Climbing Waterfalls

There is nothing quite like walking barefoot UP a flowing waterfall. The Bua Thong Waterfalls (also known as the Sticky Waterfalls) are on most “must see” lists if you are visiting Chiang Mai – and for good reason. The falls are about an hour outside of the old city and make for a great day trip, especially on a hot day.

Sean and I rented a motorbike and took our sweet time coasting through the breathtaking scenery, stopping every so often to take photos and rest our sore buns. The Sri Lanna National Forest is not easy to find but luckily with Sean’s natural motorbike skills and my navigation know-how, we didn’t have too much trouble.

There are various levels of waterfalls to climb in the middle of a lush jungle landscape. We spent about an hour walking up and down the porous limestone rocks while admiring the beauty all around us. With the exception of a few mossy patches, the rocks had a sticky texture providing traction for our bare feet.

Book a full day tour of the sticky waterfalls with Trazy! Click HERE for more details.

Hello & Thank You

Many people have asked us how the language barrier impacted our ability to communicate in Southeast Asia. For the most part, it was easy to get around without knowing the native tongue. Most signs had pictures which didn’t require translations and busting out our pantomime skills helped in most other cases.

While Sean and I learned various phrases throughout our trip, knowing how to say “hello” and “thank you” was most useful.

Here are all the ‘hellos & thank yous’ we learned in Southeast Asia:

Cambodia (Khmer)

hello – jum-reap soo-a

thank you – or-koon


Malaysia (Malaysian)

hello – hello (so simple!)

thank you – terima kasih


Myanmar (Burmese)

hello – mingalaba

thank you – ché zu ba


Thailand (Thai)

hello – sawat-dee khrab (if you are male); sawat-dee kha (if you are female)

thank you – khob khun khrab (if you are male); khob khun kha (if you are female)


***Oh, and don’t forget to smile!!! 🙂

Cambodia

The week and a half we spent in Cambodia was a mélange of highs and lows – from feeding elephants and exploring ruins to crying in the killing fields and puking off the back of a ferry. The best part was getting to experience it all with two of our best friends, Scott and Christina.

SIEM REAP

A trip to Southeast Asia would be incomplete without a stop in Siem Reap. With an ancient royal city and massive temple ruins, it is no wonder that Angkor is the main tourist destination in all of Cambodia.

They say you need about 2-4 days to see the temples in Siem Reap. We gave ourselves 3 full days and only spent 2 of them touring the ruins (they all start to look the same after awhile). We paid 30USD per day for a personal driver to take us from site to site.

Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world, was our first stop. Since this would be the main attraction of the day, we decided to pay for a personal tour guide – which I definitely recommend if you are not already an expert on its history. Not only was our guide passionate and informative, he also claimed to have a knack for palm reading. Apparently Sean is a controlling loner, I need freedom, Christina is ‘Trumpy’ (whatever the fuck that means), and Scott will never find someone that loves him as much as he loves them.

After a traditional Khmer lunch and a few more temples – Ta Prohm Wat being my favorite of the day – we were told to hike a mountain for a premiere sunset vantage point. Unfortunately, tons of other tourists had been given the same instructions. We decided to leave before sunset in order to avoid the mass exodus of sightseers.

By the end of day two we had seen enough temples and had our fair share of lines and crowds. As extraordinary as the Angkor is, the touristy Disney-like vibes begin to take a toll and the intense heat doesn’t help.

On our last day we opted sleep in and hit up a mini-golf park in the city, Angkor Put. It was a little difficult to find but the misters throughout the course and mini replicas of temples at each hole made the search worthwhile.

For all things shopping, food, and nightlife, Pub Street was our go to. The alleys are lined with restaurants that turn to nightclubs, street carts displaying various bugs (for consumption!), and little markets selling everything under the sun.

UPDATE: Best Regards from Far did a post on the Phare the Cambodian Circus in Siem Reap (A mind blowing blend of drama, dance, modern circus techniques and real-time painting on live music tells the true story of how art could empower a generation marked by the Khmer Rouge regime and the Cambodian genocide). I wish I had known about it while I was visiting. Check out the article HERE.

