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46 posts categorized "*Traveling around Thailand"

Mai Pen Rai

I am writing to you from a state of week-induced hangover. My recent weekends have been so full of tiring travel and activities that coming down from the emotional high of the excitement, genuinely leaves me feeling like lukewarm death. Nothing indicates a spry and full-of-life 22 year old crossing the decorated threshold into maturity, like being literally hung-over from fun (look away energetic college friends, I don’t want you to see me like this). Here’s what you missed while I’ve been technologically cleansing - procrastinator speak for shirking on my blogging responsibilities. The most aged news is that Emily and I got to meet up with a pack of our orientation friends to attend the E-San music festival in Khon Kaen. Considering the relative geographic isolation of our province, it was to be the first time we were reunited with pals of any sort and we were determined to make the most of it, immediately hopping in a cab upon arrival to take us to the promised land (an actual bar with actual people). Despite being in a province that was relatively more familiar with foreigners, we were greeted by the same local fascination we were used to in Amnatcharoen. At this point I will take a moment to reflect on how lucky I am to have Emily considering my literal paralysis vis-à-vis the art of haggling. Somehow the drivers can always smell my fear, rendering me as useful as a screen door on a submarine.

After finally whittling the reluctant cab driver down to a reasonable price, we victoriously crowded into the back seat. The cab driver, assuming we couldn’t understand his local jargon, watched us like a popular tween watching her instagram likes compiling. He muttered incessantly owning his interest even after we politely requested he stop. Emily, in the front seat, jumped into action, insisting (in broken, nonsensical Thai) that he keep his eyes forward. This unlikely hero, standing at a menacing 5 foot 2 and wearing a fun n’ flirty romper as opposed to the conventional armor, repeatedly threatened to pay the driver less than the pre-established price, he contemptuously agreed. Like my first graders goldfish-like attention span, this resolution lasted all but seconds before the harassment commenced again. In this moment, Emily’s skin took on a green-ish hue. Her balled up fists ballooned to the size of basketballs. She howled and beat on her chest while unmistakable fireballs of threats poured from her eyes as she prepared to hulk smash the peevish grin directly off that man’s face. Or at least, the fear emanating from every inch of the man’s body indicated that this was how he perceived Emily’s Mama Bear mode. The delicious silence for the rest of the car ride, ashamed on his part, smug on ours, was a firm reminder that Emily is the fighter you want in your corner in roughly every unsavory situation ever. We proceeded to have an awesome evening catching up with our estranged pals and thrashing our limbs about to the cacophony of confusing Thai rap.

The next morning as we were getting ready for the festival, we realized that no one actually knew the genre of the event. One girl had heard reggae, another had heard country, a third yet had jumped to the conclusion that the festival would showcase electronic music. This misinformed state is highly representative of my entire existence in Thailand. I have used the “Mai pen rai” lifestyle (a Thai axiom literally translating to ‘whatever will be will be’ and manifested as go with the flow) as an excuse to be an ignorant American and deceivingly dressing it up as adaptability. In our eagerness, we showed up to the festival many hours premature. Determined to make the hours productive, we took the time to explore the campgrounds, the vendor stalls, and the venue itself to deduce what type of music the festival would display. After hours of exploring, the jury was still out. The decorations gave off decidedly Woodstock-y vibes which was overall conflicting with the Native American headdresses and confederate flags adorning the sea of tents; oh Thailand – you’re so cute when you don’t get it at all.  The butchered lyrics of expired American one hit-wonders crooned in jagged Thai drawl floated on the warm wind from the sperm stage. This is not hyperbolic. In a misguided attempt to be edgy, or youthful, or mysterious (all conjecture, I actually have know idea what motivations drive one to make sperm thematic) the stage was adorned with goliath paper mache swimmers looking down on us like ethereal higher powers of fecundity. I caught myself thinking that the incongruity of the decorations seemed to fit perfectly with the other arbitrariness of the festival – a thought that was interrupted by a family of neon painted elephants meandering by. The astonished public stopped for an onslaught of pictures, of the wild and unnatural white people of course, not the humdrum two-ton mammals. The rest of the event was spent enjoying the relaxed vibes, and socializing with some of the local bands playing the event.

The following weekend we relegated our exploration to more local areas as our lady gang of Thai co-teachers invited Emily and I to venture to Surin with them for the day. According to our ‘deny no authentic experiences’ mantra, we hopped into the truck bed at 6am where we were to be assaulted by gale-force winds for the next three hours. The initial purpose of the day-trip was for the co-teachers to sign up for the teacher test. It is incredibly difficult for co-teachers to become subject teachers in Thailand. That day we journeyed 250 kilometers simply for them to register for a test that 300 hopefuls, our friends included, would later take only to yield a dissatisfying result for a confounding 298 of them. What a staggering statistic: from the initial scoring, only two co-teachers will evade disappointment and be awarded teacher status. The two selected will have less than a week to pack up their belongings, move to a new government-selected location, and enter a binding contract performing duties they’ve never executed. The only commitment I have ever made that approaches that level of solemn obligation was purchasing a Proactive subscription in my oily youth. I can only hope that the commitment results in less dry skin and scarring for our impressive friend who placed among the top two selects!

