Land of smiles

Unfortunately, my first blog post about Thailand deleted itself and it happened to be a lot more descriptive, and funnier. Round two, not so much — but I think seeing my pictures explains more than me attempting to explain what has happened in the past couple weeks. These past 13 days have been packed with adventures, new friends, smiles, laughs, food and memories. Here we go:

May 19th, 2015: JFK → DXB →BKK

My flight from Dubai to Bangkok >> I had this WHOLE row of seats..

May 21st, 2015: Arrived.

Total trip time: 21 hours and 25 minutes. Yes, I was exhausted and thought I could sleep in the BKK airport until Fiori arrived later that night, but I couldn’t get comfortable on the chairs in the airport so I decided to take a taxi to a hostel.

My first taxi in Bangkok, Thailand — well from the airport to the center city it starts at 50 THB (Baht), not bad, but once you’re in the city it’s only 35 THB to start + distance traveled, and you MUST ask for meter! Fiori got scammed and had to pay $60 (USD) to get her taxi to our hostel because the guy didn’t have his meter on (oh and didn’t even drop her off where she needed to be), mine only cost $10.

My first hostel in Bangkok, Thailand — I had no idea what to expect but I found the cheapest hostel I could find that was relatively close to the center of Bangkok but since I really had no idea where I was or what I was doing, it was all up to the taxi driver.. who seemed quite skeptical of where we were going. Once I arrived (very early morning — 3 am ish), I was greeted by a guy named Hero who was very nice, showed me the way inside, which happened to be his house, and just upstairs was a dorm room of 3–5 bunk beds. It had A/C which was so refreshing..(we’ve taken notice that paying more for A/C is totally worth it). The only upset about my stay was that we all shared a bathroom and I haven’t been introduced to Thai showers in which you dump a bucket on your head, and rinse off with a hose (at least in some places) so I was quickly in and out — even though I desperately needed to shower. The bathroom also smelled so so so awful, I could barely be in it for longer than 2 minutes. Other than that, Hero’s place was good enough to catch up on some sleep!

Eventually I did meet up with Fiori (after sleeping for the whole day), at a place called Sawasdee Smile Inn. I’m not going to say many good things about this place besides the location because there actually wasn’t anything good about this place, the receptionist was so rude and the place wasn’t clean. Fiori and I had to sleep with the light on the first night together because we were so sketched out! :P

We walked around late at night to Khao San Road which is a backpacker’s street full of bars, food, hostels, massages, more bars, ping pong tournaments (not at all what you think), laughing gas, and weird ass men who talk about your orgasms and your inner soul. No really, we got stopped by an old man who sat us down and told us about our orgasms and how young our inner souls were (mine was 15 and Fiori’s was 12), he told Fiori she could be a baby sometimes, and also told me that I had a bad right ear, digestion problems (true), and much more about my sex life. WELCOME TO BANGKOK!

Left: Fiori’s first meal || Right: street dancers on Khao San Road

My first meal in Bangkok, Thailand- Before meeting Fiori, Hero took me and some other backpackers to a stand just around the corner from the hostel, and this sweet lady made us chicken fried rice. SO good and only 30 THB..that’s $1. ONE DOLLAR.

My first meal in Thailand — chicken fried rice

After waking up from a rough sleep Thursday night, Friday May 22nd, 2015, was a time to get ourselves around Bangkok. We first moved hostels to S1, and we had a great time here! Very clean, had A/C, great roof top garden and although we had to walk up 5 flights of stairs, they were very helpful getting around Bangkok. We took the metro and BTS (sky train) to a stop where we walked around and found ourselves a good first place to eat together. Ban Khan Mae was the restaurant, and afterwards we headed to a bike tour that Fiori reserved for us through Bangkok.

3rd & 4th picture: S1 hostel — Rooftop Garden. 5th picture: S coffee and bakery (iced coffee). 6th picture: THAI!

I think I’m speaking for both of us when I say, it was an INCREDIBLE experience. We normally don’t do tours but I think the further we get into our trip, doing tours or things with groups is not only a great way to meet people, but also a great way to be shown around places you wouldn’t be able to see on your own. So for starters, Co Van Kessel provided us with two very informative tour guides, we went through back streets and alleys, I (we) would have never knew existed. I took the caboose and I was talking with one of the tour guides who was informing me a lot about Bangkok and the people. I think the best part of this tour was being able to see locals first hand, they were on the corners waiting for us, smiling, laughing, and their attempt to speak English was so inspiring. They seem so intrigued by tourists, or maybe just white people, but I think their ability to smile and laugh, while they live in villages we would consider way below poverty, is incredible. It’s moments like this where being thankful for what you have comes to life. Be Thankful.

