Dear Sole Sisters,

I'm planning a trip to Southeast Asia for mid-2015 and it's been overwhelming. I don't know where to start and which countries are worth visiting. I know you've traveled this route for 6 months a few years back and that's why I thought of emailing you. I only have 2 months on a limited budget, so please help me decide which countries I should visit and how long I should stay there.

Patricia

Dear Patricia,

Thanks for your email. I can imagine myself in the same chair, looking at a map and thinking how small I was, and how huge the region was and how is it possible to navigate it all in 6 months?

But I was able to do it, and so will you. 

I won't be able to plan your itinerary for you. But I can try to help you out by ranking all the Southeast Asian countries I've visited and giving you an idea of what to expect in those places. Then maybe it can help you make a decision. Here are a few things I had in mind prior to the trip:

-I wanted to spend a maximum of 30 days in most countries (depending on visa restrictions).
-My budget was very tight so I chose to spend more time in less developed countries and I tried to avoid cities as much as possible.
-My travel style was slow backpacking in order to explore more on less money and meet a lot of people.

Southeast Asia - Singapore
Photo Credit: Eustaquio Santimano

9 Singapore (Estimated Budget: 40 USD/day)

I knew Singapore would be an expensive country so I mainly used it as a hub for connecting flights as well as a respite from extreme backpacking conditions. Imagine spending many nights at train stations, bus stops and airports and showering in dirty public bathrooms. Then, just one flight later, being able to take a long, hot shower then crashing on a clean, comfortable bed with an actual mattress. You get the picture?

But Singapore surprised me because I did enjoy the few days that I spent there. There's shops, hawker food, museums and nightlife, of course. Here are 5 Things You Thought You Knew About Singapore.

Southeast Asia - Malaysia

8 Malaysia (Estimated Budget: 35 USD/day)

I had booked a lot of flights via Kuala Lumpur so I had a lot of time to explore the city as well as Penang which is only 5 hours away by bus. West Malaysia would be a great place to start your Southeast Asian adventure because of its low cost airport hub and location. Plus, you can still enjoy most of the comforts that you have back home but in a totally unique setting. It has a great combination of night life, nature, cultural experiences and food.

Southeast Asia - Cambodia

Cambodia (Estimated Budget: 20 USD/day)

The main motivation behind my trip to Cambodia was certainly Angkor Wat. I'd been dreaming of exploring the ancient ruins for so long. But I ended up a little disappointed. I didn't exactly achieve the spiritual epiphany I was hoping for. I ended up missing the sunset at Bantay Srei after a series of flat tires. I would recommend hiring a tuktuk instead of riding a bike around this enormous temple complex.  And if you want to know more, here's 5 Things They Don't Tell You About Angkor Wat.


Southeast Asia - Vietnam

6 Vietnam (Estimated Budget: 15 USD/day)

My postcard idea of Vietnam is probably the same as yours: junk ships with delicate red masts against the bluegreen background of the bay and karsts. But my Halong Bay fantasy didn't live up to the experience because I found it to be very touristy. It was an important lesson because the country has so much more to offer than just one overrated tourist attraction. In fact, my favorite town in Vietnam was Hoi An, a destination that's not in our original route. I loved it for its beaches, colorful town and ancient ruins.

Southeast Asia - Thailand

5 Thailand (Estimated Budget: 20 USD/day)

When I think of Southeast Asia, Thailand always brings back great memories. I think about Khao San Road, the Songkran water festival and full moon parties. It's a backpacker haven mainly because of its central location. From here, it's easy to travel by land to other neighboring countries and still keep some kind of base. I always find myself coming back for the flavourful food, the friendly locals and the scenery. I also love it for its diversity- temples and mountains in the north and warm beaches in the south. 

Southeast Asia - Laos

4 Laos (Estimated Budget: 15 USD/day)

I think I slept all my days away in hammock in Laos. It's a wonderful break from the hustle and bustle of Southeast Asian cities. Everything in this country is sloooow- in a wonderful way. You can take a slow boat on the Mekong river, sip a cup of coffee at a roadside cafe and simply disconnect from the modern world. Laos's charm is felt in its golden temples, waterfalls, the smile of its locals.

