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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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

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!

Chiang Mai – I’m in LOVE!

Guys, I LOVE Chiang Mai, I really really do. I’ve been trying to convince myself to go back to school so that I have an excuse to move there and attend Chiang Mai University.

There are so many reasons to love Chiang Mai but for me the number one reason is because it reminds me a little bit of home (as much as Thailand can I suppose). It’s such an extreme difference being in Northern Thailand in Chiang Mai for holiday and living in Southern Thailand. Life on Koh Samui is absolutely nothing like life in Chiang Mai. They both have great things to offer but also are so different to each other. In this post i’ll go into the a little bit of detail about my experiences there and what I found to be good while I was there. There is quite a bit more to say but i’ll try to keep this relatively brief!

Beauty in Chiang Mai

Beauty in Chiang Mai

Getting to Chiang Mai

We took the night bus up from Koh Samui to Bangkok where we arrived at about 6am. My boyfriend Ae is from Bangkok so we spent the day at his family’s house just catching up with them and did little bit of cycling around the neighborhood before getting back on another night bus that night up to Chiang Mai. We rode with Sombat Tour up to Chiang Mai and I kid you not, it was the coldest I’ve been in over a year. I don’t know what temperature they turn the AC on to, but my nipples were hard enough to cut diamonds and I’m pretty sure my lips turned blue. Ok, I’m being a little dramatic but I was just not ready for that aircon after living in Koh Samui for so long.

When we arrived to Chiang Mai in the morning we thought we’d step out of the bus to warm air and feel great but once again, it was cold! I am from MICHIGAN in the United States of America which if you know anything about Michigan you know it’s cold most of year (extremely cold), and I was shivering in Chiang Mai. Thankfully it warmed up throughout the day but just a tip for anyone visiting around December- January, bring warm clothes!

Another note about getting to Chiang Mai- you can get there a few different ways including by air plane. For us the bus made the most sense because of the budget we were on. From Southern Thailand it is about a 24 hour total bus journey up to Chiang Mai. You can also take a train from Surat Thai, rent a car and drive there yourself, or as I mentioned before you can fly in from various locations.

From the moment we got off the bus and took a Song Taew to the area of our hotel, I knew I was already in love. Chiang Mai is just so……cute! I hate to use that word but it really just is. It is so artsy and calm and quaint and cute! I felt like I was back in Michigan in a lot of ways.

One example of cuteness

One example of cuteness

I won’t bore you all with the whole step by step of what did in our days in Chiang Mai but I have put together below some recommendations, must sees, and other tips!

Where to stay

We stayed in Old  City for our time in Chiang Mai which in my opinion was a great choice because there was a lot to do and see there, it was really great fun. I get the impression that Old City is the main area that draws in tourism. With that being said though it didn’t seem to be all that crowded or touristy. We went over Christmas time which is supposed to be a very busy time in Chiang Mai but for me it was not all that busy.

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Opal and Ae sitting outside of Greenhouse Backpacker

We stayed at a place called Greenhouse Backpacker in old town and I could not have been more pleased with the place we decided to stay. Greenhouse Backpacker is a hostel but it does have private rooms as well. The hostel bedrooms have a maximum of four beds in each room so they are not too crowded. My boyfriend and I got a private room and my friend stayed in the dorm room. The beds are comfortable, clean, and each room is uniquely decorated. They’ve all got what I call the “Chiang Mai Feel.” The style and decor in there is unbeatable, and it’s also really hard to describe. As I said before it’s the artistic, maybe a bit hippy, a bit hipster, and a bit traditional Northern Thai style all combined in one.

Another example of some typical Chiang Mai cuteness

Another example of some typical Chiang Mai cuteness

Anyway, Greenhouse Backpacker was even more amazing because of the person who worked there named Opal. Opal was the funniest, nicest, most all around awesome person to meet in Chiang Mai. She was super accommodating and made our stay there really enjoyable because of her hilarious jokes. She also gave us so many tips on cheap places to eat, good temples to visit, the popular bar to go to at night, and the cheap places to rent bicycles. So I highly recommend giving the Green House Backpacker a visit, and tell Opal I say hi!

Getting around

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Santas everywhere! My Santa Tuk Tuk was amazing

Ride in a tuk tuk! Come on, be a typical tourist and just do it! It is actually really fun and chances are it’s probably something you cannot do at home. We were lucky enough to be in Chiang Mai over Christmas so our Tuk Tuk was extra special and all dressed up like Santa Clause.

Tuk Tuks are cheap, relatively safe, and a good experience. They are not great for super long distances but for short distances they are totally fine! I would say for about a 15 minute journey you can expect to pay somewhere around 100 baht in Chiang Mai. Split that with a few friends, and it’s practically nothing! Chances are your tuk tuk drive will also be super fun to talk to and have lots of good recommendations for you.

