April Update: Burma, Beaches & A New Business

Note: This will be our last update post as we are now writing updates in our bimonthly newsletter. Our articles are often weeks behind where we actually are so if you want to keep up to date with where we are and what we are working on, as well as travel tips you won’t find on the site and a bonus free ebook sharing our South America Highlights then sign up for our free newsletter. Just fill in your email address in the sidebar on the right, at the bottom of this post, or here.

Travel

So we finally left Chiang Mai! We were sad to say goodbye to our lovely apartment, the amazing vegetarian food, the beautiful wats, and our new friends but it was time to move on.

First up was Burma (or Myanmar) which couldn’t have been more different from Thailand. Our first stop was Yangon a chaotic city of attractively crumbling colonial buildings, cracked pavements and vibrant street scenes. The sights and smells reminded us more of India than Thailand.

As we travelled around the country the people were the highlight – friendly, warm, welcoming and often very excited to see us. Burma has been cut off from the world for five decades and people are happy to see tourists returning to the country.

Our favourite place in Burma was definitely Inle Lake. After the busy cities this peaceful mountainside lake was just what we needed. We explored the lake and surrounding villages by boat, canoe and bicycle, visiting colourful hill tribe markets, floating gardens, hot springs, and even a winery. The wine was surprisingly good.

Inle Lake village

Inle Lake village

We left Burma on a high note with Aung San Suu Kyi’s victory in the by-elections. These were the first free elections in 50 years and although the leader of the democracy movement only has a seat in parliament it’s a big step forward considering she has been under house arrest for much of the last 20 years. Celebrations were understandably restrained – the military is still in control – so no dancing in the streets, but the people we spoke to were jubilant and hopeful for big changes in the future.

Back to Thailand

We were sad to leave Burma but it’s not the most practical place for a couple of digital nomads to work (the internet is fairly common but usually painfully slow) so we headed back to Bangkok. We caught up on work and some Western comfort food while staying in a Roomorama apartment in the city before heading down to the islands.

Although Koh Lanta was blissfully chilled out we had a few eventful days . First a tsunami warning meant we were evacuated from our hotel and waited up a hill for four hours having no idea whether it was really going to happen or not. We assumed it would all be fine, although after a few hours we realised we should probably prepare for the worst. Luckily the tsunami didn’t hit and at 8pm we were told we could go back to the hotel but had better not sleep “just in case”!

Then there was Songkran. To celebrate Thai new year locals douse each other with water and all day parties start at 10am. As foreigners we were obvious targets and were thoroughly drenched. The Thais are so polite though that some apologised before pouring a bucket of water over us!

Andaman Beach, Koh Jum

Andaman Beach, Koh Jum

As if Koh Lanta wasn’t relaxed enough we made the one hour ferry ride to Koh Jum, a quiet island that many people haven’t heard of despite the fact it faces one of the most popular islands Koh Phi Phi. And it was quiet! For a few days we enjoyed empty golden beaches, watching monkeys play on our bungalow roof, and an adventurous motorbike trip around the island. We have never ridden on such terrible “roads”. We bumped and slid along rocky, steep dirt tracks with more pothole than road. Simon did a remarkable job keeping us upright despite a few near misses. It was worth it though to explore untouristy Koh Jum including a fishing village of wooden stilted houses and a 4km long beach completely to ourselves.

We are now back on Koh Lanta staying at the most amazing place we’ve ever stayed. Our hilltop villa at Baan Kantiang See is huge with a kitchen, loads of comfortable places to lounge, a terrace three times the size of most rooms we stay in, infinity pool, and incredible views of the beach and sea below. We are going to find it hard to leave!

View from our bedroom at Baan Kantiang See

View from our bedroom at Baan Kantiang See

It has also been time to rediscover our love for the underwater world. We spent a day with Freedom Adventures island hopping, snorkelling, kayaking, and swimming through the Emerald Cave to discover a hidden beach.

Then for the first time in nearly four years we went scuba diving. Our guide Sara at Scubafish did a great job calming our nerves and we were soon happily swimming around 18 metres underwater. We saw thousands of colourful fish, purple coral, a giant moray eel and a 2m long sea snake. The highlight was diving up through a narrow dramatic cavern called The Chimney.