Southeast Asia - Indonesia

3 Indonesia (Estimated Budget: 25 USD/day)

I think I spent more time in the water than on land in Indonesia. Bali boasts of some of the world's best surf spots and I was not disappointed. When the surf breaks in Bali got too crowded, I took a quick flight to Lombok where it's more quiet and laid back. While on land, I explored Ubud's rice paddies, vegetarian cafes and yoga shalas. And of course, who can resist the local markets where they sold bracelets, bags and sarongs to bring back home.

Southeast Asia - Myanmar

2 Myanmar (Estimated Budget: 30 USD/day)

My trip to Myanmar came as a beautiful surprise. It was not on the original itinerary as the country was not yet fully open to tourists in 2011. But I met some Indonesian and German backpackers in Thailand who were headed there and I jumped at the opportunity to travel with a group.

It was just a mind-blowing, colorful, dream like experience. We traveled overland for about a month and saw golden temples, river villages, a parade of red robed monks, mountain villages and just raw, untouched landscapes. What I loved about Myanmar was its authenticity because at that time, it was still quite isolated from the outside world.

Southeast Asia - Philippines

1 Philippines (Estimated Budget: 25 USD/day)

Call me biased but there really is no place like home. And that's why I consider my country as the best for travel in Southeast Asia.

What makes the Philippines stand out are the variety of activities that you can do against the backdrop of magnificent, natural landscapes. You can go spelunking in Sagada, surfing in Siargao or Baler, ziplining in Lake Sebudiving in Anilao, cliff jumping in Cebu, snorkeling in Palawan, biking in Batanes, and kiteboarding in Boracay, just to name a few.

Considering the diversity of the culture and landscape that it has to offer, it's surprising that it's still off the beaten path. A lot of travelers tend to avoid the Philippines because they feel that it's isolated and too intimidating with its 7,107 islands. But that's exactly why the Philippines should be your first stop in Asia.

If you want be far from home, yet still feel at home, this is where you should go.

Not convinced? Check out Sab's 10 Reasons Why Your Should Travel to the Philippines and Nathan's What I REALLY Think of the Philippines.

Last Minute Advice

So there you go Patricia, those are my top Southeast Asian Countries for Travel. This is not meant to be a comprehensive guide. But I've shared most of my experiences and preferences to help you decide where to go and how long you should stay. I did the Southeast Asian trip in 2011 but I've revisited Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines from 2013-2014. I wish I was able to visit East Timor and Brunei to add them to the list but I'll have to save those places for another time.

Timeline and Route

Since you only have 2 months to travel, I would suggest you choose only 4-6 countries and stay about 1-2 weeks in each. This works best especially if you plan to travel overland through Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. Another option is to just choose 2-3 countries like the Philippines, Myanmar and Indonesia and spend 2-3 weeks in each country.

Budget

The estimated budget I've given is just the bare minimum so you should still give yourself a buffer for some unexpected expenses. I've had to survive on 10-25 USD per day but I wouldn't say I traveled comfortably. If you want a cost breakdown, check out Kristin's post on What 6 Months of Traveling in Southeast Asia Cost Me.

And You're Off!

I'm very excited for you as you go on this life-changing adventure. You may be feeling overwhelmed and maybe even a little intimidated, but I know that you will be okay. You may be worrying about the small details and wondering what can go wrong.

And yes, things may go wrong. You can get lost, get dirty, lose some money, maybe even some of your dignity and sanity. You will lose a few more things along the way- your inhibitions, misconceptions, irrational fears.

In the end, you will lose yourself as you leave a part of you in every place.

And you will gain so much more. You will gain numerous friends along the way. You will gain a perspective of yourself that you have never seen before. You will gain many snapshots and memories that you will look back at years from now and ask yourself "Did I really do that?!"


Throwing yourself into the unknown will allow you to experience the most lucid form of living.