After the registration process we found a local restaurant where, as is customary, we took off our shoes and settled into a seated position on the floor. Emily and I love spending time with our Thai friends because we are undoubtedly on the benefiting end of this parasitic relationship. While they squirm under the smothering and unfamiliar starring we tend to elicit, we get to coast on autopilot through basic interactions that are normally very taxing for us as non-Thai speakers. We eat like kings when we are with them! By eat like kings, I mean we get to actually decide what we want to order before shooting in the dark and pointing at random words on an indecipherable menu. Thailand has decidedly made me a simple girl with simple needs. I happily munch on the flying ants and silkworms they order as appetizers (while our friends thoughtlessly crush their buggy victims between their chopsticks and wave them around in our faces saying “Ooooooh, monsters”) to earn my meal of delicious local favorites. I live for the tableside conversations we muddle through while sideswiping language barriers and hurdling over narrowly-missed cultural divergences. For your reference, please enjoy this example of a genuine interaction we fought through:

Emily: (posing a theoretically easily-understood question to the table) Do you like vegetables?

Co-teacher: I like Cuba.

Emily: (rolling with the punches) Why do you like Cuba?

Co-teacher: Delicious!

Emily: (emitting brain smoke as she tries to connect non-existent dots) Oh you mean cucumbers?

Co-teacher: Yes, teacher!

Emily: (pushing on, encouraged by this conversational break-through) Do you like Spinach?

Co-teacher: No, I like Germany.

To this day, none of us are sure if we were discussing vegetables or geography. Luckily, we know that we always have a banter contingency plan in the form of John Cena. John Cena, if you’re reading this, you should move to Thailand, like, yesterday and reap the rewards of local obsession. Age and gender does not discriminate on this point. Our girly co-teachers, elderly Thai classroom attendants and students alike all converge on their pious devotion to John Cena. Students who could not mutter a single word of English despite intense teacher assistance can be heard gallivanting around at recess yelling, “YOU CAN’T SEE ME”. I don’t get it, I honestly don’t, but beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to a dialogue that both involved parties can understand. Keep doing what you’re doing out there beefcake!

The day took a sobering turn at the elephant enclosure we understood to be an ethical sanctuary but in actuality was a cruel, monetarily driven training facility. We decided against lingering and supporting the operation and settled for night market exploration instead. Riding around in that truck bed exchanging American and Thai music, discussing language, and sharing experiences with our indigenous friends is a memory I will treasure forever. Cherished friendships formed under impossible circumstance and the supplementary commentary on human kindness and acceptance that accompanies them are the most beautiful gifts Thailand has given me.

Until next time!

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The One Where I Figured Out How To Send Money Home

So the really exciting thing about being an adult is having bills and responsibilities no matter where you are, right? Wrong. Nothing is worse, actually. I make a decent paycheck in Thailand standards as a teacher, which sounds like a lot until you find out that every month I have to send roughly half of my salary home every month to cover bills/loans/other random adult BS I hate with a passion. 

That's frustrating in and of itself, but I haven't mentioned the good part yet- up until today I could not figure out a fast way to send money home to my US bank account without physically going to my Thai bank and filling out a form, waiting in line, paying a huge fee and then biking back. Well today my life has changed for the better because.......

GOD BLESS FACEBOOK, the one and only time I will say that. 

Someone in our CIEE Teach in Thailand FB group asked the great question "how are you guys sending money home to cover bills and things in America?" The first thing I thought is, why the F didn't I think to ask that here? Followed swiftly by, wait did anyone have a new answer for this? Lucky for me someone did. 

So I just want to say that I did try my very hardest to figure this out on my own, I read every online resource, I tried every stupid website and app but most things weren't international or had a huge fee. I tried adding a second account to my paypal account but you can't send money to yourself from one account to another... UNLESS triumphantly raises finger into the sky

You open two separate paypal accounts with two separate emails....DUH takes finger and jams it into brain for not thinking of this concept sooner

So shoutout to the girl from facebook who floated this idea in the group and allowed me to find a way to send money, quickly, without having to go to the bank and for 1/20th of the cost. My only regret is not figuring this out sooner and avoiding all the fees I've already paid but hey better late than pregnant! ....I mean never. 

Anyways I just wanted to post a blog about this in case anyone else teaching abroad was struggling with this now or in the future. 

May the exchange rate be ever in your favor! 

A Blur

    Here I am two months later. It has finally set in that this country is now my home. That this school is where I work. And that this is my life. It was hard to grasp at first but it is finally setting in. Now my life is just as it was before with a fairly normal schedule.  Although, it is in a new place and I am definitely a lot more busy than I was in the states! It has been a blur of constant travels, teaching, and time spent with so many people. So here is a basic summary of my last two months, since I haven't been too great about updating this blog!

Phrae: 

The first full weekend in Phrae I met several other foreign teachers here that work both at my school and other schools in the area. They told us about a lot of cool places surrounding us that were just a motorbike ride away. So we decided to take the weekend to explore where we live. The gist of the day was a lot of driving, walking, sweating, and bonding with new friends. 

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The steps up to the Doi Lang Temple, sweating my butt off. 