ANIMAL WILDLIFE ALLIANCE

Sean and I had originally wanted to go to an elephant sanctuary while in Thailand but the one we were most interested in was booked through the year. So when Christina told us about the Wildlife Rescue in Cambodia, we added it to the itinerary.

Not only did we get to pet and feed elephants, we also had the chance to see leopards, tigers, otters, bears, and more! The best part was going into the macaque cage and feeding a group of baby monkeys. They sat in our laps, jumped on our shoulders, and groomed our hair.

PHNOM PENH

My parents weren’t thrilled when we told them Cambodia was on our list of destinations. They always get overly worried whenever we travel and this trip was no exception. In fact, they preferred we skip the country altogether. After reading up on the crime and violence, especially in Phnom Penh, we could understand why. Luckily we were travelling in a group and we always make a point to be aware of our surroundings. We made sure to keep our belongings hidden and be back at the hostel before dark. There were definitely some sketchy characters but in the end, our time in PP turned out to be more depressing than frightening.

I knew very little about the genocide in Cambodia before our day at Killing Fields and the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21).  We purchased audio tours (6USD/person) at both sites to learn about the country’s dark and not so distant past.

On April 17th, 1975 the Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot, marched into Phnom Penh and started a genocide that would last almost four years. Visiting these devastating mass murder and torture sites was by no means an enjoyable day but it was necessary for us to really understand the people and history. Even  looking at the photos now (months later) brings tears to my eyes. How can humanity be capable of such horrific acts of violence? Millions of innocent lives lost – mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, BABIES. It breaks my heart.

Perhaps our only frightening endangerment in Phnom Penh was eating tarantula. Christina and I only tried a hairy leg while Sean and Scott ate the entire thing.

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KOH RONG – THE BEGINNING OF THE END

The WORST destination of our entire trip – maybe even the worst place we’ve ever been – FOR REAL. Basically nothing more than a filthy island taken over by backpackers and European runaways. There are so few natives that you would never guess you were in an Asian country. Hostels, bars, and restaurants were run by westerners that partied harder than all of their clientele.

The bungalows we stayed in were disgusting cesspits with creaky floors and creepy bug nets. Don’t bother taking a shower in the cold, dark, spider infested bathroom. We’ve dealt with worse accommodations but this place was the most expensive hostel of our entire trip.

Only Scott escaped the island food poison free (he also only ate cheeseburgers the entire time in Cambodia).

SIHANOUKVILLE / OTRES BEACH

We were beyond spent by the time we arrived at our accommodations in Otres Beach. Christina was puking non-stop, Sean had some sort of stomach bug, I was barely keeping it together, and Scott was bummed because we were all too sick to do anything exciting.

At one point we mustered up the strength to take a dip in the perfectly tempered waters and sunbathe on the beach. Besides that, most of our time was spent in bed or hovering the toilet bowl. It was a shame because Otres Beach had the chill and relaxing vibe that we were longing for. If we had the chance to do it over, we would skip Koh Rong altogether and spend more time in Sihanoukville.

You live, you learn.

Maya Bay Birthday

I try to spend my birthday out of town (and if I’m lucky, out of the country). Organizing a party brings more pain than pleasure and I prefer to avoid the stress of it all. I spent my 28th birthday in China/India and my 30th in Peru, but turning 33 in Thailand will be almost impossible to top.

After a few days in Singapore (see Singapore and More Singapore posts), we flew out to Phuket to spend my birthday island hopping with our friend, Sara.

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PATONG BEACH, PHUKET

Phuket did not impress me, mostly because the area we stayed in, Patong Beach, was a dirty, tourist-crazed, party town. Since we only had one night in Phuket, I can only speak to the small strip of beach and nightlife we experienced.

Having been away from the ocean for longer than I’m accustomed to, my first order of business was to get barefoot on the beach and test the waters. The ocean is my sacred soul place where I feel the most content and at peace. Despite the crowded beach overtaken by parasailing tourists and European bros in banana hammocks, I closed my eyes and allowed the warm seawater to reestablish my connection to nature.

