A Very Special (and Asian) Announcement!

Big news! I just booked a one-way ticket to Asia! Words cannot describe how thrilled I am to finally commit to making this long-awaited journey happen. (Or how stoked I was to score a $430 dollar flight, haha.)

Come the end of August, I will be on a flight bound for Hong Kong. From Hong Kong I’ll be playing it by ear- but Indonesia, Thailand and Cambodia are all certainly on my to-see list.

And I won’t be flying solo! Accompanying me on my Asia jaunt will be my friend Victoria, a London-based journalist who I met here in Paris.

This trip will involve lots of big cities, beach time and exotic eats. (Lots, and lots of eats.)


Images clockwise from left: Forum Vietnam, Lady Iron Chef, Serious Eats, Destino Gourmet


The route:

On the way to Hong Kong, we will stop for a 24-hour layover in Tokyo during which I intend to stuff myself with sashimi and ramen. While my budget won’t allow for any longer in pricey Japan (sad face), I plan to make the most of my extremely limited time in the land of the rising sun (cue the sushi). In Hong Kong, the only things I know I want to do are wander Macau and nosh on dim sum. After that, we will presumably catch a flight to Southeast Asia- and from there who knows!


Clockwise from top left: Wikipedia, Bali Essence, Sightseeing Group, Nomadic Matt

Here is my (very) rough plan for September-December (or longer) 2013:

Hong Kong (5 days)

Indonesia (6 weeks)

Singapore (5 days)

Kuala Lumpur (3 days)

Thailand (6 weeks)

Cambodia (1 month)

…and hopefully there will be time for Laos and Vietnam! As of yet all plans are extremely tentative.

The budget:

At present, I have about $2,000 saved up at present. Womp, womp. I want to save at least $3,000 more before leaving, which means I have four months to get very serious about budgeting, blogging and busting my ass.

My measly budget will mean Couchsurfing in expensive cities like Hong Kong and Singapore, as well as seeking more online work while abroad.

Which begs me to ask, is it a good idea to bring a laptop (Macbook Pro) on a backpacking trip to Asia? I’m so, so apprehensive to bring my one of my most prized possessions. I already have a Pacsafe, but what would everyone recommend for electronics insurance?


The splurges:

While I of course will try to travel frugally, I will also make room in my budget for several once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Which will hopefully include:

Yoga in Bali

I would love to detox in Bali and yoga it up for about a month. Back home, yoga is one of my favorite workouts but I haven’t done much of it in nose-bleed expensive France. I’ve heard really good things about the Yoga Barn, but any recommendations would be fantastic!

Cooking classes in every country

As most of you have probably realized, food and cooking bring me lots of joy, so my trip to Southeast Asia wouldn’t be complete without learning how to cook the dishes of each country. Please comment if you can recommend some great cooking schools!

Scuba-diving certification

Diving-wise, my little brother completely puts me to shame: he has so many diving certifications it makes me green with jealousy! I’ve heard really good things about Roctopus in Koh Tao so I’m thinking of finally getting my diving certification with them.


Other Southeast Asia bucket list items:

In Southeast Asia, I want to do it all: train Muay Thai, work at an elephant sanctuary, party all night at the full-moon party, tube Vang Vieng and take a Thai massage course.

Basically, there will be two competing sides of me on this trip: the 22-year old side of me is incredibly excited to live out of a backpack, get really tan, meet cute boys and drink lots of buckets, while the nerdy, pseudo-anthropologist side of me can’t wait to snap photos of the French-colonial architecture in Kampot, do sun salutations in Bali, and learn how to garnish pho properly.

And most of all, thank you for reading Ashley Abroad. It really means the world to me that people actually read what I have to say, and that I’ve made so many connections with others because of it. I’m so looking forward to sharing my journey with you, especially in Asia!

So readers, I need your help! What are your must-see places of Southeast Asia?

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

48 thoughts on “A Very Special (and Asian) Announcement!”

  1. Oh, my! How exciting! What an adventure you have ahead of you :) I wish I could offer my advice but I’ve actually never been to Asia (save for a morning on the technically Asian-side of Istanbul). I hope to be referencing your blog for tips in the near future! Bon voyage!

