How to turn backpacking into flashpacking

9 Feb

I like to pretend that I am not yet a backpacker. But a woman on Phi Phi made me. Four years ago I visited Ko Lanta with my family and stayed at Baan Lanta Resort in Kantiang Bay. Although I knew it would be beyond our budget, the recollection of the cool pool, the large bungalows and its position straight on the beach made me ask about its going rate. 'Ah!' The woman in the travel agency smacked her lips and unnecessarily rigorously shook her head. 'Not for you, not for you!' she said and set up a booking for us with Lanta Topview Resort. 'I have stayed there before…', I silently mumbled back, as internal monologue.

Although our daily budget is not that of Swedish tourists (all tourists seem to be Swedish here), three weeks in I have nonetheless figured how to make ours resemble it.

Book a room 3 to 4 days in advance

This may seem blindingly obvious given the current high season for tourists. But, time after time (20 times a day according to our first hotel on Ko Lanta) backpackers turn up asking for a cheap room, only to be told it´s full, having then to get back into the taxi to look for yet another hotel.

We started booking ahead in order to save time – only later did we realise it also saved us quite a bit of money. Aside from not having to lug around a backpack at random in 35 degrees heat, calling ahead gets you two perks: one of the cheap rooms at the hotel and a free pick-up service from the airport or harbour. And as a bonus, it requires hardly no effort. This being Thailand, the land of the happy tourist, there are travel agencies every 20 metres and the staff at your current hotel can also often help with your next booking.

Travelling alone? Then hurry up and find someone to travel with! The beauty of Thailand is that if you have a travel companion, you can already flashpack. A hotel room or bungalow for two is often cheaper than two dorm beds!

Listen to your boyfriend who wants to eat at cheap places

Thai food is a tourist attraction in itself. Price is however no guarantee of quality. Some of our best food experiences have been in the cheapest of places. We have however always eaten at those places after a few days of persuasion. Like tonight, at the makeshift kitchen pulled together at the intersection of two streets in Kantiang Bay, just next to the 7-11.

2 Pad Thai´s with chicken. Fried fish with garlic. Green coconut curry with chicken. 4 main courses and some of the best food so far in Thailand for 6 euro.

It was so good, we're going back there for breakfast tomorrow. (She opens at 8 she said by showing the number on the calculator).

To give you a comparison; we had lunch the other day at previously mentioned Baan Lanta Resort:

Sizzling hot pan with squid, fish and shrimps. Seafood fried in garlic. Prawn cakes with chili sauce. 2 main courses and a starter for 15 euro.

Indeed, cheap as well. 15 euro is nothing if you're travelling for a few weeks. But, if you up those weeks to about 40, those 10 euro saved every meal start adding up. And just as important, eating at the cheap places tends to get us better food, better service and it's more fun!


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