The Ultimate Peace, Adventure, and Hedonism on a Budget

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The following is a guest post (thank you Andrew for listening to my desperate plea for help LOL) from Andrew Hallam aka “The Millionaire Teacher”.  I am so thrilled to have him as a guest poster as he writes articles for The Globe and Mail, he has a new book coming out in October called The Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules about Wealth You Should have Learned in School
, and he is a fantastic personal finance writer.  He teaches high school English at an International School in Singapore and I am envious of his lifestyle and life in general.  Enjoy!

If you haven’t spent an entire month in Thailand, there’s probably one of three reasons:

  • The middle-aged / elderly European gentlemen who strut around with their teenaged Thai brides or “companions” give you the creeps.
  • Walking by bars containing nothing but slinky women playing pool in the middle of the afternoon smacks of an uncomfortable underworld Thai tourist brochure.
  • The costs of a month long (plus) holiday isn’t within your budget

If any of the three above are keeping you from hunkering down in the Jewel of the Orient, let me offer a solution.

Ton Sai Beach:

No arm-candy toting Teutonic Sugar Daddies

No prostitutes

Clean, off-season accommodation for $8 a night.

A haven for rock-climbers, Ton Sai Beach is a place where everybody learns your name. I’ve made roughly 20 trips to Thailand, but I’ve never found a place as homey as this. Most of the travelers staying there are (like our good host) young and thrifty—while others are just plain young and broke. But that’s the beauty of Ton Sai Beach. You don’t need plenty of money to stay there. And the accommodations are fabulous: chalets with ceilings fans, impeccably clean linen sheets, and bathrooms that are scrubbed spotlessly on a daily basis.

And here’s the best part: the (typically) dull folks who prefer to stay at the Hilton or the Shangri La don’t bother to show up at Ton Sai. Ok, perhaps I’m being a bit too judgmental, or hypocritical. My wife and I do spurge on the odd five star evening, but we’ve never left a swanky resort with a new friend.

Needing some time to chill, and a place to do put some final editing touches on a book I just finished, we visted Ton Sai in early August.

We flew to Krabi, from Singapore, costing roughly $120 return.

And from the airport, we grabbed a public tourist bus which took us to Ao Nang. The Lonely Planet describes it as a dead-end jumping point to more desirable destinations, but that’s one of the things I love about The Lonely Planet. They aren’t always right.

Offering Thai food, western food, and massages for less than $8 an hour, it’s a perfectly relaxing spot.  The main drag runs parallel to a perfectly sandy beach where you can swim in some of Thailand’s most beautiful waters, or just hang out on the beach.

We spent a day in Ao Nang—enjoying three massages (yeah, we’re a couple of bums) while chuckling at some of the varying accommodation prices.

You could stay at the JMansion for roughly $12 a night (which we eventually did) or splurge on any number of places, a few hundred meters away, charging into the hundreds of dollars for a bed and pillow…for the gullible.

A word about JMansion: the Lonely Planet suggests that it’s so popular that you need to book your room with the kind of advance you’d normally reserve for a Canadian MRI. (Editor's Note: LOL! Canadian MRI.  That's funny but sad at the same time 😉 )

But the Lonely Planet has doomed this place by putting such a coveted title on it. We nearly didn’t bother to check it out, which would have been a mistake. It wasn’t full at all…not even close.

Taking a $4 boat ride to Ton Sai Beach brought us to heaven. And before long, if you make the same trip, you’ll make lifelong friends with the world-travelers choosing to climb the amazing limestone cliffs, sometimes for months at a time.

The food is amazing, and most of the visitors at Ton Sai eat at the same alley, where you can gorge yourself on delightful Thai dinners for less than $3 a plate, while sharing stories and tips of your daily adventures.

(note* 70 Thai Baht is $2.30 Canadian)

As someone who never rides roller coasters, and whose fear of heights keeps him off ladders, I was reluctant to try climbing. But we hooked up with an eccentric, deep-thinking Australian and a Texan rock-climbing master who encouraged us to give it a whirl.