Southeast Asian dreamin',
Sole Sister Lois


Southeast Asia Ebook

Book in Progress

When I first wrote this article in late 2014, I literally wanted to hold Patricia's hand and walk her through the places we had seen and the things we had experienced. I knew exactly how she felt. I was her back in 2011! So I decided to keep writing this article until I realized I had so much information that it would fit a book! 

But I'm not writing a guidebook. 

That's what Lonely Planet is for, isn't it? I want to create a box of sorts. I wanted to fill it with my most treasured memories, the best places we've been, the people we've met, all those well loved details and corners. And I thought of taking you all on that journey with me. And for that, I needed the help of artist extraordinaire, Abbey Sy of Le Rêveur to help me share the experience through her dreamlike typography and sketches. 

Together, we are taking you on a soleful adventure across Southeast Asia through words, hand drawn maps, sketches, and images.

The book will be ready in February in ebook format and in March in print format. If you want to receive updates on when it will be available, please subscribe to our mailing list below. The first 100 subscribers will get an ebook copy straight to their inbox when it comes out next month.

Southeast Asia - Boracay

Are you traveling around Southeast Asia soon? What questions do you have that were not covered in the blog? Share them in the comments below.

Lois has traveled extensively and has called the Philippines, USA, Germany, Switzerland, Thailand and France, home in various stages of her life. She just recently got married and now has a baby girl. She is currently based in Europe trying to find a home base for her family. She is the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of We Are Sole Sisters.


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“Why aren’t there more Indonesians who travel around Asia?”

After travelling for almost 3 months, I was intrigued by the fact that I never met any other Indonesian backpackers. You don’t know how jealous I am when I see people from the same country traveling together. They always look so happy and cheerful and they can even speak to each other in their own language.

As a solo female Asian traveler from a country that most people have never heard of, they would see me as one-of-a-kind. Locals in Southeast Asia usually think that I’m one of them and start talking to me in their native tongue. Sometimes they looked at me strangely because I reply to them in English. Many travelers I've met along the way could never guess where I'm from. And when I tell them that I am Indonesian, they always say the same thing, “I never met any Indonesian traveler before!”.

Marina Utami - Travel as Indonesian9

Indonesian people do like to travel, we like to shop, we like to take pictures with amazing background, and we do like to try new food. But we are not always that courageous to do it backpacker style. We're mostly scared to travel to unknown places. So we usually choose the common and easy destination to travel, or just do the quickest way by booking tours. Most Indonesians look at the term “travelling” as a vacation to relax and enjoy their quality time.

Solo backpacking rarely comes up in Indonesian society’s mind. Most especially women who dare enough to quit their job and travel around by themselves. In many big cities, Indonesian women tend to focus more on their career. I live in a country where traditions say that women need to be ruled, need to follow society, need to be in a secure position for their future, need to please their families and neighbors.

Marina Utami - Travel as Indonesian7


“Women are sentenced to be a housewife in the end”, that’s what the tradition passed along by the elders to the new generation. As I watched all of my friends in a race of who gets married first or who has the cutest kid, I was daydreaming of something else. I made plans, scribbled about traveling, going to somewhere exotic and meet strangers. I pictured myself exploring temples, getting lost in some old china town or swimming in the sea off an island in the middle of nowhere.

I never thought the decision to live by myself in Bali would turn out to be the first step of my journey. Surprisingly, I met so many people who have the same passion as me. Ubud is a small town where everybody knows everyone, and it felt like I had another family from many different countries and ages. Whenever they tell stories about their adventures in many different countries, I felt so envious of their courage, especially those of solo female travelers.

Marina Utami - Travel as Indonesian5

I kept thinking, "Why can’t I do that too?"

There are some things that are meant to be for us. I have faith that everything happens for a reason; the time when my dad passed away, the time when I moved to Bali, the time when I met amazing women who thought like me, and the time when I decided to end my bad relationship that has been going nowhere. I know that I need to do this trip to find my own path. I am no longer where I have been. I’m still on my way to where I am going. I would rather try and jump, risking everything at this moment, than wonder “What if?” for the rest of my life. So I packed my bags, left the world where I grew up, used all of my savings, quit my full time job and said goodbye to the comfortable life that I had.

