Sunday, March 30, 2014

Life is Good.

Today was an amazing day. Suzie and I started at the crack of dawn preparing for our biking adventure. By about 11 am we finally had two motorbikes, gas, and were off to Pai. Our first stop was the waterfall. It wasn’t far off the main road and turned out to be gorgeous! The waterfall must have been a local favorite because there weren’t many tourist. Numerous kids of all ages splashed about playing games swimming. Suzie and I made ourselves swim in the frigid cold water and then it was lunch time. We stopped at a cute cafĂ© for some Pot-kA-POW-moo or as others call it fried chili, basil pork. The next detour was to …… National Park. Talk about a real live Alice in Wonderland scene! The landscape was very green, with crazy plants, and a smoky view.  We continued on through the mountains. It’s fall here so trees are changing colors and leaves are falling. It’s also burning season so the air is filled with smoke throughout northern Thailand. We even saw fires lapping at the road. The fire is only hot enough to burn the fallen leaves and not harm the trees.

During the first half of the beautiful, 763 turn road, the scenery reminded me of Kentucky with lush greenery. Though, all of a sudden, my nose was filled with pine scent. About three fourths of the way to Pai, the scenery turned to tall pine trees. We were in Colorado now! Towards Pai and off the mountain pass, the scenery was back to Thailand with banana trees, layered fields, and smoky mountains.

Just before Pai and with only 45 minutes before closing, we pulled into the hot springs. Imagine Strawberry Park Hot Springs in the 70’s, that is what we were about to take a dip into. Only elementary, slimy structures surrounding the hot springs pools. There were 5 pools ranging from 36 degrees Celsius to 32. Boy, did it get hot! Around 6, we moseyed into town to find a good burger joint and a cute hut to lay our head. 9 pm felt like midnight and it was time for dreaming!

Nighty night world! I’m excited for another adventurous day in Pai!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Chiang Chiang Chiang...

Chiang of Mai

For five long days

I thought you were my city

But I found out

I’m just a tourist within your walls


Now if only I could stop singing Chain Chain Chain by Janis Joplin every time I mention Chiang Mai.


Chiang Mai was filled with activities. We started off by exploring the city and stumbled across the Insect and Amazing Science Museum. It was run by a little, old women who was one of the nicest people in the city. She took photos of every visitor and would email the photos to the visitor. We learned all about butterflies, beetles, mosquitoes, and malaria. Later that night, we perused the night market. It was like going to a county fair! We started with some street food, and soon found ourselves getting our feet sucked on by fish! Yes, these were little fish that eat the dead skin off your feet. It tickled more than anything else I’ve ever felt. The fish would try to get in between your toes. When you pulled your feet out of the water, one or two stuck on for a couple seconds until they realize water is more important than gross, dead skin. We did a little shopping and finished our night with ice cream.

To be blatantly honest, I may overindulge in massages. So, I know a good massage from a bad massage from an amazing massage. Throughout all of Thailand I must say the best massage was at the women’s prison in Chiang Mai. The cost is going rate, just over $5/hour. You start off by changing into the provided cloths and a women washes your feet. During the massage you’re trying to ignore your curiosity of why your masseuse is in the slammer. At the end of the massage, you relax in the garden with a cup of tea. The only thing I would change about the whole experience is the Women Prison’s sign. I was lost for half an hour and asked for directions at least three times. After passing the prison and searching again in the opposite direction, I finally found it. I guess it’s fairly normal not to advertise the location of a prison. It’s also abnormal to have inmates give massages. I have no idea who was the brains of this little fundraising idea, but I tip my hat off to them!

Before leaving Chiang Mai, we HAD to watch a Mauy Thai fight. This was very entertaining. On the first three fights I won three hundred baht. Quit while you’re ahead, so I pocketed the money and was done betting for the night. There was one fight with older kids, but the rest was mostly 10-14 years old. At one point, all the younger kids got in the ring and were blindfolded. When the ref blew his whistle all the boys stated charging one another blindly! Ha! You only see this stuff on YouTube! The ref even got socked a few times. It was a great time, and by the end of the fights I only somewhat knew how Mauy Thai was scored.

