’re going to travel to Da Lat, Vietnam, and you go to 100 Roofs Cafe (Which I strongly recommend) then the best way to spend your time here is to play hide and seek. It works best with large groups, which is one reason staying at a hostel and going out with everyone is so fantastic.

Once you and your group pull up, one person is the seeker and everyone else hides. The seeker has a bottle of liquor, and when he or she finds you, it’s time to take a chug. Then you join forces and seek out other people. Finding them is surprisingly more difficult then you might imagine. 100 Roofs Cafe is so convoluted inside that you can find an almost unlimited number of places to hide. I hid with Joanna from Holland, and we were too good. Nobody could find us! Eventually we had to give up and join the group or else we would have sat alone for the whole night.

Stories from the Chamber

Glowing face at 100 Roofs cafeUnfortunately, the madness inside the cafe is enough to inspire irrational behavior. At breakfast on Monday morning we heard the story of two German guys who got naked in the chamber. One of them was a great storyteller so this was hilarious. He described the shock on people’s faces when they would turn a corner and see two grown men with their dick’s hanging out. Which is all in good fun, this is Asia. I don’t approve of them peeing on the tables though. That seems to be taking it too far. That’s what 100 Roofs does to people. It feels like being in a movie and people act like it too. Getting naked and peeing on a table isn’t the type of thing one does at a regular cafe. At 100 Roofs, it makes sense in a twisted kind of way.

Travelling in Vietnam

The great thing about Vietnam travel is that this is all so affordable! In America, drinking at a place like 100 Roofs Cafe would be nearly impossible. Beers would be $6 and a rum milkshake (highly recommended by friends) would cost $10. That’s not the case in Da Lat, Vietnam. A beer is $1.25 and a rum milkshake is $2.50. You can play hide and seek all night long without breaking the bank.

Being down to $272 I’m happy about this! I know that in America I would be nearly broke, but here it’s enough to live for a while. Travelling in Vietnam is cheap, and you can always make it cheaper if you have to. Drink less, spend more time at the beach. All things being equal, if you go to Da Lat you have to visit 100 Roofs Cafe! It’s an incredible place that will blow your mind. Try to make your way to the top, and if you get there you’ll be rewarded with a sweeping view of Da Lat. It might not be New York City, but it’s still awfully cool.

Travelling in Nha Trang, Vietnam With Friends

So far, Nha Trang has been my favorite city to travel to in Vietnam! I’ve met some really awesome people, had so much fun at the beach, and gotten to practice my Russian daily. Кстати, если ты говоришь по-русски, вам нужно сюда ехать! Можете говорить по-русски везде. Also, I’ve gotten to stay at an amazing hostel, which has been one of the coolest experiences of my life (even if the internet does suck). More than anything though, it’s been the new friends that I’ve made here that have made Nha Trang so special.

Making New Friends

The Big Buddha in Nha TrangI think that I got awfully lucky to get to travel to Vietnam, and to have met my new Vietnamese friends. I was sitting on a bench, dusting the sand off my feet. I was seconds from leaving when Tran and Thao came up to me and introduced themselves. They told me that they needed to interview foreigners as part of a university project, and they asked me to talk about life in New York.

I told them that it’s true, Americans love pizza and hamburgers, and that I was having a really good time travelling in Vietnam. What was supposed to be just a simple interview though ended up being so much more. After talking to them for fifteen minutes they invited me to go with them for food. We exchanged contact information (Facebook since I haven’t bought a Vietnamese SIM card) and that was that.

I think we ended up hanging out three times in all, and each time was a blast. I got to discover some awesome new things to do in Nha Trang that I never would have known about otherwise. I also got to learn a lot about Vietnamese culture, as I grilled my friends about it just as much as they grilled me about American culture.

Vietnamese Culture

So while I feel lucky to have gotten to meet this awesome group of people, I don’t think it’s totally an accident. After a lot of Vietnam travel, I’ve discovered that Vietnamese people are very open and welcoming. Earlier, I recorded a video where I talked about the Ukrainian culture, and how every single house has a gate on it and nobody talks to their neighbors. Vietnam is 180 degrees opposite. Entire families have dinner on the sidewalk and people are comfortable being close to one another.