1: SWEATING BULLETS || 2: Durian- basically illegal in Thailand because of its stench|| 3: PANDAN (love)

Saturday, May 23rd, 2015 we went to Khlong Lat Mayom where we tried everything and anything (well, not octopus or fried fish)..but the good stuff..really really really good stuff. I have fallen in love with what I think is a japanese yam, it’s purple (possibly taro) and the Thai cook it, and then place it inside a banana leaf topped with coconut milk pudding. It’s out of this world! I am officially obsessed. Another thing I became obsessed with what looks like little mini pancakes made from coconut milk as well, they’re prepared in a special pan over the fire, and the coconut milk is “fried” in the pan in separate little cups, then filled again with more coconut milk, and then topped with things like sweet corn, green onions, taro or just plain. They’re really indescribable! So after we got our free samples of everything, we kept passing this pad thai stand, which we weren’t really sure if we wanted rice noodles or vegatable rice but this sweet old lady could see the hunger in our eyes and offered us a “sample” of her pad thai. So this sample ended up being a portion size for the both of us to share, but then when we went back to actually buy more, she gave us what we ordered AND another plate full! How could I say no to this smile!

Isn’t she beautiful?!

After an amazing morning at the floating market, we went to Wat Po and Grand Palace. Two words: hot and colorful.

Sweat staches and dizzy eyes.

We then (long day) met up with Fiori’s cousin who will be living in Bangkok with his family in August. Wilco took us to a mouthwatering restaurant called FACE. I thought the first two thai meals I had were delicious but this place just knocked those two meals off the charts. Everything at this restaurant was..just perfect! They have one in Jakarta, Indonesia, so I guarentee Fiori and I will be making a visit ☺ This place isn’t only filled with great food and vibes, but also famous people. We were sitting in front of a table full of music industry people. There was a DJ and his crew, Thaitanium, which we later googled happened to be the #1 DJ in Thailand, possibly even Southeast Asia. The guy came from Brooklyn, NY, oh and Jay-Z’s audio engineer was also sitting with him, Gimel Keaton (youngguru763 is his instagram), no big deal..

Okay, so now after we stuffed ourselves full of fantastic Thai food, we went to the Lebu Sky Bar, where Hangover was filmed. Yes, we walked down the exact same steps it was filmed and drank the ‘Hangover’ martini ;)

The view from the Sky Bar is a MUST see. It’s breathtaking at night.

It’s real

Fiori and I were VERY underdressed (so underdressed, Fiori had to rent-not buy- shoes) at all the places we went to but because we didn’t have time to go back to our hostel, we showed up in Birkenstocks, maxi skirts and a tank, with also messy hair and probably B.O. ☺

We almost didn’t make it into the Sky Bar or the next destination because of how poorly dressed we were, but I suppose we had good enough looks to make it past security ;)

Next stop was, Ku De Ta..okay, also a MUST see/party do. Holy shit, okay this place will most likely top any place I will go this summer, the bass in this place, well incredible, the music, the drinks, everything. Fiori and I were both so tired, and so we denied the alcoholic beverages, but we did enjoy every minute of another beautiful view, great music and of course, enjoyable company by Wilco! If we could go back to this place with appropriate attire and a bit more lively I’m sure we would have the time of our lives dancing the night away!

Next stop, just kidding.

Time for bed.

Sunday May 24th, 2015

My first foot massage in Bangkok, Thailand- felt like a feather was touching me. I should have said something, but the guy was too gentle, paid for it and said whatever, but hey, I now know what to look for..kinda chunkier man with bigger arms than me. (Can’t beat a foot massage for $7 though! 250 THB for 60 minute foot massage + tip).

I was over the sucky foot massage shortly after purchasing not only 1 box of my little favorite coconut milk “pancakes”, but two.

We decided to head to Chiang Mai, so we headed to the train station after a short pampering, and buffet at the market.

Bangkok to Chiang Mai was 791 THB (around $24), cozy night train.

