Kiriwong: My Paradise

There is now a stiff competition brewing between Chiang Mai and Kiriwong for the top contender spot of Sophia’s favorite city in Thailand. Only time and many more visits will tell who the will take that coveted spot.

I love Kiriwong for so many reasons and I love Kiriwong with so much passion that I almost didn’t want to share the magic that it holds with anyone; not even you, my super cool readers. I was being  selfish, but then I realized that this place must be shared. You’re probably asking yourself why I would be so selfish; what could possibly be that great? Well, let me tell you, this place was fantastic from end to end.

A few weeks ago my boyfriend and I celebrated our 1 year anniversary (dawwwwwww) and I, having an insatiable appetite for travel, suggested that we spend our special time getting off this tropical island we call home and going somewhere we hadn’t been before. I left the decision of where to travel up to him, and I must say he did extremely well.AA BLOG 12

Kiriwong is a city in the Nakhon Si Thammarat Provence of Thailand which is the southern part of the country. It is easily accessible from Nakohn Si Thammart city by Song Taew which costs only 40 baht for a 30 minute ride. For us traveling there was easy as we live in the South so we took the ferry to the mainland along with our motorbike and made the (3 hour) drive from the Don Sak pier.

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A coffee on the river

Baan Kiriwong (Kiriwong Village) is a magical little place at the foot of the mountain range with the tallest mountain in Southern Thailand, Khao Luang. This village has so much charm that I didn’t even know what to do with it all. As I looked around marveling at everyday things I just sighed and said the word, “wow,” a few times every minute. For some reason, the everyday things in Kiriwong Village are just so much lovelier.  You might know by now that Thailand is appropriately nicknamed the “land of smiles,” and it is my new theory that that nickname actually originated in Kiriwong. The people there are just constantly smiling. Maybe it’s the incredibly clean and fresh air they breath, the robust and beautiful river splitting their adorable village,  the abundance of tropical fruits they can pick out of their own gardens, or there is a chance it could be the fact that their charming village is seemingly being hugged by mountains creating views that you don’t really even find on postcards. I guess any one of those things could be the reason these people can’t stop smiling, or maybe just maybe, they’re all the nicest people ever.

I’m now going to tell you the top 3 things that I’m certain are going to make you all add this quaint village to your travel bucket lists.

  1. They have maintained a really traditional lifestyle in this village. The people of the village make pretty much everything themselves.  To call them crafty is an understatement. Everything you come across has that personal touch of the locals, and that seems to be way they like it. We
    All of the clothes in this shop are handmade, one of a kind, and were dyed with local fruits.

    All of the clothes in this shop are handmade, one of a kind, and were dyed with local fruits.

    visited an amazing shop full of tie-dyed clothes and accessories in beautiful colors that you don’t often find. What’s the secret? The clothes are dyed using fruit, leafs, and tree barks! What’s the even secreter part of the secret? All of this comes from their very own village; of course it does!

  2. There are numerous waterfalls that you can visit and have a swim in. We decided to check out the Wang Mai Pak waterfall.  This was such a great decision and we absolutely fell in love with it. There were about 5 other people there at the time who were just leaving the waterfall as we arrived so we  ended up having that
    Me, having the time of my life.

    Me, having the time of my life.

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    Looking up at the waterfall.

    splendid piece of nature all to ourselves.  At that point, I realized that I was completely in love with Kiriwong. We spent a few hours just playing in the waterfall, soaking up the sun, and taking a few photos. If/when you visit Kiriwong, Wang Mai Pak waterfall is a must see.

  3. When you’re looking for a place to stay for the night in Kiriwong look no further than the homes of the others. Baan Kiriwong is full of homestays which range from about 200 THB a night to about 800 THB a night. The homestays come in all different styles and types which means it is easy to find something that suits you best. We considered abandoning our real lives and living in our homestay forever because we loved it so much. For our two nights in Baan
    Our room at Kua Nai Suat Homestay

    Our room at Kua Nai Suan Som Lom Homestay

    Kiriwong, we managed to find a place near the end of the village that was nestled comfortably in the jungle. The name, which I’ve translated from Thai so bare with me, is Kua Nai Suan Som Lom. Our room was very private and not actually connected to the main house so we got the best of both worlds. What I love about homestays is that all the rooms are personalized and really do have that homey feeling. It’s a nice change if you’ve been traveling and staying in lots of hotels.

If those things haven’t convinced you on Kiriwong yet, then let me tell you a bit more. Baan Kiriwong is amazingly peaceful, quiet, natural, and seemingly untouched when comparing it to many of the tourist destinations in Thailand. In fact, this village is a host to mainly Thai tourists and  that is on a very small scale. The river running through the middle of the village is a source of life to all around it and despite a major flood in the 1980’s the people have rebuilt themselves around that very river and carried on. While there, I got the feeling that I had gone back to a much simpler time in life but not back in the past, and that was a great feeling. If you’re on the hunt for a place to party and get crazy, this is not the place for you but if you’re ready for some peace and quiet and appreciation of nature this could be your paradise.

