Caravan Sonnet

8/14/18

How to 'Do' Southeast Asia on a Budget

Luxury travel can be a dream for many. Who doesn’t like the idea of traveling around the world in style and staying in some of the most luxurious hotels or apartments? The thing is that luxury can vary around the world, and because of the cost of things, you can get much more for your money in different places. So although places like Southeast Asia are often considered a backpacking destination, there is also plenty of luxury to enjoy, as it tends to be so much cheaper than if you found the equivalent accommodation or excursion in the States or in Europe. It definitely is possible to have a low-cost but still comfortable, and perhaps even luxury getaway to places like the southeast of Asia.

So here are some of the ways that you can head to southeast Asia on a budget, and still experience a pretty chic and luxurious trip. It would be great to hear what you think.
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Choose Destination Wisely
The region of southeast Asia, although quite specific, it is still covering a vast amount of land and cities, with varying terrains and things to do. So for starters, you need to think about the kind of trip or experience that you are looking to have. Do you want to explore and experience to color and vibrancy of one of the cities? Would you rather relax on the beach or enjoy some water sports? Or even have a jungle adventure or experience more of the culture by exploring temples and holy places.

When you know the kind of experience that you want to have, it makes it easier to narrow down the places that will cost you less. If you wanted to experience the culture and temples, then a natural choice is a place like Angkor Wat in Cambodia. But as it is a pretty popular choice, destinations like Bagan in Myanmar or Yogyakarta in Indonesia could be cheaper choices. You can have the same cultural experience but pay less as it isn’t a typical tourist choice. The same goes for a beach destination; Phuket in Thailand is the go-to choice in southeast Asia. So instead, think about quieter Thai island like Koh Samet, as you’ll get much more for your money, and less of a resort feel to it.

Consider a Home Rental
It does depend on where you choose as your destination, but hotels can be expensive. Take a place like Bali, for example. The beach resorts that are all-inclusive and pretty luxurious are likely to be quite pricey. Possibly cheaper than their counterparts in somewhere like the Caribbean, but still not exactly a bargain. So it could be worth looking at a home rental rather than a hotel. Again, places like Bali are on sites like Airbnb and Rumah, all with much more affordable prices that you might imagine. You can get villas with pools and even private chefs for less than you might pay in a hotel. So having it as more of a home away from home can be a good way to cut the costs of traveling to Asia.

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Eat Local Food
If you do choose to steer clear of the whole all-inclusive kind of resort, then you will need to cook for yourself or eat out at every meal. And to be honest, that can be a good way to keep track of your budget. As long as you know what your budget for food is, you can easily stick to it. One of the best ways to do that is by eating what the locals eat. You don’t need to necessarily choose street food for each meal, but doing it once a day perhaps, can really cut down the price of your food. You might be wondering about getting sick, or if you have dietary requirements. But the good news is that as long as you take your time to choose, then you can find somewhere good to eat. And not only that, a typical southeast Asian diet is pretty healthy, with rice, veggies, noodles, tofu, and tempeh. So there should be something to fit all tastes.

Don’t Pre-Book Excursions or Tours
One other stellar way to save money when you travel to southeast Asia is to not pre-book anything like day trips, excursions,or tours. You might think that you’re better off to book in advance to make sure that you get a place on the day you want, but over there, it really isn’t an issue if you book ahead or not. The only thing that you might be missing out on if you book ahead is saving money. Because there are so many tours and excursion companies in southeast Asian countries, there is so much choice. And with choice, comes the ability to haggle. You will be missing out on that if you book ahead (they pretty much expect you to do it too). So save yourself cash and plan your itinerary when you get there and when you see what is on offer. Plus, you could even hire a driver for the day (not as expensive as you might think), who can plan an itinerary for you and take you to see the things that you want to see. Definitely worth looking into as well.

Low-Cost Airlines
Your airfare is likely to be one of your biggest expenses. But the good news is that there are low-cost Asian airlines that you shouldn’t discount just because you’ve never flown with them before. AirAsia is one of the most popular for that region (just be sure to read the fine print about luggage allowance and checking in). It can be a great way to save especially if you plan to do a little internal travel. Other low-cost Asian airlines are Tigerair, SilkAir, Peach Aviation and Vanilla Air. So it is worth looking into how much they charge to see what deals you can get or how much they charge. Then you really can get your Asian adventure on a budget.

This may be a contributed post but all of the thoughts I agree with and match the tone of my blog.

8/13/18

Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge // Denali State Park, Alaska

Happy Monday friends! I hope that y'all had a wonderful weekend! Today I am so excited to share about one of the three Princess Lodges that we stayed at during our road trip in Alaska. For those who may be wanting to have the opportunity to connect with different parts of Alaska, but for various reasons can't rent an RV or camper, or have decided to forgo camping for different reasons, these lodges are a great solution for this type of trip. 