As a guy who had three ribs removed during surgery two years ago, I was pretty cautious about giving it a go. But I soon realized that I could have trusted any of those “tourists” on Ton Sai. Nobody was pretentious. Everybody was helpful. And each of them had their stories—whether they were escaping from the rat race, whether they had never entered it in the first place, or whether they were right out of high school, seeking a bit of adventure.

 $8 per night

I realize one thing.

If you’re young, and you haven’t taken a trip such as this, then you must.

Life has a way of sucking you into its vortex of responsibilities.

And as much as we’re supposed to be “financially responsible” there’s something to be said for
extending yourself for a bit of adventure, even if it financially sets you back a bit.

How much would such a trip cost?

Here are my estimates for one month’s vacation from Canada or the U.S.:

Airfare:  $1,400

Accomodation:  $240

Food and Drinks:  $450

Twenty massages: $160

Miscellaneous: $140

Grand Total: $2400

And if you do happen to see a Middle-Aged Sugar Daddy on a rock with his arm candy, take your hat off to the guy.

He’s going to be interesting.

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33 Comments

  1. The Wealthy Canadian on September 14, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    First off, it’s great to see you Andrew on the Young & Thrifty blog with this guest post. I’m sure Y&T appreciates your presence as would any blogger.

    I have never visited Thailand but your post surely makes me want to go and visit the country.

    A few years back, I traveled to South Korea to visit my best friend who was teaching English abroad. We had a tremendous experience, and because he had been there for some time upon my arrival, he knew all the in’s and out’s when it came to finding great places to eat and visit.

    He also knew the Korean language, and the best experience I had overall was being able to absorb part of the Korean culture despite only being there for a short few weeks.

    If one hasn’t been to South-East Asia or Asia in general, they’re really missing out on something great. If there’s one thing I’m happy to have done throughout my life, is taking the time to visit the other side of the globe. Now that I have a baby in my life, I’m glad that I took the time to go when I did. Like you say, if you’re young and you have the ability to go, I totally recommend going on such an adventure.

    Great post!
    TWC



  2. retirebyforty on September 14, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    Cool! We went to Ao Nang a couple of years ago for a week, but didn’t go to Ton Sai. I’ll have to put that on the list next time. I have spent a month in Thailand, but I have family there so it’s not a big deal. 🙂



  3. Andrew Hallam on September 14, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    Hey Wealthy Canadian,

    Traveling with a little one is definitely going to be tougher–but not impossible. Interestingly, when I see young couples with babies in cool, overseas locales, do you know where they’re usually from? Quebec or Germany.

    When I see a couple (for example) scrambling over some rocks near a rushing foreign river, carrying a baby, I try to determine whether they’re from Quebec or Germany, before getting the chance to speak to them. I love their sense of adventure. What do you think? Would you be up to that too?



  4. Andrew Hallam on September 14, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    Hey Retire By 40!

    You’ll have to go back and check it out. You would love it!!!



  5. Andrew Hallam on September 14, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    Hey Simply Investing!

    You would love it there! And you could blog from there as well. To do so, you could write your posts while hanging out on Ton Sai, then scramble over some rocks at low tide, to get you to a resort on Railay Beach. www.google.com.sg/searc…d=0CGcQsAQ The walk would take about 20 minutes. From there, you would have a free internet connection if you set yourself up in the open air lobby at the first resort you get to. That’s what I did! Nobody minds. And if you like, you could order food and drinks from where you sit!
    If you’re heading back to Ton Sai when you’re done, you would need to either go during low tide, or hike a hill path (20 minutes) which might be a bit more strenuous than the beach route, but it’s fun!



  6. The Wealthy Canadian on September 14, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    @Andrew: My wife and I would definitely be up for traveling with our child [my father is from Quebec so I have some of that francophone adventurous spirit in me :)], we just need to wait a little longer since our little boy was born in June.

    Last week, we traveled by road from our home province and are now vacationing and staying with family on the East Coast. Although it’s not oversees, it’s a start and we are all getting used to adjusting our plans.

    I absolutely loved my experience in Asia and my wife has never been there. We plan to visit Europe as well, but I would love to take her to the far East and show her a part of the world that is truly remarkable, both in terms of culture and experience.