Me, being a cool tourist

Me, being a cool tourist

Sometimes I get caught up in my daily life and forget to appreciate the fact that I live in Thailand, a country foreign to my own. Being that I’ve been here for almost 2 years, living on Koh Samui, it feels like home and I take this place for granted at times. Traveling to Kiriwong was in so many ways a great reminder for me of the beautiful, amazing, and diverse country that I am living in. AA BLOG 6

 

Thanks for reading

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Social anxiety and feminism vs. free food

Compared to how I used to be, I think I’ve become quite an antisocial person over the past year. Of course, that partially comes with age but I’m not really all that old so for that reason, I decided last week that I’d change my increasingly anti-social ways. I managed to make myself feel guilty about how much I love not going out, and that guilt pushed me to decide to go out to a free beach club dinner with a group of women.  In retrospect, mistakes were made which clearly need to be documented on this blog.

Mistake number one was made when I decided that free food trumps social anxiety. As soon as I decided to go, the dinner showed me what a social recluse and weirdo I can be at times  [insert sweaty armpits and awkward handshakes]. That’s probably made pretty obvious as I sit here writing a blog post about my experience leaving my house (HAHA). But hey, leaving my house got me a free 3-course meal right? The restaurant even boasted decent vegetarian options, so it was kind of a no-brainer that I had to do it. All I had to do for my free meal was wear a “little black dress.” Mistake number two was when I decided that free food trumped feminism. I was subjecting myself to something which goes against what i’d like to believe are my feminist principles. Whatever though, it’s hard to turn down a free 3 course meal and a chance to try to somewhat redeem myself socially.

The host of this event was an aging Italian man whose jokes were just tip toeing the line of sexism the entire night, but, did I mention it was a free meal? If someone were to write a story about my life the title would be “Woman puts up with sexist and misogynistic behavior for free food and drinks.” Just kidding that wouldn’t be the title but close enough.

So I attended this free food event and won my meal by wearing my little black dress. I tried with all my might to go against the grain as much as could. My little black dress was high necked, long sleeved, and went down past my knees and was probably more suitable for a funeral than a sexy girl event. Take that, that man, or….. umm whoever i’m trying to stick it to by looking as unsexy as I can.

I guess the purpose of this free meal was to promote the newly opened beach venue that it took place at. The prize for the girl in the sexiest little black dress was a bottle of champagne which served it’s purpose of getting us all really fired up . The price of champagne in Thailand is exorbitant. This little event/competition has been running for a few weeks now and we were told that the winner was determined by the host based on who he thought looked the sexiest in their dress (usually the tiniest dress). I think this may have been a little family un-friendly so they changed up the rules and decided to go the more um…intellectual route you could say.

So, he [the host] handed us small pieces of paper and asked us in 20 words or less (groan) to write why we deserved to win the free bottle of champagne prize (double groan). I decided that i’d be nice and oblige the man because he was about to feed me.

I again tried to go against the grain, as much I love champagne and as fired up as free things get me, there was no way I wanted to stand up in front of a group of sexy and scantily clad women and accept my shining champagne bottle award. I played with the idea of writing “I don’t want to win, please don’t pick me,” but then I thought, “No, don’t do that, maybe it will back fire.” So I went with something a little less out there and said “I won’t share the champagne with my friends if I win.” That answer was nice and rude so it was a sure loss for me. Thank the sweet heavens above his favorite choices of the winner were entries such as…..

“I’ve got a tiny black dress and longggg legs so pick me”

“I’m the best looking one here and i’m a princess, who doesn’t want to pamper a princess”

“Just look at me, i’m the most beautiful”

“I want to win, I want to win, I need to win, I win”

the list goes on.

My submission was clearly sub standard compared to these gems and thank goodness for that.  I can just imagine my champagne bottle acceptance speech now “Um hi everyone, thanks for being here tonight. I bought this dress for my future as the most boring woman in the world so it really means a lot to me that my submission about not sharing was able to beat out the, “I have really long legs” entry. I will cherish this bottle and um…um *bursts into tears for dramatic effect.”

Or something along those lines. Shame I wasn’t able to win this one. Alas, there is always next week as this lovely new restaurant bar club conglomerate thing has decided that this a weekly tradition.

This event just set me on the path for over analyze-ation of myself and everyone around me. I’ve been preaching lately (to my journal) about how much I hate that people base everything on looks when *cue cliche saying* really it’s what’s inside that counts. It’s actually a scary thought. I’m going to end this one here because I feel i’m about to waffle on even more.

