5 Travel Lessons From Our SE Asia Trip

By David

Since we’re getting ready head out on another adventure in a little over a month, I figured it was time to finally finish this post I started back in October (you are correct, I’m the worst).

When we got back to Chiang Mai after our Borneo, Bali, and Ko Lanta trip, we said we would post about the latest travel lessons we learned. Obviously, that never happened. But now, as we’re gearing up to leave Thailand and become even more nomadic, moving from one country to another every month, it’s the perfect time to go back and remember what we learned and apply them to this next adventure.

So here we go, the 5 travel lessons learned from our SE Asia trip and how they can be applied to where we’re heading next:

1. AirAsia, while cheap, has really stupid rules.

airasia flight delays

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What to do When Your Triple Entry Tourist Visa Expires in Thailand

By David

Some context:

  • We both entered Thailand on triple-entry tourist visas.
  • Alexis switched to a non-immigrant B visa once she started teaching.
  • I extended two of my three entries at the Chiang Mai immigration office before my tourist visa finally expired on January 17th, 2015.
  • We tried, unsuccessfully, to get me on a non-immigrant O visa.
  • I did a border run to Mae Sai to get a 30 day visa exempt stamp. This granted me until February 15, but we don’t leave for Japan until March 31st. So… what to do? Continue reading

Photo Friday: Little Orangutan Feet

By Alexis

A young orangutan uses his feet to grip a rope at his rehabilitation center, the Shangri La Rasa Ria Nature Reserve near Kota Kinabalu, Malaysian Borneo.

For this Photo Friday post, I’m sharing what I think are the best 3 photos that I shot in the past year of traveling.  Here you’ll find part 2 of 3.

In the photo above, a young orangutan uses his feet to grip a rope at his rehabilitation center, the Shangri La Rasa Ria Nature Reserve near Kota Kinabalu, Malaysian Borneo. Orphaned or abandoned orangutans live at the reserve for the first 3 to 5 years of their rehabilitation before completing the rehab at a similar center in Sepilok and then finally being re-released into the wild.

I just love the photo of this little guy’s feet 🙂

(find part 1 here)

The RotR Awards: Southeast Asia Beaches Edition

RotR Awards HeadingOur recent SE Asia trip was a ton of fun. One thing we focused on was making sure we got lots of quality beach time. We definitely succeed in that. After five beaches across three countries, we thought it would be fun to give out some awards to these beautiful beaches.

The RotR Awards are named after yours truly, Roses on the Road, for those of you who haven’t figured that out yet. To win a RotR Award is extremely prestigious. So prestigious, in fact, that no one ever has before. Think about that for a second — thousands of people have Oscars, Grammys, Nobel Peace Prizes, but not a single person, place, or thing has received a RotR. Talk about an exclusive club.

It’s time to change that. Today we will be handing out a lucky 13 RotR Awards. But first, let’s find out who’s in the running… Continue reading

Wrapping Up Borneo and Why It’s Southeast Asia’s Hidden Gem

By David

Day 1 in Borneo brought pleasant surprises and a strong feeling of, “why don’t more people visit this place?”

Day 2 in Borneo brought us up close and personal with baby orangutans and resort life.

Day 3 in Borneo was spent exploring secluded beaches and being terrified by giant lizards that desperately wanted to eat us.

Day 4 in Borneo offered us a chance to do a quick local hike and take it slow before sadly saying goodbye to Malaysia.

Signal Hill Observatory Platform

The Signal Hill Observatory Platform in Kota Kinabalu, Borneo

Our activity for our last day in Borneo: A hike to The Signal Hill Observatory Platform in Kota Kinabalu

We had to be at the airport by 3:30 PM that afternoon to catch a flight to Bali, so we thought it would be best to stay in KK until then. We had read about a quick hike up to the Signal Hill Observatory Tower and figured this would be the perfect time to do that.

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Day 3 in Borneo: Sapi Island

By Alexis

Panorama picture of the dock leading out from Sapi Island toward Gaya Island in Borneo, Malaysia

Sapi Island, Borneo – Malaysia (click the pic for full panorama effect!)

When we planned our trip to Malaysia, we hoped to spend our time there taking advantage of the awesome wildlife viewing opportunities…we could do an evening river cruise and catch glimpses of proboscis monkeys and fireflies…or we could make our way out to the national park for a small hike and bird spotting…

But on our second full day in Borneo, we were both feeling guilty about spending money since we had just unexpectedly lost $125 during our travel mishap in Kuala Lumpur.