Kayaking at Koh Ngai

Kayaking at Koh Ngai

Our visa runs out soon though so tomorrow we are heading to Malaysia for a few days. Let us know if you have any tips for Kuala Lumpur and Melaka. We are loving our relaxed island life so we’ll be spending most of May back on Koh Lanta.

Our New iOS App Company

Just before leaving for Burma we launched our new iOS app company Voyage Travel Apps. Our first iPhone app is called Hotel Checklist and is a simple app aimed at backpackers wandering around looking at different hotels and trying to decide which one to go with. It was a process we struggled with when arriving hot and tired after a long journey and the app makes it easy to check off the features and amenities of each place you look at so you can then compare and choose the best one for you.

We decided to start with a simple app as a few weeks before we launched Simon had no experience developing apps at all. In a short time he had completed the free Stanford course about iOS development on iTunes University, created his first app and published it to the app store – not bad going!

We are now working on our next, much more substantial app which will be useful to many travellers (including us!). Details coming soon…

Although we have had some business mishaps, we have also learned a lot in the last few months and are excited about the possibilities of our new venture.

Remember this is our last update post so if you want to keep up to date with where we are then sign up for our newsletter and get our South America Highlights ebook as a bonus.

Trail Wallet

Don’t forget to leave a comment and let us know what you’ve been up to in April.

19 thoughts on April Update: Burma, Beaches & A New Business

  1. Hey guys, great post. The Inle lake looks amazing. Definitely on my list. What is the transport like in Burma? Is it easy to get around by bus for example or does it take a while to get from A to B? Cheers. :-)

  2. hey you are coming to Malaysia? that is so cool i’ve been reading your blog for quite sometime :)
    if you are in Melaka, do try our local sweet cuisine, Cendol (nice dessert during hot days). the artsy Jonker Walk, best you go during weekend as it holds night market on Sat night. we used to stay at Apa Kaba Homestay, a wooden house homestay close by Jonker Walk.

    anndd if you are in Kuala Lumpur, drop me an email, I am based here in KL :)

  3. Interesting to see the new direction you’re going in. I’m a web designer myself and I’m slowly coming to the conclusion that I need to branch out into apps as the market for web design is so saturated.

    In my experience thus far most potential clients don’t understand just how much effort and time goes into creating a bespoke website, and as a result most people seem to be undercharging these days. This doesn’t seem to be the case with apps.

    • The clients that appreciate the importance and value of a custom site are out there (so if you find one, hang on to them!) but they can be hard to find.

      The app market is large, growing, has a clear end-to-end process and has a user base that is willing to pay for decent quality. Unfortunately, there are now over 600,000 apps in the app store so it can be difficult to make an impression.

      The most important thing when it comes to apps is marketing. If you don’t have a large audience already, then I have read (forgotten where I saw this, unfortunately) that in-app ads is a good way to get your app noticed. It offers one of the highest ROIs for advertising out of all of the forms (including print and TV) so that might be one way to go. Another option is (if you’re from the US) Kickstarter.

      I would also check out Marco Arment (creator of Instapaper) and his podcast, Build and Analyze. Lots of great advice from someone who’s done very well out of apps.

      Good luck!

  4. Hey Erin and Simon! Just checking in and find out we are near the same places for a change in our nomadic lives. ;) We also went through the recent SE Asia earthquake ( shook LOTS here..but nothing like the big one in SF we went through) and Tsunami warning too. Quite a thrill.

    Looks like you are having a great time! Give us a jingle if you head up to Penang any time soon as we are here for a bit now for kidlet to immerse in her Mandarin at a Chinese school here.

  5. A great highlight post, guys! I really wish we had more time to visit Koh Lanta – that bedroom view looks gorgeous! I might just have to convince Gerard to come back within the next few months for a short stay. =)

  6. So jealous of your apartment on Koh Lanta – what a great place! Sounds like you’re having a great time on the islands, looking forward to reading more about it.

  7. I recently found your blog and really love reading about your adventures. Great work!

    After reading this post I got to thinking about app ideas that I might find useful for my own up and coming trip and came across this http://mytourguide.com/ …which if done well could be very useful, and perhaps popular.

    Any way just wanted to say ‘Hi’ and safe travels!

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