The next day we set off for our trek! The first few stops were touristy, as per usual. We hit the butterfly and orchid farm, then the market. Finally, it was elephant time! This is what I had been waiting for!! We arrived at the camp, and in five minutes and with no instruction, I was on the elephant’s neck while Suzie was in the chair. Let me tell you, elephant rides are not nearly as smooth as you’d expect. Here we were, in the middle of nowhere, on a dirt road, riding the largest elephant at the camp with no instruction. I would be lying if I said wasn’t a little nervous, so I moved up to the seat with Suzie. We bought bananas for the elephant, and before we knew it, the ride was over. I couldn’t help but think, was that it?! I guess so... We continued on by hiking to a waterfall with a natural, rock slide! Weeeeee! Of course Suzie and I had to try it. Another two and a half hours later we were at the village. Sadly, I saw more westerners than locals.
Day two on the trek we saw another waterfall, tubed some terrifying class I rapids, and bamboo rafted down the river. By sunset we were back in Chiang Mai. That night we laid low because the next day we were motobiking to Pai!!!! J

Saturday, March 15, 2014


No matter how long you travel or how far away from home you travel, there will always be a point when you get homesick. Yes, I have constantly missed the obvious things such as my boyfriend, friends, pets, and family, but there are heavier waves of homesickness that come and go. I miss all kinds of foods such as Mexican food. We’ve had one burrito since we’ve been here and somehow there were hints of coconut and peanuts in the flavor. I miss the simple things like always having toilet paper or more so, flushing the toilet paper down the toilet. I miss not showering in sandals. I miss drinking tap water and refilling your water bottle. I miss being treated like the average person instead of being cheated whenever possible and haggling for everything. I miss cooking my own food.

There are sacrifices you have to make to travel, and traveling is not convenient or comfortable. But hey, I’d do the one-two-shake instead of having toilet paper any day to have the opportunity to travel. I’m learning life lessons that I’ll bring back into my normal life. And when I find those life lessons, I’ll let you know ; )

Luang Prabang

Imagine a small little French town nestled between two rivers. This is Luang Prabang. There’s a gorgeous waterfall about 40 km outside of town. We spent an afternoon here climbing to the top and swimming in the ice cold current.

The night market had shops that stretched forever and if you know how to barter, the deals were endless. We made it to the top of Mount Phousi which towered over the city. The view was incredible!

In our tuk tuk to the waterfall, we met Shana and Oliver. They were a nice couple from Australia and Scotland with endless travel guide advice. For the next few days, this was the gang: Shana, Oliver, Milly, Siobhan, Suzie, and myself. We swam at a local pool, caught numerous happy hours, chilled at a bar smoking hookah, and played cards and dice until the wee hours of the night.

To get to Chiang Mai from Luang Prabang you can take a 13 hour bus, fly, or take a boat. Since we’ve heard of all the accidents with the speed boats, we sacrificed two days and took the slow boat. The ride wasn’t too bad, it kind of reminded me of traveling in the RV to Kentucky. You have two days to catch up on sleep, blogging, reading, and eating. Similar to the RV, there’s the occasional rock and bump, but instead of having to worry about the silverware drawer falling out, you must be careful of a splash or two. The boat is outfitted with van seats. Two by two, some with headrests and most without. We thankfully had a table to play cards and dice. Though, rookie mistake, we sat near the back and all you can here is the motor, Oops!

It would have been a painful journey if it weren’t for Milly and Siobhan, our Aussi travel buddies. In total, we will have traveled with these girls for about a week. They are corky, goofy and, intentionally or not, they always make you laugh! I’m sad we’re splitting ways in Hauy Xai. It’s made our travels much more adventuresome and exciting. Suzie and I will continue the cards and dice game, but it won’t be the same without them. Until next time, happy travels!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Touristy, Tubing Sensation!

