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.
I decided to give a little more detail into the way of the country so if you visit China you will be prepared. Don’t forget your face mask.

Another day in paradise (Beijing).
They could use a little help in this department. Hygiene doesn’t seem to be a concern at all and I think (hopefully you agree) in a country of 1.3 billion people, you need to make sure everyone is disposing of their bodily fluids in the most beneficial way.

Pretty clean toilet. The smell, not so much.
Bathrooms: A great way to sum up the bathrooms in China is “hell on earth.” If you don’t believe me you can take a looksey at an article about the latest law on bathroom regulations in Beijing: If there are more than 2 flies in one stall, someone is not doing their job. I won’t go into great detail about what you’ll see in the bathrooms, but be prepared for bodily fluids from all categories spread on the squats, floors, and walls, of a Chinese WC. Bring a fly swatter and a scarf to tie around your face because I think just breathing in a Chinese toilet could give you a disease.

Spitting: The Chinese believe it’s bad for you to swallow your phlegm so spitting and hawking loogies is a daily occurrence. Between 6:00 to 8:00am, it’s like a competition of who can make the most commotion when hawking a loogie due to the superfluous quantity of phlegm after waking up. When you walk, don’t look down because you will vomit in your mouth at the globs mucus dispersed along the path. A word to the wise: when you hear someone revving up, move out the way because you may receive a fresh glob presented in your path and you don’t want to deal with that.

Eating: In China, I sometimes ate with my iPod in my ears because of the disgusting sounds that engulfed me. Pretty much dinner table etiquette that westerners consider inappropriate is kosher in China. Slurping, smacking, spitting, and excessively loud clearing of the mucus in one’s throat are common sounds while consuming a meal. If any of these noises annoy you during mealtime, it’s not a bad idea to bring an iPod or sit in a corner of the restaurant.

Trash in a cemetery in the mountains. 
Trash Disposing: Unlike Thailand, there actually are trashcans throughout the cities. Even with that said there is a mass disregard for trashcans in this nation. Citizens throw litter on the ground with no qualms yet there are philosophical signs all over cities about saving the trees and flowers. With 20 million people in one city and everyone throwing a piece of trash on the ground, it adds up. Don’t do as the locals do and find a bin to rid your rubbish.

A pile of vials ALMOST in the trashcan in Xian, China.  

No space bus ride in Luoyang.

Personal space: Do not try to form a line or queue up anywhere. It’s every man for himself, you have to be aggressive, BEE-EEE AGGRESSIVE! This was very difficult for me at first but after getting pushed and shoved and cut in line after I’d been waiting I started getting right back in people’s faces. The old ladies are the worst by the way, they will run you over like a bulldozer.

Smoking: Everybody and their mom chain-smokes cigarettes in China. Folks are allowed to smoke inside any place desired including trains, shops, hospitals, buses, restaurants, and daycare centers. I don’t know how they can get out of bed in the morning with the mix of pollution in the air and smoke filled lungs! It’s really unfortunate on long train rides because you step off smelling like you just walked out of a pub.

Taxis and buses on a street in Luoyang. 
China is the scariest place to ride in a car or any type of moving vehicle.  Drivers honk constantly so it just blends in with the everyday city sounds and becomes less of a warning signal. People blast their horn when they are in drive just to simply say “I’m driving down the street, so watch out.” Red lights mean go, green lights mean go. Make sure to look both ways when crossing the street to avoid getting pancaked by two oncoming cars. 

These are just a few observations to help prepare you during your trip to China. In order to stay safe and healthy, be aware of your surroundings and don't forget to buy a trendy face mask and hand sanitizer along for the journey.
The one time people use a trashcan. When they want to "recycle" the pokers. 

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. Looking back now, I wish I had a camera following me at all times because I can’t possibly make up how ridiculous the interactions are with the locals and the (mis)communication that ensued. I share this (now) hilarious bond of frustration that stems from the multifaceted society with foreigners I met in China or thereafter. Commencing my writing about China has taken me a while because I needed to mentally process all the sites, experiences, and interactions first. I also didn’t want “big brother” coming after me, I mean I am illegally using Facebook as it is. To start the documentation of my Chinese travels I wrote a few scenarios that give you a minor insight into Chinese culture aka the Twilight Zone.

Scenarios from my China travels:

Photosession in Luoyang with some admirers.
Celebrity Status in Luoyang – I visited my Chinese friend in her “small town” of 6 million people. Ever heard of Luoyang, China? Didn’t think so. Apparently they don’t see many westerners so when I arrived for the opening of the Peony Flower Festival (China’s National flower), I was followed by a parade of Chinese fans as if I were a celebrity. I had to turn people down who asked for pictures because after a while there was a sea of natives encircling me as if I were Charlie Bucket holding the coveted golden ticket. Aggressively, people yanked at my arms and pulled me every which way like a rag doll to get into one of their photos to show off the foreigner to their friends. One guy even tried to kiss me in the picture. That’s when my friend stepped in and told everyone the photo-shoot was over and I was whisked away to safety until a new herd found me.

My doctored ankle & foot a few days after using the spray. 
Pharmacy in Beijing – I developed a stress fracture in my foot at some point during the incessant hiking and walking with bad shoes. After I couldn’t stand to tough out the pain any longer, I sought the nearest pharmacy to collect pain relievers. At the immediate sight of westerners, the 5 Chinese men and women in white coats quickly dispersed to find a “menu” of English options for me to describe what the heck inspired me to stroll into their shop. None of the options stated “fracture” or “sprain” or anything relatively close to how I was feeling. I decided to take off my shoe and sock to show the pharmacist lady my clearly swollen and bruised foot. She fumbled under the counter for a moment, pulled out a box of band-aids and tossed the carton in my direction. It was one of those days where you just get frustrated at everything and my injured foot was a constant reminder of that frustration with every step I took. I just wanted a bandage that would give my foot a little support or perhaps Advil to lessen the pain and swelling but her lack of empathy just ticked me off. I didn’t hide my anger well so she brought me some spray to appease me. Yes, herbal spray for a fracture! In China, they believe in more natural and herbal ways of healing. But spray, really? I was so mad I just started crying. I reluctantly bought the spray and found an elastic wrap with no help from the pharmacist. Don’t tell anyone but I think the herbal spray kind of helped.

Document Debacle – I was racing against time to find the train station in Luoyang and make it there before it closed. After taking a bus in the wrong direction, detouring to take a taxi, and actually getting to the train station I had about 10 minutes to spare. Written neatly in Chinese characters, the girls at the hostel wrote exactly what train I needed to purchase, what time, the destination and all other details on a piece of paper. After the train lady took a look at it and typed a few things in her computer, she wrote something on the piece of paper and slipped it back to me under the glass window dividing us. I looked at the paper and saw a new Chinese character added to the mix. Really? I looked at her and give her all the “I obviously cannot read this and don’t understand what you’re saying to me” gestures one would give in this situation. I pointed to a new departure time on the paper. Maybe the tickets for the original train time are sold out, I’m assuming. Nope, that wasn’t it either. I started running around the train station yelling “Does anyone speak English?!” I only heard crickets and received stares, so I left feeling defeated. When I arrived at the hostel, I asked “What does this character say?” The girl at the front desk responded, “Passport.”
REALLY!! Couldn’t she have made a little gesture with her hands or maybe drawn a small picture? I guess we have to start this process over again tomorrow and stay in this town for another day and night…

A lovely dinner of stomach.
Curiosity Didn’t Kill the Cat - Chinese people are very curious, some may say “nosy” but let’s not put them down, eh? These curious Siamese cats usually want to know everything about you – “Where are you from?”, “Why you are visiting their country?”, “What hotel are you staying in?”, “How old are you?”, “How much money do you make?”, etc. In the rare occasion that you do find someone who speaks English (or they find you), you will get not only all these questions plus a hundred more but you will not be able to depart from their presence even if you went running in the opposite direction. They’d come after you. This quality has developed many interesting events for myself such as a Chinese couple taking me out to a traditional dinner of cow stomach and gizzard and not allowing me to pay for my “meal.”
One young guy parked his bicycle at the sight of us and escorted my friend and I in a night market and asked us a million questions about business in America because he is a “business man.” Funny, he never told us what type of business he was in. We made him explain what every single food item was and ordered our meals and then took us to a Michael Jackson street performance.
Two adorable English major students escorted us to the White Horse Temple along with the mother and grandmother of one of the girls who were in town visiting from Mongolia. Soon after the Temple, the girls ditched mom and grandma and gave my friend and I their tickets to a Peony Flower Festival for free. 
White Horse Temple with Grandma, mom, and one of our new friends "Crystal."
Buying a bus ticket from Kunming to Dali – The unfortunate part of travel is that even if you read or research ticket schedules and prices in advance, chances are its outdated or someone is trying to rip you off and you never know which one it is. Due to this, I always have my guard up. Out of 10+ bus ticket purchasing windows at the bus station in Kunming, zero of the vendors spoke English. A drunken homeless man who speaks no English and probably gibberish Chinese felt confident enough to take on a role as tour guide. As he spoke to me in Mandarin with his whiskey infused breath in my face, I stood weighed down by my heavy pack as well as stares from all the people in the bus station and I flipped out on him. Poor guy was just trying to help but it was not the right time to try his tour guide skills. Eventually we paid the price to get on the bus and arrived in Dali.

Our saving grace who brought us to the hostel.
How to Get Lost – If you are in the mood to get lost, ask a Chinese person for directions. I guarantee if you ask 7 different people how to get to your destination, each person will tell you a different path. I know this from experience. I was trying to take a city bus (#3 to be exact) from the bus station to my hostel. The route seemed pretty self-explanatory; I knew how many stops to take and what to look for when I disembarked from the automobile. Only problem was I could not find the stop for bus #3 anywhere! I resorted to the handy dandy Lonely Planet phrasebook. I gave up speaking Mandarin a long time ago because no one ever understood my attempts at the difficult tonal language so I pointed to the word “bus” in Chinese characters and gave the hand symbol for “3.” I asked this question SEVEN times because each instance I arrived to a new bus stop and none were for the #3 bus. Every person pointed their fingers in completely opposing directions. Finally, a nice girl about my age spoke a decent amount of English and guided me all the way from the bus station to the hostel even though she was already at her destination. She didn’t ask for money or attempt a scam, she simply wanted to help some lost souls out of the goodness of her heart and practice her English as well.

You always have the good with the bad. China was super frustrating at times but someone would come out of the woodwork to go above and beyond for you and it ended up being a special experience. Interacting with the locals and taking the more authentic routes is much more eventful (as you can see) than taking the easy path. If things were tranquil, I wouldn’t have nearly as many stories to tell when I’m in the old folks home some day.
Enjoying the Peony Flower Festival in Luoyang!
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. Once I arrived to the Giant Guesthouse with Momma, I settled in my bamboo hut and began to explore the charming bucolic town. The whole city has no more than 2,300 people and if you’ve ever visited New Orleans it’s like an entire town of Magazine Street. Each building is painted with vivid color combinations and there are tons of delicious eateries, art and jewelry shops, and welcoming bars. Locals from Pai are all about loving one another and their city. Natives don’t strain for guests to feel the affection that Pai exudes. With the slow pace of life, the “no worries” mentality and friendly smiles on the residents’ faces, you’re sure to instinctively adopt a love of Pai before the end of your visit.

1. Explore the town by foot and find one of a kind handmade merchandise created by local artists and bargain with the best of ‘em. 

Fantastic restaurant with a diverse menu.
2.  Sample the delicious and inexpensive street food at the night market or dive into one of the many local restaurants for scrumdidliumtious cuisine. Some must eat joints:
-Witching Well – You could eat every meal here and not be sick of amazing selection.
-Art in Chai – Sit with a good book and enjoy the best cup of chai tea you’ve ever tasted.
-Curry Shack – Try the local yellow curry with brown rice, only available in Pai.
Local yellow curry from the Curry Shack.
-Dinner near the temple on the hill– Visit the Wat Phra That Mae Yen temple and scoot down to the mountainside restaurant (can’t miss it) for a great Thai dish and a view of the sunset over the hills.
-Muslim Thai Food Bakery – Pick up pastries for your motorbike basket and have a picnic in the middle of nowhere.

Yellow Power Ranger on a motorbike.
3.  Rent a motorbike – Motor biking is the main way to see springs, waterfalls, and temples that are spread out and hidden throughout the mountainside. Don’t be scurred if its your first time driving. It’s a great place to learn because the streets are not bustling with traffic. Some guesthouses distribute coupons for certain motorbike shops so ask before you rent. Don’t forget insurance and a helmet!

      4. Take a trip to the Mhor Pang Waterfall – DO NOT RENT A BICYCLE TO DO THIS! I didn’t get the memo and it took all my strength to pedal my squeaky bike 8 km uphill in the blistering heat. I nearly passed out. The waterfall is a refreshing reward at the end of a long hot ride though. *Don’t buy weed or opium from one of the many ladies trying to sell it to you on the way up.
Taking a break from the scorching bike ride to capture the Pai countryside.

      5. Head out to the local Hot Spring – There are two Hot Springs, one for foreigners that charge 200 baht and one for locals that’s difficult to get to but only 20 baht. The latter is not advertised but your guesthouse owner should know about it if you ask. The hour ride is worth it on a motorbike as the scene while riding out there is phenomenal. Once you reach the entrance, the rocky and steep jaunt begins. Go slow and be careful.

Almost Famous bar in Pai.
      6. Have a mojito from “Almost Famous” bar. They have about 30 flavors of mojitos and have a buy 4 get one free special, so take a group from the guesthouse and start tasting! I really enjoyed the passion fruit mojito.


 7. Drive out to the Pai Canyon to get a perfect glimpse of the sunset or a daytime view of the peaks mixed in with the green forest.
Me atop a hill at the Pai Canyon.

      8. Pick up the monthly events calendar from your guesthouse or a local dive and find out what parties, music, and specials are going on while you’re in town – the pool parties are pretty rowdy. 

      9. Lay in a hammock all-day and read, write and keep an eye out for blue-headed lizards.

Blue-headed lizard I spotted while reading in my hammock. 
     10. Sit around a moonlit bond fire and get deep with complete strangers from all over the world.

Just lay back, relax, and fall in love with Pai!
Giant bamboo heart on the roadside in Pai. 
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. Fortunately, my friend “Boon” runs a guesthouse in Chiang Mai and Pai. He’s a member of the Karen hill tribe, which is one of the few remaining hill tribes in northern Thailand. His best friend, Jackie Chan who I later nicknamed Rusty Sanchez (Rusty), took three friends and me on a semi-private trek through the mountainous hills of Pai where we got to spend time in Boon’s native village with his family. On my 3-day trek I managed to hike until my legs felt like jello, bathe an elephant, bamboo raft down a river, and eat dog. I’m sorry PETA. Trekking was one of the coolest activities I’ve done in Thailand, highly recommended.