  2. I’m not a big fan of KL and given a choice, I would go to Penang, especially for the colonial feel as well as the great street food scene. Still, only a short 3-days in Malaysia? ;)

  3. WOW, that is so awesome!!! Congrats on the first step in your big adventure! The only place in SE Asia I’ve been is the Philippines… Which I see you haven’t included on the list. You really need to fix that. The Phls are some of the most beautiful places you will ever go, the people quite friendly, lots of English spoken, and it’s really cheap! You should try to get there! I’m heading to Indonesia this summer so if I come across something great I’ll let you know! :) Good luck on your savings now!

    • Hi Kaleena, thanks so much! I’m really looking forward to it. And I’ve heard amazing things about the Philippines, I’ve heard amazing things about the people, diving and beaches there… if budget and time allow it will certainly be included!

  4. Super exciting news! I highly recommend checking out the Gili Islands in Indonesia. And you should definitely make time for Laos! I can’t say enough good things about it.

  5. Woooo! Hopefully I had some help in pushing you to go ;) I’m not a huge fan of KL — but you know to hit me up for food recs in all the other places!

  6. Hi Ashley,

    good for you, that you booked your ticket! Cool!

    I live half of the year in Singapore, with my husband and a roommate. We never know far ahead when we will be where. Travelling a lot. IF we happen to be in Sg when you are and IF our roommate happens to be away (travelling a lot as well), we could let you couch surf for a couple of nights. Lots of IF’s, i know, so if you can get better and more sure, then go for that;-). Anyways, just keep it in mind.

    If all of the ifs turn out to become no-no’s by then;-), I could still show you around, have a coffee or a lunch (my treat) or something…

    Let’s keep in touch!

    If you want to read a bit about Sg by someone who has been there for 4 years now, you can find a lot of posts on my blog: http://www.curlytraveller.com

    Good luck with your saving months;-),

    Anja aka CurlyTraveller

  7. The rough itinerary looks good though whatever you plan for Thailand, no matter how big or small, ends up being longer! lol, can’t wait to read all about it!

  8. What an exciting journey you have planned, and how special that Victoria is
    going with you to share your fun and adventure. I loved Hong Kong,
    very modern, and a shopper’s paradise. I have always wanted to go to Bali.
    I think the people there will be so interesting to meet and spend time with.


  9. You are going to LOVE it. I’ve only been to Hong Kong, Macau and Thailand from your list… but I had such a good time at each one of them! I still feel a certain something for Hong Kong and constantly look at opportunities to return.

  10. Wahoo! I’m so excited for you! I’m in love with Thailand, and Hong Kong is a close second. You’ll have loads of fun no matter what you do, but I suggest checking out the huge cave in Ban Tham Lod in Northern Thailand…and an equally cool one called Khong Lor if you make it to Laos. As for beaches in Thailand, you have to go to Krabi! It’s stunningly beautiful.

    My recommendation for Angkor Wat and the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh – get a guide. Most likely he’ll be over the age of 35, which means he will have lived through the Khmer Rouge genocide, and his personal experience will undoubtedly leave an even deeper mark on you.

    Best of luck with the saving between now and then!

    • Thank you so much for the great tips- I’ve heard a lot about Krabi so I will definitely be heading there. And I would definitely be learning about the genocide in Cambodia- I think it’s important to remember such atrocities.

  11. Ah! Yay! I’m so excited for you- you are going to have so much fun. But you should try to spend longer in Malaysia, it’s been one of my favorite spots so far!

    And definitely bring your MacBook, it will make blogging so much easier.

  12. For what it’s worth, I took my Macbook Pro with me all throughout Asia … including every place you mentioned in your rough itinerary. I was glad I did…it has a low footprint compared to other laptops.

  13. very very very excited for you!!!! :) im dying to get back to southeast asia.

    i took my macbook pro with me when i traveled and i was fine. i am not stupid about leaving stuff unattended or hanging out in the wrong parts of town though. i just would make sure it is always with you…including on ALL bus rides. never leave it in anything that is stuck under a bus.

    i didnt get a chance to see too much in SE asia because i spent time wandering around the same areas. i have been to singapore, KL, bangkok, chiang mai, andaman coast, siem reap, and battambang. i can highly recommend them ALL. you should definitely be fine with a small budget (minus singapore and KL of course). in thailand i remember paying $3/night for my rooms in chiang mai haha! and $6 (which included a/c) in BKK. not too shabby ;) i was there for little over a month and spent $1500 and that was with NO budget, a roundtrip plane ticket from BKK to KL), and doing literally everything i could to make the most of the trip.

    anyways…im super stoked for you. if you have any questions about accommodation, areas, or anything…know you can def reach out to me! <3

    • Thank you, Megan! And I’m sure you will be hearing from me soon- I need all the advice from wiser travelers that I can get. Thanks so much for the budget advice also- that’s so good to hear!

