Thailand and Cambodia Backpacking costs-2016

Standard currency to keep record

To keep record of our Thailand and Cambodia backpacking costs, we decided to use the Thai baht since we were starting off in Thailand. When traveling, we tend to “think in South Africa Rands” while spending Thai Baht. Once we crossed the border to Cambodia, we were sometimes spending US Dollars and sometimes Cambodian Riel. Then you buy in USD and receive small change in Riel. This can all get quite confusing, so it is best to standardize all record keeping back to one currency. Also, setting online booking pages’ currencies to the chosen currency helps too.

Currency conversion

The application I used on my android phone was an exchange rates currency convertor that I liked and can be downloaded from the app store. It can also be used without an internet connection using the last conversion rates that it saved when a connection was available. You can select all the currencies you want on one screen, so that you can see your spend converted into your home currency as well as chosen others all at once. Also great for checking your change quickly when, for example your spending in Dollars & getting change in Riel.

Recording Thailand and Cambodia backpacking costs for 43 days

To keep track of our Thailand and Cambodia backpacking costs while on the road, we used a free app called “Expense Manager”. This app makes it fairly fast & easy to input travel costs on an Android device. There are different categories as well as sub categories that you can create as you wish. It also has a few summaries, graphs and other useful budgeting report features. You can also save the expenses from phone to a laptop or email the csv sheet to yourself to later format as you wish. Here is the link: Expense Manager

Having the right apps on your phone and being familiar with how they work is invaluable. We used a handful of resources that made life so much easier when traveling. Not sure how we would have managed without these. Check out our resources page for more useful apps that new travelers will find easy to use and are the basics we required.

Here are our summarized costs for 43 days:

Accomodation:                     33930 Baht, $980

Transportation:                    15129 Baht, $437.51

Restaurant meals:               8785 Baht, $253.48

Snack meals:                         2270 Baht, $65.57

Take out meals:                    3697 Baht, $106.66

Groceries & other:                1573 Baht, $45.40

Drinks:                                   10212 Baht, $295.16

Tours:                                     5192 Baht, $149.80

Miscellaneous                       6022 Baht, $173.77

Personal clothing:                2629 Baht, $75.99

Personal care:                      4045 Baht, $116.86

Total:                                 93489 Baht, $2700

This is a daily average of   2174 Baht/$62.80 per couple per day (857 ZAR)

(Compare this with our costs for our 2015 trip)

Opportunities for savings.

It would not be accurate to divide this by 2 to try and get to a cost per person, as obviously the single traveler would need to budget for more than when with a partner & sharing many costs such as accommodation & motorcycle for example. It’s fair to say that we stayed in rather luxurious accommodation, so could have saved quite a bit there. We also traveled fairly large distances from Bangkok to South Cambodia, back up to North Cambodia, back to Bangkok, to South Thailand, as well as a few islands. So where we could have saved on those, we could have spent more on tours & experiences for example. Restaurant meals are also fairly pricey compared with food bought from street vendors & markets.

Thailand and Cambodia backpacking costs-Best of both worlds-Budget food courts. Street food prices with hygenic preparation

Best of both worlds-Budget food courts. Street food prices with hygenic preparation

Thailand and Cambodia backpacking costs-Self improvised cost cutting breakfast in your own room

Self improvised cost cutting breakfast in your own room

Knowing WHAT you spend, helps you to know HOW to cut costs

Whatever the case may be, we could have spent way less, or way more, but this is only our 2nd trip abroad, and we are getting way better at traveling further, for longer at a budget cost. This is especially true for travelers of our age. Being midlife backpackers, we have seen that we do not need to spend a fortune on holidays. We needed to keep a close watch on our Thailand and Cambodia backpacking costs. What we have also notice, is that a lot of young backpackers seem to be a lot more gullible and likely to spend more than they should. Getting conned into expensive transport options like tuk-tuks & taxis, or whether wasting money drinking from expensive bars and eating western style food. Young backpackers often seemed to be spending way more extravagantly they we were. I suspect many of them are merely spoiled kids traveling the world on funds that wealthy parents provide.

Of course, with age comes the wisdom of knowing the value of hard earned wages, and keeping those in check and stretching your funds. The main thing though is keeping record, as if you don’t know where the money is going, there is not much opportunity for cutting cost. We improved our budgeting with our Thailand and Cambodia backpacking costs in 2016.

Detailed breakdown of our Thailand backpacking expenditure:

For a complete breakdown of our day to day expenses, have a look at the detailed pdf document by clicking & opening the following link. We hope this is of value to you:




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Budget luxury accommodation-Midlifebackpackers

Thailand & Cambodia accommodation reviews, 2016

Although we did not want to spend a fortune on the accommodation part of our travel expenses while backpacking Thailand & and Cambodia, we did want a bit of comfort & convenience that we deserve as middle aged, new, and inexperienced backpackers and were most certainly not going to settle into cheap backpacker hostels. The typical budget luxury accommodation we were to settle for, needed to meet our standards of comfort, convenience & hygiene.