Rusty with a dead cicada. 

Six of us loaded the song taew for the 3-hour drive north to Pai to begin our trek in the peaks. The first few hours of trekking were uphill in the raging heat but the gorgeous scenery distracted me from how out of breath I was – over rocks, sides of cliffs, through the woods, and a to chilly waterfall. By the time the sun was coming down, the group arrived at the Karen hill tribe village for the sunset. I met Boon’s dad who I’m pretty sure was high as a kite because his eyes were pink and barely open as I shook his hand. This is opium country after all… The village was filled with bamboo huts and children running around excited to see farang faces. Tweenage girls were sewing their silk sarongs while the elders came in from their work in the fields. Unfortunately, I couldn’t use any of my Thai to talk with the locals because Karen tribers have a completely different language. We set up shop in our sleeping quarters, which was a large bamboo hut with individual palettes draped in mosquito netting and got ready to cook dinner.
Teenage girl sewing her sarong. 
Little boys stop playing to check out the farang in town.
Preparing dinner.
The group sat down to eat family style on the floor with some of the locals and wow what a spread! The feast included a dish of dog might I add. I am the ultimate dog lover, but I didn’t want to be rude so Dawg ate a bit of doggy. It’s really tough and I couldn’t get past the spices and chilies so I didn’t get an actual taste. It’s also chopped up with all the bones so I have to say it wasn’t a pleasant experience and my facial expressions didn’t hide this. You know what they say, “When in a Karen Hill Tribe…”
Can you guess which one is dog? HINT: It's not the white meat. 
Drinking salty tea from a bamboo cup.
After dinner, a family invited us into their home for tea. The living room/kitchen/bedroom doesn’t have any furniture so we sat on the floor around a fire to keep the mosquitos away. We drank the saltiest tea I’ve ever consumed while Rusty translated between the Karen people and us. During the conversation it seemed appropriate to break into a Dixie Chicks song. Our hosts sipped their salty tea as they perplexedly listened to me sing “Ready to Run” solo style for the entire room. Blank stares signaled it was time for me to go to sleep; sometimes humor doesn’t translate.
After a fire and plenty of whiskey, I settled in my mosquito netting while howling mountain dogs sang me to sleep. Probably mad that I ate one of their family members.

Day 2 started off with breakfast followed by 4 and a half hours of trekking through various geography. We trudged through creeks, grassy fields, rocky cliffs, dirt paths and saw wild elephants, colorful plants, fields with water buffalo, and scenes you see as screen saver backgrounds. Around late afternoon, just when I thought I couldn’t walk anymore, we arrived at another small village along the river. Rusty cooked us noodle soup while the crew rested their gelatin legs. I walked down to the river where I saw a small Thai man in an even smaller speedo wading through the creek with two elephants at his side.

Here he comes, Mr. Thailand.

Rusty asked the man if we could bathe the enormous animals because if the elephant is unfamiliar with our farang smell, he may go nuts on us. The banana hammock man allowed it, so I started tossing water on the elephant. Eventually he laid down in the water because he was enjoying our playtime so much. Feeling we had reached a certain point in our relationship, I stepped on the elephant’s massive leg, crawled on top of his course skin, and ran my hands through his prickly hair. The elephant’s skin is so rough and his hair is so course and wiry, it’s almost painful to straddle him. He sprayed me with water and I kept tossing a bucket of freezing cold water on his head while sitting on his neck. Eventually he stood up with Michele and I riding bare back and walked up a hill to his hang out spot with some other elephants. As soon as we disembarked, he covered himself with dirt and mud again. So much for the thorough bath we gave him! Hours later Rusty and Mr. Speedo saddled up the elephants and we rode them for an hour or so as the sun was setting. This unplanned excursion was probably one of my favorite memories of my Thai experience.
Bathing the elephant with Rusty.

Getting ready for liftoff!

Mav and I taking the 'phant for a spin.
As we played with elephants, Rusty finished building a bamboo raft that we took a short distance down the river to the Diamond Hotel where we stayed for the evening. They should add “In the Rough” after “Diamond”.  We sat around with the owner “Butt” and his wife, cooked dinner, and drank rice liquor aka Thai moonshine for hours. Soon enough the guitar came out and song singing began. I felt like I was back at summer camp sitting around a fire. Except we eventually played a drinking game called “Ping Pang Pong” which I will bring back to the states eventually.
Michele, Butt, and I playing Ping Pang Pong.
The final day trekking was an easy 3-hour bamboo jaunt down the shallow, clear, river. Peacefulness and rich scenery surrounded the makeshift raft as we flowed down the watercourse. The water was calm with the exception of a few mini-rapids. A bunch of bamboo tied together isn’t exactly flip proof so those tiny cascades give you a run for your money.
Bamboo rafting and steering with sticks. 
Overall, I highly recommend going on a trek in northern Thailand. My unique experience was definitely one for the memory books and I’ll remember those few days forever. The key is to find a tour company that is legit. Many tour guide companies don’t give any money to the tribes that are hassled by tourists every few days. They simply waltz through the village of a hill tribe like they own the place. Do your homework before you sign on with a tour group and make sure it’s authentic and lawful. Remember, if a hill tribe offers you dog, you eat it. 
Loving her opium pipe, Keeps you young.
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.” Seeing I’m the only English speaker and non-Thai person on this bus, I doubt anyone is going to hold my hand and pray with me. My attention quickly focused on the teenage mother and baby sitting a seat over from me and I decided I’d sacrifice myself to save them. At least I’m doing a good deed before we go down. Only a half hour on the dot from the time we pulled out from Bus Terminal 2 in Chiang Rai did we get a flat tire. I knew I headed to Bangkok a day early for a reason. Eventually, the bus safely landed on the median and I took a massive sigh of relief.
After sitting on the side of the road for an hour, I loaded a bus that paled in comparison. A Thai toddler sitting in front of me reclined her chair basically in my lap and stared at me while flopping her blanket on my computer screen as I tried to enjoy my True Blood Vampire series which is the only thing at this point keeping me sane. My mood went from elated to deflated in record time. 
I enjoy the transition from place to place – riding ferries, trains, buses (sometimes) are some of my favorite times during travel. Many people disagree but I enjoy staring at the window, listening to music, seeing the countryside pass through my window, and having sometimes life changing conversations with people you didn’t know existed 10 minutes prior. Transportation in Thailand is easy but its unreliability is notorious. Note to self if traveling, plan ahead if your schedule is tight.

Here are some of the main modes of transportation you’ll see in Thailand:

Tuk-tuk in Ayutthaya. Holds 1-6 people.
Tuk-tuk drivers are notorious for ripping people off, even locals. If you need to take a tuk-tuk always cut the price in half of what they offer and give a chuckle like you can’t believe their price offer. They’ll try to get as much out of you as they can and if you let them, you’ll be out of money fast!

Song Thaew
All the luggage you see was piled on top of this song thaew. 
One step above a tuk-tuk, still very cheap but usually made for longer trips like to an attraction in the city you’re visiting. It’s like a mini-pickup truck with two benches in the bed. 

Yellow Power Ranger on motorbike.
As you probably know, motorbikes are everywhere in Asian countries. They’re cheap, easy and with no emission controls policies the small motorbikes are actually the best option for the environment.

Minibuses are found everywhere and can actually be a better option if you’re traveling light. The prices are fair, there’s AC, and you don’t have to make tons of stops so you get to your destination in a shorter time.

Long tail boat
Skinny wooden boats with loud motors.
Short distances in the water from beach to beach that cant be reached by land or from islands that are near by you will always take a long tail boat. These are usually wooden with a smoky motor and colorful leis draped on the bow.

Ferry ride from Surat Thani to Koh Samui.
Getting to and from the various islands in Thailand is sure to guarantee you a ferry ride, my personal favorite. Some are small and don’t have any chairs and some ferries are large enough to fit cars on and you’ll want to stay for days.


Overnight train from BKK to Chiang Mai.
Train is free for locals so I hate to say this but if you’re going a town over by train where there aren’t any classes, you’ll be sitting next to someone who may not even have a home. I’ve taken the train many times when I was in Ayutthaya. Vendors hop on and off the train constantly to sell food, fruit, drinks, and soup. The night train however, is a different story. Going from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is a comfortable experience in a sleeper cart.

Do’s and Don’ts of Transportation in Thailand:
I shouldn't have to say this, but don't travel with a family of 4 on a motorbike.

  1. DO keep your valuables with you. Never pack them in your main pack and store on the bottom of the bus or top of a song thaew, etc.
  2. DON’T be in a rush to get to your destination because according to Thai time you will be running late.
  3. DO pack snacks and food on long train or bus rides because you never know when or where you’ll arrive.
  4. DON’T get in a taxi in Bangkok unless he’s running the meter. Ask him to turn it on before you jump in.
  5. DO bargain with a tuk-tuk driver because 10 times out of 10, they are trying to rip you off.
  6. My exhaust pipe burn.  That's gonna leave a mark!
    DON’T get off on the right side of a motorbike because you’ll be left with a burn on your calf. I know from experience.
  7. DO wear layers in a minibus or train because you’ll be pouring sweat outside but then freeze inside.
  8. DON’T forget your motion sickness pills for long curvy bus rides in the north or long ferry rides.
  9. DO book long distance trains a few days in advance to guarantee a good cabin.
  10. DON’T rent a motorbike without insurance (usually 2 USD) or ride without a helmet.

    Elephant is still a popular way to get around in Thailand.

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.

There are 3 main types of toilets in Thailand:

Scooping water for flushing.
      1. The Squat: Let’s just hit the ground running and start off    with the worst, ay? The squat is a porcelain bowl no more    than 3 inches above ground. You mount this puppy with feet placed on footpads on each side of the bowl and just like the name implies, you take the squat position and get ready for action. If you choose to stray from my advice and put your feet on the outside of the squat, get ready for a splash fest bigger than Songkran. The water trough beside you is not for rinsing your hands. Take a doggy bowl type bucket and fill it up with water from the trough and transfer it into the squat until everything goes bye- bye. You may as well take your pants off the first few times; the squatter takes some getting use to for farang.

Free standing toilet doubles as shower rest.
      2. The Sitting Manual Flush Squat: You’ll find this gem freestanding in the middle of your shower. If you want to take a rest mid-shower it comes in handy. It’s a bit larger than a squat but resembles the miniature toilet used in elementary school.  Next to this contraption is a saucepan shaped bucket floating on water inside a larger bucket. I think you know the protocol for the next step. You may also notice a hose much like a kitchen hose  in the U.S.A.  This is a “butt hose” or a “bum gun.” When you’re ready to wipe, the butt hose comes into play. Hose yourself   down from front to back and don’t forget to leave   time to dry. If your aim isn’t on point, you’ll give yourself a mini-shower at an  inopportune time.

Butt hose action.
      3. A Regular Flushing Toilet: In more modern   places like shopping malls and Tesco you will find regular   sized flushing toilets but you will NEVER have toilet paper or a butt hose. So no butt hose, no tissue what   do they expect you to do, drip dry? Sometimes there is a vending machine in the bathroom where you can buy tissue paper.  On the rare occasion that you   do have toilet paper in your stall (2% of the time), don’t think twice about putting it in the commode. This is a huge no-no.

Researchers and proctologists have raved for years about the benefits of squatting toilets and the health ailments caused by sitting toilets. Maybe true, but for sanitary purposes I prefer to go sit style and flush it all away with as much toilet paper as I would like. Now that you’re in Southeast Asia remember that I warned you! With a little practice, patience, and a pack of tissues on hand at all times (it’s a hot commodity here) you can master the squat too.  If you’re still having potty problems I feel bad for you son, I got 99 problems but a SQUAT ain’t one!  
Squat toilet with a butt hose and a flushing trough.

Elegantly flushing a squat.

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.

Potty Mouth

Over information could cause a problem in an emergency. 
Toilet paper is unnecessary in Thailand. 
Unisex bathroom or sex bathroom?
Say this out loud for an instant posh accent!
You can reduce this message to 3 words and it means the same same thing.
Pens at a school supply store. Swirly poop.
We all love it, so we have it!

Customer Service
I believe the word you're looking for is "wax."

Handmade crafts, including haircuts.
Word of encouragement from every small business owner.

Must be good!
Safety First
So informative with only using stick figures!
Subtle yet honest.
To litter or not to litter?
Don't get too excited, "Porn" is a popular name in Thailand.
Life size Tiger Woods made of condoms. Only at Cabbages & Condoms. 

The girls in Brokedown Palace didn't get this memo.
Information Overload
Doubt that.
Always dot your "i's" and cross your "l's".
Cute kid. 
Look under "Free SIM"
Sweet pick-up lines.

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. Get your mouth whet for some serious drool action because these charming dishes will have you positively howling with excitement. If you would like to see more pictures and detailed descriptions of Thai food I’ve indulged in please check out my album Thai Food 101. Chok Dee! (Cheers!)

Eating Style
Thai people eating dinner together.
Very few people like to do it individually, but most like to do it in groups. Family style, particularly on the floor in a circle, is very traditional. It’s common to see folks gathered in a circle during lunchtime in their shop, home (which is open for all to see if you’re walking by), or on the sidewalk. If you have ever wondered why Thai people take their shoes off before entering a room it’s because you’re suppose to keep the floor so clean you can literally eat off of it.
Eating out is a lot cheaper than the alternative: cooking at home. Therefore, night markets are very popular amongst Thais; A place where they can gobble dinner with their family or bring semi-prepared groceries home to consume.

Outdoor restaurant at a market in Krabi.

Mango lady in Ayutthaya. 

Main Courses
Noodles – Thick, thin, long, short, sticky, hard, floppy, white, yellow, you name it there’s a different noodle for every course. Most noodles are made out of rice, which is served with all dishes each meal of the day – breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert!
Glass noodles with vegetables and egg.
Curry – Concocted of red, yellow, or green curry paste, coconut milk, vegetables, herbs and usually your choice of chicken, pork, seafood, or tofu.
Pumpkin curry in Koh Chang. The only place I've found it!
Soup – Even though the temperature is boiling outside, you always have soup. You could have soup with all vegetables in a chicken broth, soup with noodles, mini chicken legs at the bottom, mushroom soup, I never realized there were so many types of soup. The soup Nazi would be pleased, then again maybe not.
Soup served in a hot pot, you put your own vegetables, meat, or seafood with noodles in the pot and cook yourself.
Meat – Watch out vegetarians! Always meat in every spread, sometimes multiple types of meat at one meal. Chicken, pork (100 different ways), and beef are prepared fried, boiled, stuffed, fatty or trimmed and found in most dishes.
An assortment of meats at a night market in Phuket.
Seafood – Twenty thousand leagues under the sea or the Thai streets, you’ll find fresh grilled squid on a stick, whole fish on a rotisserie, squid jerky on a cart, clams, mussels, and giant tiger prawns.

