June 2016 Recap: Australia, Thailand, Malaysia

This post was last updated on 2017 January 16

My time this month was almost equally split between Sydney and Southeast Asia. I wrapped up my Lane Cove house sit and flew to Thailand at the start of the second week of June to squeeze a visa run in before starting another two months of house sits in Sydney. Whew!

If you haven’t had the pleasure of traveling to Thailand before, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s an excellent introduction to Asia without being too overwhelming, and it’s super easy to get around and explore with the excellent tourism infrastructure they have. Returning to this country felt like being enveloped in the warmest of hugs. It was a wee bit trippy cruising up the same streets in Phuket that I once explored on the back of a motorbike with Hot Arms (who by the way is set to marry the girl he met within a month of us parting ways in London 3 years ago), but I didn’t spend too much time here.

Petronas Twin Towers
Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur.

Instead, the bulk of this Thailand trip was spent on Koh Tao learning how to dive! I loved the hell out of this island and was very pleasantly surprised to find that there’s a lot more to it than diving and partying. I really wish I’d had time to explore more of the less-crowded beaches, but I’m happy that I managed to hit two of them (they were beautiful!). I was also floored by the internet access on Koh Tao. When it’s on, it’s FAST (at least compared to Australia’s god-awful internet). And most every establishment offers free wifi, which I very much appreciated as a digital nomad who likes to hole up in cafes with her laptop most days. I even found myself envisioning a future life where I could (legally) base myself in Australia for most of the year, and relocate to Koh Tao for a few months during winter. The idea of year-round beach weather makes me immeasurably happy!

On the way back to Sydney I had a long layover in Kuala Lumpur, so I thought I might as well head into the city and see a bit of Malaysia for the first time. I hung out in a hip cafe for a couple hours, took a tour of the Petronas Twin Towers, admired the view of the towers from the Traders Hotel Skybar, and failed spectacularly at finding good street food.

And at the end of June I returned to Sydney and began a new house sit in Camperdown, very close to my old stomping grounds at Sydney Uni and around Newtown. I’m watching a mini schnauzer named Milo who grunts like a pig whenever I get ready to take him outside for a walk (HILARIOUS).

Sydney house sitting

June 2016 Numbers

Welp, it wasn’t the best month for me financially: I spent way more than I expected to on a relatively short trip to Thailand, and I didn’t make as much as usual due to a lull in my freelancing. I’m not too worried though, ’cause I won’t be spending much for the next 2 months while house sitting in Sydney.

Days: 30

  • 17 days in Sydney, Australia
  • 3 days in Phuket, Thailand
  • 9 days in Koh Tao, Thailand
  • 1 day in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Total Spent: US$1831 ($1398 in Asia)
+ $740 for student loans
+ $72 for web hosting
+ $178 for tech accessories
+ $335 for travel insurance renewal (6 month plan)

Average Spent: US$61/day overall // $25/day in Sydney // $46/day overall excluding flights // $108/day in Asia

Total Earned: US$1713

Thailand island

Overall 2016 Numbers

Days: 182
Total Spent: US$8964
+ US$4440 for student loans
+ US$432 for web hosting
+ US$724 for tech/camera gear
+ US$335 for travel insurance

Average Spent: $49/day

Total Earned: US$27,343

June 2016 Highlights

Going Indoor Climbing

I used to be super into rock climbing back when I frequented the Brooklyn Boulders indoor climbing gym 3 times a week. Then I traded that gym membership for travel, then Crossfit, then travel again, and well – it’s been an embarrassingly long time away from the wall. I had a great time getting back into it at the Sydney Indoor Climbing Gym last month! (but wow was it exhausting)

Phang Nga Bay kayaking

My Phang Nga Bay Kayaking Trip

I will be writing about this excursion in more depth in a separate post, but for now let me just say that kayaking in Phang Nga Bay with John Gray Sea Canoes was one of the best travel experiences I’ve ever had. From Phuket, we drove about an hour to the pier to hop on a boat that would take us around some of the islands in the bay. That would have been an enjoyable afternoon on its own, but the best part of the trip was hopping into our inflatable kayaks and having a local guide paddle us through the caves – some of which had me laying all the way on my back and my face coming within an inch of the rock above me as we carefully glided through to a lagoon. The Thai call these ‘hongs’ (which literally means ‘rooms’): doughnut-shaped limestone karst islands which you can sometimes paddle through if the tide is low enough. Getting to explore some of these away from the hoards of other tour boats was an incredible experience I won’t be forgetting any time soon (if ever).

