Browsing Category: Asia

How to Find Cheap Flights to Asia from the US in the Summer

How to Find Cheap Flights to Asia from the US

Travel doesn’t always have to be expensive or out of reach. This is how you can find cheap flights to Asia from the US in the summer.

Travel doesn’t always have to be expensive or out of reach. This is how you can find cheap flights to Asia from the US in the summer, a season that’s usually the most expensive for travel.

Summer can be the most expensive time of the year to travel, but it’s also the most likely time of the year that Americans will use their vacation days.

A lot of my fellow Americans have this idea that travel has to cost a lot of money and can only be done every once in awhile since it’s so expensive (or you only have two weeks of vacation every year).

Now, I can’t help you with increasing those vacation days, but what people don’t realize is that travel can be incredibly affordable if you know where to look.

Travel doesn’t have to mean resorts and constant indulgences either, the best kind of travel is truly when you’re meeting locals and getting an overview of the local culture.

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A Complete Guide to Visiting the Taj Mahal

Guide to Visiting the Taj Mahal | Agra Sightseeing | India Travels

Everything your should know before visiting the Taj Mahal. This is how to plan the perfect visit to a famous World Wonder.  

Although usually one to dread overly touristy spots, visiting the Taj Mahal had always been a dream of mine – as I’m sure is the case for many of you reading this post. 

When my friend Pascale and I decided to backpack around Rajasthan, we knew that the Taj Mahal would be one sight we didn’t want to miss. Agra, where the famous monument is located, is just outside Rajasthan in Uttar Pradesh, but near enough to not be (too) much of a hassle to get to. 

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2 Weeks in India: An Itinerary for Rajasthan

2 Weeks in India - Rajasthan Itinerary

Even if you only have 2 weeks in India, it’s possible to pack in a lot when you narrow your trip to one state.

India was always one of those places at the back of my mind, often in my thoughts as a faraway land that I dreamed of going to one day. The truth is I’d been wanting to go to India for years, but had never made an active plan to do so.

It was always too far, too expensive to get to, and I never had enough time – most people recommend at least 1-3 months for a trip to India.

I was also concerned about traveling alone as a female, even though I’d been told numerous times that most female travelers are completely fine traveling around the country on their own. It’s still hard to not get sucked into the common media perceptions of India.

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How Much Does a Trip to India Cost? A Budget for Two Weeks

How much does a trip to India cost? - Backpacking India for Two Weeks | Asia Travel

How much does a trip to India cost? A look at the average per-day cost of backpacking India for two weeks on a mid-range budget.

To continue my travel budgeting series around Asia, next up is India!

I’d been wanting to go to India for years, but it was always one of the few countries that I was hesitant to do alone – at least for my first trip. You hear so many negative stories about India in the news, especially in terms of its seemingly rampant rape culture and its overall intensity as a country to travel to as an outsider.

With that said, I’d actually only ever heard good things from people (read: fellow women) who had been to the country and loved their time there.

And yet, I still had a reluctance to tackle it on my own. I’m not exactly sure why. I so very rarely travel with other people, maybe it was just one of those countries where I wanted to treat myself and travel with a partner in crime. To take on the extreme cultural differences and busyness with another well worn traveler and wanderlust soul.

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Taking a Chiang Mai Cooking Class in Thailand

chiang mai cooking class - Basil Cookery School

Taking a Chiang Mai cooking class is a popular experience to have in Thailand. This was my experience with the Basil Cookery School.

Growing up, I’ve always loved cooking, and besides that one time I accidentally used the garlic olive oil to make box brownies, I’ve been a fairly decent cook in the past.

Making pies and holiday treats with my mom is one of my favorite parts of the holidays, I used to be that girl in school who would bring bags of homemade cookies for her friends every Friday, and I’m that girlfriend who goes all out for anniversary dinners and birthdays.

Taking culinary classes and learning about food culture at Apicius Culinary School in Florence, Italy for a month a couple summers ago amplified my curiosity about cooking even more, and is one of my most cherished life experiences.

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I have a passion for creating things, cooking is no exception. Therefore, I knew when I was planning my trip to Thailand, a cooking class would be high on my list of things to do, and it also helps that Thai food is one of my favorite types of food.

I heard that Chiang Mai was the best place to learn the ways of Thai cooking, so I started researching different cooking schools that would be the most all encompassing and still within my price range.

Out of the many options, I landed on Basil Cookery School for my Chiang Mai cooking class. This was my experience.

Related: Why a Second Visit to Thailand Changed My Mind

chiang mai cooking class in Thailand

A Chiang Mai Cooking Class at Basil Cookery

I chose to attend the morning class, but there’s also an evening class offered if you’re short on time or it works better for your schedule. The morning Chiang Mai cooking class includes transportation from your accommodation, seven dishes (curry paste is one of those), and costs approximately US$30 or 1000 baht.

The class goes from about 9am to 3pm, including a one hour break between the starters and the main course, and at the end you take away your own cookbook of the dishes you made for the day.

The instructor spoke perfect English, and was the right amount of sass and professionalism. The class size was small, manageable and everyone was friendly. The actual school, located in her home, is clean and well set-up, and it was cool to walk around a local Chiang Mai neighborhood that was void of tourists during our break.

thai cooking class in chiang mai

I was picked up by a tuk tuk from my hostel around 8:30am, there was one other girl already in the back from Taiwan, and we preceded to pick up a couple more people, including an English girl and a German, and traded our respective back stories on the bumpy ride.

