A Tourist Trap Worth Visiting

One of the main attractions near Koh Phi Phi Don, Thailand (Phi Phi Island) is the famous Maya Beach. It served as the set for the movie The Beach (2000), starring Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s depicted in the film as a secret paradise where a group of travelers have made their home away from civilization.

The beach itself is located on Koh Phi Phi Leh, a smaller uninhabited island just a 30-40 minute boat ride from Koh Phi Phi Don. The island itself is a national park and requires all visitors to pay an entry fee of 200 Thai baht upon arrival (unless the fee is included in your day tour). I visited this secluded paradise in March of 2014.

I gasped when I first sunk my toes into the fine, silky sand. It felt like powdered sugar between my toes. I spent my allotted hour of time making sand angels and walking the paths that wind through the small rain-forest. The sand from the beach stretched all the way inland along the paths. It only ended when I reached the boardwalk and scenic platform at the end of the trail. The lookout stood in a V-shaped crevasse between two towering cliffs. The view boasted clear, blue-green waters and free-standing, forested limestone formations in Loh Samah Bay.

After enjoying the view and making friends with a cat that lived on the island, I wandered down to the only snack shack on the island. Unsurprisingly, everything was overpriced. I continued with my snacks down to the crowded shore of the beach, which looked out over the reef-filled bay. Two dozen long-tail boats were anchored on the beach. The sashes tied around their tails came in so many colors: yellow, red, green, blue, pink, white and more. I was content just sitting in the sand and appreciating the view. I was thankful to have a couple of new travel friends around to share in the experience. Many visitors were sunbathing or wading into the warm clear waters for a swim.

The colors of the scenery made it the definition of a beach paradise. The vibrant sashes of the long-tail boats fluttered in the breeze with a backdrop of blue-green waters, an abundance of palm trees, and limestone cliffs covered in shrubs. The bright off-white color of the sand provided an aesthetically pleasing contrast to it all. I wish I had had more time on Maya Beach, but the tour that had brought me had a tight itinerary.

Vacationers can reach the beach through one of the many day tours offered on Koh Phi Phi Don, or they can privately rent a long-tail boat. The only way to enjoy the beach without the hordes of tourists is to camp on the island through Maya Bay Sleep Abroad. Their package is all-inclusive (food, sleeping bags, transportation, and even a complimentary bucket of booze). They bring you to the island close to sunset (when all the day-trippers are leaving) and leave the next morning after sunrise when all the day-trippers begin to arrive.

Next time you find yourself in the south of Thailand, I recommend that you make time to visit this gem of a paradise. Tourists or not! Also, bring your camera in a waterproof bag.

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Sunset Dinners on the Beach

Sunset Dinners on the Beach

One of the things that never gets old for me is sitting out at night, in the comfortable heat of the tropics. It’s a novelty to me.

As a native to Seattle, night time means freezing cold weather that requires a down jacket, a scarf, and maybe gloves. Even in the Summer, a light jacket is usually needed. At least for me anyway…

Cheers to tropical weather and sunset dinners on the beach! ❤

An end to a journey

One week and counting. As of February 28th, I will have finished my teaching contract here in Thailand. I’ve had mixed feelings, but what I’ve felt most is relief. I think I’ve been ready to move on for a few weeks. Sure, I get bored with routines, and that’s part of it, but I am starting to get lonely. For the first couple months I was fine with being isolated. I was able to enjoy the peace and quite. But now, I really miss hanging out with friends or even just people my age who speak the same language. It looks like the end of my contract couldn’t have come at a better time. Exciting adventures lay ahead before I make my way home.

The day after I finish teaching I am taking off on a 6-week backpacking trip. I’ll spend a few days with friends on Koh Tao but after that, I’m on my own. The plan is to head South from Koh Tao to Krabi and Koh Phi Phi. After a week or so there, I will be heading to Malaysia to check out George Town and meet with a friend in Kuala Lumpar. If I’m lucky she’ll travel with me down to Melaka (Malacca) for a couple of days before I continue on down to Singapore.  From Singapore I’ll fly to Indonesia for close to 2 weeks. Lastly, I’ll fly back to Thailand to celebrated the annual Songkram festival with friends in Chiang Mai. It’ll be a long journey with lots of traveling but I’ve planned minimal to no activities. There’ll be plenty of time to relax. I look forward to meeting many other travelers along the way. 

Coming home is going to be rough but I look forward to assimilating my new perspectives and attitude to my life in the states. 

I’ll be sure to share my experiences and insights of the places I visit upon return home.

Here goes! 😀

Finding Peace of Mind in the Thai Countryside

It’s the simple things in life that can bring us so much joy. It may be a cliché, but it’s true!

A couple of weekends ago I was feeling a little stressed and down. I decided taking a ride through the countryside on a motorbike would help clear my head. It absolutely did the trick. I stopped at the beach to take in the sound of the rolling waves. I pointed a lost couple in the right direction and visited a small beach town I had been to a couple of times before. I tried a restaurant on the beach and ordered fresh fish. YUM. I had to race the sun home but this short adventure brought me so much peace. The Thai countryside is so lovely. Remember not to underestimate the value of alone time as well as the value of quiet time! Carpe Diem!

Dinner Surprises

Above are a few pictures of my dinner from a few weeks ago and again a few days ago. Upon first glance of the bowl I was a little anxious. My dinner looked… kinda gross.