Thanks for reading

Oh yeah, P.S. – the food was super good

Love letters to my best friends and family

There are people in my life some far and a few near,

old friendships and new,

that I wish to write love letters to.

I long to tell them about their grace, their intelligence, their fierceness, their beauty,

their bravery, their courage to be different.

To let them know how much their beautiful inside shines out, I feel this is my duty

I long to write these love letters and send them to my friends

Letters about how much I love and adore these things about them.

But i’ll write and send these letters, to what end?

They don’t know my quiet appreciation for all that makes them who they are

So for now I won’t write them love letters,

i’ll just keep these sweet appreciative lines inside

And hope that they know they’re always on mind

Even when the distance between us is so far.

x

Ping pong shows – not exactly table tennis

Just to forewarn everyone, this post is slightly graphic. I’m writing it this way though so that anyone who is making their way to Thailand can make a more educated decision about whether or not to see a ping pong show.

When it was time for me to leave the good old US of A, one of the last things that one of my friends said to me was “make sure you go to a ping pong show and tell me about it,”and she started giggling after she said this. The first thing that came to my mind when she said made this request of me was the film Forest Gump. I thought to myself that if ping pong shows in Thailand were anything like what I saw in Forest Gump I would have to check one out. I didn’t really understand what was funny about that but I agreed anyway not really knowing what I was agreeing to at the time. Well sorry it’s taken me over a year to update you Breea, but i’m here to finally let you know what happened when I fulfilled your request.

I saw my first and only ping pong show while in Pattaya Thailand at the infamous walking street there. No doubt, if you’ve been there before, you have been propositioned to watch a ping pong show. When the persistent and often annoying “sales men” first tried luring me into these things I still wasn’t quite sure what they were however I was starting to get the feeling that they were nothing like what I had in my mind about Forest Gump. The ignorance factor did not last long though as I started to see the laminated papers listing the different “activities” that you could see when entering the dark gloomy bars housing the ping pong shows.

The items on the list were things along the lines of:

“P____ writing a letter”

“P____ popping a balloon”

“P____ opening a bottle”

“P____ with razor blades”

“P____ with fish”

“P____ blowing out a candle”

“Boy and Girl sex show”

and of course

“P____ playing ping pong”

You get where this is going.  The list went on and on and I think that i’ve mentally blocked out the rest of what was on there. (If you don’t understand what “P____” means please use your imagination, phone a friend, or ask the audience).

Somehow, in an alcohol fueled frenzy my friends and I decided that it was necessary for us to check one of these out. It cost something like 100 baht and a compulsory drink purchase once entering the bar. At the time that seemed like a lot of money but now after seeing what the girls in there do I wish that I could have paid more to make them stop.

I’m all about women doing what they want with their bodies and I could not tell someone to stop doing something HOWEVER, there are certain things that I did not know the human body could do and I wish they could be unseen. I’ve previously written about my shock when first seeing the workings of the sex industry here and it’s integration into tourism however seeing a ping pong show put that into a completely different light for me.

When we first walked into the bar for the ping pong show the air was moist in the worst kind of way and the seats were beginning to fill up with people I have now come to know as sort of typical creepy tourists of Thailand. They are sex tourists. As my friend once put it they are the kind of people who ride huge mopeds that are meant to look like a motorcycle but they’re just really not a motorcycle. I admit it, it is slightly judgmental  of me to say this but hey, this my blog and I can say what I want.

Anyway, the ping pong show did not kick off right away but started with some “warm up” acts which consisted of girls in underwear holding on with one hand to a pole, looking completely dead in the eyes, and moving slightly to beats that they seemed to make up in their own heads. Needless to say I wasn’t impressed but the beer was flowing and so was the beer/whiskey that I snuck in with me so at that time I had no reason to leave.

Soon after the dead eyed girls finished on the poles a very tired looking woman who seemed almost too comfortable in her lingerie slowly walked onto the stage. The expression on her face when she started her first “act” was like a mixture of extreme concentration on the task at hand and disdain and boredom with typical monotonous day to day work activities. She had the look on her face that I do while I sit at my computer desk at work;  dead in the eyes and barely awake but also trying really hard to communicate something that makes sense to another human being. Her extreme concentration though came in handy as she pulled a string of razor blades out of her body. Yes, she literally pulled a long string (probably 3 meters) with razor blades attached to it out of herself. Again, use your imagination to decide where she is pulling the razor blades from, i’m sure you can guess. To my surprise and the surprise of the crowd, there was not blood squirting all over the place, and everything seemed to be just business as usual in a weird way. Honestly, up until the point before she started pulling the razor blades out I was still kind of naive about the show. I thought, no there’s no way that i’m actually going to witness something this insane, and i’m sure all the crazy stories are just rumors. After the moment that the girl walked out on stage and had what seemed to be a very long tampon string hanging out with a razor blade at the end, it started to get a bit more real for me. She even sliced a straw into tiny pieces with the razor blade to make sure we all knew how sharp it was.

