North America, Asia · 15 Days · 118 Moments · May 2017

Adventures in the Asia

31 May 2017

The excitement when you finally touch down at home!! We traveled 8,387 miles across the country in just about a day and a half to make it here. ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ We are so thankful for this entire experience and will be documenting "the aftermath" and closing notes / key learnings.... so keep following along! ๐Ÿ˜˜

31 May 2017

The drinking water is warm... it's practically still steaming. Looking forward to a drink with ice in it. It's been too long!
The last of the Thai Baht Leaving the Bangkok airport, we find a small coffee shop and spend the last of the baht since it's not accepted anywhere. (Kind of like American Express ๐Ÿ™„๐Ÿ˜’) We get Americanos and some snacks. And finally, mango with sticky rice. We look around to make sure there are no monks accepting offerings, shrines, or people praying and leaving gifts for Bhudda. We are good to eat this one ourselves ๐Ÿ˜‡.
Time to start the trek home. I can't tell if we're sad about leaving or ready for the US. ๐Ÿ˜ณ We keep getting Yen mixed up with Baht and we smell like bug spray. On our way to the airport, we used the Grab app to call a car. It's like Uber, only when we arrived at the airport, the driver said we had to pay in cash. We owed 326 baht after paying 100 baht in highway tolls. We tried to pay with a 1,000 baht bill. He didn't have change. This entire trip, there is this look everyone gives you ๐Ÿ˜ต๐Ÿ˜ณ๐Ÿค”โ˜ ๏ธ when you try to pay with a 1,000 bill. Every damn time. 1,000 baht is equal to $30 USD. It would be like people freaking out every time you tried to pay with a $20 in the US. He asked 3 other drivers if they had change. They made the same face. He followed us into the airport. He stood silent as we tried to communicate with the woman at the exchange counter. We had to come up with exact change. He spoke Thai, but didn't chime in to help. We gave him 325. ๐Ÿ™„ Annoyed, we head to our gate.

30 May 2017

Coffee shops and 7-11's seem to be the only places here with air conditioning. Ones with food and wifi are gold! Americanos, Panang chicken with jasmine rice, and green curry.

29 May 2017

Hookah Bar on the Beach in Chaweng The nightlife in Koh Samui was my favorite. Much more laid back than Patong Beach in Phuket and a lot cleaner. The people are nicer and friendlier too! Island vibes all the way. โœŒ๐Ÿผ Our hotel concierge told us to go to "AKBAH" - which we realized when we got there was actually called Arc Bar. ๐Ÿ™ˆ That place was a little too intense for us, so we walked the beach and found a stand advertising buckets of vodka, playing island music. There were red giant bean bags in the sand, with a small table and a giant hookah stationed at each one. Shirtless Thai men stood at the waters edge and performed fire shows all night long. Sounds of Bob Marley and other reggae vibes filled the air. A guy with a board full of handmade bracelets and necklaces walked by and we couldn't stop ourselves from making a purchase to remember our little slice of paradise, right on the Koh Samui beach in Chaweng.
Giant Buddha This was one of the most memorable and spiritual days of our trip. We walked from our hotel to the pier where the Buddha was located, about a 15 minute walk. Upon arrival, one of the monks indicated we needed to cover up and offered scarves and robes. We donated 170 baht and picked out flowers, candles, and incense for the offering. We removed our shoes and climbed the couple of stairs to where a monk sat, praying. He chanted and blessed us with holy water, offering a bracelet for each to take as good luck. He then offered us each a second bracelet that was blessed with the same luck to take to a "boyfriend" - I never laughed so hard. All I know is these bracelets are going to our future husbands!
Walk through Town As we made our way towards the Big Buddha, we stopped in at a spot right on the beach to enjoy the view. Beach bar vibes all day! We passed a sign that read "free weed" and "road to Zion" but something told us not to climb those stairs. A fisherman walked in the shallow water with his net while his scooter was parked at the roadside, waiting for his bounty. A store selling "probably" the best ice cream was tempting, but we decided to pass.
This was a great choice of hotels. It's right on the ocean and the staff here really made an effort to get to know us, despite the language barrier. They were always friendly and tried to be helpful. We stayed 3 nights at Saboey. Early morning breakfasts, jungle plant life and sunsets over the water made this place even more beautiful. All over Thailand there are elaborate little Buddha shrines with donation boxes. People donate money, pray, and some leave offerings such as soda, food, candles, incense and flowers. This one was on the hotel property and someone left a full meal as an offering.
The Blue Lagoon
Angthong National Marine Park from Koh Samui Koh Wao - snorkeling Koh Mae Koh - Blue Lagoon Koh Paloy - lunch Koh Paloy - kayaking and beach time A really mean driver picked us up at the hotel at 8:20am. We were in the hotel restaurant getting breakfast and he came in screaming "Go! Now! Now!" We got our breakfast to go and ate in the van on the 5 minute ride to the pier. We checked in for our tour and a guy pointed to a basket full of motion sickness pills. "Free," he said. I should have known something was up. Nothing is free in Thailand. I took one for each of us and he said, "You take two, you not wake up till tomorrow." Weird, but we got on the boat and met our guide, Mr O. He's exotic looking- long dreads down to his lower back, dark skin, blue eyes, impossibly high cheekbones and big, crooked teeth. He's lived on this island all his life. The group life-jackets up and we begin. 1 hr and 10 min to our first stop. Half the group throws up before we get to the island.
CAUTION โš ๏ธ If you are prone to sea sickness, don't take a speedboat in choppy waters!! Spent most of this trip feeling extremely ill. ๐Ÿคข The boat would smack and thud against the water, and my stomach was doing flips along with it. The final stop was long enough that I could catch my breath. Lynn sailed off in a kayak with our guide and I napped on the beach. We walked around the island and took pictures, enjoying the views afterwards.

