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

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.

Dating in Thailand as a foreigner

This is a topic i’m sure you could find lots and lots of different opinions on and could be talked about for endless amounts of time. However, I’m bringing a point of view that’s not often blogged about regarding this subject: A foreign woman dating Thai men. I should probably clarify that and say I am currently in a relationship with a Thai man (singular) but prior to this I did experience dating a few different people. **Warning** I have written about most of the things in this post just because of personal experience but I am obviously aware that these things do not apply to all Thai people or all Thai men.

Whether you’re on holiday in Thailand, living here permanently, or coming here just to look for “love,” I’ve put together a few tips that may help foreign ladies that are interested in dating Thai men.

Tips

  • Thai people often marry quite young so it’s not unusual to meet guys that you might be interested in who already have a wife at a relatively young age. It seems to be a lot more common to marry young here than in America. I’m not quite sure why, i’d appreciate any feedback about that.
  • If you don’t like being cheated on DON’T date bar workers or “beach boys” as I like to call them – this means guys that work in popular bars or work on the beach (jet ski rental, fire dancers, bar tenders, beach bar owners etc). I’m not saying this because I want to be judgemental towards these people, I am saying this because I’ve been there done that and know lots and lots of other girls that have as well. The nature of the work that these guys do is all about meeting new people, charming the people they meet, and having a lot of fun. They are often the guys that speak the best English and have the best tans so you’re probably going to love them but it is best to keep them as just friends. They are probably great people to know because they’ll give you free drinks and invite you to fun parties but just knowing them is enough.
  • In general, be aware that monogamy is not as important here as it may be where you are from. It is not common for Thai men to have what they call “gigs” which are girls that they umm….associate with I guess is the nicest way to put it. These are girls that are not their real girlfriends, these are girls they see while their girlfriend is not around. I work with a lot of married Thai men, and some of them openly talk to me about these girls that they see or used to see while being married. I’ve found this not only with the guys I work with, but with many of my guy friends as well. Talk to most Thai women about the Thai men and they will say the same thing. This is just something again that is part of the culture here and something that you have to be prepared for. Not all guys are like this of course, but it is not uncommon.
  • Don’t feel like your boyfriend/new fling doesn’t like you if he’s not into pda- that’s just the way it is in Thailand. Pda seems to be super embarassing for Thai people and is not a common practice. You’ll see the ocassional hand holding and couples with their arms around each other but fondling and kissing just aren’t done in public. It’s a cultural norm and if you want to be polite you should follow it.
  • “Cheek sniffing” will happen to you. It’s a more reserved way of essentially kissing someone. Your boyfriend/love interest will probably at some point press his nose against your cheek and seemingly sniff it. Just take it a compliment. It’s super cute and enjoyable once you get over the intial weirdness of it.
  • Remember that you are from different countries, you grew up differently, you view the world differently, you value different things, you take offense to different things, and you just are different in general. Cherish this! Getting to know someone who is different than you is one of the best parts of life. Keep this in mind though when you think the person you’re dating is crazy or unreasonable or even rude.

For example: my boyfriend decided to tell me that my face looked fat one day and this did not go over well with me. You will find that in Thailand calling someone fat is not considered rude but to an American woman it’s not the nicest thing to say. I explained to him that this hurt my feelings and I didn’t like it etc etc but that was hard for him to understand. He felt that he was doing me a favor by telling me I looked fat because he wants me to be healthy and wants the best for me. This sort of communication mishap will happen a lot! Just keep in mind that something your Thai partner considers nice may offend you but it is most likely not meant to! Vice versa you will probably do something offensive to him (pointing at things with your feet) and you won’t mean any harm by it but he may think it’s extremly rude.