After the razor blade display she took a quick break while her colleague came on stage and showed us all that it is indeed possible to open a bottle of Singha Soda water with your umm… “anatomy”. She made sure to let a few people in crowd test to make sure the bottle was brand new and not easily opened. Thinking back on this moment I wonder if that Singha soda water bottle is where my brand loyalty to Singha all started because now that is the only brand of water that I buy. Ah, deep questions that i’ll save for another time in life.

After the soda bottle incident, woman number one came back on stage with a more family friendly act of pulling strings of fake flowers out of the place where the razor blades once made their debut. The show continued in this strange and sickening fashion and consisted of things such as whistles being blown from down there, letters being written (you could request whole sentences if you had something special you wanted the women to write), darts being shot at unbelievable speeds, bananas being shot into the air, and much more which I’ve decided to block out of my memory.

There finally came a point where we decided that enough was enough and I think that may have been when something wet made it’s way off stage and onto my friends skin. We left in somewhat of a trance (the worst trance possible) and all went home to reflect on our lives and purposes on earth. If it weren’t for the extreme amounts of alcohol I probably would not have made it to sleep that night but alas, I did.

The show haunted me for days, maybe even weeks, and it sort of still haunts me to this day. As with most experiences though I’ve tried to see things from the point of view of the girls on stage and I tried my best not to judge their career choices.

Not long after seeing the ping pong show a friend of mine who had been living in Thailand for a few year lent me the book Bangkok Boy written by Chai Pinit. Reading that book gave me incredible insight to what a lot of Thai people in the sex industry go through and what leads many of them to that point in their life. I do urge anyone who has witnessed this industry in Thailand to at least inform themselves about the industry and to take a moment to remember that the people entertaining them are exactly that…people.

Now that you’ve had a glimpse into what a Ping Pong show is all about you can make your decision about if seeing one of these should be on your Thailand bucket list or if you should just give it a miss. I know that myself and my friends all felt pretty horrible after seeing the show but with that being said there were also people in the audience displaying many different emotions which ranged from completely unmoved and unaffected to highly entertained and satisfied. The choice is yours, choose wisely!

Thanks for reading.

I’ve got the itch…to travel that is

Lately I’ve been getting that traveling itch again. This itch is not the kind that can be cured by a quick trip for a few days. This is the kind of itch that needs to be scratched hard, and for a long time. Excuse my graphic metaphor but what I’m talking about is quite serious.

I need to get back out there and travel; I need to experience more of the world again. I absolutely love living in Thailand and my plan is to keep this wonderful country as my base. Right now though, I need to be wild and free. I need to be out in the unknown for an unspecified amount of time that can only be determined by circumstance.

There really is nothing quite like the feeling that you get when you first arrive to a new and unknown place as a completely anonymous person. That new place is like the most interesting book you’ve ever read, it’s the best conversation you’ve ever had, it’s the most beautiful person you’ve ever seen, it’s the best cup of coffee that’s ever been made, it’s the scariest and most exhilarating roller coaster ever designed, it’s just everything. It’s a hard feeling to describe (as you can see). What I know about this feeling though is that it’s one that I’m ok with being addicted to. It’s one addiction I’ll welcome with open arms because the great thing is this world is massive I can keep chasing this feeling forever. As long as I’m breathing I don’t think I’ll ever want to stop exploring.

This need to travel, this itch, it comes to me quite frequently and I try my best to most of the time I scratch it. There are always things that hypothetically should stop me from dropping everything and going, for example no money, no plan, a steady job that I want to keep, love, no body believing in me and my dreams. These things have yet to actually stop me though. Bring it on, adversity!

No money – I make it work no matter what. Check out my other post about how to travel with a small amount of money.

 

No plan – I am a planner by nature and currently by profession but in traveling I’ve found that as long as I have a base plan, for example sticking to the eastern hemisphere of the world, everything else will work out in some way. If things do not go exactly the way that I envisioned them to, they usually end up turning out well, or at least are experiences that were worth having in some way.

 

Steady Job – I have to tell myself “Self, you can ALWAYS get another job.” I tell myself this because I know it to be true and I’ve proven it to myself multiple times. I’ve noticed that some people get really attached to their jobs; if you’ve had one before and you want another one, believe me, you will get one. Your dream job may not land in your lap but you can always find something to keep yourself sustaining life.