Picture of us standing in front of the stone church in Nha TrangEating street food is a great testament to that. We have nothing like it in America. Imagine a small restaurant, set up directly on the sidewalk, with one person cooking food on a portable burner. The table is small and the stools are the size of a squared football (soccer ball). I suppose I haven’t taken any pictures yet because it’s such a ubiquitous part of the landscape here that it would seem like taking a picture of McDonald’s in America.

While Vietnamese people are open, they don’t like to dance. My friends have all told me this, and I’ve experienced it directly. One of my fresher memories is going to a club with a girl from my hostel. She had to physically drag the locals to the dance floor to join us. Thankfully she was great at it and in fifteen minutes she had a whole group of people having fun and forgetting about feeling silly for dancing. If you’re going to Vietnam to travel though, don’t expect lot’s of dancing, expect delicious street food instead.

Hanging out in Nha Trang

So far Nha Trang has been my favorite city in Vietnam. Since I’ve already visited Hanoi and Da Nang, that means it has beat out two other places for the honor. It’s not that there are loads of things to do in Nha Trang, but what there is to do is awesome for me. I love the beach! I go swimming every morning and I’ve picked up a nice tan in the process.

Also, while the massive Russian influx here might bother other people, I love it! It’s really great to be able to practice my second language at any bar or club. I wonder if people who study English as a second language ever take it for granted that they can practice it anywhere? Well if you study Russian, it’s really freaking exciting when you find a town in Vietnam where any random person at the bar has a 50% chance of being Russian.

The Sleeping Buddha in Nha TrangAs for attractions, my favorite so far has been the sleeping Buddha. This large statue is impressive to look at, and if you rub the Buddha’s elbow then rub your hand on your head, it brings you good luck. Of course I did it, but I don’t know how much luckier I could get. I get to travel in Vietnam, meet awesome people, swim in the ocean, get tan, practice my Russian, and get paid to write! That’s a pretty good deal in my book.

If you want to learn more about how I make money online and how I’m supporting myself on this crazy Asian journey, definitely check out a useful guide I wrote about making money online. Or if you want to see even more pictures from Vietnam, you can check out my photo gallery. I love everything I’ve experienced travelling in Vietnam so far, and I really hope that you make the choice to come here too.

Living on $500 a month, How to Plan Your Vietnam Travel Budget

Vietnam is a really great place to travel if you’re on a budget. It allows you live like a king, while not having to worry about your expenses. In general, you can confidently walk into any bar or restaurant and know that you’ll be able to afford a great dinner. Fresh fruit smoothie or sandwich from a street vendor, that’ll set you back about $1.50. All of this is why Vietnam is one of the coolest places to travel in Asia, and one of the cheapest too. Let’s take a look at what you can do on a Vietnam travel budget of $500 a month.

Eating Out at Restaurants

Restaurants are everywhere in Vietnam. At my hostel in Hanoi, for example, there were 20 some restaurants within a five minute walk. Vietnamese food is awesome, and you’ll be able to eat a great dinner at most places for less than $5. In fact, if you want to keep it really simple, you can get a filling dinner for about $2. It’s going to be fresh and delicious as well!

Street food is also very popular in Vietnam. We don’t have this in America, and it took some getting used to, seeing these mini “restaurants” on the sidewalk. But I’ve come to find out that they’re really an awesome way to eat cheap. For example, today with my Vietnamese friends, four of us ate till we were full and I don’t think that we paid more than $10. Obviously Vietnam is a cheap travel destination, especially since food can be big a expense in other places.

Going out to the Bar

Drinking in Vietnam is easy. That is, if you like beer. There are a couple of major beer labels, including Tiger beer and Saigon beer. If you buy it from the store, it’s about .$75 for a bottle, and the price usually only goes up to about $1 if you buy it at the bar. In fact, the other night I was aghast when I ordered a beer from the Sailing Club in Nha Trang and they charged me $4! I’ve clearly been spoiled by just how cheap it is to drink in Asia.

I can’t say much about other drink prices, as I rarely stray far from the beer. I’m sure that the prices are all comparable though. In fact, the hostel that I’m staying at right now even has a happy hour. As much free beer as you can drink in an hour. Needless to say, while this has been great, it’s also proven to be the downfall of more than one hostel-goer.