I said to myself, “We don’t eat things like this in America…” Or at least, I don’t. It reminds me of eating bugs. But it’s not bugs. It’s fish and it is sustenance and nutrients. I could either stress myself out trying to communicate that I didn’t want it without offending the cook, or I could just try to eat it. And so I did. It didn’t taste great and the texture was foreign and uncomfortable. I ate as much as I could with giant spoonfuls of rice. The second time, I mixed them into the noodles. Just another typical dinner experience in a foreign culture. Each day brings new surprises.

Koh Samui in a nutshell

As my previous blog post explains, I had the opportunity to hop over to Koh Samui to celebrate new years. It was a last-minute decision which provided me with plenty of info on what NOT to do. Here are my tips and description of the area.

Tip # 1
For major holidays such as New Years, Loy Krathong, Songkram and during peak season (December-January) it is very important to book accommodations in advance if you can. This is especially true on New Years. A couple different hotels told me that they had been booked up since March or April for New Years. INSANE. The rest of the year I would suspect it would be fine to just show up and find accommodations. I was lucky and had only booked a hotel for December 27th, but managed to find accommodations for the rest of my new years trip. I was traveling alone so this provided more flexibility.

Tip # 2
If you plan to visit Koh Samui for new years and you want to fly into the airport on the island make sure to book your flight well in advance. I was only able to book the guest room I found because the people who had reserved it weren’t able to make it onto one of the flights in from Bangkok. They were fully booked and had to create a massive number of additional flights to accommodate the New Years crowd. The island was so packed that they had flights arriving every 15 minutes. They had to borrow planes from other airlines to get everyone flown in.

Tip # 3
If you plan to spend a lot of time lounging on the beach working on your tan I suggest that you try to stay at a resort ON the beach. Unless you are staying at a resort on the beach there are very few places where you can access it. I only found one “public beach entrance.” When I tried to leave the beach, I found that almost all of it is reserved for resorts. I walked a long ways and had to try cutting through resorts without getting caught.

Tip # 4
If you’re a solo traveler hoping to meet people, you’re better off on Koh Tao. I mainly saw families and couples on Koh Samui. There weren’t many backpackers. When I was on the boat over to Koh Samui I noticed that most of the back packers got off on Koh Tao. That’s the place for you as well as oodles of divers! While there, you can get your diving certification! The blue waters are so tempting.

Tip # 5
If you will be getting out to the islands by boat, please read up on the different options. There are at least 3. There is a night boat and some sort of drive on ferry. The boat I took is the Lomprayah high-speed catamaran. The service is professional and it is much quicker than the others but if you get sea sick you may want to opt for another option. My experience included musical vomiting from all directions. They have staff whose sole role appeared to be vomit support. Hand out bags, throw away full ones, and pass around tissues. It looked like a busy job. I was surprised at how violently the large boat rocked. I’m not easily rattled but I was slightly frightened at first and I did get very nauseous. On my return trip, I joined the choir of musical vomiting. It was very unpleasant. BUT, please note that sometimes the ride is fine. I spoke to a couple whose previous ride over was very smooth and enjoyable. It’s a gamble.

General Description:
Koh Samui has a few different stretches of beach areas. The most popular part of the island is Chaweng Beach. After that, Lamai Beach. They are about a 30 minute ride from the boat docks. Both have accommodations in all price ranges but since Chaweng beach is a larger area you will have more options there. Chaweng beach has the best nightlife on the Island. If you’re looking for a party, go to Ark Bar towards the North part of Chaweng beach. For a massive party hop over to Koh Phangan, the neighboring island, for one of the world-famous Full Moon parties. It is only a short 15 min speed boat ride away. They also have half-moon parties, jungle parties, and a few others. If you plan to visit this cluster of islands for several days it’s likely that there will be some sort of party going on on Koh Phangan.

Murder and cockroaches – A new year adventure

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For new years, I took advantage of my 6-day weekend and took a trip over to Koh Samui. With no one to travel with I figured it would be a great opportunity to relax on the beach and enjoy being back in civilization for a while. It ended up being a mixed experience but my oh my, it was an adventure.

The boat ride over was awful. It took 5 hours in total after stopping at Koh Tao, and Koh Phangan first. I knew I had chosen the wrong island when I saw all the young people and backpackers getting off at Koh Tao. Damn. If only I had planned in advance and booked accommodations before everything filled up… The worse part of the boat ride was the violent rocking side to side which induced musical vomiting throughout the boat. They had staff circling the boat handing out plastic bags, collecting full ones, and passing out tissue for those who needed it. I had a bag on hand but managed to keep my stomach in check, thank god. It was a close call though… I wasn’t so lucky on the way back home.

I spent my first afternoon and evening at a resort on Lamai beach. It was the only accommodations I had booked in advance. I figured it be nice to have a place to arrive and then I could head out early the next day to start the search for a new place. I had booked one night at the Orchid Resort & Aquarium. For the price, I wasn’t impressed. My room was sort of falling apart but on the upside it was spacious and had large windows and a balcony. I enjoyed some pool time and R & R and set off the next morning to Chaweng beach, the busiest part of the Island. My Thai friend’s family own a GORGEOUS resort there and although they were all booked up, they had a back room for cheap that they let me book for a couple of days. It was not pretty at all, it was probably the worst room I have ever stayed in but hey, I arrived at the absolute busiest time of year on an island that is usually fully booked so whatever. I left the cockroach to his business and tried to tell myself that all the mold wouldn’t kill me.. hopefully.

A bell boy had driven me down the path to my room and offered to take me around the island on his motorbike the next day for only 500 baht. He said he’d show me the island and some of the touristy spots. Sweet. A full tour for cheap. Traveling alone really has its perks! Continue reading