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Monday, November 23, 2015

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Traveling To: Railay Beach

Railay Beach is definitely my favorite of the places I've visited thus far and I only spent a day there!

We booked a few nights at the Mini Boxtel, a brand new hostel in Ao Nang, where you sleep in a comfortable pod. It was very clean, very comfortable, quiet and close to the Long Boats that take you to Tonsai and Railay Beach.

It was a nice change from the party scene we had experienced in Koh Phi Phi. We stayed at the hostel for two nights.

We wanted to stay on Tonsai Beach but unfortunately our flight back home was too early for this to be done as you can only get to Tonsai Beach and Railay Beach by Long Boat. But don't worry, we only spent one day on Railay and we were still able to see almost all of it.

We left from Ao Nang early in the morning so that we could get the most out of our day. It was my first real long boat ride and it was beautiful! The scenery throughout the Thai islands is absolutely stunning.

When we first arrived we decided that we wanted to walk from Railay East to Railay West so that we could see the caves and the monkeys on the island. The walk provides you a view of the little village of Railay and then you come across gorgeous caves and crazy monkeys. Be careful! If you provoke the monkeys, they will come after you. Be weary of your possessions as well as I saw a number of monkeys take things from people's bags that they left on the beach as well as directly from people holding things in their hands.

When we got to Railay West, we decided to go on a little adventure which ended up bringing us to this beautiful enclave of rocks and shallow pools. We swam for a bit and took a ton of photos (obviously)....

Afterwards, one of my friends decided to go rock climbing as Railay has some of the best climbing in Thailand. Two of my other friends decided to go kayaking around the island to check out some more caves. I wanted to swim in the ocean and relax on the beach.

It was amazing.

When we all met back up we decided to get some Thai Massages on the beach! It was about 200 baht for forty minutes, which in hindsight is a  bit pricey as I've now had an hour and a half thai massage for 300 baht in the province where I live.

If given the chance, I would absolutely head back to Railay Beach as it is was the most beautiful place I've ever been.

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Friday, November 13, 2015

Koh Phi Phi: The Party Island

What do you do when you find out your first day of teaching has been postponed a week? You go island hopping of course...

We decided to head down to Koh Phi Phi and Railay Beach for about a week. We wanted to go to Koh Lanta, but because it was still technically the "offseason," the ferries weren't running frequently enough for us.

We flew into Krabi and spent the night at Pak Up Hostel. It was clean, had a nice bar and we were able to get picked up for the ferry right there in the morning. 

During the offseason the ferries run less frequently, so make sure that you do your research beforehand. We booked our ferry tickets the night before and were picked up for the ferry about 30 minutes before its departure. 

The greatest thing ever happened to us-- We became best friends with the guy from the company who sold us our return tickets and he promised to pick us up and drive us to our hostel in Ao Nang when we returned from Koh Phi Phi. (He also ended up driving us to the airport for a fraction of what it would have cost us).

The ferry takes about 2 hours from Krabi. We were traveling during "The Great Haze of 2015." If you don't know what that is, its basically a ton of hazy air that has found its way to southern Thailand from fires in Indonesia. We were really worried that we wouldn't be able to appreciate the beauty of Krabi through it, but we really lucked out with the weather.

When we arrived in Koh Phi Phi, we headed over to our hostel, Blanco Beach Bar, to check in. I would definitely recommend this hostel. Its definitely bare bones, but the rooms are clean as are the showers and bathrooms. You CAN hear the music from the bar until around 2 AM, so if you're looking to get a ton of rest, this isn't the place for you. It didn't bother us that much because we were out most of the nights we were there, but it is definitely loud if you want to go to bed early. I wore earplugs and I was fine but some of my friends could still hear it even with earplugs in. 

There is an ADORABLE dog named Vodka that resides at the hostel. The food is good, the drinks are strong and the staff is amazing. They were so helpful throughout our stay, especially since the island was pretty dead since Full Moon was going on in Koh Phangan. 

We traveled to Phi Phi during Full Moon completely by accident, but it ended up being an advantage for us as the island was way less crowded and in turn less touristy. Our first day on the island was definitely the busiest as we wanted to do an island hopping tour to visit the surrounding Monkey Beach, Viking Cave and Maya Bay. 

We decided on Shangri La Boat Tour. It was definitely insane... For about 1500 baht you get to visit all of the islands and you get dinner. We were under the impression that it was an open bar, but they ended up making us pay for our drinks... Because of this I stuck to drinking beers... didn't spend too much money and had an awesome time. 

The booze cruise was a lot of fun... We met some great people, drank some beers and got to see other parts of Phi Phi. Unfortunately they didn't allow us to go onto Monkey Beach, apparently because of the haze the monkeys weren't hanging out on the beach. We did drive by the Viking Caves which was pretty interesting... My favorite part of the tour was visiting Maya Beach, where the film "The Beach" was made. (I was super bummed out Leo wasn't there :() It was beautiful... We arrived there in the early evening, making us some of the only ones on the island. You can see how much fun we had on the booze cruise in the video I made of my first two weeks in Thailand. 

We went out with a bunch of the people that we had met on the booze cruise that night, checking out a fire show on the beach and then heading to several different bars like Dojos, Relax Bar and Stockholm Syndrome. It was a very fun night, leaving us all exhausted the next morning.