Living in Hostels

If you’re going to travel to Vietnam you can expect to pay somewhere from $5 to $7 a night for a hostel. Typically the dorms are mixed, so if you’re a girl and don’t like the idea of living with guys, you’ll usually need to pay more to get a single room. When you’re planning your travel budget, there’s really no reason to allot more than about $200 a month. The hostel I’m at now (which is probably the coolest hostel I’ve ever stayed at in my life) only charges $6 or so a night.

Getting Around

If you’ve never been to Asia before than you probably aren’t familiar with the motorbikes. These wonderful little things are the chief means of transportation in Vietnam. One of the things that makes Vietnam one of the cheapest travel destinations is that you can take one of these motorbikes almost anywhere in the city for about $2.50. Well, at least that’s what I paid in Hanoi. It didn’t usually seem to matter how far I went, the price remained the same.

Of course, if you plan to travel Asia cheap, and you are really feeling adventurous, you can also buy your own motorbike. This will only set you back about $250, and if you plan to stay in Vietnam for a while, it might be a good investment. Odds are you’ll be able to drive it around and then sell it for the same price that you bought it for.

You’re putting your life into your hands if you do this though. The traffic in Vietnam is nothing short of jaw dropping, and the driving style is unlike anything you’ll find anywhere in America. It makes New York City drivers look like a bunch of grandmothers off to church.

When you need to go between cities it’s also easy to travel cheap in Vietnam because the train is inexpensive. You can go from Hanoi, all the way to Saigon (a 1,700 km journey) and I don’t think you’ll end up paying more than $80. You have to be careful about where you buy your tickets though. I’ve found the best website to be Baolau.com Alternatively, you can also just go to the train station and buy your tickets in person.

Your Travel Budget for Vietnam

The cheap food, inexpensive drinks, low cost hostels, and easy on the wallet train tickets all mean that you can plan on spending little in Asia. I think with $500 you can easily live a great life here. That’s about what I spend and I think that my own travels have been stellar so far. So if you want to travel Asia cheap, I think that Vietnam is a great country to visit. Of course, I also think that Vietnam is a wonderful country, and the cheap prices are a just a cherry on top. As I continue down into Cambodia and Vietnam, I’ll report further on what I find, and on what kind of travel budget you’ll need.

5 Awesome Things to do in Kiev

I think that everyone should visit Kiev! It’s a beautiful city with a great history, and if you have Euros or Dollars, it’s all very affordable. One of the nicest perks of Kiev is that it’s a fairly centralized city. All of the things I’m about to list are within walking distance. Or if you prefer to hitch a ride, a taxi should never cost more than a couple of bucks. Finally, I love travelling in Ukraine, and I have lots of cool Kiev photos (Odessa and Lviv too) that I definitely think you’ll like. Alright though, let’s get to it!

1. Rodina Mat

Rodina Mat in KievIf you’re going to travel to Ukraine, this massive statue is a must see! At 102 meters, Rodina Mat is truly impressive, especially as she holds up her sword and shield to the river. In Russian, Родина Мать, is bit awkward to translate, but it comes out as something like “Mother of the Country” or “Mother of the Homeland”.

Under the base of the statue is a comprehensive World War II museum that’s filled with interesting relics from the war. You’ll also find some items from the significantly more modern struggle in Donbass. On top of helmets and pictures, there’s also a captured Russian tank. It’s parked out right out front and has been painted in Ukraine’s national colors (blue and yellow).

It’s also worth noting that if you take the metro to Rodina Mat, you’ll get off at Arsenalna Station, which is the deepest metro station in the world. Getting from the Metro car, up to the entrance of the station, takes more time then trying to pick a movie to watch on Netflix! If you visit Kiev, you can’t pass up this opportunity.

2. Maidan

Maidan in KievIf there was an award for most transformed public space, Maidan would surely take first place. This telling photograph illustrates how bad things got, and how nice it looks now. Maidan is one of Kiev’s main attractions, and the whole area is a wonderful place to hang out. The protesters are long gone, order has been returned, and there’s only hints of what took place there in 2013.

One of my favorite things to do in Kiev is take the metro to Maidan, then “гулять”. This is a Russian verb which doesn’t have a definite English translation. Strolling comes close, but it sounds a little bit too whimsical.