27 May 2017

Saboey Resort Not a bad find for a lunch time research sesh, after deciding our travels would take us to Koh Samui. Right on the water. Right in town. Our own slice of heaven.
Touchdown in Koh Samui.
Last meal in Phuket Green curry with chicken and white rice. Thai food is amazing ๐Ÿ˜
On the way to the airport, our Grab driver stopped to buy this on the side of the road. He handed a woman money, bowed with this in his hands and prayed for a few seconds, hung it from the rear view mirror and continued on the way. These offerings are all over Thailand. I asked our driver about it. He said it is for the Buddha - you send good luck and good luck comes back. Yes.
Leaving Phuket This hotel has been amazing. So sad to leave. The staff and food and beach were perfect. I think I'll miss the shower the most. It is going to rain here for the next few days (probably the next month) so we discussed our next destination over breakfast. We have four more days, totally unplanned. We looked at Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam since they have better weather. Mia is still craving beach time, and we don't want to waste too much time in transit, so we decide to book a flight to Koh Samui, another Thai island north of where we are now. We will have to come back to see the rest of Asia. ๐Ÿ™‚
It's Uber in Thailand, only better!!! Calling one Toyota to take us to the airport.
This was my favorite... a soup bar that they only offered at breakfast. You choose the type of meat, noodles, and veggies you want, then you add chili flakes, fried garlic flakes, cilantro, bean sprouts, salt and other toppings.

26 May 2017

Hot showers at the hotel feel amazing after a long day of island hopping, swimming in the ocean, and playing in the rain. Mini bar and room service for the rest of the night.
Lady Boy Sailor As we head back to Phuket, the Thai house music on the boat gets louder. One of our crew members emerged from the bottom floor of the boat, now in lipstick and a skirt. Our guide tells everyone to hold to their husbands and boyfriends. This lady boy danced around and danced on every guy on the boat. Ladyboys are a common part of the culture here. It's confusing how it's kind of a joke, yet somehow not offensive to laugh at them. They put on shows for entertainment and it is widely accepted. People explained to us that ladyboys are basically considered a "third gender."
I went down the steep, narrow stairs with my skin still on fire. One of the crew members rubbed vinegar on my skin and then another poured freezing cold water from a large barrel on me. The burning persisted, but I climbed back to the upper deck. The group confirmed a jellyfish sting on an Australian guy that was in the water with us. A few minutes later, he walked past us and the back of his knee was red and puffy. That looked a poop-ton worse than my skin, which only had a few visible red areas. I definitely hadn't been the victim of a direct jellyfish hit, although my skin was painful for a few hours. Most of the crew had grown up on these islands, Daki had been a scuba instructor 15+ years, and none of them were concerned. They laughed, actually. They said that Man-Of-War were in the water this time of year, the larvae were also likely, which can cause skin irritation similar to adult jellies, likely what we encountered. Then they casually mentioned barracuda... a bit late.
Stormed by jellyfish The last stop on the tour was off the coast of another small island. Daki told us to jump off the boat and swim, so naturally I was the first one in the water. After 15 minutes or so, Daki yelled for everyone to come back to the boat. It seemed early to head back, but the 7 of us that were in the water started swimming towards the boat. (Not everyone got into the water). As I approached the boat, my skin started stinging on my chest and shoulders, then my back and legs. I swam faster so I could get out of the water. As I climbed onto the boat, I saw some of the crew dumping fresh cold water on some of the others. I tried to towel off, but my skin was still burning and I heard the others saying the same. The couple from Boston said that someone in the group got stung by a jellyfish. They told me to go down to the lower deck because they had "medicine." (Continued...)
Leaving James Bond Island Exploring winding staircases, famous landscapes and tropical plants for a few hours. Soaking wet but not worried about it.
Working those Ponchos Exploring in the rain made us feel like little kids again! It was neat to see the island this way and made for very little traffic at our stop on dry land. A small "taxi-boat" took us from the giant pontoon boat to the island dock. The taxis had to take turns moving in and out of the very small area - keep your hands in! I walked the beach and found some beautiful shells to take home as momentos and gifts.
James Bond Island We take a water taxi from our boat to this island. This island became famous after appearing in a James Bond movie. I haven't seen the movie, but I trust this is the truth. We take a few attempts at a selfie in the rain before arriving on the island. Every time the little boat would rock, water would fall from the soft cover above us and people would scream. We are already wet, so rain is fun for us at this point.
Our Tour Guides Something I really enjoy is documenting the people, to get a feel for the culture and the full experience. After all, the people can make or break it. Daki, the man in the beanie, hosted the entire trip. He would make jokes and knock the mic against his head as if to say, is this thing on? ๐Ÿ˜‚ We were the only ones laughing. I'm not sure anyone else was even listening. Luao, the man in the bucket hat and poncho, didn't speak much English. He had a sweet smile and was our kayak guide each time we'd get off the big boat and into the water. This young boy wasn't our kayak guide, but his kayak was next to ours while we waited to get back on the boat. He had the most genuine smile and you could tell he loves what he does. The crew was pretty quiet and mainly made up of ladyboys. Little did we know, we'd end the boat trip with a little ladyboy dance around the boat with this one!
Lunch in the Straights of Malacca The food served on the boat was wonderful. We enjoyed Thai food and Thai beer with a nice couple from Boston we met on the tour. Aside from one girl we met at the Bangkok airport, these are the first Americans we've had the pleasure to meet and we bond immediately over English and travel stories.
The rain only made it better.
Hong Island Our second stop was another kayak trip with our trusty guide through a cave, into an open-air beach right smack in the middle. We grabbed our beers and hopped into the kayaks, just as the rain started to come down. Something so incredibly enchanting about this type of structure - it's like a secret entry way into another world. ๐Ÿ’• Add the rainfall to the mix, and you have one magical experience that we'll never forget.
Looks like rain The storm is off in the distance. We are confused as to why everyone is peeling limes and eating them. They must be really hungry. Then we realize they are green tangerines!
Boat Tour - Phanek Island Our ride picked us up at 7:45am and we made the 45 minute trek to the other side of the island. We picked up water proof pouches for our phones and it was 10 baht to use the restroom at our destination before we headed out to the open sea. It looked like a torrential downpour was eminent, but the tour must go on! We put our life vests on and began the full day boat tour of the islands via two-story pontoon boat. Our first stop was to hop into kayaks with a guide and explore a bat cave! The cave pics didn't come out, but there were easily thousands of bats inside this cave, hiding from the light of day. Smelled like guano and it was hot and balmy inside.

