Travel Tattoo Sam Kuok

​Travel Goal: A Tattoo in Every Country

Every year thousands of people travel to Thailand. Some travelers leave with a cheap “same, same but different” shirt. Others leave with a traditional bamboo tattoo.

Bamboo Tattoos

The art of bamboo tattoos originated in Southeast Asia and is said to go back over 3000 years. In Thailand, bamboo tattoos began with monks in Buddhist temples who received these tattoos as a religious text. The process of getting a bamboo tattoo begins with a bamboo rod. Very fine needles are attached to the end of the rod. Ink is applied, and the needles are tapped by hand into the skin. It is not as painful as it sounds.

Tattoo and Muay Thai

Last year, I traveled to Thailand with some friends. After four days of walking by what seemed like endless tattoo shops, I gave in. 

The fact that I jumped into a Muay Thai Ring fifteen minutes later was not an indication of my state of mind. Nor was the fact I had been drinking all day.

Muay Thai Fight
Getting ready for my fight.
Muay Thai Fight Thailand
I won a free bucket of booze!

Honestly, I had been thinking about getting a bamboo tattoo, and I do not regret it. I grabbed my friend Chris to come with me while my other friends held down our table at the bar. I walked into the tattoo shop and realized I had no idea what to get. I knew I wanted a word related to travel.

After throwing some words out, Chris said, “Journey.” Perfect. Sold. The guy translated journey into Thai, and another guy tattooed what I hoped was the correct translation on my foot. Worst case scenario, it said penis. Either way, it would be a good story.

Journey in Thai Language

And it begins…

Months later, I was heading to Spain. It was then that I set a goal to get ink in every country I visited. It needed to be in the native language and be related to travel. I decided I will place each tattoo in a line down my back.

These tattoos have become a representation of my travels. A souvenir that I do not throw in a drawer and forget. Each one has taught me something about an area of the world I have never previously been to.

Ready for Travel tattoo in Kuala Lumpur
Ready for my tattoo in Malaysia

Anar pel mon

Catalonia was once an autonomous province in the northeast corner of Spain. In 1714, Barcelona, along with the rest of Catalonia, fell to the Spanish and lost its autonomy. Its native language, Catalan, was almost lost along with it. There was an attempt at a revival in the early 1900s, but in 1939, the racist regime that had emerged imposed a harsh penalty for anyone who spoke it. Finally, in 1978, democracy was restored, and Catalan was revived once again. Even to the point of required schools in the region to only instruct in Catalan. 

I was introduced to the language when I was visiting Barcelona in 2017. I knew I wanted a tattoo representing Spain. I preferred not to get a tattoo in Spanish because that could represent many countries. Anar pel mon’ is a Catalan phrase that roughly translates to “Go for the World.” 

Catalonia Map BBC
Catalonia Region in Spain

Japanese Kanji

I was in Japan snowboarding. I dragged my friends and our snowboard bags through downtown Tokyo in the early morning. I only had a few hours to get a tattoo before my flight. 

The first kanji is “journey,” and the second is “to go.” Together they become a verb as in traveling or currently in motion on a treck.

Bunga Raya

I spent two weeks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In 1960, two years after receiving independence, ‘Bunga Raya’ was named Malaysia’s national flower. The hibiscus flower has vibrant colors that symbolize the courage and vitality of the people. Bunga Raya literally means “celebratory flower” and reflects the celebration of unity in the nation.

Bunga Raya Malaysia
New Tattoo in Malaysia Bunga Raya

Zamrud Khatulistwa

Zumrud Khatulistiwa is Bahasa Indonesian for “Emerald of the Equator.” Indonesia has this nickname due to its green and lush tropical rainforests and its geographic position along the equator. I need to thank my friend Firman from Tribe for this tattoo idea. Firman is the ‘night guy’ at the hostel I was staying at, and since I’m always up all night, we became fast friends. He loves history and would teach me all about Indonesia. Thanks, Firman!