Vang Vieng is known for its crazy, drunken tubing. Just over a year ago, 14 bars were set up along the river for this whole day excursion. Alcohol and water aren’t a great mix, and so with pressure from other countries’ governments, especially Australia, the bars were cut down to 4. Now, it’s a soothing trip and a great way to meet people. Yes there is still drinking, but everyone takes care of each other so we all make it down safely.

So, of course Suzie and I had to join in on the fun!

 We first started our day biking to the Blue Lagoon. We’re pretty cheap so we got the road cruiser bikes with baskets. With one look at the road, we turned around to pay a little extra for mountain bikes. A little girl approached us and kept showing she wanted a photo. Well, I guess it won’t hurt anything if we take a photo right..? Sure enough, after the photo she’s asking for money. Suzie and I packed lunch so with a quarter loaf of bread she was skipping off with a smile.

Ok, so on the road to the Blue Lagoon image biking on a driving range that NEVER picks up the golf balls. About half an hour in and countless complaints from me, we decided to screw the blue lagoon and go to the closest cave. Suzie, our new Swedish friend, and myself we the brave enough to stumble into a cave and trust a local to show us around. For about $1.25 we were trekking through fields with a guide and headlamps. The cave started out fairly small, but after every turn there was a latter, bridge, or walkway! Is this thing ever going to end?!? That was, hands down, the furthest I’ve ever been in a cave. Wow, did we trust someone we’d never met before and spoke as much English as I spoke Thai? Without a second thought, yep, we were in the cave! Thankfully, we made it out safely and had the opportunity to swim in the little fresh water spring. Suzie was only mid-thigh deep in the deepest spot. Here I come, hot and wild. With a graceful slip on a rock, in no time I was drenched from head to toe. At least we had the bike ride from hell to dry my clothes off.

Back into town, all we wanted to do was relax and drift down the stream on a tube. It was about 1:00 when we hopped on tubes to start the adventure. We had heaps of fun bouncing from bar to bar, meeting locals and tourists, and floating down in groups of 10 or 15. We had to get the tubes back by 6pm to get our full deposit back, so in a frantic rush at the end, we jumped out of the river, hailed a tuk tuk, and got the tubes back with three minutes to spare! On the river we met Millie and Siobhan, our new traveling buddies : ) We went from 1:00 until midnight enjoying ourselves. Bright and early at 9 am the next day we climbed into a minivan for a 6 hour, twisty mountain pass drive to Luang Prabang.



Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Whole New Bed

A whole new bed,

A new fantastic point of view,

No one to tell me where to sleep,

Or say I’m only dreaming.


Well shit… here I am on a night train from Bangkok to Laos in someone else’s sleeper bunk with nothing but my tablet, wallet, and passport. Clearly I missed the memo that they lock the door between cars during the night. It all started out with a beer at the bar and meeting some Aussies. The bar car closed so we headed back to the groups’ car to chat. We were somewhat warned but with the language barrier, I thought it was just a noise complaint. As soon as I decided to be responsible and get in bed by midnight, I found out that the doors were locked. Thankfully my new friends gave me a bed and a bottle of water so I’m off to sleep.

Traveling lesson: make the best out of the situation.

Made new friends... check

Still sleeping in a bed… check

Got travel advice on a better/cheaper/easier way to get to Vang Vieng… check

Found time to blog since I don’t have my book on me… check


Good night!!!

Bangkok, round II

Bangkok, here we come!!!

Suzie and I took the ferry from Koh Phangan to Surat Thani, and then hopped on a night train to Bangkok. We arrive at our couchsurfer’s house by trekking through a park filled with tents from the protests. We got out of there quick! Our host was an entrepreneurial business man who traveled as he wished and was staying in the Marriot Executive Apartments. Wow, what a change from our last living sitch! We chatted with our host Ryan and his friend Tom for a bit, and then, surprise, two more couchsurfers showed up! Two girls from the Ukraine. We had actually seen these girls on the ferry from Koh Phangan to Surat Thani. What a small world! So the four of us took off to explore the reclining Buddha.

