Well, this is a ‘back to earth with a bump’ post. I arrived back in the UK a couple of days ago having been away for 5 weeks, that is, 4 weeks traveling round Thailand and 1 week skiing in France. And I had an excellent time in both places, many happy memories made. But now I am sitting in my room in Northampton feeling a bit wistful.
Thailand was quite a bit more touristy than I was expecting. Despite all the scary stories of dengue fever and malaria and pick pockets and dodgy police I had absolutely no problems and thought the locals were all lovely. I got where I wanted to go easily enough – they basically ask you where you want to go and then shepherd you around. So where did I go? Well, here is a map:
My trip went like this: Bangkok > Koh Samui > Koh Phangan > Koh Tao > Krabi (Ao Nang Beach) > Koh Phi Phi > Chiang Mai > Pai (just north of Chiang Mai) > Bangkok
I think I already talked about Bangkok in my December 2017 Review so I won’t repeat myself. After Bangkok I took a train down to Surat Thani and got a ferry across to Koh Samui. The area where I stayed was fairly busy – the main street was quite fun just to walk down:
And Chaweng Beach was nice if a little crowded. I also did some kayaking and snorkeling where I had some interesting conversation with an American couple (why are Americans all so obsessed with the Royal Family?) and became friends with a Czech girl and an Australian dude. I want to point out here as well that I chatted a lot with fellow travelers in the hostel – some from England (who I would later meet again in Krabi), from Norway, and from Holland. Staying in a hostel is like your first week of university, there are lots of people on their own who will happily talk and hang out and you can have a really awesome time if you’re open to that kind of thing.
Then I went up to Koh Phangan which is famous for its Full Moon parties but I just wanted a quiet time (so I could write) so I found a bungalow in a nice resort on an excluded beach on the other side of the island. I rested for a couple of days there before going up to Koh Tao where I did some Scuba diving.
I was quite surprised actually, I did a PADI open water scuba diving course when I was 14 years old (a good 18 years ago) and it turns out the qualification is still on their system which meant I could do some diving without having to do all the learning involved. I did a short refresher to remind myself how all the equipment fits together and then I was down looking at fishes – I saw a sting ray and an eel which were pretty cool.
It turns out all the regular scuba divers and divemasters are all big smokers – bizarre that, you’d think they would be more careful about their breathing apparatus (ie their lungs). We went out for food and drinks together and I came home smelling of smoke, but there you go!
After Koh Tao I went down to Krabi where I basically partied and had a bit of a blow out. I haven’t had a hangover like that for a while… I met a slightly odd guy from Switzerland, and a played a lot of beer pong with some people from Australia and Germany and America (those Americans take beer pong seriously!). Ao Nang Beach isn’t the nicest beach but it does have some fairly epic scenery to admire whilst recovering:
Next I went down to Koh Phi Phi where no cars or motorbikes are allowed and mainly chilled out, doing some more writing. This was the view from my bungalow:
From there I did a tour around Monkey Beach and Maya Bay where they filmed The Beach. And I swam with plankton in the dark – it’s like seeing stars in the water, though I didn’t stay long because swimming in the dark is very scary!
I took a flight up to Chiang Mai in the north of the country – no more rickety overnight trains for me! I mainly chilled out, chatting and drinking with other travelers, who were mostly French for some reason, and I did a few more touristy things there:
And then it was onward to Pai which had been recommended to me. The first night there we went out, there was another English guy, a couple of Dutch girls, a Canadian guy, and an American girl and we found a really cool hidden bar with a big fire place in the middle. I drank White Russians.
I must say I wasn’t as thrilled with Pai as others were, it’s basically a hippy commune as far as I can tell, but it was super hot in the daytime and then really cold at night time. It was a bit odd actually putting on clothes to go to bed as there was no heating in my bungalow. I saw some caves, went in a hot spring, saw a sunset (with about two hundred other tourists), all the usual stuff. Pai was quite pretty I must say:
And then it was a flight back to Bangkok before coming home.
All in all I had a great time, met a lot of interesting and colourful people from all over the world, made a few new friends, and though I rushed around a bit I felt like I was able to soak up some of the atmosphere in each place. I also did a lot of writing while I was there, I wrote another 30k words of my book, which isn’t too bad considering how busy I was.
So last week I went to a resort in the Alpes called La Rosiere with my sister, brother-in-law, my baby nephew, and a couple my sister is friends with. Again, I had a great time though after attempting snowboarding for a day and a half I felt slightly broken, constantly falling over does take it out of you! I’ve been skiing since I was 3 years old so I’d forgotten what it’s like to learn a new winter sport. The others had Go Pro cameras so naturally they took lots of videos of me falling over.
We did self catering which worked out fairly cheap – indeed the one time we ate out cost more than our entire week’s food shop. We did also get pizza takeaway a couple of times to be fair.
La Rosiere is unusual in that your ski pass gives you access to the two resorts of La Rosiere in France and La Thuille in Italy, with a short trip between the two. It was odd asking for a chocolat chaud one day and a cioccolata caldo the next. The word for ‘beer’ is pretty much the same in every country though!
There was a lot of snow:
More snow than I think I’ve ever seen actually – when I used to go skiing with my family we always went in the Easter holiday when the snow was beginning to melt and they were using the snow machines to keep the main ski runs active. But this holiday we could barely even get into our chalet – the snow was about 2 metres deep around our path to the chalet door.
The only thing that wasn’t so great was our flight times that were really early on both the outwards and return trips. Getting up at 2.30am both times wasn’t so much fun and really messes with your body clock. Next time I’ll probably spend a little more to get nicer flight times.