When we left for our Thailand & Cambodia trip, there were some basic guidelines that we decided on regarding accommodation we would stay in over the 6 weeks we traveled.

Our requirements for budget luxury accommodation were:

-Our budget luxury accommodation needed to be a maximum cost ZAR 450, USD 31, Baht 1083  for us both per day.

-We wanted a pool to cool off in after arrival, hard traveling and the heat & humidity of South East Asia.

-Room needed to be air conditioned.

-A private bathroom (not shared) was a prerequisite.

-Location needed to be accessible & near to transport.

-Bathroom, bedding and generally unit needed to have a high standard of cleanliness.

-We only wanted to book for one night with initial booking, so that we could easily move on if the hotel was not suitable.

-We did not want to prepay on bookings in case of any unpleasant surprises.

These were our main criteria & also the filters used when searching for suitable budget luxury accommodation on

The convenience of making bookings online:

-Last minute decision can be made depending on where a traveler has arrived.

-Live availability can be seen there & then, online.

-Accommodation can be searched for by plotting current location and seeing what options are available in one’s immediate surrounds.

-This can all be done easily from a cellular phone, tablet or laptop, as long as you have an internet connection.

The average standard of our budget luxury accommodation over the 6 weeks:

Generally our stays at all of the accommodation met the standards we had set in advance. Bear in mind that we had a close look at the ratings that previous guests gave to hotels. When initially choosing a number of possibilities, it is wise to list then in a list under the name of the place you intend to visit. For example, Bangkok. Create a “Bangkok list” within the  consol of the website or app you use& then shortlist a few properties there. Then go and look at their locations, photos, reviews & read between the lines of the comments made. Disregard the obvious comments that really have no basis. Like people moaning about the lack of a life in a 2 level building. Or the traffic noise when a hotel is situated on a main road in a city. These things are obvious and come with the territory. We also need to bear in mind that this is budget luxury accommodation, not top of the line luxury accommodation, so there are certain realities that one must accept.

Hotel we stayed in:

Below are basic details of the hotels we found to stay in over the 6 weeks travel through Thailand & Cambodia. Although none of these were really super, grand  and varied from basic to resort like hotels, they were all run by friendly staff and more than we needed to make our stays comfortable. We regarded them all as budget luxury accommodation as they did meet our standards that we had set.

The one exception was the Annanas Beach Bungalows, Otres Beach in Cambodia. Although the setting and beach access was great, the accommodation was substandard with window shutters not working, fan not working properly, insects and mosquito’s throughout & a partial separation between neighbor’s bathroom & ours which allowed for shared smells & sounds. The bed with it’s sagging mattress made it even more difficult to get any sleep. Generally a very neglected beach shack probably only suited to potheads & layabouts, but not suited to our needs. I must add that we generally have no problem roughing it as we do by sleeping in a 2 man dome tent with only the baggage we can carry on our motorbike, as well as 4×4 camping etc. All we cannot however accept if filth & neglect. (This resort was not found on, so was also not reviewed as can be seen below.)

All of these hotels were generally booked a day in advance & in some cases on the day we arrived in a place. In July & August, we did not find a shortage of suitable hotels.

The average price for 37 nights was around ZAR 381, USD 26.43 & Baht 917. We also spent a few nights on planes & sleeper buses which accounts for the “missing days”.

Hotels we stayed in with reviews & prices:

Thailand, Bangkok-RetroAsis Hotel

Price we paid for 2 per evening: ZAR 448, USD 30.94 , Baht 1074

Read: All reviews on

Budget luxury accommodation

Bangkok-RetroAsis Hotel

Budget luxury accommodation

Bangkok-RetroAsis Hotel







Thailand, Bangkok-Astera Sathorn Hotel

Price we paid for 2 per evening: ZAR 457, USD 31.71 , Baht 1100

Read: All reviews on

Budget luxury accommodation

Bangkok-Astera Sathorn Hotel

Budget luxury accommodation

Bangkok-Astera Sathorn Hotel









Thailand, Pattaya-The Golden Villa Boutique Hotel & Spa

Price we paid for 2 per evening: ZAR 377, USD 26.16 , Baht 908

Read: All reviews on

Budget luxury accommodation

The Golden Villa Boutique Hotel & Spa

Budget luxury accommodation

The Golden Villa Boutique Hotel & Spa








Thailand, Koh Chang-Bailin Beach Resort

Price we paid for 2 per evening: ZAR 448, USD 31.08 , Baht 1078

Read: All reviews on

Budget luxury accommodation

Thailand, Koh Chang-Bailin Beach Resort

Budget luxury accommodation

Thailand, Koh Chang-Bailin Beach Resort









Cambodia, Koh Kong-Apex Hotel

Price we paid for 2 per evening: ZAR 217, USD 15.06 , Baht 522

Read: All reviews on

Budget luxury accommodation

Cambodia, Koh Kong-Apex Hotel

Budget luxury accommodation

Cambodia, Koh Kong-Apex Hotel









Cambodia, Sihanoukville-Coolabah Hotel

Price we paid for 2 per evening: ZAR 326, USD 22.62 , Baht 785

Read: All reviews on

Budget luxury accommodation

Cambodia, Sihanoukville-Coolabah Hotel

Budget luxury accommodation

Cambodia, Sihanoukville-Coolabah Hotel









Cambodia, Otres Beach-Ananas Beach Bungalows

Price we paid for 2 per evening: ZAR 145, USD 10 , Baht 349

Read: “Hotels we stayed in” higher up on this page

6b1.Ananas Resort-Otres Beach

Cambodia, Otres Beach-Ananas Beach Bungalow

6b.Ananas Resort-Otres Beach

Cambodia, Otres Beach-Ananas Beach Bungalow









Cambodia, Sinahoukville-Reef Resort

Price we paid for 2 per evening: ZAR 260, USD 18.04 , Baht 626

Read: All reviews on

Budget luxury accommodation

Cambodia, Sinahoukville-Reef Resort

Budget luxury accommodation

Cambodia, Sinahoukville-Reef Resort









Cambodia, Siem Reap-Tan Kang Angkor Hotel

Price we paid for 2 per evening: ZAR 322, USD 22.34 , Baht 775

Read: All reviews on

Budget luxury accommodation

Cambodia, Siem Reap-Tan Kang Angkor Hotel

Budget luxury accommodation

Cambodia, Siem Reap-Tan Kang Angkor Hotel









Thailand, Rawai-Cascades Resort

Price we paid for 2 per evening: ZAR 289, USD 20.05 , Baht 696

Read: All reviews on


Budget luxury accommodation

Thailand, Rawai-Cascades Resort

Budget luxury accommodation

Thailand, Rawai-Cascades Resort









Thailand, Koh Yao Noi-Seaview Bungalow

Price we paid for 2 per evening: ZAR 376, USD 26.09 , Baht 905

Read: All reviews on

Budget luxury accommodation

Thailand, Koh Yao Noi-Beach View Bungalow

Budget luxury accommodation

Thailand, Koh Yao Noi-Beach View Bungalow









Thailand, Phang Nga-The Sleep

Price we paid for 2 per evening: ZAR 238, USD 16.51 , Baht 573

Read: All reviews on

Budget luxury accommodation

Thailand, Phang Nga-The Sleep

Budget luxury accommodation

Thailand, Phang Nga-The Sleep










Thailand, Hua Hin-Hua Hin Star Hotel

Price we paid for 2 per evening: ZAR 332, USD 23.05 , Baht 800

Read: All reviews on

Budget luxury accommodation

Thailand, Hua Hin-Hua Hin Star Hotel

Budget luxury accommodation

Thailand, Hua Hin-Hua Hin Star Hotel









Bangkok-The Promenade

Price we paid for 2 per evening: ZAR 414, USD 28.72 , Baht 996

Read: All reviews on

Budget luxury accommodation

Bangkok-The Promenade

Budget luxury accommodation

Bangkok-The Promenade









We could sacrifice some conveniences like a swimming pool, for example and find many cheaper, budget accommodations on offer. Off course if we really wanted to, we could consider shared bathrooms or staying in hostels. But, to be honest, we are no longer youngsters, and backpacking as a middle aged couple is already out of our comfort zone, so best we stick with a few luxuries to enjoy at the end of a long, hot day in South East Asia.

What we can truthfully say, is that having a cellular phone with a on it, really made things way easier for us. We cannot imagine arriving in a city exhausted & hot and then needing to walk around looking for accommodation on maps or trying to find a place to sleep with all the information at hand.

We trust that the meticulous records we have kept on actual spending, are of use to other midlifebackpackers & anyone else wanting to have a good idea of the cost of average, 2, 3 & 4 star hotels and accommodation while traveling through Thailand & Cambodia. These are real figures, by real people who had a real good time in Thailand and Cambodia & will be back for sure.






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Impressions of Cambodia by MidlifeBackpackers.

Our first trip to, and impressions of Cambodia

Visiting Cambodia for the first time, our impressions of Cambodia revolved mainly around the people.
It was plain to see that more than anything else, the beauty of Cambodia lies in its people.