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The Phrae Farang Gang: there are a few friends missing from the photo though!

Lampang: 

All of the foreign teachers and I took a trip to Lampang (which is about 1.5 hours from Phrae) in a mini van. There were quite a few of us, but the driver was willing to fill his van to the brim with people. We had two more people than there were seats, so he pulled out two child-sized plastic seats and put them in the gaps that were meant to be an aisle way! We were in Lampang for two days and spent an entire day exploring. We found a cliff side temple that was quite the trek, but completely worth it! And we found Chaeson Waterfall and some hot springs. The cliff side temple was definitely the highlight of the trip and would recommend going!

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When I said cliff-side temple; I promise you it was no understatement. 


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Chaeson waterfall was beautiful but we unfortunately couldn't swim in it. Still a wonderful view though!


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The hot springs were cool. We found out that it's a big thing to boil baskets of eggs in the springs. So they were pretty, but they smelt of sulfer and boiled eggs!


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And so the blur of events continues....

 

 

The One Where We Spent New Years In Bangkok

Fun fact: NYE in Bangkok is very very similar to NYE in Times Square, or so I imagine. I've never actually been to Times Square for New Years because I am claustrophobic and after experiencing it in Bangkok I can confirm that I will probably never go to NYC for New Year's Eve- not my scene.

But let's back up and give you the full rundown of what New Year's Eve day was like and how we spent New Year's day because that's the good stuff. 

Our friend from Orientation came and stayed at the hostel with us and we hadn't seen her since October so that was really amazing, it's crazy how close you can feel to people when you only met them a few months prior. New Year's Eve day we got some really delicious breakfast, I got blueberry cream cheese pancakes and an iced coffee which was just as fattening and amazing as it sounds. We then walked around the Wang Lang market and found some fun earrings to wear with our outfits. We stopped at a park that overlooked the river in the center of Bangkok and walked across the bridge and got semi lost trying to find the Ferry. All-in-all it was a really nice day, if you take out the part where we saw a cat get hit by a taxi, that was a major bummer.  After the market we went back to our hostel and got ready for the night, we made drinks and sat on the roof with other people from our hostel and caught up with each other. Two of the people in our hostel had decided to skip the crowds and go to a disco funk club for NYE instead and we decided to meet up with them there. Unfortunately we made a cab drive us all over God's creation to try to find this club, only to fail miserably. We hauled ass back to Khao San Road which is the main drag of Bangkok where all the bars are and where everyone gathers to watch the countdown. We made it and formed a human chain and shoved our way through the crowd and got to a good vantage point roughly two minutes before midnight. We were actual sardines but it was such an incredible thing to witness and be a part of. 

Due to my high anxiety in closely-packed crowds and claustrophobia, I Irish exited the premises and fled back to the hostel which was thankfully only one road away. (Irish exiting: Verb, meaning to leave a party or event or function without saying goodbye to anyone or telling anyone where you are going). This is a really bad habit of mine that started in college but since I made it back perfectly safe and texted everyone as soon as I hit the hostel I think it's fine. I fell asleep around 12:30am and have no regrets. 

The next morning we all were nursing a stellar hangover, as I'm sure many other people were that morning and decided that going to see a movie in an air conditioned theater was exactly what we all needed. We went to the mall got really great Indian food and then split up so we could all see the movies we wanted to. After the movie we indulged in some shopping and then went back to the hostel for our last night together. Everyone was so exhausted from the night before that we all passed out by 10pm knowing we had an 8hr bus ride back to our province the next day. 

It was so great catching up and reuniting for a weekend and enjoying the end of the year together. I have a feeling 2018 is going to be a great one considering how the end of 2017 has been for us. knock on wood. 

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Adapt or Die

Many of my posts so far have focused on school content, and while whirling Thai dervishes fully consume my weekdays, my weekends have been equally as exciting. Locally, there is not much to do on the weekends. In fact, there is about one bar in town. I say about, because calling it a whole bar is probably optimistically rounding up. Our band of merry co-teachers took us one night for a few beers and it may as well have been front-page news. As the only white faces in town, we could reach down to tie our shoes and it would be PSA worthy. This illustriousness has its obvious drawbacks. The combination of negative Thai societal connotations surrounding women drinking and the local notoriety is not a recipe for a wild, face-melting night on the town. At best, you are doomed to run into some judgmental parents, be the subject of the band’s public jeering in unfamiliar vernacular, and the victim of unwanted set-ups from every acquaintance you’ve ever made. Understandably, when Emily and I were invited to a coworker's wedding the next weekend, we expected a similar ambiance. To make matters worse, I hadn’t met the bride or the groom until the day of the wedding - we were merely invited because of the status symbol elicited by having foreigners at your wedding. I haven’t been above pity invites for my last 22 years of existence, why start now?

When we first walked in and found our table, we found that another guest had already been seated with us. The guest, who is generally tolerable, is significantly less welcome in the morning hours. If you can’t see where this is going, you had a more honorable collegiate experience than I did – I salute you. Our tablemate was none other than Johnny Walker, served with a mixer of intense host peer pressure…at 8:30 am. To make matters worse, ours was the only table with this festive adornment. All eyes were on us as we tried to discern whether neighboring tables were eagerly waiting for us to drink, or misconstruing us as alcoholic farangs. There wasn’t much time to debate. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. The word greatness must be switched with ‘whiskey’ at this juncture. But either way, Shakespeare’s words ring true. We had whiskey/greatness thrust upon us, and as people raised to be polite guests, we answered the call.