So instead of paying for a guided tour or for transportation to somewhere else in Sabah, we decided on an activity close to Kota Kinabalu: an inexpensive day-trip out to Sapi Island. Continue reading

Photos: Baby Orangutans + Beach Day in Borneo

By Alexis

"Baby Orangutans at Rasa Ria Nature Reserve"

There are few things in this world that I like better than seeing baby animals, so getting the chance to watch adorable little orangutans in Malaysia was at the tippy-top of my checklist for our recent trip through SE Asia.

Beyond doing a jungle trek and hoping for a sighting, there are a couple places in Borneo where you’re guaranteed to see orangutans — most notably Shangri La’s Rasa Ria Nature Reserve near Kota Kinabalu and the Orangutan Rehabilitation Center in Sepilok, Sandakan. We chose to go to Rasa Ria since it’s where rescued orangutans go for the first 3-5 years of rehabilitation before being sent to Sepilok when they’re healthy enough to finish the second stage of rehab (translation: Rasa Ria is more likely to have babies!)

For $20 USD per person, you get to watch a short film about the center, take a quick walk through the jungle up to a viewing platform, and then spend an hour watching the orangutans eat, play, and interract with each other and the Reserve rangers.

On the day we went, we got to see two orangutans at their 10 AM feeding (there is also a 2 PM feeding daily). They weren’t quite the tiny babies I was hoping for, but they were still SO adorable. I loved them. I took approximately 3 bajillion pictures, but I tried to cull it down to just a few of my favorites to post here.

Check ’em out!  Continue reading

Day 1 in Borneo: Southeast Asia’s Hidden Gem

By Alexis

An Air Asia Malaysia plane arrives at the Kota Kinabalu airport in Borneo

On arrival in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

The first stop on our recent vacation was to Kota Kinabalu (or KK, as the locals call it), a little city in the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo. After spending just a couple days there, both David and I feel strongly that everyone should visit Borneo. It’s a hidden gem!

Great food, beautiful beaches, dense rainforests, amazing wildlife, developed cities, friendly locals, and bonus: virtually everyone speaks English! What more could you ask for?

Here’s a breakdown of our first few hours in Malaysia…

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Back in Chiang Mai!

By Alexis

A plane wing with clouds and a sunset out an airplane window

A nice treat on our flight from Borneo to Bali

7 flights 5 beaches 3 countries 2 equator crossings And 1 missed flight later… WE ARE HOME! Whew. From Thailand to Malaysia to Indonesia to southern Thailand and finally back home in the north of Thailand, we have had a whirlwind couple of weeks. In the coming days, we hope to blog about a few of our favorite experiences from this trip, including: Continue reading

Baby Orangutans in Borneo + Baby Turtles in Bali

Baby Orangutan

I’ll be seeing adorable orangutans like this in a matter of days. Be still my heart. Photo by Dean Croshere.

By Alexis

As part of our upcoming trip, we just got tickets to an “orangutan experience” this weekend at Rasa Ria resort in Borneo, AND I AM SO EXCITED!

I have this weird thing where I really love observing animals but am seriously terrified of getting up close and personal with them. I’m not too proud to admit that during first grade I sobbed from fear when someone brought in their bunny rabbit for show-and-tell…. and I remember seven-year-old me frantically bicycling away from a barking chihuahua… And I am currently, and probably always will be, terrified of anything that slithers (I’m looking at you, Thai lizards).

But put me behind the safety of binoculars or behind a car door, and I am all about animals. I eat that shiz up.

So checking out these semi-wild orangutans from the safety of a viewing platform? Right up my alley.

We tried to go whale watching while we were in Iceland last year, but stupidly, we booked the boat tour for our last day in Reykjavik and the weather ended up being too bad for us to go out on the water safely that day. So no whales for me 😦 Even after living in Hawaii for a while, I have still never seen a whale in the wild *sigh* Someday…

This time, we made sure to book the orangutan visit for the first day of our trip. Lesson learned.

Malaysian Borneo is one of the last places on Earth where orangutans still live in the wild, so I feel extra priveleged that we get to see them. Erica, over at As Her World Turns, blogged about her orangutan encounter at Rasa Ria and it makes me even more excited for our trip. She shared a few photos of some little orangutans tumbling down a hill, and seeing them just about kills me. So cute.

While we’re in Bali, we’re also planning to visit the Bali Sea Turtle Society so that we can personally release little baby sea turtles into the ocean. I. Cannot. Wait.

I found out about the sea turtle release through Jayme’s blog and now it’s one of the activities I’m looking forward to most on this trip. (Side note: Jayme’s blog also just makes me want to pack up and move to Bali for good. Hope it’s just as dreamy in person!)

Two more days till it’s vacation time and those little orangutan and turtle babies are all miiiine!

Also, I really wanted to post this baby orangutan picture instead but I’m afraid of copyright issues. So cute. I die.