The Khmer, or Cambodian people, have been through a terrible period in history. We don’t want to get into that here, but suffice to say that Cambodia has had a turbulent and blood curdling past. The bloodshed only ended a few decades ago. Which make it even more amazing is how the Cambodian people welcome foreigners. Even those who were part and parcel of the bombing of Cambodia, are welcomed with genuine smiles. Not the kind of smiles that turn to a smirk when a foreigners does not humor the advances of a local who is trying to sell something.Real smiles & friendliness that knows no boundaries. See Cambodia History

Impressions of Cambodia

Friendly vendors at Otres Beach

Impressions of Cambodia

Cambodians enjoying Sinahoukville Beach

Crossing the border from Thailand

We first experienced Cambodia by entering the country from Thailand at the Hat Lek border. In the first small town of Koh Kong, we met up with fellow South Africans Nico & Sonette Millen, their daughter & friend Craig Small. Nico & Sonette have their roots in teaching English (TEFL) in Thailand. Sonette still teaches online. See TEFL in KOH KONG.  Nico has aspirations of putting Koh Kong on the map with his tours venture, Triple “E” Adventure Eco Tours. Check out Nico’s Facebook page here. Real South Africans making new tracks wherever they go, so watch this space for new ventures in Koh Kong, Cambodia.

Impressions of Cambodia

Koh Kong Sunset

Impressions of Cambodia

South Africans in Koh Kong


Cambodia’s Sinahoukville beaches

From there we traveled down to the beach town of Sinahoukville. This is a thriving & bustling hive of activity and there are many foreign tourists as well as expats. The city has many buildings being developed. It seems that there is a tourist boom set to explode there shortly if it is not already so. Unfortunately the impression we get is that this town is being overrun by Americans. Mainly the kind who want to bring America to this lovely, Cambodian beach town. Basically converting it into yet another Americanized tourist venue. Casino’s & resorts popping up everywhere. Pizza & burger joints. Sad really.

Imressions of Cambodia

Sinouhakville views

Impressions of Cambodia

Locals swim, play & have fun in the sun & surf

Impressions of Cambodia

Americans lounging outside expat bars

 Otres Beach Stay

We stayed along a small stretch of beach called Otres Beach which had a nice laid back atmosphere. However, our impressions of Cambodia were not complimented by this “resort”. We did not enjoy the accommodation. A dilapidated shack, with shutters not working, mattress like a hammock, fan that barely worked, mosquito’s in full attack mode & ridiculous food prices. A Pseudo “living on the beach” experience. Would have been nice if not run down with nothing functioning as it should. But this was a sleepless night.

Being avid bikers as well as 4×4 enthusiasts, we know how to “rough it” but this was an excuse for absolutely no maintenance so we packed it in and left after a day. We have experienced way nicer rustic places on islands in Thailand, where comfort is still within acceptable levels.

Impressions of Cambodia

Lovely location, shabby accomodation

Impressions of Cambodia

No keeping out the weather & mosquitos

Transport from Sinahoukville to Siem Reap

For our next leg, we booked a minibus to Phonh Penh and then a sleeper bus to Siem Reap. We did a fair amount of research online, as to which companies to use in Cambodia when it comes to travelling by bus. Having read many horrors stories, (read here) we are suspicious of bus travel in South East Asia, especially in Cambodia. The company we decided on was Giant Ibis. They are more expensive than some of the cheaper options, but if you do a google search, you will see that there are some hair raising stories we tried to avoid.

The stretch from Sinahoukville to Phonh Penh was by comfortable mini/economy bus, while the stretch from Phonh Penh to Siem Reap was by sleeper bus. The sleeper bus has flat beds on two levels. Being 6 ft 4, and able to stretch out straight on a bus is an achievement. We had some much needed sleep.

Destination drop off always unsure with bus travel

The only problem is always that these buses tend to have no regard for where they drop you off. No matter what they tell you when they sell you the bus tickets. Which means you cannot plan ahead and are left for the sharks when you arrive somewhere outside town. Then you first need to orientate yourself & figure out where you are so that you can decide where you will go, if you have not yet booked.

With bus arrivals, we are constantly hassled by touts who pretend to work for the bus company (and probably do), but are trying to convince you to sell overpriced Tuk Tuk rides as always an irritation. After ignoring their $4 to $5 speaking with a local expat who happened to arrive at the bus station by Tuk Tuk, we asked him and he confirmed the price we had suspected, a $2 fare to get from the station to our Siem Reap Hotel which we had just booked while waiting at the bus station. We were on our way to a great few days in the wonderful town of Siem Reap. Our impressions of Cambodia were wonderful in the town. From here we were set to explore the ancient City of Angkor ruins and further cement our impressions of Cambodia & great Khmer people.