I am not going to lie. I have never been this scared of being on my own. I am still running away from something, but I don’t even know what it is. I believe in the possibility of something better waiting out there for me. The same old routine life that people do, maybe it is good life indeed, maybe they are really happy about it, and maybe I would even like it if I try. I am open to anything.

Marina Utami - Travel as Indonesian4

But before that happens, I need to know there are no other options that could be right for me.

I always thought that my own country, Indonesia is an amazing place to travel. I love my hometown so much that I felt that there's no better place on earth. But after 3 months of travelling to several countries, I learned that each place has its own charm. Every country has its natural diversity, unique traditions, amazing variety of food and what interests me more is the history that connects all of us. I see a much bigger world than I could ever imagine.

Marina Utami - Travel as Indonesian2

Traveling on my own taught me to be more patient, to get to know myself, to see how far I would go to survive, to be disciplined in time and to learn to organize my own schedule. Moreover, it taught me to say “No” to people and to understand that it is okay not to follow what others expect. It gives me some space away from my family and friends, to be free to choose what I want, to speak my own opinion, and to find out who I really am without anyone's influence. Travel saved me from becoming what everyone wants me to be. Instead, it made me trust my own instincts and realize what I really want to do. I rely on myself on every aspect of my travel plans.

Marina Utami - Travel as Indonesian1

Being alone sometimes also forces me to trust strangers and interact more with people. I am braver and have more confident about myself than before. I stumbled upon people who open their doors for me and welcome me to their family and their inner circle. I befriended so many travelers around the world from many different cultures and languages.

Marina Utami - Travel as Indonesian3

I feel like I am never alone during this trip, because every place that I go to feels like home.

Editor's note: Marina became a solo traveler at 23 years old and she first traveled to Karimun Jawa island in Indonesia. After the trip, she became addicted to travel. So she went on short trips to small islands in Indonesia where she could dive and snorkel. It was then that she decided to explore other countries indefinitely. Southeast Asia was her first choice. She started in Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar. She traveled for more than 4 months and the experience changed her life perspective.

It made her miss Indonesia and changed the way she looked at her own country. She began to appreciate it more, respect it more. She grew to love Indonesia more.

She decided to come back home and see what she had been missing. She realised that Indonesia is a country with hundreds of islands, traditions and cultures that are waiting to be explored. This time, Indonesia is her destination.

Marina Utami - Travel as Indonesian8

Marina is half Chinese and half Sundanesse, 100% pledge in love being Indonesian. Art and design has always been her passion since she was a kid. She is still chasing her dream to be a great graphic designer and a traveler at the same time. Her goal is to inspire more Indonesian women to travel and see the world. Join her adventures on Jejak Marina and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @utamimarina.


Get a FREE copy of the Sole Sister Guide to Planning an Epic Trip by subscribing to our newsletter. You can also hang out with us online on TwitterFacebook & Instagram.
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Dearest Sinaya,

Today you turn 5 months. Your firm grasp around my finger feels stronger than before. Your eyes are so open and awake, looking around the room, observing, learning. You are so eager to stand, to walk, to move. In fact, the only way we can easily put you to sleep is to place you in the car seat and take off somewhere, anywhere.

You always want to be on the go.

I'm not surprised. You're our daughter after all. Your parents are a couple of outliers, people who don't quite fit in. We feel at home away from home.

Dear Sinaya1

You would be amazed to learn that you have already traveled to a few countries starting from when you were still in my tummy. You've been to Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia even before you were born. When you showed up to greet us in Manila, we knew that one of our greatest adventures had just begun. At the nursery, when I first saw your beautiful, pink face, I realized that you didn't quite fit in too. 

At 2 months, you were already safely cocooned inside a bassinet, tucked in by a lovely flight attendant. You were on your way to France, the youngest passenger on board. The most well behaved one too. Before you turned 4 months, you have already braved below zero temperatures and touched snow in the Alps without a single cry or complaint.