  7. Andrew Hallam on September 14, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    Hey Krantcents!

    You’re absolutely right! Thailand would be an amazing country to retire to….or at least to winter there. I love talking to American and Canadian retirees in SE Asia. But they sure are protective sometimes. When they hear that I’m a writer, some of them have asked me to keep the SE Asian retirement lifestyle a secret!



  8. Andrew Hallam on September 14, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    Hey Wealthy Canadian!

    When you and your wife do get around to visiting SE Asia, make sure you give me a shout! It would be fun to meet you and your family somewhere exotic. And I can fly anywhere within the SE Asian region (from Singapore) for less than a night’s accomodation at a cheap Canadian hotel.



  9. Simply Investing on September 14, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    Sounds like an awesome place to visit, and the price is just right!
    I think I’m catching the traveling bug again! 🙂



  10. The Wealthy Canadian on September 14, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    Hey Andrew,

    Thanks a lot for extending such a warm invitation. I may very well take you up on that! Ever since I visited Asia, the travel bug has been in me.

    More importantly, It would be a total blast to be able to finally meet you in person. Just by following your blog and learning about your life experiences through your writing alone, it feels as though we’ve already met and it would be great to chat about business, investing, and life in general over a couple of cold ones.

    All the best,
    TWC



  11. krantcents on September 14, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    That is a bargain! Sounds like a good place to spend your retirement too.



  12. InsureCan on September 15, 2011 at 6:44 am

    What a great post!

    Except he missed the real problem with Thailand (at least, the problem for my spouse). I bet they have really big bugs there :).



  13. Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter on September 15, 2011 at 7:48 am

    We spent some time in Thailand in April and had an amazing time. We are definitely planning to back. The people there are so nice and there is so much to do. Plus the food is great!!



  14. young on September 15, 2011 at 8:49 am

    @Miss T- What kind of food did you have? My friends said the fresh fruit smoothies are delicious. They had one every day when they were there.



  15. young on September 15, 2011 at 8:50 am

    @InsureCan- Like big cockroaches? 🙂



  16. young on September 15, 2011 at 8:51 am

    @Andrew Hallam- But would you only be able to go when you get vacation as a teacher? I guess you could do a weekend trip as well. Singapore is so central and easy to get around. So many cheap Asian flights!



  17. young on September 15, 2011 at 8:52 am

    @Andrew Hallam- Wow, I’m surprised that they want you to keep it a secret. I guess they don’t want their property values or rent to go up?? I am intrigued by the SE asian retirement idea. Where do you find most retirees?



  18. young on September 15, 2011 at 8:54 am

    @Andrew Hallam- LOL. That is some adventure! Scrambling over rocks to get a free WIFI connection. Careful not to drop the laptop in the water 😉



  19. young on September 15, 2011 at 8:55 am

    @Andrew Hallam- I love seeing young couples with babies in exotic locations. My BF doesn’t seem to like traveling to exotic locations as much as I do, but I envision myself, with baby in tow, in India (okay maybe not India for fear of typhoid) exploring with another like-minded girl friend with baby in tow.



  20. young on September 15, 2011 at 8:56 am

    @Simply Investing- Catch it…..! 🙂 I’m addicted to traveling (as Andrew and everyone else knows lol)



  21. young on September 15, 2011 at 8:59 am

    @The Wealthy Canadian- I agree, it was a great post- very much appreciated by this blogger, Andrew! 🙂 It must be so nice to live so centrally in asia, for $120 you could go to Thailand. For $120, I could go to … erm.. Victoria hahaha!



  22. Andrew Hallam on September 15, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    Hey Young,

    If the tide is reasonably low, you won’t have a problem. But one day, I was impatient, and I misjudged the depth of some water as I was bringing my laptop to the other beach. I held my laptop high above my head as a heavy swirl of water worked its way up to my chest. I was between a big body of water, and an even bigger cliff. Fortunately, I made it! Patience is more than a virtue.



  23. Andrew Hallam on September 15, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    InsureCan:

    I don’t worry much about big bugs, but I have to admit that yesterday (in Singapore) there was a cockroach in my bathroom that was as long as my index finger–and he looked fat and well-fed. And those fellas are fast. I don’t mind seeing the odd one myself, but trying to catch them (if that’s what you’re into) is tough. They skirt along the floor like the new-born Aliens in Sigorney Weaver’s old classic flics.