Impressions of Cambodia

Magnificent carvings. The ancient ruins of Angkor.

Impressions of Cambodia

Magnificent Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Categories: Cambodia 2016, Transportation | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Avoid scams when backpacking.

Avoid scams when backpacking. Advice from the inexperienced for the inexperienced.

We midlifebackpackers have sometimes felt insecure during our travels. We do not have the security of a travel plan, or tour arranged by a travel agent. Often we have wondered whether we would be streetwise enough when backpacking. How would we avoid scams when backpacking? We feared that we would be scammed, robbed, or left out in the cold in the middle of nowhere. The fear of the unknown and inexperience as travelers, not knowing what we were doing.

Avoid scams when backpacking. A reliable Tuk-Tuk driver in Cambodia

Getting around by Tuk-Tuk in Cambodia


Arriving at a strange place.

All to often when you arrive at some or other bus terminus, everyone wants to “help” you. Everyone may say that they can take you where you want to be cheaper & faster. Everyone may warn you not to do this or that. All to often, it is quite obvious that a “helpful” employee of a bus company is in actual fact selling overpriced tuk-tuk trips to tourists who ask them how to get into town. Or that the so called “info center” at a station is merely a front to selling taxi rides. It never ends and is often obvious that whenever people approach you with help & advice, the next step is to sell you something. In South East Asia, everybody is desperately trying to make an extra buck on the side line by referring travelers to a friend. Even uniformed officials often beg, sell or con you into something.

Being overwhelmed leads to being scammed.

As we have gone along from place to place being hounded by touts trying to sell us something, or scam us into some or other scheme our awareness has sharpened. Not everyone is aware of how to avoid scams when backpacking. All to often we see young backpackers getting off one means of transport, only to be swamped with touts. Confused and looking bewildered, they are soon wizzed off by costly operators happy to have conned yet another starry eyed victim.

South African street savvy helps us avoid scams when backpacking.

We are actually starting to realize that as South Africans, we are a lot less naive as many other foreigners. As South Africans, we are not intimidated easily. Having been around the block as older “midlifebackpackers” also helps and generally South African are not trusting of strangers. We probably have inherent situational awareness that many foreigners do not have. All to often we get off a bus, say no to just about everyone who approaches us & then just watch listen and orientated ourselves as to where we were at. We get an idea of where we want to go, how we want to get there & what it should cost us. Then we approach the relevant people with confidence and information at hand & negotiate a fair deal.

Our advice to avoid scams while backpacking:

• Whenever you have the time to read up shortly before arriving at a destination, do so. A good time is while on a bus/plane/train so that the information is fresh in your mind when arriving. ( See our Resources Page for useful apps & web links. )
• Have a good understanding of where your are going to arrive or be dropped off. If you don’t know where you are, how will you know with confidence where or how to take the next step to get where you want to be?
• Walk, talk and carry yourself with confidence while in the presence of touts on arrival. If you don’t know where the hell you are, you are great prey. Just take a walk or sit down and have a relaxing drink & pretend to know.
• Don’t hurry or stress. It shows. Just sit down, organize your baggage, get the cellular phone/laptop out (if in a safe environment) & take your time “orientating” yourself.
• Without showing it, listen to those around you. See who is “selling”, see who is not. Learn to distinguish those around you who know what they are doing and see what it is they are doing. For example: If a local expat pitches up with a tuk-tuk, feel free to ask whether this is his/her regular reliable & trustworthy driver.
• Listen to other negotiating prices & see where this leads. Read up and know what to expect in terms of costs, before merely accepting a price. When you have determined one, stick with it when negotiating.
• Always be kind, courteous and have empathy for the fact that many of these touts are desperate for a buck. Whenever rejecting someone’s offers, do it with a smile & never loose your cool.

Avoid scams when backpacking. A reliable Tuk-Tuk driver in Cambodia

Reliable driver, Chem (Water). Sinahoukville, Cambodia

Stay focused when times get tough.

Most of the tips above are common sense. All too often, however, you need to be careful that the exhaustion, frustration, heat & things not going according to plan don’t make you forget these things, as that is when you loose something, take your eye of the ball & make mistakes that could be costly. Stay aware at all times and avoid scams when backpacking.
We are enjoying the experience of travel without a real plan. Each day we are getting better and better at is as experience & confidence levels grow.

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Pattaya. Why we thought this was a wasted detour.

On our way down from Bangkok, to Ko Chang & the Cambodia border, we thought it a good idea to take a slight detour & see Pattaya. What a wasted detour.

Why we think this is a wasted detour when traveled from Bangkok en-route to Cambodia?:

Looking at the photos, it would seem that Pattaya could well be a smart choice to visit when in Thailand. Blue skies, tropical heat & the long beaches.