Fish stuffed with herbs on a rotisserie in Muang Thong Thani.
Thirst Quenchers
Bubble tea. Note the giant straw.
Bubble Tea – Tea with little tapioca type gelatin pellets submerged at the bottom of the cup. You get an extra wide straw to extract the balls from the base of the cup. Drinkers must use caution when sipping bubble tea because they are slippery suckers and if you suck too hard they pop in the back of your throat before you even have a chance for them to properly enter your mouth.

Large Chang in Phuket.
Beer – The King of Thai Beers is Singha. Chang, Leo, Tiger, and Archa are the runner up lagers in Thailand. These $1.10 beers are big so you need 2 hands to handle it properly.
Liquor – Whiskey is highly consumed amongst Thais. Hong Thong and Sang Som are obvious choices. Thai vodka is too painful to drink so most don’t. Rice liquor (aka Thai moonshine) is sneaky so drink with caution!

Coffee stand like this is seen everywhere in Thailand.

Coffee – If you need an extra energy jolt you don’t have to walk but 2 feet before you run into a coffee hut on the street. Iced or hot, served with loads of sugar and condensed milk. Ask your barista for no sugar if you don’t want a headache later.
Fresh fruit shake in Chiang Mai.
Shakes – Fresh fruit shakes are on nearly every menu. Lassi contains yogurt so it’s denser. Shakes vary from thick and smoothie-like to watery and icy.

All Things Sweet
Fruit - Bananas in big and small sizes, sugary sweet rose apples, and jackfruit line up on the street chilling and waiting for you to pick them up. Fresh fruit, always sliced in a baggy accompanied by a wooden poker, is a delightful snack that’s never hard to find. Whether you are in Bangkok or a tiny village, you will always find a fruit stand full of fresh papaya, guava, pineapple, watermelon, and mango at every life stage.
Sweets - Milky secretions dribbled on nearly every food item when it comes to desserts. No pastries exist and the chocolate is never that great. Thai desserts are always made from coconut or flour. A lot of times the confection is a vegetable like green peas with sugar syrup or sweetened condensed milk dripped on top. A popular dessert is corn in a thick, clear sugar paste. I guess it’s half healthy.

Dawg’s Top Favorites:
1. Green curry with chicken or seafood (chicken really absorbs the flavor).
2. Sum tom is a papaya salad prepared with a pestle and mortar. Tell the preparer how many peppers desired. It’s a favorite amongst locals as well.
3. Milk green tea is a refreshing drink made of green tea and condensed milk served on ice. Again, no sugar please!
4. Mango and sticky rice is a traditional dessert made from sweet mango and sticky rice with a bit of sweetened condensed milk.

5. Kanum cok is a dessert that’s not too sweet made from fried coconut with a soft gelatin like center. In the middle you can choose plain, corn, green onions, or pumpkin.

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 shit 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: DUSTDUST DUST, dried mud covered every square inch of street, building, tree, plant, side walk, and ant. Piles, excuse me, MOUNTAINS of filthy garbage and debris from homes and buildings that gave off the most horrendous stench that could make a baby’s diaper smell like sweet roses. Dogs, stray rabies filled dogs, hungry, tired, abandoned and mean, looking for some Leash-Dawg to munch on, roaming the streets like they own the place. There was not a soul in sight, no buildings or markets open, no cars on the streets, no lights. I felt like I rolled up to a town during the wild wild west that had just been deserted after a shoot out. The water line from where the floodwaters had reached was taller than me in some places. This distinct line left its mark over the entire city as if to say, “Flood wuz here” like graffiti on the door of a bathroom stall.
A building with a super high water line. 

Wall near my apartment with a water line taller than me. I'm 5"3'.

My poor eyes were affected by the dust bowl.
River surrounding the island of Ayutthaya.
Thankfully that didn’t last long. Not long at all actually. There was continual improvement in the city each day post-flood. Every shop owner, resident, and monk did his or her part to clean and restore Ayutthaya into the beautiful city it is. Ayutthaya was the ancient capital of Thailand for 417 years during 1350-1767. It’s actually an island and the water surrounding the landmass was originally crafted to provide a blockade against the Burmese. The Burmese burned down much of the capital and the city was abandoned, but bricks and skeletons of temples still remain.
Longstanding temples and ruins are dotted all over the city and as the town continued to repair itself post-flood, tourism picked back up right where it left off.  Soon the ruinous town was back on its feet after the devastation it faced.
Wat Yai Chaimongkal from the back side.
Wat Yai Chaimongkal from the front. It's huge!
Wat Mahathat, so many ruins packed in this beautiful park.
I’ve learned something great about Thai people, their persistence and determination for their home whether it’s their city, country, their place of business or their actual residence, is unstoppable. I admire their upbeat attitude and fortitude when it comes to getting the job done through a shattering event.
Friends at the "Moustashio Bashio"
I’m proud to call Ayutthaya my new home away from home for at least a little while. I love jogging through the ruins after school each day and having to move over for the elephant in my path. Catching the sun set over the ponds. Waving “Sawadee kaa” to the same familiar faces you see each day. I love the night market near my house and how the “spring roll lady” knows my face and my order without even asking. I love the group of foreign teachers and how we have our own community within the community, even though we’re from all over the world. I love riding my bike around the island and discovering old ruins, statues, and temples that are hundreds of years old right in my back yard-mixed with the modern conveniences of 7-Eleven. Ayutthaya is a true Thai cultural experience, not just a tropical tourist spot. I’m so glad I stayed during those difficult first few weeks, but I’m most thankful for my first hand experience at watching a city rebuild itself.

Location Location Location
Bangkok is a short (2 USD) hour ride away in an air-conditioned minibus for all my Westernized needs.

View of Bang Pa-In from the watchtower.
Bang Pa-In Palace – On the outskirts of Ayutthaya, a gorgeous and well-preserved royal palace is awaiting your arrival. The palace is covered in lush green grass and vibrant flowers. The estate gave off a very European feeling with its tidy landscape. The watchtower is a great place to get a bird’s eye view of the gorgeous palace. You can definitely spend an afternoon exploring the exhibits in several of the buildings as well as the incredible architecture.

Glass maker creating trinkets at Bang Sai.
Bang Sai Arts and Crafts Village – The Queen of Thailand established this arts center in the 1970’s. She arranged for professionals to assist local Thais to improve their handicraft, which would increase their standard of living. Visitors can watch local craftsmen create products of their specialty trade and purchase any items they desire. Activities that can be viewed and purchased include:
  • Basket weaving
  • Glass blowing
  • Silk weaving
  • Furniture making
  • Thai doll making
  • Sculpturing
  • Ceramics
  • Leathercraft
  • And tons more!
The property is gorgeous in itself; while I visited there was a wedding reception on the grounds alongside a bird park and a freshwater aquarium.

Say Wat? - Top Temples (Wats) in Ayutthaya
There are over 1600 wats in Ayutthaya but these are my favorites:

Buddha headstone at Wat Mahathat. 
Wat Mahathat – A park of ruins where you can take a walk alone, listen to a guided tour or let an elephant chaperon you through the park of remains. The famous Buddha head stone is embedded in tree roots among these remainders. Wat Phra Si Sanphet and Wat Ratburana are all in the same area as Mahathat so you can hit them all up at the same time. About a minute from my apartment, I jogged the path through the scenic ruins almost everyday. Probably my favorite thing about living in Ayutthaya.

Reclining Buddha at Wat Yai Chaimongkal.
Wat Yai Chaimongkal – “Yai” means big in Thai and that’s pretty much exactly why it’s called big Chiamongkal. There is a giant reclining Buddha where you can paste gold flakes to his feet and head surrounded by a giant wat. The grounds are encased by the 38 Supreme Blessings, which is the main reason I love this ancient temple.

Golden Buddha inside the temple of Wat Phananchoeng.
Wat Phananchoeng – Beautiful! There’s an enormous and jaw dropping golden Buddha inside. Located directly off the river, it is worth taking a boat tour around the island to see the massive, ornate structure. Markets
Night market near my house.
Talad Na ng gan – People in Thailand traditionally do not cook dinner, it’s cheaper to eat out every night so there are markets solely open in the evening. Luckily, I had a rocking night market within walking distance of my apartment off Naresuan Road (near Wat Mahathat)– Fresh fruit, shakes, red curry paste, noodle soup, spring rolls, and omelets galore. As always clothes, shoes, and things you don’t need are available for purchase too.

Floating market in Ayutthaya.
Ayutthaya Floating Market – The floating market is awesome. On the weekends, it’s a typical tourist attraction but there is so much fantastic food and high quality souvenirs to buy that the locals pour in during the week. The market is a maze of vendors on land and boat. Turn to your right there’s a lady selling mango and sticky rice on a boat, turn to your left – there’s a man selling giant chicken balls from a regular stand. We’ll get to chicken balls later. If you’re lucky, you can catch a performance of Thai dancing and soldiers reenacting the history of Ayutthaya. You can take an elephant ride directly next to the Floating Market.

Main drag of Chao Phrom Market.
Chao Phrom Market – WoW. Chao Phrom is the HQ of Ayutthaya. Directly across from “Soi Farang,” all the mini buses meet here, there is shopping and food plenteous. Anything you want to buy is hidden here. On the outside, the market looks like one narrow row chock full of goodies but veer off to the right and you will find yourself in a maze of accessories, clothes, bags, jewelry, and the kitchen sink.

Out on the Town
Hilarious owner at Chang House.
Not much nightlife around these parts but “Soi Falang” (Foreinger Street) is nicknamed for all the right reasons. It has plenty of guesthouses, local bars with live music and Changs on your face all night long. Or at least until 12-ish when they start closing up. You’re sure to meet travelers from all corners of the world, or get tickled by the Thai kiddos hanging out at their parents’ bars. Chang House, Street Lamp, Jazz Bar, and Tony’s Place are all rocking establishments. Just enough western touches but not a tourist trap.

Thai - Pretty much every market will have the best Thai food around. Street vendors that have a sit down option usually make the most incredible Thai food for about $1, can’t go wrong.

Joyce owner of Ban Kaw Pod restaurant.
Ban Kaw Pod – A hidden gem a street over from Naresuan.  Joyce, the owner, is super friendly and the food is delectable and price is even better. Joyce cooks right in the back with the freshest ingredients from the local market.

Sai Thong – Grab a table with a fabulous view of the Chao Phraya River and enjoy amazing Thai food. This restaurant is located directly across the street from Chomsurang Upatham School, where I taught everyday. It’s also recommended on Lonely Planet. The crab fried rice is heavenly.

On “Soi Farang” you can get a decent hamburger at Tony’s Place if you need some beef in your life and across the street at Plan B you can get a tasty pizza, a cheese plate and wine!

Front of Sherwood Guesthouse
Sherwood Guesthouse – Patrons can order an actual sandwich on a baguette and a legit Western breakfast with eggs, bacon, and toast. The portion sizes won’t disappoint you. There's also a swimming pool if you want to take a dip.

Outside the Grandparent's Home. 
Midori Guesthouse or “Grandparent’s House” - I lived here during my time in Ayutthaya. I recommend Grandparents, as we like to call it, to anyone visiting the city. The ruins are right outside the door on Naresuan Road. There is a great sitting area in the front of the building where you can relax with a cold one or enjoy a meal from their full menu. You can rent a bike at Grandparent’s or simply walk to the ruins. The rooms are super clean and pretty much everything is new. The family who owns the place is extremely nice and they want their customers to have a wonderful experience in Ayutthaya.

So much to see, do and eat in Ayutthaya, so little time! If you need suggestions please email me at or post a comment. I’d love to hear from you! If you have recommendations to add let me know!

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.The bungalow was scorching hot, the beach was hot, and I didn’t have any other place to go. I decided to wet myself down from head to toe with ice cold water, put on my ‘Lil Wayne tank and some undies and sleep sideways on my bed to avoid the sun beaming on my face. I had to leave the door and windows open to get some sort of breeze so I am sorry for whoever passed by my room during this “nap.” I tried to sleep for a few hours but I think I just ended up in a sweat coma. That was a low point. I was miserable and had no place to go to escape the heat. I remember vocally giving myself 2 minutes of self-pity. All I wanted was a juicy steak and fully loaded baked potato in an air-conditioned room with a couch and TV. It’s the simple things in life…

Lotus flower at Bang Pa-In.
During January, the air felt like spring time at home. Winter in Thailand is very nice, now I understand why snowbirds flock here for vacation during the wintertime. The Thai people on the other hand, crack me up because they find this climate a tidbit nipply. A high temperature of 78 degrees for them is like 45 to me. It’s still hot as heck in the mid afternoon but the locals are wearing puffy winter jackets, scarves, and beanies while I’m over here wiping sweat from all sorts of crevices. They even wrap up their dogs in old t-shirts because they think the dogs are cold too! It’s pretty common to ride your bike around and see what you think are stray dogs chilling in an old Chang tank top.

Former baseball player.
These guys are working for tips.
Chilly puppies playing tug-o-war.
Unfortunately, the cool part of the winter season only lasts for about 3-4 weeks. Although its not sweltering like it was when I was visiting the islands, I get pretty darn sweaty on my bike ride home from school. Luckily, I haven’t had any heat related breakdowns lately but it’s heating up again…
Frolicking in the sunflowers of Lopburi, Thailand.
Sunflower fields in Lopburi, Thailand (hidden secret to tourists).

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. The school start date was continuously pushed back due to flooding which meant more travel time for me. Yay! As I’m flying high on my magic carpet feeling as though nothing could possibly go wrong, my world gets pulled out from underneath me when I least expected it and I fall from grace.

The Not So Jolly Frog
The pretty courtyard at the Jolly Frog.
Leaving the retirement capital of Thailand, Hua Hin, I headed northwest to Kanchanaburi feeling safe and sound and carefree. I made note of a few suitable guesthouses based on reviews and also made a memo of a place NOT to stay, the Jolly Frog. My friend Graham arrived in town before me so I sent him on a mission to find the good places I researched and check out prices and rooms. He called me a few minutes later saying he found a great place called “The Jolly Frog.” Oh hell no! I agreed to at least check it out for myself. The set up was undeniably pleasant, right on the river, the room was decent, a lush green shady courtyard accompanied by cozy hammocks, and the price was unbeatable. I reluctantly agreed to stay at the Jolly Frog.

Balancing over the River Kwai Bridge.
The first few hours of the trip were very enjoyable; we biked to the River Kwai Bridge and had a balancing competition over the River Kwai Bridge train tracks (I won). We were really enjoying our time exploring this unique part of history. Once we headed back to the Jolly Frog, we grabbed some Thai beers and headed to the beautiful courtyard where other backpackers and even a few locals were hanging out in hammocks on the grassy lawn. I mentioned out loud to my friend Michele that I had a bad feeling about these cats because their humor was a bit rude and I felt like they were making fun of us for being Americans. We just wanted to have a friendly time and socialize! I knew in my gut it was not right.