Trip Expenses Breakdown
As my main expenses for January will be in the ‘cash withdrawal’ and ‘miscellaneous’ categories, I thought I’d do a breakdown of how much 4 weeks in Thailand and 1 week skiing in France cost me. I should point out a lot of the costs for these were paid in advance in November and December last year, so don’t try matching up these costs with my January expenses.
Funnily enough, I spent more than I was expecting to in Thailand, and less than I was expecting to in France:
Travel costs, including all flights, trains, ferries, taxis, and tuk tuks: £984 (the return flight from London to Bangkok made up £577 of this)
Accommodation costs: £626
Food and drink: £491
Miscellaneous, including tours, museums, kayaking, diving, and much more: £271
If I’m totally honest I could have done all this a lot cheaper. I could have picked cheaper travel, cheaper accommodation and food and so on, and I did meet people who were traveling around South East Asia on a shoestring, making their trips last as long as possible by spending as little as possible. It was possible to stay in a hostel for £7 a night in most places, possible to have a full meal for less than £3, and getting the train around is much cheaper than flying (I flew between Krabi and Chiang Mai, and I flew between Chiang Mai and Bangkok). And obviously if you spend a week or two in each place you aren’t going to spend so much on travel. But I didn’t have a lot of time out there so wanted to make the most of it and that meant choosing more expensive options sometimes. Still, £2372 for a 4 week holiday isn’t too bad I think.
Travel Costs, including flights and car rental: £156
Accommodation and lift pass (lift pass was included in the price): £359
Ski Hire, including boots and poles, and snowboards for a day: £74
Cash, mainly food and drink (and a few other little miscellaneous bits): £110
This is actually pretty good for a skiing holiday. I already had all my own skiing clothes which can be quite expensive. We were originally looking at doing all inclusive travel packages but they were all so expensive – it really is a lot cheaper if you can get there yourself, and self catering I think works out cheaper than catered.
The ski hire was amazingly cheap really – especially when you consider you can change from skis to snowboards for the day and back again. I had a look in some of the shops there and a new pair of skis cost around £1000. If you were bringing your own equipment you’d also have to factor in bindings, boots (probably over £300), poles, getting your skis waxed before each holiday, and transportation costs. I don’t really know why anyone would bother buying their own skis to be honest.
Expenses breakdown for January 2018:
I took 20 days unpaid leave in January to have all these holidays so my pay was vastly reduced. How did that affect my savings rate and net worth? Here’s the official breakdown:
- Mobile phone – £19.40
- Rent – £550 – I own my house (with a mortgage) but I pay myself rent. I don’t actually move any money around, but for the purposes of my spreadsheet and my savings rate I treat my house as though it were a rental property and I am a tenant in it.
- Food, drinks, toiletries – £4.95
- Eating/drinking out, takeaways – £16.00
- Petrol/travel – £30.13
- Car expenses (insurance, repairs etc) – £0
- Gym/Sports – £30
- Music/gigs/cinema – £15.98
- Cash Withdrawals – £776.89 – All foreign cash withdrawals; Thai Baht and Euros
- Miscellaneous – £660.01 – Mostly accommodation and internal flights in Thailand
- Bank charge – Negative £9.01 (ie they paid me).
As explained above a lot of my holiday expenses were paid in advance or fell into the ‘Cash Withdrawals’ or ‘Miscellaneous’ categories, hence why my expenses are so skewed this month.
I split out my income into active and passive – passive is basically my rental income, active is everything else.
- Salary (after pension/sharesave removed) – £266.92 – this would be even lower but it was a boosted by a small tax refund.
- Pension payment – £88.03 – I put in 6%, my employer puts in 20%
- Sharesave – £250
- Matched betting – £0
- Rental Income (after bills, expenses, council tax and mortgage interest removed) – £1480.63
Total Active Income = £604.95
Total Passive Income = £1480.63
My Savings Rate
Here is my usual spiel, with January’s figures put in:
Most people looking at my stats above might see an income of £604.95 and spending of £2094.35 and say, aha, your savings rate is 1-spending/income which equals negative 2.462, or negative 246.2%.
Others might add the active and passive income together for a total income of £2085.58 and use the same calculation above to get a savings rate of negative 0.4%.
Other bloggers might consider the mortgage repayments as an expense also (I’ve only considered the mortgage interest above) but that’s a different topic altogether.
My method is to use passive income as an expense reducer. That is, my spending is £2094.35 minus £1480.63 which equals £613.72. As my active income is £604.95 and my spending is £613.72 then my savings rate is negative 1.4%.
See my earlier post here if you want a bit more explanation on this. I do think it is an accurate way of measuring the savings rate (until someone tells me otherwise).
My Net Worth Tracker
My net worth decreased in January from £199,361.56 to £195,648.85, a £3,712.71 decrease. This is based on the estimated values of my properties minus my debts (mortgage/loans etc), plus my savings, plus my investment accounts (including pension) and the total of my bank balances.
The decrease this month is mainly down to the values of my properties decreasing a little according to Zoopla. I’ve said it before – I realise Zoopla isn’t the most accurate way of measuring a property’s value but based on my rental yield I don’t think it’s too far off – actually I’m probably being quite conservative in my valuations.
Since this time last year I estimate my net worth has increased by £60,559.83. Here’s a lovely graph to show how my net worth has increased since September 2012:
So a slight dip in January which I was sort of expecting considering I took most of the month off unpaid. In fact if my property values hadn’t decreased my net worth would have stayed about stable thanks to all the passive income I had coming in. Hopefully normal service will resume in February. I’m off work for the whole of February but unlike January this is paid holiday so I should keep pushing up that net worth (I might even get some more tax back).
As always thanks for reading,