Later we made tacos for our host and starts playing some drinking games. Around 10 pm 3 more girl couchsurfers walked in! They we’re from Vietnam going to school in Singapore. I’ve never been with so many cuchsurfers on one couch! We hit a club and crawled into bed around 3 only to wake up at 7:30 the next day!

Today was TIGER TEMPLE! We started off thinking about renting a car. That quickly changed to grabbing ham and cheese toasties at 7 Eleven and hopping in a cab heading towards the Southern Bus Station. From there we bussed to Kanchanaburi and hopped on a local bus for the 40 min ride to Tiger Temple. It was 2 o’clock by now and the Tiger Temple closed at 3 (really 3:30, but the taxi driver told us 3 in attempt to convince us we HAD to go with him). I was praying we’d make it on time, especially after the hour taxi and 2.5 hour bus ride.

There are no bus stops for the local bus. All you do is stand on the side of the street and when the bus sees you, it’ll honk. If you start waving your arms, “poof!” you’re standing at a bus stop. To get off the bus you hop up, run to the front, and, for us, yell “Tiger Temple! Tiger Temple!” We were let off on the road and still had 2 km down a dirt road. We lucky hitchhiked with a minibus and arrived at the temple gates with ten minutes to spare. All is good : ) The tigers were soooooo cool! We were lead around to pet about eight different tigers. I may or may not have gone twice ; )

When walking the tigers back to their cages, the one in front of us made a weird noise, put up its tail, and sprayed Suzie! Now, I guess she is his territory. We were told it was good luck. So hopefully we'd make it back to Bangkok by sunset!
Our travels back weren’t nearly as chaotic. We haggled with a mini bus driver for a ride to Bangkok. Our starting price was 300 each. The language barrier was to our advantage because he would take nothing less than a whopping 500 for both!  That night we explore Kohsand Road and saw fried scorpions! No way Jose was I trying that!

For our last night, we swapped couches and stayed with a lovely guy from New York. We celebrated his birthday by seeing Robocop (much better than I expected), and grabbed drinks at a roof top bar.  Tomorrow we’re exploring the largest market in Bangkok and then it’s a night train to Laos.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Koh Phangan

If islands were parties, Koh Phangan would be the end-of-the-year, 5 keggar celebration.

We were surprised at the size of the island. This was no Koh Tao. So, when in Rome, we rented another motorbike!

We started our adventures by exploring the infamous Amsterdam Bar/Mushroom Mountain. It was a brilliant place to watch the sunset. We met our roommate, Bobby (Rob officially), a 18 year old, wide-eyed, kid from England. Suzie and I adopted him as our little brother.

During the day, we all explored the island in a hunt for the perfect beach. That night started off slow by playing some pool, but a few beers later, a 10 minute boat ride, and some good music we found ourselves on Eden, a secret beach, watching the sun rise over the ocean. It was an unforgettable night filled with many new friends.
Beginning of the night...
End of the night...

Note: Ignore the nose patch, minor scuba accident which is now mostly healed.

Today was a good day to be tired. Suzie and I slept the whole boat ride and most of the bus ride to the Surat Thani train station. I was a little worried at one point when our bus turned onto a dirt road. This is about the moment when I read "Get off ASAP, they robbed me for everything I had except this pen". Normally I would think this was just a silly joke, but as we're approaching what looks like abandon warehouses I started getting a little worried. On arrival, the bus driver announced a 20 minute break for toilets and food. I still wasn't convinced I would survive the day until another bus showed up. Needless to say, we made it to the train station. Boy, got to love the Thai way! Now, we're on a night train to Bangkok.

Note to self: do not drop anything in the toilet, it will forever sit on the train tracks with all the rest of the passengers’ disposable waste.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Scuba Island

Koh Tao is a cute, little island north of Ko Phangan known for its cheap diving. Every turn you make, there's a scuba shop staring you in the face. The island reminds me a lot of Paros, Greece. It's fairly quiet on one side and a party island on the other. Pick your place. Suzie and I rented a motorbike and snorkel gear. Ha! What a sight! The two of us crammed on one scooter with snorkels coming out of my backpack and fins in Suzie's hands. We discovered Freedom Beach which quickly became our favorite beach on the island. Between its clear water, single beach bar, and coral mobiles hanging from the trees it was the place to be.

