One Day: Phuket to Chiang Mai, Thailand

By: leelefever on June 12, 2006 - 6:58pm

6am - Awoke with a wake up call from reception. Lee regrets not brushing teeth after pre-bed Oreo snack. Shower and finish packing.

6:35am - Walk to free (or included) breakfast. Yoghurt, pineapple, meusli, toast for Lee; rice and pineapple for Sachi.

6:50am - Pay final bill at checkout. An extra night plus 2 lunches and a couple of minibar indiscretions = about US$100. Karon Beach Resort was a bit of a splurge.

6:55am - Go outside assuming we would see taxis or car-like tuk-tuks. None are found, feel at-risk for missing flight. Go back to hotel reception, she calls their driver- he cannot come for 20 mins- not enough time (he says) to make our flight. Bell boy takes off on motorcycle to track down taxi (earns nice tip).

7:03am - Aging Alpha Romeo taxi appears. We climb in and find that we could have saved money by using the hotel minivan. Feel regret for not accepting the hotel's offer yesterday.

7:52am - Arrive at airport, check in, buy Rough Guide to SE Asia.

8:25am - Board bus to plane and wait for 20 minutes on stationary bus. Travel approximately 150 meters to plane. Laugh with other passengers about the ridiculously short bus trip.

8:50am - Board plane to Bangkok.

10:28am - Arrive Bagkok, recheck in for Air Asia flight to Chiang Mai. Find infinite amusement is witnessing a women scurry rapidly from her family to ensure a place in line in front of us- for a flight leaving in 2 hours.

11:22am - while waiting for flight, try to connect to airport wireless internet. Costs US$7 per hour. No way - too much. Domestic terminal lunch options are: Burger King, Smoking Pub, Black Canyon Coffee and Dairy Queen. We have Whoppers.

1:05pm - Discover that flight is delayed 1 hour. Meet Sonja, who just graduated high school and has lived in Chang Mai for 5 years.

2:10pm - Board flight to Chang Mai on low-cost Air Asia (US$38PP). Feel pressure to compete for unassigned seats. Share our row with Sonja, who is 1/2 Iranian and 1/2 white American and has lived in Atlanta, Swaziland, Cambodia and Thailand. Really cool to talk to Sonja. She recommends the Amora Hotel and even has a business card.

3:55pm Arrive at aging but nice Amora hotel, reserve 5 nights for about US$40 per night, breakfast included.. Great location. Relax and plan.

5:05pm - Walk blindly into Chiang Mai streets, quickly discover a neighborhood full of uninteresting house fixtures. Find better street, eat at Noi's Kitchen, buy book on Pol Pot. Return to hotel.

6:09pm - Lee is awed to see this text scroll across the TV screen on BBC World News: "Microsoft blogger who made the software giant more human is leaving to join a technology startup". Scoble made the BBC World ticker? Wow.

7:12pm - Sachi dissects our toiletries bag and finds 31 miniature toothpaste bottles from Japanese hotels (pictured above). We realize a great travel tip: If you have more than one of something, use it up completely before opening the next. Otherwise you carry mutiples forever (like both of Lee's half-full mini shaving cream bottles).

8:05pm - Head out to the THC Rooftop Bar, cool hippy atomsphere and uncool unhippy staff- no smiles at all. Have dinner for 3 dollars (panang curry beef, oyster sauce beef and pineapple shake).

9:55pm - Return to hotel to settle in watching US play Czechs in world cup, feeling good about Chaing Mai.

11:59pm - Feel disappointment for USA's poor showing. Sad to see so much ball possession, so little goal scoring.

Is Japan Expensive for Tourists?

By: leelefever on June 11, 2006 - 2:57am

Like many travelers, we understood that Japan would be an expensive place in which to travel.  After spending a month in the country, we’d like to provide our perspectives on how much travel costs for tourists in Japan.  All prices are in American dollars.

In visiting any country as a tourist there are 5 costs that must be considered: 

  1. Arrival - The cost of getting there (and leaving)
  2. In-Country Transportation- The cost of moving around within the country
  3. Lodging- The cost of having a place to sleep each night
  4. Food and Alcohol- Keeping the belly full
  5. Tourist Activities- Seeing and Doing

Unfortunately, the first 3 of the 5 costs for Japan are likely the highest you’ll pay in almost any country- but there are some ways around the high expense.