25 May 2017

Beach Day at Le Meridien We're behind on posts! Our first full day in Phuket was spent on the beach. We drank wotka sodahhhs (not to be confused with vodka sodas) and played in the sand. The water was crystal clear and very warm, but a refreshing reprieve from the hot jungle air. We watched an adorable couple during a fitness photo shoot and thought to ourselves... GOALS. (Just putting that out there in the universe, k thanks ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿผ) We retired to the restaurant for dinner and cosmos to watch the sunset. Island life looks good on us.
I want to remember this feeling forever. ๐Ÿ’•
Mia: Don't freak out. There's a rat. Me: โฌ†๏ธ The resort staff (all laughing because I freaked out) came over to ask what was wrong. We said there was a rat. One of the staff members said, "Where did he go? I want to get him and deep fry him." We think she was joking.

24 May 2017

More of a man than you will ever be. And more of a woman, too. We left this show a little confused and a little jealous. Some of these bitches were skinnier than me, and the sparkly costumes were incredible. I really want to be a ladyboy for Halloween. I just don't have the hips for it.
The show starts at 7:30pm but they don't let you in the theater until 7:15. We post up at the bar since we are 40 minutes early. Observation: There are no Asians inside the velvet ropes demarcating the bar area. Separate but equal. Same same. But different.
A little boost before the show.
Lunch in the pouring rain. The storm was upon us, so we sought shelter, cocktails and lunch. An old man does laps in the pool for an hour. Good for him.
No part of the body is free of either a sunburn and/or a mosquito bite. Totally crushing it at island life. ๐Ÿ˜
Watching the storm roll in. The lifeguard said we had 15 minutes until the storm hit. We stayed on lounge chairs in front of the ocean until it rained on us. And when it rains, it pours.
The ocean calls It rains off and on for most of the day this time of year. We got a good stretch of sunshine in the morning and did not waste it.
Breakfast by the Water Quite the breakfast spread here! They offer traditional American, Japanese and Thai foods. We opted for veggie omelettes, fresh fruit, and salad. I stole us three eggs for a late morning snack bc protein. Okay and if I'm being honest, I went back for another egg and tomatoes after my plate. Bc protein.
Our first workout in a week. We are both missing the gym! Thankfully, this resort has a beautiful fitness center, so we start off today with an early workout.

23 May 2017

Arrived in Phuket and we are beside ourselves. This resort is incredible, with all the modern comforts of home. We had dinner & drinks on the beach and dipped our toes in the water while the sun set before our eyes. Lynn read us the daily activities schedule and we tucked into bed early. We are settling in quite nicely.
TonSon Restaurant at Le Meridien Starving since Air Asia didn't feed us and it's about 45 minutes from the airport to the resort โ˜น๏ธ, so we take a walk around the property and find a beach-front restaurant. Cocktails and some familiar food!!!
Our room with an ocean view is gorgeous!
Le Meridien Beach Resort Phuket We walk up the stairs to the large, airy lobby and the staff greets us with bracelets made of fresh flowers, cold towels for our hands, and ginger and rose petal tea. Another elephant greets us in our room.
Approaching Phuket No words. It's unreal how beautiful and blue the water is!
Mia gets really touristy on the way to Chiang Mai airport.

