25 June 2015

the bustling city: bangkok

 photo IMG_0558_zps2e3khy0o.jpg

Bangkok was a lot different than I thought it would be. From what I'd read online, and what I'd been told about the city, I was apprehensive upon arrival. So many people had such negative things to say about Thailand's bustling capital city, and many of them advised to steer clear of it altogether. Even the travel agent we booked our flights through tried to convince us to cut it out of our itinerary, but I just couldn't go to Thailand without spending a day or two in it's world-known capital.

 photo IMG_0570_zpswtpf1ndh.jpg  photo IMG_0572_zpsouvalayb.jpg  photo IMG_0562_zps3iom9quk.jpg  photo IMG_0560_zps49lxhlk5.jpg  photo IMG_0575_zps5gs4lydw.jpg  photo IMG_0578_zpsge0h2cp9.jpg

I didn't hate Bangkok as much as I thought I would. Granted, we didn't stray too far from the tourist-populated Khao San Road, which was only a couple of blocks away from our hostel, but from what I experienced of the city, it wasn't too bad at all.

 photo IMG_0640_zpsinjla232.jpg  photo IMG_0641_zpsdbbpuq5t.jpg

Being there at the very tail-end of our trip, we didn't really do as much as we should have. Partly due to the fact that we were running out of money, and partly due to the exhaustion that comes along with three weeks of travelling through a foreign developing country, we spent a good chunk of our time there just lounging and relaxing in our cozy little private hostel room.

 photo IMG_0596_zpsifef05u1.jpg  photo IMG_0601_zps46utlck2.jpg  photo IMG_0603_zpspq5gjfgo.jpg  photo IMG_0626_zpsbrw4yaed.jpg  photo IMG_0607_zps3nnmeozn.jpg  photo IMG_0634_zps0vpt6e0u.jpg

Other than lounging, we wandered up and down Khao San Road quite a bit, and we also paid a visit to The Grand Palace, which we happened to randomly stumble upon one day while going for a little walk around the area one afternoon. 

And what better way to end the Thailand posts than with a video of Madi and I eating crickets? You're welcome.

On a serious more serious note though, I really can't believe that this trip of a lifetime has come and gone so quickly. Every once and awhile I realize the magnitude of the fact that we planned for, saved for, and went on a trip this crazy and exciting, and it completely blows me away.

Thailand, thanks for the memories! And Madi, thanks for being the only person brave and determined enough to make this trip a reality! I definitely won't be forgetting it any time soon. 

16 June 2015

the turtle island: koh tao

On the 13th day of our trip, we made the long trek from Koh Lanta, on the bottom right of the Adaman Sea, to Koh Tao, on the top left of the Gulf of Thailand.

Twelve hours, two busses, three ferries, and a ride in the back of a truck bed, turned taxi, later, we made it to the hotel we'd been most looking forward to the entire trip.

After bug-filled bungalows and hard hostel beds, an actual hotel felt like complete luxury. As if we weren't excited enough, when we arrived, they told us that they'd decided to upgrade our room to one with an amazing balcony and an 180 degree ocean view.

 photo IMG_0473_zpsdk7mmnfz.jpg

When we woke up the next morning, we'd decided to rent some mopeds to see a little bit more of the island. We spent the majority of that day checking out our new area, driving up and down precarious, steep, dirt roads, and eating out in the main town area.

 photo IMG_0470_zpstlygbpov.jpg  photo IMG_0469_zpshylaexfk.jpg  photo IMG_0467_zpsxsx3pyeh.jpg  photo IMG_0457_zpst9bkdwau.jpg  photo IMG_0456_zpsdjflukhu.jpg

Unfortunately, something I ate that day didn't agree with me (which turned out to be a whole other story), and we spent almost our entire second day on Koh Tao holed up in our hotel room because I was too sick to leave. 

Although being stuck in our hotel the whole day sucked when there was so much we wanted to see and do, and so little time to do it all, it was also just the nudge we needed to just take a day of relaxing and doing nothing, which we didn't do much on the trip. It can be really overwhelming to be in a completely different country than your own, and to just go-go-go all the time, and a day of rest was exactly what we needed.

Fortunately, with the help of the emergency antibiotics we'd been prescribed by the travel clinic, I'd felt good enough the next morning to do the one thing we'd really been looking forward to doing while on Koh Tao- taking a day trip to the Nangyuan Islands! 

After breakfast, a huge storm started to roll in, and we weren't sure whether or not it would clear up in time for us to be able to visit the Nangyuan Islands, like we had planned. After watching the lightning, hearing the thunder, and getting soaked by the monsoon rain, the skies cleared and we jumped on our mopeds and rolled into town. We found a long tail boat to take us there, and spent the rest of the afternoon hiking to the viewpoint, walking around the islands, seeing hundreds of fish and sea creatures while snorkelling in the clear waters, and eating good food in the one restaurant on the island.

 photo IMG_0444_zps0d27citw.jpg  photo IMG_0446_zps2w8hwi2t.jpg  photo IMG_0455_zpsbwnrtxqc.jpg  photo IMG_0478_zps7gaesuzt.jpg  photo IMG_0482_zpsihtol2m5.jpg

The Nangyuan Islands are as beautiful as it gets, and they were definitely the most "Thailand" feeling of all the places we'd been. With the clear, kool-aid blue waters and fluffy white sand, mixed with the lush looking jungle towards the middle of the islands, it made for a pretty spectacular sight.

 photo IMG_0487_zpshdgrh5j9.jpg  photo IMG_0491_zpsocqfjq7r.jpg  photo IMG_0494_zpsx8a2t8rx.jpg  photo IMG_0495_zpsnqknsx6y.jpg  photo IMG_0499_zpscbcgi4lt.jpg  photo IMG_0515_zpsvbamcvmi.jpg  photo IMG_0517_zpsij3roscd.jpg  photo IMG_0524_zpsmofuowhk.jpg  photo IMG_0528_zpsybto5mmy.jpg  photo IMG_0534_zps6wwh6fn9.jpg  photo IMG_0541_zps0ytiypab.jpg  photo IMG_0544_zpssbt3inmd.jpg  photo IMG_0549_zpsv4ftrabo.jpg

It was the perfect last day of our adventures in the south. The next morning, we hopped back into the truck bed for a ride to the pier for the first leg of our 12 hour travel day to Bangkok.