Dear Sinaya2

I have so many dreams for you. I know that we have given you a head start in life. Doors will be open for you that have once been closed to me or to your father. 

I hope that one day, you will look at me with those big, curious eyes of yours and ask, "Mom, where is Azerbaijan?". Or start reciting the capital cities of the world in front of your grandparents. I hope you make me read Dr. Seuss's "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" for the 3rd time before going to bed.

I hope one day you will point to a map and correctly locate your birth country, the Philippines, and say "I want to travel to all 7,107 islands!" Or stuff your toys into your very own little backpack when you travel with us. I hope you will eat durian, blue cheese or ginamos (fish sauce) and not even make a face. 

I hope one day you will look at the sea and marvel at its power and wrath and yet not be afraid to take a dip or surf waves. Or look at a mountain and be curious enough to see the view from the top that you take the first step. I hope you will bike unpaved paths, climb trees and bathe in rivers.

I hope you will speak fluent English, French and Portuguese with a few Tagalog and Bisaya words sprinkled in between. 

I hope you will dream of faraway places, novel experiences and unfamiliar cultures. I hope you would always want to venture out into the unknown. I hope you will never stop seeking places, experiences and people who amaze you. I hope you will always see the world with a childlike wonder, no different from how you see it today.

I hope one day you will travel. I hope you go far into the world and deep into yourself. I hope you will see how distinct we all are and yet we are all the same. I hope you will see how light falls differently in many parts of the world but it is from the same sun.

And never ever forget where you came from and be proud of who you are.

I hope one day you will tell me that you're off to chase your own adventures. Then ask me where I've been and where you should go. 

And when that time comes, I hope I can stop myself from wondering, "What if something happens to her?" I hope I can sleep at night even when I don't know where you are or if you're okay. I hope I can trust that you will always be safe, healthy, and happy.

Lois Naya2

I know it will be difficult. But I love you so much and one day I will have to let you go.

Love,
Maman

This post was inspired by an open letter that I wrote to my dad 4 years ago: Dear Dad, I Quit My Job to Travel the World.

Lois has traveled extensively and has called the Philippines, USA, Germany, Switzerland, Thailand and France, home in various stages of her life. She just recently got married and now has a baby girl. She is currently based in Europe, trying to find a home base for her family. She is the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of We Are Sole Sisters.


Get a FREE copy of the Sole Sister Guide to Planning an Epic Trip by subscribing to our newsletter. You can also hang out with us online on TwitterFacebook & Instagram.
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One of my yearly rituals is to look back at the year that was, see how many places I've been and goals I've accomplished. Then I start writing on a fresh piece of paper what I look forward to in the year ahead. Here are some 2014 flashbacks to start with:

Elephant Nature Park 1

Elephant encounter in Chiang Mai, Thailand

2014 started off in a big way! I got to meet the magnificent creatures at the Elephant Nature Park, Thailand. It's amazing to see elephants in their natural habitat without having to beg or perform tricks.

Elephant Nature Park 7

It was a moving experience to go up close with this herd without being feared or feeling afraid. Not only that, I had the chance to hang out with the inspiring founder, Lek Chailert and her husband Darrick who are just passionate people who have genuine love for animals. I'm happy to witness the magic of this place- truly a safe haven for animals and people alike.

Maternity Indonesia1

Surprise Proposal in Bali, Indonesia

I never really saw myself as the marrying kind. But in March of 2014, my surf buddy and travel partner Ben brought me to a cove in Uluwatu. Before the sun sank completely, he smiled this boyish smile of his, took my hand and showed me a beautiful dolphin ring. He asked me to be his wife.

And just like that, I said "Oui".

Lois Naya2

Giving Birth in Manila, Philippines

In August, we welcomed the most beautiful girl into our lives. We named her Sinaya, after the Philippine goddess of the sea. Parenthood is the most unexpected, challenging and magical adventure I've ever had to embark on!