Regardless, at Maidan you can “stroll” around and discover a large, underground shopping mall or one of the many restaurants nearby. If you’re not sure where to go, I suggest Park Shevchenko, which is a 15 minute walk away, and directly next to Kiev’s elite National University (which happens to be painted bright red).

3. St. Andrew’s Church

St. Andre's Church in KievWhen it comes to Kiev sightseeing, you have to check out St. Andrew’s Church! I say that for two reasons. First, the church itself is beautiful. A magnificent work of art. The blue spires give way to gold, which is all complimented by the beautiful white body of the church. You can stand next to it and see far off into the distance (Kiev is a very hilly city).

The second reason that you’ll want to check out St. Andrew’s is the area. All around it is a large park which will offer you various opportunities to find some tranquility, or get your picture taken with a great background of the city. Those will be some some Kiev photos that you’re happy to have later on.

4. Kiev Opera

Another one of the Kiev’s attractions is the opera house. Situated less than ten minutes from Maidan, it’s right downtown. The building is old and it has a visually imposing appearance. It sits in a large, open square which defies the traffic and buildings all around it. The opera in Kiev is also nice because it’s affordable. Tickets can run somewhere around $15, although you will need to buy them in advance (and in person, I’ve heard their online system is nearly useless).

5. Petra Sahaidachnoho St.

Chilling at the Fiji LoungeThankfully, you don’t have to be able to pronounce the name of this street to find it. You can do a quick Google Maps search and find out right where it is. This street makes the list of top 5 awesome things to do in Kiev because it’s jammed with some of the best bars and restaurants in Kiev. There’s the Fiji Lounge Bar, which may be my favorite place in all of Kiev to hang out with friends. They have great food, cheap drinks, hookah, and there is a hidden club in the basement that can get crazy on Friday and Saturday nights.

Another good spot to check out is the Shooters in Kiev. They’re located a minute or two from the Fiji Lounge Bar, and it’s a popular place for tourists to visit. Good drink specials and lots of local party goers means that everyone ends up having fun. Regardless of your tastes, you’ll definitely find something interesting on Petra Sahaidachnoho St.

Where to Stay in Kiev

If you’re going to travel in Ukraine, you’ll want to find a good place to stay. As far as I can tell, there are four major hostels in Kiev, and I’ve stayed at three of them. The hostel that I always recommend to friends is The DREAM House hostel. This place is freaking sweet! It’s only a year or two old, they have a cafe / bar directly built in, the beds are super comfortable, there’s a big common area, the staff are nice, it’s only two minutes from Petra Sahaidachnoho St.

Some people prefer Kiev Central Station though. This hostel has a totally different feel. Staying here, I frequently felt like I was living in a college apartment. It’s laid back, it’s on a quite street, and there is a fridge full of beer in the common room. Whichever hostel you choose though, you’ll still only end up paying about $8 a night. Kiev is a very affordable destination, and one that I recommend everyone check out. To learn more about Ukraine, and see video reviews of the two hostels that I mentioned, be sure check out my YouTube page.

Hanoi? What a City!

Traffic Jam in HanoiI arrived at the Hanoi airport sometime around midnight. By the time I paid my $45 for a Visa, cleared customs, and made it to my hostel in a taxi, it was about 1 am. Looking out the window I lamented the location. I was depressed because the empty roads and deserted streets seemed to indicate that I was in an unpopular part of town. So naive, so young. That was a week ago and it’s the last time I’ve known tranquility in Vietnam.

Hanoi makes New York City look like a Buddhist retreat town during the off season.

What’s been most shocking to me are the scooters. They’re everywhere. The road, the sidewalk, inside restaurants, outside of restaurants, outside of my hostel, inside of my hostel. If it’s physically possible, a scooter can and will occupy a space at some point. They’re the universal powerhouse of the city. I’ve seen people carrying hundreds of beer bottles, trees, dozens of gallons of water, and entire families on a single scooter. It’s humbling really.

The Attitude Towards Tourists

Scooter Traffic on the Streets of HanoiUnlike Ukraine, I can’t blend in here by just keeping my mouth shut. Anywhere I go it’s obvious I don’t belong. As far as I can tell though, most people don’t seem to care. I don’t catch people staring at me or even treating me any different. I’m as likely to die in a scooter related accident as anyone else. That attitude goes further too. I took a taxi ride on the back of a scooter and the driver ripped me off for 50,000 Dong! Of course, losing $2.50 is no biggie and I’m coping with it fairly well.