An indiscernible amount of drinks after our unsolicited whiskey wake-up call, we began wondering if we had missed the ceremony. Food and beers had begun arriving surreptitiously and the inebriated proceedings showed no sign of taking a turn for the ceremonial. Just when we had resigned to our fates of an eternal purgatory coupled with Johnny, we were ushered from our seats and pushed out into the street. We stumbled along the road with a mass migration of other wedding attendees, unsure of our destination and melting in the punishing Thai heat. Soon the staggered masses coalesced into a procession headed by the bride and groom, an authentic Thai band, and a gaggle of bridesmaid equivalents in traditional garb. As far as I could tell, the bridesmaids have one very serious obligation: get the entire wedding comfortably trashed. They weave throughout the procession with buckets full of alcohol and a single cup, sporadically thrusting libations upon unsuspecting parade participants and waiting for them to finish it before moving on to their next hazing victim. When bridesmaids handed me a cup, bummer - I had no idea how to communicate or refuse it, so this soldier fell deeper into the trenches.

When the parade finally reached the wedding, we were shepherded in to take a picture with the bride and groom, both absolute strangers. We awkwardly fumbled around trying to get out of the way when we realized a line, impatient to capture pictures, had formed. We were promptly moshed back into the frame as the realization hit – these people were waiting to take pictures with us. Now this made us incredibly uncomfortable, as we were hyperaware of taking attention away from the happy couple. Luckily, one quick glance clarified that they were not only ecstatic that people were capturing us in their pictures, but were in fact the ones provoking the mosh pit to do so. In true backwards Thai fashion, we proceeded to the ceremony after the prolific drinking. Perhaps that made me appreciate the ornate, authentic ceremony even more. The day culminated with dancing and Thai karaoke where we twirled many old Thai women. As it turns out local music is not well suited for the white and rhythmically challenged among us. Adapt or die.

On other weekends we have set out to explore Ubon, the closest large city to our small province, with varied success. On our first expedition, the intent was to explore a local temple. We didn’t. But in a similarly cultural experience, we did get rather familiar with a mall. Yes, a real mall. I could have wept. As everything I currently own in Thailand could fit in a backpack, we decided to set out in search of more teaching appropriate clothing. This task proved difficult because compared to the Thai people, who are naturally short and svelte, I am a literal giant cracken from the deep-eth. Most stores do not have fitting rooms and don’t let you try on potential purchases but instead insist on watching as you hold skirts up to your body and wonder if they will fit around your wrist, much less your waist. The day seemed like a bust, that is, until the next day when a coworker said he saw Emily and I making the motor-bike journey home from Ubon (about an hour and a half). Thai people, who don’t travel much, have a very skewed perception of what delineates a “long drive”. The man, in awed stupor, acted as if he had watched us trek to Mars. He proceeded, in incredibly broken English and creative charades, to invite us to join his literal Thai biker gang. I fully expect my street cred to double from this development. All it took to adapt to the swerving with locals was to finally accept that the only rule of the road is that I have to be okay with other drivers doing whatever the hell they want. Conversely, other drivers have to be okay with this inexperienced farang doing whatever the hell she wants. I still think I got the better end of the deal.

Until next time!

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Traveling: Alone, Together, or Both?

         I have been in Thailand over a month and in that time I have traveled both alone and with friends. Both experiences have pros and cons and I would recommend trying both to determine which best fits your personality and needs. I am going to start by talking about my experiences traveling alone – and by alone I mean going to places by myself vs. traveling alone to meet up with friends.        

          I live near Bangkok and have spent many hours traveling around the city and surrounding regions. There area is filled with a variety of must-see attractions, such as ancient temples, beautiful palaces, and vibrant street life. Sometimes, other people aren’t available to travel with me. I believe it would be shame to not sightsee simply because of that, especially since the city can be easy to get around and people are friendly and helpful.

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Wat Pho

       For example, one weekend I traveled into the city to visit Wat Pho by myself because no one was able to come down that weekend. Visiting this remarkable temple, which houses the stunning Reclining Buddha (pictured here) was a great experience, and being alone didn’t deter me from enjoying myself. It was actually rather nice because I was able to leave and head out when I wanted, spend as much or as little time at the site as I wanted, and make spur-of-the-moment decisions about what I wanted or didn’t want to see. In fact, being by myself led to another adventure that day. After seeing Wat Pho I walked around the area and came across a little outdoor market and some water taxis. These, I learned, would take me from Wat Pho to Wat Arun – another temple I had wanted to see. Not being constrained by the needs or schedules of others made the decision to visit Wat Arun an easy one, and I had a great time seeing both temples in one day.

