On the surface, Malacca appears to be a great destination for us. Despite not being a large city, there are a lot of things to see and do. The historic downtown area is a UNESCO Heritage Site. It has a lively weekend night market. There are a ton of museums. But it seemed like there was always something a little bit off. Despite staying for a month, we were never able to settle into a local living groove and couldn’t wait to leave.
In the financial world, front-loading means to invest a large sum early instead of spacing it out over time. (Not to be confused with a front-end load, which is a fee charged by some mutual funds that I would never invest in.) For example, I could front-load my IRA contributions by investing the $6000 maximum in January each year as opposed to contributing $500 per month. Or I could front-load my 401k by contributing more than $1583 per month, reaching the $19,000 yearly maximum before the end of December.
We decided to slow our travel speed in Malaysia and our first extended stay was in Penang. The main reason we wanted to stay longer per location is when it came time to leave previous stops, we simply weren’t ready. In this case, staying twice as long didn’t work any better. At the end of our four weeks, we still didn’t want to leave! We had so much fun wandering around Penang while soaking in the art and architecture. We liked our local neighborhood and loved our time in George Town.
Since our travels have no defined end date, it’s not always easy to decide how long to stay in one spot. Being able to take our time and thoroughly explore our destination is one of the best parts of slow travel. It’s a luxury that we rarely experienced during our working years and we don’t want to take it for granted. Conversely, staying too long in any one area means that we could end up bored. After all, not every place has a lot to see or do. One of the easiest solutions to keep things fresh and interesting is to simply change locations. The first few days in a new spot are always exciting. But even for us globetrotters, the actual act of travel is still no fun. So how do we strike the proper balance?
After Siem Reap, Katie and I took the bus to the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh where we stayed for 16 days. This was a big change from the laid back smaller town, as Phnom Penh is a large somewhat chaotic city with heavy traffic and a certain grittiness. While rough around the edges, it still has some redeeming qualities. Considering that only a few decades ago the city was practically destroyed by the Khmer Rouge, Phnom Penh has made some remarkable progress.
Foreign travel is nothing if not a continual learning experience. Travel in Thailand specifically, and Asia in general, is particularly different from Europe or Latin America. While I had been to Asia once before, it was a whirlwind trip of only ten days. Katie and I visited Hong Kong and Vietnam in February as our last official vacation before retiring. Therefore, the following learning experiences are from the perspective of someone who is mostly a novice to Asian travel and a complete newcomer to travel in Thailand. I had a lot to learn.
After our week enjoying some non-beach activity in Phuket Town, we spent our last week on Phuket and our final week in Thailand at Kata Beach. If you’re counting at home, that’s 5 out of the last 6 weeks at a beach. What can I say? There are just a lot of nice beaches throughout this country and Kata Beach was the nicest one yet. Clear water, ample soft sand, great swimming, and gorgeous sunsets are a few of the things that draw tourists like ourselves to the west side of Phuket.
There’s a Thai tourist slogan that applies to nearly everything. The catch phrase Same Same But Different can be seen on t-shirts and other items in any souvenir store. We even stayed near a restaurant named after the saying on Koh Phangan. While I haven’t actually heard it spoken yet, it’s clearly part of the culture, at least in tourist areas. The idea is that they have whatever you’re looking for, but it might be just a little different. You want a Louis Vuitton bag? They have those. Is it authentic? Yes, same same but different. (So that means no, but it’s a good fake and you can’t tell. Plus, it’s priced right.)
In contrast to our activity packed days in Bangkok, living on Koh Phangan in the Gulf of Thailand was highlighted mostly by relaxation. I might even go so far as to call it a bit boring. Not that I’m bothered by that. I enjoy the idea of having nothing to do nor anyone to answer to. In fact, I’m getting really, really good at the leisurely breakfast. I have been waking up around 8:00am and putting on a baseball game from the night before. (Sometimes this baseball game from the night before is happening live. Time zones are weird.) During the game I drink a few cups of tea and eat some amazing fresh fruit. It’s a pretty stellar way to start the day and I highly recommend it.
We just spent two weeks in Bangkok, Thailand to kick off our early retirement travels. The plan was to spend 15 nights, but our flights were delayed due to weather in the US, so we arrived a day late. Nevertheless, we did a lot of exploring around the city, including seeing many markets, neighborhoods, temples, and parks. Below I’ll share the highlights of our time there, where we stayed, and how much money we spent.