I definitely feel like I could stay in Vietnam a while. Despite the taxi guy, and some lady selling bread who I’m pretty sure charged me triple the non-tourist rate, I feel very welcome. Everyone seems nice and very friendly. The other day I was sitting in a park and staring at a church. A 16 year old kid named Sunh approached me and we talked for 15 minutes. That may be the first time something like that’s ever happened to me in my life, and I thought it was awfully neat.

The Food

A night picture of the city view cafe in HanoiI eat out every single night, and never in the same place. Hanoi is a city of restaurants and the food is awesome. However, it’s been difficult for me to figure out what the hell to order. For instance, I tried to order eel today. The waiter looked confused, and then he went to get the English speaking manager. She explained that they only sold whole eels. Fresh, whole eels, and that surely it would be too much for me. I agreed, and ended up ordering two fish that stacked together would the size of a smartphone.

One of my favorite dishes here isn’t a dish at all. It’s a treat called brown coffee. It’s basically fresh brewed coffee sweetened with condensed milk and other mystery spices. Freaking delicious. I have trouble only ordering one when I go to the cafe. The fresh smoothies are mind blowing too. I ordered two of them the other day. I felt like a pig but it was worth it. In the coming weeks I look forward to eating at more restaurants, and hopefully figuring out a few dishes that I really like.

Plans for the Future

Famous Temple in Hanoi VietnamI’m staying in Hanoi till next Thursday. I paid for a private room in a hostel which has been nice. However, it’s proven difficult to meet people to hang out with. Unlike other countries, I found very few Couchsurfing events, and my hostel doesn’t have a common area where people hang out. So at my next hostel I made sure to book accommodations in the dorm. That means it will be harder to sleep but easier to meet people. I’m really looking forward to it though because my hostel is 2 minutes from the beach. I love to swim and I plan to take advantage of it.

When I touched down in Hanoi I had no plan. Now, after a week I’ve begun to formulate some ideas. Next week is the beach town of Da Nang. Then after, the beach town of Nha Trang. Then I’ll hit Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). However, what I’m really aiming for is Phu Quoc Island. This remote piece of real estate is mostly a national park, which means I’m expecting to find some awesome, untamed beaches there. There’s also rumors of motorbiking up through the park. If I have the chance to rent a dirt bike and ride it through a national park, I don’t care how much it costs I’ll pay it.

While that’s the skeleton of the plan, the plan lacks timing. If I like a place, I’ll stay. If I’ve seen enough, I’ll move on. Working online provides me with this lifestyle. Even though I’ve been out enjoying the city, I’ve also been working my ass off. In the last week I’ve written 10 articles and I’ve gotten about $250 for my efforts. I’ve also found myself getting a bunch of repeat customers. The more I write, the better I get, the more people want to hire me. It’s a high coffee lifestyle, but it allows me the freedom to more or less do whatever I want.

If you want to find out how you can work online and travel the world, check out my introductory post: how to make money online.

4 Reasons I Fell in Love With Dubai

Mosque in DubaiDubai was amazing, it’s a must hit for any person who has some time to travel. The city is a marvelous blend of old and new. Everywhere you look the ancient Arab culture mixes seamlessly with the new Western influence. You know those crazy cities in Star Wars? That’s what Dubai felt like to me. I’ll begin this post by listing all the reasons that I loved the city, and then I’ll give you a few resources that you can use if you’re planning a trip. If you just want to see some pictures from the city, check out my photo gallery.

1. The Food is Awesome

Three minutes from my hostel I found a restaurant that didn’t serve anything made without eggs. Every morning I ate at a vegetarian place called Swades. Close to the metro I got to experience some of the best chicken I’ve ever had. The list goes on. The cool thing about Dubai is that there are so many restaurants serving so many different ethnic foods that you’re bound to find something you love.