Tuk tuks are awesome but my favorite way to get around in Chiang Mai is by bicycle! It’s a great way to see parts of the city that you probably would not otherwise get to see. Also, there are bike rental shops everywhere so it is not hard to find one that suits you. The type of bike you should rent will be based on where in the city you plan to go. If you’re not doing any mountain or hill riding you can just rent a cruiser and take a tour around the city. Typically the cost of renting one for 24 hours is only 50 baht. Unbeatable really! It’s a great form of exercise, it’s fun, and the roads in Chiang Mai are cyclist friendly as they have so many people there doing it!

Relaxing at the park after a nice bike ride.

Relaxing at the park after a nice bike ride.

Another way to get around Chiang Mai is by catching a Song Taew which we did a lot of as well. Song Taews are the pick up trucks with benches put in the back for people to sit on. Sometimes, if you’re lucky and adventurous you will get to stand at the back and hang on for dear life. If you’ve been around Thailand before i’m sure you’ve encountered Song Taews, they are a very popular way to get around. In Chiang Mai they are also super cheap at about 40 baht per person pretty much anywhere you want to go in the city (within reason).

My last recommendation of a way to get around in Chiang Mai is to rent a motorbike. Unless you have an international license, it’s not the smartest idea in Chiang Mai. There are a lot of police to stop people riding to check for the proper licensing. If you don’t have it, prepare to pay! It’s just so much easier not to go through that hassle. If you do take the risk and rent a motorbike, ALWAYS WEAR A HELMET. Not only because you’ll get a big fine if you’re caught without one, but also because you’re head/brain/and life are way more important than your hairstyle and how cool you look. Ok, my public service announcement for the day is finished. 🙂

Song Taew action shot

Song Taew action shot

My top 5 things to do in Chiang Mai

Shop at the Night Bazaar

The night Bazaar is the famous night market in Chiang Mai and lucky for all it’s patrons it is open every night! The Night Bazaar is super fun, full of people, and full of great things to buy. I haven’t been to a market quite like this one yet in Thailand as it has things from pretty much every culture you can imagine. For any jewelry fans out there, this is also a great place to purchase jewelry. I think between Chiang Mai and Pai I bought probably 6 different rings and even more earrings (my boyfriend thinks I shop too much but that’s just not possible).

Another great thing about the Night Bazaar is that it’s not only a great place for shopping, but like  most markets in Thailand it’s full of great food. The food in the north part of Thailand is so flavorful, inventive, and of course, spicy. If you are not used to spicy food, make sure when you are traveling in Thailand you ask for your food not spicy or say “Mai Phet Kha,”kind of like saying the phrase “My Pet,”but for a female you add “Kha”on the end and for a male you add “Krap”on the end to be polite. “Mai Phet” in Thai means not spicy.  My experiences with food in Thailand have been that if you go far North or far South you need to be prepared for that famous Thai spice that you hear about. If you stay in the middle area of the country the food is not automatically burn your lips off sort of spicy.

Sorry to get off subject a bit, but I recommend visiting the Night Bazaar to pick up some great things to bring back to your friends and family or just to help remember your trip. It is also a great place for a nice relaxed night out.

Visit Doi Suthep

Doi Suthep is a must see for Chiang Mai and i’m sure if you’ve done any researching on Chiang Mai you’ve probably already come across this name before. It is a mountain in the city about 15 kilometers outside of the center of the city. It’s a must see for several reason, one being the breathtaking Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep which is the temple up on the mountain. There are a few ways to get there but I will give you the insider tip on the cheapest and best way to do it. Before taking my trip up there I did a bit of research on the cheapest way to do it because I am nothing if not frugal when traveling. My friends and I ended up renting motor bikes just for the trip up there (150 per motorbike rented). For us, this was the easiest way to go about it as it allowed us time to stop at the different areas we wanted to see and we could create our own schedule. The other option if you’re not super comfortable on a motorbike is to take a taxi or a songtaew (a truck with seats in the back) up the mountain, this one though is a bit more pricey at around 600 baht per person for the round trip. The nice part about doing that way though is that you don’t have to worry about figuring out where you’re going or driving up there yourself.  If you’re super fit and up for a challenge you can get there by mountain bike- as I mentioned before you can rent them almost anywhere. I do not know exactly how long this takes but riding a motorbike all the way up to to the temple took about 30 minutes. The bike ride up there looked quite challenging but I image it is was super satisfying getting to the top and it was clearly a great form of exercise. I’m planning to get the courage built up and do it on my next trip to Chiang Mai.

Once you do get to the temple though you’ve got some stairs to climb before you finally reach the beauty. It’s full of amazing Buddhist relics and history, and there is quite a bit to see there. Also, the view from up there is unbeatable. It really put into perspective for me just how big Chiang Mai actually is.

