Koh Samui

I’m not sure there was a better feeling during the first two weeks of this trip than when our ferry left Koh Phi Phi. Perhaps I’ll make my way back to those islands at some point, but my memories until then will be full of sickness and horror. Admittedly that’s dramatic, but we were sick and the entire island was hot, humid, and smelled of garbage. Plus the illness kept us from basically every tourist attraction the island had to offer. We were on our way East, hoping to have better luck in the Gulf of Thailand.

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After 2 ferry rides and a three hour bus, we landed on Koh Sumui and it was exactly what we needed. The hostel was perfectly situated on the beach on the east side of the island and overlooked the crystal clear waters. The Irish owner was very friendly and the drinks were cheap. Naturally we ran into 3 kids from Walpole there, and it was nice to catch up with people about Jimmy G and the Pats. Our first full day on Samui we spent having a true beach day. We picked a spot on the beach in Lamai around 11am and did not leave until about 5pm when a downpour forced us to seek refuge in an Australian pub. After dinner and a few drinks we headed to the local Muay Thai gym to watch the Saturday night fights.

Thai boxing is pretty brutal. Besides the gloves they wear, the fighters are unprotected. There’s no head gear to protect against punches or kicks to the face. This wasn’t concerning until you realized the first few fights were between kids who were about 105lbs and could not have been older than 12 years old. Certainly not something you would see in the States, but as the national sport of Thailand it is quite a common occurrence. It was tough to watch a young boy get kicked in the knee, buckle to the ground, and have to be carried out by his coaches in obvious pain. But I was over it fairly quickly. The rest of the fights were all decent, and an overall positive experience.

The second day in Koh Samui was spent at the Ang Thong national marine park. We joined a tour that took us an hour by boat to the islands. The water was perfect, the views were incredible and I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. It was a great day, with great weather, and an awesome way to close our time on the island.

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The next day was the return to Bangkok so that Chelsea could return home and I could move on all alone….


Phi Phi was amazing!

This blog post is going to be short. All we did was have a crazy time partying and drinking on Koh Phi Phi! Buckets on buckets! Booze cruisin! Snorkling! Maya Bay! Monkey Island! Wooo!

Just kidding. We did not have a good time here. We do not want to talk about it. We got food poisoning, climbed the mountain to the viewpoint, and spent the next 30hrs sick as hell. It sucked. I will spare the details and instead leave you with pictures of Koh Phi Phi. It’s in my past now and I do not think I will miss it.


Princess Resort of Railay

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. Sorry. Things were busy and we were moving around a lot. But now Chelsea has left me and I’m traveling solo-dolo. You will be missed Chels! This means I have more alone time (not in a sad way though). So I suppose I should do some catching up.

After we left Chiang Mai, we caught a flight down to Krabi. From there it was a bus ride and sketchy nighttime long-tail boat ride to Railay Beach. After moving around for a few days it was nice to finally have some time in the ocean and these beaches certainly did not disappoint. We also treated ourselves to a decent resort with our own room and a rooftop infinity pool. For the extra 10$ a night, the Princess Resort and Spa was worth it.

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The beaches at Railay were beautiful. The water was perfect and the scenery was amazing. We hiked up to the view point to catch a glimpse of the entire island and trekked to the lagoon. The lagoon trek was probably the most intense hiking I’ve ever done. I’ve never been called an outdoorsman though, so that’s not necessarily very impressive. The path was muddy and extremely steep. As in there were some portions which were just 15-20foot cliffs with a rope for you to climb down. We survived. The lagoon at the end was worth the muddy treacherous endeavor.

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We decided to book an extra night in Railay and enjoyed a few evenings at the local beach bars and taking in the scenery. Plus, it was nice to have some time at the pool. Unfortunately, our last dinner on Railay would come back to bite us…


Chiang Mai: Round 1

I turned 24 in the 2nd class sleeper car of a train headed from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Just how I drew it up. At first glance, the setup is a little unusual. The seats fold into the lower bed and a top bunk pulls down from above. It was a 13hr ride, most of which was spent asleep in my top cubby. The final 2 hours we watched the northern Thai landscape from open windows while sipping terrible coffee. The train meandered through forest covered mountains and fields until it finally steamed into Chiang Mai station.

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We checked into the hostel and still had a full day ahead of us. Chelsea had Doi Inthanon National Park on her list and we figured it was as good a day as any to go. The desk attendant hooked us up with a driver outside who was willing to take us in his Songtaew (basically a red open sided pick-up truck converted to a cab). It was going to be a full day, and our driver Dem was willing to take us 2hours up the mountain, wait for us, and drive us back to the hostel for a modest fare. The ride was a great experience. It was long, steep, and windy through the mountains, but the view at the top was worth it.

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chedi

At the peak of Doi Inthanon sit two adjacent chedis, Naphaphonphumisiri and Naphamethinidon, meaning ‘being the strength of the air and the grace of the land and ‘by strength of the land and air’ respectfully. The Buddhist chedis were surrounded by beautiful gardens in full bloom. The lack of other tourists made for an exceptionally tranquil 90min stroll atop the mountain.

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After the return trip we ate at a local restaurant about 2 min from the hostel. The green curry was exceptional. Then it was off to bed early, because in the morning we had to be out by 7am on our way to the Elephant Nature park.