  14. Gah losing it – how freaking awesome. My jealously is through the roof, but excited for oyu so I can get over it. Just amazing! Also, had a friend living in Kuala Lumpur so can get some tips for you if you like.

  15. What a wonderful trip Ashley. Being of SEA-origin (born and bred KL-ite), I have nothing but wonderful things to say about the region. I’ve traveled through/lived in almost all the places you are hitting and you will have a wonderful time there.

    Batu Caves is a must-visit in KL but I would suggest spending a few more days in Malaysia (other than KL) rather than 5 days in Singapore. Malacca can be an easy day trip on the way down to Singapore too.

    Happy to help if you have any other questions!

  16. I’m exactly the same way with the two-sides things. On one hand I love clubbing and partying and on the other spending an afternoon in a museum sounds awesome to me. Good luck on your trip! I’m heading to that area of the world around the same time as you!

  17. These are such great news! I’m sure you’ll have a marvelous time! :) I hope to head over to South East Asia next year, so I’m already excited to read about your adventures over there!
    Your plans sound very interesting and I’m especially jealous about all the food you’ll be able to eat over there ;) Good luck with the rest of your preparations!


  18. Woohoo! Sounds awesome. My boyfriend has his Macbook and I have a small Asus notebook on this trip. I backup my photos on it, and my flash drive ran out of space so I would die if I lost it. Because of that, I always have it locked up even if we are staying in our own room, and never let it out of my site. I also have insurance which would cover the cost, but I know Macbooks cost much more so you might not be fully compensated with some insurance. It should be fine if you trust yourself, and if something else happens, it is out of your control.

    I also planned to take a cooking class everywhere, but that totally failed. They are expensive and I honestly got tired (lazy) of having to arrange it every time I got somewhere new haha. If you are committed then totally go for it!

    I’m finally getting to the SE Asia portion of my trip, with N. Thailand and Laos up next and I can’t wait. I only have heard good things about Cambodia so I’m excited for that as well. Btw, you could probably fit in more if you wanted- I have been noticing how some people fly around (not literally but speed wise ;) ) SE Asia. It’s all personal preference though. Have fun planning!

  19. I’m just finishing up a four month trip in Asia and would definitely recommend Laos if you’re a foodie! We did a cooking course in Vientienne (http://www.lao-experiences.com/) which was brilliant particularly as we got lucky and there was only two of us in the class so very personal! You cook a good range of dishes and then get to eat them all as well as a recipe book to take home!

  20. This is awesome! I don’t have any advice for Asia as I haven’t been there…yet. I’m hoping to get there soon possibly after this next year of teaching in Spain. I’m considering purchasing a MacBook before I leave for Spain and will certainly keep it close during all my travels. I’m so excited to read about all of your future travels! I’m only 24, but feel as though I’m so far behind you in all your travels.

  21. You will love Thailand. I think 6 weeks is the perfect amount of time. Just don’t plan anything and go with the flow and you will have the time of your life. Vang Vieng is much smaller than it used to be but i think this is for the best, it’s a beautiful village. I enjoy your blog too. I recently left San Francisco and miss it too but the world is such a big place. So much to see, so little time! Have fun!

  22. Love your plans :), I’m actually heading to Cambodia,Thailand, Malaysia in September might even run into you depending where you are haha.
    Full moon party is on my list for 19th of September :D

  23. Heyyy. Congratz on that ticket! It must b such a satisfactory feeling. Anyw! I’m from Singapore and its extremely easy to get around here. Its an amazing place here if youre looking for lots of fun! The night life is extremely vibrant. However.. things can get pricey. And well..depends on e budget too. But oh well. Have fun on this journey! Do ask if you’d like any specific info. And I may just run into you!

  24. In fact, I’d love e opp to meet you even and hear your stories in person! Im an 18-year-old female! Enjoy yourself. Discovered your blog only recently and looking through archives ;p

  25. This sounds so exciting! If you get the chance you should definitely visit India! And spend a little more time in Malaysia if possible. I can’t wait to hear all about your adventures!

  26. I just would not abandon your blog previous to hinting i really loved the typical data someone deliver on your own visitors? Is definitely likely to be yet again continually as a way to look at innovative content

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