  24. Andrew Hallam on September 15, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Hey Young,

    Regarding property values, foreigners haven’t historically been able to own property in Thailand. Knowing this has led to some sad situations though. Here’s a hypothetical case you might find interesting. Joey is from Birmingham. He visits Thailand and falls for a beautiful Thai woman. They marry, and of course, the house that they buy (with his money) has to go into her name because he can’t own property in Thailand. She convinces him to pay it down as quickly as possible, and then she leaves him….in a perfectly executed plan that she had from the very beginning. The Lonely Planet warns that there are women who make a “career” doing this, but it doesn’t hit home until you hear a story like this firsthand. Recently, you have been able to buy condos and such, through a technicality. But I wouldn’t be comfortable with it myself. And I’m not alone. I don’t think foreigners are pushing up real estate values for this reason. But perhaps, an influx of foreigners change the landscape for retirees who really are looking for something different…perhaps that’s why they often wink and put a finger to their lips when you suggest that more people should think about retiring in SE Asia. As for popular places to retire….Thailand is probably number one, followed by Malaysia.



  25. Andrew Hallam on September 15, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    Hey Mark,

    You’ll also have to look me up when you eventually get round to visiting the area.

    I’m heading to Canada in November to do the book publicity thing, but then a friend of mine and I are planning to take off for a couple of weeks and head to Cuba. Neither of us has been there before, so we want to check it out. Have you been?



  26. Andrew Hallam on September 15, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    Miss T,

    You really nailed it when you mentioned how nice the people are there. That has to be one of the things we love most about Thailand….the people are so kind.



  27. My Own Advisor on September 15, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Geez, way to get the travel bug in me going Andrew!

    I have never visited Thailand, but would love to.

    My wife and I are planning to visit Costa Rica over the next year or so. We’ve got some debts to pay down for the rest of the year, but after that, we’re going to have some fun and celebrate. Can’t wait, even though it’s so many months away.

    Thailand, Asia, seems amazing. It’s definitely a place we want to visit someday, but would need to take a few weeks for that tour 🙂

    Fun post, great stuff Andrew and Y&T!



  28. Andrew Hallam on September 15, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    Just let me know when you’re coming over Mantra! I’ll buy you be best dinner on Ton Sai!



  29. Dividend Mantra on September 15, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    Andrew,

    Great guest post. I really appreciate this type of information. I think there is a small subset of people out there, like me, that are interested in retiring abroad where their native currency goes further. I’m definitely interested in SE Asia, and your posts on Thailand and other countries in the region are most appreciated. Ton Sai sounds wonderful!



  30. The Wealthy Canadian on September 16, 2011 at 7:55 am

    @Andrew: My wife and I visited Cuba last June (Veradero to be precise) and we had a blast!

    We kept an eye on the last minute vacation deals with Air Canada Vacations and we were able to get down on an all-inclusive deal. If I’m not mistaken, 75% of the tourists in Cuba are Canadians.

    The weather was gorgeous, as were the beaches, and we had a great time. I went on a couple of excursions to learn more about Cuban culture, but next time, I want to go into Havana and spend more time traveling the country.



  31. Paula @ AffordAnything.org on September 16, 2011 at 10:45 am

    I’ve spent roughly 3 months in Thailand (in three seperate one-month increments), around 2 weeks of which were in TonSai. Love that place!! The sand is a little gritty, but you can’t beat the view of the ocean + cliffs. I’d alternate: 1 full day of climbing, 2 full days of chilling on the shore reading Harry Potter. 1 more day of climbing, 2 more days of chilling on the shore reading Harry Potter. It was pretty fantastic.



  32. young on September 18, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    @Paula- Harry Potter and climbing! That sounds great 🙂 I don’t know if I could do the climbing… I had enough trouble with the ladders on this hike I went on.. don’t know if I could be hanging off a cliff with a rope LOL. You’re so adventurous- super admirable!



  33. madhu on July 12, 2012 at 12:48 am

    @young

    i m a 29 yr old married girl wid a 2 yr old child and love making new friends.. i kinda like ur baby in tow concept. Plz meet me whn u r in India and for ur info most places in India its safe to travel with a baby and with no fear of any typhoid or serious disease



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