Pattaya. Thailand's Sodom & Gomora

Pattaya. Thailand’s Sodom & Gomora

Beautiful buildings in a modern, party town? Sun, sand & surf. What could be more idyllic?

Pattaya. Sun, sea & sand

Pattaya. Sun, sea & sand

Our experience of Pattaya:

*Here we found a melting pot of all kinds of Western nationalities and characters  gathered here. We found very little authentic Thai community culture here. Everything & everyone here seems to be catering for the wims of foreigners coming here for the deviant sex trade.

*It is filthy, smelly & overcrowded (Even in the off season).

*Pattaya lacks character & has a jaded, harsh aura as thick as fog hanging the city.

*We did not even find it worth coming to, to ogle the deviants that frequent the city. Strangely enough, a town like Patong has similar attributes and yet our experience there was way more interesting. We actually found experiencing Bangra Road’s walking street educational and interesting. The beach too was way more pleasant and was actually being enjoyed by young & old.

This bay is however merely an overcrowded mass of noisy motor boats, filthy water, crowds of foreigners in their tour buses, jam packed tour boats & just an all round frenzy of touristy groups taking selfies, while middle aged western men hang around in expat bars with their bar girls or cruise the streets in their sleeveless vests with their escort “girlfriends” (or Ladyboys). And that’s in the off season! We never even saw the tourists really swimming. Most were huddled up trying to get some shade by jamming all their beach chairs up under the trees, all while breathing  in foul smelling garbage heaps & vehicle fumes.

In summary:

This city reminds me of the wiring & cable situation found in so many placed is Thailand & here in Pattaya too. A crazy, twisted mess.

Pattaya. A crazy, twisted mess.

Pattaya. A crazy, twisted mess.



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Bangkok’s Rail transport network.

Don’t be intimidated by Bangkok’s transport network.

When we planned our trip to Thailand & Cambodia, our greatest intimidating thought was: ” How will we get from the airport to our hotel?”. We felt we needed to understand the transport network before arriving. We did not want to feel intimidated by Bangkok’s transport network. When we last traveled to Thailand via Phuket on our first trip, we felt we needed the security of at least knowing where we were going to sleep on our first night. Securing our bed is convenient. We used to decide exactly where we will be staying. The average traveler, backpacker, young or old, wants to know that arriving in a strange place at a difficult time, is not going to be an uphill battle schlepping around town. A battle trying to find accommodation. The website and a app on your celphone, really are a blessing.

Being new to overseas travel, with a relatively conservative & sheltered lifestyle, this kind of travel is rather daunting for us. A few basics help us feel in control.  After all, we are not on a package tour. One thing that is important to us is having secured our bed & knowing how to get there. Well, we soon learnt that racking our brains to find out exactly where to go is confusing. How long would take, what turns & interchanges needed to be taken and what the costs would be. Seriously confusing when you are not accustomed to a first world public transport system. Thailand may not be all first world, but the transport network in Bangkok surely works like clockwork & is definitely a first world system.

We soon found out though that Bangkok’s Transport Network need not be daunting. Just get there and it will fall into place quickly.

My advice is as follows:

1.Don’t try and figure it out until you are actually in Bangkok.

2.Once there, determine where you are on a map.

3.Then, cross reference the point you are at, with the closest point on a schematic map of the BTS (Skytrain) & MRT (Subway), such as this one:

Bangkok's Transport Network route map

It was’nt long before Janneke & I were zipping around Bangkok’s MRT & BTS transport network. We were going anywhere we wanted in the city. The best of all is that compared to what we are used to, it’s really safe. It is well regulated & policed & generally everyone using the network seems respectful of the rules and regulations. For us, this is not just about getting around from place to place, but an adventure in itself. Yet another first for the Midlifebackpackers.


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Thailand & Cambodia trip , 2016

Thailand & Cambodia trip planning starts.

It’s time. Suddenly, from a place of nothingness, our Thailand & Cambodia trip planning starts. Many options for trips have been considered. This may not be the perfect time for the average tourist to visit Thailand or Cambodia but we really don’t care.

We have been through a difficult last few months. Janneke was diagnosed, operated & treated for cancer. Now is the time. The time to get away from it all, immerse ourselves in a vastly different culture & step out of our comfort zones. Time to take on the challenge of yet another “unplanned, non package tourist” trip. This Thailand & Cambodia trip is our 2nd step into the unknown & adventurous world of backpacking for us as middle aged backpackers.

Planning a trip to Thailand and Cambodia, consists of surfing, googling and checking out photos. Reading blogs & basically trying to get an idea of what kind of environment & culture would seem interesting to us. We use a few online resources & apps that we found useful on our first trip, to familiarize ourselves with what we can expect in a strange country. That’s about it. The only real plan we have is, getting our plane tickets bought,. We arranged our E-visas for Cambodia, international driver’s licence, extended medical aid meds & plans. Confirm travel insurance & order foreign exchange. That & our first night’s accommodation on arrival. After that, we can go just about anywhere, at anytime. To us, that’s what it is all about.