2. Most People aren’t From Dubai

According to Wikipedia, only 10 to 15% of Dubai’s population are native Arabs. That means that 85 to 90% of the population is from somewhere else. Most people are from Asia, but there’s enough Western expats that you don’t stand out. Why is this cool? Because you don’t get treated like a tourist. Dubai’s incredible diversity means that you canblend in and be taken for a local on your first day there.

3. Everyone Speaks English

I never had a problem communicating with anyone in Dubai. While most shop signs are written in Arababic, as soon as you go inside you’ll find out that you can easily communicate with all cashiers and waiters. The flip side of this is that if you speak another language (Russian, French, Hindi, Arabic, Mandarin, and so on) you’ll almost definitely be able to find someone to chat with. I never would have guessed that I’d use my Russian in Dubai, but I ended up speaking every day.

4. The Attractions are Breathtaking

Sky View of the Dubai FountainsI came to Dubai to see the Burj Khalifa and ended up being more impressed by the Mall. Most of The Mall is four stories, although some places are only two or three. There is a shark tank, an ice rink, a theater (where I watched Sicario), and more shops than you could possibly visit in a day. The most fascinating part of The Mall is the way it changes shape and character. Some areas are plush and luxurious, other areas have a strong Arabic influence, and a couple of places are dark and modern. It felt like walking between different continents.

Another interesting feature Dubai has to offer is The Palm. This man made “island” is unnecessarily large, and yet totally awesome. Unfortunately, The Palm is best accessed by car. I was lucky enough to meet Konrad who had a rental car. However, if you happen to be in Dubai you can rent a super car for the day (if you’re over 25), which would be a great way to see this stunning island.

Planning Your Trip to Dubai

At the Base of the Burj KhalifaI spent four days in Dubai and I think I spent about $200. For that I got four nights at a hostel, fantastic food every day, a t-shirt from the Dubai Mall, a ticket to the top of the Burj Khalifa, at ticket to the Dubai Mall Cinema, several gallons of bottled water, a cab ride in Lexus from the airport to my hostel, and about half a dozen metro tickets. Not a bad deal altogether.

As for accommodations, I stayed at the BackPacker Hostel and I enjoyed it. It’s close to the metro, there are tons of restaurants around, the room was comfortable, and the girl running it was from Belarus so I got to practice my Russian. A hint though, if you want to book this hostel do it through Airbnb. On their website they advertise a bed for $32 a night when in reality I only paid $20 a night.

Standing next to a green Rolls Royce in DubaiYou’ll also want to buy your ticket to the Burj Khalifa in advance. I bought my ticket 10 days in advance and paid $35. Later on, I took several women from Moldova to buy a ticket (acting as their translator) and the cheapest option was $120 per person. You can buy your ticket in advance here.

Other people have suggested dune bashing which does sound awesome. Unfortunately I ran out of time and wasn’t able to do it. That, along with checking out the Dubai Marina, will be for next time. I had so much fun that I’d really like to go back again for a week or two. Definitely during the cooler months though. It was 90 degrees every day which is fine as long as you pound the water. 115 degrees in the summer though, forget it!

Learning a Second Language is Awesome!

Learning Russian has been the most rewarding experience of my life. It’s about so much more than just the language though. I’ve learned that through hard work and consistent effort I can accomplish anything I set my mind too. That’s an incredibly powerful feeling, and it’s going to serve me for the rest of my life. Here are a few other things I’ve noticed about learning a second language, and some of the benefits that you may find on your own journey to fluency.

Learning a Second Language Teaches You..

How to Learn. Seriously though, people just aren’t that good at learning. Loads of people never work hard enough to get a decent result, or they expend all their energy in the wrong areas. They focus on the details instead of looking at the big picture. When you learn a language you figure out pretty quick that you can know words but not understand the meaning. To get past that you have to think creatively and study with a purpose. Once you figure out how to do this you can apply it to any new skill you want to learn.

That persistence is instrumental to success. The first couple of hundred hours of learning a language kind of suck. You can’t understand movies, music, jokes or regular conversation. This is a bitch, but the unshakable truth is that if you don’t stick it out you WILL NEVER learn to speak another language. I wonder, when people give up in the beginning, do they fully realize that they’re giving up any possibility of ever becoming fluent? Do they realize what’s at stake? In order to succeed anywhere in life you need persistence.