Now we're off to party central: Ko Phangan.

All the Wonderful Fruit!

I found this poster in a restaurant with all the wonderful fruit I want to try. 15 down, 21 to go! Hope I can find them all before I fly home!

Night Boat from Hell

We met a nice couple in Chumphon who also had the whole day to kill before their train left. We got the best travel tip so far. The girl told us to go ahead and buy the more expensive night boat to Koh Tao. She mentioned how she was nervous on the cheap, small boat as there was only one exit, and hundreds of people crammed in the boat. Not thinking much about it, we spent the extra dollar. Our boat left at 11pm and arrived at 5 am.

Around 2:30 in the morning I awoke to an ear shattering crash! Shit, are we going under? I heard the crash again and the boat was rocking side to side like a rollercoaster. We were rolling in our bunk beds hoping our luggage was too heavy to roll off! I thought I was going to meet my maker that night. I heard another crashing wave on the boat and wondered if this was normal. I wanted to go to the deck and see the night swell, but instead I stayed huddled under my covers for fear of falling off the deck. All I could think about was how lucky we were to get the bigger boat. I couldn't imagine being on any smaller boat. I defiantly now know what our traveling friend was talking about.

Sometime between crashes I'd fallen asleep only to wake up again at 4am. I was so happy to know we only had an hour left. The waters have to calm down as we get closer, right? Needless to say, we made it to Koh Tao, otherwise you wouldn't be reading this.
Never again will I take the night boat from

Mystery Island

This is the true definition of paradise. This is where people go to escape. This is where there are no showers, but only a hose. All the accommodations are full, but you only see a handful of people on the whole stretch of beach. You’re morning alarm clock is replaced with the squawking of roosters. Every bungalow has a gecko, and you find little presents in your bed in the afternoon. This is where your biggest daily responsibility is to find the reservoir, hike to the ranger station, read a book, or journal. Most things and food are handmade. The island only has electricity from 6 pm to 9:30 pm. The only way off this island is a longtail boat that comes twice a day. To catch the boat, you must stand on shore, wave your arms, and jump up and down until it sees you. This is where life is simple; you eat when you’re hungry, you sleep when you’re tired, and make new friends every day.

Everyone has a different reason to be here. Some are escaping their old life, some were born on the island, other people vacation here, some come for a week but stay for a lifetime, some visit friends, and some, like us, stumble upon it by mistake. A friend of Suzie’s suggested we go to an island with the same name but to our surprise, the suggestion was for a northeast Thai island and we are in the southwest. It was a pleasant surprise and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’ve met so many beautiful souls of all ages and from all over (but defiantly a lot of German). We swam in the ocean, did yoga on the beach, explored the tide pools, discovered the reservoir, tasted cashew wine, trekked through a cashew plantation and stopped to try the fruit, saw rubber trees tapped for their sap, and even found time to sit down for a beer and hear other travelers’ stories.

This island draws a specific type of person. Materialist, over-consuming people wouldn't fit in. It's for people who enjoy simple times, people who don't need much in their life but a bed to sleep in and a roof over their head. It's refreshing. It’s nice to force yourself to relax and have no worries at all. I hope this island never changes. I hope it stays uncharted and over looked. Until next time mystery island, keep those biting sand fleas, blood-thirsty mosquitos, unsanitary food, polluted waters, and rabid dogs, or at least that what we tell other tourists. 

From Riches to Rags

Suzie and I are now on our own. We went from staying in nice hotels with pools to hostels that look like you can rent a bed for an hour and have no separation between the shower and the toilet. It finally feels like we’re traveling: waiting at bus stops, eating street food, and watching our daily budget. Traveling in SEA is pretty cheap. We’re trying to spend $20 a day. Back in San Luis Obispo, I was spending about $23/day solely on rent and groceries. So this travel thing isn’t too too bad ; )

It’s crazy how fast time goes by. It feels like just yesterday we were all in Colorado planning our trip. Our family vacation came and went and it is a reminder to live in the moment. Yes, it is good to plan ahead and reflect on the past, but it’s important to take in everything right now. Make new memories, do what you enjoy, and, most importantly, always look on the bright side and make the best out of the situation.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

I've got Krabi in my pants!

