October 18, 2012

Body Image Abroad

No its not the Revolting Blob.

It’s an inevitable ordeal; every time I go overseas for an extended amount of time the scale leans much farther to the right than normal. Like I’ve said before, I’m a foodie (non douche bag kind) and part of experiencing different cultures is tasting all the glorious food! Gaining a few lbs. here and there during your time abroad is pretty normal and shouldn’t be dwelled upon. Just know that if you’re shopping and want to try something on, the teensy Asian girl behind the counter won’t hesitate to tell you that you’ll bust the seams open if you even look twice at that dress that’s caught your eye. Co-workers and strangers will not falter to tell you where you’ve gained a pound or two.

September 1, 2012

Silk Street Market Bargaining Trick

The 7th floor covered in jewelry.

I unintentionally discovered the best way to get the greatest deals at markets. Make the seller feel sorry for you. The Silk Street Market is THE place in Beijing to buy all those perfectly replicated name-brand items. From fake Nike tennis shoes to counterfeit North Face duffel bags, this shopping mecca has every product under the sun. I moseyed up to the 7th floor full of jewelry of all sorts.

July 12, 2012

Beijing Bucket List of Attractions

Visiting the Great Wall.
The population of Beijing is 19.6 million human bodies. If you need a comparison to understand how massive and congested the city is, it’s the same population as the entire country of Australia. My friend Maggie has been working and living in the giant Asian metropolis for over two years so I decided what better time to pay her a visit!

July 8, 2012

Oops I Split My Pants!

Apple bottom baby. 

Despite the research I did to educate myself on China before I visited, I was still in for quite the special treat. During my first few days in the massive country, I followed dimple-bottomed babies around trying to capture their split pants because I was so fascinated. Children ages 0-potty trained wear clothes with splits in the private part sections. That’s right, diapers do not exist in China. Kids pee and poo in the streets due to the easy access fashion style encouraged by all citizens. Yes, the clothes are purchased with the split already in the pants because I asked. When you have to go, simply squat whenever and wherever!

July 6, 2012

Quirky Qualities of the Chinese

Dumpster diving in China is dangerous!
I read articles, blogs, and literature about China before visiting the country and I also went to school with many Chinese students during my semester at Corvinus in Budapest so I thought I had a significant grasp on their distinguishing actions. I have to be honest, when reading about the spitting and pushing in article after article I thought perhaps these writers are over exaggerating. I prepared myself for the frustrations and freak-outs but I was shocked at how accurate the recollections were.

June 20, 2012

China – The Great Leap of Patience

Llama Temple in Beijing.
It takes a special kind of person to visit China. I’m not that person. Although I had unforgettable experiences, saw amazing sites, met incredible people, ate delicious food, and got a deeper insight into the complex and incredible Chinese history, I also wanted to punch someone in the face. I had more breakdowns than normal. It also took twice as long as I projected to get through the country due to the language barrier. I could write a book on numerous incidents that occurred in China while attempting to book bus tickets, plane tickets, getting directions, and asking for food.

June 2, 2012

Pai the City of One Love

Pai's slogan - it's all about the love. 
I rode up to the northern city of Pai three deep in a song taew with a French guy and an 80-year-old Thai lady with a bulging tumor in her neck who insisted I refer to her as “Momma.” The three-hour winding ride from Chiang Mai to Pai is one of the country’s less known hot spots. But its notability is on the rise, so act fast! Pai is a very tiny hippy town nestled in the mountains of northwest Thailand. It’s the kind of place that plays Bob Marley and reggae music in every restaurant and shop you pass.

May 25, 2012

Culinary Enlightenment in Chiang Mai

Enjoying some self made som tom.
Urban dictionary defines “foodie” as a douchebag who likes food.  I prefer to think the correct definition of foodie is a person who really likes good food and likes to eat a lot. The latter description best describes me. I don’t think I ever evolved from Freud’s oral fixation stage. After spending much time in Thailand and sampling countless dishes over 6 months, I decided to enroll in Baan Thai Cookery School in Chiang Mai for a day of cooking lessons in order to bring my love of Thai food home to my own kitchen.

May 17, 2012

A Dawg Eat Dog World - Trekking in Northern Thailand

Bathing elephants in the river.
I’m sure you already know that when you head to northern Thailand, you HAVE to do a trek, the landscape is gorgeous, the hill tribes are inviting and the memories are magical. In Chiang Mai, I went on a 3-day trek, a popular tourist activity when visiting northern Thailand. Many of these tours can be over crowded and un-unique because of the massive demand nowadays.

May 4, 2012

Planes, Trains, & Songthaews - Thailand Transportation

Taxi with flat tire on the highway at 4am.

I settled into my plush reclining seat on an extra large VIP bus heading south to Bangkok from Chiang Rai for a 12-hour journey. Suddenly a huge burst from the right side of the bus left us swerving back and forth at high speed on the highway while the top heavy automobile teeter tottered back and forth signifying a potential flip. The smell of burnt rubber indicated exactly what occurred, but as I’m holding on for dear life my first selfish thought was, “Can we please come to a safe stop because I’m afraid of dying alone.”

April 19, 2012

Potty Talk - What to Know Before You Go

Ready, set, squat.
Welcome to Asia a land of smiles, beautiful beaches, delicious cuisine, fascinating temples and non-flushing toilets. Before I arrived in Thailand I was unaware of the bathroom situation I would soon embark on. I stepped off the big plane from America and went to the first stall I could find expecting to see a regular toilet. As my eyes drifted down to the ground I thought to myself, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” For newcomers to Thailand, you need to know a thing or two about a squat before you step into a stall or else you’re in for a special treat.