Start Somewhere

The script on my back translates to “Start Somewhere.” I spent three months in Bali, Indonesia. Bahasa Bali or Balinese is a language specific to the island of Bali. Traditionally the language is written in script, natively known as Aksara Bali. Aksara Bali is a dying language. It can be seen on buildings and signs throughout the island, but very few people still read and write it. Through my tattoo, I am doing my part to help keep the language alive.

Travel Tattoo Catalan, Malay, Japanese, Behasa, Aksara Bali
Five down and many more to go.

And many more…

Someday I will be old and senile, living in a nursing home. A young, hot care tech will be giving me a bed bath. He will ask about my stretched and faded tattoos. I will be reminded of all the places I have traveled and all the people I have met. And that will make every painful tattoo worth it. 

(I did confirm that my Thailand tattoo does indeed say “Journey”… I am tempted to get “Don’t Stop Believing” on my other foot.)

Ghost Palace Hotel, Bali, Indonesia

Living in Bali… Past My Prime?

I have been living in Bali for two weeks now. I am slowly seeing the island and learning about the culture. All while teaching english. It has been interesting.

Ghost Palace Hotel

I went on a little excursion last week with some Tribe members. We stopped at the Ghost Palace Hotel. Originally known as PI Bedugul Taman Rekreasi Hotel and Resort.

I am not sure if it is really haunted, but it does have an interesting story. The hotel was almost finished when the owner went to jail and the project stopped. It never opened.

The hotel is open to the public. You just have to pay the “security guard” at the fence a few dollars. It is massive. I only had time to explore the lobby area. I plan to go back. But not at night or by myself.

Court Yard Ghost Palace Hotel
Court Yard Ghost Palace Hotel

In America, a place like this would be boarded up with “no trespassing” signs everywhere. Or it would be a “historic museum” with a $10 donation to see three rooms. Just look. Don’t touch.

I fell in a hole 

That is the story. I went to the corner store for some candy and was running from tree to tree so I wouldn’t get hit by a scooter.

I took a step backwards and fell in a water canal that runs down the side of the road. Thankfully there was no water in it. I ended up with a few scrapes and bruises but my pride was hurt the most. A little girl watched the whole thing.

Past my prime?

I was in class with a twelve year old Chinese girl. I was asking about her family. She was very good at english and we could carry on a simple conversation.

She asked me if I had any children. I said, “No.”
Then she asked if I had a husband. I said, “No.” Looking at me with confusion, she asked, “How old are you?.” “I am 34.”

Well at this point she was about to fall off her chair. “No, no, no,” shaking her head, “You should have a husband and children.”  

Imagine how you feel when your mom questions you at Thanksgiving. Trust me, a twelve year old girl… ten times worse.

Pahk the Cah

VIPKID is going well. Even though I do not have a thick accent anymore, I can not deny the facts. I will always eat Fluffernutters, it’s a bureau not a dresser and I will never say my R’s right. 

Guess what my lesson was covering… the “ar” sound. I might have skipped over some stuff and pretended the connection was bad.

So don’t worry.. the kids in China will speak Boston. It’s called well rounded. 

The Squat Toilet

And I present to you a squat toilet

Squat Toilet
Squat Toilet

I discussed this in my last blog. I was shocked the hostels have had western toilets.

Normally, places in Asia have a squat toilet. This photo is of a bathroom at a house I was visiting.

If you ever come across this yourself. It is okay. Be confident and act like you know what to do. If you really don’t, then you can learn here.

Travel Tip

Shoe Rack in Bali
No shoes past this point.

Shoes are a big no no. Homes, restaurants, stores, hotel rooms, etc. It is really nice to walk around bare foot. Although, I have had a few moments where I felt like I forgot something.

Tanah Lot Temple

Can you afford to live in Bali? I think so…

Is Indonesia expensive? Isn’t Bali even more expensive? Can you afford to live there full time? What is the cost of living? Why Bali?