           For me, one downside of traveling alone is the need to ask strangers to take my photo. While selfies are nice, they don’t always capture the interesting aspects of a tourist site. Asking someone to do this isn’t terribly difficult in Thailand, as the people are generally kind and helpful, but if you are shy or have difficulty getting your point across, it can be awkward. Another downside is, quite frankly, that you are alone. There is no one else to offer advice, provide directions, or speak the language. When I travel alone, I need to rely on myself to get from point A to point B. At first, this was daunting, but it has become easier. Over the past few weeks I have learned to travel around the Bangkok district without getting hopelessly lost. I am now confident in my ability to find key locations, call taxis, and get myself around without too many issues. Sometimes it can be hard to get back to my home from another area, but it does become easier each time I try.

            Another travel opportunity came during the American Thanksgiving holiday. I flew to Chiang Rai – a city in northern Thailand – to celebrate with friends that I met through OEG. This was an occasion when I was grateful to be traveling with other people because when we arrived we learned that our Airbnb was located two hours from the city, and not in Chiang Rai as we had all believed. Having others to share this burden made the experience much more enjoyable. Realizing we needed to stay in the city, we began walking through the streets of Chiang Rai, towing our luggage, on the hunt to find a place to stay. After the 4th hostel did not have enough room, we found one down a slightly creepy alley that fit all of us. Despite the initial vibe, this hostel was great: it was perfectly situated in the city and even had hammocks to relax in. After much struggle, made bearable because we were all in it together, we had a roof over our heads for the weekend. Now we were ready to celebrate Thanksgiving, which we did with great Indian food! Not ‘traditional’ but delicious.

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Friendsgiving

         Our takeaway from the weekend, besides some very memorable experiences and strengthened friendships, was the reinforcement of the Thai saying, “Mai Pen Rai.” It’s difficult to translate, but it basically means, ‘don’t worry, be happy’ – as in, a situation may seem difficult, but you shouldn’t stress out too much because it will all work out in the end. In this instance, we embraced the saying. No one panicked about the Airbnb situation, because we were all together and could figure out a new plan. Traveling with these new friends was great because I had people to go to the temples with, to eat with, and to talk about our schools and the experiences we are having.

        My last major travel trip, so far, has been to Pattaya to go scuba diving. For this one I traveled with someone the whole time. I met a friend at one of the many bus stations in Bangkok and together we navigated the bus station and hopped on a bus to Pattaya. It was nice traveling with another person because I had someone to talk with, get lost with, and work with on checking itineraries, schedules and maps. We were fortunate and ran into no travel issues on our way down to Pattaya or back to Bangkok. We were there to go scuba diving so the dive shops picked us up in the morning and dropped us back off in the evenings at our hostel. As we were diving we didn’t have much flexibility on what to do when we got back to the hostel because most of the tourist attractions were closed by then and diving makes you hungry. One thing that is hard to do when traveling with others is deciding on a place to eat, or even what type of food to eat. With hungry divers it is not any easier, but after a bit we were able to find a place that we all enjoyed.

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Samae San Island

       The benefit of traveling alone is the flexibility it allows. You do not have to take into account anyone else’s plans, budget, or opinions as you can decide what you, and only you, wish to do. You can get a little lonely, but it is easy to start conversations and make friends. I have made friends at every hostel I have stayed at. However, traveling with friends has benefits, too. There is always someone to do things with, to talk to, and to help deal with issues that can pop up (usually trying to find your way somewhere…it’s easier than you imagine to get lost). Another person may also encourage you to visit a site or try an experience you may not have done on your own, which can be a great benefit.

       If no one is able to travel with me every weekend than I know that I am okay because I have gained experience with the language, the foods and the various forms of transportation. Plus, it is easy to make friends. I can now get myself around much of Bangkok, which gives me confidence about traveling to other cities, so I believe I will have the opportunity to see everything I want. Thailand and Southeast Asia have a lot to offer and I want to see it all – with people or without.  

 

Follow me on Instagram for more about my travels: kat_byrnes06  

4 Days, 3 Foot Injuries, 2 Hostels, 1 Amazing Weekend

Since coming to Thailand, several people have told me that one of the best places to visit is Krabi, which is several hours south of Bangkok on the "tail" of Thailand. I took their word for it and booked a long weekend away with Kaitlin, Emily and Laura. Luckily, our school had a field trip up to Chiang Rai on Friday December 8th until the following Monday, which was a holiday, so we had ourselves a few days off from school. Emily and Laura only had Monday off and were flying in Friday night (or so we thought), but a 3 day weekend is better than nothing!

So on Thursday Kaitlin and I packed our bags and took a late night flight to Krabi. BTW, if you're ever in Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok...bring a sweatshirt. We learned this the hard way when we were forced to huddle for warmth under our towels and sarongs.

We had booked 3 nights at Slumber Party, which is a very popular party (clearly) hostel, but they didn't have late night check-ins, so Kaitlin and I booked our first night at Pak-Up hostel in Krabi Town.

Bright and early Friday morning, we set out for Railay beach. This is one of, if not the most, popular beaches in Krabi. You can only get to it by long tail boats because of the high limestone rocks that cut it off from the town. As soon as those rocks came into view, our amazing weekend had officially begun.

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We spent the day taking too many pictures of the perfect backdrop (sue me), drinking banana smoothies (mostly just me...or only me because I had two and Kaitlin had zero), and getting slowly burned by the sun (my favorite pastime).