Moving to Europe

And with just 3 pieces of luggage, one for each, we packed our lives and moved to Europe. It's been very challenging to give up a few comforts- sunshine, warm weather and 24 hour convenience  stores just to name a few. But I've always felt at home in the unfamiliar.

Wedding in France

Getting Hitched in France 

In October, Ben and I embraced a life together with only a handful of his closest family and friends in an intimate ceremony at the Versailles city hall. After more than a year of traveling together in the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, we finally made it official in France!

Snowboarding in French Alps

Snowboarding in the French Alps

And what better way to celebrate the holidays than with some snow? We took a road trip to the French Alps and enjoyed the cold weather, mountain view and snowboarding of course. It's only been my second time to snowboard since I've tried it 2 years ago in Korea and it's been a wild ride! I won't exchange it for surfing yet, but it's definitely a lot of fun.

What's Coming Up in 2015?


Watercolor

Old Passions and New Hobbies

After more than a year of inactivity, I can't wait to get moving again. So as soon as we're close to a beach, I'm definitely going back to surfing. But I will have to get used to the cold water and surfing in a wet suit. I'm also transitioning to my new life so I've picked up a few things. I'm currently learning to speak French, paint watercolors and- wait for it- cook! Wish me luck!

Adventures in Publishing

I've always wanted to to be an author. Now if only there wasn't any writing involved... But I finally pushed myself to finish a Travel Art Book on Southeast Asia and have partnered with a talented young artist to create the graphics and design. We're launching it in the coming months and I can't wait to share the details with you very soon!

Open Road French Alps

Explore Europe

One of our favorite things to do is to go on a road trip, stop in small towns, enjoy the local food and discover new places! And that's exactly our plan for 2015. We're starting it off in Spain and Portugal next month just to test the waters. Then, the possibilities are limitless!

What about you? What are you looking forward to in 2015? Please share in the comments section!

Snow in French Alps

Excited for the New Year,
Sole Sister Lois


Lois has traveled extensively and has called the Philippines, USA, Germany, Switzerland, Thailand and France, home in various stages of her life. She just recently got married and now has a baby girl. She is currently based in Europe trying to find a home base for her family. She is the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of We Are Sole Sisters.


Get a FREE copy of the Sole Sister Guide to Planning an Epic Trip by subscribing to our newsletter. You can also hang out with us online on TwitterFacebook & Instagram.
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One of the best things about blogging is how it connects us to some very interesting, talented people despite the logistics challenge. Amélie of Mostly Amélie emailed me a few months back asking about how we can collaborate. And that's when I got interested in her unique way of traveling, living and eating! 

Here's our conversation:

When did you start a travel lifestyle? What inspired you to take that big leap?

I’m not from an adventurous background. I took the plane for the first time at 21 on a family holiday to Cuba. It is still to date my best travel memory: a whole new world — literally — of possibilities suddenly lay before me: I dined on spicy black beans and sweet guavas, sipped on strong espresso where Hemingway once sat and was forever hooked. So I came home and decided I wanted to go away! I spent two years in Vancouver learning English and rubbing shoulders with backpackers from around the world, which just tickled my wanderlust even more, before moving to California for a year where I worked and lived in a youth hostel, and two years in England where I followed a boy who is still the love of my life and my faithful travel partner. At that point I wanted to come back to Canada to complete my University degree, but after five years of living a more “conventional” lifestyle in Montreal again, I felt compelled to ditch everything and go. So my boyfriend and I sold everything and left on January 1st, 2014. We’ve been in South East Asia for the most part.

Traveling Vegan Amélie13

What kind of work do you do to fund your trips?

We’ve been lucky to be able to scrape out a living while on the road. My blog has been a great platform for showcasing my work and has allowed me to work freelance as a writer, copywriter, graphic and web designer and blog consultant remotely. There are so many great opportunities and resources online to earn a living from wherever you are, there’s really no excuse not to chase your dreams and quit the 9 to 5 lifestyle if that’s not your cup of tea! It’s a lot of hard work and it’s not the greatest pay check, but I have never felt so fulfilled by a job.