Wait. Let me stop right here. WHY BALI? If you could work from anywhere in the world, why wouldn’t you want to work in Bali?

View at Tribe Theory Bali
Tribe Theory Bali

Can you afford to live in Bali? Yes. Well I think so. I hope so. I’m going to find out. How much does it really cost to live full-time in Indonesia?

I have a lot of questions. And I don’t have a lot of answers… yet. I told people I wanted a break from nursing and was moving to Bali for the Summer. I knew it was going to be a pay cut from nursing but really, How much does your sanity cost?

“It’s good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure that you haven’t lost the things that money can’t buy.”

George Lorimer

The plan… my plan… is to work teaching English online with VIPKID while traveling around Indonesia.

I am keeping track of all my expenses every day from accommodations to insurance. I don’t want to bore you with all that. However, if you want all the nitty gritty just keep scrolling past the credits. How did I do week one?

  • Accommodations: $126.00 I have a private room in a co-working hostel. Great Wifi and great people.
  • Travel/Transportation: $111.41 This includes transportation to the airport in Las Vegas AND MY FLIGHT to Bali. Not so bad then.
  • Food/Drink: $93.74 I need to cut my food bill down. More buying my own groceries and not eating at the hostel everyday.
Vegan Pasta Meal at Tribe Theory
Amazing Vegan Pasta (I don’t know what makes it vegan, but I don’t care, it’s good)
  • Bank Fees: $31.98 I know why most people don’t think it is cheap to travel. It’s the damn bank fees.
  • Groceries: $36.60
  • Miscellaneous: $47.76 (Visa, Gym, etc)
  • Travel Insurance: $11.88 Travel Insurance. I use SafetyWing. I have never used them before so I can’t give an opinion.

TOTAL: $459.37

Now I know that seems like a lot. It does to me too. The thing to remember is the total includes my flight, airport transportation, my visa and simcard. And this was over nine days. So it’s really only $51/day. Next week will be better. Either way, it is only 23 hours of work with VIPKID.

Now all the details…

Saturday June 22 — Total: $166.29

1. Accommodations — $14.00
I am staying in a private room at Tribe Theory.
2. Travel/Transportation — $101.71
The airplane ticket to Bali was $12.00 (Yes, $12.00). When I booked my flight I picked a window seat but realized later I wanted an aisle seat. There were not any free aisle seats left so I had to buy a seat for $50.00. Total fail on my part. My Uber ride to the airport in Vegas was $22.01. The car from the airport in Bali to my hostel was $17.70.
3. Food and Drink — $2.21
I ate and drank for free all day at two different airports using my lounge access. Unlimited food and cocktails. You don’t have to ask me twice. And I had one celebratory beer at my hostel that cost $2.21.
4. Bank Fees — $11.37
Bank fees are going to kill me. All of the ATMs I have found only let you take out 2,500,000 IDR. Most 100’s I will ever hold in my hand. It’s really only $177.38. Help!
5. Miscellaneous — $37.00
My VOA (visa on arrival). You can get into Indonesia for 30 days free, but if you want to extend another 30 days, you need to pay up front.

First Beer in Bali, Indonesia
My first official beer in Bali!

Sunday June 23 — $26.81

1. Accommodations — $14.00 Private Room Tribe Theory
2. Travel $0.00 I didn’t go any where because I was exhausted from travel and slept most the day.
3. Food/Drink $12.81 I ate all my meals at my hostel. I ate two full meals that were each $5.30. I also had a watermelon smoothie for $2.21.