We stayed for one night at the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge, two nights at the Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge, and two nights at the Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge. All three lodges were different and unique and while I enjoyed them all, Kenai Wilderness Lodge (which I will share about in the future on the blog) was my favorite with Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge being my second favorite and Copper River being my third favorite out of the three.
Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge is located at Mile Post 133 in the Denali State Park in Trapper Creek, Alaska. On a clear day you can see Denali from the lodge (as the above picture shows) and it is a lodge that is beautifully surrounded by gorgeous views and wildlife on the property. The Lodge is approximately two hours north of Anchorage (unless you do a detour to Hatchers Pass - which you definitely should!) and then it will take you approximately four hours from Anchorage. 

If you are coming from the north (from Fairbanks) it will take you approximately 4 and 1/2 hours to reach the Lodge. 
We arrived at the lodge around 6pm after spending a beautiful afternoon exploring the Little Susitna River and Hatcher Pass. The check-in process was simple (our reservations had already been paid for and confirmed prior to the trip) and the front desk helped us with several questions that we had regarding food and the property. 

We decided to make reservations at the North Fork Restaurant for dinner (at the recommendation of the front desk) and then also purchased tickets for the photosymphony performance... after being assured that it was like seeing the Northern Lights live and in person. Due to the time of year we were traveling to Alaska in this seemed like a really neat opportunity and so we were excited about it. 
After check-in we made our way over to our building and to our room where we got settled for the evening before heading back to the main lodge for our dinner. The walk to the lodge from our room was an easy walk and it allowed us to see some more of the beautiful property. For those who may have disabilities and are concerned about staying at this property I would definitely say it was a very disability friendly property. While there wasn't a ton of handicap parking there were constant shuttle buses and offers to help if this was something that was needed. Because of the nature of this blog I do always inquire about this at each property I stay at and I was very impressed with how they have things set up. If you have any specific questions about this please let me know and I am happy to answer them.
We ate dinner and then headed to the photosymphony before heading back to our room for the evening. Our room was quiet, exceptionally clean, and provided us both with a good nights sleep for the evening. I loved that it was cool enough out that we could sleep with our window open and have fresh air blowing in our room. While Ali was very concerned about safety and leaving the window open (because we were on the first floor), I didn't feel any concerns with the property and felt incredibly safe and insisted that the fresh air was lovely. There is no air conditioning, but there really was no need for it. In addition to this each room came with a fan for those who may want to have some noise or help in moving air in the room. 
Overall this lodge is really nice and I have nothing bad to say about it. It is secluded, has some trails that you could hike, provides different opportunities for excursions (which you can read about here), and is a beautiful getaway whether you are an Alaskan resident or coming from out of state to visit Alaska.
If you are looking for a really nice place to stay that provides a lovely atmosphere this is a great choice, but if you are looking for something that is a bit more "rustic" for your stay this would not be the place. I would definitely say that out of the three lodges we stayed at this one would be the one that is a bit more "touristy" slanted for lack of a better description. This lodge had the largest gift shop out of the three lodges and even had a Starbucks in one area of the lodge. 

NONE of this is bad but I definitely walked away hoping that some of the other lodges would be a little bit more rustic. Again, I think it is all in what you are looking for and what you are wanting to experience. For those who are looking to visit Alaska and yet want a great resort without being as rustic, this is definitely a wonderful place. 
I loved my time there and enjoyed hiking around the property in the morning and seeing some wildlife and just seeing the beauty that was all around. I do have two quick notes for those who may visit in the future: 

(1) When we checked in we were told that the North Fork Restaurant would be the best choice and only choice due to the hour we arrived for us to eat at. The prices at the North Fork Restaurant are the highest out of any restaurant. The view and the food was amazing but there was a bit of a sticker shock with the price of the food! To be frank... Ali and I ended up splitting the pork dinner due to cost, but there was SO much food that it was good we did and it was so delicious that it was definitely one of our favorite meals of the trip.

I have since learned that we could have checked out the other restaurants on the property. I am not sure why we were what we were, but I would definitely recommend checking them out... but also consider the pork dinner. Hahaha. It was so yummy! 

(2) The photosymphony is NOTHING like seeing the Northern Lights in person... or at least I hope not since it is a dream of mine to see. I am giggling as I write this because as it was described to us it would be like viewing the Northern Lights exactly and I was imaging a theater with a surround sound and 360 screen and it would be just like we were outside in the winter seeing the beautiful northern lights. Hahahaha... I can't stop laughing. It was anything but how I imagined. *smiles*

 We walked into the theater only to find out that it was a very small screen in the front with one sloooooowwww changing picture from a man who took the picture back in the 70s. It was really impressive to see how he was the first one to capture the Northern Lights... but sadly some of the photos around the property were better pictures of the Northern Lights than what we saw. The music also... look I love classical music and I didn't know half of the obscure songs that were chosen... that sounded incredibly somber. There was nothing like we were told it would be and we laughed about it for the rest of the road trip. Hahaha. I sadly can't recommend this at all and don't recommend seeing this... I feel badly writing that, because I am impressed with what he did in the 70s but I think that this should have a different description told to people who visit the lodge. Hahaha.
Overall it was a lovely place to stay and it was definitely my 2nd favorite of all of the lodges we stayed at. If you have any questions please let me know! 