Also, I always remember to tell myself that even though I know working is an essential part of life for most people, working is not what my life is all about. So I don’t have a problem letting something good go because in the end I’m not going to look back on my life and think, “wow, I had a really stable and well-paying job. Well done Sophia” I’m hopefully going to look back and think about all the crazy experiences I had, how I helped people in some way, and how much I opened my mind and heart to the world.

 

Love – If I’m leaving love to travel and its real love, it can and will survive. This may not be true for everyone and I know that every relationship is different but if traveling is an important thing to you, then your partner should know that. They should also be willing to either join you in your travels or let you do what you need to do on your own.

 Nobody to believe in your dreams – I’ve been lucky enough that I’ve had some great supporters on my side over the years but I do get the occasional doubt from people. To these people I say – HAHAHA. I always make my dreams come true no matter how many nays the nay sayers say, and you should too!

In my opinion there are not too many reasons a person should not travel and get out there to experience as much as they can. I know cannot wait for my next adventure!

Thanks for reading

How to survive while traveling with a small amount of money – Part 1

Whenever I talk to people about traveling and why they don’t do it, one of the first reasons that I always hear is lack of money or an unwillingness to spend money. I’m here to inform all of you out there that you don’t actually need a lot of money to travel. I don’t think there has ever been a point in my life where I would say that I was wealthy or had more money than the average person my age and yet I’ve managed to get out there and see lots of different places. I’ve been able to do this because of a few different techniques that I’ve picked up along the way. I’ve provided below some pointers on ways to travel without a ton of money.1901546_10153813448965468_1445808495_n

*Note – This post will be two parts

Getting Somewhere

First things first – Figure out where it you want to go and the different ways you can get there. If you’re staying in the country that you’re already in and just moving to a different area, there are probably a few low cost options for getting where you need to go.

Traveling is not always easy  :)

Traveling is not always easy 🙂

For example: Take a bus – Do not be scared to do this; everyone does it. I quite enjoy riding the bus. It is a great people watching spot, you get to see things you probably otherwise would never see, and if you’re outgoing enough you’ll probably make a new friend. I know people who have never actually ridden a bus and to those people I have to say- it is not as complicated or terrifying as it might seem.

Take a train – I’ve got pretty much the same thing to say about the train as I do about the bus except the train is even better because chances are you can buy snacks on the train. If you’re imaginative enough you can even convince yourself that you’re on the hogwarts express to make the ride more fun.

Ride share – A ride share is pretty self explanatory; you share a ride with someone – usually for a small fee like splitting the cost of gas. There are plenty of different ways to find ride shares just be careful when you do it!10917167_10203640972769883_4235955159397242392_o

Take a bicycle – Depending on how fit you are, you may be able to get to your destination by bicycling. Of course for some places this will take several days to get where you need to go but no doubt will be a good experience.

If you’re going out of the country things can be a bit trickier. If you’re going to another country that borders your own, then the suggestions from above still apply. You can probably get there cheaply without leaving the ground. If you’re going a bit further than the bordering countries, or if you’re going overseas you’ll need to figure out how to look for a cheap flight. I will soon be providing a post on how to find cheap flights. Trust me, it can be done.

Where to stay

So when you finally do get to your destination you’re going to need to find accommodation that is within your budget. This can be done in several different ways. You can research accommodation in your destination ahead of time, you can wait until you get there and just see what you come across, you can hire a travel agent (let’s be real, you’re on a budget so you’re not hiring a travel agent), or you could rely on the help of friendly locals to guide you to the best places (this tactic does not always work – be careful especially if you’re a lone female traveler).

I’ve gone about finding cheap accommodation in all of those ways apart from the travel agent. Here are some tips for you guys:

Use your connections Go to a city where you know someone, even if it’s a distant distant relative, or a friend of friend, don’t be afraid to ask them the good places. If you know nice people, chances are they might show you around or even let you stay with them until you find a good place. I’ve done this on a number of ocassions. It helps to have friends all over the world. If you don’t now, you’ll get there because once you start traveling you’ll make lots of new friends.10177501_10152768621084199_1631014377_n

Stay in hostels – Don’t be afraid to do this. I remember my first experience staying in a hostel I was excited but also had a creepy image in my mind of what i’d be facing when I got there. My first hostel stay was in Edinburgh, Scotland and I have to say I had an amazing time. I paid something around 6 GBP per night to share a room with 7 other people and I had the experience of a lifetime. If you’re going for a long term or permanent holiday you can even land a job working at the hostel for free accommodation. This is a good way to keep yourself in your desired city/country without having to stress too much about finding work and accommodation. Working at a hostel does not appear to be easy but the people I met who worked there seemed to love their life and made so many life long friendships.1546265_10151955947508124_151448873_n

Scour the net for discounts and specials. Grab that groupon while it’s hot! There are deals to be found if you put in the time and effort.