Traveling Vegan Amélie8

What's the secret sauce to your amazing photography?

That’s what I trained for in school, but I would be hard pressed to call myself a professional photographer right now, because my work was generally more “posed” stuff, with a makeup and hair team, studio lights, a researched goal and lots of preparation. Travel photography is a completely different beast! It’s like a fleet­ing moment where the last thing on my mind is pulling my cam­era out of my backpack and shoot­ing. Often­times I find myself walk­ing past some­thing amaz­ing with my cam­era under my arm, think­ing to myself “wow, that would have been a great photo!” with­out actu­ally ever tak­ing it. I’m such a scatterbrain! I have to credit my boyfriend Richard for all the great photos he takes of me too.

Traveling Vegan Amélie7

How did you become vegan?

I’ve always been an animal lover, but it took me a while to put two and two together. Five years ago I shifted to a healthier lifestyle and started long distance running and instinctively moved away from eating meat and dairy – digesting meat takes a lot of energy from your body. After reading several books and watching documentaries on the subject, suddenly it all made sense! I’m really not an activist and I know “isms” are regarded as being a little extreme by some, but I assure you veganism is not extreme! I eat fruits, veggies, grains, seeds and legumes. I'm a very eco-minded person and doing this for the environment, for my own health and for animal welfare is one of the most sensible things I have done in my life.

Traveling Vegan Amélie14

What's the best part about traveling as a vegan? And the "not so fun" part?

A lot of thought and research go into what we eat, we’re big foodies and it’s one of the things we enjoy the most about travelling. With all the research comes fantastic discoveries and experiments. You really have to be adventurous. The best thing in South East Asia is the bounty of exotic fruits everywhere. I have developed an obsession with durian! So much so that I just got a durian tattoo.

Traveling Vegan Amélie12

But it’s not always easy, and you have to keep a relaxed attitude. There’s been times in remote areas where all there is for us on the menu is stir fried veggies and rice for several days, and there’s been other times where the language barrier has made it impossible to communicate our dietary needs. We’d hate to see food go to waste, so when this happens, we tend to suck it up and eat around the offender. Fortunately, it hasn't happened often.

Traveling Vegan Amélie3

Share the yummiest vegan dish from your travels in Southeast Asia.

There are so many! I hate to be cliché, but I just love a good noodle soup and there have been great vegan versions of traditional dishes everywhere we’ve been in Asia. Most notably, I would say the laksa at Luk Yea Yan in Georgetown, Malaysia and the khao soi at Kaow Soi Noodle in Ao Nang, Thailand. There’s nothing like a big bowl of spicy, coconutty, creamy noodley goodness, is there?

Traveling Vegan Amélie2

Where is the best country to travel in as a vegan?

It’s hard to say, every country we have been to in South East Asia has had vegan-friendly cities, but not one country was especially easy as a whole. Some of the most vegan-friendly cities we’ve been to are Georgetown and Malacca in Malaysia, Ubud in Indonesia, Chiang Mai and Bangkok in Thailand, and Singapore.

How do you manage to live healthy even while on the road?

We travel with a blender! That feels a little wacko to write, but it’s the truth. We make our own green smoothies in the morning and generally cater from the market for lunch, having a huge salad or raw soup, like a gazpacho. We try to eat fully raw for breakfast and lunch and eat a cooked dinner out. A lot of people are scared of carbs when they come to Asia with all the rice, but we embrace it – I think there is a clue to be taken from the fact that most Asians are stick thin and eat a high carb diet. Just some food for thought here.

Traveling Vegan Amélie9

You've mentioned that you travel with your boyfriend Richard, what are the highs and lows? 

This is not exactly romantic, but we save so much money by traveling together! It doesn’t have to be something you do as a couple though; I’m talking splitting hotel cost room in two, sharing a scooter or a taxi, a meal, etc. Richard and I met as solo backpackers in a youth hostel nearly ten years ago and have been traveling as a pair ever since. Before that, I don’t think there is anyone on the planet I would have stood to travel with long term. Our passion for travel is just an inherent part of what makes us a couple. We argue from time to time like any normal couple, but that’s not really a low point of the traveling, that’s just part of life.