The time spent with the elephants could have its own post entirely but I’ll keep all of Chaing Mai together since I’ve been slow posting these (been moving around a lot). The Elephant Park was about a 90min drive outside of the city. It sits on acres and acres of land in a river valley surrounded by high forested peaks. And it’s full of rescued elephants. 69 to be exact. We spent the day in a group of 8 tourists with our guide Kay. He knew every elephant by name and knew each of their stories. These elephants had experienced very tramatic lives either in the illegal logging industry or in the servitude of elephant camps, entertaining tourists. We learned that if camps offer elephant rides or shows, it means these camps DO NOT treat the animals well. They have to be ‘broken’ by a mahout (elephant keeper) at a young age and are often controlled with large hooks through their ears. Some of the rescued elephants had gone blind due to poor diets, others had broken backs or broken legs. A few had their lower legs mangled after stepping on landmines on the Thai border with Myanmar. All had been abused and many feared humans.  At the nature park they roamed freely, spending their days playing in the river and eating non-stop. The mahouts did not carry hooks and did not control the elephants’ movements. They lived much happier lives at the nature park.  We spent the day learning about the elephants and their habitats as well as the threats they faced. We got to feed them and ended the day in the river bathing them before returning back to Chiang Mai. I think it will remain as one of the highlights of the trip!

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The final day in Chiang Mai was rainy. We visited the 600yr old Wat Chedi Luang and had a local breakfast before heading to the airport. I’ll be back in Chiang Mai in a few weeks. There’s plenty more to see and explore!

Now we’re on our way to the beaches of south Thailand….


Arriving in Bangkok

Honestly, I should have looked up the weather in the South Pacific before I took off. I’ll take the blame for that one. My bad. Was not aware Typhoon Merantis was going to be smashing into Taiwan during the only 4 hour stretch in my lifetime I needed to be in that f’n country. Good news, it hit the South of the island. Bad news, its 185mph winds caused turbulence so bad I was convinced I was going to wind up like John Denver. In the end, still not dead. So that’s a plus.

After 24 straight hours of travel, we finally arrived in Bangkok. The big apple. The city by the bay. And as tired as we might have been, there is no greater shock to the system than that city. It’s different. It’s loud. It has a certain aroma. The traffic moves in a form of organized anarchy. Cars, mopeds, and tuk-tuks pass one another at will, driving on whichever side of the road they seemingly pleased. The sidewalks are filled with stalls selling clothing, bags, and jewelry intertwined with food stands hawking pad thai, chicken or fish on a stick, and more eccentric delicacies (bugs and scorpions deep fried with soy). It’s like a weekend market in NYC or Boston, except it’s everywhere, every day, all the time. It’s easy to get lost in. And we did. Pretty much immediately. As in 5min after we left the hostel we had no idea what we were doing.

We must have looked lost too because right off the bat we were sucked into a tuk tuk scam. Sure he took us to the standing Buddha and a few other temples with a smile and a nod, but then we got dropped at the Thai Cultural Center. Except it wasn’t the Thai Culture Center it was the Tie Culture Center, selling bootleg custom fit suits for half the price. Basically had to fight our way out of the store. It was 2 against 15 pushy salesmen trying to pitch me a suit in 87 degrees and 90% humidity.

We followed that up with a lovely river cruise on the greyish-brown waters of Bangkok. You see quite a wide range of lifestyles along that river, from tin shacks to luxury condos. Eye opening to say the least. Except for the fact that I was so tired I fell asleep in the boat. So we grabbed a beer and some pad-thai on the khao san road and we called it a night.

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(our boat looked like this one but 3x smaller)

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(dinner on Khao San)

After 10 hours of sleep we took off for our second day in Bangkok, refreshed and already much wiser. Day 2 consisted of 9.77 miles of walking. It was a lot. Especially in the 95 degree heat. We also had to be in pants as we visited Wat Pho (reclining Buddha) and the Royal Palace. Thank god I brought my sweet zip-off pants from EMS and dope Teva sandals. Swagger like you read about 100 100. It was actually an awesome day that ended at the train station as we awaited our overnight train up North.

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 (wat pho)

Bangkok was an abrupt welcoming to SE Asia. But it was everything I wanted it to be. And I’ll be back to explore more in 2 weeks. I think you could spend years in that city and still not understand a thing about it. Anyways, off to Chaing Mai. I’ll be turning 24 on a 2nd class sleeper car. Just how I drew it up.

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(palace decor)

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(palace)

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(budha on budha)

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(palace Wat)


Taking Off

That Hello Kitty plane is actually the plane I’m flying to Bangkok in. I chose to embark on the trip of a lifetime on an airline that is decorated with a wildly popular Japanese anime cat. Why? Because there’s no way that plane goes down. It’s adorable.

Admittedly I am pretty nervous about this adventure. Was this a good idea? Will things go smoothly in Asia? Should I have packed more than 2 pairs of underwear? Will Trump be elected president when I’m gone and wall off the entire country, keeping me out? Is Joe Flacco elite? These are the questions that have been keeping me up at night.

I will say I’m far more excited than I am nervous. I’ll be landing in Bangkok about 23 hours after I leave New York and I have brought zero plane activities. I’m looking to catch at least 5 to 8 Tom Cruise movies, enjoy a glass of red wine with a side of xanax and  wake up somewhere on the Khao San Road. Pretty sure that’s how Dicaprio did it in ‘The Beach.’

The first 2 weeks are pretty packed with trips and adventures so I’ll be sure to update all 3.2 million of you reading this blog as best I can. First stop is the Suneta Hostel in the backpacking capital of the world. Tucked between the Orthodox Jewish Community Center of Thailand, a Starbucks, and the police department, it’ll be as though we never left Brooklyn.

-ET