22 May 2017

Muy Thai Fight Everyone we talked to said a Muy Thai fight was a must-see... and we couldn't agree more! For 600 baht per person, we entered the bleachers area and climbed the steep slats to our seat. For 1500 baht per person, we could have sat in the "main grandstand" located to the right of the ring, but as you can see, our seats were just as high and just as good! (We see you, Thailand) Two local Thai boys who spoke English-ish entertained our questions about why, and what, and the meaning behind some of the customs. The rituals before the fight are considered prayer, although to me it looks like they are taunting their opponent with flamboyant displays of dance. Each fighter wears a head piece before the fight. It looks like a tennis racket around their head with the handle part in the back, adorned with a tassel. When asked about this tradition, the guys explained "it's like a cow." K, not making the connection - might have to google that one!
Le Mango Shaved Ice After lunch and relaxing for a bit, we decided a foot massage was in order. While walking the streets, we came across an indoor smoothie shop and decided to pop in for something cold and refreshing. We also decided staying inside in the AC as long as we could was a wise choice. We ordered a shaved mango dessert, with fresh mangos and a mango pudding. The shaved ice had the perfect amount of flavor and the mangos were ripe and sweet. While we didn't care for the pudding, the dish itself was light and refreshing. When visiting Chiang Mai, this place is a must-see.
Sit-down Lunch and a Parade After spending the 2 hour trek back to town in the bed of a hot pick up truck, we decided a sit-down lunch was in order. This is not very common in Chiang Mai, and for the places that do have this dining style, they lack AC. So we chose an open air restaurant right off one of the main roads, Phrapokklao Rd. The menu boasted American items like ham and cheese sandwiches and burgers. We opted for chicken Pad Thai and a vodka soda. Fun Fact: it's not common to serve alcohol in restaurants and there are very few bars. They seem to be isolated to more touristy areas, catering to our luschy American ways. We located ourselves near two oscillating fans as we dined and I kicked my shoes off under the table. The sounds of a parade filled the streets, and Lynn hopped up to take pictures. We chatted with two English speaking ladies from Canada on holiday for a month. They shared their monkey pics and we talked about our day with the elephants... oh, this life.
Wachirathan Waterfall Handstands and secret pathways led us up to the top of this waterfall. The water was perfectly chilly and perfectly clear. We hopped rocks across the rapids and soaked in the beauty around us. We sacrificed the selfie-stick to the waterfall Gods (aka I dropped it ๐Ÿ™„) and made our way back to the open air red truck.
Twin Pagodas These two temples are so high up on the mountain, we are still in the clouds. The grounds are beautiful. We make our way into one of the temples and kneel before a large Buddha to give thanks and set our intention for the rest of the day.
Doi Inthanon National Park We are in the middle of the Thai jungle. We are on our way to touch the clouds. Reminds me of Fern Gully, a fav childhood movie about fairies in a forest. This mountain is part of the Himalayan Mountain range - proud to say we've hiked it!
Doi Inthanon National Park It took us about two hours in the Red Cab from Chiang Mai to get to the base of the mountain. From there it's 120 baht per person, and another 40 kilometers to the top. The air gets noticeably cooler the farther up you go. Such a break from the hot, humid air in the city. This trail is known as the Cloud Forest. It is literally in the clouds! During the dry season, the plants here have adapted by extracting sustenance from the misty clouds. The sign for the highest point in Thailand is not actually at the highest point but in Thailand. It's pretty close, but they put it in a spot that's easy for people to get to so they can take pictures.
Open Air Taxi - "Red Cab" This is a step up from riding in the back of a pickup truck, but its basically riding in the back of a pickup truck. It's windy and fun and maybe a little crazy by our standards. Still safer than a motorcycle. Probably. This morning I talked to my dad and he made mention of my frizzy hair. "What, you didn't know?" he says. So, frizz and mangos in the back of a truck on our way to the mountain.
Offerings We searched the morning market for breakfast and snacks to take for the ride. A woman was selling mango with sticky rice in a plastic container. Sounded great. We bought two. We asked her if she could cut the mango. She pointed to a monk nearby and said in perfect English, "He will cut it." We walked over to the monk and he opened a basket hanging from his neck and pointed inside. We were confused. A Thai man witnessing this explained that you buy these, say a prayer, and give it as an offering to the monks. Didn't want to mess with Buddha, so I put one in the monk's basket. The next monk opens his basket. Points. I hesitate like a child that has been asked to share a toy. I want to keep it, but I hand it over. We say our prayer- to travel the world and work from anywhere. We didn't know it was meant to be an offering! We didn't know it was selfish to keep for ourselves. It is the intention of an act that determines if it is good or bad. I think we're ok with Buddha. ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿป
Breakfast Treats in the Chiang Mai Market Perfectly textured bananas and rice fused together in a banana leaf pouch, grilled over a hot open flame. ๐Ÿ‘Œ๐Ÿผ Warm, sweet, comforting. Lynn and I have decided this will be our new specialty and we will learn how to prepare and serve this for future parties. Get ready for a taste of Thailand!
Never the same place twice. While we slept, the whole place shifted back to the morning market, but different people and different offerings in entirely different places. Sometimes the air smells like flowers and basil, sometimes the air smells like hot garbage. We couldn't find the desired meet on a stick, so we tried pork soup and fish soup with noodles. We didn't like it. The pork turned out to be liver, and the fish was unidentifiable. We ate enough not to appear rude, but left most of this behind. Still hungry, we wandered on. We ended up with two mangos (15 baht) a coconut pancake (25 baht), banana chips (10 baht), a curry/egg/chicken/rice thing (45 baht) and some grilled fruit/rice in banana leaves (10 baht). The mornings are much cooler than the rest of the day, and there was a nice breeze, so it felt good to be outside.
It's 2am in Chiang Mai and we're wide awake. After laying down for a "quick nap" at 5pm, we awoke in the middle of the night after an entire nights' rest. We haven't quite figured out this time change just yet. We set up on the patio at our hotel and made our morning coffee. There were a few cars and motor bikes that would pass through our street over the next few hours, but nothing like the hub-bub of the midnight streets in Bangkok. For the next three hours, we edited photos from our elephant adventure and talked about what life would be like if we could make THIS our life. ๐Ÿ’•