Monday May 25th, 2015

Hopping off the train we immediately got bombarded by desperate hotel workers wanting tourists at their hotels, but I can’t say much more because we were the desperate ones trying to find a place to stay close to town. We got persuaded by a guy who told us “free taxi to town to see hotel, if you no like, free ride in town” — what more could you ask for? So we got into his taxi (in Chiang Mai, taxi’s are in the bed of a truck with seats and a cover overhead) and off we went to the hotel (Chiang Mai Thai House — 2 nights= 400 THB each)

Chiang Mai Thai House

We could quickly tell the difference between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, a lot quieter, but unfortunately it seemed more touristic with English signs everywhere, tourist information every two shops, and workers spoke slightly better English then in Bangkok (bonus for us). We were driving down a little alley looking around cluelessly wondering where this guy was taking us but it ended up being EXACTLY where we needed to be. Just a street or two outside the wall of Chiang Mai, and the hotel was VERY nice although no A/C, but we handled it well. We had a pool which we were able to relax in a couple days, the rooms were super clean and I swear someone was behind you cleaning up your dirt trail every step you took (clean clean clean clean clean!)

After getting situated into our new “house” we roamed aimlessly around town, finding back alley’s and hidden gems, places to eat, coffee shops, laundry services, dead mice, and even a barbed wire made from glass. Chiang Mai — you’re awesome.

We found a VERY European cafe called Overstand that served coffee, and breakfast, which we very much needed. I enjoyed yogurt muesli and a coconut espresso.

I did forget to mention that after booking two nights at our new guest house, the receptionist (nice lady) sat us down and pounded us with all this information and touristy attractions, telling us we needed to book right then and there! We really could only think about eating breakfast and enjoying a nice walk around town so we got out of the cage with no scratches..but she was after us to book trekking, zip-lining, elephant parks, which we were all interested in, but her prices seemed a little too much.

Walking along side the streets, as I previously mentioned there’s a tourist information stop about every other building, so if you plan to travel to Thailand, don’t worry, your first friend is a travel agent, they’re everywhere. Every agent was outside yelling “TREKKING, ZIP LINING” which sounded great, but once we saw this lady inside her house lying on her couch sleeping with her feet on the wall, fan blowing right on her face, we knew she wasn’t in it for the money, so we of course, woke her, and asked questions, so many questions we ended up booking a 4 day excursion.

Monday night was Thai Boxing

Tuesday was zip-lining

Wednesday was our first day of our 2 day 1 night trekking experience.

Thursday we returned from trekking and off we went to Pai, Thailand! 762 curves later.

Monday night we went to the night market before Thai Boxing because it only started at 9 pm, and we stumbled upon Lemongrass (people rave over this place, and we now see why), BEST pad thai I have ever had. It was packed when we got there and by the time we were done eating there was a line to get a table. Lemongrass — we will see you soon!

Lemongrass Pad Thai (YUM)
Fiori’s Banana Pancake with Chocolate
Perfection or perfection?
Thai Boxing night

Thai boxing had no blood, but it did have weird music playing and the first round they just threw some punches and did some high knees to the music. It was very strange but after the second round, kicks and punches were being thrown and that’s all we wanted to see — pow pow.

Tuesday May 26th, 2015-

Our wandering around Chiang Mai paid off when we found Angel’s Secret’s — a very cozy vibrant place in the back alley’s of Chaing Mai. So we filled our stomach’s before our ride picked us up for zip-lining.

Hello beautiful.
Loaded.

The company was called Dragon Flight and we had 49 platforms laid out for us throughout the time we were there and it was loads of fun. A tour is so much better when the guides are just as excited as you. We met a girl named Cori who was from San Francisco, and so it was the three of us all day making jokes with the guides, laughing, oh and zip-lining.

After zip-lining we laid by the pool || what makes this trip so special is we are able to relax a bit more than in Europe, mostly because it’s cheaper here in Thailand, well Southeast Asia all in all, so we can stay longer in places and actually enjoy the way of living like a local.

Once our stomachs started growling, we made our way to a place just inside the town square, called Taste of Heaven, vegetarian/vegan place. We LOVED it. Both had green curry in a coconut, and smoothies (fruit smoothies are SO common and SO good), both delicious and filling.

One downside about backpacking and having well, what I thought wasn’t a lot of shit, but a lot of shit, is unpacking and getting comfortable in one place, then having to pack up and leave, repeat again and again and again.

I’ve contemplated selling my clothes for newer and lighter ones, or just throwing some stuff out — what do ya think?