At the temple on Doi Suthep

At the temple on Doi Suthep

There is a cost to get into the temple which was around 20 baht at the time I went, so not much at all especially for what you are getting when you go there. Although the temple is a major tourism spot and from what I gathered is often full of people, it is still almost impossible not to feel at peace while you are there.

Eat Khao Soi  (ข้าวซอย) 
If you’re a lover of food, or eat food just to sustain life I urge you try Khao Soi, you will not regret it. It is something like the North’s version of the noodle soup that see everywhere in Thailand. I’m kind of horrible at describing flavours so i’ll try my best here- Khao Soi is rich, creamy, slightly spicy, and just all around delicious. You can get it the classic way with chicken, or just vegetables like I did. Based on the reviews from my friends and from my experience, it is delicious either way. I really couldn’t even tell you all of the ingreidents that it includes but to name a few – boiled noodles, fried noodles, coconut milk, some sort of stock, curry, lime, and the list goes on and on. It’s simply amazing! You have to get it when you’re in the north because that is where is originates from so it will be the best there. Also, I’ve discovered that it’s nearly impossible to find anywhere else.

Sorry guys, wish I could upload a picture of deliciousness but I was literally too excited every time I ate it that I forgot take a picture. You can google it though to see what i’m talking about.

Get a massage at the Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Institution 

This is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, prisoners giving massages. Well to be more accurate, they are female prisoners who are almost finished with their prison sentences and are preparing to transition into the massage industry when they are released. The massages are really good, really cheap (180 baht per hour!), and more importantly they are helping to make a difference in the life of people looking for a second chance. They are professional, and make their customers feel completely comfortable.

I would highly recommend this if you love relaxation and massage and are looking for an affordable massage coupled with a unique experience. Not only will you leave relaxed and feeling good but you can also go back and tell all your friends that you’ve been massaged by a prisoner. That makes a good opening line for a story.

While there you can also purchase handmade products that some of the ladies have made during their time and the money for this goes back to into the program that is helping out the prisoners to sharpen their skills. This massage parlor is a great idea for helping women to have a better and more structured life when they are released.

If you are interested in having a massage though I would recommend booking before you go so that you are guaranteed a spot, this is quite a popular stop in Chiang Mai.

Lounge around in Suan Buak Had Park

Lovely day at the park

Lovely day at the park

On a lovely day we decided to take a ride over the Suan Buak Had Park and I’m really glad that we did. I am huge fan of parks and I always felt like I needed a park visit while living in Koh Samui. It was really nice to see a beautiful, green, well kept park that so many people were enjoying. The park is quite small (it takes about 5 minutes to ride a bicycle around the whole park) but has a lot of different things going on so there is no way to get bored there. There is plenty of room to just lounge around and read a good book or relax and talk with friends. If you’re worried about sitting on the grass, no need worry anymore, you can rent a bamboo mat to sit on for only 10 baht. If you get hungry or thirsty just take a quick walk around the park and you’ll find refreshment carts to satisfy your needs. I had to have some coconut ice cream while I was there, I couldn’t resist it. At only 25 baht per cone though, it is hard to turn that down. Not only is the park filled with ice cream but it’s also filled with people doing physical activity. Yoga classes, acro partner yoga, and slack lining seemed to be the most popular things going on when I was there. From what I gathered, yoga happens quite frequently in the park. It’s not hard to see why, it is a peaceful and tranquil place, and although there are quite a few people there, it is a quiet place as well. If you’re not too into yoga you can try your hand at one of the permanent exercise machines they’ve got around the park. Or, if you’re like me you can just do a couple laps around on your bicycle and then lay down and eat some ice cream. Either way, this a great little place that’s worth a visit for a peaceful afternoon.

 

Conclusion 

As I said before, I love Chiang Mai, and I highly highly recommend it as a must see when you are visiting Thailand. I’ve barely scratched the surface in this post of all the things to do, all the places to see, and all the wonderful details about the city. The food is unbeatable, the people are super friendly, the night life is buzzing, and the city makes you feel a little bit magical somehow. If anyone is interested in more recommendations of things to do or places to go please get in touch me with I am happy to recommend more.

 

Thanks for reading!

Khanom- The land of the pink dolphins

Khanom is a super cute and fun beach town in the south of Thailand and is a part of the Nakhon Si Thammart District. For me it is a perfect weekend getaway – not that a getaway is really needed when you live on a tropical island, but I love to see new things.

Khanom’s beaches are beautiful and seem to stretch on and on with no end. The best part about them is that they are not overrun with people. In fact, one weekend when I was in Khanom I’m pretty sure I saw more cows on the beaches than I saw people. You can see one of the cows and I getting to know each other in the photo below.