21 May 2017

Khao Soi After playing with the elephants, we all showered in individual outdoor shower stalls and met back at the house for lunch. It's a traditional Thai dish with noodles, chicken, and what looks like Funyuns. So good!
Mudmasks, a Bath, and Goodbye We entered a large mud pit (stop it, I know) and used our hands to scoop mud and clay from the bottom to smear onto the elephants skin. Elephants don't have sweat glands, so the mud helps keep their skin cool in the jungle heat. This is also why you'll see grass and straw on their heads and backs. They use their trunks to pick up the debris and throw into their backs to use as a sunshade. After the mud masks, we entered a fresh water stream where we rinsed them off and splashed around to cool off. The trainers would yell, "bah!" and the elephants would spray us with water using their trunks. Rascals. The final goodbye was a curtsy from each elephant as they bowed their heads and waved their trunks. What a special day that we will never forget. ๐Ÿ˜
Sam the Elephant Meet Sam. Never met an elephant with a bigger personality. Well actually, never met an elephant before today...but he was definitely my favorite! We would put a piece of sugar cane out and he'd use his big trunk to grab it and curl it under towards his mouth. Sam would pretend to eat the sugar cane, but then reach his trunk back out to grab another piece while still holding the original piece in his trunk. I'd let him do this three or four times and then tap his trunk and say, "eat it!" and he would happily put all four pieces in his mouth at once. What a playful, gentle creature. ๐Ÿ’•
Mia samples the sweet inside of the sugar cane. It's stringy and a little bit woody. You bite a piece off, suck on it, then spit it out.
Sugar Cane Time for a snack! We use big knives to cut sugar cane in half. The outside of sugar cane is very tough, making it damaging to the elephants' teeth and difficult for them to digest. Cutting it in half exposes more of the softer, inner areas so they can eat it more easily.
Elephants splash around in the water to cool off.
Mom and baby get in the water.
An elephant says hello to Lynn and greets her with a kiss.
Mia is caught off guard by this guy. They become fast friends.
This little one is so cute!
The Gang The staff walks the elephants over to our group. They are huge!
Circus Life As we walk out to the main part of the grounds, we walk past this poor guy. He looks like he's dancing. He is swaying back and forth constantly, but he's not dancing, he's actually self-soothing. He was abused as a circus elephant and now has this anxious habit, like people that rock back and forth when they are very upset or full of anxiety. K says this elephant was brought here to get better and he will stop doing this once he realizes he is safe here. So sad โ˜น๏ธ
Ran-Tong Elephant Sanctuary After we changed into our borrowed clothes, K walks us outside. The property is beautiful! K gave us some history on the elephants. They range from 6 months to 50 years old, the largest weighing just over 3 tons. All of the elephants here are rescues. They came from a life of work or circuses. Most of them were mistreated by humans since they were young. Since they are accustomed to being fed and being around people, they would not survive in the wild. This camp helps them reaclimate to their natural lives as elephants.
Ran-Tong Elephant Rescue and Sanctuary After about an hour of banana trees and lush Thai countryside, we arrive at Ran-Tong Elephant Rescue. We researched many of the elephant camps to make sure we are not supporting a camp that is cruel to the animals or offers elephant riding. (It's heartbreaking just reading about how the elephants are treated from a young age) Our tour guide, K, gives the group traditional elephant care-giver clothes and hats and shows us how to put on these giant, one-size-fits-all atrocities. Sexy time!
Mont Raming 7am coffee on the front porch of our hotel. The streets are already busy with scooters and old cars. We are picked up at our hotel at 7:30am. There are 10 in our group and we are the on the way to the elephant camp. Quick toilet break and stop to grab coffee! This is the Thai version of a rest stop, apparently. It's on the side of the highway. We grab iced cafe Americanos. This is the closest thing to a big black coffee they serve here. Mia finds some flip flops in the 7-11 so she doesn't ruin her cute sandals. Minnie Mouse! 10 minutes and the tour guide rounds us all back in the van.