Last moments with my purse and camera.
A few of us went to eat dinner together and that uneasy feeling evaporated as we talked, drank, and got to know each other. Later in the evening, we went to a bar across the street from the Jolly Frog called “Sugar Member.” I had a fabulous time there - tons of foreigners and locals mingling, playing games, and dancing. All good things must come to an end though. I headed back to the room around 3am. Graham followed shortly after.

Getting My Sh*t Jacked
I woke up at 6am feeling an uncharacteristic chill passing over me.  I discovered my guesthouse door ajar to complement a painful thumping in my head. I slammed the door closed and fell back in bed. I noticed my distinctive turquoise purse was not sitting next to the bed where I remembered laying it. Initially I dismissed the thought, my head was pounding too much to think straight, but then I thought, “Wait a sec.” Just to give myself peace of mind, “Why don’t you at least lay your eyes on it and then go back to sleep. It’s probably a better idea.” Still not spotting it I decided to get up, which was painful, and look around. No purse in sight. I walked outside to check the courtyard and zilch, zero trace of any of my possessions. Once I realized someone had been in our room while we snoozed and jacked my purse with a digital camera, wallet, REAL Ray-Bans, and a bunch of cash, my mind began to race.
The scene of the crime: Bottom, left.
Lost in Paradise
Why was the door open? Who would do this? Was it someone we were spending the evening with? Whatever F-bag walked in here saw me all sprawled out in my nighty, who knows what else they could have done! Why isn’t the Jolly Frog Guesthouse doing anything to help? Are they in on the theft? Where are the police? Why do I have this gut feeling that someone at this very guesthouse has my belongings?

After asking myself the fundamental questions dealing with the situation, I began reaching deeper inside my cranium and interrogating my purpose in life.

What am I doing with my life here? Will I even teach; do I still have a job? Why am I trying so hard to make life work in Thailand when it was great at home? Am I here to write or am I here to teach? Should I go back home?
Not only did I lose my new camera full of photos, cash, and my only source to extract cash, but also I lost vital aspects that help me function normally. My sense of security and safety vanished. My own identity and end goal was lost in translation. Working towards a purpose is the best way I operate and as soon as the goal is indistinct I flounder.
The sense of helplessness that I felt was insurmountable – the police didn’t help, the US Embassy could care less. I realized that I was completely on my own in this huge Asian continent. Mom and dad aren’t here to back you up; everything is up to you. Finding a job, apartment, your way around. It’s a sense of independence that I’ve always been obsessed with to a fault. Now it’s staring me in the face.
It was an unfortunate event but it was an eye opening experience to finally get my life together and put meaning back into traveling.

Do’s and Don’ts I learned from losing my valuables:

Signing my life away at the Police Station in Kanchanaburi.
1.  DO always lock your hotel room door no matter how soon your roommates plan to return.
2.  DON’T be naïve and trust everyone, you may have a fun time partying with some cool people but you don’t know their background or where they come from. Don’t be stupid.
3. DO always check to see if the guesthouse you’re staying with has a lock box in the room or at the front desk. It’s worth it if you have to pay a small fee for the day.
4. DON’T lose sight of the big picture when traveling. What is your purpose – traveling, partying, writing, etc? There are many temptations, try not to give in ALL the time.
5. DO have you bank account information and a contact number for your credit/debit card that works internationally. If your card gets stolen you can cancel it immediately before someone makes any purchases online or otherwise.
6. DON’T wait until you’re overseas to figure out how you can get someone from home to wire money in case of an emergency. This just delays the process because of the time difference plus it takes around 3 days to process anyway.
7. DO purchase insurance on your electronics. I used a company called and was able to get fully reimbursed for my camera.
8. DON’T forget to scan copies of your receipts, credit card, license, passport and anything you have with you. This speeds up the process when replacing stolen stuff.
9. DO get a police report from the Tourist Police or regular police. The Tourist police usually speak decent English and you never know when you’ll need the report. If you claim anything with an insurance company you’ll need a copy of the report (in English and in Thai) plus the receipt of the item stolen.
10. DON’T waste time reporting anything to your Embassy unless your passport was stolen and you need to replace it or you were hurt in some way. They don’t care and it’s usually a big, frustrating waste of time in a long line with crying babies and smelly people. Eww. 

Putting on a happy face for Loy Krathong. I put bad feelings on my krathong and sent it down the river. 
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.
Samsuding, “Samsung” our valiant teacher, who we later found out is a world renowned professional climber, has won competitions in numerous countries.
Sammy on a seriously difficult climb.
After we geared up, he did a fabulous job teaching all the proper techniques of rope tying, belaying, safety precautions, and gave us ample time and attention to get it right. That way when we climbed we were actually spotting each other and not letting him do all the work. I found myself watching other novice climbers on the rocks who had no idea what they were doing and fighting the urge to give them pointers. I didn’t want to be a jerk store though, so I decided to keep my mouth shut. The three in my group did 3 climbs each, starting with an easy and working our way up to more difficult ascends. Sammy must have had a lot of faith in us because by our second challenge we were doing an intense climb. That or maybe we were actually decent beginners.
Each encounter with the rocky peak was like a puzzle you had to put together to reach the summit. Finding tiny spaces to put your fingers and toes and get from one point to another was an exhilarating test, all the while not looking down or letting go. At the end of our first session, I was extremely hot and tired from the suffocating heat and physical exertion but I was hooked! Sammy enjoyed our company as much as we did his, so a day or two later I called him up and he decided to take us out on an unofficial ascent where the real climbers hang. We strolled up to Phangang Beach and headed towards a giant rock with a massive cave you could see from a far distance. The jungle trek to our first climb was the commencement to our adventure for the day. After one difficult climb to begin the grueling day, Sammy led us through the cave with his flashlight and my tiny light.
Beginning the trek through the cave. 
We hauled all of our gear and ropes through the dark climbing over rocks and up rickety bamboo ladders that had been in place for what looked like a hundred years. The pitch-black trudge took about a half hour and by the time we reached the opening on the opposite end of the cave, our breaths were literally taken away from the most astonishing view I have ever seen in any picture or real life. The photos I have certainly do not do it justice. The opening to the cave displayed an aerial view of Railay and Tonsai beach with the colorful long tail boats and kayakers like tiny pieces of confetti sprinkled below us on the water surrounded by the tall brown and green peaks. Each person repelled from the cave to the red rocky ground below and continued a last climb of the day.
View of Tonsai (left) and Railay beaches from the cave above. 
Gearing up to repel down the cave.
Taking time to enjoy the scenery from inside the cave.
If rock climbing doesn’t strike your fancy, kayaks are fun to explore the beaches and caves that encompass the area. Michele and I rented kayaks and set out just as a torrential downpour began out of nowhere like usual during monsoon season, so we entered a big grotto to wait out the storm. I began to scale the rocks in the cave for my entertainment and nearly sliced my hands and legs open because it was so slippery. Not recommended. The water inside the cave looked as if it’s glowing and made me feel like I was in a dream or and unreal place. Once the rain ceased, we paddled for hours around rocks and inside caves to check out tons of crabs, fish, and tiny grottos. After a few hours of rowing, you can park your kayak at Phanang Beach where long tail boats cook and serve food right from their boat. Kayakers can rent boats for an inexpensive fee per hour or for a half or full day at a discount. There is a ton to do on Railay, it’s a non-stop place to get in all your sporting activities plus a great beach to recover those strained muscles.
Michele and I kayaking through a small cave off Railay beach. 
Boats on Phanang beach that serve lunch right on the shore. 

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.  In the morning and late evening the tide is super high so you have to take a boat or the infamous jungle route to get from one beach to the other. The jungle route is not a nice little path through the forest, it’s a rock climb in itself without a harness or ropes and it takes a good half hour. During the afternoon, the tide is tremendously low, so people can walk across coral and rocks to get from Tonsai to Railay alongside beached long tail boats. 
Beached long tails boats during the low tide afternoon.

Beautiful skyline with rocky peaks in Tonsai Beach.

Even walking with the low tide, it takes 10-12 minutes to stumble over all the sharp and misshapen coral to arrive at the other end of the coastline.
Crossing the exposed coral during low tide. Notice the tiny figure in the top right hand corner. That's a man.
Gives you an idea of how long you're actually crossing the beach. 
After a lengthy day of rock climbing, I met up with my friends Gilster and Katie from back home in Tonsai for drinks and to hang out with the backpackers. It was getting late and Kelly and I decided to head back over to Railay to end the night. At this point the tide was already up, consequently we had to take the jungle route. I had a tiny flashlight the size of my pointer finger and no idea how to even find the jungle path. Once we reached the end of the beach and didn’t stumble upon the land track we decided to get to Railay by water. Or at least I decided for us. Kelly was hesitant but I convinced her that we could successfully make it to the other side. Piece of cake!
It was pitch black outside and all those large rocks and coral are ever present but now we just can’t see any of it due to the water and darkness. We commenced our way through the water in our clothes and tennis shoes, which I knew, would end up adding to the moldy smell that seems to follow me everywhere. At the start of our watery trudge, it was only ankle deep so we were in high spirits that we could make it to the other beach without a hitch. “Who needs a jungle route!?” As we felt our way from rock to rock under the black ocean, the water quickly rose from ankles to knees. I was giving Kelly one of my usual pep-talks “We can do this it’s only to our knees, we got this!” A few short moments later, the water reached our chesticles. As I’m feeling fishies nipping at my bod I started to think, “Maybe this wasn’t the best idea.” But I didn’t dare say this to my partner in crime! At this point, my curiosity took over and I just wanted to push myself to lucratively make it to the other side.  I had my purse in one hand raised above my head and a tiny flashlight in the other hand trying to avoid giant boulders in the water and ledges that pop out of nowhere! Kelly has her jam-packed backpack raised atop her head with both hands. If anyone could have seen us, they would have called us “idiots.” I kept saying to Kelly, “It’s just on the other side of that giant rock, we’re almost there! It’s too late to turn back now!” I really did think the beach was right around this giant rock in the water that seemed so close to us at the time. All of a sudden, we stepped from one rock to absolutely nothing. I wanted to keep my purse and the trusty flashlight above water and could not find another rock so I swam hard with my legs to keep myself above water while trying not to giggle (too hard) at my helpless friend. Poor Kelly is swimming viciously to keep her filled backpack above water as best as possible but we are laughing so hard Kelly and I nearly drowned. We both disperse in opposite directions to take hold of the nearest rocks we could find. After we caught our breath and with no ocean floor around us to step on, we decided to tread water because I convinced Kelly that the beach was on the other side of the rocks that were extremely close to us. Once we reached the nearby rocks, we saw the beach…about a mile away. The lights on the beach were tiny orange specks of glitter in the distance. We treaded water for about half an hour from this point, me one handed trying to guide the way with the flashlight; Kelly pushing her backpack through the water at this point. Exhausted, we strolled on the shore in our sopping tennis shoes and clothes to survey the damage: Kelly’s backpack had been completely submerged with her digital camera, large and in charge Fujifilm camera, AND new cell phone. I felt terrible because I had no idea her nice camera was along for the ride or else I wouldn’t have pressed on so hard! We squished back to our rooms in silence. At least we didn’t drown or get eating by sharks. If you're in Railay or Tonsai, make sure to find the jungle route during the day and pack a flashlight!
Kelly with her camera during happier times. RIP Fujifilm.

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. Night buses and ferries are a must even though you usually end up spending the next day napping or extremely groggy. The night ferry from Koh Tao heads to Surat Thani, a large port town on the east coast of Thailand. I bought my ticket for a whopping 700 baht (22 USD) and boarded this ferry for the 7-hour journey leaving at 9pm. The herd of people shuffled on the boat and as I gave the ticket taker my voucher he grunted and motioned for me to move in the direction that looks like the place they keep cattle. I ducked down because the area wasn’t even tall enough for me to stand up straight and waddled over to my number on the ground, which was accompanied by a mat much like you see at a gym and a “pillow”, that was a rock hard block of foam covered with vinyl. Each passenger is placed right next to one another, you share mats with complete strangers stinky or not.
Below deck on the night ferry with the luggage.
"Sleeping" side by side with strangers. Really great way to get to know people!

The whole experience was hysterical, I was just glad the rinky dink wooden boat made it across the ocean without breaking down or sinking. We arrived at the Surat Thani pier around 4:15am, waited for a tuk-tuk that brought us to some kind of restaurant and bus station combo. I waited there until nearly 7am when a large and in charge bus picked us up to bring us to Krabi. There were no seats left on this bus so three girls and me sat in the back on some bench with zero legroom sitting Indian style. Go figure they actually have A/C on this crap bus, but it was practically raining inside with water from the A/C dripping on us the entire time! We had to put our rain jackets on to protect ourselves from the shower in the moldy disgusting automobile.

Moldy bus from Surat Thani to Krabi.
Trying to keep dry and warm during the bus ride to Krabi.

About 2 hours later I arrived in Krabi, but I was meeting a friend in Ao Nang, which is part of Krabi. If you simply mutter the place you’re going someone will motion for you to load the next mode of transportation. At this moment, I got in the back of a pickup truck with 6 other people plus their luggage and held on for dear life while we swerved in and out of traffic lanes that took us to low and behold another bus station. I boarded a mini bus there and finally arrivd at the Apasari Hotel in Ao Nang. Most of the time the cheap way, is not the most efficient way of traveling but if you have the time it’s worth the money…and the funny stories.