Look into house swaps- Again this is one of those things that is exactly like it sounds. You can literally swap houses with someone on the other side of the world for a holiday. This one I’ve never done as I’ve not yet owned my own house but I do intend to try it one day.

Couch Surfing- For a small fee you can join a website where you can find a place to stay in different cities. This is really a great service and a good way to meet new people. The website is really helpful as well because you can read reviews about the experiences at different houses and choose something you think will fit you best.

Eat cheaply

Spy on the locals – The best way to eat affordable food is to watch what the locals eat. This is especially important if you’re in an area that has a lot of tourism. You’ll find restaurants that I like to call “tourist traps” everywhere. These will be the easiest and most obvious places for you to eat, but they are also probably some of the most expensive. Try and figure out where the local people eat and go and eat there as well. Chances are the food is going to be cheap, super good, and authentic.1969192_10152663015974199_49610931_n

Share- Another good tip is to share a meal with your friends. Sharing meals with the people around you is great way to make new friends, be a nice person, and save some money. If you’re coming from the western world, especially America, sharing plates is not a very common concept. Typically each person will order the food they want and eat that food to themselves. You will find that in a lot countries most of the eating is done “family style.” The dishes are all in the middle of the table and everyone takes some from each dish. This is an awesome way to try lots of different foods. I admit when I first came to SE Asia it took me a while to get used to this concept, it felt very foreign. I learned along the way though not to be shy, and not to be stingy and this has contributed to many wonderful experiences for me. Sharing a meal with people has to be one of the most joyful things you can do in life.1505090_10151971641248124_1119303183_n

Discounts, groupons, etc! – There are so many good deals and discounts everywhere you go. A lot of them will be things like buy one get one free which are great for sharing with your friends! Just put in a little bit of time and find good deals. Another good tip is to find newly opened restaurants that are doing trials. I’ve got quite a few free meals that way. 🙂

Limit your drinking- I know that for some people this will not be possible, but if you are able to limit how much alcohol you drink you will be surprised by how much money you will save. One thing i’ve learned along the way while traveling is that having a drink on your journey often leads to a fun time but it can also cause you to forget parts of your trip that you wish you could remember. After all, if you’re going to travel across the world just to get black out drunk you could save yourself a whole lot of money and stayed home to do that 🙂

Part 2 coming soon

Thank you for reading!

Mountain top camping

Life in Koh Samui is endlessly surprising and entertaining. Just when I think i’ve done it all, a new opportunity comes up and shows me that there is so much more to do and see on this island than I think. Just a few days ago my boyfriend asked me if I wanted to go camping on a mountain on a Thursday night. After considering it for 5 seconds I enthusiastically accepted the offer. Not knowing which mountain we’d be heading to I packed up my bag (aka my tent, a flash light, and whatever was in my purse) and set off to meet up with the group going camping.

IMG_5552One of the nice things about Koh Samui is that because it is a relatively small place, it’s easy to get to know people quickly. As the island is a major tourist destination, that most of the people living here work in some sort of business that has to do with tourism. Knowing different people in the tourism industry meant that we were able to ride up the mountain in a huge truck used for the island “safaris”and we were able to camp literally at the top of the mountain on someone’s private property.

For our camping trip we didn’t end up leaving to get up to the mountain until the sun had already gone down so the drive up there was interesting to say the least. My friend and I decided we’d take the opportunity to ride on the top of the truck for part of the ride which felt like a roller coaster that you had to constantly dodge trees on. It was an amazing ride though non the less. I managed not to throw up which made it all that much better. IMG_5568

The night spent up there was fantastic as we spent our time cooking on the BBQ, chatting, and drinking some beers. The best part about being up there though was the amazing view. You could see almost a 360 of the entire island (there were some trees in the way of that complete 360 view). When you live on an island it is easy to quickly get used to everything the island has to offer and you tend to forget how big the place really is. Seeing everything from way up there really put into perspective how big Koh Samui is and made me appreciate it even more.

After staying awake for a good amount of the night we decided that it was time to retire to our tents as we all had to work by 9am the next day. Sleeping in a tent as you probably know is not the most comfortable thing to do but it’s all made worth it when you get to wake up on the top of the mountain and look out over seemingly the entire Gulf of Thailand.

The specific place where we went and camped has just opened a restaurant at the very top by the name of 360 Jungle Route Koh Samui. I highly recommend this place as a great stop the next you are in Koh Samui as it is highly unlikely you’re going to get to see the view up there in many other places. If you’re lucky enough maybe they will even let you pitch a tent and spend the night so you can wake up in paradise. Thank you for reading! IMG_5572

Common Jobs for foreigners- South East Asia

To begin with, it is totally possible to move to another country and start a new life for yourself including finding a job that you could potentially love. This is possible, but it is not without it’s challenges. You’ve got to stay focused and be determined in order to find a job abroad!