For those who may be planning a similar road trip throughout Alaska that we did I hope the information below is helpful. If you would like, you can read all of the posts from the trip by clicking on the links below:

Hatcher Pass Area: // Hatcher Pass // Little Susitna River //  

A huge thank you to Princess Cruises Lodges for their collaboration with Caravan Sonnet blog. All opinions are my own.

8/10/18

Hatcher Pass // Alaska

Happy Friday friends! I hope that you have had a wonderful week! Today I am excited to share with y'all more pictures from my recent trip to Alaska. Hatcher Pass, which I am sharing about today, was definitely one of my favorite places that we went to. 
After exploring and spending time at Little Susitna River (you can read more about that HERE), we continued the drive to Hatcher Pass. 
If you are driving from Anchorage it is about a 3 hour round trip road trip. I decided that we would stop on the way to Denali (where we were heading that day). This scenic detour does add a couple of hours (or more if you are like us and stop often to admire the beauty and explore!) to your trip north (if you choose to do the same thing) but it is an absolutely priceless couple of hours and I can't recommend taking the time to do it enough. 
Hatcher Pass is located in the Talkeetna Mountains between Willow and Palmer. It is a favorite among locals for recreation or just for a beautiful scenic drive. 
It honestly took less than a minute to understand why this beautiful area is a favorite. The mountains were absolutely stunning and the views (despite it being a somewhat cloudy day) were beyond compare. I felt like I was in Switzerland in the Alps all over again and yet in a different world at the same time. The beauty was so overwhelming that as we walked and explored I had tears.
If you are wanting to visit Hatcher Pass (and you definitely should - even if a local says it's not worth it *smiles*!) even for just the scenic drive then you can get there by Fishhook Road (Hatcher Pass Road). It beautifully winds through the mountains for approximately 60 miles between the towns of Palmer and Willow.
The beauty surrounding this place was simply breathtaking. I shared this on instagram, but really the words are indescribable because the beauty was so amazing. 
Just to note- if you are traveling during the winter the state does maintain the road to Independence Bowl. An interesting fact that I learned in my research before the trip, was that this area has a very rich ski history.
Some early photos (dating back to the 1930s) show that skiers from Anchorage used to be bused up to an inn that had a rope tow at it. This inn was one of only a few places to offer this and it was used for several decades, although now it is not. 
Interestingly, this area also used to be the training grounds for the Junior Olympic ski team. 
In the summer months the road does open over the pass. As a note (as with several roads in Alaska *smiles*) the road is gravel for about 20 miles and can be rough at certain points with ruts. If you are renting a car (like I did for this road trip) you will want to make sure that you check with your car rental company about which roads you can take your car on and which ones you can't (as there are restrictions). 
Due to time constraints more than anything we only drove along the pass road for about 5 miles before we needed to turn around to head to our destination for the night. 
It is definitely a road that I plan to go back and explore the entire thing in a future trip because it is so incredibly beautiful. 
If you don't want to brave the road (or you can't in your rental car) then definitely travel to the top of the pass. From there (as you can see in some of the pictures in this post) you will be able to see beautiful ranges, including the Chugach Range, Alaska Range, and Palmer's Pioneer Peak. 
In the summer at the top of the pass is also lots of different hiking trails, Independence Mine, and beautiful spots for a picnic. (Along with lots of flowers, that y'all know I love. *smiles*)
This area was just breathtaking to me and quite the introduction to the Alaska road trip we were taking. 
In many ways I realized just how big Alaska really is in these first few hours in the state. With exploring Little Susitna River and Hatcher Pass I walked away wanting to see more of these areas, instead of feeling like I had seen everything there was to see.
I quickly realized that we were only seeing the smallest percentage of what was around us. As I slowly stood and turned to look at everything surrounding me I suddenly felt incredibly small in the midst of this beautiful and vast world we were in.
I think it took less than 5 minutes of driving this first day to make the decision that I would need to come back and come back often to explore this area of the world... and there would still not be enough time. This was a gift actually to realize at the beginning of the trip because it made me treasure every single moment of what I was seeing and viewing along the way. 
And then I realized in a deep and profound way how important this lesson is for life in general. To grab hold of the beautiful gift and of the sacred "now". To grab hold of the moments before us and in the day that we are in. To treasure the time in deeper ways. 

I could keep going, but suffice it to say that I fell quickly in love with Alaska in these first few hours of the trip. Hatcher Pass was absolutely stunning and I hope that y'all can plan a trip there someday soon! Happy Friday friends, I hope that you have a wonderful weekend with loved ones and friends... treasuring the beautiful gift of "now". 

For those who may be planning a similar road trip throughout Alaska that we did I hope the information below is helpful. If you would like, you can read all of the posts from the trip by clicking on the links below:

Hatcher Pass Area: // Hatcher Pass // Little Susitna River //  

For those with questions about my outfit:
Shop the Look:
Torrid Premium Mauve T-Shirt (there are other colors available)