  1. Arrival – It is generally expensive to fly into Japan from anywhere in the world.  However, there are places in the world that serve as major hubs and you may find that departing from these hubs can reduce the costs. We bought a round trip ticket from Bangkok to Tokyo for about $650 per person, even during Japan’s holiday season (Golden Week- April 25th- May 5th).  We hadn’t seen any tickets under $1,000 other than the ones we purchased.  The best advice is to plan ahead, be prepared and jump on any tickets that are below your expectations.
  1. In-Country Transportation - This one is an absolute no-brainer.  Japan has an amazingly safe, efficient and comfortable rail system that serves almost the whole country.  If you plan to travel to more than one or two cities it is essential that you purchase a “Japan Rail Pass” or “JR Pass”.  You must get the JR Pass before you leave - you CANNOT get one in Japan. The JR Pass web site has listings for ticket agents worldwide.  We bought a standard 14 day pass for $391 per person.  That seems like a lot, but once you start seeing how much inter-city train travel costs, you’ll be glad you have the pass.  For instance, a one way trip from Tokyo to Kyoto on the Shinkansen bullet train costs about $200 per person.  We figure that our JR Pass paid for itself within the first week of our trip.  Taxis are rather costly too and we took them very rarely.  In Tokyo, the charges start at about $5 and can quickly rise to over $50 on a late night trip home (subways stop around midnight). Further, most major cities have subways (not covered by the JR Pass) that cost $1-$3 point-to-point
  1. Lodging – Tourist lodging in Japan can be a complex mix of western rooms vs. Japanese style rooms, regular hotels vs. business hotels, ryokans vs. hotels and hostels.  Hostels offer the lowest rates ($20-50 per person) and the high end reaches to thousands of dollars.  On the whole, staying in hotels in Japan is an expensive affair, with 2-3 star western-style rooms costing $70 per night or more for two people. Often there are different prices for the number of people, enabling a single traveler to find a cheaper room.  For $80-$120 you get the regular hotel amenities (TV, A/C, bathroom, tea, breakfast, etc.) along with some Japanese treats like a yukata (robe), slippers, a shoe horn, disposable toothbrush, etc.  Near most train stations are “business hotels” which lack character, but have convenient locations, basic amenities (plus in-room Internet connection) and a decent price.  We found business hotels to be useful and easy for our travels in Japan and usually paid between $60-$80 per night.  If you want the Japanese experience of staying in a ryokan (traditional Japanese traveller’s lodge), we suggest going to a nice one and paying the $200 for the whole experience.
  1. Food and Alcohol - Aside from the basics listed above there are other costs that should be considered.  Food, of course, tops the list.  Food is one thing in Japan that offers a number of choices for different travelers.  It is possible to eat street-side noodles or a rice bowl meal for less than $4 dollars and then walk around the corner to a tempura restaurant that is $100 per person. Like many things in Japan, you pay for the experience.  Also, as a TwinF member mentioned, there are great choices in the convenience stores, like 7-11, which have delectable sushi rolls for about $2.  We found nearly all food, cheap or expensiv,e to be delicious, fresh and of high quality.  Also, you will surely drink your weight in Japanese tea, which is generally served free of charge.  The Japanese must consume more beer per capita than any other country.  Beer is sold everywhere and the prices are quite reasonable, depending on your drinking habits. A can of beer is usually about $2 from a vending machine and a draft beer in a restaurant is about $3-4.  Sake is also very popular and the prices vary widely based on reputation and quality, like wine.
  1. Tourist Activities - One of the wonderful things about Japan is that by simply being there, your tourist ambitions are fulfilled.  Walking the streets, riding the trains and sitting in parks all offer the tourist a view into the quirky and entertaining culture – free of charge.  You will pay for entrance into castles, some temples and shrines, etc.  These are usually between $5-10 per person. On the whole though, tourist activities in Japan are not prohibitively expensive and the most rewarding things are free.

So, to answer the question: Is Japan Expensive?  We would say yes.  We spent about $200-250 per day, all inclusive.   Compared to a place like Thailand, Japan is 3-4 times more expensive on a day-to-day basis.  But, the expense is the cost of admission to experience a truly unique, sophisticated and beautiful country that is extremely safe, clean and very rich in culture.  It was well worth our money.



Filed Under: | | |
Syndicate content