Unlike common belief, Krabi is not pronounced like the red crustacean with claws, it's pronounced as G(k)-rabi.

It’s a shame when places get overexposed, tourist run, and lose their character. In 20 years some places change so much that they are unrecognizable. This is exactly what has happened to Krabi and Koh Phi Phi. They both started as quant, beach towns and have turned into worldwide couples retreat destinations. You know it’s bad when it is difficult to find authentic Thai food in Thailand! There are more resorts than year-round residents.

Even with all of this, we all had a good time. Releigh Beach is a short longtail boat ride away from Krabi and is gorgeous. Each one of us took our turn getting massages on the beach. In Koh Phi Phi we went scuba diving and saw turtles, box fish, trumpet fish, parrot fish, and many other creatures under the sea. Suzie jumped out of her comfort zone and dove for the first time! Best put by Suzie, “The first dive was a little scary, but the second dive makes you addicted!” I’m stoked we saw each other on the other side!


This was the last stop for Mom’s travel express. She’s heading back to the States and Suzie and I are continuing to discover the Thai islands!

Koh Phi Phi by day.

Koh Phi Phi by night.

And don't worry mom and dad, we did not jump the jump rope of fire. No comment on the ring or limbo of fire...

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Kicking it with Buddha

Here we are at Siam Reap with the world famous Angkor ruins.

The best way to explore the ancient temples is to hire a guide and a tuk tuk for the day.

We started at the most renowned temple of them all, Angkor Wat. It is the largest religious structure in the world. Around the temple, gardens, and fields is a mote. The whole construction took 36 years. That’s incredible for when it was built!! Next, we continued on to the Ta Prohm Temple which is famous for the filming of Tomb Rader and is also known as the Angelina Temple. The Temple was in the process of renovation since there was a lot of destruction during the Vietnam War. You could even see bullet holes in the stone. Most of the temples have been repaired and renovated. The last temple of the day was Angkor Thom. This was the most impressive temple! Standing before us were faces of Buddha in all different directions. As we pasted the main alter, we were giving insense and an orange bracelet which was tied around our wrist with a prayer for good luck.  

The next day we trekked out to Wat Thmey, a monastery in memory of those who died due to the Khmer Rouge. I don’t understand how wonderful the people can be when the government resembles the devil. Seeing a memorial of the killing fields really opens your eyes to how disgusting people can be. The small museum followed one man’s life as he was forced from his home in Pheom Pen to work in the fields. He was put in a reeducation camp due to suspicion of anti-Khmer Rouge association. By some greater power unknown to man he survived the camp and lived to tell the tale. This man saw torture tactics that are so cruel, a sane man wouldn’t believe them.

To many peoples’ dismay, the US govern was indirectly supporting the Khmer Rouge. We were assisting the anti-communist party with financial and warfare aid. Although the US government will not admit it, the anti-communist party was fighting side by side with the Khmer Rouge sharing military tactics and equipment. If I can hold my sources accountable, the leaders of the Khmer Rouge have never been put on trial. They actually are good friends with the minister of the state.

To lift our spirits from this experience, we continued on to the Cambodia Museum to learn about Buddhism, Cambodian tales, and the building of Angkor Wat. The museum was very impressive, especially after seeing the temples first hand.

That night we explored Pub Street. Wow, what a tourist trap!!! Even with all the neon lights and the ear shattering music, it was fun. We saw grilled snakes on a stick, fried tarantula, and baked crickets for sale. Ewww! $1 to eat, $.50 for a photo.

Suzie and I enjoyed drinks with some friends from San Luis Obispo. We shared travel stories and tips and then it was time for a tuk tuk home and a good night sleep.


We saw the sites, explored the museum, and got out of there as fast as we got there. Tomorrow is beach and massage time in southern Thailand!!