Unless your idea of a bleisure trip is retreating to a cave with nothing but a loincloth for comfort and juniper berries for food, your first thought is probably how to stay connected with family and friends while galavanting across borders. Here are some tips for staying online from my trips bleisure trips to Thailand and the land of Hobbits.
In the last year of a decade-long stint working in financial services, dividing my time between London and Hong Kong, I had two business trips abroad to do before the end of my final year in a very stressful career – at least one night in Bangkok and then a long drive through Switzerland.
By juggling the holiday time I was owed, I combined the business trips and the long-overdue vacation time after almost two years without a proper break into a three-month bleisure trip that would take me from Hong Kong to hidden gems in Southeast Asia and then on to the Swiss Alps. The plan was to make it to London in time for Christmas with the family.
Luckily I was working for a progressive company which had incorporated bleisure travel into its corporate culture as a way of giving employees the opportunity to combine business with leisure when traveling.
Because I was dipping into my own funds, too, this trip, I had to save money when I could, so before setting off I did my homework on the best way to stay connected while overseas.
Staying Online on the Move in Asia
As this was to be a mixture of business and leisure, I was in the market for a new phone and SIM card which I could use to stay in touch with family and friends – and get my regular social media fix – while on the move.
I wanted an unlimited amount of data so I could stay online on the move without worrying about topping up the account. I also didn’t want the hassle of registering for the service for a temporary SIM card.
The major mobile service providers in Thailand are AIS, DTAC and TrueMove. They all compete for customers with packages and discounts but I found that AIS currently has the best option for foreign visitors with its SIM2Fly triple SIM card. Using discount codes here ส่วนลด AIS Online Store, you can get unlimited 4G/3G data roaming plus 4GB of high-speed. Best of all, you don’t need to register the SIM with any personal details.
You can choose between three SIM2Fly packages. One with roaming across Southeast Asia and Australia for 10 days. The other with worldwide roaming for either 15 days for THB 899 (US$27) or 1 year for THB 2,799 (US$86). The 1-year worldwide SIM was just what I needed to stay online for my trip through Asia and on to Hobbit land without having to change numbers or service providers on the way.
A bonus for frequent fliers when buying from the AIS online store is Serenade Club membership, which gives you discounts in the airport lounge and for a wide variety of restaurants and services throughout Thailand.
The set up is easy as no registration is required. Just slot in the SIM and away you go.
After a 3-hour flight from Hong Kong we touched down in Bangkok. The plan was to get business out of the way before embarking on the leisure aspect of this trip.
My appointment was in the centre of Bangkok, which is notorious for horrendous traffic jams, but the trip into town is quick and easy using the mass transit system. Within 40 minutes I was at the skytrain station just a short walk from the offices and hotel for the next couple of days on Sukhumvit Road.
My new AIS SIM worked great as I made my way round Thailand, except when I was in locations really far off the beaten track.
Thailand has so much to offer every kind of tourist, from floating markets and temples to high-end shopping, and nights out that you might wish to never remember.
If you want suggestions for places to visit and stay, depending on the amount of time you have to travel, The Loney Planet has a list of itineraries for traveling through Thailand for between one and four weeks.
Bangkok is congested with traffic and people so it’s quite polluted but a few hours on a bus or train transports you through picturesque padi fields to legendary locations. Kanchanaburi with its famous railway bridge across the River Kwai is 125 kilometers (78 miles) west of Bangkok. The ancient Thai capital of Ayutthaya is closer; just 80km from the current capital. It’s quite a contrast. The peace and quiet of Ayutthaya is surreal. Lopburi is also a fun place to visit. It has ancient ruins which are inhabited by hordes of monkeys.
For more information about destinations in the central region surrounding Bangkok see the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s official website.
Driving & Riding Through Switzerland
After the stifling heat of Bangkok, it was pleasant to find myself a few weeks later enjoying the serenity of the Swiss Alps. Driving or riding through Switzerland is the most exhilarating way to see the country as you glide along glorious winding roads wrapped around scenic snow-capped mountains. I was also enjoying the mountains of chocolate and cheese.
Mountains cover about 60% of Switzerland’s 41,285 square kilometres (15,940 sq miles) divided into three main areas: the sparsely populated Swiss Alps to the south; the Swiss Plateau in the centre of the land mass and populated with large cities; and the Jura mountains to the west.
Driving & Riding Through Switzerland
Switzerland has the safest roads in Europe; an accolade awarded in 2017 by the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC). Here are for things you should know about the rules for driving and riding in Switzerland:
- If you have a British, German, French or Italian driving licence, you can use that to drive in Switzerland for up to 12 months.
- Drive on the right and give ‘due consideration’ to pedestrians and cyclists.
- You have to be aged 18 or more to drive a car or a motorcycle larger than 50cc.
- You can take your own car or motorcycle into the country as a foreign tourist or business traveller.
Find out more about Driving rules in Switzerland at Zueric.com
What if I break down in the Alps?
If you break down, you can call the national breakdown service, Touring Club of Switzerland on 117. For accidents and injuries the emergency number is 144.
If you get a flat tire or need to change a wheel, the best people to call are Reifendirekt (Tires Direct), which is a nationwide tire delivery service for any kind of tire for any type of vehicle, from motorbikes to trucks and mobile homes. The tire replacement service also has 140 online shops in 42 different countries supplying car and motorcycle tires on site, as well as specialty tires for quads and caravans.
So if you’re halfway up a mountain road with a flat, use this link to discount coupons from ReifenDirekt gutschein for up to 40% off normal prices. When you order, the nearest participating garage will send someone out to replace your tire.
Doing a circuit of the entire country at a leisurely pace – stopping off at beauty spots along the way – would take about 80 days in total to see all of the 4,000-metre peaks and more than 1,500 pristine lakes, plus stunning glaciers.
Spring, Summer and Autumn (the driest season) are good times to travel. In winter, all cars have to have snow chains on their tires by law – clearly not an ideal time to take to the mountainous roads with their hairpin bends.
To get some ideas for riding and driving itineraries, read up on the routes posted by travellers on this Switzerland - Overview of all motorcycle and car routes. The website has every kind of route you can imagine, from short rides and drives under 100km to the 747km ‘Grand Tour of Switzerland’, going from Genève to Zurich, which takes you through 22 lakes and several UNESCO World Heritage sites.
The Birthplace of JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth and Hobbit Adventures
The picturesque Interlaken region is said to be the main inspiration for the backdrop of adventures with elves, wizards and hobbits in JRR Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” Trilogy.
As a young adult, Tolkien is said to have spent summer on walking holidays in the Interlaken area of the Swiss Alps in 1911. The rolling hills and valleys are said to be his inspiration for the fictional valley of Rivendell. Here’s an account of travels to the region from fans of Tolkien’s writing.
The town of Grindelwald in Interlaken has also been the setting for a Christmas festival and a chase through a skating rink in the the James Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and Grindelwald's mountains were used as the basis for the view of Alderaan in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. Some action scenes in The Golden Compass were also filmed there.
Turn Your Phone into a Dashcam
One last tip before you set off on your own bleisure trip. When you’re renting a car or bike in a foreign country, turn your iPhone into a dashcam with the Smart Dash Cam app to capture every moment of your drive or ride for a fraction of the cost of buying a standalone dashcam. The app records your journey in a loop of up to 60 minutes at a time, which you can upload to the cloud through Google Drive, Drop Box or Box Drive.
Having backup footage with time and speed in case anything goes wrong is an excellent witness for any insurance claims. The app has a safety feature which auto locks the video when detecting an impact. The app is available in English, French, German and Spanish.