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For most of the day we were on the west side of the beach, but a couple hours before leaving we headed to the east side to check it out. Almost instantly after getting there we were bummed we hadn't come sooner. It was smaller, less crowded, and had some really cool caves and rock formations.

A couple of guys were jumping off a 10 foot rock which looked like a lot of fun, so I decided to join in and try it out. I've jumped off of rocks/cliffs before in Maine (not in a weird way but in a fun recreational kinda way yk?) so this was pretty normal. The rocks were kinda rough, but I made it up and easily jumped in. However, I didn't know how deep it was, and my foot ended up getting scraped on some sharp rocks down below the water. It took a nice little chunk out of the right side of my left foot, nothing too crazy, but this is where foot injury #1 comes in (see blog title again).

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After getting back into town, we checked out of Pak-Up and headed to Slumber Party. We took a 30 minute ride on the back of a Songthaew (pronounced like song tao), and when I say "back" I literally mean standing on the outside of the truck on the metal platform used to hold extra passengers. Again, what's normal in Thailand could be considered crazy anywhere else, but this has quickly become one of my favorite ways to get around. I love standing on the outside with a nice breeze, and the amazing scenery wasn't too bad either. The fact that the driver was going 40 mph down some winding roads was a bit concerning. Either he didn't know we were there or he didn't care (I believe it's the latter), but I'm still alive so it's all good (*nervous laugh*).

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Slumber Party is known as being the biggest party hostel in town, and it did not disappoint. I was slightly worried that I wouldn't be able to rally after the beach but the atmosphere and the people who work there, not to mention all the ~free~ food and alcohol, did a good job of getting everyone excited for the night to come. Every other night they host a pub crawl, Friday being one of them, but honestly we had the most fun downstairs at their bar before going out. Their pre-game was pretty on point when it started off with free barbecue followed by drinking games and awesome music.

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Unfortunately, Emily and Laura couldn't join us that night because they missed their flight out of Bangkok, but they'd be joining us the following morning. A perfect mai pen rai moment.

Saturday morning was a bit very rough for me...need to do better with drinking water and also maybe drinking less alcohol, but we'll see. Emily and Laura got in early and we decided to island hop that day. Isn't it nice that I can just say that in a super casual way? Like that's my life right now. CHOOSING to go island hopping. Ugh luv u Thailand.

So we rented out a long tail boat for the afternoon that would take us to two islands and bring us back around 3 pm.

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First we headed off to Chicken Island (lol) about 15-20 minutes away and it was basically right out of a postcard. The name really doesn't do it justice. There were very few people on the beach so it felt like we had our own private island. For the record, there were no actual chickens on the island (that I was aware of).

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And here is where foot injury #2 comes in. Our boat driver anchored off to the side of the island, so we had to either walk through the water or over some rocks to get to the beach. Regrettably...we chose the water. There were sharp and slippery rocks along the way, and of course, I cut my left foot AGAIN after being in the water only a couple minutes. Once on the beach Laura had to literally pull a piece of rock out of my foot. Luckily, some nice Thai men working there helped me out and cleaned both of my cuts and bandaged me up.

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"How many girls does it take to get a rock out of someones foot?"

A couple hours later I limped my way over to the boat and we were off to Poda Island not too far away. Poda was much more crowded and touristy, but it had great views of some limestone rocks in the distance.

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Saturday at the hostel was free vodka night (how could it get any better?) with the same fun games and music downstairs. One of the funnest games involved plastic clothes pins that people would try and pin onto your clothing without you noticing. Once they do, they count loudly down from 5 to 1 and if you don't find and remove the pin in that time then you're supposed to finish whatever drink you had in your hand. It was super entertaining but also created a lot of paranoia, as anyone at the bar or with a bucket was an easy target. Basically trust no one.

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The next day we slept in and decided to join the hostel on their "secret kayaking tour" where we weren't allowed phones, cameras, or even to know where we were going. Sounds sketchy af I know but again I'm still alive so we good.

This was the perfect day activity, as I didn't need to do much walking (my limping was pretty pathetic) and my foot didn't have to get wet for most of the day (like really I was just becoming a burden on my friends so sorry plz don't hate me).

A big group of us drove to this ~*secret*~ spot which turned out to be a really cool pond that also had some serious swamp vibes. Luckily, we didn't swim in that area, but we paddled through it and then through some tighter spots until it felt like we were seriously in a jungle. Obvs didn't have my camera, so plz enjoy some pics I took from the hostels Facebook page lol.

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If you squint you can see my teeny tiny head in the far back left!

We laid low that night, as we wanted to get up bright and early the next morning for our last day in Krabi, so we enjoyed dinner on the beach with a sunset view, one or two drinks at the hostel (how could we not?), and then off to bed.

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Monday we planned on taking the long tail boat to Railay where we could chill on the beach for the day. Oh and on our way to Ao Nang beach to get the boat, Kaitlin tripped and twisted her ankle, JUST as my foot was feeling better. Hello foot injury #3.

