Just slightly more than 2 weeks ago, we flew to Bangkok with Mrs 15 HWW’s family (parents and younger brother) for a short vacation. Bangkok is a top tourist destination, and for good reason too. Thai food is really delicious and flavourful (although pretty unhealthy), there’s plenty of sightseeing in the city and the nightlife is vibrant with night markets and uh-hum… interesting shows. And most importantly, all these can be done on the cheap since cost of living is pretty low (at least to tourists coming from developed countries).
So I must have had a hell of a time there, right? Actually, it would be a stretch to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this 4D3N trip. Yes, the coconuts and mangoes were really delicious but amazingly, besides foodstuff, I didn’t buy anything else! And obviously, this lack of enjoyment has nothing to do with the company too (my dear wife, pls don’t be upset when you read this). Here’s some reasons why I ain’t a big fan of the typical vacation:
It is costly
We went through Chan Brothers for our flight, airport transfers and accomodation arrangements and this set us back by $490 for each pax (let’s ignore the travel vouchers used to offset the amount). That’s not a small amount and this is for a destination as near as and supposedly as cheap as Bangkok.
Admittedly, we didn’t fly budget (took Thai Airways instead) and stayed in a pretty posh hotel. But even for a savvy traveller, these fixed costs are still likely to run up to at least $250 for each person. So yeah, even if I get to eat and shop like a king (with $50) on those few days of stay, you’ve got to realise that it’s really rare for the both of us to spend more than $500 over two weekends, not to mention one. Comparatively, the cost of travel and accomodation is likely to be close to zero if we had stayed in Singapore, no?
The experience is not so different from Singapore
We are supposed to learn more about the world and other cultures when we travel. After all, Singapore is just a small red dot in the world map. And this card is often played up to justify the huge amounts spent on vacations.
However, most Singaporeans prefer to go to city centres like Bangkok and Taipei, where we just spend time eating and shopping, activities that we already do pretty often in Singapore, no? And somewhat unfortunately, most of the dishes we tried in BKK doesn’t beat the ones found in Ah Loy Thai located at Shaw Towers. In addition, it’s rare for stuff bought in Bangkok’s Chatuchak market to last long.
Significant time is wasted on commuting
Using our trip as an example, the whole trip took about 84 hours. 10am on a Friday night to 10pm on the next Monday. If we exclude the 24 hours for sleep and washing up, we are left with 60 hours.
You might think that out of these 60 hours, only 4.5 hours are spent on the flight.
But then how about reaching the airport 1.5 hours in advance to check in (3 hours), the round trip to Changi Airport (1 hour), the round trip from the airport in Bangkok to the hotel (1.5 hours) and the time spent to check out of the airports and collect the luggages (1 hour). All these add up to 11 hours, which is a significant 20% of the total trip.
Those times might actually be wonderful if you enjoy duty-free shopping but too bad that I don’t. And seriously, those traffic jams in Bangkok induces headaches.
I come back more exhausted
Because there is only 50 hours left, the mantra is that you shouldn’t waste it. Coupled with the fact that there’s so many malls, shops and eateries, one is even tempted to sacrifice rest and sleep to be able to conquer them all!
To be really honest, I was often looking forward to meal times and even created extra tea sessions to have a place to rest my tired legs and feet after the incessant walking and standing in the many malls. And this creates an additional problem: overeating. Ugh…
Before you think that I am a grumpy old man who has lost his zest for life and adventure and simply can’t appreciate his good fortune that he is able to travel, let me clarify that it would be totally wrong to say I hated the trip. There were times when it was really fun and the food was good. I especially enjoyed the massages. But it would probably be fair for me to say that I didn’t enjoy it enough to actually want to trade it with a weekend and a day of leave plus $1,000 for the both of us.
I still remember those days when I was always excited about vacations, when the alternative is staying at home for another week during a 2 month school holiday. But since starting work, it has been a busy few years. The few day offs are generally spent planning for the wedding, the renovation or going on these hectic trips.
Therefore these days, staying at home seems more fun!
A swim in the morning followed by a leisurely lunch. Reading a good book on my recliner and then taking an afternoon nap. And ending the day with a specially prepared home-cooked dinner. Even if staying at home doing all these would set me back by the same amount as that vacation, I would still take this!
So does that mean I won’t travel much anymore? Slower travel is the answer since it should eliminate most of the concerns I have listed in this post. Not only would it be a better experience, it would also likely reduce the impact on our wallets if we could just have a 3 month trip every 2 years.That doesn’t seem remotely possbile now, but the money saved from reducing typical vacations should help to accelerate the realisation of my ultimate goal. So guess it should all work out soon? We shall see……=)