I’ve put together a list of what i’ve seen to be the most common jobs for foreigners in Thailand and a few other areas that i’ve been in South East Asia.

Teaching- The easiest way for native English speakers to move to a new country in Asia and find a job is to become an English teacher. Surprisingly, this job does not require a teaching degree but having one would help and would also raise your salary. A lot of schools will require you to have at least a bachelor’s degree but it does not necessarily need to be for teaching. A TESOL or TEFL certification is also very helpful when trying to get a job as an English teacher. I’ll go into a bit more detail about these certifications in another post.

One thing to remember though if you’re looking for a job as a teacher is that you should only take this job if you plan to actually care about what you are doing. Chances are you’re going to be working with children and it’s really important that you try hard to help them to learn and actually care about what you say to them. Please keep that in mind!

Tour guide- You can get a tour guide job usually if you have a native language other than English and if you also speak English or Thai. I personally know a few people who are tour guides in Russian and Korean. Chinese, French, Arabic, and Hebrew might be other popular languages for potential tour guides to know. I often see job postings asking for Chinese speakers here in Koh Samui.

Dive Instructor/Working at a Dive Shop- These jobs are infamous for not coming with work permits. It may be relatively easy to land one of these jobs, but actually getting the dive shop to provide you with the legal paperwork you need to stay here in probably not going to happen. If you do go for a job like this, prepare to have to do frequent border runs. Simply working in a dive shop as someone that books trips etc is a common job but you can also work as a dive instructor. Working as a dive instructor obviously is going to require a lot more work and commitment as you’ll need to get lots of experience and of course you’ll need to get the certification if you don’t have it already.

Hotel Work- In popular tourism areas you will often find that hotels hire foreigners for various positions. Most of the positions are upper level management positions rather than something like a front desk clerk etc. These jobs are no joke though and not the kind that you should take unless you are really committed to them. Landing one of these jobs is also not going to come that as easy as you will likely need to have years of professional experience and typically they look for people with the experience in the hospitality industry. If you are lucky enough though to get a job like this you will enjoy the awesome benefits which most of the time include things like free housing, very high salaries (for south east asia), free food, and occasionally for those special ones even a car.

Business Owner – In Thailand it is common to find foreign owed businesses typically they will be restaurants or bars. It is most common to find this in high tourism areas. The thing to keep in mind though if you are interested in starting a business in Thailand is that as a foreigner you will never truly own your business. What I mean by this is that in order to own a business or land etc in Thailand it must be with a Thai partner. This does not have to be someone you are married too or in a relationship with but it must be a business partner. The Thai partner will have to own at least 51% of the business and you can own 49%. In my eyes this is a great law to have in place because if it weren’t I’m guessing Thailand would have been bought up by now with all of the ex pats currently living in this country and countless others wanting to live here.

Bar and restaurant work – Again, in major tourism areas it will probably be easy to get a job working a bar or a restaurant however these jobs most of the time do not come with a work permit. The pay is also not that great but the job will likely be tons of fun. You’ll meet so many new people and have a fun lifestyle. This is not always a stable job to get though as you run the risk of getting caught working with a work permit and also bars and restaurants open and close here constantly. This is not a bad thing to try out though while you just hoping to make some quick cash.

Most of the jobs that you will find in Thailand for foreigners are going to be teaching jobs especially if you’re not in a high tourism area. If you are interested in the other jobs that do not involve teaching then I would recommend looking in places that are well known for tourism and that have a lot of businesses.

I am interested in hearing if anyone else has anything to add to this list or any other input about working as a foreigner.

 

Thank you for reading!

My first experience with the sex industry

If you know anything about SE Asia, you know that sex industry is big here. So surprisingly it did not take me long to have my first encounter with this industry which taught me some valuable life lessons.

In Phnom Penh Cambodia there is a street called street 51 which is a place where a lot of tourists hang out. It is full of bars and restaurants, and a lot of western faces. One night my friend and I decided that we wanted to head out to take advantage of some happy hour specials after school and not knowing much about the city we decided that street 51 should be the place to do that. We sat down in this open air mall sort of area with lots of different bars. As we sat there and had a few drinks and some food we noticed that this particular area was full of prostitutes and old western men. Seeing this was not all that surprising however we did not realize that the place we were in was known for that sort commerce; we were pretty much in the center of the main area for this business. Seeing these interactions between these very young women and quite old men was just not something that we were used to seeing every day.