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. The crazy metropolis is a top city in the world to bring in the New Year. Since I’ve been wearing the same 5 items for the past four months I decided to take it to the markets and shop for a new outfit to bring in year 2555 before I entered the packed streets of Bangkok. Although every inch of Thailand is drenched in markets with stall after stall of dresses, blouses, shorts, skirts, purses, shoes, belts, and any type of accessory you can imagine, I found it extremely difficult to find anything to fit my American sized chest. I scrambled all over Ayutthaya on my bicycle dodging traffic and dripping sweat to visit store after store to find something that actually fit me in the right places. I finally found a non-Thai-sized outfit that I wasn’t busting out of the seams and left town.
Prior to the trip, I researched tons of parties in Bangkok and asked around for the best rooftop bash. With so many party options, choosing one proved to be a difficult task. Two girlfriends and I decided on a swanky dinner at the Imperial Queen’s Park Hotel on Soi 22 in Sukhumvit district, which also houses the rooftop party of all time at a club called Altitude on the top of the building. The feast was pricey so only 3 of us decided to indulge but we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.
An aroy meal for NYE at Queen's Imperial.
When we arrived at the Queen’s Imperial all dolled up, which I haven’t done in months, it was clear we were embarking on a setting a bit out of the backpacker league. But let me tell you, the food was incredible. Pretty much any scrumptious chow you can imagine was there and I’ve been deprived of the simple pleasures in life for so long, like good bread and cheese, and decent chocolate so it was heaven sent. Sushi, salmon 5 different ways, lobster galore, crabs, three different kinds of oysters, cheese from all over the world, mushrooms, mashed potatoes, lamb, roast beef, and non-stop wine flow. Each desert was handmade and like a piece of artwork. Um, yea it was magical.
Round 1 of glorious food at a NYE feast!
Sliced meats, yum.
An assortment of food at the buffet. A work of art.
Hand crafted deserts.
Playing with our toys for everyone to hear.
We drank and ate for hours and enjoyed the live music before heading upstairs for the countdown on the rooftop of Altitude with our complimentary NYE souvenirs.
Altitude was supposedly the biggest rooftop hoorah in Bangkok and I’m not sure if that’s a true assumption but it was definitely in the running. Hundreds of people were packed inside the main floor where there were several different rooms with its own DJ and dance floor. You couldn’t get too far without passing a fully stocked bar, so your drink was never empty. Drinks were not included in the cover charge into the club and they were pretty pricey which is to be expected on NYE at a posh rooftop club. The journey to the roof was like a herd of cattle pushing themselves through a mouse hole. The situation wasn’t graceful and people got mean. I made it to the roof just in time for the countdown that was incredible! A vibrant firework show ignited the sky with hot pink and gold glittery colors and our position gave us a perfect view.
Rooftop party at Altitude!
Firework show on the Altitude rooftop for NYE in Bangkok.
Lights from the buildings around us added to the sparkling Bangkok skyline. The rest of the night was filled with laser lights and pulsating music on top of the roof with thousands of bodies dancing until the early hours of the morning.
Beautiful Bangkok skyline on NYE from the top of Queen's Imperial Park Hotel.
At some point, my friends and I headed to another rooftop club called Lush on the 48th floor of the United Center Silom Building where many of our other friends had spent the evening raging to music at a similar shindig. The night came to a close around 5am after I couldn’t walk in heels anymore - I’m a bit out of practice in that department.
New Year’s Day was the most productive hangover day I had in a long time. Five of us headed to the Chatuchak Weekend Market, also called J.J. Market, near Mo Chit stop on the BTS. Chatuchak is the market of all markets. Everything you can ever imagine is stuffed into miles of stalls. I thought the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey was the ultimate open market but it’s peanuts compared to Chatuchak. Any type of food, artwork, clothes, furniture and home décor and even an entire animal section with dogs, cats, fish, snakes, chinchillas, squirrels, sugar gliders, rabbits, and roosters can be found at this market. Basically it took up most of the day to explore the market and I was so overwhelmed all I bought was Thai tea and some postcards. Since I was unable to meet my New Year’s Day tradition of eating black-eyed peas and cabbage with my family, I consumed a cricket for good luck in the New Year. I think it’s going to be a good one. Once you get past the crunchy crunch of salty exoskeleton and wings its all down hill. You may need a toothpick or some floss afterwards, as the legs and wings like to lodge themselves in your teeth.
Eating crickets on New Year's Day at the Chatuchak Market in Bangkok.
If you find your way in Asia for the New Year, Bangkok is a great place to party till the sun comes up. Although I didn’t make it to Central World, the Times Square of Bangkok, I feel like I got all I needed and more at Altitude. A rooftop party on New Year’s Eve is the way to go, I recommend it to all my patients.
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. Jason, another American teacher, and myself dressed as Santa Claus and “Santy.” Someone at some point in time told Thai people that Mrs. Claus’ name is “Santy” and there isn’t any changing it. I stuffed a pillow in my silky Santa’s outfit, grabbed a sac full of candy and strolled down to the courtyard where the students, teachers, and parents would be waiting for Santy and Santa Claus to say a ‘lil something in English.
Jason, myself, and some of the Foreign Dept. teachers.
Never know what's going on.
Santy throwing candy to the girls.
About 5 minutes prior, I prepared a brief history of Christmas spiel and planned to just go with the flow. I stepped up to the microphone, which is a usual occurrence for me, and rambled to these Buddhists something about Jesus and the 3 wise men and I don’t know what else, I blacked out. All I saw was about 3,000 Thai teenage girls with blank stares on their faces looking at me. I decided to grab my sac ‘o toys, threw them candy, let them call me Santy for the rest of the day and get out of dodge.  After school, I took the train from Ayutthaya 4 hours northeast to a small town called Sung Noen, which is 30 km outside of Korat. About 20 of us met from our various parts of Thailand to celebrate Christmas together and Sung Noen didn’t know what hit ‘em.

Gathering on the balcony of our friends in Sung Noen for Christmas festivities. 
As everyone trickled in over the next 20 hours, we painted the town red, which isn’t hard to do since it’s just a few streets. The gang stayed at Melissa, who was in our ATI group, and her boyfriend Steve’s place, which was massive and big enough to house the mob of people. When we arrived, our hosts had the place decorated with lights from head to toe including a Christmas “tree” and I brought a Thai “Merry Christmas” banner and hung my stocking by the close line with care. My friend and I chalked up the town with funny phrases and sayings all over town coming from the bus and train station and leading to Melissa and Steve’s house. Pretty much no one in town spoke good English and I don’t think anyone could read English so we didn’t feel too bad about our chalk art.

Merry Christmas from the crackheads!
The Christmas spread. Tons of food in bags, the Thai way.

As soon as everyone arrived, it was a non-stop celebration and we drank, ate, and caught up for the next day. I hadn’t seen many people since we left Nai Harn back in October. On Christmas Eve, we shopped for white elephant gifts, then took the crew to the night market and everyone bought bags of various food. We had enough food to feed a small army for days but we actually finished it all throughout the night and wee hours of the morning. We ate our rice, curry, fried chicken, pineapple, veggies, and tons of other of Thai food sitting on the floor with our chopsticks and Hong Thong. Thai style Christmas feast can be marked off my bucket list. Dinner was concluded with a white elephant gift exchange, I ended up with a bubble machine that didn’t really work and “Songs for Life” – a Thai cd with crappy music. I gave a bomb gift – a rechargeable electric mosquito zapper and a hat that had a ridiculously huge bill. The one Filipino dude that was there ended up with it and I’m pretty sure he was pleased.
The party moved its way to the streets of Sung Noen where we broke into a loud, obnoxious Christmas caroling session. People were coming out of their houses to see the farang parade through the streets sing at the top of their lungs to Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. The carolers encircled one poor guy sitting at a bus stop and frightened the pants off of him. He had no idea what we were saying and he’d probably never seen so many foreigners at one time in his life. We serenaded Steve’s friend who helped him a lot when he first moved to the town. He and the neighbors enjoyed our caroling so much they bought us bags of beer for the road. On occasion, Matt would bust out a non-Christmas song so quick that everyone just started chiming in singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” or “Sweet Caroline” before anyone realized it wasn’t a Christmas carol.
Sweeeeet Caroline!
Serenading action in the streets of Sung Noen, Thailand.
The party fumed until the morning and our Christmas day was cut short with sporadic departures. Everyone headed back home to continue the week of teaching since we don’t get any time off for the holiday. It definitely wasn’t a year for drinking hot cocoa and sitting by the fire all warm and snug at home, but it was a fantastic time and I’ll never forget my Christmas in Thailand!
Monk Matt just so happened to wrap himself in a blanket that's the perfect shade of monk. 

BKK Turkey Day

For most Americans and myself, Turkey Day is normally made up of family, friends, food, football, napping, a game where we end up ticked off at each other, and then more food. That’s great and I missed my family and friends back home terribly this Thanksgiving, but when life hands you raw fish you make sushi!
Over the past three months, several ATI group members from the course in Phuket stayed in close contact via Facebook and email since we are dispersed all over the country of Thailand. A solid crew met at my friend Jess’ apartment in Bangkok to celebrate Thanksgiving American style. Our potluck dinner consisted of the most random array of foods in one sitting most of us had ever had before. I promised real macaroni and cheese to the group (not the cheap stuff), so I had to fulfill my obligation in order to complete the feast. Most wouldn’t think twice about mac ‘n cheese but in Thailand it’s a delicacy. It took two hours to find a block of cheese and pasta in Bangkok! The dish was a huge hit so I am glad I spent nearly $20 (which is a steep price for me these days) and combed the city for 2 hours to bring everybody a little bit of ‘Merica for the holiday. 

Macaroni 'n cheese by Leash-Dawg.

A snapshot of our potluck dinner.

Jess’ roommate introduced the party to a game, which was a combination of rock paper scissors, a train dance, and Thai trash talk rolled into one. Each participant starts with a partner and says a few Thai phrases accompanied with easy body motions and serious attitude, then you have a mini rock paper scissors game and the loser attaches themselves to the back of their former opponent like you are lining up for the train. Two new competitors repeat the scenario and the game continues until all the partakers are snaked around the room in a line dance. 
Snake to the riiiiiiggggght, snake to the left. El-a-wa?
Thai trash talk, here it comes.
The game was a nice appetizer for the cornucopia of food that followed. During the meal in typical Jack Handy fashion, I announced I was thankful for meeting all of these amazing people and for such an incredible adventure in Thailand then asked everyone to follow suite. You can’t have a Thanksgiving dinner without the “what are you thankful for’s” and I always pull this move back home in America for dinner with my family so it had to be done. The flat was filled with grateful Americans as well as Thais who celebrated their first Thanksgiving. After we filled our bellies with the delicious assortment of grub prepared by everyone, we
cleared the living room furniture created an 8th grade house party with a competitive game of Twister
followed by a lights out dance session.

I believe there is a limit on the people who can fit on the Twister mat.
I got kicked out of the game because I couldn't fit on the Twister mat.

Unfortunately for the other tenants, the apartment has a pool and the party maximized on this luxury. After hours of sweating on the d-floor we completed the night with a loud and potentially dangerous swim/drowning while security guards hushed us the entire time. It was awesome to spend the holiday with an absurd group of people I have shared a bond with over the past few months in a new country! Sadly, Jess and Dwight received a notice letter on their door the next day with a big fat fine for noise complaints and maximum capacities violations. 
Besties, missed each other but excited to spend the holiday together.
First time Thanksgiving for some fellow Thai friends.
Living room by day, 8th grade dance floor by night.
Another one bites the dust...

Sunrise Dive or a Knock at Death's Door?

Sai Ree beach in Koh Tao during Monsoon Season.
Once my friend Michele finished her PADI dive certification in Koh Tao, we decided to do a “Sunrise” dive together. We had to meet at Big Blue for 5:30 am and leave the beach with our gear by 6 am. I dragged myself out of bed after 3 hours of sleep and strolled down the beach in the dark. Even though it was still dim outside, you could tell the weather was going to act up. Monsoon season was in full throttle at this point. All customers and dive guides geared up and headed to the long tail boats to load up when an enormous gust of wind bulldozed through.  An earsplitting crash came where the group was huddled and a massive limb broke off a tree above us. It detached, bounced on a tin roof and rolled onto a poor dude that originally planned to dive that day. Everyone sat in shock for a few seconds especially when this guy stayed glued to the sandy floor with zero movement. Several people rushed to his aid to see what damage had been done while everyone else held their breath to see if this guy was even still alive. After about 3-4 minutes, the injured fella gets up with the help of some Big Blue staff and all I can see in the dark from where I am standing was a bloody face. He was escorted to a table for some first aid action, but for the rest of us, the show must go on. I later found out that he had to be taken to the hospital in Koh Samui to be treated for a concussion, stitches, and a black eye and face. Poor guy, all he wanted to do was dive.
Michele, "Jesus", and Dawg at Big Blue Dive Resort.
I continued to help load the long tail boats with my dive guide who looked exactly like what popular culture has epitomized Jesus Christ to look like. Funny thing is his name is James Christenson and he was 33 years old. Me, “Jesus” and the rest of the group loaded the long tail in an awkward silence still in shock from the events that just occurred. Little did we know that the early morning “incident” would set the tone for the day that lay ahead. Rain began to pour from the clouds when we got on the big boat that takes you out to the dive site and the weather kept getting worse. Before I knew it, we’re getting tossed around like George Clooney in the Perfect Storm. Most of us were downstairs in the cabin because it was too rough to be outside on deck. Our boat was thrown from side to side and back and forth continuously at a 180-degree angle. The windows that usually display a lovely blue ocean and the prospects of a sunrise were completely submerged when we swayed from side to side. I began to feel exceptionally nauseous and I typically have a sea master stomach.
George Clooney holding on for dear life. Kinda like me.
People tried to gear up as gracefully as possible but there were limbs and equipment flying all over the place. My tank flew off of the rack and nearly cut my foot off. Finally, I made it into the water at Chumphon dive site in hopes of spotting a whale shark. The dive was absolutely perfect and visibility was impeccable, although no whale shark.
As we tugged along to Southwest Pinnacle for dive #2, the brand new boat we were on broke down for over an hour! Thankfully the weather calmed a bit, so we weren’t hanging on for dear life but the sun was at full blast and we started the bake session. Eventually the motors cranked up and we made it to Southwest. There were tons of gorgeous fish and again the visibility was amazing. Stunning reefs in an underwater mountain range and vibrant schools of fish surrounded me. Many of the experienced instructors who have logged 700+ dives in Koh Tao said that these were two of the best dives they’ve ever had on the island. I felt lucky to be part of those dives even though at some points I thought we’d never make it back to shore alive.
By the time we made it back to the beach, it was 1:30 pm.  The “sunrise” dive ended up being an entire day of nauseating hell and heavenly beauty!
Whaleshark, maybe we'll meet in real life one day!
Koh Tao - Diving Heaven on My Face 

Gorgeous beach sunset on Koh Tao.
When I was a little girl and adults asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” my reply without hesitation was “A mermaid.”  I actually remember saying this and to be perfectly honest, it’s still true.  I love water in every form the lake, ocean, river, bathtub (my friends can attest to the last one). 
Diving to me is the best feeling in the world.  When I am underwater I have no cares or worries and everything else going on at the surface washes away.  I love how you travel effortlessly in a smooth flow underwater and everything seems to move in slow motion, which I like since I move kind of leisurely anyway.  Time passes so quickly when you’re submerged and 45 minutes feels like five, yet the rest of the world has been put on pause.  Breathing underwater and swimming among 1000s of different creatures is one of my favorite feelings in the world.
Divers + guide on board a Big Blue boat for a day of incredible diving off Koh Tao.
Koh Tao or “Turtle Island”, a tiny island off the southeast coast of Thailand is THE place to go diving in this gorgeous country.  On board the ferry from Koh Phangan to Koh Tao, dive shop reps barter the herd of Full Mooners to come dive with their company.  As soon as I stepped off the ferry in Koh Tao, I headed to Big Blue Diving School to check out dives and sign up for the next best thing.  Big Blue is a reputable diving company and they are well known on the island.  My friend and I immediately added ourselves to the full day diving adventure the following day. Usually your dive company hooks you up with accommodation as part of a diving package but the flock of post Full Moon partygoers heads to Koh Tao after the party so Big Blue was completely booked.  We stayed in a budget friendly bungalow down the beach called Bow Thong Resort in Sai Ree Village, which is where most of the action is.  Koh Tao is one of those amazing islands where you have tons of different dive shops and schools all run by people from all over the world who share a passion for scuba diving.  To go along with the international crowd, there were tons of restaurants and bars to choose from; Zanzibar, Looking Glass Bakery, Suchili, Lotus Bar, Fish Bowl, Davy Jones Locker, Star Bar are to name a few.  Not to mention the most beautiful people I have ever seen before flocked to this island. These popular hangouts had beach areas reserved where you can sprawl out and watch the most amazing sunsets in the world. 
Relaxing in front of Lotus Bar for the evening sun down after a day of scuba-ing.
The gals sprawled out at Big Blue watching the sunset and relaxing.
"Am" the fire dancer for Big Blue.
Once the sun disappears, fire dancers entertain the crowds with their flame juggling and bring the fire to life with their moves and music.  There’s oodles of action packed on this teeny little island, you can never get bored that’s why I stayed a week and had to peel myself away when it was time to leave.
My full day diving trip with Big Blue consisted of 3 dives with a leader and an awesome group of 4 divers including me. They keep the groups small, which I really like so you’re not bumping into to people. The entire time during all 3 dives I was surrounded by various schools of fish like a protective shield. A triggerfish attacked our guide, which was dangerous but entertaining to watch. Later I found out the same triggerfish attacked another person only he made it out with 8 stitches in the forehead. Glad it wasn’t me!  I stopped several times during my dive to look up at the sky to remember this isn’t a dream and also to thank God that he created such an amazing heaven that I could be part of. I highly recommend going to Koh Tao and diving with Big Blue if you have the chance. Tell ‘em Leash-Dawg sent you.
The bomb dive group.
On the long tail boat heading home after a beautiful day.