About a different culture. I’ve written about this before and I’ll write about it again. When you learn a second language you get to learn about a new lifestyle. Customs, beliefs, holidays, names, food, history, and so on. You can read about this in a book or watch a movie, but when you experience it through the language, it’s different story.

A picture of an old white lada on the side of the road in Kiev, UkraineAbout your own language. Without a second language to compare English against you literally cannot draw a comparison. It’s like if the only cars on the road were Ladas, you’d swear it was the best car ever made. In reality, a better illustration of a Lada’s value is this joke.

How do you double the value of a Lada?

Fill it up with gas. 

I’m not saying that any language is better than another one. Although Pirahã (the hardest language in the world) does seem to be rather unnecessary. What I’m saying is that without a comparison, you’ll never be able to fully understand the upsides and downsides of English (or whatever your native language is). 

That learning is forever. I’ve learned more in the last 14 months then I learned in the last eight years of school. Even though I’ve probably spent 1,000 hours studying Russian by this point, I’ve only just scratched the surface. I realize that I can study this language for the rest of my life and I’ll die with a book of material still waiting to be learned.

I think that most people who read my blog understand that you don’t stop learning after school gets out. If you already get this, a second language can really help you to cement this idea in your head. It’s why I’m shifting gears. Realizing now that I could easily study Russian forever, I’ve decided to invest my energy elsewhere and learn German. I think it will have more practical applications for me, and I’ll be able to talk to my Grandma in her native tongue. I’m looking forward to that day so much! But until then, I’ll remain a bilingual American. Which in it’s own right is fairly impressive. There aren’t a lot of us out there. So I’ll end this post with a video I shot the other day of me speaking in Russian. Check out my book to see how you can learn to do the same.

The second you stop learning is the second you die. Are there any other benefits of learning a second language that I missed, anything you want to add?

5 Great Places To Live For $1,000 a Month

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If you work online you know how awesome it is to travel while still earning a weekly paycheck. However, when you’re just starting out you probably won’t be making lots of money, which is why I’ve put together this list of cities. You can have a great life in any of them for less than $1,000 a month, I’m going to Phnom Penh and Bangkok myself this winter. Have a look at the list below, and if you want to start earning money on the internet, check out my article: How to Make Money Online.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

A beautiful statue of a flying angel in Argentina

This is a no brainer, especially if you live in Canada or the United States. Buenos Aires is one of the cheapest cities in Latin America. It’s a hub for festivals and one of the most attractive places in the entire continent. You can expect great bargains on rent, delicious food, awesome wine, and lots of opportunities to set up a businesses.

Becoming a legal national of Argentina may prove to be somewhat a challenge, but if you overstay your visa the fine will only be around $40, regardless of how long your offense is for. However, you should be aware that Argentina has very strict import rules, and the country is in a deep economical crisis. It could collapse at any moment so plan accordingly.

Guanajuato, Mexico

The city of Guanajuato is packed all year around, especially during the festival season. It’s an optimal place to live due to its geographical landscape. The highland keeps the climate pleasant all year round, so you’ll never have to worry about air conditioning or central heating. Apart from the cheap cost of living here, the Spanish inspired cuisine is respected around the world due to its spicy taste and economical price. 

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

A large group of monks sitting together in orange robesCambodia is a great place to live because it’s secluded and cheap. Phnom Penh, as well as the whole of Cambodia, offers a business visa that runs as low as $280 per year. When that expires you may renew it without leaving the country. If you want to live downtown you’ll only need to fork out about $500 in rent a month. If you’re earning $1,000 a month, you’ll have a cool $500 left over every month to spend on whatever you want. If you take a trip to the coast, you can find hostels directly on the ocean. Working online has never been so awesome! Check out HostelWorld and you can find hostels for less than $5 a night in Phnom Penh. 

Bangkok, Thailand

Getting into Thailand is somewhat a challenge due to restriction laws on visa, but once you get there, this is really the place to be. Bangkok has a reputation for exotic Asian cuisine and economical prices. The cost of living is lower than other developed cities and you can easily afford your monthly rent in Bangkok for less than $400. The transportation, food, health care costs are all very reasonable. $1,000 a month and you can live whatever kind of life you want.

