Money Well Spent: Traveling While Studying Abroad in Bangkok, Thailand

Fiona Boler is a student at University of Winsonsin- La Crosse and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying abroad with ISA in Bangkok, Thailand.

If you’re like me, and the majority of the population, then for you money really doesn’t grow on trees. This is why scholarships were so important to me when applying to study abroad. The money I received from the Castañeda Correspondent scholarship and others gave me the means to take out less in loans, pay for tuition abroad, and ultimately save more money to spend on traveling through and around Thailand. My scholarship money allowed me to experience so much of South East Asia- from the mountains to the islands of Thailand, and throughout South East Asia from Vietnam to Cambodia to Malaysia. The experiences that I had in each of these places helped me grow and ultimately shaped me as a person, opening my mind, and making me more globally conscious.

Thailand- The Islands

Koh Phangan was one of my first stops when I arrived in Thailand. This smaller southern island was a peaceful escape from the chaotic streets of Bangkok. I experienced my first of many night markets, swam in the crystal clear waters, explored waterfalls and saw my first Muay Thai fight.

Fried chicken on a stick at the night market in Koh Phangan, Thailand.
Muay Thai fight in Koh Phangan, Thailand.
Boats tied in the water on the shores of Koh Phangan, Thailand.

Thailand- The Mountains

Pai was my next destination. After a ten hour-long night bus to Chiang Mai and a 3 hour van ride winding up the mountains I arrived in Pai. Pai is a small mountain town with a true hippie vibe. It was nice to be able to take in the fresh mountain air.

Sunset over the mountains at the canyon in Pai, Thailand.
Following a wooden trail to a hidden waterfall. Pai, Thailand.
Grassy field next to our hostel- Paitopia. Pai, Thailand.


One of the best things about traveling in South East Asia is how affordable it is. On a good day one can get a ticket to Vietnam for less than $50 USD. I spent five days in Vietnam, which was way too short but I am so happy that I was able to experience this amazing country. We flew into Ho Chi Minh City, and stayed at a hostel owned by the most wonderful family. In the city we went to the War Remnants Museum where I learned so much about the Vietnam War that was never taught or talked about in the U.S.

Next we took a bus to Da Lat– a mountain town north of Ho Chi Minh City. In Da Lat there was so much to see and do. For a mere $12 USD each,  four of us rented a van with a driver for the day who drove us all around Da Lat and through the mountains.

Main street view of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Sign at the War Remanence Museum in Ho Chi Minh City.
Waterfalls in Da Lat, Vietnam.
Me Linh coffee plantation and cafe in Da Lat, Vietnam.


From Vietnam I flew to Malaysia. We landed in Kuala Lumpur at night and marveled at the lit up city. Our hotel was right next to the Petronas Towers, a main attraction of visitors in the city and the tallest twin skyscrapers in the world. We explored the city, took the subway to the Batu Caves (where we got our workout in by climbing the 1,000 steps up to the top), went to George Town, and admired the street art. We ended the trip at the beach, where I floated in the water and soaked up the sun before taking my flight home to Thailand.

View of the city from a roof top infinity pool in Kuala Lumpur.
Gold Goddess statue at the Batu Caves. Selangor, Malaysia.
Street art in George Town. Penang, Malaysia.


ISA arranged an optional weekend excursion to Cambodia. During our time there, we woke up at 4:00am to watch the sun rise over Angkor Wat and explore the many temples all over the area. These temples– some more that 1,000 years old– were magnificent. We also had the privilege to volunteer at Aspire, a school and home for impoverished, homeless and orphaned children in Siam Reap. Here we played, danced and ate with the children. For more information about Aspire go to their Facebook page: Aspire Training & Education.

Angkor Wat temple complex. Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Angkor Wat temple complex. Siem Reap, Cambodia.
My new friend at Aspire NGO who had an interest in my camera and became the group photographer. Prasat Bakong, Cambodia.
ISA students dancing with children from Aspire. Prasat Bakong, Cambodia.

I am so thankful for the scholarships that I received through ISA, my home university and others. It is never a waste of time when thinking of studying abroad to apply for scholarships, they have definitely changed my life, and allowed me to have the experiences that I did.


The world awaits…discover it.

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