Luckily she was alright, because before we plopped ourselves on the beach we wanted to hike a trail that we had walked passed on East Railay on Friday. Some friends from Saraburi had suggested it to us before we left, and their description was literally that "you hike up a dirty ass wall with a vintage rope through Jurassic Park" and I shit you not, that was about as accurate as it could have been.

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We were expecting to get muddy, since Kaitlin and I had seen people coming back down from the hike before, so we were well prepared. The majority of the hike was up and down muddy parts of the mountain, but there were tons of places to put your feet and grip onto so it was pretty safe (granted, you could have easily slipped and fell, but this is Thailand so no worries). There was also the huge old af vintage, and unsurprisingly very dirty, rope that was always available to grab ahold of. First we climbed up and around to a viewpoint of the beach below.

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Then we walked around and down through the legit jungle towards a little lagoon. This was where the real mud came in as we slid down dirt walls, slipped on rocks, and climbed down bamboo ladders (v unstable but there were tons of people doing it so heh heh it was fine), and eventually we made it to the water. It didn't take us long to climb our way back out, and the total hike took about an hour and a half. It was honestly one of my favorite parts of the whole trip, so I highly recommend doing it if you go to East Railay beach! Start early and it'll be easier with less people on the trail.

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The rest of the day was spent lounging on the beach and enjoying the crystal clear waters. So basically, perfection.

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Krabi was a dream, and no amount of foot injuries could stop us from having a great weekend. And good news!!! Kaitlin and I were supposed to be teaching for the next two Saturdays, the 16th and 23rd, but we were just informed that they've decided to cancel those classes, so we're free from 6 day work weeks!! Looking forward to the next getaway.

Check out my personal blog for even more posts on weekend trips and what life is like in Thailand: https://danielleinthailandblog.wordpress.com

 

 

The One With The Trip To Pai

    I don't normally give advice about Thailand because everyone experiences it differently but there is one piece of advice that I know to be absolutely valid- EVERYONE SHOULD GO TO PAI.

    There is no other place in Thailand that is quite like Pai. It's a popular area but not over-crowded. It's a city but it's doesn't have insane traffic, unless you count the reckless driving that takes place on the 762 hairpin turns in the road you take to get to and from Pai. There is so much to see and do there that you need at least a 3 day weekend to really take it all in. We will definitely be back before we leave. 

    Pai is notorious for it's laid-back atmosphere and hippy vibes. After working for a month and a half we were ready for a mini vacation, so we took an extra day off and spent 4 days there, best decision so far. 

    We rode our bikes to the bus station in Tak at 11:30pm, took the midnight bus to Chiang Mai and arrived at 4:30. We then took a 6am van from Chiang Mai and after the many twists and turns we arrived smack dab in the middle of Pai's famous "walking street." It didn't take us long to find all the different foods Pai offers that our province doesn't (Mexican food)...(so much Mexican food). We then dropped our bags off at our hostel and began walking around and getting accustomed to the new area. 

    We stumbled on a booth selling tours and since we knew it would be a very expensive and probably unsuccessful journey trying to seeing the hot spots ourselves, we decided to sign up for the full day tour. The tour was of 5 different locations, it covered transportation and lunch and the company picks you up at your hostel the day off. We left at 10am and were gone until 6pm and it was so beyond worth it. It cost 500 Baht (15 USD) to see a view point at the top of Pai, a guided cave tour which included a bamboo raft ride through the river inside, a stop at the hot spring, followed by a waterfall and last but absolutely not least the Pai canyon at sunset (which may be my favorite thing we've seen in Thailand so far). 

    It would have been incredible if the tour was just that, but the group of people we spent the day with were the most awesome, genuine, hilarious and fun people to ever be grouped with. We got off the tour truck, looked around at each other and decided we weren't done hanging out. We found an amazing restaurant with delicious food and a rooftop setting and ate lunch followed by a few drinks around Pai. We made plans to hang out the next day with everyone and got each other's contact info so we could keep in touch.

    That's the amazing thing about the backpacker community, you meet so many awesome people. We met another girl at our hostel who we also loved and went to dinner with and honestly by the time it was time to go we were having a really hard time saying goodbye to both Pai and the people we met there. 

    So for those reasons and about a billion others, I fully stand by my opinion that if you come to Thailand YOU HAVE TO GO TO PAI. Trust me. 

Tour: Pai Let's Go Tour (pailetsgo.com) 

Restaurants worth trying: Moonshine, The Wine Bar, Bom Bowls, Earth Tone...plus all the street food vendors

Bars worth going to: Sunset bar, Paradise Bar, Yellow Sun

Hostel we stayed in: Pai Circus Hostel and School 

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Courtney's View #2: Pinned & Squirming

The wonderful hotel I’m staying at while I get my Non B Visa provides free breakfast. It’s not your average continental breakfast of Ho-hos and Ding Dongs. There’s a big pan of fried rice, plates of papaya and dragon fruit, pancakes, eggs, cucumbers, shredded carrots, and small sausages. There’s even a coffee maker that spits out Americanos which I return to in a sneaky tip-toe three or four times a morning. I go noticed 100% of the time.

The employees are very kind and helpful. One might say that they are unwavering and ever present in these respects. They are instantly available to get you a plate and gesture at the buffet. They are the quiet, smiling sentinels of breakfast.