What advice can you share with those sitting at their desks right now thinking they can't do what you're doing?

Work hard, stop spending, and take the plunge. And work hard.

Traveling Vegan Amélie6

Amélie is a fun-loving French Canadian photographer, graphic designer and animal-loving vegan hippy who’s recently ditched the 9 to 5 lifestyle in favor of something that let her roam the world with her British partner Richard. Follow their adventures on her blog Mostly Amélie

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Searching for other sisters who make travel happen,
Sole Sister Lois



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I haven’t set foot in Bali since I was a kid. The name triggers fond memories of my beaded rastafarian braids, punching the waves and transforming into a sand mermaid.

Sole Sister Rica in Bali6

But when I recently went back for a weekend escape from busy Singapore I experienced Bali in a different light. I soaked up the beach in the day, got some vitamin sea and retired to the beautiful and tranquil villas for some alone time at night.
Sole Sister Rica in Bali3

Ah, this is the idyllic ‘Bali life’ my 7-year old self had yet to experience when she grew up!

I stayed in 2 of the Tjendana Villas, a collection of 6 different villas scattered in various locations in Bali. While each experience was unique and caters to various travelers, I was pleasantly surprised at how all the rooms were still part of the same Balinese way of life. Dampati for big groups of friends and family. Lembongan for a peaceful escape from bustling areas of Kuta and Seminyak.

Sole Sister Rica in Bali11

Nirwana for a tranquil ocean view. Tjendana for a convenient yet comfortable place near to the airport. For my weekend trip in Bali, the Kunti and Club villas made the short stay worth it.

Sole Sister Rica in Bali11

The Kunti Villas - a stylish and tranquil sanctuary

The first thing I noticed after settling in after a late flight was the cozy veranda next to the private pool. This was perfect for lazing around and reading a book while eating my complimentary breakfast of Indonesian mi goreng noodles.

Sole Sister Rica in Bali12

It was thoughtful of the Kunti Villas to decorate the four poster bed inside the room with yellow daisy petals. The layout of the open-concept bathroom was a little unusual, with the toilet slightly hidden from the sink and the bath tub.

Sole Sister Rica in Bali13

While I’m fond of getting a massage by the beach, the private one given in the comfort of my own villa changed my mind because it was fuss free and relaxing.

Sole Sister Rica in Bali15

The Club Villas at the heart of Seminyak

The Club villas is perfect for those visiting Bali for a short weekend, but longing for somewhere private yet convenient. The airport is less than 30 minutes away, so you don’t have to rush for early morning flights. If you want to shop, dine and go clubbing, all you need to do is step outside of your villa. While the street side is busy, everything turns quiet once you’re inside the premises.

Sole Sister Rica in Bali17

The room is more modern than Kunti, but equally as comfortable and luxurious with a bigger room. The veranda and kitchenette is just outside with a couch and table for entertaining friends or kicking back after a swim in the private pool.

Sole Sister Rica in Bali16

The staff were extremely accommodating. They helped me book a car for the day so that I could go swimming at Canggu beach (a good surf spot), visit a traditional coffee plantation and Tanah Lot (a temple by the sea).

Sole Sister Rica in Bali10

A new Bali experience

For more than 10 years Bali was nothing more than a childhood memory. As a popular destination to escape the city life among working professionals in Singapore and for weddings, I always wondered what my next experience would be like. Thanks to my weekend getaway at the Tjendana Villas, I could get used to the Bali life - a laidback surrounding to indulge my every desire.

Sole Sister Rica in Bali5

Bali Dreamin',
Sole Sister Rica

Rica is a 'foreign filipina,' born in Indonesia, raised in the Philippines and working in Singapore. She writes beyond the border, about experiencing the world with foreign eyes and with local heart. A firm practitioner in work-life-travel-balance, bringing the spirit of travel wherever she goes. Follow her adventure on Foreign Filipina and on Twitter/ Instagram (@Senorica).


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