Cow selfie Khanom beach

The beaches have clear blue water, clear blue skies, and give you absolutely no blue feelings, it’s all wonderful there. Khanom is a place that I’ve actually visited a few times just to get away and have some peace and quiet. If you are looking for a relaxed, quiet yet fun, and beachy place, this is a top destination for the south of Thailand.

My Hotel recommendation

Finding a place to stay while you’re there couldn’t possibly be any easier as they’ve got countless bungalows, guest houses, apartments, and resorts everywhere. I would recommend going somewhere along the beach as you’ll be in walking distance of paradise. On my visits I’ve stayed at Dolphin House which is a cute little apartment style hotel just opposite the beach. Dolphin House was a completely random choice but ended being a good one as the room was comfortable, clean,  safe, and had a great sunset view. The owner of Dolphin House is also fantastic and will literally give you the shoes off his feet if you ask (don’t ask). The rates are super cheap at only 500 baht per night (not in peak season) and for me even cheaper as I shared the room with two friends. Don’t be afraid to share a room, just make sure everyone fits in the bed before making that commitment.

Not a whole lot of time was actually spent  hanging out at Dolphin house as we wanted to get out and experience what Khanom had to offer but the nights there comfortable and enjoyable.

Speaking of getting to know what Khanom has to offer, I recommend renting a motorbike while you are there and just driving around the city. It is bigger than you would think at first but not so big that you’ll get lost and you can find so many cool little places and things to see if you just explore. For me as a traveler, getting out, driving around, and exploring is often the time that I have most magical experiences. Those experiences are what keep me traveling.

Dolphins

Potentially the main attraction for tourists in Khanom is the pink dolphins.  Khanom is a famous dolphin watching spot and it is known especially for being home to many pink dolphins. The first time I saw Dolphins (grey dolphins) was in Thailand while I was waiting for a ferry and my mind was blown, I could not believe my eyes, I was almost moved to tears. That may be a little dramatic but members of my family have been known to cry over the majestic beauty of sea creatures so I guess I inherited that quality. Anyway, I thought that the grey dolphins were pretty much the highlight of life until I had the chance to see the pink Dolphins on one of my visits to Khanom. Guys, trust me, they really are fantastic.

It’s super easy to arrange for this to happen, just ask pretty much any hotel employee and they will let you know what to do. Keep in mind that has to be done very early in the morning as that is the prime time for dolphin activity. You’ll arrange a tour on a small long tail boat with a group of people (either people you know or random people that happen to join at the same time as you) and you’ll take the boat out to “the” spot. You get the chance to try and feed the dolphins in an attempt to draw them closer to your boat so you can snap hundreds of pictures of them, or in my case just cry tears of joy upon the mere sight of them.

On the dolphin viewing trip you sit out in the boat for an unspecified amount of time, typically about an hour or so, or however long it takes to get the dolphins to show up. Depending on your tour guide you may stop at a mysterious temple on the way back to your taking off point, or you may just head straight back after you’ve had your dolphin fill. Either way, the trip is fantastic and worth the money. When I went on the trip the cost was 1,000 baht per boat and our particular boat had 5 people in it so the cost was extremely low.

The really amazing part about seeing the dolphins is that no harm is done to them, no one is forcing them to show up, they are not trapped in by any means, they are just in their natural habitat. We may be cramping their style a bit by showing up to their turf and taking selfies with them, but we mean them no harm. It seems rare to find a place in Thailand that is like when it comes to animals so this is a wonderful experience to have. I know a lot of people may have their opinions on animals when it comes to tourism and I have to say I probably agree with pretty much all of the reasoning against it, however this particular activity is relatively harmless. However, I do not and will not recommend any tourism that has to do with animals in captivity.

We managed to snap a few photos of the dolphins peeking out of the water but I could not pull it together in time to capture a photo one of the illustrious pink dolphins unfortunately.

Dolphins Khanom3 Khanom boat

The Night Market 

Khanom also has a fantastic night market with every type of Thai food you’d possibly want to try, every key chain and trinket you can imagine, and clothes and clothes and clothes.  You’ll have to make sure to get there before the weekend as the market in only open on Friday nights but is definitely worth it! The night market is easy to and find is located about 4km east of the city center. Ask any of the smiley locals to direct you, and you’ll take one road straight all the way there. The market is a great Friday night out for shopping or for just relaxing and enjoying some food and drinks as my friends and I did. Nothing there will break the bank, with most of the food going for 50 baht or less and most of the clothes around 100 baht or less. Either way, you can’t go wrong!

I recommend Khanom as a really great place to check out while you are in Thailand if you happen to make it south it is worth checking out and i’m willing to bet you’ll want to visit more than once! Khanom night market