We had a chill day, hanging out at the Ibiza pool because the tide goes down pretty far on the beach and we were too lazy to head over to the long beach. Plus, the next day we planned to go scuba diving so we didn't want to be tired.

On Tuesday morning we woke up bright and early and headed off to scuba diving... We dove with Princess Divers and had a blast. I won't lie, I definitely freaked out a little bit as I had never been before and breathing underwater made no sense to me. The visibility wasn't great so I will have to go diving again before I head home.

That night was a Buddhist holiday so unfortunately not much was open, but around midnight things seemed to pick up more and we ended up drinking at Blanco Beach Bar which was really fun. 

If you want to visit Koh Phi Phi but have heard that its very touristy, I would suggest heading there during the Full Moon period as it won't be as crowded since most people visiting the islands will be in Koh Phangan. 

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

What I was up to in October!

I had a wonderful first two weeks in Thailand... Check out what I was up to!

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Monday, November 9, 2015

Instagram: October 25 - November 9

On Thursday I will have been in Thailand for a month already! I can't believe its November... I know I say that every single month, but time really flies... 


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Friday, November 6, 2015

The Truth About Travel III

You could get sick. The people you're traveling with may get sick too.

I traveled a lot while I was in Italy. One of the trips I was most looking forward to was Croatia and I was lucky enough to go on our tour twice. The first time the weather wasn't great, but it was still gorgeous.

The second time, the weather seemed more promising...

FlorenceforFun travels to all of its destinations by bus, so the ride from Florence to Split is very, very long. I'm talking about 13 hours! If there is ever an empty seat on a bus, the tour guide gets the extra one so that we can sleep a little bit better since we have to be able to deal with logistics upon arrival.

On my second trip to Croatia, we were traveling on a full bus, so I shared a seat with my friend. We stopped in Venice for a quick snack around midnight and got back on the bus. I immediately passed out. 

The next thing I know, I'm throwing up all over myself. (Luckily I had a huge blanket scarf around me so it only got on that). I felt so terrible, not because I was getting sick during a bus ride that wasn't even halfway over, but I was sitting next to someone else.

Seth was a trouper and rubbed my back and got me a plastic bag and I only threw up a few more times on the bus. No one even knew that I had thrown up besides the tour guides. (I don't know how I managed that as I felt like it was super loud!!). 

I spent the next day in bed. I was supposed to be training my friend on the trip, and I felt so bad about letting him down, but I knew he would be fine. I ended up sleeping and watching Game of Thrones. I ventured out for some crackers and gatorade and water.

Thankfully I was okay the next day because we were headed to an Island Hopping Tour! I did not want to miss that as the first one I went on was cut short from the rain. I woke up and it was beautiful out. I was ready to go. I took it easy, because it's important to know your limits. I didn't want to get sick again. 

One thing you don't realize while you're on a boat in April, is that the sun is still super strong!! We had to constantly remind the students to really sunscreen. Sometimes, when you're reminding others, you forget yourself...

So fast forward to later that day... My friend is struck with sun poisoning. The real bad kind, where you're shivering and getting sick and you can't even begin to think about eating anything. Now it was time for us to switch places...I kept asking him if there was anything that I could do, something he had been doing for me the previous day. We had to take turns taking care of one another... Which does happen sometimes while you're traveling!

Whether you get a virus, you have motion sickness, you get too much sun, or you drink too much, its important to remember that these things happen. There's nothing you can do about it. If you're on a backpacking trip and your dates are flexible, hang tight. Try to stay in one place for a few days so you can get better. If you're in a situation like we were, where we were working, its just help each other out. If you need to step up and be the leader, thats fine. 

Remember, being in a cool place doesn't mean you can't get sick there... Life isn't always a perfect Instagram photo... 

You will get sick at one point or another if you're traveling for several months. You'll probably have a travel companion be sick... Don't worry! It happens to everyone! 

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Visiting the Thai Elephant Conservation Center

I feel like even before I officially decided to head over to Thailand everyone was asking me the same question: "are you going to ride an elephant?" I immediately said, "obviously," but this was before I actually did any research about the subject. 

Elephant riding in Thailand is super common, but unfortunately there are many places that don't treat the animals fairly. They drug them, make them walk around with way too much weight on their backs  and they are just generally often mistreated. Apparently the best way to ride an elephant is bareback. 

This being said, I was lucky enough to visit the Thai Elephant Conservation Center during my orientation with OEG for teaching English in Thailand. We headed to Lampang, where the center is located, from Chiang Mai. It took us about an hour to get there. 

The Thai Elephant Conservation Center was founded over twenty years ago and is under royal patronage. It is the only government-owned elephant camp in Thailand and because of this, it doesn't cost an arm and a leg to hang out with some elephants for the afternoon.

The day trip consists of watching the elephants bathe, a show and a visit with the adorable baby elephants. You can pose for a photo with them, feed them and more. If you don't feel that just one day is enough time to spend with the beautiful creatures, opt in for the Homestay. Choose from a one day, two day or three day option and take care of your own elephant for the weekend. If you're looking for more adventure, opt for the trekking package.

We had a short visit, enough time to feed the elephants, take photos of them, watch them bathe and visit the animal hospital. I'd really love to head back there and participate in one of the homestay programs!

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