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

 

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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!

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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!

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….

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