20 May 2017

Thai Massages What do you get when you put two ladies in 1920's old man pajamas? A Thai massage! After our walk, we were tired ๐Ÿ™„, so for 200 Baht each we got a full body Thai massage for an hour. Now don't confuse this with a regular massage... these masseuses get down on the mat with you and pull, push, and press with fingers and feet! Lynn had a young girl, probably 16, who we think was being groomed to take over the family business. My gal was playing a loop of music on her iPhone that consisted of repetitious high flute noises and I had to ask her to change it bc it was creating weird energy, but once that changed we were fully relaxed. After our massages, we were mush and called it an early night to finally get on normal sleep schedule and prep for elephants! Massages will now happen daily while in Thailand.
Wat Saimmoonmueang - Temple in Chiang Mai During our walk, we came upon a temple where there were real Buddhist monks meditating and practicing! Now THIS was the connection we were looking for. They were chanting and humming in synchrony, it was almost hypnotizing. We have so many questions we wish we could ask. Like when did you know you wanted to become a monk, how old were you and what were the series of events that led to your decision? What does an average day look like for you? What's something you miss from your old life? What's the best advice you can give someone who is trying to understand this world?
Fresh Fruit Smoothies Oh my, we might have a new obsession! During the evening market, there was a young woman with a fresh fruit smoothie bar. Nothing else, just fresh fruit and ice. When temps are 95 degrees with 50% humidity, a cold refreshing drink is a godsend. Added bonus, she gave us these little drink carriers to transport the drinks while keeping our hands dry while we shopped. I got mango passion fruit and Lynn got the mango pineapple. Yelp isn't a thing here - but if it was, she'd get five stars!
After getting settled in what we will call home the next 3 days, we decided to go for a walk around Chiang Mai. Our friend Timothy suggested we stay in the Old City. The streets are lined with vendors selling fresh fruit and flowers every morning. Around 5pm, the evening crew takes over and you can find an abundance of street meat (my fav!), pho type soups, pad Thai, and fresh seafood options like mussels, giant shrimp, squid, and whole fish. In the median, between the lakes lining the middle of each street, is a flat clearing where various vendors assemble to sell hand-crafted goods and art. Lynn and I were drawn to the elephant charm bracelets made by this gentleman's wife. He explained she is the artist and he is the face of the creations bc she is very shy and doesn't like to talk to people. We walked through town and watched the sun set. The trees were amazing, so old. There is a certain majesty to a tree that knows all the secrets of the city and what it once was.
Mishmu The hotel mascot. He's everywhere and follows the hotel receptionist everywhere she goes.
Huen Hug Hotel Chiang Mai We take a van from the airport in Chiang Mai to our hotel. We are staying in a section of town they call the Old City because it used to be all there was of Chiang Mai. It was originally completely surrounded by a wall and moats and much of the original wall is still intact, although the brick exists in sections and appears rather crumbly. This is the northern part of Thailand and has only in the last few years become a big tourist destination. It's much cleaner and slower-paced than Bangkok, but still very green and perfectly muggy. Our hotel is a quaint, four-story, homey little place in the middle of everything. The decor is chestnut, the furniture is very low to the ground, and there are antique sewing machines and interesting little figurines everywhere.
Lynn caught red handed with contraband! Those cuticle trimmers were extremely dangerous, not only to herself, but to others around her. They needed to be confiscated... never mind that they had made ~16 other flights around the world without issue. She likes to live dangerously. We eventually got passed security and grabbed a coffee, because coffee is life. We found a seat near a window overlooking a beautiful garden. Look closely... see the heart?! ๐Ÿ’š Quick side note - this is the 6th heart I've randomly come across in the last couple of weeks. Guess it means I should keeping following my heart?? ๐Ÿ˜˜ Bangkok Air was clean, the staff was friendly, and they served us an inflight meal (including this water in a cup!) for the hour long flight to Chiang Mai. In comparison, American-based airlines are brawling in the aisles and ripping people from their seats to drag them off the plane... what a joke!
So Close... The cab driver stopped the car on the side of the road to pee, and it turns out those 4 minutes meant we wouldn't make our flight. We arrived at 10:35 for our 11:15 flight (more time than we thought we needed since we weren't checking bags and security moves pretty quickly) but we learned that check-in closes exactly 45 minutes before departure. The VietJet staff only knew very basic English and there was no convincing him to let us on the flight. We talked through our options: 1. Pay another 687 baht ($20) and take the next Viet Jet flight to Chiang Mai at 8:15 pm (10 hours later) 2. Research flights on all airlines and buy new tickets. The SkyScanner app gave us an idea of flights available, we went upstairs to ticketing and purchased 2 new tickets on Bangkok Air for 1800 baht ($52) for a flight in 90 minutes. Perfect. Not enough time for a massage (the ticket agent talked us out of it) but enough time for another cup of coffee. Being late will not stop us ๐Ÿ˜ฌ
I have a serious love / hate relationship with this weather. It's so balmy, but we look so dewey and fresh. โ˜บ๏ธ
Breakfast with Jam ...a few short hours later, we were up, showered, and packed up. The owner of the hotel, Jam, greeted us when we walked downstairs to the outside patio. We sat at a small table and began breakfast with coffee, papaya, bananas, muffins, and chrysanthemum tea. The staff soon brought us a plate with rice and bread, and a bowl of spicy curry chicken called masaman. (Breakfast and dinner are interchangeable) The food was amazing. But also spicy. We were sweating from the hot Thai air and hot Thai food. We were also in a hurry to catch a flight (slight foreshadowing here) so we grabbed our packs from the room and came back down. Jam asked for a picture with us, and being a wise business woman, asked us to write a review about our stay. Of course we will. The staff was beyond helpful and the food was great! Leck, a lovely, friendly member of the hotel staff that didn't speak much English, walked us to the main road and helped us get a cab to BKK.
Walk of Shame We are apparently still operating on Arizona time. It's almost 6am, and the sun is coming up as we walk home. Mia stops for another round of chicken on a stick just before we get back to the hotel. There seems to be no differentiation between dinner and breakfast foods and these street vendors are cooking 24/7. It's 6:30am when we finally get to bed and we need to be up in less than 2 hours for a flight to Chiang Mai. Good thing we had that little cat nap earlier.
Bangkok Nights Another tuk-tuk ride from the market brought us back downtown, this time via freeway. They would never let the golf carts in Scottsdale get away with this. ๐Ÿ˜ณ The driver was promoting some club, but upon arrival the scene wasn't quite our speed so we ditched and hit the streets. At least we still had our vodka bucket. We found a bar in the form of a street cart surrounded by people and spent the rest of the evening laughing & telling stories with fellow English speakers from London, India, Netherlands, and Thailand. Street carts with fresh seafood & colorful fruit surrounded us. Fun Fact 1: The Thai govt put a stop to street bar carts, but bc the owner of this one is so well connected, he was able to keep his. Final stop, a Thai quickie mart where we splurged on late night snacks. Not sure how to document that in the old Fitness Pal... but hey this is vacation, right? ๐Ÿ™ˆ Fun Fact 2: Thai people have an unhealthy obsession with hot dogs..they are everywhere.
Khao San Street Market So what do 2 American girls do in Bangkok at 12am? Well, turns out, whatever our little hearts desire bc Bangkok doesn't sleep! Ben and Jam (the other owner) were awake in the main part of the house, along with 6 or 7 other family members. Again, apparently it's perfectly normal to be up and about at this time of night. They told us the best way to get to the market. We ventured to the Main Street and made our way. The streets were filled with cars and people! We only had to walk about two blocks and we arrived. Shopping and Street Carts and Massages, oh my! We got some street meat (that's what we're calling it now) and made our way towards the massage chairs after ordering our bucket of vodka. PURE BLISS.
Khao San Street Market One bucket of vodka, please! Two straws. We carried this bucket around with us for hours. We got a lot of compliments.