  • Be aware that Thai men touch each other a lot more than men in the western world (especially the USA) do. They massage each other, hug, and even pat each other on the butt way more than you would probably see in your home country. This could potentially mean they are interested in each other but most of the time it doesn’t, it is just the way that it is here.
  • Most Thai people, including the men, do not like confrontation and avoid it all costs. Avoiding confrontation means that feelings will be kept secret sometimes, and saying no to things happens a lot less often than normal. Because they don’t want to “lose face” they won’t always approach you about something they want changed in the relationship, call you out for being offensive, or say no to you when request something ridiculous. You will ALWAYS get the last bite of food if you want it even if they are near starving. This is no way means that you should take advantage of them, it means that you need to be extra aware of what you are doing, and how potentially you could be trampling on someone. If you’re a nice enough person i’m sure things will be fine, but it’s always good to keep in mind this part of the culture.
  • Don’t let a language barrier stop you from pursuing something with someone that you have a connection with. It might be hard at first to communicate with your boyfriend if he is not fluent in the language you speak and you’re not fluent in Thai but you should not let that stop you from trying to make things work. It can be extremely fun, challenging, and rewarding, to develop your own style of communication with someone and at the same time to learn to speak and understand a new language. Google translate may be your new best friend when it comes to those tough words that you can’t get across but there is nothing wrong with that!
  • Speaking of translating services, once you’ve become friends with your new Thai crush on Facebook you’ll probably start to see what he’s writing on his profile and you’ll probably wish you could read it (if it’s not in English). Once you press that handy dandy little translation button on facebook you’re in for a whole lot of nonsense. Be prepared to be out of the loop with social networking stuff that your boyfriend posts. The translation app on there just never translates things as they’re supposed to be. So when you think your crush is talking about going to a concert with a pack of monkeys on the moon, he’s probably not, but your translate app will tell you he is.
  • Another thing to keep in mind about facebook is that in Thailand people seem to be quite “like” crazy more so than in America, not sure why. I am trying to say that the “like” button on facebook gets a lot of use. If you’ve got a few guys that are liking all of your photos, don’t take the wrong way, they are probably NOT trying to send some secret message that they want you, they probably just love that “like” button. I’ve made the mistake of thinking I had an admirer based on the fact that he liked pretty much every photo i’d ever post on facebook but sadly I was mistaken. I’ve also heard many girls that take these sorts of things on social networking the wrong way so it’s always good to keep this in mind!

In most ways, dating in Thailand is similar to dating in most countries, there are just some cultural differences that are good to keep in mind. It can be a lot of fun if you find the right person and if even if you don’t find the right person it can be a good experience! I’d love to hear anyone else’s experiences with dating in Thailand if anyone is interested in sharing. Coming soon I may do a post about foreign men dating Thai women. That should be quite interesting.   Thanks for reading!

Street Dogs of Thailand

Thailand is full of street dogs! The dogs are everywhere you can imagine, inside 7-11, in the middle of the road while you’re driving, napping in front of your house, sitting in the same restaurant as you, at the beach getting a tan etc etc. For the most part these dogs mean no one any harm, they’re just living their lives. I’ve never had any problems with the street dogs and it’s been rare that I have heard of other people having problems with them either. Although prepare to be barked at sometimes.

When I first came to South East Asia I was speaking to another American girl who went on a rant about how stupid I was for not getting rabies vaccine before coming to Asia because of all of the street dogs. On one hand I could see her point; it is much more expensive to get the vaccine after you’ve been bit than it is to get it before as a preventative measure but on the other hand, the chances of getting randomly bit by a rabid dog seem to be quite low even with all the dogs running around. Getting the vaccine before hand may be a good option for some people but in general I do not think it is a necessity before traveling. My best advice is if you see a dog that looks menacing or that is growling at you or looking aggressive in some way, just stay away from it. Most of the dogs you come across are going to be super friendly and probably just want someone to give them some attention (and food).

I also recommend to be very cautious when driving at night because they tend to wander into the road and if you hit one of them while driving a motorbike it can cause a major problem not only for them but also for yourself.  You should also make sure that you have travel insurance anytime you are traveling out of the country because you never know what can happen and it’s great to have that backup in case something goes wrong. If you’re coming to Thailand from a western country seeing all these dogs running around is going to be shocking at first, but it is the norm here and you should treat the dogs well!

Another thing to keep in mind when interacting with dogs in Thailand is that you may see a dog that you think lives on the street but there is probably a good chance that it has a home. In Thailand people typically do not put their dogs on leads and they let them roam quite a bit more than we do in the western world. Dogs are given a lot more “free will” here and that works out fine for most people. This is something that you’ll have to get used to pretty quickly being here.

If you’ve got the room in your heart and your home and you’re permanently staying in Asia I would even recommend adopting one of the street cuties. Remember though, if you plan to move back to your home country you have to take your pet with you, it’s the right thing to do! If you do plan to adopt and think you could move home in future, you should look into what the process for taking your dog home would be (it’s expensive and complicated).

Thanks 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!