Monday June 24 — $70.72

1. Accommodations — $14.00 Still at Tribe Theory
2. Travel — $1.35 My GOJEK scooter was $0.78 one way to the beach and $0.57 back. (Yes, cents)
3. Food/Drink — $18.37
I had a coffee by the beach for $3.47. Then enjoyed the views at a restuarant on the water. The total at the restaurant was $10.65 (I was treating my self). Dinner at the hostel was $4.25.
4. Bank Fees — $10.31
Again, Really?! Bank of America is charging me $5 of that. FYI The ATMS’s around Bali have a cheaper fee then at the airport. I remember when I was in Thailand, I spent as much in bank fees as I spent on food and drinks.
5. Groceries — $26.69
I spent $26.69 on groceries. I got scammed. My plan is to eat my own food for breakfast (except my latte) to save money, so it should even out.
6. Miscellaneous- $0.00 I did a free fitness class.

Tuesday June 25 — $31.43

1. Accommodations — $14.00
Tribe Theory
2. Travel — $3.75
I took an actual GO-CAR to visit the Tanah Temple. I split it with my friend so one way was $3.75.
3. Food/Drink — $13.54
I had breakfast and coffee at the hostel for $6.73 and dinner for $4.60. Oh, and almost forgot my beer for $2.21.
4. Miscellaneous — $0.14
We tipped the Sadhu after receiving our blessing.

Wednesday June 26 — Total: $31.70

1. Accommodations — $14.00
2. Travel — $0.00
I didn’t go anywhere. Just relaxed.
3. Food/Drink — $17.70
I made my own breakfast but I did buy an iced latte for $1.77. I went out to dinner at an awesome restaurant on the water. I picked my own fish and then they cooked it right in front of me. $8.14 for a fancy meal and beer. So good. I ate lunch at my hostel for $7.79.

Thursday June 27 — $36.16

1. Accommodations — $14.00
2. Travel — $2.69
I needed to get a SImcard so I had backup internet for teaching. You can buy them anywhere but they don’t always work. I went into Denpasar so my GOJEK was a little pricey at $2.69.
3. Food/Drink — $10.62
I made my own breakfast, but I bought my latte for $1.77. I ate lunch and dinner at the hostel. The food is so good and they have large portions but are a little expensive (for Bali standards). I need to venture out.
4. Miscellaneous — $8.85
I bought a simcard so I will have backup internet to teach with.

Friday June 28 — $32.23

1. Accommodations — $14.00
2. Travel — $1.91
Went to the beach.
3. Food/Drink — $6.02
My morning latte and one meal. I made my own breakfast.
4. Bank Fees — I Can’t even look… $10.30
You may be wondering why I have had to go to the ATM three times. My debit card had a bunch of charges on it that were not mine. It didn’t happen in Bali. It started before I left. Anyway, I needed to pull out cash to survive until my new card finds me in Bali. I don’t have high hopes.

Saturday June 29 — $24.70

1. Accommodations — $14.00
Same for another week.
2. Travel — $0.00
I worked on my computer and walked to the store.
3. Food/Drink — $10.70
I had my breakfast latte and my own breakfast. For lunch I walked down the street and found Chicken Satay for $2.21. I stopped at a little stand on the side of the road for desert. Two homemade deserts for $0.21. After dinner, I went to the corner store and got three types of wafers bars for $0.85.

Latte on the menu at Tribal Theory Bali Indonesia
My morning crack.

Sunday June 30 — $27.45

1. Accommodations — $14.00
I haven’t moved anywhere.
2. Travel/Transportation — $0.00
I hitched a ride to the gym with a guy at the hostel.
3. Food/Drink — $1.77
My regular morning latte. I know I should probably just make my own coffee to save money, but it’s like going to Starbucks. Should you spend $6.00 on a grande soy extra hot (I don’t understand extra hot, it’s hot and it has to cool down before you can drink it anyway) sugar free mocha and don’t forget the whipped cream? No, but we do and it starts our day on a good note.
4. Groceries — $9.91
We stopped at a fruit stand and Pepito’s (frown face) on the way home.
5. Miscellaneous — $1.77
I went to gym.

Until next week…

Disclaimer: The math is true to the best of my knowledge. I’m sure someone out there will find a mistake… because thats what people do on the internet.