Thailand & Cambodia trip planning tools

Thailand & Cambodia trip planning tools

What’s next? Follow us as we head out.

We would love it if we could inspire more middle aged couples to follow us and do the whole backpacking thing. Why not? We want to step up and grab our dream of seeing the world on our own terms, with a limited budget. We do not earn dollars or first world currency. We earn South African Rands. Can we do what Americans & Europeans do and see with their first world currencies? Well, let’s see. We hope to be seeing a lot of Cambodia & Thailand in the next few weeks, so join us & follow us for more as we follow our hearts in search of the mystery that only travel can provide for us.

Cambodia 2016


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Guest Apartment progress report.

Guest Apartment Progress.

Progress to the guest apartment has been swift over the last few weeks. The last few weeks have been trying for us. We were supposed to leave for a 6 weeks backpacking trip through Thailand, Vietnam & Cambodia. Instead, we ended up staying at home. The reason being, that in January this year, Janneke was diagnosed with breast cancer and has subsequently undergone a mastectomy as well as braved a number of side effects with medications. She has also undergone strings of tests & procedures after having suffered of chronic diarrhea, resulting in extreme weight loss & fatigue. In short, until she has regained her strength and built up a reasonable immunity we are stuck at home.

So, instead of our house and pet sitter being just that, he became a “guest apartment tester”. While we are at home, we have taken the opportunity to get closer to completing our guest apartment. Ensuring it is ready for travelers of all sorts. Having stayed here for more than a month, our guest has had the opportunity to point out any missing items. He can advise on any impractical arrangements and any negative living circumstances he may have experienced. Luckily, these seem to have been few & relatively minor.

Bedroom & En-suite bathroom completion.

While being in the position of having a guest staying in the apartment and giving us feedback on a daily basis, we are now happy to say that the bedroom, as well as bathroom are basically complete. All amenities of a necessary practical & aesthetic nature are complete. Of course nothing is guaranteed. We will be sure to lend a keen ear to any future tenants and their opinions & suggestions.

Kitchen fully fitted & complete.

Our house guest is an avid cook, so enjoyed making his own food. This is something the kitchen lends itself to. Unlike many other self catering apartments, this is  fully equipped kitchen. Not merely a kettle & basin. The kitchen has a stove, oven, hob as well as dishwasher & washing machine. All utensils & crockery are at hand, so if you enjoy entertaining & cooking, nothing is spared here. There is a small table for two, a breakfast/bar counter and every convenience you would expect to find in your own kitchen.

All that needs to be attended to is the living room area. This is already quite complete, but needs a few small personal touches & decor to make it really homely. Once that is done, the wonderful flow onto the patio and rock pool garden area, will make for a wonderful, tranquil lifestyle for traveler, home swap, house sitter, couch surfer or digital nomads who choose to stay with us in this luxury, convenient & well equipped apartment. We are proud to be able to say, that this guest apartment has been created for ourselves. As if we were to stay here on a permanent basis. Whether as our holiday apartment, retirement home, or self catering unit while we travel the world. We would be happy & proud to stay here ourselves.

Over the last few months, with misfortunes & ill health having halted our travel plans, at least we can say that the self catering apartment has received the attention. The love & personal touches it deserves to ensure that whoever stays here, will not be left wanting. We look forward to welcoming many happy and interesting travelers to the MidlifeBackpackers, self catering apartment in years to come & hope that it will facilitate our own travels as well.

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Self Catering apartment progress

The self catering apartment progress is going well. The MidlifeBackpacker self catering luxury apartment is nearing completion. Most of the building completed. All that remains to be done is the external outside landscape finishes and parking. Internal furniture also needs attending to.

As you can see in the progress video clip at the bottom of this post, we are sparing no money on quality. Luxury & aesthetics are important to us. This will ensure that you will love staying here. I know we would. We are finishing it off as we would if we stayed here ourselves.


Garden & pool views from lounge

Decor & Finishes

Although the self catering apartment progress is going well, the interior decor may take a while longer & will be a work in progress. We do not want to rush off and buy just anything. If we see something we like and that fits in perfectly, then we will buy it. We may even find ornaments & decorations when next we travel. We want this home away from home to reflect our taste as well as be practical and functional. Myself & Janneke are both perfectionists, so we will probably never be 100% happy that everything is perfect & finished.