So we spent a couple hours gathering our stuff together for our trek, and making sure we left nothing behind for Wednesday morning!

Wednesday May 27th, 2015

Started my day with going around to banks in Chaing Mai for a place that has cash advance. What is cash advance? Yeah..I thought the same thing, well, when you have a shitty bank like SEFCU who doesn’t tell you (even when you told them two weeks prior to leaving where you were going) that Thailand is blocked from all ATM transactions, you start to stress about it. Although, I was lucky enough to borrow from Fi, I didn’t like the idea that I wasn’t able to have my own spending cash, so after all the chaos of trying to figure out how to get money out from my account, the simple answer was a cash advance. I went into six banks and my last one (before giving up) was Kasikorn Bank — big, green and super friendly. When she told me they did cash advance, I wish there was a camera that captured it all, I smiled SO big. AH! RELIEF. It was an easy process with no fees, so I got enough money to last me awhile (well enough for some AWESOME necklaces in Pai, and tons of fruit shakes)

It was all up here from here ladies and gents. I got my monaay and some new friends.

We got picked up by a truck that a couple from France was already in, we drove further and picked up two ladies from San Franisco, California who were super groovy. We all shared the typical questions “where are you from?” “how long are you traveling?” “are the two of you together or did you meet here?” “do you know anything about this trek?” blah blah blah.

Stopped at a local market. Met the rest of the trekking group, met our OUTSTANDING tour guide Pot, and off we went to spend 2 beautiful, memorable, relaxing, unique, adventurous, smelly, earthy days on a mountain side.

Our first stop was the Elephant camp — and many of you might gasp at this, but I (we) wish we never went. Fiori and I both knew that elephant riding was and still is a hype and an obvious tourist attraction (who wouldn’t wanna say they rode an elephant in Thailand). Three or four girls sat out immediately when we arrived because they knew just by the sight of the place they didn’t want to. Well, it was enjoyable feeding them bananas, and watching them bathe themselves, but man was it depressing riding them. You could see in their eyes how tired and worn out they were. So sad, but to have experienced deep depression after riding an elephant was exactly what we needed to open our eyes and be more aware of why it isn’t okay, not only to ride them but watch the “master” walk around with a stick and a sharp object on the end of it, and to see the elephants chained was the worst.

At least we got some fun pictures..

Meh.

We have talked about elephant camps where you sleepover and take care of them, feed and play with them, so we know that’s an option to still do (and what everyone planning a trip to see elephants should do — just don’t ride them).

I read these nice articles prior to departing for Thailand:
http://expertvagabond.com/elephants-in-thailand/
http://journals.worldnomads.com/responsible-travel/story/81053/Thailand/Why-Elephant-Riding-Should-Be-Removed-from-Your-Bucket-List

Okay, walking out of the depression cave and into the jungle. Our first trek was an hour and a half long to a waterfall, where we sat and ate lunch together.

After lunch we continued the trek, and I’m at lost of words already trying to reminisce on this experience. Pot (tour guide) was, when I say amazing, I literally mean amazing. His smile was contagious, he was so so smart, and well aware of all the nature surrounding us. It eventually started DOWN POURING, and he made me a hat out of a huge leaf, and it managed to keep my head dry until it stopped raining (over an hour), we blew bubbles from a stem of a leaf, we made a fire from sticks just the size of my fingers, we watched Pot and his family prepare dinner, we all ate together, we sat by the fire and watched 60 year old magicians fool us, we sang, we laughed, we talked, we did everything. Really, everything. I even melted my sneakers at the fire. 11 friends were made in just one night. This trekking experience couldn’t have been any better, I’m really lost of words, so I’ll talk through pictures (and videos coming eventually).

Miss Carmen
Duh, I was in the kitchen the whole time.
Thai squat.
LOOK AT ALL OF THESE BEAUTIFUL SMILES!
In through the nose and out through the mouth..
Frogs for breakfast
Day 2 of trekking
Lunch in a banana leaf
MANGOOOOES.
In a land of smiles and bamboo…it t’was this they called beautiful

There couldn’t have been anything better than to spend time with 11 new friends, actually make that 12 including Pot, in a land of smiles, bamboo, fires, rain, frogs and tarantula’s.

Next destination: Pai, Thailand

Land of dreads, tattoos, man buns, tie die, dream catchers, hippies, and great food.

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