19 May 2017

Baan Kachitpan Hotel (continued, 4 of 4) The air in Thailand is muggy. We were sweaty from walking around in the humidity all morning, and hadn't changed clothes since we left Phoenix. We showered immediately. This was the first time in my life I ever thought I couldn't get the water cold enough. After showering, we put on the cute robes in the room and laid down for the first time in days. It started raining outside. Then it was pouring. We opened the window to let in the breeze and sound of the rain on the tin roof. The jet lag finally caught up to us. We decided we weren't tired, but would "lay down and rest our feet" in bed for a bit. 10 hours later, we woke up and it was midnight....
Baan Kachitpan Hotel (continued, 3 of 4) Eventually we turned a corner and saw the sign with the name of the hotel. It turned out to be more of an adorable bed and breakfast than a hotel, and seemed too nice to be in this particular neighborhood. As soon as we walked through a large, white, metal gate onto the property, a woman welcomed us and introduced herself. "Are you Lynn? I've been looking for you!" Her name was Ben (short for a longer Thai name that we couldn't say correctly). She invited us to sit at a table in the patio area. Another woman brought us a chrysanthemum tea. It was sweet and smelled like flowers. The place had a main homestead and 4 guest rooms. Ben led us up a staircase, across a wooden deck to some narrow doors. She asked us to remove our shoes before entering the house. We did, and she showed us to our guest room. She switched on the AC for us, showed us the bathroom and towels, and left us a key. (Next post)
Ban Kachitpan Hotel (continued, 2 of 4) The two of them decided we were going to Baan Napanagawa (not our hotel) and the old woman insisted we follow her. We followed her out the little gate and back down the alley from which we came. Lynn's phone wasn't getting any service, and Mia's phone was down to 3% battery. We felt we needed to find the place quickly and the old woman was leading us the wrong way. She didn't know enough English and we didn't know enough Thai to communicate that to her, so we said thank you and started walking back the other way. She started shouting at us in Thai but we kept walking. As we walked past the little gate, the old man peeked his head out of the gate and shouted at us, too. The woman was coming after us, thinking we were going the wrong way. So we walked faster. It seemed wrong to be running away from nice people trying to help us, but we were relying on the phone to locate the hotel on unmarked alleys and it was dying... (Next post)
Baan Kachitpan Hotel (1 of 4) This place was not easy to find. The tuk tuk drivers didn't know the address or recognize the name of our hotel, so we got dropped off at the closest main road. There are still some streets in Bangkok that don't show up on Google Maps, so gps is not helpful. We were trying to find the rest of our way to the hotel using trial and error... moving in one direction and checking if we were any closer to the destination or farther away on the map. This method led us down a few sketchy alleys that smelled like hot garbage and behind a Mercedes dealership. Skinny stray cats were less afraid of us than Mia was of them. A women that looked to be in her 80's offered to help. We told her the name of our hotel and she motioned for us to follow her. She walked us a few yards back the direction we came and unlocked a tiny, rusty gate we had to duck to enter through. Inside, she shouted to someone in the little house and an old man came outside... (next post)
Wat Pho Temple The boat from the Sathorn area dropped us right outside of the Wat Pho Temple. We spoke with a friendly guard that boasted of Obama's visit a few years ago - he was proud to make this connection with us Americans! We walked the grounds and took pictures as we glistened (read: sweated our asses off) in the sweltering humid air. The texture and symmetry of the structures had my OCD sensors on overdrive - LOVE. We took our shoes off, as is custom, as we entered the holy area with the giant laying Buddha. People made donations with silver tokens in bowls lining the far side of the wall, some people praying as they clinked the coins into each bucket. Downfall | This place was very touristy so it was difficult to connect spiritually. It was beautiful, but if you're looking to zone in and connect, this is not the place to do it.
Bangkok Boat Ride Thanks to me almost getting hit by a motorized scooter (read: Lynn saved my life), we started chatting with a local tuk-tuk driver who pointed us towards the river to take a boat to the Wat Pho temple. 100 Baht each, less than $3 to take us on a crazy 4 mile boat journey through the city of Bangkok. Life jackets were recommended, but I assured Lynn and Haley I was a strong swimmer. Noteworthy | People here don't like to wear shoes. Removing your shoes before entering a home or place of worship is actually a sign of respect and the "proper thing to do." I can dig it.
Thanon Sathon Nuea Meet Tum. She owns a station at a small food stop where she brings in fresh ingredients every day to feed the locals. She taught us how to make REAL Pad Thai and when we asked her what she was thankful for, she said, "For cooking" and motioned all around with a huge smile on her face. ๐Ÿ˜ We had the legit best Pad Thai ever, never mind that it was only 9am and this was technically breakfast. Also with us is our new friend Haley. We bonded over the fact that we all three spoke English and she joined us on our first adventures through the city. Three American girls taking over Thailand!
After the failed abandoned skyscraper tour, we found a nearby temple to pay homage to Buddha. We lit some incense, set a quick intention for good luck and fortuitous adventure for the day, and we were on our way.
We haggled the taxi fare, because that's what westerners are supposed to do, and got him down to 500 Baht total for three people to go an hour in rush hour. That's about $14 USD - damn, we're good. The taxi driver was OBSESSED with telling us we were going to the wrong place. This assertion lasted about 15 minutes, until I got smart and realized he just wanted a phone number to call so he could get a commish. I googled the name of a hotel nearby where we were going, he called, and finally piped down. We got to the hotel, grabbed our bags, and booked it for the haunted, desolate skyscraper. You see, the real story is we wanted to check out an old abandoned skyscraper smack in the middle of the city. The blogs we read said if you bribed the guards, they'd let you up. Upon entering a shady back alley, we got spooked by some thugs and decided to head back to the main road instead. In the second picture, you can see the giant skyscraper taunting us in the background.
Landed in Thailand!
Flight from Tokyo to Bangkok