Comfortable bedroom

“Testing the apartment”

A friend who works with Janneke, will be the first visitor staying here. This arrangement will be great for him, as well as us. He will be house sitting and pet sitting for us while he waits for his permanent home to come available. This is an opportunity to “test” the apartment. We can see if everything works well & is practical. Then we will really know if the self catering apartment progress is complete or still lacking. We’ll find out if we have forgotten anything. We feel this is an important step to ensure that problems are pointed out to us by someone actually staying in the apartment.


Fully equipped kitchen

Apartment’s purpose

When we are happy that everything is finished, working & 100% ready, we will use the apartment for the following:

-A free guest apartment for friends & family visiting from overseas.

-Accommodation for pet & house sitters should we be away.

-An Airbnb apartment.

-A short term rental for people that have been relocated & need a temporary home.

-A fully furnished & equipped self catering home away from home for business travelers.

-A home exchange apartment for us when we travel and want to stay in someone else’s home.

-As free accommodation in exchange for services offered by digital nomad travelers who can assist me monetizing our website & travels.


Patio pool views

Invitations have been sent to our digital nomadic online friends, who seem to have mastered the art a earning a living from & while traveling. People like Warren & Betsy Talbot from An Uncluttered Life. I came across their website when they were hiking the Caminino De Santiago, and called their website  Also, 60 year young Andy Lee Graham from

We look forward to this luxury, very well equipped apartment becoming a means to assist us with our MidlifeBacker travel dreams & to be shared with others!

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MidlifeBackpackers-Who are we

Who are we?:

Who are we? is a community of middle aged travelers. We have a dream & passion of experiencing travel the “real” way. Not travelling as packaged tourists. Like many younger backpackers do, we want to focus on the adventure. We wish to really experiencing countries & their cultures.  Being exposed to the lives, habits & places of the local people. Affordable travel, with the flexibility to change and make up the time schedule, as we go along, without sacrificing too many of the creature comforts that we enjoy and need as older backpackers.


What we hope to achieve with the is our website that will showcase the start of our journeys. We hope it will also become a source of information, inspiration & resources for other “midlifers”. Those who have come to realize that there is currently little or no information suitable to the middle aged backpackers online.

Also see our MidlifeBackpackers Facebook Page


About Menno & Janneke (see also About Menno & Janneke )

So, who are we, Menno & Janneke, midlifebackpackers? We are new to this. We are aware that much of the information out their relating to backpacking is suited to the younger crowd. As midlife backpackers, there are certain things we expect to do, see and experience differently than we would have 20 or so years ago.

We do not profess to know much about travelling the world with a backpack at this stage of our lives. We do know that we have a passion & dream to do it. We know that there must be others that feel the same way. This is why we need to get out there & do it ourselves. We also need the support and help of those who are already doing this. Those who have experience that can help us bring the information,  tips & resources to others with the same dreams.


The typical MidlifeBackpacker:

Many people in their mid forties & fifties, decide to travel to foreign places and have never done so before. Maybe we were all too busy with our busy careers, raising kids or generally doing the responsible thing, working hard to provide for retirement. Maybe they have traveled before, but always as a regimented “package tourist”. So everything was pre-planned.  Set routines dictate the typical tourist experience.

Whatever the reason, to start backpacking at such a late age and following the midlifebackpacker style of travel, can be daunting for most.

The basic questions & problems that come to mind are:

-So where do we go when the flight has landed?

-What if nobody understands a word of English & no one understands us?

-How do we know what mode of transport to trust & take?

-How will we know when people try & scam us?

-What safety precautions must we take?

-What are reasonable costs versus exorbitant “tourist rates”?

-What if we get lost?

-Where can we safely & affordability go to eat other than the resorts?

-What are the best online resources for a particular place we visit?

-Tips to be aware of at each different town we arrive. Everything differs

from town to town?

-What do we need to take along?

-What is unnecessary?

-Finding your way around?

-Deciding what type of accommodation is suitable?

-What you can expect to spend?

-How can we afford it?

-What basic apps & IT resources can one use to simplify travel?

-Places you want to see, depending on your personal interests?

-Why many of these questions have such simple & common sense answers. Often, you don’t even need to think about them until you land.


Self catering lodge available for MidlifeBackpackers in South Africa:

One of the biggest committed steps we have taken towards turning our travel dreams to a reality, has been to create a self catering apartment suitable for overseas, midlifebackpackers (and other suitable travelers).

The creation of this almost complete guest lodge, has been multi purpose. It is sure to be an invaluable resource for us as well as the guests we will be accommodating. Read all about this and why this could even be your Free accommodation in South Africa should we wish to swap resources with you.


We are just an average, middle aged South African couple. We are estate agents & property investors. (See: Menno-Flat & Townhouse Specialist & Property investor ), with a dream to become regular MidlifeBackpackers. We hope to inspire others to become our friends & share the dreams and resources of this community of MidlifeBackpackers.


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