Koh Phangan - Mai Pen Rai "No Worries"

Beach at Mai Pen Rai on Koh Phangan

Koh Phangan is a fairly large island, so since we’d been limited to only a small section of it during the Full Moon Party, about 8 of us moved to the central east coast of the island to investigate what else the amazing isle has to offer.  Than Sadet was desolate and difficult to travel to, we had several near death experiences in the back of Pong’s truck on the trek out there.  No cell phone or Internet service, ATM’s, or minimarts exist in the isolated region.  Than Sadet is the kind of place people from around the world go to get away from it all for peace, quiet, and inaccessibility.  The 8 of us kind of ruined that peace for a few visitors.  Mai Pen Rai (meaning “no worries” or “nevermind” in Thai) is the name of the bungalows we stayed in for the next few days.  The bungalows were literally tree houses placed on the side of a rocky hill.  To get to your room, you had to walk across the beach, squeeze through a crack in between two huge boulders, and then hike up the rocky hill to get to your tree house.  Definitely not wheel chair accessible.  A few of the girls with larger suitcases couldn’t even bring their luggage to the room because it couldn’t fit through the crack in the stones.  With my big pack on my back and my small backpack on my front, I felt like a pregnant girl giving a piggyback ride to a toddler up a mountain.
The komodo dragon in the bathroom.
Our tree house!
Four people stayed in each tree house and in mine had a double bed down stairs and 2 mattresses on the floor in the loft.  Both protected with mosquito netting for nighttime.  The komodo-sized lizard that stared at me while I used the bathroom was included for free.  The room was swarming with insects, lizards, spiders, and other unidentified creepy crawlies.  I guess that’s what you get when you are in a tree house!  Once we settled our things, we set out to discover a few of the many waterfalls in the area.

Wandering down the road in search of waterfalls.
Carinne and I mounting some rocks wi

We climbed up and down the steep rocky dirt road checking out waterfalls ranging from stream sized to swimming pool size.  I climbed rocks and used a rope swing to repel off the rocks and swim in the shallow and refreshing pools.  Eventually, everyone headed back and two friends and I strolled off the beaten path and ended up in a palm tree covered forest with coconuts everywhere!  During our mission to break open a coconut, we lost track of time and the sky faded into a pitch-black abyss.  We had been working so diligently busting coconuts, that’s what she said, we found ourselves sitting in the middle of a dirt road covered in coconut debris in the dark.  Luckly, one of us had a tiny flashlight that helped guide our path back to Mai Pen Rai.  On route back, we had to take a moment to turn the flashlight off in the middle of the woods to stare up at the sparkling sky.  The night sky in Koh Phangan was the most beautiful sky I’ve ever seen.  The stars cover every inch of the clear obscure sky like diamonds spread across a black velvet cloth.  There were so many stars we were making up our own constellations, my personal favorite: the dog on a leash.
Getting caught in the hammock.
By the time we made it back, it was time to meet the others for dinner and drinks at one of the two restaurant around for miles.  We sat around a log table on the floor playing games like Banana-Grams, Catch Phrase, and Contact.  The small group of us is having a grand ‘ol time and then at midnight all the lights went out!  I’d read about places that turn the electricity out at certain times, but when you check in the staff should give you a heads up and warn you on what time the power is on and off.  We didn’t get the memo.  Our night it just getting started but when the clock hit 12, we needed a new game plan.  The party moved to the beach since it was the only place that was semi-lit up from the moonlight.  We climbed up rocks and jumped into the ocean not realizing we were being loud but I suppose since there was nothing else going on besides sleep everyone on the beach heard us.  An older British lady came to shore and yelled at us for being “loud American tourists.”  Yes, it was disrespectful of us to be loud so late at night, especially when this is a place where people go to get away from the noise and chaos but she had a bone to pick with Obama because she went off on Americans.  However, we were apologetic and as soon as she voiced her concern we piped down and went to sleep.  The only thing a bit out of line was the loud American comment - from that point on I was “Canadian” whenever someone in the group was inappropriate.
It was difficult getting back to the room in the dark and I crawled onto my mattress sopping in salt water and covered myself with mosquito netting.  There was no sleeping that night with crazy animal noises all around me and a lizard pawing at my head at one point!  The next morning we got beaucoups of evil eyes from the guests at breakfast.  Make sure you are respectful if you go to one of the remote areas of any island!
The rocky path to get to our room.
A lovely view of the beach.
View from our tree house! $6 a night y'all!
Good Gollie Miss Mollie - FULL MOON PARTY 

Saddling up with buckets outside the party.
I believe the number one mandate of Full Moon Party is what happens at Full Moon stays at Full Moon.  Therefore instead of sharing my complete personal experience with my readers, I’ll give you a general idea of what shenanigans go on.
Full Moon Party is a once a month beach rave where backpackers and travelers from all over the world come to party their faces off on Haad Rin beach in Koh Phangan, Thailand under the moonlit sky.  Full Moon has become one of those bucket list activities that everyone has to do at least once in their life.  If you’ve never heard of it before, get yourself out from under that rock and join the rest of civilization!  About 4-5 days before the party, the ferry from Samui to Phangan is chock full of 20-somethings with their body bag sized packs ready to head to the island to get set up for the upcoming festivity.  Most bungalows, guesthouses, and hotels have started to maximize on the steady flow of travellers who come through each month so accommodation, food, transportation, and souvenir prices are inflated for about a week in the Haad Rin and surrounding area on the island.  Places to stay also get fully booked fast so you have to actually pre-book accommodations, which you almost never have to do in Thailand.  Normally, you can show up at a place and haggle a price of a room on the spot.  Guesthouses also require a 4, 5, 6 or more night minimum and you have to arrive at least two days before the party.  They really know how to get you and they know people will pay to stay because there is no other party in the world like this.  During the low season (May – October) about 10,000 carousers cram on Haad Rin beach for the revelry.  Up to 30,000 people attend Full Moon during the high season, which is nuts to me.  That’s like LSU undergrad all piled together on a strip of beach. 
Heading to the beach for the Full Moon Party.
I was really jacked up for Full Moon so I was appointed to take the reins as party planner and people followed my lead.  I booked a bungalow in Baan Khai, which was about 10 minutes from Haad Rin, just for sanity purposes.  If we were staying for 5 or 6 days I want to be able to choose when I can leave the party if necessary.  I booked some super basic bungalows at the Blue Lotus Resort.  Resort is an extremely generous term for this place.  Bungalows are the common lodging choice in Thailand but this was like camping in the middle of nowhere.  The owners cooked the best food I have had in Thailand and the man who ran the place took us wherever we wanted to go for free most of the time so it ended up being a good decision.  Like I said earlier, book ahead if you plan to go. 
The night of the Full Moon party we painted ourselves up real nice with neon body paint in every perky color you can imagine.  This was a necessity of the party.  I became the designated body paint artist and even gave my friend Lindsey an outstanding mohawk.  You should not bring anything to the party because you will either get it stolen or lose it, so I wore a swimsuit, shorts, and put some money in a plastic zip lock bag and stuck it in my back pocket.  You even have to lock up your valuables in a safe at your bungalow because people raid guesthouses knowing everyone in town is at the party.  The Blue Lotus owner drove the 14 of us in the back of pickup trucks down to Haad Rin beach where the party was already in full force. 
One of many body paint creations of the evening. Matt was given the Michaelangelo Ninja Turtle shell.
Michele, Butterfly woman!
Matt, Cat-Man.
The swarm of people and bright colored lights reminded me of the circus.  People from all over the world flooded the beach and I heard about 20 different languages in a 10-foot span.  There is bar after bar of pounding music and people packed inside and outside dancing to the vibrations of the music.  Lots of people stand on tables outside on the beach to dance and fist pump to the music.  Fire breathers, fire jump ropers, water slides, and attractive people were in every direction I could see.  Pretty much every person on the beach has a bucket in hand at all times.  Everyone should know what a bucket is now, but if you don’t please refer to my explanation in Patong...  Most people are either on happiness meds or wasted face but there are a few people who are high on life.  It’s hard not to have an adrenaline rush with pounding music and 10,000 excited people twirling all around you.

A small section of the crammed beach and bar lights in the background along Haad Rin.
If you walk all the way down the beach and climb up a little hill (I think, it was dark) there is a place called Mushroom Mountain where you can look down at the view of the partygoers from up high.  Many people trip on the way down from Mushy Mountain so you have to be careful.
The night flies by way too fast and it’s one of those things where you just have to go and experience it yourself because it is the ultimate party.  I definitely would like to attend another Full Moon party now that I know what to expect and re-do some of the night so I compiled a list of tips:


  1.  DON’T leave your skimpy thongs at home.  Flip-flops (duh) you don’t care about losing should be worn on the beach because there is broken glass and who knows what else that could lead to a tetanus shot.
  2. DO book accommodation at least a week in advance or else you’ll be stuck in the boonies riding in the back of a tuk-tuk with 9 people on top of you to get to Haad Rin beach.
  3. DON’T leave home without neon colored body paint; it looks awesome on the beach at night.
  4.  DO lock up your valuables at the hotel safe and DON’T bring anything you care about losing – cameras, cell phones, shoes, purse, wallet, anything – it will get stolen or you will lose it. 
  5. The recommended daily dosage of Krating Daeng (Thai Red Bull) is half of one bottle – DO switch mixers in your buckets or else you’ll be awake for 3 days.
  6. Random creepers throw pills up in the air and hope they land in girls’ drinks.  Many times this works, but the nice creepers will just come up to you and offer you some random pills.  Ladies, DON’T take unknown drugs from unknown boys no matter how cute they are. 
  7. If you decide to sketch off, DO let your friends know your whereabouts…even if it’s not until the next day. Remember there are Internet cafes everywhere.
  8. DON’T relieve yourself in the ocean.  Go find a bathroom lazy face.  Remember just because its nighttime doesn’t mean that it’s completely dark, this isn’t Mardi Gras.
  9.  If you have tropical fever, DO fight through the pain because it is worth it.
  10. When you see fire jump ropers and fire breathers on the beach, DON’T participate unless you want some serious burn scars.

Let's Talk a Little "Operation Koh Samui"

Leaving Nai Harn proved to be a pretty easy transition considering 14 of us were headed to the beautiful island of Koh Samui. Chem, our beloved tuk-tuk driver for the 3 weeks while we stayed in Phuket, happily offered for he and his brother to drive the herd four hours by minibus (so we thought) to Don Sak pier. Here we boarded a ferry headed to Samui. When Chem showed up at 7AM we had one minibus and Chem’s Thai sized SUV with a massive stereo system that took up the entire luggage area.  Four passengers plus Chem piled into the car with our packs at our feet and drove with Thai music vibrations pounding our bodies most of the way. That was fun. Most tourists take a tuk-tuk from their hotel to the public bus station, then a bus to Surat Thani (a small town near the pier) then another tuk-tuk to Don Sak pier. Fortunately for the flock, we had the hook up with Chem who brought us directly from our hotel to the pier because we proved to be such loyal customers in Phuket. The Raja Ferry brought us about an hour and a half through calm turquoise blue water to the island of Koh Samui.
Raja Ferry pulling up to Koh Samui island.
Once we arrived, everyone formed small groups and diverted in different directions to find accommodation. The Penzy Guesthouse in Chaweng beach ended up being a one-night home for me, Michele, Kelly and Matt. Penzy, the manager and her Massachusettsian husband gave us a 100 baht discount on the room price because she had been to Pensacola and I mentioned to her I went to the annual Blue Angels show this summer and two of our guests are from Massachusetts. Lucky us! We headed to the picturesque beach, which looks exactly like a scene on one of those “OMG I want to go there someday” paradise calendars. White sand, mountains in the distance, and crystal clear water. Thai ladies have tents set up along the beach where you can get a massage for “cheap cheap,” as they say to entice foreigners. For 250 baht (about 8 USD), I received a full body hour-long massage right on the beach. You can’t pass that up! Only me, Matt, Kelly and Kait decided to go out on the town and check out the scene which was unfortunate because we only spent one night in Samui on route to Koh Phangan. I set out to meet up with my fellow partygoers and walked down the main drag on Chaweng beach. I discovered tons of seafood restaurants, souvenir shops, and apparently since I was drinking a Chang every Thai person and their mom wanted to talk to me. I walked for about thirty minutes to get to the action and of course it started raining. I finally found my friends sitting on a stoop to escape the rain, drinking a bottle of Hong Thong. Always a great start to any night. Or at least a good story… We finally decided to suck it up and walk through the rain and stopped to have a drink at Bondi Australian bar.
Kelly, Matt and I at Bondi Bar. At least we have each other. Cheers
We didn’t make any friends. Possibly because we were soaking wet, which was a really cute look for us, or maybe our American accents turned some people off.  We moved on our merry way down the street to a strip of bars and clubs nestled on a side street off the main drag. Soi (street) Green Mango also called Green Mango Square is a horseshoe shaped area crawling with bars, clubs, and pubs beckoning to be visited by tourist and locals. Go-Go girls and Lady Boys stand in the pedestrian street and entice passer-by’s to occupy their dance floors and bar stools for the night. I spent most of my time in Green Mango Club that had a huge dance floor, a massive stage, and huge projector screens playing music videos and Muay Thai boxing fights. It was extremely dark but there were funky multicolored lights shaped like jellyfish hanging above the dance floor. There is no shortage of a good time in this area, plenty of people, music, drinks and dancing.
Green Mango Club Dance floor.