My wallflowerishness sadly makes me unappreciative of this immaculate watchfulness. To me it just equals intentional, paid staring. As I approach the buffet, I feel a cruel combination of skittishness and hunger. I try to move along the buffet in a way that conceals the quantities of food I’m taking. I’m not sure what is acceptable and I don’t want to be disgustedly judged. The water glasses are rather small and I’m thirsty so I loiter by the drinks and down three waters in a row. The concierge stands steady, watching. A bug manages to fly into my fourth glass. The concierge stares. I want to fish out the bug but he’s watching. I don’t want to look even more slobbish. I drink the bug with a twitchy swallow.

Hastily, I walk to my table with a plate of pancakes and a bowl of fruit. Blast, I forgot to put syrup on my pancakes. I dread returning to the surveilled buffet to get the syrup. Surely, I will look like a fool. I will have to wait at least 15 minutes to avoid this, hopefully enough time for the concierge to have forgotten my stumbling performance. Wait I do. With my perceived clean slate, I assume a casual air as my curiously still-existing pancakes accompany me back to their mecca. The concierge raises his eyebrows. I slouch a little and spoon my syrup. He must have thought I took my pancakes for a walk to gently break the news that they’d be eaten and inquire about their last wishes. Oh you’d like Syrup to accompany you to the Grey Havens? As you wish. 

When I return to my room, I flop face down on to the cloud-like bed in a despondent heap, run through by the force of a thousand imagined judgements.                                                                                                             

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.... P.S. If you want to avoid major Visa stress, do as CIEE recommends and don't travel before the teaching program starts! I was stuck in Vientiane, Laos for almost 3 weeks and came out of it with a big fat "VOID WITHOUT PREDJUDICE" stamp in my passport and no Visa. I had to travel back to Laos to try again and was thankfully successful! If you do travel beforehand, Savannakhet, Laos is the absolute best place to get your Non B Visa. There was a total of 20 people getting processed on the day I went, as opposed to nearly 1000 in Vientiane. That being said, I loved traveling beforehand and would do it again - I just underestimated the Visa scene!

Below: A picture of me over-thinking stuff and knowing it. 

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Courtney's View #1: The Big Fat Reality Check

Until I came to Thailand, I was living in a hip-college-mountain-town in Colorado. The town is full of Trustafarians who wear those ruggish, biblical ponchos that are meant to signify enlightenment. Perhaps my college can owe it's 1988 accusation by USA Today of being "the worst dressed" town in America to these types. My town is full of world class mountain runners, kayakers, mountain bikers, and skiers. There are many organic food stores and much environmental awareness. People wear lots of Patagonia and rock that classy sandal-sock combination with $100 Chacos, the finest and most durable of sandals. What I'm trying to say is that my town houses a distinctly earthy yet privileged population and I am very aware of this. 

I’ve been in Thailand for 4 months now. As for any Westerner, there many new things both shocking and delightful I've gotten to get accquainted with:

-a high power distance culture

-seeing an average of 3 helmet-less 2 year olds per sputtering moped

-a general lack of catalytic converters on vehicles

-a pacifist yet intensely opportunist driving culture that is very fascinating

-the delights of spicy food

-multitudes of garbage fires containing burning plastic

-legions of street dogs and cats

-groups of orange robed monks walking the streets for alms every morning

Coming from my super PC and health obsessed town, all of these things elicit a confusing array of responses like, "Wow! What's that? What's this? WOW! Yum! Oh no! huh? Eeek! Uggh. Ooo shiny! Oh dear. Tasty! But how? quick-hold-yer-breath!"

For me, there is a lot of learning to be done. I have diva-ishly sought out "staples" like nutritional yeast, organic shampoo, real coffee (as opposed to instant), single track running trails, and mexican food. With a little effort, some of these things can be found, but I am forced to shrug my shoulders for many others. My apartment has no sinks, just faucets sticking rustily out of the wall. It appears that my water source is a big cement tank that I have seen some questionable items floating in. My backyard features a wonderful sewage ditch that wafts fragrantly through my apartment. I call it the "spicy Thai breeze". Enter water filters, bleach, candles, and a super-chill mind. This lack of many things I consider "staples" of my life has been a big fat reality check that makes me wonder if I have "Privileged" written 100 times on my face.

What I'm learning is that travel is probably the best teacher of open mindedness. I have always considered myself to be broad minded but that's an easy label to give myself when I'm back at home comfortably sipping on a green juice and watching a peloton of $10,000 bikes whiz by before comfortably walking to my comfortable job where I comfortably communicate AND relate to nearly every person I encounter. Discomfort is what tests me. Travel often gives the gift of wider contemplation through the deprivation of comforts I take for granted. 

My goal for my stay in Thailand is to not only be grateful for the comforts I've previously had, but to truly take joy in what Thailand has to offer. This might be genuinely looking forward to a cup of instant coffee, really getting to know my students and fellow teachers, and reforming to the simplicity of no furniture and living from the contents of a carry-on size bag. 

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Below: Taking time to serenade our favorite street kitty Jacqueen.

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Below: Moped specimen.

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