SUP Koh Tao

Stand-up Paddleboarding on Koh Tao

I rented a board and got my SUP on at Sairee Beach while in Koh Tao. Admittedly I spent more time attempting to use my new GoPro and selfie stick (god I’m the worst) than paddling, but I had a hilariously good time doing it!

Koh Tao diving

Learning How To Scuba Dive

The creme de la highlight reel for June was far and away learning how to dive in Koh Tao. I’m so happy I did this, and very eager to get out there and practice diving in other exotic locales!

Nang Yuan Island
Koh Nang Yuan.

Paradise on Koh Nang Yuan

Oh my lord, if you’re ever in Koh Tao you absolutely MUST make the trip out to nearby Koh Nang Yuan. It felt like being in some faraway, exotic land with the brightest white beach and seemingly infinite shades of blue water. I could have done without the hoards of snorkelers or sea urchin that pricked me thrice in the thumb, but other than that: big ol’ hand hearts for this paradisiacal island!

Sai Nuan Beach
Sai Nuan Beach.

Sai Nuan Beach

This little semi-private beach is less than a 30 minute walk from the main pier on Koh Tao, yet strangely under-crowded. All I wanted was to find somewhere quiet to hang my hammock, amongst the bungalows, with a beautiful view of the sea, and Sai Nuan absolutely delivered. What a gorgeous beach!

I Joined a Gym

Any long term traveler or digital nomad will tell you that it is damn difficult to maintain a fitness regimen when you’re constantly on the move. (And in turn, you will probably roll your eyes and think, really? You get to gallivant around the world and you’re complaining that you can’t manage to make it to the gym on the reg? Go eff yourself!).

At the risk of sounding like The Worst, I’m gonna say it anyway: a lack of a fitness routine has been the single most frustrating thing about not living a settled life in the past year and a half. I average just under 5 miles/day on foot and eat well enough that all my clothes still fit, so I’ve done alright without a gym. But to me, it’s more about how I feel when I’m fit. I’ve really missed feeling strong and healthy like I did when I was a Crossfit regular back in Brooklyn. I’ve missed lifting weights and pushing myself through high intensity workouts.

Now that I know I’m going to be living in the same area for at least 2 months thanks to back-to-back-to-back house sits in Camperdown, I can actually commit to working out at a gym! I’m hitting Camperdown Fitness 4-5 times a week – and while their facilities are spacious and absolutely packed with nice-looking machines, I’ve mostly just done their fitness classes. Most gyms I’ve seen typically offer aerobics, pilates, and other cardio-heavy classes; but this one has loads of strength training ones that aren’t unlike some of the Crossfit workouts I used to endure. I’m all about the boxing (NOT kickboxing, but actual boxing) and upper body strength classes and I’m loving it!

house sitting australia
The best kind of house intruder.

The Kitty Next Door

One morning I had to wake up early because I actually had to be somewhere, and naturally I was a total grump-pot slash zombie as I got ready to go. Then I heard a ‘meow’ outside and my ears perked up: kitty?!! I ran to open the gate to meet my new feline friend and the next thing I know, she’s snuck in through the dog flap and running up the stairs of the townhouse I’m sitting. I swear, there’s not much else in life that has the power to flip my mood like cats do. I was THE HAPPIEST chasing this kitty around the house!

Glee Karaoke

I discovered a whole host of Wii games at the house I’m currently sitting, including GLEE KARAOKE. Um, I don’t even have to tell you how I spent last Friday night. I also shouldn’t have to tell you whose score is whose (between me, a girl who used to spend most Friday nights at home practicing her singing, and Anna, who I’m pretty sure did not).

house sitting sydney
But really, what kind of feedback is ‘cool’?