18 May 2017

"Maidreamin" Maid Cafe A Japanese woman dressed in an anime maid costume called to us from the street to join her for a show. She had stars in her hair and spoke with a squeaky voice. Everything she wore was pastel. She took us downstairs and we were transported to a place where Candyland meets Hello Kitty meets Nintendo. All the maids wore frilly aprons accompanied by their choice of animal ears. ยฅ800 to enter and one drink minimum per hour... we opted for the coffee. (#6, but who's counting?) Met some locals who tried to explain "moe, moe" to us - but without a substantial background in Japanese anime, it was difficult to relate. We wore fuzzy headbands and made hearts with our hands, singing and clapping along merrily. Aside from the "maids," we were the only females in the place...No photos were allowed, but we like to live dangerously. Enjoy ๐Ÿฌ๐Ÿญ๐Ÿง
Bakumatu Sakaba We almost walked in with our shoes on but loud bells on the sliding gate at the bottom of the stairs alerted the staff and a guy told us to take off our shoes before stepping into the floor. We sat at the sushi bar and ordered jasmine tea. It smelled like blossoms and actually tasted like flowers. ๐ŸŒธ We weren't sure if we were holding the menu upside down or not, but thankfully our struggle was noted and they brought us one in a good attempt at English. They taught us the correct way to say "arrigato" and we continued on.
Cafe Bohemia Enjoying a hooka and our 5th cup of coffee today. It's time to relax after braving the public transit system to get to Shibuya in Tokyo. Thankful for helpful locals who would point, shake, and nod in encouragement that we were going the right way. Cafe Bohemia is the perfect spot to cuddle up under a blanket with your bestie, order another cup of coffee, and take in the local vibes.
Enjoying the streets of Shibuya ๐ŸŽ๐Ÿฎ๐ŸŽŽ
Walking around and visiting shops in the downtown area. Little things are difficult... like walking on the wrong side of the street, opening fancy automatic doors, and figuring out what ยฅ10,000 means in US dollars. We may have paid $1,000 for a bowl of soup and tipped a quarter.
Eating weird meat in Shibuya. We wanted to eat local, despite being drawn to Wendy's and pizza, so we found a place with no English anywhere and pointed at whatever the guy next to us was eating. Probably miso with ramen and pork (?) and some cabbage-like vegetable things and it was amazing!
Haneda to Shibuya The best way to describe the public transit in Tokyo is organized chaos. People stand very close together with no regard for my personal-space bubble. It was a mini mission to get our tickets ordered (must have Yen; what's the conversion ratio?!) but we held hands through the station and made the treck to Shibuya. Men in suits, women in mismatched outfits and gaucho pants, and everyone with face masks. This is Tokyo-normal. ๐Ÿ˜ท
Our first yen!
Approaching Tokyo!!! Mia: Do you know how to say cheers in Japanese? Sassy Flight Attendant: Ask some Japanese people. (Points to plane full of Japanese people) Mia to Japanese flight attendant: I'm not a Japanese speaker. But yes. It's Ka Pai. So, Ka Pai! Flight time: 12 hrs 5 minutes Also... it's 3:00 tomorrow where we're from.
Apparently they "lock the alcohol" on an international flight 2.5 hours before you land. Who knew? Almost asked for the Manager. ๐Ÿ˜‚ Good thing we're cute and the stewardess had a secret stash of red wine she let us in on. ๐Ÿท๐Ÿท Cheers & Ka Pai! ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿผ Want to know how we learned to say cheers in Japanese?? Keep reading...
I have quite the wide variety of knowledge so far. ๐Ÿ™„ Miiiiight not be the best person to pick for trivia, unless it's music, entertainment, or fitness. ๐Ÿ™ˆ Waiting for take-off... let's get those mimosas going, eh? ๐Ÿฅ‚
Boarding flight to The Tokyo!
TAS Pre-โœ”๏ธand the "secret tunnel" at LAX got us to our gate so fast, we had time to stop for a third BBC.
Alarms went off at 4:15am. Music filled the apartment and we started to come to life, just like Weekend at Bernie's. We showered to be fresh for the long trip ahead. I made us breakfast: eggs-over-easy and avocado toast with crushed red pepper flakes. Snack bags packed with nuts, veggies, and fruit will tide us over until lunch. We grabbed our backpacks and called the Uber. First stop // Tokyo

17 May 2017

Packing the Packs! Overcame many psychological issues associated with carrying only one bag for two weeks and everything that made the final cut is loaded and ready.