We were all handed a sheet of paper with the possible dishes we could make for the day, and were asked to circle one from each of the categories: curry, soup, stir-fried, appetizers, and desserts.

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After we made our selections, our first stop was a local market near the school, to grab fresh ingredients for our dishes. And when I say local market, I mean one where no one speaks English and you can pick your own live fish from a tub to take home.

Our instructor gave us a run down of the ingredients we would be using for the day, and explained the major differences between Thai vegetables and their well known western counterparts. And let me tell you, Thai baby eggplant, looks and tastes nothing like western eggplant.

Mind blown.

chiang mai cooking classes - basil cookery school in northern thailand

After some time spent at the market, we all jumped back in the tuk tuk and made our way to the cooking school and got to work, the smells from the kitchen were already incredible.

Throughout the day I made drunken noodles, panang curry paste and curry, hot and sour prawn soup, stir-fried minced pork with holy basil, fried spring rolls, and sweet sticky rice with mango. Everything was delicious, especially the panang curry and drunken noodles, two of my recent obsessions while in Thailand.

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The school is very much geared towards beginner cooks so it’s not a problem if you have no experience in the kitchen.

One of the aspects I didn’t like as much about Basil, was the fact that all of the ingredients were already pretty much measured out and chopped up for us at the start of each dish, meaning we just had to cook it, add the right amount of spice, and we were done.

Although, I do understand why this was so with time constraints and the amount of dishes we made. The only “hard work” we had to do was making the curry paste with a mortar and pestle by hand, but even that was actually pretty fun.

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I haven’t had a chance to make any of the dishes since arriving back in Australia, but I hope to start cooking again soon once I have some more free time, and I’ll have to report back if the dishes are just as good when made at home.

Regardless, taking a Chiang Mai cooking class was definitely one of my favorite and most delicious experiences in Thailand, and my travel companion was happy about the leftovers I brought back to our hostel later that night, so really, it was a win-win day.

Related: Travel Budgeting for Thailand

Have you ever taken a cooking class in a foreign country? 

Looking for other things to do in Chiang Mai? Check out this post on how to learn Muy Thai.  

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Looking for more Thailand travel inspiration? Check out these related posts! 

How to Spend a Week on Koh Chang Island

Looking Back on 8.5 Months in Asia

Living it up at the Full Moon Party

Travel Misconceptions: Thailand

Travel Misconceptions: Thailand | Asia Travel

One of my goals on The Atlas Heart is to break down travel misconceptions or judgments about places and ideas. Perhaps it could be that destination that everyone warns you not to visit because of how dangerous it is, or maybe you yourself had preconceived notions that were proven wrong once you arrived to where you were going.

My aim is to present a variety of different opinions and experiences through the eyes of other travelers. It’s important to hear travel stories from all different perspectives in life, I call it seeing the world through a kaleidoscope lens.

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2017, A Year to Myself

2017, A Year to Myself | The Atlas Heart

I never expected 2017 to be a year to myself, but then again, I guess you never really know what life will bring you with each new year.

I should know better by now.

Even though I didn’t expect it to be a year to myself, I can say with full clarity now that I’m so very glad that it was. This was the year that I found my independence again, understood fully what I deserve in my life, and embraced my alone time.

I’m someone who is already pretty good at being alone. I’m an introvert, most of my pastimes are solo ones – reading, playing my guitar, listening to music, cooking. And my work is very much a solo pursuit, from writing to doing digital marketing for clients.

I’m used to being alone, but 2017 was a year where I really just had myself to pull me back up from my bootstraps, to lean on, to make sense of stressful, happy, and sad situations.

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12 Things to do in Penang, Malaysia

Things to Do in Penang, Malaysia

The best things to do in Penang! From street art to cafes, hikes, and wacky museums, there are plenty of activities to keep you busy in this multicultural city.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with my return to Malaysia this year. The brief time I spent in the country in 2013 was a good experience overall, but it’s also the first place where I was aggressively groped in broad daylight.

Granted, gropings can happen anywhere, but I would be lying if I said it didn’t taint my experience while in the country.

It stuck with me so much that even today, four years later, when I hear a scooter coming up behind me I get a dose of adrenalin and and my sense of awareness goes into overdrive.

I knew I wanted to come back to Malaysia someday to have a more positive experience, and focus on all of the good that the country has to offer.

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Finding the Beauty in Goodbyes

Paros, Greece - Europe Travel

My friends and I made our way giggling in a tuk tuk to the party. The night before we had danced on a moonlit beach, Leos in hand, swaying in time to the palm trees and chill electronic beats.

“Wow, you seem to be doing so well. If I was in your position, I would not be this okay right now,” one of my friends said to me, when I mentioned my abrupt breakup from two weeks ago.

I shrugged my shoulders, “I guess I just want to be happy. I don’t want to be sad over something that wasn’t meant to be.”

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If You Were Here (Part II)

Cotton candy sunsets in Langkawi, Malaysia - Asia Travel

The sun brought out the subtle green hues in the waves today.

I walked to the sea and floated in the warm reflections. They reminded me of the color of your deep set eyes, the specks of marine blues and greens and how they always had a crinkle, like the lip of a curling wave.

Do you remember that night? The tiny red plastic chairs, the uncontrollable laughter, a serene cloudless sky with the smell of sizzling fried chicken at our side.

It was electric.

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