Jellyfish lights hanging above the Green Mango Club dancefloor.
There were so many people and so much action going on we eventually all lost each other. After an adventurous night and losing all of my friends I decided to head home by a lovely motorbike taxi man. The following day was pure R&R on the gorgeous shoreline, where I drank a coconut shake in a young coconut and did absolutely nothing. I wanted to explore the island more, but we were headed out to catch the evening ferry to Koh Phangan for the Full Moon Party…
Coconut shake on the beach in Koh Samui. A moment I waited a long time for!

Kata Beach - Pretty Nice Little Saturday

One beach north of the lovely Nai Harn is Kata beach. Five of us took an afternoon to explore the area and the shopping in Kata, which is about a 12-minute drive from Nai Harn on a tuk-tuk. Overall the beachside town is the same as the rest; shop after shop that sell the same same (common Thai phrase used to indicate that something is the same when clearly it is different) Chang tank tops and Ray Bans in every color of the rainbow.  There was a good crowd of people and plenty of action going on in the area. Mainly newlywed couples and young families with small children filled the seaside town. Even the restaurant staff was more interested in playing with the cute little baby than serving us lunch.
Our adolescent group and me ate at one of the several restaurants on the shoreline that was reasonably priced. The food was decent like all tourist food and kept us satisfied for the time being. Since it was a moderately cloudy outside and there is not much to do besides swim, we fell into an impromptu photo session on the beach for our entertainment. Kata beach is longer and wider than many of the others I’ve seen in Phuket. Unfortunately, this leaves room for more pollution, which it did not lack. There was one section on the beach where I found gross sand infested debris ranging from tangled wires to dirty diapers. Most of the beach was nice though and older men were playing bocce ball on the beach while younger couples took naps and read their books. Kata is a nice chill out place to relax and enjoy the low-key ambiance.
The nightlife is nothing to rave about so if you want to hit the club until the wee hours of the morning you are out of luck. Many restaurants play live music during dinner but there are not a lot of late night pubs and bars. Surfing and snorkeling are the most popular activities around Kata beach and there are also a handful of the island’s luxury resorts in the area. For the most part, Kata is a great place to stay on Phuket if you are a family or couple looking to veg out and keep the mood toned-down.
Michele, Sejal, and I hanging on some rocks.

Old men and their balls, bocce balls.

Korean BBQ - Fondue at its Finest 

Have you ever been to a fondue restaurant in the states called the Melting Pot? Well for those who have not, it is a clever place where you and your table choose seafood, meat, and veggies and cook them right at your own table to suit your liking! To commemorate our TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification, the group went to eat at a Korean barbeque restaurant for a celebratory dinner.
A Korean BBQ is like dinner at the Melting Pot restaurant where you choose and cook your own cuisine but in Thailand, which means there are some weird quirks hidden in every corner. Naturally you are eating outside because like all places in Thailand, you are outdoors with no air conditioning. Each table is different: either you are sitting on tree stumps surrounding a short table that is no more than two feet off the ground or you sit in a little bamboo hut on bamboo benches. At the table, a man brings over a metal bowl with steaming hot coals inside of the bowl and places it right in the middle of your table on a large tile. If you weren’t sweating already (impossible), now it’s like you have a bon-fire directly in front of your face! Water is poured on the outer ridges of the bowl and the top portion is shaped like a dome. The boiled water is the area to cook your veggies and noodles. The dome area is to cook meat and seafood. Once your bowl is heated up really hot, everyone makes their way to the buffet zone where you pick any type of meat, fish, veggie, noodle, and condiment your little heart desires. Raw squid, chicken, bacon, crab, fish, pork, several different kinds of noodles, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, corn and tons more food that I didn’t even know are laid out in metal pans on a large table for you to choose. You just load your petite plate with an assortment of raw goodness that looks edible and start cooking away at your fire pit. Make sure to bring an extra clean plate for your cooked food. One thing that concerned me a bit was directly under the buffet table were bunny rabbit cages with live rabbits in them. They were just hanging out underneath the food.
Thai bunny rabbits who live underneath our food.

Ben showing some love to the bunnies while fixing a plate.
This is one of the quirky things that would never happen in America but in Thailand it’s perfectly kosher to have live animals directly underneath the non-live animals. Really makes you wonder what some of those unidentified raw items were, huh? It became every man for himself when the cooking commenced. The small area was not nearly big enough for all your food selections or even half. Each guest cooked a few pieces of his or her food at a time and eventually everyone’s food got mixed up. I made a huge no-no when I stuffed my mouth with what I thought was a piece of white fish, but quickly spit it out because it just didn’t seem right and I eat pretty much everything. Later at the buffet table (round 2) I told my Thai friend that I didn’t like whatever “that” was and pointed to the “white fish.” She cracked up and told me I wasn’t supposed to eat the LARD that gives the rest of the food flavor. Gross me out Sally. Thankfully I didn’t swallow it. Overall the food was awesome, bunny rabbit or not and no one got sick. Shocking, I know. I think I’ll go to a Korean BBQ again, but next time in Korea.

Vegetarian Festival - A Bloody Good Time!

Mah song participating in this year's Festival
Vegetarianism is taken to the extreme in Phuket and Bangkok every late September to early October for about 10 days during the annual Vegetarian Festival. Large Chinese populations celebrate a holiday where they don’t eat meat and respect Buddhist beliefs of mind and body cleansing. Everyone who attends the event is supposed to wear white to show purity. Pregnant women and girls on their period are encouraged not to attend the festival because everything must remain untainted.  The few of us were the only white people around for miles and although we wore all white clothing to the festival we stuck out like a sore thumb. The locals performed gruesome self-mutilation tactics like stuck swords through their cheeks, walk on fire, and pierce their arms with a variety of different sharp objects. It is actually an extremely gory event. The people who perform the injury to their bodies are called Mah song because they ask the gods’ spirits to come into their bodies and protect them so they don’t feel pain. Unmarried men and girls’ without husbands and children are invited to become Mah song, otherwise only pure people. The Mah song participants partake in several rituals in the Chinese temple to protect them during the festival. Thai people are very into the power of spirits and deem that much of life on earth is due to how well we treat and respect life forces around us.
Michele and I with some festival goers in front of the Chinese temple.
Residents make the Vegetarian festival a family affair too, bizarre. Loud parades through the streets and fire breathing are enough to scare off tourists and meat eaters! I am both and although I wanted to see the swords slice through the faces of Thai natives, I actually missed the main parade. With all the traffic to and from, we missed the focal point but some of my friends saw the action and said it was not a pleasant experience. By the time I arrived in Phuket Town where the hustle and bustle happened, I got to go inside of a Chinese temple where people gave offerings and burned incense to Chinese gods. There were tons of statues and in every color of the rainbow. The detail on the outside and inside of the temple was so ornate and meticulous. Debris from firecrackers filled every inch of the streets like confetti. In front of the temple, men who participated in the festival’s self sacrificing events were covered with dried blood and some who were still in severe pain were carried away with the support of friends. I guess the protection from the spirits wore off. Men and women were cooking vegetarian delights and selling the treats up and down the street. We enjoyed chowing down on some vegetarian grub and checking out all the aftermath of the festival.
Street vendor serving tofu, spring rolls, and other yummy treats
I found a cool website with pictures from this year’s Vegetarian Festival in Phuket. 
If you want to learn more about the Vegetarian Festival, visit the website for upcoming dates, photos, rules and history:

Teaching Practice with Teacher "A" in the House

After two weeks of repetitive classroom training with ATI, the TESOL trainees set out to various schools in Phuket for a week of teaching practice with real students and creating our own lesson plans.  The 38 of us broke into groups of 6 or 7 and gave one thirty-minute lesson everyday to different age groups with a different observer.  The first 3 days we went to a school about an hour from Nai Harn.  In my first class, I only had 4 girls that were probably 6-years-old.  I was the last to teach which meant by the time 3pm rolled around they were sick of English and exhausted with white people talking and not understanding.  I cannot tell you how nervous I was; this was my first time in front of a classroom to teach.  The girls were angels for me though; they participated and learned farm animals (how exciting) very well.  They even told one of the Thai observers that I was their favorite teacher!  As the week went on, teaching became more natural and I felt progressively more comfortable in front of the class. Critiquing our peers also helped because it gave us ideas of what games and activities do and don’t work with students. 
On the fourth day of teaching practice, a few of us went to Football Youth Home.  Football Youth is an orphanage for boys where they recruit hard working soccer players and give them a safe place to live, eat, study, and play soccer everyday.  Some of the boys have had the opportunity to travel all over the world playing in matches and have barely reached age 15!  The guys were good students but of course it did get a little rowdy when you have a class of boys ages 10-17 and you’re trying to teach them all the same lesson.  Their language level is different but they did a great job and respected me when I laid down the law.  The boys’ sense of camaraderie really touched me because even though they were competitive during the learning activities, they also helped one another when someone didn’t understand.  The older boys guided the younger kids like real big brothers.  Football Youth is an amazing organization and if you want to learn more about how to help them please visit their website at  They do not accept any money, only donations because they don’t want the home to operate for profit and become corrupt.  Spending the day with the boys was an amazing experience and I hope I brought some value to their lives during our short visit.
Younger boys goofing off on the trampoline during their break.

Older boys watching a match btw teachers and the younger players.
The final day of teaching practice was a trip to a juvenile detention center.  I had another classroom of all boys ages 15-18.   Luckily for me, the boys listened to me and participated in my lesson pretty well.  Their language level is fairly high and I wrote a dialogue for them to say in front of the class with some of the words that they learned earlier in my lesson.  My observer from the previous day told me, “When you call on someone to participate and they don’t want to, don’t give up on them so easily.  Tell them you come up here and start clapping and encouraging them to come to the front.”  So I put that information in my back pocket and brought it to the classroom at juvy.  I called on two boys to come to the front of the class and say the conversation aloud to everyone.  One boy obeyed and came to the front while the other boys were laughing at the second student I called on.  I thought maybe they were making fun because he didn’t want to participate and I was on him like white on rice.  With the tid-bit from yesterday’s lesson, I wasn’t letting him off the hook that easy.  I kept clapping and saying, “You can do it, come on!”  When he finally got up (this went on for a minute or so), he came to the front of the class and I realized why he didn’t want to get up.  He was already “up” so I made him sit down immediately.  The awkwardness of puberty in the classroom.  I had to finish the lesson without laughing but thankfully I’m teaching at an all girls’ high school in the future.  Teaching practice was a great part of my training and I feel 100% more comfortable in front of a classroom now.
Teacher "A" in the house y'all!     

Family Matters - Dealing with Kinfolk Issues While Overseas 

Brother, me, Sharmon, and Dad having dinner

It is the sad and ugly truth that uncontrollable things can and do happen to our friends and family while we are overseas.  I don’t want to sound morbid by any means but I have to be realistic when it comes to this situation.  My grandparents are in their 90’s and although they are still kicking it, living on their own, cooking, cleaning, watching Jeopardy and all that good stuff, the fact is that they are still 90+ years old.I was so worried about what would happen to my grandparents while I was overseas that it never crossed my mind that something could happen to another family member.
I was shaken and freaked out after I got a phone call from my dad on a Thursday afternoon telling me he had a heart attack the previous weekend.  Didn’t see that one coming!  The bomb was dropped on me about 10 minutes before I had to report back to class from my lunch break.  Once I told two of my friends what just happened I guess it all caught up to me and I left class for the next few hours very upset.  Dad is a fairly big health nut these days; working out everyday and eating well so I was blindsided by what I heard on the other end of the phone. It scared me to think 5 days passed and I had no knowledge of my dad’s condition.  After the initial shock of his heart attack, I was hurt no one told me anything.
My cousin Clint and my Uncle Coleman
About one week later, I was wasting time on Facebook, waiting for some papers to print and I read my cousin’s status about my uncle.  I immediately called my mom and found out that my uncle (who is like my other dad) had a stroke and was still in the CCU.  Wow, not again!  After I spoke with my mom, I understand that he is doing fine and no one wanted to tell me details until they knew he was going to be ok.  Unfortunately, Facebook had to let me know first before my family informed me.  He is back at home now and started therapy this week.
Mrs. Gerry and Mom, Geaux Tigers!
I’m one of those people that believe things come in threes.  Call me superstitious but it happens like clockwork.  A few days after hearing about my uncle, my mom called me to update me that disaster number three transpired.  She tripped over my dog while coming in the house with groceries and broke her wrist.  Thankfully, she is fine in her LSU cast, but she does live at home by herself and I worry if something else were to happen while at home alone.  At least this time, I was in the loop.
It is important to discuss how you would want your family to handle emergency situations BEFORE you go abroad.  Open communication and a plan of attack are vital to discuss with your family just in case a difficult condition arises while you are away from home.  Personally, I would much rather have a heads-up that someone is sick or hurt before I get the big bomb dropped on me out of the blue.  

My G-Maw celebrating her 92nd Bday!  Jo-Jo doesn't look a day over 80!

A short 35-minute drive in a tuk-tuk from Nai Harn beach is the Bourbon Street of Phuket called Patong Beach. Patong is known for its wild nightlife and non-stop party on the main drag called Soi Bangla. A large group of us made the trek to the beachside city for dinner and a night on the town. I’d say Patong has the largest variety of food I had seen in Thailand thus far.  

Sharing one or two of these with your new friends is more than enough to get the night cranked up. Two of the popular international discos are Hollywood and Seduction. I ended up at Hollywood, which is similar to a Euro rave with strobe lights, lots of body odor, and plenty of DFMO’s (dance floor make outs). After a night of dancing, most of the group went back to Nai Harn but a few of us stayed and went for a late night/early morning swim on the gorgeous beach with a bottle of Hong Thong. I woke up 5 deep in one bed with a blanket of sand. It’s a great one-night getaway if you go to Phuket!

Middle eastern, Egyptian, and Indian restaurants abound the streets along with the obvious Thai and seafood eateries. Since the evening doesn’t begin until midnight many people pile into a super cheap hotel room once the night closes in. A room in Patong usually ends up costing less than taking a tuk-tuk ride back to Nai Harn because the drivers know you’re boozed up and are desperate for a ride back home so they jack up the prices. The Thailand Big Easy is packed with lights, music vibrations, people from every corner of the world, restaurants, pubs, clubs, and cabaret shows galore. Oh did I mention it’s packed with Lady Boys? A Lady Boy is a term used to describe men who range from just dressing like women to having all the right lady parts. Some Lady Boys are easy to spot while others are very attractive. So watch out if a hot Thai “girl” is running mack-attack on you. There is no excuse to not find something to do or see while spending time in Patong. Before you make your way to a club, it’s fun to walk the street and hop in and out of fun bars and pubs, usually with drink specials. Molly Malone’s Irish Pub is a fun place to meet other travelers and listen to live music. People can sit outside the bars and watch the go-go dancers while sipping on infamous Thai buckets. A bucket is your choice of liquor, an energy drink, and a mixer blended together in a sand pale sized bucket (with 5+ straws).