Kiev, Ukraine

A large statue in Kiev, Ukraine that shows two men holding up an emblemKiev is my second home in Europe for a good reason. It’s cheap, the people are fantastic, and there are about a billion cool things to do. Including getting your head lit on fire, which is not something you can find in just any city. You can stay in an awesome hostel here for $7 a night and you can buy at beer at almost any bar for $1. If you want to stay for a while you can easily rent an apartment downtown for less than $400 a month.

Coming to Ukraine is painless. If you have an American or EU passport you can stay for 90 days without a visa. Getting an official Visa for longer is difficult, but it’s Eastern Europe and there are always ways to bend the law with some well placed currency. The biggest drawback is the general lack of English. On the the other hand, it’s a cool chance to learn a bit of Russian.

The Best Countries to Teach English In

Teaching English is a great way to get out into the world while getting paid at the same time. There are all sorts of interesting places that you can travel to. Maybe you already have a country in mind, or maybe you’re still undecided. Either way, here are some cool countries that you should consider checking out! Read more at the bottom of this post to find out where you can find an English teaching position online.

1. China

Big WallChina is a great country to teach English in because they have a demand for teachers that is through the roof. China’s huge population ensures that there is always a large demand for teachers. Salary and job security aside, one of the main highlights teaching here is the low cost of living. Many English teachers receive benefits such as free housing and free airfare.

Estimated salary range : $1000 – $2500

2. South Korea

South KoreaSouth Koreans brag about having one of the best BBQ the world. Not only that, but they have a rich culture and Seoul is one of the most technologically advanced cities in the world. Unfortunately, if you are set on teaching here, you will have a much better chance to land a job in a city outside of Seoul. Competition is fierce for the teaching positions in this capital city. When you teach English in South Korea you often get paid airfare, free housing and contract completion bonuses. In some cases a TEFL certification is not required.

Estimated range of salary : $1800 – $2100

3. Colombia

ColombiaLots of young and middle aged people are going to Colombia to teach, which makes it number four on this list. The wages aren’t great, but the evergreen Rainforests, stunning beaches South American culture make Colombia a great destination. The country also has a rich history that is still evident in the smaller towns and villages. Columbia has a large community of expats and teachers, which means you’ll always have people to swap stories with.

Estimated salary range : $500 – $1500

4. Saudi Arabia

Saudi ArabiaSaudi Arabia is on this list because of the huge salary you can bring in as an English teacher. Not only that, you’ll never have to worry about snow and you may even get your own personal driver. The salary is high because Saudi Arabia has a very rigorous screening process. You are going to need at least 4-5 years of experience teaching and a college degree, preferably in English or linguistics. Try applying without it and nobody is going to return your emails.

Estimated salary range : $3200 – $5000

5. Vietnam

Bay in VietnamA country famous for its captivating tropical paradises, Vietnam is a beautiful country to teach in. The salary is high compared to neighboring countries and the cost of living is low. With Thailand and Cambodia being a flight or a train ride away, this is a dream come true for people who love to travel. Southeast Asia has always had a charm that that continually draws in new Westerners.

Estimated salary range : $1000 – $2200

6. Turkey

TurkeyTurkey, where the east and west clash. This place is a wonderful country as it’s between the Middle East and Europe. That gives you a mixed a taste of traditional Middle Eastern culture with some of the nicer amenities of Western culture. Turkey offers an attractive , high, growing job market for English teachers. Istanbul, the only city in the world to have one foot in Asia and another in Europe, is where you’ll be able to find most of the jobs teaching English.

Estimated salary range : $2000 – $2500

7. Spain

SpainSpain is on the list because of the country’s high demand for English teachers. Despite its struggling economy, Spain is still a good choice due to its spectacular architecture, non stop night life, and its fine cuisine. Don’t forget that Ibiza has some of the best clubs in the world if you love to party. To find a good job, head to Madrid during the hiring season from mid-September into October and again in January 3rd right after 3 kings day which is January 6th.

Estimated salary range : $700 – $1500

Finding Work as an English Teacher

Thankfully English teachers are always in demand. You might not get the country you wanted, but you will find a job. The two best resources for finding work are:

Dave’s ESL Cafe International Job Board

TELF Jobs Database

If you’re interested in Russia, be sure to check out my free eBook: Try the Borsch. Inside you’ll find loads of useful information about finding a teaching position in Moscow.