I’m Applying For A Work Visa!!!

I’ve been avoiding talking about this very touchy subject (and let’s be real, also researching it), but every once in awhile I will dive back into the Australian visa process and attempt to wrap my head around it. I totally understand why migration agencies are rampant in Australia: the immigration process in this country is ridiculously convoluted and frustrating enough to make you consider offing yourself.

BUT BUT BUT! I think I may have figured out a way in, via the 189 visa which will let me legally work in Australia and stay here as long as I please, without having to be sponsored by an employer or a state government. All I have to do is prove I’ve got adequate education and experience as an… ICT Business Analyst. (I KNOW). I totally glossed over this item on the Skilled Occupation List the first 10 times I looked at it, thinking it had zero to do with my prior jobs in online marketing and degree in information science. But then I looked at the sort of courses and job tasks it calls for and now I kinda feel like this one was put on the list just for me.

(Hey Mom, if you’re reading this: Any chance you can dig through my 12 boxes stored in your bedroom and look for my Cornell diploma, take it out of the frame and get it photocopied, take both the diploma and the copy to a notary public, then mail the notarized copy to my Australian address? xoxo!)

Booking a Flight to the Philippines

I may not even need to make my next visa run if I apply for this work visa, but just in case (slash just for kicks) I booked a flight to the Philippines! I AM SO EXCITED! I’ll have a full month here, in which I envision copious island hopping and wreck diving, followed by a week or so in Manila for my first-ever TBEX (the annual travel blogging convention) and related shenanigans. If you’ve ever traveled in the Philippines, I’d love to hear your suggestions for where to go and what to do there – go on and leave ‘em in the comments below! :)

Sydney Opera House

June 2016 Lowlights

The Rainiest Weekend in Sydney

I chronicled this miserable weekend in another post, but in short: Sydney was hit with a massive storm that spanned my entire last 2 days in Sydney before flying to Thailand. Some shops and cafes closed, roads flooded, my hostel was overflowing with backpackers who had nowhere to go, I ran around the city looking for a suitable place to work on my laptop and sat in my soggy clothes all day, and worst of all: I missed out on Vivid Sydney because I’d carefully allotted these two days to exploring it, only to have both days rained out. Worst weekend ever!

Getting Seasick on a Dive Boat

Filed under Things I Really Hoped Wouldn’t Happen To Me In Thailand: vomiting on the boat just seconds before gearing up for a dive. Very glad my motion sickness didn’t flare up during my Open Water course, but definitely not happy it decided to pay a visit during my Fun Dive day. Big ups to my divemaster for giving me some peppermint balm to apply under my nose, and to the random guy with blond hair who fed me a morning sickness pill (I was so out of it that I couldn’t even recognize him later on).

Sydney sunset

Forgetting My ATM Card Pin

Guys, I’m bad at so many things (like, SO MANY: cooking, cleaning, keeping my balance, being social, noticing things, asking for things, push ups, anything involving feelings/emotions… I could easily keep going here).

However, I’m super good at being organized and on top of my shiz. Not in an anal way, a la intricate filing systems or impeccable tidiness, but in a very normal, healthy way that generally serves me well. I am not the person who misplaces key items or forgets passwords… but apparently I am someone who arrives on a Thai island and suddenly can’t recall the pin to the no-fee ATM card she uses while traveling overseas. In fact, I’m still in denial – I swear I entered it correctly! I’ll STILL swear to it being the 4 digits I kept entering that the machine kept rejecting… but I’ll never know for sure because it’s since been reset, but unfortunately not until after I had to suck up a couple of $5 ATM fees using a different card.

What’s Next in July 2016

July will be 100% spent enduring winter in Sydney (which I suppose isn’t terrible when the days are typically in the low-60’s and sunny). I’ll be house sitting in Camperdown the entire month, focusing on applying for my visa and getting my fitness on (aka I’m going to be pretty boring to follow this month!).