08 June 2015

thailand in video

Music by Kodaline and Spirits of the Red City

I still have a couple of Thailand posts in the works, but I recently went through all of the video footage I took during our three week trip and created this little montage, which I'm absolutely in love with. It's a long one, but if you want a little glimpse into what this beautiful country has to offer, I'd love it if you'd take a look! The second I put video clips to music, I turn into a hot mess, and this little video brings back all the feels! 

More Thailand posts coming soon! 

03 June 2015

my happy place: koh lanta

Upon arrival, Thailand was extremely different than I'd imagined it would be. Everywhere we'd been, except for Tonsai, had been so built up and geared towards tourists that it hardly felt like authentic Thailand at all.

While the white sand beaches and beautiful clear waters were just as I'd imagined, it was hard to feel like we were on an exotic adventure when so much was laid out for us in terms of tourist information, tour guides, and demanding tuk tuk drivers saying, "tuk tuk?", every time we walked by them.

We were on the hunt for something a little less crowded with tourists and a little more authentic to what Thailand would've been like before all the tourists discovered it's beautiful beaches and friendly people.

With the promise of a chilled out vibe, a ton of untouched beaches, and less tourists and traffic, we made our way to Koh Lanta with high hopes that it would be exactly what we were searching for. And it did not disappoint!

Any doubt of whether or not I liked Thailand came to a screaming halt the second our mini bus dropped us off in front of our hostel on Koh Lanta Yai, the larger and more popular of the two side by side Koh Lanta islands.

 photo IMG_0173_zpsohertl5m.jpg  photo IMG_0177_zpscmlkspdo.jpg  photo IMG_0188_zpsb8gsampp.jpg

With smoother and less busy roads than anywhere else we'd been so far, we decided to rent mopeds as an easier and cheaper method of getting around the small island. Neither of us had ever driven mopeds before, but they were pretty easy to maneuver and we caught on pretty quickly. Driving on the far left side of the road, we spent three days driving our little mopeds around, exploring the beautiful and deserted beaches, as well as Old Town Lanta, a little piece of what Thailand used to be like that's stood still in time.

 photo IMG_0305_zpsz1misab0.jpg  photo IMG_0307_zps6ni1av12.jpg  photo IMG_0321_zpsawjsteni.jpg  photo IMG_0328_zpszvjnonie.jpg  photo IMG_0330_zpsu7mcyb3u.jpg  photo IMG_0332_zpsbjovhkfx.jpg  photo IMG_0340_zpsm4bp0yzu.jpg  photo IMG_0342_zpstt94wate.jpg  photo IMG_0345_zpscfp3lj9c.jpg  photo IMG_0384_zpsmuiza0wr.jpg  photo IMG_0391_zpsw1plavfs.jpg  photo IMG_0396_zps7y94ttc0.jpg  photo IMG_0397_zpsucpthmey.jpg

On our first morning driving, we saw a sign for a place called, "Atcha's Chai Cafe", and having grown such an attachment to Chai's Pyramid Cafe on Tonsai, we parked our bikes and wandered up the steps to a little open-walled cafe with cushions as seats and a bunch of friendly faces. 

We ordered iced chai teas, sat down, and ended up talking to the owners, two Swedish girls, a guy from Holland, and an Australian couple for a couple of hours before hopping back on our bikes and exploring a bit more of the island. One of the best parts of travelling is being able to connect with so many different people from all around the world, and sitting there in that little cafe, talking to a bunch of strangers, turned temporary friends, was a really special moment of our trip. I had a little bit of a hard time meeting new people and feeling so connected to them through our conversations, only to say goodbye a couple of minutes or hours later, without an email, or even their names, to stay in touch. I guess that's what travelling is though- making connections with people, places, and things, only to say goodbye shortly after.

One of my favourite things about our time on Koh Lanta was that we made a pact to watch the sunset on the beach every night we were there, and I'm so glad we did. Up until that point, which was well over a week into our trip, we had yet to watch a sunset from the beach.

Right before sunset every night, we'd hop on our bikes and make the short ride to Long Beach, where we'd set down our things and play in the waves under the setting sun for an hour or so until it sank below the horizon.

 photo IMG_0226_zpsn75yxove.jpg  photo IMG_0210_zpsovtby2hf.jpg  photo IMG_0249_zps1h5tb50f.jpg  photo IMG_0296_zpskhdbwtav.jpg  photo IMG_0316_zpsvf6gbfo1.jpg  photo IMG_0401_zps1vwr3giz.jpg  photo IMG_0411_zpsyvoarrye.jpg  photo IMG_0427_zpsywfxympe.jpg

Earlier in our trip, Madi had asked me whether or not I could see myself coming back to Thailand in the future. I told her maybe, because I really wanted to see more of the north, but that I'd probably steer clear of the south because it wasn't what I'd really expected. Koh Lanta completely changed my mind on my answer, and I have a feeling I'll be back to that lush little island before I know it!