April 8, 2012

Silly Thais, Trix are for Kids

"Maturity is knowing when to be immature"  
                                               - Randall Hall                                    
Where is the latter acceptable then?
Let me preface by saying that I am not making fun of anyone, but merely appreciating the humor in each situation. Heck knows if I was translating my native language into Thai or another completely different alphabet I'm sure I'd misspell a thing or two.
A motorbike transporting a family of four home from the hospital with its newest arrival. No trace of a garbage can at a festival with hundreds of people.  A pile of abandoned shoes outside a restaurant, shop, or classroom. A “toilet” in the ground with no butt hose or toilet tissue. Google mistranslations that make even native English speakers question the options on the menu. The Land of Smiles is full of quirkiness that may not be initially apparent to passer-bys. Over time, I’ve grown to notice the influx of signs, habits, and trends that have many visitors perplexed and rhetorically asking themselves “What?” Here is a collection of Thai idiosyncrasies that have been lost in translation.

April 4, 2012

Thai Food 101 - Taking it to the Streets

Gave me a taste, put the spoon back in the pot.
Heading out to pick up your delectable preference for the evening to satiate your ravishing hunger is not challenging in Thailand. If your taste buds crave sweet or spicy, the Thai streets are guaranteed to supply you with a scrumptious dish to satisfy your desires. Chickens hang out in windows, juicy melons, and vendors with carts full of meaty options can be found on every street corner. Thai food style changes all over the country but I’ve concocted a menu of popular grub and thirst quenchers that are found in every crevice of the Land of Smiles.

March 4, 2012

Ayutthaya - A City in Ruins

Strolling along in Wat Mahathat.
The first time I stepped off the bus in Ayutthaya, I thought “Oh hell naw.” This place is a complete bleep hole. Granted, the town had just been hit by the worst flood in the last 50 years and I’m rolling up about 24 hours after the city streets dried up. Let me paint you a vivid picture of what I was looking at: DUST, DUST DUST, dried mud covered every square inch of street, building, tree, plant, side walk, and ant.

February 22, 2012

Walking in a "Winter" Wonderland

Sunflower fields in Lopburi, Thailand.
The fall temperature in the Thailand was sweltering at all times of the night and day. I felt like an ant under a child’s magnifying glass when I was on the islands. The day I went on the Sunrise Dive in Koh Tao, the weather was unbearably blistering. After our dive that ended up being most of the day, I was exhausted, hot, and all I wanted to do was sleep but at 2:30 in the afternoon when the sun is beating down on your non-A/C steam room, it’s a bit more difficult.

February 20, 2012

Robbed in My Sleep in Kanchanaburi

Filling out a report at the Tourist Police.
When I arrived in Kanchanaburi, Thailand my travels up to that point had progressed beautifully. I was feeling rather chipper and untouchable. I was moving and grooving around Thailand like a pro, meeting marvelous locals and travelers, learning tons about the culture and life, and enjoying the rewards and challenges of each day. Lord knows it wasn’t all peaches ‘n cream but the good days trump the bad or should I say “frustrating” days.

January 30, 2012

Rock Climbing in Railay

Spreading it while rock climbing.

Railay Beach in the south western coast of Thailand is not only one of the most beautiful beaches in the world it’s also one of the top places to go rock climbing. The white sandy beach is encircled by red, brown and green crags who’s vivid colors reflect on the blue-green glassy ocean. Climbers from all over the earth come to Railay beach and its next-door neighbor, Tonsai beach in an attempt to scale the challenging rocks for an amazing view of the Andaman Sea. We enlisted in Sea Cliff Climbing Company on Railay beach to give the sport a try for us newbies.

January 23, 2012

I Almost Drowned in Railay

Long tail boats on Railay Beach.
If you have the chance to go to Krabi do it! It’s a city on the southern west coast of Thailand near Phuket. Krabi is divided up into Ao Nang, Railay Beach, and Tonsai, which are the some of the best places in the WORLD to go rock climbing. Tonsai and Railay beaches are next door neighbors, only separated by some rocky peaks but there’s a quirky tide that makes getting from one beach to another a hassle. 

January 16, 2012

Pancake Trail Strikes Again - Koh Tao Night Ferry

Night ferry from Koh Tao to Surat Thani.
Leaving the island of Koh Tao was an experience in itself. I have found that the Pancake Trail in Southeast Asia is full of quirky little surprises for the modern day budget traveler. One of the most beneficial moves while traveling is to transition from place to place at night – this saves a day for exploring and knocks out a night paying for accommodation.

January 12, 2012

Cricket Eatin', Rooftop Clubbin', Futuristic New Year's in Thailand

Me at rooftop NYE party in Bangkok.
New Year’s in Thailand is a holiday celebrated similarly to Christmas in America. Everyone has parties with friends and family, exchange gifts, and eat lots of food at work and school. I didn’t get any time off from school for Christmas but for New Year’s I had a 2-day break, which was magical. After little deliberation it seemed pretty obvious that Bangkok is THE place to spend the holiday while I’m in Asia.

January 4, 2012

Christmas Caroling Crackheads

Santy on Christmas morning.
Christmas in Thailand isn’t celebrated but it’s more recognized as part of popular culture and what the rest of the world does. At school on the Friday before Christmas, the Foreign Department hosted a Christmas assembly for the Chomsurang Upatham School. Like everything else, foreign teachers’ involvement is last minute and on spot so you have to be prepared for the administration to ask you to do something on a whim.