As we sat there we noticed a couple across from us which was made up of an older British man and a younger Korean woman. They were looking at us with very strange expressions on their faces and we’d noticed it a few times but did not think much of it. A little bit later the man walked up to us with his wife and asked if she could sit with us and talk. He said “this is my wife Jay, is it alright if she sits and talks with you for a little bit, she doesn’t have any friends. She was sitting with a group of girls over there before but maybe she can sit with you girls now.” I knew that something was off about this situation but at first I did not know what exactly. Not wanting to be rude, we let Jay sit with us and we spoke to her for about 5 minutes. She looked very scared and nervous and kept saying how stressed she was about her new job. We were so confused but after a few minutes we kind of concluded that she was working as a prostitute. Her husband was clearly facilitating this and he thought that we might show her the “business.”

As one can probably imagine, I was not happy about many parts of this situation. I decided to ask her husband exactly what was going on. He said to me “Well this is my wife’s first night on her new job and she just needs some help. We are looking for safe places to go.” I asked him what business exactly he thought we could help her with and he looked at me and said “she is in the ‘hospitality’ business,” and then winked. We made it clear that he had made a huge mistake thinking that we knew anything about this and politely made our exit.
I walked away just feeling scared and horrible. I felt awful for Jay knowing that her husband was doing that to her, and I just couldn’t shake the feeling of disgust. The whole next day I couldn’t get the situation, or Jay off my mind and it really upset me. I actually took some time to sit and reflect upon the whole thing that happened and was able to kind of come to terms with it. I realize that people around the world live different lifestyles and I cannot be the person to judge someone for doing things that I would not. I felt bad for Jay and at the time I felt hatred towards her husband but I realize now that it is the way of the world. All I can do is hope for the best for people.

Since this encounter during my first week in SE Asia I’ve seen countless other incidents involving the sex industry and I am completely desensitized to it now. In some places in Thailand it is practically thrown in your face and it just becomes a normal part of life. I’ve befriended people working in this industry and doing so has helped me to become a lot less judgmental and suspicious of other people. In America it seems like we are meant to think people who are involved in this industry are bad in some way but I know now that they’re not. People are people are people are people and we are all the same in a sense no matter what sort of line of work we decide to go into.

First arriving in Cambodia – a look back in the past

When I initially arrived in Cambodia in the first week of January 2014, I immediately started writing down my experiences. I’ve included below an excerpt from my writing at that time which will show the culture shock I was experiencing. It will also detail a lot of observations I was making for my first time being in Asia as an American.

Written circa January 2014:

“Being in South East Asia has been dazzling so far. I’ve only been here for a week and a half and all of my 5 senses have experienced a plethora of new sensations.

Everything looks different: foggy, colorful, dark, smiley, cute, hilarious, naked, dangerous, and shocking.

Everything smells different: fishy, delicious, cheap, rancid, raw, fresh, comforting.

Everything sounds different: loud, foreign, peaceful, exciting, bouncy, over-worked, fast.

Everything feels different: silky, slimy, hot & sticky, bumpy, rough, worked over.

Everything tastes different: greasy, fishy, fresh, succulent, sour, unknown.

Now obviously all of these adjectives do not describe one thing but hopefully anyone reading this understands the point I am trying to make. Phnom Penh is an interesting city. It is so busy and crowded and full of life. We are staying in a hotel here in a part of town that isn’t particularly nice but that is ok because we get a ride to and from school every day. I am staying on the top floor of our hotel and my view out of the window is a nice big sewer. Sometimes I see children walking through it and picking trash out, and once unfortunately there was a kid washing some piece of clothing in it. It is truly amazing how different life can be just 7 floors up.

70% of the people in Cambodia live on less than $1 a day which is pretty unbelievable in my opinion. There is a large amount of poverty here but from what I can see the people are generally happy. For the most part people are smiling and friendly and they share everything with each other. It seems that most people look out for each other because most people are all in the same situation.

I mentioned previously that we get rides to and from school each day. We ride to school in tuk-tuks. A tuk-tuk is a carriage that is attached to a moped. It can comfortably fit about 5 people in it. Almost everyone in this city gets around by a moto (moped). There are thousands and thousands of mopeds crowding the streets at all times. In America we would probably put about 2 people on a moped max to go a short distance right? In Cambodia people put as many people and as much stuff as they can on their mopeds. Things I’ve seen on mopeds: entire 5 person families, two men and two gutted full grown pigs, naked babies with no helmets, boxes stacked 10 ft in the air, a few people and about 10 dead chickens, a moped carrying a 15 ft trailer with people and tools riding in it. The list goes on and on. It really is quite a sight to see.”

For me it is quite interesting to look back on what I previously wrote and see how much has changed. How many of these things have become a normal part of life now, and how I now view the world in a different way. I urge everyone to get the experience of spending time in a country that is significantly different than your home country. You will be amazed at how much your perspective on life and world will change.

More to come on Cambodia….

Thank you for reading