Patong Beach - The Big Easy of Phuket

Wai Not? The Dawg and the Monk

The first two days of my course in Thailand consisted of a tiny Thai woman nick-named Pat who forced me to sing children’s songs in Thai and practice bowing to the king.  It was actually really fun and Pat (Thai people go by their nickname so I will go by “Teacher Dawg” in class and it will be completely appropriate) made the sessions very enjoyable and useful.  To “wai” in Thai is a form of greeting like shaking someone’s hand or saying “Hello, nice to meet you.”  And if you think there’s only one way to wai, you’re wrong.
There are several different ways to wai and you must wai a certain way to different statuses of people.  It’s exhausting! Don’t even get me started on the way to show respect to a monk, it takes about ten minutes.  I’ll give you a quick recap: when you wai, you put your hands in prayer position and depending on who you’re waiing your hands should be pressed against your face at a certain level.  Another way to show respect is if an elder passes by or you pass them, you must wai (at the correct face level of course) and then make yourself shorter than them by bending down or almost bowing.  If you pass an elder when they are sitting down, you have to walk past them on your knees.  I’m not joking!
One morning before class I was about to start my morning jog and I see a monk up ahead.  I started racking my brain for the way to bow and if I needed to even get on my knees and all the steps I needed to take and I got so nervous I just diverted and sat by the beach.  I sat for a few minutes hoping he’d walk by and I could avoid the whole situation.  After a while, I decided to get up and just walk the way I came, but as I started up the street here he comes trailing me and hauling ass too.  The monk has this hackling cough and I can feel him gaining on me.  As he approached on my lefty, I had no time to think and just waied to the best of my ability.  Luckily, he looked at me with a huge smile and said “Iz ah-k, iz ah-k.”  Thank Buddha!  I’m sure they don’t expect the farang (foreigners as we’re called) to know the etiquette, but if I’m living amongst the Thais for some time I want to be respectful.

I really got a chance to redeem myself when I went to the Big Buddha in Phuket last weekend.  The Big Buddha is an enormous marble statue of a sitting Buddha on the highest hill in Phuket. You can see it from nearly the entire island! The view from the top is gorgeous, the turquoise water is ever present from the high view and it’s more than enough to take your breath away.  At the base of the Buddha is a temple where a monk will bless you and give you a bracelet for peace and good luck.  This time he gave me a “thumbs up” so I felt pretty good about myself after my wai.  When in doubt just wai, and wai the hell out of it.

Leo Dicaprio's Koh Phi Phi Island - Monkeys and much more on my face!

Becca, Kait and I at Maya Beach
Ok I’m going to shoot it to you straight about Ko Phi Phi (pronounced pee-pee). Ko Phi Phi is an island about an hour (by speedboat) from Phuket and it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world. This statement is not just my opinion, it’s widely known by travelers who have seen the worlds’ most beautiful natural treasures. Have you ever seen The Beach with Leo Dicaprio? Yea, enough said. Ko Phi Phi (it’s so fun to say) is part of the Marine National Park, which includes two islands usually just referred to as Ko Phi Phi. KPP Don is the larger of the two islands where all the shopping, restaurants, hotels, bungalows and tourists congregate. KPP Ley is a significantly smaller island with beautiful coves and beaches. There is no place to stay on Ley; it’s strictly to enjoy for its gorgeousness. On Saturday, our fearless and hilarious leader Gabe organized an excursion for whoever wanted to take a day trip out to the islands. The popularity of this outing has spread like wildfire and the tour companies are packed nearly everyday. You can book a trip directly with a tour guide company or through your hotel. A large group of ATI kids boarded the Sea Angel speedboat Saturday morning along with several other passengers that could squeeze aboard the ferry. During the hour ride through the Andaman Sea, we passed giant stone cliffs that were covered with lush greens and looked as if they had been strategically placed to serve as stepping-stones leading from one island to the next.

Our first stop was the Viking Cave on KPP Ley. You can’t disembark the boat but they pull right up to give passengers a good looksee. Apparently it is a small cave where explorers found writing or pictures from Vikings a long time ago. Our tour guide, a young feisty Thai lady, said something about “bird shit” covering most of the pictures nowadays. I really couldn’t understand her and after she said “burd chtit” I decided I’m probably going to have to fill in a lot of blanks today. We carried on to Pileh Cove which had the most clear, turquoise blue water dotted with brown long tail boats covered in bright, colorful leis. We finally made it to Maya Bay where The Beach was filmed. This place is absolutely gorgeous but it was more than overpopulated with tourists and made me so sad. We literally had to squeeze the boat in between two others just to anchor down. The beach is not very big at all and with the copious amounts of people on it I could not even find a place to enter the water. I cannot imagine what it will look like in ten years, most likely polluted and completely run down from the constant traffic of bodies and boats.
After a while, we stopped at monkey beach to feed some “wild monkeys.” These monkeys are around so many tourists each day they take the food right out of your hand and my are they picky! Handing them a piece of bread is like giving royalty a pop tart. The baby monkey was pretty cute though.
We moved to an area for snorkeling, which is the real clincher for these day trip tours. The area was badly depleted from the constant shuffle of loading and unloading people and boats. The coral was bare and the wildlife had definitely scattered to a more abundant place. In a way its good that these tour companies have limited their dive spots to a small specific area. Hopefully I’ll be able to get some good diving in before I head up north because I know there are some beautiful spots. On the main KPP island, we had a lovely lunch and then only a few minutes to check out the town before you are shuffled back on the boat for the last stop. A few people in the group decided to unload and stay on the island for the night and make their way back in the morning. Several of us decided to come back after our course and stay a day or two and really enjoy the island since there is so much we didn’t get to see on our super rushed tour. I recommend going to Phi Phi but not doing a tour because it’s much nicer to plan your own excursions; therefore you focus your attention on spots you want to spend more time in. I enjoyed the tour because all my friends went but I definitely plan on going back again on my own!

Living the hard life at Nai Harn Beach, Phuket

Sunset at Nai Harn Beach
When I stepped off the plane from Bangkok and arrived in Phuket, Thailand, I was still a little skeptical about the American TESOL Institute (ATI).  These are the administrators of the course I am taking to become certified to teach English to speakers of other languages.  Before I left, I had zero information on where I would teach, what age, or basically anything else about the course.  I also found a few scary things online that lead me to believe I may be stepping into a huge scam or maybe even a ring of sex traders.  Who knows??  After waiting for about 2 hours for an unknown person from ATI to pick me up at the Phuket airport, I met another girl who was also waiting for the same unknown person.  Things are looking up!  This made me feel a significantly better because now I know I’m not the only fool who gave my money to some strangers via PayPal from half way around the world.  This sounds a little silly saying it out loud but A.) I didn’t give my parents all the details (mainly because I didn’t have any) and B.) I’m not the kind of girl that’s going to sit home and wonder if anything bad could happen, I’ll just risk it and find out for myself!  About 2 and half hours after arriving, a Thai man pulls up to the curb in a van holding a sign that says my name, Michele’s and our new friend’s name on it.  Ok so maybe it’s not a complete scam!  I’m extremely relieved when we pull up to our hotel called the All Seasons in Nai Harn Beach.  It’s located at the southern tip of Phuket Island and Nai Harn is one of the cleanest and nicest beaches in Phuket.  As soon as we reached the lobby to check in there were several westerners also in our program who had arrived a few days prior.  There are about 40 students total, mostly American, one English, and one Irish, all awesome.  Besides feeling extremely overwhelmed by the rush of new faces, greetings, and tons of questions in a matter of 2 minutes, I was tremendously thankful that ATI pulled through and I know I am exactly where I am suppose to be.  The gorgeous beach right outside doesn’t make it too hard either!
The ATI crew on a tuk-tuk ride.

The Tuk-Tuk Tourist Trap 

My good friend Michele whom I met while in Budapest met me in Bangkok late on Friday night.  Since our biological clocks are still a little off, we woke up at about 6:30 am ready to start our Saturday.  We planned on heading out to the Grande Palace first, a must see when in Bangkok.  After an hour drive into the city with all the congestion and traffic we were ready for a free tour in English around 10 am.  As soon as the taxis unloaded us, we went to purchase our tickets in order to enter the Palace.  A nice (so we thought) Thai man approached us and asked where we are from, what we were doing in Thailand and spoke enough English to keep us intrigued for a few moments.  Our new friend then explained to us that the Palace is only open to Thai nationals on Saturday mornings until noon.  

Michele and I were completely bummed because our daily planned had been thrown off and we didn’t know what our next move needed to be.  He looked at our map and showed us different places we needed to go and also told us that our cab driver that brought us to the Palace ripped us off, which we already knew. The Golden Buddha, an expat center, and another stop were suggestions he told us to take until noon when we could come back and see the Grande Palace.  He said, “You take tuk-tuk 100 Baht, den come back Grande Palizz. Ok?” You can imagine how thrilled we were to have our morning planned out for us and at that price! Yippy, we’re thinking.   He talks with a tuk-tuk man we hop on and zip through the back streets to the Golden Buddha.  For those who aren’t familiar with a tuk-tuk, it’s like a glorified go-cart that is street legal. 
At our first stop, the Golden Buddha is actually two giant gold Buddha’s housed in an open building.  One is 200 hundred and the other 700 years old.  Monks, tourists, and locals go to pay respect and give offerings.  The meticulous detail and elaborate features on these statues must have taken ages to complete.  After exploring for a while, we board our tuk-tuk again that had been waiting for us and he tells us our next stop, but we can’t quite understand what he is saying.  I imagine it’s a stop on our map that our Thai friend at the Palace pointed out.  We pull up and stop at a tailor shop in town.  Michele and I are quite confused as we disembark our transportation and enter the store.  We politely take a card from the tailor and leave.  Once we scooch back on the tuk-tuk, we soon make another stop this time at a jewelry store.  As we enter the building, we start laughing hysterically because we know we’ve been baffooned and leave after about 3 minutes.  Racking our brain, why would the Palace be closed until noon?  No this isn’t right.  We demand to our driver to take us back and he explains that he gets free gas coupons at stores he brings us to so “we help him.”  Wow.  Our tuk-tuk stops at about 2 gem stores and 3 tailors on route back to the Grande Palace.  The adventure ended up being my favorite part of the day because we laughed so hard and probably saw much of the city that I normally wouldn’t have otherwise.  Eventually we made it back to square one with a bit more awareness under our belt. 
Check out the Eye Candy tab for an album of the Grande Palace and Bangkok!

Bye Bye USA, Hello Ambien

New Orleans airport
I’ve been waiting for this day, September 14th for a long time. It came up fast, but it’s been a loooong day. I’ve been hanging out with my family and friends and eating non-stop for the past week before I leave. A few months back when I booked my flight I reserved a direct flight from New Orleans to Los Angeles, then Guangzhou, China, then Bangkok. I suppose the airline didn’t sell enough seats on the first flight so I was re-routed from NOLA to Detroit, then LA with a lovely 6-hour layover. Yikes. It went by pretty quickly probably because of all the excitement and I was really hoping to see a celebrity at LAX. Didn’t happen. I’m not that nervous yet, it’s the same feeling I had when I left for Budapest 3 years ago. I prepared myself with all the necessary paperwork as well as mentally for such a long time there was nothing left to do but arrive and experience it myself. No matter how prepared you are there is always a surprise that pops up to throw you off your game. When I arrived at the New Orleans Louis Armstrong airport on Wednesday morning, Sean T. at the Delta ticket counter forced me to purchase a return voucher from Bangkok. They wouldn’t let me on the plane without it. I fought this for about an hour, talking to supervisors and some Delta rep at their Global office. I tried to explain that I have a visa from Thailand and the Embassy already knows my plan or else they wouldn’t have issued me a visa. Duh. These people wouldn’t buy it so I had to purchase a $2,336.82 ONE-WAY flight leaving the Kingdom. Keep your shorts on, it’s refundable, or else I wouldn’t have done this. Don’t they realize I’ve done my due diligence and know whether I can or cannot get on a plane half way around the world with a one-way?  Surely Sean-Baby doesn’t deal with betches going from NOLA to Bangkok on a daily basis so I’ll cut him some slack. He’s just doing his job. With the help of a little sleeping pill and an empty seat next to me, the 15 and a half hour flight was not so bad. I even made a friend who’s checking out my blog!
Brunch with ma betches in New Orleans
Snowcones at Hansens' on Tchop

                                                     Aunt Missy and I enjoying margaritas and sombreros 

Crabs and schrimp
Michael (brah), grandparents, and mom at dinner 

The Pack Job from HELL

A few months ago I wrote an article for on packing tips: have you ever heard of the saying “those who can’t do teach”? That same line applies here. Those fun little tips that I wrote hopefully helped some people prepare for a big trip abroad but not me! I loathe nothing more than packing for a trip. It doesn’t matter if it’s a weekend getaway when I know I’ll probably only wear a t-shirt and shorts or fancy vacation where I have to have a cute outfit (no repeats) every night; they all stress me out. My friends can attest to this confession. For Thailand, I’ll be gone for 6-12 months or less or more or who knows, but it’s really starting to make me packing-antsy. I started arranging my clothes, toiletries, and other necessities early this morning so I could get a good head start on things. I decided to take a break and run a couple of errands including pick up some meds at Walgreens. After waiting in line at the drive thru for 30 minutes the classy broad behind me zipped around, rolled down her window and yelled some obscenities to me. Really. Not today lady. A few minutes later I found myself parked by the front door waiting for Miss Impatient to come out. After 5 minutes of contemplating my first choice words, I decided to be the bigger person and leave. This is what packing makes me do, get in fights with uneducated people at Walgreens.

This is what I want to bring with me:

This is the bag I have to fit it all into:

Needless to say, it’s not going to happen. This is the final elimination pile:

Did I really think that my fins and scuba gear was the most practical accessory to lug around for 6 months? I don’t think so. After hours of pulling my hair out I stuffed everything I think I needed into two backpacks. I’m pretty confident that I’ll be ditching some clothes along the way.
The final product

Welcome to Travel on My Face! 

Hey y'all! Thanks for visiting Travel on My Face! I am leaving for Thailand in approximately one week. I am getting down to the nitty gritty of packing and finalizing plans. I'm going to document my travels through stories, photos, and video on this blog so you can get in on a little piece of the action from your own computer. I hope to gain experience and inspiration that guides me into a project for a future career or perhaps leads me one-step closer to my own show on the Travel Channel (a girl can dream)! If you're feeling extra giving today, please "Like my face" on Facebook and "Follow my face" on Twitter! Thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoy traveling on my face!