Revitalized and ravished by hunger, we strolled through town in search of my favorite fare, SEAFOOD! It took a little searching, but eventually we found the alley with a bunch of restaurants (all the same same but different). Each place had at least one staff member who’s job was to lure customers in with the same catchline, “hey bro, eat here!”. We chose the place with the least presumptuous pusher.  The food was fittingly underwhelming, especially in comparison to what we ate in Chiang Mai and Singapore.

With only one night in Patong, we fought the fatigue and got pumped to party. The main street leading straight to Patong Beach was reminiscent of a Bangkok Redlight District. Bar after bar serving nothing but booze and featuring shows that were “all about the pus$$y” – don’t ask, I did and was left with only more questions. We took down some shots, drank a bunch of beer, listened to live music, danced a bit, took photos with ladyboys, and topped the night off with some greasy Micky D’s. The weekend was off to a great start.

KOH PHI PHI

After one night of partying in Patong Beach, we hopped on a ferry to Koh Phi Phi, one of the major party islands of Thailand. There are no cars on the island, only hoards of young tourists drinking at all hours of the day. The beautiful beaches are littered with beer bottles and different colored straws – battle scars from endless days and nights of raging. Nonetheless, the sand is soft, the water warm, and the western food choices are plentiful.

We stayed at a hostel up in the hills, further away from the beach and the ruckus. It was a bit of a trek, there was a blood stain on the wall, and a cesspool of mosquitos in the empty reservoir outside our door, but it was worth the peaceful night of sleep.

Our day was spent on the beach, laying out, drinking beer, and eating. It was looking to be a successful relaxation day, until I made the one of the worst decisions of our entire trip – tuna pizza. I didn’t actually order the tuna pizza but I also didn’t complain when it wasn’t pepperoni. I ate the entire thing and regret it still to this day. From that point on, I was ruined. We were playing pool at an empty rock and roll bar when one of the owners opened a can of tuna for dinner. One whiff was all it took. I ran as fast as I could to the toilet and lost it. Nothing compares to the upchuck of tuna, nothing.

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I easily could have crawled back to our hostel but instead attempted to rally and headed to the beach to check out the party scene. It was still early, but we managed to catch a fire show, listen to some EDM, and watch drunk guys trying to hang from a pull-up bar for as long as they could.

MAYA BAY SLEEP ABOARD

So, here is where the weekend turned around and shit got real. Maya Bay is a short boat trip away from Phi Phi. It became a popular tourist destination after the film, The Beach (starring Leonardo DiCaprio), was released in 2000. Boatloads of tourists make the day trip for the perfect photo in paradise. Its beauty is undeniable but it is easily tarnished by the heaps of boats and people overtaking the bay. Since the island is a National Park, there are no houses, stores, or hotels and tourists must depart by sundown. Thanks to Maya Bay Sleep Aboard, we were able to experience the island in the most memorable way.

We met at the pier in the afternoon and happily departed Phi Phi. The first stop was the Phi Ley Bay for snorkeling, kayaking, and jumping off the top of the boat. The water was cool, clear and immediately healed all traces of my tuna pizza hangover.

Eventually we arrived at Maya Bay where we took a dip in the water, did a little trekking, and waited for all of the day-trippers to leave. By sundown, our group of 17-20 people were the only ones left on the island. We enjoyed a BBQ dinner on the beach accompanied by buckets of alcohol. The Sleep Aboard staff were the lives of the party – real professional party animals. Coco Loco and Jumbo, the two main guides, initiated a game Kings Cup and forced the timid tourists out of their shells. Free shots were passed out to everyone in the group after Sean mentioned it was my birthday. We sang, drank, ate, and drank some more.

With a decent buzz in tact, we were taken back to the main boat in the middle of the bay where we strapped on our life vests in preparation for the plankton light show. Bobbing in the middle of the pitch black ocean with a bunch of strangers brought on flashbacks of Jack and Rose after the Titanic sunk. Despite the eeriness, there was also something otherworldly about floating in the deep, dark, sea. I dunked my head underwater, swaying my arms as legs as quickly as I could, watching as the lights from the glowing plankton followed the path of my limbs. At this point, a new believer of magic, I was convinced that this birthday was as good as it gets.

I’d be lying if I said the night was all rainbows and butterflies. Our ignorant asses thought it would be a good idea to sleep on the top of the boat. Staring up at the stars as the boat rocked side to side – what could go wrong? RAIN. We got drenched and our bags with all of our clothes were out of reach, tucked in a corner surrounded by sleeping bodies. All of the geniuses that wanted to sleep under the stars huddled at the bottom of the boat while the rain poured down. Our miserable mood began to shift when a member of the boat crew pulled out an acoustic guitar and started to play. Minutes later everyone was singing in unison and passing around a bucket of alcohol. The rain eventually stopped and we headed back to our sleeping spots on the top of the boat – staring up at the stars as the boat rocked back and forth. I laid there and reflected on how lucky I was to experience such amazing adventures. It might have been the worst night of sleep EVER, but it was also a night I will always remember.

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KOH LANTA

Party islands are great if you are single and in your twenties but they will make you feel like an old fart if you are 33 and married. After 3 nights of partying on the beach and on the boat, we were all ready for some much needed R&R and Koh Lanta was exactly that.

We took a rough and rainy ferry ride from Phi Phi and stumbled to a restaurant to hydrate and search for a place to stay.  We decided to shell out more money (than usual) to stay at a nice resort with clean, comfortable beds, warm water, and air conditioning.

Sara was afflicted with a stiff neck as a result of sleeping without a pillow the night before and unfortunately remained bedridden with the exception of the occasional massage. Thankfully the resort provided the comfort to recover.

Sean and I spent our last two days motorbiking up and down the coast, scoping out different beaches, sunbathing on the sand, drinking, watching the sunset, and getting massages. It was, by far, the most relaxing two days of our trip thus far. With at least two months left on our trip, we were convinced that this would not be our only visit to the island of Lanta.

 

 

Back to reality

Our trip has come to an end. We spent the last 48 hours traveling from Koh Lanta to Krabi to Bangkok to Tokyo and finally San Francisco. Cold, exhausted, and unsure of what to do next – deal with a box of unopened mail, look for jobs, sleep for days. I can’t say it is all bad though. Seeing our dogs again was a moment I’ve longed for since we left the country. I could cuddle with them watching nonsense TV and academy screeners in this California king bed forever. Unfortunately, the real world waits and my bank account dwindles.

I still have so much of our trip to blog about – Myanmar, Malaysia, the Thai Islands – and now that we are back I have nothing but time. But first things first, we must find jobs to replenish our bank accounts and support our travel addiction.

Fremont Peak State Park

The weather has been wretched the past couple of weeks making it difficult to go outside and explore. When Sean and I spotted a sunny day in the forecast, we made sure to take advantage. It also happened to be Valentine’s Day – and what better way to spend it than doing something we love – CAMPING!

A lot of the sites in our surrounding area were closed due to mudslides caused by the never-ending rain. We found Fremont Peak State Park on Hipcamp and decided to check it out.

Here’s a quick video of our morning hike to the peak:

As soon as we return from camping I can’t wait to go again. Counting the raindrops until then…

CHIIIIIIPS!

Chips are my go to travel snack. I love trying the different flavors wherever we go. Here are some of the interesting munchies from our trip around Southeast Asia.

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Basically cheddar bugles, but not as good.

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Sean’s favorite chips of the trip – Crab Claws.

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These were super spicy in the BEST way.

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Little chicken drumsticks. Didn’t taste like chicken though.

chips-pringles-corn-chips

Pringles makes Corn Chips and they are on another level!

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Nothing to rave about…but they would probably be good with dip.

My favorite chips were in Cambodia but I devoured them so quickly and didn’t get a chance to snap a picture (fat girl problems). I wish I knew what they were called!!!

Myanmar also had amazing homemade chips that were sold on the side of the road. They made the 5-10 hour bus trips bearable. I still dream about them sometimes…

Throwback Thursday: INDIA 2011

Let’s go back, way back, to India 2011.

It was the first big vacation that Sean and I took together and it conditioned us for all the countries we have visited since. Our first time in a third world country – brushing our teeth with bottled water, getting groped on the train, falling victim to an elaborate scam, but at the same time falling in love with the culture, the color, the beauty.

Click HERE to view our India photo gallery.

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